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Protect and Serve

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Stiles was well aware that this wasn't one of his best decisions, thank you very much , but if he's honest with himself then he's not really sure he cares right about now. Stumbling through the preserve on unsteady feet, Stiles takes a moment to lean heavily against the closest tree that he can see so that he can take a few deep breaths in attempts to calm the annoyance that's been building for longer than he'd like to admit.

 

It had started with Allison, and Stiles had found himself getting left behind more and more from Scott, but he'd been able to brush that off as some Romeo and Juliet bullshit that Scott and Allison had been going through at the beginning. It would have been different if it had stopped there, but it hadn't and then nearly four years went by and Stiles was left to watch Scott advance in everything besides schoolwork and never turn back to notice him lagging behind.

 

Other people had noticed immediately, of course; it was always considered a rarity to find Stiles without Scott and vice versa.

 

Jackson had noticed back at the beginning when Scott first started pulling away, which was the really odd part, even though he'd left for England not too long after the whole Kanima thing happened and Lydia had broken the curse. He'd come back that same summer and had knocked on Stiles' door with Lydia and asked for his personal opinion on Derek Hale. Jackson had quietly admitted that he'd stopped to see Scott first, had asked him for his own opinion on Derek, but hadn't been satisfied when all Scott did was start blaming Derek for everything that had happened to him.

 

The fact that it was Jackson and he was still willing to potentially trust Derek with himself ended up being a reality check for Stiles. In the end, Stiles had taken a while to think about his own opinion, shoving a handful of curly fries into his mouth, surprised when Jackson took a few from the offered bag as well. 

 

"I think he could be a good Alpha given time," Stiles admitted to Jackson, a little confused at how attentive Jackson was with him, that there had been no threats and no insults thrown his way. That's what gave him the confidence to add: "I think he could be good for you."

 

Jackson had taken another fry and chewed while Lydia looked between them both curiously, taking his time before he'd nodded slowly and mumbled: "I think so too."

 

After that, Jackson kept coming back to Stiles' house, sometimes with Lydia and sometimes without, though he seemed more and more on edge after a few weeks passed and Jackson still hadn't heard anything from Derek.

 

Stiles had known the day that Jackson came by and had been accepted into the pack because he'd pulled a very surprised Stiles into a tight hug and genuinely thanked him for his advice. He'd hugged Jackson back tentatively, but Jackson just squeezed him with human level strength and started talking about Isaac, Erica and Boyd, and how Jackson gave them the same advice that Stiles had given him.

 

In the end, that advice had saved them from a horrible painful death when Allison's grandfather came to town and kidnapped Erica and Boyd in attempts to torture them for information on Derek. Stiles had been taken as well, been beaten within an inch of his life while Erica and Boyd snarled and pulled at their ties, even with electricity running through them. The noise eventually caught the attention of Chris Argent, who let all three of them go in the middle of the night.

 

Stiles was practically dragged home by Erica and Boyd, who kept stumbling and turning back to the woods looking unsure and more than a little afraid. He didn't even have to ask before Erica nervously admitted that there were unknown wolves howling in the forest, and that she wanted to get as far away from them as she could, so Stiles offered to have them both stay and offered that he could line his bedroom in the mountain ash that he'd stolen from Deaton.

 

They'd agreed, and luckily his dad was working a late shift, because there was a lot of blood that Stiles needed to wash off, not including the dirt and grime all over Erica and Boyd. 

 

Still, Stiles had showered quickly, bandaged the worst of his wounds and limped downstairs, putting together enough sandwiches to feed a small army, and brought them upstairs to the waiting wolves. Erica was wearing a pair of his sleep pants and one of his dad's old shirts, and Boyd was shirtless, though he at least put on a pair of basketball shorts. He'd grabbed two sandwiches and handed the rest over to the wolves, allowing Erica to manhandle him onto his bed once they were all done eating.

 

Boyd had slipped in behind Erica and draped Stiles' Blanket over the three of them before Stiles had realized he hadn't laid the mountain ash line. He amended that and climbed back into bed, running his fingers through Erica's hair and trying not to think about the rush of fondness he felt for the two of them right then.

 

"I'm glad you guys are alright." Stiles admitted after he'd turned out the light, nearly startling when Boyd's large hand ruffled his hair gently, somehow avoiding the bruising. 

 

"I'm sorry that you're not." Erica whispered, refusing to fall asleep until Stiles told her that he didn't blame them, he blamed Gerard. She'd relaxed immediately, somehow curling back onto Boyd while resting on Stiles and fell asleep.

 

Surprisingly, he'd slept well that night too, and when his dad opened his bedroom door the next morning and found two strangers in Stiles' bed with him, he handled it with as much grace and grumbling as could be expected, but when Stiles came downstairs and his dad had caught sight of his face, Stiles admitted to getting caught and getting beaten by Gerard.

 

He was just so tired of the lies, of having to sneak around his dad, of having to see that look on his face every time he caught Stiles in a lie. John was a Sheriff for a reason, and he was damn good at his job.

 

Gerard was arrested hours later, and between Stiles' injuries and the equipment they found in his car, Gerard went to prison where he'd died nearly a year later. 

 

Scott didn't notice, though he did offhandedly mention to Stiles about having a plan to stop Gerard by forcing Derek to bite him, and when Jackson overheard Scott talking at lunch, Stiles had his hands full trying to keep the two from practically killing each other. Jackson had eventually left when Allison started talking sweetly about wolfsbane being untraceable in food and drink until it was ingested, and Stiles had left with him when it was clear that Scott wasn't going to listen to anything he had to say anyway.

 

It was uncomfortable that Scott was so willing to let Allison threaten Jackson like that, especially since Scott was aware that Stiles and Jackson actually get along these days.

--

 

The Alpha pack didn't change as much as it probably would if Derek's pack hadn't been so close. The Betas practically lived out of each other's pockets, spending their time halved between Stiles' house and Derek's new apartment.

 

Deucalion wanted Derek to kill his Betas and join the Alpha pack, but he'd refused and had listened to Stiles' suggestion about cashing in on the treaty with the Argents. Derek had agreed to meet Deucalion in a bank where he'd found Cora, his apparently not dead little sister all tied up and waiting for him as leverage. When the Wolfsbane gas started seeping in that Stiles had personally helped Chris create, Stiles had pulled out the extra masks he'd packed just in case and put it on Cora while Deucalion and Derek fought in another room.

 

A bullet to five heads stopped the reign of the Alpha pack, and Derek even managed to get his sister back. She'd readily joined the pack, and judging by the way she kept looking at Isaac, Stiles was curious more than anything about how long that would take to get somewhere.

 

So that had happened, but Scott had turned back to Allison and left Stiles in the bank on his own. That night, Jackson helped Stiles admit the existence of Werewolves to his father with permission from Derek, and John had poured himself nearly three fingers of Whiskey and asked the two of them to explain everything , so they did.

 

Later, his dad pulled him aside and asked whose pack he belonged to, and Stiles quietly admitted that he wasn't sure he belonged to either of them. His dad had simply raises a brow, looked at Jackson's retreating back and poured himself another glass.

 

That night he couldn't stop thinking about how Scott kept pulling away from him and Stiles realized that he kept waiting for Scott to wake up and realize that Stiles wasn't by his side anymore, but it never seemed to happen, which brings him back to now.

--

 

Now is stumbling between pack lines after Derek's pack had successfully wiped out a Darach that had tried to manipulate Derek almost the same way that Kate Argent had, which had left Stiles with a bad taste in his mouth and a distinct distrust of Deaton. On one hand, they learned why Lydia was immune to the bite, but on the other hand, Mr. Harris had almost died, and even Stiles wasn't that heartless to not feel at least a little bit bad about it. 

 

Scott hadn't even noticed that Stiles had left, he'd been too busy checking on Allison after the battle even though she wasn't the one who got flung through the air by some invisible and unmovable force, and for some reason, that was just it.

 

Stiles was done running after Scott, too exhausted by their dying friendship to only be acknowledged whenever something was wrong with Scott's relationship with Allison. He was so tired of the guilt he had saying no when Scott begged him to hang out after Stiles had seen Allison stomping away from him. So Stiles had gone home, grabbed the rest of his dad's whiskey bottle and drove into the preserve to drink himself into Oblivion, which he'd mostly managed.

 

Groaning, Stiles pushed himself off the tree that he'd been leaning on and stumbles his way into the clearing he'd been heading for, crouching down to lean against what was left of the Nemeton that is apparently responsible for the increase of Supernatural activity in Beacon Hills, if Deaton is to be believed. Honestly at this point Stiles doesn't know who he trusts less, Deaton, or Peter.

 

Peter had at least been taken in more or less by Chris Argent when he'd used Lydia to come back to life, and now he was more or less normal, whatever that is, but he's still creepy as hell. But Peter admitted that he remembers the Nemeton back when Talia and the rest of the Hales had been alive, that it had been tall and thriving, and that it had protected this town and the people in it. Their emissary had been linked to it in a way that all emissaries are connected to the land their packs live in, and that since this Hale pack has no emissary that the magic must be all over the place, now.

 

Derek has apparently refused to let Deaton anywhere near the new Hale house he's planning to build, and has sent out word to neighboring packs asking about emissaries and how to find one well suited for his pack. Stiles doesn't know if he's heard back from anyone yet because he's been too busy drinking himself stupid, and hadn't brought his phone which will piss off his dad, but there's nothing he can do about it now.

 

Stiles sighs, leaning back against the scratchy bark of the Nemeton and resting his head upon the edge where it had been cut down.

 

"Why would someone try to kill a magic tree?" Stiles asks out loud, reaching up and running a hand over the stump, giving the tree a good natured pat. "You're not a bad tree, are you? You're just misunderstood."

 

Pulling himself up by one of the stumps roots, Stiles manages to sit down on the stump and sighs happily now that there's no more rocks hurting his ass. The stump isn't exactly comfortable , but it's giving off enough subtle heat that Stiles is content to sit there anyways. He's too lost in his own head to notice a tiny sprout wiggling through one of the cracks in the stump of the Nemeton, but he soon becomes aware when it brushes against his pant leg.

 

He jerks back for a moment before curiosity gets the better of him and Stiles bends down, peering at the sprout uneasily, but it just sits there being green and doing absolutely nothing at all.

 

"You're going to be a good tree," Stiles decides right then and there as he sits, carefully taking his index finger and stroking the small leaves as carefully as he can. He feels deep in his chest that this tree is coming back to life right this very second, and maybe if he sticks around, it will be good in the end. "I'm going to visit you, and you're going to be the best damned Nemeton around. I believe in you, little dude."

 

With one last little pat, Stiles climbs off the stump with a surprising amount of grace, grimacing at the taste of old whiskey in his mouth and the lingering sense of sobriety in his body. It takes him a short time to get back to his Jeep, much shorter than he'd thought since he'd walked for what he thought was hours. Climbing into Roscoe, Stiles risks a glance at the clock on his dash and groans when the light reflects back at him, reading 5:35 in the morning. His dad was going to kill him, not to mention Jackson and Erica at the very least. 

 

Stiles turns on the Jeep, reversing out of the preserve and heads home, refusing to wonder about how he lost nearly six hours of time while sitting on that stump.

--

 

Stiles doesn't really see Derek much anymore now that Cora has been around these last few months, but Stiles still can't bring himself to be frightened when the first thing he sees when he wakes up the next day is a thick judgy eyebrow and Derek's thunderous scowl.

 

"Oh Alpha, My Alpha," Stiles rasps out, grimacing at the lingering taste of alcohol in his mouth, turning back to Derek. His arms are crossed over his chest and there are shadows under his eyes that Stiles relates to, considering he sees the same bags under his own eyes Everytime he looks into the mirror. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

 

"How about the eight hours of sleep I missed last night since my betas dragged me out of bed looking for your drunk ass in the woods?" Derek quirks his eyebrow and simultaneously glares down at Stiles, who is too busy stretching to care anymore. Derek stopped being scary when Stiles had to hold him up for two hours in a swimming pool.

 

"Awe, I didn't know you cared , big bad." Scratching at his stomach, Stiles sits up and runs a hand through what feels to be an awful case of bedhead, further proven by how Derek's nostrils flare and his eyes flicker.

 

"You smell weird." Derek shifts uneasily from foot to foot before leaning the tiniest fraction closer and taking another breath of air. "What did you do last night, Stiles?"

 

When Derek asks, it's like he's resigned himself to the fact that Stiles must have done something simply because of the fact that he's Stiles. He could take it as an insult or as praise, but mostly Stiles is just resigned to Derek's resignation.

 

It seems like no matter how nice or informative he tries to be that Derek will never warm up to him as much as the rest of the pack has. Even Cora has come to Stiles requesting help with simple things, like how to win over Lydia, summer school homework, or just to have a place to escape to when memories of the Hales become too much.

 

"I got drunk and walked around in the woods for a while." Shrugging his shoulders, Stiles gets out of bed and heads for his bureau, grabbing a clean t-shirt and pulling it over his head. "I found a stump to sit on and must have fallen asleep for a while."

 

"So why couldn't we find you, then?" Derek has moved back towards the window, his hands clenched by his sides, his eyes narrowed. "We were following you, and then it's like you dropped clear off the face of the earth. Your heartbeat stopped, your scent trail disappeared, it was like you didn't exist anymore."

 

"So what you're telling me is that i'm going to have my day full of worried puppies, is that it?" Buttoning his jeans, Stiles shakes his head when he catches sight of himself in his mirror. He sure looks like he spent all night in the woods, he's even got some pine needles stuck in his hair.

 

"Damn it, Stiles." Derek mumbles it under his breath, but Stiles turns to him like he'd spoken loudly anyways. "Aren't you worried about this at all? You were in the woods, these woods, and basically stopped existing."

 

Stiles considers telling Derek about the Nemeton waking up, and how sure he was about it being healthy and good, but part of him was afraid that Derek might tell Deaton since he was the only one they could ask about magic in this damn town. But he really didn't want Deaton anywhere near his tree.

 

His tree?

 

Pushing that thought from his head, Stiles turns back to Derek and shrugs, leaning against his wall in what he hopes is a nonchalant manner. "Look Derek, I don't know what to tell you. I haven't been cursed or drained, it's not like I'm like you guys, and I don't have magic like Deaton. There's no reason for anything evil to take me, it's not like I'm necessary here or anything."

 

The glare fades from Derek faster than Stiles has ever thought was possible, leaving him wide eyed and confused, his head tilting off to the side. "What do you mean there's no reason things would want to get their claws in you, you're pack. "

 

Blinking, Stiles stumbles from the room and glances over his shoulder to see Derek frowning, looking more worried than Stiles has seen him look before. "Do you want breakfast?"

 

"You have got to know that you're pack." Derek blurts, following after Stiles without giving him a yes or no answer to the food. "Right, Stiles?"

 

He doesn't answer, jogging down the stairs instead and heads right into the kitchen, pulling down the cast iron skillet off the wall and grabbing everything he needs for homemade pancakes. "Can you call the rest of the pack and tell them to get their asses here for breakfast?"

 

"You didn't know?" Derek has his phone out and is typing rapidly, flicking his eyes up every so often to stare at Stiles. "How could you not know? You've been pack longer than Jackson. "

 

"I what?" Yelping, Stiles drops an egg and groans loudly when it shatters on the floor. He barely even notices Derek stepping around him, though he does notice when Derek starts pouring an obscene amount of salt over the broken egg. "Derek, why ?"

 

That "why" means many things to Stiles, and he's not sure that Derek understands.

 

Why didn't anyone tell him he was pack right away, why was he considered pack so early on, how has he been pack for four years and not notice , and for God's sake, why is Derek salting a shattered egg?

 

"You have to let that sit for about fifteen minutes," Derek puts the salt container back in the cupboard as easily as he found it, leaving Stiles open mouthed and gaping at him. When Derek notices, color slowly creeps into his cheeks and he crosses his arms over his chest again. "Just because we were wolves doesn't mean we were raised like them. Mom taught me this trick after Cora tried to help me make cookies one afternoon and we lost half a dozen eggs to the floor."

 

"Derek Hale knows how to bake homemade cookies," Stiles says dazedly, collecting himself when Derek begins to scowl again. "That's cool, man. I make amazing lasagna. It was my mom's recipe."

 

Derek softens a little when Stiles mentions his mother, but they're both distracted by his front door opening up and Jackson practically running into the kitchen and bullying Stiles up against the counter, sniffing at his hair, his neck, gagging when Stiles laughs in his face and he realizes he forgot to brush his teeth.

 

He takes care of that and comes back downstairs to find Boyd putting together pancake mix, Lydia playing around with Stiles' iPod dock while Cora flat out refuses to listen to anything on Stiles' iPod and suggesting a Pandora station instead, while Jackson and Derek are deep in conversation. Isaac is the first one to notice Stiles, and the shy smile is somewhat of a surprise, as is Isaac taking Stiles by the arm and dragging him back upstairs to his room before anyone else can say anything to Stiles.

 

"Isaac, buddy, you okay?" Stiles pulls his arm out of Isaac's hold the moment they're in his room and pats Isaac down for any aches and pains. The last time that training had gotten too rough for him, Isaac had limped to Stiles' house and curled up in his bed until he was healed. They're not the closest out of the pack, but Stiles always figured it was because Isaac was closer friends with Scott than Stiles was these days. They don't hate each other or anything, but Isaac searching him out is a rarity 

 

"Derek says you didn't know you were part of us," Isaac shuts Stiles' door and moves to sit on his bed, patting the spot next to him. He looks a little sheepish, which makes him look more like a kicked puppy than anything, which just about breaks Stiles's heart. He moves to sit next to Isaac, further surprised when he presses their shoulders together. " I thought you were being distant because we were just a substitute for Scott."

 

"I don't use people like that, Isaac." Stiles murmurs, trying his best to reassure him. He wriggles where he sits, making a mental note to take his Adderall after this. "I wouldn't try to replace Scott like that either. I like you guys, all of you, because of who you are, but I genuinely had no idea I was in the pack."

 

Isaac nods but doesn't respond, and Stiles can hear the soft chatter downstairs in the silence. It's what gives him the urge to add: "No one bothered to tell me that I was pack."

 

Jolting, Isaac mumbles something about stubborn Alphas before turning back to Stiles. "You never wondered why the pack always came to you when we needed a break from Derek? You never came to any of the pack meetings; we thought you just weren't interested, or that you didn't want to cause more issues with Scott."

 

"I thought it was just convenient to come here!" Stiles flails around for a moment before flopping back onto his bed with a loud groan. "God, I'm really fucking dense, aren't I?"

 

Isaac snorts softly, slowly laying himself down next to Stiles, like he's afraid of pushing some boundary that Stiles might have. It's easier to just open his arms and offer comfort to Isaac this way, considering Stiles barely has to wait before Isaac is curling up next to him and practically going boneless. He snuffles against Stiles' collarbone, making a soft grumbling noise that sounds more pleased than anything. Stiles is too busy trying not to get a mouthful of Isaac's curls everytime he opens his mouth to try and say something, which only gets remedied when Stiles lifts his hands and begins running his fingers through Isaac's hair to push it back.

 

Humming, Isaac tries to burrow closer to Stiles, his arms wrapping around his waist and tugging. "You're going to smell like me." When Isaac talks, his lips press against Stiles' skin. "Like us."

 

"I didn't already?" Stiles isn't sure how this whole scent thing worked but at least one of the pups was all over him whenever they hung out. "What's the difference between scenting me now?"

 

"Intent." Isaac slowly pulls back from Stiles, his pupils blown wide, cheeks red, and a slightly dopey grin on his face. "We assumed you knew what we were doing before, but now you do know, and instead of pushing me away, you pulled me closer. Intent is everything , Stiles."

 

"Huh," Stiles stretches out on his bed for a moment before the smell of pancakes reaches his human nose and his stomach growls. He rubs his stomach, taking Isaac's hand when it's offered, and lets himself be tugged to his feet. Isaac just grins at him, happier than Stiles thinks he's ever seen him, and opens the bedroom door to tug Stiles down the stairs.

 

To say he's surprised when they reach the kitchen is an understatement, because not only are his dad and Melissa sat at the table while Derek and his wolves move around the kitchen with ease, but Stiles is ushered to the table as well, interrupting his dad and Melissa's conversation. 

 

They're already eating pancakes, and have been for a while it seems, since both of their plates are nearly empty. Stiles smiles at them both until he notices the syrup puddle on his dad's plate and points a finger at him, getting ready to start another rant about healthy food when a large hand on his shoulder makes him pause.

 

Boyd is standing behind him with the skillet held up and away from Stiles in case of wayward flailing, and there's an amused look sent his way before Boyd turns back to the Sheriff.

 

"Would you like another pancake, Mr. Stilinski?" Boyd asks, already scooping a pancake from the pan to lay it on the Sheriff's plate, bringing the skillet back to the stove right after.

 

"Call me John, son." He calls to Boyd from over his shoulder, looking down at the pancake on his plate and nearly wriggling in his seat with excitement.

 

Erica dances her way to Stiles and sets down a plate with two buttery golden pancakes on top and leans down to press her lips against his cheek before she gently nuzzles her nose against his temple. She grins at him when Stiles feels the blush rush into his face but she doesn't comment, sliding back over to Boyd instead.

 

It's then that he notices the difference in color between his pancakes and his dad's. He spends an absurd amount of time looking between their plates before someone takes pity on him. It's not who he expected to help him out, though.

 

"They're wheat pancakes." Cora says quietly, sitting next to Stiles and snagging the syrup from its place on the table, pouring a healthy amount over her stack of six pancakes. "Jackson said you worry about your dad's health, so Lydia and Derek went out and bought wheat flour and some fresh fruit and vegetables since you didn't have anyone the house."

 

"Wednesdays are shopping days," Stiles offers absentmindedly, watching his dad dig into wheat pancakes with the amount of enthusiasm he usually saves for his monthly pizza. He feels a little like a hindrance and hunches his shoulders a little bit. "They didn't have to do that for me."

 

Cora wastes no time with slapping Stiles upside the head, the snickering he can hear from the living room sounds suspiciously like Jackson, and Stiles internally plans his demise. 

 

"Don't be stupid," Cora rolls her eyes, shoving what looks to be an entire pancake into her mouth, chewing fiercely before swallowing. "He's your dad."

 

"What Cora means to say is that if you're pack, then that obviously extends to your father." Lydia interjects, her hair pulled back into a messy bun, face makeup free and syrup on her left cheek. Stiles is both amazed to see her like this and completely unsurprised.

 

This is the Lydia Martin that he'd always wanted to see when he was younger, and though he still feels a rush of affection for her, it's nothing like it used to be. Jackson follows close behind her with his own empty plate and sidles up to the kitchen sink and starts doing the dishes .

 

Stiles takes a moment to gape at Jackson, snorting into his hand when the wolf begins to shake his ass and singing to some pop song on whatever Pandora station Cora and Lydia had chosen.

 

"Stiles," Melissa calls to him, jolting him out of what he was sure was an acid dream of some kind. "Aren't you going to eat?"

 

The wolves all pause what they're doing and turn to Stiles with their eyes wide. Boyd, for the first time since Stiles has met him, suddenly looks unsure, looking from Stiles' pancakes and back at him like something might be wrong with the food. It's that crestfallen look that has Stiles forgetting all about syrup and cutting off a huge piece of pancake and shoving it in his mouth.

 

Syrup is quickly proven unnecessary, because Stiles is sure that these are the best pancakes he's ever had in his life, and he says so to a suddenly sheepish Boyd, and then the noise is back in the kitchen. Stiles inhales his pancakes in record time, mumbling his thanks when Boyd deposits a third pancake on his plate before demolishing that one as well.

 

"You guys are going to have to roll me out of here if I keep eating like this." Rubbing his stomach, Stiles leans back in his chair and groans when a steaming cup of coffee is placed in front of him by a smug looking Derek Hale. Stiles tries his hardest not to do something stupid like sticking his tongue out at the alpha, but something must show on his face because Derek's smirk widens.

 

"Oh please," The Sheriff says with a roll of his eyes, pointing his fork at Stiles. "You could eat like this every day and not gain a pound, you know that."

 

Derek grins slowly, looking Stiles up and down in a way that would seem flirtatious if Stiles didn't know that Derek was just looking at how lanky and awkward his body is. Stiles grumbles and crosses his arms over his chest but doesn't bother to disagree with his dad.

 

Melissa and John take off not too long after that to get to work, Lydia and Jackson head out not too much later than that. Lydia stops to kiss Stiles' other cheek, but Jackson ruffles his hair on the way by. Boyd leaves next, clasping a hand on Stiles' shoulder again and squeezing twice, and Erica nuzzles back against him temple. Isaac pulls him into a tight hug, Cora punches his shoulder, and Derek-

 

Derek starts putting away the clean dishes, so Stiles is quick to stand a help him since the pack did all the work earlier. They work in near silence, some soft music from Pandora still playing in the background. A quick look from Stiles means that he notices that it's Derek's phone connected to Pandora now, and that the soft instrumental is a channel he has favorited.

 

It should be weird how domestic this morning was, Stiles thinks, but it hadn't been weird at all. He felt settled in a way that he hadn't thought was possible, comfortable in his own home to the point of it feeling like before when she was still here.

 

The grief hits him suddenly and all at once, and all Stiles can think of is how much his mother would have loved the pack, how she would have made sure that Isaac was safe even before he was a werewolf, or told Boyd that it wasn't his fault that his little sister went missing, that Erica didn't need to be so fierce all the time. She would have reassured Jackson that his mother and father might not have been his biologically, but that didn't mean that they loved him any less, and that Lydia should never have to hide how smart she was.

 

Claudia would have taken one look at broken nineteen year old Derek Hale and would decide that she would be his person, would have told Scott to stop being so stubborn because couldn't he see that Derek was trying? He was just a kid too, wasn't he? After all, he'd only been sixteen when most of his family died, and then his sister was murdered by their uncle, so hadn't he suffered enough ?

 

When she found Stiles sneaking out to go help the pack, she'd sneak out too, until John would catch on and put his hands on his waist and tell them they should have invited him along too, and everything would be different, so much better, if only-

 

If only-

 

"Stiles?"

 

Derek's voice jarrs him out of his own head, and when Stiles blinks back to himself, he's surprised to find Derek reaching out to him, a little unsure. It's the uncertainty that has Stiles taking the few steps necessary to be within reach of Derek, and what has him leaning down to press his forehead against his Alpha's shoulder.

 

He might not have the best sense of smell, but with his nose pressed so close, Derek smells good ; like dirt, pine needles, like Autumn and something spicy. It's comforting, so Stiles takes another step closer and takes hold of Derek's jacket to further anchor himself. That sense of calm doesn't come until Derek slowly, and oh so heartbreakingly carefully, wraps his arms around Stiles like he isn't sure whether he should pull him close or push him away.

 

In the end, that's what has Stiles letting go of the jacket to wrap his arms around Derek's waist, what has him turning his head and pressing his nose against Derek's throat. When all his Alpha does is tense up, Stiles pulls back to look at him, startled to find that Derek's eyes are red. 

 

Slowly, Stiles tilts his head off to the side, baring his neck for Derek. Derek growls low in his throat and bends his head down while Stiles stays as still as he possibly can while Derek snuffles hotly against the skin of his neck. They stay like that for a while until Derek whispers his name and presses blunt, thankfully human, teeth against his skin, pressing down gently before pulling away.

 

Some part of Stiles might have been worried that Derek might give him the bite years before, but he knows now that Derek would never force it on anyone, not after what happened with Jackson and what could have happened with Gerard.

 

"You trust me that much?" Derek looks confused, his hands shifting until he's holding Stiles by the shoulders, frowning down at him. It doesn't make sense to him, and Stiles tells him so. "You're the only one in this pack that I haven't had to force to submit."

 

 Derek's response makes his hair stand on end, but Stiles only pats the werewolf's chest and grins. "Big guy, I haven't been scared of you since the night in the pool, and you've had plenty of opportunity to rip my throat out with your teeth since then. And this? Submitting to you, or whatever?"

 

Derek glares when Stiles flails, letting go of his shoulders to cross his arms back over his chest, but Stiles is not deterred. "Yeah, of course I trust you. You're my Alpha, aren't you? That means you won't hurt me."

 

For a minute Stiles thinks he's said something wrong, because Derek's glare seems to harden even more before he blows out a breath and shakes his head slowly but it seems as though he was just getting himself under control because Derek rolls his shoulders and offers Stiles a small, tense smile.

 

"Pack night are on Fridays." Derek growls out, straightening his jacket before raising a brow at Stiles. "You're coming from now on." With that, he pushes himself off of Stiles' counter and heads for the door, grunting when Stiles shouting a goodbye after him.

--

 

He doesn't mean to go back to the Nemeton so soon, though this time he does text the pack now that he's in their group chat to let them know he's going into the woods and that he'll be fine and somehow, Stiles isn't surprised when he parks the Jeep that Boyd is leaning against a tree, looking nonchalantly at Stiles while he stares from inside Roscoe. He's a little frustrated, though he does still grab the water he packed and a few snacks before he exits the car and walks over to Boyd.

 

"What did you do to get stuck on babysitting duty?" Stiles asks, righteous anger flaring up inside. He's sure right now that if he was a wolf that his eyes would be gleaming a bright blue (Don't think about it, Don't.) while he glares at Boyd, his hands on his waist.

 

Boyd just shrugs, pushing himself off the tree with an ease that only serves in making Stiles envious. "I offered," He says, and juts his chin towards the woods. "We going?"

 

The anger melts out of Stiles like it wasn't even there in the first place, leaving him more tired than frustrated. He runs a hand over his face before nodding. "Yeah, we're going."

 

The walk takes a bit of time, considering that the last time Stiles was here he was drunk, and he's beginning to think that intoxication might just be a necessity until they both stumble across the clearing just when Stiles was considering asking Boyd to lead him back to the Jeep. They must have passed the clearing quite a few times, because Stiles isn't sure what he was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn't this.

 

The little sprout has more than tripled its size, and is now nearly almost as tall as Stiles is. The trunk is about as thick as his forearm, but it's sturdy, healthy looking, with branches full of green leaves that seem to rustle out to him when the wind gently blows.

 

Stiles takes a step forward, ignoring the warning growl from Boyd and reaches his hand towards the branches, which rustle a bit more and reach for him. He allows it, though Boyd does not , and the moment a single leaf comes in contact with his skin, he finds himself tugged back against a broad chest. Boyd is snarling, half shifted, eyes glowing, and a protective hand splayed over Stiles' chest. The tree shivers and shakes, it's branches folding into itself, looking for all the world like a scolded child.

 

"Boyd." When that gets no response besides another loud snarl, Stiles elbows him in the chest. It probably didn't hurt, but Boyd stops the noise and reluctantly lets Stiles go. "What was that?"

 

"This place smells weird," Boyd crinkles his nose when it flares again, baring his teeth when he gestures over at the tree. " That's where the smell is coming from."

 

"Well yeah, it's kind of a magic tree?" Stiles shrugs, taking a step closer to the tree and ignoring Boyd's snarling that starts up again. "It's not going to hurt me, Boyd. It's a good tree, aren't you?"

 

The Nemeton's leaves rustle as Stiles steps closer, and when he reaches out a hand and gently trails a finger over a leaf, all the branches reach for him, gently pulling at his shirt and pants. He gets patted down for a few minutes while Boyd paces unhappily a few feet away. It's clear that he doesn't like it and even more clear that he doesn't like that Stiles is willingly touching it, but he's not attacking and for that, Stiles is grateful.

 

"This is Boyd," Stiles tells the Nemeton when the branches stop petting him and seem to just bask in his attention. The moment he brings up Boyd, the leaves shiver and reach out to him. "He's part of the Hale pack in Beacon Hills."

 

The moment the word Hale is out of his mouth, the Nemeton shudders and grows another foot right in front of their eyes, reaching out to Boyd again with near desperation. The tree beckons him, curling a small branch in a way that seems to say come, please and Boyd takes a cautious step closer.

 

Boyd glances at Stiles, who smiles and keeps pushing that belief of good into the tree, so when Boyd steps closer, he's subjected to the same patdown that Stiles was. It's clear that something changes when a little broken noise leaves Boyd's lips and he steps back, looking from the tree to Stiles. He looks upset and at peace all at once, and pulls Stiles into a huge hug while the branches pat at them both, happily.

 

"The tree is magic, Stiles." Boyd breathes against his neck, squeezing him tightly before stepping back and out of its touch. He's hurting, that much is plain to see, but he points off into the distance in the woods. "That's where I'll be if you need me, okay?"

 

Boyd turns and starts to jog away, but Stiles calls his name and he stops, turning back. "What did you see?"

 

He wishes he didn't ask the moment Boyd's face falls, regardless of the fact that there's still a smile on his face. "My little sister, I know where she is now." He jogs off and this time Stiles let's him go, burying his face in the leaves and pushing more goodgoodgood into the tree.

 

Later, he'll find out that Alicia had tried to cut through the woods to get to a friend's house, but had slipped and fallen down a ravine, cracking her head on a rock. It was quick, Boyd reassures everyone, the tree insisted that it was quick and painless. Derek will look at Stiles the whole time Boyd is talking, a quietly crying Erica wrapped in his arms, and he'll know that Derek is aware that something is happening, but Stiles finds himself hoping that he doesn't know that the Nemeton is slowly waking up.

--

 

The funeral is on a Friday; Stiles and his father show up together and stand with Boyd and his grandmother, as do the rest of the pack. Even Scott shows up, though he brings Allison and Chris Argent, and all of them leave before Boyd's sister can finally be put to rest.

 

Erica refuses to leave Boyd's side, their fingers clenched so tightly that Stiles wonders if their bones have broken and healed multiple times over. Boyd's eyes are puffy and swollen, but his body, minus his hands, are relaxed. 

 

Earlier, Jackson had pulled Stiles aside and admitted that the bond connecting Boyd to the rest of them felt better , that he felt more calm than anything else. Lydia distracts Erica so Boyd and his grandmother can have their own time over the casket before it starts to lower into the earth.

 

Stiles doesn't comment about how his dad digs his fingers too hard into the meat of his shoulder, or that he can only see a different funeral play over and over the entire time he's standing there. He doesn't have to, he's sure they all know.

 

Boyd takes Stiles by the shoulder and says thank you and goodbye to the Sheriff all in one breath before steering Stiles towards the Camaro. He climbs in willingly, tucked in the back between Isaac and Boyd, Erica lounging in the passenger seat while Derek pulls away from the curb. The drive is quiet, Isaac tucked against Stiles' side, Boyd's hand on his thigh but soon enough, they pull into the preserve and park in front of the ruins of the old Hale house. One by one they all get out of the car, and stand in front of the charred ruins that seem to be deteriorating right in front of them.

 

 Stiles doesn't need a werewolf's nose to know that the air is thick with guilt, though he doesn't understand why the wolves move to surround him until a new voice speaks.

 

"I was really quite sorry to hear about your sister, Vernon." Peter steps out of the doorway of the Hale house, looking somber and serious for the first time since Stiles has known him. The older Hale glances over at Derek before taking a few steps closer and resting a hand against Boyd's shoulder, peering up at him. "I know what it's like to lose a child so young."

 

Stiles can't quite stop the way all the tension leaves his body when he stares at this odd version of Peter Hale. He's well aware that Chris Argent has had the wolf staying at his place, partly to keep him away from Derek, but mostly to keep him from completely losing his mind and wreaking havoc like he used to.

 

"What are you doing here, Peter?" Derek asks, sounding much more tired than he does upset, though he does cross his arms over his chest. Stiles wonders if Derek even knows that he's doing it, or if it's just another way to protect himself.

 

Erica shifts closer to Boyd when Peter drops his hand from him and takes a step back, his hands raised.

 

"The pack was hurting." It looks like it was hard for Peter to admit that if the scowl on his face is anything to go by. "I wanted to make sure that you were all alright."

 

For once, Stiles doesn't think that Peter is lying to them. There's something fragile and raw in his face that has Stiles stepping around the others and meeting Peter's suddenly hopeful eyes. For a while, nothing happens. He and Peter keep looking at each other, and Stiles suddenly hopes that he won't regret this decision anytime soon.

 

"How do you feel about pizza?" Offering the smallest smile he can, Stiles ignores the betas sputtering behind him and shifts to look over at Derek, who suddenly looks so hopeful that Stiles' heart just about breaks. 

 

All of the remaining Hales have suffered so much. It's time for that to end.

 

Peter stands there for a moment longer, looking lost, confused, and so much younger than he actually is before he gathers himself enough to speak. "I like pizza."

 

"Then come on," Rolling his eyes, Stiles reaches out and snags Peter's wrist, pulling him away from the pack and heading for the picnic area where they've been holding pack meetings. Stiles is surprised that Peter is allowing him to tug him along, and even more surprised when he stops on the outskirts of the clearing. "What are you waiting for?"

 

"You should tell them I'm here." Peter looks a little uncomfortable standing there with Stiles' hand wrapped tight around his wrist, so he loosens his grip a bit. "I don't want-"

 

He breaks off, frowning down at his feet while the sound of Jackson and Lydia talking finally reaches Stiles' ears. By the shrillness of her voice, Stiles suspects that Lydia already knows that Peter is on his way, so he clasps a hand on Peter's shoulder, the first time he's willingly touched the wolf in a kind way, and pushes through into the clearing. 

 

Sure enough, Jackson and Lydia are pressed together on one of the benches that Derek had made for the pack meetings, and the look she sends Stiles could curdle milk. Stiles understands her trepidation, but one look at Peter's uncertainty, at the hope in Derek's eyes, and Stiles claps his hands together, the sound echoing through the clearing like a clap of thunder.

 

"My Queen," Stiles grins bright and bold towards Lydia, who softens slightly under his focus. Then Stiles turns to Jackson and sticks his tongue out. "Lizard breath."

 

"Dickhead," Jackson flashed his eyes at Stiles even though it's clear his heart's not really in it. Stiles appreciates the attempt of normalcy and rests his hand on his chest in a wounded way.

 

Behind him, Erica starts to giggle softly, allowing Boyd to pull her over to their own bench. Isaac quietly moves to the loveseat in between Lydia's bench and Derek's. Shortly after, Derek follows their lead and settles himself down at his own bench, leaving Stiles and Peter as the only two standing. He can almost feel the nerves rolling off of Peter, and Stiles is about to open his mouth to speak about him when Lydia cuts him off.

 

"Stiles," Lydia's got a smile on her lips that doesn't reach her eyes, and her hand keep twitching towards her back where Stiles knows she's got a small Wolfsbane blade hidden away. "Are you aware that there's a leech attached to your back? I can cut it off for you if you'd like."

 

"We're trying something new today, Lyds. No maiming allowed." Stiles shakes his head and pushes Peter towards Derek, who nods his consent. He waits for Peter to sit, for Derek to duck his head and mumble quietly to his uncle before talking again. "I know that you've heard it before from him but you've never heard from me. Peter's different, somehow he's still the person from before, but this concern of his isn't just an act. Something's changing."

 

"So what, we're supposed to just sit here and hope that he doesn't go crazy and try to kill Derek or Lydia again?" Jackson drapes an arm over Lydia's shoulders to tug her close, looking out at the rest of the pack. His frustration is nearly palpable, and Stiles can't even be mad at him for feeling that way. None of them liked what Peter did to Lydia.

 

Derek cocks his head at the idea and pulls away from Peter, jogging the way they came instead. Boyd grunts out the word "Pizza" and the rest of them relax a bit, even Lydia.

 

They really have to work on Derek's communication skills.

 

"Look," Stiles admits quietly, knowing full well that his wolves could hear him just fine. This feeling he has is hard to explain, but somehow Stiles is certain that Peter isn't going to be attempting murder anytime soon. "I can't promise you anything except that he doesn't feel like he used to."

 

Everyone turns to look at him curiously after that, including Peter, but Stiles isn't worried about that right now.

 

"It's a huge deal to welcome a new wolf to a pack, and most of all it's going to be Derek's choice." At the annoyance on everyone's faces, Stiles hurries to correct himself. "That doesn't mean your opinion doesn't matter , it just means that Derek is hopeful right now, and we should do what we can to keep him that way." 

 

The clearing quiets down and Stiles finally makes his way to the little loveseat with Issac, curling up against his side while Isaac idly begins to play with Stiles' hair. Jackson and Lydia are talking to the right of him, their voices softer and less poisonous, and Erica is half draped in Boyd's lap, grinning up at him like she doesn't have a care in the world.

 

As one, all six wolves lift their noses right before Derek walks through with eight boxes of pizza. He sets them down on the log right in the middle of everyone's seats, barking out a " Wait" when Erica tries to slink forward.

 

"Stiles. Lydia." Derek gestures at the boxes and the two of them scurry to stand, but Derek just hands them each a box of pizza, waiting for them to settle back in their seats before snagging a box for himself. "Alright, now."

 

Boyd is the first one up despite Erica's attempts at reaching the stack of boxes, but he grabs two to placate her, and they share a kiss before turning back to Derek. Isaac and Jackson go up together; Isaac grabs the next box in the stack but when Jackson whines, he hands it over and takes the next box with a small little smile. They both headed back to their seat and turn towards Derek, but he's too busy looking at Peter to notice his pack is waiting for his permission to eat.

 

Stiles is about to hand his box over to Peter when Erica slowly stands and makes her way over to the last box sitting on the stump, nervously glancing at Derek, who is now watching her every move. He growls a little when she lifts the box, but Erica holds her head high and walks over to Peter, holding the box out to him.

 

"If Stiles and Derek think you deserve a second chance, then I'll treat you like I would any other wolf trying to find a place in this pack." When Peter tentatively takes the box from her, Erica's lips curl up in a smile that's half snarl, and she leans down to meet his eyes, her own flashing a vibrant gold. "If you do end up hurting my pack though, I will kill you, and I'll get Lydia to help me."

 

The wolves look a little more relaxed now that Erica has said what most of them had probably wanted to, and for a moment Stiles is worried that Peter might have actually been a bit frightened. Instead, Peter grinned boyishly and turned to Derek. "Your mother would have loved Erica." 

 

"She's a lot like Laura." Derek nods slowly, like he's unsure how to make smalltalk, though he does finally open his pizza box and take a massive bite out of a slice. "Can you imagine having two of them though?"

 

Peter shudders, waiting for everyone else to open their boxes and finish a slice of pizza before he opened his own. "All too well, Derek."

 

Laughing, Derek continue to inhale his pizza as do the rest of the pack as slowly but surely, the atmosphere begins to soften, and the pack meeting becomes just that: A meeting.

 

They discuss a few things that afternoon:

 

There's rumors courtesy of Peter that Victoria Argent is getting ready to divorce Chris and that she's contemplating moving elsewhere. Peter thinks that if she leaves then Allison will follow, as neither of them have been seeing eye to eye with Chris, lately.

 

Isaac brings up Scott, who has apparently been ignoring him to the point of sneaking out of his windows in the mornings to avoid Isaac at the McCall's house, which pisses Stiles off, if he's honest. Stiles suggests that Isaac move into his  house with his dad, and Isaac lights up like a child on Christmas morning.

 

Lydia talks about the lack of Supernatural deaths the last two years, and that if she concentrates very hard, she can get a feel for who is going to die normally next in town; though she really hates doing that.

 

When Boyd asks about Cora, Derek admits that she'd left not too long after the breakfast at Stiles', and that she's visiting with her old pack. Apparently the Cortez pack wanted to attempt an alliance with Beacon Hills, and Cora was their go between.

 

They talk and talk until Stiles and Lydia begin to shiver, and then the wolves collect their empty boxes and begin to head back towards the skeleton of the Hale house. Jackson has his arm around Lydia to keep her steady, and Stiles is startled but pleased when Derek puts a hand on his shoulder and leads him through the trail, mumbling warnings of rocks and sticks in his way.

 

By the time they make it back to the house, Stiles is feeling a little tired, and more than ready for the comfort of his own place.

 

"Isaac," Stiles waits for the beta to head over to him before continuing. "Are you staying tonight?"

 

"Can I?" Isaac looks between Stiles and Derek slowly, like he's waiting for permission from both of them, which gets granted when both Stiles and Derek offer him their yeses. Isaac beams and pulls out his phone to text Melissa, so Stiles pulls his own phone out to let his dad know.

 

They say their goodbyes shortly after and climb into the Jeep, turning the music up and heading home. Isaac is easy to talk to, easy to be with, and Stiles has a permanent smile on his face when they reach his house. He wordlessly leaves the rest of his pizza in the fridge for his dad to eat, gives Isaac a pair of his pajamas to borrow and is barely surprised when the wolf climbs into his bed.

 

Stiles climbs in after him, unashamed to curl up into Isaac's warmth, and finds himself falling asleep faster than he'd meant to, his arms wrapped protectively around someone more than able to protect himself.

--

 

Stiles is grateful that his father is such a forgiving man, because one conversation with Melissa, and suddenly all Isaac's stuff is being moved into their spare bedroom. His dad takes extra care around Isaac most of the time, sitting next to him on the couch, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder even though Isaac almost always always flinches at first. It's what Stiles imagines having a little brother would be like, and he's surprised by how little it bothers him.

 

Isaac seems to be flourishing with the attention his dad gives him anyways, and Stiles learns that Isaac really loves to draw when he shyly gives the Sheriff a sketch of him and Stiles together. The next day, John had come home with three bags full of art supplies and handed them over to Isaac with a grin and a request for him to keep drawing because he'd gotten compliments on the drawing at the station all morning.

 

It's no surprise to Stiles that Isaac ends up sleeping in his bed that night, curled up in a ball to make himself seem smaller. What is a surprise is that Isaac begins to talk about his father and just how bad he was getting before Derek had given him the bite. He talked about how different Stiles' dad and his own were, and that the Stilinski house has felt more like home in a single week than the McCalls had the last year.

 

Later that night when Isaac is still asleep and Stiles feels an itch under his skin, he peels himself away from the wolf and pulls on his red hoodie and a battered pair of sweats before pulling on his shoes. He leaves Isaac a brief note in case he wakes up, and Stiles leaves the house.

 

Deciding against Roscoe, Stiles grabs his bike and attaches the headlamp on it as makes his way down the street. It's been a while since Stiles had ridden a bike, but it's still such second nature that he's startled to see the McCalls house come into view. What's even more surprising is seeing Scott standing in his bedroom window, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes gleaming yellow.

 

For the first time, Stiles is a little afraid of this Scott he barely knows, this posturing stranger watching him bike past his house. He feels eyes on him even as he goes past the house and turns onto the road to get to the preserve. That feeling lasts longer than he'd like, only truly fading when Stiles is swallowed up by a convenient mist barely fifty feet from where he knows the Nemeton to be.

 

Leaning his bike against the nearest tree he sees, Stiles pulls up the hood on his sweatshirt and began trudging through the woods. There's a lot of noise in the preserve tonight, animals smashing and crashing through the woods, but needless to say, Stiles is still caught off guard when he finds himself face to face with glowing blue eyes.

 

"What the fuck?" Stiles shouts, his arms pinwheeling while he tries to keep his balance as he jumps back from the figure in front of him. Strong hands take hold of his shoulders and steady him, and only then is Stiles able to see the face in front of him. "What- Peter?"

 

"Stiles?" It helps Stiles to hear that Peter's voice sounds just as confused as his own does. "What are you doing out here?"

 

"I could ask you the same thing." Stiles shakes himself free of Peter's hold and steps around the werewolf and begins to walk forward when a cautious hand stops his movement.

 

"I got turned around in the fog. Did Derek send you?" Peter sounds so hopeful that Stiles really doesn't want to admit to being here of his own volition, but he's not going to lie.

 

"No, he didn't." Peter drops his arm and Stiles heaves a sigh, grabbing Peter's arm and pulling him forward. "I'm just going to check on something, but you can come with me anyways. After I'm done I'll help you out of the fog."

 

For once, Peter doesn't respond, but Stiles is sure that the wolf is looking at him oddly, or at the very least is disbelieving that Stiles would be the one to help him out of the fog. Still, it doesn't take a long time to come across the Nemeton, and by Peter's sharp inhale, then he knows what the tree really is.

 

Like it had with Boyd, the leaves begin rustling almost immediately, and the wind helps to disperse a little bit of the fog; it's just enough for Stiles to see that the tree has doubled it's height yet again, and that the trunk is nearly too big for him to get his arms around. The trunk it's growing out of is still large enough for Stiles and three members of the pack to lounge on comfortably, but he doesn't want to touch the husk of what had been.

 

He's pulled out of his head by a branch somehow managing to push his hood off his head, leaves ruffling his hair. Behind him, Peter makes a little surprised noise, but Stiles just laughs and steps forward, pressing his palm against the bark.

 

"I missed you too!" The branch lifts from his head and joins the others in pleased rustling, and Stiles watches and beams. His tree is curious though, and before too long it notices Peter and gestures towards him in a question that Stiles is quick to answer.

 

"This is Peter Hale." Like it had before, the tree freezes at the name Hale before it's reaching longingly for Peter, who shies away from it at the same time that the tree shies away from him. A branch pats Stiles' shoulder, and he knows what it's asking without having to think about it. "Peter was in the fire, went into a coma, went completely insane and killed Laura Hale. After that, Derek killed him and he used our packmate Lydia to bring him back, but something's different now. Peter seems to be healing or at least trying to."

 

"It's hard." Peter admits his eyes once against glowing that neon blue that used to haunt Stiles' nightmares. "It's like there's something in my body that's trying to keep me from how I used to be. I wasn't always like this. I loved my sister and her children, I loved our pack and my wife and child. I don't want to be like this anymore."

 

And that it seems, is just what the Nemeton was waiting for, because the next time it extends a branch to Peter, there's a low hanging fruit just within his reach; a shining red apple. There's a glow around it that Stiles wouldn't trust coming from anything else, but as it is, he nods at Peter to take it and pushes GoodGoodPleaseGood into the tree again.

 

The apple falls directly into Peter's hand when he reaches for it, and with only a cursory glance at Stiles, Peter bites right into it, the crunch echoing through the quiet. For a while nothing happens, and Stiles thinks that maybe whatever is wrong with Peter can't be fixed, but then Peter goes in for another bite and freezes with his teeth sunk into the flesh of the fruit. His eyes widen, his clawed fingers drop the apple, Peter bends at the waist and begins to vomit the same black tar substance that reminds Stiles of Deaton's office, and Derek begging Stiles to cut his arm off.

 

Peter whines as he stumbles to his knees and gasps for breath, bending over and vomiting again. Stiles is hit with the sudden stench of death and decay, startled when familiar Wolfsbane flowers bubble to the top of the goop. It hits Stiles suddenly that the black mass is moving , and he follows Peter's lead when the wolf scurries back and away from the mass.

 

The Nemeton's ahead of both of them it seems, because it shoves a rather pointed branch right in the middle of the writhing mass and drapes branches over Stiles and a rather mortified looking Peter while the thing on the ground screeches and screams. The blackness then oozes up the branch and seems to dissolve into the wood, so Stiles grasps his branch and tries to banish the faint trickle of darkness he feels there.

 

Finally, the branches pull away and Stiles gets back to his feet, shuddering at the stain in the grass left behind from whatever that was.

 

"Well that was fun," Stiles has to look away from the grass or else he'll be adding his own stain to it and turns towards Peter, instead. "Hey dude, you okay?"

 

Peter doesn't answer, just keeps looking at the Nemeton and the spot where he got rid of whatever that was. He looks- different , looks healthy and red cheeked and bright eyed in a way that Stiles had never seen from him before.

 

"Peter?" Stiles calls to him and watches him startle and turn, watches his eyes widen and flare bright blue. He takes a step closer to Peter and sits down next to him in the grass while the tree shivers and shakes in its excitement above them. "How are you doing?"

 

"My entire life just changed, Stiles. How do you think I'm doing?" It's not said rudely or with much of any inflection at all, and that more than anything bothers Stiles. He gathers himself and bumps his shoulder against Peter's and awaits being mauled, surprised when all Peter does is lean back against him.

 

They sit there together for a while, until the fog around them starts to fade and Stiles gets that niggling sensation in his head that he realizes is actually someone calling Peter's name.

 

"Come on, then." Stiles slaps his hands against his thighs and pushes himself up to stand, peering down at a very lost looking Peter Hale. "Our Alpha awaits."

 

Peter's face crumples, and he looks so devastated that Stiles is tempted to pull him into a hug. He would if he thought it would be welcomed, but all he ends up offering is his hand.

 

"How can you stand to let me touch you?" Peter asks, though he does end up taking Stiles' hand and standing up. "How could Derek even consider letting me into the pack?"

 

"It's different now. You're different now, Peter." Stiles slaps the wolf on his shoulder and begins heading in the direction the tree points him in, and he feels more than sees Peter following after him. "Derek really only started calling for you when you expelled whatever that thing was. I'd bet you feel different to him now."

 

"He feels different to me, too." Peter sounds lost in thought and looks it when Stiles peers over his shoulder at the older man.

 

"What does he feel like?" Stiles can't help but be curious, and when Peter finally looks at him, Stiles tries his best to look as reassuring as he can.

 

Peter stares at him for a long time, and right before they come across their pack no clearing, Peter takes Stiles by the shoulder, looks right at him and whispers. "He feels like family."

 

Stiles let's Peter go first and watches as a frantic Derek spots his uncle and for the first time since they've met, Peter is all Derek sees. He's not sure who moves first, all Stiles knows is that Peter and Derek meet in the middle and absolutely cling to each other, and the moment they touch, Derek tosses his head back in a howl that reverberates right through Stiles.

 

It feels like hope, like happiness, like relief, and it nearly brings Stiles to his knees, and it's not long before the other members of the pack stumble sleep heavy into the clearing. 

 

Cora arrives first, which Stiles is only mildly surprised about; he hadn't known she was back home yet, and she stops on the edge of the clearing and stares at her brother and her uncle, looking more unsure than Stiles has ever seen her before.

 

"Uncle Peter?" Her voice is hesitant, and when Derek pulls away from his Uncle, his eyes are wide, glassy, and glowing Alpha red. Cora relaxes a little bit and looks back to Peter, who is staring at her in both horror and relief.

 

"Hey, Bunny." Is what Peter finally settles on saying, and it must be the right thing because Cora  clasps a hand over her mouth and almost immediately begins to cry. She runs over to the both of them and practically throws herself at Peter, curling up on his lap like a child and crying into his shoulder.

 

Lydia and Jackson come next, and the both of them come as close to Peter as they can possibly stand, and when he starts talking, it's obvious he's talking to Lydia, and that whatever it is he's saying is making that tenseness in her shoulders fade until it's barely there. It's Lydia that holds out a hand for Peter to shake, and he takes her hand in both of his. She dips her head, and Jackson drapes an arm around her, but not before running a hand on Peter's arm and dragging Lydia over to their bench.

 

Isaac comes through next, stumbling into the clearing and nearly falling flat on his face. He zeros in on Cora almost immediately, reeling back when he sees whose arms she's currently crying in, and sends a bewildered look towards Stiles. He shrugs, gesturing to Peter, Cora and Derek, pointing at Isaac and pointing at the wolves right after.

 

"Isaac," Derek's voice is soft and just the slightest bit wobbly, but his face is the most expressive that Stiles has seen from him yet. "Come meet my Uncle Peter."

 

Frowning, Isaac takes a few steps closer to Derek, cautiously scenting the air. It doesn't seem to help much if the puzzles look on his face is anything to go by. 

 

"He smells different," Isaac admits softly, allowing Derek to tug him down next to him into the grass. "How is that even possible?"

 

"He's been healed, that's all." Stiles shrugs when six people turn to stare at him all at once, their expressions ranging from disbelief (Derek) to calculating (Lydia) and Stiles ducks his head at the sudden scrutiny. "What?"

 

"That kind of magic always has a price, Stiles." Lydia admonishes, shaking her head slowly. She looks worried now, they all do except for Peter.

 

"Not when it's right from the source," Peter offers, shifting a bit so Cora can sit more comfortably in his lap. "We visited the Nemeton."

 

"That old tree stump? Why?" Derek crinkles his nose, frowning off in the direction of the Nemeton. The Alpha color has faded from his eyes, though it does flicker again when Erica and Boyd make their way into the clearing.

 

Erica takes one look at the group in the middle, straightens her shoulders, tosses her hair back out of her face and stalks over to them, surprising everyone but Stiles by sitting next to Peter and leaning into his side. Boyd simply shrugs when the pack looks at him and heads over to Erica, pulling one of her hands into his own.

 

"It's not the stump," Stiles admits once the pack's surprise at Erica fades. There's a reason that she's Derek's second after all; She's rarely afraid of anything and adapts to change better than Stiles has ever seen now that the pack is settled. "It's a new tree growing out of the stump."

 

"There's a new Nemeton and no one told me?" Derek actually looks a bit offended, like they've been sneaking around behind his back and Stiles realizes that he kind of has . Not to mention that he's taken members of the pack there, but never the Alpha himself.

 

"Man, I'm sorry, Derek." Stiles runs fingers through his hair and walls over to the alpha, sitting on his right side and leaning heavily against him. "I swear that I wasn't trying to keep this a secret from you. I can take you tomorrow if you want to go and check it out."

 

Derek huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and looking a little frustrated before he finally shakes his head and looks at Stiles. "No. I want the time for the pack to get used to Peter before I even think of going to the Nemeton. Next time, just tell me when you stumble upon a Supernatural tree close to my property."

 

"I promise," Stiles says eagerly, holding up his left hand with his pinky held out. Derek simply raises a brow, looking from the pinky up to Stiles' face, but Stiles simply waggles his brows, grinning when Derek gives in and loops their pinkies together.

 

That night, Stiles and Lydia are covered by wolves in the grass, pressed together as close as they can be. It hits Stiles that this must have been what Derek and Cora had been missing out on all this time, but now they had it back.

 

This is pack.

--

 

That night, Stiles dreams of being in his room, of seeing his bedroom door shut, the sound of someone knocking echoing through the room and a niggling in his brain to go open the door. When he moves to get off the bed, warm arms wrap around him, and a voice that sounds like hundreds of different tongues all speaking at once whispers in his ear to stay still emissary, don't you dare think opening that door .

 

A body pulls away from him, tucks a blanket around his shoulders and steps into his line of vision. Their body is ever changing, male, female, everything in between; sometimes they have wings, sometimes they have sharp teeth, but the things that never changes are the green leaves for hair, the rough bark substituting for skin. It strikes him as odd that the bark didn't hurt when it touched him, but then the being is heading for the door and looking over their shoulder.

 

Sleep soundly. I will protect you this night. It looks like they smile before they're turning and heading out of the door, closing it firmly behind them.

 

There's the feeling of electricity in the air, a disbelieving hiss in the corridor outside of Stiles' bedroom door, but he's not worried about it. In fact, he's getting a bit sleepy, so he allows his eyes to close, for a new dream to take over.

 

Meanwhile, out in the preserve while their pack lays sleeping, the Nemeton grows even larger, their branches quivering as their roots come across that thing hidden in a jar tucked under their predecessors roots.

 

Their previous self had allowed the prior Hale Emissary to slowly poison it, to trickle misfortune and death into the land, to bring sickness to Beacon Hills. It's not their previous self's fault though- they didn't have a Stiles back then, they didn't have someone reminding them to be good, that they should protect their pack and the land they live on.

 

Now though, they remember, and they know that what lies underneath their old roots has no right to belong there any longer. 

 

It's easy enough magic to shift the dirt around and over that jar with a fluttering bug inside, to harden that soil until it's nearly impenetrable. The dirt beneath it sinks down, down, down , so that what lays trapped inside can never sink its claws into what is rightfully theirs .

 

Their emissary, their Stiles can now sleep peacefully and unaware of what could have been once that Nasty Druid had influenced him just a little further into opening the door in his mind that should have never been opened in the first place.

 

That man will get his unhappy ending, and The Nemeton plans on helping their emissary when it's needed, by whatever means necessary.

 

Deaton will pay for attempting to harm what is theirs.

--

Chapter Text

The thing about making plans to meet with a magical tree while in a town that attracts the supernatural, is that plans very rarely end up happening the way you want them to; so when a week goes by and Stiles still hasn't brought Derek out to the preserve, he feels like he's not the one to blame, especially since Derek hasn't brought it up yet.

 

After all, who could have foreseen such an influx of truly feral omegas traipsing through Beacon Hills nearly all at once?

 

The pack had asked Stiles and his father to stay home since these wolves couldn't be reasoned with, and to everyone's surprise, including his own, Stiles listened. Maybe it was the way he could tell that Derek was trying his hardest to not have it sound like a demand, or maybe it was the fact that Stiles could practically feel the pack's anxiety hanging in the air when he'd grabbed his mountain ash coated bat, but the fact of the matter is that Stiles stayed home .

 

And his wolves all came back in one piece, because of it.

 

"Sometimes key players need to take a step back and keep to the sidelines," Stiles' dad mumbles to him the morning after the last Omega was taken care of, sitting at the kitchen table and sipping his black coffee. Stiles just grumbles and shovels more cereal into his mouth, already texting Jackson plans to meet up with the pack later on. He needs to see that they're fine with his own eyes, especially since Isaac didn't come home last night. At least he had texted both Stiles and his father, admitting that he wanted to spend time with his Alpha for a night. It's not like either of them would say no, but it's nice to get some kind of acknowledgement at the end of the day without worrying about Isaac.

 

Stiles is at the sink washing his bowl when the first sense of something odd trickles in under his skin like an itch he can't scratch; something lingering uncomfortably at the back of his mind. He shakes his head to try and clear it, but it doesn't really help. The sensation ebbs a little after a while, and Stiles is able to ignore it and finish the dishes, shouting a goodbye to his dad when his father heads off to the station. He doesn't even think to mention it to his dad, and since it didn't hurt, Stiles tries to ignore the fact that it even happened.

 

The thing is, though? That niggling doesn't go away, and by one in the afternoon, Stiles is desperate to get any kind of relief that he can, because now the sensation is shifting from annoying into a pressing headache, and he's frustrated that he can't figure out what the hell is happening to him. It's a miniscule relief when his phone goes off with a notification on the group chat with Derek calling for a pack meeting, so Stiles is up and ready in seconds. If nothing else, maybe the pack could help take the pain, and besides-

 

The preserve is just where Stiles wants to be now that he takes the time to think about it; so he grabs his shoes, his phone, and his keys and heads out the door, climbing into Roscoe. He very nearly peels out of his driveway in his haste to get out there as fast as possible, but Stiles manages to control himself at the very last second. He'd hate to get pulled over by his dad just because he was in a rush to get to the meeting.

 

"What the hell is going on with me today?" Stiles mumbles to himself, suddenly distracted  by something catching his eye as he drives down the street. He's hit with the sick sense of deja vu when he sees Scott outside his house, watching the Jeep drive by. This time, Scott bares his teeth and starts after the Jeep before someone must call him back to himself, because he ducks his head, kicking his bike over and heading back towards the house. 

 

Stiles continues driving though he can't help but wonder when the animosity between himself and Scott became too much to bear.

--

 

The very minute Stiles' foot touches the ground he's aware of something waiting for him, and he has no idea how he knows, but he does.  He vaguely recalls the face of the being from his dreams and turns towards the Nemeton, pushing away from the Jeep and breaking out into a run.

 

He has to get there in time, he just has to and he doesn't know why, but Stiles can tell that this just might be the single most important thing he does with himself today. Needless to say it's very conflicting when he bursts into the clearing and there's absolutely no immediate reason for his concern. The clearing is quiet and empty besides the Nemeton, which rustles its leaves in the usual way when Stiles risks stepping closer.

 

"What?" Stiles whispers but the branches still perk up at the sound of his voice, reaching for him when he's in range. Stiles walks until he's pressed against the smooth bark of the tree, his palms flat against it. The bark is warm; the heat both soothes and worries him. It feels like the tree is alive more so than he'd realized. "Did you call me here?"

 

The rustling leaves sound oddly enough like laughter to Stiles right now, and instead of unsettling him it makes him feel more at ease than he has all morning. He rests his forehead against the Nemeton and feels another pulse of warmth, and he sighs against it as his headache begins to fade like it was never even there in the first place. Stiles pushes back against the tree, believing in the goodness, so distracted by the purity of this place that he doesn't realize that the tree is growing right under his touch, that it's growing around him.

 

Bark divots and stretches while the Nemeton steadily grows so large that its previous stump crumbles around it's width; the tree itself shaking out it's leaves and groaning while everything rearranges. 

 

Stiles?

 

Something calls to him and suddenly Stiles feels like he's blinking awake from a dream, frowning in the dark, his hands resting against the wall of bark. He can feel the Nemeton against his hands, can practically taste the magic in the air, and he still has no idea who called his name or where he is. Honestly, he's surprised that he's not freaking out more than this; he doesn't do well with dark spaces. Right when that thought crosses his mind, part of the wall shifts, opening right up and he's able to walk through the opening if he ducks down far enough. 

 

Stumbling through the hole and back into the preserve, Stiles turns and comes face to face with none other than the Nemeton. 

 

"What the hell?"

 

The Nemeton is massive ; Stiles thinks that this one might be bigger than the previous stump had been. The hole is still there in the tree, and remembering his phone, Stiles turns on his flashlight and ducks back into the darkness of the tree, ignoring the little voice inside his head that sounds oddly enough like Derek telling him off for being stupid enough to go back inside the place he just escaped from. 

 

The inside looks nothing like he'd thought the inside of a tree would look like; not that he's given that too much thought. It's spacious, bigger on the inside, and the thought has him giggling uncontrollably into his hand.

 

"It's like you're a TARDIS." Stiles snorts again, pressing his face in his free hand and groaning. He's out here alone in the preserve talking to a magical tree, how did this even become his life?

 

Stiles.

 

This time he's sure that he's heard the voice this time and whirls around to try and find it. There's nothing there, not that he'd thought there would be, but a guy can hope, can't he?

 

"Hello?" Stiles cringes at the sound of his own voice. He can't believe that he just pulled the biggest faux pas of every beginning of every horror movie that he's ever seen. You don't just go looking for the disembodied voice calling your name, not unless you want to die.

 

You're not going to die, Stiles.

 

The voice sounds like it's everywhere and nowhere all at once, too loud and too soft at the same time. There's a hint of humor in it that blows Stiles' mind, but meanwhile Stiles' skin breaks out in goosebumps and he quickly ducks out of the Nemeton and looks up at the tree, it's leaves rustling without any breeze.

 

"I think I'm going crazy," He mumbles to himself, watching the way the leaves stop moving when he talks, frowning up at the Nemeton, confused. 

 

You're not crazy either.

 

It definitely sounds amused now, and Stiles wishes that he could relate with it, but he wasn't exactly planning on talking with a tree today, not even a magical one.

 

"Yeah, no." Shaking his head, Stiles takes a few steps back from the Nemeton and frowns up at it, keeping himself out of reach when it reaches for him. He feels unsettled, like his skin is pulled too tightly over his body. He wants to leave. "What do you want from me?"

 

You deserve a kindness; a gift.

 

"Why?" Stiles isn't sure why he asked or why he's even giving in to the Nemeton so goddamn easily, but he's seen this tree grow, seen it give Boyd peace, heal Peter, and God help him but he's so damn curious as to what the Nemeton could do for him even as he takes another step backwards.

 

You helped us grow, helped us understand how to be good. 

 

The sound fades with an odd note of reluctance, and one lone branch reaches out for Stiles again, before it adds: 

 

We didn't have a Stiles before. We didn't know how to be good, and in the end we let our pack down.

 

Thinking of Peter and how he'd mentioned growing up with the previous Nemeton just about breaks Stiles' heart when he realizes just who the Nemeton is talking about now. After all, only one Pack used to live in Beacon Hills. The realization helps his reluctance fade just enough for him to step forward and allow the branch to rest on his shoulder.

 

He still has to take a moment when it sinks in that he's having a conversation with a magical tree that's most likely older than him, his dad and Peter combined, but this is Beacon Hills after all. Stiles had better just get used to it, and besides, he thought it was charming that the tree always reached for him before, now he can actually talk with it.

 

Who would pass that up? Probably a more frightened person than Stiles, but he's been running with wolves for years. Why not talk to a magical tree responsible for bringing Supernatural creatures here?

 

The eyeroll Stiles pictures is a perfect mimic of Derek.

 

"I'm sorry about what happened to Talia and her pack," Stiles eventually settles on saying, resting his hand against the branch that's laying on his shoulder and pats it a few times. He's not exactly sure what his role is here, but he wants to do it. "But what does having me around change?"

 

Everything.

 

The preserve echoes with the force of that one word, forcing birds to take flight from the canopy of trees, silencing the rest of the woods until it's so quiet that not even a cricket chirps. The tree quickly speaks again before Stiles can think of something to say.

 

It means everything.

 

He tightens his hand on the branch he's been holding onto, shaking his head slowly. Stiles isn't sure that one person could have such a massive impact on another being, but then he thinks of Derek, of the betas, and how this tree itself is much more than it seems.

 

"So," Stiles pats the branch on more and takes another step closer to the Nemeton, a little wary and nervous. He smiles regardless, keeping up his mantra of Pleasebegood even though he can hear the Nemeton laughing at him. "What was it that you wanted me for again?"

 

A gift, Stiles.

 

The Nemeton almost sound like it's smiling, which is an odd thought for Stiles to have when thinking about a tree. Beacon Hills has ruined him for normalcy he's pretty sure, but if it meant giving up the pack, giving up this bond or whatever it is that he has with the Nemeton, then he wouldn't trade this for the world.

 

"What kind of a gift?" His traitorous brain lingers on thoughts of his mother, even though he knows that technically that shouldn't be possible. If it was, the Nemeton would have probably resurrected someone like Talia or Laura Hale instead of a school teacher.

 

A gift you already had that was hidden. A gift that will be necessary to you and yours, very soon.

 

Like it had with Peter, the tree seems to focus as one of its taller branches bends so far down that Stiles is sure it'll break, and all to give him a ruby red apple. This one doesn't glow, it doesn't ignite the air around him with the faint vibration of magic. For all intents and purposes, it looks and seems like a regular apple.

 

"What does it do?" Stiles reaches out to take the apple, plucks it from the Nemeton's leaves and tossing it in the air before snatching it back  and bringing it to his lips.

 

It reveals what was once hidden.

 

The Nemeton fades into silence that feels both anticipatory and slightly nervous, and Stiles once again wonders what it says about him as a person that he's about to bite into magically conjured fruit because a tree told him to.

 

With a shrug, Stiles mumbles "Here goes nothing," and sinks his teeth into the flesh of the apple. It's one of the best apples he's had in his life; It's juicy and sweet, the tiniest bit tart. Juice dribbles down his chin and Stiles doesn't even care that he's making a mess of himself right in front of a centuries old magic tree. Nothing matters except the overwhelming urge he has to finish the apple, core and all. 

 

It's only when he swallows the last bite that Stiles realizes he actually ate the apple core, which usually makes him gag to even think about doing.He busies himself instead and pats from his chest down to his thighs, shifting from foot to foot, waiting for something to catch him aware, a hint of the gift he was supposed to receive.

 

"I don't feel any different," He says it mostly to himself, but the sound he hears this time is most definitely a laugh, and it is coming from the tree. "Don't laugh , I thought you said that it would reveal something or whatever."

 

All in good time, emissary.

 

Stiles can't exactly stop the disbelieving scoff from leaving his mouth, but the Nemeton is saved from any scathing remarks by his phone blasting Shakira's She-wolf. He scrambles to answer the call, and has barely hit the accept button when Erica begins to talk. 

 

"You're late to the meeting, Stiles." She doesn't even sound upset, and that's the reason that Stiles scrambles away from the Nemeton as quickly as his legs can carry him. An amused Erica usually meant a pissed off Derek, and after the time he just had, Stiles really didn't want to deal with that. 

 

"I'm on my way, please tell everyone that." He hears Erica's low chuckle and a deep grumble in the background of the phone call that makes Stiles' hair stand on end.

 

"We're waiting, Stiles." Erica singsongs at him, ending the call and leaving Stiles to scramble through the woods to the clearing. 

 

It doesn't register that the Nemeton called him Emissary until the meeting is over and Stiles had lined the house in mountain ash before crawling into his bed. He's sure that he must have heard the Nemeton wrong, anyways. 

--

 

It takes a few days for Stiles to notice that something has actually changed with him.

 

A slip of a knife one morning has him bleeding from his finger, but when he rinses the spattering off his finger, he can't even find the spot that he cut himself anymore. It's like it never even happened.

 

Then, on the full moon when Stiles is with the pack in the preserve, he manages to keep up with the pack far longer than he ever has before, following less than twelve feet behind Isaac almost the entire run.

 

That doesn't exactly mean anything, he could have been lucky for all he knew, but Stiles had a niggling suspicion in the back of his mind that something was different now, and all he could hear was the Nemeton's soft whisper of Emissary on the wind no matter how much he didn't believe it.

 

Deaton had told Stiles once that he was a Spark, that he was useful to Scott because he could manipulate things like mountain ash and Wolfsbane without suffering the consequences. The Nemeton knew he had a little bit of something inside of him, so what if that's what changed when he ate that apple?

 

Was it possible for the power of a spark to be amplified?

 

Stiles frowns down at his hands, looking at his palms before turning his hands over to look at the top of his hands. They didn't look any different to him, but then again, he really didn't feel any different either. His skin suddenly breaks out in goosebumps, and Stiles barely has a moment to tense before there are hands grabbing his waist-

 

Warmth fills Stiles' chest and seems to travel lightning fast through the rest of his body, and someone yelps behind him, the hands immediately slipping from his body.

 

He knows that sound though, and spins on his heel to point a finger at Isaac, who is staring bewilderingly up at Stiles from his spot on the floor.

 

"How many times have I told you not to do that, Isaac?" Stiles raises one brow and then two when all Isaac does is pout up at him. He can't quite help the fond rolling of his eyes before he speaks again "Alright, what is it?"

 

"You shocked me." Isaac says accusingly, pushing himself up to his feet and glaring at Stiles, who simply throws his hands up in the air, frustrated.

 

"You shocked me first." He cries, knowing full well that he doesn't currently sound like the adult his father is trying so hard to raise him to be, but he just doesn't care right now.

 

"No, Stiles." Now Isaac is doing his best Derek impression, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at him. "You shocked me. Electrically."

 

"Oh my god, you absolute dramawolf, no I did not." This eyeroll is much less fond, and Stiles swats Isaac's hand away from him when the beta starts to poke Stiles right in the sternum. "Dude, I bruise like a peach, stop."

 

What happens next is odd because while Stiles tries to get the betas to listen to him, they rarely ever do, but this time Isaac pulls his hand back immediately and frowns, like he's unsure of why he just listened to Stiles.

 

They both shrug it off when Stiles' dad comes home and announces he brought home dinner, placing a bag of Stiles approved takeout on the table that Isaac descends on almost immediately. Stiles forcibly doesn't think about the odd way Isaac reacted to his accidental demand or what he'll later decide to call Static shock.

--

 

The thing about hanging out with people who have Supernatural strength is that at some point or another, someone is going to slip up and forget every once in a while that Stiles is human.

 

So when Stiles begins playing around with Jackson, he doesn't really think anything of it, not even when Jackson starts getting a little extra hairy or his canines start peeking out from his top lip. It's far from the first time that Stiles and Jackson have tussled is the point, so Stiles really doesn't notice that things have gone from good natured fun to too much until his shoulder pops out of the socket with a sickening crunch.

 

It takes him a moment to realize that the person making that pained noise is him, and that the weight that had just been on his back is suddenly gone and Boyd's large hands are lifting Stiles up off the ground like he weighs absolutely nothing. He registers nothing but pain until Lydia's voice rings through the absolute chaos of the pack and she's got her hands wrapped around his arm, telling him to breathe.

 

Gasping, Stiles grits his teeth against what he would swear were his bones trying to heal from the position they were in, but then Lydia is pushing his shoulder back, twisting it, and with another sickening crunch and thick black veins travelling up Boyd's arms, Stiles sags.

 

Slowly, the sounds of the world begin to make sense again; Stiles can feel manicured nails sliding through his sweaty hair and the way he's sat in the dirt between Boyd's legs, propped up against his chest. Boyd is still taking his pain, even though the veins are the thinnest that Stiles has ever seen them before, so he hazily swats at Boyd's arm until the beta lets him go and Stiles just closes his eyes, leans back and breathes for a while.

 

Stiles waits until he's absolutely certain that he can handle it and slowly rotates his shoulder, blinking his eyes open. He catches Lydia's eyes and takes the water bottle that she offers him, taking a long sip from it and looking around the clearing.

 

Erica looks annoyed but mostly still calm besides the way her nails are tapping out an uneven beat against the wood of her couch. Lydia has him move his arm a little more and then suggests that maybe he should get off Boyd before Derek comes back with Jackson.

 

Unable to help himself, Stiles throws his head back and cackles at the thought of Derek and Jackson coming back from a heart to heart and finding Stiles stuck between Boyd's legs. In fact, he's still on the ground between them when Derek comes back leading an uncomfortable looking Jackson by the shoulder.

 

He sobers up quickly when he realizes that Jackson's practically refusing to look his way, or that it lasts well into the pack meeting. Cora and Isaac keep looking between the two of them and frowning, Erica keeps baring her teeth while Jackson's sitting next to Lydia and looking like a kicked puppy. It gets so bad that Derek offers to take him home at the end of the meeting, but Stiles shakes his head.

 

He has a plan.

 

"No need, big guy." Stiles pats Derek's chest, ignoring the frown he gets for it and gestures towards Jackson and Lydia. "Jackson can drive me home tonight."

 

The clearing goes quiet when Jackson finally makes eye contact with Stiles, his eyes wide and almost frightened. It takes a pointed cough from Lydia and an eye flash from Derek to get Jackson to snap out of it enough to sneer at Stiles and snag the keys to the jeep from his hands.

 

"Fine, but I'm driving." Jackson twirls the key ring around his fingers and ignores the collective eye roll from the rest of the pack, stalking off into the woods. "Keep up, Stilinski." 

 

Saluting the rest of the pack, Stiles hurries to catch up with his wolfy counterpart, sliding into the passenger seat of the Jeep just as Jackson puts the car into drive. The ride is quiet and tense on Jackson's part, even though Stiles is relaxed enough to be singing along with the radio and dancing in the passenger seat.

 

Jackson apparently won't allow himself to be persuaded by Stiles' good mood; he parks the Jeep in the driveway and stomps right inside the house with Stiles struggling to follow after him. They say a quick hello to his dad and take the stairs two at a time until Jackson bursts through Stiles' bedroom door.

 

Isaac isn't home and won't be tonight; he's working an overnight shift at the graveyard now the meeting is over, even though Stiles, his dad, and Derek have all tried to get him to find a new job somewhere else.

 

The moment that Stiles shuts his bedroom door, Jackson is on him, snuffling around his shoulder and his neck. Stiles stays still, letting Jackson try to sniff out the potential of well hidden pain or terror. Only when Jackson rubs his cheek against Stiles' does he fully relax though, bullying Stiles backwards until he falls into the bed. They tug off their jeans and crawl into Stiles' bed together, and Jackson clings to Stiles, pulling him close enough that their chests are pressed together. 

 

"Are you really okay?" Jackson asks Stiles quietly, soft and unsure in a way he hasn't been in years. It just about breaks Stiles' heart to hear who might just be his closest friend sound so scared.

 

It always startles him when Jackson shows his insecurities like this, but he's grateful that they're close enough for this now, especially since he can tell the guilt from accidentally hurting Stiles is tearing Jackson to pieces.

 

"Jackson, I'm fine." Stiles runs a hand through his friend's hair and tugs on it gently when it's clear that Jackson doesn't believe him. "You didn't mean to do it."

 

"I still did it, though." The self loathing comes through loud and clear to Stiles and he's burrowing closer to Jackson than he had been before, resting his head against the Wolf's chest.

 

"You idiot." Stiles says it fondly, and he can tell that Jackson understands that when he slowly begins to relax under Stiles. They stay quiet for a long time; Stiles with his ear against Jackson's chest and Jackson drawing little nonsense designs on Stiles' back, but eventually Stiles has to break the silence. "Hey, you know I love you, right?"

 

It's completely platonic and they both know it, but Jackson curls himself closer to Stiles regardless, shifting around until they're wrapped up so tightly that Stiles isn't sure where he begins and Jackson ends.

 

"Yeah, I know. I'm still sorry about today." Jackson shifts just the right way so that his shoulder pushes into Stiles' mouth when he tries to tell Jackson to stop apologizing. "I love you too, Stiles."

 

Stiles freezes, unable to help himself and unwilling to ruin this rare moment. Jackson almost never says that he loves anyone back, not even Lydia when they're with the pack. So for him to say it now and to Stiles-

 

He must have been more upset than Stiles realized.

 

"I know." Stiles admits; it's blunt and honest and has Jackson relaxing against him even more. Their relationship has always been different than what Stiles had with Scott, but Stiles wouldn't trade it for the world.

 

That night, he doesn't fall asleep until Jackson's been snoring for a few hours, too busy running a soothing hand through his friend's hair.

 

Some nights Stiles really misses what he and Scott had together, that kind of solidarity in knowing that the two of them at least had each other when the world was shitty. Now Stiles had a whole pack full of people that care so much about him that they lose their minds over the thought of anything, including themselves, potentially hurting him. 

 

Stiles isn't alone anymore, but he's left wondering who Scott would run to when things inevitably go to shit.

--

 

Stiles gets his answer about Scott sooner than he would have liked; The shit hits the fan the Wednesday after Stiles had visited the Nemeton.

 

Stiles has been sitting on the couch with Peter, who had stopped by with an announcement that he couldn't stay with Chris today because the hunter had to talk with his lawyer. Melissa seemed to always be around lately, so she had been there with Stiles and his father for the last few hours when the knock first comes. It's Peter that moves closer to Stiles that lets him know something's happening, his eyes glowing that electric blue that signals an unfriendly something at the door.

 

"Carefully, John." Peter quietly warns as he scents the air, his muscles tensing. His grip on Stiles' arm is borderline painful to the point where he starts wincing. It doesn't help that there's something bubbling under his skin in warning, something that has him alert and hyper focused when his dad moves to the door.

 

For a second, Stiles feels like his and Peter's bodily reaction must be a little off today, because there's no reason why Peter should feel the need to protect Stiles from this person, is there?

 

After all, Scott was his best friend for close to thirteen years. He wouldn't hurt Stiles or his dad...So why does he feel like pulling his dad and Melissa behind him so he'd know they'd be safe?

 

"Scott!" Stiles' dad exclaims, sounding pleased at finding the wolf at his door. Stiles can hear the smile in his voice, but can also read the sudden tension that's running through Melissa and the way his dad's hand twitches for the gun loaded with Wolfsbane bullets that should be in his holster, but that's currently laying upstairs instead. "It's good to see you, son. How have you been?"

 

"Fine." Scott's not even looking at the Sheriff; he hasn't since the door was opened to him. Instead, he's focused solely on Stiles, toeing as close to the Mountain Ash line as he physically can. "Can I talk to Stiles in private?"

 

Stiles doesn't miss the way Scott's eyes flicker to Peter with barely hidden hatred, his lips curling slightly in a snarl. 

 

He really doesn't want to leave the comfort of the mountain ash or the protection of having Peter at his back.

 

That thought catches Stiles momentarily off guard. When did he start trusting Peter more than Scott?

 

Maybe when the Nemeton healed him? A little voice offers in Stiles' mind, When he said he wanted to change and you knew he meant it. Scott said he wanted to change all the time and never even bothered trying.

 

"Son?" John's voice brings Stiles out of his head, and he's surprised to find both Melissa and Peter staring at him. "I said, are you going to sit there all day, or are you going to go talk with Scott?"

 

Scott raises a brow so eerily similar to the way that he and Stiles used to do to subtly make fun of the adults around them, but then Stiles notices just how hard Scott's hands are clenched by his sides, and Stiles wouldn't be surprised if Scott was digging claws into his palms.

 

"Yeah, I'll go talk to him." Stiles slaps his palms against his thighs to ground himself a bit better and pushes off the couch. He's surprised that Peter readily let's him go, but he's even more surprised to see worry in Melissa's eyes when she mouths Be careful at him.

 

Stiles fights against a reaction and walks past his dad, who momentarily clutches at him the same way Peter had, squeezing him to the point of pain.

 

It seems like even his dad noticed something weird with Scott, and that should probably make Stiles feel better about the situation, but he still finds himself scuffing through the mountain ash line to break it. He might need Peter for this, but fuck he hopes it won't come to that.

 

"What's up, Scotty?" Stiles shoves his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, following after Scott when he stalks over to the treeline before whirling around and pointing a clawed finger at Stiles.

 

" What's up? Really, Stiles? Like you don't know." Scott scoffs, the sound eerily similar to when he'd been in need of his inhaler, and Stiles pats his pockets before realizing that he hadn't had to carry one in the last four years. 

 

"I don't know actually, considering you never wanted to see me." Shrugging, Stiles leans against one of the trees and pretends like he can't hear the window to the backyard sliding open noisily for eavesdropping purposes for the humans. "What happened that you're blaming me for now?"

 

"Allison broke up with me this morning." Scott snarls, his eyes flashing gold in warning when all Stiles does is roll his eyes. "She and Victoria are moving to the east coast and they won't tell me where. "

 

"Maybe there's a reason for that?" Stiles begins to pick at his nails, keeping his body language open even though Scott takes a threatening step closer. Stiles' heart begins to pound uncomfortably in his chest. "Maybe they don't want you coming after them."

 

"She's my pack ," Scott snarls, and Stiles looks up when his words start to slur, both surprised and disappointed to see that Scott's canines have descended. His lips are curled up, he looks pissed , and Stiles can't quite control the twinge of fear that zings through him. 

 

It's like the locker room back in Sophomore year all over again with Stiles being the object that Scott's focused on, teeth bared and ready to kill.

 

"I fail to see how this is my fault." Stiles wishes that his voice came out more steady, that he had Peter or Jackson out here with him. He has a feeling that he's going to need that protection sooner than he'd like.

 

"It's because of you that she's leaving!" Scott roars, the sound starling a handful of birds into flight. "You and your pack ."

 

That word seems to set Scott off even more because he takes another step closer, grinning momentarily when Stiles takes a few steps back. Scott knows that Stiles can't outrun him, the bastard is just toying with him.

 

"Care to explain what my mother was doing in your living room?" Scott's voice is low and deadly, his eyes are permanently gold, and Stiles is starting to genuinely worry about his well being.

 

 However, he didn't get to run with his wolves by backing down when he was scared. When he speaks, it's with much more bravado than he feels, and he bares his teeth similarly to the way Scott's are currently and rolls his shoulders in what he hopes a carefree shrug. "Sure. Melissa is pack now. Pretty sure she and dad have a thing."

 

While the last part is true, Stiles mostly adds it  to piss Scott off and boy, does it work.

 

Scott freezes, sideburns growing in, claws elongating, but something isn't right with his shift. He's hairier than Stiles has ever seen him, his fingers much too long, and he's staring at Stiles like he's prey. He's twisted and malformed, and all Stiles can think of is how Peter used to look in his Alpha shift.

 

"Just because your mom is dead doesn't mean that you can take mine." Scott is full on snarling, balanced carefully like he's going to leap for Stiles' throat, which might be more kind than what he'd just said. It makes Stiles' pull up to his full height, that crackling feeling under his skin coming back with a vengeance.

 

"At least my dad never left me," Stiles spits out,  barely breathing, angry and so so devastated that Scott went that far. He spits the next words out, hoping to god that Melissa and his dad aren't listening to this conversation. "Not by his own choice."

 

There's a rumbling growl reverberating from Scott that Stiles can feel deep in his chest all the way down to where his feet are pressed to the earth. It's a warning and a threat all at once, and Stiles feels it in his core.

 

"You were never my brother, Stiles." Scott takes a step and crouches low to the ground, and Stiles can't move , can't even look away from the hate in those clouded golden eyes. "You never did anything but hold me back. "

 

Time seems to slow down when Scott throws his head back and howls; the sound erasing whatever hope he'd had left that Scott could ever be the person he once knew. That person had died the moment he and Scott got separated in the woods looking for Laura Hale's dead body, the very next day Scott told Stiles to just drop it because there was no way he was a werewolf. Their friendship had ended the exact moment when Allison walked in the door and Scott gave her a pen.

 

Now, Scott is leaping for Stiles, claws extended, teeth bared, and Stiles can't seem to make himself even try to move out of the way, can't force himself to fight back. Some part of him feels like he let Scott down to not know how far into madness his friend had sunk, and the other part of him is screaming at him much too late that it wants to live, and then-

 

There's a hand around Stiles' waist, tugging him back and practically throwing him to the ground. When he looks up, dazed and disoriented, Stiles is surprised to find none other than Peter Hale going hand to hand with an insane Scott McCall. They clash together with teeth and nails; Scott takes a hand down Peter's chest, and Stiles tries his hardest to feel for that spot that felt like fire in his chest and can't find it.

 

Suddenly, a howl from the woods that has both Peter and Scott pausing just long enough for a gun to go off.

 

The bullet thunks right into Scott's shoulder and he howls his rage, all three of them turning towards where the shot came from. Stiles feels his heart stop when he catches sight of the gun in Melissa's steady hands, but it's the look on her face that's breaking Stiles' heart.

 

She's crying, and it's obvious that she's been crying for a while, and though it's clear that she's obviously hurting, her eyes are hard.

 

"Don't make me do it again, Scott Raphael McCall." Melissa's voice doesn't waver, but her hands on the gun do, and she passes the gun to John, who is standing beside her, his face white and grim. He wastes no time lifting the gun and aiming at Scott, who had hunched in on himself at the use of his full name, but now curls his lips in their direction.

 

Scott takes one foot forward when Peter shifts over to Stiles and crouches over him and a large black figure bursts through the clearing, followed closely by a head of blonde hair.

 

It takes Stiles longer than it should to realize that Derek is an honest to God wolf right now, mostly because he shifts into his Beta form quicker than Stiles has ever seen before, and roars a clear challenge right in Scott's face.

 

The rest of the pack burst through into Stiles' backyard, Jackson and Lydia veering off towards Stiles and Peter. Jackson helps Stiles to his feet and Lydia offers Peter a wet wipe and it's then that Stiles realizes just how badly that fight had been going.

 

Peter was nearly torn to shreds; some of the claw marks on his chest so deep that Stiles catches sight of shifting muscle and sinew, the sight enough to make him gag. He's seen worse following after Melissa in the hospital, but this is someone who got hurt protecting him. Stiles is aware of the warmth of Peter's blood seeping into his jeans and fights the urge to scream.

 

"You're banished from Beacon Hills." Derek's snarling voice brings Stiles back to himself from where he'd been too busy cataloguing every single hurt that Peter had gotten because of him. "Don't ever come back here, or I will rip you apart, do you understand?"

 

Stiles misses whatever Scott says because he's looking over at Melissa and his dad. His dad has one arm around Melissa and has her practically tucked up against his side, and Stiles can see her shoulders shake.

 

She's lost her only child, and Stiles knows it's his fault.

 

The panic that had been slowly creeping into his chest digs its claws into him, and Stiles welcomes the darkness in his vision. He's surrounded by pack, anyways. 

 

They won't let anything hurt him, not even himself.

--

 

Stiles comes back to himself slowly, groggily painfully, and in stages. He can feel scratches and pains he hadn't noticed before, but nothing that feels too devastating past the ache in his head. There's a hand rubbing slowly on his back, the smell something light and feminine. 

After what just happened, Stiles knows for a fact that the woman in his bed is not Lydia or Erica, and his throat closes almost immediately.

 

Burying his face into the pillow, Stiles tries his hardest to keep the tears at bay, but then the hand on his back pauses, Melissa sniffles, and Stiles turns over and pulls her as close to him as he can.

 

"I'm sorry," Stiles can't stop himself from burying his face into her chest like he used to when he was small and the loss of his own mother had been too much to handle. Scott had always said he understood, especially because Melissa and Claudia had hugged with their whole bodies, just like Melissa is doing to him now. He'd craved that kind of contact often back then, and she'd always welcomed him with open arms. "I'm so sorry. "

 

"It's okay, Stiles." Melissa shushes him softly, regardless of the fact that her own voice is thick with tears, and for a while they lay there, clinging to one another, crying together.

 

It takes a while and a great deal of courage for Stiles to get his next words out.

 

"You don't think I was trying to take you away from him, do you?" He doesn't like how young he sounds, and the high pitched whine he hears from the hallway suggests that whoever is guarding his door doesn't like it much either.

 

Melissa, however, slaps his shoulder gently, wary of the spots that really have him aching, and cups his face, smushing his cheeks into his lips look like a fish mouth.

 

"Now you listen to me, and you listen good, young man." She begins, eyes clear, wet and brutally honest. "You and my son are two very different people, and there is no way that one of you would ever be able to replace the other. I love him and I love you, and you're both mine."

 

Stiles' eyes fill again and he lays there mourning with Melissa until her tears well up and she quietly admits that Scott hasn't felt like the son she knew in a long time. She's mourning the loss, Stiles can tell, but it doesn't seem like much of a surprise if she'd taken the precaution and had his dad teach her how to shoot in the meantime.

 

It's not long after that she pulls away from Stiles and heads for the door, mentioning something about dinner and checking on Peter, who apparently was taking a much longer time to heal. Scott had apparently had something underneath his claws, something that made it hard for Peter to heal, but it was passing through him finally.

 

The door shuts behind her and Stiles is left staring up at his ceiling alone, his mind whirling around in confusion and disbelief. It's a relief when someone taps on his door and distracts him, and somehow Stiles isn't at all surprised to find Peter coming into his room.

 

"Stiles." Peter walks over to the bed slowly, lowering himself down onto the edge of the mattress cautiously, like he's still in pain. "How are you feeling?"

 

"Me? I'm not the one who had their ribs showing!" Scooting back so Peter can have room on the bed, Stiles pushes himself to sit up and crosses his arms over his chest. It's hard to connect the Peter in front of him with the Peter from years ago who just wanted to kill.

 

Today, Peter went up against one of his own made betas and barely won, but in doing so, he became someone Stiles now knows that he can fully trust with himself, his family, and the pack.

 

He remembers Lydia offering Peter something to wipe off with without being forced to do it and wonders if she feels the same.

 

"Thank you," Stiles speaks before Peter has a chance to, scooting over to the older man and patting the spot next to him on the bed. "Come on over here, you should be relaxing. Melissa said your healing is taking time"

 

Peter rolls his eyes and snorts, though he does what Stiles said to anyways. Instead of sitting up like Stiles is, Peter lays down next to him, curling up so that his stomach would be protected if an attack came, and Stiles feels oddly protective of him in this moment. After all, Peter came to him for comfort, so Stiles busies himself by running fingers through the man's hair until he relaxes a little.

 

Stiles vaguely recalls Derek touching the betas on their neck, so he slides his hand down until it's cupping the back of Peter's neck, and Stiles follows his instincts, squeezing Peter gently. 

It helps instantly; Peter goes boneless on Stiles' bed with a low groan and presses his forehead against Stiles' thigh, where he almost immediately curls up farther and falls asleep.

 

They stay like that until Stiles' door is gently nudged open by a large black snout and an unusually cautious Derek Hale padding right into his bedroom. The wolf zeros in on his uncle and ducks his head down to snuffle against his hair, looking back up at Stiles.

 

"Get up here, fuzzywolf." Stiles pats the bed like he would for a dog, pleased to see that Derek can roll his eyes just as well as a wolf as he could as a human. Still, Derek leaps up as carefully as he can, walks in a small circle to the left of Stiles and lays down with a doggish groan. 

 

Stiles can't exactly stop himself from reaching out to touch Derek like this, when he's covered in shaggy dark fur, his eyes almost permanently red, but he doesn't touch. Derek must sense some kind of hesitation from him, because he whines softly and leans his head down until his snout is pressing against Stiles' palm. It's that motion that gives Stiles the courage to speak. 

 

"How long have you been able to do this?"

 

Derek doesn't answer him, choosing to stare balefully at Stiles instead, huffing a quiet noise similar to a bark. Letting out a breath he didn't even know he was holding, Stiles turns as much as he can without disturbing Peter and wraps his arms as tightly as he can around Derek. 

 

"You came," Stiles murmurs against Derek's thick, soft fur, burying his face into the plush softness of it. He breathes him in, focusing on the slight scent of dirt, crushed grass, and the faint smell of wet dog. Still, he turns his head off to the side so that his head is pillowed on Derek's ribs. "You came for me."

 

Remembering all the times that Scott left both Derek and Stiles to fend for themselves hurts right now, and Stiles finds that he can't stop his bottom lip from quivering. Derek can't speak like this, Stiles knows, so when something wet is dragged across his face, Stiles simply splutters and wipes off his cheek as best as he can before reaching for Derek's head. He takes his fluffy face in his hands and presses their foreheads together for a minute before letting Derek go and snuggling back into his side. 

 

It shouldn't be this easy to let all that pain go, but Stiles is finding it difficult to be upset when faced with Derek in all his furry glory.

 

Plus, Derek makes a really good pillow.

 

"Thanks, big guy." Stiles pats Derek's side, ignoring the wolf's quiet grumbling and closes his eyes. 

 

He can hear the pack moving around downstairs; Stiles can hear Erica cackling at something Jackson said, can hear Melissa chuckle and his dad guffaw, and Stiles smiles. 

 

Tonight, he didn't put the mountain ash line up, not with the whole pack in the house, and besides. Stiles is right between two pack members that would rather put themselves in harms way over seeing him get hurt. 

 

That night, Stiles sleeps like a baby.

--

 

Things calm down for a little while, and everyone seems to be thankful, but Stiles can't help feeling like he's waiting for the shoe to drop.

--

 

Stiles stumbles down the stairs a few days later, completely unsurprised to find Derek sitting at the kitchen table with his dad, the two of them looking through what looks to be-

 

"Is that an interior design magazine?" Rubbing at his eyes to make sure he's not dreaming, Stiles leans against the back of Derek's chair and stares down at the magazine. It's full of earthy autumn tones, and Stiles points to flame red wallpaper that Derek had scribbled " my room?" next to and shakes his head. "That's a big no, my wolfy friend."

 

"Stiles," Derek looks and sounds exasperated, but he at least leans back and looks right at him when he speaks. "What does it matter to you what color the walls of my bedroom are?"

 

Stiles' dad, the traitor, chokes on his coffee and splutters his way to the bathroom, wiping down the front of his work uniform, which is now damp with sugary black coffee. Stiles moves to take his dad's spot next to Derek and shuffles in his seat before resting a tentative hand against his Alpha's forearm. 

 

"Der'," It's the first time Stiles has really tried to be gentle with the big guy since Stiles fell asleep on his wolfy self the other night. "Do you really think it's a good idea to wake up from nightmares to the sun hitting that color in the morning?"

 

Derek's fingers twitch, and the page full of firey autumn reds gets crumpled and tossed towards the trash. His fingers stay clenched, and part of Stiles wishes he hadn't even said anything, but he couldn't let Derek do that to himself, not even subconsciously.

 

"Who'd want to go Gryffindor red, amirite? I'm more of a Slytherin, myself." Attempting to cheer up the company in the kitchen, Stiles pats himself on the shoulder and grins at a tense Derek. When nothing changes, Stiles sighs and tries again.

 

"How do you feel about green?" Stiles carefully tugs the magazine away from Derek's still clenched fingers and flips a couple of pages until he gets to the earthy colors of autumn instead of the vibrant gold's, reds, and oranges. 

 

"Not my color." Derek's voice is only slightly tense, so Stiles reaches out without taking his eyes off the magazine and puts his hand on top of Derek's, patting him gently. He leaves his hand there when Derek doesn't immediately threaten to rip his throat out.

 

"What about gemstone colors then?" Flipping through until he gets to the cooler colors, Stiles is unprepared for when Derek pulls his hand away only to reach it out and brace against Stiles' chair, leaning next to Stiles and huffing a soft breath. It takes all his self control not to lean into the warmth that Derek's exuding, to stop himself from burying his face into Derek's neck and his breathing him in. 

 

"What do you think about this?" Derek asks, his warm breath fluttering against Stiles' cheek; smelling of coffee and toast. Did he sleep here, Stiles wonders, or did he just think of the Sheriff as someone kind enough to help him pick out colors for the house he hasn't even built yet?

 

A light jab to his ribs pulls Stiles back to the present, and he turns to Derek with all the intent to frown, but Derek looks concerned of all things, and raises his other hand to press it against Stiles' forehead.

 

"Are you feeling alright? You're a little red." Derek's hand slips to press against Stiles' cheek where he can definitely feel himself warming under Derek's touch. He shouldn't be enjoying such a simple touch so much, especially not when Derek's intense concern is still new to him, so Stiles leans away.

 

"I'm alright, I swear. Just didn't sleep as well as I could have." That at least is the truth; he'd ended up having a nightmare that Derek and the pack had died, and that Scott had come back and ripped Stiles to shreds. "Now, what were you trying to show me?"

 

Derek looks unconvinced, but Stiles just grinned at him until the Alpha rolled his eyes and pointed to a speckled midnight blue. It reminded Stiles of the night sky and his smile fades to something small and excited. He has the perfect idea for this!

 

"We could get glow in the dark paint and use it to paint constellations on the wall." Stiles pulls out his phone, looking up how much glow in the dark paint costs, looking up over his phone to study Derek's startled look. "What? You told me once that you liked sleeping under the stars better than in bedroom. We could paint the ceiling too, and it would almost be like you were outside."

 

Humming softly to himself, Stiles looks away from Derek and bookmarks the page he'd found the paint on and brings his left thumb up to his mouth, gently gnawing on the skin. Maybe they could do the same thing for Peter and Cora's rooms, Stiles would bet that the urge to be outside would be more potent in born wolves. 

There would have to be lots of windows too, he'd think, so that they could look out of the preserve and see their land.

 

"Do you want to see the house?" 

 

Derek's voice startles Stiles so badly that his teeth sink deep into the fleshy part of his thumb and he winces. When he risks a look at Derek, the alpha looks both amused and a little abashed, but he surprises Stiles further by taking his hand and dragging out the minor pain he'd had.

 

"Dude-" Stiles doesn't even get to finish his sentence before Derek is smiling grimly and cutting him off.

 

"Don't call me 'dude'," Derek grimaces, pulling his hand away from Stiles and looking back at the magazine. "I just don't like how it smells when a pack member gets hurt."

 

"How does it smell?" The words just fall from Stiles' mouth, making him acutely aware that his verbal filter seemed to be failing him disastrously this morning. "Sorry, you don't have to answer that."

 

Stiles fully expect Derek to ignore what he asked, which is why he's startled back into silence when Derek actually starts to answer him.

 

"It smells a little like burnt sugar, like you overbaked something you worked really hard on." Derek's nose wrinkles when his eyebrows pull together in a thoughtful look. "But it's fixed with a personal scent at the same time."

 

"What do I smell like?" If looks could maim, then Stiles would currently be curled up in a ball on the floor, most likely screaming by how intensely Derek looks at him, but before he can backtrack and babble an excuse, Derek reaches for the same hand Stiles had just bitten.

 

There's really no use in fighting whatever's about to happen, so Stiles doesn't bother trying to tug away when Derek turns his hand so that his wrist is facing the ceiling. He knows that Derek wouldn't hurt him if he could stop himself, but Stiles can't exactly stop himself from shuddering when Derek's thumb presses against the thin skin of his wrist a few times, pulling the bared skin up to his nose.

 

Eyes red, Derek presses his nose right up against the pulse point in Stiles' wrist, and breathes .

 

Stiles is aware of little more than the way his heart kick-starts in his chest, how his fingers clench around nothing. He almost chokes on air with how intimate this feels, his mouth dropping open as he gulps down air as quietly as he can. All he can feel is the hot puffs of Derek's breath against the skin of his arm, where he didn't even know it was possible to be so sensitive.

 

"You smell like Honeysuckle," Derek mumbles against Stiles' skin, and he can see the way Derek's eyebrows crinkle in confusion before he speaks again. "A little bit like the earth right after it rains; clean and clear." 

 

Stiles opens his mouth to try and say something, but all that comes out is a garbled mess the moment Derek's lips part and a very pink tongue presses against his skin. It's over as quickly as it began, with Derek looking like he's tasted something that he can't put his finger on but that he'd like to taste more of, and Stiles just sitting there as red as his hoodie.

 

Derek, though his cheeks are flushed, stays sitting in the chair, but he does cough and flip through the home interior magazine and point to a bright yellow color.

 

"I was thinking about this color for the kitchen," Derek says, for once sounding a little embarrassed. He keeps looking from Stiles to the color, his cheeks reddening the longer Stiles makes him wait.

 

"I like it," Stiles says it without even looking at the color, watching a small pleased smile creep across Derek's lips before his phone rings, he talks for a moment and then leaves, mumbling something about Erica needing his opinion on something to do with the house. 

 

Derek does promise that Stiles can come see the new house another time though. He's excited to see the Hale house reemerge from the ashes of the old one.

 

It takes Stiles a minute to compose himself after Derek leaves, but he finally gets his heart under control and looks back at the magazine. The kitchen areas are Stiles' secret pleasure, because he absolutely adores cooking, and the thought of being able to cook in a space big enough for the entire pack has his heart racing with anticipation. Not to mention that if Derek chooses the color he'd asked Stiles about then the entire space would look open, friendly, and bright .

 

Stiles skims the magazine page, tracing over a kitchen set that probably costs more than he'd ever be able to afford and pauses when his eyes skim over the name for the paint cans.

It can't be right, Stiles knows, because there's no way that Derek knows just how much Stiles loves to cook, or that the kitchen on the page is out of his dreams, but there it is, staring up at him accusingly.

 

Paint color: Honeysuckle.

--

 

Stiles is hidden in the Nemeton when something makes its way to the clearing. The tree stopped swaying contentedly the moment that Stiles began to sense whoever this is, and he presses his hand reassuringly against the wooden insides. 

 

He'd originally come here to think over everything that had happened with Scott, but now he's glad he came, so he could protect what was his . Blinking away that possessive thought, Stiles takes his belief and pushes it into being unseen when he pushes his head out of the tree trunk, only to find-

 

Nothing.

 

There's nothing in the clearing, which doesn't explain why Stiles knows that something is staring at the Nemeton. He can feel their eyes on the tree like it's a physical touch, and the uncomfortable sensation has Stiles shuddering.

 

To the left, in the fog.

 

The Nemeton's warning is softer than Stiles has ever heard it before, but he follows their direction, regardless. 

 

It takes a moment for Stiles to focus on the blur in the fog, but when he hisses in frustration at being able to see, the fog slowly begins to dissipate. He's not sure how it happens, whether it was the Nemeton to do it or the figure themselves, but Stiles can see them now, can see him , whoever he is.

 

The man's face is unclear to Stiles from so far away, the stand of his body unfamiliar, but he can feel the threat hidden under the surface when he takes a step further into the clearing and begins to speak.

 

"I thought we had an understanding." The voice is loud and soft, tense and at ease, hundreds of other things all at once. Stiles can't stop himself from baring his teeth like one of his wolves would at an enemy. "You weren't supposed to come back after last time, you weren't supposed to grow and find a new master."

 

The Nemeton is silent; it won't speak to this hooded stranger, of that Stiles is sure, but that doesn't mean that he can't feel just how frightened his Nemeton is.

 

It makes something jolt through Stiles, something pierce and protective, and before he knows it, his hands are fisted in the dirt right outside the Nemeton and there's a current running through him into the ground, heading right for the hooded man. The figure jolts, spinning around, looking for something and hissing words under his breath.

 

Stiles scrambles back into the Nemeton, looking at his shaking hands, still able to feel the electricity running through his body. The man outside is all but forgotten while memories flood in his head.

 

There was the time that he shocked Isaac not too long ago, his cut finger in the kitchen, the way that mountain ash bent more to his will now than it ever had before, and countless other scenarios.

 

The item he couldn't find suddenly appearing on his bedside table.

 

Being able to tell when one of his wolves were trying to sneak up on him when he'd never been able to before, even Derek.

 

His slightly heightened senses, the way he's been absorbing more information than ever before.

 

The new ability to keep up with the wolves on a full moon run.

 

Not to mention the new feeling creeping in that this place right here is his that it's theirs and that Intruders weren't allowed to trespass just because they wanted to. Stiles was ready to protect his Nemeton, to protect his pack, and he can feel his how pleased the Nemeton is with this turn of events, just like he can feel the threat stomping away outside.

 

There's joy and a certain kind of freedom lighting up Stiles' veins, and he feels alive in a way that he hadn't been in years. It seems so simple when he's here in the Nemeton, so easy to stay and protect even though he knows that a freak out will probably happen sooner rather than later.

 

It's that thought that has Stiles stumbling through the hole the Nemeton opens for him again, his body feeling a bit like Jell-O when he forces himself to move.

 

The Nemeton's ready for him it seems, because the tree is quivering more than Stiles has seen from it before, branches reaching out to steady him when he trips over a stray rock. He's fine with everything that just happened right up until the Nemeton speaks to him again, and then Stiles is stumbling through the woods to his beaten down jeep, missing the entire drive home, only coming back to himself when he's lined the whole house in mountain ash with a simple wave of his hand, curled up in the middle of the bed with the Nemeton's words echoing in his head.

 

It's time to wake up, Stiles.

 

There was no questioning of the words the Nemeton used to talk to him, and now Stiles' denial staring him right in the face.

 

He's going to have to tell Derek everything that just happened. Stiles knows that Derek will want to see the tree, and Stiles wonders if the Nemeton will think Derek's worthy of talking to as well. The thought makes a flash of jealousy zing up Stiles' spine, but it doesn't stop him from pulling out his phone with a shuddering hand to click on a contact.

 

He doesn't let his Alpha talk when he picks up the phone; Stiles talks over him instead.

 

"Derek, can you come to the Nemeton? We need to talk."

 

Things are about to change in Beacon Hills, and Stiles can only hope that it's for the better.

Chapter Text

Derek's imminent arrival can be heard by the howl of challenge he lets loose and the following rampage through the woods simply to get to Stiles. Maybe he should have told Derek that he wasn't in any immediate trouble.

 

As it is, the look on the Alpha's face when he skids into the clearing would be funny for Stiles, if not for the way Derek immediately looks confused, and then horrifyingly concerned as he takes in the sight of the Nemeton.

 

"Stiles," Derek's wolven features slowly shift back until he's wide eyed and staring up at the Nemeton, somehow looking more human right now than he ever has before. His voice is quiet when he speaks, his eyes still rimmed in red when he manages to tear his eyes away from the Nemeton to look at Stiles. "What have you done?"

 

"I have no idea." Admitting that takes a weight off his back that Stiles hadn't even known was there, and Derek takes a step closer into the clearing. "Do you remember when Deaton taught me that I could manipulate mountain ash?"

 

Derek nods, though he doesn't seem to be able to pull his eyes off the Nemeton again until Stiles takes a step closer to him. Then Derek focuses solely on him, and Stiles tries not to let the intense look on his Alpha's face worry him.

 

"He told me that my belief was what would make me able to do anything when it came to the supernatural world." Stiles turns when Derek does, and they both stare at the Nemeton, who has been unusually subdued since Stiles had called Derek earlier. "Do you remember the night that none of you could find me?"

 

"You were here." It's not a question, and Stiles knows it. Derek has always been much more aware than he likes to let anyone know.

 

"Yeah." Derek deserves his honesty, and Stiles is determined to give it to him as much as he possibly can. "I got drunk and stumbled through the preserve until I found a giant stump. I was exhausted, so I sat for a while, and when I noticed something growing from the old Nemeton, I pushed my belief that it would be good this time right into what grew."

 

Stiles runs his hand through his hair, feeling jittery and unsettled. He hates disappointing people, and all he can think is that Derek's never going to trust him again for keeping this a secret for so long, but he can't exactly stop the story now.

 

"When I came back, you had sent Boyd with me, the little plant had grown into a tree that was almost my size, and it was-" Stiles breaks off, turning back to Derek with wide eyes even though the alpha isn't looking at him. "It was alive , Derek. More than an average tree would have been. It reached for me, but Boyd wouldn't let it touch me at first."

 

"That's because Boyd has common sense ." Derek doesn't sound mad, just a bit annoyed, but mostly frustrated, and for whatever reason, that hurts Stiles more. "Who else besides you would see a magical beacon reaching for them and immediately try to touch it?"

 

"They're a good tree, Derek." Stiles can't help the annoyance that sneaks into his tone, or the way his arms cross over his chest. "They showed Boyd where his sister was, they healed Peter, and look at the preserve! It's alive again."

 

The preserve hadn't been dead exactly, the woods still lush and green, but now Animals were coming back that Beacon Hills hadn't seen in a while. Stiles had seen a red fox chasing after a vole earlier while he was waiting for Derek. There were deer trails, the sounds of coyotes calling to each other miles away.

 

"So why did it need you?" Derek rises a single brow, looking between Stiles and the Nemeton curiously. Stiles knows that Derek probably didn't mean for that to sound insulting, but it did, and before he can think of a witty response, the Nemeton answers for him.

 

Because Stiles is ours as much as he is yours, Alpha Hale.

 

"I've heard that some Nemetons could grow enough to speak with the pack on their land, but that's rare." Derek tenses when the Nemeton shakes it's leaves out and waves back at Stiles when he waves to it first. "What brought you to sentience?"

 

Stiles.

 

It's a simple answer, but the look Derek levels at him is anything but simple. He looks confused, concerned, and if Stiles isn't reading it wrong, intimidated. As it is, Derek turns back to the Nemeton, pulling himself up to his full height and flashing his eyes. "It's an honor to speak with such an ancient being."

 

"Why are you talking to them like that?" Rolling his eyes, Stiles takes a few steps forward and runs his hand gently up the warmth of the branch that reaches for him. "They're totally friendly, Derek. Lighten up a little."

 

The Nemeton's soft winded laughter and Derek's disbelieving spluttering make Stiles grin, turning back to Derek while the branch of the Nemeton plays with the hood of his sweatshirt.

 

"Stiles, the tree that you're petting is thousands of years old." Derek takes a step closer to Stiles, reaching out to Stiles like he wanted nothing more than to pull him off the tree. Both of them startle when a secondary branch gently swats one of Derek's hands away.

 

"Hey!" Stiles didn't know it was possible for a tree to act sheepish until he met the Nemeton, but Stiles still turns out of the trees grip and points up at it. "You're supposed to be good . This is your first meeting with your Alpha, don't ruin it by being rude ."

 

A low whine echoes through the preserve morosely, and Derek's breath hisses from between his teeth. Stiles put his hands on his waist and waits until the Nemeton is sagging so much that it's leaves drag along the ground.

 

We are sorry , Stiles.

 

"Are you?" Stiles feels like a parent scolding his  child, and wonders for a moment of this is what Derek feels like with the betas sometimes. 

 

We promise.

 

How could anyone stay mad at a tree that looks like a weeping willow because of how much it was sagging?

 

Stiles can feel his lips curl into a smile and allows it to happen, ducking under it's branches, stepping up to the Nemeton's trunk, patting it gently. "That's enough, don't look so upset! Derek's a forgiving Alpha, aren't you Derek?"

 

When Stiles turns to look at Derek, he's surprised to see the Alpha smiling, even if it looks a little unsure, and even more surprised when Derek walks next to Stiles and reaches his hand out to touch. He stops with his fingers barely a hand length away from the Nemeton.

 

"Is it okay for me to touch you?" Derek's voice is soft and slightly awed, and Stiles can't help feeling the same way towards the Alpha.

 

The Nemeton must be startled as well, considering it's branches freeze before it starts to sway in the breeze.

 

Of course you may, Alpha Hale.

 

Slowly, Derek reaches out and presses his hand to the trunk of the Nemeton right next to Stiles', puffing out a harsh gust of breath when the whole Nemeton shudders. Stiles feels a little bit like he had earlier with the hooded figure, like something big is about to happen, like electricity is fizzling under his skin.

 

We never thought that we'd have this chance again.

 

The Nemeton sounds a bit wistful, like it can't believe it's luck that it's here in the clearing with Derek and Stiles. Stiles doesn't understand why that's something that the tree would want, and he says so.

 

"What chance? Derek and I are in the woods together all the time." He leaves his hand next to Derek's against the bark, trying to ignore how good their hands look next to each other like this. He's been so good at not ogling Derek the last few years, and right now is definitely not the time to start again.

 

The chance to see a Hale Alpha and their Emissary side by side. 

 

"Stiles isn't an emissary. Deaton says-" 

 

Derek's cut off by the same jolt of heat that has Stiles pulling away from the Nemeton. The tree is swaying like it would during a windstorm, and Stiles tugs on the back of Derek's shirt, trying to pull him back.

 

Deaton knows nothing , The Nemeton hisses, it's leaves shuddering as it continues to sway back and forth. He is poison . He hurt us, hurt our pack.

 

"Deaton was my mother's emissary." Derek's voice is quiet when he stumbles back a few steps, allowing Stiles to tug on him. Stiles pulls Derek as close as he can, and Derek doesn't fight him on it. "The fire was my fault, not his."

 

The Nemeton freezes Midway during its sway, and it seems as though that gives Derek the bravery to speak again. "I let a hunter into my home, and she burned my family to the ground." 

 

"Derek." Stiles shifts until his hand is wrapped loosely around Derek's wrist, shaking his head when Derek turns to look at him. "Don't. That wasn't your fault."

 

Poor child.

 

The Nemeton reaches for them again, and as one, Stiles and Derek walk right back up to the Nemeton, though neither of them touch it.

 

We were cut down moments before the fire, Derek Hale. If we had been standing when it started, nothing could have kept us from protecting our pack. Not even a seasoned hunter and his daughter.

 

Derek clutches at his chest, right over his sternum and Stiles can't help but to shift and reach out for his Alpha to rest a hand against his shoulder and just hold on. It doesn't take Derek long to lift his head, and though he doesn't exactly thank him, Stiles is sure that Derek appreciated the support. 

 

"So what made you decide to grow again?" Derek asks softly, and Stiles notices that he never drops his hand from his chest, so Stiles keeps his hand on Derek's shoulder and stays as close as he can.

 

It was… necessary that we grew as fast as we did. 

 

"Why?" Stiles feels his nose crinkle in confusion when he looks up at the tree. The Nemeton had begun to sway again, almost like it can hear music that Stiles and Derek can't.

 

For your gift.

 

Warmth blossoms through Stiles' chest after the Nemeton talks, and at first he'd thought that it was because he was embarrassed, but then Derek had hissed under his breath and reaches for Stiles, tugging him away from where he'd been standing. He looks back and finds a little bush right in the spot where Stiles can still see the indents of his sneakers in the mud.

 

"What is it?" Stiles pulls away from Derek who willingly lets him go, and crouches in front of the bush, reaching out to drag a finger along one of the leaves. He feels that burst of warmth again and stares open-mouthed as the bush begins to bloom with small trumpet like flowers. They range from a vibrant orange to a yellow color that's vaguely familiar to him.

 

Stiles remembers the magazine, the way Derek's breath felt against the sensitive skin of his wrist and plucks a flower. He risks a glance at Derek, who looks a little uncomfortable, and brings the flower up to his nose. 

 

It's light and sweet, nearly close to overpowering, but Stiles kind of likes it anyways. 

 

" This is what I smell like?" He doesn't even try to stop himself from asking, just brings the flower back up to his nose.

 

Derek surprises him by stepping closer and taking the flower from Stiles, gently pinching the end where it had connected to the rest of the plant. He tugs, a thin white strand pulling from the middle of the flower, and Stiles can't help the way his eyes widen when a single dewdrop of something follows the strand and Derek leans down to lick it up.

 

He watches as Derek carefully pulls another flower off the bush and repeats the whole process, but holding the flower out to Stiles this time. He brings it up to his lips and cautiously licks the dewdrop, making a pleased noise when the sweetness of it hits his tongue.

 

" That's what you smell like, that taste." Derek rolls his shoulders, tossing the rest of his flower into his mouth while Stiles continues to stare. "Don't look at me like that, please."

 

Before Stiles can think of anything to say, the Nemeton interrupts and reminds him of why he's here in the first place.

 

Do you see now, Alpha? Your emissary blooms right in front of you.

 

"What if Derek doesn't want me for an Emissary?" Stiles drops his flower, taking a step closer to the Nemeton and frowning up at it. "You can't just force him to do something because that's what you want."

 

We do not force.

 

The vehemence in the Nemeton's tone has Stiles scrambling back until his bumps into Derek, who steadies him with a hand pressed against his lower back. The tree sways near threateningly in front of them, and continues talking.

 

We do not gift what wasn't already there, Emissary. You were born this way, we did not make you like this, it is not our way.

 

"I'm sorry." Stiles tries to step forward again and gets pulled back by Derek, who refuses to let him go even when Stiles frowns up at him. "Derek, let go of me."

 

"You'll just go right back up to the Nemeton, Stiles." Derek grumbles, his eyes flashing when he glances back at the tree. They're his normal color when he turns back to Stiles. "It's an ancient being, you can't just treat it like an everyday member of the pack."

 

"They like me." Fighting against the urge to cross his arms, Stiles pries himself away from Derek's hold and turns back to the Nemeton, who looks like it never had a temper tantrum in the first place. "Are you done being crabby yet, because we have questions."

 

"Stiles." Derek reaches for him again, but Stiles avoids his hand, swatting at him when Derek tries to do it again. He keeps trying to grab for him, and Stiles has been trying to keep his temper in order, but he just learned that Deaton lied to him about his magic, found out that he's not the token human anymore and that his place in the pack isn't exactly what he thought it was, and Stiles is frustrated.

 

"Derek," Stiles snaps, whirling on the Alpha, and feeling that warmth blossom in his chest again. He walks up to Derek until they're so close that their chests are almost pressed together and jabs Derek right over his heart. " Stop it."

 

And Derek just- stops .

 

Stiles is reminded of the other night with Isaac, but Derek's looking at Stiles like he's never seen him before and isn't sure if he likes what he sees or not. It makes him uncomfortable, and Stiles finds that warmth fading just as quickly as it came up.

 

What lovely control he has already. 

 

The Nemeton sounds like a proud parent showing off their child to a friend, but then their voice drops and sound much more urgent when they speak again.

 

Do you understand now, Derek Hale?

 

Derek swallows so loudly that Stiles can hear it and nods. He reaches out carefully and nudges Stiles back a few steps before turning towards the Nemeton and offer it a small bow, spinning on his heels and sprinting off the way he came through earlier.

 

"Derek!" Stiles lunges forward, stopped only by a branch of the Nemeton curling around his waist and tugging him close to the trunk. "What the hell just happened?"

 

The tree stays quiet while Stiles tries to get his head in order of what just happened.

 

"Was he scared of me?" It comes out sounding as disbelieving as Stiles currently feels, and leaves him blinking while he stares in the direction that Derek left in. 

 

He is an Alpha and you are his Emissary. You are the last person he has to fear.

 

"He ran away from me." Shaking his head, Stiles leans against the Nemeton with a frown. "I didn't even get to tell him about what happened earlier with the figure."

 

Perhaps you both need some time to get used to the situation.

 

"Yeah, Maybe." Huffing out a harsh breath, Stiles pushes away from the Nemeton, relieved when it lets him go. He heads in the opposite direction that Derek had gone in and waves over his shoulder at the Nemeton. "I'll visit you again soon, I promise."

 

Stay safe, Emissary.

 

The voice echoes in his head even when Stiles finally makes his way home. He says hello to his dad and Isaac, trudges up the stairs to his room and falls face first into his bed with a groan. He's asleep before he's even able to take his shoes off.

--

 

Stiles wakes up and immediately knows that something is happening, and stumbles out of his bedroom before his phone begins to ring. He bumps into Isaac in the hallway, wide eyed and nervous, and the two of them make their way down the stairs as quietly as they possibly can without waking up Stiles' dad.

 

It's less easy to sneak away while using Roscoe, but Isaac tells Stiles to put the jeep in neutral, and Isaac pushes it onto the street where Stiles is able to start it easier. Isaac jumps into the passenger seat and they take off.

 

The McCall house is eerily silent when they drive by, and Stiles would swear that he saw a flash of gold up in the window of Scott's room, but he knows that he's not there. Melissa wouldn't let him come home even if he was, so he pries his eyes off the house and keeps driving until they pull up to the skeleton of the new Hale house. Isaac jumps out before Stiles even manages to put the Jeep into park.

 

Pocketing his keys, Stiles pushes open his door and follows after the Beta, unease settling in his chest. It's quiet in the preserve, scarily silent, but Stiles forces himself forward regardless, gulping uncomfortably. It's no surprise that Stiles genuinely yelps when a hand clutches in the front of his shirt and tugs him into the skeleton of the house, though the red glow eases his panic.

 

" Derek!" Stiles shouts, pulling back from the Alpha and punching him in the arm even though Stiles knew all he'd succeed in would be causing himself pain. It was worth it to him, especially when Derek just grunts and looks down at Stiles, surprised. "Don't do that! You can't just call us here with your freaky wolf powers and pull me into the darkness with your claws."

 

"Stiles," Derek sighs, an odd note of patience in his voice, sounding more like a placating parent than anything else. "I wouldn't call you here just to scare you."

 

"Sure seemed like it." Stiles huffs, pulling his sweatshirt tighter around his body. It's not cold exactly, but all the tension leaving his body has Stiles feeling chilled. "Why did you call us?"

 

"Technically, I called you. " Derek admits, flicking red eyes over to Isaac, who raises his hands up innocently. With a roll of his eyes, Derek turns back to Stiles and shrugs. "There was a call that my mom used to call her emissary to her and I wanted to see if-"

 

Derek's eyes flick over to Isaac again, who is doing a great job of pretending to be uninterested in their discussion, but both Derek and Stiles see right through him.

 

"Isaac, why don't you go home and let dad know that I'm going to be with Derek for a while?" Pulling out his keys, Stiles tosses them to a nervous looking Isaac. "Our Alpha will bring me home later. Make sure dad doesn't eat bacon with breakfast later."

 

Isaac snorts, jangling the keys in one hand for a minute before nodding, gently brushing past Stiles and Derek on his way by. He makes quick work of getting in Roscoe and starting it up, grinning at Stiles through the windshield. Backing up, Isaac waves at both of them and slowly pulls out of the Hale area. 

 

Stiles doesn't dare talk until Derek nods that Isaac is too far away to hear anything, and then Stiles surprises them both by punching him in the arm all over again.

 

" Not cool, dude. I was having a good dream and everything." Stiles realizes that the sun is starting to rise in the distance and shivers all over again, surprised that he can see him breath in the chilled morning air. There's a question niggling in the back of his head though, and he doesn't have the energy to stop himself from asking. "How did you know which call to use?"

 

"I went back to the Nemeton after I knew you were gone, and we talked for a while." 

 

Stiles has venom tipped words ready to throw right at Derek, until he catches sight of his face. Derek looks exhausted , like he spent all night in the preserve instead of the loft he'd been renting the last few years. Instead of being mean, Stiles just sighs and shuffles over to where Derek is leaning against the half finished wall.

 

"Dude, sit down before you fall down." Stiles grumbles, reaching out to push Derek's shoulder down, surprised when the Alpha listens and sinks to the ground where he'd been standing. Crouching down, Stiles plops himself right next to Derek and cautiously presses their arms together.

 

Derek huffs on what suspiciously sounds like a laugh and lifts his arm, tugging Stiles closer until he's got his head pillowed on Derek's shoulder. "Don't call me dude, Stiles."

 

Stiles doesn't know exactly what to say when Derek sounds so damn fond , but the warmth emanating off Derek is slowly seeping into his hoodie, so Stiles burrows closer and sighs contentedly. The calm presence of his alpha is comforting in ways that Stiles hadn't anticipated, but it's not until Stiles nuzzles his cheek sleepily against Derek that the Alpha decides to speak again.

 

"The Nemeton told me what you did with Deaton in the woods." Derek tightens his hold on Stiles' when he tries to pull away, growling under his breath and tugging him back where he'd been nestled against Derek before. 

 

"That was Deaton?" Digging his fingers into the meat of his own thigh, Stiles grits his teeth and tried to choke down the burst of anger that's threatening to wipe away any aspect of control he'd had.

 

The thing is, Stiles knew somewhere deep down that the figure in the woods had to be Deaton or someone just like him, but he had originally assumed that there was a reason for the Nemeton telling him about Deaton, about his poison, and suddenly Stiles wishes he'd fought back harder. He could have made that attack much more painful, so why hadn't he?

 

He knows where Deaton is now though; He could sink his fingers deep in the dirt and seek ; find him all alone in the back room of the veterinarian's office, and strike-

 

" Stiles."

 

Derek's voice pulls him out of the fantasy he'd sunk into, and startles when he finds Derek right in front of him, eyes red, teeth elongated, something like worry written in the creases of his eyebrows.

 

"What's wrong, grumpywolf?" Stiles is startled when his voice comes out as a rasp, but when he leans forward and stars burst across his vision, Stiles sinks back against the wall and smacks his suddenly sticky lips together and looks back up at Derek. "What happened?"

 

Not much time seems to have passed; the sun is still climbing in the sky, leaving the clearing and the partially built go bathed in a gray hue. 

 

"You were here, but you weren't." Derek's nose crinkles at his own explanation, but Stiles can tell he's calming down by how the red bleeds from his eyes. "I don't know how to explain it. What were you thinking about?"

 

"Finding Deaton." Stiles explains softly, grimacing when Derek's eyes flash warningly. "When I saw him in the preserve yesterday, I dug my fingers into the earth and my magic took over, I guess. I was thinking about how easy it would be to do that again, to use the earth to find him in the vet's office and just-"

 

Stiles cuts himself off by gritting his teeth together and closing his eyes shut so tightly that stars burst again for different reasons.

 

To say he's startled when a warm palm presses against the side of his neck in an understatement; Stiles' eyes fly open, his mouth dropping to ask why, why are you touching me like this , but never gets the chance.

 

Derek looks down at him with his eyebrows furrowed in concern and shakes his head slowly. "You're not some cold blooded killer, Stiles. I'm glad you came back from that before anything bad happened."

 

"Before anything-" Stiles cuts himself off, baring his teeth up at Derek and startling himself with an almost wolfish sounding growl. "He threatened the Nemeton , he threatened our pack , and you want me to let him live ?"

 

"Yes." Derek says it like it's a simple answer, and maybe it is for him, but Stiles opened his mouth to argue and all Derek does is hold his neck a bit more firmly, shifting Stiles around until his neck is bared to Derek. He can't exactly stop the way he goes boneless in Derek's hands or the way the anger just seeps out of him. "He threatened us as a pack Stiles, and that's how we'll handle it. As a pack."

 

Stiles blinks heavy lids up at Derek and allows the smallest of smiles to cross his lips. "When did you get so wise, huh?"

 

"When I started listening to you guys." Derek dips his head down and presses his nose against Stiles' neck, inhaling deeply before pulling back and shifting back so he's sitting next to Stiles on the ground again. "An alpha is only as good as the pack they lead."

 

"You're a good Alpha, Der'." Stiles mumbles heavy with exhaustion, and suddenly he wonders if this is his payment from using his magic without knowing what it would do to him. " 'M really tired."

 

"You can sleep if you want to, nothing will touch us here." Derek tugs Stiles close again, until his nose is buried in the crook of Derek's neck. Stiles can't stop the pleased noise from leaving his lips or the way he moves as close to Derek as he possibly can without climbing directly into the Alpha's lap. Beside him, Derek huffs a laugh and rests his head on top of Stiles'.

 

Time falls away after that.

--

 

Stiles dreams that he and Derek fell asleep together at the construction site of the new Hale house, that they were gently woken by Peter letting them know that the construction crew would be there any second and after all Nephew, wouldn't Stiles sleep better in a bed?

 

Stiles had quietly agreed Peter, but he must have nodded or something because Dream Derek scooped Stiles up like he was a child and the three of them walked in the woods while Stiles wavered between sleep and waking. 

 

It was easy to pick up little bits of conversation between the wolves; Peter asked why they were in the house in the first place and Derek answered him honestly, talking about the Nemeton and that Stiles had the ability to be their emissary. When he talked about how lethargic Stiles had gotten, Peter made a knowledgeable noise and said something along the lines of magical exhaustion, most likely. 

 

After that, Stiles let himself fade again, only becoming slightly aware of what was happening because he was placed on something so soft that he couldn't help but groan happily. Someone close by laughed softly, but they also covered him in a blanket, so Stiles couldn't be too upset that his dream friend laughed at him.

 

The bed dipped again with the weight of some else, and Stiles rolls until he was pressed against someone warm . He makes a content noise in the back of his throat and wraps his arms around the tense body beside him. Stiles runs his hands down what feels like a decently muscled arm and presses his nose in the soft hair on the back his companions head.

 

Stiles breathes in, gets a noseful of Autumn leaves, dirt, and cinnamon, and relaxes back into the bed and allows sleep to take him again.

--

 

When Stiles wakes up for real this time, the first thing he does is check the cellphone in his pocket, grimacing through his cottonmouth, and letting out a low groan when the time 2:30pm glares back at him. 

 

Surprisingly there are no texts, but Stiles vaguely remembers telling Isaac to go home and let his dad know that he'd be with Derek for a while. 

 

Speaking of Derek.

 

Stiles knows that this is Derek's room at the loft, and is surprised by how impersonal it is. The walls are off-white and bare, with a black curtain hanging in the single window. There's no carpeting on the floor that Stiles can see, just a stained threadbare braided rug tucked at the end of the bed, looking as out of place as Stiles is starting to feel.

 

Steeling himself, Stiles pushes the two layers of blankets off him, regretting it immediately when his feet touch the floor and a chill runs through him. He's unsure of where his sweatshirt ended up, and Stiles is chilly after being so thoroughly tucked in, so he pulls one of the blankets off the bed and wraps it around himself before shuffling from the room.

 

The hallway, if it can even be called that, is just as impersonal as the bedroom, so Stiles wraps the blanket tighter around himself and heads down the stairs. At least when he reaches the living room there's some left over things from the pack everywhere Stiles looks. 

 

Erica's purple leather jacket is still tossed over the back of the couch, one of Isaac's scarves is tied around a hanging light fixture, and one of Boyd's fantasy novels is on top or the bookshelf with a bookmark sticking out of it. When Stiles heads for the bathroom, he finds more proof of the pack in Cora's shampoo, Jackson's body wash, the med kit that Lydia put together for the pack.

 

Once he's finished in the bathroom, Stiles washes his hands and picks the blanket up and immediately drapes it over himself again and heads for the kitchen. Once there, Stiles finds traces of Peter in slightly burnt books pushed to one side of the kitchen table, himself in the handmade recipe book that Stiles had been sure that Derek was going to throw away, and finds the Alpha himself standing at the stovetop, making what smells like scrambled eggs.

 

"Breakfast for lunch?" Stiles rasps, attempting to clear his throat when Derek glances at him and raises an unimpressed eyebrow. "Can I have some water or something?"

 

Derek grunts and gestures to the refrigerator, which Stiles chooses to interpret as: Why yes Stiles, help yourself , so that's what he does. 

 

When Stiles opens the refrigerator, he's momentarily thrown by just how much food there is and that it all seems freshly bought. He has the feeling that if he was to check the pantry that he'd find a new set of paper bags. With the smallest smile, Stiles grabs one of the small single bottles of No Pulp orange juice and shakes it before peeling the tab back and draining the whole bottle. He reaches back in and grabs a little bottle of apple juice, closing the door and heading for the kitchen table.

 

With his blanket wrapped tight, Stiles feels almost comfortable sitting at the kitchen table, and is pleased, if not startled, when Derek places a plate piled with cheesy scrambled eggs in front of him. He's convinced that it's a plate for them to share until Derek sits across the table from Stiles and almost immediately begins inhaling the mountain of eggs on his own plate.

 

Stiles mentally shrugs and sticks his fork in a particularly fluffy looking egg, shoving it into his mouth with little fanfare. It's not the best scrambled eggs that Stiles has ever had, but Derek made these for him, and Stiles was going to eat as much of the eggs as he can, so he began shoveling the food in his mouth similarly to his wolfy counterpart.

 

In the end, Stiles couldn't make it through more than half of the eggs and toast, and when he began picking at his food, he noticed Derek watching him, and nudged the plate closer to the Alpha. For a moment Stiles was sure that he'd offended Derek in some way, but eventually he took Stiles' plate and devoured the rest of the food with as much enthusiasm as he had his own.

 

Leaving behind the warmth of his blanket, Stiles nudges Derek out of the way and starts on the dishes. The water here doesn't get as hot as it does at his house, but it's definitely workable. It doesn't take too long to get through the small pile of dishes, but Stiles definitely notices that the temperature had already dropped, and the added chill makes him shiver.

 

A wall of warmth steps up behind him, and Stiles allows himself to lean back into it when he has a flash and an image of himself curling against a warm body, pressing his nose into the neck and breathing them in.

 

A soft snort behind him brings Stiles back to himself, and while the wolves are all tactile with him, Derek has always held back, so why had he allowed this touch?

 

"Am I going crazy or did I aggressively cuddle you last night?" Stiles wonders out loud, sidestepping away from Derek and all his warmth, snagging the blanket off the chair and wrapping it around himself as tightly as he can. "Sorry about that."

 

"Don't worry about it." Derek's voice sounds a little stiff, but when Stiles risks a look at him, the Alpha looks as unfazed as ever, and it makes something uncomfortable settle in his stomach.

 

"No, I mean it. I shouldn't have touched you without your permission, Derek." Stiles can vividly remember the look on Derek's face when the pack had pulled him from the spell that Jennifer Blake had tried to weave him into. He'd seen Derek shudder and pale until he'd looked nearly gray; something Stiles hadn't even known was possible.

 

After she was dead, Derek had immediately pulled away from the pack and got violently ill in the bushes. At the time, the pack gently pushed Stiles aside and he'd allowed it, memories of Kate Argent and her taunts echoing in his ears, the photo of sixteen years old Derek covered in soot flashing in front of his eyes.

 

How could Derek even stand to look at him when he'd done the same thing to him, pushing against him in his own bed, clinging to him like that, how could he do that -

 

"Breathe, Stiles." Derek is crouched in front of him (when had he knelt in the first place?), his hands gently braced on Stiles' thighs over the blanket. Stiles tries to drag in a breath and fails, his lungs wheezing, a high pitched whine sounding much too loud in the kitchen.

 

He startles when Derek lifts a hand and presses it against his neck like Derek had the night before, his body snapping to attention when Derek's eyes flash alpha red and Derek bares deceptively human teeth and snarls, his body snapping alert when Derek speaks his name in a way that makes it sound like a demand.

 

" Fuck," Derek hisses, tugging Stiles close to him, the both of them tumbling down ontoo the lineoleum of the kitchen floor. Derek rearranges them so that Stiles is between the V of his legs, his back pressed against Derek's chest. When he speaks again, his voice is much more gentle than it had been mere moments before. "Match my breathing, come on."

 

Stiles wants to listen to Derek so badly, and he's getting more and more desperate for air, but Derek is behind him breathing deep and even, and just the slightest bit overexaggerated, but it helps a little so that the next time Stiles tries to suck in air, it goes the tiniest bit easier.

He fumbles with his hand until he finds Derek's and clings to it, and somehow, like always, Derek understands.

 

Derek shifts, pressing his palm against Stiles' sternum and leans forward until his breath tickles Stiles' ear. He takes a slow breath and Stiles struggles to copy it until Derek's arm snakes around his waist and leaves him feeling safe, tied down and-

 

Anchored.

 

This time when Stiles takes a breath after Derek, it's a full, if not Shaky one, and the lights bursting across his visions flash brightly before slowly starting to recede as Stiles breathes a little more evenly with each new breath. He doesn't know how long it takes until his heart stops pounding like it's trying to burst out of his chest; he simply sags against Derek and takes a deep breath after deep breath, until he realizes the fluttering he feels against his back is Derek's heart beating so wildly.

 

"Der'?" Stiles' voice is shot to shit, scratchier than it had been when he woke up this morning, and the sound of it makes him wince. Derek doesn't answer him, but the arm around his waist tightens a minimal amount, and Stiles pats at Derek's arm with a weak hand. "You okay, big guy?"

 

The only answer Stiles gets is a whine so soft that if his magic hadn't enhanced so many things that luckily included his hearing, Stiles never would have known. The only response he can think of that seems right is to bare his neck, so that's what he does, and Derek wastes no time burying his face there and taking in slow breaths while Stiles lays there and basks in the comfort Derek's offering him.

 

Eventually though, Derek pulls back just a little bit, gently squeezing Stiles around the middle. "What happened?"

 

Stiles can't get over how gentle Derek sounds even now, and he finds that his answer falls from his mouth unbidden. "I took advantage of you last night and I never wanted to do that to anyone Der', but least of all you."

 

Derek doesn't say anything for a little while, but he leans down to rest his chin against Stiles' shoulder for a minute, giving Stiles the time to thoroughly think over the question he wanted to ask.

 

"What was that earlier?" Stiles keeps his voice light, turning a little so that he can see Derek's face just out of the corner of his eye. "Earlier, when your eyes flashed red and you started saying something, I felt really weird. What was it?"

 

"You know how an Alpha's roar can make a beta submit even if they're out of control?" Derek sounds a little bit cautious, like he's telling Stiles a secret, and Stiles finds himself excited at the possibility. Stiles nods, and Derek continues. "That's not the only choice. When you're an alpha, you can use the roar, or you can do what I almost did and use the voice. It's… hard to not listen when something's demanded."

 

"You were going to tell me to breathe." Stiles is sure that he's right considering Derek stiffens behind him until he's so tense that Stiles feels like he's been pressed against a statue. He's surprised at himself for not being upset about this, but when he thinks about how hard Derek's heart had been beating, and how carefully he'd held Stiles, he finds that the anger just… doesn't happen.

 

"Thanks for not using the voice, I don't know what that would have done to me." Stiles pats one of Derek's hands again until he slowly starts to relax. He still feels a little unsettled with what happened, so he adds: "I'm still sorry for clinging to you last night."

 

"Stiles," Derek sounds exasperated which is so much better than the uneasy way he'd spoken earlier that Stiles finds himself close to grinning. "We're pack, it's natural to seek out that comfort."

 

"I still should have asked." Stiles shrugs, feeling a bit overwarm now, considering he's still wrapped up like a burrito in the blanket with only his arms free. Not to mention the fact that Derek gives off enough heat to make the back of Stiles' neck prickle with sweat. "Do you think we could maybe get off the floor?"

 

Derek's little chuckle is the best thing Stiles has heard all day.

--

 

It's barely a week later when Stiles is distracted from some books Peter had brought by on Emissaries, the rituals involved to become tied to a pack (Stiles does not almost cry when he finds out a bite is involved, shut up) when someone comes in through his window.

 

"Come on in, wipe your shoes off and make yourself at home." Stiles offers, not bothering to turn around to see which wolf it is. It doesn't matter to him, and it's obvious they're not feeling hostile. He has to admit though, the feminine sigh startles him a little, and when he looks up, he's startled further to see Cora looking through his bookshelf. "Well, hello there, youngest Hale."

 

"Hey Stiles," Cora trails a finger along the spine of the first Harry Potter book almost distractedly, and Stiles realizes for the first time that Cora looks a little lost standing there in his bedroom.

 

"If you want to read it then you can. I just ask that you bring it back when you're done." Stiles turns back to his book and starts reading again where he'd left off. It's not that he doesn't care that Cora's having a hard time with something, its that out of everyone in the pack, he's never been able to get a good read on her, never knew where they stood as pack members. If she really wants to talk to him, then she'll talk in her own time.

 

For now though, Cora takes off her shoes, grabs Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and climbs right up on Stiles' bed without asking. Startling him further, she opens the book and begins to read. Stiles watches her for a minute or two before the oddity of the situation passes, and he starts reading about magic and the risks of exhaustion. He knows about it first hand, but seeing others struggle with their own magic gives him confidence in his own.

 

They read together separately for the better part of three hours, until Stiles has to unfold himself with a groan, turning to offer Cora a snack or something, but she's so ingrained in the book that she doesn't answer his question. Shrugging to himself, Stiles heads downstairs and makes a few chicken sandwiches, bringing them upstairs. He takes out the cans of sprite he'd shoved in his pants pockets and places all the sandwiches besides one next to Cora.

 

"You'll take the lot." Stiles demands in what is a truly awful British accent, but it's worth it when Cora grins up at him like she never had before, and takes a massive bite out of her sandwich with a mumbled thanks.

 

It's the first time he's noticed how much she and Derek look alike, despite the difference in eye color and gender. They've got the same carefree smile when they're comfortable enough to let it show, and Stiles suddenly understands exactly why Isaac follows after Cora like she hung the moon. She's beautiful in her own way, even if she does scare Stiles a little bit.

 

Stiles turns back to his reading, inhales his sandwich and soda, following after the words on the page with his finger. He's been reading for much too long and everything's starting to merge together, so Stiles leans back and rubs at his eyes to clear them. A blurry glance at Cora shows her leaning back where his bed meets the wall, apparently finished with the book already since it lays closed next to her. She's looking at nothing in particular, the smallest crease of frustration showing between her brows in the same exact spot as her brothers.

 

"You and Derek look a lot alike." He blurts, wincing when all Cora does is blink and tilt her head to stare at him instead. He has to fix this, has to make it better. "I'm really sorry-"

 

"You don't think I look like Laura ?" Cora bite out, her frown more prominent now, and she starts haphazardly picking at her nails to avoid looking at Stiles. 

 

"I never saw Laura when she was alive." Stiles speaks softly, choosing to gnaw on his thumb to calm his sudden nerves. He avoids her eyes when she looks at him curiously. "Derek never told you? That figures."

 

Stiles takes a deep breath, drops his hands into his lap and turns to Cora seriously. "Look, just try to remember that Scott and I were idiots even before he got bitten."

 

It takes a little bit of silence for Stiles to continue talking, and only multiple apologies already made to Derek made him capable of talking in the first place.

 

"I listened in on Dad's calls all the time when I was sixteen and seventeen, so when he got a call about half a body in the woods, I figured that I'd take Scott with me and we could find the other half." Stiles takes a deep breath, risking a look at Cora, surprised to find her looking less upset than he'd thought she'd be. "Scott got bitten by Peter because I dragged him into the woods, and to make matters worse, we went back to the old Hale house and dug up the rest of Laura's body. I remember how it felt to find her, but I don't remember what she looked like. I don't think I'd want to remember her in death."

 

Stiles makes himself look at Cora and waits for her to lash out, to attack him or something, anything , but all she does is pull out her wallet. Cora pulls a Polaroid from a hidden spot in the wallet and wordlessly hands it over to him.

 

He takes it with a shaking hand and looks down at it almost immediately. It's glaringly obvious why Cora asked if she'd looked more like Laura, because Stiles can see the similarities between them immediately. Cora does look like her, almost strikingly so, but where Laura was all wide smiles and carefree, Cora is cautious and wary.

 

In that way, she'll always remind him more of Derek.

 

"She's beautiful. You're beautiful." Stiles holds the photograph tightly, thinks of people at his mother's funeral and how they'd told him over and over again how much he looked like her, and how some days even now, when his dad looked at him, it was like he was seeing someone else. Holding the photograph back out to Cora, he grins even though he's not really happy. "You look nothing alike."

 

He knows his heartbeat is steady, and sees the exact moment when Cora realizes it as well. Her eyes water, but she grins wide and pleased and so much like both of her siblings that Stiles physically aches. 

 

"She read me Harry Potter when it first came out." Cora reaches down and lays her hand over the cover, turning back to Stiles with a single tear dripping down her cheek. "I wanted to see if the magic was still there."

 

"Was it?" He desperately wants her to say yes, wants to see that happy smile stay on her face even more.

 

"Yes and no." Cora wipes at her face, even though more tears follow and her bottom lip quivers. "It just made me miss her more, I think."

 

Stiles understands on a level that he's not even sure Derek could understand, and that's what has him reaching into his computer desk drawer, pulling out a photograph he had to hide so he wouldn't stare at it anymore. He hands his burden to Cora with a wide grin, and sees the exact moment that she understands why he handed it to her .

 

"Is this?" She asks, eyes wide and still leaking, and Stiles nods, pulling his knees up to his chest so he can rest his chin on them.

 

He knows what she'll see; His mother in the backyard, her arms muddied up to her elbow, a spring of lavender in her hand. His dad had caught her mid-laughter in the photograph, and Stiles recognizes his own smile, his nose and eye shape, the same freckles that nearly match the same constellation on her skin. The only noticeable difference is that Claudia's cheeks were round, her belly big and swollen with Stiles.

 

A near mirror image.

 

"She's beautiful." Cora whispers, wiping her eyes near aggressively, handing the photo back to him. Stiles doesn't look at it, tucks it back in the drawer as safely as he can and shuts it. 

 

Cora doesn't spend useless time arguing that he and his mother look nothing alike, and neither does Stiles. Instead, Stiles stays where he is on the floor, surrounded by sooty books that probably still smell like family to Cora and finds himself blinking back tears while his packmate hypothetically pulls herself together. Cora huffs a harsh breath like she can get rid of her feelings if she tries hard enough, and when Stiles looks back at her, it's like nothing ever happened in the first place.

 

"Can I borrow the second one?" Cora asks, slipping from the bed and padding back over to the bookshelf. She puts the first book back and lingers in front of Chamber of Secrets, turning and raising a single brow at Stiles when he doesn't answer fast enough.

 

" Just like Derek," Stiles complains, pretending he can't see the little pleased smile Cora makes, groaning when he pushes himself up off the floor. "Yeah, help yourself."

 

She grabs the book and unsurprisingly slips her shoes back on, lingering by the window for a moment before she straightens her back, turning on her heels and stalks over to Stiles. His arms open the second before she rams into him and they cling to each other for close to five minutes before Cora pulls back.

 

"See you soon, Stilinski." Cora lazily salutes him and leaps through the window, Harry Potter tucked close to her chest. 

 

Stiles thinks he should be annoyed at her quick departure, but all he finds himself capable of is grinning at the warmth he heard in her voice.

--

 

The pack takes Stiles' revelation of being an Emissary better than Stiles does himself. He spends weeks pouring through every book Peter brings to him, checks the genuine internet forums for anything that has been left out and sulks in his bedroom alone for a week.

 

All he can think of is the marking bite, the pain that'll come along with it, the link that'll make him the second most important person in the pack besides Derek. It's a responsibility that Stiles isn't sure about just yet, and the more he thinks about it, the more nervous he gets.

 

He wonders if it was like this for the Betas at first, knowing that Derek would basically be in control of them if he chose to be, even though he knows that Derek wouldn't ever betray their trust like that. The thought of so many people being so intricately tied to him makes Stiles feel like he's got thousands of bugs crawling under his skin. His head, his body is his own, and he's not sure that he could give that up yet.

 

He's scared , that's all there is to it. Hell, before the Nemeton Stiles was sure that he was human, and now he has books talking about magic, being able to siphon power from the land to protect his pack, being a beacon to the supernatural in his own right.

 

Why wouldn't he be scared?

 

Thankfully, distraction comes with the lift of his window alerting him to a nighttime visitor; Stiles isn't even a little bit surprised. He'd sent a mass text to the entire pack and asked for a little bit of time alone so he could study and think. Sure, the ache in his chest he has from missing them is massive and raw, but he needs to understand this before this goes any further.

 

"Still moping around, I see." Peter slides the window back down and pulls Stiles' computer chair over to the bed, staring down at Stiles' prone figure. "Have you even showered ?"

 

"Nope." Stiles doesn't look at Peter, isn't sure what he'd see on his face, though he does allow himself a small smile. "If it offends your wolfy nose, then you're welcome to leave."

 

"Well. There's always another option, isn't there Stiles?" Peter stands, and suddenly there are hands sliding under Stiles' neck and knees, and he's being lifted. He's too surprised to react too much, but when Peter walks into the bathroom and drops Stiles unceremoniously into the tub, Stiles can't help the startled squawk he makes.

 

"Dude!" Stiles yelps, turning to glare at Peter, but all the wolf does is turn on the showerhead, pelting Stiles with ice cold water that makes him shout shrilly. The water warms quickly enough for Stiles to look back at Peter, shirt and boxers soaked, and give him his best glare. "What the fuck, Peter?"

 

"When you're clean, then we'll talk." Brushing his hands off, Peter shrugs and heads from the bathroom. "I'm going to open your window to air out your room. It smells like fear in there."

 

Stiles is ready to curse and swear at the wolf until he leaves, but he hears his dad's door open and miraculously manages to keep his mouth shut.

 

"Hale," John calls on greeting, sounding a little bit pleased at seeing Peter. "Do I have you to thank for getting my kid out of his room?"

 

Peter chuckles, turning to wink at an increasingly pissed off Stiles, who just pulls the shower curtain closed to block the smug look on Peter's face. "You sure do, Sheriff."

 

"Call me John." Stiles can hear the grin in his dad's voice and groans at the thought of his dad becoming friends with Peter. John makes his voice loud enough for Stiles to hear him clearly. "I could smell him from downstairs."

 

Stiles quietly mimics his dad and makes himself stand up, looking down at himself. To be fair, he has been wearing this shirt for a solid five days, but they should be used to the way he studies by now, especially when he doesn't have to worry about school the next day. At least he's been eating and changing his underwear, but… he's already in the shower, so he might as well get clean.

 

He takes his damn time on the shower, and has to admit that he does feel better than he had before Peter came by, and sighs.

 

Once he's out of the shower, Stiles is surprised to see a towel and a clean pair of clothes sitting there for him, and changes as soon as he's dry. Leaving the bathroom, he notices his dad's door is open and he can't hear him downstairs so he must have gone on shift. Stiles turns for his own door instead, and is surprised to see Peter is still there, lounging upon Stiles' bed with one of the Emissary books.

 

"You can't be mad at me for being worried about you," Peter says factually, turning the page and continuing to read. He doesn't lift his gaze from the book or acknowledge that Stiles is there after that.

 

Stiles would argue if he didn't feel as exhausted as he does right now. The shower helped perk him up for a little bit, but now that he's out, all he wants to do is climb into bed and sleep, and Peter must know somehow because he moves over to give Stiles room, and he takes it. He climbs into bed, pulling the blankets up over his chest and listens to Peter's gentle breathing.

 

"You know that the warnings that come with this book doesn't pertain to us ." Peter mumbles, attempting to sound nonchalant but failing. Instead he sounds insistent, and just the tiniest bit unsure. "We don't want to own you anymore than you want to own us."

 

"I know, Peter. Do me a favor and call a pack meeting." Stiles rubs his face against his pillow and turns so that he's facing Peter. "We can talk about it tomorrow, together."

 

"That's the smartest thing you've said all day." Peter flashes Stiles a grin, closes the book and leans over Stiles to put it on the nightstand next to his bed. It's only when he starts pulling the blankets up over himself that Stiles realizes that Peter means to stay.

 

"You're staying?" Stiles hates that he asked when Peter freezes and starts shifting out of the blankets, so he reaches out and tries to tug the wolf back down. "It's fine that you stay here Peter, I swear."

 

It still takes a few minutes for Peter to relax against the mattress, but when he does, he seems to fall asleep almost instantly. Stiles just huffs a small laugh and closes his eyes.

--

 

It becomes very clear to Stiles just how worried the pack has been about him when Peter tugs him into the clearing and he's immediately aware of just how much he's been missed by his friends. 

 

Isaac reaches him first, pulling Stiles into a tight hug and nuzzling against him. Stiles clings back just as tightly to Isaac, feeling like the most selfish person on the planet for asking Isaac to leave him alone for a while. He'd been staying at Derek's place the whole last week, and Stiles hadn't realized just how accustomed to Isaac being around he was. The house didn't feel right without him anymore.

 

"Missed you, Buddy." Stiles mutters around a mouthful of curls, grinning when Isaac just holds him closer before pulling away and poking Stiles in the chest.

 

"Don't do that again." If it was anyone else, then the glare on Isaac's face would seem at least a little intimidating, but to Stiles he just looks like a frustrated puppy. He reaches out and ruffles Isaac's hair, grinning when Isaac ducks his head to smother a smile.

 

"Sure thing, Issac-- oof. " Stiles is jostled when Boyd clasps a hand on his shoulder when he walks by, squeezing it in a quiet greeting. Boyd is followed by Erica, who bares her teeth at him and punches him in the other arm. When Stiles moans from the Charlie horse, Erica finally grins at him, linking her arm through Isaac's and pulling him away.

 

Jackson pulls Stiles as close as Issac had and scents all of Stiles' bare skin that he can reach before proclaiming that he hadn't missed Stiles at all and tugged a grinning Lydia over to their bench. 

 

Cora hands Stiles his copy of Deathly Hallows and warns that she'll be back to his house soon to take something else from his bookshelf, but instead of punching him like she usually would, Cora pulls Stiles into a brief hug, muttering about how only idiots separate themselves from their pack and he should really know better by now. She pulls away and sits between Peter and Isaac, flashing her eyes at someone behind Stiles.

 

Even with her warning, Stiles is still surprised when a hand comes down on his shoulder and squeezes as gently as possible. He knows its Derek, can practically feel the heat from him up against his back, and turns in his hold.

 

Sure enough, Derek is standing there, an unreadable look on his face while Stiles grins at him. Stiles shoves his hands into the pocket of his sweatshirt and rocks onto the balls of his feet.

 

"Hey big bad," Stiles' smile softens when Derek rolls his eyes. He can't imagine how it must have felt for the Alpha to have a member of his pack be unreachable, especially when it was the member who asked for that time alone. Stiles hates to think that all his time thinking might have hurt the big guy. "Didja miss me?"

 

"Yes." Derek's answers bluntly, pushing past Stiles and brushing their arms together as he passes. It's scenting in a way, but it's Derek's words that have Stiles frozen.

 

He can hear the pack chattering away behind him, can hear Derek say hello to everyone, but Stiles can't make himself move. His heart's pounding, but all he can think about is the fact that these people all noticed his absence, they missed him, and it's so unlike his friendship with Scott that he could cry.

 

In fact, he just might.

 

"Who broke Stiles?" 

 

Melissa and John make their way through the clearing hand in hand, their fingers intertwined, and now Stiles finds himself wanting to cry for different reasons. His father is clean shaved, dressed well, and the creases on his face are from smiling , not from worry.

 

Stiles makes himself move and walks right up to his father, who looks more and more unsure the closer Stiles gets, right up until Stiles is wrapping his arms around his dad's waist and holds on to his dad. He feels Melissa tense for a moment, then nearly startles himself when her hand rests on his back. Then all three of them are hugging, and Stiles feels another weight lift off of him with this revelation.

 

His dad and Melissa will be good for each other, and it's about time that the two of them were with someone who could make them happy.

 

The pack is wholly unified and the pack is more or less settled, and that more than anything is what cements Stiles' decision in the end. He gently pulls away from his Dad and Melissa, turning back to the pack to find them all looking back, most of them smiling.

 

Clearing his throat, all ten pairs of eyes boring into him, and Stiles swallows down his nerves, straightens his spine, and looks Derek right in the eyes.

 

"I've made my decision," Stiles calls, his voice sounding unnaturally loud in the sudden silence of the clearing. He feels good, he's more sure that he's made the right decision this very second than he had been all week. So Stiles lifts his head, pulls himself up to his full height and allows himself to smile. "I'm ready to be the Emissary of the Hale Pack."

 

The pack starts talking excitedly amongst themselves, but Stiles only has eyes for Derek, who is staring at him like he's never seen him before.

 

Then, like it's been a long time coming, the corners of Derek's lips curl until he's no longer stiff lipped and uncomfortable, but is relieved and borderline ecstatic. Stiles is determined right this minute to get Derek to smile as wide and carefree as he is right now as often as he possibly can.

 

Derek takes a step forward and so does Stiles, until they're barely two feet apart, and Derek still has that smile on his face. He holds out his hand, waits patiently for Stiles to take it and clasps Stiles' hand with both of his.

 

"Welcome to the Hale pack, Emissary Stilinski." Derek speaks loudly, and the words sound like a promise to Stiles. He can't help but grin up at Derek himself, taking the last step until they're almost chest to chest.

 

Stiles tilts his head off to the side in submission, in an offering . He knows the bite needs to be visible, and Stiles is more ready now than he ever thought he'd be. He doesn't want a huge celebration, he doesn't want the stuffiness of a ceremony, he just wants to be surrounded by the pack, by the people he loves and he is. The pack knew exactly why it took him so long to decide, and with him in this position, he knows they understand that he's finally decided.

 

"Glad to be here, Big guy." Stiles murmurs, tilting his head more when Derek firmly takes hold of his shoulders. "I'm ready."

 

Derek growls, the sound coming from deep in his chest; Stiles can make out the flash of red from Derek's eyes from the corner of his eye, and oddly enough, that's what erases the last of his nerves and has Stiles sagging into his Alpha.

 

He'll be fine, Derek will catch him if he falls.

 

Derek does indeed catch Stiles, tossing his head back in a victorious howl, ducking his head back down into the soft flesh of Stiles' neck. He feels Derek snuffling around, feels the wetness of Derek's tongue against his skin, followed quickly by the gentle press of teeth. 

 

"It's okay, you can do it."

 

Stiles barely gets the words out when Derek makes a noise not unlike a purr, his teeth sinking deep into Stiles' neck. Stiles clings to Derek with a sharp gasp and a whimper because it hurts him so much , and then-

 

Everything fades to black.

 

Chapter Text

Stiles comes back to himself slowly, with a rumble of noise that painstakingly fades into individual voices, some of which sound worried, even though Stiles isn't. He can feel every single pack member in the house, and if he focuses hard enough, Stiles can pinpoint their exact location, even with his eyes closed.

 

For example:

 

Focusing on a strand that feels rather paternal, Stiles follows after it and finds his dad in the bedroom with Melissa, who feels soothing, like aloe on a sunburn.

 

"I just thought he'd have woken up by now," Stiles hears his dad say, and it sounds so clear that Stiles would think his dad was in the room with him, even though he isn't.

 

"John, Derek said that it can take a while, his vitals are clear, and-" Melissa fades out slowly while Stiles follows distractedly after another tether, this one feeling mostly annoyed with a thick layer of nerves so rattled that Stiles feels his own heartbeat react accordingly.

 

Jackson.

 

Jackson is low-key terrified of something, and even Lydia is barely capable of helping him right now, so Stiles forces himself to calm down and p u s h e s reassurance down the bond. He can feel Jackson sag in relief and can tell he's more than a little confused, but that he also doesn't want to really question why his nerves faded. Jackson's relaxation helps Lydia, and soon they're both chatting easily with the pack, instead of brooding alone.

 

Stiles skips to the beta trio and gets the same sense from all three: Isaac, Erica, and Boyd are all a bit unsettled, but their trust in Derek is so strong that they can do nothing but believe that everything will be fine. The same can be said for Cora, when he touches the bond that brings him to her.

 

Peter's bond is blissfully open, and when Stiles clumsily nudges up against it, he feels Peter tense, and then relax almost immediately after. He surprises Stiles by nudging the bond back; So far Peter is the only one to react to his interference.

 

All that's left is for him to find Derek, and that's the easiest one of all, because the Alpha hasn't left Stiles' bedside at all since he's been exploring. There's mostly low grade anxiety coming through Derek's bond and Stiles wants nothing more than to soothe his Alpha's nerves. 

 

In the end, it's easier than he thought it would be to open his eyes, and Stiles is pleased to note that someone had the foresight to close the curtains so he wouldn't be blinded first thing upon waking. He's startled by how tired he feels, and doesn't even bother trying to move right away, just takes in things about his room that he'd never noticed before; Like the stain on his ceiling, the slightly musky smell emanating through the whole room, and the lump in his mattress that's currently digging right into his back.

 

"Ow." It's not the most clever thing he could have said when waking up from whatever the hell that was, but it is the most honest. 

 

Stiles aches , and the jostling from the bed when Derek practically throws himself onto it has Stiles groaning again. Luckily for him, Derek catches on quickly and grabs Stiles' wrist, thick black lines crawling up his arm.

 

"You're awake." Derek sounds relieved, and Stiles manages to turn his head to look at the Alpha and offer a small smile.

 

"Hi, Der'." It's hard for Stiles to talk, especially with the relief seeping through his veins from the absence of the pain. His eyelids flutter shut and he sags heavier into the mattress, surprised at the lack of reaction from the pack to his wakening. His confusion must show because Derek surprises him further by running his hand through Stiles' most likely disgusting hair, scratching his nails along his scalp like his mom used to do.

 

"This isn't the first time you've woken up," Derek admits with a weariness that makes Stiles think they've had this conversation before, but Derek's voice and hands stay gentle. "Usually you get up to go to the bathroom. Do you need to go?"

 

Stiles forces his eyes open and shifts as much as he can to estimate the amount of discomfort coming from his bladder, but feels little to nothing. "No, I'm good."

 

It's not the whole truth, not really, but it's not like Stiles feels bad or anything, he just feels heavy , like his arms and legs have weights attached to them. The only thing that's making this whole thing better is Derek's fingers in his hair and the anchoring touch of the pain drain. 

 

This time when Stiles' eyes begin to flutter shut he doesn't fight it; he's not sure he could fight it if he wanted, not even when he feels Derek's disappointment echoing through the bond. Stiles wants to reach out and tell Derek that everything's going to be just fine, so he digs into the core of the bonds and pushes out as much reassurance as he can, and fades into sleep with Derek's startled gasp ringing in his ears.

--

 

The next time he wakes is infinitely different than the last time or time before that, considering he can now remember the times he'd woken up before.

 

Now it's a bit like waking up all at once; Stiles is laying there in bed, completely unaware, and then his eyes are opening and awareness slams into him with no warning at all. He tilts his head off to the left and feels his neck pop, doing the same with the right before he takes stock of his body.

 

He still aches bone deep, but he doesn't feel like he's being weighed down anymore, and that anchored feeling hasn't completely gone away yet. The bond hums in his chest comfortingly, and a quick peruse of it tells Stiles that his dad is at the station, Melissa is at the hospital, and that only Derek is here. The Alpha is downstairs in the kitchen, and from the smell of things, seems to be making himself a grilled cheese.

 

God, Stiles would kill for a grilled cheese right now, but Derek would hear him coming and freak out, wouldn't he?

 

The smell makes Stiles realize just how ravenous he is, and without thinking, he swings his legs over the side of the bed and heads down the hallway without making any of the noise he's accustomed to. There's something bubbling under his skin that leaves Stiles wondering what it'll do, so he just kind of goes with it .

 

His feet make no noise as he stomps, quite literally , down the stairs, and they continue to be silent even as Stiles jumps right on the squeaky step at the bottom of the stairs. Fist pumping the air, Stiles moves into the kitchen as quietly as he came down the stairs and is blessed with seeing Derek Hale, the Alpha of Beacon Hills, Stiles' Alpha, wearing Stiles' lime green apron.

 

The last thing Stiles wants to be is quiet right now with the grin spreading across his face, especially when Derek quietly starts to sing along with the radio, shaking his hips to the beat. The bubbling feeling fades as quickly as it came and Stiles can feel laughter climbing in his throat and just lets it go. In fact, he's still mid laugh when Derek slams him into the wall, partially shifted until he realizes just who he has pressed up against the wall. 

 

"Stiles?" Derek lets him go almost immediately, backing up to the other side of the kitchen. Stiles just grins over at Derek until the surprise seems to fade, leaving a pissed off Alpha behind. "You idiot , I could have hurt you!"

 

"You didn't though." Stiles shrugs, jutting his chin towards the pan on the stove. "You're going to burn your sandwich unless you flip it over."

 

Swearing under his breath, Derek flips the grilled cheese over and turns back to Stiles with a furrow in his brow. "How come I didn't hear you come downstairs?"

 

"Magic!" Stiles grins and does jazz hands, but all Derek does is put a hand on his hips and gesture at Stiles with a spatula. Pouting, Stiles folds his hands on the table and shrugs. "I'm serious about the magic. I really doubt it's a coincidence that I wanted to be quiet and not even jumping on the squeaky stair made you realize I was there."

 

"Why would you want to be quiet?" Derek's nose crinkles when he frowns and Stiles refuses to think it's cute, no matter how much his brain wants him to coo. "Doesn't that go against everything you stand for?"

 

While Stiles is busy rolling his eyes to the point where he nearly hurts himself, Derek places the sandwich in front of Stiles instead of himself, and even though Stiles is hungry and the sandwich looks amazing, he doesn't want to take food away from Derek.

 

"Dude, this is yours." Stiles pushes the plate towards Derek and raises an eyebrow at him when Derek frowns and makes no move to take the sandwich back. "I'm not going to take your food."

 

Derek gestures at him with the spatula all over again, baring his teeth in a facsimile of a snarl but with no actual threat." Don't call me dude. Just eat the damn sandwich, Stiles."

 

Stiles mimics him, lifting his hands up and crooking his finger like claws and growling weakly. "That's you, this is what you look like." 

 

"For the love of-" Derek cuts himself off, grabs half of the grilled cheese and takes a huge bite of it, sliding the plate back to Stiles and quirking a single brow. 

 

Stiles plans on shoving the plate back again, but then he notices that it's not just cheese in the sandwich. Derek has also put in ham and a slice of tomato, and Stiles stomach immediately rejects the thought of letting the sandwich go. He picks it up slowly, ignoring the triumphant look on Derek's face and takes a small bite out of the sandwich.

 

The half is gone faster than Stiles would like, but when Derek places another sandwich on his plate, Stiles doesn't argue this time and just eats. It helps that Derek made himself a second sandwich as well, and soon the only sound in the kitchen is the sound of them eating. Stiles moves from the table to pour himself a glass of juice, so he pours one for Derek as well, and sits back down, for once enjoying the companionable silence. 

 

Once his stomach is full, Stiles starts feeling tired all over again and wants to groan with how frustrated he is that he can't seem to stay awake for longer than an hour or two.

 

"You're upset." Derek's already looking at him when Stiles turns to him, and while he doesn't look upset, he does look confused. "Why?"

 

"I'm tired again. I just woke up and now all I want is to sleep again." Scrubbing a hand across his face, Stiles sags back against his chair, annoyed with himself.

 

"Stiles, your body went through a massive change, and I'm pretty sure you did magic right when you woke up. It makes sense that you're tired." Derek grabs Stiles' plate and brings it over to the sink along with the pan he cooked on. "Why don't you go lay down on the couch?"

 

"I wanted to see everyone when they came over." Stiles is pouting and he knows it, but his body is betraying him and he's already tired of it. 

 

"So go take a nap and they'll wake you up when they get here." Derek doesn't even turn around to look at Stiles, the jerk.

 

"Stop trying to be a voice of reason." Grumbling, Stiles pushes back from the table and has to steady himself when he stands too fast. Stiles grunts, waiting for the black spots to leave his vision and turns towards the bathroom, mumbling to himself. "I thought my body would be done betraying me after puberty."

 

Derek's muffled laughter follows Stiles to the bathroom, and for a minute he takes the time to just catch his breath, leaning his forehead against the mirror over the sink and closing his eyes. After a few minutes Stiles opens his eyes and pulls back, but something in the mirror catches his eye. 

 

There, on the right side of his neck, faded and silvery, are the scars left behind from Derek's teeth. Without thinking, Stiles trails his pointer finger along the scar and hisses at how tender the skin still is, dropping his hand almost immediately. Other than the scar, Stiles looks perfectly normal, and even the bags under his eyes that had been accumulating are starting to fade. It's good to know that neither the bite or the influx of magic had visually changed him in any way, but Stiles can't help but feel like something's different. Now isn't the time to think about it though, so Stiles does his business and hurries out of the bathroom, trying not to worry too much.

 

"I think I'll take that nap, Der'." Stiles calls, whining when Derek steps out of the kitchen with a pinched look on his face. "What? I thought you wanted me to nap."

 

"It's not that." Derek has his phone in his hands and grimaces just the tiniest bit. "When you feel a little better, we need to talk about your bond and how to control that a little better."

 

"What? Why?" Stiles knows he probably sounds a little bit like a petulant child, but he's tired, and there's all this weird feedback that he's feeling, like people keep pushing their own feelings at him and- oh. "Shit, if I can feel them, does that mean that they felt me?"

 

"You mean when you just agonized about how everything's changing and you're not sure where you stand?" Derek pinches the bridge of his nose, face pale like a headache is coming on. "Yeah Stiles, we all felt it, even John and Melissa to an extent."

 

"Oh." Stiles doesn't even know if he'll be able to get a good enough hold on himself so that the pack wouldn't feel what he was feeling, and right now he doesn't have the energy to try. Suddenly, all Stiles wants to do is go back upstairs and sleep until this exhaustion is gone. "I'm sorry."

 

Derek doesn't tell him it's alright; in fact, Derek doesn't say anything at all, but he does put his hand on Stiles' lower back and gently urge him towards the stairs. The second step squeaks it's protest with both their weight on it and Stiles can't help but grin at the noise. He lets Derek bring him to his room and waits while Derek quickly strip the bed.

 

While Derek brings the old linens to the washer, Stiles pulls out his spare set and struggles with putting it on his mattress, but Derek comes back and is able to help him. The bed is made in barely five minutes, so Stiles grabs a spare pair of pajamas and heads for the bathroom.

 

"I'm going to take a shower, but you can stay here if you're really that determined to make sure I don't fall asleep in there." Stiles grins at Derek, who just stands there and crosses his arms over his chest. Honestly, the thought of getting clean fills Stiles with a little more energy, and he's humming to himself by the time he's stripped and stepping into the water.

 

It's without a doubt the best shower that Stiles has had and he lingers far longer than he should, but it's so nice and relaxing that all the worry he'd had earlier seems like it's been washed down the drain.

 

Eventually though, Stiles knows he won't be able to handle much more of it and shuts the water off, wrapping a towel around his waist and stepping out of the shower. He dries off as fast as he can, pulls on his clothes and makes his way to the bedroom, only to stop in the doorway.

 

Derek is on Stiles' bed, pressed right against the wall, his arms still crossed over his chest, but the guy is fast asleep. The sight makes Stiles feel warm all over, and before he can talk himself out of it, Stiles climbs into bed next to his Alpha, pulling the blankets up and tucking Derek in. Then and only then does Stiles do the same for himself, burrowing down into his pillow. Derek shifts beside him, his arms uncrossing, his body curved towards Stiles, so he shifts onto his side to mimic Derek's position. Having someone in his bed is kind of… nice.

 

With a small smile, Stiles tugs the blanket up under his chin, basks in content and lets himself fall asleep.

--

 

Stiles sleeps straight through the rest of the day, and only wakes up because of the nearly silent snickering going on in his room. He can feel heat radiating from somewhere behind him, can smell the pineautumnspice of Derek and opens his eyes.

 

He's surprised to find that the first thing he sees is Cora and Peter lurking in the rapidly fading darkness of his room, both of them holding up a finger in front of their lips, begging for silence. Stiles cautiously eyes the shaving cream in Cora's hand and a flight feather of some bird or another in Peter's hand and feels his lips curl into a grin.

 

Stiles nods, focusing hard on keeping his heart rate down while Cora creeps closer and squirts a decent amount of shaving cream in Derek's hand. Peter barely takes a single step closer when Derek's hand flies out and smears shaving cream all along the side of Stiles' face.

 

"Derek!" Stiles complains, shifting so he can sit up. He full on pouts down at Derek, who looks so proud of himself that Stiles doesn't even think before he leans down and rubs his cheek against Derek's, effectively wiping off all the shaving cream on him.

 

Derek seems to be frozen for a moment before he forcibly relaxes even covered in shaving cream, smirking at his sister and Uncle, gesturing towards Stiles. "Bad move involving someone who doesn't have good bond control yet."

 

"We were going to get him too," Cora admits, snickering when Stiles starts to complain loudly. "He just woke up first."

 

Peter hasn't stopped laughing since Derek had wiped the shaving cream all over Stiles, and it had only started up again when Stiles had rubbed it off on Derek. Everytime it seems like he's started to get control of himself, he'd look at Derek and all that control would be lost to even more laughter. Stiles can feel the shaving cream drying on his face and grimaces, which sets Peter off so bad that he physically leaves the room, cackling his way down the stairs while Stiles poked morosely at his cheek. "Man, I just showered."

 

"Well that's what you get for not defending your Alpha." It takes longer than it should for Stiles to realize that Derek is joking, but when he does, Stiles simply shrugs and rolls out of his bed.

 

"Hey, if anyone should be protecting someone, you should be protecting me since you're the one in my bed." Stiles heads for the bathroom to wipe his face and hears Cora ask Derek why he was in Stiles' bed in the first place and grins at his reflection in the mirror, even though there's shaving cream in his eyebrow.

 

By the time he's done with the bathroom the rabble have moved downstairs, so Stiles pulls on a clean shirt and exchanges his pajama pants for jeans, heading down to join them. His dad isn't home but Melissa's here, so Stiles presses a kiss to her cheek and pours her a fresh cup of coffee, gently nudging Peter away from the stove.

 

Stiles loses himself in the cooking, dicing ham, onion and a mix of green and red peppers for the omelettes he's decided to throw together. He moves to the refrigerator and pulls out some pre shredded pepper jack cheese and mozzarella blend, carefully folding the cooked eggs over the melting cheese. He eases the food on a plate and means to set it in front of Melissa, but Stiles finds himself with a hand on Derek's shoulder, placing the plate down in front of him.

 

Derek hides his surprise well for the most part, mutters a soft thanks and takes a huge bite of the omelette, obviously surprised that it tastes as good as it does. Stiles can't stop himself from grinning, or the way his brain helpfully supplies: In a wolf pack, the Alpha male usually eats first . At least he has an answer for the oddity, but it just means that the next omelette goes to Melissa or she'll head to work with just a granola bar for breakfast.

 

Once the pack has been fed, Stiles pours himself a cup of coffee and hugs Melissa since she thanks him for cooking and heads out to work. Cora and Peter leave not too long after that; Cora says she's going to be hanging out with Erica and Lydia today, and Peter says Chris needs him to come along for a small hunt along the border of the next town.

 

"Pixies." Peter says with a snarl, his eyes flashing bright blue, hands clenched at his side. "Chris came home covered in scratches this morning."

 

Stiles frowns, turning to Derek, but even though his fingertips are digging into the meat of his thigh, Derek outwardly looks like the epitome of calm. He feels it too, when Stiles tentatively checks the bond. 

 

The facade fades the moment Peter's car is far enough away that Stiles can't hear it anymore. Derek's fangs drop and he snarls, barely holding himself back from swatting the table full of empty dishes onto the floor. Stiles tries his best to send something soothing down the bond and at first he thinks it works when Derek sags in his chair, but when he tests the bond, it seems that all the fight has just fades from Derek instead.

 

"Out of everyone, it had to be an Argent." Derek sounds exhausted when he talks, his shoulders sagging while he slowly shakes his head. "Her fucking brother ."

 

"You're upset that Peter's living with Chris?" Stiles tugs a chair close to Derek's and sits next to him, pressing their shoulders together. He's not expecting Derek to laugh, the sound haunted and uncomfortable.

 

"No, I'm not mad that they're living together, that would be so much more simple." Derek closes his eyes, props his arm on the table and rests his chin on it with a grimace. "I'm mad that they're sleeping together."

 

"They're what!" Stiles doesn't mean to shout so loud but he does, and suddenly a whole bunch of stuff that's happened the last few weeks make more sense. Peter leaving pack meetings to go check on Chris, why he was excited for Victoria and Allison to leave and about the divorce. " Jesus."

 

Derek snorts, muttering something that sounds like understatement , but Stiles brushes it off and bumps their shoulders together with a bit more force. The only thing he can think of to do is change the subject.

 

"I'm thinking of going to the Nemeton today, do you want to come with me?" Stiles wouldn't actually mind if Derek wanted to come with him, but if he's honest? He wouldn't mind spending some time on his own to see exactly what he could do and be told what his limitations would be.

 

"No, I promised Erica, Isaac and Boyd that we'd do a perimeter check today." Derek shakes himself out, offering Stiles a small smile. His mind is off Peter though, so Stiles will take it. "Maybe next time though."

 

Derek stands up and heads for the stove, turning the burner on and grabbing two eggs from the refrigerator. It's when Stiles notices that Derek's making another omelette that he smiles.

 

"Still hungry, big guy?" Stiles leans back against the chair and takes a long sip of coffee, closing his eyes and checking the rest of the bonds. It's so cool that he can feel everyone, and when he gives them a little mental nudge, he gets nudged back. Even his dad and Melissa manage to react, and Stiles is so lost in the sensation that he doesn't realize that the food Derek made is set down in front of him until he opens his eyes. 

 

Stiles quirked a brow and Derek huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and gesturing towards the food.

 

"You made everyone else food, but you didn't cook for yourself." Derek shrugs, sitting next to Stiles and nudging the plate closer again. "You should take better care of yourself."

 

"That's rich coming from you," Stiles teases, even though he picks up the fork and cuts into the omelette. Now that he thinks of it, he's starving and this looks really good. 

 

"Shut up, Stiles." Derek rolls his eyes, but there's very little heat to his words, and when Stiles looks at him, his cheeks full with egg, Derek grins back at him. Stiles makes sure to swallow his mouthful before smiling back, ducking his head while he practically inhales his food after.

--

 

The preserve feels a little different when Stiles gets there, silent and broad; Nearly endless in its depths, and it leaves Stiles reeling the moment his foot touches the mossy earth. The warmth from the ground is welcoming, even if Stiles doesn't exactly remember taking his shoes off, so he shuts Roscoe's door and walks through the preserve like this.

 

It doesn't take him long to reach the Nemeton today, and the chorus of birds leading him along most likely ruined his arrival, but that's alright. He'd just really like to ask someone about magic, something that books can't explain no matter how many of them Stiles reads.

 

"Hello again- woah." Stiles gapes up at the Nemeton, who is stretched as close to him as it can get, practically making grabby hands with its branches.

 

Let us look, let us see you.

 

The Nemeton sounds pleased, so Stiles steps into the range of a branch and yelps when a vine wraps around his middle and he's pulled into the leaves of the Nemeton. The branches curl around Stiles widely so he's in no danger of getting accidentally poked or prodded, but he's also very high up.

 

"Wow," Stiles laughs breathlessly when a bare branch touches at the scar on his neck and pokes him gently in the chest. "That tickles!"

 

Your Alpha did a beautiful job, The Nemeton muses, gently patting Stiles' sternum, turning him this way and that in their hold. How do you feel?

 

"Not too much different, honestly." Stiles waits until he's released to answer, and chooses to sit right in the middle of the bough that the Nemeton placed him in. After a moment to think, he shrugs. "I slept for nearly a week, and learned about Bonds and how to feel them, but that's really about it, unless you want to talk about how I accidentally made myself and everything around me be quiet so I could sneak up on Derek."

 

But the magic worked?

 

"Oh yeah, it worked." Stiles grins, leaning back against the base of the tree and stretches out until he's comfortable. "I kind of ruined it by laughing though. It broke the spell right away."

 

That's excellent , Stiles.

 

"I mean, I had to lay down again not even an hour later, so I guess it was good." Shrugging, Stiles pillows his head on his arms and fights back another yawn. He's been sleeping far too much lately, and all he wants to do is learn.  

 

Beacon Hills was not built in a day, Emissary. These things take time and patience, or else you'll burn out faster than a flame.

 

"I know, believe me, I know." Peter had gone into gruesome detail about how he'd seen some Emissaries drive themselves to the point of insanity for their packs, and Stiles really doesn't want that to happen to him, no matter how much he wants to learn. "I just want to do something useful."

 

The Nemeton hums, the sound ringing clear throughout the clearing, before it's leaves begin rustling in excitement.

 

Do you know of your packs territory line?

 

"Isn't it the whole of Beacon Hills?" Frowning, Stiles thinks back on all the maps he's spent time staring at until lines blurred and faded into one big blur. "Right up against Beacon County?"

 

Very good. We want you to picture the lines of territory if you can.

 

Stiles frowns, closing his eyes to better picture the edges of Beacon Hills, nodding when he sees it clearly in his mind. He clenches his fingers against the smooth bark of the Nemeton, feels that bubbling sensation start to build and struggles to relax.

 

We won't let you lose yourself, Stiles. The words are more soothing than they have any right to be, but Stiles knows the Nemeton means them so he pats the trunk of the tree. Follow the lines, some of your wolves are at the perimeter already, follow after them, and it'll be just like laying a line of mountain ash.

 

"Except I want it basically be a giant neon sign that says 'Hale Pack Only'" Snorting on a laugh, Stiles feels his magic bubble over and sends it along the line he can see in his mind. They come across Boyd first, scent marking along the territory line and Stiles' magic reaches out to him playfully, touching his arm before continuing on the run. 

 

Boyd doesn't seem to notice, but they didn't exactly want him to.

 

Good job, Keep going.

 

Once his magic knows what to do, it could probably do this on it's own, but Stiles is determined to see this through. As it is, he can already feel the line around the perimeter strengthening, and by the time they come across Isaac, Stiles is practically euphoric. They slam through Isaac and the wolf stumbles a little, but he tosses his head back in a joyful howl regardless.

 

Erica seems to know he's coming because she's running across the perimeter line, her hair blowing every which way, and a permanent smile on her half shifted features.

 

"Come on, Stiles!" Erica has to turn for him to hear her, but he can hear the laughter in her voice. "Keep up!"

 

He surges forward, wrapping around Erica like he's giving her a hug before peeling away from her, her laughter echoing in his ears. The perimeter line is getting tighter, and Stiles knows he's close to where he started, so he picks up the pace. Stiles knows who is waiting for him at the end, and he wants nothing more than to prove he can protect what's his.

 

Derek comes into view, his eyes blazing red in the darkness; his arms are held open like he's waiting for someone to jump into them, and the look on his face is both determined and somehow peaceful. Stiles doesn't think, he can't think, and when he leaps for Derek, he leaps right for his chest.

 

When he passes through, Derek throws his head back and howls something more animal than man, and Stiles feels a blockage on the land fade away as the territory line sinks deep into the earth. It seals itself with a bright flash, and Stiles just knows that Beacon Hills has been waiting for this exact moment for a long time. It feels like the land is rejoicing .

 

Stiles comes back to himself slowly, blinking awake cradled in the base of a cooing Nemeton. He's surprised that he doesn't feel nearly as exhausted as he had yesterday morning, but he figures that being nestled inside a magical being might have something to do with that.

 

"I did it." It's not really a question, but Stiles is still amazed regardless. All he'd done was follow after his own magic, but he remembers everything that happened.

 

Yes, you did. You didn't even need our help, much.

 

The Nemeton sounds proud, and if Stiles is perfectly honest, then he's plenty proud of himself. He just did honest to God magic and it worked . Stiles feels his smile widen and he fights back the urge to fist pump the goddamn air.

 

Our pack is waiting for you, Stiles.

 

The Nemeton begins shifting before Stiles can even register the words, but when the limbs part Stiles can't see anyone waiting down below, but he lets the Nemeton lower him to the ground regardless.Stiles barely has his footing before he's bowled over by three furry somethings that seem convinced that their tongues absolutely must lick his face even when Stiles splutters.

 

"Is this your fault, Stiles?" Lydia walks out from behind a tree with her hand on the head of a waist high wolf, it's fur tawny and fluffy, but the way those blue eyes roll is nothing but human.

 

"What- Jackson?" Pushing away the muzzles of the three other wolves that Stiles would bet are Erica, Isaac and Boyd, he finally gets on his own two feet and glances around the clearing.

The wolves that had knocked him over are sitting on their haunches, staring up at him expectedly, and Stiles can't exactly stop the way his lips quirk in a small smile.

 

Isaac is the one he notices first, and Stiles knows it's him by the eager look on his wolfy face, and the way his curls have somehow managed to transfer into his fur. He's only a shade or two lighter than Jackson, and right now his tongue is lolling out of the corner of his mouth while Stiles looks his fill.

 

Erica huffs from her spot next to Isaac, lifting her nose into the air and scenting carefully. Her ears swivel when every other member of the pack slowly makes their way into the clearing, and she snaps her jaws warningly at the Nemeton when it starts to reach for Stiles again. Her fur is darker than Jackson's, more of a grey blonde than just blonde, her eyes so dark they're almost black. She's beautiful, and Stiles doesn't stop himself from reaching out and ruffling her ears, even when she pulls her lips back over her teeth and growls at him.

 

Chuckling, Stiles turns to Boyd who, even in this form, sits roughly a head taller than Isaac, looking stoic as ever. His fur is a dark brown, but his eyes are wolf's gold. Oddly enough, Stiles thinks he looks immensely pleased with himself, so Stiles dips his head Boyd's way, irrationally pleased when the wolf huffs at him.

 

Another wolf presses against Stiles' legs, and he doesn't even have to look to know that it's Jackson pressing against him, though he doesn't stay for long. Jackson licks at Stiles' hand and heads back over to Lydia who once again puts her hand into his fur.

 

Derek steps into the clearing flanked by the other two wolves, Peter and Cora, and Stiles is amazed by how similar they all look. 

 

Cora is on Derek's right, her head held high, her fur as dark as Derek's, save for a few Tufts of white on her chest, and the very tips of her ears. She's a little more than a head shorter than Derek, but still just as intimidating.

 

Peter is on Derek's left and immediately breaks rank to trot over to Stiles. Unlike the two Hale siblings, Peter's pelt is more of a rich brown, especially around his face, whereas the rest of his fur is more reddish brown with sporadic dark highlights. 

 

"Hello Peter," Stiles murmurs when the wolf gets close enough to bump his head gently against Stiles' hip. He runs his fingers through the coarse, thick fur and can't stop smiling. The clearing is full of his family, full of the people he loves, even though he feels twinges of regret from his dad and Melissa through the bond. They must be working late, or Stiles knows they'd be here.

 

"You guys look amazing." Stiles shakes his head, watching the beta trio start to wrestle. Cora takes it as a cue to play and barks a challenge, launching herself for Peter, who yelps and runs away from Stiles and through a bush to get away. He can't help the laughter that starts,nor does he want to because this?

 

This is freeing . Stiles is here in the preserve, surrounded by his pack, and the wolves can actually be wolves now. He jolts a little when something cold and wet presses against his hand, but when Stiles looks all he finds is Derek, and his grin widens.

 

"I guess we're all Hales now, aren't we?" Stiles murmurs, running his fingers through the soft fur at the base of Derek's ears, turning back to look at the pack when Erica raises a howl. Boyd picks it up with her, Isaac, Jackson, Cora and Peter joining soon after.

 

Derek's howl rises louder than the others, and the sound of it carries through the preserve, echoing determined and strong.

 

We're here , the call says, the Seven voices echoing across the land, Beacon Hills is ours.

 

Stiles shares a grin with Lydia across the way and the two of them laugh and laugh and laugh , because the wolves are right. Beacon Hills is theirs, and they will protect it.

--

 

The days creep by, filled with Stiles practicing how to control the bonds a bit more, so he's not projecting as much onto everyone as he was when he first woke up. The Hale house is nearly finished, standing tall and proud on the preserve, and the wolves spend most of their time there trying to finish the build.

 

In fact, Stiles gets so busy that he doesn't even realize what month it is until he comes down the stairs, ready to say good morning to his dad and a wall of grief slams into him and leaves him gasping in the archway to the kitchen. With shaking hands, Stiles pulls out his phone and physically feels the color draining from his face. He pockets his phone, takes a deep breath and straightens his shoulders before approaching his dad at the table.

 

"It snuck up on me this year," John says with a shake of his head, lost in his thoughts. Stiles pours his dad a fresh cup of coffee and sets it down in front of him.

 

"Me too." It hurts to admit that they both were so tangled up in the new aspects of their lives that they nearly forgot the one person they missed the most. "She'd like that though."

 

"Yeah, she would." Stiles watches his dad smile sadly and bring his coffee mug up to his lips, taking a small sip and setting the mug down on the table. He trails his thumb along the rim of the mug. "She'd like them I think."

 

"Nah," Stiles reaches through the bond to send gentle reassurance and understanding to soothe the ache of his father's grief. He stands, moving to stand behind his dad, resting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing lightly. "She'd love them and us for what we've done."

 

John closes his eyes and allows his small smile to fall, hanging his head down and letting himself feel for one whole minute before he pats Stiles' hand and pushes back his chair. He grabs his Sheriff's hat, his eyes clear, and nods at Stiles before heading for the living room. "I'll be back sometime tonight, do you know if you're going to be coming home?"

 

"I'll let you know." Stiles follows after his father, feeling all of eleven years old again, wondering and hoping that his dad will be safe today. He's never been more thankful for the gifts of an Emissary than he is right now, because that bond will let him know if anything will happen. "Have a good day, pops."

 

"See you tonight, Kid." His dad flashes him a small smile and practically bursts through the front door in his haste to get out of the house where there are memories around every corner, leaving Stiles alone in the open doorway waving after the police cruiser just like he always used to do when he was younger.

 

The house is quiet now that it's just him here; His dad is off on a double shift, and Isaac is out with the other Betas helping with the house. There's nothing and no one to keep Stiles here right now, so he slips his shoes on regardless of the fact that he's still in his pajamas, grabs Roscoe's keys and pulls out of the driveway nearly as fast as his dad had.

 

Stiles goes left where his father had gone right, and all too soon he's pulling up in front of the Beacon Hills Cemetery, realizing that he didn't even stop at the florists like he usually would. He's never shown up to see his mother empty handed, and he's not about to start now just because he forgot to stop. 

 

There are other ways for him  to get flowers, after all.

 

He knows her plot by heart before he even sees her headstone, which his father had paid way too much money to be carved in the shape of a sunflower. Even though the grass is wet, Stiles lowers himself down and crosses his legs, staring up at the headstone with a small smile.

 

"Hey Mom," Stiles reaches out and trails a finger along Claudia Stilinski , following the pretty cursive with a sigh. "I forgot to stop and get you flowers from the shop you liked, but do you want to know a secret?"

 

He makes a show of looking around the empty cemetery before leaning in closely to the headstone and winking. "I can do magic now. Do you want to see? Of course you do, your son is a badass emissary."

 

Stiles rests his palms against the earth to the right side of his mother's headstone and pictures the lavender in her garden, bright and floral, opening his eyes when his chest flares with heat. At first the earth looks undisturbed, until a tiny little spring emerges from under the headstone, growing faster and faster the longer Stiles focuses his magic on it.

 

He doesn't realize that others have sprouted until the entire circumference of the headstone is flooded with wriggling sprouts that grow into all shapes and sizes until the entire headstone is surrounded with wildflowers. Stiles pulls his hand back when the last one blooms into adulthood and leans forward to smell the flowers.

 

Claudia had loved wildflowers regardless of the fact that most people considered them to be weeds since a lot of them didn't smell that great. Still, she'd water and weed around them until her arms and legs were absolutely covered in dirt. After she had Stiles, that hadn't changed, but they'd both take turns hosing each other off before they tracked dirt into the house.

 

He's so focused on the memory that he didn't notice someone coming up behind him until they sat down, but he is surprised to find that the person is Erica.

 

"I thought you were at the house." Stiles frowns a little when Erica shift closer to him, reaching out to trail maroon nails along a sprig of lavender.

 

"She was my favorite teacher in school, did you know that?" Erica smiles small and sad, pulling her hand back into her lap, staring wistfully at the slab of stone. "She never let other kids make fun of me when I had my seizures, and I'd always come back to awareness with my head in her lap and her hands in my hair."

 

Stiles drapes an arm around Erica's shoulder and tugs her as close as she'll allow, pleased when she rests her head on his shoulder. They sit in silence for a while, until Erica finally speaks again.

 

"She must be so proud of you." 

 

"Why?" It's not what Stiles meant to say but all he can think of are the multiple doctors appointments his parents had to drag him to, and how many times he kicked up a fuss when his mother started having to take him to her appointments without knowing they were living on borrowed time.

 

"Stiles, don't be an idiot." Erica sighs, rolling her eyes in a way eerily similar to Lydia. She takes his hand in here, links their fingers together and squeezes his hand. "You're just like her, of course she'd be proud."

 

It's different than being told he looks like his mother, because who cares about looks in the long run anyways? Stiles has met beautiful people with shitty attitudes, but he was lucky to be blessed with a mother who was beautiful inside and out.

 

All of a sudden, Stiles remembers his father telling story after story of his mother finding things, people, animals that needed to be saved and bringing them home with her until they were able to be let free or brought to a rehabilitation shelter. It makes him think of all the times he hid Scott and then Derek in his room, of having to tell his dad about the pack and how most of the members were werewolves. Most of all, he remembers the way his dad had taken him aside later and said You are your mother's son, aren't you? 

 

"Thanks, Erica." Stiles swallows around the lump in his throat, resting his chin on top of Erica's head. He closes his eyes, feels the wind blow through his hair and finally lets himself smile.

--

 

The Hale house is furnished and ready for the pack to start moving in within the next few days, and Stiles can't wait to see it. Between spending time with his dad and corresponding with Cora's old pack Emissary, Stiles has been busy .

 

Today is the day though, and Derek's supposed to be picking him up in the Camaro soon since the other wolves are already there and Roscoe's been acting up again. Stiles is excited and nervous and jittery after having talked with Marcus this morning about protection sigils and what Stiles could do help aid the house. 

 

So far he's created two sigils on his own and knows for a fact that the one he's made for the pack as a gift works pretty well, and he's got the minor burns on his hands to prove it. It's more than a little ironic to Stiles that a sigil to protect against fire has to be magically burned into the wood of the house.

 

A car honks from the street so Stiles grabs his jacket and his keys and locks the door behind him, jogging down the steps to the Camaro. Once he climbs in, Derek offers him a grin and practically peels out from where he was idling in the street, and they head straight for the preserve.

 

They spend the drove talking about everything that Derek kept the same with the house and everything he'd decided to change. 

 

The layout of the kitchen is as bright and open as it had been in the old house, but Derek had decided to widen the room further and place a large mahogany table smack dab in the middle for when there were pack dinners. The living room is nearly identical to what it had been, just better furnished. 

 

Even the basement kept the same structure, but Derek had modified it so part of it is a bit like a mini apartment, but the other half-

 

"A cage , Derek?" Stiles turns in his seat to stare wide eyed at the Alpha, shaking his head in disbelief. Out of everyone, Stiles never would have thought Derek would be the one to suggest a prison in the basement. "Are you out of your mind?"

 

Derek smiles, like he expected nothing less than Stiles' outrage at the fact, drumming his fingers against the wheel of his car. "Look, if we ever come across something that pushes one of us out of our humanity, we needed somewhere to hold us. What if someone newly turned wanders into our territory? It's not like I want to kill everything, Stiles."

 

"A cage just seems like something twenty one year old Derek would do, not almost twenty five year old Derek with a thriving pack." Stiles shrugs his shoulders and looks away from Derek to watch the scenery fly by, startling when Derek rests a hand on his thigh.

 

"Seventeen year old Stiles was just as much of a pain in my ass as you are now." Derek squeezes the meat of Stiles' thigh gently, rubbing his thumb along the outside seam of his jeans. "I didn't put it in there for torture purposes, but we need to have it, Stiles. Please don't fight me on this."

 

All the fight slips out of Stiles like it hadn't even been there in the first place, and now all Stiles feels is tired. "Okay, Der'."

 

Derek pats Stiles' leg a few times before they turn onto the preserve and up to the house, where it looks down at them. It's bigger than Stiles remembers the old house being, and it definitely looks more welcoming. Stiles barely waits for Derek to shut the car off, unbuckling his seat belt and pushing out the car door, staring up at the house.

 

It looms over them, like nothing Stiles has seen before, the happy chatter of the pack able to be heard even from the outside. Stiles steps closer, presses his hand against the smooth wood and doesn't think past NoFireNotHereNotAgain , before the house groans, and Stiles feels his magic build while his hand grows hot. He'd chosen the Triskele to burn into the house back at his own, and the image of it comes to mind much easier now than it had on his own, so when the pain gets to be too much, Stiles pulls his hand back and is almost startled to see that the Triskele is perfect . It had never come out this well at home.

 

Stiles' hand doesn't even hurt that badly, but then he registers the hand wrapped around his wrist and turns to Derek, who looks a little alarmed and if he's honest with himself, more than a little frustrated.

 

"Stiles, what the fuck was that?" Derek practically demands, reaching for Stiles' left hand and pulling it up to his face. The only hint of injury are the fading pink burns from the other days practice with this spell, and even those are fading fast. "What did you do?"

 

"It was supposed to be a surprise, but I guess I should have let you know what I was doing." Stiles shrugs more than a little sheepishly, gently pulling his hands from Derek's grip. "I wanted to protect this house against fire, and I wanted it to be a gift to you. I read in the books that an Emissary gifts their Alpha a gift as proof of their capabilities or something, and I just-"

 

"Stiles, you've been with us for years-"

 

"Not like this I haven't." Stiles shakes his head and gestures towards the suddenly silent Hale house. "I just wanted to show you that I can help you now."

 

"You helped us before. " Derek steps closer when Stiles starts shaking his head, resting a hand on Stiles' shoulder. He squeezes gently for a moment before patting Stiles' instead. "Thank you for that added protection. I hope you won't be offended when I still go installing fire alarms though."

 

Stiles can't stop himself from smiling even though he's still a little frustrated, but then one of the upstairs windows slides open, Erica sticks her head out and looks down at the two of them with an overexaggerated roll of her eyes.

 

"All I can smell inside is Stiles and magic , what did you do, make the house sentient like you did with the Nemeton?" Erica teases, sticking her tongue out at him when Stiles flips her off. There's a yelp from inside of the house and a repetitive thumping sound until the front door is thrown open and Jackson stands there, looking around wildly.

 

"Stilinski," Jackson begins, taking a few steps closer to Stiles until he's in arms reach, grabbing the front of his hoodie and shaking him by it. "For God's sake, wasn't a sentient talking tree enough for you?"

 

" More than enough," Stiles hurries to admit, gently pushing away Jackson's flustered hold on him. "Relax, I'm not going to make anything else talk when it's not supposed to. At least, not on purpose ."

 

Jackson doesn't look nearly as soothed by this as Stiles thinks he should be, and instead he just looks up at the sky, clasping his hands together like he's praying, before he bares his teeth at Stiles and turns back towards the door. "I'm going to my room." 

 

With that, Jackson takes off as fast as he came, leaving the front door wide open, so Stiles mentally shrugs to himself and heads inside. There are coats and shoes placed in a little alcove beside the door, so Stiles hangs his hoodie and kicks off his tattered shoes, looking around the hallway.

 

The first thing he notices is that it smells good in here, like fresh baked bread and something sweet like cookies. To the left is the living room, which looks exactly how Derek described it in the car; huge enough for three L-shaped couches, a massive TV mounted to the wall, a soft plush deep green carpet, and a picture of the pack on the wall. As a matter of fact, there's pictures of both packs on the wall, the previous and current Hale packs. Stiles smiles and leaves the room, heading instead for the kitchen.

 

The kitchen is bright and beautiful, and the yellow wallpaper makes it seem like the kitchen has its own personal sun. It's definitely where the good smells were coming from, so Stiles snags a cookie from the nearly empty plate left on an end counter, biting into it without really tasting anything. He's distracted by the hanging pots and pans over his head, and then the skylights above the cookware. Then the shine of granite catches his eye and Stiles is running his hands across black granite, humming pleasantly under his breath. The oven and refrigerator are steel, and even though Stiles knows that keeping this place clean is going to be a pain in his ass, he's obnoxiously pleased. Heading over and grabbing another cookie, Stiles forces himself to leave and nearly bumps into Derek in the doorway.

 

Derek steadies him with a hand on the shoulder, looking back into the kitchen before looking back at Stiles. "How did you like it?"

 

"I could fucking live in this kitchen, Derek." Stiles says seriously, quirking a brow when all Derek does is smirk at him. "You think I'm joking? You won't be laughing when Thanksgiving comes around and you find me on the floor in a sleeping bag in front of the oven to check on the Turkey, Hale. You'll be ruined for other Thanksgiving's, and you'll rue the day you mocked me."

 

Derek just stands there snickering, and just to spite him, Stiles shoves the whole second cookie in his mouth, chewing at Derek with a glare. Of course, it would probably be more efficient if this cookie wasn't so fucking good.

 

"It's only the second week of October, Stiles." Derek rolls his eyes, but the smile stays on his face when he gestures back into the hall. "Do you want to see your room?"

 

"Not yet." Stiles swallows the cookie and pushes past Derek towards a very specific door, pulls it open and and finds- "A bathroom?"

 

Derek snorts, reaching around Stiles to pull the bathroom door shut, grabbing his wrist and tugging him towards the correct door. He opens it, flicks the light on, and continues to tug Stiles down the stairs.

 

Stiles has had this image of what he assumed the cage to be in his head the entire time he was walking around upstairs, but he has to admit that he wasn't expecting this. 

 

They bypass the door to the mini apartment and continue down the hall until they get to a reinforced door that opens into what is basically a small one room apartment. There's a single bed against the left wall big enough for Boyd to lay down comfortably, a small kitchen with a minifridge, and when Stiles walks in further, he can see what seems to be a bathroom, with a little drain in the floor, and then Stiles notices the showerhead coming out from the ceiling.

 

"This is…" Stiles cuts himself off, continuing to look around the room, feeling disappointed in himself for forgetting that Derek has grown as a person. He's not the same Alpha who once used spiked collars to keep his Betas from going wild during a full moon.

 

"What were you expecting?" Derek asks him quietly, tilting his head off to the side when Stiles turns to look at him. He must see something on Stiles' face because Derek softens just a little. "You can tell me, I won't get mad."

 

"Honestly?" Stiles looks around them, gesturing wildly with his arms. He feels like kicking himself right now for thinking so badly of Derek in the car. "I was thinking much less of this and more of the holding cells in Dad's work."

 

"I thought about that for a while." Derek admits quietly, scuffing his foot against the ground. "But between imagining the disappointment on yours and the packs faces, and fighting back memories of Kate, I thought this was the best way to go about it."

 

"I'm glad." He is too, is the thing. Right now, Stiles is more relieved than anything that Derek hadn't met his expectations, but at the same time Stiles feels like a jackass for assuming the worst.

 

Derek seems to understand Stiles' insecurity in the moment, because he ushers Stiles out as quickly as they came in, shutting the heavy door behind them with a resounding thump . "Why don't we go up to your room now?"

 

"Yes please." Stiles wants to get as far away from the basement and the cell as he can, so he follows after Derek eagerly, only able to relax when the basement door shuts behind them. 

 

Huffing out a breath, Stiles follows Derek up the stairs past the pack rooms, where he can hear the other members laughing, talking, and having what sounds to be a great time. He assumes that Derek will stop at a door somewhere at the end of the hall, but instead, Derek turns the corner to another staircase. 

 

Derek snorts when Stiles grumbles under his breath, stopping in front of two doors in an otherwise empty hallway. Rapping his knuckles against the door on the right, Derek turns back to Stiles. "This is my room. It's open to the pack all day every day, I just ask that if you need something that you knock first and wait for me to answer. The other door leads to your room."

 

Stiles doesn't even wait for Derek to offer to go in, he just twists the knob, pushes through and stares. It's hard to take everything in all at once, but Stiles tries his best to do so.

 

The first thing he notices is the bed, which takes up more space than Stiles has ever seen from a bed, and the bedspread is a deep red with gold lining. It looks almost too pretty to touch, but at the same time, Stiles wants to flop face down into that mattress and sleep for days. 

 

Next he notices the bookshelves that line the wall to the left, which is full to the brim of books. From here, Stiles can make out Hale Emissary books, books on sigils, magic, and so many more that Stiles makes a mental list of which ones to start with. Before he turns away Stiles catches a glimpse of the Harry Potter series that he'd swear was back at home on his shelf, and even though it meant Cora stole his books, it still makes him smile.

 

There's a desk on the other side of the room along with a corkboard to the right of it, and the desk has everything Stiles could ever need for research. There's a ball of string, thumbtacks, and even a printer beside his laptop.

 

If he thinks about it, this room is everything that Stiles could ever want in a home, everything he could ever need. His family is here, and if he listens hard enough, then he can still hear them, though the sound is fainter now. This could so easily be his home, and that single thought startles him, makes him frown down at the plush carpet under his feet.

 

Maybe leaving a house full of memories and regrets would be good for him, but what would he do about his dad?

 

"Stiles," Derek's hand comes down gently on Stiles' shoulder, startling him from his train of thought and making his magic lash out and slam the door shut. "Jesus, are you alright?"

 

"I'm getting you a collar with one of those annoying jangly bells, I mean it this time." Stiles clutches at his chest dramatically, silently willing his heart to slow down just a little. He waves a hand distractedly, attempting to turn away from Derek, but the alpha holds him steadily in place. Stiles can't help but roll his eyes, regardless of the way his lips curl into a fond little smile. "Yes Alpha , I'm fine."

 

Derek's slight frown deepens, and he opens his mouth, but Stiles reaches up and places a hand against Derek's lips. Stiles gently shushes Derek, dropping his hand from Derek's mouth.

 

"Look, you brought me here and showed me this absolutely fantastic house, and all I could think was how much I wanted to live here instead of my old place." Stiles shrugs, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans before meeting Derek's eyes. "It's not that I hate living there, it's just-"

 

"There's too many ghosts there." Derek nods slowly, looking around the room for a moment before finally meeting Stiles' eyes again. "I get it."

 

Stiles can't exactly help the way he softens, not when Derek is practically radiating compassion and understanding. It's what has him tilting his head off to the side to bare his mark to Derek on some instinct that he doesn't really understand right now, but Derek trails a single finger down the bite scar and relaxes a little.

 

"Does it bother you?" Derek asks after a moment of silence passes with Stiles still tilted off to the side. 

 

"Does what bother me?" He straightens up, feeling more at ease after Derek touched him than he had before, and makes a mental note to check on the bond between an Alpha and their Emissary. 

 

"Bearing my mark on you." Derek carefully cups the side of Stiles' neck, rubbing his thumb into the scar as gently as he can. "Does it bother you?"

 

"Definitely not." It doesn't bother Stiles at all, is the thing, and though having Derek touch the mark earlier had felt nice and reassuring, this time Stiles feels something similar to electricity running through him. It takes a while for him to realize that it's a magical build up, and Stiles panics. He stands on his toes, brushes his cheek against Derek and whispers right into his ear. "I have a gift for you, Alpha."

 

Derek isn't even able to get a word out before the magic starts trickling out of Stiles, though he does pull Stiles against him as close as he can possibly get.

 

Stiles pours magic into the house, weaves protection and happiness, and caution right through the wood and into the land surrounding the house like a secondary pack line until that build up of pressure finally fades. It leaves Stiles jittery and full of energy, and he realizes that he's clinging to Derek, their cheeks pressed together while Stiles wove his magic, and they stay that way until all the excess energy leaves him completely and has him sagging in Derek's arms.

 

"Didn't we just talk about you pushing yourself too far?" Derek snorts, rubbing his cheek against Stiles' before leading him over to the bed and sitting him down. "What did you do?"

 

"It looked like a hidden mountain ash line in my head when I made it." Stiles admits, tugging Derek down onto the bed with him. He shuffles around, not really tired, but in the mood to relax for a while, so Stiles pulls off his jeans, tosses them onto the ground and snuggles down under the covers with a content sigh. "You should get comfortable before I call the pack."

 

"The door is shut, and the rooms are soundproofed." Derek shrugs, pulling his own jeans off before climbing into Stiles' bed. Stiles raises a questionable brow and Derek just kind of smirks. "Do you really want to hear Erica and Boyd at night?"

 

Stiles fake gags, and to change the subject, waves a hand and the bedroom door opens and he shouts to the rest of the pack instead of answering Derek. "Puppies, it's cuddling time!"

 

The sound cuts off from downstairs and the sounds of multiple footsteps thunder as the pack races up the stairs and start throwing themselves quite literally into Stiles' bed. In fact, the only thing that keeps Stiles from bodily harm is the fact that Derek curls around him and practically engulfs him.

 

Jackson curls around the other side of Stiles, and when they're all settled more or less, Stiles peeks his head out and closes the door with another wave. The pack chatters between themselves, and Stiles listens while Jackson explains how amazing his room is and how there's a smaller room attached to it so if he or Lydia need a place away then they won't have to drive somewhere else to sleep.

 

Derek doesn't really ever let go of Stiles, not even after Erica jokingly calls them "Mom and Dad" a few times. In fact, it seems like Derek curled into Stiles just a little bit tighter at that.

Slowly, the pack excitement starts to fade and one by one the others fall asleep until all that's left is a drowsy Stiles and Derek. 

 

Stiles knows that he'd said he didn't want to sleep just a little while before, but he's surrounded by the people he loves, and he's pressed against Derek who's basically a wall of warmth. How could he not feel sleepy after that?

 

"Stiles?" Derek speaks softly, shifting slightly so that he's able to press his nose against the scar on Stiles' neck. Stiles doesn't answer, not really, but he does make a questioning sound in the back of his throat. Sighing hotly against Stiles' neck, Derek gently nips the skin there before shifting back so he's essentially cradling Stiles against him. "I'm glad you chose to be mine."

 

It's not something that Stiles ever expected to really hear from Derek, especially not worded that way or so softly, and he's sure that the alpha could hear the way his heart skipped a beat when he said it. It's why Stiles takes Derek's hand and laces their fingers together, pressing their hands against his chest, and why he answers him with complete honesty.

 

"I'm glad I'm yours too."

 

Derek doesn't speak again, choosing to nuzzle into Stiles' hair instead, slowly but surely falling asleep.

 

Tomorrow, Stiles will start on the books on his new shelf, but for now? Now Stiles plans on enjoying this moment of peace in their lives and snuggles back against Derek, simply embracing this much needed comfort.

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes with a jolt, awareness trickling in quickly and steadily, as he gently maneuvers his way out from underneath Derek and Erica. He tiptoes out of the room into the hall, down the stairs and out the front door, until he's stood at the edge of protection that he'd made just a few hours prior. Things look a little different outside; trees are there where there weren't any before he went to sleep, and Stiles hopes to god that he wasn't creating anything while he was sleeping.

 

There's something out there among the trees, Stiles knows; he can feel it deep down inside of himself. It's while he scans the trees that he's approached, and against all odds, Stiles keeps himself from showing too much surprise when the person steps close enough for Stiles to see his face.

 

"Deaton." He's not exactly sure why he's surprised, especially since Stiles knew that Deaton had been a person of interest with the omegas running through town, and a few other instances since before Scott left. 

 

Deaton doesn't say anything for a moment, just stares and stares and stares at Stiles almost hungrily before his lips curl into a triumphant smile and he crosses his arms over his chest. "Mr. Stilinski. I have to admit, I'm just the smallest bit surprised."

 

"I wish I could say the same." Stiles takes a step closer to the property line around the house so that he can look Deaton directly in the eyes. "What are you doing here?"

 

"Ending what began all those years ago." The smile drops off Deaton's face as quickly as it came, and with a move of his hand, vines burst from the ground and begin wrapping around Stiles before he can even move, until his body is caught and he can do little more than wiggle. "And you, you'll get to watch."

 

"Derek!" Stiles screams, reaching through the bond to try to shake him and the rest of the pack awake, though it doesn't seem to actually do anything. He's desperate and scared, and he doesn't want to let Deaton close to any of the pack, especially not Derek , but he's going to need help. "Derek!"

 

"You're too late, Stiles." Deaton chuckles, shifting across the line to stand beside Stiles' prone body, nudging his root covered side with his boot. This shouldn't be possible, the line should have held, what the fuck is going on? Another flick of the wrist and Stiles is unable to make a noise no matter how many times he tries to scream. "Too late to do anything but watch them burn."

 

No, Stiles tries to scream, but still nothing comes out, there's nothing he can do but lay there and thrash when Deaton begins to chant under his breath and a small flame catches on the outside of the Hale house. The fire builds and builds , until even the topmost windows are being licked by the flames, and it's then that Stiles notices the face upstairs staring down at him.

 

Talia Hale looks down at him forlornly, and this house suddenly isn't the one he knows he fell asleep in, but is the old pack house, though Deaton remains the same. It's only when Talia gestures again that Stiles shifts his eyes to another window and sees Derek, screaming soundlessly and banging on the glass half shifted, eyes blazing red. 

 

Stiles screams as silently as he had before, his heart pounding harder than he ever thought possible, and finally Derek's frightened screams reach his ears.

 

" Stiles!"  

 

He sounds as desperate as Stiles feels, and he longs to be with his Alpha no matter that he'd surely burn to death with him. Behind him, Deaton starts cackling like he's a villain in a bad B-rated movie, but all Stiles can do is stare at Derek and watch as the flames engulf his body, his eyes never leaving Stiles', and then there's a hand on his shoulder, solid, warm, and -----

 

Stiles wakes up for real this time, thrashing and screaming so loudly that his voice cracks, and the hand on his shoulder gets yanked away. There are blankets wrapped tightly, too tightly around him, and no matter how hard Stiles writhes, they just seem to get tighter.

 

"Get it off !" Stiles cries, his voice scratchy and broken, while he continues to try and break free of the blankets. "Please, get it off!"

 

There are hands, so many hands touching him all over, pulling and shoving him around until the tight prison loosens up enough for him to get his arms free. He can't stop begging for the others to set him free, but once his legs are out, Stiles falls back against the mattress and gasps for breath.

 

Derek mumbles something that Stiles can't make out, but he can hear the rest of the pack shuffling out of the room as silently as they possibly can, even though their concern and worry are tangible through the bond. Eventually, only Derek and Stiles are left, and the Alpha has left at least a foot of space between them on the bed.

 

Stiles doesn't let himself think before he's pushing himself up and crawling into Derek's lap, his knees outside of each of Derek's thighs, his arms snaking tightly around Derek's waist. He buries his face in the crook of Derek's neck and just simply breathes him in. He doesn't smell like smoke, doesn't smell like anything out of place, he just smells good

 

Derek slowly wraps his arms around Stiles when he doesn't try to wriggle away, and for a while, the two of them just sit there like that. It's easier for Stiles to hide his face away from Derek than it is to pull back and explain what it was that had him so shaken that he couldn't even face his pack, so he just tightens his hold on the Alpha and continues to cling.

 

Derek's sending calming reassurance to the pack as a whole, but the others aren't the one on the Alpha's lap, or the one who gets scented so gently. They're not the ones that Derek begins to rock when their heart rate refuses to calm, but Stiles is . He may or may not take the tiniest bit advantage and snuggle into Derek until the tension leaves his body and his heart finally slows down. 

 

"What happened, Stiles?" Derek asks quietly, sliding a hand up to cup the back of Stiles' neck reassuringly, shifting a bit so he's pressed more firmly against the headboard of the bed. "You kept shouting in your sleep but we couldn't wake you up."

 

"Sorry." Stiles takes a deep breath, pulling back just enough to look Derek in the eye. It's harder than he thought it would be, but all he can see is the way Derek had looked in his dream, the way he'd pounded on the window and still wasn't able to get free. "I'm really sorry, Derek."

 

"For what?" Derek frowns, but it inevitably softens into something much more open than Stiles had really expected from Derek. He especially hadn't anticipated the way Derek would wipe at his cheeks so tenderly, or the way he'd rearrange the two of them so that they were laying together, legs intertwined or how Derek would whisper to please don't cry, Stiles.

 

Stiles hadn't even noticed that he was crying, but the dream was so vivid , so real , and the thought of losing the pack, of losing Derek was just too much to bear, so Stiles presses his forehead against Derek's sternum and lets himself crumble. It's cathartic in a way to let loose all the ways he's been worried, and to speak around his tears about why exactly it was that Stiles woke up so terrified.

 

The thing is, that when Derek promises that Deaton would never get away with anything like that, that he'd never be able to get his hands on a member of their pack, Stiles believes him.

 

That is his first mistake.

 

No one can promise the safety of someone who has freewill enough to go where they want, when they want. 

--

 

Stiles' second mistake happens when Jordan Parrish disappears on what otherwise should have been a routine patrol. This mistake is costly, because halfway through the day, Stiles starts to feel that little niggling suggestion in the back of his mind that something about this isn't right, that something bigger is happening, and he ignores it because Derek says he'll scope it out and heads over to the part of town that Parrish was last seen.

 

On his own.

 

The pack doesn't even try to stop him, Stiles included, because their Alpha is determined and careful, and so much better at search and rescue than he had been, so there's absolutely no cause to worry, right?

 

Wrong.

 

Because Derek is who he is, and he seems to have the world's shittiest luck, Stiles feels a brief shock of surprise and a moderate amount of panic and then-

 

Absolutely nothing.

 

His bond with Derek goes blank, absolutely silent , which is something that hasn't happened before, not even when Derek was blocking them out during a training session the other night to work on stealth.

 

So to say Stiles is kicking himself is putting it lightly because he'd been so sure that nothing was going to  happen. He'd done the border along their county, he'd lined the preserve, the house, and later had placed protection around the Nemeton and somehow, someone still managed to get one up on their Alpha. He never should have let Derek go alone. He's seen horror movies, and it's always when the main character says to split up that the really bad shit starts happening, so why was it so easy to let Derek go off to play the hero all on his own?

 

The pack should have been there, Stiles should have been there, and now their Alpha has been taken.

--

 

Stiles' third mistake happens not even three hours later, when he ignores his own advice and ends up searching for traces of Derek and Parrish all on his own.

 

The rest of the Pack and half the station are out and following leads from back where Parrish got his call, and Stiles is supposed to be at his and his dad's house trying to find a spell that will allow him to trace after Derek so that the pack as a whole can find him.

 

What Stiles actually does is climb into the Jeep, following after some deep set feeling he has about Deaton, especially after his dream the other night. He heads for the heart of the town and makes his way to the Veterinarian's office which has a big for sale sign in the front. The windows are boarded, the lights are off, and the office has been completely cleaned out when Stiles takes the time to peer into the window. So if Deaton isn't here with Derek and Parrish, then where the hell is he?

 

A faint trickle of consciousness eases into the back of Stiles' mind, though it doesn't seem like it's registering to the rest of the pack. Stiles can't help thinking that all of this, Derek's disappearance, this little breadcrumb of feeling, is all for him. Like Stiles thought earlier, only the stupid ones suggest splitting up, especially when they'd have the power of a wolf pack behind them, but then that little bit of Derek runs flush with fear, and Stiles throws the horror movie rulebook out of the window.

 

He turns Roscoe on, hits the gas, and follows after the fear… all on his own.

--

 

All thought of doing this alone fades when Stiles enters a part of the preserve that nobody ever goes to because the terrain is too rough to ever really settle down in and spots the plume of smoke rising in the distance. His mind flashes back to his dream, and Stiles stumbles out of the Jeep, pulling out his phone and calling his dad. John barely gets a single word out before Stiles is cutting him off.

 

"Dad, I need you to call the fire department and tell them to look for my Jeep in the Eastern edge of the Preserve." Stiles demands, slamming the drivers door shut. He minimizes the call to text his dad his location on the phone. "Send the pack to my location, I'm going to need them."

 

"Stiles, don't do anything stupid, we're on our way-"

 

Stiles ends the call, grabbing his bat out of habit and following the panic through the woods, pulling up his magic like a cloak. His feet make no noise no matter how quickly he moves, and Stiles thanks the pack for forcing him to run with them the last few months because when Stiles finally stumbles on the outside of a clearing, he's barely winded.

 

The thing is, Stiles knows that he should wait for the pack, especially considering how fast they can travel, but movement catches his eye and Stiles is automatically rooted to the spot.

It's almost exactly laid out how it was in his dream: Derek is in a shed this time, banging on a window with all the might of a pissed off, terrified werewolf. Deaton is standing with his arms outstretched towards the ramshackled building, a look of complete indifference on his face. 

 

A howl breaks through the stillness of the woods, so achingly far away, much too far away to get here in time considering that the better half of the other shed is already burning, but Stiles can't think about Parrish being inside of it right now, because another spark is lit, and Derek's face loses the shift, leaving behind someone terrified and so heartbreakingly young in his stead.

 

Here, there is no Alpha Hale, there's only sixteen year old Derek being forced to stare at the thing that killed everyone he'd ever loved coming for one of the last surviving Hales, and something snaps in Stiles.

 

His magic roars to life, enveloping him in protection when the winds begin whipping around him, when Deaton slowly turns to face him with a calm smile on his face before shooting a ball of fire at Stiles. Somehow he sucks the air out of before it can even come close to hitting him. Deaton doesn't seem surprised, but he does look irrationally pleased.

 

"Welcome, Mr. Stilinski. I wondered when you'd arrive." Deaton steps out of the way of the gust of wind Stiles had flung at him in hopes of knocking him to the ground. "It's a pity you've come all this way only to see your Alpha burn."

 

It's a tease and he knows it, but Stiles doesn't even try to stop himself from rising to the bait.

 

"Derek is mine. " Stiles snarls, the ground under his feet shuddering with the force of his anger, with how he's pulling on the energy of the pack. Stiles can feel their desperation to run faster because their Alpha is in trouble. It doesn't matter; if he waits for them to get here, Derek will die, and Stiles doesn't intend to let that happen. "You can't have him, I won't let you."

 

The threat rings true, and Deaton's smile falls from his face as quickly as it came. It seems like Deaton doesn't want to risk the chance of Stiles winning this either, because roots burst from the earth and snake around his legs, and Stiles chokes back the sudden influx of panic until he realizes that it's not coming from him.

 

Derek is wolfed out again even amidst all the smoke, shouting something that Stiles can't make out, but looks an awful lot like his name.

It's what gives Stiles the strength to pull himself out from underneath the panic, to send his bolt of fire down to burn away the roots until they recede back into the earth. Derek is the only thing Stiles can think of when he steps towards Deaton, raising his hand and muttering a spell that he's only read about, and understands why it's for emergencies only almost immediately.

 

His entire body feels like it's being electrocuted and if he's honest with himself, then it's probably because it is. He becomes a conduit for the rapidly forming storm clouds over their heads. Stiles can just about taste the ozone while he watches the way his nails turn a glowing electric blue and barely holds back the urge the scream when the bolt of literal lightning shoots from his hand and hits Deaton square in the chest, knocking him flying five feet back where he falls to the ground in a crumpled heap on the forest floor.

 

It goes eerily still in the preserve; the only thing Stiles can hear is the heavy gasps that keep leaving his lips and the CracklePop of the fires.

 

The fire. Derek.

 

Stiles scrambles over to the shed and bangs on the door with his hands, but it just won't move, and Stiles isn't sure that he has much more magic to give. He's exhausted and desperate; all he wants to do is cry but Derek's in the window, staring out at Stiles like he's the only thing left that matters, and Stiles figures that right now, right this very second that maybe he is.

 

He backs away from the shed and watches absolute devastation cross Derek's face before resignation hits and he smiles sadly. It gives Stiles the push he needs to grab his bat off the forest floor, to get into the right pose and to push every last little ounce of magic into this one swing, this one fucking swing that his Alpha will surely die without.

 

Derek meets Stiles' eyes through the window, relief and understanding dawning  on his face while he starts backing up as far away as he can possibly get and Stiles-

 

Stiles never played baseball as a kid, he was never any good at hitting the ball, but then again he'd never had as much at stake as he does now. Derek is not allowed to die, not like this, not if Stiles is able to stop it, fuck the consequences of the potential he has  of draining his entire reserve of magic.

 

He shouts his determination into the wind and can hear the pack howling their response close by, feels more than sees the other shed collapse from the fire, and Stiles winds back and swings.

 

The glass obliterates with the force of the swing, smoke billows out of the window, nearly choking Stiles with the acridity of it, but he focuses on clearing as much of the glass away from the edges as he can.

 

"Derek!" Stiles almost chokes on his name, his own panic finally climbing up into the back of his throat and threatening to choke him. Derek doesn't come out and Stiles can't quite keep the desperation out of his voice. He can't see, the smoke is too thick, but Derek was right there , it's not like he could have gone anywhere so why isn't he coming out? " Derek!"

 

It's then that the door of the shed bursts from the outside in, and Stiles startles backwards so badly that he falls onto his ass and scurries backwards, his heart ready to pound right out of his chest because there, standing right of Stiles is no one other than Jordan Parrish…

 

Except Parrish is literally on fire, his eyes blazing flame orange, but he walks right into the flames with no fear, bending down in front of the window to pick up who can only be-

 

"Oh fuck, Derek." Stiles scurries to stand when Parrish exits the shed, the flames quickly dying from his body. Derek looks small in Parrish's arms, curled up and covered in soot and ash. It breaks Stiles' heart to see him look like that, especially when Parrish sets him down on the ground and he remains unconscious. Stiles plans on using Deaton to get rid of the sudden influx of absolute rage he feels, but finds the clearing unfortunately empty.

 

He'll worry about that later, but now Derek's pack bond slowly flickers back to fullness for the rest of them, and by the time the pack has made it into the clearing, Stiles has Derek's head pillowed on his lap and Parrish at his back as naked as the day he was born and his teeth bared triumphantly.

 

"Deaton's gone." Stiles explains, his voice raspy from the mild smoke inhalation and his shouting, his hand running through Derek's sweat matted hair. "We should get Derek back home."

 

The fires both seemed to die out when Deaton disappeared, and for that at least, Stiles is thankful. He's magically and mentally exhausted, but at least the pack would have been able to get help if it was necessary.

 

"Stiles, you're bleeding." Erica kneels down beside him and lightly touches his forearm where red runs through the soot covering his skin. Pain he didn't even know he had slowly eases away as black lines climb up Erica's arms. "You idiot, you should have waited for us."

 

"There was no time, Derek was going to burn. I couldn't just sit and watch it happen." He leans heavily against Erica, one of his hands tightening in the torn collar of Derek's shirt. Stiles barely registers Lydia settling down beside Erica or the way she pulls off the tattered remnants of his jacket off his shoulders.

 

"I didn't feel the need to scream the entire time we were coming for you. You and Derek weren't in any danger of dying, Stiles." Lydia meets his eyes and Stiles sees a hardness there that he hasn't seen in years, and suddenly he knows what all this was about.

 

"This was for me, wasn't it?" Stiles mutters mostly to keep himself occupied while Boyd scoops Derek up in his arms and immediately turns with Jackson and Isaac following after him worriedly.

 

"This wasn't your fault, Stiles." Peter insists, appearing out of almost nowhere, grabbing Stiles under his arms and hauling him back up with the help of Erica and Lydia, and up onto his feet now that Derek's been moved. "Deaton came for the pack. If you hadn't gotten here when you did, who knows what might have happened."

 

"Who knows." Stiles hears himself repeat, though he doesn't really feel himself speaking, and allows Peter to lead him through the woods and be bundled into the back of his fathers cruiser. 

 

He doesn't speak the entire duration of the ride, and by the time he's being nudged through the front door, Stiles can hardly remember the ride to get there. It's a mechanical walk upstairs to peel off his clothes and climb into the shower where he attempts to wash off the cloying scent of ozone and smoke from his skin. The pain from the soap getting into the cut on his arm brings Stiles back to reality a bit more, helps him focus a little better so that he's able to disinfect and wrap it neatly when he gets out of the shower.

 

Bagging his smoke infused clothing into an empty trash bag he'd left in the bathroom, Stiles shuffles to his room in a towel, grabbing the first pair of pajama pants he sees and pulling them on. After that it's a freefall onto his bed and a snuggle deep down into his covers, but Stiles just can't seem to allow himself to fall asleep after everything that happened today. 

 

Everytime he closes his eyes, Stiles is forced to see the look on Derek's face when Stiles walked away from the window, that look of utter defeat and acceptance, like Stiles would genuinely just leave him there. He tries to calm himself down, but there's this ache in his chest that doesn't fade, no matter how long Stiles just lays there and thinks.

 

Was it just a coincidence that he dreamed about Derek and a fire only days before, or was it because Deaton wanted that to happen that the dream even happened in the first place?

 

He thought that the pack Bond was supposed to protect them from things like that, from that kind of magical interference, especially when he put that protection around the house. Stiles loses himself in thoughts and sigils, wondering about personal protection and mental attacks.

 

It's days, hours, minutes later that there's a scuffle over by his window and the familiar sound of the window itself being slid open. He listens to the person kick off their shoes haphazardly and shut the window with a bit more force than it needed, and the moment their knees hit the mattress to climb up next to him, Stiles turns and stares at Derek in disbelief.

 

"You left me." Derek says, and it sounds like an accusation and a question all in one, and for once, Stiles can read the hurt on his face without needing to rely on the bond. "You left us."

 

"I didn't mean to. God Derek, I wasn't going to leave you in there, I was just grabbing my bat to bash open the window, I swear to God I wasn't going to leave you there all alone, I could never do that to you, or to anyone, but especially not to you, I swear, you have to believe me on this, if you never ever believe me on anything again, I just want you to believe me about this -"

 

Stiles is cut off from his rambling by Derek placing his hand over Stiles' mouth, ceasing the word flow before it can continue. If he's honest with himself, then Stiles is pretty sure that's the only way he would have been able to stop talking in the first place. 

 

"What the hell are you talking about? I'm talking about the fact you left me at the packhouse to deal with a worried pack who are wondering about you, and then you went and came home to your dad's place without letting any of us know whether or not you were all right." Derek slowly removes his hand from Stiles' mouth and tilts his head down to stare at him in thinly-veiled confusion. Stiles stays frozen and unspeaking, until Derek just huffs and sit back on the mattress. "Are you going to answer me sometime tonight?"

 

Slowly, Stiles sits up on the bed, wincing when it pulls at the cut on his arm, pushing his back against the headboard. He feels guilty and confused, but at least the guilt is fading fast. "I thought you were accusing me of leaving you alone in the shed, not for leaving you at the house. God Derek, when Parrish brought you out of that shed, I didn't know what to think."

 

"Why the hell would you think that? I know you would never leave me to something like that, I knew that when you woke up from that dream." Derek's face softens a little where it had been getting more and more agitated, and now he scoots over to sit next to Stiles, pressing up next to him until they're flush together. The next time he speaks, his voice is calm and soft, and Stiles can't help but sink into him when he hears it. "We've been waiting for you to come by the house all night, and when you didn't show up, I figured that I should come and check on you. I'm glad I did."

 

Honestly? Stiles is glad that Derek came back for him too, so for a while, Stiles doesn't talk, he simply rests his head on Derek's shoulder and breathes for a while. Derek doesn't try to make him talk either, he just sits there and waits more patiently than Stiles has ever seen from him before.

 

"All I could see when I came home was the look on your face when I went to go grab my bat." Stiles begins slowly, so softly that Derek has to lean forward to hear the words leaving his lips. "There was no fight left in you, and barely any left in me." 

 

Derek stays quiet, but rests his left hand on Stiles' thigh, and it helps to anchor him to the moment instead of the memory. "I honestly thought it was the end for you, and that I was going to have to sit back and watch another person I care about die."

 

If they hadn't been sitting so close together, Stiles would have never heard Derek's sharp inhale of breath, or had felt the way his hand tightened on the meat of Stiles' thigh. Stiles knows that the connection was made, and the reason why he was so upset is now clear.

 

"I would never do that to you." Derek admits to him, rubbing his thumb along the outside of styles thigh. "There was wolfsbane lining the windows, some of it got into my mouth, and that's why I went down so fast. It wasn't the smoke. Besides, Lydia says that even if you hadn't shown up, that things would have been just fine because of whatever Parrish is."

 

It should probably make him feel better whether Derek lived or died wasn't up to him at all, but it doesn't. All it does is make Stiles feel useless and unnecessary, because if that wasn't making a difference, then what would be? If watching Derek be subjected to the exact same torture as the rest of his family wasn't a true test of him being an emissary, then what is? What would he have to give to prove that he would do anything in his power to make sure that the rest of Derek and the packs life is as happy and carefree as it possibly can be? Better yet, is that something that Stiles can even offer ?

 

Stiles is pulled from his inner musings by Derek placing a hand on his cheek and making him turn towards the Alpha. He looks up at Derek and makes himself meet his eyes, and for a while all Derek does is look back at him, until he starts to lean forward, and all Derek does his put his forehead against Stiles' and breathe.

Closing his eyes is the easiest thing that Stiles has done all day, even though it feels a little bit like giving in, he's just not sure to what.

 

"I think Deaton was testing me today," Stiles admits softly, afraid to break the peaceful silence, and afraid of what would happen if he didn't say anything. "I think he wanted to see what I could do."

 

"I think so too," Derek readily agrees, grabbing the blanket at their feet and pulling it over their laps, draping them with warmth. He pulls Stiles closer, tugging him over with a warm hand on his waist, until he is nestled between the V of Derek's legs, content with the warmth of a werewolf. "You know that I won't let anything like that happen to you, right?"

 

"I know." Stiles does know is the thing, just like he knows that Derek would choose to put himself In harm's way than to see anybody else from his family get hurt again. It's how he got caught today, and it'll probably be how he gets caught again another day, but if he's honest with himself then Stiles wouldn't change that for the world.

 

And later on, when Derek inevitably wakes from nightmares about burning and fire, and being trapped, Stiles will be the one to pull him close,  to comfort him and tell Derek that it was all nothing but a bad dream.

--

 

Stiles wakes up the same way he fell asleep; wrapped around Derek, his face buried into his Alpha's neck, and Derek's arms around his waist. Somehow, this is surprising to him first thing upon waking up, and he nearly flings himself off of the bed in his haste to scramble away. Part of him had assumed that it was all a dream, or a deep down desperation for physical touch that he hadn't even known he was missing. One look at a still sleeping Derek Hale is enough to convince him that none of this has been a hallucination at all, and he genuinely spent the night tucked in tight against Derek, and that Derek fucking let him.

 

A soft tapping in the doorway catches Stiles' attention and when he spots his father looking at him with a knowing look in his eye, Stiles is sure that how he slept didn't go unnoticed. So with a sheepish grin, he climbs off of the edge of his bed, pulls the blanket up and tucks it around Derek's shoulders, and quickly leaves the room. 

 

They don't really talk on the way down to the kitchen, but both Stilinski men go out of their way to avoid the squeaky step on the stairs out of courtesy for the man asleep upstairs. When his dad doesn't even broach the subject by the time the coffee is percolating and Stiles has already started on an egg-white scramble for breakfast, he starts to get a little nervous. That feeling only heightens when he turns around to ask his dad if he wants some toast, and finds himself being stared at curiously.

 

"I didn't know you were into men, son." The Sheriff admits quietly, the corners of his lips curling down, almost like he's disappointed. Stiles feels a little thrill of fear until his father speaks again. "I guess I should have believed you when you started heckling Danny about whether or not gay men found you attractive in high school." 

 

Stiles doesn't really say anything to that for a while, disbelieving that it could be so easy to tell his dad he is also attracted to men. In the end, he just groans long and obnoxiously loud, pointing the egg coated spatula at his father and pretending to glare. "I thought we said we weren't going to talk about that ever again."

 

"Well," His dad begins, sitting down at the kitchen table with a fresh mug of coffee, staring bemusedly at his son. "When you walk into your son's room first thing in the morning expecting to see him, and only him, in his bed and instead you find him cuddling a Supernatural being, it tends to change things."

 

He knows that his cheeks are probably as red as a ripe tomato right about now, so Stiles turns around and focuses on not burning the eggs, stirring them around the pan and sprinkling in the tiniest amount of cheddar cheese. For a while, he's not entirely sure how to respond, because he knows his father is teasing him, but also because he knows John is being very serious at the same time.

 

"You didn't have to word it like that ." Stiles mutters into the heat of the pan, grabbing a plate from the cupboard over his head. He makes quick work of plating the scrambled eggs and buttering a single slice of wheat toast for his dad, while snagging an extra coffee mug for himself. Setting the plate of food down in front of his dad, Stiles makes his way over to the coffee machine and pours himself a cup of coffee before sitting down to continue this horribly embarrassing conversation. "It wasn't exactly like that."

 

Snorting into his food, his dad scoops up a fork full of eggs and toast, shoveling it into his mouth and gesturing with his fork. "Then what was it like? Because I have to tell you kid, that didn't look like it was nothing."

 

"Look, Derek came over because he was worried about me last night." It's a relief to not have to lie to his dad anymore, but this conversation is still making Stiles feel more anxious than anything. He starts bouncing his leg and trailing his thumb along the rim of his coffee cup before he continues speaking. "The pack thought that I was going to be coming back to the house last night, and when I didn't, Derek came to check on me."

 

"And he decided to stay?" His dad asks it gently, no ounce of accusation in his voice, but Stiles still feels like he needs to defend himself, like maybe he did something wrong after all. 

 

"He's my Alpha, dad." Stiles reminds his father, taking a large sip from his coffee mug and avoiding his father's eyes. He isn't sure why he feels like he's lying to his father, but he does. "It’s just a pack thing."

 

John chuckles a little, but doesn't exactly disagree with Stiles, which helps to make him feel a bit better about the whole conversation. The fact that Derek doesn't wake up or come downstairs for the better part of the next hour has him more relieved than anything. 

--

 

It's not like Stiles intentionally didn't go back to the packhouse, honestly, he just ends up more and more distracted by so many things that need to be done that he just doesn't end up going back until someone is sent after him.

 

 The last person that Stiles ever anticipated coming by to check up on him is the one that climbs in through his bedroom window just in time for dinner two days after he's caught sleeping on Derek. It happens when he's sitting at his computer table, looking over an emissary book to learn more about the spell he used on Deaton. His window slides open, a body comes through, and Stiles turns to find himself face-to-face with none other than Vernon Boyd.

 

Boyd closes the window and finally turns to face Stiles with an unimpressed look on his face. For the longest time they're in a stalemate, neither of them speaking, and neither of them looking away, until Boyd finally crosses his arms over his chest and rolls his eyes.

 

"What," Boyd asks, his voice heavy with sarcasm, "Are you hiding from us now?"

 

"No," Stiles insists defensively, pushing back his computer chair and standing so that he and Boyd are more common ground. It's not like the guy is intimidating at least not anymore, or at least not much , but Boyd is somebody that Stiles wants the respect of. "I've been working on my spells for the next time Deaton decides one of us will be an easy bait."

 

"And you're doing that holed up in your room alone instead of practicing with the pack because?" Boyd somehow manages to look even more unimpressed than he did the minute he turned around the first time, and it has the ability to make Stiles feel about an inch tall.

They continue to stare at each other for a while, but this time, Stiles is the one that breaks first.

 

"Look, it's hard to explain, okay?" Stiles turns back to his desk, flopping into his chair and  flipping through some of the pages of the book aimlessly. He knows he's overreacting, but how is he not supposed to overreact when it comes to protecting the people he loves? "I just want to get better with my magic."

 

"The way to do that is with us , not by hiding in your room smelling like stale sweat and Derek." Breaking the usual stoic facade, Boyd takes a step closer to Stiles and crouches in front of him, placing his hands on Stiles' thighs. This way, Stiles has no choice but to look down at Boyd, to see the look on his face, and the feeling from their bond that's resonating with so much honest truth, that Stiles is nearly overwhelmed. "Don't shut us out just because you got scared. It wasn't just your Alpha that they took, Derek isn't only yours, he's all of ours. He's even managing to handle his trauma because the rest of us are there to help him, but he misses you. We all miss you."

 

"I didn't really think it mattered all that much," Stiles whispers softly, resting one of his hands on top of Boyd's. It's the first time that Boyd has ever been this open with him, and Stiles refuses to ignore it.

 

"Don't be an idiot, Stiles. You're the second most important person in this pack, you know that." Boyd rolls his eyes and stands back up, heading over to the window with a quirk of his brow. "You were never as replaceable as you always seem to assume you were, and none of us would be where we are now if it wasn't for you. Stop hiding. Come to the house tomorrow, for all of our sakes, not just your own."

 

With that, Boyd slides the window open and leaps out, leaving the window open this time. There's the shuffling sound that Stiles has come to learn happens when the pack shifts to a wolf, and then he's left alone. It's easy to slide over to the window and pull it shut, and even easier to start packing a duffel bag of clothing for a long-term stay.

 

Boyd was right, he's been avoiding the pack for all the wrong reasons when all they want to do is help him get peace of mind. Derek will probably insist on having new pack training with Stiles' magic anyways, so there's no use for him to stay home and practice alone. Stiles isn't really sure why it took talking to Boyd to get him to realize that he doesn't need to hide, but he's thankful for it. He'll have to thank the beta later, but right now he has to say goodbye to his dad by leaving a note to tell him where he's going.

 

He climbs into Roscoe, and halfway to the house, he wonders why he was worried in the first place. These people have seen each other at their worst and at their best, so it's not like anyone would condemn him for what happened in the woods. They'd condemn the real evil here, and that would be Deaton.

 

By the time he reaches the packhouse, Stiles is feeling more comfortable than he has felt the course of the last three days, and it's such a relieving feeling that for a moment he feels genuinely dizzy without that weight on his shoulders. He can hear the excited shouts, even from inside his Jeep, and by the time he opens the driver's door, the front door to the house is open and the entire pack comes pouring out, even Melissa.

 

Stiles is swarmed by people he loves; Erica pulls him into a tight hug before pulling back and punching him full force in the shoulder. Even the knowledge that he'll bruise black and blue for the next two weeks doesn't take the smile off of his face. Jackson scents him like it's been years since they last saw each other, before pushing him into Lydia with a vicious grin. Lydia slaps him upside the head, before threatening that if he ever disappears on them again, then she'll find a way to become an emissary herself just to spite him. Stiles believes her, too.

 

Melissa ruffles Stiles' hair, and tells him that he needs to eat more and sleep better, because the bags under his eyes are showing again. Boyd looks way too pleased with himself to be anything but, and Isaac barely restrains himself from leaping onto Stiles, but settles for draping an arm around Stiles' shoulders and practically hanging off of him instead. Cora pretends like she doesn't care whether or not he came or if he stayed at home, but Stiles knows that she's at least secretly pleased that he showed up.

 

Peter however, looks much too smug for anything good to be happening, and the wink that he sends Stiles further proves that fact. It's only when Peter shoves Derek directly at Stiles that he thinks of what his dad talked to him about just this morning, and he feels himself blush.

 

He didn't shower before coming over, and he knows that Boyd wasn't lying when he told Stiles that he smelled like sweat, which isn't really unusual in and of itself, but that he also smelled like Derek . He's thankful suddenly, that his father is human, because then that conversation might have gone a little bit differently.

 

Derek clears his throat and the deafening rumble that had begun to build suddenly evaporates, leaving the pack in complete and utter silence.

 

"Welcome back, Stiles." Derek says with a nod, offering the smallest of sincere smiles, before turning on his heels and heading back for the house. He pauses at the front door, which had been left open by someone, and turns back around with a fanged grin. "Don't do that again."

 

It's a threat and a plead, all wrapped in one.

 

"Don't worry about it, big guy. I won't do it again." Here, Stiles takes a few steps forward, never taking his eyes off of Derek. He tilts his head to the side to bare his mark, even though he knows it's completely unnecessary, but it makes him feel better, so he does it anyways. "I promise."

 

Derek's eyes flash Alpha red, and Stiles feels something solidify in his chest. He has the sudden feeling that he basically just made some sort of unbreakable vow with Derek, and for some reason, he really doesn't seem to mind. If there was anyone on this Earth that he would promise anything to, it would be the man in front of him, who looks so surprised to be entrusted with something like this.

 

It's only when Derek finally goes inside that the rest of the pack starts up their conversations again, and it's not long at all before Isaac and Jackson are pulling Stiles inside to talk about some new game that they found. Lydia threatens him with a request for lore and magic, and something unsettled in Stiles seems to ease.

 

Home is right here, surrounded by all of these people who fought hard and dirty to get to where they are right now. It's being used like a rag doll because everybody wants to see you, and no one can decide who gets to monopolize your time first. 

 

Home is also back at his old house where the memories of his mother linger around every corner, where his dad looks so content, and where Stiles can remember growing up.

 

Stiles can't help the way he starts to laugh, even when the pack quiets down to watch him. It's so good to be back, that all Stiles can do is laugh. There's confusion, and a little bit of worry coming through the pack Bond, but Stiles can't think of the right words to let them know that he's fine. So this is what he settles for:

 

"It's so good to be home." He laughs, and the rest of them finally relax and laugh with him.

--

 

Magical practice starts the next morning, with Derek calling the pack down to the living room and explaining that Stiles has a point with how unprepared they were for Deaton to come after them like that. He admits his own faults, explaining that he should have waited for the rest of them before barging in to try and save Parrish who didn't even need his help in the end.

 

"Yeah, speaking of that." Cora interrupts Derek, looking around at the rest of them before crossing her arms over her chest. She looks confused, and more than a little concerned. "What exactly is Parrish?"

 

"Don't look at me," Lydia tosses her hair back over her shoulder, shrugging. It doesn't make Stiles feel any better that Lydia herself doesn't even know. "I don't even know where to start. I didn't see him in the woods, but I don't know if very many creatures that can survive a fire like that."

 

"I was thinking about a phoenix, what do you think?" It's Peter that speaks up this time, and he's addressing Lydia personally for the first time in a while. Their background is still a touchy subject between the two of them. 

 

Lydia frowns, reaching into the wide pocket of her purse to grab her Kindle, which Stiles knows is full of information on all supernatural beings from the Argent’s personal bestiary. She scrolls until she gets to the information about phoenixes, and starts to nod slowly. "It's definitely one of our top possibilities."

 

She sounds a little frustrated by that point, or maybe it's just the fact that for the first time in a long while, she wasn't the one with all the answers. Since Stiles has been preoccupied with learning about his magical talents, the research factor has been falling upon Lydia, who embraced it with open arms. She's been asking for more things to do within the pack for a while now anyways. "I'll look into it. Thank you, Peter." 

 

The pack not-so-subtly ignores Peter's pleased smile, how he seems to sit a little taller in his seat next to Derek, or the way Lydia is suddenly too busy rearranging the contents of her purse to notice. Peter does however meet Stiles eyes across the room, and give a little thumbs up, which makes Stiles have to choke back laughter from his spot in between Jackson and Isaac on the couch. The way Lydia rolls her eyes makes Stiles believe that she knows what just happened anyways, but he'll take whatever improvement he can get.

 

After that, with Derek's go ahead, the rest of the pack heads into the backyard right on the edge of The Preserve, and get into position. Derek mutters something about looking like rain today, but the rest of the pack ignore him in their excitement. What they don't know is that Derek had talked with Stiles before the meeting today, and had insisted that the best way to teach them would be to catch them by surprise.

 

The minute that Jackson turns his back to Stiles, he shoots a gust of wind at his back that hits so solidly that Jackson ends up face planting into the ground. Stiles is able to knock over Isaac and Cora over the same way, but Erica, Boyd, and Peter really stand their ground.

 

He takes a lesson from his own dream, and reaches with his magic deep down into the Earth until a root starts to grow, and wraps along Erica's ankles, tying her in place. Boyd gets distracted trying to use his claws to cut her out, but Peter launches himself towards Stiles.

 

Barely ducking out of the way of a swiping claw, Stiles rolls to the left of the pack and pushes himself back up to stand, baring his teeth in a facsimile of a snarl. He's ready the next time Peter leaps for him, but what he didn't even fathom was Boyd leaving Erica behind and coming for him as well.

 

Peter goes for the kill, immediately swiping with human nails at Stiles' neck, making the connection and nudging him back. Stiles takes advantage, allows himself to fall onto his back and barrel rolls away again, growing another Vine that burst from the ground and wraps around Peter's right arm, effectively leashing him where he stands.

 

Erica snarls the moment the root snaps, and wastes no time jumping directly at Stiles, wrapping her arms and legs around his neck and waist, dragging him down onto the ground with her. They wrestle, and Stiles lets that bubbling warmth grow into his stomach so that the next time he grabs her wrist and pins her down, she gets a little shock.

 

Yelping in surprise, Erica rolls away from him, kicking Sties in the thigh and leaving him in Boyd's clutches. His arms are trapped, pinned down at his thighs, his wrists bound by one of Boyd's meaty hands. It's a good strategy, all things considered. Most people think that magic comes with a wave of the hand, and usually it does. But for Stilles?

 

He was born for this, made for it, created to be one of the protectors of this pack, and he doesn't need to rely on the hand gestures or the verbal spells that even Deaton has to use. 

 

The sky above them darkens just a little, and releases a low grumble, not unlike Derek's when he is displeased. Stiles feels a smile creeps across his face, and the moment, the very goddamn moment that the rain starts to fall, he reaches out with his magic, closes his eyes and pulls .

 

A thunderclap sounds above his head and Stiles begins to laugh joyously, tugging until a ball of water is hanging above himself and Boyd. Boyd's arms begin to loosen from around his waist, and the minute he's free, Stiles turns to face the pack, opens his eyes and grins. They're all staring at him, their eyes glowing beta yellow, blue, and Alpha red, and Lydia is staring at him like she's never seen him before, but unlike so many times before, it doesn't bother him one bit.

 

He's filled with warmth, his magic is practically singing with all the energy falling around him, and somehow he's managed to protect the pack from any and all rain falling on them, even though he's absolutely soaked to the bone, and that just won't do, will it?

 

The moment Stiles starts shifting the ball of water so that it's not hanging above his head anymore, Derek gets this look on his face like he knows just exactly how mischievous Stiles is feeling, even though he managed to block off the bond. It's probably the smile he has on his face, his mother didn't nickname him Mischief for nothing, after all.

 

"Stiles," Derek somehow manages to make it his name sounds like a threat, but all it does is make Stiles start to laugh again. The finger that Derek points out him only makes him laugh harder. "Don't you fucking dare."

 

"Aw, Derek." Styles chuckles, rocking back and forth onto the balls of his feet with his hands locked behind his back. He knows what he looks like right now, soaking wet, grinning madly, face flushed with warmth. "You have no faith in me."

 

"Stiles, you're literally holding a giant water ball while cackling like a madman," Isaac says slowly, like Stiles doesn't understand exactly what's going on right now. "Why don't we just go inside? You're going to catch a cold if you stay out in the rain for too long."

 

Isaac has a point Stiles knows, but this is much too fun and after all, wasn't it Derek's idea in the first place to play around with his magic and see just exactly if the pack could keep up with him?

 

Still, Stiles begins to lower the ball of water until it's about face level, and still collecting enough raindrops to be bigger than his own head. He can see a couple of the members of the pack relax, Isaac, Cora, and Lydia all exhale in relief, and he decides that for this one time, he will spare those three, and those three only.

 

With a playful growl, Stiles urges the ball forward, and it splits off into five separate balls, gaining both speed and mass as it launches for the other five members of the pack. Peter darts off with a whoop , running into the rain, marveling at the fact that he's still not getting wet courtesy of Stiles' magic, until he's hit in the back of the head with his own water ball, which is when the shield around him falls and Peter is left laughing in the rain, his head tipped up to the sky.

 

Erica, the pain in the ass that she is, immediately launches for Lydia and latches onto her, turning to grin triumphantly over at styles who pouts for a very brief moment before he splats the ball of water directly onto Erica's ass. While she screams and squeals her frustration, Stiles decides to keep her shield up, so that he does not invoke the wrath of one Lydia Martin.

 

Stiles doesn't really even have to try to hit Boyd in the end, because he just stands there and let's the ball of water balance briefly on top of his bald head before reaching up with a single claw and effectively popping it so that it collapses right over his head. He doesn't even bother muttering about how Boyd is a killjoy, especially not when he can feel the quiet amusement radiating from him through the bond.

 

One person who definitely is not amused, is Jackson, who keeps running around just fast enough for Stiles' water ball to keep missing him when he tries to launch it at him. It's not his fault that baseball was never his sport, or that lacrosse never really gave him a chance to shine after Scott went and got bit, but it does give him an idea. He evades the rest of the pack, including Erica who jumps on Boyd, and ends up wrestling him down into the mud, and runs to the front of the house to grab his Lacrosse stick from the Jeep. He never got around to emptying it even after school was over, and besides. You never know when you'll need a lacrosse stick to protect yourself from Supernatural assholes.

 

Jackson is still running around the back of the house when Stiles comes back, but the magic ball comes right to him and lands in the net without falling through and he grins, pleased with himself. While Jackson is busy trying to catch his breath, Stiles gears up and launches the ball with the stick right at Jackson, and hits him square in the back. There's a lot of squawking, a lot of yelling, and eventually Jackson stomps off into the house to get dry, with Lydia following after him, an amused look on her face.

 

Last but not least is Derek who, like Boyd, is just standing and watching the chaos around him, except that while Stiles can feel the amusement coming from him, all he can see on Derek's face is a silent kind of awe.

 

"Do you even know you're doing that?" Derek has to practically shout over the ruckus of the combination of the pack and the storm above them, but eventually he walks closer to Stiles instead. "You don't, do you?"

 

"The water thing? Dude, it would be physically impossible for me to not realize I was doing it." Silo's rolls his eyes, enjoying the brief interlude from the rain Derek brings the closer he comes. When Derek starts to pull out his phone and Stiles tries to back away, afraid that Derek is going to try and take a picture of him. He hates having his picture taken.

 

"No, not that. And stay still, would you?" Rolling his eyes, Derek pulls up his camera and faces the screen around to show Stiles, who startles backwards so far that he ends up in the rain again. Derek helps him up again, but Stiles can't stop looking at the reflection in the phone.

 

"My eyes," Stiles mumbles to himself quietly, touching around the corners of his eyes. He's staring at someone who looks like him, and moves like him, except this Stiles in front of him has glowing amber eyes. While he watches, the golden honey color fades to his natural color, and luckily Derek pockets his phone again, because once that color fades, the water ball over both of their heads comes falling down, drenching the two of them in water. "What the hell was that?"

 

"Magic." Derek deadpans, hair plastered in his eyes from the water. He looks a little bit like a drowned rat right now, and Stiles would ordinarily be laughing and poking a little bit of fun, but right now he's more confused than anything else. But when Derek lifts his arms and does a mockery of jazz hands, Stiles manages to crack a smile. It ends up making Derek smile too, and he gestures with his head to the back of the house, where the rest of the pack has already managed to disappear into. "Come on, let's go get dried off."

 

Stiles nods slowly, allowing Derek to push him forward with a hand on his lower back, thinking of all the times he's done magic while looking in the mirror. He had never used a mirror when doing natural magic for fear that he would lose his concentration, so he has never seen his eyes change color before. He's distracted from his internal plight by Derek making him stumble with a push, Stiles turns already frowning to see Derek smiling sardonically back at him.

 

"Stop calling me dude." It's not a request, but Stiles has to fight back the urge to childishly call Derek dude all over again, just to see what he would do, but he doesn't in the end. Instead, he allows himself to be bullied inside the pack house, where he can already hear the rest of them talking and laughing good-naturedly.

 

Together, they climb the staircases, until they're outside of their respective doorways. Derek won't stop looking at him, and Stiles doesn't understand why until Derek finally talks again.

 

"I know you never really wanted to be a wolf, which is part of the reason why I never asked you in the first place." He begins, meeting Stiles is eyes with the faintest of smiles curling the edges of his lips. "But I always kind of wondered what it would be like to have you as my beta. When I saw you outside just now, it was almost like a glimpse of what could have been."

 

"And?" A little jolt of nerves runs down Stiles' spine, and he fights against the urge to fidget when Derek begins to grin. "What do you think?" 

 

"You would have been a great wolf, Stiles." Derek shrugs, his smile firmly in place while he leans closer until his lips are close to Stiles ears. He can feel the heat rating off of his Alpha, and how's the sudden urge to bury himself in that warmth. "But you make a better emissary."

 

"Gee, thanks Der'." Stiles snorts, pushing open the door to his room and gesturing inside. Derek backs away with the same grin on his face, shaking his head when Stile sticks his tongue out at him. "I'm going to go change, and then I'm going to go downstairs and make dinner. Does that sound okay?"

 

"That sounds perfect Stiles, thank you." Derek doesn't bother with a goodbye, he simply turns and walks through his doorway without a second glance, leaving Stiles watching after him.

 

Stiles shakes his head and heads into his room, where he grabs a towel from the bathroom and dries himself off as best as he can after pulling off his heavy, wet clothing. He changes into pajamas, pulling on red checkered pajama pants, and a black T-shirt and the fuzziest slipper socks that he owned before heading back downstairs and into the kitchen.

 

When he gets there, Jackson is already in the refrigerator, scavenging around for food, Stiles gently nudges him out of the way to grab the sirloin steak tips that he'd marinated earlier.

 

"I'm going to be making dinner, do you want to help me?" Stiles asks, setting the meat on the counter beside the stove, grabbing a frying pan in setting it down, before heading back to the refrigerator to grab bean sprouts, spinach, water chestnuts, and an onion. He sets those on the counter, grabbing a cutting board and a knife, before settling in in starting to chop. "Could you peel the carrots for me?"

 

"I didn't say I wanted to help in the first place," Jackson argues, though he does grab a vegetable peeler from the utensil drawer to the left of Sties. He takes the carrots over to the sink and washes them before starting to peel. "What are you making, anyway?"

 

Stiles makes quick work of dicing half an onion, wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his shirt when it makes his eyes water. He starts in on the other half, complaining about his eyes the entire time. "It's an Asian stir fry, you'll like it. When you're done with the carrots, can you get out the rice cooker and measure out 6 cups of rice? You'll need to wash it a few times to get all the excess starch out."

 

Jackson grumbles under his breath the entire time, but he does what Stiles asked him to anyways, and by the time Stiles has cut and washed all the vegetables he needs, the rice is being timed and set in the cooker. He knows that Jackson likes to help, but doesn't like to seem like he's interested in cooking too much, but Stiles knows that he always wanted to learn.

 

"Jack, come here." Stiles pours a bit of olive oil in the frying pan, turns the burner on, and gestures to the pan. "Start sauteing these for me please, I have to go grab the ginger and garlic from the refrigerator."

 

"Don't call me Jack," Jackson says, with very little heat. He does indeed move in front of the stove and pushes the vegetables around with the spatula Stiles took out earlier. It gives Sties just enough time to crush his own garlic, and mince the ginger enough to slide right into the vegetables. 

 

It's already starting to smell good, which means he and Jackson have to deal with an inquisitive nose popping in every half hour or so to see how the cooking is going, and while Stiles doesn't really mind, he can tell that Jackson is getting a little frustrated. For all the talk and all the complaints during  high school about not making frontline after Scott was bitten, Jackson has come to the conclusion as of late that he doesn't really like being in the spotlight. He adores being the center of Stiles and Derek's attention, but that's about it.

 

So the next time a pack member wanders into the kitchen, Stiles pulls them aside and asks if Cora could please tell the others to stop interfering with his cooking lesson, and when Cora starts to complain that she never got a cooking lesson, Stiles finds himself roped into alternating cooking with a member of the pack for the next week at least, but it gets them to leave him and Jackson alone until it's time to start cooking the beef.

 

Now that Jackson has the hang of it, Stiles quickly checks on the rice, and when he notes that that's coming along nicely, he mentions it and gets the pleasure of watching Jackson blush. It doesn't fade, even after the meat is fully cooked and has been integrated with the vegetables, or when Stiles plates the rice into a giant serving bowl so that everyone can take their own.

 

Jackson is proud of what he made, and Stiles is also proud of him for making it in the first place. He may or may not be projecting an aura of pride so potently that when they bring the food to the table and the rest of the pack looks up from where they're seated, that Derek shoots Stiles an appreciative smile.

 

The pack waits patiently for Derek to scoop out his own allotment of food, and Erica moves once he's finished, but a quick snarl from Derek has her backing right off again. They wait in barely restrain confusion when Derek grabs another bowl and starts to fill it with rice, meat and vegetable mixture. This bowl he sets down in front of Jackson, who is seated at Derek's right tonight, and Derek claps him on the shoulder, nudging the bowl closer, while a surprised and pleased Jackson grins at the rest of the pack. When Derek grabs another bowl, the ruckus that had been building good naturedly for Jackson falls to silence almost immediately.

 

Stiles is left confused, and a little flattered when this bowl get set down in front of him. This time, Derek doesn't bother clapping him on the back or on the shoulder, but what he does do is almost worse.

 

Derek reaches out, and trails the fingers of his right hand down Stiles' cheek, lightly pressing into the scar at the base of his neck. Stiles feels his heart skip a beat, he fights not to shiver, and knows that the wolves must have been able to hear it considering a glance around the table shows many smug faces looking back at him. Even after Derek pulls away, his heart doesn't calm down.

 

What the hell is wrong with him?

 

I didn't know you were into men, son.

 

Stiles can't stop the shiver that runs through him this time, his eyes fall shut on their own volition with his father's words from days before ringing in his ears like he had just spoken them out loud. He had never told his father that he liked guys before this, but John had at least accepted it easily. But Stiles knows what his dad saw that morning when he walked into his room, so that question, that statement that's been buried in the back of Stiles mind every time he looks Derek's way? He knows that what his father really meant to say was:

 

I didn't know that you were into Derek Hale, son.

 

Neither did Stiles, if he was completely honest with himself. But he feels it now, with Derek so close to him, with the two of them sitting so close together amongst the rebel of the pack, and Derek's quiet amusement radiating across the bond.

 

How could Stiles have missed this? He knew that he was in love with Lydia from the moment that he saw her, right up until he learned enough about her to understand that they would never be more than friends, and that they were honestly better that way. 

 

This is different than that though because Derek is supposed to be his Alpha, the one that Stiles is supposed to protect, and the one that's supposed to protect him. This could change everything, could change the entire packs dynamic, and Stiles doesn't know what to do.

 

"You okay?" Derek leans in to ask quietly, and Stiles mentally scurries to make sure that nothing he's feeling is slipping through the bond, but all Derek does is gesture to his bowl of food. "Aren't you going to eat?"

 

Jumping into action, Stiles shovels a mouthful of food into his face and nods wildly, thankful when all Derek does is roll his eyes (fondly, how can someone roll their eyes fondly? ) and go back to his own dinner. 

 

Eventually Stiles is able to pull out of his head for a bit, and even though he's more than tempted to go home and get a little bit of space between himself and the apparent object of his affection, he still stays at the pack house. It doesn't matter that every time he thinks of Derek now that his heart skips a beat before accelerating rapidly, or that this is really the first man that Stiles has had a serious crush on.

 

A knock on his door has Stiles jumping up in his rush to answer it, and he's more surprised than he should be to find Derek standing right outside.

 

"Derek, hey." Stiles says lamely, attempting to look nonchalant while leaning against his doorway, and ultimately failing at it. "What's up?"

 

"I just wanted to make sure that you were all right. You were pretty quiet at dinner." For once, Derek looks nothing like the big bad Alpha that he tries to make himself out to be. He's wearing a thin yellow Hufflepuff t-shirt, and fuzzy black sleep pants, and looks more like a young adult than Stiles has ever seen from him before. Derek also looks pretty concerned, like Stiles not talking is cause for alarm, which he supposes is actually true.

 

It's touching really, that Derek was worried enough to come check on Stiles personally, even though the rest of the pack probably had to bully him into it. There's a familiar tingle in his stomach, and a brief surge of warmth, so that when Derek reaches out to touch Stiles' arm, he gets stuck. Stiles isn't sure if Derek doesn't notice that he can't pull his hand away, or if he just doesn't want to, because the alpha doesn't try to move, and he doesn't bring it up. They stand like this in the hallway, until the tingling in Stiles goes away, and Derek can finally move his hand away.

 

Stiles can't really stop the sheepish grin from creeping over his face, and Derek smiles indulgently, but doesn't look too frustrated with him at least.

 

"We really need to work on your control," Derek admits with a grin, this time reaching out to ruffle Stiles' hair, and luckily he doesn't get stuck this time. "Hey, did you know that your magic smells just like honeysuckle? It's like how you smell, but amplified. I'm pretty sure that I could find you anywhere by that smell."

 

It's supposed to be reassuring, just like Derek coming up here to ask if he was okay was supposed to be reassuring, but all it's doing is making those feelings of his come to light more and more, and God how stupid could he be?

 

"You know what? I'm actually pretty tired right now, do you mind if I back out of movie night and just go to sleep?" He's not sure he could take a night of awareness like this, I'm sitting next to Derek in the dark and knowing that he's not allowed to touch him, that he'd have to hide those feelings in plain sight. This is all so new to him, and it's already overwhelming.

 

Luckily for him, Derek doesn't seem to mind and nods, backing out of the doorway so that Stiles is able to shut the door if he wants to.

 

"You did good work today," Derek says proudly, smiling that little secretive smile he seems to only send Stiles when they're alone. "I bet you're exhausted. We should limit the practice with your magic to once or twice a week, we don't want you getting overwhelmed, okay?"

 

"Thanks, Der'," Stiles' voice comes out softer than he meant it to, and he feels his face flush little. Fuck this, he needs to get out tell me when he needs to be alone right now. "I mean it. Have a good night."

 

"You too, Stiles." For a moment, it looks like Derek is going to go in for a hug, but all he does is wave his hand and immediately turn back to the staircase. Stiles stands there for close to a full minute before he brings himself to shut the door behind him, retreating to the safety of his bedroom.

 

Flinging himself on top of his bed, Stiles starfish's out along it, burying his face into the comforter and groaning as loud as he wants. Right now, he's more thankful than anything that Derek had the rooms soundproof, because the amount of swearing he lets out is obnoxious, and would definitely have the Pack coming upstairs to check on him. As it is, he's working really hard to make sure that none of what he's feeling is bleeding through to anyone else right now, especially Derek.

 

With another groan, Stiles rolls onto his back, stares up at the ceiling and wonders exactly how the hell this became his life.

 

"What the fuck am I supposed to do now?" Stiles asks, but there's nobody around to answer him.

Chapter Text

He doesn't get a chance to dwell on it, not because he doesn't want to, but because Stiles simply just doesn't have any time. The entire pack is too busy worrying about Deaton, about themselves as a whole, and who else they might know that's a supernatural being that's been right there under their noses for the better part of 5 years.

 

They still aren't sure of what Parrish is, and he's really no help, considering he didn't even know what he was doing or that he was doing anything at all. He also doesn't seem to want anything to do with the supernatural world, which is fine, especially since Derek says that Pareish would still be a good ally to have regardless of whether he's in the pack or not.

 

Stiles has taken to humming "Why can't we Be Friends" whenever he sees Parrish when he visits his dad at work, and luckily, the deputy just chuckles and ignores him. So it's not like that much has really changed.

 

Almost a whole week has passed since the run in with Deaton, and the pack is finally starting to relax a little. Stiles can't get a read on the Druid, no matter how many times he tries the tracing spell, and Derek hopes that means Deaton is out of Beacon Hills. Stiles doesn't really agree, but he's not going to argue with Derek about the potential of Hope.

 

Besides, today Stiles is planning on taking some much-needed time with Isaac. With everything that's been going on, the two of them haven't really had a chance to see much of each other. Between Isaac being at the pack house when it was being built, and Stiles figuring out his magic, there's really been no time for much of anything else. So what they're going to do is this: Stiles has chosen a couple of Halloween movies for him and Isaac to watch, and bought enough hamburger meat to feed the pack three times over. They're gonna watch movies and gorge on food, and simply just be.

 

Isaac has always been a little hungrier than the rest of them, and Stiles has never known if it's because of how Mr. Lahey used to treat him, or if he's just always had a higher metabolism then the rest of them. The bottom line is if Isaac is hungry, Stiles will feed him, there's no question about it. 

 

It helps that Stiles has a card that connects to the packs bank account, which between Derek, Peter, Cora, Lydia, and Jackson, means that the rest of them could spend thousands of dollars a day and still have enough money left to buy four houses. Just the other day, Derek had taken Stiles' dad aside and told him that if he wanted, and he was comfortable with it, that Derek was willing and wanted to pay off the rest of the debt they had from Claudia's illness and her funeral. Stiles had pretended not to notice the way his dad had cried, or the way he finally overcame his own pride and agreed to the help he needed.

 

Honestly, it didn't help his crush on the Alpha, especially with the way that Derek had looked at him in the hall, or how he'd gently wiped away Stiles' own tears before leaving the house and letting the Stilinski men fall apart together, but for the first time in a very long time, they fell apart in relief.

 

Now though, Stiles waits in his dad's house for Isaac to get here, and starts grilling burgers ahead of time for when he gets here. He misses having Isaac around in this house, especially since Stiles himself stays here at least three or four times a week. He hasn't been able to convince himself that moving into the pack house is something that he can viably do, while leaving his dad here alone. John admitted that he didn't want to give up this house, and he didn't want to live in a house with so many people in it either, and Derek admitted that it made a lot of sense to go from three people to twelve.

 

He's pulled from his thoughts by the front door opening then, and Isaac calling his name. Stiles shouts that he's in the back, but Isaac is already pushing through the back door and grinning at him.

 

"Are those for me?" Isaac asks excitedly, shuffling over to where Stiles has at least eight burgers cooked already, some with cheese and some without. He reaches out for one before pulling his hand back and turning to Stiles with his wide blue eyes beseechingly. "Can I have some?"

 

Stiles' heart breaks just a little and some of it must leak through the bond, because Isaac kind of ducks his head in an embarrassed kind of way, that Stiles has to immediately remedy.

 

"You don't need to ask here, you know that by now, Isaac. Mi casa es su casa, my dad is your dad, my food is your food, it doesn't have to change just because you don't live here now." Stiles makes quick work of taking the other four burgers off the grill, and putting them on a separate plate, gesturing with his head for Isaac to follow him when he walks inside. "No matter what happens, pack or no pack, this can always be your home. I will always welcome you here, and so will my dad. You're family now, an honorary Stilinski, no take backs."

 

"How does someone even be a Stilinski and a Hale?" Isaac asks, much more at ease than he was a few moments ago. He takes a burger, slathers it in an obscene amount of ketchup and mustard, before practically shoving half of it in his mouth at once. At least he waits until he swallows his food before speaking. "It sounds like an intense combination."

 

"Oh, please." Stiles takes a bite of his own Burger, herds Isaac into the living room and flops onto the couch, pressing play on the DVD player for Hocus pocus. "You're all Stilinski-Hales, you just don't know it yet."

 

"Even Derek?" There's no way a person should be able to sound so conniving when they have their mouths full of burger, with ketchup and mustard smeared all around the corners of their lips. Isaac manages to look endearing, innocent, and mischievous all at once, and Stiles really wants to know his secret.

 

Instead, Stiles takes another huge bite of his burger, using it to gesture at the wolf beside him, and channels his inner Derek to fake a glare. " Especially Derek. One day, the rest of you will wake up and realize that he has some of my mannerisms, and that will be the day you'll know that I was speaking the truth."

 

He tries to go for ominous, but judging by Isaac's giggling, he really misses his mark. Stiles can't help but grin at the beta, pushing the plate of burgers onto his lap and turning the volume up on the television. They spend more time on that couch together than they probably should, but by the time Hocus Pocus is over and they're finished with Halloweentown 2, Isaac snags the remote from Stiles and shuts off the television.

 

"Can I ask you something?" 

 

It's not Isaac's fault that that question tends to make Stiles' heart threaten to beat out of his chest, so he works on calming himself down before answering. "Of course, you don't even have to ask."

 

For a while, Isaac just sits there and fiddles with his hands, avoiding looking at Stiles for as long as he can. Stiles doesn't know whether or not to push, but eventually Isaac takes a big breath and turns to him. "Do you think that I could meet the Nemeton?"

 

"Oh, I mean, do you want to?" Stiles really hadn't expected this, out of everyone in the pack, Isaac was the last person he ever thought that would want to meet the Nemeton, no matter how friendly it's gotten.

 

"Kind of. I don't know really, is it scary?" Isaac looks back at Stiles with those big blue eyes, all wide and innocent, and his stomach clenches. It doesn't seem to matter that Isaac is a werewolf, who has more than enough means to protect himself, that kind of self protection that had been ingrained in him since Camden died just hasn't faded away, not even with the pack.

 

Stiles usually refrains himself from outwardly hating somebody, but the scars that Mr. Lahey left behind are still there, still raw and infected, and leaving their mark on Isaac even now. It's been 4 years since the man has died, and still, Isaac just longs to be safe.

 

"The Nemeton can be a little intimidating at first," Stiles answers honestly, meeting Isaac eyes with an apologetic smile. He doesn't want Isaac to feel like he's being tiptoed around. "It can still be intimidating for me, and I would have to say that I'm the closest one to it out of everyone. It's never hurt me though, and it's never hurt anyone else. Do you want to go?"

 

"Will you come with me if I do?" Isaac scoots closer than he had been before, until his and Stiles' thighs are pressed together. Stiles takes one of Isaac's still fidgeting hands and links their fingers together, gently squeezing until the faint thrum of anxiety slowly fades from his body.

 

"I'll go with you wherever you want me to, Isaac." Stiles tries not to show his surprise when Isaac ducks his head down and buries his face in Stiles' neck. It seems to ease his anxiety just a little bit more, until he's relaxed and pliable next to him. "Did you want to go now?"

 

Isaac doesn't answer verbally, but he does nod his head while taking deep concentrated breaths of Stiles' scent. Stiles waits as long as Isaac needs to feel comfortable enough before pulling away, and to his surprise, Isaac doesn't even look embarrassed like Stiles thought he might. Instead, he looks happy, and a little bit blissed-out, but he grins and gestures towards the front door.

 

"Let's go."

--

 

The drive to The Preserve is fun, with both Stiles and Isaac screaming pop song lyrics at the top of their voice for as long as they can, until they're both raspy and still cackling by the time Stiles parks Roscoe on the outskirts of the forest. It takes a while for the both of them to calm down, but when they do, it's Isaac who takes the first step and pushes the car door open and taking a deep breath of forest air.

 

Stiles follows immediately after, shutting and locking the Jeep before he pushes past the car, and heads off into the direction of the Nemeton. He hasn't been back for a while, and he's kind of excited to see what it has to say to him, especially with everything that happened with Deaton, but if he's honest with himself? Stiles has a lot to ask it as well, like why it didn't help them, or why it didn't let him know that Derek had been taken in the first place, or that Parrish was supernatural, or that Deaton had tried to start a fire again in their woods and that they did nothing to stop it.

 

His frustration builds, and he tries not to let it show when Isaac finally catches up with him, but the more he thinks about it, the more pissed off Stiles gets, and by the time they reach the clearing, he's more pissed off than he has been in a while.

 

"You have some serious explaining to do!" Stiles demands, walking right up to the base of the trunk, pressing both palms against it. He's in no danger of lashing out, and even if he was, he would never use his magic or his hands to hurt this tree. "Why didn't you help us when Deaton had Derek?"

 

It has been a while, hasn't it emissary? We knew you could handle yourself, though we kept a close eye on you.

 

"Well, isn't that just convenient?" Grumbling to himself, Stiles leans forward and presses his forehead against the tree, gently thinking it against the wood. "You couldn't have let us know?"

 

It is no fault of ours if the banshee woman didn't let you know she came to visit us. Lydia Martin has had excellent control of her powers as of late, has she not? Did she not tell you that your Alpha was in no danger? 

 

"Why would Lydia come to see you? I didn't think she wanted anything to do with you after what happened with Peter." Pulling back from the tree, Stiles reaches out a hand towards wandering branches that have extended curiously towards Isaac, who is watching this whole back and forth with wide eyes.

 

She needed help, and there are no other banshee women around that have survived as long as she. Banshee are not usually a pack related being; she is an anomaly, as are we. So we gave her a gift. The gift of control.

 

Stiles has no idea what to say about that, but the fact that he hasn't even noticed that Lydia has been much more sure of herself lately makes him feel like the worst friend ever. How is he supposed to make a good Emissary if he doesn't even notice when his pack members are coming into their own?

 

He's so busy in his own head that he doesn't notice the Nemeton once again reaching out for Isaac, or the tentative way he reaches out for it in return, until the Nemeton decides to speak again.

 

There is no need to be so afraid of us, puppy. We will not harm you like others have harmed you, nor will we give what you don't deserve.

 

"I don't know what I deserve, but I'm tired of being scared all the time." Even as he speaks, Isaac's voice wobbles with fear, but his eyes are hard, and his shoulders are straight, no matter how much his hands are quivering. "I can't get myself out of it all the time, but I want to be a better asset to the pack. I can't do that being afraid all the time."

 

Fear is helpful, puppy. But allowing yourself to be ruled by that fear however, can be detrimental to everyone, not just yourself. Your past haunts you, but we can ease that fear if you'd like.

 

Isaac flicks his eyes towards Stiles, the question clear on his face, along with an absurd amount of hope. He looks seconds away from turning tail and running away as fast as his legs can take him, but makes himself stay.

 

"I can't make this decision for you, Isaac. The gift will be for you, and if you want it, you have to make that decision yourself." Stiles shrugs his shoulders, leaning into a branch when it comes and rests on his shoulder. 

 

He's worried about how this could change Isaac in the long run, but if he's not happy like this, then Stiles isn't going to take away this choice. He will not be like Isaac's father, he refuses to be. Stiles loves him too much for that.

 

Let me be clear, Isaac. The Nemeton begins, wrapping a Vine loosely around Isaacs wrist, giving it a tug so that he takes a couple steps forward. We will not take away all of your fear, for nobody can live without it, but we can take away the intensity of it. Nobody should have lived through what you have and survived, but you have, and you will continue to survive and thrive. We can promise you that.

 

Isaac's eyes are watering, and his limbs are shaking with every step closer he takes to the nemeton, and all Stiles wants to do is go over and hold his hand and tell him that everything is going to be okay, but Isaac's panic is starting to leak through the bond, and Stiles is trying hard to reassure the rest of them that he's not in any real danger at all.

 

When his phone rings, Stiles picks it up, knowing that it's Derek without even having to look at the caller ID. "He's fine, Der'. I've got him."

 

"Stiles," Derek sounds winded, and a little bit panicked himself, and Stiles can hear birds chirping, and grab a crunching under his feet. It's obvious that Derek is tracking them, and Stiles is torn between being absurdly happy, and very frustrated by it. "He's terrified, whatever you're doing, you need to stop."

 

"I'm sorry, Derek. He asked me to bring him here, and I'm not going to take away that choice from him now." Taking a deep breath, Stiles watches the way Isaac steps forward, right into the base of the tree where Stiles woke up that one time, and disappears from view. "We're at the Nemeton, come keep me company until this is over."

 

Stiles hangs up on Derek before he can say anything, lowers himself to the ground, and just simply waits. The panic from Isaac grows and fades in odd intervals, and the ground around him thrums with energy, but Stiles himself doesn't feel afraid. He was the one that brought the Nemeton back, and he loves Isaac like a brother, and he has to have faith that the tree knows and appreciates this, because he's also part of Derek's pack, which means Isaac is also the Nemeton's.

 

By the time Derek walks into the clearing, it's been about 10 minutes since the phone call. He doesn't say anything when she sits next to Stiles, even though frustration is coming off of him in waves.

 

"You're not allowed to be mad at me for this." It's a demand and a plead all at once, and it leaves Stiles without the confidence to turn and look at Derek at all. He feels more than sees Derek huff beside him.

 

"You can't tell me what I can and can't be mad at, Stiles. Nobody can tell me that except for myself." Derek crosses his arms over his chest, glaring over at the Nemeton, before turning to force that glare on to Stiles instead. " You hung up on me. "

 

"Get over it, Derek. I had to bring Isaac, he-" Stiles cuts himself off, startling in his place on the ground so badly that he would have fallen over, if not for Derek grabbing his shoulder and keeping him upright. "Wait, what did you say?"

 

"I said, that you hung up on me. You can't just hang up on me, Stiles. I'm your Alpha, you could have at least said goodbye." With a roll of his eyes that looks more fun than anything, Derek moves himself just a little bit closer to Stiles, leaning back on his hands and stretching his legs out in front of him, with his eyes looking over at the tree every so often.

 

"So you're not mad at me for bringing Isaac to the Nemeton?" Stiles just wants to make sure, because other than this, he's not exactly sure why Derek would be this frustrated.

 

"Of course not," Derek admits with another roll of his eyes, this one less fond than the other. instead of finding a more comfortable place to sit, Derek lays himself down on the Dewey damp grass, and stares up at the canopy of leaves instead. "If Isaac asked you to bring him here, then there must have been a reason, and if the Nemeton took him in, then that reason was legitimate."

 

"Oh." All of a sudden, he feels like an asshole, and from the smirk on Derek's lips, he is well aware. It doesn't make Stiles feel any better, but laying down next to Derek in the grass does, and together they wait for Isaac and the Nemeton to finish whatever they're doing.

 

Another 5 minutes passed before Derek decides to break the silence.

 

"I don't think you understand just how much I trust you." His voice is soft, and when Stiles tilts his head to look at him, Derek is still staring up at the ever darkening sky, a little smile curling the edges of his lips. When he does turn to look at Stiles, the fondness is blatant on his face.

 

Stiles is afraid to ask, but he's also afraid of what will happen if he doesn't. His voice comes out in a whisper, and it feels like hordes of butterflies are trying to make their way out of his stomach. "How much?"

 

"With my life," Derek answers easily, like it's the simplest thing in the world to put his entire existence in Stiles' hands. "With my pack and my new home."

 

"Come shopping with me." It's not at all what Stiles had intended to say, but Derek's indulgent smile makes it all worthwhile. He's grateful that Derek doesn't comment on the way his heart seems to kick into high gear so that it feels like it might flutter away. "It's going to be Halloween soon and I need a costume."

 

"Yeah Stiles, I'll go with you." Derek looks like he's about to say something else, but instead he nudges Stiles in the arm and points towards the nemeton, where Isaac is emerging from the base with a smile on his face.

 

To Stiles, nothing looks like it's outwardly changed, except that Isaac's smile seems a little more genuine and relaxed, but it isn't until he nudges the bond that Stiles is aware of just how large of a burden Isaac always had on him. Now, the emotions coming through are clear and unfiltered, and there's no anxiety or nerves lurking behind anything anymore. This is Isaac, plain and simple, finally relieved from all the fear weighing down on him.

 

"How do you feel?" It's Derek that asks, though Stiles was also planning on it, the Alpha just beat him to it. Isaac's head lifts, and he perks up just like a little puppy would, and he's heading their way before Stiles can do more than shift in Derek's direction. Derek opens his arms, and Isaac jumps into them, quite literally, clinging to the Alpha as tightly as he can.

 

"Really good," Stiles is pleased that at least Isaac's voice hasn't changed. He still sounds a little hesitant, a little unsure, but the grin on his face completely contradicts how he sounds, and he moves on from hugging Derek to wrapping his arms around Stiles. "Thank you for bringing me."

 

"You should thank the Nemeton, I couldn't do anything without it." Stiles holds tightly onto Isaac, rubbing their cheeks together and allowing Isaac to scent his neck again. Isaac snuggles up as close to him as he can get, going lax when Stiles runs his fingers through Isaac's curls.

 

No need to thank us, we have gifts for all of the Hale Pack when they are ready. Not all are ready at the same time, but there is no need to worry. This puppy will be just fine in time, won't you Isaac?

 

"Yes." Isaac unwillingly pulls back from Stiles, enough to look between him, Derek, and the tree. Eventually though, he focuses more on Stiles, seems to steel himself and speaks. "Can we go home?"

 

"Sure thing buddy, let's go back to the Jeep." Stiles clasps Isaac on the shoulder, and turns to Derek, who is looking a little bit lost. he turns back to Isaac and gestures to Derek, who tries his best to look indifferent, and fails. "Are you sure that you don't want to go back to the pack house?"

 

Isaac shuffles uncomfortably for a moment, before turning to Derek and tilting his head off to the side, much like Stiles does to show off his mark. "The packhouse is home, but I want to spend the night in the place that made me feel safe for the first time in my life. I want to go back, and I want to see Dad on the couch watching baseball so that I can watch Stiles get frustrated when the Mets lose another game."

 

Stiles doesn't get the jealous feeling he'd always expected if his parents had another child, and instead, he feels more than proud of Isaac for standing up for what he wants, and from the feel of Derek through the bond, Stiles is sure he feels the same way.

 

"You don't have to give me a reason to want to stay with Stiles and his dad. You can have more than one family, Isaac, and I'm so glad that you get to have two." Derek pulls Isaac into a hug from his shoulder, claps him on the back of a couple of times, before turning away and heading back through the woods the way he came. Isaac stairs after him for a while, with that small smile on his face, before turning to Stiles, grabbing his hand and leading him back towards Roscoe.

 

On the way back home, Isaac tells Stiles about the inside of the Nemeton, which he has to admit out loud that he's been in before, and how he was put through a trial of sorts. In it, Isaac was able to say all the things he always wanted to to his dad, to his mom, and to his brother, and finally be free. He admits that he's not sure if the Nemeton really did anything magically to help him, or if finally facing his fears head on was what did it, but he's grateful either way.

 

The cruiser is in the driveway when they pull in, and Isaac gets all excited, to the point where Stiles is sure that if he actually had a tail, it would be wagging. The head inside, and the sheriff is right where Isaac said he would be, in the middle of the couch, a bowl of chips in his lap, yelling at the television.

 

"Hey Dad," Stiles calls the minute they get in the door, kicking off his shoes and dragging Isaac with him into the living room. "Are those low sodium at least?"

 

"Kettle cooked," John mumbles, his eye on the screen as another batter strikes out. He groans in frustration, setting the chips down on the coffee table and grabbing his beer. He takes a long pull from it, before gesturing to the two of them to sit down, and they do, one on each side of John. "How are my boys doing tonight?"

 

"Pretty good, I'm going out with Derek tomorrow to try and find some kind of Halloween costume for when the pack comes over on Halloween to hand out candy." Stiles shoves an entire handful of chips in his mouth and immediately regrets it; he always seems to forget just how crunchy kettle-cooked chips are until this happens.

 

John snorts at Stiles' pained  look, before turning to Isaac and draping an arm over his shoulders. He shakes him a little, very gently, smiling while he does. "And you, Isaac?"

 

Isaac looks pleased just to be included in the conversation, and curls into John's side, which is something he's never done before. "Stiles said that you would be okay with it if I called you Dad. Is that true?"

 

"Of course it is," John reassures him without missing a single beat, pulling Isaac closer until his head is resting on John's shoulder. "You didn't live with us for very long, but you lived with Melissa for nearly three years. That alone should mark you as one of my sons, and I personally couldn't be more proud to call you that."

 

"Oh. Alright." Isaac looks a little shell-shocked at first, but then he shuffles around a bit, rests his head a bit more comfortably on John's shoulder, and relaxes against him. "Thanks, dad."

 

Stiles feels more than hears John's sharp inhale of breath, and pats his dad's thigh, gently. He knows that his mom and his dad always talked about having a few more kids after Stiles was born, and that for a while, Scott helped when Claudia's illness took her over and they discovered the potential for children had faded. With him gone, Melissa isn't the only one hurt by it, because John has been left behind as well. He lost a son that day too, and he and Melissa have just gotten closer because of it.

 

They spend the night like that; a trio all over again, and Stiles does indeed shout out his frustration at the television when the Mets lose another game, and Isaac laughs, and laughs, and laughs

 

Stiles doesn't think he's ever heard a more beautiful sound.

--

 

Isaac leaves after breakfast the next morning, talking about running the border with Cora later, and Stiles very graciously doesn't comment on the gleam in his eye or the excitement that pulses through the bond right after he talks about the youngest Hale. It's something that Stiles never thought he'd see; Isaac with a crush large enough to do something about.

 

It stays in the back of his mind for most of the day, and he can't help but wonder what's happening, or if Isaac is having a good time, so Stiles goes against his better judgment and gently nudges a little frisson of reassurance down his bond with Isaac. Luckily for him, or Isaac pushes back a vague sense of amusement, though Cora does send her own mental flick his way. Stiles gets the hint, he stays out of both of their bonds for the rest of the day, and soon enough, it's time for him to meet Derek.

 

Today, Derek insisted on picking him up, yet again, also insisting that he packed a bag for the Hale house, so he does. His dad is on another late night shift, so Stiles doesn't bother doing much else besides locking the house up and sending his dad a quick text to let him know he's staying over at the packhouse. Apparently Melissa is coming over, which Stiles plans to talk to his dad about on a later date, but Derek is already waiting outside his house, leaning against the passenger door of the Camaro, staring up at Stiles expectedly.

 

"You didn't have to wait for me outside of your car, jeez." Stiles says, mostly to avoid having to look at Derek head on, because he's looking particularly good today. He really hasn't done anything different besides put on a dark green Henley and some really obscenely tight jeans, but it works for Derek more than it has ever worked for Stiles.

 

"I wanted to wait." Derek pushes off the car, opening the door and waiting until Stiles gets into the passenger side before shutting his door for him, making his way around the Camaro, and sliding into his own seat. "We're going to the mall, you said?"

 

"Is that still okay with you? I don't want to go somewhere that will offend your nose too much." Stiles teases, his voice fading to something much too fond for a conversation between people who are simply friends. Mentally, he kicks himself a little, leaning forward to play with the dials on the radio. He's surprised that Derek actually lets him.

 

"I hung around with you and Scott for your teenage years, I think my delicate sensibilities will be just fine to handle the mall." Derek's words sound mean, but his voice is all teasing, much like Stiles was, and it makes him smile. The fact that they can do this now completely baffles his mind most of the time.

 

Stiles snorts, rolling his eyes enthusiastically, and leaning back against the seat Well singing along to whatever song he knows that comes on the radio. Derek doesn't talk much when he drives, and Stiles is really trying to be accommodating with that. It makes the time in the car seem a little longer, but Stiles can tell that Derek appreciates it, by the small smile he gets when they find a parking spot in the mall.

 

"Do you have any idea what you want to get?" Derek asks the minute that they hit the crowd, wincing from what Stiles can only guess is the loudness of it all. Even to him, it's a little bit over boisterous in here, and he doesn't have nearly the heightened hearing that Derek himself has. "Or are we just hoping to find something good?"

 

"I have a few ideas," Stiles admits while pulling Derek off to a little alcove to the right. He points up a flight, and over to the left a little ambiguously. "There's a shop up there that does a lot of leather, and that's really where I want to go."

 

Derek's eyebrows raised in surprise, but he doesn't actually question Stiles, which makes him feel a little bit better about this whole thing. Instead, Derek stands up straight, squares his shoulders, and pushes through the crowd with Stiles at his back all the way to the escalators, and again all the way to the last store on the second level.

 

Hide and Seek is even more intimidating in person then it is on their website, even if the pun in the name makes Stiles want to smile. The mannequins in the front of the store are covered in leather; pants, shirts, dresses, you name it and they have it, and that is just what Stiles is looking for.

 

"Of course you bring me to a store with a pun in the name." Rolling his eyes, Derek sniffs, seems to brighten a little bit, and takes a step into the store. Stiles follows after him, and glances around himself, catching the eye of the girl behind the counter and waving when she offers him a smile. "What are you looking for, exactly?"

 

"A vest, kind of." it's the only clue that Stiles can think of giving without telling Derek the entirety of his costume, which he definitely does not plan on doing. It's not even a lie, he is looking for a vest, it's just a very particular vest. They make their way up to the counter, which Stiles immediately leans upon, and he grins at the shop girl who smiles back. "Hi, my name is Stiles Stilinski? I called about making a piece?"

 

"Stilinski, you said?" The girl, Hannah her tag says, pulls up what must be his file in the computer, looks back at Stiles, runs her eyes up and down the length of his body and grins. Her eyes never flip towards Derek, not even once, and Stiles doesn't know whether to be flattered or annoyed by it. "This is going to fit you like a glove. Trevor is our best leatherworker, I think you'll really like what he did with it."

 

"I'll be sure to let you know. Is there a changing room here?" Stiles can feel Derek's eyes boring into the side of his head, and he starts to sweat a little bit. Technically, this isn't the part that Stiles needed help with anyways, that part comes later, but he needed to pick this up anyway. "Can my friend come back there with me? I might need help putting it on."

 

"Oh, of course he can." Hannah leaves them at the front of the store, jogging into the back before coming back with a box three times the size of a shoe box, gesturing to the left where a big sign reads fitting rooms. "Take as long as you need, and be sure to let us know if anything needs to be taken in."

 

"Will do, thanks." Derek is full-on glowering by the time Stiles gets him into the fitting room, but he's too excited to try and calm him down right now. He's been looking forward to this since he found the custom-made section of their website four months ago.

 

Setting the box down carefully on the counter that's provided, Stiles pulls the lid of the box off, pushes the tissue paper off to the side and gapes at the contents in awe. when he started this whole leather adventure, Stiles had assumed there was a chance that he would hate how that item would look, and he'd have to last minute change the idea for his costume for Halloween, but this?

 

This is beyond anything Stiles could have even think of, and all his awkward rambling ideas are mixed into one drop dead gorgeous article of clothing. Stiles pools off the t-shirt had thrown on this morning faster than anything he'd take it off before, looking down at the vest and pulling it out with shaking hands. He flips it over and gasps at the corseted back, running a finger down paisley etched black and red dyed leather. The neck dips down into a deep V, with metal rings at the base of it that Stiles could attach chains to if he wanted, and he would if he was in the pants he wants to wear with this top.

 

As it is, he can already feel Derek staring at the pale expanse of his back, so Stiles loosens the cording on the back of the corset, and pulls it over his head. It's a little loose, like he expected from it being untied, but even the picture he cuts now in the mirror is something for him to stare at. Stiles knows how he looks most of the time, knows he should probably put a little bit more effort into the way he dresses or the way he styles his hair, but this is taking it to the next level.

 

If you had ever asked Stiles if he thought that it was possible for him to look this attractive, he would have said no, and on a worse day, Stiles would have said fuck no, but today he's been proven wrong. For the next part though, he's going to need help.

 

"Can you help me tighten this?" 

 

For a moment the fitting room is completely silent, and Stiles feels more than hears Derek step up behind him. Then there are warm hands on his back, not startling him, not really, but they definitely catch him off guard. Derek takes one side of the leather vest and straightens it out, before doing the same with the other side, and then pulls the leather cord at the top slowly, hopefully making sure that the loops stay even.

 

Stiles can't help but look at the both of them in the mirror; Himself with the ever tightening vest, creating curves where Stiles would swear that he had none before, until the vest is as tight as a second skin, and just as breathable. Derek seems to be focused more on tying the cord than anything else, but Stiles catches him looking a few times in the mirror.

 

It's when the corset is tied that Derek's hands slip from the top of his neck all the way down to his hips, holding Stiles in place while Derek looks at them in the mirror. Derek's left hand slips up and turns Stiles' head is so that his neck is bared, and Derek buries his face right in two the Emissary mark, taking deep controlled breaths of just purely Stiles.

 

Stiles doesn't shut his eyes, he isn't sure that he could if he wanted to, because the look of them like this reflected back at him is just pure sin. His mouth is open, though Stiles doesn't remember opening it, and his cheeks are flushed with color. Derek's eyes are glowing red, occasionally catching Stiles' eyes in the mirror, and the way his hands are splayed is just so possessive that something in Stiles' cries out to be touched.

 

In the end, he's not sure why the moment, whatever moment that was, ends up stopping, but it does. The two of them break apart as easily as if they hadn't touched each other at all, and Stiles busies himself by turning this way and that in front of the mirror, before grinning at his reflection.

 

"What do you think?" He can't stop himself from asking, turning around and gesturing to himself to Derek.

 

"I think that I still have no answer as to what it is you're supposed to be." Derek says, looking away from Stiles after giving him a once-over similar to what Hannah had done earlier. He looks just the tiniest bit uncomfortable now, a flush high on his cheeks that wasn't there before, and Stiles feels a surge of embarrassment.

 

"Can you untie me? I'm not going to tell you what I am, because it'll ruin the surprise, but I'm definitely happy with this. I'm getting it." Turning back to the mirror, Stiles decides to look at the floor instead of at Derek, and when the Alpha comes to untie the cord, his hands are just as gentle as they were earlier, though this time they barely linger.

 

"You're all set. I'll wait for you at the front of the store." Derek waits enough for Stiles to give a nod of acknowledgement, and then practically breaks down the door in his haste to get away. It leaves Stiles feeling unsettled, like maybe they had done something they shouldn't have, but nothing really stands out to him.

 

Mentally shaking himself, Stiles pulls the vest off, sets it in its box, and yanks on his T-shirt with more force than necessary. After that, he makes his way to the front of the store, sets the box down on the counter and grins at Hannah, who simply holds out a hand to him for the payment. Before he can even grab his wallet, Derek is handing over the bank card that is connected to the pack bank.

 

"Dude," The complaint builds and builds in his throat, but Derek simply raises a hand, and quirks a brow at Stiles, like this is normal. "This is for a costume, that's not ... family-related, Derek."

 

"It is if I say it is." Hannah hands back the card, thanks Derek and Stiles for their patronage, and they leave the store. Derek ends up carrying the bag, and even though Stiles wants to complain about it, he knows that now is not the time.

 

Instead, Stiles leads them up another two levels in the mall and into a LARP costume store that opens here every year for Halloween. At least this part will be easier, and much cheaper to pick out, and Stiles makes a beeline for the back, where all the capes are hanging. He can practically hear Derek's thought process when he sees where they're headed, and the minute Stiles' hand touches a red floor-length cape, he hears Derek groan under his breath.

 

"Are you fucking kidding me, Stiles?" Derek doesn't even really sound annoyed, just mostly tired and the teensiest bit amused. Stiles turns and shoots him a grin, pulling off a red cape and tying it around his shoulders.

 

"What do you think? Is this good enough?" Stiles twirls in the cape, pleased when it billows out nicely, and takes advantage of the longest eye-roll humanity has ever seen from Derek by darting down between some cloaks and old fashioned shirts. He's halted in the process of running through the store by Derek stepping in front of him and grabbing his arms. He leaves Stiles with an opening that Stiles never thought he would have again. "My, what big teeth you have."

 

Stiles expected another eyeroll, or at the very least a sarcastic laugh, but what he didn't anticipate was Derek leaning down until he's close enough to whisper into his ear:

 

"The better to eat you with, my dear." The words leave Derek and a growl, and Stiles knows that if they were not in a public place, that Derek's canines would be long, and his eyes would be red. The thought sends a shiver down his spine that Stiles gives in to immediately, relaxing in Derek's hold. Derek pulls back almost immediately, gently nudging Stiles towards the front desk, where the cashier is staring at them with a very unamused look on his face. "You should go pay for that if you're going to get it, little red."

 

"Yeah, yeah. I hear you, big bad." Stiles rolls his own eyes good-naturedly, stalking his way up to the front desk in his best Derek Hale prowl, grinning when the cashier actually seems shocked by it. "I'd like to buy this cape if you don't mind."

 

The cashier stutters through a half-assed apology, but Stiles gets his damn cape, and he and Derek are finally free to leave the mall. They stopped on their way home to grab burgers and curly fries, which Stiles happily munches on, even though Derek doesn't let him pay for those either.

--

 

It turns out that Lydia isn't even the only member of the pack that's been going to visit the nemeton by herself, but Stiles never would have expected this, not in a million years.

 

"Dad?" Stiles pushes past the last few trees in his way, and hurries over to his father's side, where he is leaning up against the trunk of the Nemeton, staring up at it. "What are you doing here? Are you all right?"

 

"I'm alright, did anyone ever tell you you worry too much, son?" John gently pats the bark of the nemeton, and the tree rests a branch on his right shoulder for the briefest moment before reluctantly pulling away. For the first time since Stiles had first come to the clearing, the Nemeton doesn't speak to him, not even when he reaches out for it with his magic. 

 

He allows his dad to tug him back the way he came, and feels a small pang of melancholy through the bond he shares with his father and that he shares with the Nemeton. It's obvious that he interrupted something, though Stiles isn't sure what, but he nudges the bond with his father worriedly. 

 

"Worrywart," John mumbles fondly, reaching out to ruffle Stiles' hair, and it's only when they reach the Jeep that he realizes his father didn't even drive here. Stiles doesn't ask, and his father doesn't tell, but he knows suddenly that his father isn't going to come home with him. Whether it's to their house, or to the packhouse, it won't matter. "Are you going to hound me for information before you leave?"

 

"Would you tell me why you're really here if I did ask?" Stiles isn't upset, not really, how could he be when he hid much more from his father than this? If anyone deserves a little secrecy around here, it's his dad, and Stiles can give him that. "Don't worry about it, pops. I can come visit the Nemeton another day. You do what you have to do, okay?"

 

After pulling his father into a warm hug with way too many back claps, Stiles unlocks Roscoe and climbs into the driver's seat, but a knock on the window stops him from actually starting the car like he was planning on. His dad is standing there, shuffling his weight from foot to foot while looking determinedly at Stiles, so he rolls the window down.

 

"I've been seeing Melissa," John admits it like it's a secret, like Stiles hasn't seen them together or the fondness in their eyes when they look at each other. There's a determined look on his father's face when he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a small wrapped gift. He hands it over to Stiles, who is starting to realize just why his father seems a little nervous to tell him anything. Stiles looks at the box and back to his father, who dips his head in a nod. "I don't think you understand, son. I've been seeing Melissa since before everything with Scott happened, but then we kind of said fuck it to being subtle after he left. It's been two years of dating, and sixteen of friendship, but I would really appreciate having your support on this."

 

Two years?  

 

Stiles thought that he was a good liar, but apparently his father and Melissa are better than he will ever be, especially to hide this for not only him, but the entire pack and Scott. Before he can open his mouth common to tell his father exactly what he thinks about it, John cuts him off.

 

"Don't misunderstand me, Stiles. I'm not asking for your permission here, and I won't ask for your permission with who I date or don't. I can love them both, I promise you that." His dad's voice is hard, but his eyes are watery and soft, almost pleading. 

 

"I know you love Mom. If there's one thing I will never doubt, it's that you loved my mother." Leaning as far out the car window as he possibly can, Stiles reaches out and puts a hand on his dad's shoulder, patting him a couple times and grinning. "The ring is a definite surprise, but you and Melissa aren't. Scotty and I called that two years after mom died, but I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have handled it as well as I am now that many years ago."

 

"I love you, kid. I just really needed to tell you this before it happens. You deserve that." John puts his hand on Stiles' hand on his shoulder, and squeezes a little, smiling a watery smile at his son who beams back at him.

 

"And you deserve to be happy, Dad. If Melissa makes you happy, then so be it, and I will support you no matter what." Stiles pulls his hand back and finally starts the Jeep up, thinking for a moment before adding quietly. "Mom wouldn't have wanted us to wallow for so long anyways. Besides, it's not really moving on if neither of you forget her."

 

"How did my little Mischief turn into such a smart young man?" John mumbles mostly to himself, shaking his head and taking a moment to wipe at his eyes. Stiles heart aches at the nickname as it always does when someone else but his mother used it, but he smiles anyways and hands the ring box back to his dad.

 

"Go on and talk to the magic tree, pops. I'm going to go see who's willing to bake with me at the packhouse." Stiles shifted the Jeep into reverse and mumbles a goodbye back to his dad when he rolls his eyes good-naturedly at his son, driving away as fast as he can.

 

Stiles isn't upset that his dad hadn't told him about being with Melissa, not really, but that ring box brought him back to a reality where Claudia still isn't alive, and it's hitting him harder than he thought it would. The wolves will make him feel better, and so will baking, so Stiles continues his drive through the preserve until the house looms in front of him.

 

The cars that usually litter the front of the parking area are no longer there except for one, but Stiles will take what he can get right now, and heads inside anyways. Peter's car gleams in the sunlight, completely at odds with the man who opens the front door wearing what looks to be a light blue sweater that Stiles imagines to be cashmere and soft as butter.

 

"Stiles," Peter leans in the archway of the door, grinning at Stiles almost ferally, beckoning him closer with one hand. Stiles rolls his eyes but walks for it anyways, accepting the hug that Peter wraps him in, leaning in to the older man when Peter drapes an arm around his shoulder and leads him into the house. "We weren't expecting you this afternoon."

 

"We?" Stiles is lead further into the house, kicking off his shoes and try not to startle when none other than Chris Argent comes around the corner, looking a little unnerved and surprisingly not dangerous at all. "Oh, Mr. Argent. Hey."

 

"Nice to see you, Stiles." Chris says a little awkwardly, walking forward to stand next to Peter, who had pulled away from Stiles with a grin. For a moment, the hallway is completely quiet, the three of them looking between each other until Chris decides to break the ice. He looks a little uncomfortable now, his eyes flicker towards Peter before looking back at Stiles instead. "I already asked Peter, but do any of you still talk to Allison?"

 

That wasn't like he was expecting it all, Stiles risks a glance at Peter who looks a little troubled, but otherwise seems as normal as he has been before looking back at Chris.

 

"No, but I wouldn't be somebody to actively search out Allison anyways." Stiles watches the way Chris's face falls, and decides to extend an olive branch. "You should try and ask Lydia though, she and Allison were closer than the rest of us."

 

The relief that Chris gives off is nearly palpable, and the smile, small as it is, that he offers Stiles is genuine. Peter claps his hands together, and gestures for the two of them to follow him into the living room, and so they do. While they walk Stiles catches the smell of something burning, and right before he decides to ask, Peter swears and breaks off, jogging towards the kitchen instead.

 

"Peter's new thing is trying to bake," Chris informs a baffled Stiles, sitting down on the couch and lounging across it like he belongs here. It's the first time that Stiles has ever seen him without Victoria and Allison around, and it's the first time he's ever seen the hunter looks so relaxed. They can still hear Peter swearing from the living room, and Chris shakes his head fondly. "I don't know why he keeps trying like this, it always ends up the same way. A charred cookie sheet, and a pissed-off werewolf."

 

"I think he's just honestly trying to be nice." Shrugging, Stiles sits himself in the ottoman across from where Chris sat down, and can't help but wonder how Derek must feel to come home to the smell of an Argent in his house. "In fact, I guess we have you to thank for Peter wanting to better himself in the first place, don't we?"

 

Chris scowls down at his lap, fidgeting with the hem of his button up shirt, which is something that Stiles never imagined he would see, and suddenly he feels like a father scoping out his sons new boyfriend and can't help the slow smirk that spreads across his face. bracing his hands on his knees, Stiles leans forward and offers what he hopes is an honest smile, but all Chris does is roll his eyes.

 

"And are you taking good care of our pissed off werewolf?" Stiles questions softly, watching the way Chris frowns and narrows his eyes over at him. It just honestly makes him smile wider, even though he knows from an outside perspective he must look a little creepy. "Peter, this Peter at least, is a good man. I'd hate to learn that you stooped to Gerard's level all over again."

 

"Are you threatening me, Stiles?" Chris looks more amused than anything, which is exactly the reaction that Stiles was hoping for, because it means that he definitely wasn't expecting Stiles to be able to snap his fingers and a small flame appear on the tip of one finger. Realization sets in to Chris's face, but the relieved smile is something that Stiles himself wasn't expecting at all. "So you're the Hale pack emissary. I should have figured, I guess, especially with the way Scott was talking about you in the end. I'm glad, that means I don't have to kill you."

 

The usual thrill of fear isn't there, and Stiles and Chris both know that he could hold his own in a fight against one hunter all on his own, guns or no guns.

 

"Why did you ask about Allison, anyways?" The fire on his finger goes out when he blows on it, and the only sign of surprise on Chris's face is the way his eyebrows raised. "She wasn't pack."

 

"No, but I thought that Scott was once upon a time, and he's the one I have a problem with." even speaking Scott's name seems to have Chris's cheeks flushing with what Stiles assumes is anger, especially considering the way he digs his blunt fingers into the meat of his knees. "He followed Victoria and Allison for a while after they left, after you guys kicked him out or whatever happened, and Allison let me know today that he somehow got a hold of her new number and has been harassing her there as well. I just wanted to make sure that it wasn't from anything one of you said."

 

"No, and even if we did have her number, we wouldn't have told him. It's not like Scott and I were close in the end. He wouldn't have come to me for a number, he would have tried to kill me again." Stiles offers Peter an apologetic smile when he comes back smelling like burnt sugar, his eyes flashing from their regular color to electric blue every few minutes or so. "Do you want me to help you make a batch of cookies?"

 

"It's no use," Peter snarls, though he's teeth fade back to human size when Chris lays a hand on his shoulder. He takes a few deep breaths, closes his eyes, and by the time he blinks them open, they're back to normal. "I don't understand what I'm doing wrong, but they never come out right."

 

"Dude, when I tell you I've made a bunch of cookies in my life, I mean that I make more than six dozen each year. If you want to learn, then you should definitely learn from me." It's a bit of a boast, and sure, Stiles definitely puffs out his chest proudly, but his cookies are amazing. He knows it, his dad knows it, everyone who works at the police station knows it. "Come on Peter, it'll be fun."

 

Peter still looks skeptical, but Chris nudges him with his shoulder and nods in Stiles' direction. "I've actually had some cookies that he made once. Scott brought over an entire tin a few Christmases ago, and they were pretty fantastic."

 

"Was it the snickerdoodle? I bet it was the snickerdoodle. They were my mom's recipe." Styles can't help shimmying in the ottoman, no matter that it's Chris fucking Argent giving him a compliment. A compliment is a compliment, and he loves being told that his cooking is good.

 

"It was some kind of shortbread, actually. I think it was half dipped in chocolate?" Chris's eyes actually glaze over momentarily while he thinks back on the cookies, coming back to reality to find Peter staring at him with a determined look on his face. "What? What did I say?"

 

With a stern nod, Peter turns to Stiles and points at his direction, fake threateningly. "You're going to teach me how to make shortbread cookies."

 

"Sure thing, buddy. Whatever you want." Stiles can't help but laugh a little, getting up from the chair and heading immediately for the kitchen, ignoring the sounds of what can only be Chris and Peter kissing before a very red Peter joins him in the kitchen. He waits for Peter to walk over to him, and stops him with a hand on his chest. "Are you happy with him?"

 

"More than I thought I could be after my wife died." Peter still sound sad when he talks about her, and Stiles thinks back to his father earlier. This just proves that you can love more than one person at a time, and still end up happy, so Stiles gently smacks Peter in the chest and points to the refrigerator.

 

"We're going to make a double batch. I need 8 sticks of butter, white granulated sugar, and all-purpose flour." Stiles practically demands, stepping into the pantry and pulling out the giant jug of sugar, measuring out 2 cups of white sugar. On his way back out of the pantry, he grabs the vanilla extract, measuring out two and a half teaspoons and pouring it right into the bowl of sugar he set aside on the counter. "Can you grab the mixer for me on the top shelf?"

 

"Of course I can , but will I?" Peter grins, but all Stiles does is stare, and eventually his grin fades into a pout, and he stomps over to the counter that they keep the mixer in, muttering about emissaries with no sense of humor. Still, he pulls the mixer down and puts it on the counter next to Stiles, and carefully pours the sugar and vanilla mixture into the bottom of the mixing bowl.

 

"Thank you, while I go put the oven on, why don't you go and microwave the sticks of butter for no longer than 10 seconds each turn and tell me when they get soft." It's quick work to turn the oven on, so he runs back into the pantry and grabs the container of flour, using the same bowl he had for the sugar to measure out 8 cups of flour. "Did you know that shortbread cookies are some of the easiest to make? Three ingredients and you get a delicious buttery cookie in the end. It used to be called the poor man's cookie."

 

"I don't think I've ever had a shortbread cookie that wasn't store-bought. What do I do with the butter now?" Peter walks over with his bowl full of butter, a little more melted than Stiles would have preferred, but it will do. There's an eager look on Peters face that styles recognizes from Derek, that hopeful gleam in his eye that never fails to soften Stiles' heart.

 

"Now you add into the sugar and vanilla and you cream it together." Stiles shows Peter exactly how to turn on the mixer, and how do you use a plastic spatula to make sure all the butter and sugar integrates well. Peter asks every few seconds if this is what creamed butter and sugar looks like, right up until it's perfect consistency and they can finally add the flour. "You want to add it a little bit at a time so that the mixer doesn't overexert itself and die."

 

"This mixer may or may not be new for that exact reason," Peter admits quietly, looking up at the exact moment Chris walks into the kitchen. There's no judgment on his face when  Stiles risks a glance, just a purely content smile when he asks if he can make a fresh pot of coffee. He takes over pouring the flour for a little bit while Peter quickly makes the coffee, but he hurries back to Stiles with an apologetic look in Chris's direction. 

 

"Don't look so worried, love. I'm not going to disappear just because Stiles is teaching you to make cookies." Chris looks fondly amused while he pours himself a cup of coffee, and he's not even looking in Peter's direction anymore, which means he misses the enraptured look Peter sends his way, spilling a little bit of flour all over the counter and making a general mess of himself.

 

The cashmere sweater is probably a loss, Stiles figures, especially with the way Peter pats at the splotch of flour, and ends up spreading some raw sticky dough all over the front of his shirt. Chris snorts into his cup of coffee, nearly spilling it all down the front of his own shirt, but comes over and wets a paper towel and starts dabbing at the front of Peter's shirt anyways. 

 

It's oddly reminiscent of how his mom and dad used to be, and it's this exact moment that Stiles realizes that he will support this relationship with Peter and Chris, no matter how the pack will react. They're not hurting anybody, unless Peter's sweater counts, and Stiles doesn't really think it does.

 

"Thank you, darling." Peter mumbles, leaning forward to rest his forehead gently against Chris's, taking the paper towel out of Chris's hand and tossing it onto the counter next to Stiles. They stand like that for a moment until Chris gently reminds Peter about the cookies, and he pulls away again, but not without pressing his lips to Chris's forehead. "What more is there left to do?"

 

"Bake them." Stiles hurriedly clears his throat, stopping the mixer, scraping as much of the dough off the blade as he can, gesturing to it. He pinches off about a tablespoon of dough, rolls it in the palm of his hand, and placing it on a cookie sheet that Peter had washed earlier, before flattening it down with the tongs of a fork. it gives the cookies a little Criss-Cross pattern that's usually reserved for homemade peanut butter cookies, but Stiles figures it'll work well enough for the shortbread. "Do what I did, until you have 12 cookies on the tray, and then they get baked for about 12 minutes until they're golden brown. We can put three trays in the oven at once, so we'll be done in no time. In the meantime, cleanup is necessary."

 

While Peter works on rolling out the rest of the three dozen cookies, Stiles makes quick work of cleaning up the spilled flour off of the counter, and the little bit that got onto the kitchen tiles. After that, he washes out the inside of microwave where butter splattered all over the place because Peter didn't cover the bowl he used when melting the butter. by the time he's cleaning, Peter has all three cookie sheets ready to be put in the oven, so Stiles sets the timer for 12 minutes and usher's the two lovebirds out of the kitchen.

 

Once they're gone, he sits at the table and puts his head in his hands, groaning softly under his breath. He can't believe that he thinks Chris and Peter's relationship is adorable, or the fact that he knows what he's just decided to do is going to make Derek very very angry with him. This has the potential of being something really great, and it could bring with it a new treaty between the Argent's and Hales, and ultimately make the town a better place for it.

 

When the timer finally goes off, Stiles has completely made up his mind, and goes about showing Peter how to temper chocolate on the stove top so that it's nice and shiny when it sets on the cookies. The next hour and a half passes with awkward stilted laughter at first, but that fades so quickly into honest-to-god cackling between Stiles and Chris, each one of them telling their most absurd story from the field, with Peter quietly grinning as each cookie he takes from the oven comes out perfectly.

 

It's Chris that kisses the chocolate off of Peters lips, with a smile so wide that it completely transfigures his face, making his eyes glisten with such fondness that Stiles feels like he's intruding in what is essentially his own house. It's Peter, however, that backs Chris up into the cabinet and presses chocolate covered fingers against his jaw and immediately sets about licking it off, and that is exactly where Stiles' limit is.

 

He whistles shrilly, catching both Peter and Chris off guard, and gets the pleasure of watching shock and just the tiniest bit of shame creep across their faces. It's hard to do, but he somehow keeps his face from twitching into a smile when he points his fingers at them and tells them sternly: " No foreplay in the kitchen."

 

Chris's lips twitch into a ghost of a smile, but it's Peter who full-on stomps his foot, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting at Stiles like a scolded child. "But Stiles, Erica and Boyd do it all the time!"

 

"Erica and Boyd are not men in their late thirties who should really know better than to give into exhibitionism in front of a 20 year old." Stiles smirks when Peter's pout deepens, sharing a roll of his eyes with Chris, who looks like he's struggling not to laugh. "But let me tell you that I will be having words with them about canoodling in my goddamn kitchen."

 

"You know who says canoodling, Stiles?" Peter begins, draping in arms loosely around Chris's waste, tugging him as close as he possibly can. There's a grin threatening to overtake Peters face, though he struggles to keep himself looking indifferent. "Geriatrics, that's who." 

 

The dam breaks almost immediately, and all three of them break into laughed when the timer for the last batch of cookies goes off and Peter hurries to get them out. They're in the middle of separating the chocolate dipped from the regular shortbread when the front door slams open. Chris's hand reaches for a knife or a gun that's no longer there, which Stiles knows must have been hard for him to do. The three of them are dotted with specks of flour, chocolate, and bits of dried shortbread dough when Derek stalks his way into the kitchen looking thankfully human but still intimidatingly pissed.

 

Derek barely pays any mind to Stiles or Peter; he just has zeros in on Chris, pulls his lip back in a snarl with thankfully human teeth, and straightens up to his full height. "What's he doing here?"

 

Stiles can feel Peter's frustration bleeding into the bond as much as he feels his own irritation growing with the way Derek just looks increasingly disgusted the longer he stares at Chris. Even Chris is doing his best to look at least a little bit civil, his arms are uncrossed, he's standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter, and they're holding hands. He decides to make a decision right Here and now, no matter what the outcome may be.

 

"Well, Chris helped me and Peter make shortbread cookies, and helped clean up afterwards. It was actually a pretty good time, to be honest." Watching the way Derek's nostrils flare before he finally manages to pull his eyes off of Chris, Stiles refuses to cower under the intense look of disappointment Derek sends his way. Instead, he simply smiles, pushing as much calm down the pack bond as he can, hoping that Derek will trust him. Then Stiles turns to look at Chris, and smiles a little more genuinely than he had at Derek. "Would you like to stay for dinner?"

 

"Would you like to stay forever?" Peter mumbles under his breath, though the snarl from Derek assures Stiles that he heard it. Now it's Stiles that's getting the brunt of Derek's disappointment and anger, and he does little to nothing to even remotely start to block the feeling as it travels down the bond.

 

"Let's start with dinner at least." He tries to joke to lighten the mood, looking between Peter, Derek, and Chris before shrugging his shoulders, and leaning back against the countertop, trying to look as nonchalant as he can. "What do you say, Chris?"

 

The kitchen goes eerily silent, and Derek turns to look at Chris like he's just begging him to dare stay for dinner even though Stiles asked him to. After a few minutes of waiting, Chris clears his throat, looks between Derek and Stiles, and nods his head. "I'd love to, thank you for asking."

 

Derek looks like he's about to explode, his face turns about as red as his eyes do, and for a minute, he starts sprouting hair all over his face. Stiles waits, ready to protect Chris if he needs to, so he hopes he doesn't have to, and that is proven correct when Derek manages to calm himself down.

 

"Fine." Derek rolls his shoulders, cracking his neck as he turns towards the kitchen door, looking over his shoulder as he goes. His eyes catch Stiles' eyes and he grins, though it's more of a threat than a smile. "On Stiles' head be it."

 

"Well that could have gone worse," Stiles turns to see both Chris and Peter staring at him incredulously, but all he does is shrug his shoulders and think of what he could make for dinner tonight. "What? It could have."

 

Chris shakes his head, and Peter starts whispering to him frantically, while Stiles heads over to the refrigerator, opens the door, and immediately leans down to bang his head against the shelf and curse himself for being so impulsive.

Chapter Text

Dinner is an awkward affair, to say the least. The pack is running off of Derek and how he feels throughout it, so everybody is more or less quietly irritable, besides Peter, Stiles, and Chris. Every so often, Derek will send Stiles a disappointed glare, and Stiles will simply smile back at him, which further irritates the Alpha.

When Chris asks Derek if he will pass the potatoes and Derek determinately scoops the last of the potato onto Stiles plate instead, it's the last straw.

 

Stiles slams his hands down against the table in his frustration, standing up and bearing his teeth down at Derek, who mimics Stiles' posturing immediately. It's a challenge, and Derek knows it, just like Stiles knows that Derek is aware of how much of a jackass he's being.

 

"You're being an asshole," Stiles snarls, feeling his magic surging up under his skin. It doesn't matter that Derek snarls back much more fiercely than Stiles had, and it doesn't matter when the Alpha takes a step closer and hovers over him intimidatingly.

 

" You're the one who invited a Hunter into my home to stay for dinner, the same Hunter whose sister and father killed my entire family, or did you forget?" Derek's voice is heavy with sarcasm, and his eyes bleed Alpha red, but Stiles doesn't back down. He knows he's right in this, and he knows that Derek is being an asshole just because he's intimidated by Chris being here.

 

"He's dating your uncle, he showed up here weaponless into a house full of werewolves that he knew could tear him to shreds if they wanted to, and instead of even trying to be civil, all you're doing is antagonizing him! He hasn't even fought back!" His voice starts to rise, and Stiles really tries not to let this get to him, but if Peter, the one who was actually burned nearly to death by the Argents, can get over and fall for a hunter whose family is responsible for his entire world falling apart, then why can't Derek?

 

The pack is quiet, staring up at Derek with their eyes all wide, and just a bit fearful. This is the Derek that bit Erica, Isaac, and Boyd for the jolt of power it would give him to defeat his uncle, this is the Derek that prided himself in having an anchor that was anger. This person in front of them right now isn't their Alpha, and hasn't been for almost four years.

 

"Why are we even fighting about this?" Stiles lowers his voice, taking a step closer to Derek, reaching out and resting his hands on Derek's chest. His own anger is slowly fading into something simply frustrated and confused. "Talk to me, what's going on in that big wolfy head of yours?"

 

Slowly, so painstakingly slowly, the wolf fades from Derek's features, until only Derek Hale is left behind. He lowers his head, takes a few deep breaths, and lifts his hands to rest them on Stiles' shoulders, anchoring himself.

 

"I want to hurt him. I want to hurt him so badly that he'll never come back from it, just like his family hurt mine." When Derek speaks, it's barely a whisper, but Stiles and the wolves hear him just fine. It just about breaks Stiles' heart, and he knows that Derek is hurting, but he needs to say that his animosity is hurting Peter as well.

 

"Do you remember what it felt like when you thought you were the last surviving Hale? That awful moment when you knew that you were alone in the world?" Derek shudders under Stiles' fingertips, leaning down until his face is buried in the safety of Stiles' neck. Gently, Stiles pushes Derek back until they're both walking from the kitchen, Derek with his face still buried in Stiles shoulder. He waves off the concern from the pack and brings Derek into the living room, settling them both down on the couch and petting Derek's hair. "You and Chris have a lot in common, it's just that your family didn't choose to leave, and his did. Victoria and Allison were his entire world, and they chose to leave him in the end, can you imagine how that must feel? To know that the people you love and cherish the most just don't feel the same way about you anymore? Or at least not enough to stay."

 

Derek shakes his head he keeps his face in the crook of Stiles' neck, taking deep gulping breaths until the shaking stops.

 

"I think they are helping each other heal. I wouldn't have let him stay here if I thought that he would hurt anyone here, you know that, don't you? Besides, I'm not sure my magic would have allowed him inside the house if he had any ill will towards us." Stiles cups the back of Derek's neck, squeezing until Derek sags against him. They stay like that for a while; until Derek can take a breath without shaking, and until the food stops sitting in Stiles' stomach like a brick.

 

Eventually, Derek finally pulls back and looks a little bit like a chastised puppy, running his hands through his hair, the both of them pretending that the rims of his eyes aren't puffy and red. "I guess I've been kind of a jerk, haven't I?"

 

"Yeah." 

 

"I guess I should go and apologize, shouldn't I?" Derek groans, leaning back against the couch, the two of them listening to the quiet murmuring of the pack.

 

"It would probably help." 

 

They stay seated for another few minutes, until Derek slaps his hands against his thighs apparently making a decision, and pushes himself up, making his way to the kitchen faster than Stiles can even think of managing, though he does scurry after Derek as fast as he can go. In the time it takes him to get from the couch to the kitchen, Derek is already standing over Chris at the table.

 

Neither of them are doing anything, neither of them is glaring at each other, they're both just staring at each other like the other might hold the secrets to the universe, and staring is the only way to know. Peter is wriggling in his seat uncomfortably beside Chris, looking between Derek and Chris, and then back at Stiles, who simply shrugs. He has no idea what's going on here, or what decision Derek might have made.

 

"It's come to my attention that I've been a little bit of an asshole tonight." Derek begins slowly, moving to the front of the table, grabbing Stiles' plate, and scooping the spoonful of untouched mashed potatoes onto Chris's plate. "I'm sorry."

 

" Are you sorry, or are you just sorry that Stiles yelled at you about it?" Chris doesn't look like someone that Stiles would say have a death wish previously, but the sudden smile that spreads across his lips makes him think otherwise. The odd thing is though, that Derek doesn't snarl or threaten to kick him out, what he does do is smile right back.

 

"Both, really. Being yelled at by Stiles is a little bit like being yelled at by a kitten. It's more annoying than anything." Chris snorts, relaxing back into his chair and scooping up a mouthful of potatoes. Derek doesn't stay there, but he does turn his back on the hunter and head over to his chair, digging back into his own food with new relish.

 

"What just happened?" Stiles asks himself out loud, sitting heavily into his chair and sharing a bewildered look with Peter. "Someone? Anyone? Hello?"

 

He's not sad or frustrated to be ignored, not when it makes the rest of the table break into unfiltered laughter, and the air around them ease with relief. Dinner is over pretty soon after that, with Chris complimenting Stiles and Cora, who had helped him cook that night. 

 

It helps to alleviate all of the tension that had been hanging over their heads all night, and Stiles is thankful for it. He's also very proud of Derek for stepping out of his comfort zone, even if it was nearly too little too late. Stiles doesn't expect a miracle, he doesn't expect Chris and Derek to become best friends or anything, but hopefully they'll be able to look at each other without seeing the faults of the past eventually. It's a long shot, but Stiles has faith in Derek.

 

"Derek, do you mind if I talk to Lydia for a moment?" Chris asks when dinner has been packed up, the dishes have been washed, and the cookies have been all but nearly inhaled. The easy conversation that had been filtering through the kitchen comes to a standstill again, and the pack as a unit turns to Derek.

 

For a moment, it looks like Derek might tell Chris to just get out of the house, especially with the way his jaw ticks, but then he takes a deep breath, gently sets down the plate he was washing, and dries off his hands. "You'll have to ask Lydia if she wants to talk to you . I don't control my pack that way."

 

Chris and Derek turn to look at Lydia, who oddly enough, looks to Peter instead. When he nods his head, Lydia tosses her drying towel off to the side, and smiles a very polite, and very fake smile at Chris. "Of course Mr. Argent, whatever you need. As long as Stiles or Derek can come with us, then I have no problem talking to you at all."

 

It's Chris that looks to Stiles this time, and raises his brow in a silent question, because Stiles already knows what this conversation is going to be about, so how could he say no? He'd been sitting at the table with Jackson, playing with the beta's hair, but now he pushes himself back from the table and offers his arm to Lydia, who takes it gratefully.

 

"There will be no listening in, no using your werewolf abilities to try and figure out what it is that Chris and Lydia are going to be talking about." Stiles leaves no room for consideration, snagging Lydia's coat off the coat rack in the corner, and gesturing for Chris to follow after them. Once the hunter has passed the threshold, Stiles turns back and addresses the pack as a whole. "That means you, Derek. Please, give me the benefit of the doubt and trust me." 

 

Derek has every right to say no, to tell Stiles to fuck off and make them talk in the kitchen together, and Stiles knows that for a second, Derek actually considers it. Eventually though, Derek dips his head in a barely-there nod, and Stiles tugs Lydia with him out of the house and onto the porch where Chris is waiting.

 

"Are they actually going to listen to you?" Chris sounds genuinely curious, and not in a rude way or anything, just put unabashed curiosity. 

 

"Who knows, it really depends on how they feel, or how much of a threat they think you are." Stiles pulls Lydia close, drapes an arm over her shoulder, and leans back against the banister along the porch. For a moment, neither of them really talk, but eventually, Lydia clears her throat and holds herself up to her full height to look Chris Argent in the eye as much as she can.

 

"I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt because Stiles doesn't seem afraid of you, and you are Allison's father." Lydia's voice still waivers over Allison's name, and Stiles knows that she is still upset by her departure, but at the same time, he knows that something more happened to make them not as close by the end.

 

"It's actually what I want to talk to you about." Chris admits it softly, like it's a secret that he's ashamed of, and the way he's looking at Lydia, maybe he does. "I know that you and Allie were close, but you didn't give Scott her cell phone number, did you? Have you talked to her at all since she's been gone?"

 

"No on both accounts." Lydia shakes her hair, which is Stiles' cue to pull her closer. She takes a deep breath and finally looks away from Chris, shrugging her shoulders in a very unLydia like way. "I'm going to be honest with you here, I haven't talked to Allison much at all this year, and even less after the pack all came together, and she told me that they only wanted to use me for my abilities. She wanted me to go to Eichen house, to get medication for the banshee side of me. If she was really my friend, she wouldn't want me to do that at all, and she would understand that the pack is my family." 

 

Chris looks horrified, but he doesn't respond, which is what probably gives Lydia the strength to keep talking. Off to the side, Stiles is momentarily distracted by the way the curtains in the window seem to flicker, and isn't even surprised that they're being spied on and that nobody listened to a word he said.

 

"Look, Allison was my best friend, and I'll always love her for that." Lydia blinks back slightly watery eyes, but her voice stays strong and never wobbles. "But the pack is my family, and she wanted me to leave it, and people who love you don't try to force you into decisions like that. She was my best friend, but Erica and Cora are my sisters now, and nobody can take that away from me."

 

Not even a second after the last word is spoken, the front door bangs open with Erica and Cora fleeing out of it, launching themselves at Lydia, cooing and petting her hair before nearly dragging her into the house all over again. The door slams behind them, leaving both Chris and Stiles kind of staring at the door wondering what happened.

 

"I think it's safe to say that no, Lydia would never give Scott Allison's number, no matter how far they've had a falling out." Stiles snorts, turning to look at the front yard, bracing himself against the bannister. He sees more than feels Chris stand next to him, and the sigh he lets out is nothing short of world-weary.

 

"I was really hoping that I would be able to have somebody to blame. Victoria and Allison aren't here anymore, which means that I can't protect them because they don't want me with them. If they would just come home, then I could keep Allison safe." Chris sounds about as tired as he looks when Stiles turns to stare at him, surprised by his blatant honesty. He's surprised by how much he wants to reassure this man, but doesn't stop himself from reaching out and putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

"You raised Allison to be a smart girl, and a wary one." Stiles reassures the hunter, squeezing his shoulder and meeting his eyes willingly. "She's smart, she's strong, she can take care of herself. She's not alone either, she's got her mother. Both of them were trained well, and if they come back and Scott is still a problem, the pack and I will take care of it." 

 

"You mean to tell me that you think you'd be capable of killing your best friend?"  Chris sound skeptical, and Stiles doesn't blame him one bit for feeling that way, but he doesn't get a chance to explain himself. The front door opens, Derek walks out and leans up against the banister right next to Stiles instead.

 

"The last time we saw Scott, he tried to kill Stiles, and the only thing that stopped him was Peter. I would have gotten there in time to watch him die, and I would have never forgiven myself. So believe me when I tell you this." Derek turns to Chris with his eyes glowing red, a grin on his lips, and a possessive arm draping over Stiles shoulders. "Scott McCall is a threat, and we will treat him like any other threat coming through Beacon Hills. If they cannot be reasoned with, then they're ended. Whether it's to Eichen house or being put down, we will handle it."

 

"Even if it means helping out a hunter?" The desperation is obvious in Chris's voice when he asks; Stiles is surprised when Derek leans over and extends a hand to him, and even more surprised that Chris takes it.

 

"Especially if it means helping out an ally." Derek shakes Chris's hand forcefully, determination setting into his face. "You've decided to be with Peter, and I'm going to do my best to honor that. You are not your father, or your sister… I think it's time to let go."

 

Chris's eyes soften, but he doesn't say anything, simply releases Derek's hand, and turns back to stare out off of the porch. Derek slips a hand around Stiles waist and tugs him inside the house, nudging Isaac and Jackson away from the front door on their way inside.

 

"Peter," Derek calls for him, gesturing to the front door when Peter peeks his head out from the kitchen. No words need to be said, and Peter hurries past them, gently shutting the front door behind him when he goes outside.

 

"Thanks for that, Der'." Stiles murmurs as quietly as he can, giving the hands that still on his waist a gentle squeeze before he pulls himself out of the Alpha's hold. instead of returning to the kitchen like Derek and the rest of them seem to be ready to do, Stiles makes his way to the staircase. "I'm exhausted, I need to sleep, but I am so goddamn proud of you." 

 

Stiles doesn't stick around after that; he jogs up the staircases and gently closes his door shut behind him, leaning up against it for a moment before taking his jeans off and climbing into bed. It's been a long day for all of them, and with all the emotions all over the place, Stiles could just about sleep for a week. As it is, he snuggles down into his mattress and basks in the glory of sleeping alone in such a large bed.

--

 

Halloween kind of sneaks up on him, but Stiles has spent the better part of the last two weeks stocking up his in his dad's pantry with family-size bags of Halloween candy. He and Isaac broke into a caramel lovers one the other day, which he immediately felt guilty for, but luckily, he was able to find the exact same bag in the store, and bought the last two.

 

Isaac has been spending more and more time at home; whether it's between their dad on the couch, or snuggled up in Stiles' bed, Isaac has been much more tactile and relaxed. Stiles has also been made aware that he has at least made plans to have a date with Cora, and nobody was more surprised to find out that she said yes than Derek.

 

Erica had laughed hysterically when Derek started looking around all confused after Cora announced she had a date with his beta, and informed him that he had to be one of the most dense people to not have noticed something growing between them. Even Stiles had noticed, and he is not very well known for catching those kinds of things.

 

Regardless, things are good in the pack. Stiles can't really find much of anything to complain about, not that he'd really want to. It's calmed down enough that the rest of them have decided to join up at Stiles' house together, and in beta shift. It's a risky thing to do, putting their true selves out there for the public to see, but on a night like Halloween, Stiles doesn't see how anyone would think it was a real when the entirety of the community is going to be dressing up.

 

Stiles is mostly excited to debut his own Halloween look, mostly to see what the rest of the pack will say about it, and because he himself is excited to finally put all the pieces together. It was a little bit cliche, but Stiles lives for all things cliche, which is exactly the reason why he chose what he chose. He'd even gone out and gotten a pair of leather pants, and a loose almost pirate like billowing white shirt to keep him a little bit warmer for the night. He's going to kill this look, he just knows it.

--

 

Isaac has been at his house for the last two days, and now that Halloween is finally here, they can get ready together. Not much really has to change for Isaac; he uses his claws to rip holes in an old t-shirt, and does the same to a pair of jeans, before slipping into the Beta shift and pulling on his clothes, and that's that. 

 

Halloween costume available in a flash of an eye. Quite literally, in Isaac's case.

 

The pack had decided to go all out this year, and all of them were planning on just going as themselves, to Stiles' knowledge at least. As long as they kept their eyes under control, then they should be able to get away with being actual werewolves for Halloween.

 

Lydia had shown up a few hours prior to the pack arrival and had begged Stiles to help her dye her hair, which is practically a sin, but she insisted. Now she looks more the part of a banshee than she ever has; her hair is now black, and Lydia's eyes really pop a supernatural green from it. She's darkened the area around her eyes until they practically look like black holes, and had paled her skin a bit more, using some kind of foundation that Stiles never wants to see again, or touch. It was hard enough to get it all off of his hands where he'd helped Lydia rub it into her face. She's wearing a floor-length torn and slightly bloodied black gown that somehow still looks like it has made its way off of a Gucci shelf. She looks intimidating and pretty, which is nothing new for her, but Stiles can't get over how different she looks.

 

"Get over it, honey." Lydia rolls her eyes good-naturedly, painting her lips a dark blood red so that when she smiles she looks terrifying. "It's a temporary dye, it'll wash out in the next few days."

 

"It's just weird seeing you without your natural hair color, Lyds." Stiles is trying to get his own costume sorted, pulling out the vest, the shirt, his leather pants, and the knee high lace up boots he bought last minute this morning. He pulls off his T-shirt and pulls the white undershirt on. It's loose and comfortable, and hopefully breathable so he won't sweat his ass off, or freeze in leather tonight. "I'm sure everybody else will say the same thing."

 

"Well then they can get over it too." Tossing her hair over her shoulders, Lydia moved over to Stiles and helps him pull the vest over the white shirt, fitting it and getting it laced up much faster than Derek had managed, before pulling back and giving him an appreciative once-over. "You look really good like this."

 

"It's not even finished yet. Have you figured out what I'm going to be yet?" Stiles smirks at her, pulling off his jeans and patting down his legs with baby powder like the internet told him to, before slipping his sock feet down into the pant legs and very slowly, painstakingly rolling them up until finally his boxer briefs disappear under a wall of leather. It's more of a relief than anything to zip up the pants and find that they're not nearly as tight as he was scared they would be, and that he can move in them freely. "These feel nice. I didn't expect them to feel nice."

 

"They make your ass look fantastic." When he turns around, Stiles finds Lydia's eyes focused solely on his ass, and clears his throat, his hands on his hips when she looks up unashamedly and grins wickedly in his direction. "As for what you're going as, you're surrounded by werewolves, and you've literally called Derek 'big bad' every other day. Not to mention the fact that your cape is red, so what else could you be going as except for Little Red Riding Hood, Stiles?"

 

Pouting, Stiles sits on the edge of his bed and slips his foot into the first maroon boot, lacing up the front and zipping up the side before doing the same with the other one. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a buzzkill?"

 

"Yes, you every single time I figure out a joke before you can make it." Lydia heads for his closet and pulls out the cape which has been hanging  in a suit bag for the better part of the week, and unzips it. She holds it out, nodding at the quality of it before walking over to Stiles and making him stand.

 

It never seems to matter that she's one of the shortest members of the pack; Lydia always seems to tower over the rest of them when it's necessary, and she proves that now by draping the cape along Stiles' back easily. Of course, that could be the four inch heels she's sporting. 

This time when she pulls back from him, her eyes are gleaming mischievously, and if Stiles didn't know any better, then he'd say her bloodline was Fae, and not banshee. She looks fae now, with big green eyes and bloody looks, and yet he's so very thankful that she decided to stay today, even with how intimidating she is. 

 

Stiles pulls the hood up over his head so that it rests just at the tip of his forehead, and drapes the rest of it to hide his body. He looks to Lydia before he looks to a mirror, and wonders when that became second nature for him. "How do I look?"

 

"Edible." Smirking, Lydia gathers her purse and stalks her way out of Stiles' room, her heels clicking down the stairs as she goes. She doesn't even give Stiles a chance to respond, she's just gone.

 

It takes him a moment to steel himself enough to turn and look at himself in the mirror, but when he does, Stiles thinks he understands what Lydia meant by saying that he looked edible. The leather vest is tight, giving him an hourglass figure that Stiles didn't even know he had and that hadn't shown up when he tried it on with Derek. His pants are about as tight as the vest is, but less scandalously so. It's not like he can make out his junk or anything, which he's extremely thankful for, but his thighs and his ass are framed amazingly, and the shoes just help him look taller for some reason. Oddly enough, his favorite part of the whole ensemble is his cape, which luckily does not drag along the floor.

 

After a few minutes, Stiles deems himself ready and heads downstairs to join Isaac and Lydia, both of which stop talking the moment he reaches ground level and both turned to smirk at him. He doesn't think he approves of how much Lydia has been corrupting Isaac lately, especially when he gets that mischievous look in his eye when they all hang out.

 

"When is everybody coming?" Shuffling around, Stiles makes his way into the kitchen and grabs one of the huge popcorn bowls that his father tends to favor, and dumps one of the bags of Halloween candy into it. He brings it into the living room, sets it on the end table next to the couch and swats Isaac's hand when he reaches to grab a Snickers bar. "Those are for the children don't be a brat."

 

Isaac pouts, but pulls his hands away, a happy smile crossing his face when Lydia pulls a full size Snickers out of her purse and hands it over to him. Once Isaac is happily munching, she turned his back to Stiles and shrugs. "Erica said they'll be here within 20 minutes, but Jackson said he wasn't going to be here for another 30 maybe 40."

 

"Did he decide against being a werewolf after all?" Stiles flops over into his father's favorite chair, kicking his feet aimlessly to fight off the boredom. "I wonder if he thought that coming as a dragon would be too similar to the kanima or not."

 

"I fink dat was de point," Isaac admits behind a garbled mouthful of Snickers, nearly choking when he tries to swallow too hastily.

 

"Don't talk with your mouth full, puppy." Stiles mumbles distractedly, pulling his phone out from the front pocket of his leather pants, and deciding to leave it out. It was such a hassle getting it in there in the first place that it's not even worth putting it back in. There are a couple of texts from Erica complaining about how everyone's going to look the same, and how Boyd didn't want to dress up, but according to her they'll be there in about 2 minutes. "Pack incoming."

 

Before they can do little more than sit up, the front door opens and Erica bursts in, her hair curled and wild, to the point where Stiles thinks he sees actual leaves stuck in her hair. She grins viciously when she catches sight of Isaac, and it's then that Stiles notices the massive gouge across her chest, and is up and moving before he knows what he's doing.

 

"Jesus Christ Erica, what the fuck did you do ?" There's been no panic down the bond, and no pain, but the gouge looks so deep that her ribs are nearly showing, and he can see the muscle across her sternum, why didn't anyone call him?

 

Behind Erica, Cora start snickering, and it's then that Stiles notices that she has the same three lines down her face as Erica does across her chest, leaving her face marred and bloodied. "Relax, Stiles. It's not real, I just did our makeup this way."

 

"Wow, really? That's so cool!" Isaac pops up, immediately making his way over to Cora and leading her back to the living room. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

 

Stiles tries to calm himself down while Isaac and Cora chat in the background, but Erica gives him a fond smile, and somehow he manages to be more prepared when Boyd clambera into the room with puncture holes in his stomach. Boyd just shakes his head at Stiles' probably pale face and heads off into the kitchen where Stiles has set aside snacks for the night.

 

He can hear Isaac and Cora talking to each other, and eventually Erica moves away from him to join in the conversation, but Stiles just can't seem to make himself move. It's only when Chris and Peter come in that Stiles gets jolted out of that panicked moment, and ends up having to fight to stop himself from laughing.

 

In a turn of events, Chris is dressed as an old school wolfman, completely covered in fur that sprouted in unnecessary places, looking nothing like the rest of the room full of werewolves which Stiles would bet is the point. Peter is dressed as Van helsing of all things, toting around a crossbow that Stiles thinks used to be Allison's, especially with the way Erica and Boyd flinch away from it when they catch sight of it.

 

"Well don't you look handsome," Stiles drawls at Chris, reaching out and tugging a strand of fur on his face that must be stuck there with body glue, because it doesn't move an inch. "I feel really bad for you later on when you have to pull all that stuff off."

 

"At least it's not real glue, like Peter tried to put on my face." Chris's voice has a trace of humor in it, and his eyes are warm when he turns to look at Peter, who dips his head under his hat and grins mischievously. "I think it's just his way of asking me to shave, but it's not going to happen."

 

"But your bare face is handsome," Peter sighs morosely, lifting his head and sniffing the air when he catches sight of Boyd's plate of food that he's now currently sharing with Erica. He gets this excited look in his eyes, and makes his way to the kitchen, completely forgetting that he was in the middle of a conversation.

 

"Can you just make sure he doesn't eat everything? We're still waiting on Derek and Jackson." He's begging and he knows it, but Stiles knows just how much food Peter can put away on his own, and between him and Isaac, there will be no food left for the rest of them unless Stiles and Chris can put an end to it.

 

Chris just nods and walks away, and that's exactly why Stiles appreciates him. He's stoic and quiet, but has such a tight leash on Peter that Stiles doesn't have to worry about the older man going off on his own and causing havoc or pulling pranks anymore. 

 

He's just closed the front door when it opens again, and Jackson walks through painted up in reptilian scales, looking eerily similar to how he had as the kanima.

 

"Is it too much?" Jackson is scanning Stiles' reaction, and he can't exactly help the way his body freezes in his heart starts to pick up. The last time he saw Jackson looking like this, Stiles had just hit him with his Jeep and Lydia had just proclaimed her undying love for him, hours after everything with Gerard happened. He's not exactly afraid of Jackson, but the memory of the kanima's tail sinking into the back of his neck makes him uncomfortable. But instead of getting upset like Stiles thought he might, Jackson smiles, reaches out and puts a hand on Stiles' shoulder and squeezes as gently as he can. "I'll go wash it off and ask if Cora can do my makeup like she did Erica's, it looks really cool."

 

Without even giving Stiles a chance to respond, Jackson calls a hello and runs up the stairs with Lydia, Cora and Isaac following after him, talking about a different style of makeup that Cora could use on Jackson. He feels bad, but mostly Stiles feels relieved that he won't have to look a fear he didn't even know he had in the eye all night. He goes to shut the door again, but it bumps into something hard, and a snout pushes through the opening in the door forcefully, until Stiles fully opens the door back up and Derek walks in in wolf form.

 

"Oh my God, you literally dressed up as the Big Bad Wolf?" Unable to stop himself from snickering, Stiles closes the door behind Derek's tail, and gestures for him to follow, ignoring the snap of jaws that comes close to his shin. "If you bite me, I'm going to slap you in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, don't you doubt me. Alpha or not, we don't bite people I this house unless they ask for it."

 

Derek huffs noisily, shifting seamlessly into his human form and ducking into the nearby bathroom, thanking Boyd when he throws a small bag at him. It takes Stiles a second to realize that he's just seen Derek fully naked and didn't even look at more than his face, but then he's proud of himself for not being a creeper. The wolves, even the bitten ones, have little to no Care on whether or not they're nude, so it's not like this is anything new. It does make Stiles feel better when Derek comes out of the bathroom fully clothed, though.

 

"Do you really want to talk cliches to me, little red?" Derek steps closely to Stiles, reaching out in tweaking the cape on his shoulders with a roll of his eyes. He looks Stiles up and down, taking in the entire outfit, and by the time he looks back at Stiles' face, his cheeks are flushed red. "You really went all out with the leather, didn't you?"

 

"Does it-" Stiles cuts himself off and swallows hard when Derek trails of finger down the opening of his shirt, taking a moment to just feel before speaking again. "Does it look okay?"

 

Stiles wishes that he could just feel good about this without wanting Derek's approval, and he knows he looks good, but he really just wants to hear Derek say that he looks nice, and immediately feels guilty for it.

 

"You look amazing." Derek takes another step closer until their chests are almost pressed together, reaching a hand out and tracing it over Stiles' mark which is on blatant display. 

 

"Lydia says I look edible," He isn't sure why he says it, but he does, and now it's just hanging there in the air and he can't take it back. Derek pulls away enough to meet Stiles' eyes, and a slow grin spreads across his lips.

 

"She's right." Derek gets called away almost immediately after he says it, and heads for the kitchen instead, leaving an awed and slightly confused Stiles behind, wondering what exactly just happened.

--

 

Not even an hour later, the kids start making their way out of the houses and pouring down the sidewalks, laughing and shrieking and having an ultimately good time. The pack make their way out onto the step, three bowls of candy prepared and ready, and they all lounge about and await the children to come.

 

The first couple of kids to approach seemed a little bit wary, but when Lydia kneels down widens her eyes, and asks the little girl if she's a real princess, the girl and her brother come up to the rest of them and talk about their costumes.

 

The little boy Robbie is dressed as Iron Man, and the thrusters on his hands and feet actually light up, to Stiles' great amusement. Julie is dressed as a princess, but she's got a sword strapped to her side because as she says "princesses can be knights too if they want," and the pack gives them both two handfuls of candy in their bags and sends them on their way shortly after. 

 

This is exactly why Stiles wasn't the only one to buy candy. There are backups upon backups on the kitchen table, and word spreads early on that they are very courteous this year at the sheriff's house, and hordes of children come their way.

 

There are princesses, knights, dwarves, dragons so real that Stiles wonders for a moment if they might actually be Supernatural, but it's proven false when they take off their masks and grin. Witches, demons, elves, Disney princesses, and two very realistic transformer cars come up and proudly proclaim " trick or treat" as the night wears on, and each child leaves with their bags that much heavier.

 

It's not just children that they end up handing candy out to either. There are groups of teenagers out for the first year that Stiles has seen in a long time, and from what he can tell, they haven't had much luck in being allowed to partake in trick or treating, going by the disappointment on their faces.

 

Their costumes aren't bad either; the four of them that walk past are dressed as the main characters of Harry Potter, with the girl in the lead, her head held high, and a determined look on her face with her curls springing away with every step she takes, until she's passed the pack and heading to a different part of the neighborhood. If anyone could pull off Hermione Granger, it would be this girl, and her compatriots aren't too bad either.

 

"Hermione!" Stiles shouts before anyone can tell him not to, waving his hands madly and jogging down the steps until he's walking along the sidewalk to catch up to the girl. The pack hisses his name and calls him back, but Stiles ignores them. "Why didn't you stop at our house?"

 

She turns and gives Stiles a look eerily reminiscent of Lydia, arching her brow and taking a step forward while the three friends of hers mutter to themselves and watch Stiles warily. "I didn't think that the sheriff's kid would allow kids too old for trick-or-treating to come get candy." 

 

"Fuck that," Crossing his arms over his chest, Stiles gestures with his head back towards the house. "You guys did a really good job, you deserve whatever candy we give you."

 

The other three perk up a bit, the redhead grins sheepishly, the blond draping his arm over his black haired companion, grinning smugly. 

 

"Can you guys do the thing?" Stiles asks excitedly, gesturing between the two dressed as Malfoy and Harry.

 

Snorting softly, the boy dressed as Malfoy pulls himself away from the boy dressed as Harry, pushes his hair back out of his face, crosses his arms over his chest and gives the boy his best glare before spitting out: " Potter ," in a surprisingly accurate British accent.

 

Harry fixes his glasses, which have lenses in them, looks completely unbothered with a hint of a smirk at the corner of his lips and dips his head. "Malfoy."

 

For a minute they hold that pose, just staring at each other, until the boy dressed as Draco breaks his cover with a happy smile, walking over and pressing a kiss right onto Harry's lips.

 

"Problem?" Hermione asks Stiles, leaning into the boy dressed as Ron when he drapes an arm around her shoulders, grinning at the rest of them. He admits that he was staring a little bit too much, but he couldn't help it. He always thought Malfoy should have gotten the redemption, and now here it is as Harry's boyfriend, and he is here for it

 

"Candy?" Stiles asks, mimicking her pose and grinning when all she does is reluctantly smile back at him, before gesturing forward to her Entourage. All five of them make their way back to Stiles' house, where Cora practically tries to dump an entire bowl full of candy into their waiting bags.

 

The four of them Mumble their thanks, shuffling their feet a little embarrassed before walking off in the other direction. The pack reassures them to send more people their age to the house, and they insist to them that they will. Before long, the four of them walk out of sight, their Hogwarts capes billowing in the wind behind them and leaving Stiles feeling extremely satisfied.

 

For a while things start to mellow out, and the sun sets, leaving the pack bathed in only the light coming off of the porch. The Betas are lounging around in the grass, and even Lydia is at least sitting on a blanket, but Stiles is still surprised when Derek eventually shifts into his wolf form, and stays right by Stiles side as the night goes on.

 

Eventually, he gives into a selfish urge, and drapes part of his cape around Derek, so they're both covered in the warmth from the cloak. It really completes the look as well, having a wolf by his side, and Stiles gets more than a few appreciative grins from the small amount of people passing by.

 

There's been talk about giving up and packing it in, going inside and continuing a Halloween horror movie marathon when two straggling kids no older than 13 run almost the whole way up the sidewalk just to get to the pack. It's obvious what they're dressed as, even though their outfits are much more close to Chris's than they are to anyone else in the pack, but Stiles lips twitch up in a grin anyways.

 

"Well, well, well," Erica drawls out, her voice soft and amused when she looks between the two kids whose can't seem to stop grinning at the rest of them. "What do we have here?" 

 

"Looks like we've got a couple of puppies looking for some treats," Isaac adds giddily, taking a step forward and gently reaching out to touch the fur lining the boys faces. 

 

"We're werewolves, just like you!" The little one covered in Gray fur cries out, his big brown eyes creasing like he's smiling, though it's hard to tell under all that fur.

 

"Your costumes are cooler than ours though," The shorter one complains, looking at everyone in beta shift and frowning a little. It's such a deep frown that it can be seen even through all that fur, and Stiles has to bite back a coo. "How did you get your makeup to look like that?"

 

"Years of practice," Cora calls out from her spot in the grass, grinning wide enough so that the boys can see her canines and start whispering to each other excitedly. "You'll get there if you keep trying."

 

"I don't have the patience for that, this was all Mason." The shorter one admits, gesturing to his friend, who starts slapping at him and whining in embarrassment.

 

"Shut up, Liam!" Mason hisses, kicking out and hitting Liam right in the shin. The ruckus makes Derek snort from his spot under Stiles' cape, and then the boys fix their eyes on him.

 

"Woooaaaaah," Liam breathes out, blue eyes wide in disbelief. He takes a step closer, only halted by Mason grabbing the back of his shirt and shaking his head. "Can I pet your dog?" 

 

"That's up to him." Turning to Derek and winking at him when the wolf glares up at him, Stiles leans back against the step he's been sat on and tries not to laugh. "Derek, can these boys pet you?"

 

"Derek?" Liam whispers to Mason, sounding confused as all hell. "Who names a dog that looks like that, Derek?"

 

" They do I guess." Mason whispers back, jostling Liam when Derek pulls away from Stiles and walks over. "Look, Liam!"

 

Liam turns and his lips twitch into a wary grin, but he gets down to his knees and reaches a hand out for Derek to smell, which he pretends to do before bumping his nose against Liam's hand. It's like Christmas came early because Liam wastes no time in nearly smothering Derek in a fierce hug.

 

"I've always wanted a dog." He murmurs into Derek's fur, and Stiles can feel a whole bunch of confliction coming from Derek while Liam clings to him, but eventually the kid pulls away, wipes at his face which is suspiciously wet, and Mason puts a hand on his shoulder, and holds out the bags.

 

"Trick or treat," Mason eventually says, though it sounds more exhausted than it does happy, so Stiles picks up the rest of Cora's bowl and pours it in between the two bags that Mason holds out. Liam has patches of fur missing now on his face from the tears, but he doesn't seem to mind when he takes his candy bag from his friend, offering the rest of them a shaky grin.

 

"Good job with the costumes again, thank you for letting me pet your dog." Liam smiles, reaching into his bag for a lollipop, popping it into his mouth, walking away with a wave of his hand. Mason apologizes a couple of times before running after Liam, the two of them laughing as they race each other down the sidewalk.

 

"That was a good thing you did I think, Derek." Stiles murmurs to the werewolf, walking back to the house, Derek at his heels. They wait outside for another hour, but when no kids come, Erica gleefully screams that the rest of the candy is theirs, and  the pack runs inside.

 

Stiles lingers on the lawn for a while, sitting on the blanket that Lydia gave up, staring at the clear night sky. Derek slopes over, flopping himself down along Stiles' legs with a low groan. He can't help the soft chuckle that leaves his lips, especially when Derek starts nibbling at Stiles' fingers.

 

"Not too bad for our first Halloween together, was it big guy?" He mumbles tiredly, blinking slowly up at the sky. Derek chuffs, wriggling closer so that his head is resting mostly on Stiles' chest instead of down at his hips, his cold nose pressing against Stiles' cheek every so often. "That tickles, you know." 

 

The noise that Derek makes then could be attributed to a laugh. His mouth parts, his tongue slips out, and Stiles tries to move away a little too late, and gets a wet wolf tongue dragged along his cheek for all his troubles. He can't help but splutter, pushing Derek's face away from him as much as he can, which isn't far when the big jerk stands over Stiles and licks him all over again.

 

"Derek!" Stiles complains, though try as he might, he keeps laughing the entire time. Like this, Derek isn't even that heavy, but he somehow knows exactly how to push on Stiles to immobilize him. "Knock it off!"

 

A wolf whistle coming from the front door catches both of their attention, and when Derek stops licking him, Stiles looks over at the door and finds Peter there, grinning like he just made a connection.

 

"Well," Peter begins, his eyes flashing blue when Derek growls warningly at him. "The last time I licked Chris like that, he pinned me against the wall of his bedroom the moment I shifted back."

 

It seems to be the breaking point for Derek, who launches off of Stiles and over to the door with a snarl so loud that the rest of the pack comes out to see what's going on. Derek keeps grumbling and snarling, nipping at the area around Peter's legs when his uncle just stands there and grins, and Stiles has officially had enough.

 

"Peter, don't antagonize Derek like that, he might be your nephew, but he's still your Alpha." Pulling himself off the ground slowly, Stiles throws his hood back and narrows his eyes Peter's way, crossing his arms over his chest. He can't exactly stop the little flare of disappointment at Derek's reaction, and that's what makes him say what he does next. "Derek doesn't think of me that way, anyways."

 

The entire pack quiets, including Derek, and they all turned to stare at Stiles with varying range of disbelief. Derek is the first to break rank, but he also turns tail and runs right into the backyard, disappearing into the trees. Against all odds, Peter is the one to run off after him, shifting faster than Stiles has seen him do since that first night, chuffing at Chris, who nods at him.

 

"You know," Jackson begins, crossing his arms over his chest and shaking his head at Stiles, who is getting increasingly confused as the moment wears on. "You might be the second smartest person I know, but I think you're also the most stupid."

 

"What does that mean?" The defensiveness creeps in his voice and Stiles can't help but feel like he's missing something important. The rest of them look disappointed, but not exactly surprised.

 

"What that means is that you're an idiot sometimes, no matter how smart you actually are." Boyd says bluntly, and that is the end of the conversation. The pack files back into Stiles' living room, and eventually Stiles follows after them, no less confused than he was moments ago. They gather and watch movies until the sun starts coming up, and then and only then do they go to sleep wherever they're sitting.

 

Derek never comes back that night, but right before the sun rises over Beacon Hills, Stiles swears he hears the mournful howl of a wolf.

Chapter Text

The thing is, Stiles knows that some feelings were hurt around Halloween, even though he's not sure how he managed to hurt anyone, but the fact of the matter is that he did . He can see it in the way that Derek starts avoiding him for a little while, in the way Isaac gives him an attitude for the first time since he stopped being close with Scott, and in the way Lydia gives him a look that makes him feel all of 2 inches tall while making him reminisce on how she looked at him in high school. The discord travels through the bond, stifling Stiles in agitation and frustration, and if he looks hard enough, just the tiniest bit of pity coming from Peter and Cora of all people.

 

Luckily, it doesn't last very long, and eventually the pack does seem to ease back from the face of agitation they've been giving him the last few days in lieu of Derek's quickly approaching birthday. Even Derek himself seems to be mostly back to normal, though it doesn't seem like he can really look Stiles in the eye for more than a minute at a time. 

 

He's tried to bring it up to his dad, but it always seems to go something like this:

 

" I just don't understand what I did," Stiles complains for at least 18th time that day, laying across the couch all stretched out. He hears his dad sigh from his place in the ottoman, the rustling of the newspaper making him open his eyes and look over at his dad, who's staring right back at him.

 

"Stiles," It sounds both fond and exasperated, the way his dad says his name, but the look he levels his son is very serious. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe you hurt Derek's feelings?"

 

"But how?" Groaning, Stiles covers his face with his hands and mumbles unintelligible things, kicking his feet haphazardly against the arm of the couch.

 

"Oh kiddo, if you can't figure this one out, then there's no hope for you." Another rustle of the newspaper, and Stiles can tell by the atmosphere in the room that his dad is caught up in reading it, and that the conversation is now over. He's more confused now than he was when this whole thing started, so he just groans and watches the television, barely able to pay attention to what's going on.

 

Three days go by in similar variations to this, and Stiles is left feeling more and more frustrated than the day before, and more adrift than he's felt in a while.

 

Even so, the last person he ever expected to climb through his window at two in the morning to break the solitude he's had the last few days without the pack is one Cora Hale, and yet here they are.

 

Stiles is on his computer, and has been for the better part of the last four hours, not doing anything in particular, but checking up on all the supernatural forums that he can. There's been a couple of Scott sightings across the country, and each post that comes with seeing him is more unhinged than the rest, claiming that he's following the Argent matriarch across country as close as he possibly can without actually coming in contact with her. No wonder Chris was so worried about Allison.

 

It's unsettling, but Stiles gathers all the sightings and sends them in an email to Chris. He deserves to know, it is his ex-wife and daughter after all. But he's still surprised when he gets an email back almost immediately, with Chris saying he's going to let members of the hunter community know, and that Scott will be taken care of before he can even think of getting a hand on Allison. 

 

He's so caught up in checking the forums that he doesn't catch the sound of his window being slid open, or the nearly imperceptive sound of feet touching down onto the welcome mat. What does immediately catch his attention however, is the clearing of throat directly behind him.

 

"Jesus tap-dancing Christ on a cracker," Stiles shouts, flailing himself so hard that he almost falls out of his computer chair, and only Cora's reflexes saves him from embarrassing himself further. For a moment, they stare at each other in silence, until Stiles feels so uncomfortably seen that he has to speak. "Won't the others be upset that you're here?"

 

"The others will get over it." Cora tosses her head with a flippant look in her eye, before steeling herself and meeting Stiles' eyes. There's something near desperate in the look on her face, something that has Stiles stiffening and forcing himself to meet her eyes. "Look, we need to talk."

 

Stiles is more than ready to talk; in fact, he opens his mouth to do so, but Cora raises her hand in a plead for silence, and Stiles, though he is very confused, obeys.

 

"You already know everything that went on with Kate and Jennifer, so I know you probably didn't mean anything bad by telling Derek who he can and can't like." Instead of getting all up in his face like Stiles expects her to, Cora moves to perch on the edge of his bed, playing with his torn and frayed edges of his comforter. She takes the time in gathering her thoughts before looking back at Stiles with an apologetic smile. "The pack has been giving you trouble, but that's just because even though your words were innocent, you managed to actually hurt our Alpha. Derek may not look like it, but he's really insecure, and he's been used and abused for so long."

 

The guilt sets in almost immediately, making Stiles feel like the equivalent of a scolded child, and he picks at the holes in his jeans morosely. Of course he knew about Kate and Jennifer using Derek, but he never took the time to stop and think about how it really affected Derek in the long run, did he?

 

No one can just bounce back from that and just automatically decide to be fine. Not without help.

 

"I didn't come here to make you feel worse, believe it or not. I came here because my brother is beating himself up about something he can't control, and the only person who can give him his strength back is you." Cora's words make Stiles look up to meet her eyes, and she just stares calmly back at him. There's a little bit of her desperation leaking through the bond, like she's begging him to do something, and soon.

 

When Stiles nods, Cora nods back and runs a hand through his hair when she passes by him to get to the window. She's there and gone in a blink of an eye, and Stiles is left feeling more determined than ever to patch things up with Derek. He'll do it tomorrow, no matter what happens.

--

 

It turns out that Stiles doesn't actually have to do anything, because come morning, he wakes up and finds Derek sitting at his computer chair, looking right at him. At this point in his life, Stiles isn't even surprised when he wakes up and finds a werewolf or some other supernatural being sitting in his chair and watching him sleep.

 

"Weird, I thought you were more of a Jacob than an Edward, but you keep proving me wrong." Stiles stretches under the covers, scooting back until his back hits the chilled wall behind him, and he hisses through his teeth. Derek just sits there, looking more and more uncomfortable as time goes by, so Stiles braces himself on his elbows and frowns over at his friend. "Do you want to stay over there, or do you want to come up on the bed? You look like you haven't slept in days."

 

It's true too; Derek is pale, with huge bags under his eyes, and a nervousness in his face that Stiles has very rarely seen from him before. It was there when Erica and Boyd went missing, it was there when Stiles tried to tell Derek that Jennifer was evil, and it was there when he got taken by Kate. Honestly, it makes Derek look younger than Stiles has ever seen him look before; something human and so foreign.

 

"I think I'll come sit with you." Derek stands and nearly stumbles, his hands clutched tightly together by his sides, and he stomps his way over to the bed. He at least remembers to kick off his shoes before he even attempts to get under the blankets, but by the time he's actually on the mattress, he looks so nervous and shaken, that Stiles is starting to get worried.

 

"Are you okay, big guy? Did something happen?" Stiles tries not to get too close, just in case that's not something that Derek wants right now, but when all the Alpha does is lean his head back against the headboard and try to take deep, even breaths, Stiles doesn't stop himself from moving closer to him. "Okay Derek, everything is going to be just fine, can I get close to you?"

 

Derek nods, and Stiles moves closer to him, reaching out and resting a hand on Derek's tightly clenched fist, running his thumb over Derek's stark white knuckles. It's Derek that tilts his head a bit so that his temple is resting against Stiles' left shoulder, and his nose is pressed into the Emissary mark. It seems to help him relax at least a little bit, though Stiles isn't sure if it's his natural scent, or the fact that he is gently easing reassurance and compassion through the bond. 

 

Slowly, so painstakingly slowly, Derek manages to uncurl his fists, and Stiles is pleased to see that even though there are crescent indents in his palm from his nails digging into his flesh, that he managed to keep his nails human. Whatever is going on is obviously overwhelming Derek, and Stiles can have infinite patience when waiting for him to talk, if he even wants to talk.

 

It takes a long time, a very long time for Derek to come down from what looks to have been a very intense panic attack, but when the come down comes, and Derek sags, Stiles is right there to catch him. His Alpha clings to him, his arms wrapped tightly around Stiles and practically refuse to let him go, but Stiles keeps himself calm and holds Derek just as closely as Derek is holding him.

 

"I don't know why I reacted like that," Derek eventually says, pulling back just enough for Stiles to tell that Derek's embarrassed by what just happened. "I only came to tell you something, it should have been simple."

 

"Things are very rarely simple when we want them to be, Der'." Stiles offers the smallest of smiles, ducking his head to try and catch Derek's eyes even though he's clearly avoiding looking at Stiles. "What's going on?"

 

Derek manages to pull back completely, leaning himself back against the headboard and closing his eyes as if to steel himself for what's to come. Stiles pushes up and sits himself right next to Derek, pressing their shoulders together in solidarity.

 

He wants Derek to tell him is the thing, but Stiles wouldn't ever dream of forcing him to say anything he wouldn't want to, so all Stiles can do is sit, wait, and hope… and it pays off.

 

"I started therapy a couple of weeks ago. I go Tuesdays and Thursdays."

 

Last week was Halloween week, Halloween was a Thursday, which means it was the day that Derek literally ran away from the entirety of the pack on Halloween night. it makes sense in a way, Stiles thinks, especially if Derek was already feeling a little bit raw, that he would think to run away instead of taking what Stiles said as what he meant it as: a joke.

 

"Oh." He takes a few moments to think, and settles against Derek a bit more firmly than he had been before. "How's that going?"

 

"It's hard. I think it's one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do." Derek blows out a puff of air like he'd been holding his breath to hear how Stiles would react, but on the plus side, Derek relaxes against the headboard. "I've been travelling to Beacon County twice a week for it, and it's terrifying but freeing. It helps that he knows about the Supernatural, too."

 

"I couldn't imagine trying to erase that part of your life just to talk to someone." Stiles hums under his breath, taking a moment to wonder how in depth he should go into his own background. It's just Derek , and Stiles knows he came here as terrified as he was because he needed to talk, so Stiles will be blunt and honest with him. "When I was in therapy after my mom died, it helped me cope a lot easier, I think."

 

"Yeah?" Derek's voice comes out as a whisper, and when Stiles turns to him, there's an almost pleading look in his eye, like he's desperate to be told that it's worth it. 

 

Stiles shuffles a bit where he sits, turning to Derek and looking him straight in the eyes before speaking. "The hardest thing to remember is that you don't need to be fixed , alright? There's nothing wrong with you; You're a work in progress, and you're going to have bad days. That's not a maybe, Derek. There will be bad days and worse days, and the days where you won't want to get out of bed, days where you feel like you're alone, but you're not. So thank you for coming and telling me, because that must have been really hard to do."

 

"It was." Derek's voice is barely a whisper when he speaks, but he looks more relieved now than anything, which Stiles is immensely thankful for. Now, he just kind of snuggles down under Stiles' blankets until only his head is popping out, his eyes already fluttering shut. "Can I stay for a little while?"

 

"Stay for as long as you need. Do you want me to stay?" Stiles doesn't mind going, but he'd prefer to stay for a little while, just to make sure that Derek is alright at least.

 

"Until I fall asleep." Derek mumbles, sounding close to sleep already. Stiles fights back a grin and snuggles down deep under the blankets beside Derek and listens to his breathing deepen. 

 

Stiles stays there with him for a solid two hours, just watching Derek get the rest he so desperately needed before he climbs out of bed and makes his way downstairs. He'll apologize to Derek for Halloween later on, but for now, he needs to rest.

--

 

With Derek's birthday coming up, the whole of the pack are trying to figure out what they should do to celebrate, and if Derek would want a celebration in first place. They haven't really celebrated his birthday before, which is why everyone is so set on doing it this year when everything is calmer, but Lydia, Erica, and Cora seem set on having it be a surprise, and Stiles isn't sure that that's such a good idea. 

 

Derek doesn't really seem like a person who would enjoy a surprise, and how do they expect to be able to surprise him anyways, when he always seems to know exactly what's going on.

 

"Well that's where you come in," Erica so gracefully informs him, grinning wildly, even though her eyes are pleading right there along with Lydia and Cora. Apparently, even Melissa thinks it's a good idea to surprise Derek with a celebration, considering the text Stiles got right before this pack meeting that simply read: Do It!!

 

"Why do I have to be the one to distract Derek? You know that if he hates it that he's going to blame me for it, right?" To be fair, it's not that he's worried that Derek will be mad at him exactly, it's more that he's not sure how to distract him long enough for everybody to decorate the house.

 

"Please, like he'd ever hate you ." Lydia's eyeroll is so extreme that Stiles is surprised her eyes don't pop out of her head, and the look she levels at him is near deadly. "You could tell him today that you were leaving the pack because you hated everything that he stood for, and he still wouldn't hate you."

 

"First of all, I would never say that to him because he's come so far as a person, and second of all, why would you even say that? I'd never leave the pack, not if I could help it." The three girls pause in their party planning to give Stiles a look of such disbelief, that he actually feels thrown for a second. "What? What did I say?"

 

"You're just as big of an idiot as my brother is, aren't you?" Cora snorts, shaking her head and pointing at some list that Lydia had written up, muttering about how Derek wouldn't like that, and the three of them go back to their planning like Stiles isn't even there anymore.

 

It doesn't matter though, because apparently Stiles is weak, because he texts Derek asking him to hang out in four days so that the girls can do their decorating. Derek says yes, and that's all there is to it. The plan is on.

--

 

Things end up working out well; Derek calls Stiles and asks him to meet at a new restaurant on the other side of town, and Stiles jumps at the request, both because it gives him the means necessary to distract Derek for a little while, and because he hears the new place has really good curly fries.

 

By the time Stiles has made it to the restaurant, he's gotten about six separate texts each from Lydia and Erica threatening his life if he doesn't keep Derek out of the house for the next 2 hours, and he tries to think of a way to extend this time that they're sharing. He's not sure how to do this, and he's not anymore sure by the time he walks into the restaurant and spots Derek waiting for him in the corner booth.

 

"Hey," Derek smiles up at him when Stiles approaches the table, gesturing to the seat across from him. His smile softens when Stiles sits and smiles back at him; he can't help but smile back when Derek is looking at him like that. "Did you find the place okay?"

 

"Didn't get lost even once," Stiles reassures him, pulling the soda already waiting for him close and sipping through the straw. He can't exactly stop the happy noise from leaving his lips, no matter how hard Derek rolls his eyes. "Why are fountain sodas so much tastier than everyday soda?" 

 

"Lack of plastic and metal probably," Derek jokes, taking a large drink from his water glass. He keeps looking at Stiles almost expectantly, his smile fading slightly, but there's a curl at the edge of his lips that just don't seem to want to leave. It makes his dimples pop, which makes Stiles' heart feel like it's going to beat right out of his chest with how stupidly cute it makes Derek look. "So, how are you?"

 

"Actually, I'm doing pretty well. How are you?" Today is Tuesday, which means that Derek has just come from therapy, and Stiles is genuinely curious to see how he's doing. 

 

"Today was kind of difficult, but it's getting better now that you're here." Stiles thinks that this is the most open that he's ever seen Derek, and there's genuine thankfulness shining in his eyes when he looks back at Stiles. Derek opens his mouth to say something else, but the waiter comes over with two large orders of curly fries, and sets one down in front of Stiles and one down in front of Derek.

 

"Here's your appetizer, I hope you enjoy the food!" She's there and gone in a flash with a slightly harried smile, hurrying over to the next table that's waving a check in the air rudely.

 

"You know me so well," Stiles mumbles, completely pleased at how today is going so far. He's supposed to be the one distracting Derek, but here Derek goes, getting curly fries and pushing them towards Stiles. How can he resist? Stiles reaches out and grabs a curly fry, tossing it into his mouth, completely unable to stop the way he groans indecently. He's beginning to understand exactly why this restaurant is known for their fries, and he grabs a literal handful and tries to shove them all in his mouth at once, to no avail. At least he swallows his mouth full before trying to talk to Derek. "Dude, these are so good."

 

"What will it take to get you some table manners and for you to stop calling me dude?" Derek sounds frustrated, but the look on his face is anything but, and Stiles just grins through another mouthful of fries.

 

He's reaching for another handful when Stiles is hit with the sudden feeling that something just isn't right , and he's not sure why. Derek is wriggling in his seat, his eyes flashing red briefly, and a frown on his face. The feeling fades though, and Derek blinks down at his barely eaten fries; signalling to the waitress for the bill.

 

"What was that?" Stiles asks quietly, glancing around the restaurant, feeling his phone start to vibrate in his pocket. He can feel confusion and concern from everyone in the pack except his father which makes sense. The Sheriff knows that if anything was wrong that Derek or Stiles would let him know.

 

"Something just crossed into Beacon Hills, something that isn't good. We need to go right now." Derek looks unfortunately concerned, throwing $40 on the table and standing up to leave immediately. They pass the waitress on the way out, and Stiles waves goodbye at her when they leave. He gets into the Jeep while Derek gets into the Camaro, and they head towards home.

 

Whatever it is that has come for them will rue the day they came to Beacon Hills, they'll make sure of it.

--

 

Back at the packhouse, Cora refuses to let Derek inside, which he gets a little too irritated at, but ultimately agrees to stay outside and make a game plan. He wants to track whatever it is that came through, find it, and either run it out of town, or get rid of it completely.

 

Chris arrived fully locked and loaded, but without the stench of wolfsbane on him, for which the rest of the pack look relieved for. He tried to offer a gun to Stiles, but he refused and suggested that Chris maybe offer one to his father instead.

 

The only problem with that is that the sheriff hasn't actually arrived at the pack house yet. Melissa had gotten there five minutes earlier, and every so often she'll pull out her phone and type something in, and as the time goes by without any word from John, Melissa looks more and more worried. The nerves are pouring off of her in waves, and at first Stiles just assumes that his dad will get there soon, but when the cruiser pulls up with just Parrish in the front seat, and a guilty look in his eyes, Stiles already knows what he's going to say.

 

"Don't, Jordan." Stiles clenches his jaw to keep himself from throwing out accusations and threats to the one man who is supposed to be protecting his father at all costs. What good is a partner if they don't watch out for you, if they don't have your back at every second? What good is Parrish if he loses his father?

 

"I'm sorry, Stiles." Parrish straightens his uniform tie, turns to Derek and speaks as clearly as he would if John was there. He looks the epitome of cop perfection, and Stiles has the oddest feeling that his father would be proud. "We were out patrolling together and the sheriff went to stop in the bookstore in town, and told me to stay in the car. When he didn't come out after 20 minutes, I assumed he was having trouble picking out a gift, so I went in to try and help him out, but he was already gone. The shopkeeper said that she hadn't seen him come in, so I have no idea when he was snatched in the first place."

 

" Fuck." Stiles hisses under his breath, turning around where he stood and began to pace, stepping out of the way when Erica reaches out a hand to try and comfort him. "What the fuck?"

 

Parrish flinches when he swears, which Stiles feels at least a little bit bad about, but not enough to apologise for. It's a bit vindictive, but it makes him feel a little bit better that Parrish feels so bad about this. Maybe next time he won't leave his dad alone.

 

"Okay, so what we're going to do is check around the border line," Derek says, shooting a warning look at Stiles when he bares his teeth in frustration. "Don't give me that look, its protocol and you know it."

 

Of course he knows it, but it doesn't mean he has to like it. 

 

Stiles says neither of those things, just nods at Derek, gritting his teeth in his attempts to keep quiet and listens half-heartedly to the pack figure out how to do his dad. He's focused on the bond with his dad, where John feels vibrant and alive, and-

 

The pain, when it comes, is sharp and unforgiving; like nails being dragged down his chest torturously slow so that he can feel the skin there being flayed apart. There's a lapping at his waist, biting and cold, and Stiles is frozen, incapacitated, uselessly unable to fight back against this creature, this thing holding him down, but a smack across his face brings him back to the here and now.

 

Melissa is staring down at him with her eyes wide and wet, but all Stiles can feel is the earth in his hands and the stinging in his cheek. 

 

"Did you hit me?" It doesn't matter if she had, because Stiles is sure that he would have let that  pain consume him completely until there was nothing left but that enveloping feeling of water. "It doesn't matter, where is there water here?"

 

"In the preserve? There's a man-made pond not too far from here." Cora wrinkles her nose in thought, frowning down at Stiles before she perks up. "And the lake, about 15 miles south of your house."

 

Another wave of pain travels through the bond, and Stiles knows that this time he's not the only one that feels it, judging by the wince of fear on Melissa's face. That's what cements his judgment.

 

"We need to go there, and we need to go now ." It's a demand, but one that Derek apparently agrees with, because he nods and the shifters of the pack all seamlessly shift into wolf form. "Chris, let's take your car. It'll be faster that way."

 

The wolves take off with a howl from Derek, and Melissa and Stiles follow Chris into his SUV, Parrish following behind in the cruiser, peeling out of The Preserve like the devil is behind them. In a way, it is. They have to get to his dad as soon as they possibly can.

 

Before it's too late.

--

 

The area around the lake is covered in a thick, dense fog that makes even the wolves noses scrunch up, soft whines coming from the betas while Derek prowls around, ears perked, eyes glowing red, and a determined look on his wolfy face.

 

Stiles hates this part the most he thinks, sitting and waiting when he knows his dad is somewhere out here alone and scared, and probably being hurt, if the pain in his chest is anything to go by. Melissa keeps rubbing at her own chest as well, sending Stiles these little concerned looks as time continues to slowly tick by. He wishes he could do more, that he could help more, when he suddenly remembers.

 

There's no reason for him to sit here, simply wishing he could do something. He's not just a human anymore. Stiles is an Emissary , and he let the fear of his father being taken completely overwhelm him to the point where he nearly forgot that he has the ability to find him, and fast.

 

It's with an almost lazy flick of his hand that the wind begins to pick up around them, and the wolves all turn to stare at him. Right now though, Stiles could care less, he needs this fog to go away so that he can find his dad. So the wind begins to pick up, the air around them begins to shift, and Stiles hears a low hiss that seems like it's coming right from the middle of the lake, a little surprised and a little wary. It works though; the wind picks up so hard that Lydia's dress starts blowing in the wind, but the fog slowly starts to dissipate, and the area around the lake finally turns visible.

 

The lake is gray and still; there's nothing there to say that this is where his father is except for the burning feeling in his chest, but Stiles knows that this is where he's supposed to be, and it's proven when a splash is heard to the right of where they're all standing. The pack turns as one, and when the ripples of the lake reach where they are, Stiles takes a step closer, but the smell of something fishy and decaying hits his nose and he gags.

 

"What is that?" Stiles pulls his sweatshirt up so it's covering his mouth, and that helps a little, but the stench is still there. 

 

The wolves rub at their noses with their paws and whine, huddling closer to Derek. Lydia somehow manages to power through it without having too big of a reaction, though Melissa stumbles away to get sick behind a bush. Chris just stands there, much like Stiles is, tying a bandana around the bottom half of his face when it happens again; another splash.

 

This time the noise is accompanied by an awfully human sounding gasp for air, and Stiles suddenly knows what's happening.

 

"He's in the lake." He's already pulling off his sweatshirt and stepping out of his shoes, shivering when his socked feet make contact with the cool, wet ground. It's too cold for his dad to be out in the water, and whatever has him is obviously toying with the lot of them and Stiles-

 

Everything erupts all at once. The Earth around the lake starts to move, sprouts legs and runs for the pack.

 

Stiles doesn't exactly see what happens; all he knows is that suddenly Chris is laying on the ground with a head wound, his eyes shut and his chest heaving with Peter and Cora standing over him with snarls on their lips. Lydia is nowhere to be seen, and Stiles realizes that Melissa never came back from the bushes. The Betas have scattered, fighting things that look like mud creatures, and Derek is going head to head with a large one that seems capable of mimicking his movements. As he watches, another one dredges itself up from the lake and aims for Peter and Cora and Stiles is left alone.

 

Or not so alone, as it so happens.

 

The lake is empty and then suddenly She's there, as if she'd been there the whole time, lounging along the edge of the lake, covered in debris. For a long time, Stiles can't pull his gaze away from her, and it's not until a pained yelp that Jackson let's out that he can pull himself away.

 

"You're stronger than I thought."

 

His eyes are pulled back to the being on the edge of the lake, though this time the urge to stare isn't fully there anymore. She'd be beautiful, Stiles thinks, if it weren't for the way her eyes were slitted similarly to the way cats are, the webbing between her fingers, and the sharp needle like length of her teeth when she smiles. Her nails, when she lifts a hand to wave teasingly at Stiles, are long and broken, like the jagged edge of a knife, and tinted with black brackish blood that immediately sets Stiles' nerves on edge.

 

"Hello, Emissary Hale." The creature coos, the sounds of his pack fading into the background once again while their eyes lock, a hungry looking grin spreading across her lips. "I've been waiting for you."

 

Has she? Why?

 

There's a niggling in Stiles' brain that tells him that this is right , that whoever this creature is, she's the enemy and someone he needs to eradicate. That feeling is followed by the phantom feeling of fingers in his hair, kind and haunted blue eyes, and the gleam of a Sheriff's badge when the sun hits it just right.

 

"You'll give me back my father," Stiles steps forward, setting up blockade upon blockade inside his head to protect himself from whatever it is that the Siren, (that's what she is, he remembers the picture in the bestiary beside the words beware the Siren's song ), is trying to do. "Or I'll make you regret it."

 

"But he's so much fun. " The Siren hisses, pushing herself up onto her hands, before rocketing into the water, the reptilian scales creeping up her entire body from where her torso meets her tail. "Catch me if you can, then."

 

She drives before Stiles can even move, though she resurfaces quickly, and this time she isn't alone. His father is being dragged through the water like he weighs nothing at all, and that ache in Stiles' chest grows at the sight. 

 

It's not loss that he's been feeling, he realizes when the Siren and his father stop on the other side of the Lake, and Stiles can't exactly stop the wounded noise from leaving his lips, or the way he lunges into a run immediately.

 

There had been a glimpse, but even that was enough, of flayed skin and sluggish blood, of the Siren leaning down and licking a stripe of torn flesh hungrily, like a promise.

 

There's a fire in Stiles' veins, something primal and protective that fills him with such an intense determination to take back what is his , that he almost doesn't realize what he's going to do until he launches himself at the Siren. His magic seeps into the Earth and feels the decomposition of the lake, the poison oozing from his father's chest, the tainted spirit of the Siren that Stiles is battering with his fists, and the Earth reaches back for the magic in return. 

 

In the back of his mind there's a sense of urgency coming from the Nemeton to Be careful Emissary, and bring your father to us when that thing is dead and finished.

 

He knows then, how this is going to end. It will be kill or be killed, kill or let that thing continue to poison and eat his father, kill or let his entire Pack fall to sharp teeth and Sharpe nails than their own

 

In his distraction, Stiles is caught off guard by the Siren flicking him off her with the meaty part of her tail, sending Stiles a few feet in the air, landing in the wet sand with a grunt. It takes him maybe 20 seconds to push himself off the ground, but that in itself is much too long. 

 

It's the noise he notices first, that awful squelching disgusting noise that has his stomach rolling before he even turns to see what's causing it, but the near screaming howl that Derek makes from across the lake has ice flowing through Stiles' veins all over again.

 

His father, the one man that Stiles will always idolize, no matter how old he gets, begins to scream, and for a moment, Stiles is Frozen in place. The sound will stay with him for years to come, he just knows it, but the wet gasp his father makes, and the ache of the bond urge him into action, so Stiles pushes himself up and fights back the urge to vomit.

 

The world quiets all at once into a stillness that leaves Stiles staggering by the sheer force of it, by the way his entire body becomes of vessel for his anger. He vaguely feels himself moving, feels himself draining the energy from the Earth, and is filled with such a sudden rage, that he allows his magic to take over.

 

How dare she? How dare she look up with her lips stained red, his father still and unmoving underneath her body, his blood pooling into the dirt underneath him? How dare she come into their town where things have been better, when they've been growing, when there's been peace?

 

How fucking dare she?

 

There's a roar of sound all at once that Stiles vaguely recognizes is coming from him; all that noise pouring out of his throat and screaming his rage into the air around them. He takes a step and is suddenly by the Siren's side, reaching out for her, and pulling at her arm until that brackish blood of hers is spilling out and mingling with his father's in the dirt, the limb he's holding disintegrating into ash almost immediately.

 

He can't hear her screaming, but he can see the way her eyes widen and the way she tries to scurry away on her tail, but he can't let her go now, can he?

 

She tried to take away his family, tried to take away his father , and has succeeded in hurting his pack, but he is not like her in the end.

 

"Please, Mercy!" The sound of her voice finally hits his ears, salty tears streaming down her suddenly pale face, her one remaining hand reached out in front of him to try to get him to stop. Still, he advances, and her sobs echo across the quiet clearing. "He said you'd have mercy!"

 

"Who said?" It's less of a question and more of a demand, which the siren seems to understand immediately.

 

"The druid," She gasps, her body beginning to quiver and shake from blood loss and shock. "Deaton."

 

Stiles crouches down beside her, his head tilting off to the side as he watches the creature tremble and cry. He always expected that when he eventually had to kill for the pack, for his family, that he'd at least feel a little bit guilty, and he's sure that later on it'll happen. Right now though, all he feels is a sense of vindication, and he smiles slow and wide down at her.

 

"I'm sorry," Stiles begins, his grin widening at the slight relief slackening her jaw, sending his magic deep deep down into the Earth until the roots of some of the oldest trees begin creeping towards them. They burst through the ground, wrapping around the Siren, who begins to scream immediately, her skin tearing from the rough bark. "Deaton lied ."

 

The roots wrap around her, much like a snake would against its prey, and squeeze and squeeze until her screams turn into gasps, turn into cries, turn into silence, the clearing once again becoming silent. She's dragged down deep into the Earth, where she's swallowed up to the point that it's almost like she never existed in the first place.

 

The spell breaks.

 

"Dad," He turns and falls to his knees beside his father, touching his chest with shaking hands, relieved by the fact that it seems her poison is acting as some kind of coagulation factor on his chest at least; Even though the bite on his shoulder is fresh, it's already getting sluggish. Stiles is afraid to move him, is afraid to touch him more than he is right now, and when a shadow falls over them, he turns with bared teeth ready to attack all over again, but Derek just rests a hand on his shoulder. The relief he feels is all-encompassing, and he reaches out with a bloodied hand for Derek, his other hand still resting on his father's open chest. "Derek, please help him, I don't know what to do ."

 

"Let me take him. Stiles, you have to let me take him." There's a sense of urgency to Derek's words, fear etched into the lines of his face that Stiles never wanted to put there in the first place. "We need to get him to the Nemeton, can't you feel it?"

 

Slowly but surely, with the bond fading into place, Stiles can feel all the things he had cut himself off from inadvertently when he put up the blockades in his head from the Siren. There's fear, awe, and absolute horror creeping through the bond that Stiles really hopes isn't aimed towards him, but no one really seems to be able to meet his eyes, either.

 

"Okay, yeah. Take him, please." It's the worst thing he's ever had to do, let somebody else take his father and cradle his broken body, but at least the pained noise he lets out reassures Stiles that he's still alive.

 

Thick black lines creep up Derek's arms when he pulls John into his arms, tucking the older man tightly against himself, and heading off towards Chris's car. The wolves, battered, bloodied and broken shift back into their wolf forms, and take off into the woods, heading towards home. Melissa automatically plasters herself to Derek's side, her hand in John's hair, and her whispered words nothing more than unintelligible mumbles from where Stiles is sitting, until he's the only one left, but still the cars pull away.

 

It doesn't register that they left him behind until the clouds above him thicken, and rain starts to fall. It's then that he realizes just how disgusting he is right now, covered in the black blood of the Siren, and the bright red of his father's. The rain doesn't help with that, but what does is Jackson showing up, not even 15 minutes later, pulling into the lake parking lot in his Porsche, getting out and running over to Stiles.

 

"Come on, Stilinski. You don't want to stay out here in the storm." Jackson pulls him up confidently, seemingly uncaring of the fact that his designer clothing is getting genuinely ruined because of whatever Stiles is covered in. "You'll catch a cold and be miserable, and then everybody else will be miserable too."

 

He allows himself to be manhandled into Jackson's car, more touched than anything when Jackson doesn't insist on covering the leather seats to protect them from Stiles' clothes. There's a thought in his head that just won't leave, and it takes him until they're halfway to the pack house before he can bring himself to ask it.

 

"Am I a monster now, Jack?" 

 

Jackson is quiet for a while, right up until they pull into the pack house and parks the car, reaching out and stopping Stiles when he tries to get out of the car. "We're all monsters here, Stiles. We've all made mistakes, we're all misfits, and we've all killed. At least you did it to protect your dad, to protect a member of the pack. It wasn't Cold blood, but yeah, you're kind of a monster. But so am I, so is Derek, so are the rest of us."

 

It's more reassuring than it probably should be, but Stiles can't stop the relief from flowing through him, and he takes a shaky breath and pushes the car door open. He knows exactly where he's going, and even though he can hear the sound of the pack in the house, he heads for the woods instead.

--

 

"I can't believe I killed someone on your birthday, dude." It's not the most eloquent thing Stiles has ever said to Derek, but as he settles down next to the Alpha still covered in dirt and blood, Stiles can't bring himself to mind. 

 

"Happy birthday to me," Derek snorts, amusement flowing through the bond, and even though he tries, Stiles can't feel any of the disgust or horror he'd felt earlier. Instead, Derek feels more honored, almost proud of him, and that's what makes Stiles' carefully placed mask crumble.

 

He starts to cry almost immediately; His shoulders heaving with the force of his sobs as Stiles curls in on himself, Derek's soft voice whispering mindless reassurances while Stiles clings desperately to Derek's left leg. It's relieving to have all the pressure easing off of his chest, and it's then that Stiles notices how tired he is, how scared he was that his dad was going to die, that his pack was going to cast him out, but-

 

The bond is thriving , his pack members feeling his internal turmoil and sending reassurances and love through the bond, and to Stiles it says It's okay, you're not alone here with us, we won't leave you over this , and he is so relieved. And so, Stiles cries and cries and cries until the feelings fade from overwhelmed to something more manageable, with Derek's hand rubbing soothing circles against his back and the Nemeton humming softly over the sound of the rain.

 

Even his father feels more at peace then he had earlier, and the Nemeton is busy doing whatever it's doing to keep him whole, to keep him happy, to keep him alive .

 

"I was almost too late today." Stiles admits quietly, his face pressed into Derek's jeans, slowly forcing himself to push away from the Alpha. "If I didn't kill her, I would have been too late."

 

"You don't have to defend your actions to me, Stiles. I would have ripped her limb from limb the moment she touched either one of you." Derek runs his hand through Stiles' hair, gently thumbing at the bite mark on the base of his neck, before squeezing his shoulder gently. "You did what any of us would have done."

 

Stiles isn't so sure of that, and the feelings he got from the pack earlier support his unsurety. He doesn't know what to think, but he can remember exactly how they felt. "The bond says differently. I know Jackson doesn't feel any different, but I could feel their horror, Derek. I could see their fear plain on their faces, and it was me they were looking at feeling that way."

 

"What are you talking about? It was for you, not because of you. You were kneeling by your father and screaming, Stiles. We thought we lost you both." Even though Stiles pulls back, Derek doesn't take his hand off of his neck, playing with the short hair at the base of his skull, pushing reassurance through the bond.

 

He doesn't remember screaming, is the thing. He doesn't remember anything except for the abstract horror from the pack, and his own personal devastation, though it is perfectly possible that he never stopped screaming the entire time, especially with how raw his throat feels. He thought it was just from crying before, but Derek wouldn't lie to him about this.

 

"I didn't mean to scare you, I'm sorry, it was just-"

 

The conversation is interrupted by the Nemeton rumbling, and the base of it opening much like it had done for Stiles when it grew to its full size. For a moment, nothing happens, until a sheepish looking John Stilinski walks through the opening, rubbing the base of his neck, looking for all the world like he's embarrassed. It takes a second for him to mumble his thanks to the tree, but when he turns back to the clearing and sees Derek and Stiles, he looks surprised, but ultimately pleased.

 

"Stiles," John smiles, the whites of his teeth clear even in the fading light of day, his shoulders broad, the color back in his cheeks, looking healthy, spry, and alive . "Derek. What are you boys doing here?"

 

Stiles is up and moving before his father can even finish asking his question, ramming into his chest absent-mindedly, and clinging to him like he would when he was a child. His dad doesn't question a thing, just wraps his arms around Stiles and holds him back, murmuring reassurances in his ear. They stay like that for a while, and Stiles is embarrassed to find more tears in his eyes when he pulls away.

 

"I thought you were gone, I thought you weren't going to come back. I thought I was too late." He takes the time to pat all over his father's chest, even going so far as to pull down the familiar Henley hanging off of his frame, to see unmarred skin underneath. His shoulder holds a scar similar enough to the one Stiles has at the base of his neck, and he trails his fingers over it, frowning. "You have a scar."

 

"The Nemeton said that it will fade with time, but that the magic needs time to get out of my system." John runs his hand through his own hair again, looking more than a little embarrassed, and concerned at Stiles and his clothing. "Why didn't you take a shower before coming out here, son?"

 

"I wanted to make sure that you were okay." Finally, Stiles feels able to let go of his father, pulling back and scanning his old man's face, feeling along their bond and finding nothing but love and happiness there. He looks back at the Nemeton sternly, pointing a finger up at it. "He is okay, right?"

 

Yes, Emissary. He is safe, and the Siren's magic will have no ill lasting effects. 

 

How a tree manages to sound so put upon, Stiles has no idea, but it does, and he hears it, and suddenly the whole situation is just so fucking funny that he can't help but laugh.

 

His emotions are all over the place, but Stiles will gladly take laughter over tears any day, even if it makes his dad and Derek look at him like he's gone crazy.

 

"Alright, Kiddo. Let's get you home," The sheriff sighs, pulling his hand away from Stiles and grimacing at the mess on it. "And maybe into a shower."

 

Behind him, Stiles can hear Derek snickering, before all three of them turn back towards the packhouse and make their way through the woods.

--

 

The best thing that Stiles has seen all day, besides his father walking healthy and whole, is the look on Derek's face the moment they walk into the house and find the place still covered in blue streamers and multicolored balloons, and the pack (even Lydia) wearing party hats on their heads.

 

" SURPRISE!!"  

 

Derek stands there wide eyed and startled, looking from the pack, to the small mountain of presents. He doesn't seem to know what to do with himself, so when Cora and Peter walk over, Stiles ducks out and jogs upstairs to take a much needed shower. The blood just reminds him of what he did earlier, so the sooner he gets washed off, the better.

 

Now at least, he has time to think about what the Siren said.

 

Deaton sent her after them, after Stiles' dad, after the pack. There would be no more questions about it, not to Stiles at least. Deaton would have to be stopped, and if that means doing what he did today and killing? Well, he'll deal with that if it comes to it, but Stiles knows that right now, he'd do it if it came to that.

 

Shaking his head, Stiles pushes that thought to the back of his mind, hurriedly washing himself and stepping into his bedroom, pulling on a too big sweatshirt he doesn't remember buying and baggy sweats that he's pretty sure used to be Scott's. Stiles pulls on his fuzzy Spider-Man socks and heads back downstairs where the party is carrying on like there wasn't a threat on the pack not even two hours prior.

 

Erica is dancing to over in the corner with Isaac, who looks both uncomfortable and like he's having a good time, the two of them grinning at each other while Boyd and Cora talk quietly nearby.

 

Lydia is sitting on the couch with Chris, pulling out test tubes full of liquids from her purse that Stiles doesn't want to know about, the two of them looking between the liquid and Chris's crossbow. 

 

The pile of presents have dwindled until there are only a few left in the short amount of time it took Stiles to shower, and Derek is nowhere to be seen. Now that he thinks about it, Peter and Jackson are suspiciously absent too, and by the time he finds them in the backyard, he understands why.

 

They've shifted, and are all rolling along the ground happily, yipping at each other and nipping the others ears and tails. To the side, there's what looks to be basketball garb, unused and practically shining in the moonlight. He steps back from the scene though it makes him happy, and ends up in the kitchen with his dad and Melissa.

 

They're pressed close together, and every so often Melissa will pull back and run her hand along his dad's chest where he got torn, and Stiles aches.

 

"Hey guys, don't mind me, I just have to put the finishing touches on the cake." Stiles pretends to shield his eyes, heading over to the refrigerator and pulling out the cake. The frosting bag is already prepared with bright blue icing, which Stiles uses with his best ability to write: Happy Birthday, Der-Bear on it in the garish icing.

 

"That looks beautiful, Stiles." Melissa murmurs over his shoulder, and Stiles just barely stops himself from jumping and ruining the whole thing. "Oh shit, I'm sorry!"

 

"Don't worry about it, Mel." He hurries to reassure her, holding out the piping bag. "Do you wanna taste it?"

 

Instead of answering, Melissa just takes the bag and squeezes it into her mouth, humming her approval of the taste, winking at Stiles and heading back to the living room. By the sounds of things, Derek, Jackson and Peter must have just come inside, so Stiles places the 2 and the 5 on the cake, lights it, and walks with it into the living room.

 

Lydia starts off the song, and the rest of them chime in singing happy birthday to a slowly reddening Derek Hale, who carefully blows out the small candles on the cake. The pack cheers, and Stiles brings a cake back into the kitchen to cut it, and hands it out to the members easily, handing the first piece to Derek.

 

"Happy birthday, dude." Stiles pats Derek's shoulder, ready to pull away, but Derek reaches out and grabs him by the wrist, tugging him back until he's pressed flush against him.

 

"For God's sake, Stiles. What will it take for you to not call me 'dude'?" Derek looks both amused and just the tiniest bit frustrated, his thumb rubbing over Stiles' pulsepoint. They stare at each other for a while, until the sounds of the pack start getting louder and louder, and Stiles realizes that they're pressed awfully close together.

 

For the first time in his life, Stiles doesn't know what to say. He keeps looking at Derek, and Derek keeps looking back at him, and neither of them does or says anything else, until somebody clears their throat at them and they pull away from each other like they were burned.

 

"Derek. Stiles." Erica is standing in front of them, a little bit of blue frosting on the top of her lip, her smile mischievous, like they were caught doing something they shouldn't have been. Eventually though, her eyes settle on Derek, and her smile softens. "It's time to finish opening presents before people decide if they're going home or if they're staying here."

 

"Yeah, okay." Derek scoops up the last bite of cake and shoves it into his mouth, smearing his own lips with blue frosting, haphazardly handing off the plate to Stiles before he heads towards the presents all over again.

 

Stiles is left standing there, a plate in each hand, and Erica's apologetic smile firmly in place. He shakes himself out of it, bringing both plates to the kitchen, setting his uneaten piece of cake on the counter, and setting Derek's in the sink before he heads back out to the living room to watch Derek open the rest of his presents.

 

There are two new pictures of the old Hale pack that are hanging on the wall that Cora and Peter both keep looking at every so often, and Stiles' heart aches just looking at them. He's worried that maybe his presents won't be appreciated at all.

 

Derek gets a much too expensive Henley from Jackson in a nice dark Forest Green that makes his eyes pop even more than usual, and fitted jeans that Stiles knows are just going to be absolutely sinful, especially because they came from Lydia. He dreads the day he has to see Derek in them, but at the same time he can't wait.

 

Finally, the last presents left are his own, and Derek send him the smallest of smiles, reaching for the first of three bags, but Stiles takes a step forward.

 

"Actually, this is kind of a threefold gift. Something for you, Peter, and Cora." Stiles admits, while his heart began to hammer in his chest. This was a risky thing to do, he knows, but he hopes that it'll pay off in the end, but the confused and pleased looks on Peter and Cora's face has him more anxious than anything.

 

Derek looks a little confused, but he hands off the bags labeled for Peter and Cora, and waits for them to open their gifts first. Cora is the first to open hers; she just reaches right into the bag, and pulls out a stuffed floppy eared rabbit, a little soot stained, but whole again, and looks over at Stiles with wide eyes.

 

"You found bunny?" Cora looks younger now than she ever has before, clutching the rabbit to her chest, her eyes watering when it rattles back at her. She brings it up to her nose and takes a large inhale, and begins to cry softly. Isaac pulls her over to the couch and let's her cling to him while he whispers kind words in her ear.

 

Peter reaches into his bag with a shaking hand, and drops it the moment his fingers come in contact with what's inside. Chris hurries over to his side, but Peter picks the bag up again, nearly tearing it in half to get to what Stiles packed away, and looks up at him with wide blue flashing eyes.

 

" How?" Peter's voice cracks when he asks, his hand clutching the toy close to his chest, swaying where he stands. Chris wraps an arm around his waist, quietly supporting him, and Stiles just shrugs.

 

"I found her in the back garden after the house was built. She must have gotten lost and forgotten, but I thought you'd like to have her back." He has to blink rapidly to keep the tears out of his eyes, especially when Peter brings the extremely lifelike baby doll up to his face, breathes in and begins to cry. Chris has to forcibly make him leave the house, telling the rest of them that they'll be back tomorrow.

 

Derek looks at Stiles a little unsure, glancing down to his larger package on the floor, before looking back at the door where Peter just left through, and over to the couch where Cora is still crying. "Are you going to make me cry?"

 

Stiles winces, but dips his head in a nod, shrugging when Derek looks a little exasperated. "I'm not doing it on purpose. These are all things I found that I thought you guys would want back, but yes, I think you might cry."

 

With a deep breath, Derek crouches in front of the bag, reaching in and pushing apart the tissue paper, until he gets to the contents inside, exhaling shakily. Even from where he's standing, Stiles can smell the bergamont, cedar, pine and sweet pea scent, that has Cora perking up in confusion on the couch. Slowly, painstakingly slowly, Derek pulls out a patchwork quilt, and even though it's obvious that parts of it don't match, he brings the blanket up to his face and inhales.

 

He doesn't pull the blanket away.

 

In the very back of his throat, Derek begins to whine, his fingers clutching onto the blanket like a lifeline, before he brokenly whispers Cora's name, and she pushes Isaac away to throw herself at Derek, who somehow manages to catch her even though he never takes the blanket away from his face. She breathes rapidly, like she's trying to avoid sending the air, until she can't avoid it anymore, and she buries her face in the blanket much like Derek had and begins openly sobbing.

 

The siblings cling to each other desperately, and Stiles doesn't fight back the tears this time, he doesn't think that he could if he tried. Instead, he quietly suggests to Boyd that he go and start bringing down the mattresses from upstairs, and he, Isaac, and Jackson bring down four king size beds. 

 

"What will we do this time when the scent fades?" Cora cries, her eyes red and blotchy, cheeks swollen and irritated. This time at least, Stiles has a good answer for the both of them.

 

"You don't have to worry about that," Stiles admits, momentarily thrown off when Derek pulls the blanket away from his face, his eyes as red as Cora's, tears streaming down his face. "I found a website run by a werewolf named Veronica, and when I found the blanket and sent it to her, she asked me if I wanted the scent mimicked, I said yes. When I told her it was for the survivors of the Hale Pack, she sent me three containers of the oil scent free of charge and said that if we ever need her help again, she'd be more than willing."

 

"What does that mean?" Derek asks, clutching onto the blanket as tightly as he can without tearing it. He looks so hopeful that Stiles' heart breaks all over again. "Stiles, what does that mean ?"

 

"That means that you never have to go another day of your life without remembering what your parents smelled like." 

 

The moment the words leave his lips, Cora burst into tears all over again, so Isaac manhandles her onto the mass of beds, and Derek follows after, tucking himself and his sister up in the blanket.

 

This is what my parents smelled like, Stiles hears Cora admit to Isaac, but he is busy picking up after the disaster that just occurred, and listening to his dad and Melissa make excuses to go back to the Stilinski house instead of staying over tonight. He has to keep himself busy, to keep himself from thinking too much on what he just did, and how desperately in love with his Alpha he is.

 

How could he have ever thought that this was similar to Lydia in any way? How could he have ever thought that getting over Derek Hale would be easy? How could he think it would be possible?

 

Stiles loves Derek, and that's all there is to it. So now, he cleans, and he ignores the fact that the love of his life is laying in bed, crying over a heartfelt gift that Stiles himself gave him, because if he thinks about it for too long, then he'll do something stupid.

 

The thing is, Stiles is about 99% sure how this story will end.

 

There will be heartache, heartbreak, and God knows what else on top of that. Besides, they have Deaton and Scott to worry about but maybe after…

 

Then what, he wonders? Would he and Derek be able to get together, to love each other for the rest of their days, however long that might be? Would Stiles get rejected in the end, and never know what it would be like to have the beautiful man in the other room as his, and to be Derek's in return?

 

Would they ever get to be happy ?

 

Instead of wondering what is, what might be, and what might never be, Stiles focuses on finishing the dishes, up to his elbows in dish soap bubbles, humming to hopefully pass the time faster. The melancholy never really leaves though; In fact, it just grows larger when none other than Derek himself steps up to the counter and begins to dry what Stiles is washing.

 

It's domestic, they're domestic, it's like a teasing look into his possible future, and Stiles ends up slamming a plate in the drainer a bit harder than he anticipated. Luckily, it doesn't shatter, but Derek catches his wrist again, and when he looks up, he finds Derek frowning, just a little.

 

Stiles never wants Derek to frown, never wants him unhappy, which he knows isn't exactly healthy or possible, but he just wants him to be happy all the time, is that too much to ask?

 

"It's been a long day, don't you think the dishes can wait until tomorrow?" Derek looks concerned, and a little bit worried when he drains the sink, bodily dragging Stiles back into the living room where everybody else is already curled up in bed, eagerly awaiting the two of them. 

 

The pack makes room between Cora and Erica; Derek settles down next to his sister and pats the spot next to him, so Stiles climbs in. He's surprised when he turns on his side away from Derek that he's being tucked under the Hale blanket, with Derek and Cora both finding some way to cling onto Stiles.

 

He's not sure what he sends down the bond, or what his face must be doing, but Stiles knows that when he takes in a shaking breath once everyone seems to be asleep and tries his hardest not to let any tears fall, that Erica reaches out and wipes gently at his face.

 

"Oh, Batman." Her voice is soft in the darkness, her touch more gentle than Stiles has ever felt. Erica pets his wet cheek and shuffles closer to him until their foreheads are pressed together. "Everything will be just fine."

 

That night Stiles clings to Erica and she clings back to him, and the comfort eases the ache in his chest and the weight on his heart, at least for now. They have Deaton to handle; maybe after he's gone Stiles can afford to be brave.

 

Maybe until then he'll believe Erica when she said that everything will indeed be just fine.