“You’ll fuh —” the hunter says, and then chokes. He coughs and blood spills down his chin and spatters his shirt, black in the moonlight. “You’ll fuckin’ pay for this,” he finally gurgles. Pretty strong words from someone who is probably going to bleed out within the next two minutes.
“Listen, man,” Stiles says wearily. He lets the shield he had powered up around his pack recede, down to just a golden flicker between his palms. And maybe he should just let this guy die with whatever scraps of dignity he has left, but he’s just so fucking done with these hunter yahoos showing up and causing trouble right when he has a big paper due. “We gave you the option to leave peacefully. You’ve got no one to blame but yourself.”
The hunter stumbles back a step, his forearm still pressed against his belly even though it’s doing nothing to stop the flow of blood from the claw-marks Derek carved into his gut.
“We’re never gonna stop comin’ for you,” he snarls. “This pack is an abomination.” He’s panting now, the kind of frantic gasping breaths you only get when there’s not enough blood volume to carry air to your lungs. It probably feels like drowning, and as much as Stiles hates the guy, he can’t help feeling sorry about that. It’s a sucky way to go.
Stiles just sighs. There’s no reasoning with someone like this, and it’s not like he’s gonna live long enough to get the word out anyway. Maybe his disappearance will send a message to his cronies, but he’s not the first by far and it’s too much to hope that he’ll be the last.
Stiles is already turning away, thinking about the best way to dispose of the body, when the guy mutters, “Take the banshee.”
He wheels around, eyes searching for Lydia, and suddenly she’s screaming, an ear-piercing wail that shatters the muggy air and freezes Stiles’ blood in his veins. There’s a blur of motion and then a couple of low thunks as Stiles belatedly recasts the shield, covering their little clearing in a golden bubble of light.
Stiles’ ears are still ringing and so he startles a little as Peter emerges from the woods just at the edge of his peripheral vision. His arm is black to the elbow, and he’s holding a sniper rifle in one hand and dragging a body with the other, its throat slashed.
“You’re welcome,” he mouths, and Stiles is already berating himself in his head. The second hunter must have been cloaked somehow, Stiles should’ve — he should’ve —
His thoughts stutter to a halt.
Derek is facedown on the forest floor, half covering Lydia still, and four separate pools of blood are starting to darken the back of his henley.
“Shit,” Stiles says, and his voice sounds tinny and distant even to himself. “Shit, shit, shit —”
He scrambles forward and falls to his knees, half-lifting Derek up while Lydia struggles out from under him, wild-eyed. Stiles gently lowers Derek back to the ground. There’s so much blood.
The shirt is practically in shreds anyway so he rips it all the way from collar to waist, exposing the leaking bullet holes.
“Wolfsbane?” he asks. Derek flails his hand, as if trying to touch the wounds, and Stiles grabs it, lacing their fingers together to keep him still.
Either no one answers, or he just can’t hear them over the ringing in his ears. He looks around frantically. Erica and Boyd are just starting toward him from where they were finishing off the first hunter, and Isaac is just staring at him, wide-eyed and confused. Jackson is helping Lydia to her feet, not even sparing a glance for his alpha bleeding all over himself a step away. It’s Peter who finally sidles up.
Stiles tenses, magic at the ready, but Peter just sniffs the wounds and then shakes his head in the negative.
“Jesus,” Stiles says in relief, as the fragments of bullet start extruding from the bullet wounds. Nothing to do here but let them heal, then. “Lyds, you okay?”
Lydia nods, wiping a trembling hand across her eyes as Jackson wraps an arm around her. It’s starting to sink in for Stiles too, what would have happened if Derek hadn’t thrown himself in the path of those bullets. Lydia doesn’t scream anymore unless it’s one of their own, which means that it was her own death she was foretelling, not the hunters’.
“Everyone else okay?” Stiles asks. Erica and Boyd have gathered up Isaac between them, and they all nod.
“Can barely hear but it’s starting to come back,” Boyd says, his deep voice carrying through the high whine in Stiles’ head. “Should be all healed up soon.”
Stiles nods, and lets himself fall backwards, feeling the soft earth and the moist leaves beneath him. In his fear he had drawn more deeply on his magic than he should have, and he’s going to be feeling the effects for the next day or two.
For now he breathes in and out, slow and even, letting the energy of the forest sink into him, slowly replenishing his strength. It’s only when Derek starts to stir that Stiles realizes he’s kept ahold of Derek’s hand the whole time.
They’re all a little shell-shocked still by the time the bodies are buried. Derek tries to grumble as Stiles drags him by the arm towards the Jeep, but Stiles knows that Derek ran here, and Erica’s car is already packed with Erica, Boyd, Isaac, Lydia, and Jackson. Peter just melted back into the woods in that creepy way he has, so that leaves Stiles to drop Derek home.
Stiles can only stand a few moments of silent driving before he’s fiddling with the radio, humming under his breath, tapping the steering wheel — all the fidgety behaviors that he thought he had managed to tamp down on over the last few years. It’s just that he’s not alone with Derek that often, anymore.
He makes sure of it.
Derek’s eyes are tracking his tapping fingers, his brow furrowed, and Stiles clenches his hands around the steering wheel in case he’s being annoying.
“So, that was a good time, huh?” Stiles says, just to fill the empty space between them. His voice is overly loud, and he doesn’t know if it’s the residual ringing in his ears or the adrenaline rush, but he can’t seem to control it. “Not that I don’t like a good hike in the woods, but you think maybe these guys could save it for the weekend next time? I’ve got a paper due in like, 20 minutes.”
There’s a few beats, long enough that Stiles looks over to make sure Derek hasn’t passed out or whatever.
“Yeah,” Derek says, way too late. Stiles opens his mouth, ready to ask him what the hell is going on, but then snaps it closed again. It’s late, they’re all exhausted. As much as Stiles knows that Derek can take four bullets and be fine the next day, it doesn’t mean that he likes it. And anything Stiles says right now is likely to come across as critical, no matter how he means it. It’s just the way he and Derek are, and have always been.
He pulls up in front of Derek’s house. It’s … nice. A cute little two-bedroom Craftsman. It makes Stiles a little sad, sometimes, this implicit admission that Derek’s pack is never going to want to live with him, the way the original Hale pack did. But nothing about their pack is typical, and Stiles still loves the hell out of it.
“Well,” Stiles starts to say, but Derek is abruptly talking over him.
“Goodnight, Stiles,” he says, and then he’s out the door, shutting it carefully behind him even though they both know you have to slam it a little to get the lock to stick.
Stiles will wait until Derek’s in the house before he gets out himself and slams it from the outside, because God knows that Derek would take that the wrong way too.
He tells himself that it’s that and that alone that causes him to wait, car idling, while Derek gets out his keys and opens the front door. His shoulders are hunched tight around his ears.
There’s something about the way he’s holding himself that sends Stiles’ mind back six years, to when he first met Derek, fresh off of Laura’s death and running from hunters. Hunted. That’s how Derek looks, as he slips into the house and shuts the door firmly behind him.
Well, it’s not like he doesn’t have good reason. Even though these two idiots today called down the whole pack, it still comes down to Derek in the end, doesn’t it?
Stiles decides to just drive off, even though the door ajar warning light is gonna be on. He’ll stop a few blocks away and fix it.
It’s less than a week later that Stiles finds himself back at Derek’s house, leaning on the doorbell and frowning. Derek’s usually waiting for him at the door; he knows the sound of Stiles’ Jeep from blocks away. Maybe the pack is right, and something really is wrong.
There’s no answer, and the flicker of unease in Stiles’ chest starts to coalesce. He looks up and down the street, but it’s the middle of the day on a weekday, and no one is around. Stiles takes the risk, sending a little wave of magic over the house, relief rushing over him as he senses Derek in the backyard.
He lets himself in the side gate, concern transmuting to irritation. Derek looks fine, digging away under the big elm tree, planting bulbs. Stiles is missing a goddamn class for this.
“What the fuck, Derek?” Stiles says, but Derek doesn’t even acknowledge him. He takes a few bulbs from a net bag and presses them carefully into the trough he’s dug, and then starts to fill it in with dirt.
“Derek — why in the hell —”
Stiles’ words cut off as Derek looks up and startles, shoving back with the trowel raised, eyes wide for an instant until he seems to recognize Stiles.
Stiles freezes in place. Derek looks — well, not to put too fine of a point on it, he looks like shit. He’s got dark circles under his eyes that Stiles didn’t even know werewolves could get. His shoulders are tensed up around his ears, and the hand that is holding the trowel is trembling.
“Jesus, Derek.” Stiles takes a cautious step closer. “What the fuck is going on with you?”
Derek scowls. “I’m fine.” He stands up, dusting off his jeans.
Stiles digs his phone out of his pocket, waving it at Derek as if it’s Exhibit A. “The whole pack has been calling you all week, and —”
He looks up, and there’s something — off. Derek is staring at him intently, but not at his eyes. He’s watching his mouth, and Stiles has the sudden memory of his Babcia, the way she used to do the same thing when the batteries on her hearing aids —
Stiles bites his lip. Then he very deliberately covers his mouth with his hand. “You can’t hear me, can you?”
Derek’s brows furrow even more deeply for a moment, and then he drops the trowel, wiping his hands on his shirt. “I’m fine.”
Stiles huffs out an aggrieved sigh. He knows they’ve never quite clicked, that of all the pack members there’s always been this uneasy truce between himself and Derek, but he hadn’t realized that it was quite this bad.
He pulls out his phone. Yeah, not even close to what I asked, he texts. He waits for Derek to feel the vibration, fish his phone out of his pocket, and read the text.
Derek looks up, and it’s almost like he forgets to maintain the scowl for a moment. He just looks … lost. Vulnerable.
Stiles takes another step forward. This close he can see that Derek’s eyes are a little watery. His throat bobs as he swallows, and then looks back down at the phone.
You can’t hear *anything?* Stiles texts, and Derek’s shoulders slump. He slowly shakes his head.
Stiles is starting to put it together now, how strangely Derek was acting the other night.
Since Lydia screamed?, he texts.
Derek swallows again, and then nods.
Stiles thinks it through. Erica and Boyd were across the clearing, and they could barely hear afterwards. Isaac was closest, and he said it took almost three days for his hearing to return to normal, despite his accelerated healing. But Derek — Derek was covering Lydia with his own body. She must have screamed right in his ears.
Why didn’t you tell anyone? Stiles texts.
Derek looks at that one for a long time, and then shrugs. He won’t look at Stiles now, and Stiles thinks he knows.
It’s been six years since their ragtag pack formed. A lot has changed in that time — Scott and Allison ditched Beacon Hills for college in New York, Melissa and the Sheriff are wise to the supernatural now, Stiles learned to develop and control his spark ability. They all got older and wiser and learned to actually communicate. All except for Derek, who somehow still has it in his stubborn head that being alpha of the pack is a one-way relationship.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Stiles mutters to himself. God only knows what’s going through Derek’s head right now, but it’s bound to be nothing good. For some reason he still seems to be under the impression that he has to be the perfect alpha or his pack will just — god knows — abandon him or something.
Come inside and wash up, Stiles texts. I’m making us breakfast.
Derek looks down at the text and scowls again. “It’s two in the afternoon,” he says, and his voice sounds just a little bit off, a little too loud and flat.
Well, all I know how to make is breakfast food, so I hope you have bacon.
Stiles doesn’t even wait for an answer, just turns and makes his way to the back door.
He makes pancakes in addition to the eggs and bacon, just in case Derek hasn’t been feeding himself enough calories to heal properly.
Derek only picks at the food at first, but a bite or two in something seems to click, and he scarfs it down. Stiles just watches him in silence, refilling Derek’s orange juice glass when he empties it.
Finally, Derek’s plate is wiped clean, and he sits back, watching Stiles warily.
We need to tell the others, Stiles texts, bracing himself for Derek’s reaction.
Derek tenses for a moment, but then nods. “Not Peter,” he says.
Of course not the fuck Peter, Stiles texts, rolling his eyes for emphasis. Jesus, he trusts Peter about as far as he could throw him — without magic.
You healed the bullet wounds, so it must be something about banshee magic that’s making this different. Something targeted, since the others got better. Even *my* ears got better, and I don’t even have accelerated healing.
“I thought maybe — but it’s not getting better at all,” Derek acknowledges. His blinks seem to be getting slower and slower.
When was the last time you slept?
Derek reads the text and then rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “I’m trying — it’s just.” He shrugs. “I can’t. It’s like —” He purses his mouth, as if trying to come up with what it’s like, but doesn’t seem able to find the words.
Stiles tries to imagine it. He knows how central hearing is to a ‘wolf’s senses. Erica and he have talked about it — how distracting it was for her at first, but how much she relies on it now, second only to scent in how much information it conveys, how much it grounds her in her surroundings. And she wasn’t even a born ‘wolf, like Derek. For him, the loss must be … unimaginable.
Go get changed, Stiles texts. I’ll be right back.
He doesn’t give Derek a chance to argue, just makes his way out to his car. His messenger bag is in there with his laptop — he had planned to hit up the library after checking in on Derek, but that’s not gonna happen now.
He’s a little surprised to find the door isn’t locked against him when he makes his way back to the house. Not like he didn’t make himself a key the week Derek moved in, but still. Derek isn’t anywhere in sight, but his bedroom door is cracked open. Stiles feels foolish but knocks anyway before letting himself in.
He’s got the laptop plugged in and pillows propped up behind him by the time Derek comes out of the bathroom, in soft-looking sleep pants and smelling of toothpaste. Stiles wonders, not for the first time, if ‘wolves can even get cavities. Are there werewolf orthodontists? And if so, do the braces stretch when adolescent ‘wolves transform?
“What are you doing?” Derek asks flatly. Stiles already has the text cued up, he just has to hit send.
You go to sleep. I’ll keep watch.
Derek reads the text, the furrow between his eyebrows growing deeper. “I don’t need —” he starts. Stiles just raises both eyebrows and waits.
Derek seems to swallow the rest of his words. He looks at the spot next to Stiles, something longing but still hesitant in his expression, and Stiles pats the bed next to him.
This paper is due at midnight anyway. It’ll help me concentrate, he sends.
Derek looks down at that text for way longer than it would take to read it.
Stiles just pats the bed next to him again, and Derek slowly makes his way forward. He circles around to the other side, pulling the covers down and getting in.
Stiles makes a big show of focusing on his paper. Honestly, it’s in pretty good shape, he hadn’t planned to spend more than an hour or two editing it before sending it in, but a little more elaboration never hurts. He could work in that part about the modern legacy of medieval concepts of magic, and …
He’s almost forgotten where he is when Derek turns toward him. He’s been tossing and turning restlessly, and Stiles raises his eyebrows, wondering what he needs.
Derek hesitates, and then reaches one hand out, resting it on Stiles’ chest. Stiles freezes for a moment in surprise, and then consciously forces his muscles to relax. He lifts one hand from the keyboard, taking over typing one-handed for a moment as he pats the back of Derek’s hand in reassurance.
Derek seems to relax as well, his eyes drooping as he rests his head down again, the palm against Stiles’ chest twitching almost imperceptibly in time with the beating of Stiles’ heart.
“Derek,” Stiles says. He knows Derek can’t hear him, but somehow it seems rude to just — touch. “Derek.” Derek is shirtless, and that’s just — it’s a lot of bare skin. Stiles wonders if Derek would have even worn the sleep pants if he wasn’t here. Maybe he sleeps naked, and … okay, Stiles needs to back away from that line of thinking ASAP. There’s nothing wrong with Derek’s sense of smell.
He reaches out, trying to keep the touch impersonal as he places his palm on Derek’s shoulder, giving it a little shake. “Derek, wake up.”
Derek’s eyes flutter open, and — shit. Stiles knows Derek has pretty eyes, okay, that’s one of the first things he noticed about him. He’s still unprepared for the effect they have on him. Has he ever seen them this close up, Derek’s expression so unguarded? He’s just beautiful, and Stiles feels his traitorous heart turn over.
He busies himself shutting down his computer, wrapping up the cord. He packs everything back into his messenger bag, deliberately keeping his breaths slow and even, trying to think unsexy thoughts about his upcoming deadlines, and whatever the hell he’s going to do for a job after he graduates. Yeah, that certainly takes the edge off his arousal.
When he turns back Derek is sitting up. He runs a hand through his hair and it sticks up in all directions. It’s kind of adorable. He checks his phone and his head snaps around.
“I slept eight hours?”
Stiles nods, trying to stifle a yawn. He has to blink a little to focus his eyes on his phone screen. Usually he takes a lot more breaks, but every time he tried to move Derek seemed to scoot a little closer in his sleep, stirring, and Stiles just didn’t have the heart to wake him up.
Sorry to wake you, but I’ve gotta catch some zzzs myself, he texts.
“Yeah,” Derek says, as soon as he reads it. “I didn’t — I’m sorry that —”
Stiles just flaps his hand, waving off the apologies.
I’ve got an 8 a.m. class but then I’m off for the rest of the weekend. I’ll be back here by 11 tomorrow. I’ve already texted the others, they’ll be here at noon on Saturday for a research session.
“You don’t have — you don’t have to babysit me,” Derek says, his voice thick. And, yeah, that’s exactly the kind of stupid shit Stiles would expect him to be thinking.
We’re watching out for our alpha while he’s at a disadvantage. You’d do the same for any of us, Stiles texts, even though he knows it’s probably not going to stick.
Derek’s jaw clenches as he reads it, but he doesn’t try to argue further.
I’ve set new wards, Stiles adds. You’ll know if anyone tries to enter the house. Gold for pack, red for not-pack (and Peter). There’s a vibration in case you’re asleep or your eyes are closed. Stiles waits until Derek reads it and does a quick demonstration, the gold light and then the red light washing over the room, a low humming vibration accompanying each glow.
Some extra little bit of tension Derek was carrying seems to ease. “Thanks,” he mumbles.
Stiles touches the fingertips of his flattened palm to his chin, and then arcs his hand outwards. Derek’s face scrunches up in confusion.
It means ‘you’re welcome,’ Stiles texts. I got bored, and brushed up on some sign language. I’ve emailed you a few websites. Texting works for now, but it’s good to have options.
Derek’s face does something complicated.
See you at 11 tomorrow, Stiles texts, and then he signs it too. He’s honestly kind of proud, he’s always been a multisensory learner, and ASL seems to light up that part of his brain that’s always making random connections. He can sense another hyperfixation coming on.
Stiles does manage to catch at least six hours of sleep, and makes it through his 8 a.m. class with the help of a Red Bull. He’s buzzing a little by the time he makes his way to Derek’s place. He knocks just in case, but then lets himself in, watching with satisfaction as the golden light rolls through the house.
Derek must have been doing dishes — he’s got dishwashing gloves on when he makes his way to the doorway of the living room, and can ‘wolves even get dishpan hands? Stiles adds it to the list of things he’s been wondering about but will probably never ask.
He finishes toeing off his boots and pulls out his phone, but when he looks up Derek has pulled off the dishwashing gloves and set them aside, and —
[good] [afternoon] Derek signs.
It takes Stiles a minute to decode, but he can already feel the smile on his face.
“Dude! That’s awesome!”
Derek smiles back, just a quirk of his mouth, but Stiles still considers it a victory.
It’s … surprisingly comfortable, hanging around at Derek’s house. Stiles has only been there on pack nights, and he would have thought that spending time alone with Derek would end up being just painfully awkward, or having Stiles snap and spill his feelings all over Derek. Which would also end up painfully awkward, so maybe the painful awkwardness is just inevitable.
Instead, Stiles fires up his computer and works on the couch while Derek putters around, the television on in the background with closed captions on.
Derek makes them sandwiches around noon, and they practice a little signing between bites. Derek has done some research on his own, and has a list of signs he wants to be sure the whole pack learns, including danger, hunter, wolfsbane, gun, and fire. Stiles’ stomach drops further with every word, the second half of the sandwich ending up uneaten. He’s not sure if he wants to put his fist through a wall or wrap Derek up in a blanket burrito, or both.
He does a little frantic Googling, and by the time Derek has loaded the dishwasher Stiles is ready to teach him pack, thank you, safety, home, and Stiles is awesome. Stiles knew that Derek had a facility for languages — the multilingual bookshelves lining the living room walls attest to that — but it’s a little alarming the speed at which he picks up new signs. Maybe it’s some mix of a talent for languages, wolfy bodily awareness, and sheer desperation.
Then Stiles goes back to his computer, flicking back and forth between actual schoolwork and research into banshee screams, werewolf healing, and anything else he thinks might be relevant.
After a little while Derek seems to run out of chores and slumps next to Stiles on the couch, settling in to watch. And somehow, before Stiles even realizes it, his stomach is grumbling, it’s dark outside, and Derek is fast asleep with his head on Stiles’ thigh, the fingers of Stiles’ left hand tracing through Derek’s hair while he scrolls through articles on the computer with his right hand.
The pack is scattered throughout Derek’s living room, surrounded by dusty tomes and half-eaten slices of pizza, when there’s a knock on the door, immediately followed by a wave of red light and gentle vibration.
Derek’s face twists with frustration as he sees everyone re-orient toward the door, his own responses lagging behind.
[stranger] Stiles signs. [stay] [you], he adds as he gets up, calling his power into the palm of his left hand as he reaches for the doorknob with his right.
“Peter,” Stiles says carefully. “Just paying a social visit?”
Peter ostentatiously checks out the several cars in the driveway, as well as leaning forward to peer through the cracked door at the members of the pack scattered around the living room.
“Well, you seemed to be having a pack meeting.” Peter’s mouth curls into a smirk. “I’ll assume my invitation was lost in the mail.” He leans into the door, trying to widen the gap, and meets the resistance of Stiles’ new ward.
“Sorry,” Stiles says flatly. “We have a strict no-creeper policy around here.”
“You’ve made some changes to the wards, little spark,” Peter says thoughtfully. He presses on the door again, watching the red wave of light wash through the house. “Any reason in particular?”
“If you’re hoping to go through the whole ‘what big eyes you have’ routine —”
“Stiles.” Derek is suddenly behind Stiles, his hand heavy on his shoulder. “It’s fine,” he says, in that loud, flat tone of his. “Let him in.”
Stiles hates to put his back to Peter but he does anyway. [sure?] he signs, up against his chest where Peter can’t see.
Derek nods. “He already knows something is going on, it’s a matter of time until he finds out what.”
“All right.” Stiles turns back to Peter, narrowing his eyes. “Be on your very best behavior.”
“Aren’t I always?” Peter purrs, pushing past Stiles as soon as he drops the wards.
Stiles stands back, arms crossed in front of his chest, trying not to openly sulk as Derek tersely explains the situation to Peter.
“A banshee’s scream,” Peter muses. He reaches, stopping to smirk as Stiles’ spark instinctively flares to life in the palm of his hand. Derek nods, and Stiles stays a step away, practically vibrating with tension, as Peter cups Derek’s jaw, tilting his head this way and that as if he can see what’s happened to him.
“Well,” Peter finally says, dropping his hands away and turning toward the door as if he’s suddenly lost all interest. “I’m sure your plucky little ragtag crew will figure something out.”
Derek looks at Stiles, and Stiles realizes he hasn’t heard a word of it, unable to see Peter’s lips as he’s turned away.
[no] [help] Stiles signs, shrugging as he follows Peter to carefully lock the door behind him.
Later, however, when the largely-unproductive research session finally breaks up and everyone except Stiles heads home, Stiles finds a rare book about banshees on the doormat.
“You don’t have to stay, you know.”
Stiles looks over in surprise, his arms too laden with empty soda cans to sign even if Derek had been looking at him.
Instead Derek is staring down at the kitchen table, his shoulders slumped.
Stiles lets the cans clatter into the sink to be rinsed later, fishing his phone from his pocket.
What do you mean?
Derek frowns down at his phone. “Just … you’ve been here since Thursday. I’ll understand if you need a break.”
And that’s just … a few years ago, that would have had Stiles ducking out the door, flushed with embarrassment. He knows that he can be too much for people sometimes. But he’s also learned to ask, and not just assume.
Do *you* need a break from *me*?
“No!” Derek truly looks startled at that, finally meeting Stiles’ eyes. “I — I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to have you here. How much better I feel when you’re — how much better I feel having someone around. But I don’t want to — to be selfish. I know you have your own life, and your dad, and —” He ducks his head, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “And I know that I — I make you uncomfortable.”
Shit, are they really having this conversation now? For a minute Stiles thinks wildly of deflecting, or avoiding. After all, wouldn’t this be much easier later, when Derek can actually hear what Stiles is saying?
But there’s something about the way Derek has been these past few days. Something a little more open and vulnerable about him. And Stiles has been avoiding this long enough. It’s not good for him, it’s not good for Derek, and most of all it’s not good for the pack.
He takes a deep breath, and sits down at the kitchen table, across from Derek.
You don’t make me uncomfortable.
Derek frowns down at the text and then looks up at Stiles, brow furrowed.
“You don’t have to spare my feelings, Stiles. You’ve been avoiding me more and more over the past few years.” Derek’s jaw clenches, as if he’s biting back words, before they come out in a rush. “You’re — you’re the heart of this pack, and if there’s something I did to make you feel uneasy, then I’d like to try to make it better.”
Shit, this is worse than Stiles thought. Derek has it all turned around in his head, but to be honest, Stiles should have seen it coming. Any time there’s a chance to blame himself, Derek is always first in line.
I wasn’t trying to spare your feelings. I was trying to spare *mine*.
Derek reads the text and just looks at Stiles, his brow furrowed.
Stiles nudges their knees together under the table, and tries to muster up a smile.
I *like* you, Derek. A little more than I figured you’d be comfortable with. I thought if I kept my distance I could keep you from finding out. That it would go away with time, maybe.
Derek’s eyes widen as he reads the text, and Stiles’ stomach does a slow, nauseating flip. He’s spent so long trying to hide this, and now he suddenly, desperately, wants to call the text back, go back to pretending.
Then Derek looks back up at him, and his expression is … not what Stiles is expecting. There’s no pity, or embarrassment. His eyes are soft as they search Stiles’ face, as if looking for the truth of his words.
Stiles starts to feel a little self-conscious under the scrutiny. He shrugs, focusing back on the phone in his hands.
I was worried that you’d decide it wasn’t worth it. Having some awkward teenager crushing on you. Might be easier just to kick me out of the pack, especially once Scott was gone anyway.
“Stiles.” Derek’s hand reaches out, covering Stiles’. His fingers are warm, and Stiles can’t help the jolt that goes through him at the touch. “That — that never would have happened,” Derek continues. “You’ve been part of this pack from the very beginning. Not — not as Scott’s friend, but you.”
Stiles shrugs again.
I guess I know that now. But still. I don’t want to make things weird. But maybe by not trying to make them weird I was making them weirder.
“I — it’s not weird at all. Jesus, Stiles, I thought — I thought you were avoiding me because how I felt about you made you uncomfortable.”
Stiles feels suspended in midair for a long moment, before his heart swoops uncomfortably in his chest.
“What?” He’s said it out loud, but either Derek was able to read it on his lips or his expression alone is enough to convey his utter shock.
“I — I like you too, Stiles. I thought you knew.” Derek runs a hand over his face. “Erica teases me about it all the time, sometimes right in front of you. She’s mad at me for not saying something, but I thought — you’re still in college, meeting other people —”
Stiles can’t help it, he reaches out, pressing his palm to Derek’s face, stopping the words. “Are you really — shit —” Derek’s looking at his lips again.
He grabs his phone again, his hand shaking as he types it out.
Are you really saying that you have, like, *romantic* feelings for me? You have to be clear, Derek.
He sends the text and then waits, unable to look away as Derek reads it and then looks up again. And — oh — his face is beautiful, a smile spreading across his lips, lighting up his eyes.
Derek reaches out, one hand on Stiles’ shoulder and the other on the side of his face. Then he leans in and — holy fuck — they’re kissing, and it’s soft, and sweet, and so much better than anything Stiles could ever have imagined.
And Stiles can’t help himself, the little noise that escapes him, the way he presses into the kiss, almost frantic, his own hands grasping back, and before he knows it he’s edged around the table and is clambering straight into Derek’s lap as they kiss, and kiss, and kiss.
Stiles is starting to get a little dizzy by the time they finally pull free of each other, gasping. Derek ducks down to bury his face in Stiles’ neck, his breath hot and damp in the hollow of Stiles’ throat.
“I’m sorry,” Derek mutters, and Stiles has to cup a hand around his jaw, urging him up so Stiles can see his face.
“This is probably the worst time to drop something like this on you,” Derek explains, his expression pained. “When I’m injured, and — and useless.”
Stiles sighs, just resting his forehead against Derek’s for a minute. Of course Derek would have to immediately tie himself up in knots again. He presses a quick kiss to Derek’s lips just because he can, and then reaches over for his phone again.
You’re the farthest thing from useless. And I’m glad we didn’t waste another minute.
Derek smiles at that, but Stiles can see the doubt still lurking in his eyes.
Stiles bites his lip, uncertain about how far to push when they’ve already made such giant leaps today. But at some point, Derek is going to have to get it through his thick head what he means to the pack.
Stiles ends up tugging Derek by the hand until they can settle on the couch. He takes a minute to figure out the best way to approach this, and then types.
When you were kids ... if something like this had happened to your mom … what would the pack have done? Would they have left the pack? Decided they wanted another alpha?
Derek’s eyes widen as he reads the text, head jerking back in surprise. “Of course not,” he growls. “They — no one would have — she was a great alpha. They all —” He stops, staring at Stiles.
They all loved her, and respected her, Stiles fills in. That’s the way the pack feels about *you*.
“It’s not the same,” Derek grinds out.
It’s not the same because you won’t let it be. You only think about what *you* can do for the *pack*. How you can help them, and how you can protect them, and then blaming yourself for the slightest thing that happens to them. You never let the pack do stuff for *you*. And they *want* to. They want to show you how much they love and respect you, but you don’t let them.
“It’s different!” Derek insists.
How is it different? Stiles waits until Derek lifts his head, his eyes shining with unshed tears, and signs it too, just to be sure. [how?]
“Because she deserved it.”
Derek’s voice cracks as he says it, and it feels like Stiles’ heart cracks wide open right along with it. Stiles pulls Derek into his arms, wrapping him up as tight as he can.
“Shit, Derek,” he mutters, knowing that Derek can’t hear him. “We are gonna get you so much therapy.”
He waits until Derek’s breathing evens out but still keeps one arm around him, typing the rest one-handed.
You deserve every good thing you can get. You’re strong, and brave, and kind, and sweet. You are *so* loving, and smart. And you’re the best alpha any of us could ever have asked for.
Derek stares at the text for a long time, before mustering up a wavery smile. “You have to say that now that we’re dating.”
Jesus, Stiles loves the way that sounds.
Holy shit, we’re dating! he can’t help texting.
“Yeah. If —” Derek suddenly looks shy. “If that’s okay with you.”
Derek Hale, I am going to date the FUCK out of you.
Stiles wakes up to the gentle vibration and golden light, blinking his eyes open to find Derek staring back at him, his eyes breathtaking in the morning light and his palm pressed firmly to Stiles’ chest, feeling his heartbeat.
“Did you know anyone from the pack was coming?” Derek asks, and Stiles shakes his head.
They blearily make their way downstairs to find the whole pack filtering in, carrying in donuts and pastries. Lydia has already commandeered the coffee maker and has a row of mugs lined up with sugar and cream already added according to everyone’s preferences.
“Did someone call a pack meeting?” Derek asks.
Lydia rolls her eyes, and then texts. Stiles leans over Derek’s shoulder to read.
No one had to. We haven’t solved your problem yet, so of course we’re here.
Stiles can’t keep the grin off his face as Derek turns wondering eyes to him.
“Told you so,” he mouths.
Of course Stiles can’t keep the change in his relationship with Derek secret for more than a second, absent-mindedly kissing him on the temple as he hands him his coffee.
The pack reacts in varying ways. Erica tackling Derek as she screams “Finally!”, while Boyd solemnly shakes Stiles’ hand. Lydia just rolls her eyes and huffs, “Took you idiots long enough,” while Jackson, reliable as always, says, “Ew, Stilinski, really? ” Isaac hugs them both, which practically brings tears to Stiles’ eyes, and he can tell Derek is getting a little choked up too.
Sugared up and fully-caffeinated, they settle in for more research, Stiles on the computer while Lydia peruses the book on banshees. Jackson is flipping through one of Deaton’s journals, Erica is paging through a werewolf herbology, and Isaac is on the phone with contacts of Chris Argent’s in France. Boyd is in the backyard, talking to Satomi’s second.
Stiles is just about to suggest a lunch break when the red light and vibration sounds again. Stiles peers out the window, and sure enough, Peter’s Shelby 1000 Cobra is parked out front.
“Ugh, really? Again?” Stiles says, but opens the door and drops the wards to let Peter in.
“Don’t be so rude, little spark,” Peter purrs, sliding in the front door and hanging up his coat. “After all, I come bearing gifts.”
Stiles conspicuously looks at Peter’s empty hands, and raises his eyebrows.
Peter flashes his eyes, and they are alpha-red.
The rest happens in a blur — Stiles hears Derek roar, as a hand pulls him roughly back, away from Peter. Stiles casts up a shield, as Boyd crashes through the back door and Erica drops the mug of coffee she was refilling in the kitchen, making it to Derek’s side with her claws out before it even hits the floor. By the time Stiles has caught his breath he realizes that every member of the pack has surrounded Derek, who in turn is trying to push Stiles behind him.
Meanwhile, Peter is a few paces away, watching them all with quiet amusement.
“Look at that, Derek,” Peter says softly. “Every member of your pack, ready to defend you with their lives.”
Stiles would thank Peter for driving home the point he was trying to make last night, if he wasn’t so on edge wondering what the shady fucker was up to. And it’s not like Derek could have heard him anyway, but maybe he was able to lip-read enough, or maybe Peter’s new alpha status just led him to the logical conclusion.
“You can’t have them,” Derek roars, and it’s enough to rattle the windows of the small house.
To Stiles’ surprise, Peter signs along with what he says next.
“I don’t want your pack. I never did,” he says, hands moving fluidly. He must have practiced, the dramatic motherfucker.
Peter moves closer, slowly, his hands now up in the universal gesture of conciliation.
“Derek,” Stiles says nervously, keeping the shield in place with his left hand as he grabs for Derek’s other hand with his right.
Derek’s eyes search Peter’s face for a long moment.
“It’s okay,” he finally says, his voice soft. “Stiles, it’s alright.”
He steps forward, and Peter is reaching for him, hand sliding around to the back of Derek’s neck. Stiles’ heart leaps into his throat for a moment, sure that Peter is going to slide clawed fingers forward to cut Derek’s throat, but then Peter’s forearm flexes, veins standing out black against his pale skin, and Stiles realizes what he’s doing.
Derek’s eyes flare red and so do Peter’s. They are locked in place for what seems like endless seconds. Peter’s knees start to buckle but he sets his other hand on Derek’s shoulder, bracing himself as he pulls and pulls, not stopping until Peter’s eyes flicker and then glow a clear, pale, blue once again.
Peter lets his hand fall free with a relieved sigh. “Nephew?” he says hoarsely.
“Peter.” Derek’s voice is soft with wonder. “I — Peter, I can hear you.”
He gathers Peter in for a hug, helping him over to the couch, as the rest of the pack cheers and celebrates.
It’s another blur after that, fading adrenaline and transcendent joy combining to make Stiles’ hands tremble. The pack orders pizzas, and there’s a constant cluster of pack members around Derek, chattering away at him as if desperate to communicate everything he’s missed over the past week.
Stiles finds himself handing Peter a bottle of water and settling next to him on the couch.
“I still don’t trust you, you know,” Stiles says conversationally.
Peter clinks their water bottles together. “I’d be disappointed if you did.”
They drink in silence for a minute, content to let the babble of the pack wash over them.
Stiles is the one to finally break the silence, his curiosity getting the best of him as usual. “You really don’t want it? To be alpha of your own pack, I mean?”
Peter carefully peels the label off his water bottle. Stiles has pretty much given up on an answer when he finally speaks.
“It used to be my fondest desire, when Talia was alpha. I always thought it should be me, and not her. It — it rankled.” Peter’s eyes flash up, landing unerringly on Derek. “Now I know better. I was never suited to be alpha. I cannot replace what I took from Derek while I was — maddened. But maybe this helps atone, a bit.”
Stiles nods, considering it all.
“Besides,” Peter says with a sideways glance. “You and I both know that I could have become alpha any time I wanted to, and no one could have stopped me.”
“Shit, Peter,” Stiles complains. “Just when I was starting to relax around you.”
Peter pushes himself to his feet, only slightly unsteady. “Well, you know me. I like to keep you on your toes.” He makes his way towards his coat, putting it on and fishing his car keys from the pocket. “Congratulations, by the way, on my nephew finally getting his head out of his ass.”
Stiles can’t help the smile that breaks across his face. “Yeah. We were both kinda turned around there, but we figured it out.”
“High time, too,” Peter says. “Especially since you’ve been his anchor for years.”
Peter smiles enigmatically, and glides out the front door.
Stiles closes and locks it behind him. “Dramatic motherfucker,” he sighs.
It’s late by the time the pack leaves.
Stiles is exhausted as he picks up the last of the discarded cans and glasses everyone left behind, piling them in the sink to deal with tomorrow, but it’s a good kind of exhaustion. Derek seems to feel the same, bumping Stiles companionably aside with his hip as he puts a fresh garbage bag into the kitchen trash can.
Then Derek is crowding Stiles up against the sink, kissing him soft and sweet.
When they finally break apart with a sigh, Stiles realizes that Derek has his palm pressed to the flannel over Stiles’ chest again, feeling his heartbeat even though he can definitely hear it now.
“I heard what Peter told you,” Derek says, his eyes serious as they search Stiles’ face.
“Is it true?” Stiles can’t help but ask. “Am I your anchor?”
Derek nods. “For years. Probably since the swimming pool.”
Stiles presses his palm to the back of Derek’s hand. It’s like his heart is beating just for Derek, and maybe it is.
“Can I stay tonight?” Stiles asks.
“You can stay forever,” Derek says, and that sounds like the perfect plan to Stiles.