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The Law of the Jungle

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Now this is the law of the jungle

As old and as true as the sky

The wolf that shall keep it may prosper

But the wolf that shall break it must die


For the strength of the pack is the wolf

And the strength of the wolf is the pack



Stiles was confused. 

Usually, when confused, Stiles would open up a web browser and proceed to Google the shit out of whatever was confusing him until he knew more than anyone would ever need to.

Now, however, he was not able to do the regular research shtick as he didn't really know what he would even search for. He was desperate for some kind of distraction. Anything to forget about Scott working with Gerard, about Lydia (and Jackson) proving once and for all that he’s never had even a sliver of a chance with her, about Erica and Boyd in the Argents’ basement… 

There was a lot of forgetting to be done.

Almost no one acted as he’d expected. Scott not telling him about the plan was one thing, but using Derek as a part of that plan — making him bite the creep without his consent, even after knowing how sacred the bite was to wolves? That was a whole other thing. Scott tried to force Derek to make a beta

Stiles couldn’t understand how Scott could do that, considering not only the fact that there was absolutely no reason to keep Derek in the dark about the plan (unless Scott knew Derek would say no, which was a whole other issue) but also with what they knew about his history.

On top of all that, Scott hadn’t even realised Stiles was essentially held captive and tortured. And yeah, okay, fair, being beaten is not as bad as being electrocuted like Derek had been (which Scott also ignored) and it’s definitely not as bad as being told that your entire family deserved to be burnt alive (again, thank you, Scott)...

Scott was doing a lot of things Stiles never expected him to.

Scott had always been the caring, charming one. He was supposed to at least look for Stiles, or maybe just ask if he was okay after everything was over . Everyone was safe, Jackson was back to the land of the living, Gerard was down - go Team Wolf! Instead, he jumped to Allison (of course) and completely ignored Stiles, who stood frozen, eyes glazed, not far from everyone. 

It wasn’t until Stiles felt the weight of Derek’s eyes on him that he was able to pull his head together enough to limp to Derek’s side, rushing as much as his injured leg would let him. 

“Boyd and Erica are still in the Argents’ basement,” Stiles said frantically, “They let me go, but the betas were still there. They were chained up, and there were cables, and - Jesus, just move, come on, we gotta go get them!” 

Stiles tugged at Derek’s arm, urging the wolf to get up, but once standing, Derek grabbed Stiles by the arm to stop him from rushing away.

“Are you ok?”

“Wha- Am I ok?” Stiles stared at him, bewildered. “Dude, it doesn’t matter - I’m obviously fine and they’re still there. Come on!”

They clambered into the jeep and Stiles drove off without sparing a glance at anyone else. With every still-living Argent at the warehouse, they could get Erica and Boyd out without any interruptions. That was the priority.

The drive was quick and quiet. For the first time in his life, Stiles was struggling to find something to say whenever he glanced at Derek and saw his thousand-yard stare. Stiles took a moment to look at recent events from Derek’s point of view and… wow . His pack was close to dying, again . His body was used without his permission, again. He trusted someone who betrayed him, again. Scott and Derek might not have been seeing eye-to-eye on much, but it was fairly obvious that Derek trusted Scott enough to let him be. Getting that cold bucket thrown at your head yet again must not have felt pleasant.

Once they got to Argent's home, they jumped out of the car - at which point Stiles almost fell flat on his face as he forgot about his leg, and his ribs, and his overall pain - and rushed to the door. Stiles motioned between Derek and the door as if asking him to kick it off the hinges, which earned him a weird, calculating gaze from the werewolf, before Derek kicked in the door. 

Before Derek could charge into the house, Stiles took a half step forward and placed a hand on his chest. The teen stepped forward and pointed to a thin string that stretched, low to the ground, across the foyer saying “make sure to step over that, it’s connected to wolfsbane gas canisters”. 

From there, the human took the lead, guiding the wolf downstairs despite the fact that Derek could sniff his way through. Along the way, Stiles pointed out things dangerous to wolves and humans alike. Reaching the basement door, Stiles glanced at the keypad and punched in a long numeric code. Derek couldn’t stop himself from asking “Weren’t you kidnapped and then beaten to near unconsciousness?”

“Oh yeah, and blindfolded on the way in.”

“So, how did you…”

“I’m a cop’s kid. Takes more than a blindfold and a few punches to stop me from paying attention.” Stiles braced himself and pressed his shoulder against the door. Wincing in pain, he exhaled as the door slowly began to open, “This is a pretty standard keypad, I expected more. Each number makes a distinct sound when you press it. I just memorized the tune.”

There was no more time to impress with his skills after that, as Derek helped Stiles with the door and as soon as it was opened enough, he shot through to get to his betas. He immediately went to Erica’s side and silently clawed at the live electric cables, desperate to get her down, barely registering that they affected him too. Stiles quickly tracked the cables back to a control pad and jumped to turn it off as fast as he could. By the time Derek got to Boyd, no one was getting electrocuted anymore.

The betas fell down like puppets cut down from strings. Derek dropped to his knees with them, gathering them to himself and holding both close for a minute. He kept murmuring something softly, not loud enough for Stiles to hear over Erica’s sobs and Boyd’s rough breathing. Erica, still struggling with tears, looked up to stare right at Stiles.

“You came back.”

The confusion in her eyes was like a punch to the gut, she really couldn’t understand why he came back to help them. He rushed to where the werewolves were heaped on the floor, dropped to his knees and ripped Erica away from Derek, hugging her close to himself, one hand - which Stiles noticed was missing a fingernail, ew - grasping at Boyds shoulder behind her back.

“Of course I came back. I wouldn’t leave you guys here,” he stated with all the power and confidence as he could muster. “I couldn’t.”

“I’m so sorry,” Erica sobbed into his neck, one hand grasping the shirt on his back, the other still on Derek’s chest. “We were so fucking horrible to you, and when serious shit went down we couldn’t even protect you.”

“Hey, you don’t protect me, I protect you!” Stiles responded, trying to insert some playfulness into the situation, “I’m Batman, remember?”

Erica snorted a wet laugh into his neck, and pulled back to look him in the face with a smile on her tear-stained face, “You would make an amazing Batman, protection and morality-wise, but you’d suck so hard at the whole keeping-your-identity-secret thing.”

“Yeah, yeah, Catwoman,” Stiles laughed, his shoulders loosening when the tension in the basement finally dissipated. Derek, still holding Boyd and seemingly oblivious to Erica’s hand on his chest, stared at Stiles with a small smile on his face and a touch of mirth in his eyes.

Considering where they were, it wasn’t a good idea to prolong this reunion too much, so Stiles took it upon himself to be the first one to get up, bringing Erica with him by the hand. He didn’t let go of Erica as Derek and Boyd followed them through the house and out to the jeep. Erica somehow managed to muster enough energy to call shotgun, so Derek and Boyd slipped into the backseat as Stiles started the car and drove off without a destination in mind. The wolves were more focused on getting as much contact as possible, Erica sitting sideways and leaning forward so she could hold both Derek’s and Boyd’s hands. Her head was on Stiles’ shoulder and her eyes were closed as if she was maximizing her sense of touch. Boyd reached over and put his other hand on Stiles’ free shoulder, squeezing lightly every few minutes.

It was such a good feeling — warm and comforting. No one needed to say a word, and yet they were all basking in it. The sense of belonging and calm in the car was as intense as it was unexpected, but Stiles felt forced to break it to ask “Where to?” 

Derek sighed, and after a moment he quietly told Stiles to head to the train station he’d been occupying recently. Not the best spot, but it was either this or the burned out shell of the Hale house.

Isaac and Scott were waiting for them at the entrance and rushed towards the jeep as soon as Stiles pulled in. Roscoe was barely in park before Isaac nearly ripped the passenger door off its frame and pulled Erica into a crushing hug. Boyd quickly joined Isaac and Erica as they shakily clung to each other and Derek followed, sweeping his hands across their upper backs to subtly scent the napes of their necks with his fingertips. Stiles leaned against the front of the jeep and let out a slow, steadying breath as his adrenaline ebbed away and revealed the full force of the sharp aches ringing through his beaten body and the stinging marks over his skin.

“Dude, why did you just leave?”

Stiles looked at Scott and just stared at his friend, slack-jawed with bewilderment .

Because Boyd and Erica were still chained up and getting electrocuted...?” he replied incredulously. 

“Allison would’ve let them out once she got back, you know? We still had to clean up.” 

“Well, forgive me if I don’t quite believe that, considering she did nothing to help us earlier,” Stiles bit out, not able to hold back on the venom in his voice.

“Come on, Stiles, you can’t blame her. She’s having a tough time - her mom just died. You know how that is.”

Stiles stared at Scott in silence, trying to find the words to properly explain to his friend how wrong he was. When it was clear he was absolutely not able to do that, Stiles turned back towards the jeep.

“I cannot do this right now,” he muttered, sure that Scott could hear him. He glanced towards the others, gave Derek, who’d already been watching the exchange, a sharp nod and slid behind the wheel. As he slammed the door behind himself, Scott called after him, but Stiles ignored him, started the car and drove off home.

That was three days ago. Three days of Sheriff-mandated bedrest to recover from his injuries and be interrogated by his dad who, beside himself with worry, didn't believe Stiles’ story about the other team attacking him for one second. Three days of no messages or calls from anyone besides Lydia of all people. Somehow, knowing his crush would never turn into a relationship made it easier to talk to her and finally explain everything that had been happening.

Well, no messages or calls from anyone besides Lydia, until now. He looked back down at his phone, reading the messages again.


[Unknown number] [5:47pm]



[Unknown number] [5:47pm]

It’s Derek


[Unknown number] [5:48pm]

Not really sure why, but I just wanted to let you know we’re leaving Beacon Hills. So don’t worry about Erica, Isaac and Boyd, they will be with me


[Unknown number] [5:50pm]

And Peter, but I’m pretty sure you don’t care about him


[Unknown number] [5:54pm]

See you around Stiles. Stay safe.


Here it is. The culmination of his confusion: Derek Hale. Emotionally constipated, asshole Derek Hale decided to leave his home again to keep his pack safe , while Stiles has been stuck following Scott’s unrealistic philosophy of caring for everyone else above themselves, even if the people he loves get hurt in the process. Somehow, somewhere, the person he hated and distrusted the most became the responsible one, and the one he loved and trusted became selfish.

The time to stop making decisions based on what others wanted had come. Stiles exited his messages and called Scott, who surprisingly answered before the fourth ring.

“Hey man,” Stiles said, turning towards his door and making his way downstairs towards his father, “I’m gonna need you to come over. We’re long overdue for a talk with the Sheriff.

Stiles got into his jeep and sluggishly shut the door with both hands. He had just woken up, so he should’ve been ready for his day of classes, but he felt as if he hadn’t slept in days.

He spared a moment to think about how he probably shouldn’t be driving in his state, then let out a big sigh as he started the engine and hit the road. The drive to Stanford usually took less than two hours if the traffic was nice, so he turned on the radio and got comfortable.

He had a weird setup which, really, did anyone expect Stiles to do college the typical way? His freshman year he lived in the dorms. That was a bad idea, with how much he ended up having to drive back to Beacon Hills at all hours of the day - pretty much everyone in his building thought he was a drug dealer. Sophomore year, he rented a place with Scott and Allison. Scott didn’t get into Stanford, but he was doing online university which meant he could still live with them. That beautiful living situation became an awkward one with their breakup and the trio's decision to stick it out until the end of the year. 

Now, in his junior year, Stiles actually had a good thing going. Most of his lesson materials got posted online, so his professors didn’t mind if students skip lectures. And the few who were more adamant about attendance surprisingly let Stiles show up only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as long as he kept up with the coursework - which, of course, he did. So, it all worked out.

He’d typically crash on a friend's couch once or twice a week, then spend the rest of the time at his dad’s. It wasn't ideal, of course - gas and toll costs were astronomical and his sleep schedule was all over the place, but it was the best he could do.

He flailed at the sound of a horn and noticed the light in front of him had turned green. He shook the cobwebs from his head and hit the gas, sticking his hand out the window in apology to the people behind him. 

God, he was tired.

He actually had no idea why he was so tired. He was losing less sleep than usual with their last supernatural crisis having been dealt with weeks ago. It was actually surprisingly peaceful at the moment, and yet Stiles felt worse every day. The doctors were barely keeping up with giving him his Adderall prescriptions.

He startled again when his phone, dropped haphazardly on the passenger seat, started ringing. He forgot to put it in the holder again. He grabbed it and put it on speaker, fumbling as he tried putting it in the holder.

“Morning, Lydia! What’s up?”

“Is it a good morning?” Lydia asked in response, “You sound like you were just woken up from an eight year coma. Trouble sleeping?”

“No, actually,” Stiles replied a bit bitterly, “I went to sleep with the sun. Literally. I was in bed before it even got dark. I probably just haven’t fully woken up yet. Anyway, why are you calling? Need a ride?”

“Ugh, yes, actually,” she groaned, “The fact that your jeep is more reliable than my piece of crap really tells me I need a new car.”

“First of all, rude. Show some respect,” Stiles scoffed, “and funnily enough, I’m like, 3 minutes from your house. I expect to see a thermos full of coffee when I pick you up.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m already standing outside with the thermos in my hands. See you in a few.”

Lydia was the best.

Within a few minutes, Lydia was comfortably sitting in the passenger seat, doing a great job of engaging Stiles to help him wake up a bit. She also came back home for weekends because she didn’t have Monday classes, so they usually drove back to Palo Alto together on Tuesdays. She actually decided on living in dorms for the whole four years, which meant she was not able to help Stiles with a place to crash since they were uncommonly strict about overnight guests. Especially repeat ones.

“Oh, wait, how come Allison’s dad isn’t driving you?” Stiles asked suddenly, “I mean, I was already on my way to yours on autopilot, but didn’t you say her dad had something to sort out in San Fran so he offered to drive you down first?”

“Yeah, he was supposed to go, but his meeting got pushed to Thursday,” Lydia shrugged and curled a lock of her hair on her finger, “He actually went to talk to your dad this morning.”

“Oh? Wait, what about?”

“Stiles,” she sighed heavily, “they’re talking about you.”

“Me?!” he shouted, almost swerving off the road.

“Yes, you!” she shouted back, annoyance clear in her voice. “How much longer are you going to pretend that nothing is wrong? Stiles, you’re basically turning into a sloth!”

“So Chris Argent went down to the station to speak to the Sheriff about how the Sheriff’s son is lazy?”

“Not lazy, you ass! You can barely keep your eyes open for more than 4 hours a day!” Lydia sat straighter and stared right at him. “Stiles, for the love of God, you know this isn’t normal! You are literally demolishing the world's coffee supplies and, in my opinion, you get your Adderall from a pill mill, not a doctor. You do realise there’s nothing wrong with my car?” she asked suddenly, “I drive a Toyota. A Toy-o-ta , Stiles. The cheapest and easiest make to repair if something goes wrong. And you know I can afford to repair it. I use the worst excuse ever to make sure I am in the car with you every Tuesday just to keep you from falling asleep behind the wheel and crashing. The worst part of this, and the proof that something is definitely wrong, is that you haven’t even called me out on it.

Stiles punctuated the heavy silence in the car with heavy breaths through his nose and white-knuckled the steering wheel.

“I’m not possessed,” he whispered. “I’m not possessed again, I know it.”

“Stiles, no one is saying you’re possessed,” Lydia replied softly, “but something is wrong, and we need to figure out what it is. Mr Argent is at the station right now going through everything supernatural that could cause fatigue, trying to match it with the symptoms your dad has been noticing.”

Ooooor he’s trying to convince my father that I need to be put down,” Stiles scoffed, “I already almost killed his daughter once.”

“Almost, Stiles. Almost, not actually . You managed to pull back,” Lydia muttered, suddenly deflated. Stiles looked at her from the corner of his eye and finally asked the question he avoided for years.

“How come you’re not affected?” he kept his eyes on the road, not brave enough to look at Lydia’s face. “Everyone else has a reaction to me. Allison is still scared of me. Scott keeps his distance as much as he can. Jackson doesn’t trust me with literally anything, he still threatens me with bodily harm when I drive you to school sometimes. And Kira tries, but she can’t hide that she’s scared.”

Lydia stared straight ahead for a minute, sighed and turned to Stiles, putting her hand on his shoulder.

“I can’t hold you responsible for things you didn’t do. You were used, Stiles. I don’t see how any of it is your fault.”

“I killed people,” he said harshly.

“It wasn’t you.”

“One time, it was.”

Lydia gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I know.”

Tuesdays sucked. Worst day of the week.

After that very intense drive and a full day of classes with barely any breaks, he was beat, hungry, and not looking forward to sleeping on a couch in a bro-house. His friend Oliver was letting him crash on the couch of his jock-filled frat house, and even though Stiles hated it, it was just one night a week, so he grit his teeth and bore it. Lying face-up on the crumb-infested couch, listening to all the bros bro-ing around and not caring about his 8am class the next day, he thought of the locker room before lacrosse practice, and started reminiscing.

Five years. It’d been five years since Scott was bitten. Felt like a lifetime, yet still surprisingly fast at the same time. It felt like just yesterday when he dragged Scott to look for the dead body in the Preserve, but he also couldn’t remember a time before he knew about the supernatural.

He kept in touch with Derek in a very light, almost mundane way. Too many bad things had happened and he didn’t want Derek to feel guilty for leaving them to deal with all the messes themselves - he made the right choice for his betas four years ago - but things only picked up in Beacon Hills ever since. More supernatural creatures passing through, more dangerous situations, and more difficult choices they’d all been forced to make.

These last few months have actually been so peaceful. Nothing chasing them, or trying to torture, maim or kill them. Stiles could actually focus on getting his degree for a change - he seriously had no idea how he managed to keep up so far.

Which is why his fatigue just had to be his body playing catch up on all the sleep he'd missed over the past 5 years. It had to be. Because things were nice right now… or as nice as they could get. The weirdest occurrence in the past three months was the case of a man eating his own daughter while sleepwalking (he didn’t eat her whole body, just took enough strategic bites to kill her), but they ruled that as a non-supernatural case. It was fine. They were fine. Stiles was fine.

He let himself believe that when he fell asleep, but by the morning that belief had crashed and burned, considering he woke up to a paramedic kneeling by his side.

“Whoa, what’s going on?” he croaked out.

“Dude, what the hell?” Oliver shouted almost frantically from the corner of the room. “We’ve been trying to wake you up for hours! We thought you died!”

Oh. That was new.

Heavy-lidded, he blinked owlishly around, taking in all the terrified bros standing around, the paramedics taking his vitals. He moved his arm out to blindly grab his phone from the coffee table next to him to check the time and- oh. It was past eleven o’clock.

“Oh God, I need to go,” he rasped, trying to stand up, “I have classes, I already missed three, I gotta go now.”

“You are not going anywhere, you imbecile,” came a new voice and oh dear, ‘imbecile’. Lydia only called him that when she was really mad. “Look at your phone again.”

Stiles looked down at his phone and now that he wasn’t focused on figuring out the time, he saw the ridiculous amounts of missed calls and texts, which… it should’ve woken him up. He never muted his phone because emergencies happened too often, and all his ringtones were shrill and annoying. There should have been no way for him to stay asleep with all that noise going on right next to his head.

He startled when he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see an uncanny mix of fury and fear on Lydia’s face.

“Come on,” she sighed exasperatedly, “I’m taking you home.”

The drive home passed quickly for Stiles because he was basically asleep for most of it. Lydia kept him awake in her own special way by yelling at him without raising her voice at all. Instead of listening to the words, Stiles wondered if it still counted as ‘being yelled at,’ but ‘told off’ was much too tame given the venom in Lydia’s voice as she reminded him that he should always listen to her. Whenever she took a break to replenish her oxygen levels, Stiles would fall right back asleep, only to be woken up when she recharged. Maybe he should’ve taped his eyelids open...

Once they got to the Stilinski residence, she deposited him onto the living room couch and gave him a can of redbull with a straw. He stared at it, thinking how smart it was - less risk of him spilling the liquid everywhere if he fell asleep mid sip. He managed to take a few sips and allowed the placebo effect to make him feel substantially more awake - enough to notice Lydia taking out her phone after she finished saying something to his dad. 

“Lyds, who are you calling?”

“Who do you think?” she replied, challenge clear in her voice. “It’s time to involve the mighty alpha.”

“Lyds, come on,” he groaned back, shaking his head, “he doesn’t need this shit. We can figure it out ourselves.”

“No, I think it’s time he comes back and takes care of his territory himself,” came the sheriff's voice as he stepped into the room and reached for Stiles’ shoulder. “He left it in the hands of children for far too long.”

“Not a child anymore, Dad. I’m twenty years old,” Stiles sighed back, and then did a double take. “Dad! You’re home! Why aren’t you at work?”

The sheriff sighed expansively in response as he sat down next to his son, wrapping an arm around his son’s shoulders. “Just make the call, Lydia.”

“And what about Scott?” Stiles asked, looking back at Lydia now, “Do you wanna deal with the hissy fit he’s for sure gonna throw if we call Derek back here?”

“I think,” Lydia started, already putting the phone to her ear, “that maybe this will finally drive it home that Scott is not an alpha.”

Oh, yeah, that’s just gonna go great, Stiles thought as he finally lost the battle for consciousness and fell asleep leaning against his father. He was out before he heard Lydia saying, “Hello, Derek. It’s been a while.”

Derek hauled one final bag into the trunk of his black GLS-Class and promptly snapped it shut. He turned around to lean his back against the car’s tinted window as he looked towards their apartment building where Erica, Boyd and Isaac were saying goodbye to Peter and Cora. 

He had mixed feelings about returning to Beacon Hills. On the one hand, he’d already been planning to come home next year. It was time to properly reestablish Hale territory’s main branch . After all, it was his duty.

On the other hand, he was still in communication with some key people, namely Dr. Deaton and Stiles. Neither of them had ever alluded to needing help - he’d let himself believe that things were actually running smoothly over there now. Clearly, the smooth ride was over.

He focused on Cora as he saw her stalking towards him. To say her return was a surprise was a major understatement. He didn’t even know she was alive; she’d managed to find out a Hale alpha was back in the territory and tracked him down.

Seeing her again after four years of hell was the kick he needed to get his ass in gear. For three years after the fire, he’d followed Laura as a beta and barely existed, consumed by his depression and guilt. When Laura died, he was conflicted between rage and complete apathy; the only thing that kept him going was the thought of avenging her. Kill whoever killed her and he’d just end it once and for all.

Instead, he became an alpha. Barely twenty, emotionally unstable and without any family. He gave into the alpha instincts and sought betas - at least he still had enough control to find ones worthy of the gift - but all that did was turn him into a werewolf-drill sergeant hybrid.

He was done. Peter came back, one of his betas turned into a kanima, another two ended up tortured by the same hunters that annihilated his family. And just when he thought it was over - when he and his betas were safe - Cora showed up at their doorstep in Sacramento.

He broke down. 

He’d spent so long presenting himself as the strong, emotionless one, hoping it would instill some confidence in him from his betas. The simple sight of his sister shattered that image and Derek had collapsed to his knees, hugging Cora so tightly that he heard her bones creak. She hugged him back just as hard.

Peter’s reaction was even worse. Derek had never seen the man cry — not a tears-streaming-down-his-face-silently cry, no, it was wracking sobs, almost hyperventilating. He couldn’t calm down for hours.

It was after that night that he understood two things: one, for all his posturing, Peter had actually been feeling guilty about killing Laura and had definitely not forgiven himself.

And as Peter finally got a grip on himself and looked Derek straight in the eyes with renewed determination, Derek understood the second thing - they were nowhere near done. They were only just starting.

Somehow, showing vulnerability in front of his new betas broke the last walls and made them finally trust him completely. They trained without complaint, absorbed all the knowledge he and Peter passed down, and helped him refresh the Hale Pack contact network, all while continuing their education and growing into who they were today.

He was brought back from his musings when Cora stepped in front of him, looking at him with an expression that was a mix of annoyance and worry.

“I’m not sure you understand how infuriating it is that you’re leaving me behind.”

“I’m not leaving you behind,” he replied with a small smirk. “I just made the executive decision that it makes more sense for you to stay here and go to school like you’re supposed to. Come on, you’re a senior now, you need to buckle down, work hard and get into college.”

“I’m three seconds away from punching you, you asshole,” she spit back, trying to keep her voice annoyed while biting back a smile, “You’re not my father, and being born before me is not your accomplishment. You can’t use that as having authority over me.”

“True,” Derek chuckled softly, “but I am your alpha.”

She punched him then, right in the gut and hugged him as she forced a soft laugh.

“Come on, Cora,” he murmured against her hair as he rubbed small circles on her back, “I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m not going to war. We’ll still be in contact and if something happens, I’m just a few hours away.”

“I know,” she croaked back, “but I still don’t want you out of my sight.

They held each other until Peter came and put a firm hand on Cora’s shoulder. When Cora let go, Peter took his turn to hug Derek, much quicker but just as ferociously. 

“Let me know what you find out. And make sure you give my regards to everyone there; can’t have them forgetting I’m still around,” Peter said with a pat to Derek’s back.

“I will make a list of every person who doesn’t smell scared when they hear your name,” Derek replied, clapping Peter on his shoulder as they came apart. He walked around the car and got into the driver’s seat as Isaac, Erica and Boyd spilled into the car. He rolled down his window to wave as he turned the ignition and called out, “I'll call when we're settled!”

He pulled the car onto the street and joined the traffic, a glance up at the rearview mirror revealed Peter and Cora still standing there, watching as they drove away.

“Alright,” he said, glancing at Erica in the passenger seat, “don’t torture us with your music choices, would you?”

Erica’s cackle was pure evil as she fished out her iPod and plugged it in.

“Something is seriously wrong here,” Derek said into the phone wedged between his ear and shoulder as he unpacked in the loft’s bedroom.

“Wrong how, exactly?” Peter replied.

“Not entirely sure,” he murmured back, putting his toiletries in the ensuite bathroom and letting the phone drop into his hand, “On the surface everything looks exactly the same as it did four years ago, but…”

“Is it just a feeling you have?”

“No,” he sighed, offended, “It’s the smell. We all caught the scent of multiple different creatures, some more recent than others, but all old enough to tell us they're gone now. The issue is the sheer number of them; it's like a supernatural army just waltzed through town.”

“Deaton should have informed you of any visitors.”

“I know.”

“So the question is, do you think he purposefully didn’t tell you, or are your senses deceiving you?”

“That’s what we’re gonna find out.” Derek walked down the spiral staircase, dropped bonelessly onto the couch and waited for the others to finish unpacking. “I already let Lydia know we’re here. We’re meeting at the Stilinski’s house once we're ready, so we will be heading over in a few.”

“Stilinski’s house?” Peter’s voice actually sounded worried. “Why there?”

“Why do you sound so alarmed?”

“You know Stiles is my favourite,” the older Hale drawled, “Don’t worry though, not the same way he's your favourite.”

“Fuck off, Peter.”

“Try to control yourself around him; you have a crisis to attend to,” Peter laughed.

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Keep me updated, Derek,” came the suddenly serious reply, “none of this sounds good.”

Derek hung up after assuring his uncle that he will be kept appraised. He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes, listening past the others puttering around and extending his senses as far as he could.

Beacon Hills felt… off . The sounds of the town seemed muted, somehow exacerbating the assault on his sense of smell. There was some eerie energy in the air and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

He called for his betas to hurry up without opening his eyes and got up from the couch as he heard them converge. They silently made their way to the car and no one spoke during the ride. Erica, not even bothering with music this time, was looking straight ahead with a stony expression while the guys tried to hide their nerves.

They arrived at Stiles’ house fairly quickly and stepped out of the car as one. The betas followed Derek who walked up to the front door, took a deep breath and raised his fist to knock, but it opened before he made contact. 

A petite Asian girl he didn’t recognise rushed out. “Thank God, you got here so quick. Come in, everyone’s in the living room.” 

Derek raised an eyebrow as her expression turned to relief. “And… who exactly are you?”

“Oh, sorry!” the girl called as she ushered them in, “I’m Kira. I moved here about a year after you left. I’m a kitsune.”

Derek’s other eyebrow went up.

A kitsune. A goddamned fox. A Japanese fox spirit, in Beacon Hills. What the ever living fuck?!

Even more convinced that things were wrong in the town, Derek put his hand out to stop his betas from entering the house. Wolves and foxes don’t usually mix. He could hear some familiar heartbeats in the house, but he was also very much aware of the fact that foxes are tricksters. Considering he’d never encountered one himself until now, he wasn't sure how exactly they tricked people. Was this whole meeting a trap?

He was weighing his options as Lydia came into view. Even if foxes were able to trick his hearing or other senses, nothing could manipulate the chemosignals coming from others, and the scent of Lydia’s relief almost suffocated him.

“Sorry, Derek, I should have thought about that,” she said as she put a hand on the girl’s, Kira’s , shoulder to pull her back. “I assure you, Kira is no threat to you. Come on.”

Derek lowered his arm back down and followed Lydia, heading straight to the living room. His eyes, cold with calculation, swept the room to see who’s in attendance; he hid his surprise at seeing the sheriff standing next to Chris Argent. Then his gaze landed on Stiles.

Holy fucking Christ.

Peter had been joking earlier, but now Derek worried that his joke hit a bit too close to home. The past four years were more than generous to Stiles. He was still lanky, but now a more appropriate word would be lean , his hair was longer, sticking out in every direction at once, and his face - Derek held back a sigh - his face was sharper, more pronounced. Adding Stiles’ new muscles to the equation, Derek knew he was in trouble.

Or he would have been, if he hadn’t also noticed the deep bags under Stiles’ eyes or the way his eyelids seemed exceptionally heavy. Every blink lasted for far too long, despite the Red Bull in his hand and the row of empty cans on the table in front of him.

“Derek,” the sheriff said with an edge to his voice, dragging Derek’s gaze off of Stiles, “nice of you to show up at last.”

Okay, this didn’t bode well.

“Sir,” he nodded back, “How about we skip the niceties for now? What’s going on?”

That seemed to be the correct thing to say as Stilinski nodded, his expression turning from annoyance to determination, and looked towards Lydia. Interestingly, his gaze never once went towards Scott who was standing in a corner with his arms crossed next to Kira, her hand on his shoulder.

“Well, there isn’t much we can actually tell you, which is the most troubling part,” Lydia said, flicking her hair over her shoulder and confidently looking Derek right in the eyes. “As you probably guessed, Stiles is the one who’s affected. As far as we know, he is the only one affected in Beacon Hills. The only symptom we can see is fatigue - it started nine or ten months ago. At first, he was feeling more tired than normal, but he never seemed to sleep more than four, maybe five hours a night. We dismissed it and blamed it on his poor sleep schedule catching up to him. But it slowly got worse and now he can't stay awake and fully cognizant for more than a few hours.”

“Thanks, Lyds,” came Stiles’ tired voice.

“Shut up, you know I’m right. Anyway, we looked through every resource we have available and came up empty. We have no idea what’s causing this, and why it’s only happening to Stiles. We eliminated the possibility of human sickness; Melissa thoroughly checked him out in the hospital.”

Derek didn’t reply straight away, instead looking back to his betas. Erica looked worriedly at Stiles and clenched her fists while Isaac stared at Scott with a baffled expression. Boyd was the only one who turned to Derek, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“Did you contact Dr. Deaton about this?” he asked, keeping eye contact with Boyd.

“Yes, of course. He was the first one I contacted actually, when I first started thinking something was off. Why?”

“He should be contacting me with every supernatural occurrence as soon as he becomes aware of one,” Derek told Lydia, nodding at Boyd, who then silently stalked back to the corridor while taking out his phone, “Even if he’s unsure. Even if it’s just suspicion, he’s supposed to tell me.”

He saw a few people’s faces change. They all seemed apprehensive towards him when he walked in, almost mistrustful, even Lydia. It was clear that contacting him had been their last resort, when as their alpha, he should have been their first call.

It seemed at least that the sheriff, both Argents and Lydia were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Derek appreciated the chance since he was sure now that they all believed he had abandoned his territory.

This was getting more complicated by the second.

Derek exhaled sharply, deciding to address that particular issue another time and pulled out his phone. He started scrolling through his contacts as he asked Isaac, “Who do you think would be the best source for this?”

“Ida,” Isaac replied immediately, “she made sleep demons her focus a while back.”

Derek nodded and called her, letting it ring on and put it on speakerphone. She answered after a single ring.

“What’s the word, hummingbird?”

“I swear, one day you will stop,” Derek grunted out. “I’m in the Beacon Hills branch, we’ve got a bit of a situation here. Extreme fatigue, to the point of barely functioning, no other symptoms, and only one person seems to be affected.”

“Hmm, interesting,” Ida hummed in reply. “Are there any weird marks on the person’s body? Or maybe old wounds that have reopened?”

Derek looked towards the sheriff in question. Stilinski sat down next to his son and asked, “Didn’t you say that your old scar from the cockatrice looked fresh again? And you woke up with fresh blood on it?”

“Yeah, but what’s new?” came Stiles’ tired reply, “I’m always bleeding.”

Derek gritted his teeth to hold back his snarl, both at Stiles’ nonchalance at always bleeding , and at the news that they’d apparently fought a cockatrice. He might end up asking Peter and Cora to come down after all. He’d promised that if they had to kill Deaton, he would let Peter do it.

“Okay, any international trips before it all started?” Ida asked. For some reason, Stiles chuckled softly because he apparently found this question funny.

“Yes, we go to Poland for Christmas every year,” Stiles’ father responded, looking worriedly at his laughing son.

“I’m so fucking dumb,” Stiles breathed out through his laughter. “It’s a goddamned zmora.”

“Yes, that would be my guess,” Ida confirmed, “It’s the only thing I can think of that would cause this. If it was a mare, only the content of your dreams would be affected, not the way you feel. I will have to get back to you with the remedies. I can’t remember them off the top of my head.”

“Maybe we can do that ourselves,” Lydia interjected. “Do you have a specific book you would recommend?”

“Yes, but I highly doubt you have it on hand. Any of you heard of the ‘Bestiariusz Słowiański’ by Witold Vargas and Paweł Zych?”

“Actually,” the sheriff said, “I’m pretty sure we have a copy in the attic.”

“Well, considering you apparently spend Christmas in Poland, I really shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Quick question,” Stiles spoke up, “am I remembering correctly that prolonged exposure to a zmora can cause sleepwalking where the affected person essentially acts out their dreams as if they were actually happening?”

“Yes, that’s right, but that’s usually the very last stage before the victim dies. Why? Do you think you’ve experienced this?”

“Dad,” Stiles ignored Ida’s question and turned towards the man, “Dad, the father . The one who ate his daughter.”

Sheriff sat straighter and shot his son a shocked look. “ Jesus , kid,” he said, exhaling harshly, “does your brain ever turn off?”

Derek looked towards the sheriff and raised an eyebrow in question. Stilinski sighed and rubbed his eyes with one hand, while the other curled around the back of Stiles’ neck.

“Recent case. A father chewed his daughter to death. He didn’t eat her fully, but she still bled out and died. He turned himself in and kept claiming that he was sleeping, eating an apple in his dream, and died a few days later while in holding. Now that I think about it, the bites were concentrated around her neck, as if he was eating around an apple core...” 

“Fuck,” Ida whispered, “Yeah, that definitely sounds like a zmora. You need to find that book as soon as you can. If the zmora killed recently, it’s got a taste for it now.”

“No need,” Stiles mumbled. He leaned his head on his father’s shoulder, closed his eyes and spoke, monotonous, “ Zmora - a ghastly soul that torments humans and sucks out their energy and blood. In Slavic lore, zmora is connected to Marzanna, goddess of winter. Created from a twisted soul of a wronged woman. It has the ability to turn into animals and objects. The primary goal of their attacks is to drain humans, cattle and/or horses of energy and blood. The ways to protect yourself from a zmora are: drinking coffee before sleeping; throwing a piece of a noose at the demon; sleeping with a leather, wedding belt or a scythe; leaving a bundle of hay in one's bed and going to sleep in another room.”

The whole room fell silent as they all stared at Stiles, whose eyes stayed closed the whole time he spoke. Erica suddenly broke the silence with snorting laughter.

“I swear to God, Stiles, you just straight up swallowed Wikipedia,” she cackled.

“Well, there we go,” Ida started, “you get started on that as soon as you can and let this Stiles guy sleep. It might be a while - he has a lot of energy to replenish - so don't be alarmed if he actually sleeps for over twenty four hours. Oh, and be a dear and give him my number? I kinda need him in my life.”

She didn’t even give Derek a chance to respond before she hung up, so he just shook his head, put his phone back in his pocket, and then squared his shoulders and turned to Isaac and Erica as Boyd reentered the living room.

“Erica,” he addressed her first, “ take care of getting the wedding belt, whatever that is, and the leather. Isaac, please find a scythe and get some rope for the noose, and Boyd, you’re on hay duty. Report back to the loft after you gather everything, but leave the hay in Stiles’ bed here first.”

All three nodded once and left the house as a unit to carry out their alpha’s orders. Derek turned back to the room and addressed the sheriff, “Sir, I think it’s best if Stiles comes with us to the loft; another room might be good enough, but it would be safer to let him fully rest in another house altogether. You are, of course, invited as well.”

Stilinski nodded as he got off the couch. “Thank you, I’ll pack some essentials right away.”

With Erica, Isaac and Boyd out on errands, the sheriff upstairs packing, and Stiles passed out on the couch, Derek was left with a bunch of people who seemed to have nothing to say to him. There was actually a lot he wanted to say to them, but that wasn’t his priority right now. He would deal with them after Stiles was safe and he got more information.

“The rest of you are free to go,” he said to the room at large, “No point in all of us hovering when Stiles needs peace. Go.”

Scott huffed, grabbed Kira’s hand and dragged her behind him as he stormed out. She managed to look at Derek apologetically as she went past; Scott didn’t even look at him. Melissa shook her head slightly and followed her son, stopping by Derek’s side to say, “Please, let me know if this works, okay? I want to know he’s well.” Derek nodded, and she reached out to squeeze his forearm before she turned and exited the house.

The Argents were next, Chris nodding silently at Derek, while Allison looked at him with an expression that showed she wasn’t sure if she should hate him or trust him.

When Lydia and Jackson were the only ones left, Derek placed himself between them and the door. “Come to the loft when you’re free. Give us an hour or two to get organized. I need to know what’s been happening here the past four years.”

Lydia looked at him silently for a moment, assessing him with a calculating gaze. She seemed to find what she was looking for as she simply nodded and then took Jackson by the arm and left.

With everyone else gone, Derek walked towards the chair and sat down heavily, staring at Stiles’ sleeping form. He could hear the sheriff walking around upstairs, but Stiles stole his focus. His breaths were deep and even, his heartbeat strong and steady but slower than Derek remembered - Stiles’ heart seemed to always work double time before. 

Derek leaned forward, elbows resting on his thighs and dropped his face into his hands before taking a deep breath. He was sure he’d been doing better as an alpha. He got his territory back and even rebuilt the pack’s network into an evolved version of Talia’s and now it seemed like he was completely wrong. He’d been lied to, kept in the dark about the goings on in the first piece of his land he’d thought he secured, his home . Who was to say other branches hadn’t been doing the same?

His Beacon Hills visit next year was supposed to be the first stop on a territory-wide tour of all the Hale congregations, but it might have to be pushed up. He decided to ask Peter to start organising it for next month. Hopefully, by then the zmora situation will be resolved.

The sheriff’s boots stomping down the stairs snapped him out of his thoughts and he realized that at some point he’d caught his breath. He’d also managed to raise his head and just stare at Stiles again. He stood up quickly and turned towards the living room door right as the older Stilinski walked through.

“Got everything we need,” he said, lightly jostling the duffel bag hanging on his shoulder. “We can get going right away.”

“Of course,” Derek replied, “If it’s alright with you, we should take your cruiser so that you’ll have a car available without any fuss. I’ll leave the keys to my car here for Boyd to pick up after he sets up the hay.

The sheriff nodded and started towards the exit, reaching for the keys dangling by the door.

“If you could pick Stiles up and carry him to the car, that would be great, son,” he said, almost jolly, as he opened the front door, “I’m happy with carrying the duffel bag. You can put your extra strength to some use.”

Derek furrowed his brow at the teasing tone of the sheriff’s voice but obliged and walked towards the couch to pick Stiles up in a bridal carry. He spared a second to inhale deeply and let the scent that had haunted him for years drown out the scents of everyone else who’d just been in the house. It was dull now, not as vibrant as it used to be. Had he built it up in his head over the years?

He exited the house just as Stilinski closed the trunk and walked towards the driver side door. The backdoor was already open for him, so Derek laid Stiles across the backseat and went back to the house to close the door without locking it, and finally walked back to sit himself in the passenger seat.

“Makes for a nice change, doesn’t it?” the sheriff asked, “To sit in the front instead of behind those bars?”

Derek let out a soft chuckle. He’d actually forgotten that he’d been in a police cruiser with Sheriff Stilinski before.

They arrived at the loft quickly, distracted by a conversation about baseball of all things. It was clear that they both wanted to ignore the major problems around them, even if only for a few minutes. After the sheriff parked, Derek picked Stiles back up without prompting and carried him up to the loft, and then up the spiral staircase to lay him down in his bed. He valiantly ignored all connotations of Stiles being in his bed and joined the sheriff on the couch. Within half an hour, Boyd and Isaac came back and joined in on the ongoing sports conversation. It took another forty minutes for Erica to return, as apparently it would have been suspicious if she’d just walked in and gotten the first wedding belt she saw - she apparently had to spend time talking to the employees about her made-up wedding dress to pick one that would match. 

Judging by her subtle looks towards Boyd, the dress was much less made-up and more planned with a design sketch at the ready.

Soon after Erica’s return, Lydia and Jackson showed up. She walked right in, sat down, and started recounting everything that had happened since they left Beacon Hills, while Jackson stood at her side like a bodyguard.

It took entirely too long to go through everything that happened in the last four years. The list of supernatural creatures they’d fought was longer than it had any right to be. That they had all managed to come out of all these encounters fairly unscathed was nothing short of a miracle.

Omegas, trolls, goblins, chimeras, succubi, wendigos, goddamned salamanders, it was all run-of-the-mill around here. There was even a hellhound in his territory and essentially a member of his pack - and Derek had not been informed.

According to Lydia, shortly after Kira moved in, they had to deal with a nogitsune and the Oni. Of course, Stiles was the one possessed by the nogitsune, after he, Scott and Allison had taken part in a ritual that accidentally left the door to his mind open. All to save their parents from a Darach performing ritualistic murders. 

The easiest way to defeat a nogitsune was for an alpha to bite it, because it couldn’t be a fox and a wolf simultaneously; and yet, they had not called him. No, instead, Stiles had somehow managed to expel the nogitsune, a malevolent, chaos fox spirit, by sheer force of will.

Sheriff smirked and said that the Stilinski stubbornness is a supernatural power in its own right.

Going further in the story only made things seem bleaker. Stiles’ possessed body was used to kill innocent people. They managed to survive and defeat the nogitsune, only to be almost torn apart by a pack of chimeras, posing as werewolves with the hopes of picking them off one by one and claiming the town for themselves. In between the supernatural parade they defended against, they had a run-in with hunters who’d decided that the remaining Argents were not good enough and had to be eliminated. Stiles killed one of them to save Allison’s life.

Derek soon saw a pattern emerge - Scott took it upon himself to act as the leader, understandably trying to advocate for peace but naively trying to avoid killing anyone and anything at any cost. In turn, not that it seemed fair, Stiles made the hard choices, and seemed to always get the short end of the stick because of it. 

The Beacon Hills branch was now divided - Scott, Kira, Chris and Allison on one side, with the sheriff, Stiles and Lydia on the other. Jackson acted as the neutral one. Scott’s group constantly disagreed amongst themselves, but were united in one thing — their shunning of Stiles.

Derek rubbed his temples ceaselessly as he listened to the story which concluded with a verdict of: quiet for the last three months. Three months without an attack was apparently quiet for the people of Beacon Hills.

Derek needed to tear something apart.

Stiles woke up sluggishly, taking entirely too long to fully let go of Morpheus’ embrace. He felt rested and refreshed for the first time in months. He opened his eyes to see a piece of white fabric and a strip of leather in his hands. Confused, he looked around and noticed a scythe hanging on the wall at the head of the bed. Once he realised he wasn’t in his bedroom all the memories came flooding back.

He got out of bed slowly, looking around and taking in his surroundings as he headed for the door. He tried to use his hearing to estimate how many people were around, but it was eerily silent as he turned the knob. No wonder he didn’t recognise the bedroom - this was Derek’s loft, and he’d only ever been in the living room. He walked down the spiral staircase to see only 4 people scattered around the sprawling space. Like opposing teams, his dad and Kira sat while Derek and Boyd stood closer to the kitchen.

“Day?” he asked his dad.

“Thursday,” the sheriff answered straight away.


“Four in the afternoon.”

“So I was out of it for about forty-five hours?

“Yes, I would say that’s accurate,” the older Stilinski smiled.

“And the zmora?”


Stiles turned to look at Derek, who was the one to answer his last question. Logically, he knew he’d already seen Derek on Tuesday after the werewolf had apparently dropped everything to drive back to Beacon Hills with his betas. Realistically, however, he’d been basically comatose and hadn’t processed the fact that he’d seen Derek for the first time in over four years.

Now was not the time to process it either.

“How did you manage to kill it?” Stiles asked, keeping his voice calm and even.

“It showed up in your bedroom the night we moved you here,” Boyd responded as he started walking closer. “The book said to throw a piece of a noose at it - we kinda went for the ‘throw the actual noose around its neck and strangle it’ method.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “And it worked?” 

“Oh, absolutely not. But we caught it, so we were able to push it through the woodchipper,” Boyd responded, throwing Stiles a judging look.

“Hey, don’t diss the woodchipper - you’ve now benefited from the brilliance of that magical machine,” Stiles exclaimed, jabbing a finger at Boyds chest. “There are a billion and one ways to kill the billion and one creatures that visit us, but the woodchipper works pretty damn well for about ninety-seven procent of them. It’s useful .”

“Woah, no arguments here!” Boyd replied, raising both his hands in submission, “though Lydia could’ve warned us about the spray. We came back looking like we played paintball using Pepto-Bismol.”

Stiles laughed, glad that he wasn’t being judged for his unconventional supernatural disposal system. It was brutal and messy but, as he’d said, a very useful shortcut when they didn’t have time to research how to kill a specific creature and gather materials. Plus: no body.

“Well, alright then,” he clapped his hands once and looked towards Kira. “You can let Scott know this is sorted out then, and I now get to go and catch up on everything I missed from college.”

Kira walked up to him and raised her hand as if she was about to put it on his shoulder, just to stop herself and put her arm back down.

“I’m glad you’re safe now,” she said with an apologetic smile.

“Yeah,” Stiles croaked out, “Sure. Thanks.”

Kira lingered awkwardly and held eye contact for a few more seconds before she smiled shyly once again and left.

Stiles turned to his dad and quickly flicked his chin towards the door. The sheriff somehow correctly interpreted it as ‘we should leave too’, got off the couch and stood sentry at Stiles’ side. 

“Thank you,” Stiles said earnestly, turning to Derek. “And sorry for, you know, forcing you to come back here.”

“You didn’t force us,” Derek replied, “It’s actually good we came back. There’s a lot to sort out. Wait for my text.”

Stiles looked on wordlessly, waiting for Derek to say more, until he remembered that this was Derek , so he just nodded once and turned to leave with his father.

Derek watched the sliding door close, then looked back at Boyd with his eyebrows raised.

“Don’t look at me, man,” Boyd murmured as he went back to raiding the kitchen for a snack. “I have no idea what’s going on here.”

Derek sighed deeply, deciding to help Boyd find something to eat and press pause on everything else. He was pretty sure he’d stashed Doritos somewhere.

On Saturday, finally, Stiles got a message from Derek calling for a meeting at the loft that evening. Considering his very long nap (which lasted from 3 days, but details), he spent the day before the weekend catching up on school work, not feeling tired in the slightest and going back to his usual four-hours-per-night-is-enough schedule. 

He was actually dreading the meeting. Considering he had no idea what it was about and that Derek had called for everyone , Stiles wasn’t expecting things to go smoothly.

Stiles, Lydia and the Sheriff went to the loft together only to see that most of the group was already there. Derek stood off to the side and observed everyone milling about the den without a word. At the same time most of the Beacon Hills crew talked amongst themselves as if this were the quiet start of a raging house party. Erica tackled Stiles almost to the ground as he tried to go towards an uninhabited corner, hoping to be left in peace with Lydia and his dad. She stayed with them and talked animatedly until the door opened again.

Isaac walked in first with Deaton close behind and Boyd following right at the emissary’s back. The werewolves broke formation once they shut the door and flanked the man on both sides. It looked like a polite prison transport.

“Alright,” Derek started quietly, yet everyone heard him and instantly stopped talking, “We’re all here now, so let’s start.”

He walked towards Deaton with laser-sharp focus, his red eyes boring holes in the vet’s head. Deaton seemed as calm and poised as always, yet his eyes were downcast and head was slightly tilted in submission.

“First, I want to apologise to you all.” Everyone looked at Derek in shock, but he continued to stare Deaton down. “I thought I had left Beacon Hills in the hands of a capable emissary, yet it seems because of his actions, I made the impression that I abandoned my pack and my territory. That is not true.”

Derek slowly turned, sweeping over everyone with his gaze until his eyes landed on Stiles. He continued speaking as if he was talking only to him, “Because you were all teenagers when I left, I gave Deaton instructions on how to proceed. As my emissary he was supposed to guide and teach you. I instructed him to call me with any emergencies, so that I could come and defend my territory and my pack.” Derek walked back to his original spot while adding “He hasn’t complied, so he will be replaced as soon as we can find a suitable emissary. Erica, the floor is yours.” Erica stood straight up as if on cue and took spotlight at the now empty space by the door.

“Okay, our dear Alan has ignored a lot of rules which we now have to catch up on,” she said, lightly sighing. “First of all, Kira Yukimura, Noshiko Yukimura, Ken Yukimura and Jordan Parrish - you have encroached on an established territory without contacting the alpha. Considering the information available to you, it’s clear you didn’t know, so now we’ll give you the chance to decide on how you want to proceed - if you want to join the pack or not.”

“What’s the point? They already live here anyway. They don’t need your permission,” Scott called out, testily.

Derek responded calmly, “Actually, they do. They should’ve asked for my permission, as alpha, before they even stepped foot onto my territory.”

“You’re not my alpha, and I never had to ask your permission to live here.”

“No, you didn’t, and I didn’t force you to ask for it as a courtesy to you.” Derek snapped, his eyes flashing red. “Even if you decided not to accept me as your alpha, you still need to play by my rules if you want to stay within my borders. I have full authority to banish you if you step out of line.”

“Not a problem!” Scott shouted, “I’m transferring to San Francisco anyway, so I will be out of your precious territory!”

“Actually, you won’t be,” Boyd interjected. Everyone shot him confused looks, to which he just shrugged, “Hale territory stretches from the northern border of California down to Bakersfield. Basically, over half of California belongs to the Hale pack.”

There was a moment of stony silence after Boyd’s announcement, the majority of them too shocked to say anything. 

“So, yeah, now that you’re more informed, Parrish and Yukimura’s- Derek will speak with you guys privately when you guys are ready to make a decision,” Erica continued, “You don’t have to join the pack to stay in the territory, but you will need to obey the alpha’s rules. Also, if you’re not in the pack, no one in the pack is obligated to help you at all. With anything.”

“There are pros and cons for both sides of the medal,” Isaac started, making it clear Erica was done speaking, “this could be your out. If you decide not to join the pack then you don’t have to defend the territory and can continue with regular life. However, if you were to get in trouble, as Erica said - the pack is not obligated to help you. At all. What’s more, if you become aware of a threat, you must share any and all information with a pack member. If you don’t make the pack aware of the threat on Hale land, you will be seen as a threat yourself. Dealing with it yourself is not an option. It will never be an option.”

Isaac stepped away from Deaton and walked towards Derek whilst Erica took the deserted spot at Deaton’s left. “If you decide you do want to join the pack, you’ll have the full support of the entire Hale pack, which you’ve probably guessed by now is… extensive. To say the least,” He snickered, throwing an amused look at Boyd, both of them clearly remembering some inside joke, “But it also means you have an obligation to defend the territory. If there is a threat, you will be called to help deal with it.”

Isaac finished speaking just as he reached Derek who handed him a bunch of paperwork which was promptly distributed among the group. Boyd closed their quartet with, “You don’t have to decide straight away. We will be in Beacon Hills for at least a week to handle the emissary situation. You all have a week to think about it and decide.”

“As for the rest of you,” Derek spoke up from his spot, “you were never officially admitted to my pack like Erica, Boyd or Isaac, but no one apart from Scott has outright rejected me as their alpha. This means that you are already part of the pack tentatively. You have the week to change that.”

Silence fell after this, and after a few minutes it became clear that this gathering had come to an end. People slowly shuffled towards the door, but Stiles hung back because Erica signalled for him to stay behind, but also because he didn’t actually want to talk to anyone from the home team. When he, his dad and Lydia were the only ones to stay in the loft with Deaton, Derek and the three betas, Erica bounced up to Stiles with a wide and toothy smile. “So…” she started with a purr, her blonde locks framing her face as she leaned forward and put her arms around Stiles’ neck, “We had a vote and since the sooner Deaton is outta here the better, we were wondering if you’d be willing to stand in as emissary? Temporarily, of course.” 

Stiles felt his eyes widen in shock as he snapped his head up and looked at each werewolf in turn.

“Wait, what? But I’m not… I don’t have any mojo!”

“Yeah, we know, you’re painfully human,” Boyd replied with a grin of his own, “But that’s the thing, we don’t actually need a magic user as Beacon Hills emissary for now. We just need someone we can delegate the organisational side of things to while we look for a different Gandalf. But we also want someone we already trust, who will keep us up to date on things and not hide anything. That’s you.”

“Oh,” Stiles felt his face fall, “I don’t think… I mean, it’s pretty clear you don’t have all the facts, so maybe, if you’re looking for someone trustworthy, you should ask my dad, or even Lydia, but I… I don’t think I’m a good fit,” he floundered, reaching back to take Erica’s arms off his neck as he kept his eyes on the floor.

The wolves looked at him with confused expressions, apart from Derek who seemed thoughtful.

“Why did Kira stop herself from touching you?” He asked suddenly.

Stiles gulped, raising his head to look back at Derek.

“Because they’re all scared of me.”

Derek’s response was simply raising an eyebrow in question.

“Because I was possessed by a Nogitsune.”

“Yes, we know. And we know you managed to fight it out of yourself. Are they blaming you?” Isaac asked as Derek continued to simply stare with his eyebrows raised.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so anyway. They know I was possessed and not myself. But that doesn’t change much, does it? It was still my face this thing was wearing. They still saw me chasing them. I’m still the one they see in their nightmares. Honestly, I scare myself whenever I look in a mirror,” Stiles took a deep breath and then said the one thing he was sure would make the wolves kick him out, “Plus, I'm the only one who’s killed a human on purpose. And that was after the Nogitsune, I wasn’t possessed then. I have blood on my hands either way.”

Derek kept looking at him impassively, with the perfect poker face in place. Stiles stood there with his back straight, waiting to be dismissed and trying not to show his discomfort at having everyone stare at him.

“Well?” Derek asked after a while, “Do you accept? Or do you need to think about it?”

“Wait, what?” Stiles questioned back.

“Do you agree to be our Interim Emissary?” Erica pressed.

“Why would you…” Stiles started, completely bewildered, and felt his hand being grabbed suddenly. He turned back to look at Lydia, who was trying to squish his hand as she attempted to pass a silent message. It didn’t take long for Stiles to understand what she was trying to tell him, and he felt himself agreeing. “Yes,” he finally replied, “Yes, I accept. What do you need me to do?”

“Nothing for now,” Derek replied as he started making his way towards the stairs, “I will let you know the details in a day or two. Isaac, get a hold of Peter and see if he managed to get in touch with the Ito pack about Deaton.”

“If I could interject…” Deaton started, his usual calm demeanor cracking to show that he was fairly annoyed with no one asking him for his opinion.

“No, you can’t,” Derek interrupted, turning to flash his red eyes at Deaton, “You will go where we tell you. If the Ito pack accepts you, you will go there. If not, we will drive you out to Oregon. Either way, you are not to set foot on the Hale territory ever again, that’s final.”

With that, Derek turned again and disappeared upstairs. Erica resumed her excited smiling at Stiles, while Boyd and Isaac, scrolling through his contacts, flanked Deaton once again. In the elevator, Stiles looked at Lydia and his dad, bewildered at what just happened. Lydia looked smug and his dad smiled with pride. Stiles himself was literally shaking with what he thought was hope.

Maybe, just maybe, there were actually people capable of trusting him despite everything he’d done.

“You did let them know what he did, right?”

“Yes, and yet they still want to use him as an actual emissary,” Peter’s voice came out of Derek’s phone as he and his betas stood around the kitchen island, “Nolite iudicare ut non iudicemini, my dear nephew. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

“Shut up,” Derek grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Do we really care?” Erica asked, leaning into Boyd with his arm around her, apparently tired enough to almost be asleep while standing in six inch heels. It was actually very impressive. “As long as he’s out of our hair, it’s their problem, not ours.”

“The Ito pack is a big ally, and we should keep them happy, considering we’re sharing the state with them,” Isaac sighed, “We need them to be fully aware of who they will be welcoming into their land. Peter said they are fully aware and still want him as an emissary, so yeah, not really anything we can do with that.”

Derek dragged his hand over his face, cringing at the idea of dropping his discarded scraps to an allied pack, especially one led by his mom’s old friend.

“Think about it this way, the sooner Deaton is gone, the sooner our dear Stiles is the official representative of the alpha and our main point of contact with Beacon Hills. That should make you happy, right, Derek?”

“Peter, please shut up before I kill you again.”

“That’s the definition of insanity, repeating the same action over and over again and expecting different results. You know it doesn’t stick.”

“Yes, I know,” Derek growled back as he put his elbows on the counter and hid his face in one of his hands, “you can’t even fucking die right.”

Peter’s only response was to laugh maniacally as he hung up. Erica snickered and turned her face towards Boyd’s chest to hide the amusement that the others didn’t even bother hiding.

“It does beg a question,” Boyd said to Isaac, “did our esteemed alpha make a decision based on what’s best for the pack? Or, maybe, it was based on making the one he’s pining for happy?”

“Boyd, you should know better! You know our revered alpha always makes decisions using his head!” Isaac replied vehemently, barely managing to contain his laughter, “it’s just the question of which head…”

“I hate you all and I wish I could send you off to be a different pack’s problem,” Derek grumbled as his betas burst out laughing. “Boyd, you just volunteered yourself to escort Deaton. Look up flights to San Diego and get out of my face.”

“What do you think, hun?” Boyd said to Erica, “Business to San Diego and a quick stop in Tijuana to relax?”

“Perfect, I’ll pack right now,” Erica replied, stretching to place a quick kiss on Boyd’s lips.

“Excuse me, did I say you can go with him?” Derek questioned. Erica simply looked back at him with her eyebrows raised. “Yeah, ok, fine. Off you go, don’t bankrupt me.”

“That sounds like a challenge!” Erica cackled as she bound up the stairs.

With Boyd and Erica on their trip to get rid of Deaton, Derek decided to enjoy a few calm days in Beacon Hills. He started looking into having the Hale House torn down, his family deserved a fitting monument to their memory, not this burnt out husk. He had talked with Isaac about possible options on what to create in that space - so far, their best idea was a camping retreat in the woods — perfect for wolves to relax and be close to nature.

He was at the house for the start of demolition when he got a text from the sheriff. 


[Sheriff Stilinski]

Derek, could you come by tonight? I should be back home at around 3am, there’s something I need to speak with you about.


Maybe not the strangest text, but Derek immediately got worried. Stilinski never asked to speak with him, unless he was arresting him. A million thoughts went through his mind, and he found himself almost wishing that the sheriff wanted to speak to him about some supernatural issue, because the alternative was that somehow John Stilinski, Beacon Hills Sheriff, caught wind of the fact that Derek has had feelings for his son since Stiles was sixteen.

Then he mentally slapped himself for wishing for a crisis just so he could avoid an uncomfortable situation.

Here was the problem with his fascination with Stiles: Derek had met him at pretty much the lowest point of his life, and then everything kept going further to shit. Stiles was annoying, hyperactive, terribly fragile and always involved. 

Yet somehow, Stiles became a constant in Derek's life. 

He was always there when Derek needed him. They didn't like each other. Stiles had even habitually expressed that he would prefer Derek dead, and yet he always showed up to help him… to save him

It took Derek embarrassingly long to realise that the thing he felt towards Stiles? That was attraction. Somehow mistrust and irritation had morphed into respect and awe. 

Honestly, Stiles was awe-inspiring in how he dealt with the craziness that had suddenly overtaken his life. He was also the bravest person Derek had ever known. Stiles wasn't scared to own up to his feelings; he could admit when he was scared shitless and still barreled on. 

The issue was that when Derek realised how he looked at him, Stiles was sixteen. With his past, Derek was highly uncomfortable with that fact, even though it was just a three year difference. But now, four years after first meeting, Stiles was twenty and had experienced more from life.

That didn’t make Derek any more comfortable with how he felt about the situation though.

“Mr. Hale?”

Derek startled and looked up from his phone to see the foreman, who had apparently snuck up on him. “Sorry, got distracted. What was your question?”

“What do you wanna do about the foundations?” the foreman asked, taking a pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket and offering one to Derek. “Technically speaking, they’re sound, so we could keep them as they are, but this was an old house so nowadays we do things a little differently. If you wanted to modernise instead of building in the same fashion it was before, we would have to tear the foundations as well.”

Derek took the cigarette and lit it with his own lighter. He took a long drag and sat through a storm of emotions while he stared at the workers tearing down the shell of his family home.

“Get rid of them,” he finally said after a moment of silence. “I’m gonna rebuild completely. Lay new foundations.”

“Sure thing, boss,” the foreman saluted with the hand holding the cigarette, then turned to shout out orders.

Derek only hung around long enough to finish his cigarette. The construction workers all treated him like some big shot and it made wandering around more awkward and uncomfortable than relaxing. He went back to the loft, made a few failed attempts at productivity and ended up watching Netflix to run out the clock. Isaac was around, but completely occupied by whoever he was texting with for hours on end. Derek had the uncomfortable thought that it was probably Cora.

Derek pulled up to the house at 3:15am,hoping to give the sheriff time to take the edge off before Derek showed up. As luck would have it, they ended up arriving at the exact same time.

Derek got out of the car and lightly closed the door, trying not to make too much noise given the time. He walked up to the sheriff and let the man set the tone and take charge, considering they were standing on his property.

Stilinski made no move to come up and shake Derek’s hand. He just looked at him shrewdly for a few seconds longer than strictly necessary, nodded once and turned towards the front door. Derek followed the sheriff and immediately felt his shackles rise when the door shut behind him. He turned back curiously, glancing from the door to the sheriff. “Mountain ash door?” He asked incredulously.

“Kind of a necessity nowadays. Mountain ash floorboards and other key spots as well. Every room works as a closed circuit, the moment the door shuts, the barrier is activated, with the main door turning on the barrier for the whole house. The outer ring of protection, if you will.” Stilinski explained, with no small amount of pride in his voice.


“Of course,” the man chuckled. “Planning this whole thing took him fifty three hours, around two cases of energy drinks and an ungodly amount of Adderall. But I had the plan ready with contacts for the contractors, where to get the materials from and the cost of everything detailed.”

Derek smirked at that and followed the sheriff to the living room where he felt the second barrier close in tandem with the living room door. He was now imprisoned in two lines of mountain ash.

“You want anything to drink?”

Derek blinked owlishly, distracted by the antsy feeling of being trapped. “No, thank you, sir. I think it’s better to get straight to the point. What did you want to talk about?”

“This is gonna be a long conversation, you’re gonna want a drink. I'll make coffee. And it’s John - makes more sense for us to be on a first name basis for this.”

Derek nodded and sat on the couch as John disappeared into the kitchen. The coffee table was plastered in papers and files and the TV was camouflaged by a massive cork board with documents, pictures and newspaper clippings interconnected by multicoloured string. It looked more like a war room than the living room it was meant to be.

John came back and poured coffee into two mugs after sitting down in his leather chair. He set the coffee pot down, swept the papers up and placed them on the floor. 

“Okay, this is gonna be a fairly long conversation, and thankfully Stiles isn’t here, since it’s his turn on watch. Before I tell you what I want to tell you, you’re gonna do the talking. First and foremost - you said you didn’t abandon your territory, that Alan Deaton has grossly neglected his duties and that your territory is actually over half of California. I need you to explain exactly how packs work, and exactly how Beacon Hills fending for itself is Deaton’s fault.”

Derek released a long sigh, taking a quick sip of his coffee and putting the mug back down. “Did Deaton tell you anything about how werewolf packs work?”

“No,” John replied with a frown, “At most, Deaton was a source of information about the creatures that visited us.”

“Fucking useless asshole,” Derek pinched the bridge of his nose, then sighed again and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Okay, let’s start with a quick history lesson. The alpha spark is not something that can be created, it is either inherited within a family, passed on peacefully when the current alpha wants to retire, or it’s taken by force when the alpha gets killed by another werewolf. Packs used to work like you probably imagine them to work — they mostly consisted of families and their territories were typically just the towns they lived in. When hunters became more active and pack infighting started, it created an alpha vacuum - if an alpha killed another alpha, they absorbed their power, so only one alpha was left in the end; and if a human killed an alpha, that spark just disappeared. Well, it disappears if the alpha is killed by a human face-to-face. Using methods like burning a house down, the spark passes on to the next person.”

Derek paused and looked the sheriff in the face, already seeing the man predict where the story was going. “With every alpha lost, another pack and territory became vulnerable, so nearby alphas were forced to include more and more wolves. Territories just grew bigger and bigger. We stayed within the state lines to make following the law easier - we have our own law as well as follow human law; if one pack lived in two separate states, it would mean that one pack would have to follow two separate sets of state law. Bigger states are divided among the remaining alphas, with California divided in half between the Hale pack and the Ito pack.”

“Alright,” John said after a moment. “That makes sense. So I’m guessing that because of the sheer size of the territory each alpha has to look after, emissaries like Deaton act as some sort of representatives?”

“Essentially, yes,” Derek responded. “Emissaries had an easier time hiding since they are human, just with magic abilities. Even if they would be caught by hunters, they passed every supernatural test, so they were very rarely killed. This means that there are a lot more magic users than alpha werewolves, so instead of being advisors like they used to be, they are the alphas’ authority enforcers, so to speak, in every branch.”


“That’s what we call individual towns and cities,” Derek provided. “The pack on the whole is spread around half of the state, but it’s in groups in different places. Like packs within the pack. There’s also what we call ‘outer rings’, which means supernaturals who live on my land but are not in my pack. Each branch is provided with an emissary, who helps on a day-to-day basis, provides regular reports on goings on and refers back to the alpha with bigger issues.”

“And Alan wasn’t doing that.”

“No, he was not,” Derek looked down at his mug with a stormy expression. “I kept in touch with him, he checked in every week. Not once did he let me know of a supernatural creature encroaching on Beacon Hills. All of his reports came through email and they were all basically ‘we’re all good, everything is quiet’ updates.”

“Yeah, okay, I agree with you, then,” John smirked, just as Derek lifted his coffee again. “He is a fucking useless asshole.”

The spit take Derek did at that was impressive; while he was coughing and choking he thought about how somehow he kept forgetting that this man was Stiles’ father. The little shit gene had to have come from somewhere.

Just as he managed to take himself under control and was about to ask John what was the main topic he was called for to discuss, he heard the front door open. John heard it too, glanced at his wrist watch with a confused expression before he swore and jumped up, pulling out his phone and rushing to the door. 

“Where?” Derek heard the man ask as he followed at a much slower pace, unsure if he actually should follow or not.

“The alley off of Sunset, going into the forest,” Derek heard Stiles’ groggy voice just as he came out of the living room. He took in the sheriff's frantic movements as the man hauled his son inside with one hand, the other hand holding his cellphone to his ear already, before he laid eyes on Stiles himself and felt the air punched out of his lungs.

Stiles’ jaw was clenched as he allowed his father to manhandle him around and he held his arms rigidly at his sides. The visible tension wasn’t as troubling as the blood, though; his hands, clothes, even half of his face was covered in the sticky substance - yet it didn’t seem to be his blood, since his injuries seemed limited to a few scrapes and bruises, only one bigger gash down his left arm - not big enough to explain the amount of blood covering him.

“Parrish?” John said into his phone as he tugged Stiles towards the bathroom, shouldering Derek out of the way as he passed him. “Cleanup in the alley behind Sunset Drive, towards the woods. Dead?” He turned to address his son.

“Yeah, dead,” Stiles confirmed in a subdued voice.

The sheriff barked confirmation into the phone and promptly hung up. He started patting Stiles down and seemed to have found what he was looking for, pulling out his son’s car keys and flinging them at Derek. “Go check the car for damage. If the blood is fresh, there’s a tank of hydrogen peroxide under the sink in the kitchen, and you’re gonna douse every last drop of blood with it then wash it with cold water.”

“Dad, come on-” Stiles tried interrupting.

“You shut up, he’s here so he’s gonna be useful. And strip, we need to burn those clothes, they’re too soaked to try and salvage.”

Stiles just shook his head and started lifting his shirt with trembling hands and placed it into the plastic bag his father had produced, seemingly out of nowhere. Derek only looked on for a few more seconds before starting his part of the cover-up mission. It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand what happened, and why the Sheriff of Beacon Hills wasn’t freaking out about his son having just killed someone, God, he was actively working to hide it.

Instead of going to the car first to see the extent of staining on the interior, Derek decided to grab the hydrogen peroxide and a few rags. He got to the front door, ready to fly out of the house, but violently bounced back and swore loudly.

“John, mountain ash! You need to open the door!”

“Fuck, right!” came the response and Stilinski zoomed in to open the door, using his elbows since now his hands were covered in blood too, then rushed back.

Considering the time, it was most likely that all the neighbours were asleep, and even if they weren’t, it was too dark for them to see anything. Derek kept quiet as he opened the door to the jeep, and thanked every god there was for the fact he had a much better vision in the dark than humans since it meant he didn’t need to turn on any lights to be able to see what’s happening.

There was actually much less blood than he was expecting. The most was on the steering wheel, which was easy to clean considering it was smooth vinyl, not porous. The little bit that was on the driver seat Derek immediately drenched in the peroxide, and used his nose to find any blood he couldn’t see while polishing the steering wheel with a rag. He scented a lot of blood at the back of the jeep, so he opened up the trunk. It was a metal trash can cover, completely mangled and covered in blood and with a few pieces of skin stuck on the sharp points the dents made. It was laid on a plastic tarp, so he just folded the tarp over it as well as he could to bring it with him back inside.

He put the folded tarp under his arm, walked around to pour more peroxide on the driver seat, and made his way back into the house. He walked towards the bathroom, where he saw Stiles sitting in the bathtub in his boxers, his father kneeling next to him and working on his arm to clean and cover the wound.

“There wasn’t much on the seat, I poured peroxide over it and it should be easy to wash off now.”

“Thank you, son,” John said without moving his eyes away from Stiles’ arm. “Take a bucket with some cold water and the carpet cleaner from under the sink.”

Derek didn’t bother nodding, since both Stilinski’s weren’t even looking at him, but he paused in the doorway when he turned to follow the order. “Can someone just summarise what is going on?”

The sheriff raised his head to look his son in the eyes as if for permission. Stiles nodded numbly, his right hand tapping out some random tune on the tiles on the wall next to him while he kept his left arm at an angle that allowed his father to fix the wound.

“We had an influx of hunters the past few years,” John stated, going back to his task as he spoke. “Not affiliated with Argent, especially considering that one of those hunters made a move to kill Allison. We have a watch system in place; usually if Stiles notices a hunter getting ready to make a move on his watch, he calls me or Parrish to deal with it. If we’re able to just drive them away by flashing a badge, we go that route - sometimes, we need to use more… definitive methods.” He raised his head again, but this time Stiles didn’t meet his gaze, instead keeping his eyes downcast. “Why didn’t you call us?”

“There was no time,” Stiles murmured. “This one wasn't planning on being subtle. By the time you would have gotten there, Kira would've been dead." Stiles let out a heavy sigh, dropped his head even further down while breathing harshly before turning an almost desperate gaze back to his father. "I promise I tried, I tried to just knock him out but it got really vicious really quickly, and I just grabbed whatever and started hitting and then he just… just collapsed, and he wasn't breathing, and-" 

"Shush, Stiles, it's OK, you're alright. You did what you had to do." John leaned in, grabbing Stiles by the back of the neck and squeezing. He brought their foreheads together and just held him there. "You did what you had to do."

Derek turned back and left the bathroom, going into the kitchen to grab the bucket and carpet cleaner while internally fuming. This should not be the human's responsibility, no matter how skilled. Where were the wolves? Scott, Jackson, hell, even that fox girl herself? 

He left the small family to deal with the emotional aftermath for now while he went to scrub at the upholstery, making sure he got all the blood out. He walked back in when he was done to deposit the materials, certain that because of what happened, John won't have the presence of mind to go back to their conversation; which is why he was almost shocked to find both Stilinski's waiting for him in the living room, both holding bottles of beer, Stiles scratching the label off the bottle into confetti. 

"Sit down, Derek," the sheriff called out. "Just put that stuff down, I will deal with it later."

Derek went back to his spot on the couch, next to Stiles, who was hyper focused on annihilating the label. 

"Alright, first, Parrish called, the scene is cleaned up, no one should even suspect something happened. And considering I'm the Sheriff, I can say with certainty that the local police force won't become suspicious of anything." He smirked softly as he took a long sip of his beer. "Now, the second reason I called you here tonight…" he leaned forward, putting his elbows on his thighs, the bottle held loosely between his knees. "So, I actually knew everything you explained about packs already. Stiles went on a research binge shortly after telling me everything just so we could understand what's happening more; but the general consensus of the local wolves was that this information must be wrong, and Deaton never said anything to confirm or deny that information. Because of how that worked, Stiles and I tended to not share much of what we found out with others - there wasn't much use since they wouldn't listen anyway. I had to make sure you were not against an exchange of information before I let you know what I found because if I'm right, we have a… clusterfuck on our hands."

"Dad!" Stiles shouted at his father's choice of words. "Since when is that an okay thing to say in this house?" 

"Please, just for once, remember I'm the parent here," John shook his head before growing serious again. "Derek, have you ever heard of a Licho?" 

"Lee-ho?" Derek furrowed his brows at the unfamiliar word. "Can't say that I have, no." 

"I spent some time going through that book that has information on zmoras, and it described an old Slavic monster called a Licho," John leaned back against the backrest of his chair. "There's a multitude of sayings in Polish containing the word 'licho', like 'Licho nie śpi', meaning 'Licho never sleeps.' In the context of those it basically means bad luck. And if I understood the book correctly, that's exactly what this creature is. Bad luck."

Stiles suddenly snapped his head up and stared at his father wide eyed. 

"You're too quick, kid," the sheriff shook his head. 

"Bad luck, how? Area or targeted? Working on probability or creating situations out of nowhere?" Stiles asked quickly. 

"I don't know," John shook his head again. "The descriptions in that book about Licho are more… poetic? Not fact driven like the section on the zmora." 

"So, potentially… the rise in hunter activity, the supernatural parade… God, going even further back, maybe even mom… Peter going crazy… Fuck, maybe even the Hale fire…" 

"Wait, hold on," Derek interrupted Stiles' rambling. "Finish at least one sentence because I'm not making the connection here."

"Potentially," John said slowly, looking Derek in the eyes. "If I'm right, if there's a Licho around, then hypothetically speaking, all those things Stiles just listed could've been caused by it. And like with most monsters, unless we figure out a way to get rid of it, things are only gonna get worse."

Stiles exhaled harshly and abruptly shut the Polish mythology book at his desk; his focus was shot. Between staying on top of his studies and attempting to research whatever he could about Lichos, he was sick and tired of looking at books.

He leaned back in his chair, hearing a few pops as his spine readjusted, then dropped his head back to stare at the ceiling while tapping a foot rapidly against the floor. No matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t find anything that would help them identify if a Licho was definitely present in the area or how to get rid of it. However, he did find some information about what it did and the knowledge made him want to crawl into his bed, wrap himself in a blanket burrito and never leave.

“You ready to go, kiddo?” 

“Holy Joseph and all his carpenter friends!” Stiles yelped as he startled in his rolling chair and toppled back, landing face up on the floor with the backrest between his legs.

“What was wrong with just calling for God or Jesus?” His father sighed, leaning in the doorway as he waited for his child to gather himself.

“They never answered,” Stiles quipped as he slowly got back up. 

“Babcia is gonna whoop your ass for all the blasphemy. C’mon, let’s go.”

“Wait! Where are we going?” Stiles waved his hands, then attempted to run one of them through his hair, but ended up whacking himself on the nose. John chuckled softly as he watched Stiles rub his nose to ease the pain.

“Did you run out of meds again?” he asked. “We’re going to Derek’s. He called and asked us to come share what we found so far.”

“Which is a nice, big pile of nothing, FYI,” Stiles mumbled as he pulled on a hoodie. “And since when does Derek call? Actually, wait, back up, he has your number? Are you guys some secret book club buddies and you failed to mention that?”


“Yes, I ran out, stuff keeps happening and I keep forgetting to go and get my prescription, it’s all good.”

John sighed again as he turned and disappeared into his own bedroom. He came out a few seconds later with a pill bottle in his hand. “I started keeping an emergency stash. Take one and then put on your running shoes. You're jogging next to the cruiser.”

“Daaaaad!” Stiles whined as he took the pill bottle and opened it up to dry-swallow one of the pills.

“No whining, we need you focused on the topic at hand. Or at the very least: not bouncing off the walls.”

Stiles only grunted in response and rifled through his drawers for an extra t-shirt. Like hell was he going to walk into a werewolf den in a sweat-soaked shirt.

They made their way downstairs and John got into his cruiser, pulling onto the road and driving slow enough for Stiles to be able to jog next to the car. It wasn’t a method that really calmed his thoughts, but it did make him less jittery.

Stiles jogged the whole way in an attempt to get rid of some of his excess energy. Once they got there, he quickly took his top off and wiped himself down before donning the fresh tee and heading upstairs with his dad 

Stiles was simultaneously nervous and excited. This was the first time he was seeing Derek and the trio without having an immediate danger in play since they left 4 years ago. He technically kept up with all of them through random texts, even Derek, but that was limited and totally uninformative. A lot had changed, but what’s more — the last time he saw Derek, Stiles was covered in blood after just murdering a man.

He shook his head trying to dislodge the thought and think about why he was excited. As much as he wanted to do his usual ignoring-the-problem thing when it came to that hunter, he also just could not forget that… Derek helped. He told all of them about his first kill, as well, and it didn’t seem like they were judging him, or scared of him, or even disgusted by him. It seemed like they accepted it. Stiles wasn’t sure what it said about them, but he was thrilled about the possibility of more people being in his corner.

And his brain would not stop comparing Derek cleaning his jeep with peroxide to those Ride or Die relationships in fanfiction. Get yourself a man who will literally help you bury a body, right? He’d also helped kill for Derek before; was it normal for people to go this far for one another?

He shook his head again just as they reached the door, since it was an absolutely terrible idea to walk into a place filled with werewolves when smelling like desire because he’d just been thinking about one of said werewolves.

“Batman!” He heard a shout as soon as he slid open the door to the loft, and within the next second he was tackled by Erica yet again and fell flat on the floor. He grunted at the attack, then let out an embarrassing yelp as Erica pinned him down and started dropping kisses all over his face, avoiding his mouth.

“Woman, get off of me! Bad touch!”

“Oh no, sweetie, this is just a prelude, I will show you what a bad touch is later,” she cackled, winking as she got up and pulled Stiles to his feet. “Oh, I bought you a gift, wait!” She bounced backwards and skipped away only to come back a second later with something so bright that he wished he had sunglasses.

“I am afraid,” he monotoned. Erica laughed again and presented him with a bright pink sombrero, complete with neon green cactuses stitched on around the rim. “This has got to be the most offensive, culturally insensitive thing I have ever laid my eyes on.”

“I know! I couldn’t believe they would actually sell something like this!” she laughed and put the sombrero on his head. “I knew you’d appreciate the horrible pandering to stereotypes.”

Stiles laughed at that, pressed the sombrero firmer on his head and pulled Erica into a hug, hiding his face in her hair - partly to cover just how moved he was by this simple gesture. She knew he had blood on his hands, yet still brought him a stupid souvenir from a trip.

He didn’t even need a full hand to count other people who would do that for him. 

He withdrew from the hug with a smile. Erica pushed him away in order to hit on his father, so he turned and started heading towards the couches. Lydia was already there, Jackson sitting next to her, talking softly with Boyd. He saw Derek and Isaac standing around in the kitchen, both staring at their phones, and as he neared the couch he saw Allison walking out of the bathroom towards Lydia.

He was trying to decide where to situate himself for the least awkwardness possible when Boyd threw a pack of baby wipes at him. Stiles shot him a quizzical look, to which Boyd simply shrugged. “You’ve got lipstick all over your face.”

Stiles huffed out a laugh as he opened the pack and took out a single wipe. “Is it normal for you guys to have baby wipes at the ready?”

“With Erica around? Yes,” Boyd smirked. “It’s her preferred method of torture, leave a lipstick mark on you and hope you don’t notice it when you venture outside.”

“Maciej! Hi!” Isaac suddenly exclaimed into his phone. Boyd sat straighter and put his finger to his mouth to let everyone know to keep quiet as Erica and John joined them.

“Well hello, Isaac! Long time, no speak!” came a cheerful, heavily accented voice from the loud speaker.

“Hah, right? Listen, if you’ve got a minute, I was wondering if you could tell us something about a creature called ‘Licho’?”

There were a few seconds of silence before the voice responded, “ got a Licho?”

Stiles turned as he heard the door slide open again and Scott and Kira walked in with their parents. 

“It would appear that way,” Isaac replied, ignoring the newcomers.

Move .”

All eyes whipped to the cell phone startled by the unexpected harshness in his voice. 

“Maciej, aren’t you exaggerating a bit? I’m sure there’s something...” Isaac started.

“Move fast and move far” Maciej didn’t let Isaac finish, “If what you’re saying is true and Licho is over there, it will not stop until nearly the whole town is dead. So you grab whoever you can, you run and you pray that it does not follow.”

“How do we stop it?”

Maciej let out a bitter laugh. “Isaac, people have been asking that since the Middle Ages. I have no idea how it made its way to the Americas, but we have noticed things calming down on our end at long intervals since Chernobyl.”

“Wait, wait, wait, this thing had something to do with Chernobyl?” Stiles interjected.

“It had everything to do with Chernobyl. I bet you have an unusually high mortality rate in your town, don’t you? Lots of single parent families, large scale tragedies, lots of rare diseases, swarms of unfriendly creatures?” The silence that followed was answer enough, “Seriously, pack up and run. You obviously can’t uproot the whole town, but that’s good because there’s a chance the Licho will stay in place and not follow you.”

“You want us to sacrifice the town,” Scott said, dumbfounded.

“Boy, right now, you’re the sacrifice. There’s nothing you can do but try and stay alive.”

“We can’t do that! There’s thousands of people here!” Scott shouted in reply, looking around confused as no one seemed to have as strong a reaction as him.

“He’s right Maciej, we can’t just leave thousands of innocent people to die. Is there any way at all to fight against the Licho?” Isaac nudged. There was a short silence, then Maciej let out an exasperated sigh which caused Derek to impatiently snatch the phone from Isaac. He wanted answers.

“Mac, I need facts, not warnings. What do you know about it, what are its abilities, how it functions, I need everything you’ve got,” he growled.

“Fine,” Maciej replied, a clear undercurrent of irritation still in his voice. “But don’t expect a miracle here. Licho is old, ridiculously old. I’m talking Eastern European and Slavic areas during pagan times. When it does show itself, it looks like an old woman with one eye, real ugly broad, too. It works on probability - it can’t bring a flood to a landlocked town , or make someone get a hereditary disease that doesn’t run in the family but if there’s a chance of something bad happening, Licho tips the scales to almost ensure it happens. Another limitation is that it can’t affect people’s choices - best example I can give is with addiction: if someone has a genetic predisposition to getting addicted to something, they will, but how they act when under the influence is entirely on them. Basically, if someone’s an asshole, they’re just an asshole. But anything that has a chance of happening, most likely will happen, so accidents, diseases, natural disasters, the risk of everything is up. That’s basically what happened in Chernobyl - that nuclear power station had a flaw, yes, but the risk of something going wrong was honestly miniscule. It worked fine, and then Licho showed up and the explosion happened literally a week after its presence was noted. Licho feeds on misery and fear, so the aftermath of Chernobyl was a freaking buffet for it.”

“Okay,” Derek said after a pause. “How do we get rid of it?”

“You get rid of yourselves!” Maciej shouted. “Seriously, pack your shit and leave! Licho always gets bored eventually and moves to a different place, you just gotta wait it out. We know nothing about hurting it even in the slightest. Everyone who tried, that we know of, died pretty much immediately. The longest one was a woman who died three days after attacking the Licho head on - she died from cancer, Derek. Cancer which we know she didn’t have before she attacked the Licho. Cancer killed her in three goddamned days.”

Derek sighed expansively as he ran his free hand over his face. He passed the phone back to Isaac, reached into his pocket and fished out a pack of cigarettes, taking one out and lighting it. “Shit.”

“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Maciej murmured. “I will get in touch with the people who are researching Licho and ask them to look into California… see if we can gauge how long the Licho has been there and how much of the area is affected so you know how far to move.”

“Thanks, Mac,” Derek said as he exhaled some smoke. “Keep me updated.”

Isaac dropped the call and slowly placed the phone on the kitchen counter. For a while no one spoke, everyone stuck in their own heads, processing the information they just heard. The only sound breaking the silence was Derek whenever he exhaled after a cigarette drag, until he finished and he put it out right on the counter. And immediately, as if it were the signal he’d been waiting for, Isaac spoke.

“So, what do we do?”

“We pack our shit and leave,” Derek said in a carefully controlled voice. “We’ll regroup in Sacramento, and if that’s not far enough then we’ll move further. We will have to wait for Mac to confirm how widespread the influence of this thing is.”

“What?!” Scott shouted as he jumped to his feet from where he was sitting on the floor. “So you came back, made this big show about how you didn’t abandon your territory, we’re just dumb and don’t know anything, only to now turn around and abandon the territory when it gets tough?”

“Scott, honey, shut up,” Melissa said quietly as she grabbed her son’s shoulder.

Derek slowly turned, levelling Scott with a withering glare. “I am not abandoning my territory; as we’ve already said, Beacon Hills is basically a drop in the ocean that is the Hale Pack land. What I am doing is choosing the most logical and strategically sound plan.”

“Bullshit!” Scott spat out. “You’re washing your hands of your responsibility, again!”

“My responsibility is to my pack!” Derek roared as he stood up. “Not to some dirt, not to a bunch of buildings, to my pack. So I will take my pack. And I will get them away from pointless danger, as any alpha should!”

“So the rest of us are supposed to just clean up your mess while you run?”

“That’s your own choice,” Derek sneered at Scott. “You have made it abundantly clear you don’t want to be a member of the Hale Pack, so don’t start crying now that the protection’s gone.”

“Fine, run then,” Scott frowned. “We will deal with this, just like we have dealt with everything else since you’ve left. Just know that the second you step foot outside of Beacon Hills, you’ll no longer be welcome back. Ever. If we’re the ones sticking our necks for it, then this is our town, not yours.”

“Scott, sweetie,” came Lydia’s overly sweet voice. “Do yourself a favour, and stop speaking for others.”

Scott sputtered, indignant as he turned to look at her, shock clear on his face. “You cannot agree with him! He’s basically sentencing the whole town to death!”

“Which is exactly why it’s ludicrous to stay and die right alongside the rest,” Lydia replied calmly. “This creature works on probability. That means math , Scott. Doesn’t take too many calculations to realise leaving this place is the best course of action available, especially considering the information we have available.”

“We’d have more information available if he didn’t get rid of Dr. Deaton!” Scott growled, looking at Derek over his shoulder. 

“Oh, come off it, Scott!” Stiles finally snapped. He usually didn’t join in on discussions, especially considering his standing in the group, but this was getting ridiculous. “That guy never told us shit. He was more concerned with being an enigma than useful.”

“So you buy this bullcrap?” Scott rounded on him now. “You buy into this whole pack-fairytale, about how apparently the Hale Pack stretches across half of California, about how emissaries are just some sort of representatives? You believe all that?”

“Yeah, I do!” Stiles yelled as he got in Scott’s face. “Especially considering that I told you all that years ago!”

Scott flinched, obviously just now remembering how Stiles researched whatever he could about werewolf packs after the kanima situation. “Okay then,” he said quietly. “I’m guessing that means you’re gonna go off with Derek?”

Stiles turned back to look at his dad, smiling softly at the confident nod the sheriff sent his way. “Yeah, we are.”

“Great,” Scott bit out, grinding his teeth. “Maybe that’s for the best. You know, considering.”

“Right.” Stiles inhaled deeply, trying to focus more on his breathing than the emotional turmoil of seeing their brotherhood deteriorate right in front of him. “In that case, you should know there was another one. That was the seventh this year alone; this time it was targeted at Kira.”

“Wait, what?” Kira snapped her head up to look at Stiles. “A ‘seventh’ what? And targeted at me? What was targeted at me?”

Stiles looked at her confused, turned to Scott to get some clarification and felt like a bucket of cold water was dropped on his head when he saw Scott’s cagey expression. “Seventh hunter,” he said softly, his eyes still on Scott. “Seventh hunter this year that tried to kill one of us. This one targeted you; he’d been disposed of.”

“Disposed of,” Allison suddenly whispered, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Stiles, who was the guy from two years ago? Why did you kill him?”

Silence shrouded the loft as everyone held their breath. This topic had been carefully avoided for years. Addressing it, in broad daylight, in front of so many people - that was beyond bold.

Stiles felt as if he could actually feel his heart break at the question. He assumed she knew; he assumed everyone knew. He didn’t hide the whole truth from Scott, had actually told him the second he could. By the next day, everyone started being careful around him, and each day following led to more and more avoidance.

And yet, apparently they didn’t actually know.

“He was the first hunter I noticed,” he said quietly. “I saw him everywhere we went. One night I got annoyed with it; it was the night we went to see the Avengers together. The guy was following us all day, I started recognising his licence plate. He was gone when we dropped you off, which worried me, so after I dropped Scott off, I went back to yours. Found him parked on the road opposite your house, with the barrel of a rifle sticking out his window, so I… I floored it and slammed into him,” Stiles took a deep breath, finally turning to face Allison, detached. “He got out of the car and dragged me out of the jeep. I just grabbed the nearest thing and hit him with it - it was the screwdriver I used earlier that day to start Roscoe, since I lost my keys then. I stabbed it through his neck, he collapsed and… that was it.”

“So, what you’re saying is - you saved my life from a hunter who was trying to assassinate me, and then you continued to do that for all of us, despite everyone shunning you,” she said with a steely voice, then turned her eyes on Scott. “That wasn’t what I heard about it; Scott, why wasn’t this the story I heard?”

“Because it doesn’t matter?” Scott replied with confusion and shame colouring his voice. “Murder is murder. Stiles, you’re my brother, but this isn’t something we can just gloss over. You killed someone.”

“Right,” Allison said in a clipped tone, then strode over to Derek and shoved her phone at him. “Put your number in; I’m gonna go home and talk to my dad, I’ll call and let you know what we’ve decided.”

Derek nodded and silently took her phone, typed his number in and made a call, dropping it as soon as Allison’s number showed up on his screen.

“Thanks,” Allison said as she turned around, this time storming over to Stiles, passing by Scott as if he wasn’t even there. She put her arms around Stiles’ neck and hugged him tightly, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” she whispered, “Thank you.” 

“Oh, um, sure, yeah,” Stiles stammered out as he awkwardly wrapped his arms around her. “Not your fault. I mean… yeah. Thanks.”

She let him go with a soft smile and made her way out of the loft. Scott watched her go, incredulous.

He was so focused on Allison, he almost missed Kira walking up to Stiles. She didn’t hug him; instead, she hugged herself and kept her eyes on the floor. “I should also thank you,” she said softly. “I mean, for not letting me get killed. But it’s still… I mean, I’m not really…”

“Don’t worry,” Stiles interrupted, waving it away with a hand. “You don’t have to pretend you’re okay with this.” 

Kira smiled nervously and walked back to grab Scott’s hand and turn to her parents, waiting for them, clearly ready to leave. Her mother seemed to have a different opinion. “You go, Kira,” she said. “I need to speak to Alpha Hale.”

“Come on, kids.” Melissa stood up and started herding Kira and Scott out. Stiles watched, frozen until he felt a hand grab his shoulder. It was Boyd standing behind him, his dad just a step behind. “Let’s go, we need to get you and your dad packed.”

Stiles nodded numbly and followed Boyd with his dad. He could hear Derek talking with Noshiko and the faint chatter of Erica and Lydia’s voices planning something about… a closet..?

None of it really registered in his head though. All he could think about was that he was completely crossed out of his best friend and brother’s life with no chance at mending fences.

It would be a safe, if somewhat sexist assumption to make that packing two men would be a quick and simple affair. Nothing could be further from the truth when it came to the Stilinskis.

There were multiple reasons for that. For one, sentimentality — they both kept a lot of mementos that made them remember Claudia Stilinski, and they were unable to ever get rid of them. Those mementos included things like broken plates and other various knick-knacks the woman collected; even her knitting supplies, despite the fact neither John nor Stiles knitted.

Another reason was because Stiles didn’t inherit his quirkiness from Claudia alone - there was a reason Claudia and John made a good pair, and one of those reasons was the similarity of what they enjoyed, which was collecting weird things. For Claudia it was almost anything to do with nature, from just a pretty rock to a small metal butterfly sculpture — it didn’t matter.

John loved collecting things that made him think of his family and Poland. He might’ve spent most of his life in the USA, but his parents had returned to Poland for retirement and his mother still lived there. He collected items with Slavic patterns, misspelled Polish phrases, and his most favourite - any souvenir with a wildly wrong stereotype representation. He tended to take pictures and send them to his mother for a good laugh.

Stiles took over and expanded on his fathers hobby, but he didn’t limit the search to just Polish items. Whenever he looked at a souvenir showcasing some ‘fact’ about a country, he first made sure it wasn’t true if he didn’t actually know. If false, he immediately fell in love with it and had to have it.

So, Erica’s pink-and-cactus sombrero? Jackpot. Clearly, that girl had amazing instincts.

And finally, the less fun reason - their jobs (unofficial in Stiles’ case). As a man of law who was supposed to solve crimes, John Stilinski had to be knowledgeable - you never knew what fact could lead you to a clue. Since Stiles tended to help him with cases, he started amassing his own knowledge early on (plus, with the hyperfixation aspect, he could get sucked into literally any topic). That equated to just an unholy amount of books and articles and even scientific papers they had in their house. Also, can’t forget the craft supplies - the cork boards, thumbtacks, threads, whiteboards, markers… 

All in all, there were a lot of decisions to be made because this wasn’t a trip for a holiday

This was a legitimate move, with no certainty on if they’d ever come back. It became very daunting, very fast - that is, until the Stilisnki’s did what Stilinski’s do best, which is shut down their feelings and approach the issue from a purely logical standpoint.

Which is how the pack ended up lining up boxes in rows, from most essential to least essential. The stuff being taken straight away was packed into suitcases. Parrish was tasked with sending over the appropriate boxes to them depending on how long they were to stay away.

“Ow, fuuuu… dge?”

“Stiles,” John sighed expansively. “You were the one to put those boxes there, how are you the one to trip over them?”

“Pure, unadulterated talent?” Stiles grinned.

“Please, just get your stuff in the car and let’s get going.” John picked up his duffel and threw the strap over his shoulder while grabbing a suitcase with his other hand. He started to make his way to the front door when Derek took his luggage from him and brought it to the car himself. John just smiled and shrugged, turning around to make sure the last boxes were tidied up in the living room.

Stiles heaved his own bags back up from where they had fallen and followed Derek to Jackson’s Porsche. Unfortunately, Roscoe was being left behind;it made no sense to put stress on the old lady with so many other vehicles available. So, the set up was: Lydia’s car, filled with way too much of her own luggage as well as Derek’s, Erica’s, Boyd’s and Isaac’s, Jackson’s car filled with his and Stilinski’s stuff, and the main SUV filled with bodies instead of bags.

Stiles stopped next to the car and dropped his bags on the ground as he waited for Derek to fit his fathers things in Jackson’s car with some semblance of organization. He didn’t know why Derek bothered. With Jackson’s driving, this whole tetris-like set up is gonna go to shit on the first turn.

“Hey!” he blurted out suddenly, “What did Kira’s parents want to talk about the other day?”

Derek continued to mess around with the bags as he responded, “They joined the pack.”

“Oh,” Stiles blinked slowly. “Kira joined us without Scott?”

Derek didn’t speak or move for a few seconds only to silently emerge from the trunk, take one of Stiles’ bags and disappear again. After what felt like a full minute, Derek airly replied, “No, she didn’t.” Stiles just looked at him, eyebrows raised quizzically urging him to elaborate. “Her parents joined; not her. They did ask if the protection could extend to Kira, but since she’s an adult, she has to decide for herself. There are no perks just for having her parents in the pack.”

“Oh, God, so many questions,” Stiles rasped. “Since they joined, are they coming with us? And how could they join without their daughter?”

Derek sighed, came back out of the car and leaned back against it. “No, they’re not coming,” he started. “That was their own decision, even though I urged them to come with. I could order them to, but I won’t. They want to be close to their child, I get that. As to the second part…” Derek’s face suddenly turned pensive as he looked away from the sky and directly at Stiles, “Sometimes you have to separate the pack from family. And there are cases where pack is more important than family.” He lightly shook his head as he stood back up, picked another of Stiles’ bags and went back to his task. It actually was like tetris, trying to fit so many bags in Jackson’s miniscule car.

“Is that why Peter is still in the pack?” Stiles asked before he could lose his nerve. “Because pack takes precedence? Or is this a case where family does?”

Derek stilled for a second, not expecting the question. He turned slowly and let his eyes linger on Stiles’ as he whispered, “Right questions. Wrong person.”

Stiles looked at him, confused, before he processed Derek’s words with widening eyes, “Laura…” 

Derek nodded and turned to the car again, even though there were no more bags to be put away.

“How does that… I mean, how do you even…” Stiles stammered, not able to finish a sentence.

“As her brother, I mourn her and I miss her so fucking much. I always will,” Derek replied without facing him. “As the Alpha of the Hale Pack… I recognise that Peter did what he had to. He did it for the pack; and yes, it was a case where the pack takes precedence.”

Stiles stood frozen as Derek kept pretending to be busy inside the car. On one hand, he couldn’t believe Derek could think let alone say anything like that. On the other hand…

The Hale territory was huge . If Laura wanted a change of scenery, there were so many places she could go, but she went to New York, took Derek with her and abandoned Peter. As far as he knew, she didn’t even attempt to bite anyone, which is the first thing a new alpha should do to stabilize the alpha spark — add ‘immediate’ betas to the pack. She only came back when summoned. What if she was never summoned? Would she have just never come back? Did she plan on leaving the territory alpha-less, despite the fact that so many of the pack’s outer rings and branches were still there, leaderless?

“Okay,” he finally said. “Okay, but still… That is worrying. That he’s able to make this choice. Aren’t you worried about how little he cares about the family ties?”

“You’re forgetting one important piece,” Derek stated. “Peter was more wolf than human at that point. He wasn’t fully sane and he was mostly running on instinct. For three years he was stuck in his head, in pain, and constantly thinking about what happened. Then he felt the alpha who abandoned him, the one not doing her job to protect the land, close by. He wasn’t thinking about who the alpha was, he was focused on the fact that the alpha was… inadequate.”

“And then,” Stiles picked up, eyes glazed over as he put everything in perspective in his head. “And then the alpha spark transferred to him. He followed his instincts and immediately bit the first potential beta he smelled. And as more wolf than human, he focused on what a wolf would focus on: the threat to the pack. The immediate one —the people who helped with the fire — he knew about… And he never actually killed you!” he marvelled. “He c… he could’ve... he had a few chances to do that, but he never actually tried to. He beat you around, sure, and threatened you a whole bunch, but… never threw the finishing blow.”

Derek started walking past him back towards the house, but paused briefly next to Stiles. He turned to look at him, a small smile on his lips and said, “He did what he had to do.”

Stiles flinched at the echo of what his father said to him, reminding him of what happened a few nights ago, of what he was desperately trying to forget. The rest of the preparations didn’t take long at all, and within an hour they were all seated.

“Alright,” Derek said as he turned the key in the ignition, flicking his head to face Erica who grabbed shotgun. “Have mercy on us.”

It took less than twenty minutes on the road for Stiles to figure out what Derek meant - they were tortured with a steady stream of Backstreet Boys and N’Sync with Erica singing as loudly as she could, despite the fact that she couldn’t hold a tune to save her life. Boyd, Isaac and, surprisingly, John, on the other hand, could do a pretty good rendition of Bye Bye Bye .

They got a momentary reprieve when Stiles’ phone started ringing; Erica lowered the volume out of courtesy.

Stiles took his phone out of his pocket, looked at the screen to see the caller ID and swore loudly. “Heyyy, Connor!” He said after accepting the call.

Oh, wow, it lives! Probably would’ve been better for you if you were dead in a ditch somewhere,” a voice sneered. The harshness stung, but it didn’t keep Stiles from catching the Alpha-red glare he and his phone were getting through the rearview mirror. Even with the music on, privacy would not be something he’d have for this call.

“Yeah, heh, look, some things came up and I had to disappear…”

“Oh yeah? Like what? What things?” 

Stiles cringed heavily. “Well, I can’t exactly tell you everything, but… I’m kinda moving?”

“An apartment change doesn’t excuse the complete ghosting I got!”

“No, not an apartment change, I’m, uhh… I’m moving to Sacramento.”

There was a short pause and Stiles closed his eyes and made a weird face, waiting for the inevitable. “I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. Did you say you’re moving to Sacramento?!”


“Holy fuck, this is unreal. Thanks for letting me know, asshole! Were you even going to tell me? When are you moving?” Connor shouted, now clear enough even for John to hear.

“Well, actually… I’m in the car right now...” The uncertain lilt in Stiles’ voice made the statement sound like a question.

“Wow,” Connor laughed bitterly. “Just wow. You are unbelievable. We are so done. Anything you possibly left at mine is getting burned, don’t even kid yourself that you’re getting anything back. Don’t call me!”

“Yuuup,” Stiles said, popping the ‘p’ as he put his phone down after he got hung up on. “That sounds about right.”

“Son,” John started carefully. “Did you forget you were seeing someone?”

“Okay, don’t judge me! No judging allowed! Shit was going down, okay? I was preoccupied!” Stiles flailed in place and then crossed his arms and turned to stare out the window as everyone seemed to be failing at covering their snickering.

Well, Stiles thought as he listened to his dad poorly cover his laugh with a cough, at least I’m getting stuck in a house with my multi-year werewolf crush who can totally sniff that out while I’m single... That totally makes it better.

They had managed to arrive in Sacramento by late afternoon, giving them plenty of time to unload all their luggage and meet the other two people living in the six-story building that housed Derek’s immediate pack - which was a shock in and of itself.

There were three apartments on each floor except the sixth which had been converted into a massive communal space. Considering the whole building belonged to the Hale Pack, it was more like a dorm with 1-bedroom apartments instead of single rooms. Some were, obviously, already occupied - both Peter and Derek took a ground floor apartment, with the third one being used by all of them as an office of sorts. Next floor up was for the betas - Erica and Boyd in one, Isaac and Cora taking the remaining two.

As soon as Lydia heard that there were nine apartments left for grabs, she took Erica and Cora aside to talk to discuss commandeering one on the fourth floor, where she and Jackson would stay, as a massive, shared walk-in closet. Erica squealed with enthusiasm while Cora just shrugged and said she didn’t really care either way. Stiles and John took adjacent rooms on the third floor to stay close. 

Once they’d brought their bags to their new dens, Isaac corralled the pack for a symposium upstairs.

“This is not real,” Stiles breathed out.

“Dude, werewolves gotta relax too, you know,” Isaac shouted while setting up the table.

“Yeah, sure, but this is still not real though!”

Stiles watched, almost shell shocked, as Isaac set up cups for beer pong, alongside the alpha who was loading up a small coffee table by the wall with every alcohol available. “Okay, teams or tournament?” Derek asked as he set the last bottle down and turned back to face Isaac.

“Teams, we don’t know the new people’s abilities well enough to set up a proper tournament.”

“Fine, we need to select the teams then.”

“Oh, I want Papa Stilinski!” Erica called out from her spot on Boyds’ lap.

“Me? Why me?” Sheriff asked, confused.

“You shoot for a living, I’m betting on your good aim,” Erica grinned and got up to walk up to the sheriff and patted him on the shoulder. “Plus, you raised Stiles; that’s an indicator of some sort of superpowers right there.”

“Okay, so we have Erica, Boyd and Sheriff in one team. Peter, Cora, you’re in too, right?” Isaac asked.

None of the new arrivals knew of Cora before today, so they were a little bit surprised when they had seen a girl run from the building and launch herself at Derek, hugging him within an inch of his life. Stiles’ first reaction was the very childish ‘I don’t know her, but I hate her’, until she let go of Derek and they could all finally see her face properly. 

The eyes, eyebrows, cheekbones… There was no mistaking this was a Hale. At first Stiles thought that maybe she was Peter’s daughter, but then Derek introduced her as Cora and both Stiles and his father instantly remembered the reports from the fire and realised that this was Derek’s little sister.

They were not told, however, how she survived and  found her brother, but had instead been quickly ushered inside. 

“Well, duh!” Cora rolled her eyes so hard, Stiles could swear he could hear it.

“I’m on Erica’s team!” Jackson shouted, “her reasoning with the Sheriff is flawless, I want to be on the winning team.”

“Okay, so we need one more person on Erica’s team then and we’re even,” Derek said as he lifted a cup he already filled to take a sip.

“I’m gonna take that action” Isaac laughed, “the best betas plus the Sheriff against the Hales and brainiacs. Pitch the Stilinski’s and the power couple against each other.”

Derek snickered as he took his spot at one end of the table, picking up the ping pong ball for his first shot. “Simple bowling rules, you take your shot and then you’re at the back of the line. We only fill the cups before having to drink so we make sure humans don’t drink the werewolf alcohol. When someone manages a shot, the whole team has to drink, not just one person.”

Stiles exchanged bewildered looks with his father, both very confused as to what was happening. Within a second, however, both Stilinski’s realised they were in a competition against each other, and both put on the exact same determined expression.

“You are so going down, old man,” Stiles hissed out with a ruthless smirk.

“Kid, I’ve been playing those games since before you were a thought in anyone’s head. You don’t stand a chance,” John replied with an accusatory finger pointed at his son.

“Oh, all the experience in the world won’t help you with your old-man reflexes. Step down, let the new generation take its rightful place!”

“Okay, loving this banter,” Erica interrupted, “Just want to ask, are we actually gonna get to play, or are you guys just gonna snap at each other for the next however many hours?”

“We can multitask!” Stiles flailed, accidentally knocking down one of the cups.

“Oh, yeah,” John laughed, “ I’m the one with reflex problems.”

Everyone laughed as Stiles put the cup back in its place and took his spot on Derek’s side of the table. It seemed like this was a recurring thing to happen as the beta trio and the Hales took their spots without hesitation, as if the order was long ago agreed on. Rather than stand behind each other, Derek was at the head of the table, with Cora locating herself on his left, and the line continuing on the left of her. On the other side, Boyd was at the head of the table with everyone falling in line on his left, so the people waiting for their turn were facing each other.

There was music playing at low volume throughout the whole floor and the far wall was actually a bookcase displaying books of course, board games and the occasional artifact. Against that impressive backdrop stood a foosball table and simple card table. A handful of plush recliners, body pillows and two L-shaped sectionals spanned the bulk of the grey, cloudlike carpeted floor. Evidently, the wolves took relaxation seriously.

Soon, it became obvious that beer pong was quite possibly the toughest game werewolves could play. The combination of incredibly light ping pong balls with werewolf strength made wielding the right degree of power and control one hell of a challenge. 

Both Derek and Boyd missed their first shots, although not by much. Next, Cora got very close, while Erica almost missed the table. Stiles watched on as all the wolves took their turns with varying levels of failure, vibrating with excitement.

His turn came around fast, since everyone kept missing the cups;  John took the spot facing him. Stiles smirked to himself, turned to his team to say “middle-left cup”, and released the ball, watching its arc as it descended perfectly into the cup he indicated. 

Everyone stared at the cup before  simultaneously looking up at Stiles in shock.

“I was a hyperactive kid with an attention deficit disorder and literally one friend,” he shrugged, still smirking. “What do you think I did when Scott was busy?”

He turned back towards the table when he heard his father chuckle. 

“The top one,” John said and made an equally perfect shot. “Please remember that you forced me to play these things with you.”

“Damn it, I was hoping the Parkinsons would’ve already set in,” he threw back before walking up to his dad for a high five.

Isaac burst out laughing as he walked up to the alcohol table to pour a cup for everyone, since both teams now had to drink. They continued with the game for a while, taking turns and laughing. Stiles felt himself relaxing, actually relaxing, for the first time in years. He talked and joked with everyone around him, and soon started feeling tipsy.

Occasionally, he’d feel Derek’s eyes on him, and when he looked at the alpha, expecting the trademark glare or murder-brows, he always found the an almost soft expression on the man’s face. Stiles would have blamed it on the alcohol if he also hadn’t spied the fact that Derek had been drinking the human beer the whole night — he was probably the only sober one among them. 

A couple of hours into the game he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and he excused himself to a quieter area to pick up. His heart picked up at Scott’s name on the screen — he was immediately happy that his friend was calling, something that hadn't happened for a long while. At the same time he felt dread settling in — Scott calling could mean that something disastrous had happened.

He stared at his phone for a few seconds, before he hesitantly accepted the call and raised his hand to his ear. “Hello?”

“Hey, Stiles,” Scott said, and at that moment the group behind him, still playing, burst out laughing. “What was that?”

“Oh, it’s…” Stiles stammered. “You know, it’s the group. We’re settling in.”

“Sounds kinda like a party.”

“Yeah, I guess you could call it that. When we got here Isaac decided that since we all had an intense couple of weeks we should unwind tonight.”

“Oh, yeah, Isaac makes a good point,” Scott hummed. “You’re not drinking, though, right?”

“Yeah, I am,” Stiles furrowed his brows, confused. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, are you sure it’s a good idea? I would’ve thought…”

“You would’ve thought what, Scott?”

Scott sighed heavily, as if he were stating the obvious, “I would’ve thought you’d want to avoid situations where you… lose control.”

Stiles' breath caught in his throat; it felt like he'd been punched in the jugular, “Wow, dude, low blow.”

“That’s not what I mean!” Scott shouted quickly. “I just thought it would remind you of things!”

“Yeah, you’re right, having a beer makes me remember how my body was used against my will by an evil fox spirit to murder half our town. Thanks for that.”

“Stiles, come on,” Scott groaned. “I’m just trying to look out for you. I actually think it’s good for you to get out of Beacon Hills for a bit, even if I think Derek is a dick for not staying to help, no matter what he says. But at least it gives you a chance to reset and, you know… come back.”

“Come back?” Stiles scoffed incredulously. 

“You haven’t been yourself for a while now,” Scott muttered softly. “I just want you to be you again. To be how you used to be.”

“Scott…” Stiles sighed and lowered himself to the floor, putting his forehead on his knees. “That’s not how it works. We’ve all gone through some shit, we’ve all changed.”

“Yeah, but I can barely recognise you anymore. The Stiles I knew would’ve been horrified at having killed someone — not gone on to kill more people.”

Stiles let out a bitter laugh and felt his throat go dry. “Yeah, you’re right, I suck,” he said darkly. “I am the absolute worst for protecting us from being murdered by random hunters, for setting up patrols to scout out threats, for working proactively to minimise the risk of any of us being hurt. Do you hear how unfair you’re being?”

“Stiles, I know that you made those choices believing they were for the good of the pack,” Scott replied. “But I need you to recognise they were not good choices. There are always other ways to deal with danger and old Stiles would’ve found them and used them. I just want my best friend back.”

“Yeah,” Stiles responded with a shaky voice. “Me too.”

He disconnected the call and dropped his arm by his side. He stayed sitting on the floor for a minute, keeping his emotions in check while at the brink of tears. Just as he got  himself back under control he raised his head to get up only to find Derek crouched in front of him.

“You okay?” he asked with a frown.

“Yeah, totally fine,” Stiles choked out. “Just, you know, talked with Scott a bit.”

“Didn’t sound like a pleasant conversation.”

“He’s just looking out for me,” he replied with a scowl of his own. “He might be going about it in a weird way, but his heart is in the right place. This is actually… This was progress. I think things can get better between us because, you know, we alw-” he stopped suddenly, unsure of how to keep the lie going.

Derek looked at him with an expression that clearly said he didn’t share his belief in Scott but didn’t say anything. He got up with a single nod and offered his hand to Stiles to help him up too. Derek hesitated, clearly wanting to say something else, but he shook his head after a split second and rejoined the group as they watched   Jackson try to win the game without annoying his girlfriend-turned-opponent.

“So, is loverboy alright? That phone call earlier put him in a mood,” Peter said from his spot by the desk just as Derek walked into their shared office space.

“Drop dead and vacate my chair,” Derek grumbled, pushing at Peter’s shoulder until the man got up so that  Derek could sit down.

The apartment-turned-office looked like a small corporate open space office. There were six desks, so that everyone had their own, each with computers and phones set up. However, where corporate offices tended to be sleek and modern, their space was cluttered to holy heaven, and the bookcases lining two of the walls gave it a stuffy library atmosphere.

The kitchen was stripped down to bare minimum, just enough space  for a small coffee nook with  snacks. The bedroom was turned into a kind of war room, with maps and close ups of certain areas of the Hale territory on every wall. A desk sat center with a massive map of their entire expanse of land at once. This room was mostly used by Peter to track supernatural activity that posed a threat, or visualise logistics when he had to move people around in defense of an attack. 

“All joking aside, nephew, is Stiles okay?” Peter asked as he leaned his hip against Derek’s desk.

Derek sighed and dragged his hand over his face. “I honestly don’t know. Their relationship with Scott is… weird. Lydia gave me the background of what’s been happening the past four years, but none of it really explains Scott’s behaviour to me.”

“I regret biting that kid so much,” Peter complained. “He started with completely rejecting the wolf, which to be honest I respected then, it showed strong morals; but how does rejection change into delusions of grandeur?”

“I don’t know, and currently — not our biggest issue,” Derek remarked decisively. “Go on. Give me the updates.”

“Well, first of all, Maciej called when you were on your way back here,” Peter started as he turned to drag the chair from his desk to sit opposite Derek. “It’s interesting, it seems that this Licho thing is still travelling to different places and causing untold damage, but it made Beacon Hills its homebase. It keeps going back there. From what they managed to find out, it has been there since long before the fire, Derek. The first signs of its presence showed eleven, maybe twelve years…” he trailed off.

“So the fire…” Derek whispered, his eyes widening with hope. 

That hope was crushed by Peter shaking his head sadly. “Remember, the Licho can’t affect people’s choices. Kate made the choice to set the fire; but we can assume that it was the Licho’s doing that she was so… successful.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Think about it,” Peter said in a subdued voice. “With the Licho there, four of us still managed to not burn - both me and Cora actually escaped from the house itself. Without the Licho…” he paused, as if what he was saying was causing physical pain. “Without the Licho, it’s entirely possible that all of us could have made it out.”

Derek stared at him, absorbing the information and trying not to show how much it was affecting him. They lost eleven family members that night; the idea that they could’ve survived if it wasn’t for this one monster… 

“Okay,” he croaked out after a minute. “So, eleven or twelve years ago it came to Beacon Hills and set up shop. The way Maciej made it sound, the whole town should be dead by now; why is it fairly tame compared to what he told us?”

“Well, that’s the interesting part.” Peter leaned back and put his arms on the armrests of his chair. “It hasn’t been there the whole time. That’s actually why all the really bad things in Beacon Hills are happening in waves — things get worse when the Licho is there, but then even out when it leaves. Maciej made it sound as if that thing was playing with its food, trying to see how long the game could keep going. Recently, however, it stayed put. It hasn’t left Beacon for the past five years.”

“The past five years, huh,” Derek muttered as he set his elbows on his desk. “Yeah, that tracks. But, forget that thing for now; we don’t know how to kill it, anyway. What else?”

“We have more omegas coming into the Stanislaus Forest,” Peter started in a much more confident voice than just a few seconds before. “Satomi has been in contact with how many they observed leaving their borders into ours; they don’t seem to be a threat, just wolves looking for a pack with a leader that will leave them mostly alone. They might be a good fit for you, actually.”

“No,” the younger man growled. “We don’t need more; they can just keep on looking elsewhere. I already have over three thousand wolves I’m bonded to. We don’t need to expand.”

“Fair point,” Peter nodded. “In that case they will be persuaded to move their trip to another  part of the country. Next, the Mariposa emissary is losing his patience with one of the wolves there.”

“Is it the one who  claimed I’m not actually a Hale and that I used the circumstances to usurp alpha status?” Derek grouched, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“And attempted a coup against you? Yes, the very same.”

“You decide what to do with him,” Derek waved his hand towards his uncle. “We tried my way, and he’s still a nuisance.”

“Thank you, nephew,” Peter grinned. “It’s been a while since I had someone to toy with.”

“Peter…” he winced, not wanting to think about how  his uncle’s favourite hobby was  terrifying people.

“Don’t worry, it won’t reflect on you. Lastly, at least the last thing that you need to be aware of, Tessa from Redding is on her way here. She’s due next month; she does not want to wait anymore and risk giving birth while on the road. She should be here within two days.”

“Alright,” Derek sat straighter at the only positive news he received. “I’ll have Boyd figure out accommodations for her, and for her entourage, since I doubt she’s travelling alone while eight months pregnant.” He smiled softly as he leaned back and relaxed into the chair. “It’s been a while since someone asked to present their cub.”

Peter smirked at him, shaking his head with mock exasperation. “Yes, it will be very exciting and very touching. I will make sure to have tissues on hand for when you inevitably start bawling your eyes out.” That earned him a glare from his alpha, undermined by the small smile still evident on his face. “I do have to ask a bit more about Stiles, though. Not to mock you!” He raised his hands as a much more severe glare was shot his way. “It’s a legitimate concern. You went to Beacon Hills to help with an emergency, came back with a much bigger emergency and the boy, now man, whom you never seemed to have let go of for years now. Is this going to be a distraction?”

Derek shook his head stiffly. “He’s here for security reasons, just like the rest of the pack. The Yukimuras requested to stay so they could be close to their child; Argent and his daughter agreed to a truce and to assist us, but they’re not pack. It’s the only reason I brought him back.” 

“I watched you today, Derek,” Peter declared. “I could see you gravitating towards him, watching him twice as much as anyone else in the room. Explain to me how you can be so sure you will not get distracted by him, that this will not evolve?”

“Because I don’t actually know him, Peter,” Derek growled, red bleeding into his eyes. “I was attracted to him when he was sixteen, which is despicable in and of itself, but it was also four years ago. He’s changed, I changed, we don’t actually know each other now. Any feelings I’ve had before were for a different person.”

Peter pinned him in place with a calculative gaze. “You’ve always been mostly attracted to humans,” he started quietly. “First Paige, then Kate, and every romantic attempt since Kate has always focused on humans, despite the fact that you now have a horde of werewolves ready to jump you. But it was always those peculiar humans. The ones who stood out from the ordinary crowd, didn’t fit in with the rest of humanity. Do you know what the common denominator was?” Derek just stared back at him without answering. “They always displayed some… wolfy characteristic. Whether it was the devotion to the family, pure cunning, or tactility —every single one of them had a trait in common with werewolves. Do you know why Stiles differs even from them?” Peter leaned forward with new intensity in his eyes. “He shows every wolf trait I can think of. I would describe him as a wolf in human’s clothing. And from the little I’ve seen and heard recently, it seems he cultivated those traits even more.” 

He stood up and started making his way out, pausing at the door. “Don’t compare yourself to Kate; you were  nineteen and  genuinely interested in someone three years younger than you. While illegal, it’s not even remotely the same as a twenty-eight year old seducing a teen just so she could kill his family. But don’t dismiss this situation either - I applaud your choice, I really do. If I were a few years younger I’d have been interested myself. Still, we cannot afford for you to lose your head right now. We are still establishing ourselves. Pack comes first.”

Derek listened to his uncle’s footsteps leave the office and let out a heavy exhale  once he heard Peter’s apartment door shut. He leaned fully back into his chair and pressed against the top of the headrest before closing his eyes, honing in on the bonds.

The bonds warmed up every atom in his body. He could feel their heartbeats and the bonds themselves beating to the rhythm. He thought about the bond with Stiles, the one he made before he left Beacon Hills. It hadn’t changed. No wavering or weakening in the last four years. The bond was just as strong. 

The bond with John was new, but it snapped in place with the same strength as Stiles’ and all his immediate betas. He marvelled at the euphoria of having all of his immediate betas close by, now that Jackson was there. All four of them in one place now settled something in Derek, made him calmer than he’d been in years.

He pushed further and with each second to feel more and more bonds make themselves known to him. He could always feel  them there, but it was almost the same as knowing he had hair. It wasn’t until he focused on them that he could really feel the enormity of his pack, over three thousand bonds, some stronger, some weaker, all pulsing with each person's heartbeat.

The feeling was amazing. It felt like home; his mother used to compare the feeling to someone being extremely patriotic, except to pack instead of country. Three thousand hearts beating, pulsing with his. It was amazing, breathtaking, humbling.

It was daunting.

He was responsible for over three thousand lives. Peter was absolutely right; he couldn’t afford to lose focus.

“Hold still!”

“I am holding still, you tyrant! Can’t help my natural reactions to you stabbing me!”

“I’m not stabbing you,” Lydia rolled her eyes at Stiles. “I just need to push your cuticles up.”

“Considering you’re only using me as a canvas before you decide what to do on your own nails,” Stiles murmured as Lydia impatiently motioned for him to give her his other hand. “Why exactly do you need to push my cuticles?”

“Stiles, when have I ever half-assed anything?”

“Fair point,” Stiles nodded and hunched down to watch Lydia’s work.

In just a few days, the girls managed to turn the designated apartment into a safe haven. Erica and Cora brought over the wardrobes from Cora’s and Lydia’s rooms (Boyd refused to have to walk into their lair to get his own clothes, so Erica’s closet stayed where it was - just devoid of her clothes), and they even managed to find some simple hanging racks. The bedroom of the apartment was turned into a massive closet, while the main living space had a nail station, a makeup station, and the furniture rearranged so that the girls could lounge around and face each other as they chatted.

Well, the girls and Stiles, apparently. 

“So,” Lydia said as she started painting one of Stiles nails beige. “Wanna tell me about your nightmares?”

Stiles whipped his head up to stare at Lydia, then did a full-body sigh. “I was hoping I was hiding it better this time.” Lydia arched an eyebrow without looking away from her work. “They’re the same. It’s fine.”

“What do you mean ‘the same’?” she inquired. “I thought those went away?”

“No, they didn’t. Same nightmares. I just didn’t have the energy to wake up from them with the zmora on me.”

Lydia paused and looked at Stiles. None of them said anything for a while; there was nothing to say. Stiles had issues with nightmares for years and nothing helped. He just learned to live with them.

Lydia opened her mouth, seeming to finally want to break the silence, but she didn’t get a chance to as Erica and Cora burst in.

“A man!” Erica gasped, clutching her chest in an over dramatic manner. “There’s a man in our abode!”

“Oh don’t worry, it’s just Stiles, he barely counts…”


“Besides, he makes a wonderful dress up doll,” Lydia finished with a smirk. Erica and Cora laughed and joined in around the table to watch as Lydia continued to work on Stiles’ nails.

“How come you let her do this?” Cora asked, genuinely curious.

Stiles shrugged in response. “No harm in it, I’m confident enough with my masculinity that it doesn’t bother me. And it’s a nice way to actually spend time together and catch up when we have down time.”

Cora seemed to be impressed at that, but quickly averted her eyes to go back to watching Lydia’s work like a hawk. In the couple of weeks they had to get to know each other, Stiles learned that Cora wasn’t a full-on tomboy like he first assumed. Circumstance had toughened her up. Orphaned at eleven years old and completely alone, she ran away and survived in the wild for years before trusting anyone even the miniscule amount necessary to let them help.

She could fight, she knew how to take care of herself, she was intimidating when she had to be. None of that meant she didn’t want to didn’t enjoy more girl-associated things too. She had nothing against makeup, frilly clothes or even high heels. It just was not a part of her life until now.

As soon as they’d gotten settled, she attached herself to Lydia. While Erica definitely knew what she was doing with makeup and clothes , her bombshell style, which made Erica feel confident and powerful, was not to Cora’s taste. So when Cora met Lydia, she saw that there was a way to be softer while still exuding confidence and power. Since then, she watched with a keen eye whenever Lydia did anything beauty related.

She was learning everything she could from Lydia and Erica, considering she was unable to learn from her mother or Laura.

“In that case, are you joining in on the face mask part of the night?” Erica asked as she got up and walked towards the fridge in which the girls kept face creams and masks. “The snail ones Lydia found came in the other day. We’re gonna try them tonight.”

“I’m sorry, did you say snail masks?” Stiles asked incredulously.

“Regular use of snail mucin has been shown to fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation, moisturize and firm skin, clear complexions and minimize pores” Lydia sniped at him as she switched nail polishes. “We should be able to see the difference after just one use, though, so we’re testing.”

“Oh, sign me up then,” Stiles grinned. “I’ve been complaining about my pores for months now.”

“Don’t be a dick,” Lydia hummed as she sat straighter to see her work at a distance. Each of Stiles’ nails was painted a different way, some with designs in a multitude of colours, some very minimalistic.

“Oh, hey, this is kinda awesome,” Stiles murmured as he pointed to one nail painted black with thin white lines going across, almost as if someone went back and forth a few times with a white pen. “Do you think you could actually do all my nails like this?”

“Sure,” Lydia said confidently. “I think I’m gonna go for the simple black dot on nude nails.”

“Could you do mine, too?” Cora asked excitedly. “This ying yang looks awesome!”

“Oh, Stiles actually knows how to do this one,” Lydia smiled at the younger girl. “Had to teach him a few things at some point. Let me do his and mine first while you and Erica deal with the face masks, then Stiles will do yours while I do Erica’s, deal?”

“Deal!” Cora grinned and jumped up to help Erica get the supplies, since sitting around doing nails and facials also required snacks and drinks.

They spent the next few hours inhaling nail polish fumes, putting face masks on each other and attempting to eat junk food without moving their mouths too much when the masks dried. Stiles laughed freely and felt himself relaxing in a way that he’d only allowed in front of Lydia or his dad for too long. 

After they were done, Cora kept asking for Lydia to show her what she could do on short nails, since long nails were impractical in a fight. Erica and Stiles started arguing about comic books while sitting side-by-side on the couch. Soon enough Erica disappeared only to come back with an armful of comics from her apartment to use as evidence to prove once and for all that Wolverine was actually born with bone claws which changed to metal due to the adamantium injection.

He felt the evening go by in a blink of an eye, and soon everyone was saying goodnight and going to their own dens. Stiles walked back to his apartment and started thinking up a project he could do while he waited for everyone to get their rest.

The apartments were soundproofed , but there was a switch next to the light switch by the front door, which opened a little hole in the wall, essentially disengaging the soundproofing. Derek asked them to flip that switch each night before going to sleep so he could hear if anything was amiss. He was adamant that he had to hear his pack while they were at their most vulnerable. It was also why he and Peter occupied the first floor — if someone broke in, Derek and Peter would risk whatever necessary to buy time for the others to run.

Stiles never flipped that little switch. He woke up screaming too often and most nights he just took four hour naps then occupied himself with tasks while waiting for everyone else to wake up.

He lied to Lydia earlier. His nightmares were worse nowadays. In addition to the horrors from the nogitsune and his guilt over having to kill a hunter, he now had another soul on his conscience and the trauma of being unable to wake up from nightmares while he was under the influence of the zmora. He was actually almost afraid of just attempting to sleep now, too scared that he would struggle to escape his dreams.

Already in pajamas, he  got comfy on his bed and pulled his laptop onto his lap to work on the online bestiary when he heard his front door open quickly followed by  footsteps. He paused, intrigued as to who would want something from him at this time, and watched as Jackson walked in and threw himself onto the empty side of his bed.

He sat there, silent, waiting for Jackson to somehow explain himself. When it became clear no explanation was forthcoming, he started poking the werewolf in the side.

“Stop it, Stilinski!” Jackson growled without moving his head or opening his eyes. “And turn the light off, I want to sleep.”

Stiles stared at him bewildered for a few more seconds, before realization hit him.

He told Lydia he was still having nightmares. Few hours later, Jackson is in his bed.

Both Lydia and Jackson knew he always slept better with someone close by, and at the worst moment, Lydia was the one who stayed with him. However, they quickly learned that this really stressed Jackson out - the werewolf side of him made him hate that Lydia was sleeping in bed with someone other than him; from then on, the sleepovers were not as regular, and when they did happen it was with both Lydia and Jackson.

Lydia must’ve told her boyfriend about their conversation earlier, and here Jackson was, claiming one side of the bed as his own, putting himself between Stiles and the door, and absolutely refusing to talk about it, apparently.

Stiles smiled with disbelief; he always thought Jackson went along with those sleepovers because of Lydia, but if that was the case, she would’ve been here with him now.

Stiles put the laptop back on his nightstand and turned the light off before he settled himself for the night. He stared at the ceiling in the darkness and thought about how somehow Jackson became one of his closest friends, even if he was still a dick and refused to show he cared like a normal person. Soon, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

“Thanks, Jackson.”

“Shut the fuck up and go to sleep, you spaz.”

“Derek!”  Boyd’s booming voice urgently reverberated throughout the building.

Stiles was lounging in his living room with his dad, both seated on the couch. The two were working on their laptops when they heard Boyd’s shout followed by a noise so loud it could have only been caused by a werewolf stomping down the stairs.

It had been more peaceful than they were used to, but it didn’t mean nothing nefarious ever happened. Derek was constantly busy and they often saw ‘the trio’ (as Stiles called the three betas), Peter and Cora, running around, glued to phones or laptops. The five of them did get down time, however, and Stiles often spent it with the trio, getting to know them better. There’d been no emergencies to help with since they’d arrived, so they mostly lounged around the house. Stiles followed his studies online, and spent free time walking around the city with the trio. So far, it was like a holiday, but it did not diminish their experience with the supernatural, which is also why John always carried his gun, loaded with the appropriate bullets, on him.

Stiles and John looked at each other for a second and jumped to their feet, following Boyd down to the bottom floor. Everyone had the same idea it seemed, so soon all ten of them were crowded in the office space. Stiles quickly noted that most people didn’t actually seem distressed. Peter was smirking and shaking his head with exasperation, Erica’s eyes twinkled with delight, and Boyd… Boyd seemed to be at the edge of jumping up and down in excitement, which is not something Stiles ever thought he’d see. 

“It started! Just got the call, it’s for sure started, Dr. Nayyar is already there, we gotta move!”

“Boyd!” Derek raised his hands in an effort to calm his beta, looking to be holding back laughter. “Don’t worry, we planned for this, you planned for this, remember? We’re fine, we’ve got time, labour takes hours. Come on, you’ve got the plan — tell us what we’re doing.”

Boyd forced himself to take a steadying breath and started barking orders. “Alright, car one: Derek, Peter, me and Isaac, so that we’re the first through the door. Car two: Erica, Cora, Stiles, and John, that thing I told you about yesterday? About having to use you for a driver? This is it, I’m sorry, I should’ve gone through the details but I didn’t think it would start today, it’s two weeks early. You’ll be in the last car with Lydia and Jackson.” 

“Can someone at least tell us where we’re going?” Lydia asked, clearly irritated.

“Is it a good idea to bring everyone?” Peter inquired at the same time, and they both looked at each other with challenging looks.

Derek sighed and ran his hand down his face before answering. “Okay, first, we’re going to a house not far from here. It’s where we put that werewolf and her family when they got here, Tessa; I know you were aware she was on her way here, but I didn’t know you were never told why she was here and what was going on. I’m sorry. And yes, Peter,” he turned to his uncle with a stormy expression. “It is a good idea to bring everyone, you know it and you even know why. So stop this and get ready, everyone has to be in a car in 15 minutes.” He turned quickly when he was finished and disappeared into his own apartment.

Peter snorted derisively, but turned and went to follow his alpha’s instructions. It was a flurry of movement while everyone scrambled to get everything they needed before getting into the cars. Derek emerged soon, completely clean shaven, which made Stiles stumble over the last step of the stairs. Everyone soon got into the cars as Derek asked Isaac to explain what was going on  via the CB radios they had installed in each car. Erica jumped out from  behind the wheel and  rushed back into the building only to come back with a duffel bag which she threw into the trunk before returning to the driver seat.

They eased out of the garage and  made their way to a more suburban part of town. Stiles  curiously noticed Derek getting into the backseat of his car, but didn’t have time to question it. Isaac’s voice came through the radio as soon as they started driving. He explained that they were on their way to a presenting ceremony — name being more stuffy than the actual event, but the bare bones of it were that sometimes a werewolf in the pack wanted to present their cub to the alpha. That meant that the alpha would be one of the first people to hold the cub, so they were usually present during the birth along with their most trusted betas.

Stiles wanted to ask so many questions about the whole thing, but there was no time once they arrived at the brick house. Erica raised her hand to stop him when he moved to open the door. They were parked on the right side of Derek’s car, John, Lydia and Jackson on the left. Stiles watched as Peter and Isaac simultaneously got out first, and they both moved to open their corresponding back doors for Derek and Boyd to get out. Only then did Erica lower her hand and turn to Stiles. “You need to get out of the car at the same time as us, we’re not opening the door for you since it would send the wrong message. When we walk in, make sure to stay behind us, or on our right side if we’re lined up.” Stiles simply nodded and focused his whole being on the attempt to get out of the car gracefully. He had a feeling it would be bad if he just stumbled out as he was prone to do.

Somehow, he managed, and the three of them moved to stand behind the group from the first car, while the last three got out of their car. Stiles had no idea how his father knew the protocol, but was thankful for it given how stressed he was about going into a situation with limited information.

He read about the presenting ceremony in his research, of course, but he hadn’t focused on it because it hadn’t applied to them in the slightest then. Now, he wanted to whack his head against the wall for not thinking ahead.

The door to the house was open since the moment they’d parked and people spilled out to stand on the porch. Once their group was positioned, Derek made their way towards the porch with Peter and Boyd at his back. It seemed like the rest of them just had to follow along.

Derek walked confidently towards the house, stopping once he reached an elderly lady holding a cane and standing center.  Her face held the widest smile Stiles had ever seen on anyone, and eyes glistening with unshed tears.

“Alpha Hale,” she whispered with reverence. “Thank you. Thank you for doing this.”

“It is my duty and absolute pleasure,” Derek replied softly. He moved to put his hand on the side of the woman’s neck, grabbing her free hand to put on the side of his own neck. She released a quiet sob, then moved out of the way to clear the path into the house. Derek walked in, followed closely by Peter and Boyd and then the rest of them.

Stiles didn’t know what he was expecting, but for some reason it was not this: just a regular house, admittedly slightly bigger than you’d think would be used for someone who was just visiting. They walked to the massive living room, with one wall made completely out of open windows and glass doors essentially extending the room into a porch.

The occupants of the house trailed in behind them. Derek sat in a big plush chair almost in the middle of the room; Stiles and the rest of their crew found seats close by on the couches and other chairs. The woman from before sat opposite Derek, while the rest of the family (as it was quite obvious now that they were a family) stayed standing.

“Please, don’t do that,” Derek said to them with a small smile. “We’re in the twenty-first century, we can follow tradition without forcing people to be uncomfortable.”

A couple people laughed and then everyone moved around to also find seats. Derek turned back towards the grandmother and paused, unsure of what to say next.

“My name’s Maria,” the woman smiled. “I’m Tessa’s grandmother, so we are now awaiting the arrival of my great-grandchild. Tessa’s mother and husband are with her; and in this group here we have Tessa’s two brothers, her brother in law, my other daughter with her husband, and my son.”

“Thank you for opening your den to us,” Derek said to the group as a whole.

“Thank you for reinstating the traditions,” Maria grinned at him. Then her expression suddenly fell. “I probably shouldn’t ruin the joyous occasion, but… I am sorry about your family.”

If Stiles hadn’t been watching the proceedings like a hawk, he would’ve missed the way Derek’s shoulders suddenly tensed, which was the only sign of distress the man showed.

“Thank you,” he said softly. “And I’m sorry for your loss, too. If I remember correctly, you were quite close to my family.”

“I used to play cards with your grandmother,” Maria chuckled. “We had whole tournaments of Russian Schnapsen, while your father ran around and did his best to deconcentrate us. I was actually…” she choked momentarily. “I was actually invited to stay with you then, I was supposed to come to visit as well. But something came up, so I was… spared.”

Derek watched with a sad expression as Maria collected herself and wiped at her eyes with a handkerchief.

“We’ve got a while,” he stated quietly. “I think I remember the rules, Nana taught me early on. Do you have cards somewhere?”

Maria shot him a brilliant smile while one of the men got up to rummage through a drawer for a notebook and deck of cards. Maria got up and made her way to the dinner table, Derek and Peter close behind. When the three started comfortably dealing out the cards, the rest of the group started talking amongst themselves, relaxed.

Stiles grew bored after an hour, so he began to closely observe everyone, but it became obvious that nothing official or important was actually happening. He joined Erica in the crowd to ask if she knew how long this might take. For some reason, that resulted in multiple women in the room schooling him in the miracle of birth. It could take an ungodly amount of time.

It turned into a bit of a social gathering with a full buffet, fresh tea & coffee and games. Stiles watched Derek spend a few minutes with every person from the family. Whenever he walked over they all suddenly stood straighter. Every request to ‘just call me Derek’ fell on deaf ears; everyone continued to address him as Alpha Hale . Stiles could understand that, since an alpha of the pack was a big deal, but he noticed that the rest of them were also treated with a higher amount of respect than he would’ve expected... even him. He felt awkward with how people spoke to him, addressing him as ‘Mr. Stilinski,’ but considering he didn’t hear anyone else apart from Derek correct someone, he didn’t ask people to call him Stiles.

Halfway through the third hour, he heard the first sign of distress coming from upstairs, but it wasn’t a childbirth-worthy scream like he expected. It sounded more like a forceful grunt. But it was just the singular one, and a few minutes later, a man walked downstairs and straight to Derek.

“Alpha Hale,” the man said as he put his hand out for a handshake.

“Dr. Nayyar, good to see you,” Derek replied, taking the offered hand.

“I just came down to let you know that we’re moving along nicely, but it will still be a while. We can’t move forward until we reach a ten centimeter dilation, and right now we’re at about six.”

“Okay, thank you, doctor,” Derek nodded at the man, who then turned and took two glasses of water from the table before walking back upstairs.

It was another two hours before anything happened. Suddenly, everyone in the living room stopped what they were doing, some ceasing conversation mid-sentence, and turned their heads in unison, obviously listening in on what was happening. Stiles also heard the grunts, along with voices saying something he couldn’t exactly make out. At one moment every ‘were snickered loudly; Stiles raised a questioning eyebrow at Cora standing next to him..

“Tessa just explained in detail why her husband is not allowed to touch her ever again, and what he can do instead.”

Stiles laughed at that, but stopped as another loud grunt came through, followed by a short scream. There was a moment of silence as everyone seemed to hold their breath, and then the baby’s cry reached their ears.

There were loud cheers all around and Stiles looked as Derek smiled brightly, clapping an overjoyed Boyd on the shoulder. 

“Alpha Hale?” Stiles turned towards the doorway a few minutes later where the doctor and a happily crying woman stood - he didn’t hear him coming with all the noise around him. “They’re ready for you.”

Derek simply nodded and started making his way upstairs, Boyd right on his heels. When everyone else from their group also started following him, Stiles scrambled up to do the same.

They walked into a big bedroom, where Tessa laid in bed with her infant in her arms, her husband sitting on the bed next to her and caressing her hair. Derek walked in and headed right towards her to stand on the other side from the husband, while Boyd situated himself standing at the foot of the bed. The rest of them lined up along the wall to watch the scene unfold.

For a few seconds, Derek just watched Tessa and her child wordlessly. He then placed one hand on Tessa’s head and dragged his hand down to the bottom of her neck in one long stroke. He then bent over to kiss her temple and put his hands out for Tessa to carefully deposit her child into his arms. Derek straightened back up with the baby, and Stiles had to stop himself from shouting ‘what are you doing?!’ as Derek flashed his eyes red and let his fangs drop with a small growl. To his surprise, the baby didn’t get scared, but instead raised up their small arms and smacked the alpha’s face, reaching over to where the child heard the growl from. Then Derek bent his neck and started stroking his head against the child, nosing at their temple and neck. Stiles now understood why Derek suddenly shaved. This part would be terribly difficult to do without giving the infant a massive case of beard burn.

When he was done, instead of giving the child back to Tessa, he walked over to Boyd and let him take the kid. Stiles had to stifle a laugh at Boyds expression — he could only see his profile, but the absolute wonder on his face was clear even with the limited view. Boyd didn't flash his eyes or drop fangs, but he did nose at the baby’s temple, even gave it a small kiss on the head, before Derek walked back and placed the infant back into Tessa’s arms.

“Congratulations,” he whispered softly. “Who am I welcoming to the pack? Have you chosen?”

Tessa looked at her husband before she replied. “Andrew. His name is Andrew.”

“Andrew,” Derek smiled, then put one hand on little Andrew’s head. “Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky; the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die — for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. We will protect you as you will grow to protect us.”

Tessa’s smile turned teary and a small sob escaped her. Her husband moved closer and put his arm around her as Derek stood back up. “Thank you,” she said with a voice trembling from the onslaught of emotions. 

“There’s nothing to thank me for,” Derek replied softly. 

“Not just for this,” Tessa shook her head. “Thank you for coming back. For bringing back the security and stability we needed to decide to even have a child. Thank you for being our alpha.”

Derek looked dumbstruck for a moment, but then he simply nodded. “We will go now; let the family celebrate. Congratulations, again,” he said quietly and moved to walk out of the room.

When they walked back down it was only to say goodbye to everyone, which still took a good few minutes considering how many people were there. Soon they were back in the cars, on their way back home, and Stiles had around a million questions swimming in his head.

He had one big question though: what could possibly distract him from thinking about how Derek looked with a baby in his arms?

When they got back home the group split in two: some people had very urgent matters to attend to and others decided to just relax  after the rollercoaster they just went through with the whole witnessing-birth thing.

Erica and Boyd had urgent business, apparently. Erica found Boyd’s gushing over an infant to be ridiculously attractive, so they disappeared upstairs just before the cars were fully parked.

Derek went right to the office with Peter and Isaac, Cora wanted to try her hand at foosball against Jackson (Lydia, of course, was called to referee) and John just wanted to lie down for a bit.

Given that all the key people he could grill with questions had just busied themselves with other things, Stiles grabbed his trusty laptop to dig up more information on the presenting ceremony.

Over the years Stiles was able to identify a few websites and forums with accurate information, so he was soon immersed in the history. According to the sources, the presenting ceremony was something that used to be done every time a child was born in a pack, but that was back when packs were small and essentially consisted of just the family. As the packs grew, it became more and more difficult for an alpha to see every child, so the ceremony was now only done for prominent pack members and the alpha’s inner circle. 

This threw Stiles into a tangent of researching the ‘inner circle,’ called the Neuri . The Neuri were described as the wolves chosen to be advisors to the alpha. Each had a specific field of focus, but those roles could change over time.  It was once divided into Right Hand, Left Hand, Hunter and Denmaker. With technological progress roles and responsibilities would gradually evolve until  eventually breaking out into more roles. Today the Neuri resembled the different departments of a government, except for the fact that there was no set number, so the Neuri could be four people strong or, if the territory was so big that every subsection of responsibilities became a full time job, could be over twelve people, excluding the alpha.

Stiles got up for a drink after a while, only to notice that it was already past two in the morning, a common occurrence for him ever since he’d gotten his first computer. He would start researching one thing, click on a tangent or two  and then suddenly realise that he’d been fully immersed for six hours.

He shook his head and decided to get out for a minute — it was clear that neither Jackson nor Lydia were going to visit him tonight, so he could easily spend the rest of the night researching to his heart's desire. A quick walk to get a breath of fresh air would help him clear his head and get ready to absorb more information when he got back. He quietly got out of his apartment and made his way downstairs, praying that the front door wouldn't squeak as he tried to get out.

He pushed the handle and slowly inched the door open when he was interrupted.


He turned to see Derek standing in the door to the office-apartment, a confused expression on his face. “Hey,” he replied quietly. “Sorry, I was trying to be quiet, I thought everyone was asleep by now.”

“You should be asleep too,” Derek responded and furrowed his brows. “Where are you going?”

“Just wanted to get out for some fresh air.”

Derek watched him for a few seconds and then turned away and disappeared back into the office. Stiles shrugged, thinking that was the extent of their interaction, and was just about to go back to the task of opening the front door when Derek reemerged with his jacket in hand. He motioned  towards the door with his chin before gesturing for Stiles to get on with it and followed him out.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. Stiles walked toe-to-toe atop the curb, rarely teetering, while Derek flanked him on the empty street. Eventually, Stiles broke. “Are you bodyguarding me right now? Is it that dangerous to walk around here?”

“Actually, I thought it’d be a good  short break for me too,” Derek raised an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, yeah, how come you’re still up?”

“There’s always a lot to do,” he sighed and dragged a hand through his hair. “In a few days Tessa and her family will be back home and I need to organise an escort for them. We’ll go with her  until we near Redding, their wolves will  take over for us from there. There’s a bunch of other shit too, so  I’m just…”

“Staying awake and trying to figure  everything out by yourself?” Stiles cut in with a small smirk. He received a glare back for his efforts, which only served to turn his smirk into a snicker.

“Come on, out with it, Stiles,” Derek said exasperatedly after a beat of silence. “I know you’ve got a list of questions. Shoot.”

“Oh, wow, okay,” Stiles blinked slowly at him and realized that Derek was a hundred percent serious. “Okay, well, first, what’s the purpose of the presenting ceremony? I found a whole bunch of history and sociological studies on the impact and evolution of the ceremony through the ages, but nothing really mentioned why the ceremony is even a thing.”

“That’s an easy one,” Derek responded. “It’s so they bond with the alpha. Children born into a big pack inherit the tenacious bond their parents have with the alpha, which is enough to keep them in the beta status instead of turning them into omegas, but the presenting ceremony allows for the child to develop a direct bond with the alpha instead of just inheriting it via the parents.”

“Okay, that makes sense,” Stiles nodded as he put one foot in front of the other, trying to balance while walking in a straight line on the curb of the sidewalk. “So who is Tessa? I’m guessing she’s someone important.”

Derek shook his head and shot his hand out to grab Stiles’ shoulder to stabilize him as he almost lost his balance. “Not really. I sent out a message to everyone a couple years ago that I’m opening the presenting ceremony to anyone who’d want to do it. Tessa was only the third one to use this option.”

“Oh,” Stiles faced Derek, bewildered. “I would’ve thought people would jump on that. Feel special and all that.”

Derek shrugged and looked down. “I’m not really surprised. The Hale family really dropped the ball since my mother died. Not surprised the pack doesn’t trust me.”

“Hey,” Stiles interrupted and grabbed Derek’s arm. “Dude, you’re doing an amazing job as alpha, you know that right?” He looked at Derek questioningly. “I may not have been here that long but all I ever see you do is work on one issue or another. Hell, you seem to know everyone in your pack by name!”

Derek rolled his eyes hard enough for Stiles to worry he pulled a muscle. “Knowing names is not really a measure of being a good alpha, but yes, I know I’m doing okay. I just know there’s still more to be done. I understand why the pack doesn’t fully trust me to take care of them yet.”

“Honestly, I don’t know where you’re getting that from,” Stiles shrugged and went back to trying to balance on the curb. “So far, everyone I’ve met has literally worshipped the ground you walk on.”

“Shut up,” Derek replied; face turned away from stiles, his voice sounded rough.

“Aww, come on!” Stiles laughed and turned to walk backwards so he could face Derek. “Don’t be such a sourwolf.” 

Derek felt his own lips stretch in a smile as he looked Stiles in the eye and watched him laugh. His first, actual, full laugh  since they saw each other again. It wasn’t the shit-eating grin he used to see on Stiles’ face four years ago, but that was a good thing. Maybe this time, he wouldn’t get arrested.

That first walk started a routine that lasted the next couple of weeks. Derek was able to easily prepare the escort after Tessa and her family extended their stay. The new parents had wanted more time before traveling with an infant for the first time. He still had enough to keep  the majority of his days busy while everyone else focused on their own work,explored the city and spent time together.

But every evening, after everyone settled in for the night, Stiles would show up at his door and they'd take a walk together. After fifteen minutes they'd head back to the office together so that Derek could work while he continued answering Stiles’ questions.

One of the most important conversations happened the very next day. Stiles already knew the role of the Neuri, but asked about the details in relation to the Hale pack. When Talia was the alpha, the Neuri was eleven people strong; now he only had four. Cora was still in education, and everyone he brought from Beacon Hills had to get acclimated with how the pack really worked, since apparently Deaton didn’t tell them anything.

“Okay, but, wait,” Stiles frowned as he tapped his fingers on the side of his cup of tea. “The way you’re talking, it sounds like you want to bring us into the Neuri.”

Derek simply stared at him with both eyebrows raised.

“Wait, really?!” Stiles flailed and cursed as a splash of tea spilled on his leg. “Why?!”

“Who else would I possibly trust?” Derek asked incredulously.

Stiles whipped his head up from where he’d been trying to clean up the spill with a tissue and looked at Derek with a stricken expression. “You trust me?”

It was clear that the mood had shifted from theoretical debate to something a bit more intimate, and Derek could see that the answer was very important to Stiles. “Of course,” he said with conviction, looking Stiles straight in the eyes.

Stiles’ lips twitched into a small, unsure smile before he cleared his throat and stared into his cup, tracing the rim  with his fingers. “So what roles were you thinking of assigning to us?”

“Well,” Derek sighed a relaxed breath and leaned back in his chair, his eyes following the movement of Stiles’ fingers. “Currently, Boyd’s focused on children and education, and Lord help anyone who tries to take that away from him,” he paused as they both chuckled, remembering Boyd’s wonder and amazement when he held little Andrew. “Peter takes care of the security side, and insists on keeping the name of his role as ‘Left Hand’ because he’s an asshole like that; Erica is the Treasury and Isaac is on PR and networking. Boyd, Isaac and Erica are all also getting their degrees, so I don’t want to put too much on them, which means for now I take care of everything else. When Cora is ready I’m gonna put her in charge of labor and employment, helping pack members with jobs. If you all agreed, I would put your father in charge of the judicial side of things; I want Jackson to train with Peter  and take over when Peter wants to step down, and Lydia would be handling the PR and politics.”

“And me?” Stiles asked quietly.

Derek ripped his eyes away from Stiles’ fingers to look at his face. “I want you to be the shadow cabinet, of sorts,” he stated.

“Shadow cabinet?” Stiles looked at him quizzically.

“It would be your job to know everything . You’d gather information on individual pack members, every supernatural creature we encounter, whatever you could find out about other packs and how everyone and everything connects with each other. Basically everything that could be useful in any way would be your responsibility so that  we can make fully informed decisions in any situation.”

Stiles stared at him with eyes comically wide for a few seconds. Derek decided to give him time to process the information he just shared and raised his own cup to take a sip of his tea.

“Sorry,” Stiles said after a moment. “You just gave my brain a nerd-gasm and I’m rebooting.”

Derek choked on his tea and leaned forward as he coughed and  teared up. As he wiped his eyes he noticed Stiles with both his hands pressed hard against his mouth and his shoulders shaking in silent laughter. “Shut up, Stiles,” he croaked when he regained the ability to speak.

“Oh, man,” Stiles dropped his hands and laughed out loud. “You might as well get that tattooed somewhere.”

Derek slammed back-first into the door behind him as the woman latched onto him, sucking on his bottom lip. He reached down from her waist and lifted her up by her thighs, twisting to pin her against the wall as he attacked her mouth.

His nightly talks with Stiles were great, but on one  level they were infuriating. He’d already noticed that Stiles grew to be ridiculously handsome, but he wasn’t lying to Peter when he said they didn’t know each other at this point. Even though he could see old-Stiles peeking out more and more, it still didn’t mean that acting on his attraction was a good idea.

After he caught himself fantasising about Stiles’, frankly, obscene hands for the sixth time in a single hour, he realised his problem had more to do with his lack of sex life than with Stiles, so he set out to rectify that. An hour later, here he was.

The woman obviously had no patience as she tried to lift his shirt from where he was holding her against the wall. He put her down and raised his arms to let her rip his top off of him, then returned the favour by unzipping her dress as he kissed and nipped her neck. He started moving, forcing her to walk backwards towards the couch he’d spotted when he first walked into the apartment.

As he let her fall backwards onto the couch and bent to lick her nipple he had a fleeting thought that he should at least know her name. That thought quickly disappeared as he realised the only words he heard her say were ‘oh, fuck’, ‘oh my God,’ and variations thereof. She obviously didn’t know his name either.

He kept mouthing at her breast as his hand settled between her thighs. Her hands quickly moved to his jeans, tugging at the zipper until it gave way and she pushed his pants down just enough to release his dick. He could feel through her underwear that she was already wet, so he didn’t bother with taking it off — he just pushed her underwear to the side, stroking her folds a few times with his fingers before he lined himself up and pushed in with one strong thrust.

The way she cried out and gripped his back was intoxicating, and she raised her hips to meet his thrusts in perfect rhythm. The sound of skin slapping against skin filled the living room alongside her moans and Derek’s grunts. He kissed across her collarbone and up her neck, nosing behind her ear a little bit before going back to lick into her mouth. She kissed back ferociously and pushed Derek to the floor, landing on top of him. She straddled his hips and started riding him with a brutal pace, leaning so that their kiss didn’t break. Derek gripped her hip, his other hand tangling in her short hair until she straightened back up to ride him in earnest. He put both his hands on her hips to hold her in place as he thrust up when her movements turned erratic, too focused on chasing her release to be in control. Soon she screamed wildly as her orgasm hit and she clenched around him as she rode it out.

She was beautiful, confident, very comfortable in her body and really, really enthusiastic. Usually when Derek slept with women, he would come shortly after them, the pheromones of their release being enough to push him over the edge, but even though he was enjoying himself, he could feel his frustration rise when he couldn’t reach the peak. He moved from under her, placing her hands on the coffee table to kneel behind her, stroking the curve of her ass. He moved one hand up her spine and put it on the back of her neck, playing with the short brown hair at her nape. He leaned forward to kiss between her shoulder blades, then placed his forehead there as he thrust hard enough for the momentum to cause the coffee table to move. 

She had a small cluster of three moles on her right shoulder. He moved to kiss each one individually and leaned to nose at her temple when he felt he was close, inhaling deeply. But the scent was wrong, there was no note of old books or coffee. He focused his eyes on the moles, thinking about the missing smells, and the smell of fresh cut grass and ozone, like the air before a thunderstorm, and he moaned loudly when he felt the orgasm rip out of him suddenly. 

They collapsed facing each other right there on the floor, both breathing heavily. Derek used the fact that she closed her eyes to really look at her. He didn’t have a specific type when it came to women, but there were still certain characteristics he preferred, and she seemed to be the complete opposite of all of them.

He tended to prefer long hair on women, but she had a short, brown pixie cut. He had a simple philosophy that if he was going to sleep with a woman, she should have decent breasts, since if he wasn’t in the mood for boobs he would have just gone for a man, but her chest was essentially flat.

Derek just refused to think about her fair skin and moles. It’s not like he couldn’t be attracted to women outside of some specific requirements. Her not being who he would typically go for didn’t mean she was unattractive.

But he could no longer lie to himself when she opened her eyes and looked at him with her big, brown eyes. She could be Stiles’ sister.

He bolted up and started hastily dressing himself, muttering excuses to the girl who was still lying on the floor. He sprinted to the door and quickly escaped her building.

As he slowed down to a brisk walk towards home, he only had one thought in his head - “I am so fucked .”

“Alrighty!” Peter exclaimed as he clapped his hands jovially. “Let’s go over this one last time: in the first car, we’ve got Derek and John, second car is Isaac and Lydia, third car has Erica and Stiles, fourth will be Cora and Boyd, and finally, the last car — me and the lovely Jackson. Derek and Isaac lead the motorcade, Erica and Stiles mingle between our charges’ cars right in the middle, and Boyd and I keep the rear. We will drive north for about two hours at which point the Redding team will take over and we get to head back to this location. All clear?”

There was a scatter of assenting murmurs. No one had any questions since they’ve been going over the plan of escorting Tessa and her family for the past three days and everyone was very clear on the details.

It wasn’t that the task was complicated, it was actually very simple, but it was dangerous, as werewolf babies were apparently very valuable to a certain type of people. It was the reason why Tessa came here with so many members of her family, they were there to protect her on her journey to Sacramento just in case. There was less risk of anything happening when she was pregnant because bounty hunters tended to avoid the hassle of kidnapping pregnant women when looking for werewolf children.  It was the journey back, with an infant in tow, that was a lot more risky.

From his observations so far, Stiles couldn’t estimate the risk of their current situation. On one hand, it was unlikely anyone let anything slip about the kid existing to people outside of the pack, so technically no one else should know about it. Then again, a pregnant werewolf travelling between cities with her family is a big indication of the presenting ceremony, so it wouldn’t take a genius to gather that the prize was within reach.

They all got into the respective cars, taking all four SUVs and Jackson’s Porsche. They drove back to the house where Tessa was staying and after a brief stop, their five cars were joined by three owned by the visiting wolves. Tessa, her husband and their child were in one car, surrounded by the other two cars and the car Erica drove with Stiles in the passenger seat.  Once they decided to utilize everyone, they sorted it so that every car had a wolf, even though Derek would have preferred for Lydia, Stiles and Cora, her more as a precaution, to stay home.

Most of the journey went off without a hitch. They kept to busy roads and highways, surrounded by traffic which added an extra layer of protection. Stiles challenged Erica to a cringe-off and they spent the whole time singing along to songs from the 90s and early 2000s as loudly as they could. He was still in pain from how hard he laughed at Erica trying to rap Will.I.Am’s verse in Fergalicious when they came to a crossroads in a wooded area, closing in on the spot where they were supposed to meet the other group that would act as the escort the rest of the way.

He was thinking about what song to play next when a car came out of nowhere and rammed into the  side of Tessa’s car, pinning her door shut.  Thankfully not the side where little Andrew’s car seat was.

Erica slammed on the breaks with a curse and jumped out of the SUV as more unknown cars showed up on both sides. Stiles stayed in the car, watching as all capable wolves jumped out and started fighting the attackers, forming a tight circle around Tessa’s car to keep the assailants from getting closer. He was honestly confused — even with these new arrivals, the pack  had numbers and strength on their side. These attackers were obviously human… what were they thinking? Attacking them of all people ?

He had his answer when he noticed a single person slink by and breach the circle when one of Tessa’s brothers turned to throw one of the hunters away. No one else seemed to notice this guy in the commotion, everyone busy with either fighting the hunters or helping Tessa out of the car. Stiles jumped out and ran towards the guy just as he managed to open the door and take the whole carseat. As he made his way back towards their cars his accomplices obviously noticed and worked harder to occupy the wolves so that he could get past, while inching back towards their own cars.

Stiles ran at full speed, focused on the man carrying the carseat, praying that he wasn’t doing a stupid thing and that werewolf babies had high resiliance and strong healing powers. As soon as he was in range he lunged and tackled the guy, sending him backwards. Just as he’d counted on, the guy was focused on keeping the baby safe, so the carseat landed face-up on the asphalt and skid back towards the pack, where Andrew’s father swooped in and grabbed the seat, growling and snarling at everyone around him.

The hunter under Stiles cursed and twisted so that now Stiles was the one being pinned to the pavement. After shouting something Stiles couldn’t quite make out, he roughly grabbed Stiles and hauled him towards a car, throwing him into the trunk. They started the car and drove away almost immediately, a getaway so clean and hasty that it was obvious they had  prepared.

Stiles could tell they were going at a breakneck speed and could hear the engines of the other cars around him mixed with hunters shouting within the car cabin. He instinctively knew that the pack was following them, but wouldn’t have an easy job of it. They weren’t as ready to get back into their cars and give chase, and from the little snippets he could make out from the hunters, they were all splitting up soon. It would be impossible for the wolves to follow them all, not without a replacement for the now-totaled car and especially now that Tessa and her family needed protection now more than ever. 

The hunters were still shouting at each other, but Stiles could not understand a single word. His vision was swimming, even though it was pitch black  inside the trunk. He could sense the panic settling in as his breaths came in harsh and shallow, fear gripping his throat and not letting go.

He scrunched his eyes closed, even though it didn’t make a difference, and counted to five through the harsh breaths. It was something he had to learn a while ago because, like any human, he still had an automatic response to fear, but he couldn’t afford to let it overtake him, so he only panicked for the extent of time it took him to count to five. When he finished counting, he would open his eyes and force himself to swallow his fear and make his brain work.

Once again, he found himself grateful that he was a sheriff's son. His dad never went overboard with training, he didn’t tie him up to their kitchen chair to teach Stiles how to escape, but he did always share the theory of how to escape certain situations. Stiles calmed his breath and forced himself to listen to the hunters talking inside, it would help him to know where they were, how fast they were going, if they were stopping soon, any information at all.

The few minutes he spared to listen to those assholes didn’t tell him much outside of how dickish they were to each other, screaming and throwing blame for their failed mission. Apparently, they’d decided to use Stiles as a bargaining chip to extort Derek. They doubted that Derek would give up the child in exchange for Stiles, but they’d hoped the alpha would be willing to pay the average price for a werewolf kid instead.

Another few minutes of unhelpful conversation went by before they slowed to a stop. It felt as if they turned onto a gravel road, so Stiles guessed they were stopping for a break. It seemed like a stupid thing to do — even though they were driving ridiculously fast and had managed to drive a fair bit of distance, the pack was still searching for them — it made no sense to stop. But Stiles wasn’t complaining, since going by what they were saying, they didn’t feel the need to guard Stiles. Thinking he was a werewolf, they trusted that the mountain ash-lined trunk would keep him contained once the trunk shut. Kind of genius, and would’ve been a real problem if Stiles had been a wolf.

Since he wasn’t, he waited until he couldn’t hear the hunters anymore and started kicking at the tail light. Surprisingly, it dislodged  easily, and thankfully without too much noise. He still paused and waited to see if someone would come rushing to check on him, but heard nothing, so he checked to see if the coast was clear through the hole he made. After seeing no one in his line of vision, he stuck his arm out and started feeling for the latch, scoffing at how stupid (or arrogant) those hunters were to have not even locked the car. which allowed Stiles to open the trunk without any issues as soon as he found the right spot to press to release the latches.

Stiles jumped out as soon as the trunk opened and silently closed it again before setting the tail light back in place. They were at a very small, abandoned-looking gas station surrounded by trees. He could see the hunters inside the building, some in line for the bathroom, others in line for the cashier with bottles of water  and literally none of them watching the cars. Seeing his chance, he moved quickly towards the tree line without getting up from his crouch, yes, it looked suspicious as hell, but it kept him  hidden from view by the cars parked between him and the gas station.

When he broke the tree line, he allowed himself to stand straight and move as quickly as he could. His mind was running a mile a minute.No matter how dumb those guys were, they were still hunters, and if they managed to hunt werewolves, they would have no trouble tracking him through the forest. He looked around wildly, looking for any solution when inspiration struck.

The trees in the area grew really close together, the branches of one often leaning against another. He picked the tree that looked easiest to climb and made his way up, before getting from one tree to another and heading back towards the gas station. The hunters would be able to tell he climbed the tree, but they would most likely assume that he went the opposite direction, trying to get away from them, instead of heading back towards them. Plus, that way he could watch through the leaves to ensure he came down only when they were gone and he was safe.

He settled on a heavily-hidden branch looking out towards the gas station parking lot and watched the hunters come  out of the building with the cashier. One of the hunters was talking with the guy, nodding to each other and making vague gestures, before they shook hands and parted ways. The scenario Stiles wasn’t counting on was the hunters not realising he wasn’t in the trunk anymore. Now that was more luck than he would bet on.

What he also didn’t think about was the cashier being in on this. It was obvious from their talk that they knew each other better than a regular customer and retail worker would, and Stiles interpreted the vague gestures they made during their talk as the hunters warning the cashier about the wolves following them. Maybe even asking for  a heads up if the pack found their way here.

Well, there went the idea of asking the gas station attendant for a phone to call his dad; he’d left his somewhere in Erica’s car in his struggle to get out of it.

He memorised the license plate of the car he was in and waited a few minutes after they drove off before climbing  down. He knew he couldn’t go to the gas station, the guy would find him suspicious even if he didn’t know Stiles was who the hunters had kidnapped.Considering there were no other cars around, it was also not a good idea to stay in place and wait around. He had to put some distance between him and that gas stop. The most logical move was to walk in the opposite direction of where the car drove off. He decided to stay among the trees for at least half an hour, using the wooded area as a cover so that he wouldn’t be noticed before getting on the road. 

As he started walking, he patted his pockets to see if he had anything useful on him. He did have a pocket knife, a pouch with mountain ash, a can of pepper spray that had mountain ash and mistletoe mixed in it, and some random pieces of paper in the form of receipts or notes he just stuffed in his pockets. He jumped at the opportunity and settled on using a random berry’s red juices as ink to note down the license plate in case he forgot. He had no idea if it was a poisonous berry, so he focused on avoiding contact with his fingers, eyes and mouth. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be difficult because as soon as he told himself he couldn’t do that, it was all he wanted to do.

After an hour and a half that felt like fifteen minutes, he heard something move towards him at a high speed. The rustling sound came from the direction he was heading - he guessed it was some sort of animal, or at the very least not his captors.

Before he could think of any place to hide from something that would possibly want to rip him to shreds, the source of the noise appeared in front of him, and it turned out to be Derek, wolfed out, chest heaving, seeming to foam at the mouth.

“Stiles!” Derek shouted as he strode over, eyes still red, and grabbed his arms and shook him. “What the hell were you thinking?! Are you ok? Why the fuck would you just throw yourself at them like that?!”

“Relax, Jesus!” Stiles raised his hands as far as he could with the werewolf still grasping his arms. “I’m fine, they were idiots. And what I was thinking was that I wasn’t gonna let them kidnap a baby who’s just a few days old.

Derek just squeezed him harder at that. “We would’ve taken care of it! They were still fighting us, if they hadn’t grabbed ahold of you they wouldn’t have run so quickly!”

“Yeah, well, sorry for having a moral compass!” Stiles snapped, feeling his relief morph into annoyance. “I totally should’ve sat on my ass and watched as hunters and werewolves played tug-of-war with an infant.”

Christ , you infuriating, little…” Derek groaned, unable to finish the sentence as he cupped Stiles’ chin and smashed his mouth to Stiles’ in a desperate kiss.

For a split second, Stiles.exe has stopped working, completely frozen in place and not even breathing, but then he moved on instinct and gave as good as he got, grabbing Derek’s forearms and opening his mouth to let Derek explore him with his tongue. 

Before he could fully comprehend what was happening, Derek suddenly broke the kiss and jumped away from him as if got burned. They stared at each other, both trying to catch their breath, when Erica also appeared, followed closely by Peter.

“Batman! Oh, thank God!” Erica exclaimed and walked over to hug him hard enough to restrict his breathing. He really wasn’t having a good day breathing-wise. “I was scared we wouldn’t catch up to you and they would take you to… wherever they were taking you!” She released him from the hug and grinned at him. “How did you get away?”

“They stopped for gas and all of them got out of the car. I kicked the tail light out and opened the trunk and just made a beeline for the woods.”

Peter shot him a confused look. “They didn’t leave someone to guard you? And they left the trunk open?”

“Yeah, as I told Derek, they were idiots,” Stiles shrugged. “They didn’t know I wasn’t a werewolf, and thought the mountain ash lining of their trunk was enough to hold me.”

“That was lucky then,” Peter shook his head with a hard gaze. “And I really don’t like relying on luck. Come on, back to the car.”

Stiles shot Derek a quick look, but the alpha was resolutely staring ahead as he led the way towards the road. They weren’t parked far, Derek had caught his scent and haphazardly parked on the side of the road to follow it on foot. When they got closer, John hastily got out of the car and stormed over to bear hug his son.

“For the love of God, kid,” he grumbled. “Can you please stop doing this shit to me?”

“Sorry, Pops,” Stiles muttered against his dad’s chest. “Oh, wait, here.” He pulled away to take out the piece of paper and give it to his father. “Idaho plates, 1A WJ785 . If what I was laying on is any indication, there’s a false bottom in the trunk and a shitload of, most likely, very illegal equipment hidden underneath. You know, in case you wanted to call in an APB and give an anonymous tip to have someone pull them over and search their car.”

John just chuckled as he took the piece of paper and ruffled his son's hair, which made Stiles shoot him a tired smile. Now that he was back among people he trusted, adrenaline left him and he felt himself melt. “Dad, you don’t by any chance have any Adderall on you?”

John frowned and looked down at his watch. When he noted the time, his face cleared as realization hit him and he pushed Stiles towards the car. “Come on, get in and get to napping. It’s four o’clock.”

“Daaaaad!” Stiles whined. “If you have Adderall I should be fine until we get back, and we can go through everything that happened, I mean, is Tessa okay? Is Andrew? Did anyone get hurt? Did we capture anyone?”

“Stiles!” John cut in sternly. “We’re not paying for Ritalin for you to then go and abuse Adderall. It’s your time to crash, and there’s nothing stopping you from sleeping in the car. We can easily talk and answer all your questions when we’re back home.” 

Stiles grumbled as he got into the backseat, Erica sliding in next to him in the middle seat, Peter sitting himself next to her. Stiles tried to stay stubborn but as soon as Derek started the engine after he and John buckled in, he could feel himself slipping and soon he was out like a light.

“Isaac, come on, it’s just a quick little chat, you know he’s gonna go for it!”

“I really hate when you use me for this shit, Erica!” Isaac snapped back as she dragged him towards the office door.

A week had passed since Tessa  left town. After they got back, Stiles feeling refreshed after his nap, they went through everything that happened and confirmed that Tessa and her family made it home safely. John did exactly as Stiles said and called Parrish for an APB; the car was found the next day, but only two hunters were taken into custody, which means the other three that were in the car when Stiles got taken managed to scurry away somehow.

In that week, Stiles withdrew into himself. Erica noticed that he no longer took walks with Derek every evening and he avoided any substantial conversation, and instead spent most of his time locked in his apartment. She had no idea why until she overheard Stiles and John talking last night.

The door to John’s apartment was open as she walked by, and she saw the two Stilinski’s sitting on opposite sides of a table, cell phone placed right in the middle of it.

“As my father you should be protecting me from harm,” Stiles said with his arms crossed on his chest. “You call her.”

“You’d have thought an adult man would want to take care of his elderly father,” John quipped back.

Stiles let out an expansive groan as he leaned forward and pressed his forehead on the table. “I really don’t want to call her. I hate disappointing her, and we haven’t missed a Christmas with her since I was thirteen.”

Erica walked away before she could hear any more as she realized it was a private, family matter, but her curiosity made her approach Lydia with a question of what they’d been  talking about.

Which is how she found out that Stiles and his dad were calling Stiles’ grandmother in Poland to tell her they wouldn’t be coming for Christmas this year. Which was unacceptable.

She walked in without knocking, Isaac in tow, and plonked herself into the chair closest to where Derek was sitting.

“Hiya, bossman,” she said cheerfully.

“Oh no,” Derek dropped the papers he was reading and put his face in his hands. “I know that tone. What do you want?”

“A vacation,” Erica responded immediately. Derek raised his head and stared at her incredulously, his eyebrows almost disappearing in his hairline. “So, it came to my attention that Stiles and Papa Stilinski were cancelling their annual Christmas trip to Polandbecause of everything going on, and in my humble opinion: fuck that very much, let’s all go!”

A complex emotion Erica couldn’t identify crossed Derek’s face before he schooled his features into a poker face. He took another moment before he actually replied. “I don’t think we can do that. But Stiles and John can still go, there’s nothing stopping them from keeping their plans.”

“You and I both know they won’t leave,” Erica scoffed. “Not with a threat hanging over our heads that we know barely anything about; they both have a ridiculous sense of responsibility. No, they will only agree to go if we make it a group trip. Plus…” she drifted off and looked at Isaac.

“Well, it would be nice, don’t you think?” Isaac asked timidly. “I mean, I love our Christmas celebrations, but I don’t have anything to compare them to… It would be interesting to see how others celebrate and awesome to visit a different country… But, not the point! Don’t you think it would be nice to take a trip as a group, all of us? I think we deserve a little break.”

Erica could physically see Derek’s resolve crumble, few knew about the massive soft spot he had for Isaac, but  Isaac had quickly learned how to use it to his advantage. He never overdid it, of course, and it wasn’t like Derek didn’t know what he was doing; but his puppy eyes combined with knowledge of his difficult  childhood meant that people found themselves agreeing to do what he wanted even when they knew they were being manipulated into it.

“Also…” Erica started, hitting the final nail to the coffin. “Licho is a Slavic monster, right? It might be possible that we could find some information about it in Poland that’s not available to us here.”

Derek looked between the two of them for a moment, then he groaned and brought his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Fine, goddamnit,” he grumbled. “Let the others know and get to planning, you need to find accommodations for us that are close to the Stilinskis’ and it’s on you to let everyone know about the plans.”

Erica squealed and jumped up to throw herself at her alpha, smacking a loud kiss on his cheek before bouncing out of the office. Isaac followed behind with a small, shy smile.

When they made it upstairs to Isaac’s apartment door, he whispered to her conspiratorially “You are evil and manipulative. Let me know once you tell everyone, so I can sit down with Stiles and look for hotels in whatever city we’re going to. And pack. Immediately. If we do this right, we could be sipping on Polish vodka within a week.”

Erica cackled loudly in response while skipping away to harass everyone with her news.

“Oh, holy shit, no, I change my mind, we’re going back,” Boyd yelped as soon as he stepped off the plane.

Erica and Isaac really outdid themselves with the planning, and somehow they ended up flying to Poland at the very beginning of December with the intent to stay there for over a month. It was not the end of their journey yet. Stiles’ grandmother apparently lived in a small village with no airport, so the next step was to rent cars and drive for the next hour or so, depending on the traffic getting out of Rzeszów. 

“I told you to prepare for the cold!” Stiles laughed. “And here you are, pretending like the trademark leather jacket actually does anything.”

“Shut up and hurry up, let’s go get those cars!” Erica said, her voice muffled by the scarf she had wrapped around the bottom half her face.

“Not that simple,” John shot back to the group as he led the way towards the terminal. “You never wanna rent cars at the airport. And the only airport that’s actually close to the city is in Kraków. Here, in Rzeszów, we have to first get a bus to the town, then find a car rental place. Have patience.”

There was a collective groan as the group followed the older Stilinski. The process of leaving the airport was not really difficult, just boring and consisted mostly of waiting in lines. Once they broke free, they once again braced against the biting cold to wait for the bus.

It wasn’t exactly what they expected. Most non-Europeans, if they even knew where Poland is on a map, imagine it as a frozen tundra where people ride polar bears to work. In reality, the beginning of December barely ever had any snow, but the temperatures were certainly low and the very dry air made it feel much colder than any thermometers showed. 

Technically, werewolves could stand much more extreme temperatures than humans. However, the present group consisted of Californians, so, all of them, including the werewolves, were shivering. It was so cold that even Lydia couldn’t keep her typical calm and controlled demeanor, her teeth were chattering so loudly that she was essentially vibrating. Unsurprisingly, absolutely none of them were dressed for the weather having overestimated their own cold tolerance.

“Dad?” Stiles turned to John as they all swayed with the motion of the bus. “Don’t you think it might be a better idea to take the train? We’re gonna have to do weird things to return those cars if we rent them here. If we go to Sanok by train, we could rent from Mr Bigałowski, he won’t have a problem giving us free reign for a month and he won’t charge us an arm and a leg.”

“Good point,” John nodded. “But the guys already reserved the cars and paid the first month upfront, so it makes no difference at this point.”

“Okay, fair,” Stiles conceded, then quietly settled for the ride to Rzeszów. Less than an hour later, the pack was settled into a flock of Fords. By design, Derek and Peter were in a car alone while the rest of the group divided themselves between the remaining two cars. “I’m guessing you wanted to talk to me about something?” Peter asked after fifteen minutes of silence.

“You’re not wrong,” Derek muttered. “I need you to run interference.”

“When, on who, and what am I interfering with?” Peter questioned in response, a knowing smirk already plastered on his face.

Derek shot him a dirty look before turning his eyes back on the road. “I need you to help me avoid Stiles, as you’ve probably already guessed, you insufferable asshole.”

“My, my, could it be?” Peter’s smirk widened into a grin. “Is it possible that I was right?”

“Yes, okay?!” Derek barked, turning the steering wheel much more jerkily than necessary. “You were right, I was wrong, bask in it. Stiles is a distraction, and I did something really dumb, so now we need damage control. I can’t lose my head, but I also don’t want there to be tension within the Neuri.  That’s where you come in.”

“I believe I need more details pertaining to this ‘really dumb’ thing you did.”

Derek scowled and kept his eyes glued to the road, making no move to answer Peter, and after a few moments of staring at Derek impatiently, Peter scoffed and looked back to his lap, pen poised to complete the crossword puzzle he had opened.

“I kissed him.”

Peter calmly began to fill in a word. “Can’t say I blame you,” he muttered without looking up from his puzzle. “Nevertheless, I am curious: what happened to that ‘we don’t know each other’ stance you had not that long ago?”

“Fishing for validation doesn’t suit you.”

“Ah, even that was enough,” he sighed happily. “It is nice to be appreciated. And it is exceptionally nice when someone admits you’re always right.”

“Okay, how about we leave it at ‘you get to run interference by not allowing me to be alone with Stiles at any point’ and we don’t speak at all, hopefully for the rest of this trip?”

“You wound me, nephew.”

“Fatally, I hope.”

Light traffic made the trip out of Rzeszów take an hour, and then it took another hour and a half to get to their residence. The winding roads got tighter the further up they drove towards the mountains. Along with the altitude came a temperature drop and frozen ground topped with ice and snow. They made their way through the woods until they crossed a small town, arriving, virtually, in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that Grandma Stilinski used her savings and the funds her child had been  sending her over the years to build a number of small cabins in a forest on the side of a mountain. She rented the cabins out as a source of income. Her  home was larger than the others and it sat on the front edge of the property, forcing anyone who came to her property to drive past her house. Vigilance seemed to be a trait that ran in the family. 

They arrived in the afternoon, tired, jet lagged and frozen despite the cars’ heating. Derek took one look at his betas and turned to John to tell him they would be going straight to the cabins to rest and give the family peace and quiet to greet each other. John seemed to have guessed what Derek wanted to say before the alpha even opened his mouth, however, and shook his head bemused. “That’s not the way we do things here,” he chuckled. “You have to pay respect to the host, whether you like it or not.” 

“Mietek! Jasiu!” came a shout before Derek could respond, and suddenly there was a short, curvy woman embracing Stiles within an inch of his life, smoothing out his hair and kissing his cheeks repeatedly, before turning and putting John through the same kind of treatment. There was some rapid fire talk in Polish throughout the whole process, so Derek and the rest resigned themselves to just waiting for orders while standing by the cars.

Finally, the woman  faced them and swept a glance across the group before rounding on Derek.

“Ah, czyli to nie był przypadek! To wasza wataha? A ten młodzieniec to wasz alfa?”

Derek didn’t understand anything apart from the word that sounded suspiciously like ‘alpha’, but suddenly both John and Stiles went rigid and stared at the woman with eyes so wide they looked close to popping off from their heads. 

He felt his hackles rise and snapped his head up to level Stiles with a harsh glare. “What was that? What is she saying?”

“She’s…” Stiles stammered, still staring at his grandmother. “She just asked if you guys are our pack and if you’re the alpha.”

“Didn’t you tell us your grandmother doesn’t know anything about the supernatural?” Erica questioned, watching the elder woman curiously.

“Yeah,” Stiles breathed. “Yeah, I did. Dad, what the hell?!”

While they were talking, Grandma Stilinski turned on her heel to disappear back within the house. She came back with a tray that held bread, a salt shaker and a number of filled shot glasses. She stood in front of Derek and looked at him expectantly.

“Oh, ok then, we will deal with that revelation later I guess,” Stiles snorted in disbelief. “So this is a welcoming ritual.  You take a piece of bread and shake some salt onto it, eat the bread then take  the shot. Next, greet each other with cheek kisses: left, right, left again then put the shot glass back. When you’re done, walk past so the next person can do the same.”

Derek opened his mouth, but closed it with a click at the expectant gaze of the woman before him. He bowed his head and ripped off a piece of the bread, shaking some salt onto it before eating, then raised the glass to drink as instructed. He promptly began coughing up his lungs as the liquid burned in his throat. He forced himself to stop so he could bend and kiss the woman on her cheeks before walking away and coughing again. 

“What the hell was in this thing?” He grunted when he got his breathing back in control. John let out a little laugh and said something to his mother in Polish, and her response had him laughing outright. 

“It seems you were treated to my mother’s homemade liquor,” he chuckled. 

“Your mother makes alcohol that affects werewolves?” Derek asked incredulously. 

“Yeah… that whole line of questioning is saved for when we get inside.”

Once everyone had their turn with the bread and alcohol, they were all shepherded inside to the main house. It took a while before they were all in  the dining room, jackets and shoes abandoned at the front door, with  mandatory (apparently) slippers on their feet. Stiles led the way to the dining room and let out a wanton groan as he caught sight of the table. It was laden with a multitude of dishes, some of which were completely unrecognisable to almost everyone else. Soon all seated, they filled the room with a great deal of chattering and clattering as everyone reached for their desired dishes and started conversations that spanned from the meal itself to the journey.

Derek waited for everyone else to serve themselves first before he made a move for the food, just focused on observing. John sat at the head of the table, his mother and Stiles on either side of him, and everyone else sat in random order. It all felt natural and seemed like a common occurrence for the Stilinski’s; Derek didn’t know whether it was the way their family ate or the way meals happened in Poland,  but he suddenly felt sheepish for not enforcing something like this for his betas. They lived in the same building, and while they did often eat together, it was mostly takeout eaten at their desks in the office as they talked about pressing matters.  At the moment, no one discussed anything heavy; it was an actual group of friends, maybe even a family, sharing a meal. That said, as he watched Stiles hastily put away his phone, face flush, he could tell that Grandma Stilinski was in charge of her territory. In response to just a small sigh and brief Polish comment from his Babcia , Stiles had put away his phone . She ruled with an iron fist and didn’t even break a sweat while doing it. 

Still observing, Derek mindlessly filled his plate  then looked back on his it to see some form of cutlet, two halves of a potato with cottage cheese, some reddish-brown goop made out of cabbage that really didn’t look appetising, a few pierogi and a coleslaw of some sort. With the hopes of not offending his host,  Derek tried the cabbage first. He figured it’d be the worst tasting item on his plate and was hoping to use the better tasting dishes to cleanse his palette later on in the meal. What he didn’t count on was the cabbage goop tasting so absolutely heavenly that he was forced to stifle a moan and stare at his plate in confusion.

Stiles saw the whole thing and laughed softly. “It’s called ‘bigos’,” he said to the table at large as he spooned the cabbage onto his own plate. “The official English translation is ‘hunter’s stew’. It is mostly slow cooked cabbage, but with a lot of different meats and mushrooms and it might not look good, but it is absolutely delicious.”

That seemed to make everyone interested and suddenly everyone was trying the dish, letting out surprised exclamations at the taste.

While the Americans were busily discovering a new cuisine, the Stilinskis talked amongst themselves in hushed voices. Stiles’ grandmother had an amused expression the whole time, shaking her head softly at them and even laughing at some points. 

Soon enough, everyone was full and despite the fact that it was a literal pack of werewolves, there were plenty of leftovers that they helped put away after they were each given a tupperware filled with food to take back to their cabins.

As Stiles led them through the snow to their corresponding cabins, Derek asked about the conversation at the dinner table.

Stiles snorted indignantly before he spoke. “Yeah, so, it seems that Babcia can tell a human from a werewolf at first glance. We brought Scott over here once after he was bitten, and she knew he was a wolf right away, but since he was the only one and we never said anything, she thought we didn’t know. Now that we came here with a whole pack she realised we definitely knew, so she dropped the charade. It’s ridiculous, apparently werewolves are old news to her.”

“I’m guessing that means she knows even more about the supernatural,” Derek muttered with a pointed glance.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighed with his shoulders slumped. “Just… let’s spend a few days chilling before we drill her for information about the Licho, okay? I just…” he shrugged slightly, not knowing how to end the sentence.

“You just want to rest,” Derek nodded. “I get that. I’m not gonna push, and I do want to take whatever I can get from here, information wise, but at the end of the day, we came here so you could spend Christmas with your family — that’s the priority.”

Stiles squeezed his arm, his face so bright with gratefulness that Derek had to avert his gaze. They stopped in front of a cabin Derek was sharing with Cora and Peter. Stiles hesitated as if he wanted to say something else, but Derek didn’t give him that chance, muttering a rushed goodnight before bolting inside to hide. This is going to be a long trip.

“Oh my God, how are you eating again?”

Derek looked up from his laptop, eyes landing on Cora as his hand and the fork it held froze midway to his mouth. “Mrs Stilinski brought over this apple cake thing, it would be rude to refuse,” he said defensively before stuffing the alpha-sized bite into his mouth.

“I am actually so amazed; this woman managed to feed a pack of werewolves to the point where they’re unable to eat anymore. Well,” she shot him an amused glance. “Not all of them, I guess. You’re the last one standing on that particular battlefield.”

“Wait, Erica is down?” he asked, truly shocked.

“She actually said she won’t be going to the Christmas market today so she can lay down and digest her food baby. She changed her mind five minutes later, but still. Congrats, you win. Now come on, let’s go!”

“Cora, I can’t,” he sighed with disappointment. “I’ve still got a million emails to respond to, I’m sorry.”

“Oh my God, you dick, you promised!” Cora whined as she plopped herself down on a chair in front of Derek.

“I didn’t promise shit, I said I will try, and watch your language.”

“You’re not my dad!”

“Still your alpha.”

“Oh, so it’s the alpha’s job to make sure the pack doesn’t swear? Grasping at straws there, you dick.”

“No, but it does mean I have authority over you, bitch.”



“Children!” Peter clapped his hands once to get their attention. “Even though this is really fascinating, we have to get moving. Derek, you’re staying?”

“Yeah, I am,” he shoved another forkful of cake in his mouth and smirked at Cora.

“Great, call me if you need any help. Though, obviously, you don’t need help with the cake…” Peter snickered as he turned towards the door.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Derek shouted after him.

“Absolutely nothing, Garfield!”

Cora doubled over laughing as she got up to follow her uncle outside.

Garfield ?

Derek set the fork down and made his way to the bathroom. He stared at his reflection and did notice that he looked a bit different, but that could be just because of the change in scenery. Nothing that would excuse Peter calling him a goddamned cat.

He was just about to go back to continue working at his desk when he paused and took the bathroom scale out of its hiding spot. Something was telling him it was a good idea to check his weight, and he questioned that instinct within the next few seconds.

Ten pounds. He gained ten pounds in two weeks.

Granted, he hasn’t been working out here, instead he mostly holed himself up inside to direct his pack from afar, basking in the warmth coming from the masonry heater — amazing invention, it gave the feeling of sitting by a fire without an open flame being a risk — and of course, gorging himself on the food Mrs. Stilinski constantly brought over.

They ate meals together at the big dining table three times a day, every breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between meals, Stiles’ grandmother would come over to the cabin to give Derek snacks and treats, and he always made sure to eat them so as to not offend their host.

Plus, everything was delicious.

Derek shook his head in disbelief as he thought about the sheer impossibility of a werewolf gaining so much weight in such a short period of time. He never heard of anything like that, but then again, most wolves were very active at all times, but he had been mostly stationary the past two weeks. 

He couldn’t feel too bad about it, however. He was comfortable here. At peace. Didn’t feel the need to constantly train or exercise every spare moment. Sure, Peter’s comment was essentially rude, but it was also strangely comforting that he was confident enough to tease Derek the way he used to tease Talia whenever her weight fluctuated. Peter never did that maliciously, though, at least, not the regular kind of malicious. It was different between siblings.

Derek shrugged to himself and put the scale back before he went back to the room and sat back down at his desk, picking the fork back up to finish his cake. He was technically on vacation anyways, he’d worry about his weight when back at home.

“Hey,” he looked up to see Boyd in the doorway. Considering he was the biggest one in their group, it was worrying how easily he could sneak up on Derek. “Since everyone is going to the Christmas market, wanna have a few beers and complain like old crones?”

“God, yes,” Derek slammed the laptop shut with a bit too much force than necessary and took the beer Boyd was holding out for him. “Though, can we start with gossiping, then move onto complaining?”

Boyd raised his eyebrows as he got comfortable in the chair opposite Derek. “You want to gossip? Should I alert the media?”

Derek snorted and kept quiet, waiting for Boyd to take a big swig of his beer before he asked “So, when are you gonna pop the question?”

He was counting on a spit take or at least some blubbering, but Boyd calmly swallowed his mouthful and smirked at his alpha. “I’ll propose to Erica when the time is right.”

“Oh?” Derek intoned, taking his own sip. “Sounds like there’s actually a plan in place then.”

“Of course there is,” Boyd snorted derisively. “I’ve been ready to marry that girl for years. I’m waiting for her sake.” 

Derek just raised his eyebrows in question, waiting for Boyd to elaborate.

“You know she did this weird accelerated degree thing,” Boyd finally started, only to be immediately interrupted by Derek.

“Yes, I remember her finding the quickest way to end her education just to spite me when I said she had to go to college.”

“That girl could become president out of spite,” Boyd shook his head fondly. “Well, anyway, that accelerated thing means that her workload is ridiculous. You know that the second I propose, she’s gonna go full into planning mode, so I’m waiting for her to finish her degree first.”

“And what about you?” Derek inquired. “You didn’t do the accelerated thing so you still have a year and a half left.”

“I’m not gonna plan the wedding, am I?” Boyd grinned. “I’m just gonna be told where to be and when.”

“You know what? That’s absolutely true,” Derek snickered. He got up and motioned for Boyd to join him as he moved to step outside; he never smoked inside because the smell could really linger.

“I’m guessing that you’re gonna move to the child-bearing portion of life pretty soon after you get hitched then?” He asked as he lit his cigarette.

Boyd smiled softly and a blush showed on his cheeks. “Only if she wants to of course, but… yeah. The sooner, the better. I just…”

“I know,” Derek nodded. “You’re worse than anyone I ever met when it comes to baby fever. It’s adorable.”

They laughed at the irony of calling a grown man who’s built like a mountain adorable when they heard what Derek recognised as Grandma Stilinski’s footsteps. Derek  shot a confused look at Boyd, wondering what she could possibly want since Stiles and John both weren’t around to help translate.

She rounded the corner of the cabin and shook her head at them, clasping her hands together. “Oj, słońce,” she said, looking Derek straight in the face. “Taki przystojny chłopiec, a taki brzydki nawyk.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek replied slowly. “I don’t understand….”

“Żadnych wymówek!” she interrupted him, and pointed at the snow covered ground. “Pozbędziemy się nałogu; zgaś tego papierosa, ale już!”

Derek stared at her bewildered, and when he glanced at Boyd he saw the man was equally confused. He looked back at her, and she shook her hand a few times, still pointing at the ground. Derek got a suspicion of what she meant, and raised the hand holding the cigarette slowly in question. She nodded vigorously at that, and pointed at the ground with more emphasis. Derek dropped the cigarette, stomping on it with his boot, and looked back at the woman to make sure he’d understood her request. She smiled softly at him, patted his cheek a few times and turned around, disappearing around the corner once again.

“Did she just…” Derek started, disbelief colouring his voice. “Did she just guilt me into putting out a cigarette even though I could not understand a word she was saying?”

“The Stilinski family is terrifying,” Boyd whispered in wonder.

“Oh my God, we need to go back tomorrow!” Erica yelled as she bounced out of the car with her million-and-one shopping bags. “Boyd! Baby! Get your ass over here!”

Derek and Boyd came out as the rest of the group was excavating themselves from  the cars and Stiles laughed at how she jumped on her boyfriend while simultaneously pushing all the bags into his hands. “You’re coming with us tomorrow!” Erica demanded, still hanging off Boyd’s neck. “There’s so much more I want to buy; oh, and we need to go back to this one lady, she sells these cute little things called Forest in a Jar , but she said they would most likely not survive a flight back home, so she asked me to come back tomorrow so she can give me instructions on how to do it myself. It’s so adorable, you don’t even understand! And she said…”

A jar.

A jar.


Stiles felt the bags he was taking out of the trunk slip through his fingers as his vision started swimming. Within seconds, breathing felt like a battle, and while he was aware that someone was saying something to him, he couldn’t understand the words. All he could focus on was the door.

When is a door not a door?

When it’s ajar.

But the door was shut! He closed the door! He closed it, they were safe, he wasn’t a threat anymore, it was shut, it was shut, it was shut!

He suddenly felt a hand drop on his shoulder and he turned wildly with a terrified scream, backing up as quick as he could. The hand squeezed, trying to keep him in place, but then its weight suddenly disappeared. The abrupt change made Stiles fall over while he attempted to back away further. He wasn’t going to let this happen again, not again, not to the Pack.

“Isaac, let him go!” John shouted as he ran out of the house. Isaac released Stiles’ shoulder as if it burned him, and watched Stiles fall over and try to get away from him, as if Isaac was a threat. The scream coming out of Stiles’ throat sounded inhuman. Isaac was floored by the anguish he heard and the panicked, yet unseeing, look in his Stiles’ eyes. Stiles had been fine a second ago — he and Isaac had been laughing at Erica while emptying out the trunk — then all of a sudden Stiles just dropped the bags and started screaming.

John sustained his shouts until he reached them, out of breath from the rush over. He didn’t get close, either, but instead stopped a few feet away, still in Stiles’ line of vision.

“Stiles!” he shouted over his son’s screams. “Stiles, you’re fine! It’s okay! It’s gone! The door is closed! It’s closed!”

He continued to shout as Stiles stopped screaming a few minutes later, finally seeing his father. His chest rose rapidly, keeping time with his heaving breaths which only got harsher when he looked at John. Stiles pulled his knees up, hid his head between them and grabbed fistfuls of his hair as the struggled breathing morphed  into sobs. As if physically prompted by the tears, John finally moved closer and enveloped his son in a bone-crushing hug.

No one had moved since the scene started unfolding. They now  stood frozen as they watched Stiles continue  crying in earnest, hands clinging to his father’s shirt in desperation. Isaac turned to look at Derek in question, but the alpha’s face was stuck in a stoney expression. When he felt Isaac’s eyes on him, he threw his beta a quick glance then fixed his gaze back on Stiles. “Everyone, inside,” he growled quietly. “Leave the bags. Just go.”

Everyone scampered, leaving only Stiles, John, Derek and Peter outside. “What the hell just happened?” Isaac asked, his voice trembling with a touch of guilt, “What did I do?”

“Shut up, it wasn’t you!” Jackson barked as he hugged Lydia tightly and ran his hands up and down her back to calm her.

“I can’t believe I forgot,” she whispered from where her face was smashed into Jackson’s chest. “It’s just been so long, I actually forgot…”

She mumbled softly for a few more seconds before she pushed herself away from Jackson abruptly. “I’m sorry,” she said in a stronger voice. “I can’t tell you much, it’s up to Stiles how much you guys should know. All I will say is that Isaac, it wasn’t you, it was actually Erica... don’t feel bad! You didn’t know, you just accidentally used his trigger word.” Lydia turned and headed to the kitchen with purpose. “Come on, let’s help Grandma Stilinski with dinner while they sort things out.”

The aforementioned woman, face pinched with worry, obviously knew about her grandson’s issues, but she continued working in the kitchen instead of rushing to his side. With communication limited to miming and gesturing, the pack helped as much as they could,, and soon enough they were all sitting around the dining room table. 

Derek could barely hide his anger as he walked into the dining room. By his side, Peter kept his own expression carefully schooled. He was putting so much effort into not giving anything away that it just proved how deeply affected he’d been by Stiles’ suffering. The Sheriff entered moments after the two wolves settled into their seats. Hands in his pockets and shoulders slumped in defeat, he swept the whole room with his eyes and shook his head harshly, “Not a word from anyone.” The group took it to mean that they shouldn’t mention it, so Erica addressed the whole table with some random topic.

When Stiles walked in a minute later, everyone was clearly trying to pretend everything was normal. Cora spoke faster and louder than usual and Boyd actively contributed to the conversation. Even Isaac forced out a few full laughs where appropriate, instead of his usual small chuckles. Stiles took his seat by his father; sure the whole room could see the quake in his hands, he let John serve him so that he didn’t risk breaking any of the beautiful, heavy porcelain. He kept his head low and waited for everyone else to finish eating while he picked at the single krokiet on his plate and took small sips of barszcz . He knew what conversation was coming and he dreaded it.

“Stiles?” he looked up at Lydia. “You know you don’t have to sit through it. Just tell us how much to tell.”

Stiles exhaled in relief and turned to his father. “Everything,” he whispered. “Just… tell them everything. They need to know. I’m sorry.” He stood and retreated to his room without another word.

John dragged a hand over his face. “Okay, the most important part, and the only thing you need to remember out of this is the triggers.” He leaned back in his chair and gave his mother a rueful smile as she got up to bring the cakes and coffee. “The word ‘jar’ is one of the biggest ones, and yes, his reaction to it is very strong. Another big one is the door, but he usually takes care of it himself and  closes every door he goes through. He can’t sleep with any open door nearby, and if he’s forced to sit in a room with a door, any door, even slightly opened, he’ll grow so uneasy that  he’ll have a panic attack.  He also struggles somewhat with shadows, bandages, and baths… metal tubs put him in a state similar to what you just saw.” 

John paused for a moment, breathing deeply through his nose. “The whole thing with the nogitsune really screwed him up,” he started again. “And everything around it didn’t make things much better. The whole reason the nogitsune even possessed him was because Melissa, Chris and I were kidnapped to be ritualistically sacrificed. Whatever the kids did to find us, it left them… vulnerable to outside forces. The nogitsune chose Stiles.”

He got up and walked over to a small cupboard. When he opened it, everyone saw the collection of bottles within it. “Personal side of life didn’t help afterwards,” he said as he poured himself a drink, keeping his back to the pack. “They all had to recover from the whole thing, and this… thing killed seventeen people using Stiles’ body. Almost killed Allison. They tried to force things to go back to normal, which was how they ended up going for outings with just the three of them. Stiles was still dealing with the aftermath of all that when he was forced to kill a hunter for the first time.”

John sat back down and sipped from his glass while pushing a second one to his mother. “After that happened, Scott was no longer so willing to help Stiles, working from some screwed up moral code that told him Stiles deserved to suffer after killing someone. At first I understood Scott, even if I didn’t like it, but it just got worse and worse.”

“What you need to understand is that with Deaton blocking the information we needed, we could only rely on the little he bothered to tell us at all. And Deaton treated Scott as the leader, so everyone else followed the example of the only adult so integrated in the supernatural. So, since Deaton didn’t do or say anything about helping Stiles… neither did anyone else.”

He scoffed suddenly, his expression turning sour. “Of course, it didn’t help that they were all scared of Stiles. Hell, even I was for a while. It’s not something you forget, watching your son kill people you know, looking him in the eye and not seeing a shred of your child in there. So, the spiral downwards continued, I got over myself as quick as I could so Stiles would at least have one person in his corner; Lydia opened her eyes pretty soon as well,” he said with a grateful nod towards the girl, “which definitely made things better, but the situation in Beacon Hills kept getting worse with the monster party, and the hunters, and the threats from everywhere… At this point we basically deal with things just by avoiding the triggers and Stiles is disassociating himself by focusing on school, research, the bestiary, and whatever else he can get his hands on to occupy his brain.”

“How did he deal with the trunk?” Boyd asked, shocked. “You know, when we were escorting Tessa, when those hunters threw him in the trunk.”

“He had a major meltdown when we got back,” John half-smiled. “He’s capable of just shutting down his emotions to delay his reactions until  after the danger’s passed. That day he used his logical side to get out of the situation. He passed out in the car because the Adderall makes him nap around the same time every day, as you probably noticed, plus the added adrenaline crash…” John took another sip and with a lowered voice, added “The whole way back he was plagued with nightmares, so when we got home I followed him to his apartment and helped him through the mother of all panic attacks.”

“Jesus…” Isaac whispered.

Erica kept her eyes on where her and Boyd's hands were joined and kept squeezing. Cora, even though she barely knew Stiles, stared at the sheriff in disbelief, her jaw basically on the floor. Peter looked more and more like a statue with each passing second, which meant he was very close to rampaging through the forest.

Derek caught John’s eye the most. His expression was murderous, and the alpha was physically shaking with rage. “What about therapy?” he snarled. John knew the anger wasn’t directed at him or anyone else at the table, so he didn’t comment on the tone.

“Not really a possibility, is it,” the sheriff shook his head. “There would be too much to censor, no way it would be beneficial…”

He was interrupted when the glass in Derek’s hand exploded. The man looked like he was seconds away from throwing furniture. “Jesus Christ, I will have him hanged on his own intestines!” the man shouted as he got up and started pacing. “We need to bring him back and we’re doing it as publicly as possible. Fuck it. Everyone will see him bleed.”

“Wait, son, who are you talking about?” John yelled back.

“Deaton!” Derek roared. “He should’ve let me know about all this, first of all, so that there would be an actual support system in place, but I’m honestly past that!  Ignoring the politics of it all,  he knows there are supernatural therapists! He should’ve put you in contact with one basically the second the nogitsune was gone! For fucks’ sake, his own sister is a therapist!”

“Jericho!” came a combined shout from Peter, Boyd and Cora. Derek closed his mouth with a snap, his chest heaving for a few seconds before he aggressively took his sweater off and reached to do the same with his shirt.

Grandma Stilinski said something softly to John at that point, which actually had him laughing, despite the heavy atmosphere around him. “Derek, my mother just asked if you could catch a deer for her, since she hasn’t made a stew using a fresh buck in years.”

Derek paused his ministrations to stare at the pair of them, along with the rest of the table. He exchanged a quick look with Boyd, who mouthed the word ‘terrifying’ to him, and then he huffed and stripped the rest of his clothes before he shifted. 

Cora, being the one nearest the exit, got up to open the door for him and closed it after he dashed past her towards the forest.

 “He will be back in a few hours, he just needs to cool off,” Peter said carefully. “Now, back to the conversation at hand, what else do we need to know?”

“That’s it, really,” John shrugged, his laugh immediately dying as they got back on track. “If I forgot any triggers, Lydia will be able to remember them all, I’m sure. And if he’s having a panic attack, don’t touch him until he’s able to recognise you.”

There was a short lull in the conversation. There was just nothing else to be said. John’s mother interpreted it as the end of the serious talk and got up to call Stiles back down from the foot of the stairs  - no grandson of her’s was going to miss out on cake after dinner.

When Stiles walked back into the dining room, no one tried to pretend everything was normal. The silence was almost suffocating, but it was more respectful than sweeping the issues under the rug. They all served themselves cake and coffee and for a while the only sounds heard were from chewing and forks hitting plates.

“Did you know I still can’t force myself to go swimming?” Erica asked suddenly.

Everyone turned to look at her, making her flush, but she resolutely trudged on. “My parents never let me anywhere near water since a seizure in a pool is basically guaranteed death. That stayed with me. Whenever we go to a pool, I’ll, at most, sit on the edge and put my feet in. I don’t actually even know how to swim because I was too scared to get lessons. And stairs, oh my God!” She exclaimed and finally looked up. “I had the biggest issue with stairs for so long, all I could think about was falling down while seizing. Derek offered to install an elevator at home, but I can’t always avoid stairs, so I said no. Still have a big issue with heights though, the one time I went on a ferris wheel since the bite, I came out a blubbering mess.”

Stiles stayed silent and stared intensely at her, guarded. The silence enveloped them once again, but then Cora piped in. “Fire for me, obviously,” she started. “But also wildlife traps. For years after the fire I stuck to my wolf form and had some close calls with bear traps. Noises that sound like a bear trap shutting make me freeze up. Sometimes even shutting the door too loudly will do it.”

“Crippling claustrophobia,” Isaac said next, waving his hand in the air a bit. “Dear ol’ daddy made sure that one stays with me. Notice that I always sit next to the window in cars or planes.”

“Y’all ‘bout to laugh,” Boyd mumbled. “But screw it, honesty hour: I have lepidopterophobia.”

“What does that mean?” John asked.

“Fear of butterflies,” Boyd replied with furrowed brows. “Not from any sort of trauma, I just… I just don’t like butterflies.”

“It is pretty strong,” Erica added with a soft smile as she raised her hand to caress her boyfriend’s head. “He does full-on panic around butterflies. We do our best to avoid them, but sometimes it’s impossible so then it’s a case of dealing with the aftermath as well as we can.”

“Well then,” Stiles croaked out weakly. His eyes were brimming with tears, but it was clear they were somewhat-happy tears, brought on by relief. “If a tank like Boyd can be scared of butterflies… I guess I’m okay being scared of jars.”

That finally broke the tension as everyone laughed. Stiles let the tears flow with a smile on his face, let his grandmother hug him and pat him as long as she wanted. In the end, he felt like weight had been lifted off his chest.

Hours later, Derek finally came back, fur covered in blood and hauling a massive buck by the neck. Grandma Stilinski patted him on the head in thanks, and no one mentioned how Derek preened in response.

More snow had fallen overnight, so the morning was filled with ‘the youngsters’ shoveling, salting and sanding the property. Stiles explained how the salt melted the ice to make the ground less slippery, and the sand added traction by soaking up the leftover moisture. They also  put tire chains on every pack member's car just in case they wanted to get anywhere. From there Stiles explained the layout of the main house.

At one point it had been common practice in Poland to not have a fully underground basement. Instead, there would be a sliver that actually remained above ground which allowed for small windows to be installed. Most basements like that were just in the Polish countryside at this point and had a separate room that was sometimes treated like a walk-in fridge because of how much cooler it was underground. Grandma Stilinski would store small mountains of bulk vegetables like potatoes in that room, but it was also a very convenient place to keep seasonal items like the tire chains.

Once they were done outside, cold and soaked with melted snow, they warmed themselves in front of the fireplace. Peter hung back to talk quietly with Stiles about the possibility of seeing a therapist and even gave him a card with contact information for the one Derek was seeing.

For Stiles, that was a piece of very eye-opening information. Apparently, Derek started seeing a therapist after Cora showed up and he decided to accept his responsibilities. With finally accepting that he’d be Alpha to over three thousand wolves, had come the realization that he needed to get himself sorted if he was to lead a pack effectively. Once he started seeing the therapist he just never stopped.

Once they all made themselves comfortable in the room, most on the floor in front of the fireplace, Mrs. Stilinski walked in with jugs of warm tea with honey and lemon which she started distributing generously among her guests. Once everyone had a cup, she sat herself in front of her son and asked him a question which made both John and Stiles stiffen up.

“What?” Derek asked, his body already tense as if ready to jump out of his chair and fight.

“She just opened the floodgates,” Stiles replied. “She said she heard us whispering about what she knew and asked if we would rather ask her instead of keep guessing.”


There was a short exchange between the three of them before Stiles spoke in English again. “Okay, so the easiest way to do this would be to let my Babcia speak and then I will give you the gist of it when she’s done since neither my dad or I are able to translate verbatim on the spot. Does that work?”

Everyone murmured their agreement and kept quiet as the woman started her story. Since he couldn’t understand anything, Derek focused on watching the faces of the three Poles in the room. The story went for a long time, a mix of expressions running through all of their faces, going from amused, to focused, to horrified.

It felt like an age before the woman had finished speaking. There was a short pause, both John and Stiles absorbing what they’d just been told, before Stiles shook his head and turned to Derek.

“Okay, do you want just the information about the Licho, or the life story as well?”

“Life story as well,” Peter piped in. “You never know what kind of useful information you might find out.”

“Okay, I’m gonna try to keep it brief. Basically, my grandmother knew about werewolves and other supernaturals since she was a teenager…”

“Wait, but how?” Erica called out.

“Well, apparently Nazis weren’t the lovely bunch we all thought they were,” Stiles snarked. “My grandmother was actually in the Warsaw ghetto, and she was assigned a job from the army. It seems they thought no one would believe a teenager talking about supernatural creatures, especially not when they were being killed by regular human soldiers on the streets, so they got her working for their secret project, a prison for supernaturals.”

“Wait, what?” Cora exclaimed with confusion. “Your grandma was a teenager in 1939? And she was actually involved in the war?”

“Yes, she was a teenager then, and pretty much everyone in Poland was involved in the war in some way. You can still see the effects of it to this day, it hasn’t actually been that long in the grand scheme of things. Actually, it only seems like it’s been so long because of technology going apeshit and progressing exponentially. I mean, before that…”

“Son, come back,” John said loudly enough to make Stiles snap his mouth shut.

“Right, topic for another day. Alright, let me try to summarise - Babcia was a badass teenager working in a Nazi supernatural prison so that they wouldn’t shoot her in the face for refusing to work for them, but she actually started taking notes and keeping records herself, managed to help a few prisoners escape because apparently, she’s the most amazing woman ever. After the war ended, she still kept in touch with those she helped run, and they in return gave her info of local packs. From what they gathered after the war, it seemed like the supernatural population was decimated almost as much as the Jewish population, which is not great, so the packs relied on humans to help them, and Babcia joined a human organisation that worked kinda like a supernatural HQ. So, that’s where she’s got all her knowledge from, which, Holy God, my grandmother is the baddest of asses.”

Erica nodded numbly in agreement as everyone took a few seconds to absorb all they found out about this sweet lady before them who had been feeding them and patting them on their cheeks. It was hard to reconcile that image with a teenager helping monsters escape Nazi prison.

“Anyway, Licho!” Stiles said to bring them back to the main topic. “So...not that much more than what we already have, but still some useful details. Again, it works on probability, and Babcia said the Licho is most likely why that zmora latched onto us and came back to BH with us last year.” Stiles then paused and bristled slightly with excitement, relieved to be sharing new information, “As for why it does what it does - the Licho literally feeds on negative emotions,” he chuckled before adding, “but not like a Dementor or anything. Like most living things, Licho is just trying to feel happy, and the hormones it needs to feel happy are created directly from the opposite hormones in human beings. So the more misery and suffering around it, the happier it feels. Apparently the Nazis started testing to see if the Licho could feel happy from other sources, but they never got anywhere for obvious reasons.”

“And another important part,” John interjected, “is the eye. Licho looks like an old woman with one eye, and the one eye thing is important - it’s basically the ‘evil eye.’ It’s a creature with no balance that only has an eye for misery and tragedy.”

“Well then,” Boyd said. “Still nothing on how to get rid of it?”

“Nope,” Stiles said, popping the ‘p’. “We’re gonna have to wing it.”

Outing his issues and getting support from everyone didn’t make Stiles’ problems magically go away. The group did their best to divide their days between going out on the town and working around the house and property for Grandma Stilinski. Stiles was the only exception. Even a few days later, he still felt the aftermath of his panic attack, so he’d been opting to stay behind every time anyone invited him out. 

He spent the next few days in a daze. He tried to find things to stay busy, but considering that he was sharing chores with a literal pack of werewolves, most of the time-consuming tasks were done within the first hour or two of each day. That left him with the glorious option of staring at the wall for hours on end; he couldn’t go with the others when his chest still felt tight anytime he breathed too hard. Honestly, he was afraid any little thing could set him off again, and  at the same time, he felt too numb to distract himself with something intellectual.

All this meant that he spent a lot more time with his grandmother or just… watching, making observations that very soon yielded results.

Derek went to town with his wolves only once, and it was only because Cora literally climbed onto his back and refused to get off until he got in the car. That two-hour outing was their shortest trip to town to date, and apart from it, Derek always stayed behind with his laptop or phone in hand. He made a point of spending time with everyone though. Stiles often saw Boyd enterDerek’s cabin with beer, Cora going to collect her brother for a walk, or even Erica forcing her alpha to sit through her show of ‘everything I have purchased today.’ Peter was the only one whose time with Derek was focused on work, which meant he spent the most time with his nephew, but even Stiles’ dad and grandmother got short visits every now and then.

Stiles was the only one Derek wasn’t spending time with, and, considering everything that happened he thought it was understandable given that it meant they’d have to talk about the kiss.

For younger Stiles, that kiss  was basically a wet dream come true. For current Stiles, it was just another thing he forced himself to stop thinking about on a regular basis. When he was sixteen, his crush on Derek was basically the same as crushing on Keanu Reeves - completely unattainable, so there was no harm in fantasising. It was different now. Now, Stiles could really fall for the guy, and that was dangerous.

So he understood why the alpha was avoiding him. And he didn’t hold a grudge over it, because it was certainly safer this way. However, that didn’t stop him from noticing Derek working himself to the bone. The time Derek spent with his packmates was always short and could barely count as a break, especially considering that he appeared to never sleep. When he questioned Isaac about it, Stiles found out that they traveled every now and then and this was the norm wherever they were -  Derek always stayed connected enough to answer everything his pack asked of him.

Which was exactly why Stiles found himself cornering Peter after dinner one day and to force the man on a walk.

“I must say, I expected more. I always thought your attempts to woo me would be more elaborate.”

Stiles squinted his eyes and stared at the man for a moment. “I actually can’t believe you’re the one I have to talk to about this,” he snorted. “But alas, that is the case. I want to talk to you about Derek.”

Peter shifted a little bit, his back a bit straighter and changing his expression to something more neutral than the self-satisfied smirk from the moment before. “What about Derek?”

“He’s running himself to the ground!” Stiles hissed, raising one arm to run his hand through his hair as he stopped walking. “The guy literally never gets any rest, he’s always working, and we’re literally on vacation right now!”

“I respectfully disagree, I would even claim he completely let himself go here.”

“Gaining a few pounds is not the same as relaxing!”

“A few?” Peter raised his eyebrows in mocking disbelief.

“What is your problem with his weight?” Stiles snapped. “Yes, he gained some weight, and he looks great, so you can shut up about it. Doesn’t mean he’s actually relaxed and from the amount of work he’s doing, I’m starting to doubt he even knows how to relax.”

“He’s just doing his job, young one,” Peter said in a flat tone as he resumed their walk, keeping Stiles at his back. “He’s Alpha Hale, his territory is one of the biggest in the Americas, he has over three thousand souls under his command. It’s an enormous responsibility.”

“Are you actually serious right now?” Stiles asked incredulously. Peter simply turned and raised his eyebrows at him in a silent ‘excuse you’. “OK, so, here’s the thing - no,” Stiles jumped in front of Peter to stop him from walking further and stepped closer as he continued. “A while ago I spoke to Derek about why you’re even allowed to hang around and what in God’s name made him forgive you. Derek said that sometimes you have to look at things from separate points of view - you have to differentiate between family and pack. Which is why, as a brother, he hates you for what you’ve done to Laura, but as a werewolf recognises that it was necessary for the good of the pack.”

“All you’re achieving right now is making me proud that my nephew understands his responsibilities so well.”

“Here’s the thing, though,” Stiles trudged on as if Peter never interrupted him. “Saying that there are scenarios where pack takes precedence over family implies that there are also moments when the opposite is true.”

Stiles levelled Peter with a steely gaze and leaned forward, almost close enough to press his nose against the wolf’s. “Derek is a werewolf, and the alpha to boot, sure. But he’s also just human. I shouldn’t have to tell you how bad it can get for the pack if he burns out, considering how volatile the situation still is and how any other alpha could take advantage of unrest. No, I’m gonna tell you to put your uncle-hat on for once and realise that Derek has a whole troop of people waiting to help him with running the pack and there’s literally no reason for him to run himself ragged. Sometimes, family is more important than pack and I would advise you to really look at how your nephew is doing.”

Stiles turned and stormed back towards the house, leaving Peter frozen on the spot.

“Well, I’ll be damned…” he muttered to himself. “It appears I was wrong.”

“I’m kinda surprised you agreed to get yourself dragged out here.”

Try as he might, Stiles had always found it impossible to stay silent. The drive here was already quiet and awkward, and there’s only so much a guy could take.

Somehow, his talk with Peter resulted in Peter talking Derek into visiting the Christmas market in the nearby town when everyone but Stiles was busy. While Stiles wasn’t upset about being the only one able to accompany Derek, he was stuck on why Peterwould do this, but he also knew Peter enough to know it was on purpose. It was just the question of what that purpose was.

“Well, he wasn’t wrong to say I should at least see a little bit of the country I’m visiting,” Derek murmured back, not really looking at Stiles, too busy admiring the clay pots and pans on display at the stall they stopped in front of.

“Did you want to buy something here?” Stiles asked since Derek refused to move from the stall.

“No, it’s just interesting. They look to actually be made using old methods.”

“How would you know?” Stiles inquired, his eyebrows rising almost to his hairline.

“I studied archeology.”

Stiles just stared at him without a word, which caused Derek to finally turn and look at him. Seeing his expression, Derek flushed and shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “I like history. I would just rather see it in person than read about it.”

“No, yeah, I get that,” Stiles rushed to explain. “I’m just kinda surprised you studied somewhere. I would’ve thought…” He trailed off, not really wanting to finish his sentence, and turning his eyes towards the display.

“I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Laura,” Derek replied softly. “It was something I was already interested in before… before. When we moved to New York, Laura forced me to finish high school and enrolled me in college. She tried her best to make us both move on and get back to normal. Without her, I don’t think…”

Stiles turned to look back at Derek and saw the man almost physically shut off from him. 

For a while in Sacramento, they actually started opening up to each other. It was a shock for Stiles that Derek was even capable of doing so. But ever since the kiss, Derek had been avoiding Stiles, and Stiles felt too awkward to try and talk to him. This was actually the first time they were alone with each other since that day, and Stiles had to wonder if Peter didn’t somehow know about what happened. 

Looking at Derek’s face now, seeing him close off after catching himself pouring his heart out to Stiles, made Stiles feel a whirlwind of emotions at once. He could feel his heart break at what they’d lost. He might've  even wished for more were it not for how happy he was with the easy camaraderie they somehow established. A camaraderie which was now gone. 

He was also angry at Derek, and blamed him for the current awkwardness between them. Stiles didn’t initiate the kiss. He didn’t ask to be kissed. Yes, it was his fantasy for years, but he didn’t encourage it in any way. That was all on Derek, so it was Derek’s fault that they now barely interacted.

Yet, since it was his fantasy for years, he was also excited that it had happened at all.

The biggest emotion though was the confusion. In Stiles’ mind it was an easy equation - person A kissing person B equals person A liking person B in a romantic sense. So why did Derek do it? Did he find Stiles attractive? Was it just something caused by gratefulness and relief that Stiles was safe? Was it something unintentional Derek was pushed into by his alpha-werewolfy instincts?

Stiles noticed they fell back into silence when he zoned out and disappeared inside his head, and still not moved from the stall. Since Derek said he wasn't interested in buying anything, Stiles turned on his heel and motioned for Derek to follow him to another one.

Christmas markets in towns and cities around Poland were very similar. There was always the key, Christmas-themed stuff, like mulled wine or roasted chestnuts being sold everywhere. But this was also a great marketing opportunity, so a lot of people set up shop to sell their merchandise.  Annually, every town square turned into a market filled with people selling their jewellery, candles, honey or cheese in the hopes that Christmas will help them earn their money. Every year, they succeeded.

As they moved from stall to stall, looking at the displays and sometimes stopping to buy something, they picked up the conversation again. It was more stilted, more guarded, but Stiles did what he could to alleviate the awkwardness and help Derek enjoy his day out.

They kept the conversation  limited to commenting on what they saw, but without noticing,  it moved to spotting items that would be good gifts for specific packmates then to more sensitive topics like their favourite Christmas memories. Stiles saw, again and again, how Derek shut himself up only to gravitate back into the conversation until Derek gave up and simply accepted that talking with Stiles meant opening up.

“Wait, why would Laura give you two gifts for Christmas?”

“Oh, that started when she was sixteen and insisted that she was old enough to give gifts, not just get them,” Derek chuckled. “She quickly realised that it’s quite a bit of money to buy something for everyone in the family, so she looked for deals to save up what she could. She started buying things that go together in some way, so she would buy it cheaper as a set, then separate the set to give as two gifts.”

“But why did she get you two things? Is it some special, werewolfy tradition? The son gets more?”

“No, it was because she was covering both my birthday and Christmas.”

“Hold on,” Stiles stopped and put his hand up. “You’re telling me it’s your birthday soon?”

“Actually, it’s today,” Derek smirked and started walking again, leaving Stiles with his mouth wide open.

“It’s today?!” Stiles finally exploded, making a number of people turn to stare at him. He smiled apologetically and half-jogged to catch up with Derek. “Today is your birthday? And this is how we’re celebrating? This is unacceptable!”

“Stiles, calm down,” Derek shook his head at him. “I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in years. This is actually more of a celebration than I expected.”

“Nope, no, not acceptable!” Stiles shot forward, grabbed Derek’s arm and started dragging him towards the centre of the market. “You’re getting mulled wine and manning a table, give me five minutes and I will turn this into a birthday!”

Derek let out a small chuckle as he watched Stiles whirl around and disappear among the crowd, before he turned and obligingly bought two mugs of mulled wine and brought them over to a free table. He didn’t even wait the five minutes before Stiles came back, hands laden with his spoils. He somehow managed to find small, individual Christmas cakes, and evidently came back to the candle stall and purchased the only thin candle Derek saw there, bright red and resembling a spiral straw. Stiles stuck the candle in the middle of the bundt cake, then stuck his hand back into his bag to produce two Christmas hats.

“I am not wearing that,” Derek said with the most flat face.

“There were no birthday hats anywhere, you’re wearing the Santa hat.”

“Stiles, I am not…

“Did I ask?” Stiles ripped off his beanie and stuck one of the Santa hats on his own head, before leaning forward and forcing the other one on Derek’s head. “You’re wearing the hat and you’re gonna be all jolly and nice. Now give me your lighter, you can’t light your own birthday candle.”

Derek sighed expansively and fished the lighter out of his pocket to give to Stiles. He expected to watch Stiles struggle to use it and was fairly surprised at the proficiency with which Stiles sparked the lighter and lit the candle. “Do you smoke?” he asked incredulously. 

“No, but I had to learn to use a lighter considering the many times I’ve had to set things on fire. Oh…” Stiles whipped his head back up with an apologetic expression, but Derek didn’t feel the usual pang of worry when someone said something about setting fires. 

Stiles had long-ago proven that he would only use fire to help Derek, not hurt him.

Seeing that he didn’t ruin everything with his slip up, Stiles went back to task and pushed the cake towards Derek. He then quickly stuck his hand in one of his pockets and produced a small vial, the contents of which he poured into Derek’s mug.

“Usually you try not to let your victim see when you pour drugs into their drink.”

“It’s aconite, shut up, you’re getting a buzz,” Stiles smirked as he put the empty vial back into his pocket. “Make a wish, birthday boy.”

Derek spared a few seconds to look at Stiles, to take in his earnest and happy expression, before he focused his eyes on the candle in front of him.

He hadn’t made a birthday wish since the fire. Even when they got back together in Sacramento with Peter and Cora, he never did anything for his birthday. He made sure Cora had a big bash with a whole day dedicated to what she wanted; Peter always got a bottle of expensive scotch and they’d sit together for hours, playing chess or sometimes going to a show. Erica always got her night out clubbing  even though the noises and smells were terrible on their werewolf senses, and every year they celebrated Isaac with a huge family dinner at the restaurant of his choice. Boyd’s birthday was always the calmest, mostly consisting of a day at the lake and a romantic evening with just Erica.

Back in New York, with Laura, they didn’t celebrate their birthdays because no matter how much she wanted to go back to normal, it still felt wrong to celebrate anything when most of their family had been turned to ash. After Laura’s death, it just wasn’t important. And now, even though he had family and pack around him, and they were more stable and organized, he got into the mindset of having to earn things. He had to earn respect as an alpha, he had to earn trust as a brother and friend. A birthday celebration was not something that he felt he’d earned in any way.

But seeing Stiles facing him, glowing and so animated simply because he’d been able to do something kind for Derek, felt like a reward in and of itself. It also made Derek question whether he really did need to work for every little thing in life. Stiles, despite everything that happened to him, still believed that people deserve good things just because. And evidently, he still felt like it was his job to make those good things happen.

Stiles might’ve changed, might’ve seen himself as broken, but he was still the same Stiles. And that could only spell trouble for Derek.

I wish things were simpler, Derek thought as he closed his eyes and breathed in, I wish I could make your life easier without feeling guilty.

He exhaled, putting out the candle to the sound of Stiles whooping with glee. He smirked at the man’s youthfulness and felt a pang of regret. If he wasn’t an alpha, he would be actively trying to get together with Stiles. Maybe he would even be able to have a peaceful life, no major responsibility, just the two of them, maybe a full-time job... As always, he felt guilty after thinking like that because he also wouldn’t give the pack up for anything.

“Okay, now a quick toast and then we chug, I’ve got a surprise for you,” Stiles pulled him out of his musings as he raised his mug. “So, I’m gonna address the elephant in the room a bit - I know things have been weird and awkward recently, but that doesn’t change the fact that I like you and I’m glad to know you. Despite everything that’s happened, I am really, really happy to have met you, and I’m thankful that you were born. I feel honoured to be able to celebrate your birthday with you. I’m just sorry this is so last minute, you deserve more than a small babka with a random candle stuck in it.”

“A small what?”

“Babka, that’s the name of the cake, shut up,” Stiles smiled bashfully. “Anyway - happy birthday, Derek.”

They clinked their mugs together and Derek took a sip with a smile. When he started lowering the mug back down, Stiles shot his hand out and pushed the bottom back up, forcing Derek to keep drinking. Evidently, he was serious about the chugging part.

They downed their drinks and Stiles jumped up, dragging Derek behind him to walk back towards the stall with the clay pots and pans. Closer to the outskirts of the town square than the other stalls, it was in an alley between two buildings rather than in the row of stalls surrounding the main square. Stiles said something in Polish to the merchant at the stall who then called out to someone and motioned for the two to follow him.

It turned out that their stall was in such an unusual place because  it was right next to their workshop. The back of the stall met the front door of the building and when they walked in Derek was shocked to find old-style kilns, pottery wheels and all-natural paints.  He turned towards Stiles with his eyebrows raised in question.

“You’ve correctly observed that they make their wares using old, historical methods,” Stiles started. “Turns out this is what they do, they studied methods used for different things such as pottery, metal and glass works and even clothing, and they recreate them as well as they can. They also offer workshops, and they agreed to take you through some things as a birthday gift,” he finished with a blinding smile, reminiscent of the way he smiled after they tried to lure Peter to the school with Scott’s howl.

“Are you serious?” Derek exhaled just as a burly man walked up to them and introduced himself in English. Since apparently almost everyone in Poland spoke English.

They spent the next hour walking around with the burly man as their guide, before he led them towards one pottery wheel and told Derek he would be making his own creation. He pulled out some papers which looked to be schematics of medieval Polish pottery and explained the process to  Derek. At this point Stiles almost regretted his gift a little, since he didn’t predict that he’d be subjected to the sight of sweaty, bulging muscles as Derek worked the clay and helped with the glass work.

They ended up spending a long time in that workshop. Stiles was pleasantly shocked to see Derek so alive as he spoke with their host about differences in manufacturing across Europe throughout history, but at the same time he was proud of himself for being  the cause. Stiles had spent so much time feeling guilty and punishing himself for causing pain, it was great to know he caused joy, especially for Derek.

Their way back was more relaxed. They actually talked about their day and Derek had a small smile almost glued to his face. They welcomed the transition from the bustling and loud market square to the car filled with their voices and some background music, to the absolute silence surrounding Grandma Stilinski’s house, so when they climbed out of the car they fell into a comfortable silence again. It was late and they were further out from civilization there, surrounded by trees and snow. With everyone most likely asleep given the hour, the only light sources were the moon and the Christmas lights that Grandma Stilinski had them drape onto the dead trees and cabins adorning the property. 

Stiles felt compelled to walk Derek to his cabin before he made his way to his bedroom. He put on a brave face most days, but since his freak out he could tell everyone was paying more attention to him, which he absolutely hated. Having a day to focus, the good kind of focus, on someone else made all the difference and Stiles didn’t want the day to end, so he walked with Derek in companionable silence until they reached his door. Derek paused and looked at Stiles with a small smile. He opened his mouth to say something, possibly to thank him, but he didn’t get the chance.

Stiles knew he was probably about to ruin the day he just about managed to make special for Derek. But it was the first time in years the darkness he felt around him was dimmed, making him feel peaceful  and calm. The Christmas lights around the trees made him feel warm inside instead of reminding him of fireflies and the Oni . For once, the snow on the ground, undisturbed apart from their own footprints, didn’t remind him of the fight inside his own head.

All Stiles could focus on was Derek’s soft expression, the first true sign of relaxation he’d ever seen on the man, the twinkling lights reflecting in his ridiculous, multi-colored eyes and the stark snow that stuck to his hair and leather-clad shoulders.

The man in front of him was gorgeous, dedicated, caring and good. Both of them had a similar problem with caring about others too much and not caring about themselves enough, which meant Derek was also one of the very few people who really understood a unique side of Stiles. Seeing Derek tonight, like this, celebrating his birthday with him, it made Stiles want.

He was definitely being selfish, but it was almost out of his control. His body moved of its own accord, stepped closer and leaned forward. He had the presence of mind to move slowly, give Derek time to back out, flinch, or otherwise show any sign he didn’t want this, but nothing like that happened. He let Stiles lean the rest of the way until their lips connected.

Where their first kiss, the one initiated by Derek, was urgent and desperate, and worst of all - over very quickly, this one was almost the complete opposite. Stiles was hesitant and unsure, he felt selfish for going for it, but Derek soon responded. He moved closer to Stiles, his hands rising to grab Stiles’ face, and returned the kiss just as slowly and carefully.

They kissed like they were walking on thin ice, as if one wrong move would send them into icy depths, and yet at the same time they kept at it like they couldn’t stop. At some point Stiles raised his own hands to grab Derek’s forearms, grounding himself and willing his body to stop shaking from feeling so overwhelmed. He felt Derek’s fingers dig into his cheeks desperately and , in complete contrast to how cautiously his lips moved against Stiles’ mouth.

After what felt like an eternity and a millisecond simultaneously, Stiles broke the kiss, moving back just enough to separate  their lips.

“Happy birthday,” he breathed against Derek’s lips before he took a full step back, letting the werewolf’s hands drop from where they were holding him and turning around.

He felt Derek’s eyes on his back the whole walk back to the main house.

“Can you please focus on the important topic?” Erica snapped. “I want to talk about it. Are you really telling me you didn’t notice a thing? I swear something’s happening there! You must’ve seen it at the Christmas dinner!”

Boyd and Erica were unpacking in the Beacon Hills apartment that the pack bought for easier access to town than the remote Hale house offered.  The couple were the first to do a three-month stint there in accordance with the new system the pack put in place after coming back from their trip to Poland.

Even though they still had no idea how to defeat the Licho, Beacon Hills was still part of their territory. Upon returning, they developed a  detailed map illustrating how far the Licho’s influence stretched and stationed some of their pack soldiers just outside the boundary. The pack members were also living in Beacon Hills on rotation as  first responders, with the soldiers being the backup. Stiles and Lydia came up with the system using barely understandable mathematics to determine how to achieve the lowest probability of having to face a dire situation while still in the eye of the storm.

“I mean, seriously, did you not feel the intensity when they exchanged wishes?” Erica asked as she continued to put her clothes in the closet.

A few days after Derek’s birthday came Christmas Eve. In Poland, it was the most celebrated day featuring an elaborate, twelve course dinner that started when the first star lit the sky, as per tradition. All twelve dishes were vegetarian, also something to do with tradition and something the Stilinski’s apparently didn’t fully agree with, so dinner that day lasted for hours - the twelve vegetarian courses were eaten first and once the clock struck midnight, marking the end of Christmas Eve, Grandma Stilinski came out with the meats.

Erica still felt stuffed.

Another part of a traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner was the beginning. Before anyone sat to eat, Christmas wafers were distributed as a representation of bread to be broken with others. Then they were told to walk up to each and every person present to exchange wishes. According to John, a lot of big families simply did one overall wish to everyone present whilst everyone ate their own wafers, but Grandma Stilinski loved that part of Christmas and never strayed from it no matter how many people were present.

So they walked around, talking to literally every pack member  one-on-one breaking off pieces of the wafer and eating them while exchanging wishes. Erica was referencing that moment, the exchanging of wishes between Stiles and Derek. They both spoke quietly enough to make it hard for the werewolf to hear them among the chatter, but Erica could feel the intensity even without hearing the words.

“Hun, I really didn’t pay that much attention to them. I would really like to get back to the other topic, though,” Boyd said dryly.

“Bunny, can you stop that?” Erica replied, irritated. “You’re quite literally hounding me.”

“I just want to make sure you graduate!” Boyd exclaimed. “We were away for a whole month and I know you didn’t do any studying in Poland. Is it really that wrong of me to make sure my girlfriend passes her classes?”

“Bunny, I’m fine!” Erica yelled, rounding on him. “We’re here for three months now with nothing to do, I’ll catch up, so drop it!”

“I’m just trying to be supportive, why are you getting mad?”

“I’m getting mad because you’re acting like my fucking parent, monitoring me like this! I get that you want me to succeed or whatever, and I'm glad you care about me, but this isn't even your business. My schooling is for me and I'm the only one that should be so involved in it. I don't need you breathing down my neck every five seconds!”

“I’m just trying to be supportive!”

“There's a difference between being supportive and nagging. You should learn it.”

“Right,” he said bitterly. “Your schooling is for you. So no one ever is allowed to ask you about it, because the second they ask, they’re nagging. At the end of the day you’ll just do whatever you want because that’s the only thing that matters,” Boyd turned and stormed towards the door. “I’m going to see Parrish. You do what you always do - whatever the fuck you want.”

Erica watched as Boyd slammed the door behind him. She was slightly shocked since Boyd almost never swore. It made her wonder if there was more to Boyd's response than she knew. Because how was she the bitch here exactly? She’d always made it abundantly clear that she was not the academic type and the only reason she was even graduating early was because she wanted to finish school as soon as she possibly could. And it wasn’t just that Boyd already knew this, but also… what did it matter? She knew she wouldn't be looking for a job to instead fully focus on the pack. Derek had told them that it was their choice  if they wanted to go off and have a career outside of the pack, but they were also free to treat their roles in the pack as full-time jobs which was exactly what Erica was planning to do.

Fuming, Erica let the clothes drop from her hands onto the bed and walked towards the kitchen. She took a glass from the cupboard, filled it with water only to spill it all right in front of the dishwasher. She then filled the glass with water again and sipped as she walked back to the bedroom.

Boyd was gone for over an hour, which still wasn’t enough time for her to fully cool off, but she knew they would make up before falling asleep, like they usually did. At that very moment though they were both still too annoyed at each other for immediate apologies.

“Parrish says hi,” Boyd said dryly as he walked in.

“Cool,” Erica replied without turning towards him. “Oh, by the way, there’s water on the floor in front of the dishwasher.”

Erica was a master of lying to werewolves. The trick was to tell the truth in a way that still let the wolf in question draw their own conclusions. She’d never say ‘the dishwasher is leaking’ because she knew it wasn’t true, but there truly was water on the floor.

“Goddamnit,” Boyd muttered under his breath, heading into the kitchen. “It’s a brand new apartment, how is the dishwasher already leaking?”

She watched Boyd get down on the floor and open the dishwasher to look inside with a smirk on her face. She’d tell him there’s no leak as soon as  it stopped being funny.

Two hours later, as she looked at Boyd cursing on the floor, surrounded by dishwasher parts, she started thinking it might never stop being funny.

A month in and all was peaceful. Both Erica and Boyd continued their work for the pack, maintained their studies from afar, but otherwise  didn’t have much else to do. Even with Parrish keeping them up apprised of any and all updates, it still seemed that peace had descended upon Beacon Hills.

So of course it had to end dramatically.

“I’m sorry, a what?” Erica called into her phone.

“From the glimpse I got? It looked like a fox, but the tail was… weird,” Boyd heard Parrish detail over the line.

“So… fingernails.”

“Yes, the end of the fox’s tail had fingernails. Any ideas?”

“Literally, none,” Erica replied, catching Boyd’s eye with a helpless shrug. “Okay, let us call around and see what we can find.”

“So…” Boyd started as Erica hung up and looked at him, confused. “A fox with fingernails on the tail?”

“I know, I’m tempted to check if Parrish hasn’t been getting high,” she scoffed in response. “But, still gotta check. Do you wanna call Derek or should I?”

“Just call and put it on speaker.” 

Erica set the phone down on the coffee table in front of the couch she was on, hitting the speaker button just as Boyd collapsed next to her and threw his arm around her shoulders for a cuddle.

“You guys are still alive?”

“Your sense of humor is honestly morbid,” Erica responded to Derek’s greeting as Boyd smirked. “According to Parrish, we got a mutant-fox situation here. We got any info on supernatural foxes?”

“Give me a minute,” Derek murmured and they heard him put the phone down and walk away from it.

A few minutes later they heard three sets of footsteps coming back. Assuming one of the new sets belonged to Peter, Erica excitedly mouthed “It's Stiles!” while shooting a  meaningful glance at Boyd. 

“Okay, give me the details. What do you know about this fox?” Derek said.

“From what Parrish told us, it looked like a “long fox”, so basically a dachshund fox, with a weirdly weird tail tipped with fingernails. Go figure,” Erica rolled her eyes.

“Fingernails or claws?” came Stiles’ voice, and Erica shook both fists in the air, victorious. 

“I don’t know,” she said with a wide, predatory smile. “What we told you is all Parrish told us. We could try to find and check it out?”

“Don’t,” Stiles said sharply. “There aren’t many types of supernatural foxes, but all of them are nasty. It sounds like a nguruvilu, but don’t approach until I can confirm.”

“Sure,” Erica said easily. “We’re gonna wait for you to get back to us. Now come on, what’s been happenin’?”

Boyd rolled his eyes and got up as Erica tried to lure Stiles in for some gossip.

Ever since the discoveries at Christmas Erica had made it her mission to bring back Sarcastic Stiles. There were glimpses of his pre-Nogitsune personality, but most of the time she could tell that held himself back from talking in situations in which he would have before.  Erica decided it was her job to make Stiles confident enough again to open his mouth.

They stayed on the phone for another twenty minutes before Erica finished needling Stiles for information and hung up.

Boyd made his way back to the couch with two cups of tea and looked at her with uncertainty as he set them down. “You’re not waiting until they call back, are you?”

“Stiles himself said we need more information! What’s the harm in checking it out?” She grinned as she picked up her cup. “You aren’t gonna fight me on this?”

“If I fight you on this, you will just go without telling me,” Boyd replied impassively. “Safer to just follow you and make sure you don’t piss off the wrong people.”

“Aww, I love you too, Bunny,” Erica leaned over to pat his cheek. “Come on then, let’s check this fox out!”

On their way to the Preserve, Boyd texted Parrish to meet them there so he could show them where he last saw the fox. The three of them walked through the woods, chatting easily and without worry because, while unknown, the creature had yet to kill anyone. “There it is,” Parrish said calmly and pointed to the animal swimming in the river in front of them. “It doesn’t seem aggressive. But when John and Stiles were still here we would keep each other updated on everything we saw, just in case.”

“Oh my God, it’s so cute!” Erica squeaked as she balanced on the balls of her heels. “I’m gonna pet it!”

“Erica,” Boyd sighed. “How about we wait to see if it can rip our throats out?”

Erica completely ignored him and started making her way towards the water. Boyd noticed her eyes were completely focused on the creature, and the complete lack of reaction made it seem like she didn’t hear a word he just said. “Erica?” he called after her. “Erica, can you hear me? Stop!”

She still didn’t react, just continued to walk towards the river. The water was shallow, so she just stepped right in, but that didn’t seem right - Boyd remembered this river, he used to come here for picnics with his family, and this river was always very deep.

His doubts were confirmed when as he followed her, hoping to stop her, she suddenly collapsed under water.

Boyd yelled and broke into a sprint after her. She had not been kidding about her fear of water, and one side effect of her fear was that she could not swim. He threw himself into the river, focused on the spot where she disappeared, diving underwater and using all his strength to reach her as soon as possible.

He didn’t count on the currents. There shouldn’t be strong currents, there never were before, but now it felt like swimming against a tsunami. He saw a flash of blonde and tried to push his body towards that spot, but it was no use.

Suddenly, the water felt like it was bubbling. It was hot, too hot , but in his panic Boyd ignored his instinct to jump out of the boiling water and kept trying to reach Erica. It was getting easier despite the heat, and he only realised what happened when he was running towards her instead of swimming.

Parrish was walking towards the creature, which was peacefully sitting on the other bank of the river, watching them, and Parrish was literally completely on fire. Both Boyd and Erica were downstream from him, and there was no water reaching them - it was turning to steam around Parrish.

Boyd didn’t waste time staring, just sprinted over to Erica and scooped her up, turning on his heel and going back to where they came from. She was coughing violently, but she was awake. Boyd just held her as she emptied her lungs of the water she inhaled, looking at the scene before him over her shoulder.

Parrish, still on fire, was slowly making his way towards the fox. He didn’t need to turn the water to steam now that they were out, but kept it up as a shield against the creature. He was walking slow, like a predator, obviously trying to scare it into running away instead of trying to fight it.

In a blink of an eye, the fox whipped its tail towards Parrish in a supernaturally fast swipe. The five foot tail hit its target perfectly despite Parrish being  feet away. Parrish paused at once and turned his head to look over his left shoulder.

All three of them watched as the deputy’s arm separated from his body and fell uselessly to the ground.

Boyd snarled and released Erica to rush back towards the river. “Get back!” he shouted at Parrish. “Jordan! Fuck that thing, get back over here!”

Parrish turned to glance quickly at the fox before he took a few steps backwards, then started running back. He was still on fire, the water still turning to steam around him, but as he made his way back the river returned behind him. His arm got washed away, the water turning pink with his blood, but they all ignored it, focusing instead on making sure they were as far away from the fox as quickly as they could.

Once Parrish reached the bank, Boyd grabbed him by his right shoulder and pulled him away from the water and towards Erica. He faced the two of them to quickly assess the injuries - Erica had burns on her skin from the boiling water, but they were healing; Parrish obviously had a big, open wound where his arm used to be, now steadily dripping blood.

Boyd had just opened his mouth to say they should run when he felt a cutting sensation on his face and the world suddenly turned black.

Stiles never imagined this would be something he could have. He never imagined this was something possible on this plane of existence.

He was on the top floor of the Sacramento pack building sitting on a massive couch with almost everyone he cared for surrounding him. He sat between Cora and Isaac, with Lydia sitting at the far left end of the couch with Jackson, each  trying to outdo the rest in snarky comments mocking the movie of their choosing - Twilight.

Peter and John were bonding off to the side which was a source of great worry for Stiles. Even Derek was around albeit hiding in dark corners paying more attention to his phone and laptop than anything else.

Stiles couldn’t help thinking they chose this specific movie on purpose - he had made it known in the past that he had many opinions about it. He wasn’t stupid, he could see how everyone tried to coax him back to the way he used to be, the snarky little shit who annoyed everyone.

He could never be the same again, but it did help him feel less guilty whenever he let himself have fun.

He was just opening his mouth to launch into a monologue about the inherent creepiness in the whole imprinting idea in the movie when Derek’s phone rang for only the second time since he’d returned. 

Derek picked up and spoke quietly to not disturb the rest of them even though everyone’s eyes were already on him.A second later his attempt became moot  as he jolted up to join the rest of the group and activated the speaker phone.

“Everyone’s here, start from the beginning,” he grunted to the phone as he placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch.

“Fuck that, no, there’s no beginning, we’re coming back! We’re out, okay?!” came Erica’s frantic voice.

“Slow down and tell us what happened, goddamnit,” Derek snarled, red bleeding into his eyes.

There were a few seconds of silence as they all  listened to Erica breathing shakily, attempting to calm herself before she spoke.

“Okay, fine,” she bit out. “We went to check out the fox to get you more information…”

“I told you to stay put!”

“Yes, you did, and we didn’t!” Erica growled back. “Can you shut the fuck up for a goddamn minute? We just went to check it out, we weren’t gonna attack it! But this thing has some voodoo shit.  It was waiting by the river and it hypnotised me or something, and I almost fucking drowned. Parrish had to cover Boyd when Boyd tried getting me out of the water. Next thing we know, that fucking thing took off Parrish’s arm, oh God, and it sliced Boyd’s face, it’s like someone just cut off half of it, I can’t, we gotta come back, I’m getting Boyd in the car right now and we’re coming back…”

“No, don’t,” Lydia interrupted, leaning forward towards the phone. “From the information we have so far we know the Licho works on probability and you’ve just had something bad happen to you, so the odds of something bad happening again are very low, it’s like lightning striking in the same place twice. Your relief team would be more at risk than you right now.

“What?!” Erica shrieked. “I don’t give a fuck about probability! Boyd doesn’t have an ear! He’s healing over, but the ear isn’t growing back, do you understand that?!”

“You guys are alive. The odds of something happening to you again are low. Anyone we send over in your place could possibly die, it’s the most logical course of action right now.”

“Erica, give us a minute, okay? Don’t get in the car yet, you’re not in a state to drive. Just breathe and give us a moment,” Stiles cut in, leaning forward to hit mute before he sternly turned to Lydia. Gone was Snarky Stiles , Serious Stiles was now in his place. “Lydia, you have to stop this. Erica is right, they need to come back.”

“Are you kidding me?” She asked with her eyebrows raised in disbelief. “It makes no sense, they are literally the safest people to be in Beacon Hills right now.”

“Just because the numbers look promising  doesn’t mean it’s the right course of action,” Stiles replied calmly, but with a steely edge to his voice. “You heard her voice, you could hear how freaked out Erica is - if we force them to stay in Beacon Hills, all you’re achieving is lowering morale and hurting the trust the pack’s been rebuilding. Fuck, making them distrust their alpha for not taking care of themis way worse than moving the schedule up a little.”

“They’ll get a boost in morale once they realize they haven’t been attacked in a while. Not everyone has a… delicate disposition, Stiles,” Lydia sneered at him.

Stiles’ face twisted into an unnaturally neutral expression. His eyes glinted with resolve as he sat straighter, his whole posture rigid like a soldier.

“I am not gonna listen to you just to avoid hurting your feelings,” he started quietly, sitting completely still. “I know you don't take it well when you're not right. The smallest little thing is personal with you because you always need to prove you know the most out of everyone in the room; but this time appeasing your ego could cost lives!” At the end of his speech, Stiles was standing, staring Lydia down with the same neutral expression. 

She tried to stand her ground, staring him down right back, but the soft pink tinge to her cheeks was a clear sign that she lost that round. They stared at each other for a moment before Lydia gave the barest of nods, conceding to Stiles and letting the tension dissipate.

Only then did they remember the rest of the room around them. Stiles lost his posture and turned to Derek awkwardly. “I’m sorry man, we got carried away… your call, obviously.”

“No, that was good,” Derek replied. “It was good to hear both sides, and I agree with you, Stiles. Let’s bring them home,” he said with a small smile thrown to Stiles before he turned towards Peter. “Do you have people available for a switch before we send the next team over?”

“Yes, I will call the perimeter to have two of their people go to the town itself.”

“Great,” Derek turned back to the table and unmuted the phone. “Erica, you’re good to come back. You sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m okay,” she replied in a much calmer tone. “I wasn’t actually hurt.”

“Good. What about Parrish?”

“I asked, but he wants to stay,” she snorted, unable to actually keep the laughter in. “He said that he can still light shit up without his arm. He was actually wondering if his missing arm will still catch on fire when he does.”

“Jesus Christ, is he a psychopath?” Derek asked incredulously, looking at Stiles.

“Derek, we live in Beacon Hills,” Stiles smirked. “We’re all socio paths.”

“Erica, haul your ass back,” Derek ended the call without waiting for Erica’s response.

It was a risky move, Derek thought to himself as he parked the car outside the Beacon Hills apartment building, getting ready to bring the groceries in. Preparation was required, he was a grown man, one trip was all he was allowed.

The risky move in question was the next team sent to Beacon Hills, which obviously included him, as well as Peter, John and Stiles. When Erica and Boyd came back, and they saw the state of the man, Derek wanted to punch himself for sending them as the first team. He should’ve gone first, judged the situation himself, rather than risk his immediate betas, his Neuri. There was no way he wasn’t going to include himself in the next team.

He included Peter as well because they really needed to strategise. They had just implemented their plan after coming back from Poland, and it went to shit right away. Peter had to get some first-hand experience in the eye of the storm instead of relying on third party accounts for his plans.

John essentially demanded to join them to relieve Parrish. While the hellhound could easily still fight the supernatural, his day to day life has changed majorly with one arm missing. Even desk duty at the station was harder for the man, and he was the one covering for the sheriff, so the sheriff had to come back and help his deputy.

Stiles refused to let John out of his sight.

It was a bigger team than they agreed on when they first planned the Beacon Hills defense system. The teams were supposed to be two people, three at most and only in critical situations.

To have the alpha, the war advisor, the justice advisor and… Stiles in the trenches was extremely risky.

Not that Stiles didn’t have a role in the pack. It was just that, to Derek, Stiles as himself was simply most important.

He got out of the car and walked around to the trunk, starting the very difficult task of hanging all the bags on his arms. He had to buy enough for four people, two of whom are werewolves. The difficulty here was not the weight, he could obviously carry that much without a problem, it was in arranging the bags so that he could fit them all without breaking any. Derek wasn’t in the mood to pick up broken glass from concrete. He locked the car by pressing the necessary button with his teeth and started making his way inside while still thinking about the situation.

Too many important people in one place, a dangerous place at that. But it couldn’t be avoided, they had to do it this way so they could better plan for the future. The Licho had already been in Beacon Hills for years and God only knew how much longer it would stick around. He had to be smart about this.

He finally made his way inside the apartment and put all the bags on the kitchen counter. It was just him and Stiles in there at the moment - With John at the station and Peter out scouting, it was just him and Stiles there at the moment.

Technically, they weren’t all staying in the apartment. Derek preferred it to his loft which, like the Hale House, was too remote. He wanted to be in a position to get anywhere he needed as quickly as possible. Peter technically had his own place, which he disappeared to very often, and John was mostly at the station anyway, and when he wasn’t, he went back to his house out of habit. 

Stiles was the only one to actually stay in the apartment with Derek - it was a three bedroom place,so it wasn’t an issue, and considering the pull-out couch in the living room, all four of them could be staying there comfortably. The first few days, Derek felt a ray of hope that maybe Stiles wanted to be close to him - before forcing that ray of hope to die, as well as realising that Stiles was avoiding Scott.

Stiles took some sort of leave from college - Derek wasn’t clear on the details of how that worked - and threw himself a hundred percent into research. He barely went outside, and he hadn’t contacted anyone from the group still in Beacon Hills to let them know he was back in town.

It wasn’t as awkward as before. They hadn’t talked about the second kiss, either, or about the intense and charged wish exchange at Christmas, but they were talking again as if nothing happened. In a weird way, by initiating the second kiss, Stiles evened the playing field - they were both equally embarrassed and scared, so they could metaphorically laugh it off and continue on.

Which of course meant snarking and bickering in between trying to figure out what’s trying to kill them. 

“Stiles!” he shouted. “Get over here and help put this stuff away!”

Stiles flopped into the kitchen, apparently tripping on the carpet, and threw Derek a bashful smile which quickly froze on his face.

“Oh no,” he moaned. “Not this shirt. Please, for the love of God, burn it.”

“What?” Derek furrowed his brows and looked at his top. “What’s wrong with this shirt?”

“It makes no sense!” Stiles exclaimed, making wild gestures towards the garment in question.

“How does a shirt not make sense?”

“It has a zipper and buttons!”

Derek stared at him in silence for a moment. “And?”

“It’s illogical, Derek! It lacks logic!”

“How does a shirt lack logic?” he asked, perplexed.

“Because it has both a zipper and buttons!”

“Stiles,” Derek said slowly. “Pretty much every pair of jeans in existence has both a zipper and buttons.”

“That’s different!” Stiles flailed. “In jeans, both have a function! In your shirt, the buttons are useless! Why did you even buy it?”

“I don’t know, it was cheap and looked comfortable,” Derek shrugged. “Seriously, how does a shirt bother you this much?”

“Because it makes no sense!” Stiles wailed dramatically. “Look, it has a zipper at the collar right? And when the zipper is down it turns the shirt into a v-neck. Logical, useful, practical. But then!” he suddenly shouted with vigor. “Then there’s the buttons! Three buttons on one side of the zipper! With no button holes in sight!”

“I’m very close to calling your father since you’re clearly having a psychotic episode,” Derek deadpanned.

“Zip or buttons, Derek?!” Stiles cried, now committed to his melodramatic persona. “Why are the buttons there? What is their purpose? They do nothing, Derek! The buttons do nothing! They’re just there! Why?”

“Okay,” Derek muttered. “This is actually very useful. Apparently, if I ever need you distracted, I can just wear this shirt and that’s all you can focus on.”

“Of course that’s all I can focus on, this shirt is infuriating!”

“Oh wow, the shirt infuriates you? I could make money selling it.”

Stiles squinted his eyes at Derek, seeing the man’s smirk. “Derek. Dude. The buttons are sewn on one side of the zipper. There are no button holes anywhere. They don’t button anything together. Why? Is it just commitment to the vibe?” he suddenly perks up. “Are you just doing it for the aesthetic? Oh, I can really see the relation to Peter now, the son of a bitch would do something like that as well. I swear, you are the most dramatic family I’ve ever met.”

“We’re dramatic?” Derek asked, his eyebrows disappearing to his hairline. “You’re having a meltdown because of my shirt.”

“Your stupid, illogical shirt.”

“I’m starting to love it, actually. I think it’s my new favourite shirt.”

“Fuck you, Derek!” Stiles bellowed. “Fuck you and your stupid shirt! This madness needs to end!”

“I’ll make a fortune on this,” Derek said with wonder in his voice. “I will market it as ‘the shirt that breaks Stiles’ and break bank.”

“Okay, that’s it!” Stiles declared decisively. “This thing has to die. Get over here.”

Derek had to suppress a laugh as he watched Stiles dig out a pair of scissors from the drawer and start advancing slowly towards him. “Stiles, let’s talk about this,” he sniggers. “You don’t want to do this. It’s not worth it; do you really want to murder a man because of his shirt?”

“I’m not murdering a man,” Stiles murmured and suddenly jumped forward, making Derek jerk back and hit his back against the kitchen island, grabbed the hem of the shirt and sliced through it with the scissors. “I’m murdering the shirt.”

There was a pause as they both looked down at the ruined shirt on Derek’s chest - Stiles sliced through the whole thing, from the hem to the collar, so it was now held up only by the sleeves.

“You know,” Derek started, his voice unintentionally lower and more breathy. “There are easier ways to get me out of a shirt.”

“Yeah, well,” Stiles looked up from the ruined shirt to look at Derek’s face with an intensity that wasn’t there just moments before. “It worked, didn’t it?”

When he thought about this moment later, Derek for the life of him wasn’t able to say who moved first. One moment, they were looking at each other, feeling the tension in the air, and the next moment he could feel Stiles’ hands in his hair, his own hands gripping Stiles’ waist, all while their tongues fought for dominance.

Derek growled and pushed against Stiles until he pinned him against the fridge. He could hear some of the bags fall on the floor behind him, but he was too distracted to care, especially when Stiles grabbed the remnants of his top and started tugging aggressively, determined to rip the rest of it to shreds in order to get it off Derek. He pulled his arms back just enough to let the shirt fall to the floor before he returned his hands back to Stiles’ waist, trailing them upwards and taking Stiles’ top along, while dipping his head to press frantic kisses on Stiles’ neck.

He could feel Stiles’ wild pulse beneath his lips, which only filled him with more urgency. He gave up on trying to remove Stiles’ shirt safely and essentially ripped it apart, and then immediately moved his hands to the button of Stiles’ jeans. Stiles was still clawing at his scalp, his own head thrown back to give Derek access to his neck, already gasping and moaning as if he was being fucked. 

Derek never claimed to be a patient man, but even the little patience he had was out of the window at that moment. As soon as he managed to release the offending button, he bent to grab Stiles’ thighs and lifted him, keeping Stiles’ back anchored against the fridge. He manhandled Stiles until the human was completely in the air, his legs thrown over Derek’s shoulders, which put his crotch right in Derek’s face. 

He wasted no time in leaning in and inhaling, then taking Stiles in his mouth. He was surrounded by the scent that had been driving him crazy for years in its purest form, which made him feel drunk and high at the same time. He moved with wild abandon, spurred on by Stiles’ yelps, all his worries completely forgotten, until he felt his fangs lengthen while he had Stiles’ erection deep in his throat.

“Oh, fuck!” Stiles bucked, his scent somehow oozing even more arousal. “Oh holy fucking lord, fuck, yes!”

It felt like emotional whiplash - one second, he was drowning in Stiles scent, next second he was panicking and already thinking about moving away from Stiles, scared of hurting him - and the next second, after seeing Stiles reaction to his loss of control, Derek heard a deep, guttural moan that he realised came from him, and had to focus really hard on not blowing his load from Stiles’ reactions alone.

He went back to task, carefully working around his fangs while still moving with wild tenacity. His claws were out too, but he didn’t spare that any thought since Stiles obviously trusted him.

It didn’t take much longer for Stiles to lock up and grab Derek’s head in an iron grip as he opened his mouth in a silent scream while he came right down Derek’s throat. Derek moved so that he could swallow every last drop, the scent combined with the taste driving him wild. He still felt frantic and was about to drop his hand down his own pants, but Stiles didn’t let him.

“Put me down,” he breathed, his chest heaving. “Put me down, oh God, put me down right now!”

He listened and carefully lowered Stiles to the floor, ready to hold the man up in case his legs couldn’t support him when Stiles didn’t even try - he pushed at Derek’s chest and dropped right to his knees, hard, and tugged at Derek’s pants until they fell down. He then put his tongue out and licked a long stripe from behind Derek’s balls right to his tip before swallowing him whole.

Derek roared at the feeling, his eyes scrunched hard and clawing at the kitchen island behind him. He opened his eyes again and looked down to see Stiles on his knees, eyes closed lightly and an expression of reverence on his face.

He dug his claws into the marble and fell apart. He was surrounded by Stiles from all sides, his taste still lingering on his tongue, the scent suffocating in the room. It was almost too much, he felt as if he would never be able to pull himself back together after exploding like this, and he felt his orgasm go on and on and Stiles working him through it, swallowing what he could, and letting what he couldn’t swallow land on his face, dripping down his chin.

It took longer than usual for Derek to be conscious enough of his surroundings to pay attention again, but when he did, the only detail that got through and took hold was that somehow, Stiles was still hard. He let out a needy whine and dropped down to join Stiles on his knees, smashed their lips together and pushed until Stiles was on his back on the kitchen floor with Derek covering his body completely. He was still sensitive, but positioned them so that Stiles’ erection was rubbing against his thigh while he kissed and nipped and licked and bit every inch of skin he could reach. Stiles planted his feet on the floor and started moving his hips in small aborted thrusts, using the friction against Derek, the leftover spit and come slicking the way.

“Oh, God, Derek,” he whined while writhing underneath the wolf. “Fuck, I’m- shit, I’m gonna…”

“Do it,” Derek rasped to his ear as he moved against Stiles’ thrusts. “Fuck, come all over me, come on.”

“Oh Jesus, fuck!” Stiles shouted as he dug his nails into Derek’s back with enough strength to basically hold himself off the floor as he came the second time.

Derek stayed still as he waited for Stiles to come down from his high. He felt the come on his abdomen and had to stop himself from reaching down and swiping some on his finger to lick it off. When Stiles’ heart slowed down a little bit, Derek lowered himself down and pressed his face against Stiles’ neck, breathing in his scent as he trailed his hand up and down Stiles thigh.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, Derek caressing Stiles’ thigh as Stiles played with his hair. Then all the systems rebooted and Derek started coming back online, which meant he immediately started freaking out.

He kept his hand moving to try and prolong the moment, not wanting to let Stiles know anything was amiss. He wanted to keep it perfect before it all came crashing down - and he was the one who was going to crash it.

But of course, Stiles was too smart to fall for that. Despite Derek not breaking the pattern of his hand movement, he sensed the shift in the air and sighed deeply.

“Derek, don’t do this,” he whispered. “Please don’t start freaking out, we can…”

He was interrupted by Derek’s phone chirping with a text message. The alpha dropped the pretence at that and moved off of Stiles quickly without looking him in the eyes. He shot to his feet, fixed his jeans back up and almost sprinted towards the phone.

Stiles sat up slowly and watched as Derek read the text quickly and instead of answering the same way, he dialled the person and walked towards his bedroom with the phone to his ear.

Stiles moved slowly as he got up as well, putting his own pants up and bending down to pick up his shirt. He looked around the kitchen at the chaos they left - the bags that fell were full of fruit that now rolled all around the kitchen, and one of them also housed the eggs which were now all broken on the floor.

He shook his head and turned to walk the opposite direction from Derek, to his own bedroom. He was not going to clean all that up.

If talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, Derek didn’t want to think what shouting at yourself means.

So he decided to go shout at someone else as soon as he was done with the phone call.

“You had one job,” he growled as soon as Peter opened his door. “One job. I asked you for one fucking thing . Why do I even keep you around if you can’t do one thing right?!”

“Hello to you too, nephew,” Peter drawled as he stepped back and gestured towards the living room. “Please, come in. Make yourself at home. I am well, thank you for asking, the humidity of this town is doing wonders for my hair. How are you fairing?”

“Stop it with the bullshit,” Derek snapped and stormed past his uncle. “You let this happen and now we have a problem!”

“If my nose is correct, I would say this is the opposite of a problem,” Peter smirked. “Also, wouldn’t have killed you to shower before coming here. There should be some boundaries amongst the family.”

“What do you mean this is the opposite of a problem?!” Derek exploded while pacing angrily around the living room. “ You were the one to tell me I need to stay focused! You were the one to point out how crucial it is that I don’t get distracted! You were the one to say that I should stay away from any entanglement with Stiles!”

“Yes,” Peter sighed and sat on the couch, watching his nephew pace. “Yes, I did indeed tell you all those things. And it causes me literal pain to say - I was wrong.”

“What?” Derek stopped dead in his tracks and turned to Peter with a stunned expression.

“I was wrong,” Peter repeated calmly.

Derek stared at him for a few heartbeats and suddenly spluttered. “I’m gonna need more than that.”

“I was made aware that I was looking at every situation strictly from the pack point of view,” Peter leaned back on the couch and sprawled leisurely. “Or, to be more accurate, from the organizational, logistical point. But there’s much more to it, and I was completely ignoring those parts.” He squared his shoulders and looked Derek straight in the face. “You are, first and foremost, my alpha. And operating the way you were so far bears the risk of you burning out; and the pack struggling with another alpha issue. But also,” he hesitated lightly. “You are also my nephew. And as family, it should also be my priority to make sure you’re actually living your own life, that you’re happy. I haven’t been looking at things through the family prism for a long time - I forgot about it. And for that, I am sorry.”

Derek stared at his uncle, at a loss of words for a few seconds. Peter did nothing more but stare back blankly, a little smug smile on his face.

“You asshole!” Derek suddenly exploded. “I came here to shout at you! For failing to do your job! You can’t even get yelled at right!” He turned violently and started making his way back outside.

“Go get your man, nephew!” Peter called after him, cackling.

“Wait, wait just a damned minute,” Derek twisted around again; Peter worried his nephew would be the first werewolf in history to get whiplash. “So now you’re saying that you want me to be happy, and that I should go for Stiles, and that it would be good for the pack overall? You know damn well that if I was to do that I would for sure lose my focus!”

“Let me ask you this,” Peter shot back calmly. “Would you say your father was a distraction to your mother?”

“I…” Derek lost his steam and dropped heavily onto a chair. “How did Mom do this?” He whispered. “I don’t remember her being on the phone all the time like I am. Or constantly on her laptop. She acted like she had a regular nine to five.” He turned his eyes back on Peter. “How?”

“You can’t really compare,” Peter replied softly. “You were young, so you didn’t notice a lot of the times she was busy. But she’d also been doing it a while; there was a whole network of trust in place to take care of everything. You’re still establishing yourself - it will get easier.”

Derek’s shoulders dropped as he slumped further down and sighed deeply. “So… You’re suddenly pushing me to be with Stiles.”

“Yes,” Peter said, unabashed. “For two reasons, actually - for one, you will be happier. More stable. But also, Stiles is an amazing asset to have. Even if you were to become distracted, he will surely pick up the slack. I was looking at it all wrong before.”

“You’re insufferable,” Derek shook his head as he got up and sluggishly made his way to the door.

From his room, Stiles was able to hear the moment Derek left the apartment. He ventured out to see the kitchen cleaned up - it was nice that he didn’t have to do it, but it also hurt that Derek was so quick to erase any and all evidence of what happened.

He couldn’t stay inside. He got his own keys and threw his shoes on before storming out without a destination in mind. It was early afternoon, so the town was fairly busy with people milling around. He walked rigidly among them, watching all those people living their fairly peaceful lives, without any clue of the dangers right next to them, affecting every moment of their existence.



He almost tripped over his own shoes at his name being called, but somehow managed to stay upright and turn around to see Scott rushing to him with his brows furrowed in confusion.

"Scott! Hey!" he shouted back as the wolf got nearer. He moved forward too and raised his arms in preparation for a hug, but when Scott just stopped a few paces away he let them drop. 

"Hey," Scott replied with his face still slightly scrunched. "I didn't know you were back." 

"Um, yeah, we are," Stiles started. "It's kinda temporary though, we're on a rotation system. Boyd and Erica were here before us."

"Why didn't anyone tell me?" 

Stiles looked at Scott with one eyebrow raised. "Dude, why would they?" 

"What do you mean 'why would they'?" Scott scoffed. "I should know when other wolves are around, don't you think?" 

"Scott," Stiles started carefully. "You remember the big meeting before we left, right? When we went through the rules of how this works? You're not pack. You're not entitled to be informed of anything if Derek chooses so."

Scott just scoffed again and his face twisted in anger, so Stiles decided to change the topic for the time being. "What are you doing out anyway?"

"Got a few errands," Scott replied, raising one hand slightly to point to the dry cleaning bag he was holding. "I'm actually on my way to pick up food for my mom, if you wanna tag along." 

"Yeah, sure," Stiles smiled and felt something settle in his chest. "Haven't seen Melissa in a while, how is she? How's Kira?" 

They kept their conversation light as they reached the Indian place and waited for Scott's order. Scott updated Stiles on his mother, Kira and Allison; his best friend hadn't changed one bit and still mostly thought about his girl. It was just interesting that without knowing who Scott was with, Stiles wouldn't be able to point out if his girlfriend was Kira or Allison from the way he spoke about them.

With each minute Stiles felt more like himself than he had in years. Maybe there's some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder - he and Scott seemed to be okay now. He accompanied his friend to the hospital afterwards, too, to bring Melissa her food and managed to talk to her a bit too - she hugged him so tight he was pretty sure she bruised his ribs. 

Everything was alright. Good even. Until it wasn't. 

"Seriously, they bow ," Stiles rambled. "They bow before gettin' down. Penguins are hilarious." 

"I forgot how much you can talk," Scott smirked as he stopped in his driveway. Stiles paused, confused. 

"Are we not going in?" he asked. 

"Oh, umm… I mean, Kira is supposed to be over soon," Scott replied, rubbing his neck awkwardly. 

"Oh," Stiles exhaled. "Well, I could hang around until she gets here? If that's okay, I mean, I would make myself scarce as soon as she appears, you know me, master ninja right here, I will straight up disappear" he made a chopping motion with his arms. 

"I don't think it's a good idea," Scott cringed, and Stiles suddenly felt his stomach drop. 

"Why is it not a good idea? Dude, I don't wanna be pushy, duh, but I kinda missed Kira too, would love to say hi and, ya know, I'm here, let's grab some ice cream."

"I don't want her to see you," Scott blurted. 

Stiles narrowed his eyes. "And why is that, Scott?" 

"Oh, come on!" Scott suddenly yelled. "Dude, I'm trying here because you're basically my brother, but you've done some shady stuff, you can't be surprised people are uncomfortable around you! And I'm sorry if I don't want my girlfriend to be uncomfortable."


They both turned their heads towards Kira. They'd been so engrossed in their conversation, they didn't notice her show up, and now she was the maddest Stiles had ever seen her. 

"I have never said I was uncomfortable around Stiles!" she shouted. 

"You didn't have to say, I could see it! I just want to protect you," Scott responded with his best puppy eyes. 

"Scott, that's sweet," she replied earnestly. "But I can take care of myself. And yes, you're right, I was uncomfortable around Stiles before they left town, but I had time to think since," she said as she turned around to face Stiles and threw herself at him in a bear hug. "I'm sorry for how I treated you before," she whispered, "and thank you. For everything you've done for us. We all owe you our lives."

Stiles barely heard her words, too focused on Scott to absorb any audio input. The second Kira put her arms around him, Scott’s face twisted in pure fury. 

That, in itself, was heartbreaking for Stiles - but what he found more interesting was that it didn’t seem to be anger caused by jealousy. Back when Scott was with Allison, he would be uncomfortable with any closeness between Stiles and Allison, even though he knew his friend wouldn’t steal his girl from him. Stiles and Allison still managed to be friends, but they kept any platonic-touches to the minimum.

It could be a sign that Scott was growing up and maturing, but Stiles wasn’t naive enough to believe that. 

“Kira,” Scott growled dangerously. “I don’t want to see you next to him.”

You don’t want to see me next to him?” She asked, incredulous. “Okay, then. Let’s go, Stiles.”

She grabbed his wrist and started pulling him along as she walked away. Stiles had little choice but to follow, staring at Scott over his shoulder.

Stiles felt nauseated, his breaths were coming short and harsh. He let the afternoon with Scott lull him into a false sense of security, as if everything was alright again. Obviously, it wasn’t - how could it be? He let his months away from Beacon Hills lower his guard, but this day was really driving the point home.

He kept walking fast behind Kira, who was still pulling him along, when he felt the panic attack setting in. Kira obviously noticed some sign of it and stopped abruptly, turning to Stiles with a worried expression. She moved forward to put her hand on his shoulder, but he flinched away from her touch and shook his head frantically. This only made her scrunch up her face more and she moved forward anyway, but instead of putting her hand on his shoulder, she pressed it against his chest. 

“Breathe, Stiles,” she whispered. “Just breathe. It’s all okay. You’re okay. Breathe.”

A kind soul like Kira, it was obvious she was going for calm and soothing, but it only made Stiles more panicked and he took a few steps back until he stumbled and fell on his ass right on the sidewalk. Kira followed his motion and kept her hand on him, continued to speak to him until he calmed a bit, which took entirely too long in Stiles’ opinion, and unfortunately attracted the attention of some passers by.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked when he could speak again. “I didn’t mean to cause problems for you and Scott.”

“Oh, sweetie, we’ve been having problems for a while,” she responded with a sad smile. Stiles made no move to get up, so she lowered herself and sat down next to him. 


“We haven’t been in a good place for months,” Kira elaborated. “I honestly don’t know what’s been going on, but Scott… changed. Just now you saw a glimpse of how it’s been - it’s like he expects me to obey him most of the time. Even when we’re spending time together, he just does his own thing and I’m just… kinda there.”

“What the hell,” Stiles asked with eyes wide in shock. “He’s crazy about you, this doesn’t make sense.”

“No, Stiles - he was crazy about me. But now I’m doubting whether it was for the same reasons I was crazy about him,” she turned to him with a sombre expression. “It sucks when you realize the person you love doesn’t love you back.”

“Why…” Stiles exhaled harshly. “Why don’t you talk to him about this? It just doesn’t seem like him, at all.”

“Actually, it does seem like him - at least the new him he turned into. You missed quite a bit, first when Scott was avoiding you, and now since you’ve been away, but this is not a sudden change. And as for why I don’t talk to him about it,” she scoffed suddenly. “I don’t talk to him about it because I’m pathetic. I still love him. I’m scared that if I broached the subject, he would… end this.”

Stiles stared at her in shock, at a complete loss of words. Before he managed to figure out what to say, his phone went off and he started digging in his pocket to answer. “We’re not done talking about this,” he warned Kira as he managed to get his phone out and tapped the screen, glancing at the caller ID. “Hey, what’s up, dad?”

“Preserve, second bridge on the small creek, take your jeep and get us out of here!” John shouted and immediately dropped the call.

Stiles shot to his feet and started running without looking at Kira, panic again clawing its way to his throat.

“Wait!” She shouted behind him. “My house is closer, let’s take my car, come on!”

Considering it was a smart thing to do, Stiles didn’t waste time agreeing, just twisted on his feet to turn back around, fell over and used the slide it caused to propel himself towards Kira faster.

They didn’t speak at all as they ran to Kira’s house, jumped in her Nissan and drove towards the Preserve at breakneck speed. Kira just threw her keys to Stiles and dropped into the passenger seat, since she didn’t know Beacon Hills, and especially the Preserve as well as Stiles did.

Stiles did his best to focus completely on driving, getting to the right place in one piece and getting his father out of whatever danger they found. There was only one ‘small creek’, which honestly seemed more like someone accidentally spilled a bottle of water than a creak, really, and the ‘bridges’ on it were planks people put down to cross it without wetting their shoes. Thankfully, all of that was near one of the biggest hiking trails, so they were able to make the whole way in the car.

Stiles broke through into the clearing next to the ‘bridge’, the Nissan getting a little banged up with branches, and spared a second to take the situation in.

His father was standing in front of Peter, one hand holding a gun and steadily emptying his clip into the fox-creature in the water, while his other hand was digging around in his belt in search for the second clip. Peter was holding onto John’s shoulder with one hand, keeping behind the human, while his other hand was pressed to his throat with blood running in between his fingers.

Closer to the water was Parrish, shirtless and on fire in all his one-armed glory, trying to use fire to drive the creature away, but somehow the small creak turned into a running river and even Parrish’s powers weren’t enough to evaporate enough water to drive the fox away. 

There was another deputy, closer to the car. She was laying on the forest floor, screaming and holding both hands to her face; Stiles saw she also had blood running in between her fingers, as well as… something white. 

Derek was crouched next to her, snarling and growling angrily, but not leaving his post as her protector. As soon as he saw the car, he took her into his arms and jumped forward, making it to the side door in seconds and almost ripped the door off in his effort to drop her in the backseat. 

“You were supposed to bring the jeep!” He yelled around his fangs. “This car is too small, we won’t all fit!”

Stiles heard him, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of Peter - the man was scrambling his hands, one still on his throat, the other still on his dad’s back, and Stiles could see he was growing weaker, knees buckling as he slowly lowered.

Without saying anything in response to Derek, he jumped out of the car and ran full speed to Peter’s side. He slapped Peter’s hand away from the wolf’s throat and without thinking, plunged his hand into the wound. He found the split trachea and stuffed his finger into the torn tissue, using the rest of his fingers to pinch the torn sides onto his finger to close the gap as much as possible and stop the blood from going in. 

“Cough!” He barked at Peter. “Cough the blood up, I’m holding it tight, come on!”

Peter listened without any argument and started forcing himself to cough, blood trickling down the side of his face from the corner of his mouth. Stiles struggled to keep the wound pinched, but kept at it, and within seconds Peter took a big breath in with his chest heaving.

Without taking his finger out, he looked around to take in his surroundings. His dad and Parrish were still at it, his father obviously having found another clip, but Derek was now crouched next to him in a defensive position, covering both him and Peter. Kira was next to the car, her sword out and at the ready but she kept her post to defend the deputy in her backseat.

“Kira, go!” He screamed. “Take her to the hospital, go!”

Kira glanced at him quickly, but followed his instructions. She jumped over the hood of her car to get to the driver side and within seconds she tore out of the clearing and out of his sight. 

He turned back to Peter. He was now breathing fairly normally, but the wound Stiles had his finger in was still there - the moment he were to take his finger out, Peter would start suffocating again.

“Okay,” Stiles exhaled harshly. “Okay, infections are not a thing for you, right? Okay, I’m gonna do something unpleasant. I’m sorry. I need to… Fuck, okay, I need to do this.” With his free hand, he started patting around himself until he found a small branch vaguely the same width as his finger. “Okay, don’t bite me for this. I need to stick this in, and Peter, you’ll need to hold it in place, otherwise you’ll choke on your own blood, do you understand?”

Peter didn’t risk nodding, just moved his eyes up and down in an imitation of a nod, so Stiles raised the branch and started sliding it down next to his finger. When he reached the tissue, he started pulling his finger out while at the same time sliding the branch down in an attempt to limit the time the wound was open and taking in more blood again. Once the branch was in the correct place, he again pinched the sides to close any gaps. “Okay, there,” he used his hand to take Peter’s and guide him towards the wound. “You’ll need to hold this, and pinch the sides, and don’t drop the pressure, okay? Please, just… just hold there.”

Peter was very good at following instructions when his life was on the line, evidently, so Stiles was free to sit back a bit and focus now on his father, who was somehow on the frontline against a creature who has now maimed a hellhound and two wolves.

It was a really shitty day. Derek’s rejection, Scott’s prejudice, the realisation that he is still seen as dangerous, and now this.

He was done.

“Stop,” he whimpered while he raised his hands to twist them into his hair. “Just stop, this needs to stop, I’m done, just fucking STOP!”

He usually prided himself in being able to keep a clear head in tense situations, but everyone had their limit, and Stiles felt like he just reached his. They were up against a creature which was putting werewolves down, and his human father was the one fighting it head on. The logical part of his brain realised he was having an episode, and was screaming at him to get a grip, but he couldn’t stop pulling at his hair and muttering the word ‘stop’ over and over.

“Stiles…” came his father’s careful voice, which brought him out of his stupor.

He managed to raise his head and realised that things have, indeed, stopped.

The nguruvilu was sitting on the bank of what was now once again a creek - all the excess water was gone. Its clawed tail was laying curled around its body instead of swinging angrily. And it was staring right at Stiles.

Everyone was stock still, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stiles stared back at the creature, in his head running through everything he read on Nguruvilu and how to get rid of them.

They didn’t really have a Machi or a Kalku, which was a shaman or a sorcerer, on hand, but then… the creature listened to him. The legend said the Machi or Kalku had to get into the water to catch Nguruvilu with their powers, then threaten the creature with a knife to make it leave. Nothing he found said anything about killing it.

Well, in for a pound, in for a penny, right?

He slowly got up without taking his eyes off the fox and walked towards his dad. His father’s belt changed a bit since the whole world of supernatural was revealed to him, and now resembled Batman’s utility belt more than anything - and Stiles knew there was a machete attached on the side.

He took the machete and stalked towards the creature. Behind him, he heard his dad’s aborted noise of panic and Derek’s growling, but he ignored them and continued his way forward. The Nguruvilu didn’t even twitch - it just continued to stare at him the whole time, right up to the point Stiles stopped right in front of it and forced his shaking hands to move quickly, one grabbing the creature’s head to keep it in place, the other pressing the machete hard against the thing’s throat.

“This land is claimed and protected,” he rasped. “You will leave, and you won’t harm anyone else on your way. The State of California is out of bounds for you.”

He expected something magical to happen, some sort of recognition in the fox’s eyes maybe, but nothing like that happened. The beady eyes stayed locked on him, and after a tense moment he pulled the machete back and dropped his hold on the things head. 

It stared at him for a few more tense seconds, but then, miraculously, it got to its feet and turned around. It jumped into the water, which rose again as soon as the first paw broke the surface, and disappeared in the depths. Stiles stood at the bank and followed the slim frame of the fox as it swam with the current and disappeared around the bend.

“Holy shit,” Stiles whimpered after a few seconds. He turned and look at his father with wide eyes, until he noticed a small movement from behind his dad and realised that Peter was still laying there with a fucking twig in his throat. “Fuck!” he shouted as he rounded back and skidded the last couple of feet on his knees, “Fuck, right, shit,” he mumbled as he dusted his hands off on his jeans. “Shit, Peter, can you hear me? You doing okay?”

Even with his throat slit and a branch in his throat, Peter still managed to throw the most unimpressed look at Stiles. “Right,” he sent a wobbly, bashful smile back at Peter. “Okay, I’m gonna take back over, okay? Pull your hand away, oh fuck, I’m gonna throw up, please dont kill me if I hurl into your throat, Jesus H. Christ, okay, I got it, you just chill now, okay? Just relax. Think of this as a really deep massage. I’m just massaging your trachea, right? It’s all good. It’s casual. We all need this every now and then.”

“Stiles, why isn’t he healing?” John asked, completely ignoring his sons panicked rambling.

“He is, but the tissue on internal organs heals slower than skin. Werewolves don’t die from bleeding out when their throats are cut, they die from asphyxiation from all the blood entering their respiratory system, so we’re gonna do something weird, okay Pete? Can I call you Pete? I feel like I earned that right, we got really close, didn’t we, I mean, I’m literally inside you right now…”

“For the love of God, kid.”

“Right, sorry, Dad!” he let out a manic laugh. “Okay, so what we’re gonna do, is that we’re gonna twist you around so that you’re on your stomach, right, so the gravity pulls the blood onto the ground instead of into your lungs. We’re gonna bleed you like a sacrificial lamb, you good with that?”

Somehow, Peter’s unimpressed stare got even more unimpressed, but he obliged and twisted slowly until he was on his stomach, holding himself up by his forearms while Stiles still held the branch in place. Once in position, Stiles relaxed his fingers and started slowly pulling the branch out. “Okay,” he said just before pulling it completely free. “Okay, deep breath now, because this is gonna suck for you for a bit.”

He waited for Peter to carefully fill his lungs with air before he finally pulled the wood out the last few millimeters and blood started pouring out again. Peter held his breath, trying his best not to choke and not to give into the need to release oxygen and take another breath as he waited for his wound to stitch back together.

After what felt like years, he finally let out a harsh exhale and dropped from his forearms to drop fully onto the ground, breathing as if he just ran six marathons consecutively.

Only then did the tension dissipate and Stiles threw himself back to fall onto the forest floor as well, completely exhausted. Derek rushed to get closer to Peter, holding one hand on his uncle’s back as he levelled his face with Peter’s and stared at his uncle, looking for any signs of something being wrong. Parrish joined them and also dropped down, sitting with his one good arm placed loosely on his knee, staring numbly at everyone else.

Stiles wasn’t allowed to stay horizontal for long as his father stormed over and raised Stiles by his shirt to pull him into a bear hug.

“You are so grounded,” John whined. “You’re grounded until you’re fifty. Jesus, kid, you scared the daylights out of me.”

“That seems fair,” Stiles murmured against his dad’s shirt. “Save a man’s life, get grounded until you’re old and icky.”

“Hey!” John exclaimed. “Who are you calling icky?”

“I’m the living embodiment of sex appeal, you brat,” Peter rasped without moving his head away from the forest floor.

Stiles was startled into a laugh, and when he saw Peter’s shoulders shake lightly, it sent him into hysterics. Everyone else joined and soon, they were all sprawled around on the ground, laughing until they had tears in their eyes.

“Right,” John wheezed when they calmed a little. “I need to get to the hospital, check on Kane. I’m pretty sure she lost an eye,” he said as he sat up, then he turned to Stiles. “Want a lift home?”

“No, I’ll go with you,” Stiles sighed as he also sat up. “Need to check on Kira, too.”

Kira was fine - not even a scratch on her. The deputy… not so much. One eye was completely out of its socket, the other scratched pretty bad. She wasn’t fully blind, but it was close enough to mean that she could no longer be a deputy, that was for sure.

Another person whose life changed in a blink of an eye. Pun not intended.

Stiles found all this out just by staying close to his dad in the hospital. Derek and Peter were also somewhere close by, but hidden since Peter still looked rough and they worried about the doctors taking an interest and trying to treat him - not a good idea for a werewolf.

There was a text alert noise, and John moved to the side to check his phone. He hummed after he read the message, then turned to Stiles.

“Derek just let me know that he’s off to take Peter home,” he said softly. “You should go, too. Kira was picked up by her mother earlier, but I can ask Parrish to give you a ride. I’m gonna be staying here a while.”

“You sure you don’t want me to hang around?”

“I’m sure, kid,” The Sheriff smiled. “Go get some rest. You’ve earned it.”

Now that his dad said it, Stiles could feel the exhaustion seep into his bones. He nodded tiredly and hugged his dad quickly, before moving to find Parrish and harass him into playing chauffeur. 

The drive was not a long, but it was certainly a quiet one. It wasn’t an awkward silence between Jordan and Stiles, more that both of them were so tired that they had no energy to speak. Only once they'd reached their destination and Parrish put the car in park did he speak.

“You were incredible,” he murmured, staring straight ahead and playing with his car keys nervously. “I have no idea how you do this. You’re human, and somehow you’re less scared of these situations than most of the supernatural people I know.”

“Are you kidding me?” Stiles scoffed. “I was terrified. Literally, shitting-my-pants levels of scared.”

“Well, you certainly hide it well, then,” Jordan replied with a soft smile. “Go, you need sleep.”

Stiles got out of the car and watched as Jordan managed to wave and change gears and operate the wheel with his one hand. Somewhere in the back of his head was the little tidbit that he shouldn’t be allowed to drive at all - there were special upgrades to be done to cars to let people with certain disabilities drive, but the police car Parrish was driving certainly didn’t have them installed.

Oh, well. The dude was the definition of dis- able . He could probably get both his legs chopped off and still kick ass.

Stiles shook his head at the mess in his own head and turned to make his way upstairs, mind already completely focused on the epic passing-out in his future. Shoe removal optional.

It wasn’t until he opened the door and saw Derek sitting in the armchair with his face hidden in his hands that Stiles remembered the events of this morning. And that he was planning on going back to his childhood bedroom in his father’s house, not here.

He paused awkwardly, not sure how to proceed, while Derek still sat there without moving. The alpha obviously heard him coming, knew that he was standing there, but it didn’t seem to matter. Stiles felt his chest tighten at the further proof of how little he meant to the man he had been pining over for the past few years, until he realised the issue.

Derek almost lost Peter today. He didn’t, but it was a close call. A very close call. He literally only had two people he could call family and he almost lost fifty percent of that population today.

“Where is he?” Stiles surprised himself with how strong his voice came out. Hey there, false confidence.

Derek sighed and dropped one arm, letting it hang loosely between his knees as his other hand cradled his forehead. “He demanded to be driven back to his apartment. Said the beds here are worse than a hospital’s.”

Stiles let out a startled laugh before he managed to smother it. He was glad to know Peter was okay, but looking at Derek now, he could see it was not the time to laugh and make light of the situation.

He sighed heavily, pushing the turmoil in his head down as he made his way towards the couch and sat down on the end closest to Derek.

“I know you’re not really the type for it…” he started carefully. “But I think you should talk about it.”

Derek let out a chuckle, somehow managing to make it sound like the most sarcastic thing in existence. “Talk about what?” he rasped without moving. “About how Peter almost died? About how Parrish lost his arm, Boyd had half his face carved and is missing an ear, about how a human lost her eye, her sight, her everything because I couldn’t do my job? About how I almost got a member of my family killed again?”

“Okay, no, shut the fuck up!” Stiles sat up, abandoning his careful voice to replace it with an angry splutter. “You are doing such a fucking amazing job as an alpha, it’s fucking humbling, okay?! It’s in no way your fault that this place is the fucking Hellmouth, and Peter knows the risk of doing this shit, hell, he’s been doing this longer than you! And Kane is a deputy at a sheriff’s station. She’s not a civilian, there were always risks involved in her job - granted, she might’ve not been aware about all the risks, but there were risks all the same and she chose to do the job anyway . I refuse to put any of this on you.”

“My job is to take care of the pack. To make them safe,” Derek hissed angrily as he finally looked at Stiles. “How am I making them safe if they’re ending up butchered?”

“And who’s making you safe?” Stiles shouted. “You put all this shit on yourself, you’re bound to break, and then what? You want to make sure everyone in your pack is safe and happy, but who’s doing that for you?”

“The pack is, simply by existing! Which is why I need to make sure it stays this way!” Derek shot back, his eyes turning red for a split second. Then, suddenly, he heaved a massive sigh and collapsed in on himself, all the fight leaving his body. “There isn’t… I don’t know how to make you understand this. The pack… It’s almost a symbiotic relationship. I’m safe if they’re safe. I’m happy if they’re happy. I need them… I need them to be okay.”

“I get it,” Stiles’ voice was close to a whisper, not wanting to disrespect the gravity of the topic by being too loud, “Or at least I’m starting to get it. The pack… you keep referring to being stronger with the pack by your side. And the members of the pack being stronger just by being in the pack. I thought you meant physical strength. But that’s not it, is it? The way you guys… the way I’ve seen you interact these past few months. The way Erica always wants to share anything that happened to her almost the second it happens. The way Boyd always goes to you first when he gets home, gathers everyone together before he makes it to his own apartment. The way Isaac preens whenever he has good news to share with you. You’re all stronger physically, yes, but that pales in comparison to how much stronger you are in every other way.” Stiles looked down at his own hands, gathering courage for what he wanted to say next.

“The thing is, what I am saying… I know you’re happy as long as they’re happy, and you’re doing everything in your power to make sure every wolf in your pack has the best version of their life they can. But whenever something bad happens, you also put it on yourself, and there’s no one you allow to do the same for you as you do for everyone else. The way the pack functions…” his voice falters for a second as he glances towards the window. “The way the pack functions is something I’m literally craving. After all the shit we’ve been through, after the way all my relationships changed, especially Scott… I envy all of you. But I mostly envy your betas - I envy them that they have someone like you looking after them. But it doesn’t mean you don’t need someone like that looking after you as well.”

“You do have someone like me looking after you,” Derek cut in hurriedly, looking at Stiles strangely. “You have me. You’re pack.”

The events of the morning ran through his head as Stiles snapped his head back to look at Derek. The relief at these words almost had him crying. He was so scared that what happened earlier in the day changed everything enough to not be let into the pack, having that confirmation that he was already in the pack was everything.

“Thank you,” he whispered, not wanting to speak louder, worried about how much his voice would wobble. And then, because it was Stiles, his mouth ran away from him. “But that also means that there’s something you’re not doing to make me happy.”

Derek’s face started to crumble, before Stiles rushed in again. “Do you know what I want?” he asked. “Do you know what would make me happy?” he moved his head to catch Derek’s eyes dead on, keeping his gaze. “I want to really be part of this. I want to be allowed to care for you. Because you give it your all to care for them, and you completely forget about yourself. Derek, you know you are not alone anymore, and I want to do everything in my power to make sure you know you deserve to be cared for, too.”

Derek sat a bit straighter while Stiles was talking, still looking him in the eyes, following him as Stiles slinked from the couch to kneel in front of Derek. The wolf’s breaths seemed to be a little bit harsher, just a tad deeper as Stiles looked up at him, reaching out with his hands to softly cradle his face between them. “Let me take care of you” Stiles whispered against Derek’s mouth, the last warning, the last chance to pull away.

Except he didn’t pull away. His breath hitched right as Stiles pressed his mouth to Derek’s. The kiss itself was nothing to write home about, Stiles didn’t do much apart from just pressing his lips and lingering there, giving Derek the power to set the pace, the tone of what’s going to happen next.

When Derek finally moved, it was to grab Stiles’ forearms in a brutal hold while deepening the kiss but keeping it slow, so slow. Stiles understood it for what it is - Derek showing him he wanted this, wanted him, just wasn’t allowing himself to have him. So Stiles responded by shifting closer, still on his knees, moving his hands just so his fingers touched Derek’s hair. Derek broke the kiss just enough to look into Stiles’s eyes and whisper softly, “How do you always understand?’

Stiles smirked slightly and pressed back in for a kiss. This time they both moved their lips, both tasting each other with slow strokes of tongue, barest scrapes of teeth. Derek moved one of his hands to cradle the back of Stiles head, continuing the slow pace until Stiles broke the kiss to move to nuzzle the side of Derek’s face, the wolf leaning into it. Stiles slowly moved to kiss Derek’s neck, the kisses closed mouthed and chaste, but every one lingering on the skin. His hands moved from Derek’s face to his shoulders, then to his chest, their journey down almost torturous. They continued their way down and reached Derek’s belt just as the kisses down his neck reached his clavicle.

“Stiles…” Derek said breathlessly, yet with an air of uncertainty.

“No,” Stiles responds against his chest, “you agreed, Derek. You gave me permission to take care of you.” He whispered as he continued to kiss down Derek’s chest over the material of the t-shirt. He sank lower down on his knees as he went, undoing Derek’s belt and looking up into his face, “If you’re worried for my sake, don’t. I might not be the most experienced, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that makes me innocent. But if you actually want me to stop, just say the word. I promise, I will stop. So tell me, Derek,” he moved his face closer to Derek’s again, his hands still on Derek’s belt, “do you want me to take care of you?”

The steel resolve in Derek’s eyes was answer enough, but he still surged forward to kiss Stiles again, the force of the kiss making Stiles dizzy. He moved his hands to fully undo Derek’s belt without breaking the kiss, the pace still slow but there was power in their movements now. Stiles managed to undo Derek’s pants without breaking the kiss at all, but he did move away now to look at Derek’s face as he moved his hands slightly higher, under Derek’s shirt, touching the muscles on his stomach to then move downward, catching Derek’s pants as well as his boxers and pushing them down. Derek leaned back, his back against the chair, and lifted his hips slightly to help remove the clothing. Stiles kept eye contact as he slid his hands down, pushing the pants below Derek’s knees and then lower, until they pooled at his ankles. This put Stiles’ face right between Derek’s knees, still looking him in the face as he then moved his hands back up Derek’s legs, unhurriedly and deliberately, still keeping his eyes focused on Derek’s as he bent his neck to press a kiss to Derek’s left knee and further, following the path set by his hand. He kept moving further up, kept his gaze fixed on Derek’s eyes, and all Derek could do was stare back. He felt hypnotized by Stiles’s eyes, golden in the soft glow of dawn coming through the windows, and thought to himself that focusing on those eyes and not on everything else that was happening made him feel it all that much more. He was painfully hard even though he was yet to be actually touched, but the way Stiles looked at him, intense and attentive, it was almost all he needed. 

Stiles continued kissing his way up Derek’s leg until his face was right next to Derek’s dick, his hands settled on Derek’s stomach, feeling his muscles twitch. He didn’t want to break the skin contact for even a second, so he licked up the length of Derek’s shaft to the very tip, to then take it into his mouth. He closed his eyes at this point and moaned, low and deep, as if tasting Derek on his tongue was the best thing that could ever happen to him.

Derek let his head fall back, eyes painfully shut, his hands gripping at the armrests of the chair. If he kept looking at Stiles, this whole thing would be over way too soon. He felt Stiles take him deeper agonizingly slowly, then move back up at the same excruciating pace. He pressed his tongue against the underside, following the thick vein, pressing against that one spot just under the head, just to then do it all again. He seemed set on learning every reaction he could elicit from Derek, discovering every little thing Derek could enjoy, and was proving himself a very quick learner, his movements growing more confident, yet still slow, so slow.

Derek opened his eyes again to look down at Stiles, watching him as he moved his head up and down in a pace that should be illegal. Stiles felt his eyes on him, as he looked back at Derek almost instantly, and moaned again, louder this time. He always found Derek attractive, he would be blind not to, but this image right here, this was better than everything he could imagine. Derek sitting with his legs spread open, his arms down on the armrests of the chair, looking at Stiles with a small smirk and ferocity in his eyes.

Stiles moved his hands down to grab Derek’s cock, slick with spit, as he pulled his face away. “God, Derek,” he breathed inches away from the tip he just had his mouth on, his breath cold on the wet skin, “this is what you should always look like. Like a king sat on his throne. Like a chief ready to lead his people into victory. Jesus, fuck!” he paused to lick a long strip of Derek’s length, “Tell me what you want Derek. Tell me how you want me.”

Derek responded by surging his hand forward, grabbing Stiles by the jaw and pulling him up harshly to claim his mouth. His other hand swatted Stiles’ away from his groin to free some space for Derek to stand up, bringing Stiles with him by the grip he kept on his jaw. He purposely stepped out of the clothes pooled at his ankles and kept stepping forward, pushing Stiles backwards. Derek pulled away just long enough to pull Stiles’ t-shirt over his head, not bothering to remove it fully before bending down to lick over Stiles’ nipple, then dragging his tongue up towards the neck. His free hand fell down to urgently work Stiles’ pants off while still on the move.

“How I want you?” he purred against Stiles’ cheek, “if you asked me that at any other time, I would say I want you in any way you’re willing to give yourself,” the backs of Stiles’ legs hit the stairs and he fell backwards, holding himself up by his elbows on one of the steps. Derek fell right with him, one hand still firmly holding his jaw, the other throwing Stiles’ jeans somewhere back. “But you asked to let you take care of me” he murmured as he released Stiles’ jaw to take off his own top and stand over Stiles, naked as the day he was born, looking down at the human with his whole posture screaming power and his eyes tinted red, reminding Stiles that the person towering over him was not quite human. “I will let you. I will allow you to take care of me, as long as you let me take what’s mine.’

Stiles started moving backwards, using his elbows to hoist himself up the steps, not to run away but to get to the bed quicker, preferably now . Words alone shouldn’t have the power to make him come, but trust Derek to almost succeed at doing that. There were a few seconds where Derek just watched Stiles slink away, the glint in his eyes completely predatory. He then started walking towards Stiles, movements slow and careful, like the wolf that he is, hunting his victim. He didn’t suddenly pounce on Stiles, he kept his movements slow as he reached and grabbed Stiles’ foot lightly, tracing his hand up Stiles’ leg, hip and waist until he was right above him. He put his mouth right against Stiles’ without actually touching as he ground his hips down, their cocks sliding against each other as he whispered “I want you to ride me until you can’t remember English.”

“Oh, fuck,” Stiles moaned as he let his head fall back and hit one of the steps painfully. “Bed, bed now, or, fuck the bed, just get in me right the fuck now!”

Derek chuckled softly as he pushed his hips down again, seeking that friction between them, before he snaked an arm around Stiles’ waist and hoisted him up, keeping their bodies touching as closely as he could.

“I weigh nothing to you, do I?” Stiles asked, his mouth on Derek’s throat as he kept mouthing on the tendons there. “You could fuck me in the air just like that, couldn’t you? Move me up and down like a ragdoll.”

“Wouldn’t be difficult at all,” Derek rasped, walking slowly upstairs towards the bedrooms.

“Well, hello there, new kink I didn’t know I had,” Stiles chuckled.

“That would require me to do all the work, though,” Derek smirked and pulled back to look at Stiles. “And someone here promised to take care of me. I’m just gonna lay back and relax.”

Stiles’ eyes fluttered closed as he let out another moan and scrambled like a deranged monkey, pawing at Derek’s shoulders and back, grinding against Derek as the man walked them to their destination. 

Derek really shouldn’t be finding this attractive, but Stiles’ flailing did things to him.

He kicked the door to his bedroom open since attempting to operate a door handle required too much brain power, and twisted around so that he was the one to fall on his back on the bed, Stiles landing on top of him. They started kissing at some point again, and neither would be able to point out when. Derek’s head was swimming in a veritable marinade of pheromones, all coated by the sweet scent of Stiles, he could still feel the spit coating his dick as it mixed with precome from both him and Stiles, and now that he was laying back, all systems went offline - all he could do now was feel.

Stiles took everything in his own hands with a sort of manic energy. Derek might have been thinking that it was him that was being taken care of, but Stiles was also discovering a lot about himself, and having the man who had just looked like a king looking down on his subjects, like a predator waiting to pounce, flat on his back in front of him and giving himself away to Stiles’ mercy was intoxicating. He didn’t know where to even start, so he started everywhere. His mouth moved from Derek’s lips to Derek’s nipple, back up to the throat, then back down to the stomach, and at that moment Stiles hated his brain for the fact that the only thing he could compare all that to was the sexiest game of whack-a-mole to ever grace the planet.

He wasn’t a patient man, but he knew he needed to be prepped. It’s been too long for him, and Derek wasn’t small in that area, and Stiles would rather not interrupt this with pain. But he also didn’t have the patience to do it himself, not when he had Derek laid out in front of him like a buffet, so he twisted around in a mess of limbs until he was licking Derek’s shaft again, his own erection pointed down at Derek’s face.

“I’m gonna need you to prep me,” He panted. “I can’t, I can’t focus on that, not with… god damn” he paused to drop his face down and take as much of Derek into his mouth as he could. He moaned expansively again before he moved back up the length to be able to speak again. “I’m not that good at multitasking, and there’s no way I can put myself away from you to shove my fingers up my assh-oh!”

Derek’s tongue against his rim interrupted him, the only indication that Derek was listening to him - or, maybe, the man hadn’t been listening at all, but he couldn’t help himself when presented with all he wanted right in front of his face like that. 

Stiles lost all track of anything. He could feel Derek rimming him, could feel the man’s hands caressing his thighs, his ass, his back, everything Derek could reach, before he then started fingering him, somehow with lubed fingers, but Stiles wasn’t able to keep track of when that started, how many fingers, where the lube came from… all he knew at that point was the way Derek was making him feel good, and the taste of Derek on his tongue. He honest to God forgot that this wasn’t the main event, that they were building up to something else, until he realised he was about to come and still hadn’t felt the length of Derek inside of him. He yelped and straightened up, letting Derek’s erection drop from his mouth with a pop, and reached down to grab himself at the base viciously, basically hurting himself to stop himself from exploding. Derek didn’t pause in what he was doing, and Stiles realised this position had him sitting on Derek’s face as the man kept tonguing him, so he flopped to the side ungracefully with a whine.

There was a part of his brain screaming at him for being so unsexy, flopping around like a fish out of water, but he couldn’t care, because looking and moving sexy took time, and he didn’t have time, he didn’t have patience. Considering the way the man scrambled and pawed after him, trying to get him back to where he was, Derek didn’t really mind.

He moved as quickly as he could to straddle Derek’s thighs instead of his head, lined the alpha’s erection up and sank down in one quick move, using the lube Derek used to open him up to ease the movement. There was pain, of course there was, but Stiles almost welcomed it because it meant that after literally years of imagining it, Derek was finally inside of him.

“Stiles- fuck!” Derek’s arms shot out to grab Stiles’ hips and keep him in place, the man’s face scrunched up as if he was in intense pain. “Oh fuck, don’t move, oh fuck, fuck, fuckfuckfuck!” 

“I can’t-” Stiles whimpered as his hips moved almost on their own volition. “I need to move, Jesus, Derek!”

“Shit!” Derek hissed, his hands clamping in a brutal hold on Stiles’ hips. “I’m so close, I could probably come without you even moving, just give me a second- fuck!”

Stiles let out a sound resembling a sob, his hips twitching again as he fell forward and put their foreheads together, his hands snaking from Derek’s chest to grab his wrists and try to move them away. “Do it,” he breathed. “Just, please, let me, fucking please!”

As he pressed his hands on Derek’s wrists, the man released his hold with a loud intake of breath. Stiles released his hands as he moved to brace his own on Derek’s chest, and started bouncing in a brutal pace right away. Both of them let out a shout at first, before they completely stopped controlling the sounds they made. The vulgar sound of their skin slapping against each other was accompanied by Derek chanting “fuckfuckfuck” on every exhale and inhale, a constant stream as he held onto Stiles’s thighs for dear life. Stiles lost all sense of decorum, or expectations, or whatever bedroom-manners could be called and just bounced up and down as fast as he could, chasing that feeling of Derek inside of him, like waves coming in and out. If he made sounds, he didn’t remember them, or more accurately, didn’t even notice them.

After managing to hold his orgasm off when Stiles first started moving, Derek opened his eyes and looked at the man above him. Stiles sat back up, his head thrown back, exposing his throat to the world, his hands braced on Derek’s chest, sweat glistening on his own chest and thigh muscles moving under Derek’s hands as Stiles bounced, using every bit of momentum he could to be able to move higher, each stroke as long and as fast as he could make it.

As soon as Derek opened his eyes and took all that in, he roared and threw his head back against the pillows and gripped Stiles’ thighs hard, pushing his hips off the bed as he came deep inside Stiles. As Stiles felt the first twitch of Derek’s dick inside him, he let out his own vicious sound and moved one hand to tug his own erection which had him coming almost instantly. His muscles spasmed out of control and he clamped down on Derek, which had the man coming even harder, and turned into a closed loop of ecstasy.

Usually, after reaching the peak, people tended to do… stuff. Cuddling, cleaning up, talking about their emotions; orgasm was by no means the end of the proceedings. But, considering their day, both Derek and Stiles were long past the point of exhaustion. Stiles spent a few seconds stuck in that muscle spasm, sitting on Derek and breathing deeply before he simply collapsed forward and passed out on top of Derek.

Derek was passed out before Stiles.

When Stiles woke up, he felt disgusting. He essentially fainted right on top of Derek, with the man still inside him. They were both so tired, they must’ve barely moved throughout the night since he could feel Derek’s morning erection still in him - surrounded by the crusted semen from the evening before. Stiles also realised he fell right on the spot he painted with his release, so his whole stomach was also covered in his own release.

He started wondering about whether his current situation, namely being essentially welded together with Derek with the super-glue strength of their come, would still count as him being described as a ‘cum-bucket’ since a lot of it was on the outside of him, not inside, and the primary functionality of a bucket was that it kept things inside , but then there weren’t any slang descriptions he knew that would be correct for his state, so unless he could figure it out himself, he would probably stick with calling himself a ‘cum-bucket’, even though he wasn’t entirely happy with the inaccuracy...

Oh, yeah, he also needed his meds.

Though, in all fairness, the biggest source of his inability to concentrate at that moment was that, first of all - Derek was still there. He didn’t run. And also, second of all - he was tracing small circles with his fingers on the small of Stiles’ back.

“Mornin’,” he croaked without moving his face from the crook of Derek’s neck.

“Good morning,” Derek said softly, almost wistfully.

“So,” Stiles started as he pushed himself up on his arms to look at Derek. 

“So,” Derek intoned. He looked back at Stiles, but stayed silent.

“Come on, man!” Stiles finally lost his patience. “I need to know what you’re thinking. You literally ran last time. For all I know, the only reason you’re still here is because we’re gonna need commercial strength chemicals to dissolve ourselves free…”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupted with a small smirk. “I woke up two hours ago. I had time to think while you were sleeping. I’m not running.”

“Oh,” Stiles exhaled, surprised.

“Yeah,” Derek murmured and went back to tracing patterns on Stiles’ back.

“Okay, I would grade this as a solid C. You’ve made some good points, but I felt you could’ve expanded on your reasoning in a few places. Like, all of them.”

“And you still gave me a C?” Derek raised his eyebrows. “You’d be the most lenient teacher ever.”


“Alright, look, I spent two hours surrounded by the smell of us and with you drooling on my shoulder.”

“I don't drool!”

“And I just realised there’s no point in denying I want this,” Derek finished, completely ignoring Stiles’ interruption. 

“And that’s it?” Stiles asked, surprised. 

“Do you want my whole reasoning?” Derek smiled. “The short version is, I almost lost Peter yesterday, but at least I had a long time with him. I was really stopping myself from going after you because I was scared of putting you in more danger, I didn’t want to lose focus from the pack, but mostly, because I was scared how devastating it would be if I lost you. But it would be devastating anyway, whether we’re together or not, because I’m already in that headspace. I’m there. I might as well let myself enjoy this, make memories with you and do my best to make you happy. For however long that lasts.”

“That was… the most morbid declaration of feelings I’ve ever heard,” Stiles whispered. “I love it.”

Derek laughed and pulled Stiles down by his neck for a kiss. So far, all their kisses had an emotional turmoil behind them - this time, it was just… kissing. Just because they could. And for Stiles, that felt better than all their previous ones put together.

As he twisted his head for a better angle, he also remembered that Derek was actually still inside of him.

“Oh my God,” he gasped as he pulled away. “Did we actually just have ‘the talk’ with your dick still in my ass?”

“Yeah, yeah we did,” Derek grinned. 

“Well? Why are we not using that wonderful opportunity?”

“We could, but…” Derek started before he gave one small experimental thrust and both of them winced at the feeling. “I don’t think it’s gonna feel good at all until we clean up a bit.”

Stiles laughed and he obligingly put more of his weight on his arms to be able to pull himself off of Derek and hover over him. He looked down as he did so and laughed again.

“Oh yeah, that’s what i'm talking about,” he shifted to be able to trail one hand next to the middle dip between Derek’s abs, which now had a trail of come filling it. “Do you know what they call this?”

“I am afraid to ask.”

“This, my friend, is a cum gutter. A textbook example of one, actually.”

Derek pulled his arm back from where he was holding Stiles and threw it over his face, his body shaking in silent laughter. “Fucking, Christ,” he gasped.

“Hey, you signed up for this! No take backs!”

They finally managed to untangle themselves and make their way to the bathroom, both unconcerned about their nudity as they cleaned up as quickly as they could, just to then get back into bed and get sticky again.

It took a while for them to get used to the fact that they were together. After literal years of repressed feelings, they both kept forgetting that they could now touch each other freely - Derek could come up and cuddle Stiles from behind whenever he liked, Stiles could drape himself over Derek when the man was sitting down, they were allowed to do it all. 

So it came in waves. 

They would behave as they were used to until one of them remembered, and then it would be hours of them acting as if losing the physical connection could kill them. 

They didn't really tell the pack. John walked in when they were kissing the next day and the next thing Stiles knew, Erica called him to do nothing else but squeal over the phone. 

Derek made a mental note that the sheriff seemed to be the biggest gossip in their group. 

They stayed in Beacon Hills for a couple more weeks, but once it was clear that the nguruvilu actually left, they made their way back to Sacramento, leaving a few wolves that were stationed outside the town to take over the vigil within Beacon Hills. 

The whole supernatural-disaster thing didn't really help romance, Derek realised one evening. He was sitting in his office late at night, with everyone else asleep - including Stiles, except rather than be in his own bed, Stiles fell asleep at Erica's desk where he was stationed while he helped Derek with pack business. They were all busy, they were all tense, and looking at him now, Derek realised he'd officially been Stiles' boyfriend for over a month and yet they hadn't gone out on a single date. 

He sighed as he got up, with a resolution to remediate the issue. He didn't even attempt to wake Stiles up, he just picked him up and carried him to his apartment, flipping the soundproofing switch with his elbow as he went. He laid Stiles down on what had become his side of Derek's bed and curled up against him. 

He felt like he just blinked and it was morning again. Stiles' side was already empty, which he learned was normal - Stiles still suffered from nightmares, so there was a point where he would just give up on sleep, making him a ridiculously early riser. 

The only way for Stiles to sleep past 6am was to get fucked real good before he fell asleep. 

Derek got up with a groan, feeling a pang of regret that they didn't get a chance for a tumble in the sheets, but sadly the reality barely resembled what was shown on TV. While they were still definitively in the honeymoon stage and had sex as often as possible, it didn't mean every night when taking into account their ridiculous and busy life. 

He made his way to the kitchen where Stiles was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, messing around on his phone. Derek smiled softly, picked his cup already waiting for him and bent to kiss Stiles before he reached for his cigarettes. 

"Mornin', Sourwolf," Stiles snickered. 

"I really hope you'll stop calling me that at some point," Derek mumbled around the cigarette in his mouth. 

"Not gonna happen. Also, I keep forgetting to ask - why do you smoke? I know that you metabolise nicotine just as fast as alcohol, so it can't be a chemical dependency, but I doubt you just do it for the sake of smoking. But you do metabolise it so is it for some of the effects? Do you have problems with constipation? I heard smoking helps with pooping. Is that it?"

"We should go out tonight."

Stiles blinked owlishly as Derek slowly released the smoke from his lungs with a clear indication he was not going to add anything more. 

"Okay, if even I can't find the connection between topics, you just made one hell of a jump," Stiles said slowly. "But alright, I'll bite - go out where?" 

"Don't know," Derek shrugged. "And it had nothing to do with your monologue, I tend to tune those out. I was thinking about it earlier, we've been together for over a month now and we still haven't had our first date, so… we should go out."

Stiles beamed at him and got up to press against Derek."And you'll tell me all about your disgusting habit then?" 

"Sure," Derek smirked. "I'll tell you all about my disgusting habit then."

The idea itself was great, the execution… could use some work. 

Here was the problem - after Kate, Derek turned into a bit of a slut in New York as a way to reclaim his sexuality. When that lost its appeal, he'd go out to a bar or a club to look for someone to help him scratch his itch and that's it. 

So he hadn't been on a date since Kate; actually, considering their meetings didn't really count as dates, he hadn't been on one since Paige. 

They spent the day doing the regular things, but once the clocks struck five in the afternoon Derek got up and told Peter he was taking the evening off. His uncle’s smile did a great job of encouraging him, so he changed his clothes, made a quick trip to a shop to buy what he needed, somehow found an actual picnic blanket and basket and by six, he had Stiles in his Camaro and they were on their way to a small secluded lake. 

The problem was the atmosphere. 

"You know," Stiles started as they got out of the car. "You're more monosyllabic than usual. You do realise that once you get the guy, you no longer have to play hard to get?” 

Derek had a witty retort at the ready, but somehow it couldn't get past the lump in his throat. 

He had no idea what was happening - he'd known Stiles for literal years, and they'd officially been together for over a month, he should not be this nervous. 

He settled for a grunt in response and opened the trunk to get the supplies out. Stiles threw him a weird look but didn't say anything as he helped set up the blanket right by the edge of the water. They sat there quietly for a few minutes, which Derek spent playing with the fraying edge of the blanket, with Stiles watching the ducks on the lake and trying to enjoy the warming weather despite the bundle of nerves next to him. 

"Okay," Stiles said suddenly when Derek accidentally ripped a piece of the blanket. "When you went to the shop, did you also do some shopping to restock things at the house?" 

"Um… Yes?" came Derek's unsure reply. 

Stiles simply nodded and got up, swiping Derek's keys from the ground and made his way back to the car. He opened the trunk, and as he predicted, found a couple cases of beer in there. He grabbed two, one regular one werewolf friendly, by their necks on one hand and used the other to close the trunk and lock the car back up. 

He walked back and passed Derek his beer, which had the werewolf staring at it dumbly. 

"We have wine in the basket," he finally said when Stiles sat back down. 

"You don't even like wine," Stiles scoffed as he started emptying his pockets, obviously looking for something to open his beer with. He exclaimed in triumph when he got his keys, and used one to pop the cap off. With a wide grin, he turned to give the keys to Derek - who simply raised one eyebrow before he popped one of his claws and used it to open his bottle. 

"Fine, be that way," Stiles said with a grin. "How long has it been since you skipped stones?" 

"A while," Derek admitted around the neck of his beer, unconcerned with the jump in topics. 

"Come on, then!" 

Derek shook his head and obligingly got up to help look for the right stones. 

When they collected a decent amount, they took off their shoes and socks to actually stand in the water while making their throws. The water was still cold, but not unbearably so, and Derek felt himself relaxing. Skipping stones with his boyfriend was romantic, right? 

"Take that, you fucking lake," he heard Stiles mutter under his breath as he released a stone and managed to make it skip twice before plumetting to the depths. 

"Take what, the gentle pat you just gave it?" Derek replied and instantly winced; he was supposed to be trying to turn the atmosphere romantic, not actively killing it. 

"Oh, yeah, wolfman? You think you can do better? Go on then. Show me how it's done," Stiles smirked. 

Derek sighed, giving up on any kind of romance and turned back to face the lake. He picked a smooth stone from his pile and threw it low to the water, twisting it a bit, and counted as it skipped seven times before joining the other stones at the bottom. 

"Unfair werewolf powers don't count! You're cheating!" Stiles shouted and bent over to pick another stone himself. 

Derek chuckled as that one made it to three skips before sinking. 

"Shut up, that was a practice throw!" 

He wisely kept his mouth shut as Stiles picked another one and threw it with his face scrunched up in concentration. 

"Ha!" Stiles exclaimed when that one managed to skip eleven times. "Who's the champion now, huh?"

"Oh, I didn't know this was the championship competition," Derek said with an innocent smile. "Might have to bring my A game in that case." 

Stiles' smile fell off his face as Derek's next throw made it to thirteen goddamned skips. 

"Oh, it's on," he said, squinting at Derek accusingly. 

It turned into an actual competition, complete with trash talk and attempts at faults, until there were almost no stones available anywhere in their vicinity. 

They fell back in the blanket with a laugh, opening the basket to get the snacks out. 

"Gotta ask, why did you bring wine?" Stiles asked as he unwrapped his sandwich. 

"It was part of my devious plan to romance you, before you turned this into a competition and got humiliated."

"Hey, I'll have you know that I only lost by two points and considering it was a human vs werewolf competition, I'd say I did pretty damn amazingly! Also, those stones were not regulation! Wait…" he trailed off and dropped his sandwich to peek into the basket. "Oh my God. You got chocolate covered strawberries. And grapes and brie cheese, Holy God. And Reeses!" Stiles' eyes turned wide. "Dude, that would've been more than enough if they weren't right next to oysters."

"Oysters are an aphrodisiac."

"I'm not eating ocean's boogers, Derek."

Derek snorted out a laugh and shook his head as he placed his own sandwich down, too. 

"How do you do that?" 

"Do what?" Stiles asked without stopping his rummaging. 

"How do you always manage to get me out of my own head?" 

"Honestly, most of the time it's not really on purpose. I just wanted you to relax a bit," he paused and glanced at Derek curiously. "Can I ask what all that was about, by the way?" 

Derek shrugged and averted his eyes. "As I said, I wanted to romance you, or whatever."

"Derek," Stiles said softly and waited for Derek to look at him again. "We are not romantic people. Or, we are, but in our own ways. Not in the hallmark card way. How about, for the future, if you're planning a date, keep in mind that anything that makes you happy and relaxed is romantic in my head? Sound good?" 

"Yeah," Derek replied with a soft smile. "Sounds good."

"Good," Stiles nodded and pulled out a Reeses cup. "Now, I was promised a story about your smoking." 

"Not much to it, really," Derek shrugged again. "My dad used to smoke. When we were in New York, I would buy a pack and just light them without actually smoking them, just so that I could smell the burning tobacco; if I closed my eyes, it was almost as if he was still there. But I got weird looks since Laura didn't let me do that indoors, so I would do that on the fire escape where all the other smokers went too. So I started smoking to stop them looking at me weird for just lighting a cigarette and holding it; and it calms me. You're right, it's not a chemical thing, just… the smell and the process."

"Wait, why did your dad smoke?" 

"My dad was human." 

"What? How did I not know this?" Stiles asked, shock coloring his voice. 

He proceeded to ask Derek about all the details about his family, and Derek found it was actually easy to reminisce like this. 

They stayed by the lake until they realised it got dark. They kept talking the whole way back, and when they made it into Derek's apartment, he didn't wait to pin Stiles against the wall. 

Stiles was right. Throwing stones and insults was much more their speed than wine and oysters.

It's been a year. 

Stiles was laying on his back with Derek's head on his chest, lazily carding his fingers through the werewolf's hair, staring at the ceiling of their apartment in Beacon Hills. 

It was the middle of September again. A year since his trouble with zmora, a year since they reconnected with Derek and the Hale pack. 

A year since they realised they had a Licho terrorising them for years. 

On their way back to Beacon Hills, Stiles did some research on the Licho's effect on life here. Natural disasters as a whole were up by twenty three per cent since the licho moved in; fifty seven percent when compared to previous year. There were more forest fires, earthquakes, goddamned tornadoes even though they were always told those were highly unlikely in northern California. 

Unlikely, not impossible. 

Car accident statistics were through the roof, burglaries and muggings gone wrong were almost as common as if they were in New York, and it seemed every other person was suffering from an incurable disease. 

Stiles turned absolutely ruthless with his father's diet; he did everything he could to make the man avoid a heart attack. 

In the one year since their discovery, they lost one seventh of the population of Beacon Hills. 

"You're doing it again," Derek mumbled into his chest. 

"Oh," Stiles blinked. "Good morning. What am I doing?" 

"Torturing yourself with the stats," Derek said as he raised his head. 

"I can't stop," Stiles whispered. "All those people dying, and they don't even know why. We know why, we just can't seem to be able to do shit about it." 

"We scoured every source we could find on this thing,” Derek sighed. “There is literally nothing on how to defeat it. The best we can do is run defence until it moves on, so… that’s what we will keep doing. Keep fighting every supernatural crisis this thing throws at us.”

“Yeah, but how long can we keep this up?” Stiles groaned and swiped one hand over his face. “We already have so many injured people. We could honestly start a club for disabled werewolves within the pack, considering how many lost limbs already. And we lost people too,” he paused when Derek moved completely off his chest and laid down on his back next to him.

“I don’t know,” Derek whispered back tiredly. “I don’t know how long we can keep this up. But this is the only thing we can do; so we will keep trying. We have to keep trying.”

“Ugh, life would’ve been so much easier if it was like a movie. We’ve done the middle arc ‘everything goes to shit’ part, where’s the redemption and uplift for the ending? I wish we could just Wolverine this shit - just pump the bitch full of adamantium and leave her immobile and harmless.”

Stiles continued to grumble under his breath, annoyed at everything and anything, when Derek slowly turned his head to stare at him with wide eyes.

It took a second for Stiles to realise what put that expression on Derek’s face.

“Holy shit,” he gasped and shot out of bed, fell down with his legs tangled in the covers and ended up crawling the rest of the way to the pile of his clothes where his phone was hidden somewhere in the pockets of his jeans.

He managed to take the phone out with shaking fingers and started typing the number for one of the supernatural specialists he met while working for the pack. Behind him, he could hear Derek doing a similar thing with his own phone.

“Hey! Oh my God, hey, hi!” Stiles shouted into the receiver when his call was answered. “Dude, I know we went through this, but remind me - what does the licho need to be able to affect people?”

“Eye contact with either the victim or the tool of the disaster,” came the reply. “So eye contact with the victim ends up with an accident or disease or something personal like that, and the tool could be water for a flood or a tsunami, or trees for a wildfire, or literally air for tornadoes, it goes on. What are you thinking?”

“So, hypothetically,” Stiles started without acknowledging the question. “Hypothetically, if the licho was immobilised and unable to make eye contact with anything…”

“Then it wouldn’t be able to cause trouble, but that would require someone getting close, which is impossible without dying.”

“Not impossible,” Stiles said slowly. “Just highly improbable. So, what, we’re talking sterile conditions? Nothing around for the Licho to use to cause a natural disaster, and a barrier so it can’t look at you?”

“Yeah, but how are you gonna do that?”

“Let me worry about that,” Stiles said with a weak laugh. “Thanks, man! I’ll let you know how this goes if we manage to pull it off!”

He hung up and turned to see Derek staring at him with the same shell shocked expression.

“I called Mac,” he said weakly. “He was surprised we’re still around, but he confirmed that all the tests proved that licho doesn’t have supernatural strength or anything. Her talents lie with magic, but for all intents and purposes she’s just a fragile, one eyed woman.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles gasped and let out a hysterical laugh. “Dude! Oh my God!”

“We need to figure this out before you get excited,” Derek said with a shake of his head. 

“Dude, it’s figured out!” Stiles laughed. “We corner her off in the forest, we know where she spends most days. She can’t fly, so we need to do a Dexter-like setup, pure white tarps, and keep closing in on her location until she’s cornered, but we stay behind the tarps at all times so she doesn’t see us. When the space is small enough, someone does have to go in to face her, but if it’s a werewolf they can use their other senses instead of sight to catch her, so we would do a Perseus versus Medusa type deal. That person goes in covered with something from head to toe, I’m thinking actual legit armour, and using their hearing and smell, gets close enough to cover her face. We slap a blindfold to her face, then we pump her full of something so she can’t ever move and bury her alive like a Chernobyl victim, in a lead coffin in a hole which we then fill with cement.”

Derek stared at him in silence for a beat before he leapt over to Stiles in one jump and tackled him to the floor. 

“I am seriously afraid of you,” he murmured against Stiles’ neck while pawing at his boxers. “Take these off right now.”

“Being scared makes you horny?” Stiles laughed. “I think you need to call your therapist for a refu- oh holy Xavier, nevermind, keep doing that!”

Derek’s mouth was too busy to give a proper reply.

Once they both managed to leave the bedroom, the apartment turned into a situation room. They called everyone in; the people already in Beacon Hills were there within minutes, next came the wave of wolves stationed outside the town, then within a few hours the Sacramento team joined them. They even called the people outside the pack, so Scott, Kira, Allison and their parents were there too. 

Peter immediately took over the role of the general, but he didn’t even attempt to stop Lydia and Stiles from butting in. As soon as Stiles explained his plan, Peter started questioning every little thing he could think of, with Lydia and Stiles shooting back their ideas on how to make it foolproof.

“Isn’t this a bit of an overkill?” Scott asked. “You already want to put her in a lead coffin, do we seriously need to pump her full of metal?”

“It’s the easiest way to make sure she won’t be able to move and mess with the blindfold,” Stiles shot back without looking up from the map they had laid out on the table. “We could technically fill the coffin itself with cement, but if she’s not fully immobile we run the risk of the blindfold slipping somehow and allowing her to affect her surroundings and killing us all. No, we need her to be fully stationary, unable to even twitch.

“You said she’s an old lady with no supernatural strength, come on!” Scott said forcefully.

Stiles slammed his hand on the desk and turned his eyes to the beta. “Alright then, let’s not pump her! You’re responsible for putting her in the coffin then, how does that sound? You go in alone, and no one will help you until the lid is shut on the bitch, and if the blindfold slips and she stares right into your soul, tough shit, how about that?”

"Shut up, both of you," Derek grumbled. "How are you planning on pouring the metal into her?" 

"I think aluminium has the lowest melting point, so we could just melt a bunch and keep it in some sort of industry strength thermos. Making her swallow it would be the easiest, but we don't know what her internal organs look like, so we have to try and inject it somehow too. Maybe some sort of IV? I don’t know, we need to research the options,” Stiles murmured while scratching the back of his neck.

“Remind me, why can’t we just stab her eye?” Lydia cut in.

“Already been tried. Didn’t work.”

“Alright, let’s say we do aluminium, how do you want to execute that? It means more than one person will have to get close to her,” Derek asked.

“One werewolf goes in to blindfold and hold her down; then more people can get close for the metal and burying part. We will need to have the hole dug up and the cement on standby so we don’t waste any time,” Peter replied.

“Okay, run me through the whole plan as it stands right now.”

“We set up a perimeter around the area we know she’s occupying. We use big canvasses and tarps to shield ourselves from view. Caesar was able to build two lines of fortifications in the battle of Alesia, we should be able to do this with today’s technology, and make it mobile to keep moving closer,” Peter starts.

“Why can’t we just get close when she’s asleep?” Scott cut in again.

“Licho nie śpi,” Stiles sighed. “It’s an old Polish saying, it means licho doesn’t sleep. Don’t know if it’s true, but considering everything we know about this thing, I would rather we take that as a fact.”

“Which is the smart thing to do,” Peter nodded. “However, she will still be able to see the trees, ground and sky before we blindfold her. Do we have any firefighters in Beacon Hills?”

“None of ours,” Derek shook his head. “But we might be able to swing some transfers.”

“I’ll take that!” Cora clapped Derek’s shoulder and turned to Isaac. “You’re with me; gonna need your contacts.”

“Get some magic users too!” Derek called after her retreating back. “Someone who controls water, and maybe someone who controls fire.”

“We should try to cover all four elements,” Stiles added. “A fire user won’t do shit against a tornado, apart from creating nightmares.”

Cora turned to give them a single nod and kept walking away.

“Kira, Noshiko,” Derek turned to the women. “You’re both thunder kitsunes, right? If there’s lightning, are you able to control it somehow?”

“Not control it per se, but we can act as lightning rods and absorb it,” Noshiko responded. 

“Perfect,” Peter said decisively. “So that means one werewolf to hold her down and blindfold her, one person at least to administer the metal, four magic users around in case, firefighters on standby, we will let them figure out the numbers since they’ll know better what’s needed but I think no less than six is a safe guess; two kitsunes for the thunder; and a team to operate the tarps and fight if necessary. At the closest mark it will come down to eight people around the tarps.” He blinked a few times and raised his head to look at Derek. “That’s a big team.”

“At least twenty four people,” Derek agreed. “Plus a person to operate the cement truck since I don’t think that’s a skill in any of our resumes.”

Peter nodded sagely in silence, then snapped back and clapped his hands. “Alright, time to make some calls then.”

Before Stiles knew, they were ready for battle. It was a few days later and he was silently watching Derek get ready, thinking of something, anything to say before going on their most dangerous adventure to date.

Yes, they had a plan; they also had plans B through H, but he remembered the saying that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’. A million different things could go wrong, and the person risking the most was, of course, Derek.

The alpha refused to send any of his people off for the most dangerous part. It was his role to protect the pack - he had to be the one to do this. Peter was to stay behind the tarps at all times; he was needed there as the de facto general, but he was to be protected as the last surviving Hale if anything happened to Derek.

Cora was told she was staying at home. Stiles was shocked when she didn’t throw a tantrum when she heard that particular order; she just nodded sagely before hugging Derek within an inch of his life.

Their numbers rose to the high fifties. Derek was shocked to see so many of his pack members answer his call, and Stiles didn’t want to ruin it by showing how that wasn’t that much, statistically speaking, when considering the whole pack was three thousand strong. Derek didn’t expect so many werewolves to fight for him; despite growing into his role as an alpha, he still obviously didn’t appreciate his own value.

They had more than four magic users show up. There was an older couple, the wife controlling fire and the husband controlling water. When Derek met them, he started telling them to turn right around and get back to their families - they were both easily over seventy years old. The wife just smiled and told him they would rather bear the risk themselves than endanger the younger ones.

Tessa’s family was there, too. Not Tessa herself, she stayed with little Andrew, but her husband and brothers showed up.

They had a team of nine supernatural firefighters. Stiles had no idea how Cora and Isaac managed to organise nine transfers in a matter of days, but they somehow pulled it off.

“I really wish you were staying with Cora,” Derek spoke up suddenly, and Stiles looked at him and saw the tension in his shoulders and the stiff way he was holding himself.

Stiles got up and walked up to him, putting his hands on Derek’s back and pressing his forehead to the back of Derek’s neck. “I know,” he said softly. “But you know I have to be there. I’m not the army wife type, I’m not gonna sit at home and hope my man comes back from war.”

Derek snorted and turned around to put his arms around Stiles.

“I gotta do this,” Stiles said as he pressed his cheek against Derek’s. “Just like you apparently have to be the suicidal one.”

“It’s not suicidal,” Derek rebutted. “We’ve got a good plan. You came up with it, and it’s solid. We’re gonna be fine.”

Stiles just nodded weakly and squeezed harder, not wanting to let go.

Yes, they had a good plan, and they had backups piled on backups, but there was always a chance something could go wrong. They were literally going against a creature that was stacking the deck against them.

Derek sighed and kissed Stiles’ temple softly before untangling himself from the hug. He searched Stiles’ eyes for a moment before he gave a small nod, as if he was reassuring himself instead of Stiles, and turned to pick the last thing he needed before they could leave.

They made their way out of the apartment along with everyone else currently staying there. Stiles looked around and wondered what the regular people thought about the recent uptake in hotel business - they were a veritable army, and now they were all getting into their cars in silence and heading towards the Preserve.

The plan got changed a bit considering that it was logistically impossible to avoid the trees while walking forward with a massive tarp. They couldn’t avoid the licho seeing the top of the trees anyway, the tarps would have to be absolutely huge, so they opted to steal another thing from the ancient Romans and constructed shields big enough to cover their whole bodies. They weren’t professionally made, Stiles just called the scrap yard to buy as much light metal as he could and a bunch of them worked together to join it up in a roughly rectangular shape, with a little window made out of one-way mirrors - the point wasn’t the strength, it was the shielding function itself.

No one spoke as everyone hefted a shield for themselves and got in formation. They got into a wide circle around the area and slowly made their way towards the coordinates they pinpointed. At first, it was a loose formation, everyone just making sure they cover themselves as they walk. When they got close enough for the edges of the shields to touch, it turned a lot more organised and they moved as one, every second person moving half a step behind the rest so they could keep closing the circle.

No one spoke. The only sounds were coming from the regular ambiance of the Preserve and the sound of their feet hitting the ground. Those who broke out of formation when it got too small for them stayed behind as a second line, the magic users were spread around, the firefighters kept their own formation close by, ready to jump in at any moment.

The whole team was like a strung bow, and Stiles couldn’t help but worry what would happen once the arrow was released.

They were hoping the licho would be in a clearing, but she had taken to hiding around trees, which was inconvenient. Stiles could see her through the little one way mirror on his shield - she was a really frail looking, skinny woman, wispy white hair framing her face and the one eye turning curiously, taking in her surroundings. It seemed she was curious as to what was happening, but not doing anything yet. 

Derek stepped up next to Stiles. He spared a moment to squeeze his shoulder with a small, reassuring smile, before he turned to the people holding the front line and nodded for them to make an entrance for him.

His shield was much more carefully constructed - it was bent, almost half a cylinder, to give him a wider range of obstruction from licho’s sight. He inched forward slowly, letting the line close behind him, and Stiles watched breathlessly as he walked towards the licho. She noticed him and focused her eye on him, and the next thing he knew, he almost dropped his shield to cover his ears.

The scream she let out was brutal, Stiles could actually feel his teeth vibrating from it. He had no idea how the wolves withstood it, but they did, they held their positions while Derek stopped dead in his tracks and waited.

Immediately after the scream, chaos erupted - on one side, Stiles could see smoke rise up out of nowhere followed by flames, while the ground shook with the oncoming earthquake. The sky suddenly darkened and hail started falling on their heads.

“Naomi, hold it together!” Peter screamed. Naomi was one of the magic users, and arguably the most powerful in the pack, but Stiles could see the strain on her as she focused on literally trying to keep the ground from splitting. 

He heard other shouts as Peter instructed and barked orders all around. There was commotion everywhere, different people running in different directions, trying to follow their orders, but all Stiles could do was continue staring through the mirror at Derek.

It was a small consolation that the licho seemed unable to throw anything specific at Derek without seeing him. She was affecting the area, making it difficult, but with Naomi keeping the ground together Derek was able to resume his slow advance.

Stiles watched as the licho started scrambling, obviously scared now, trying to look for a way out. She didn't move fast, but her eye was spinning wildly, and suddenly the hail falling on them was much bigger - he could feel blood trickling down his face from where his head was hit. Lightning started as well, and a wind strong enough for a few people in the circle to sway heavily and fight to try and keep their position,while Derek bent almost in half trying to advance against the wind. 

He watched in horror as the wind broke a big branch right above Derek, which fell down and clean through Derek's chest. 

The alpha roared and stumbled, but didn't stop moving forward. Stiles couldn't even scream - he stood completely frozen as his boyfriend struggled forward, the bottom of the branch dragging over the ground making it even harder for him to move. 

Finally, finally, after what seemed like years, Derek got close enough to corner the licho. She had nowhere to go, and she realised it, so she grabbed at the shield and tried to move it out of the way to look at Derek. 

But Derek grabbed her. 

With a vicious roar, he grabbed her wrist and spun her, using his other hand to cover her eye. He was already holding the blindfold, but had no way to secure it while holding her. 

As soon as Stiles saw Derek slap his hand over the licho's face, he dropped his shield and ran straight to them. Derek was holding the licho with its back to him, so Stiles was able to run up, take the staple gun he had hidden in his bag and start stapling the licho's face repeatedly. 

He barely took in his surroundings, and even though every cell in his body was screaming for him to turn and help Derek, he didn't stop. In a moment, he saw multiple pairs of hands join the fray and put the licho flat on the ground, holding her down as he continued to secure the blindfold. Someone shoved a pillowcase at him, and he took it and pressed it against the licho's face, finally looking up. 

Derek was off to the side, collapsed but still watching everything that was happening. There were three more people around the licho at the moment, two of them holding one of her arms each pressed to the ground, the other holding her legs. He vaguely recognised that it was Boyd, Erica and Jackson. His eyes focus on Boyd, seeing the fury in the man’s eyes as he stared at the creature that undoubtedly caused him to lose an ear. 

Suddenly two more people joined them, carrying canisters of what he knew was molten lead. He came up with the method of keeping it molten long enough to pour it - he could not remember it at all at that moment. He watched, detached, and they got to work to cut open whatever body part they could. They started with the legs, cutting the skin open and pouring the metal in until the licho could no longer move them, freeing Boyd to help elsewhere. They did the same to the arms, and Stiles was able to look into the wounds and see that there seemed to be nothing else inside apart from bones, no muscles or tendons or anything in sight.

One person, a wolf Stiles didn’t recognise, moved closer to him to cut the throat open while the other cut the stomach.

The licho had barely any organs. There were a few there, held up by some kind of sack connected to the spine, but nothing else. There was already lead in there, poured over from the other appendages, but not yet full.

He grabbed the werewolves arm, stopping him from pouring into the stomach, and through gestures managed to get Erica to swap with him and continue to press the bag against the lichos face. He grabbed the knife from the werewolf in front of him, using it to cut open the sack and quickly cut the organs in any places they were connected so he could lift them and remove them from the licho’s body. 

No one said a word as he stuffed the few organs into his bag along with the staple gun. He moved back and let them continue working, pouring the rest of the lead into the licho's body. 

Stiles knew the rest of the plan - a couple of werewolves were to pick up the licho and carry her to her grave, where Isaac was already waiting with the coffin and the cement truck and its operator ready. They would put her in the coffin, close it, lower it to the ground and pour cement over it. They would then deal with the clean up and the medical assistance as needed, but he couldn't care less about all that. 

All the natural phenomena were still going wild around them, since the licho already started them, and Derek's breathing got more laboured with every breath. He crawled over to Derek's side and forced himself to remain calm as he surveyed the damage. Somehow, the branch managed to avoid anything vital, so Stiles wasted no time in grasping it and ripping it from the alphas body. Derek spasmed on the ground and twisted onto his stomach, breathing heavily. 

"Peter!" Stiles bellowed. The man appeared next to him in a blink of an eye. "I'm getting him out of here, take care of the rest and let us know when it's done." 

Peter nodded gravely and turned to get back to work. 

"Stiles," Derek croaked. "I need to stay here. We're not done." 

"Shut the fuck up, you are done. You've done your part, the pack's got this." 

He reached under Derek's arms to pull him up and was just wondering how the hell he's supposed to carry the werewolf back, when a car broke through the foliage and stopped next to them, with Jackson at the wheel. 

Stiles went right to the backseat without thinking, laying Derek down carefully and running around to the other side. He gently placed Derek's head on his lap when he got in, and Jackson immediately started driving, doing an impressive job of avoiding all the trees. 

"Thank you," he said softly to Jackson. This wasn't part of the agreed plan, so Jackson must've been ready for the extraction of his own accord. 

"Yeah, whatever," Jackson grumbled back. "Just keep him alive, Stilinski. I'd rather have him as an alpha instead of downgrading to Peter."

Stiles chuckled softly but didn't otherwise respond. He kept watch on Derek, making sure the man was still breathing, and within minutes they were back at their apartment building. 

Jackson helped him carry Derek upstairs and lay him on the couch, before he clapped Stiles on the shoulder and ran straight back to join the fray. 

Stiles forced Derek out of his shirt, looking at the damage. The wound was already closing, and through the hole he could see that nothing internal actually got that damaged, but Stiles still couldn’t calm down. He bundled up Derek’s shirt and pressed it against the wound, trying to reach under the coffee table where he knew he left a first aid kit.


He didn’t acknowledge being spoken to, just pulled the kit out and opened it one handed, rummaging through for bandages.

“Stiles!” This time Stiles snapped his head up and looked at Derek. “I’m fine; I’m already healing. You’re the one still bleeding from a head wound, so let me look at it.”

Stiles raised his free hand to his hand and when he pulled it back, his fingertips were covered in blood. That explains why his tunnel vision was more focused than usual - he literally couldn’t see out of one eye due to all the blood.

He nodded dimly and allowed himself to be pulled onto the couch to sit next to Derek. His whole body was shaking as he focused on the werewolf’s face, taking in the colour reappearing in the cheeks.

He could feel Derek’s fingers shaking against his scalp, too.

Wordlessly, he reached forward and swiped his hand from Derek’s chest up to his neck, grabbing the back of it for a second before changing course and travelling down to the shoulder. He released a shaky sob as his other hand joined in, and suddenly he just couldn’t stop touching, pressing against every inch of Derek that he could, reassuring himself that the man was still there - that the heart under his fingers was still beating.

The fingers in his hands stilled when Derek stopped cleaning the wound in favour of cupping Stiles’ head. He exhaled harshly and pulled Stiles’ face closer, kissing his temple, then forehead, eyelids, nose, every single part of Stiles’ face. Stiles felt the tears running down his own face as he turned to kiss Derek properly, quickly losing himself in it. His hands still scrambled for purchase and Derek held his head in a vice grip, swallowing every gasp and sob Stiles let out, refusing to break the kiss for even a second. 

They both moved almost without thought to get closer to each other until Stiles was straddling Derek’s lap. Derek pushed his shirt up and ripped it off him in a second and surged forward to start pressing kisses up Stiles’ chest, back up to his mouth. Stiles moved his hands to Derek's head, tugging on the hair harshly and kissed back ferociously. Their movements turned harsh, animalistic as Derek impatiently undid Stiles' belt and jeans, pushing them down just enough to release his erection, then doing the same to his own pants, all the while licking into Stiles mouth brutally. He gripped them both in his hand and started moving it in an opposing rhythm to the aborted thrusts of Stiles' hips. It was too dry, almost on the edge of pain, but neither of them cared as they moved in tandem. 

All too soon, they were both gasping into each other's mouths, no longer kissing but just pressing their lips together and breathing the same air. Derek sped up the movements of his hand, using their combined precome to slick the way, and felt Stiles’ dick twitch against his seconds before Stiles stiffened and came over his hand and chest with a punched out groan. Derek soon followed, muffling his moan by pressing his face against Stiles’ neck.

They stayed pressed together as their breathing calmed down, neither wanting to release the other. Derek kept his face hidden in Stiles’ neck, while Stiles rested his cheek against his head, his arms looped around Derek’s neck. 

“We’re okay,” Derek whispered after the prolonged silence. “We’re fine. We’re safe.”

Stiles couldn’t bring himself to do much more than simply nod.

It was a good few hours before they were updated as to what happened after they left the Preserve. Stiles was beginning to worry again, but couldn’t force himself to untangle himself from Derek. They managed to move to the bed at some point, but didn’t do much more than that, just stayed huddled together, both of them still half dressed.

News finally arrived in the form of Peter barging into their bedroom without a care.

“It’s done,” he started, throwing a smirk at the pair in the bed. “The rest went off without a hitch, the bitch is buried and secured.”

“Why did it take so long?” Derek asked.

“It didn’t. I came earlier to update you but found you… preoccupied.”

Stiles just rolled his eyes, not able to muster the energy to blush. Peter’s smirk widened before he threw them a lazy salute and walked back out of the room.

“So,” Stiles intoned after a moment. “What now?”

“Now?” Derek replied with a smile. “Now we get to go home.”

Stiles smiled back and put his head back on Derek’s chest.

Going home sounded like a good idea.