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And Just Where Have You Been?

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It's a sad commentary on Stiles' life that this has become the norm. ‘This’ being running in the dead of night through the back alleys of Beacon Hills with a feral omega werewolf on his scent trail. Not that, this particular situation has happened before but rather the fact that his workout regimen is almost completely cardio based because he is always running for his fucking life from some creature of the night. 

He's still got like 5 blocks to go to get back to his jeep and he doesn't think he's gonna make that. If he had the breath or time to pull his phone out to call Derek he would, he so would. Now that they've been through alpha Peter, kanima, alpha pack, durach, and Stiles' brief but traumatizing time as the nogitsune, Derek and Stiles have moved on from being enemies to allies to friends. Well, Stiles likes to think they're at least friends. But even that's still evolving because lately it's been more staring longingly on his part and systematic ignorance on Derek's. The point is, Derek is one of the few people in Stiles' life that he calls his friend and pack that are still alive and in town. 

But he doesn't have the breath to spare to break his stride, pull out his phone and call someone to help. 

Of course that's when he hears it. It's a sound he hasn't heard in at least four years. It's a sound that brings back memories of back when it was more than just him and his dad in a big house with only each other for company. The rumble of that engine can only mean one thing. He puts on a burst of speed and hopes to God he times it right. Just as he jumps out of the alley to cross the semi-busy street a blue Charger skids to a stop to avoid hitting him. As Stiles hood slides across to the passenger side he gets a quick look at the drivers surprised expression. He jumps off the hood with more grace than he used to possess and gets himself into the car in the same breath. 

"Drive. Evasive maneuvers," he orders in a voice that sounds more and more like his dad every day. The car takes off a moment later with a squeal of tires and he gets himself better situated in his seat as they drive off. Once he gets his seat belt on he turns to face the driver. 

"What the hell Stiles? Since when are you a rebellious teenager out running the streets at two am?" 

He rolls his eyes at his older brother and gives him the address to Derek's loft. He's not not talking to Luka but he's also not going to be the one to start the conversation at this point.

Because at this point he is owed so much. So fucking much its incalculable how much his older brother owes him for what he's had to deal with alone for the last two and a half years.

Stiles doesn't know why he tells him to drive to Derek's. It's not like he really wants to take him there; it's Luka's fault Stiles even knew the Hale family in the first place and he's not so sure he wants to have to watch the happy reunion. He doesn't really say anything to his brother because he's not entirely sure that he can say anything without getting indignant. Or bitchy. When Luka parks Stiles doesn't waste a minute and gets right out of the car figuring his brother will just follow along for a least a little while longer. Doesn't stop him from asking questions that Stiles isn't going to answer. 

"Why are we here? Didn't the Hale's own this building? I thought it was empty?"

Stiles just walks into the building and gets into the elevator. As they stand on either side of the box Stiles takes stock of his condition. Sweaty and sore from the sprint, he's caught his breath but the adrenaline from the chase has faded enough that his hands are shaking. Of course it doesn't help that his righteous anger is beginning to boil under his skin. Yeah. That could be part of it too. His head is pounding along time with his heart and he'd really like a Gatorade and to stretch out his legs. 

"Are you seriously going to ignore me Stiles? Did you bring me here to, what, not talk to me now that I'm back?" 

The elevator opens and Stiles simply glares and makes to step out towards Derek's door. But Luka gets a hand on his forearm. Technically it's his bicep. One that has finally shown some definition thanks to a better weight lifting plan Derek helped him with. Also, he's probably only half an inch shorter than Luka now so when he glares he's basically at eye level. Closer to equal than they were the last time they saw each other. 

"You're not the only one with assignments, Luka." He spits with as much venom as he can and walks away easily breaking his brother's hold. 

Stiles opens the door and Derek is already walking up the steps to meet him when he walks in. He's got his concerned face on and walks right up into Stiles' personal space presumably to check on him. He grabs Stiles by the shoulders as he looks him over for injuries. Whatever, it's been almost three years of this werewolf behavior it's not like it's weird now. 

He knows Luka is behind him. Knows Derek knows that Luka is behind him. But Derek doesn't even address the issue until he's asked, "What's wrong? I thought you were on patrol."

Stiles sighs the sigh of the long suffering human who gets sent out in the wee hours of the morning to watch for feral werewolf activity. 

"I was. She found me. I ran. And ran into.."

He trails off and flourishes his hands behind him towards his brother. Derek lets him walk into the loft and away for the time being. He goes to get himself his so desired Gatorade and pointedly doesn't watch Derek and his brother bro hug for what feels like an entire minute. He comes back with his drink and watches them interact. It makes him wonder what his sixteen year old brain was thinking not trusting Derek. He rolls his eyes while Derek assures Luka that he's good now, he's better. And then it happens.

"So what are you doing here? It's been what four years?"

Normal question for your high school bff who goes to the police academy and then promptly disappears after graduation.  Stiles would very much like the answer to that question since the only word he and his father had been sent was an email saying he'd been assigned to a deep cover op and wouldn't be in touch. 

He puts the drink down and swallows what's in his mouth because he just knows Luka's going to say something that'll make Stiles either spit take or choke if he doesn't. 

But his brother just smiles that smile that makes him look just like their dad and shrugs. 

"Oh just passing through. Thought I'd stop by."

Stiles hasn't wanted to commit murder so badly since he actually helped commit murder by throwing a Molotov cocktail at Peter Hale. 

Ah brotherly affection. It's a wonderful thing. 

*

Derek had heard an unfamiliar car rumble up outside but once Derek heard Stiles' heartbeat he calmed down a little. 

It was disconcerting at first that Derek learned to pick out Stiles' heartbeat and scent in crowded rooms and across long distances. But he's had to fight for so much in his life that he just isn't going to with this. He's respected Stiles since the moment Derek watched him drag his half paralyzed body through the police station to get to his dad. He realized how much he actually liked Stiles' friendship when he left with Cora and the only person he thought to send a postcard to or would want to check up with was Stiles. He'd maybe realized that he's attracted to the soon to be nineteen year old when they started working out together and Derek got to see all that toned strong muscle Stiles hides get even better. 

While Derek isn't going to fight whatever this is he isn't going to be the one to initiate it he thinks. Stiles should be the one to decide. Because it's Stiles who should be going to college soon and starting his life and having experiences that aren't riddled with supernatural problems. 

For now he's at least expressed that he will remain a part of the Hale-McCall pack no matter what and so had been on patrol to watch out for a feral omega. Normally he calls when there's trouble while he's out. He really only ever retreats completely when something is really wrong. 

So Derek was already up and walking to the door when he heard Stiles talking to someone in the elevator. Derek was far more concerned why his packmate smelled hurt and angry and weary more than he cared about someone who used to be his best friend. Stiles explains in that short angry way that he does when he's trying to keep his emotions in check and walks away. Only when Derek is satisfied his hurt is emotional and he's not secretly bleeding out (it's happened before) does he really allow himself to process Luka Stilinski's presence in his home. He plasters on a smile and placates his old friend's curiosity. But when Stiles comes back with a drink in hand Derek knows he's asking the question Stiles doesn't want to but the one he wants the answer to. 

"So what are you doing here? It's been what four years?"

He glances over Luka's shoulder to see Stiles put the drink down and physically brace himself for whatever is going to come out of his brother's mouth next. 

"Oh just passing through. Thought I'd stop by."

Holy god is that the wrong thing to say. Derek frowns pointedly at him before he peeks at Stiles again. Stiles is- Stiles is quite angry. Derek might even go so far as to use the word livid and have it accurately apply. Before he can do anything to stop the inevitable outburst Stiles is working himself up to Luka turns around, sees Stiles righteous indignation and has the gall to ask, "What?" 

Derek just groans and turns away to shut the door and lock it. Stiles, predictably and deservingly Derek thinks, explodes. 

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?"

The terrifying thing is that Stiles reigns back in the loud anger into something a bit more quiet and controlled and very much like his dad.

"You're just 'passing through' asshole? Where the hell were you that you couldn't drop in that time I almost died. Or was kidnapped and tortured. Or that time dad almost died. Or that time again I almost died, with Scott I might add. Or when I got possessed and you guessed it almost fucking died again. Or I don't know, showed any fucking interest in the wellbeing of this family? And you have the fucking nerve to stand here like we didn't try calling or emailing all your emergency contacts when all this shit was happening and we could have used your useless goddam help?"

Luka's face twists in confusion and disbelief. Derek would bet that he really believes Stiles is still an over-exaggerating little kid and is being melodramatic. 

"I was on a deep cover assignment. It's not like I could break that for a high cholesterol report or you getting lost in the preserve."

Derek winces and he knows even without scenting the air that Stiles is so beyond hurt and angry he doesn't know how to deal. So Derek watches him try to hold it in for about 0.002 seconds before Stiles' mouth is running faster and with more profanity than Derek's ever witnessed. 

"Oh my god I need to leave. I need to get the fuck away from you right now." He starts to walk up the steps again to get past his older brother but seeing Derek must remind him why he's there in the first place and that they really shouldn't leave because he turns right around and continues to rant and swear angrily as he walks across the loft and up the stairs. 

"Except I can't fucking leave because that's my fucking life. I can't fucking believe this. I am this close to committing murder in your loft Derek. I helped with Peter I could do it myself now I am that fucking angry at you Luka. Godamn motherfucking inconsiderate duchebag older brother. Fucking almost fucking die on multiple fucking occasions and the fucker throws deep cover bullshit at me. Oh my fucking God."

As Stiles gets up the stairs to the bedroom Derek can only hear his fluttering pulse, his vulgar mutterings and the sound of him pacing back and forth with soft footfalls that are so completely at odds with his current mood. 

Derek levels a look at the guy that for all intents and purposes was his best friend for life. Then Derek and Laura left for New York and Luka went to the academy in southern California. So by the time Derek got back to Beacon Hills and his life was thrown into chaos once again his high school best friend had been long forgotten. But if he’s here now, for seemingly no reason it’d be better if he just left again. Derek doesn’t want to deal with watching out for yet another person getting mixed up in the supernatural beings that continue to descend on this damn town.

And if the initial reaction between the brothers is anything to go off of, he’d rather not have Luka around if it’s just going to hurt Stiles. It took Derek long enough to stop seeing the six year old kid who used to follow Derek and Luka around in Stiles. It was the biggest reason they stayed ‘enemies’ for so long when Derek got back. He couldn’t see Stiles as a teenager or even the young man he’s grown into because all he could see was this little kid fumbling around in great danger of getting hurt. Of course, Derek knows better now.

“Wasn’t good Luke.”

He squawks at Derek and swats at Derek’s arm as he walks past him further into the loft. But Luka follows anyway.

“Luk-a. My name is Luka, bastard. You know I hate that.”

They make their way to the couch and sit at opposite ends just looking at each other.

“He’s not exaggerating you know. In fact that’s a pretty gross understatement of what your brother- what we all have had to deal with.”

“Whatever.” Luka scoffs and his attitude is going to get old real quick.

Derek turns to look at him, face pinched in sincerity.

“No. Really. Unless you were undercover with the mob, your brother has had more guns and lethal weapons brandished against him than you have.”

That shuts him up for a moment.

“Where have you been?”

Apparently glad for the subject change Luka’s face brightens. Well, they are talking about him now aren’t they?

“Chicago, man.”

“Oh, so you were working organized crime?”

Derek watches in something close to actual delight when Luka ducks his head embarrassed.

“I hate that you know when I’m lying.”

“Don’t need to hear you heartbeat to know though buddy. You’ve had the same tell since you were 13.”

Luka sighs and Derek smiles his best shit eating grin. He’s missed this part. Missed giving each other crap. Luka was the first human who wasn’t pack that Derek told about being a werewolf. Well, told is probably the wrong verb. Puberty was hard. Derek may have shifted one day while they played video games.

“It was a drug ring we were trying to bring down. They recruited kids out of the inner city middle and high schools. The day I showed up to the scene and it was a twelve year old kid lying dead on the pavement I volunteered.”

Derek snorts.

“Why would they put the whitest white guy in there?”

“Hey! But no, it was a Russian dominated gang so, you know, I was perfect.”

Derek quirks an eyebrow at him in question before Luka will elaborate.

“I can speak, read and write Polish and Russian fluently.”

“Can Stiles?”

“No, mom-“ Derek watches emotions flit across his friends face for a moment before he continues. “My mom only got through teaching him Polish. Before she- you know.”

Yeah. Derek and Laura never got to learn all the things their mother promised to teach them either. Luka sighs again and looks at the stair case like if he watches them close enough he’ll see what his brother is doing.

“Luka what are you doing here? You always said you didn’t want to stay in this town and live in your dad’s shadow. Are you really going to just walk in and out of your family’s lives forever?”

As expected he doesn’t actually listen or acknowledge Derek while he stares off into space still staring at the underside of Derek’s second floor. Like a weirdo.

“Please tell me you still see him as that scrawny underweight little kid running around with a buzz cut.”

Derek just shakes his head at the guy because nothing has changed. Stiles may be the one on ADHD meds but Luka probably could use some too.

“Stiles hasn’t been a little kid for a while, Luka. You should know that better than anyone.”

The elder Stilinski brother looks at him curiously not for the first time since he walked in the loft.

“When did he stop being my kid brother to you?”

Derek snorts and goes for the truth.

“When I watched him drag his mostly paralyzed body across the station floor past dead deputies to get to your dad.”

Derek doesn’t get to really bask in the shock on Luka’s face because he hears Stiles stop pacing and slump to the floor before he can get the chance. He takes in a breath and shit that’s blood. Derek can’t hardly believe he hadn’t smelled it when they came in. Jesus, Stiles was more upset than Derek gave him credit for. He gets up off the couch before Luka even gets a chance to fully say, “you’re kidding right?”

“Dude, where are you going?” he asks while settling further into the couch like he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

“Gotta check on Stiles.”

Luka scoffs and Derek stops part way up the spiral staircase to let him say whatever he wants. It’s really just easier that way.

“Since when are you two friends?”

And yeah, Derek’s about done with Luka’s shit.

“Luka, you may not want to believe it or acknowledge it or whatever. But your brother is probably the best friend I have in this town. And not just because he’s saved my life multiple times either.”

“Fine I’ll ask, what has been happening around here while I was gone?”

Derek just shakes his head once again though because he’s not going to be the one to tell the guy exactly how he kinda maybe definitely failed his family just a little.

“I’m not gonna answer that. You’re going to need to talk that one out with your dad and Stiles.”

With that Derek turns and walks the rest of the way up the stairs to make sure Stiles isn’t bleeding out. Again.

*

Stiles shouldn't have been surprised by his brother. Really he shouldn't. It just would have been nice to hear something like, "dad told me not to come" or "I was in the hospital myself." Some bullshit about being so deep under cover he couldn't get a message out at all? Yeah, Stiles doesn't want to hear it. His colorful outburst did wonders in relieving the building desire to punch his brother. By the time he wears himself down pacing he's got himself back in a place where he knows that his brother doesn't really mean to be such an ass. He probably honestly doesn't know the extent of what has been going on. 

When Luka left, Stiles had just turned fourteen years old. He's about six inches taller, broader in the shoulders and finally found a good length to keep his hair that isn't a buzz cut now. He knows he still isn't as intimidating looking as Derek is, probably won't be for another couple years. But Stiles has seen and been through enough shit for his brother to at least respect him. 

When he's done pacing he lays flat starfished out on the floor of Derek's bedroom. He's been up here all of twice and both times he was in recovery. The first time was right after the nogitsune and Stiles couldn't sleep. After being awake and wandering around for nearly three days Stiles had found himself looking for Derek in an empty loft and he'd really only meant to sit on Derek's bed for a moment to catch his breath. Twelve hours later Stiles woke up on one side of the bed with Derek sitting reading a book on the other. There hadn't been a 'moment' between them just understanding on Derek's part and gratitude on Stiles'. After a placating call to his dad had been made Derek took him for food and drove him home after. 

The second time was when everyone but Stiles and Derek had left town on college visits and a transient witch was passing through town. Derek wanted to confront her and ask when she'd be leaving. Stiles wanted to leave well enough alone. So they ended up seeking her out and found her in an alley. Stiles remembers trying to ask her a question before a spell was hurled at him and hit him square in the chest. Derek says he crumpled and he'd had to catch him before his head smacked the concrete. Derek had yelled after her, Stiles was told, and her answer was that he'd wake up after she was out of town. That Derek didn't need to worry she was leaving after she finished her shopping. Stiles woke up five hours later in Derek's bed with the worst headache he'd ever experienced. 

The ordeal wasn't all bad though. Mainly because he got a contrite Derek sitting with him on the bed draining his pain and making stupid jokes. Stiles will forever remember getting to see Derek really smile and being the reason for it.  

But Derek had apparently complained both times of Stiles' scent not leaving the bed clothes until he washed them twice and aired out the room. So this time he figures the floor is a better option. He may like the guy and incidentally, how he smells, but if the feelings aren't mutual who is Stiles to force anything on him? 

Given Stiles' assumptions about his relationship with Kate Argent, Stiles won't be forcing Derek to do anything other than eat more vegetables. 

He listens to Derek and his brother talk but doesn't try to eavesdrop. He doesn't care what they're talking about just closes his eyes and listens to the hushed murmur of their conversation. After a while the talking stops and he hears someone climbing the stairs. He doesn't really feel like moving but then he knows it's Derek because-

"Shit, Stiles!"

There's no need to yell why is Derek yelling? Before he can even respond there's a hand tugging his shirt up to reveal torso and hips. He opened his eyes wide in shock and still can't say anything when Derek's hands move up to cradle his face. Derek must get a good look at Stiles' completely alert expression because Stiles watches him nearly completely deflate. 

"Don't- don't do that again. I thought-"

Stiles wants to reach up and steady Derek or at least prove he really is okay but Luka bursts up the staircase probably drawn up by Derek yelling. 

"What the hell?" He drawls out slowly. 

Derek doesn't turn to Luka just gets up and gets the first aid kit to take care of where Stiles may have been swiped by the omega's claws and must have bled through his shirt. It really wouldn't be the first time Stiles was found bleeding out so he knows exactly what Derek was thinking. 

"What's the rule Stiles?" Derek calls tersely from the bathroom.

Stiles sighs, "Basic first aid is the first thing you address when returning from an assignment or incident." 

Derek stomps back still ignoring Luka who by now is standing, towering over Stiles looking surprisingly concerned. Derek gets right back down on the floor and starts cleaning the shallow cuts on Stiles' side with a scowl firmly in place. Stiles feels bad all of a sudden. He should have just taken Luka home and spared Derek all the drama. 

Derek's single minded focus on cleaning and treating Stiles' small injury is broken when he looks up at Luka. 

"Give us a minute."

Stiles watches his older brother look at Derek curiously but Stiles knows he won't read anything from Derek unless Derek wants him to. He resumes staring at the ceiling until he hears his brother sit on the couch below them. Derek sighs and Stiles grips his forearm before he can pull away completely. 

"I'm sorry," he apologizes sincerely. He hadn't meant for any of this to happen. Tonight was supposed to be Derek's night off. But Derek shakes his head and helps Stiles sit up and peel his bloodied shirts completely off. 

"It's fine, Stiles. It's probably better you got to yell here instead of with your dad around."  

Stiles doesn’t really have a response to that because it probably was better that he didn’t yell like that with his dad around. His dad always hated when Stiles and Luka fought. It’s not like they fought all the time growing up. Having a six year age difference pretty much meant that Stiles though Luka was the best thing second only to his parents. They weren’t best friends. That’s what Derek and Scott were for, but Stiles and Luka always got along too.

In school Luka was always there to protect Stiles whenever he needed it. Things like bullies on the playground afterschool were easily taken care of when your brother was at least a foot taller than them. Plus, they held each other together after their mom died. Luka talked him down from his panic attacks and together they took care of their dad and the house and themselves.

Stiles is just glad they didn’t all fall apart with her death but pulled together and go through the worst of it as a family.

Sure Stiles and Luka had their brotherly squabbles, Stiles was still mildly hyper active and Luka was still mildly self-absorbed, but they still loved each other. The fact that they had gotten closer after her death made his disappearance after graduation sting that much more. Stiles had thought he could look to Luka to have his back and be there in emergencies if Stiles needed him. It’s a hurt that hasn’t stopped hurting that Luka wasn’t around through everything that went down in Beacon Hills.

Stiles almost dying, Scott almost dying, their Dad almost dying, hell even Derek almost died a few thousand times too. For all the friends Stiles couldn’t save and all the times he needed his brother to lean on and he wasn’t there just ripped the wound open further. But it wasn’t until Luka showed up that Stiles really felt how deep that wound actually went.

Derek tosses him a shirt and sits on the bed next to where Stiles is leaning against it. Once Stiles has the shirt on over his head he can see Derek leaned forward bracing himself with his elbows on his legs to get right up close to Stiles again.

“You know he loves you,” he says quietly.

“He does,” Stiles will admit. He takes a breath and lays it all out for Derek. For some reason. “But he also resents me. He says mom paid more attention to me I guess because of the ADHD. Between getting diagnosed and finding the right drugs to work it did take a lot of her attention so I kind of get it but he had dad too. I mean, he’s a cop just like dad. He’s always going to be the golden child.”

He sees a look of surprise on Derek’s face and Stiles rolls his eyes a little because, come on. Derek knew Luka as a teenager.

“Oh, please. Luka can do no wrong in my dad’s eyes. You know how much of a perfect child he was in high school. That’s how my dad will always see him.”

Stiles shrugs because it really doesn’t bother him as much as it could. He and his dad are good. While Luka may have always professed his plans to be a cop and always was working out to make sure he passed the physical part of it Stiles was solving cases and piecing puzzles together with their dad. And even with the lying sophomore year, once the truth came out they’ve only gotten closer. He really doesn’t care about his brother’s relationship with their dad because Stiles’ own relationship with him is just what he needs and wants.

But Derek’s shaking his head like he doesn’t believe or maybe he thinks Stiles is wrong. He doesn’t get a chance to find out which before Luka is back, demanding attention like always.

“Not to interrupt-“

“Except you are interrupting.” Stiles quips.

“But as much fun as it is sitting on your couch I would like to go home. It’s past three am.”

When he feels a hand on his shoulder, Stiles turns back to look at Derek. With a look Derek is asking if he’s okay to leave with Luka. He brings his own hand up to pat reassuringly at Derek’s and gives him a small smile. Four years may have passed but dealing with his brother will always be something he can handle.

He throws his hands up and snaps his head over to look expectantly at his brother.

“Help me up, dumb butt.”

Luka rolls his eyes but Stiles can see the little twitch of lips the means he’s fighting a grin as he walks over. Stiles has to wince when Luka tugs him up a little too quickly but Dereks there to steady him. How long was he on the floor? His legs feel like jelly. Before he can even comment to Luka about being gentle Derek beats him to it.

“You watched me bandage his side, dial it back a little Luka.”

Not even missing a beat Luka gets this glint in his eye and smirks at them.

“Bet you tell yourself that a lot Derek.”

Stiles knows from the way Luka raises his hands in defeat and turns to walk away that Derek’s giving him the same bitch face Stiles is.

Luka just had to go there. Stiles doesn’t look back at Derek to see his reaction, just follows his brother down the spiral staircase. They’re walking towards the door when he realizes his jeep is still on parked halfway between the loft and his house.

“Luka, can we stop and get the jeep?”

His brother gives him a look that Stiles is sure is supposed to mean something and then nods and turns around again walking up the steps to the door. They all stand awkwardly in front of the door.

“Don’t worry about the omega. Scott and I will deal with it tomorrow.”

Stiles nods tiredly and unlocks the door to get him and Luka out of Derek’s hair. The silence isn’t nearly so tense on the elevator ride down. Stiles gets back into the Charger and Luka waits until they’re pulling away from Derek’s building to say anything.

“Nothing happens in this town.”

“With exception of eleven people getting murdered in their house, no nothing happened in this town while you were here.”

Luka just nods. He lost friends when that happened too. Where Stiles had found comfort in Scott and Melissa while their mother deteriorated in front of them Luka had Derek and Talia. Then the fire happened and Mom got worse and Stiles kind of gets why Luka needed to leave after graduation.

Stiles tells him where his jeep is parked and Luka drives him right to it without trying to explain anything or make any more excuses. Stiles gets out with a quick thanks and jumps into the jeep. Luka waits for him to get it started before he drives off and Stiles follows him home.

After a block or two he pulls his phone out of his pocket and debates calling Scott. It is almost four in the morning now. He decides against waking him up as much as he’d like to talk to his best friend right now. There's a joke about letting sleeping dogs lie that Stiles hasn’t thought in ages. Whether it’s how tired he is or how stupidly emotionally ripped open he is but he laughs the rest of the way home.

He’s still chuckling when he parks the jeep and gets out shuffling towards the house. Their timing was pretty perfect because the cruiser is in the driveway and the kitchen light is still on when the brothers walk into the house. Getting past their dad is pretty easy.

Luka gets a smack to the back of the head and admonished by their dad for not responding when he should have. Luka certainly looks apologetic after it’s all over and Stiles suggests they get some sleep and talk over everything when they wake up. His dad just nods, pulls him into a hug and bids them goodnight.

Stiles can’t think about more than getting himself up the stairs and to his bedroom. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, shucks off his jeans and collapses. Moments later his phone buzzes and it’s only when he sees the text from Derek asking if he got home okay that he realizes he’s still wearing Derek’s shirt. He thinks he responds to Derek’s message before his eyes close and he’s dead to the world.

*

The next morning Stiles wakes up and the smell of coffee wafts through the house to his bedroom. He texts Scott right away to let him know that Luka’s home. He doesn’t wait for a reply and leaves his phone on his bed as he stumbles down the stairs after throwing on pajama pants and stopping in the bathroom.

He drops down at the table expecting his dad to be the one at the stove making what smells like waffles. But when a cup of coffee appears on the table in front of him he looks up and Luka is the one cooking breakfast. Stiles isn’t even halfway through his coffee before his dad is at the table next to him with plates and silverware. Luka serves them fresh fluffy waffles and Stiles wonders when exactly his brother learned to cook this well.

It’s only after the waffles are eaten and they’ve all had an adequate amount of coffee to wake up that Stiles starts a fresh pot and they all move to the living room. Stiles sits on the couch and watches his dad pull a chair right across from it, presumably for Luka to sit facing them. He gets proven right when his dad moves to sit next to him on the couch and points at the chair when Luka walks in with a new cup of coffee.

It was eleven in the morning when they all sat down to talk and by the time they get through everything it’s almost two in the afternoon. They tell him everything. Stiles tells it from the beginning and his dad even gets new details when Stiles doesn’t sugar coat anything.

Luka hears everything from Stiles having his throat stepped on while he was paralyzed, to John’s time spent tied up in the root cellar, and then everything else ending with the mess in Mexico saving Scott and thinking Derek was dead.

Stiles watches his brother try to process everything and sit with a slightly horrified expression while they go through all the times Stiles’ life was up for grabs. They end it by telling him about how after Mexico Chris Argent had come back and armed Stiles and spent a month training him to better protect himself. Stiles was looking at his dad while he told Luka about Argent, so he’s surprised to find himself with his arms full of his older brother shortly after his dad is done.

Luka’s always been just a little taller and a little broader and Stiles feels completely surrounded when Luka’s arms wrap around his shoulders and his face is pressed mostly into his brother’s chest. He returns the embrace and looks over Luka’s shoulder at his dad’s pleased smile.

“God, I’m sorry. And don’t say it’s okay because it’s fucking not.”

“Language,” their dad says dryly and Stiles narrows his eyes at him for interrupting his apology but Luka really doesn’t stop anyway.

“Just say you don’t hate me.”

Stiles shakes his head and tightens his hold on his brother.

“I don’t hate you. And you’re right, it’s not okay but thank you for the apology.”

Luka goes boneless letting Stiles bear his weight but Stiles just ends up squished beneath his brother on the couch for a few minutes. Stiles figures he needs a little reassurance that Stiles is alive and whole. He can see his dad start to rub Luka’s back a little in comfort as well. Stiles is mildly used to this level of tactility so it doesn’t bother him as much as he thought it would to be cuddled into the couch for a while. After a bit his dad clears his throat and pats Luka’s back and they both sit up.

Both Stiles and John steadfastly ignore it when Luka wipes his eyes and sniffles for a few moments choosing to sip at the last of their coffee. Stiles tucks his legs up onto the couch and hugs his knees when his dad pats at Luka again on his leg this time.

“Your turn. What have the last four years looked like for you?”

Luka tells them about getting hired in Chicago, how he was working hard enough to be allowed to work directly under a detective. He tells them how the department had already been looking to go after this Russian gang that was using young kids as their drug mules. Luka had volunteered for undercover work and they’d jumped at the chance of getting someone who spoke the language in the gang.

Stiles can see why it worked so well. He’s tall with fair hair and their dad’s light blue eyes. But he’s broad in the shoulders and strong enough to take whatever abuse the gang dealt out. They listen as he walks them through all the stuff he had to do and the things he saw and could testify about. That’s probably his saving grace in everything is that the reason he’s home, apparently, is because they got enough evidence through Luka to take down the top players and pretty much disband the gang entirely.

“So they gave me some vacation time to think about what I want to do next,” Luka winds down. “I got accepted to train for the FBI and I was seriously considering going there but…” He looks back and forth from Stiles to their dad. “Now that I know what’s actually been going on here I don’t think I’m going to take it. I- Dad I still don’t think I can work for you. But I’m sure I can get a job in the next county over. Close enough for emergencies-“

“Far enough not to work for dad,” Stiles smiles at his brother.

He remembers Luka ranting about how he could never be a deputy for his dad. Being his son was enough; he didn’t need to see him every day of his life at work too. Stiles got it. Luka and his dad are very similar in many ways but they’re pretty different in how they approach the work. It would probably end in disaster if Luka had to work for their dad and comply to his rules and procedures.

Their dad stands up and pulls them both off the couch and up into a group hug. He pulls back with a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and the other on Luka’s.

“Your mom would be proud of them men you grew up to be. I’m proud of you, boys.”

Stiles peeks a look at Luka and they smile at each other. Because that may have been the first time their dad talked about their mom without a single hitch in his voice. They pull him back into a hug and just have a moment to enjoy each other’s embrace.

After the moment is over, John has to go to work and Luka has plans to go see old friends and catch up with people around town. Stiles doesn’t have plans, other than video games in his bedroom. He makes the rare choice to throw on real clothes before he starts, because with the omega still running around out there he figures being ready to go at a moment’s notice is probably a wise decision.

He plays for a few hours and doesn’t notice when it gets dark outside. The game doesn’t really do a good job distracting him from thinking like it normally can. He’s too busy thinking about his brother’s sudden appearance and Derek’s reaction. It brings back memories long forgotten. He remembers a young Derek Hale coming over after school and playing video games with Luka or them doing homework and projects at the kitchen table.

The more he thinks about it all the more he remembers. He has a sudden flash of memory of tagging along with Luka after school one day. They’d – they’d gone to the Hale’s. Stiles had been there before the fire. He met Talia and Cora and Laura.

Oh god.

He knows his breathing is erratic but he can’t stop remembering things.

He remembers Laura. She was older than Derek but they looked so similar. She had long black hair and piercing eyes just like Derek would grow in to.

He can feel his chest tightening and tries to pull his mind off the memories to focus on breathing. He hears his phone ringing but when he presses the screen to answer the call he sees it’s Derek and he’s thrown back into the memories again.

“Stiles, I’m down the street- Stiles?”

“I- Derek, I’m-“

He hears the engine rev over the phone and outside down the block.

“Stiles, breathe. Try and breathe for me okay?”

Stiles nods and pulls a deep breath in, holds it for two counts and lets it out. He can still feel his heart racing in his chest, but he hears a car stop outside his house and then hears a door open and shut quickly. The next thing he knows his window is going up and Derek is there in front of him holding his face gently. Once he has his breath back the words come tumbling out and he grips Derek’s arms tightly.

“I’m sorry. Oh my god I’m so fucking sorry. I- I remember.” He shakes his head when Derek looks at him confused. He feels Derek’s thumbs move across his cheekbones like even now he’s trying to calm Stiles down.

“I remember Laura. And then I helped Scott dig her up and- and I am a terrible person. I know I’m not the best person around, I mean Scott’s kind of got that market cornered around here but I am a terrible person and I am so fucking sorry. How do you not hate me? It was Laura. Oh my god.”

“Stiles!” Derek cuts in when Stiles works himself back up and his breathing is back to being unsteady, close to hyperventilating.

“Stiles, would you calm down? I don’t hold it against you!”

Stiles leans back against his headboard and lets go of Derek’s arms. He closes his eyes to focus on breathing and not thinking and Derek lets go of his face but doesn’t back up. After another few moments of getting his mind back under control Stiles hears more car doors closing outside his house and the front door opening.

“You okay?” Derek asks suddenly and Stiles opens his eyes and nods a little, confused.

“Good, got your shotgun handy?” he asks and stands next to the bed before pulling Stiles to his feet.

“Yeah, it’s downstairs,” Stiles answers, mind clearing already, on alert for whatever Derek was ‘stopping by’ for.

They make their way down the stairs loudly and hurriedly. Stiles walks past his brother in the living room to the gun safe just as his dad calls from the kitchen.

“Boys!”

Stiles grabs his shotgun and a box of shells and turns away from the safe leaving it open. He follows Derek through the house pulling shells out of the box and puts them in his back pockets. Luka follows behind and Stiles walks past his dad who’s standing at the sink looking out the back window with his hand on his gun already. Once he gets outside he can hear the sounds of fighting coming through the woods.

He takes off running with Derek, letting Luka and his dad follow behind them. He hears Scott’s alpha roar and then suddenly they’re in a clearing watching Scott face off with the omega. He can hear his dad tell Luka to stop while Stiles rushes in shotgun loaded and raised. Stiles slows his pace the closer he gets and waits, weapon raised for his chance to help.

They had figured out the girl had been kicked out of her pack and then shortly after that her child had died. Either one of those things would make a werewolf unstable, but losing her anchor and her child so close together left her mindless in her grief. They had found her right away when she showed up in town but underestimated her. She’s hardly any taller than Lydia but she’s built like a tank. Between her size, strength and wild unpredictability they hadn’t been prepared and she got away before they could try and subdue her or anything.

This time, with Scott in her focus, Stiles at her back and Derek at her side it won’t be so easy for her to get away. Scott’s trying to talk her down, trying to reach her human side that’s seems to be all but lost. Stiles watches her look from Scott to Derek and sees Derek shift closer. Scott’s talking doesn’t seem to be making any difference as she keeps looking between them finally turning all the way around and sees Stiles. Now she’s looking between Derek and Stiles ignoring Scott completely.

He looks in her eyes and can’t help but think that she’s completely gone. Whoever she was before, after losing her pack and her child, that person is no longer there. She’s completely lost to her baser instincts and since Stiles poses the greatest threat since he’s the one holding a gun on her, she lunges before either of the other werewolves can react. Stiles doesn’t flinch just lowers his aim and shoots at her legs.

The buckshot has enough force against her that she stumbles backwards slightly and it’s enough time for Derek to get there and put claws to her throat. Stiles lowers the gun further when the girl falls and Derek kneels over her. They stand there unmoving as Derek keeps her pinned with a hand full of claws on her throat and her belly. She thrashes around until Derek tightens his hold on her throat and moves his other hand to press more firmly on her ribs. She goes limp when Deaton walks into the clearing.

Stiles looks back up and notices his dad and Luka are gone; probably gone back to the house. Stiles waits and watches Deaton do his thing that Stiles still thinks is magical somehow. It has to be some kind of magic because soon enough the wolf-like features melt off the girl’s face and she just looks like a terrified little girl when they do. If Stiles didn’t know that he’d shot her with a regular shell and not one with wolfsbane he’d feel even worse.

As it is, Deaton explains in his calm manner that she is safe here in the Hale-McCall territory and that he has someone, a new pack, willing to take her in. Slowly Derek releases his hold as she grows calm listening to Deaton explain that Scott and Derek aren’t in a position to offer her a place in their pack. But that through his connections, he already has a pack waiting at his office to talk to her. Stiles watches her nod slowly and be helped to her feet. She stands of shaky legs and Scott is quick to reach her side and keep her upright.

They all walk out of the forest together; Scott, Deaton and the girl to Deaton’s waiting car, Stiles to his house and Derek presumably to his car. Stiles goes in through the back door and barely has it closed behind him before he’s got his brother wrapped around him.

“Holy shit when did you grow up?”

Stiles laughs a little and hands his dad the shotgun so he can hug Luka properly. He’s surprised to find Luka is shaking but Stiles figures it’s the adrenaline of the situation crashing down on him.

“I mean- you were- and with the-“

Stiles laughs for real and pulls out of his brothers arms a little. He leans back to look Luka in the face with a mock serious expression.

“Hey, hey. Breathe for me buddy.”

They all laugh at the parody of what Luka used to tell Stiles when calming him down from panic attacks. It feels nice to laugh about it now. Luka just shakes his head and pushes Stiles into a chair at the kitchen table.

“I’m not kidding though Stiles. You walked into that situation calmer than I’ve gone into routine traffic stops. And I’m the one with the training!”

“Luka, it’s been over two years of this stuff. If I haven’t learned to deal by now, I would be dead. No exaggeration.”

“I don’t want to think about that.” He says seriously and pauses before he blurts out like he’s just remembering. “And the gun! Seriously it was perfect form. Who taught you to shoot, this Argent guy?”

Stiles shakes his head at his brother.

“Luka, you taught me to shoot. Remember? You taught me with a BB gun like, a week after the Hale fire.”

Luka’s eyes widen as he remembers and squawks when their dad leans over to smack his arm.

“You taught your nine year old brother to shoot a gun without telling me?”

“In his defense, it was just after his best friend’s family was murdered and you two were leaving me home alone for the first time while he was at basketball practice.”

John cuffs the back of Luka’s head one more time before leaving them to talk. Luka gushes and questions him for a while and Stiles answers them all until he’s yawning between each sentence. Luka laughs when he yawns himself and they both agree they have all the time in the world to talk now that Luka is coming back to California. He gets to hug his brother before heading up to his room and it hits him how much he really has missed Luka being around.

He walks into his room and he should be surprised by the fact that Derek is waiting for him sitting at his desk, but he isn’t.

“You could have come down,” Stiles tells him as he walks in and grabs some pajama pants and a clean t-shirt to change into.

Derek shakes his head lightly and sets the book he was reading back on Stiles’ desk.

“You needed time with your brother. I didn’t need to be down there keeping the peace like I did last night.”

Stiles nods and pauses in the doorway before he leaves the room again to change into his pajamas.

“So what did you need?”

Derek looks kind of sheepish and Stiles marvels at the expression and how soft his eyes look.

“Had another question for you.”

Stiles nods and raises the hand with his clothes to ask, “Can I change first?”

Derek nods and Stiles goes to the bathroom, quickly pees, changes clothes, washes his hands and face and gets his teeth brushed before he returns to his room. Derek’s still sitting in the chair hunched over and picking at his nails.

Stiles flops down on his bed and rolls over so he can look at Derek.

“So, what’s the question?”

Derek keeps staring at his hands like he’s avoiding looking at Stiles.

“Why were you on the verge of a panic attack thinking about my sister?”

Stiles opens his mouth ready to make a sarcastic remark about it being perfectly acceptable thing to be upset by but the lie dies on his lips when Derek looks up at him. Something about Derek’s gaze makes Stiles want to finally admit the truth. To finally put himself out there and offer what he’s pretty sure they both want.

“I, uh, I wanted to panic because I remembered what I’d done. And it made it infinitely more real when I remembered her alive and how could you want to date the person who dug up your sister’s grave and accused you of murder.”

Derek looks pensive as he stands and slowly comes over to sit on the bed next to Stiles watching him the whole time.

“So the thought of me not wanting to be with you was enough to send you into an anxiety attack?”

Stiles blushes a little and fiddles with a loose thread on his comforter.

“Yes,” he mumbles.

Stiles feels the bed shift and then Derek is there lying next to him looking him in the eye.

“I never held that against you Stiles,” he admits softly. “I didn’t even realize why you were so familiar and remember who you were until that night at the school when your dad showed up.”

“And that’s how you knew you could come to my house,” Stiles adds.

Derek nods and moves his hand like he wants to reach out and touch Stiles but stops himself and lets it fall on the bed between them.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asks Stiles still speaking softly.

Stiles shrugs and can feel his ears and cheeks heat up again allowing himself to feel self-conscious he ducks his head.

“Didn’t know how you felt. About a lot of things.”

“Things like my previous relationships?” Stiles nods. “And our age difference?” He nods again. “Or how I feel about you?”

Stiles finally looks back up at Derek because of course that’s a reason to keep his own feelings quiet. Derek can hide so much of what he’s feeling in a way Stiles will never be able to.

“Well hopefully this answers some of them. When you turned eighteen I thought for the first time since Kate about what being in a relationship could be like. I knew with Jennifer she wasn’t there for me and I used her right back. That wasn’t- it wasn’t good but it also wasn’t real. When you turned eighteen and the first thing I thought was about how you were no longer jailbait it got me thinking. I realized that I trust you and I respect you and I know you and I like you, Stiles. But I didn’t act on it because you’re still only eighteen. You’re going to go to college and you should be able to experience things without a pack holding you back.” He shrugs. “Maybe I was waiting to see how serious you were about it. But I wasn’t going to fight it Stiles. I have fought for so much since my family was murdered and I’m tired of fighting. I just- I’m not going to fight with myself over how I feel about you.”

Stiles nods at him again because that’s a lot of words and they’re all exactly what he wanted to hear. He leans forward slowly giving Derek plenty of time to pull back before he kisses him. It’s just a soft, chaste press of lips but he pulls back and smiles softly at Derek, loving the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles back.

“Good. Because I have plans for dating you. So many plans.” Stiles says still smiling at him before he rolls over and pushes himself back into Derek’s arms. It apparently doesn’t faze Derek who just props one arm under his head and wraps his other arm around Stiles and throws a leg over both of Stiles’ holding him close. It pushes Stiles that much closer to sleep feeling warm and protected and comfortable.

“There’s going to be movie dates and I’m taking you out for pizza and you’re going to tell me your favorite movies and TV shows and we’re going to marathon them together. And then you’ll take me to a nice restaurant for a special night out and end it with making out in the back of the Jeep or my bed. Or your bed because lets be real it’s probably more comfortable. And then-“

He cuts off when he can feel Derek’s laughter rumbling against his back.

“I’m sure your plan is great. But you’re falling asleep.” Stiles feels a kiss pressed into the back of his neck and he sinks further into Derek’s arms.

“Mmhmm. You’re not wrong,” Stiles slurs, wow he is exhausted. “Stay?”

“Of course,” Derek answers back and Stiles is asleep moments later.

*

The next morning Stiles wakes up and rolls out of bed momentarily forgetting he’d shared it the night before. He looks back as Derek lifts his head off the pillow and looks around blinking himself slowly awake. Stiles nearly coos at how adorable the look is combined with his soft, messy hair and Stiles doesn’t hesitate to crawl back on the bed and run his fingers through it. Derek tugs him back down and pulls him close again before he mumbles something.

“Sorry, what?” Stiles asks laughing lightly.

“Sleep more,” Derek mumbles a little more coherently so Stiles settles in for a few more minutes of rest.

Once Derek’s a little more awake Stiles escapes to the bathroom and hears someone in the kitchen making breakfast. Or rather, he smells the bacon cooking. Which means Luka must have found it. He peeks his head back in the room and invites Derek down to breakfast. Once he gets a nod of acknowledgement he goes downstairs to help.

He’s pulling plates and flatware out and setting the table after seeing his brother working on bacon, French toast and scrambled eggs. It seems like the most normal thing in the world for Derek to come down the stairs and shuffle his still sleepy self to the cupboard with the coffee cups. It’s only after he’s poured himself a cup and is leaning against the sink that Luka notices him.

Luka just sighs, curses and reaches into his pocket and pulls out something to hand to John when he walks past smiling broadly. Stiles narrows his eyes at his family.

“What’s this?” he questions pointing between the two of them.

Derek smiles at his dad and it’s too early for this.

“Your brother thought you two would wait for him to leave to sort yourselves out and I said you wouldn’t.”

“How much you win, dad?”

“Fifty bucks.”

Stiles laughs and Derek smiles into his coffee.

“Sucks to be you Luka.”

“Yeah,” Luka grumbles as he flips the French toast. “And this is what I’m coming home to deal with.”

Stiles walks over and hangs off him as obnoxiously as he can and smacks a kiss on his cheek.

“Damn right you are.”

Luka shoves him away and wipes his face off on his shirt while Stiles goes to his spot at the table laughing. Stiles is halfway through his breakfast when he hears the front door open and close. If he didn’t have two cops and a werewolf in the kitchen with him he might be concerned about it. Luka is still at the stove making the last of the French toast when Scott walks into the kitchen and stops just inside the doorway.

Everyone in the room except maybe Derek knows the extent of Scott’s anger at the moment. But since Derek’s the one who stands up from the table Stiles figures he can sense it anyway. Luka looks over his shoulder and double takes at Scott before he drops the spatula on the counter and turns to step toward Scott. He hesitates when Scott advances towards him eyes bright red saying, “You. You are a lying liar that lies,” before shoving Luka in the chest hard.

Derek’s there to catch him from falling and hitting his head on the counter or the floor and looks up at Scott.

“Alpha strength remember Scott.”

Once Derek gets Luka back on his feet, Luka lunges for Scott and wraps him in a hug. Stiles watches his friends eyes change back to their normal brown as he kind of clings to Luka. Stiles isn’t the only brother that Luka walked out on.

When Stiles first started bringing Scott around, Luka had realized he had more than one kid he was responsible for looking after and protecting from bullies. And when Scott broke down one day when his mom was late picking him up Scott and Luka had been there to assure him that his mom wasn’t leaving too. She wouldn’t leave like his dad did and neither would Stiles, Luka or their dad.

So yeah, Stiles wasn’t the only one that Luka broke promises with. Derek sits back down and after Luka gets through apologizing and hugging Scott, he pushes him down into a chair and fills up a plate for him to have breakfast too. The breakfast resumes like nothing had happened and Luka turns around from the stove and pauses looking at them.

John’s drinking his coffee, Stiles is leaning over to tell Derek something, Derek’s leaning in with a hand on Stiles leg and Scott’s pointedly ignoring them while he stuffs his face with food. Stiles catches his brother’s eye as he takes in the scene and smiles.

“Ready to come home to this?”

Luka smiles at all of them so big and warm even Derek smiles back.

“Damn right.”

Chapter Text

For Derek, Stiles has always been something of an enigma. He confuses Derek. Even when they were younger and Stiles was a hyperactive little kid following him and Luka around after school. Getting to know him again as a teenager and watch him maneuver his way through high school was just as baffling. Stiles is built of contradictions that Derek initially saw as fascinating, and later annoyingly attractive.

Stiles has changed a lot since he was sixteen and stumbling into the woods with a boredom driven desire to find a dead body. And yet his tendency to be contrary remains.

His slender build hides his remarkable strength. His loud, raucous laughter belies a quiet sense of humor. And Derek has begun to notice that sometimes his physical reactions don’t always match his emotional ones.

When Luka came back Stiles had told him he was okay with it. That even though Luka was his dad’s favorite he was happy with his own relationship with the sheriff. His tone and easy words couldn’t hide the way his heart fluttered. But what Derek doesn’t know is if Stiles was lying to him, or if he’s lying to himself.

So sometimes, Derek really wishes Luka would have stayed gone.

For all that he’s glad his childhood friend hasn’t died in the line of duty or gotten himself mixed up in anything supernaturally related Derek would have preferred Luka stayed halfway across the country.

With Luka here, less than an hour away, it means he’s back in Stiles’ life and in turn, the rest of the pack’s lives. If Derek hadn’t been spending so much time with Stiles the last few years, he wouldn’t have really known the difference. In fact, Derek doesn’t think that Scott has realized the difference yet.

But Derek can see it.

The way Stiles is back to closely monitoring his dad’s food; learning new recipes that make John actually enjoy the healthy food his son cooks. The way he reapplied to Stanford for next year when he’s finished with his generals here in Beacon Hills. Or how Stiles cancels on Scott so he can study and make a 4.0 GPA again. Then there is also how when Stiles tells his dad that he’s staying with Derek, instead of getting to take his boyfriend out on dates or to bed, Stiles would study books and manuscripts from Peter and Deaton to become an emissary.

The pack just sees Stiles being Stiles: a person willing to change and adapt if it means protecting the people he cares about. But Derek knows, he’s doing more, being better, compared to his brother.

For as much as Derek wants to talk to Stiles about it, he knows it won’t make a difference. Derek remembers what having siblings was like. How he always was one step behind Laura in their alpha lessons. How he could beat out her grade in math while she blew him away in English. It’s always a constant competition. Derek had known, because his mom assured him, that eventually when they grew up the competition would lessen as they each found their own niche.

Derek doesn’t know where he would have ended up if the fire had never happened. But he knows that now with Luka back, Stiles is trying to prove himself as good as his idealized older brother. And really, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Getting John to eat red meat less often and getting good grades isn’t hurting anyone. But Stiles has started overcompensating in the pack too, and sometimes it put him in danger.

Unnecessary danger is one of Derek’s biggest sources of annoyance, especially when it’s his boyfriend throwing himself in the line of fire.

Like right now, with this coven of witches they’re trying to deal with. Stiles has just volunteered as bait. It’s something Stiles has done before but this time he’s acting resigned instead of excited and Derek doesn’t know why.

The plan has been made and the pack sent home. Stiles is pacing around the living space in Derek's new apartment picking up the detritus left behind by the pack muttering to himself. Normally Derek tunes out his tired mumblings but tonight he listens. And what he hears bothers him. 

"Might as well be the bait. It's the closest I'll probably ever get to magic. Since becoming an emissary is just another project you'll leave unfinished Stiles."

As much as the words bother Derek, he knows how seriously Stiles has approached his studies with Deaton on the subject, his tone and the sharp scents of bitter, resigned hurt that are coming from his boyfriend upset him more. He steps towards Stiles and gets in his way before he can fluff the pillows on the couch for a third time.

"Who said that Stiles?"

Stiles stops abruptly, looking up at Derek, a perfectly confused expression on his face. 

"Hmm? Said what?" he asks sounding surprised that Derek was listening. 

"That you don't finish what you start."

Stiles laughs lightly but it fails to convey any humor to Derek's ears. 

"It's kind of a running joke with my dad." Stiles flaps a hand dismissively and walks around Derek towards the kitchen. "So the plan for tomorrow. Want to go over it again?"

"We have just gone through it three times with the pack," Derek comments as he follows Stiles into the kitchen and leans against the counter behind where Stiles has started washing the last few dishes in the sink. 

"Yeah, I suppose." 

Again Stiles' nonchalant tone goes against the scent of his worry. Derek tries to sound reassuring as he pushes away from the counter and crosses to stand behind Stiles. 

"Hey," he starts softly, "you don't have to do this. We can figure something else out."

But Stiles stiffens instead of relaxes like Derek was hoping for. 

"Whatever. Yeah, sure." Stiles answers with that bitterness back in his tone as he pushes Derek's arm out of the way so he can leave the kitchen again. 

Derek follows close behind though not willing to let the conversation die like this. 

"Hey," he calls out when Stiles keeps walking away from him. "Why do I get the feeling you're hearing something different than what I'm saying?"

Stiles stops and turns around to face Derek looking frustrated. It's as Derek crowds him up against the doorframe to his bedroom that he realizes this could very well be their first fight. He sure hopes it doesn't turn into their last. 

"It's fine Derek. I know you don't really want the weak breakable human out helping the pack getting hurt or in general being a liability. I guess I thought we were at a point where you trusted me to be able to handle myself and know when I need to ask for help."

"What I want is for you to be safe. And to actually be willing to take the risks when you agree to something. If you're not comfortable doing this I just wish you would have said, we could have come up with something different."

He thinks about not addressing the trust comment because if he's honest and starts talking he might say too much. Like how he already trusts Stiles with his life and his heart even though it scares the hell out of him. But something about the way Stiles isn't making eye contact and the way he's pressed against the doorframe keeping himself small and separate from Derek brings the words out of him anyway. 

"And I do trust that you can take care of yourself. I do, Stiles. I trust you with a lot more than just that."

Stiles finally looks up at him with a strange mix of hope and determination in his eyes. 

"Then trust that I'm okay with this. It's the best option, the best plan and we needed to have done something about these witches three days ago."

"Fine. We'll do it just like we planned," Derek tells him again trying to sound reassuring. He pulls Stiles the rest of the way into the room and starts to go over the plan again. He keeps his voice even and steady while he peels Stiles and himself out of their clothes and into their pajamas. Derek doesn't know if there's anything he can do about the ever present line of tension still in Stiles’ back as they lay on the bed together but it takes no time at all for Stiles' breathing to go slow and shallow. He presses a kiss to Stiles' forehead and wraps an arm around him a little tighter before falling into a fitful sleep himself. 

*

The thing Deaton failed to mention about witches and sparks and magic is that sparks are transferable.  

*

Stiles had had a gut feeling about this situation with the witches. Mostly, he had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well for him. And when he goes bumbling through the forest like he’s supposed to as bait he knows somethings is off from the second he steps out of his car. Deciding to trust in his pack’s ability to protect him he forged onward.

He only got a few hundred yards into the forest before, as he crossed some invisible line, he felt a pulling sensation tugging against him. His vision faded and just as quickly as the forest had melted away an apartment appeared around him. He looks around, sees the three woman and one man the pack has been trying to get out of Beacon Hills and a chair in the middle of the room surrounded by runes and candles.

“Shit.”

*

Objectively, Stiles knows they’ve drugged him. Mainly, he supposes, it’s to keep him pliant for however long it takes for them to perform their nefarious plan. He’s still rather confused about what that plan is but he thinks he’s maybe figuring it out.

They’re all touching him. Not, not like ‘bad touch’ touching but just hands on him, a connection to him. He can tell based on where the sounds are coming from that each of them has a part to play in the ritual because they’re all speaking just at different times from different spots around his chair. Even through whatever haze they have Stiles in, he can feel it when their words start to have an effect on him.

The tugging feeling of being apparated out of a forest across town was nothing to how it feels having his spark pulled from him. Of course. Of course they want the little magic he possesses to make their coven stronger. Of fucking course.

He tries to distract himself from the feeling when it begins to be painful. Instead of thinking happy thoughts like he knows he should, all he can think about is his dad. How his dad will be proven right now because there’s no way Stiles can be a pack emissary with no magical ability. He doesn’t think he’ll ever hear the end of it.

Another thing Stiles leaves unfinished.

It used to be little things his dad would say. And the parental reproofs used to be necessary as he was teaching Stiles to finish what he starts. But now, now it just kind of stings. It’s another thing his dad says in that offhanded manner that really gets to Stiles as much as he wishes it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be so bad except Stiles has had his behavior compared to his older brother his entire life. And once Luka left it was still always there even just in the way his dad looks at him sometimes.

It used to be stuff like the fact that Luka didn’t have ADHD, Luka had lots of friends where Stiles only had Scott or that Luka was the basketball team captain and why couldn’t Stiles play a sport and actually play in a game. But then it changed to stuff like Luka never showed up at crime scenes, Luka never lied to me like this, Luka wouldn’t have kept secrets like this, Luka wouldn’t have…

And Stiles doesn’t really blame Luka for any of it. It’s not his brother’s fault their dad never knew about all the times Luka snuck out at night after mom died. And it’s not Luka’s fault he got their dad’s build and athletic ability. But sometimes Stiles wished his brother would have maybe said something, would have maybe stood up for Stiles.

Normally Stiles is very much like a duck in that he lets things just roll right off like water on a duck. But when it’s your dad saying that kind of stuff it’s not so easy to not let it get personal. And yet at this point he’s put up with it for so long it doesn’t really hurt that much anymore when he gets that disappointed look from his dad.

Suddenly Stiles is ripped from his thoughts when the dull achy pain in his chest flares into something ten thousand times sharper. He thinks he screams as the pain expands in his body, making it feel like the very marrow in his bones is on fire. Just like a fire it burns out and Stiles collapses only then realizing he’d been straining against his bonds.

From there things get a little fuzzy. He knows someone gives him more drugs or puts more spells on him or something because the room goes hazy and he loses the ability to keep his head up. He stays like that, feeling more dead than alive for what feels like ages, just floating between wakefulness and unconsciousness. He thinks he hears sounds of a scuffle around him eventually but he can’t even muster up enough energy to open his eyes to see what’s happening. Just as the binds on his wrists loosen everything is dark and Stiles doesn’t really know if he’s going to wake up.

*

Of course, Stiles wakes up. It takes a while. A long while probably, but slowly but surely Stiles feels himself rejoin the land of the living. He’s not so glad he did so quickly, if it was indeed quickly, because everything hurts. He’s unbelievably sore, like the he just went through the first three days of lacrosse conditioning only it’s three times as painful kind of sore.

Once he’s aware enough to notice things beyond his own pain he starts piecing together his surroundings without opening his eyes. He doesn’t have the energy for that. He’s in a bed, given his propped up position and the semi comfortable level of cushion the mattress has he’d be willing to bet he’s in a hospital. Also, since it feels like one hand has an IV in it, the other is being held by someone and his bare back is against the sheets Stiles figures he’s most definitely in a hospital.

Eventually he picks out the voices that are speaking softly around him. His dad, Derek and Luka are all somewhere in the room with him, waiting for him to wake.

Stiles isn’t really ready to talk yet, nor is he ready to try and open his eyes just yet, so he leaves them to their conversation.

“The doctor said he’d be waking up soon right?” he hears his dad ask.

The hand holding his squeezes briefly and then he hears Derek’s voice coming from right next to him.

“I’d say by his heartbeat he’s almost awake. Just maybe isn’t ready yet.”

He hears his dad sigh and pause for a moment, probably looking at Stiles and remembering Claudia in the bed. Stiles bets he looks just as bad as his mom did after what felt like having his very life force drained out of him.

"I'm so glad you never pulled crap like this Luka," his dad says and Stiles is glad he’s not awake yet because he wouldn’t have been able to repress a flinch at that dig.

He hears Derek growl quietly and then Derek’s squeezing Stiles’ hand again before he snaps.

"Excuse me, but your son almost dying is not crap,” Derek says angrily and Stiles should probably wake up and diffuse the situation but he still doesn’t think he can open his eyes yet.

"That's not what I-” his dad starts to say, slightly taken aback but mostly sounding offended.

But Derek cuts him off anyway, seemingly, wanting to say his piece on the matter.

"No it is what you meant so let's get a few things straight here.”

Stiles hears the sound of a chair sliding across the floor and guesses Derek has stood up.

“You both get up in the morning pocket your badge and your gun to protect people. Well Stiles and the rest of us do the same thing but against, arguably, more dangerous people. It’s just that we do it without the badge. But when we fail, more often than not someone dies. When you fail a case simply goes unsolved. And speaking of unsolved cases how does it feel to no longer have random unexplainable crimes and murders happening in your county? Maybe you should remember that review you were under and the suspension you were given before you judge your son for helping situations from becoming cases for you to leave unsolved."

“I don’t have to listen to this,” his dad retorts angrily but as expected, Derek doesn’t give an inch.

“No you don’t; but you might want to anyway.”

“Dad come on lets go get some coffee, cool down a little,” Luka finally interjects and Stiles can hear him grab his dad, probably going to forcibly remove him from the room.

“Fine,” John huffs, still heated from the argument.

Luka must not shut the door behind them because Stiles can hear him say to their dad, “He’s right you know dad, you can’t keep comparing Stiles to me.”

He waits a few moments longer, hoping his family is actually walking to the café to get a coffee and not just standing outside the room. He hears Derek sit back down and then he pulls Stiles’ hand back into his. Finally though he finds the energy to do something other than lie there like a lump on a log.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he whispers, voice shredded still from his screaming earlier.

“You’re awake!” Derek cries, sounding relieved as he stands up and cups Stiles’ face with his warm palms.

“Can you open your eyes?”

Stiles groans because it’s going to take so much energy.

“Please?”

Stiles feels his eyes flutter open at the soft, pleading request. Derek’s face is pinched in worry but a smile starts playing with the edges of his mouth.

“Hi,” Derek says softly, his smile growing a little after Stiles makes eye contact with him.

“Hi,” Stiles breathes back before he takes a deep breath and continues. “You didn’t need to do that, you were in his good graces as my boyfriend before this.”

Derek pulls back from holding Stiles’ face but returns to his grip on Stiles’ hand and another on his thigh as he sits back down.

“I don’t give a damn about being in his good graces if it means he still says shit like that to you,” he says firmly and Stiles shakes his head as much as he’s able to.

It isn’t much.

"I can't believe you went up against my dad for me."

"Just because he's your dad doesn't mean he can treat you like that," Derek repeats seriously, looking angry again. Angry for Stiles. Stiles likes that much better than Derek being angry at him.

“Not even Scott or Luka has ever done that for me,” Stiles admits weakly and Derek’s face softens as he leans closer again.

“What can I say,” he says almost coyly, “you’ll always be my favorite Stilinski.”

Stiles blushes, not having the energy to try and hide it.

“Come on, your best friend is my brother,” he tries to reason but Derek is having none of it.

His expression softens further, and then the small genuine smile that Stiles only sees directed at him shows up.

“Stiles, I don’t love Luka. I’m in love with you.”

The “you idiot” is heavily implied in Derek’s tone and Stiles is staring at him slack jawed and shocked. He’s almost glad his brother comes back to break the moment. Almost.

“Yeah, don’t love me Derek, that’d make our friendship so much more awkward. Plus I don’t think my girlfriend would approve.”

“You have a girlfriend?” Stiles asks, because really, when did that happen and why wasn’t he told. He and his brother have been texting a lot now that he’s just being a cop and not doing undercover work.

“Not important right now kiddo,” Luka says softly as he stops next to the bed and lifts a hand to brush Stiles’ hair off his face. “How are you feeling?”

Stiles doesn’t really know how to answer that because he still kind of needs a moment. Derek just told him he loves him. Stiles knew eventually someone in his life would love him but he hadn’t expected it so soon. He’d pictured getting through college, having a string of significant others before he found someone who decided to put up with him and love him.

“Um, I’m alive.” He says after a moment of silence, “I feel like I got hit by a bus but I’m here.”

“Are you in pain?” Derek asks suddenly, looking concerned again and then Stiles is watching the black snake up Derek’s arms in his veins.

He feels pleasantly floaty this time but now it’s even harder to keep his eyes open.

“Whoa, stop, I’m not done talking,” Stiles says groggily and Luka chuckles but Derek stops so Stiles doesn’t pass out.

“Where’s dad?”

“He got a call from the station so I told him to cool off and come back in a couple hours,” Luka explains.

“He didn’t need to do that,” Stiles replies, worried his dad is more worked up than he thought if he had to leave the building to calm down.

“Well I didn’t think Derek was ready to leave,” Luka continues with a smirk.

“And besides, Derek was right to call him out.”

Stiles watches his brother’s face fall a little.

“Stiles, I’m sorry I never said anything. I figured when I left he might stop comparing you to the perfect picture he has in his head of me.”

“Is he mad at Derek?” Stiles asks tiredly, the drugs and the pain drain really making it difficult to continue being awake.

“A little,” Luka acknowledges, “he doesn’t like being called out by anyone, you know that. But eventually he’ll appreciate that Derek was just trying to protect you.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says on a happy sigh and he knows he sounds dopey but he can’t help it, “because he loves me.”

“Of course I do,” Derek says indulgently with that small smile again.

“If I could move I would try and kiss you but as it is you might have to do the work on that one.”

Luka turns away and Derek huffs out a laugh as he stands to place a gentle kiss on Stiles’ lips. Stiles closes his eyes as they kiss and finds he doesn’t want to open them again when it ends.

“Hmm…” he mumbles, “I’m gonna fall asleep now.”

“We’ll be here when you wake up, buddy,” Luka says, gently squeezing Stiles foot from his spot at the end of the bed.”

“Mkay. Love you. Both of you. Differently. But. Yeah.”

“Go to sleep Stiles,” Derek says sounding fond and Stiles choses to listen to him without argument for once.

As Stiles drifts off he can’t help but think. Derek loves him. Derek didn’t fall in love with his high school best friend, he fell in love with Stiles. And that’s without Stiles being as good as his brother. Derek loves Stiles even after Stiles let himself get kidnapped, even now that Stiles no longer has his spark.

Maybe, if Derek really does love him for him, he won’t have to try and out do his brother.

Maybe it really will be enough to just be himself.