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Miles Away

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Derek met Kate at McDonalds on a Thursday. She was wearing jeans, a short cropped leather jacket, and motorcycle boots with buckles on the side. When she smiled, Derek felt like the world was shaking around him.

They had sex 10 days later, Kate whispering in his ear, “Shhh, baby, this is just for us. Only for us, right? Our little secret,” as she licked down his neck, riding him hard in the backseat of her Mustang.

Derek thought he’d fallen in love. It didn’t end well.


Derek stood over the body of the last Alpha, blood dripping from his claws, his clothes torn and splattered with red. He could hear Stiles gasping for breath next to him, a tire iron clenched tightly in his hand, still stained with blood. On the other side of the clearing, he watched as Scott talked quietly with Ethan. He was saying words like pack allegiance and forgiveness like they were easy possibilities.

He looked pristine, almost innocent, as he spoke of acceptance. His belief in his own words bled into the area, permeating the air.

The tattered remains of their pack gathered around Scott. Isaac was standing to the right and just half-a-step behind him; Cora and Peter were moving slowly closer, inching in until they were shoulder to shoulder with Isaac. It was a half formed circle behind Scott, a pack formation aligning themselves to their leader.

Scott reached out to Ethan, asking, “Are you sure you’re okay? We can get you some help before we talk anymore,” even as Ethan mumbled, “I’m fine,” his head tilted slightly down and to the side.

Derek stood watching the whole group, and felt a little like he was drowning, head underwater and not knowing which way was up. The moment happened almost in slow motion, the group circled around Scott, closing ranks tighter and tighter until the air between them was almost invisible.

“I remember how much my mom loved the ocean,” Stiles said as he stepped up to stand closer to Derek.

“What?” Derek asked, leaning his face down to wipe his face on the edge of his shirt. He tried, and couldn’t quite get his claws to retract. Still wired, too alert, from whatever threat lingered around his wolf.

“My mom loved the ocean. She went to the University of Washington to study oceanography,” Stiles said, standing still next to Derek, eyes turned not toward the pack, but into the distance where a sliver of ocean could be seen between the mountains to the west.

Derek breathed deep, caught the hint of his anger, focused on that, and tried to pull back the wolf. It didn’t quite work. He growled, a low warning not directed toward Stiles, but possibly at everything else around him.

“I don’t know, I was just thinking about her right now.” Stiles sounded weary, the cadence of his words dragging along like it was an effort to talk.

“Okay?” Derek asked, not sure where this was going. Not that it mattered. It was all Derek could do to just stand there, the air pressed so heavily against him that he had to fight to breathe.

He watched the pack and thought okay, they’re okay. Cora and Isaac and Peter, all fine and focused on Scott. It was good, actually. Derek had no idea what to even say right now.

“She used to tell me stories about college. She used to say that on the ocean she always realized how small a part of the world she really was. Like, it didn’t matter so much all the stupid shit, just that there was wind against her face and the smell of salt water surrounding her.” Stiles shuffled closer, his shoulder just touching Derek’s.

“What the hell, Stiles?” Derek said, feeling sluggish and tired and like it was getting even harder to breathe past the smell of death. He wasn’t even sure if he was talking to Stiles as much as to himself. “You’re telling me this now?”

Too many alphas to be part of the small little pack, Derek thought. He had no clue, not one; all he could do was stand there and watch as the pack huddled in closer to Scott.

Derek took a deep breath. The metal tang of blood swamped the small area, but there was the scent of pack and safety pushing into the mix. Next to him, Stiles was a tang of salt and spice, closer than any of the other scents. It was grounding and made it easier to push the smell of blood-death-pain away.

He focused on that scent, followed it, until he turned to face Stiles. His face was bruised along his jaw, his forehead and cheeks wet with blood.

“Just... I don’t know. I was just thinking about it. The ocean and the wind and feeling like all the fuck ups don’t matter so much because it’s sort of useless to worry.” Stiles shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I just think it sounds good.”

“Yeah. I....” Derek stopped, closing his eyes for a minute and breathing in salt and spice.

He watched as Scott shook his head and smiled, laughing at something Isaac said. The group had moved away from each other, by just the smallest amount, but he could still see the bonds weaving around and between them.

“I’d like to not have my fuck ups matter so much,” Stiles was still saying, softly, like maybe he wasn’t really talking to anyone but himself.

“Yeah. I could see that,” Derek said, taking a breath and looking away from the group.

Derek wiped his claws on his pants, smearing the blood down his thighs. He pulled off his ruined shirt and picked up Deucalion’s body, slinging him over his shoulder and carrying him deeper into the trees for a proper burial.

He was an enemy, but he was still a werewolf. They had time to do this right, now.

Stiles followed behind, pulling vines of monkshood from the backpack he had grabbed from his Jeep.


Derek sat on a log in the preserve watching Scott face off with Cora and Ethan in a clearing. Derek could hear him coaching them through mid-air shifts while Peter and Isaac stood off to the side, their heads close together, talking quietly.

When he looked carefully enough, he could see the shadows of Erica and Boyd - missing pack - circling around Scott like a haunting of Derek’s own regrets.

Stiles was sitting next to him, like he’d been doing for a while now, kind of a constant companion hovering on the edges of a pack that had Scott at the center. Derek figured it was a strange place for him to be; he’d have figured Stiles to be right there with Scott, his own kind of force that kept everything moving.

Instead, he was stuck sitting next to Derek, on the fringes.

“Why’d she leave if she loved it so much?” Derek asked, not bothering to turn his head and look. He knew Stiles was focused not so much on Derek, but on the actions of the people in front of them.

“What?” he asked turning to look at Derek, an eyebrow raised in question.

“Why’d your mom leave Washington and the ocean?”

“Seriously, you were listening?” Stiles asked, looking toward Derek with a small tilt of his head.

Derek nodded.

Stiles shrugged. “I don’t think it was a big deal. My dad was in the Army there and when he got out, they both came back to California.” Stiles laughed, but it sounded a little hollow and thin. “I don’t know, I guess it was a true love conquers all kind of thing.”

Derek nodded his head, feeling the air constrict around him. True love really didn’t conquer all; he’d learned that from experience. Maybe it worked out that way for other people, but he doubted it.

“Anyways, she left Washington, but she didn’t really leave the water, you know? We had this boat when I was growing up. For a while, I thought we lived on the water and vacationed on land.” This time Stiles laugh was real, a fondness spiking his scent a little stronger. “Most weekends we’d head to the marina and wouldn’t come back until Sunday night.”

“Did you like it?” Derek asked. It didn’t feel like polite curiosity when he asked, but he wasn’t sure why the answer made such a difference.

“Yeah, man. I loved it.” There was a grin on Stiles’ face now, clear and bright and absolutely unhesitating. “Every summer we’d take these crazy boats trips. We’d be out there for 6, maybe 7 days on the water.”

“Where’d you go?”

“Nowhere, usually, we’d go just to be out on the ocean. I don’t think the destination was so important to her. It was just the ocean that mattered.” Stiles shook his head. Derek could see him smiling wide and easy, his eyes focused somewhere out in the distance. “Fuck. Those were awesome trips.”

“You don’t...?” Derek wasn’t entirely sure how to finish the question.

“Dad sold the boat a few years after she died,” Stiles interrupted. “I don’t think he felt comfortable taking me out on the water by himself. Or maybe it was just too hard after we lost her. I don’t know.”

“I’ve never been out on the ocean.” Derek wasn’t sure why he was telling Stiles, but it felt like maybe it was a sharing moment.

“No? I think you’d like it. I don’t know how to describe it really. It’s thousands of miles of space in almost every direction and if you don’t like going one way, you just catch some different wind and go somewhere else.”

It sounded so simple when Stiles said it that way. Catching some new wind, like that was even a possibility. Nothing was ever that easy.


By the end of the pack’s junior year, Derek’s pack had dwindled down to one. It wasn’t hard to see the rest of them circling around Scott, responding to his requests like they were orders, tracking his movements and mirroring his emotions.

Derek did nothing to put a stop to this change. In fact, he stopped responding to questions, stopped giving orders. Instead, he waited and watched and it was as easy as anything he’d experienced. Scott became their Alpha and Derek became a spare.

Maybe it should have felt like a bad thing, realizing that his pack wasn’t actually his anymore. He didn’t really want to admit that the day he looked around and saw Scott taking care of everyone, Derek breathed easily for the first time since he’d met Kate Argent.

That little hint of freedom was tantalizing. No Alpha to answer to, no pack to care for, no revenge to hunt down. Scott was stepping up and doing the right thing for this group.

It felt like a gift.

Derek went to the bank and opened three accounts. Cora got half of everything; it was hers by right and needed to be done whether he stayed or not. Two other accounts were opened for Scott and Isaac. Isaac because he was the one Derek was most directly responsible for and Scott because every pack needed some money to get started. Maybe he wasn’t able to be a part of the McCall Pack, but he could at least help them get started.

He stuck the account numbers on a piece of paper with a note that said, for pack. The paper rode around in his wallet for days.

On the fifth day, he got a text from Stiles.

i’m tired of watching by myself. you should come watch with me.

Derek showed up on the outside edge of his old property to see Scott standing with the betas. They were laughing at next year’s class schedules and talking about the new movie that was opening on Friday. Stiles sat on the crumbling steps of the house.

Derek flopped down next to him and said, “Exciting. Glad you wanted me to watch with you.”

Stiles elbowed him - hard - in the side.


He texted Stiles in the middle of the night, 50 miles outside of Beacon Hills on the I-5.

road trip, he wrote when he pulled over for a bottle of water. don’t let Scott screw up.

Stiles didn’t respond till the next morning, late enough that he was probably already most of the way to school.

you don’t have to leave.

Derek stared hard at the text. He opened it up at three different rest stops, not really knowing how to respond.

i know. but i want to.

Stiles must have been waiting for his text because his response was almost immediate.

freedom is good. don’t die.

Derek laughed. He cranked up the radio in the car, Laura’s favorite CD, and pushed the gas to the floor. There was nothing but open road.


It started as just a road trip. Getting into the car, he headed east into Nevada, through Utah and up into Wyoming. He stopped in all the stupid, little towns he could find. He ate bad diner hamburgers and drank milkshakes at truck stops.

As he tore across the interstate, he kept the windows opened wide and let the hot, dry air of the deserts open his lungs. In Utah, he spent a full moon running through Bryce Canyon. The next month, he chased the moonlight through the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming.

He sent picture after picture to Stiles: field of cows in Wyoming, the red rocks in Utah, the far north corner of Reno, the Welcome to Montana sign. They were stupid pictures that meant almost nothing in reality, but still somehow felt like one small connection to the world around him.

Sometimes Stiles responded and sometimes he didn’t. Occasionally, it was links to articles about a wolf pack in Utah, while other times it was pictures or stupid movie quotes that Derek pretended to not understand. One time, it was a calculus problem that Stiles had apparently been trying to figure out for the better part of two hours.

Derek sent him the answer, and then a link to an explanation.

After a while he started to miss the smell of ocean, that feeling that settled in the air over coastal areas - a sort of heaviness that kept everything grounded. So he turned to the west and headed back toward the Pacific.

Eventually, he wound up in Seattle.

Seattle was bustling in the same way all cities move. There was traffic and crowds and entertainment. There was a whole area of the city that never slept, while there were other areas that moved drowsily through their city existence like they were under water. But amidst the crowds, there was this humming of energy surrounded by salt and sea and water. Each day the air was brand new, always gently moving in the ocean breeze and making everything seem different and clean.

It made the city feel alive in a thousand different ways.


Four years before Laura had gone back to Beacon Hills, she’d forced Derek get his GED and enroll in community college. He’d argued and fought, and only gave in when Laura had sat him down, telling him stories about Mom and Dad and their own college years, and how much education had always meant to them.

Two years before Laura had gone back to Beacon Hills, he’d finished at the community college and been accepted into The City College of New York. When he’d finally had to sit down and check a box next to a major, he’d thought of the Escher painting his dad had kept in the den of their house.

When he was a kid, he’d stare at the picture for hours, trying to figure out the trick in the lines and how the structure balanced the illusion, making the impossible become almost believable. He thought of Escher and the spiraling limits of math that his dad had always talked about, and marked math as his area of study.

Laura had stayed in New York three days longer than she’d planned to watch Derek graduate with honors at mid-year.

He’d always wondered if those three days had sealed her death.


His first day in Seattle, Derek spotted three werewolves and met an alpha. A few days later, between meeting the alpha and booking his hotel room for an extra three weeks, he’d had dinner at Duke’s (Alpha owned and some sort of meeting place for the pack) and been granted permission to stay in town as long as he liked. The only rules were to check in regularly and to not start biting people locally.

“Seriously, Derek. No biting new wolves in the city right now. We’re trying to foster a soothing and welcoming vibe. Bitten werewolves, just learning control, are the exact opposite of good vibes,” Maya, the alpha, had told him over beer and the best stuffed prawns he’d ever eaten.

That same night, he’d also been introduced to a few pack members: the Chief of the Seattle Fire Department, a resident at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, a yoga teacher, two school principals, the owner of the motorcycle repair shop in downtown, as well as Jim, the dean of graduate studies at the University of Washington, who turned out to the Alpha’s husband.

That one may have been the strangest introduction of the night especially when Jim had rolled his eyes and said, with the straightest, blankest face ever, “It’s all about the connections, Derek. We run our hippie-commune-big-love pack with seafood and connections.”

Derek wasn’t entirely sure whether it was sarcasm or truth. Possibly, it was just sarcastic truth.

Regardless, Derek found himself with a coupon for three months of free yoga classes and a registration packet for the math graduate program at UW. His application was approved practically before dessert was finished.

(Derek didn’t really want to know how. The connections thing might have had some merit after all. He’d owe someone - Jim - favors for life.)

He’d walked into dinner thinking he was going to stay in the city for a visit, but left that night with the next five years of life pretty well planned out. The weirdest part is that the whole thing didn’t feel strange at all.

He texted Stiles, i just met the people who could take over the world.

you’re kidding right? Stiles texted.

because that’s not funny, Stiles texted again, before Derek could respond. just tell me you’re not going to die.

do I need to track your phone? fuck. you have like two seconds to respond before i track it.

one second.

Derek threw back his head and laughed. It felt new and exciting, like maybe he hadn’t actually felt like laughing in years and years.

it was a little funny because they really could take over the world. but i think they’re happy with something smaller, Derek responded when the laughter had died down. you’d like them.


Eventually, he found a small one bedroom for rent five blocks from campus. It had walls without holes, and running water and the interior was painted a crisp, clean white. He hung a mirror on the wall opposite the windows in the living room and suddenly, the place felt like the outside was spiraling into his world.

For days, he kept opening and closing the kitchen cabinets, filling them up with food and snacks. He bought a flat-screen TV, a Blu-ray player, and a new laptop; he upgraded his phone and ordered some furniture.

And he didn’t stop there. He packed away the leather jacket because leather and rain don’t mix and instead bought sweatshirts and jackets, t-shirts in colors and button downs. He threw in a couple of hats for variety. Looking in the mirror, he thought he looked like the man he’d always figured he’d grow up to be. It was good to see him again.

The owner of the motorcycle repair place helped him carry up his couch, and the yoga teacher bought him curtains and rods. For the first two weeks he lived there, he sat on the balcony for hours every night watching the bustle of people on the street just below, listening to the water crash in Puget Sound not too far away.

It was those sorts of in-between moments that Laura used to love in New York. Those hours where they could sit and just take a moment to watch the world rush by below them.


The Beacon Hills pack would text him occasionally. Isaac had even called once, but Derek had let it go to voicemail, not having a clue what to say. He always responded to the texts, even if it was in short little bursts that basically said, I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m not dead. After a while, it became something of a game to see how little he could tell them while still giving them enough to feel satisfied.

The whole situation was complicated. It wasn’t that he didn’t care; it was more that he didn’t fit. Cora was his sister, but their relationship was still struggling away from strained to something new and hopefully better. They were family, like Peter, but it didn’t make it any easier. Isaac was the hardest one to think of sometimes. He was Derek’s wolf, even though he would always be Scott’s beta. The bite was a live connection that Derek could still feel.

So he responded to their texts and he sent small messages of his own. He didn’t tell them where he was at and the conversation stayed mostly superficial. It worked for him. Apparently, it seemed to work for them as well.

Stiles was the exception. Derek didn’t quite know where to place him in the order of his fucked up relationship with Beacon Hills. Stiles got details and pictures and information. He knew about Derek taking college classes, and his job as a TA, and his miserable, horrible, not-to-be-discussed attempt at bartending at Duke’s. The things he told Stiles were real, and the things he got in return were equally as important. The fact that Stiles couldn’t pinpoint him on a map didn’t make anything less substantial.

do you know where i am? Derek texted one afternoon five months after he left Beacon Hills.

like...physically? mentally? existentially? Stiles responded. seriously, dude, i could take a guess maybe, but i assumed you didn’t want me to know.

yeah. i don’t. Derek frowned, staring hard at the words. i’m not what the pack needs right now.

you’re full of shit, but that’s your choice. Stiles words had an edge, loud enough that Derek could hear it in the words.

it’s not you, Derek replied. He wasn’t sure what else to say.

right. whatever, Stiles said, then a second later Derek’s phone beeped again. i was hoping you were being selfish and living your own life. you deserve that.

Derek’s breath caught in his chest for a moment, closing his eyes and breathing nice and slow.

I’m trying to, was all he could think to say. don’t let them track my phone.

He thought Stiles must have understood because he texted back, i promise before letting the communication fall silent.


Slowly, Derek remembered what it was like to have friends. He started to meet people for coffee and they’d have conversations about classes and professors, and the sad, sad state of the Mariners. There was dinner with the pack, and dinner with Maya and Jim. Without really meaning to, Derek became another connection in the intricate map of Seattle pack life.

Two months into classes, he decided to sell Laura’s Camaro. He drove it downtown to a Honda dealership, and then sat out front for two hours, breathing deep and holding tight to those last few atoms of her scent that still clung to the interior.

It wasn’t a practical car, not for the life he’d finally chosen. It got crappy gas mileage, and the insurance was outrageous, and it was stupid to hold on to something just for the memories. Laura wouldn’t be any deader when he sold the car. In fact, he was pretty sure she would have laughed at him, and possibly slapped him upside the head, for spending this long even debating the issue.

what’s your opinion on hondas, he texted Stiles when he’d finally managed to get out of the car.

boring. yuppie. reliable, Stiles responded. perfect for you.

ha fucking ha, Derek responded, but he was already waving to the salesman that had been watching him from behind the showroom glass.


He found himself immersed in math: lie theory, number theory, fluid dynamics, numerical analysis, combinatorics. He was all over the place and it felt a little like he was finally seeing all the possibilities he had just glimpsed in his undergrad classes at CCNY.

What he discovered was the complete vastness of math, with numbers and variables spiraling out of control into intricate patterns. Before, he’d thought he could see the structures inside the illusions of math, but now he could see how the structures folded in on themselves, the illusions unraveling out before him with all the intricate simplicity of probability.

It was even better than he’d imagined.

ever seen an escher drawing, Derek asked Stiles one night as he worked through a set of probability problems.

i have now, Stiles responded a few minutes later. which one is your favorite?

convex and concave, Derek responded. He could picture Stiles already typing the name into his laptop, finding the link in seconds. it used to hang in the house when i was growing up.

wow. i’m getting inception vibes all over the place, Stiles answered a few minutes later.

joseph gordon-levitt taught you something, Derek said, rolling his eyes.

look at you all grown up and getting the movie references. i’m so proud, Stiles responded.


One day, after spring midterms, he headed down to the marina for a few hours of work at his favorite coffee shop. He sat watching the sailboats bob around the harbor, weaving their way through traffic, the wind rustling their sails. It was probably cold, a little windy and wet on the water, but he stared, mesmerized, when the boats would switch direction, wandering their way through the waterways in lazy zigzags.

Derek remembered a long ago conversation with Stiles, one filled with hidden meanings and secrets shared. It wasn’t such a big stretch to believe that starting over meant that he got to try catching some new wind.

Three days later he took his first sailing lesson. It was in a small boat, with only one mainsail, not even a jib. He could only get the boat going in the right direction for a few minutes and then he’d lose the wind and be stuck at a standstill.

He came off the water thinking about when he’d get to be out there again, so he scheduled another lesson, and then another after that, until finding the wind became second nature. It took months, but by them he was piloting boats large enough to take him somewhere interesting.

your mom was right. it feels a lot like freedom, he texted to Stiles one Sunday after a weekend on his rented sailboat. He attached a picture of the waves breaking against the bow of the boat with the white water caught splashing up mid-air.

Yeah it does, Stiles texted back hours later.


Spring term ended in a rush and Derek was left with the summer gaping wide open in front of him. He went ahead and signed up for one class and found a research position with a professor that taught fluid dynamics. He became increasingly sure that this was going to end up his field for his thesis.

Dinner with Maya and Jim became a weekly event - no excuses allowed. Usually, they’d meet up at Jim and Maya’s house on Friday nights. Jim would order smushy, deep crust, meat lover’s pizza and they’d sit on the deck of the house near the very edge of Bainbridge Island, drinking beer as they watched the sunset.

“How’s the pack back home?” Maya asked on a Saturday night late in June. “Any word?”

“Good. They’re good, I think,” Derek answered. Cora had sent him a picture of Scott’s new beta, Mark, a college freshman at the community college that seemed to be fitting in well. The photo showed him, Scott and Isaac standing in front of the Beacon Hills Preserve sign, wide grins splitting their faces open.

Cora had also sent a picture of Stiles leaning against the hood of his jeep. He wasn’t looking at the camera; instead, he was staring at something off to side, a quiet, almost expressionless look on his face. Derek couldn’t help wondering about all the things he may have missed to have Stiles standing so still in the face of life.

“And the alpha of the pack? How’s he doing?” Maya asked, taking a chug of her beer as she wound her fingers into Jim’s.

“Haven’t heard any complaints. I mean...,” Derek started. Actually, he wasn’t sure what he meant. No one was complaining, but other than that, he didn’t know. Stiles was generally silent on the subject. “We don’t really talk all that much.”

“You don’t regret leaving?” she asked, letting go of Jim’s fingers and leaning forward in her chair.

Derek could feel the weight of her eyes on him.

“No. Not even a little bit,” he said, letting the words roll over him. He could practically feel the truth rumbling in his voice. “It was the right choice.”

“For you or them?” Maya asked quietly.

For a moment, he thought of the circle around Scott after the Alpha Pack was destroyed. He remembered Scott looking clean and unscarred from the fight, while Derek had stood bloodied and raw. Possibly that was all the answer he’d ever need.

“Both,” Derek told her. He knew it was right answer, especially for her, when he could see the small smile his words brought to her lips.

Maya cleared her throat, making Derek look back toward her. “And how’s Stiles?” she asked, her eyes flashing a little in happiness, like maybe she had her own little secret that she was enjoying.

“Stiles would love it here,” Derek said, drinking the rest of his beer and watching the sails on the passing boats move across the harbor.


where are you going to college, Derek asked one night as he sat on his balcony and watched cars speed up and down the street.

not fair to ask. i don’t get to know where you are so you don’t get to know where i’m going, Stiles responded.

And maybe he had a point. Still, Derek had wondered what it could be like, being in the same city as Stiles, maybe at the same college -- that seemed like a thing Derek would like.

and if i decided to tell you where I am? Derek asked, taking a long drink of beer before hitting send.

It was stupid that a location would mean that much, like it would matter if he narrowed his location down to a city of almost a million people, like that would be all that helpful. But Derek was starting to think that knowing would be something good for both of them.

ask me again when you decide to tell me where you are, Stiles responded.


Derek bought a boat. He didn't really mean to, but when he went down to the harbor to pick up his rental for the day, he saw a beat-up, old looking sailboat bobbing along in a previously empty dock. It was a 25 foot modern sloop, good bones, but looking a little starved for attention. It wasn’t long before Derek and the owner were deep into discussion and Derek found himself standing on the bow, headed out into the harbor for a test ride.

It sailed like a dream. Before they even returned to the dock, they’d come to agreement on the price. Derek headed off to dig into his savings.

The sailboat wasn’t huge. In fact, he didn’t think anyone would even call it big, but it was his in a way that few things had ever been. The sails wouldn’t take him to exotic places, but they’d get him around the local waterways and along the coast of Washington if he had the time.

When he could get away from classes for a few hours, he’d head down to the marina and slowly start to clean up the boat. It didn’t need much in the way of structural work, but it needed some paint, and some time spent on the cabin. He polished up the poles and ordered a new jib; he reupholstered the seats and bought a new mini-fridge. Two days before classes ended, after a fresh coat of body paint, he renamed his boat.

Maya gave him a bottle of champagne and Jim took a picture when he shattered the bottle against the hull. Miles Away was christened and ready to set sail.

It seemed fitting.


Between the end of summer classes and before he had to start prepping for the one class he was teaching in the fall, Derek had a three week break. He packed up some food, threw some blankets, a sleeping bag and four changes of clothes into a bag and boarded his boat on a Friday night. His feet didn’t touch ground until the following Saturday. He went nowhere in particular, but that didn’t seem to matter.

He sent Stiles a picture of a crane circling overhead, and the waves breaking against the harbor entrance. Later, he sent a picture of the sun setting into the horizon on open water. That one was his favorite, the oranges and yellows bursting through the darkened ocean and lighting up the waves in a circle around his boat.

lucky bastard, Stiles texted back.

Stiles followed with a picture of Cora seated at the big diner in Beacon Hills, a grin on her face, her head tilted in laughter toward Mark. young love is disgusting, he added to the picture.

Derek laughed into the night.

Somewhere on his way to nowhere in particular, Derek decided on his thesis topic.

did you know that ocean currents are like systems of probabilities? Derek texted late one night as he laid out on the deck, staring up at the sky.

no. but apparently you do? Stiles answered almost immediately, even though it was almost two in the morning. this isn’t something that’s going to kill you right?

only if i drown in the currents, Derek answered back, smiling a little in the light of the screen.

well okay then. cool, Stiles texted.

Derek stared up into the stars, a little lost in thinking about currents and probability. When his cell phone rang, he almost dropped it onto the deck.

His screen flashed Stiles’ name, bright and obnoxious in the night. Derek waited, thinking about letting it go to voicemail, then thinking about how stupid that would be. Before he could make a decision, the phone stopped ringing.

answer the phone, derek, Stiles texted him right before the phone started to ring again.

This time, Derek answered. “Stiles,” he said, his voice loud against the quiet lapping of the waves hitting the hull of the boat.

“Derek,” Stiles said, sounding almost wrecked as his voice broke the silence of miles between them.

Derek cleared his throat and he wanted to say, “Talk to me,” because more than anything, Derek realized he just wanted to hear Stiles speak. But before he could get the words to form, Stiles broke the silence.

“Okay, so tell me how currents are like systems of probabilities. Not that I’m all that familiar with systems of probabilities, so you’re going to have to talk in small words and maybe toss in some explanations and examples that would make sense for someone at the beginning Calculus level,” Stiles said, his voice quick and nervous.

His heartbeat was so loud Derek could hear the soft echo of it through the headset. The muffled thump-thump-thump was almost a backup rhythm to Stiles words.

“Stiles,” Derek said, thought about texting and friendship and how he’d been working really hard at the kind of life he wanted. So he talked. “Okay, so currents and probability...,” he said, and let the explanation roll from there.

It took a few hours, but he was pretty sure that Stiles had an idea of what he was talking about. It was good in more ways than one.


Maya was waiting for him when Derek pulled back into the dock.

“Everything okay?” Derek asked, jumping down off his boat. He could feel his heart rate kick up a notch, a thread of anxiety winding its way through him at the unexpected visit. “Jim okay?”

Maya nodded, laughing a little at him. “Everyone’s fine. Just thought I’d come down for a visit. You’ve been gone awhile.”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been gone a week,” he said, leaning over and tying down the line to the cleat. “I’m not sure that constitutes awhile.”

“Hmmm... maybe,” she spoke carefully, watching him as he stood back up. “Why don’t you buy me a drink at the bar?”

Derek nodded, the panic already receding quickly. Maya and Jim were fine, and apparently everyone else as well. Maybe this was a nice kind of surprise; he could get used to that.

“Yeah. I can do that,” he said, leaning over and giving her a quick pat on the back.

She caught his arm before he could move away, and pulled him into a tight hug. “Yeah, I know you can.”

It turned out that she didn’t so much want a drink, but to offer him an official place in their pack.

“You’d be one of us,” she said. “Turner Pack.”

Derek could feel the words settle in his stomach, solid and firm, and unconditionally present, so he nodded his head, and said, “Okay, so how would that work?” Because Derek had screwed up enough for a lifetime and maybe Maya’s pack didn’t deserve his shit, but apparently they wanted it anyway.

It took some time hashing out the details. While it wasn’t unheard of, it wasn’t usual for a pack to have more than one Alpha, especially in a pack with a solid alpha mate. But Maya would have known that before she made the offer, and she must have already had an idea for how this whole thing would work.

In fact, she had several ideas. Derek was more than a little surprised at what they were.


have a new pack, Derek wrote then he erased the words before he could hit send. Instead, he typed carefully into the phone, i found a home.

Stiles didn’t respond until the next morning.

you deserve it.


It was the third Thursday in fall term and Derek was on his way to the library when his nose caught the smallest wisp of familiar. He stopped, turned once in a circle until he found the direction. He was just a couple of minutes from a small quad when the familiar turned into Stiles.

For a couple of minutes, he walked along slowly, trailing the scent that seemed to blend so effortlessly into all the smells of college and home and pack. Derek finally saw him, in the center of the small courtyard near the south side of campus, standing in line at the coffee cart. He was scrolling through his phone wtih backpack thrown over his shoulder, flannel over-shirt flapping in the breeze.

He looked...exactly the same. That sort of electrifying intensity he’d always worn like a second skin. It drew Derek’s eyes to him and made him the center of everything.

Here, Derek thought, heart racing just a little as he stood there and stared. Stiles was here. It seemed impossible, even though it wasn’t so impossible at all. Stiles was here and maybe that wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it certainly wasn’t what he expected when he left his apartment this morning like it was any other day.

Derek walked to Jim’s office and sat there, making a call to his advisor canceling his office hours, and drinking three cups of coffee. He wasn’t sure what to do. Looking back on that moment in the quad, running wasn’t the best choice. It was the choice he would have made before, not the one he should have made now.

“I saw Stiles today,” Derek said finally as Jim sat working at his desk. That caught Jim’s attention. His head came up and he stared hard at Derek.

“Here?” He asked, already reaching for his cell and typing in a few words.

Derek nodded.

“Okay,” Jim said. “What did you do?“

“I came up here,” Derek said.

“Without saying anything?” Jim waited for Derek to nod. “Well, that was stupid.”

And, okay, it wasn’t like Derek didn’t already know that.


Derek didn’t like to admit that for the entire next day, he skulked around campus, turning corners carefully and waiting for Stiles to leap out in front of him. Stupid, he knew, but he couldn’t help it.

They’d exchanged thousands of texts and phone calls, more and more every week, but this was something completely new. Derek had imagined what it’d be like to have Stiles close. He’d known it was a possibility since the moment he’d stepped foot in Seattle and watched the waves crashing in the distance behind the buildings of the college.

So Derek started texting him, small things, but where the words had a little more detail. The pictures he sent to Stiles were more recognizable: part of UW building name, a sign for something on Bainbridge Island, the coffee cart where Derek had first seen him.

The fact that Derek was in Seattle, at the University of Washington, became more of an unspoken assumption rather than a secret. Stiles was always paying attention, and there was no way he didn’t know he shared the campus with Derek. He allowed the secret to stand.

At least until Stiles finally texted, i know you’re here. i’d like to see you.

And it was so casual, so easy, that Stiles basically gave him absolutely no choice, while giving Derek all the control in the world.

Derek took a breath and texted, i’ll find you.

It didn’t take long for Derek to track him down to the same quad where he’d first seen him. Stiles was sitting on a row of benches, his head moving to the music from his headphones. A reader was open on his lap. He seemed oblivious to everything around him, fully focused on his work. Derek could just hear American Idiot playing from Stiles’ headphones, just a slight echo that Derek knew to expect because Stiles had once told him he studied best to Green Day.

Derek took a few minutes to stare. Stiles looked good. Completely Stiles, but slightly different since a year can’t help but change a person. He was still tall and lanky, but his shoulders were wider than Derek remembered, his face not quite as open as it used to be. That could maybe be age, or could be life lived with a wolf pack, hiding emotions and feelings to protect the little privacy he’d have.

It could also be because Derek knew him so much more now, knew that the openness wasn’t as open as it seemed. It was illusions on top of words that could confuse a person if you didn't know where to look.

Whatever the differences, Derek almost ached with the need to go sit down next to him.

Stiles reached down into his pocket. Pulling out his phone, he typed something out quickly with a small, secretive smile on his face. Derek wanted to know who he was texting to put that expression on his face -- it was all fondness and maybe some exasperation around the corners of his eyes.

Derek phone dinged at him. He pulled it out he saw a text from Stiles.

nice to know you’re still a creeper. some things never change.

Derek looked up, but Stiles was still staring intently down at the phone.

if you come sit by me, I’ll buy you a coffee. :)

This time when Derek looked up, Stiles was staring directly at him.

Derek took a step toward Stiles, and that must have been the hardest step, because suddenly it was easy to walk faster and faster toward him, till he was almost at a jog when he met Stiles halfway into the quad. Stiles stood in front of him, taller by at least an inch, staring at Derek intently. His face split wide into a full smile as he reached out and pulled Derek into a tight hug.

“I know, I know. You don’t do hugs, but seriously, dude, just give me a minute. I swear to god, this is just...I don’t know. I thought maybe you were here before I came. Or, you know, close, but yeah, wow,” Stiles whispered against his ear, his voice low and gruff.

“Stiles, shut up. Jesus,” Derek said, hugging him closer and taking a long, deep breath. The smell hit him full on, like the sea and the sun and a lingering trace of something spicy and hot and intense. He smelled happy. Derek felt his body relax, muscles uncurling slowly, and his lungs filling, almost to the breaking point, with air.

It felt amazing.

“Derek,” Stiles said. “Fuck.” He let Derek go, stepping away just a little to stare at him. He couldn’t seem to get control of his face because he had the stupidest look as he just stood there watching Derek.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a loss for words,” Derek said, he could feel himself smiling, just a little, because there wasn't really much else to do when someone was so genuinely happy to see you. He wasn’t sure if anyone in almost a decade had felt that way around him.

“Let me get your coffee,” Stiles said, running a hand quickly down the length of Derek’s arm. “Fuck. Just sit there, I’ll be right back.”

Derek sat. When Stiles handed over a tall cup that smelled like sugar and cream, they sat together and drank some coffee.


Eventually coffees with Stiles turned into lunches, which eventually became dinners. Before too long, there were trips to the bookstore and studying at the library. And eventually, when Stiles looked over and said, “Dude, seriously, you have a friend duty to go with me to see the new Avengers. It’ll be a betrayal if you say no,” Derek found himself driving them across town to the largest IMAX.

Derek went because, betrayal or not, he just couldn’t say no.

“Shit, that was seriously good,” Stiles said after the movie, as he stumbled out the door of the theater.

Derek caught his arm and pulled him in close, avoiding the mass of bodies exiting the same door.

“Not bad,” Derek said, letting go of Stiles’ arm. His hand tingled where he’d touched skin.

“You giant liar who lies. You loved it. Don’t front. I saw the smile on your face when Hawkeye -.”

Derek reached out and shoved Stiles’ shoulder, pushing him hard enough to make his words trail off abruptly. “No, I hated every moment.”

“Really? That’s how you’re going to play it, huh?” Stiles asked, shrugging in closer until his shoulders brushed against Derek’s. “Alright then.”

When they were sitting in a diner three blocks down from the movie theater with their food in front of them, Stiles said, “So that weapon array they were building in the movie, that seemed about right. I mean, just thinking about the numbers, the differentials in the laser would probably make it get that sort of distance, yeah?”

Derek dropped the onion ring he was about to take a bite out of. “You’re kidding me, right? Tell me you’re messing with me, Stiles. What the hell kind of math are they teaching you? Just..,” Derek started. He couldn’t even bring himself to stop when Stiles was bent over the table in laughter.


It’d been a bitch of a day with a meeting with his thesis advisor, a handful of classes, and three hours of office time in which every freshman girl decided they needed help passing beginning math. He was counting down the minutes till he could get home, maybe call Stiles, and crash on the couch with an extra-large pizza.

Before he locked up for the night, he pulled out his phone and checked up his messages. He had two missed calls and eleven text messages from Stiles.

evil professor and cartesian coordinates. wtf.

evil. not kidding.

is this necessary in life? i think not.


sos please translate affine translations into english.

i’m in student union. tonight would work for me.

actually tonight would be like a lifesaver for me.

please tell me you’re not busy tonight.

derek i’m not kidding. i’m dying here.

quiz. tomorrow.

why would i want to add an extra dimension to my math. i really really don’t.

Derek scrolled through the messages on his phone, reading the texts one at a time, his mood getting lighter and easier the farther he read through the words. He typed out slowly, sorry. washing my hair tonight. good luck on that quiz.

i hate you and your mathness, Stiles responded seconds later.

He packed up his papers and headed over to the student union. If he laughed three different times on the way there, no one could prove a thing. But it’s possible that he purposely ordered an extra macchiato to take to Stiles.

Cartesian systems really did require caffeine.


“Derek,” Maya said, sitting down opposite of him at the monthly pack dinner in October. “Stiles contacted me today. He called me at work and asked to set up a meeting.”

“What?” Derek asked, looking up from his plate of spaghetti. “He did what?”

“Asked to meet. He said he probably should have done it when he first started classes, but he got busy and didn’t have a chance until just now.” Maya leaned across the table, a little bit into Derek’s space. “He also said that it was more of a respect thing than anything else since he wasn’t officially in a pack.

“I don’t understand. He’s part of Scott McCall’s pack in Beacon Hills.” The wrongness of that statement made his control waiver, just enough for his eyes to start to flash.

“Control it,” Maya commanded, mostly ignoring the indiscretion. And even though Derek was an Alpha he was still Maya’s pack, and he could feel the trace of order race down his spine.

“Sorry,” he said through clenched teeth.

“No worries, he’ll be here in 15 minutes,” Maya said, a grin cracking her face. It was a dangerous grin, the one she only pulled out when she was amused by her own plans. “You’ll be introducing him to the pack, so get ready.”

The doorbell rang ten minutes early. Derek felt betrayed. Mostly by Maya.


“Stiles,” Maya said. She had Stiles sitting on the chair in front of her desk while Derek and Jim leaned back against the cushions of the sofa in her office. “Why didn’t you officially announce your pack presence when you arrived at school?”

Stiles stared at her. Derek had to give him credit for meeting her eyes directly, not a hint of uncertainty on his face.

“Because I’m not required to by pack law.” Stiles’ voice didn’t waver as he said the words. “I’m announcing my presence now out of courtesy.”

“Derek tells me that you come from the McCall pack in Beacon Hills.” Maya got up from her chair and moved to the front of her desk, sitting down on the corner just a mere foot from Stiles.

“I’m from Beacon Hills and I know Scott McCall. But I’m not officially pack. At most, I’m pack by default,” Stiles said.

Maya caught Derek’s eye for a moment, before focusing her attention back on Stiles. “Explain.”

“When Scott formally asked me to join his pack, I told him no.”

“Stiles,” Derek said, standing up quickly.

“No,” Maya said, flashing her eyes at Derek. Derek responded without thought, getting up to move in front of Stiles. It could be taken as a challenge, Derek knew. He hoped that wasn’t how this was about to go

Stiles sat completely unconcerned, directly meeting Maya’s eyes. “Scott’s like family and I’d do anything for him. Beacon Hills is where I’m from, but it’s not where I’m going.” He reached out a hand and tugged on Derek’s shirt, trying to pull him away enough that he could see Maya without obstruction.

“Ms. Turner, I’m not a danger to your family. I’ll do what you ask and I’ll respect your authority. I won’t upset the balance.” Stiles spoke quietly, and this time, he turned his head down just enough that he wasn’t looking directly into Maya’s eyes.

“Interesting,” Maya said, looking away from Stiles. Her eyes locked with Derek’s as she spoke to Stiles. “Go on.”

Stiles laughed a dry, almost choked sound. “You don’t need to question my loyalty.” He stood up and pushed Derek to the side, standing in front of Maya. “My loyalty here is to Derek and he’s pretty obviously loyal to you. You can trust that I won’t betray your pack.”

Derek could hear the strong, steady beat of Stiles’ heart. It gave nothing away, except for the complete truth of his words. Derek felt his breath catch as he moved enough so that he stood beside Stiles, shoulder to shoulder with him as he faced Maya.

Maya broke out into a wide grin, reaching forward and pulling Stiles into a quick hug. “That’s good enough for me. I knew it the moment you walked in the door.” Maya reached out and squeezed Stiles’ shoulder. “Maybe someday we can get you to change your mind about official pack status. It’s a whole new world up here in Seattle.”


I’ll pick you up at 8 tomorrow, Derek texted late one Friday as he was getting ready to finally leave the library. Dress warm.

in the MORNING???? Stiles responded. you realize it’s saturday right?

Derek possibly rolled his eyes at the question. Last weekend, Stiles had knocked on Derek’s door at nine in the morning, waking him up to go get pancakes. It was the day after Stiles’ last midterm and he had been a little wired.

“Feed me, oh my god. Pancakes, Derek, come on,” he’d said, pulling on Derek’s arm as soon as he had the door open. “You can buy me a stack of pancakes bigger than my head. With bacon and eggs. And possibly a chocolate milkshake.

He’d tugged until Derek had agreed, pulling away only to go put on some shoes. Stiles hadn’t really eaten a stack of pancakes bigger than his head, but it’d been pretty damn close.

Derek felt that this was a very sweet form of revenge. Revenge feels good, he typed out.

Stiles replied with a frowny face.

Derek snorted, then texted, you won’t be sorry.

i have no doubt, Stiles replied. better bring coffee though. extra giant with a pound of sugar.

Derek couldn’t help the warm feeling that settled somewhere deep in his chest. Something that felt a lot like acceptance and family and maybe even more like home than he’d thought possible.

It was 8:15 when Derek pulled up outside Stiles’ dorms, two coffees and a bag filled with lemon pound cake sitting on the center console. Stiles slid into Derek’s car, already reaching for his coffee.

“Okay, so tell me, what adventure are we having today?” He groaned as he took the first sip. “Oh my God. So fucking good.”

Derek felt his face heat up as he watched Stiles close his eyes and practically groan into the coffee cup. It was pretty much the porniest thing Derek had actually seen outside of actual porn.

“So?” Stiles poked Derek’s arm. “Hello? Derek?” He asked again, grabbing at Derek’s sleeve before running his hand down Derek’s arm, tapping him once, twice, three times on his wrist. He wore an expression that Derek couldn’t quite identify.

Derek shook his head. “Drink your coffee. You’ll find out when we get there,” he said, fighting to keep his voice steady and his eyes off Stiles’ mouth. He started the car and headed toward the main campus exit.

It wasn’t a long drive, maybe 20 minutes with light traffic, but Stiles’ eyes were already staring longingly at the closest row of boats when Derek pulled into the parking lot designated for boat owners. His eyes bounced over to Derek, then back to the boats, before he was throwing open the car door and bolting out to stand at the fence.

“Please tell me you bought us a boat ride. Because, dude, I am so broke I can hardly buy coffee and there’s no way I’m going to be getting on the water unless this is your gift to me for like the next year.”

Derek stood next to him at the fence and said, very seriously, “I absolutely did not buy us a boat ride.” He reached over and tugged at Stiles hand, getting him moving toward the entrance to the dock. “Come on.”

When he went to let go of Stiles’ arm, Stiles just shook his head, and let his hand drift down until he could wind his fingers through Derek’s. Derek looked over at him, eyebrows raised.

“For courage,” Stiles said, “because you’re taunting me with boats.” Stiles took a sip of his coffee and squeezed Derek’s hand hard.

“Courage, sure,” Derek said, punching his code into the gate and leading Stiles down the walkway to the left. He kept dragging Stiles along until they hit the very last slip on the pier. He let his thumb rub back and forth against Stiles’ palm.

“What?” Stiles asked, looking around before letting his eyes linger on the boat. “What is it?”

Derek dragged him a few up, toward the bow. He said, “Stiles, this is Miles Away, my boat.”

He whipped around, staring hard at Derek and whispering, frantically, “Yours? Like, actually yours for good? Because Miles Away? Dude, that’s... I don’t even know.”

Derek responded by jumping up onto the boat and holding out his hand toward Stiles. “Come aboard?” he asked, laughing when Stiles threw himself onto the deck.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Stiles chanted, grabbing Derek up into a hug before pushing him toward the stern. “Let’s go.”


Stiles called at one in the morning on the Saturday after Thanksgiving break. Derek picked up in a panic, his chest already tight, bracing himself to hear the worst from Beacon Hills.

Stiles. Isaac. Cora. Scott. It could be anything. Derek was already swinging his feet over the edge of his bed, grabbing his laptop to start looking up flight times when he answered the call.

“Derek!” Stiles was loud enough that Derek had to pull the phone away from his ear. His words were slurred. “Derek! I love Jack Daniels. He’s... he’s... the guy. You know, The Guy.”

It actually said something about Stiles that even drunk he could still talk clearly enough that Derek could hear the capitals in his speech.

“You okay, Stiles?” Derek asked, his heart settling down into a steady rhythm. Drunk was definitely better than in danger.

“I’m great. Maybe. Or at least, really, really good,” he said.

Derek could hear catcalls in the background, a chanting that was getting louder and louder as Derek was on the phone.

“In fact, I’m so good. And drunk. Did I mention the drunk part? Because I’m really drunk.”

“That you are. Are you at home?” Derek asked. He sat up and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees.

“At a party. Somebody’s girlfriend? Maybe Isaac’s. I don’t know. I think her team won something? Or lost something? But anyway, Jack Daniels.” Stiles hummed a little under his breath.

Derek could hear a door slam and then Stiles flop down onto something.

“Jack Daniels. Absolutely,” Derek said. “Stiles, is Scott there?”

“Scott? Maybe?” Stiles said.

Derek could hear another door slam somewhere in the distance and someone calling out, “Stiles, where the hell are you?” He was pretty sure it was Scott’s voice.

“Stiles, listen. Scott is calling for you, I hear him. Call me when you get home, okay?” Derek said, wondering how close Scott was to the room, whether he could hear Derek’s voice on the phone.

Did Scott even know that Stiles had been in contact with him?

“No, wait! Don’t hang up,” Stiles almost shouted.

Derek flinched. “Does Scott know you talk to me?” He asked. “Stiles?”

“What? You told me not to tell him. Don’t hang up,” Stiles whispered frantically. He sounded like he was coming down from the drunk, his words not quite as slurred.

“Derek, listen. I need you to ask me something. You got to ask me and you need to not let me lie. Because -,” Stiles said, his voice was so quiet that Derek had to pay attention to hear him over Scott calling Stiles’ name again in the background. “Okay, I can hear Scott calling me,” Stiles said, and he didn’t sound all that drunk, or all that happy.

There was a rustle on the phone, a soft thump, like Stiles bracing himself against the wall to stand up. “I guess that’s it, right? Scott’s down the hall. He can probably hear this whole thing.”

Derek took a moment, thought of Stiles and laughter and a new lease on life. He took a breath and said, “Yeah, he probably can. What do you want me to ask you?”

“Yeah, you have to promise you’ll ask...,” Stiles voice trailed off as he pulled his mouth away from the receiver and hollered Scott’s name.

“Stiles -.”

“Just promise that you’ll ask me why I didn’t join Scott’s pack. Just ask. Soon, okay?”

Derek sat there, staring hard at his knees, listening as Stiles called out to Scott. He listened as a door banged open and Scott asked, “Is that Derek on the phone?” like it was impossible to imagine that Derek was talking to anyone.

“Stiles?” Derek asked, before Stiles could hang up his cell.

“Yeah?” he asked. The slur was gone from his voice, and it was possible that his tone was a little lighter, a little easier than it’d been just a little while ago.

“I promise,” Derek said, hanging up.


The following week, Isaac called five times in one day. Derek sat down on the deck, stared at the missed calls that he’d let go to voicemail and thought hard about life and moving on, and how you could leave without actually leaving anyone behind. He typed in his voicemail code and listened as Isaac’s voice filled the air between Beacon Hills and Seattle.

“Scott said you talked to Stiles. Does that mean you’ll talk to everyone else? Please call,” Isaac said at the very end of his message. He’d already told Derek about Scott’s community college classes, Cora’s new job in town, and how Isaac was possibly in love.

Derek hung up, staring down at the phone, not sure what to even do with this.

Stiles found him sitting in the same spot hours later. He hopped up and slid onto the bench next to him, pulling Derek’s hand toward him enough that he could see the recent call list.

“Isaac, huh?” he asked, pressing his shoulder hard into Derek’s.

Derek nodded.

“He misses you, you know. They all do.” Stiles spoke softly, like maybe he was afraid to share the information.

“So he said,” Derek said, finally settling on words that wouldn’t give anything away. He thought of Beacon Hills and Cora and Scott.

It wasn’t like he didn’t miss Beacon Hills and the people there. His recent memories of Beacon Hills were pretty shitty, but he’d grown up there, had friends and family, and a thousand moments when he’d loved his life. He didn’t have to be their alpha to know that they still owned a part of him.

It was strange, thinking of them and not experiencing that bone crushing weight that made him struggle to breath.

“You should call him back,” Stiles said, tapping his fingers against Derek’s palm until Derek opened his hand and let Stiles wind their fingers together.


“Say hi. Ask him how about his college classes. Maybe ask him about the love of his life.” Stiles tugged Derek’s hand until Derek let him pick it up and move it to rest on Stiles’ knee.

“Who?” Derek asked because it wasn’t like both Isaac and Stiles could throw that out there and not have him be curious.

“Guess you’ll have to call and ask him, won’t you?” Stiles stood up, pulling Derek up with his hand. “Come on, it’s too late to hit the water today. Let’s go eat. Then maybe you can talk currents and fluid dynamics to me until you figure out the next subtopic of your thesis.”

“Stiles,” Derek stopped, letting his hand tug Stiles to a stop. “Why’d you say no to Scott’s offer of pack?”

Stiles looked at him, shrugging his shoulder. “Derek, you can’t...,” his voice trailed off. “Look, you have to get your shit together. Isaac wants to talk to you. Scott and Cora and Peter, they all want to talk to you. And maybe you’re not pack anymore, and I get it, that was your choice, but they still care.” Stiles let go of Derek’s hand and turned away.

Looking back at Derek, Stiles said, “I’m not going to be a secret, Derek, and right now, that’s exactly what I am. You’re better than that.”


Derek thought about that for the next two days. He thought of the thousands of texts he’d exchanged with Stiles over the year they were apart; he thought about secrets and conversations, and making the same mistakes over and over again.

Thousands of miles separating them, but still growing closer by the minute.

He remembered standing in that clearing with dead Alphas around him, claws bloody with death, watching everyone but Stiles circle up around Scott.

Looking back, he can’t remember when Stiles and Derek stopped being almost enemies and turned into trusted allies. It probably happened sometime in the middle of the Alpha Pack fiasco, a trust forged with shared information and the need to protect the people around them. They’d fought together for the same goal and when they’d won, they’d stepped to the side and let others lead the way.

Even after he’d left, that trust had stretched and grown stronger over time. It’d become friendship and comfort, and their own little pack. Stiles had become everything.


Eventually, Derek called Isaac. They had a 30 minute long, stilted conversation. Derek told him about UW and his new pack and Isaac said, “That’s great,” over and over, and maybe it was stupid, but he sounded like he meant the words. It wasn’t the best conversation ever, but it was the start of something.

When he hung up, he felt better. Isaac wasn’t pack, he wasn’t Derek’s beta, but he was something just as valuable.

He called Stiles and invited him to dinner. He ordered Chinese and set the ringer on his cell to silent. They ate dinner silently on the balcony. Derek kept wanting to say, “I talked to Isaac,” like he could prove something to Stiles.

Instead, he nodded his head when Stiles talked about classes and what he was going to do over Christmas break. It wasn’t awkward, but it was just a little to the left of their normal.

why’d you say no to scott, Derek finally texted. He was sitting alone on his balcony, the remnants of Chinese food sitting around him. Inside, he could hear Stiles rifling in the refrigerator, looking for something to drink.

you realize i’m in the next room right? Stiles responded too many heartbeats later.

doesn’t change the question, Derek responded.

Scott’s like my brother. he’s a good alpha.

i’m sure. and? Derek held his breath.

i don’t know. Stiles sat down beside Derek on ground, close enough that their shoulders were just touching. Derek heard his heart stutter once.

“You told me to not let you lie,” Derek said, watching carefully as Stiles poked around at his phone.

“I did, huh?” Stiles responded, and he could hear the stutter there as well.

They both knew that was the second lie, but it wouldn’t help to point it out. Instead Derek said, “You were drunk enough that I guess I can’t hold you to your words.”

Stiles took a deep breath, pushed his body into Derek’s a little more.

“At first, I only kind of knew that it had to be made official. I didn’t even realize I had a choice,” Stiles said. His voice was quiet.

Stiles nudged his shoulder and Derek looked over at him. Stiles eyes stayed firmly on his phone, his cheeks slightly red with a blush.

“Stiles,” Derek whispered.

“It didn’t feel right to say yes,” Stiles whispered, shaking his head, and typing into his phone.

you bled for the pack. scott brought them together but it was at the cost of your blood. you gave them their chance and i don’t think they ever really got it.

Derek had to read the words, once, and then again, to understand what Stiles was saying. He looked up and this time, finally, Stiles was looking right at him. His eyes were bright and he stared at Derek like he was worth everything.

“When Scott asked officially, I didn’t say yes because it felt wrong without you.” Stiles turned his head into Derek’s arm, until he was saying the words against the fabric of Derek’s t-shirt.

Reaching out, Derek wrapped his hand around Stiles neck, tugging him closer. Stiles closed his eyes and then suddenly climbed up onto Derek’s lap, winding arms around Derek’s neck and pushing Derek’s head in against his neck.

“It’s you,” he said again. “I think my pack would always have to include you.”

Derek groaned, responding to the smell, the feel, of Stiles against him, next to him, wrapping around him. He leaned up and caught Stiles lips in a kiss, pressing closer and closer until Stiles moaned and parted his lips and took over the kiss with a fierceness that had Derek going rock hard.

“Derek,” Stiles gasped pulling away before reaching down and trying to tug Derek’s shirt free of his pants.

“I talked to Isaac earlier today,” Derek said, licking into dip of Stiles’ neck.

“Fuck,” Stiles gasped, grinding his body down into Derek. “That’s great, seriously great, now shut the fuck -.”

Cutting off Stiles’ words, Derek tugged Stiles closer and closer, until there was no space between them. Pushing at Stiles, he got them moving enough to lay them out on the patio deck, the moon bleeding soft light against their bodies.

He let his eyes track the moles dotting Stiles skin, his mouth trailing across them, up and around and down, into wandering patterns that had Stiles whispering quiet, desperate words into their shared air. Hands seemed to be everywhere, Stiles unbuckling Derek’s pants and Derek tugging Stiles’ shirt up and over his head, finding skin, so much skin, spread out against the deck, and all for Derek.

Stiles gripped Derek’s hip, moving them together in hard, pulsing waves, his fingers tight and strong, a sizzling point of contact that kept Derek grounded inside the scents of Stiles, and sex, and home. Derek licked at the spot beneath his ear, taking the scent and making it theirs.

He bit and nibbled, and pressed his teeth into the skin, feeling Stiles shudder. Stiles’ hands were pressed hard into Derek’s hips, nails almost breaking the skin, his fingers pushing; pushing until Derek could feel bruises just start to bloom on his skin.

And the thought of Stiles marking his skin, something Derek was going to keep, at least for the moment, and that made him wrap himself even tighter around Stiles, pulling him closer, until the air between them was all but gone. Derek tried to stand, tried to pull Stiles up and into the apartment. He wanted to take him somewhere, anywhere, better than a deck floor, but Stiles mumbled low in his throat, a muffled noise between kisses, and held him even tighter.

He wound his fingers into Derek’s hair, thrust up with his hips, once, twice, hard enough to get Derek over onto his back. Stiles landed on top, his thighs pushing back into Derek’s hands, his body covering Derek completely, grounding him. He kissed Derek’s nipple, his neck, his ear, moving just enough until he could lean down and carefully whisper against the skin of Derek’s neck, “You. I want you.”

Derek tugged him down flush against his body, rolling their hips together, pushing and pulling, pressing hard against each other until Stiles gasped Derek’s name. Derek could feel him come, wetness spreading through his shorts as Derek pushed harder, chasing after the feeling that was right there, all skin and heat and feeling, until he shuddered, sucking in a breath, tasting Stiles and him both, and thinking, yes.



“Okay, that was anticlimactic.” Stiles half mumbled the words against the skin of Derek’s chest. “I was imagining something... longer. Sorry.”

Derek laughed, tugging Stiles up until he could press their lips together, soft licks, a little pressure, until Stiles opened up and kissed him back. They were still half dressed, their pants not even all the way unbuttoned, t-shirts trailed out behind them on the balcony.

“Odds are that it’ll last longer next time, right?” Stiles asked, biting at the corner of Derek’s mouth. “I’m thinking we can usually work the odds in our favor, because, I have ideas. A lot of ideas that we need to try. Maybe more than once.”

Stiles leered down at him, or at least, his expression made an effort to be a leer. Mostly, it was a sex stupid smile with his hair sticking up and come stained pants and a hickey just starting to blossom in the spot below his right ear.

He looked more than a little ridiculous, but Derek didn’t have the heart to tell him that, because he also looked sort of amazingly perfect.

“I’m game for playing the odds,” he said instead, already imagining sex on the boat. And the couch. And that really comfortable corner chair in the back folds of the library.

It was a whole new world.