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Three Marks

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Stiles looked left and right before slipping around the side of the school. He immediately saw Derek, who was leaning against the side of the building waiting for him, looking as gorgeous as ever. Stiles jogged up close to Derek and called his name. Derek looked up and smiled the beautiful smile that Stiles had hoped for so long that he’d be able to bring out. Stiles felt a rush of affection for the older man.

“Has he decided the line up?”

“Not yet, Coach always waits until we’re on the field.”

“You’ve been playing well in the last few games—just remember what we’ve been working on and you’ll be fine.”

“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” Stiles moaned.

Derek laughed lightly and pulled Stiles into a gentle hug, running his fingers along the bottom edge of Stiles’ hair. “You’ll be fine. Good luck. Now go or you’ll be late.”

“Seriously, that pasta is threatening to come up.”

“Go, Stiles.”

Stiles reluctantly parted from him, and began to jog in the opposite direction of Derek back toward the field. He slipped into the outskirts of the team huddle, joining Scott and catching the end of Coach’s recitation of the Independence Day speech. He looked up in the stands and saw Derek move through the stands to sit next to John. Well, their pretense was that Derek was helping Stiles with lacrosse as favor to Stiles’ dad, but Stiles was a bit shocked. Derek usually didn’t go near the bleachers to avoid raising suspicions about why he was there, especially since Cora attended all of Landon’s games. The girl in question seemed to have noticed Derek because she had gotten up in the stands to go talk to him.

“Alright, guys,” Coach yelled as Stiles focused in again. “This is it. This is the game that is going to get us to the championship. Don’t screw this up for me. Especially you, Greenberg. If you screw up, I’ll have you all run laps after the game until your legs are bloody stumps. Now get out there and beat these prep school brats!” Coach pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his back pocket. “First line: Whittemore, Cress—” While Coach continued to read names, Stiles watched them turned to each other and nod, as if affirming that this was the way it was supposed to be. “—Yukimura, Lahey, Mahealani, McCall, and Bilinski.”

“What?” Landon and Stiles both exclaimed at the same time.

Stiles had been playing a lot recently, even during the playoff games, but he was usually the second rotation. He was basically the number one sub, and this was a huge game.

Coach Finstock turned to Landon. “He killed it in practice yesterday, Cress, and he was the only one who didn’t look ready to die by the end. I don’t care if the kid is taking illegal supplements, he’s first line. Now shut the hell up and get on the field!”

Thank god for Derek and his ridiculous workout expectations. Suck on that, Cress.

The Beacon Hills’ Cyclones were playing Devonfort Prep, and from the moment the game started, it was brutal and physical. Weaving and dodging felt impossible, and offensive players would cradle the ball only to have it knocked out a second later. Somehow, amid the chaos, both teams had managed four scores by the time there was five minutes left in the game.

As the seconds ticked off the clock, Stiles scooped up a free ball resulting from a scuffle with one of the opposing middies and ran toward their goal. He ran as fast as he could, envisioning the runs with Derek, always trying to keep up with him in the Reserve. Stiles surged forward, managing to beat most of the crowd of players. However, as he reached scoring distance, there was a huge defender on the right side. He faintly heard Coach screaming something about wanting to see a birth certificate.

Stiles took a split second to observe the kid and realized that he was about the size of Derek. Stiles flashed to every practice that he had had with Derek and pushed his entire body to the right. He practically felt the entire crowd of players shift that direction before spinning to the left and immediately throwing at the goal while the goalie was in mid-movement.

The ball sailed in, putting Beacon Hills ahead, and the red and white stands erupted into cheers. Stiles could actually, distinctly feel the soar of pride and ecstatic thrill from Derek. It somehow made the moment even better. Stiles put his hands up and yelled as Scott, Kira, Isaac, Danny and several of his other teammates embraced him tightly.

Another few minutes were left, but after several desperate attempts by Devonfort, neither team scored, and Beacon Hills won.

They were going to the State Championship game.

The team pushed together, jumping up and down as they roared in celebration, and Stiles was fairly certain that Coach was weeping with joy. Stiles, however, immediately flew up to the stands. He didn’t even care that his dad was right next to Derek; he jumped up and flung his arms around his bonded. Derek squeezed him back and quickly pressed a kiss into his hair.

That had to be sweaty.

“You didn’t throw up,” Derek congratulated with a grin.

“I regret every time I told you to go fuck yourself when you’d make me run an extra mile at the Reserve.”

“And when you called me a dick for making you practice one-on-one every time?”

“That too.”

The Sheriff rolled his eyes at the display of affection and subsequent exchange, but happily received the bear hug that Stiles pulled him into after he let go of Derek.

“Congratulations, son. I’m so proud of you,” John told Stiles as he patted him on the back.

“Stiles!” Stiles turned around to see Scott at the bottom of the bleachers, waving him back toward the field. Stiles separated from his father and turned back to Derek.

“Go celebrate with your friends,” Derek said quietly as he brushed the Mark on Stiles’ arm.

After a quick wave, Stiles followed Scott down to a deep part of the field, away from the crowd of fans, where the team and their friends had gathered together postgame. Landon came forward with a long crosse and raised it above his head crying out. The players all raised a hand and grabbed onto the shank of the elevated stick, joining in on the cry. Stiles gripped the stick with his right hand next to Jackson’s.

Jackson looked at him in slight annoyance at being so close, but his face suddenly turned curious. Stiles’ held his breath as his mind immediately registered his error. His Marks had extended too far down his arm, and with his arm raised, his shirt exposed the streak of the Mark down his pulse point. It was as if ice had been injected into his blood stream, and he yanked his hand away from the stick. Jackson was faster than him, however, and grabbed his wrist before Stiles could move away.

“Jackson, please,” Stiles begged quietly, “please, leave this alone. It isn’t just me that is involved in this. No matter how much you hate me, you can’t do this—”

Jackson just gave him a douchebag smirk and said “Got a secret, Stilinski?” as he gripped Stiles’ wrist tighter and quickly pushed the shirt sleeve up, exposing the spiraling Mark on Stiles’ forearm.

“Well, looking what you’ve been fucking hiding, Stilinski!”

The closest people in the huddle turned their attention to where Jackson had exclaimed, and then they immediately focused on Stiles’ arm. Like a wave, one head after another turned to them as everyone fell horribly silent, except for Cora, who let out a gasp.

Well, it was kind of surprising that this hadn’t happened sooner, but shit.

Everyone stood frozen as they stared at the Mark on Stiles’ arm. Stiles was rigid, but seemed coiled and ready to spring away at any moment.

“You’re bonded,” Lydia suddenly breathed, breaking the silence. “I can’t believe I didn’t put the pieces together. Everything makes sense now.”

“That’s why you missed school,” Isaac stated quietly.

Stiles remained still and silent, breathing hard. Scott appeared torn, not knowing whether to quickly drag Stiles out of the situation or let Stiles come up with an excuse first.

“What the fuck?” Landon said laughingly.

“I will never forgive you for this, you asshole,” Stiles said vehemently to Jackson, ignoring everyone else.

“Doesn’t that give you an unfair advantage? Super strength or something? Is that why you got better at lacrosse?” Jackson continued jeeringly.

You’d think he’d be fucking grateful that Stiles won the game for them, but obviously not.

Murmuring and questions began to swell among the team as Stiles saw his closest friends giving him surprised, but sympathetic looks. Scott protectively pushed Jackson back, and Stiles answered as he watched Jackson stumble unceremoniously.

“No, you fucking idiot, it doesn’t give you super strength. Do you know anything? Do any of you? I can just maybe heal a little faster if I get a cut. I got better at lacrosse because I fucking practiced extra outside of normal practice.”

“I can’t believe you have the Curse,” Greenberg practically shouted from the back.

“Who is it with?” one of the freshman, that damn Liam kid, questioned.

“No,” Stiles breathed. “I’m not telling any of you who it is. Any of you. And it’s not a curse.”

“It’s some nerd freshman or something, isn’t it Stilinski?” Landon cackled. The rest of the team joined in his laughter, except for Kira, Scott, Danny and Isaac. Lydia and Allison began to separate themselves from the group, both with worried glances.

“Come on, Stiles,” Scott said, finally, “let’s just get out of here.”

“I don’t know,” Landon continued, ignoring Scott, “it might be a guy. I’ve always had a feeling you were gay.”

“Is that a problem?” Danny said smoothly from the side.

“Oh, no, of course not, man,” Landon said hurriedly, turning toward Danny.

“And what the hell are you getting at, Landon?” Cora exclaimed suddenly. “What the fuck are you trying to say?”

Cora’s face was pale and her eyes were widely fixed on Stiles. She wasn’t looking at the Mark, however; she was staring at Stiles’ face like she had never quite seen him before. There was a mixture of apprehension and dawning understanding on her features.

Landon seemed rather surprised by the shift of the scrutiny towards himself. “That Stilinski is a prime freak. I mean, if anyone would get the Curse in high school, it’d be him.” Everyone’s attention moved shockingly fast from Stiles to the feuding couple.

“You’re acting like this is some freak thing. All of us about to graduate are only about a year from the bonding years. What makes you think it won’t happen to you? No one knows who or when. I bet for you, karma is going to be a serious bitch,” Cora said angrily. “And how dare you pick on Stiles? Because he’s smarter than you? Because he showed you up in the game tonight and should take your spot in the State game? Because he’s funny and people genuinely like him? Because my family gets along with him and they hate you? Because you’re jealous that he’s bonded so that makes him even more ahead of you?”

Landon was staring at her speechlessly. Silence had returned to the gathered team, but this time it seemed simply that no one was brave enough to speak and incur a deepening of Cora’s wrath. Stiles felt his mouth gape slightly as Cora continued to come to his defense.

“We’re done, Landon,” Cora said coolly.

“What?!” Landon sputtered in disbelief.

“Are you deaf as well as being a useless bully?” Cora asked harshly.

“Karma is already on your case, dude,” Stiles said smugly.

Cora rolled her eyes at him and stepped forward to grab his arm. “I’ve got him,” she told Scott and began to pull him away from the scene and toward the school. Scott put a hand on Stiles shoulder, unsure, but one hard Hale glare from Cora, and Scott was backing up to allow her to take him. “Call me, later, man,” Scott whispered by his side, worriedly.

“Oh, and Jackson,” Lydia said unexpectedly with a flick of hair as Stiles was being led away, “we’re done too.” Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles could see Jackson turn pale and begin to stammer in shock.

There was some kind of justice in the universe.

Cora silently led him with a death grip into the school, past the locker rooms, and into an abandoned classroom on the left. The door slammed shut behind them, and she flipped around to stare at him again with those wide eyes. Stiles bounced from foot to foot uncomfortably.

“The dude was an asshole, you deserved better anyways,” Stiles said nervously.

“It’s Derek isn’t it?” Cora whispered.

Stiles contemplated for a moment if there was any stake in lying, but he knew Cora would know the truth eventually, and he’d rather not have her completely hate him when she did. He nodded.

Jesus, now it all makes so much sense!” Cora threw her hands up in such light-hearted relief that it was now Stiles’ turn to stare at her.

“I fucking knew that he wouldn’t just break up with Paige! And he was so nice to you! And he offered to help you practice; that made zero sense, Derek would never do something like that. When did it happen?” Cora asked quizzically.

“Your back to school party,” Stiles answered in astonishment at her reaction.

Cora began to laugh. “I totally forced him to go to that party because Laura couldn’t chaperone. Oh, he must have such a grudge against me.” She paused. “God, it must be horrible, being bonded to Derek. He is so…grumpy and dry. How do you even get along?”

Stiles burst out into laughter and clutched his stomach as he doubled over.

“I’ve learned to deal with his grumpy self,” Stiles responded after he caught his breath, “and we get along a lot better than you’d think. I think the bond helps, though…we feel things about each other. That’s kind of the point.”

“I’m basically getting another brother,” Cora said with more happiness that Stiles had ever really associated with the girl. “I mean, I’m pissed at you for making me lose Paige, but you’re okay.”

“To be honest, this isn’t really the reaction I was anticipating when you pulled me in here,” Stiles admitted.

Cora huffed. “The most important thing to me is family. You’re a Hale now. You’re family now. How else would I react? Plus, you can beat mom’s ass at Monopoly, we’ve needed you for years.”

“Well,” Stiles said, “thanks for shutting Landon down. I’ve been waiting to see that happen since about fifth grade when he crushed my solar system project. I had spent like four hours trying to get the models to the appropriate size representation. And thanks for being cool with it. I mean, there’s nothing much I can do about it, but I’d rather you be cool with it, you know? But you can’t tell anyone that it’s Derek. At least until after our registration day. First off, he’ll kill me. Or find some way to punish me, like taking away my Charlie visiting rights. Second, I don’t think either of us are ready for all of Beacon Hills to know—every old lady in town whispering about us would be a lot to deal with right now.”

“I swear to not tell anyone, Stiles. Actually, I promise to not even tell my family that I know. I will pretend to remain ignorant.” Cora cocked her head slightly. “I’m assuming my parents know?”

“And Laura.”

“Seriously?! He fucking told Laura and not me?”

“She kind of found us right after it happened. She had to take us to the hospital with Paige, so, not really Derek’s fault, dude.”

Cora threw up her hands irritably. “Whatever. I can’t believe they all knew but me, but whatever.”

The pulse of the bond, which had been pounding and uncomfortable since Jackson grabbed his wrist, flowed a shock of worry so strong that Stiles felt light-headed. He had forgotten that Derek so acutely sensed his reaction to everything—and the extreme situation of the last half hour must have Derek suffering from emotional backlash.

Which means Derek had pretty much come to the conclusion that Stiles was dying or in some kind of horrible life-threatening situation.

“Listen, Cora, I’ve got to go call, Derek. I’ve basically put him through a rollercoaster, and he is about to have a coronary.”

Cora shrugged. “Sure whatever,” she said before punching him on the arm, “see you around, Stiles. Probably soon at my house, swooning over my brother.”

He pulled the door open as he gave her a small salute with his free hand. He swung out the door and sprinted to his locker to yank his phone out of his bag. The locker room was blissfully free of any of his teammates—he had had enough of their stares tonight.

 

9:03 PM

Derek Hale

>What the hell is going on?

 

9:07 PM

Derek Hale

>Stiles

>You are freaking out

 

9:15 PM

Missed Call – Derek Hale

 

9:21 PM

Missed Call – Derek Hale

 

9:24 PM

>I’m going to fucking kill you for doing this to me

 

9:36 PM

Missed Call – Derek Hale

 

9:42 PM

Derek Hale

>If you don’t answer me soon, I’m going to call your father

 

Stiles immediately swiped over a missed call and listened to only one ring before Derek picked up.

“I’m going to kill you, Stiles.”

“I know, Derek, I’m sorry, but I’ve had a shitty few minutes, okay? Cut me some slack. We were celebrating and they saw my Marks. They don’t know it’s you,” Stiles reassured, talking as fast as he could, “but, Landon and Jackson and other assholes on the team were jerks about it. I couldn’t do anything to stop it, dude, it just happened so fast. Jackson just grabbed me. But Cora totally saved me—she broke up with Landon, by the way, I know you’ll be happy—and now it’s over.”

“Stiles,” Derek said pained, “are you okay?”

“Yeah, man, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It fucking sucks, and in the moment I was ready to die, but now I think I’m okay.”

“I hated that Landon kid from the start.”

“Well, to be fair, I’m pretty sure you hated me at the start too,” Stiles said lightly.

“I never hated you. I just wanted you to disappear.”

“So much better,” Stiles replied drily.

“Cora stood up for you?”

“Apparently, she has grown fond of me after having me around so much,” Stiles responded, hoping the fact he was lying didn’t filter through the bond.

“Now everyone will know at school.” Derek continued in concern.

“Oh, yeah, school is going to suck,” Stiles admitted, “but honestly, it probably won’t be much worse than it is already.”

“I’m sorry, Stiles. If I could, I would fucking beat the bastards up.”

“It’s not your fault, Derek. That honor goes to Jackson. We’ll be registered soon, anyways, I guess. And besides, I scored the goal tonight that is taking us to the State championship, nothing should be bothering me.”

“You did do really well, Stiles.” That translated from Derek speak into “You were awesome tonight, Stiles, and I’m super proud of you.”

“Shit, I wish there was something I could do,” Derek repeated.

“Naw, we’ll just have to take it as it comes. Pretty usual for us, honestly.”

“So you’re not going out with the team?”

“Oh, negative on that,” Stiles laughed, “they were all looking at me like I was a zoo animal. Plus, I’m not facing Landon or Jackson any time soon, even if their women did put them in their place.”

“Then we should celebrate your win.”

“Curly fries from the diner…with a milkshake?”

“If that’s what you want.”

Stiles did a fist pump in the air. “Hell yes. I’ll meet you over there in ten. Now let me call Scott and tell him that I’m alive.”

Stiles hung up quickly, and as he dialed Scott’s number, he felt the bond course with something deep and warm and content; he felt calm and he felt safe.

● ● ●

School was a torturous hell for Stiles.

Landon Cress, Jackson Whittemore, and their crew had launched a crusade against Stiles to make him as much of a spectacle as possible. A portion of their fury was probably due to the loss of their girlfriends, both of whom they were too afraid of to retaliate against; in comparison, Stiles was an easy target.

Stiles didn’t even attempt to deny the situation at school, knowing that Derek could feel his constant anxiety and aggravation throughout the day. Instead, Stiles texted him all day, cursing and complaining at the school-wide reaction to his Marks. It had reached the point where Stiles was losing the ability to say any word other than fuck.

Derek was fucking sick of worrying about the whole thing. He was sick of Stiles being persecuted.

Thankfully, Stiles’ friends had proven to be extremely supportive. Derek was fairly certain that the only reason Stiles wasn’t going crazy was because the people he cared about the most seemed to have wholly accepted the fact that he was bonded. None of them pressed for the identification of his bond mate and only asked harmless questions. Danny had given Jackson the cold shoulder, and even Cora was hanging out with Stiles to attempt to dissuade the bullying.

By Friday, however, Derek was done with the stupid high school games, and he wasn’t even technically an active participant. The whole thing was bullshit, considering the seniors were only several months from entering college and potentially bonding themselves. Morons.

Something needed to be done.

He had never really been good at rational. He did what he thought was logical, but that didn’t mean it was rational, as Paige used to inform him. But as of now, Derek thought that there was only one suitable plan of action—to go to the high school and confront the assholes himself. Screw the privacy clause.

Derek slipped around the edge of one of the school buildings near the cafeteria. Lunch had just ended, and he scanned the students slowly dispersing from the area to head back to class. His main target was Landon, but Jackson would do as a backup. Unfortunately, neither of them seemed to still be outside, and he doubted he could creep down the halls and not be suspicious. On the edge of the yard, however, he saw the kid on Stiles’ lacrosse team that Finstock was always ragging on. Derek was fairly certain that he was a part of Landon’s posse. He—what was his name again?—could work.

Greenfield? Greenstone? Greenwell? Greenberg?

Greenberg, that was it.

Derek swiftly flew over to the kid and pulled him back toward the side of the building. The kid let out a small shriek as Derek pushes him toward the wall.

“You’re Greenberg, right?”

The kid nodded frantically, looking ready to pee in his pants. Derek rolled his eyes.

“You’re one of Landon and Jackson’s little fucking followers? Making Stiles Stilinski’s life hell?”

“He has the Curse,” the kid squeaked out hurriedly, as if that explained everything.

“I don’t fucking care. This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to tell Landon that you’ve been told that Talia Hale knows about the times he snuck into Cora’s room at night—”

She didn’t really, but Derek unfortunately did. Just another pitfall of moving back home—he learned things he didn’t want to know.

“—and if he doesn’t let up on Stilinski, she’ll be sure to share with his super conservative parents. As for you,” Derek added as Greenberg quaked with nervousness, “you are not going to tell Landon that I’m the one who told you. You’re just going to deliver my message, and then you’re going to lay off of Stilinski.”

“I don’t even know who you are,” Greenberg whimpered.

“Good,” Derek said firmly. “Now are you going to do it?”

“Yes! Yes, right now. Yes, yes, I am.”

Derek released him, and Greenberg shot off toward the classrooms.

Idiot youth.

His phone buzzed, and Derek looked down to see a text from Stiles.

 

1:15 PM

Stiles Stilinski

>dude i know youre at school

>i can feel how close you are remember?

>creeper

 

>I had things to take care of.

 

>please tell me you didnt rip anyones throats out

 

>No. Hopefully I just scared a couple of people shitless.

 

>i appreciate the attempt but

>i can take care of myself dude

>im just trying to ignore it

>i dont want to give the assholes the satisfaction

 

>You’re smart, right, Stiles?

 

>…is this a trick question

 

>If I had blackmail on Landon Cress and could get the message to him

>Would it be smart to use it?

 

>blackmail????

 

>The walls in our house are thin.

 

>oh no nope no details necessary

 

>I also once caught him smoking a joint behind our house.

>I don’t really care what scares him, as long as something shuts him up.

>I know you can take care of yourself

>But I’ve wanted to put him in his place for a while.

 

>was it therapeutic

 

>Very. Do you think Scott could give up your Friday night?

>If you want to.

 

>yeah it was a pretty rough week

>ill head over after school

>who did you scare the shit out of by the way

 

>Greenberg

 

>hahahahaha classic

 

Derek drove back to the Hale house and felt more content that he had in a week. And with a more relaxed flow of the bond from Stiles, Derek finally began to work on his latest accounting project until the system began to glitch. (Again.) He sighed at the universe’s obsession with torturing him and called Kali. He had requested her direct extension so he wouldn’t have to go through Meredith.

“Damnit, Hale, what are you doing now to my electronics?”

“Nothing, Kali. It’s not my fault you’ve given me fucking faulty computers.”

“Shut the fuck up. Just deal with it for now and when you come up here to go to New York, I’ll trade it out for a new one.”

Derek paused. “New York?”

“Oh.” Crackling and crashing sounds reverberated through the phone as Kali messed with something on the other line. “I don’t have time for this. Talk to Lynette.”

Derek immediately began to hear the transfer tone as Kali pushed the button. After a moment, Lynette answered.

“Lynette Speights.”

“Lynette, it’s Derek. What is this about New York?”

Lynette sighed. “I had hoped to ease you into the idea. I know that North Carolina had made you nervous, even though Stiles only got nose bleeds for a week, but we have a huge production in New York in few days.”

“A few days!”

She had been going to wait until the last minute and then try to guilt him into going, damnit.

“Will you go?”

“I’ll have to talk to Stiles first,” Derek groaned.

“Good. He’ll say yes,” Lynette remarked before promptly hanging up.

Derek put down the phone as he heard the front door creak open. He made his way to the living room to see Cora, Stiles—and Lydia Martin.

Today was going to be one of those days…which was sad, considering how well it had started out.

“Look at who got here the same time as me,” Cora said with a smirk, “so I figured I’d let them in. Have fun doing whatever.” She winked at Stiles before running up the stairs to her room.

What the fuck? Why was she acting like that?

A very terrifying idea began to blossom in his mind. What if—?

“Derek, you remember Lydia?” Stiles questioned nervously, restlessly moving.

“Yes,” Derek said slowly, staring at the smug look on redhead’s face. “Why are you here, Lydia?”

“I requested to come. I wanted to meet you officially as Stiles’ bonded,” Lydia commented smoothly as Stiles turned a pale, sickly color. “It was obvious who he bonded with,” Lydia continued, “but I’m assuming that you both don’t want it said out loud until you’re registered.”

Well, Derek supposed it shouldn’t be a surprise that the genius girl was perceptive enough to figure it out. Honestly, out of all of the people to know, Lydia was the least threatening to him. He was more worried about extended family and his friends. Obviously, her knowledge would affect Stiles, but Derek barely knew the girl—and he was fairly certain that Stiles would be relieved to have her in the loop.

Stiles put his head in his hands and groaned. “I knew that you had figured it out, but I had really been hoping I was wrong. And you won’t have to wait long, we’ll be registered soon. We’ve been bonded since—”

“Since the back-to-school party. Yes, everything made perfect sense once I saw the Mark,” Lydia stated before sitting down on the couch and signaling for the men to do the same.

Derek hesitantly perched on the edge of the loveseat, only to find myself the subject of a minor interrogation about his life. Lydia had no problem asking personally questions, Derek had no problem remaining silent or merely grunting, and Stiles had no problem interjecting with sarcastic comments. After what felt like an eternity, Cora came down the stairs and mercifully cut off the barrage of questions.

“Hey, Lydia, want to go dress shopping? That boutique downtown is having a sale. Lindsey just texted me.”

Lydia immediately jumped up from the couch and grabbed her bag. “Oh, absolutely. I need to look for a prom dress anyway.” She turned to whisper to Derek, “You had better treat him right. I know many ways to inconspicuously poison people.”

She and Cora began to walk to the door as Cora turned back, a giant grin spreading across her face. “We’ll leave you two alone since I know you’re secret friends. House is all yours. Don’t get too crazy,” she said coyly as she stepped out of the door that Lydia held open for her.

Oh, she knew. She knew. Now both his sisters could give him hell.

He turned and shot Stiles a withering glare. Stiles just gave an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders.

“Up for an impromptu lacrosse practice? I know how you hate deviation from routine, but…”

“You’re running an extra lap for that,” Derek said fondly as they headed to the back door.

Over the next few days, Stiles was nearly back to his normal level of happiness, which gave Derek a huge sense of relief. Landon must have gotten his message because the guys had left Stiles alone, and taunting had faded to curious whispers instead of catcalls. As for Lydia, Stiles was so excited to be able to talk to her that Derek had to actually exert some effort to ignore the feelings.

However, on the day that Derek was meant to leave for New York, Stiles had been acting weird. The bond felt tight and strange, and even though Stiles had told him that he didn’t have to go by the Stilinski’s house before leaving for the airport, Derek flew up the drive way, entered the house, and burst into Stiles’ room. Stiles was sitting in his desk chair, staring moodily at something on the computer. He jumped when he saw Derek and quickly slammed his computer shut.

“I’m not looking at pictures of you. I’m not a creeper like you are,” Stiles said immediately.

“I’m not having that England shit happen again,” Derek said, dangerously low.

Stiles stood up, shot him a look, and fiddled nervously with his fingers.

“What the fuck is wrong? You were okay when I went to Montana and North Carolina. You told me to go to New York. I mean, I know you’re taking all the precautions now, but I’m not getting on that plane if something isn’t right—”

“Do you love me?” Stiles burst out.

Derek froze.

“I mean,” Stiles rushed, “I told you I loved you. And you didn’t answer that that was fine, but you went to school and risked getting arrested for attacking a kid to make sure that the jackasses left me alone, and I just watched this documentary on plane crashes and I was thinking about how easily you could fall out of the sky and die—”

Derek needed to block out the damn History Channel, Stiles always got consumed by those documentaries.

“—and it made my Marks hurt, and then I through about it and realized that you hadn’t reciprocated and how horrible it would be for you to die in the plane crash—I mean, I know you aren’t actually going to crash, statistically, but the principle is—”

“Stiles,” Derek cried, “of course I love you! Can you not feel it in the damn bond? I even love the things I can’t fucking stand about you!” He hadn’t really meant to say it, but it was probably about time.

“But is it just because of the bond?” Stiles asked quietly.

“No! It’s just you!” Derek said despairingly. Oh, no, he didn’t want to do this.

Stiles just stared at him disbelievingly, and Derek reluctantly continued, “Of course the bond had something to do with it! I wouldn’t know you otherwise. But the bond didn’t hypnotize me and make me fall in love with you! I did that all on my fucking own.”

“So…are we dating?”

“Stiles,” Derek said in a weary voice, “what do you think we’ve been doing this whole time?”

“Existing together as bond mates? Two guys having bro-time as designed by the universe? You can’t tell me that it was obvious! You’re like a statue when it comes to emotion.”

“God, I bonded with an idiot. Stiles, I don’t really go around telling people I love them. But I’ve taken you on overnight trips, hung out with you every Saturday, come to the coffee shop when you’re working, had movie nights with you. I’ve played hours of fucking video games for you. I bought you a dog.”

“So you’re my boyfriend?”

Derek put his head in his hands resignedly. “Sure, if that’s what you want to call it.”

“That’s what I want you to call it.”

“I’m your boyfriend,” Derek replied in exasperation.

The bond settled between them.

Stiles paused. “Wait. You asked if I’d been able to feel it. Have you been able to feel that I loved you through the bond this whole time?”

“Yes.”

“Oh fuck. I’d be embarrassed, but I guess it doesn’t matter now.” Stiles flung his arms around Derek, gave him a hard, short kiss, and then pulled away. “Okay, you can go now.”

“Are you serious?” Derek asked incredulously.

Stiles raised an eyebrow at him. “Do you want to continue this conversation about our feelings? We can curl up on the bed and whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears as you miss your flight.”

Derek threw up his hands. “You were the one being ridiculous before, not me!”

Stiles settled back down in his desk chair and grinned broadly at Derek. “You love me, now leave.”

Derek stared at him for a moment, moving to give Stiles a short hug before exiting the room.

On the trip, when Kali asked him how the cupcake boyfriend was, Derek simply responded, “He’s fine.” Lynette smirked knowingly at him.

When Derek flew back in to California, his flight landed late enough that he decided to stay at his house in Sacramento for the night and drive back to Beacon Hills in the morning. After dropping his bags off in his room and heading back downstairs to grab something to eat, Derek heard pounding on the front door.

If it was those missionary people, he wasn't going to hesitate to rip their pamphlet up in their faces.

He frustratingly opened the front door and came face-to-face with a very determined Stiles, holding a clear, plastic bag through which Derek could see lube and condoms.

Subtle, Stiles. Subtle.

“We’re dating now,” Stiles said firmly, pushing his way into the house.

“No.”

“This should have happened ages ago, anyways. Like at the beach.”

“No, we are not doing this. Your father will kill me.”

“He won’t find out if you don’t tell him! Because I’m certainly not going to!”

“Parents have this way of just knowing things,” Derek said darkly.

“You were totally on board that time at my house before we went to see the baby!”

“That’s because you’re fucking distracting.”

Stiles walked up and pushed flush against him. “Listen, I’m legal now—”

“I know that you’re legal now, but some line-in-the-sand number isn’t really what my concern is.”

“I love you,” Stiles said simply, “and I want to be with you. I want this.”

Derek wanted it too. And Jesus, did he love the man hovering close to him. It felt like it was finally theright time, but he couldn't help the underlying hesitation—this would bring the final, definitive shift in their relationship, and it was almost an overwhelming thought.

“We could wait until after our registration,” Derek said quietly.

“Dude, it’d be so cliché to wait until our registration night.” He pushed Derek’s shirt up and played with the hair trailing down into his underwear.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek moaned in agitation.

“That’s the idea,” Stiles said, flashing a grin.

Derek put his head in his hands. “That is an overused and terrible joke, Stiles.”

“Listen,” Stiles said cockily, “I’m going up to the bedroom. Either my hand can do the job or you can do the job. But, I’m getting off tonight. If you don’t want to join me, I’ll be sure to be extra loud for any business that you may want to conduct in here.”

Derek was already half-hard just from listening to Stiles talk about it. God, his resolve could only last for so long with Stiles’ lust and determination flowing across the bond in full force.

“I am not fucking you tonight,” Derek said, and then as Stiles began to open his mouth to retort, “but, I can probably suck you off. Hand job. Just…I’d rather start out small. Learn about each other.”

For all of Stiles’ confidence and pushing, he seemed rather surprised to be receiving a confirmation. He had frozen slightly and his mouth was half-open and eyes wide. “Oh, yeah, this is your first time with a guy too.”

Derek rolled his eyes and gently brushed his fingers at the hem of Stiles’ shirt that hovered just over his hips. Derek gripped the edge and pulled the cloth upward—Stiles, who still seemed to be in disbelief that this was happening, took a moment to catch on before he raised his arms for Derek to pull the entire shirt free. Derek scanned the toned, lithe body in front of him before raising his eyes to meet the warm, honey eyes that had enraptured him all of those months ago. Stiles fidgeted nervously under the scrutiny, but stilled with a shiver as Derek gently placed his fingertips on the smooth skin of Stiles’ chest. The warmth seeped through his fingers, the pounding of Stiles’ heart vibrating through his senses, and the muscles firm and tight. He skimmed his fingers upward and brushed over the Marks that he never really touched, lingering over the one that lay over the heart.

Stiles was beautiful, and Derek almost ached with the love he felt for him.

“I know I’m not Paige.”

“I don’t want you to be Paige,” Derek replied. The statement hurt slightly, but it was completely honest.

“And you know you’re not Kate, right?” Stiles asked timidly.

“I know that,” Derek said as he met Stiles’ eyes. “It’s just…us.”

“Just us,” Stiles repeated as Derek kissed gently behind his ear.

Stiles seemed to grow more confident the longer Derek idolized his body, and finally pointedly focused on Derek’s obvious bulge. “You know, we can take care of that. And me naked isn’t nearly as good as you naked, so we need to make that happen fast.”

“You’re not naked yet.”

“Well, we can take of that too,” Stiles quipped, as he began to forcefully lead Derek to the bedroom.

“When you are, I’m pretty sure I want to suck your dick.”

Stiles stumbled in surprise and yelped as Derek righted him. Derek laughed soundly as Stiles moaned, “You can’t just say shit like that.”

“I don’t plan on just saying anything,” Derek commented flippantly.

Stiles broke out in a grin and reached forward to run his fingers over the top of Derek’s pant line again. “Well, Hale, come on.”

Derek took Stiles' hand gently as both of them ascended the stairs.

Later, as they lay breathing heavily and were half-nestled in the blankets, Stiles turned his head toward Derek.

“You know,” Stiles said lazily as Derek buried his face in Stiles’ neck and kissed his shoulder, “I kind of can’t believe that the Marks didn’t grow. I mean, first a hug, then a kiss—you’d just figure that sex would be the next thing.”

Derek just shrugged slightly. He didn’t think he’d ever truly understand the bond, and he surely didn’t have the brain power to ponder its mysteries right now.

Stiles turned his face toward Derek’s and said, “You know, you’re just as gorgeous naked as I thought you’d be. And god, your dick. I hit the jackpot, really.”

Derek looked at Stiles’ honey-colored eyes, which were sleepy and content, and felt the overwhelming warmth of the bond as he began to rub circles gently on Stiles’ hip.

“You’re prefect, Stiles.”

Stiles suddenly jostled a little. “Oh my god, I’m not a virgin anymore! Finally, I thought it was never going to happen, seriously. I thought I was just going to live out my days vicariously through Scott’s exploits.”

Derek closed his eyes and shook his head. “Technically, it depends on your definition of virginity.”

“Yeah, and my definition is that my cherry is popped. Done, over, check mate. My virginity has left the building, the ship has sailed—”

“Somehow, Stiles,” Derek said drily, “I manage to say ‘you are perfect’ even though I hear you say shit like that all the time. Basically, this bond is making me lose my sanity.”

“Nah,” Stiles said sleepily, as he pushed as close as possible to Derek and closed his eyes, “it’s just making sure you remember you’re surrounded by awesome.”

Derek thought that it was more reminding him that love wasn’t always rational, and that we needed to let go sometimes to allow ourselves to really accept who we need in our lives. But, he didn’t really feel a need to argue, so he just pulled the blankets up higher and put his arms around Stiles before closing his eyes to be lulled to sleep by the bond’s steady flow.

● ● ●

As Caitlin presented her continued bonding research, Stiles tapped his foot up and down nervously, ignoring the irritated look Lydia was sending him. He had received information from Mr. Richard that a friend of his from Stanford was here, and if she liked Stiles and Lydia’s presentation, Stiles could potentially be up for a big scholarship.

Not that he’d apparently have to worry about paying for school, but the less he’d have to rely on Derek, the more independent Stiles would feel.

“It’s crazy that you’re already going through this,” Isaac commented to Stiles as he listened to Caitlin elaborate on one of her couples.

“It’s not that weird,” Lydia responded nonchalantly before Stiles could reply. “It’s like going through puberty early. That’s what the bond pulls are like in general: the flood of hormones that you get at a certain time of life. We always have pulls—we are always drawn to people—the pulls are just strongest at that certain time, so strong that we can feel them. Some people, they say, can always feel them strongly.”

“What Lydia said,” Stiles remarked to Isaac.

“Can you really sometimes sense if the other person is there or feeling happy or something like what Caitlin is saying?” Kira asked curiously. “Though I guess you’d have to have a strong bond like she’s talking about.”

Stiles laughed loudly, and all of his friends on the row looked at him. “You have no fucking idea, Kira.”

“So you’re bonded strongly?” Allison asked. “I mean, you don’t have to say if you don’t want to. I know we haven’t really talked about it.”

“I’m bonded stronger than any of those up there,” Stiles said smugly, nodding his head toward the powerpoint being presented.

“Those two girls are a Class V major bond. There isn’t anything stronger than that,” Danny said, looking confused as Caitlin finished to a small round of applause.

Stiles snorted. “I’m along the elite.”

Lydia pulled on his arm, yanking him up from the chair. “Come on,” she said, “we can talk about this later. We’re up next.”

As they began to work their way through the aisle and toward the stage, Stiles felt the anxiety and jitteriness rising until he was hit was wave of calm and confidence. He realized that Derek was pushing the feelings across the bond to try and temper his nervousness. He looked up toward the stands where he knew Derek sat and broke out into a grin. That was probably the second sweetest thing Derek had ever done after giving him Lola, even though he probably only partially did it to make Stiles extreme emotions stop.

Lydia and Stiles crushed the presentation, and Mr. Richard’s friend seemed very impressed, praising their work when she shook Stiles’ hand afterward.

Things were working out in his life. Big time.

Afterwards, he knew that Derek was going to meet his parents for dinner with some family friend named Satomi, but once the presentations were over, he went ahead and drove over to the Hale’s. He was let in by Cora, but she didn’t sit down to join him in the kitchen until he had already made a sandwich and was halfway through devouring it.

“Hey, brother-in-bond,” she said as she plopped down in the stool next to him.

“Ah, that was a clever take on brother-in-law. Witty.”

“Shut up, Stiles. So, as we all know, no one at school—well, except Lydia and Scott—knows that you bonded with Derek and I have not said a peep to anyone. I have pretended as if I know nothing. Derek thinks that I know, but everyone tells him he is crazy.”

“Like when Harry knew Draco was a Death Eater,” Stiles said solemnly.

“And as you know, I broke up with Landon for you—”

“Didn’t you break up with Landon for like girl power or something? Also, I’m sure the fact that he’s an asshole helped.”

“—and I was supposed to go to prom with him. And now everyone is taken. And since Derek won’t be going to prom with you—”

“Could you really imagine Derek at prom anyways,” Stiles commented offhandedly.

“Yes, actually. I watched him get ready and helped him take pictures with Paige before they got on the limo. That kind of stuff isn’t really his scene, obviously—he’d rather be in a cave on a deserted island reading—but he went because he was a high school senior with a girlfriend.”

The thought of Derek and Paige sharing that together made Stiles’ stomach clench unhappily, but he quickly pushed the image out of his head and berated himself for the jealousy. Derek hadn’t always been his, and Paige deserved to have what she did with him.

“Oh, well, yeah, I guess that makes sense,” Stiles said with a pause, “I forget sometimes that he went to high school. He’s such an old man.”

“My point, Stiles, is that you are going to prom with me.”

“Are you going to ask me properly? You could spell it out in lanterns at the beach, or in rose petals on my desk, or in side walk chalk outside my house before calling me to my window.”

“I’m not asking you at all. I’m telling you.”

“Well,” Stiles considered the statement, “I was just going to go stag, but this should be interesting.”

“Interesting? No, this should be fun. I don’t have to worry about entertaining a boyfriend. They’re so whiney.” Cora wrinkled her nose, looking so much like Derek that Stiles had to blink. “And who the hell says ‘stag?’”

Stiles ignored her question, but continued to tell her all of the plans that all of his friends (a.k.a. Lydia) had devised for prom night. As he was arguing with her over what color shoes he should wear, they heard the back door open and Talia, Stephen, and Derek filed into the kitchen.

“What are you two doing?” Talia asked with a smile.

“Oh, Stiles and I were just discussing prom details. We’re going to prom together.”

“What?” Derek demanded in shock.

“Stiles has been at our house almost every Saturday this entire year. Even during Christmas break, Derek insisted on practice for routine or whatever. But, anyways, I’ve learned that he isn’t a total dweeb. He’s a dweeb, but not completely.”

“Oh, you’re such a sweetheart, Cora.”

Cora ignored Stiles and continued, “So since the thing with Landon, I didn’t have anyone to go with and it’s happened like two weeks before prom, so all my friends are taken and it’s either go alone or ask the lowest of the low—like Greenberg. So, I had decided to go alone and then Stiles just mentioned that he was going ‘stag’ and I figured we could at least go together as friends. It’ll be awesome; I plan on having fun. He won’t be having a man period halfway through the dance, won’t want to be glued to me, won’t care about how we dance, and won’t want to skip out early to have sex.”

Cora sent Derek a broad smile at her final statement. Derek bristled.

“How do you know I wouldn’t want to sex you up?” Stiles asked in mock hurt.

Cora snorted. “Like I said, you’ve been here every weekend. And you’ve hit on me a number of zero times. Also, you just said that in front of my parents with no fear.”

“You know,” Derek said determinedly to Cora.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Cora replied smoothly. “And now, I need to meet up with Lydia and Allison at the gym. See you at school, Stiles.”

As she exited the room, Derek turned to his parents and repeated the same thing he’d been saying since Lydia came over to the house. “She knows.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Stephen said, “or she’d be flaunting it.”

“I’m sure that she just wants someone to go to prom with,” Talia added before patting Derek on the arm and walking with Stephen out of the room.

Stiles had to restrain himself from completely losing it with laughter over the Hale insanity.

Derek turned to Stiles and narrowed his eyes dangerously. “I know she knows.”

Stiles just shrugged, shooting Derek his typical shit-eating grin.

“I’m bonded emotionally to you. Your ability to lie to me is slim, Stiles. I can call your bullshit about 95% of the time. And I’m calling it now.”

“Even if she does, does it matter, dude? We have like a week before she finds out for sure. And she’s not flipping her shit, so…” Stiles shrugged again. “Are you embarrassed to tell her that you bonded with some fucking hipster kid in her class? She kind of knows me by now, dude.”

Derek groaned. “Yeah, she knows you. And she’s already teaming up with you to torture me.”

Stiles smirked. “Just wait until Laura shows up, dude.”

Derek sighed wearily.

On Friday night, prom, in line with Cora’s expectations, was actually incredibly fun.

If someone had told him last summer before that back-to-school party that he would be going to prom with Cora Hale, he would have told that person that they were fucking crazy. The universe scales didn’t tip that way. Yet, here he was, going to prom with Cora Hale as her date—and he had spent the morning hiding away off the Reserve trail, making out with her older brother, and had spend the mid-afternoon signing preliminary registration forms. In other words, it was the universe that was fucking crazy.

Stiles met Cora at the Hales and goofily exchanged the corsage and boutonniere with her while the Hales, including Laura, looked on. After the two of them took pictures, Cora forced Derek to take a picture with Stiles as ‘training buddies.’ Derek looked pointedly at his parents and Laura, but they seemed determined to remain oblivious.

Since Cora had found out that Stiles had bonded with Derek, she had apparently found him worthy of being a full-fledged friend. During dinner with all of his friends, Stiles came to the conclusion that she was actually pretty cool once you get to know her. It was a shame she took so long to hang out with them—she got along great with the girls, particularly Lydia, who was (unsurprisingly) going with Aiden.

Once at the dance, they took silly pictures at the front—

(“Okay, what is going to be our pose?”

“What?”

“Oh my god, Stiles, we aren’t dating or anything, so we don’t want to do that typical lame-ass pose. We need something exciting.”

“Oh, well, in that case, I can probably come up with a few ideas. First off: James Bond.”)

—danced from the start to the finish, joked about Derek, played a prank on Isaac, and badmouthed Jackson and Landon.

(“I don’t know why I didn’t get rid of him sooner.”

“Yeah, what gives? I mean, that douchebag?”

“He was available and a pretty good workout partner.”

“Fucking Hales and their workout obsession.”)

Stiles hadn’t really expected to enjoy prom, but it turned out to be the best high school dance he had ever been to, even with no alcohol involved (his father swore he would kill him and Stiles was afraid of Talia). Stiles also hadn’t expected to really like Cora, but he kind of loved both of Derek’s sisters.

After prom, before Stiles drove Cora home, they decided nothing could end before they got cheesecake and milkshakes at the diner.

“Anyone should be afraid of Laura, not Derek,” Cora said as they ate their cheesecake, “There’s a reason Laura is a top lawyer in LA. She’s nice in general, but don’t piss her off. But the person who you should really be afraid of is my mom. She is terrifying when she’s angry. She seems all calm, sweet, and understanding, but you don’t mess with her. That’s why Landon left me alone once that rumor went around about us sleeping together. He knows Derek will scratch him, Laura will maim him, and my mother will kill him.”

“What about your dad?”

“He seems pretty zen, huh? To be honest, I don’t really have my dad figured out. I don’t even know if he works. He always just goes with my mom on her trips, but I have no idea if he’s working too. Do you even know what my mom does?”

“Derek said something once about crisis management, but actually no.”

“Yeah, neither do I. Ask Derek and Laura. They don’t really know either. When I was little, I thought she was in the Mafia or something, but the governor came to our house one day to ‘talk about work.’” Cora did airquotes. “So I figured that she couldn’t be doing anything too shady.”

“Talking about work with potentially morally corrupt politicians? That should scream Mafia even more, come on.”

Cora laughed. “Either way, I have no idea. I don’t even know why we live on the outskirts of a small town like Beacon Hills and not some big city.”

“More inconspicuous for the black market deals.”

“All I know is my parents have a ton of money. Like millions of dollars. Laura, Derek, and I each have trusts with enough money that we’d never have to work a day in our lives.”

Stiles choked on his milkshake. “What? Are you fucking serious?”

“Yeah, you scored when you bonded with Derek. Gold digger.”

“He’s never told me that! I mean, I know that you’re loaded, it’s obvious with that beach house, but I didn’t think Derek was a trust fund baby. No wonder he offered to pay for me to go to college.” Stiles paused. “Why do you guys even go to college?”

“I can’t touch the trust unless I graduate from high school, get a college bachelor’s degree, and get some secondary education after that—you know, like Derek’s Master’s and Laura’s law school. It’s the rules of the trust.”

“Ensuring that you all still become normal human beings?”

“I guess so.”

“I'm not sure if it worked with Derek. Where are you going to college, Cora?”

“Berkeley. That’s where Laura, Paige, and Derek went and they seemed happy. Plus, their history department has an amazing study abroad program in South America that I want to work towards. What about you?”

“Stanford.”

“Of course.” Cora took a penultimate bite. “So, what do you and Derek even do together?”

“We just kind of hang out unless we’re practicing. Play video games, talk, that sort of thing.”

“Derek hates video games and hates talking even more.”

“I bring out the best in him, you know," Stiles offered with a smirk. "Derek also reads a lot,” he added as an afterthought. 

Cora shrugged. “Whatever. As long as you don’t force him to do fun things, I’m sure he’s fine.”

Stiles immediately thought back to Derek sprinting through the laser tag course and wondered how well Cora really knew her brother. He felt a strong desire to find a way to show her in the future.

After they finished, Stiles drove Cora back to the house and walked her to the door, feeling awkward for the first time during the night. How did you tell your sister-in-bond goodnight after prom? See you later, it’s been fun?

“Thanks for tonight,” Cora began before he could make up his mind, “I thought I’d have fun, and I was right. You know, you’re good for Derek. I mean, I still wish he and Paige could get married. Paige has been like my sister since I was seven. She’s been around forever, and I can’t just not want her here. But, Derek is happy with you. Like really happy. And I’ve decided that you’re kind of awesome and sarcastic. I like you.” She gave Stiles a kiss on the cheek. “See you at the registration. Welcome to the Hale family.”

A kind of comfort settled through him, and Stiles watched as she walked up the stairs to open the door, disappearing inside.

● ● ●

“They just had a good time.”

“But do you think it was too good? Do you think she likes him?”

“We could just ask her,” Stephen injected calmly.

This had to be one of the most painful conversations that Derek had ever been a part of, which was saying something at this point. The Hales, including Robbie, whispered furiously in the kitchen as Cora sat on the couch in the living room playing on her tablet. Derek remained resolutely silent.

“No, Stephen, you can’t—” Talia began.

“What if Cora actually likes Stiles and freaks out?” Laura asked worriedly.

Stephen walked to the doorframe and yelled into the living room, “Are you interested in Stiles?”

Talia placed a hand over her face, Laura opened her mouth in disbelief, and Robbie attempted to not laugh.

“What?” Cora shouted in horror. “Oh my god, no. No.”

The group in the kitchen filtered into the living room to gather around the couch.

“How do you know that he’s not interested in you?” Robbie questioned before receiving a punch from Laura.

“Stiles has been bisexual forever, and even though he’s had a crush on Lydia since like the third grade and had that thing with Katie in like seventh grade, I’ve always thought he swung a little more toward men.”

Cora gave Derek a big smile.

Derek glared back at her. She knew, goddamnit.

“Cora—”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh my god, I know. It’s their registration day tomorrow. Though you all think otherwise—well, except Derek, he realized that I knew—I’m not an idiot. I knew something was up for a while and then finally figured it out. And I bought a dress an age ago when we were buying prom dresses. Actually, Laura, I snuck into your closet and guessed which one you’d be wearing and got one similar. So we’d be cohesive or whatever.”

Finally, verification that he was right.

“Cora,” Talia began before being cut off by Laura.

“You got a green one?”

“Yeah,” Cora replied, “it’s lace too, similar to yours.”

“Oh, perfect!” Laura exclaimed. “It’ll go with the flowers.”

Derek’s smug look dropped from his face. “Flowers?”

Laura looked at him as if he were the most hopeless human being alive. “Yes, Derek, flowers. Did you not think that we were doing something nice for your registration? Did you think you were going to show up to the courthouse in jeans and a Henley?”

“Yes,” Derek said slowly. “And what do you mean ‘something nice?’” Derek thought he heard his dad snicker slightly.

Laura stared at him in horror. “I cannot believe would possibly think that you were going to wear casual clothes to your registration. I already had a shopping date with Stiles and bought his suit.”

“What?!” Derek cried. “You went shopping with Stiles?”

“Don’t worry, Der-Bear, I already knew your measurements, so I just went ahead and bought your matching one while we were there. It’s in your closet, didn’t you notice it?”

“What is ‘something nice,’ Laura?” Derek pleaded.

“Derek,” Talia answered as Cora, Stephen, and Laura cackled at Derek’s discomfort, “we just rented a little room in the courthouse. Melissa McCall and I are making a cake, Stiles’ friend—Danny, I believe—was going to play a little music, and Laura had bought a few decorations. Just a little something since we know you don’t like much—but it’s an important day, Derek.”

Laura smirked at him. As if he was going to fight their mother. Shit.

“Does Stiles know about this?”

“Derek, I went with him to buy a suit. Yes, he knows.”

That little bastard was going to stay quiet and then let Derek be surprised.

“I’m not wearing a tie,” Derek said firmly after a weary sigh.

“I bet Stiles thinks you look sexy in a tie,” Cora commented mischievously, “he has to have some kind of accountant fantasies.”

“Murder me,” Derek muttered gloomily.

The teasing, unfortunately, didn’t let up over the rest of the afternoon or the next day. Stiles, Laura, and Cora added him on a group text where the three of them mercilessly continued the onslaught. Derek had been dreading the three of them teaming up against him, but it was almost worse than he expected. Thankfully, as Derek pulled on his suit coat in the small dressing room (separate from Stiles’ since Laura refused to them be together before, and Derek was too tired to fight her), his family seemed to catch on that he’d like some peace before he was finally registered.

“You look happy,” Laura commented while straightening Derek’s very-present tie.

He was happy, minus the horrible clothes he was wearing. He fucking hated clothes like this.

“I am.”

Why were they making him wear this? This wasn’t a wedding, this was a bonding registration signing at the courthouse.

“You deserve to be happy, Derek,” Talia said with a smile.

“I’ve been happy,” Derek said in exasperation. “We aren’t doing anything different after this. We’re just letting the government mark us as official and continuing on. This isn’t as big a deal as you all are making it.”

“Stile is excited,” Cora remarked from a chair in the corner. “It’ll probably hurt his feelings if you don’t at least act excited too.”

Derek growled but allowed Laura to continue her pampering. After a moment, she tugged on his collar a little bit. “Derek,” she said hesitantly, “someone would like to see you real quick, if you don’t mind?”

“Who?” Derek asked confusedly.

“Next room over” was all she responded.

Derek slipped out of the room to see Paige gently leaning against the wall.

If it had been Stiles, he would have said something along the lines of “We need to stop meeting at ceremonies like this.”

“If you don’t mind,” Paige began immediately as she saw him, “I’d like to be here.”

He looked at her soft, brown, hopeful eyes and reached forward to draw her into a hug which she quickly returned. “Of course,” he replied softly. “I’m glad you’re here. It means a lot to me.”

Since Laura’s wedding, they had slowly texted and called each other. It would never be what it was, but at least he could still share things with her.

“You’re hating this, aren’t you?” she asked.

“I just want to get the bracelet and leave,” Derek groaned.

“Did you bring that ring with you too?” Paige asked with a hesitant smile.

This wasn't a wedding, damnit.

“We may be bonded, but I think we just need to date first. He has all of college before he even needs to think about that.”

Paige’s smiled widened. “I figured that you two would be more of a slow-moving romance.”

“Look how long it took me with you.”

“Good thing,” Paige said with a small laugh, “because you would have run into Stiles at some point.”  

“Derek,” Laura said suddenly, peeking out from the room. “They’re ready.” The Hales filed out of the room and began to walk with Paige down the hall as Laura pinned a small, white boutonniere on Derek’s jacket. “Good luck,” she said with a wink.

Jesus, there was no luck involved, unless he needed luck for the pen to produce enough ink to sign his name.

Derek walked in the opposite direction of his family, as he had been instructed when they first got to the courthouse, until he reached a small holding room in the back.

The pomp and circumstance for this business was fucking ridiculous.

He momentarily forgot how disgruntled he was, however, when he entered the room and saw Stiles leaning against the wall with his arms crossed loosely.

Derek stared at how handsome Stiles looked in the trim, gray suit. Maybe he owed Laura a silent thank you.

“Finally, dude,” Stiles said once he noticed Derek. “If I had known that you’d be a diva about this, I would have had them lie to you about the time. Your hair had better be perfectly styled.”

“Laura,” Derek said crisply as he continued to stare at the way the jacket sleeves were perfectly tailored to Stiles’ arms, emphasizing his long, elegant hands. Derek walked over to Stiles and put a hand on his neck, gently brushing with his fingers. “You look nice.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “And we all know you look nice. Now let’s hurry and get this started. I’m so excited for the party,” he said, flailing his hands around, “because apparently your mom and Melissa joined forces on a cake and I want to taste that slice of heaven. Also, I want to see my friend’s faces when they see I got someone so out of my league. I mean, you’re not actually out of my league but everyone will assume that once they see your face.”

Derek was spared replying that practically everyone already knew by the entry of Araya Calavera, Dr. Braeden, and Dr. Morrell. Araya looked even more serious than usual and the two doctors’ faces had their typical small smiles. They each carried a small pack of papers.

“Alright,” Araya began quickly, “Braeden, you ask your question first and then I’ll get started. The whole registration should take about ten minutes. Afterwards, we’ve all been invited to a party by Talia Hale. I didn’t realize that was your mother; she’s a very important woman to know.”

Yeah, and try to survive her wrath if you don’t make your bed in the morning.

Dr. Braeden stepped forward toward them and shook both of their hands. “Congratulations, boys. Your adjustment to this bond was incredible, and you worked through more issues than most have to deal with.”

No shit.

“And would you consider signing this form allowing me to write about your bond and publish your names in an article I’m devising about Class X bonds?”

“I knew it,” Stiles said, smiling broadly. “I’m going to be on PubMed, hell yes.”

“No, I’d rather—”

“Derek,” Stiles said sternly, “Pubmed. If I take a Bonding class in college, I could reference an article about my bond. How cool would that be?”

Derek didn’t really think that it’d make much of a difference at all—it’d be a little weird if anything— but it was their registration day. He grudgingly held his hand out for the form, and Stiles punched his arm into the air in victory. Derek resisted shooting all three women a glare after they looked at each other as if Derek’s action of resignation was the cutest thing they’d ever seen.

After they signed, Araya held out two packets for Stiles and Derek to take, which on further inspection held a bracelet. The bracelet looked like it was made out of many small bands looped together with alternating colors of white, yellow, and pink with a strange electronic clasp. Stiles slipped his quickly out of the packet.

“Oh my god, what is this?” Stiles held the bracelet pinched between his fingers like it had offended him.

“Your registration bracelet.”

“No, I got that,” Stiles said, “I meant more along the lines of do we have the right ones or the ones meant for a nine year old girl.”

“He’s just worried that it will clash with his plaid shirts,” Derek said with a smirk. At this point, Derek just didn’t give a shit—the bracelet could have had Hello Kitty buttons attached and he would have just dealt with it.

“That’s the Class X bracelet,” Araya actually said apologetically. “The first acknowledged and registered Class X bond was a set of teenagers about fifty years ago – the girl was fifteen and the guy was seventeen. They asked them what they wanted and the girl wanted these…and the guy didn’t say anything.”

“Okay,” she continued when Stiles just shrugged, seeming to accept design, “when we go in, we’ll say a few things, blah, blah, you just respond with ‘yes’ or whatever. Then you sign the papers and have a chance to say a little something to each other, exchange the bracelets, and then I’ll say the final phrase and done—you’ll be registered.”

As soon as she finished speaking, she began to make her way to door, followed by the two doctors. Dr. Morrell, who had been silent as usual, turned around with a raised eyebrow. “Coming?”

They quickly fell in line behind the three women, eventually halting outside of a room with a small stand of white flowers by the doorframe.

Fucking Laura.

Dr. Braeden and Dr. Morrell entered the room, but Araya instructed them to remain outside the door for a moment until called forward. As they stood alone, they both shifted slightly in silence. Derek was hit with the implication of what was about to happen—he was about to be registered, practically the most legally binding thing that you could possible do, with a spastic, hyperactive eighteen year old kid who was obsessed with video games and research. And fuck, did Derek love him. The bond was such an intricate part of him by this point that he welcomed the flare of excitement and nervousness that he couldn’t ignore from Stiles.

Stiles ran his fingers through his hair, pushed his glasses more securely on the bridge of his nose, and fiddled with the friendship bracelet around his wrist. “I’ve kind of gotten used to this one.”

“I don’t on plan on taking mine off when we put the new ones on,” Derek commented unconcernedly. The bond filled with so much affection that Derek swatted Stiles on the head. Stiles turned a deep shade of embarrassed scarlet, and Derek snorted as they were signaled to enter.

When they walked in, there was a small crowd gathered around the two doctors and Araya—the Hales, Paige, the Boyds, the sheriff, Melissa, Scott, all the rest of Stiles’ friends, Lynette, Kali, and even fucking Meredith.

Jesus Christ, why were all these people here?

Erica waved Boyd V’s hand at them. Stiles waved back happily and then gave a thumbs up to his friends, some of whom were staring in surprise. Derek sighed and grabbed Stiles hand, pulling him forward. The room was decorated with white and green arrangements all around a few standard wooden chairs facing a small, dark wooden table in the front center of the room where the documents lay. When they were halfway to the table, Derek heard a small yip and broke his vow to ignore the crowd by looking over to the side where his family stood.

“Lola! Charlie!” Stiles cried, breaking away from him to rush over and pet the dogs. Charlie stood calm and still, looking Derek’s way as if proving that he was behaving, but Lola yipped and jumped at Stiles.

“Do you know how many strings I had to pull to be able to bring them? You’d better be thankful,” Laura said with a smirk.

“I’m sure all you did was flash a pretty smile like Derek does. But, yeah, I’m thankful.” Stiles hopped back up and made his way back over to Derek. “Our babies are here.”

“No. They are not 'our babies.'”

“Yes,” Stiles said brightly, grabbing Derek’s hand and leading him the rest of the way to the table.

Wasting no time, Araya pointed to the first document that they needed to stand in front of. “The bond may choose our mate, but we choose how to be with our mate. And you have both chosen to register yourselves to the state. Have you read this document and understand the implications of signing it?”

Yes, Derek had, twice. And he had made Laura explain every part of it.

They both gave an affirmation. Araya said a few more words and then showed them where to sign, handing them each a pen.

Derek looked down at the form and burst into laughter. Everyone stared at him quizzically until Stiles glanced at the form and realized with horror why Derek was laughing.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone,” Stiles said pointing at Derek, eyes like slits.

“How can I? I don’t think I could pronounce that if my life depended on it, even with the Polish book.”

“I’ll tell you later,” Stiles said darkly, “but you have to swear to never speak of it again. It’s like Fight Club rules.”

“I told you Thomas would be better,” the sheriff interjected from the side. Derek flashed him a grin.

Anything would have been better than that shit. No wonder Stiles had given himself his own nickname.

After they finished signing, Araya droned in a bored voice for a moment about the registration bracelets before asking, “Would you like to put on your own bracelets or put them on each other? It doesn’t matter which side they go on.”

“We can just—”

“Nope, we’re putting them on each other,” Stiles said firmly.

“You’re bossy today,” Derek said very quietly.

“And you’re rather yielding.”

Derek didn’t respond; he just held up the bracelet which he had carried from the backroom and waited for Stiles to lift up his arm. Stiles extended the wrist that contained the slim line of the much larger Mark, and Derek slipped the bracelet on next to the green one already present. It clicked and Stiles let out a yelp.

“They pinch,” Araya added belatedly.

Stiles shot her an annoyed look before turning to Derek and fiddling with the bracelet as Derek raised his own wrist. “So,” Stiles began hurriedly, “I know that you don’t like this kind of stuff and you’re probably already crazy with everything today, but I just wanted to say something because, you know, I don’t pass up a chance to talk.” He took a breath and continued quickly, “So, you’re super hot and everything, but I wasn’t really happy at first to be bonded to a grumpy, poor conversationalist who was almost thirty—”

He had only been twenty six when they bonded, dear god.

“—had an obnoxious workout schedule, and had obviously been a jock in his high school life. But,” Stiles paused, “now I know how lucky I am. I mean, you’re still all of those things I just said, but they don’t really matter. You’re funny and loyal, you’ve read more books than I think Lydia has, and you really care about the people who matter to you, and you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for them. You put up with me better than I even think my dad does, and I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the point where my word vomit doesn’t even faze you.”

Derek wanted to tell Stiles how much he appreciated Stiles’ bright presence in his life, but he didn’t think it’d be possible to articulate in front of all these people. He would have never given Stiles a second glance if they hadn’t bonded—what a loss that would have been in his life.

“We are going to challenge each other, and I look forward to developing our friendship, and our relationship, fighting with each other, and growing together. And yeah, maybe getting another dog.” He grabbed Derek’s wrist and anxiously pushed the bracelet on, brushing over the Marks.

The bond soared.

“And now you are sealed,” Araya said finally.

Derek linked hands with Stiles and allowed the now chattering crowd to begin to lead him to a larger room across the hall, similarly decorated to the signing room. There was another table, but it was located to the side with a massive, but simple, white cake in its center.

Derek wasn’t entirely sure if the women in his family understood that this wasn’t a wedding.

“Registration Day: a.k.a. probably one of the best days of my life,” Stiles said happily.

Stiles broke away from him with a wink to go talk to his dad, and Lynette tapped Derek on the arm.

“Fancy new jewelry,” she commented nonchalantly.

“I’m just glad those fucking sessions are over. The last one was a nightmare—I had to list the things I like about Stiles and the things I’d look most forward to in our future.”

“Stiles probably didn’t much trouble with that exercise,” Lynette said with a smirk.

“No, obviously not,” Derek replied with a small smile.

“So, it was the little fucker that you brought with you that day. He’s so little, he looks like a baby,” Kali interjected suddenly, appearing from behind Lynette.

“Kali.”

“Cradle robber.”

“Bitch.”

“Whatever you say, sugar daddy.”

Derek resisted the urge to strangle her.

“I knew you had a wonderful bond,” Meredith said dreamily from behind Derek, making him jump.

“Why are you here, Meredith?” Derek asked in exasperation.

“Derek does have a wonderful bond,” Lynette said firmly. “I fucking love Stiles. And since he gave me the idea to whore you out to both sexes, we’ve done pretty well. Hopefully you’ll be returning back to regular work soon? It hasn’t been the same without you around.”

“Probably. Stiles and I have to work out his school situation. But I’m going back to Sacramento starting tonight.”

“You’re leaving tonight?” a voice asked next to him.

Lynette waved him away as he turned toward Laura. “Yeah, Laura, I’m already completely packed and have everything in my car. I can’t help dad with one more crossword puzzle.”

She laughed lightly and pulled him into a tight hug. “You’re registered now Der-Bear, do whatever you and Stiles want to do. I hope you marginally enjoy the party. I personally think it looks perfect.”

Derek thanked her with a laugh and began to search for Stiles. He spotted him over on the side by Paige and heard them speaking as he moved closer.

“I’m sorry I took him from you,” Stiles was saying sadly and earnestly, “I know why you love him; it’s the same reasons I love him. I know he loves me, but I don’t think he’s completely gotten over you or anything.”

Paige looked up to meet Derek’s eyes as he walked forward to meet them and gave Stiles her soft smile. “Derek is good at compartmentalizing and pushing away difficult feelings, so even if he hasn’t, I wouldn’t worry. And you didn’t take him from me. You gave yourselves to each other, and it was time for me to find who I was supposed to share myself with. I will always love Derek. But there are many ways to love.”

When Derek finally reached them, Stiles turned around guiltily, but Paige simply squeezed Derek’s arm and wandered over to talk to Laura.

“You get to sleep with him?”

Stiles and Derek both turned to see Danny, eyebrows raised, standing at the head of a grouping of Stiles’ friends, including Lydia, Isaac, Allison, Kira, Scott, and even Cora.

“That’s no way to talk about a human being, Danny…but yes, yes I do.”

Stiles chatted with everyone and gave Scott some kind of extended handshake. He turned to Cora after a moment. “Your dress does match Laura’s pretty well, nice job.”

“Thanks, I try,” she said proudly, with a small twirl of her dress. “And Lydia helped.”

“It’s a gift,” Lydia commented lightly, giving Stiles a hug.

“You almost made me cry during that speech, Stiles,” Erica said suddenly, bursting her way into their group. “which is a pretty significant achievement. Bitty Boyd definitely shed a tear.” She handed Boyd V over to an exuberant Stiles, and all of his friends immediately milled closely around them, cooing at the squirming baby.

“From hunger, not Stiles,” Boyd said quietly, slipping to Derek’s side. Boyd clapped Derek on the shoulder. “Congrats, man. I know this frees things up for both of you.”

"Yeah," Derek said as he watched Stiles openly and happily engaging with his friends and family, "it really does."

The party wasn’t as horrible as Derek anticipated, but he was itching to leave by the end of the hour. The cake did turn out to be heavenly and the music was decent, but Laura made Derek and Stiles take an exorbitant amount of pictures, and he had to try to have a conversation with too many people. Derek broke away from the party to pack the dogs in the car and then returned to make his way over to the John to shake his hand before he attempted to drag Stiles away.

“Take care of him,” John said in his usual, mild manner with a touch of sadness.

“I’ll try my best,” Derek offered honestly. “And if you don’t mind, I’d like to take him to Sacramento with me tonight.”

He hoped the sheriff didn’t have his gun on him.

John laughed shortly. “You don’t really have to ask my permission any more. You’re registered. And lord knows my son never asks permission.”

“I’d think I’d rather still ask.”

John laughed more soundly this time. “I knew there was a reason I never quite hated you.” He drew a surprised Derek into a short hug.

After John released him, Derek gave him a nod before slipping over to Stiles, who was talking fervently to Erica about the technicalities of Instagram filters, and informed him that it was time to go. Stiles spent another fifteen minutes telling everyone their goodbyes, as if he were never going to see them again. Derek finally managed to drag him toward the door, but before they could exit the room, a new figure with a crisp suit and sleeked hair appeared in the doorway. Peter.

“Well, Talia, I have to say that I’m hurt that I wasn’t invited.”

“Peter,” Talia responded unhappily. “What are you doing here?”

“You didn’t solve my problem.”

Oh, typical. More Hale family bullshit and Peter showing up at random, inopportune times. His family was exhausting.

“I did to the best of my abilities.”

Even a corrupt judge probably realized that Malia deserved to be released from Peter's crazy.

“Well, it wasn’t good enough. There has to be more that you can do.”

“Contrary to what you believe, Peter, the world does not revolve around me. It also doesn’t revolve around you.”

“Well, I may have some incentive to work harder,” Peter replied silkily.

“What did you do, Peter?”

“The Berserkers may have heard whispers of a Class X bond…but they didn’t know who or where until today.”

“So you told them. This is between you and me, Peter, not you and your nephew. I’m sure the whole family knows now too?” Talia’s eyes flashed.

“I may have let it slip to mother that Derek was choosing a little-boy bride instead of Paige.”

“Would you like me to be your enemy, Peter? Because I can be your enemy,” Talia said so dangerously that the whole room seemed to take a cautious step back.

“Berserkers?” Stiles broke in suddenly. “You mean the crazy anti-bond people?"

“You wouldn’t want to deal with that, I’m sure,” Peter directed at Stiles. “I can still call them off.”

Derek, probably to everyone’s surprise, just snorted at Peter indifferently. “It was either he deal with Berserkers now or he deal with them at college in a few months. They’re a constant pain in the ass, and now you’ve just done him the favor of showing him how true that is. And I could care less what the family thinks—I never have cared.” Derek grabbed Stiles hand and began to pull him toward the exit again. “Now, fuck off, Peter.” Derek flipped him off with his free hand and continued the trek to the Camaro, listening to the raised voices of fighting Hales. This wouldn’t be the last time Peter tried to fuck something up—Stiles might has well get used to that too.

As they made it out the doors of the courthouse, Stiles’ eyes widened at the Berserkers that were, true to Peter's words, present outside of the building. As usual for a registration protest, they were standing in animal skull masks from the courthouse door to the registrants’ car. They were absolutely still and silent, holding pieces of paper with the same thing written over and over in scrawled handwriting: you are not destiny.

No shit. You bond by chance. Everyone meets by chance. Sometimes, people’s stories are just luckier than others.

“Why are they silent?” Stiles asked in awe. He reached forward and pushed at one of the bones hanging from a Berserker’s wrist, but the woman behind the mask remained perfectly still.

“They do silent protests if a minor is involved.”

“I’m not a minor.”

“You’re still in high school. Once you get to college, the full-fledge attack will start. They usually aren’t any real danger, but they are relentless. I think they are the only people in the world that Paige hates.”

“What do they do? Follow around 2.1 billion people and tell them to have a Hunger Games death match with their bonded and whoever survives gets to live bond-free?”

“Some of them try.”

“Oh, god, they are so creepy.” Stiles poked at a short man’s mask.

“Just ignore them,” Derek said, pulling Stiles to the car.

“There’s a lot more shit even though we’re registered, isn’t there?” Stiles asked as he buckled in, Lola barking happily in the backseat.

“Yeah, well, that’s your twenties. There’s bonding shit—but there’s college, dealing with adult decisions, finding a job. The Berserkers aren’t worth worrying about, trust me.”

“Oh,” Stiles said solemnly, “I do. As a man almost out of your twenties, you should know.” Derek, who had been driving slowly out of the parking lot, suddenly pushed on the breaks, sending Stiles tumbling back. “Jerk,” Stiles muttered darkly. “Oh!” he added, recovering quickly, “time to change the Facebook status to Bonded.”

The drive to Sacramento was normal for the two of them—Derek listened to Stiles ramble about whatever topic about the registration that came to his mind, giving answers to any questions directed to him, but remaining silent otherwise. There was a peace in this drive with Stiles, a familiar, comforting feeling.

When they reached the house, they threw the bags inside and then stood unsuredly in the living room for a moment. As split second later, Derek pushed Stiles hard up against the wall. Stiles’ pupils were blown wide as he yanked Derek’s head forward into a forceful kiss, rough with relief. After a few minutes, Derek felt Stiles pressing into his leg and wanted nothing more than to carry him up to the bed.

Instead, Derek pulled back slightly and put his forehead to Stiles, gently brushing his nose against Stiles’ cheek.

“I have to go to France in a month and a half. Lynette paid for you to come with me. She claimed it was because she couldn’t handle the damn bond screwing things up like England, but I think it’s because she likes you for some reason.”

“France?” Stiles said between deep breaths. Derek pulled back slightly and looked at Stiles’ flushed face, messed up hair, and wet, red lips. “Oh my god, are you asking me on a post-registration vacation?”

“Fuck no,” Derek said unhappily, “that shit is stupid. I’m asking you to come with me on my work trip. Plus, my family found out and decided to plan their own France trip at the same time. I figured it would be good since I’ll be in meetings a lot, and you’d still have people to explore with.”

“I’m basically going on a honeymoon slash Hale family vacation. This all feels like such a huge step.”

“So you’re coming?”

“Hell yes, dude! You expect me to say no to a free trip to France with you? Oh, can you speak French?”

“Yes, pretty well.”

“Oh, this is going to be awesome,” Stiles said beaming—and he looked so beautiful and radiant that Derek couldn’t do anything else but kiss him again.

“This is totally a post-registration vacation,” Stiles mumbled happily into the kiss.

Derek didn’t answer, just hoisted Stiles’ legs around his waist and carried him toward the bedroom.

● ● ●

“What the hell is Derek Hale doing here?”

The championship game was midday on a Sunday, and after another rallying speech from Coach Finstock, the Beacon Hills lacrosse team was stretching on the sidelines. The whole team looked up to identify the person in question.

“Cora’s brother?” Landon asked confusedly.

“Yeah, he’s like a Beacon Hills basketball legend. And I hear he was kick ass at lacrosse too.”

“He’s come to other games. He’s been helping Stiles with lacrosse,” Isaac supplied with a look at Stiles.

Stiles smiled brightly as everyone turned to look at him. “He’s here for me,” he said happily. Scott was laughing softly beside him.

After a moment, recognition flickered across some of his team members’ faces. Both Landon and Jackson’s eyes widened humorously large.

“Why would he be here for you?” Greenberg asked perplexedly.

“Must be a student-teacher thing,” Liam commented.

He was surrounded by idiots and baby freshmen.

“Seriously?” Stiles said exasperated. “After everything, you can’t fucking figure it out? Whatever.

“No,” Landon said firmly.

That’s karma, bitch.

“Oh, yeah,” Stiles said with a smug smirk, “you constantly insulted me in front of Derek and the rest of the Hales while I was bonded to him. That’s why Cora broke up with you. Well, that and because she realized that you are a douchenozzle.”

“There’s no way you bonded with Derek Hale,” Jackson added.

Stiles smirked, filling with a sense of justice that he had been waiting to feel since Jackson stepped on his fingers and laughed in kindergarten.

“He most definitely did,” Danny said nonchalantly. “Now why don’t you and Landon both focus on not screwing up royally in this game and looking even more like a bunch of assholes to him? And I’d personally like to come out of this with a win.”

The team continued to murmur and shoot questions at Stiles, but at least they all returned back to their stretches. Landon and Jackson stared at Stiles as if he had morphed into some kind of monster, but they too eventually settled back into their practice routine.

A few hours later, living up to Danny’s wishes, Beacon Hills managed to win after a tough game. The team erupted in cheers, screaming, jumping, and celebrating. As soon as Stiles could regain his senses, he exploded toward the bleachers, finding Derek, and wrapping his arms around him in a death grip.

“I’m proud of you,” Derek told Stiles with a smile.

“I didn’t score or anything, but I played hard and it felt good. Plus, you know, we won,” Stiles said brightly.

Stiles began fiddling with the bracelets on his wrist. “So, uh, the guys are talking about a victory party. And I know that a high school party is like the last thing you would possibly want to go to, but I’m pretty sure there’s going to be alcohol there and—”

“Are you asking me to a high school lacrosse party?” Derek groaned.

“I’m begging and pleading.”

“Why would you want me there? I wouldn’t be any fun.”

“I want my boyfriend to come, fucking sue me.”

Derek put his head in his hands. “You have no idea how much you owe me for this.”

Stiles let out a shout of triumph and then looked around expectantly. “Where’s my dad?”

“He’s just taking care of a security problem.”

“Security problem?”

“You’ll see,” Derek said, cringing slightly. “Get your stuff and I’ll go with you to the damn party.”

Stiles ran back down to the field to grab his bag and tell Scott that he’d meet him over at Danny’s house for what was sure to turn into a low-scale rave before meeting up with Derek to walk to the parking lot. As his feet hit the pavement, Stiles received a perfect view of the line of Berserkers surrounding the lot and a smaller circle around his jeep.

“These assholes again?” Stiles moaned. “Are they going to follow us around forever?”

“Things will only get worse when you get to college and their organization finds out you’re there.”

“I want to just throw a grenade at them,” Stiles said murderously before pausing. “Actually, there’s always that dude that jumps on the grenade and gives everyone hope. I need a rocket launcher.”

“There’s always someone who won’t accept who you are. You just have to learn to not give a shit,” Derek offered. “They’re always going to bother us because we’re a known, strong bond. Braeden said the other Class X bonds got followed around the same way.”

Stiles walked to the back of the jeep and pulled out a baseball bat, waving it around in the air. “Will you all fucking move away from my car so I can leave? You can all stare at me silently farther to the side!”

“Really, Stiles, a bat?” Derek asked with a quirked brow.

“Listen, not all of us are intimidating just by puffing up our muscles.”

Derek walked over to one of the Berserkers surrounding the car and gently forced her backward. Even with him holding her arms, she had no choice but to take a step back to keep her balance. Derek continued the process with the next Berserkers, until there was room for them to back the jeep out. Stiles stared at Derek and then at the bat in his hand before shrugging, throwing it back into the trunk, and hopping in the front seat to head to Danny’s.

Who knew that Derek was all peace and rainbows and sunshine?

The party turned out to be a hilarious experience for Stiles. The music pounded loudly, shaking the walls, and the lacrosse team and friends crowded the room, leaving little space to move, and making dancing an intimate affair. Derek was initially uncomfortable and decided to counter the feeling by drinking several beers so quickly that Scott was staring with an open mouth. It wasn’t long before Derek was fairly drunk, a side of him that Stiles hadn’t seen—but made Stiles deeply excited for all of the college parties he was going to drag Derek to. Drunk Derek was far more relaxed, joked even more sarcastically and lewdly, and danced with Stiles even in front of the surrounding high schoolers. He even more firmly put Landon and Jackson in their place by calling them out and scaring them halfway through the night. Stiles had a feeling that Derek was going to kill him the next day, but he decided that it was worth it to have Derek kiss gently behind his ear as the music played and the crowd flowed around them.

“Can I tell you a secret? I like drunk Derek,” Stiles whispered to Derek, early the next morning as they climbed into his bed. He silently thanked the universe for his dad having a late shift, not that John would probably stop them at this point.

“Can I tell you a secret? This doesn’t happen often.”

Yeah, Derek was definitely going to kill him tomorrow. Especially if he had a hangover.

Stiles snuggled close to Derek. “Want to watch the Game of Thrones episode that we missed?"

“I might fall asleep,” Derek murmured, breath already sounding heavy.

“That’s okay,” Stiles whispered, “I like watching the episodes with you. I don’t mind watching twice.”

“You feel happy,” Derek said sleepily, placing the palm of his hand on the middle of Stiles’ stomach where the bond had first felt like it was concentrated all those months ago.

“That because I am, Derek. I am.”

● ● ●

Derek settled in his chair on the lawn next to Sheriff Stilinski just as the graduates began to walk to their seats as the swell of a Beacon Hills graduations song issued through the surrounding speakers.

He just fucking hated wearing suits and, god-forbid, a tie, but he doubted anyone was coming to graduation in a Henley and jeans—so, this marked the third time this year that he was forced to suffer.

He shared a nod with John. “Are they here?”

“Oh, the Berserkers showed up before the crew could even set up the chairs. They’ve been here all night,” the sheriff said drily.

“Fucking Peter. If he had just shut up, Stiles wouldn’t have had to deal with this until college.”

“As you said, it will probably be worse in college,” John answered mildly. “At least now Stiles has time to prepare. And from what I understand, your mother is taking care of Peter.” The sheriff pointed over to the side of the stage. “Lydia and Stiles are over there for the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches—I posted my best deputy, Jordan Parrish, with them just in case one of the Berserkers goes crazier than usual.”

Derek choked slightly. Oh, fuck, hopefully Erica and Boyd didn’t tell Stiles anything about Parrish. Stiles wouldn’t let that opportunity slide.

After all of the graduates were seated, the long, drawn-out ceremony began, most of which Derek ignored. He had sat through this shit for Laura and himself, and he was fairly certain that there wouldn’t be any difference between those ceremonies and this one. Except, of course, for the speeches. He already knew Stiles’ speech by heart—Stiles had written the majority of it when they were together, asking for a word suggestion every now and then, and had practiced his presentation countless times to Derek. Apparently, Derek’s harshest criticisms were welcomed, and even his most sarcastic remarks sparked even better ideas from Stiles’ brain. Derek assumed it was more bond-connection magic at work. In all honesty, it was a very good speech—witty, dry, and inspiring, which were all the things Derek had come to expect from the younger man. However, even though Derek was fine with seeing Stiles more than he ever had before, he had been ready to tape Stiles’ mouth shut to avoid hearing another repeat.

Yet, as he sat in the uncomfortable plastic seat and listened to them begin to call the ‘M’ names, he realized that no one around him had heard the speech before and was suddenly ready to hear it again. (Not even the sheriff or Scott had heard it because apparently Stiles had been too self-conscious. Insecurity didn’t seem to really exist around Derek any more, however—maybe it was because between the bond and sex, they were too intimately involved for Stiles to care.) The night before, Stiles had told him happily that it was their speech. Derek didn’t really agree, considering Stiles had composed all of it and had done all of the work to be second in his class, but Derek appreciated the sentiment. He knew what Stiles meant—they helped each other. They helped with speeches or whatever else, even when one of them got frustrated and called the other one a dick, because they improved each other.

After the last person finally received their diploma, Lydia walked to the podium and gave a flowing, commanding speech that didn’t really surprise Derek. Stiles immediately followed, took a deep breath, and then began to clearly articulate, just a little too quickly, the words Derek could practically synchronize with the beat of his heart. Derek filled with pride—he was proud of Stiles for moving so gracefully through high school with such a huge burden; he was proud of himself for growing more than he thought he could; he was proud of both of them for having worked through so much.

And he was ready for the future and whatever shit it brought.

Parrish, Lydia, and Stiles all walked from the side of the stage to meet Derek and John once the final invocation was given.

As they approached within earshot, Derek could make out Lydia telling Parrish something, and Parrish laughing lightly as Stiles rolled his eyes at Derek.

“Are you psychic?” Parrish asked her.

“If I was, I would have known sooner than I did that Stiles had bonded.” Lydia tossed a strand of red hair back behind her shoulder.

Parrish inspected Lydia with an appreciative glance before looking up to address the two men in front of him. “Hey, Derek. How’s it going?” Jordan reached his hand forward to shake Derek before turning to John. “Sheriff, how are you, sir?”

The Sheriff greeted him warmly, and the group settled into small chatter for a moment, until Jordan signaled that he needed to return to work.

“I’ll see you later, Lydia. Seriously, please let me know if your mother needs help with that reflooring. I used to help Mr. Javis here in town as a side job all the time.”

“I may take you up on that before I leave for college.”

Parrish hesitated, shooting a look between the three men watching him, before apparently deciding to reach into his pocket and pull out a small notebook. He scribbled his number onto the paper and held it out to Lydia before telling everyone a polite goodbye and heading back to the other assembled deputies.

“You know, Lydia, Parrish is Derek’s age,” Stiles commented drily.

“Well, if you can get someone that much older, I definitely can,” she said with a small push at his shoulder.

“You’re going to MIT even after all that shit about not wanting to move. Think you could do long distance?”

“I could do long distance for that. Plus, I’d have to come back and see my mom at some point.”

“What happened to Aiden?” Stiles asked.

“Boring. My typical go-to arrogant jock. Do you see how beautiful that man is?” she inquired, nodding her heard toward Parrish.

“Oh, he’s hot,” Stiles affirmed before shoot Derek a knowing grin. “I know Derek thinks so too.”

Fuck, they told him.

Stiles swatted Derek on the head and ignored his dad’s raised eyebrow. “Ready to go see mom, dad? We can meet Derek over at the Hales in thirty and still have plenty of time before it starts.”

Talia had insisted, despite the sheriff’s protests, that they throw Stiles and Cora a joint graduation party at the Hale house. Derek had been reluctantly invited to go to Claudia’s grave with Stiles and John beforehand, but he could sense that it was something that they wanted to do together. Just because Derek and Stiles were bonded didn’t mean that there weren't pieces of Stiles that he wasn't quite ready to share yet.

Derek parted ways with the Stilinski’s and made his way into the house to see it expensively and completely decorated with flowers, strands of ribbon, custom-made banners, lanterns, and balloons. The entire scene looked like something out of one of Laura’s Pinterest boards. He was hit with the realization that his family must have really held back at his registration.

Thank Jesus.

He didn’t see Laura, Robbie, Cora, or his parents in the house, but followed a rustling in the kitchen. He only saw his mother, bent over the counter tinkering with something. “What are you doing?” Derek asked his mother curiously as he fiddled with the bracelets on his wrist.

“I’m replacing the picture in this frame. It’s a few years old and now we have Robbie and Stiles, so I felt like we needed to have everyone in it. There,” she said happily as she extended the frame for Derek to see.

He immediately recognized the frame. It was the one in the main room that Isaac had knocked down during Cora’s party last summer—there was a small chip in the corner where it had struck the floor.

That party night felt like an age ago.

The previous picture that had inhabited the frame had been taken at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago of the five of the core Hales. Now, it contained the picture from Laura’s wedding that Stephen had insisted on all of them taking.

“Think that’s a good one?” Talia asked. “I want to put it up next to the prom picture of Stiles and Cora.”

Before he could answer, Derek felt his phone vibrate several times and looked down at a new series of text messages.

 

12:32 PM

Stiles Stilinski

>i love you

>just in case I die in a fiery car crash on the way over there in my baby

>also thank god were going to france soon bc im craving a fucking croissant

>also i beat your high score on startropics last night bitch

 

Derek shook his head and looked back up at his mother who was waiting expectantly. He couldn’t help but smile slightly. “Yeah, mom, it’ll be fine.”

● ● ●


 

“Fare forward, travellers! Not escaping from the past
Into indifferent lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus”

- The Dry Salvages by T. S. Eliot