He's only on minute one of, like, thirty in waiting for the Jeep's tank to fill when he hears another car pull up at the pump behind him. Stiles grits his teeth and doesn't turn to see who or what is driving what sounds like an SUV, because there's no reason to. It's probably just some friendly, clueless mom or dad making a pit stop on the way to or from some team sport practice, rugrats chilling in the back. No need to check. Not at 3:00pm on a sunny Wednesday afternoon with the full moon five days waning.

Deep breath in: "Everything's cool," he whispers on the steady exhale out.

"Stiles?" a familiar voice asks with what, at any other time, he might classify as pleasant surprise. As it is, Stiles is too busy flinging a hand back to catch himself up against the Jeep because his foot's slipped out from under him to notice.

"I, wha," he sputters as he drags himself back upright and turns to look at the man rounding the front of the SUV to meet him. "Derek?" he squeaks.

"Hi," he says, brow crinkled and one hand half raised like he might reach out and grasp Stiles's arm. "You OK?"

Stiles blinks and takes in the dark-green shirt, relaxed-fit jeans, soft-looking hair—a little longer and a bit Clark Kent to be honest—and, sweet Jesus, open expression of concern on the other man's face. Thank god for the ever-present black leather jacket or he'd think he was facing a doppelganger. Though… given the givens—are those fucking laugh lines at the corners of his eyes?!—that's still not outside the realm of possibility.

"You're back!" He takes an abortive step forward to close the short distance between them and then rears back. "Wait, you're back." Another lurch forward and he's got both hands gripped around Derek's upper arms, which, weird, he could have sworn his fingers didn't used to wrap that far around them. "What's wrong? Where's Cora? Is it Cora? Is someone after you?" His eyebrows fly up to his hairline as it occurs to him: "Did you hear about Peter?" He recoils, hands waving out in front of him in what could possibly be construed as a placating gesture. "Are you pissed? I mean, I know he's family, but he was also a fucking nightmare zombie Iago sasshole, so, like, personal opinion is that you should just let bygones be gone and all that." At Derek's frown he cringes back even more. "Besides, I'm pretty sure Scott could kick your ass now, so—"

"Stiles," Derek says, and now it's him grasping Stiles's arms and gently pulling him forward so he can peer cautiously into Stiles's eyes. "What's wrong?" he asks gently.

Stiles finds himself cupping Derek's elbows; his hands spasm tighter before he forces himself to relax on a big inhale-exhale that shudders him down to his toes. He didn't realize how jackrabbit fast his pulse and breathing had ratcheted up until Derek started taking measured, obvious breaths right up in his face.

He takes another moment to study the changes in Derek's face, to appreciate the solid bulk of him so close at hand after so long.

"I asked you first," he finally replies, still a little breathless but volume and pitch back within normal range.

"Nothing," Derek says with an exaggerated headshake, his pinched eyebrows and wide eyes practically radiating reassurance. "Nothing is wrong, Stiles. I'm just—" He presses his lips together and sighs through his nose, eyes flitting away for a moment before coming back and locking back onto Stiles's face. "I've come home," he says quietly.

"Oh." Stiles swallows heavily. "Yay? I mean, it's good to see you. Really good, even, given it's just you—no apocalyptic tagalongs. Right? Right. Just…" he barks out a nervous laugh. "I'd welcome you home, but I don't think you know what you're signing yourself up for."

"What happened?" Derek asks, hands flexing on Stiles's arms, making him suddenly hyperaware that they're toe-to-toe, practically clinging to each other in the shadow of his Jeep at the corner gas station after almost a year and a half of radio silence. Not so much as a postcard.

"Stiles, what happened?" Derek repeats, eyes searching his, mouth a little downturned but his face otherwise soft and inviting. Who is this even.

"Well…" he drawls out, his own mouth twitching up into a slightly manic grin. "Remember that time Scott, Allison, and I kind of drowned ourselves to save our parents cause your serial killer druid girlfriend was going to sacrifice them to get revenge on the alpha pack for, like, slashing her face up?"

Derek's face immediately draws down into blank disapproval. "What," he says, no inflection.

Ah, there's the Derek they all know and grudgingly tolerate.

"I just—he straight up bared his throat and asked Scott if he could join the pack." Stiles grips his hair tight in one hand, flailing the other to convey his absolute incredulity.

Lydia purses her lips slightly, her squinty-eyed stare silently asking, "Yes, and?"

Stiles flings both hands up in the air. "He was polite."

"Well," Lydia says pertly, "as he should be."

With a groan, he flops back onto the pillows resting up against the headboard of her bed and flings an arm across his eyes. He and Scott had shared a wide-eyed, silent conversation conveying "what the fuck" and "I don't even know" respectively over Derek's bowed head in the short time between the former alpha dropping to his knees at Scott's feet and raising his face—expression fucking zenlike—to make his frankly unbelievable request.

He hears a sigh and the squeak of Lydia's vanity stool before the bed beside him dips. Once she's settle back against the pillows next to him, he turns his head and wedges his face between her upper arm and the pillow and lets out a warble like a dying whale.

"I don't know why you're being so dramatic about this," Lydia chastises, drawing his far arm around her waist and giving his ear and temple an awkward pat with her near hand. "With Peter dead"—and here her voice is just a touch too viciously pleased—"and Cora returning to South America, he's back to omega status. You're the one who told me how much of a 'bro boner' he had for Scott when everything started. And if he really considers Beacon Hills his home," her tone 100 percent conveys the opinion of a girl about to fuck off to MIT come spring, "asking to join the pack is completely logical."

He pulls his face out and inches up the bed a bit to rest his cheek on her shoulder. "Having old Derek in the pack would have been, like, not the greatest idea in the world, but I think we'd have figured it out. You know, laid some 'no slamming the squishy humans up against walls' and 'no throwing things at the PTSD kid' ground rules, had a couple awkward movie nights, and called it good."

When he doesn't go on right away, Lydia turns her head and digs her pointy chin into his forehead until he whines and relents. "I don't even know what to do with his fucking peaceful, 'namaste' face. Like, he looks like he's been on some 'Eat, Pray, Love' self-discovery shit."

"So you're pissed because he's happier now?" And that flat tone has him cringing even more, curling up on himself until he ends up with his head in Lydia's lap, face mushed into her belly and arms wrapped tight around her waist. She pets his hair and lets him just breathe for a minute. "You're jealous because he seems like he's figured out a way to cope," she says softly, the "when you're still drowning," left unsaid but understood.

"Have you slept?" she asks a minute later before he can get too mired in self-loathing. Instead of answering, he just settles himself a little more comfortably, curled as tight around her as he can without cutting off either of their oxygen supplies. Lydia hums to herself and stretches to her left a bit. A moment later she's propped her right arm up on his ribs and he hears the rustle of pages as she opens a book. "Two hours," she says. "Any more and you'll be groggy and impossible. Besides, you have a lab report to finish this evening, and I have an engagement."

"Booty call," he corrects, voice muffled against the fabric of her dress, and, "Be safe."

"Of course," she says, fingernails scratching against the crown of his head lightly before she settles in to read, and he lets himself give in to sleep, tethered safely to her warmth.

"So what's the plan?" Isaac asks, one eyebrow arched and looking way too snug and relaxed in his half-sprawl against Allison's shoulder. She has one hand buried absently in his curls—seriously, if he was a cat he'd be purring—but her focus is on the tablet resting across her knees, fingers swiping and tapping periodically as she reads.

Scott rolls his eyes to the ceiling and unfolds his arms to let them flop uselessly to his sides. "You guys tell me. You used to be his beta," he says with a wave at Isaac. "You still feel any connection to him?" And to his credit, he only looks mildly twitchy and jealous when he asks.

Isaac shakes his head. "There was a little bit of something after he gave up his alpha powers to heal Cora, but once I formally submitted to you…" he trails off with a shrug.

Scott doesn't gloat, but he does cross to the couch and settle himself with Isaac's legs across his lap. The pat he gives his beta's knees is two-parts affection and one-part possessive.

"Gross," Stiles drawls, mostly out of habit, from his own sideways sprawl in the armchair across from them. Allison doesn't look up from the tablet, but her mouth quirks up into a wicked little smile and she tugs on Isaac's hair tight enough that he grunts and practically melts into a content puddle of goo across his two favorite peoples' laps.

"Stiles, did you and Lydia find anything?" Danny asks as he walks back into the room from a short kitchen run. Stiles arches his back over the arm of the chair and makes grabby hands until Danny slaps one of the bottles of water into his palm.

"Nothing direct," he says as he carefully untwists the cap without sitting up. "Everything in Peter's records was focused on strengthening existing familial bonds and welcoming the newly bitten into an established pack." He tips the bottle carefully and tries to dribble water into his mouth without spilling or choking.

"Allison?" Scott prompts hopefully as Danny sits in the other armchair with his soda.

"Nothing that I can find in the bestiary, but that's not really surprising," she says with a sigh, flipping the cover back over the tablet and setting it on the side table. "More info about breaking packs apart than building them up."

"How hard can it be?" Danny asks, sitting forward with his elbows on his knees. "I'm pretty sure all you did was say, 'Um, do you want to…?' and I said yes, and here we are." Jazz hands punctuate the summary.

"Sure, but I like you," Scott said, wide-eyed and earnest.

"But Scotty, you and Derek are wolf bros," Stiles protests, also wide-eyed and earnest. Scott flips him the bird.

"He was never my alpha," Scott sighs as he slumps even further into the couch. "We're not connected." Finally, glumly, "He's not pack."

"Well," Danny says after a few minutes of heavy silence. "I guess you have to ask yourself how badly do you want him to be pack? If you really want to connect with someone—anyone—you can. You just have to figure out the right connector."

Scott's eyebrows wing up at that, and then he gazes at each of them in turn with a thoughtful purse to his mouth.

"You're welcome," Stiles says as he hands over a stack of real estate listing printouts ordered top down by desirability based on a complex matrix of price, square footage, proximity to the preserve, and fuck-no distance from the high school. Derek blinks at him blearily from the motel room doorway and then down at the papers like he's not quite sure how one is connected to the other.

"Scott is taking your request under advisement. In the meantime, consider this your official welcome back to the neighborhood. Someone will be by later with the fruit basket."

Derek slowly flips through the stack, glancing over rental details and interior previews. He flicks a glance up through his lashes and murmurs, "What kind of fruit?"

Immediately, there's a cornucopia of incredibly unhelpful images dancing sinuously through Stiles's mind. That wasn't. Derek wasn't just trying to. Right? Because if that was flirting it would have been terrible and lame and out of literally nowhere. When he sees Derek's eyebrows hitch up slightly, he realizes his mouth is hanging open and reels the corners of his mouth back into a too-wide smile.

"There's actually two groups: houses versus apartments," he says, voice pitched half-a-step too high, and points helpfully where a sticky note divides the stack. Maybe Derek just has particular preferences when it comes to fruit. Or allergies. Can werewolves have allergies? Whatever the case, he's not sure how he feels about Derek Adorably Rumpled Hale possibly maybe flirting with him. Poorly.

"I figured it was still too soon for lofts," he adds with an exaggerated grimace as Derek flips to the back half of the stack.

Derek glances up at him again. "Not sure these are my speed," he says, dry as the desert. "I don't see any abandoned subway cars on here."

There's another embarrassing pause where Stiles's jaw yet again literally sags, and then he's doing any equally embarrassing snort-guffaw thing. He wipes a hand down his face, cheeks on fire, and nods a few too many times. "Jokes. All right."

When Derek grins at him, though, new laugh lines on full, crinkled display, Stiles decides he's reached his quota of dealing and beats a hasty retreat.

"You guys, I figured it out," Scott enthuses. "A true alpha's powers come from love and acceptance. We just need to love and accept Derek. Body, mind, and soul."

He's standing in the middle of the room, arms held open wide like a benevolent, adoring messiah. The pack is squished together on the couch, Lydia perched on Stiles's lap and Isaac draped across both Allison and Danny.

"Um," Danny ventures after a stunned moment of shared glances and semaphoric eyebrowing.

"And scent him," Scott presses on, (probably willfully) oblivious. "He needs to smell like all of us from head to toe."

"Scotty," Stiles says slowly, "are you suggesting…? What are you suggesting."

"You heard the alpha," Danny drawls. "We need to love and accept Derek's body. And mind and soul. And get our scent all over him in the process."

And now Stiles is breaking out in a cold sweat. His friends are all beautiful, lovely people, and he would absolutely be totally on board with sleeping with at least… OK, almost all of them—but the vague picture building in his mind of his best friend, his brother, giving Derek Hotty McLaugh Lines Hale an awkward, kind-hearted hand job is bringing bile up the back of his throat.

"We all need to find our own way of doing it," Scott says in what Stiles assumes is supposed to be a reassuring tone. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles can see Isaac nodding sagely. Lydia and Allison are trading shrugs and having their own eyebrow conference that, if Stiles is interpreting correctly, suggests they're going to meet up later and brainstorm ideas.

Stiles brings up his hands, palms out. "To be clear," he says, "we're all on the same page about what Scott's assignment to us is, should we choose to accept it?"

"Yes," Danny says with alarming vehemence.

And now Scott is giving him the puppy dog eyes, like that's a remotely responsible weapon for a true alpha to deploy when entreating his pack to systematically bone Derek into their loving, dysfunctional midst.

"Look, Stiles, I know you like Derek about as much as I do,"—and here Stiles makes a strangled noise in his throat—"and that you're not any more excited about doing this than I am,"—and now he's burying his face in Lydia's glorious, strawberry-blond locks—"but I'm really hoping you can see this as…" and now Scott's waving his hands around like he's casting about for an appropriate metaphor. Don't say "taking one for the team," Stiles mentally begs. "Taking one for the team!" Scott finishes triumphantly.

"This is going to be incredible," Danny says, voice tinged with awe.

"This is so weird," he rants as he paces the length of Lydia's room. "Tell me you think this is so weird," he demands.

Lydia glances up at him from her journal and waggles her feet at him pointedly from where they're propped up on a pillow draped with a towel. Stiles veers around and plunks back down on the stool at the end of the bed and takes up the nail polish bottle again.

"Ah," she warns sharply as he brings the brush near her big toe. "Breathe—in count four, pause, out count four."

He brings the brush back to the bottle, closes his eyes, and starts the exercise. Once he's gone through five cycles, Lydia flips a page in the journal—something about string theory—and says matter-of-factly, "It's a little weird, sure. But I think we both know it's not as weird for you as it might be for some of the rest of us." He knows his face is bright red, but he doesn't pause the soothing breaths in through his nose, out through his mouth, leveling back out and feeling the tremor in his hands melting away in the face of red-headed confidence.

A few minutes later he's calmly smoothing the brush in short, precise strokes over Lydia's dainty toenails. Maybe he's looking at this all wrong. Rather than focusing on what everyone else is going to have to do, he should take this like the precious, god-given gift it is to his eighteen-and-still-as-yet virginal state.

"Allison and I are thinking of going in together," Lydia remarks and then screeches at him when he chokes and smears a bright purple stripe down the length of her toe.

"You weren't kidding." Derek's heaving each breath, which is making the streetlight catch on the sweat and blood smeared across his yet-again shirtless chest and highlighting the slimmer, softer lines of him. It's both arousing and profoundly nauseating.

"Beaconiest of the beacony beacons," Stiles gasps out in agreement, leaning over with hands on knees and swallowing desperately and looking away to keep both his dinner and libido down.

"I don't know," Scott grits through his teeth. He's leaned up against the alley wall and clutching his right arm close to his chest. The witch's golem snapped it almost in half before they were able to put it down. Stiles is aggressively tuning out the grating sound of bone knitting together. "That wasn't that bad. Remember the kelpies last month?"

"Fuck you," Stiles says weakly and swipes his baseball bat up from the ground, trying not to think about what assorted fluids might be making the grip damp. He's considering just filling the bathtub at home with bleach, tossing the bat in, and himself after.

The walkie at his hip crackles, and Allison's voice pipes through. "Did you get it? We've got the witch restrained, and my dad's contacts are en route to pick her up."

"Yeah," he comms back. "Derek punched it through a brick wall."

"Nice!" Danny chimes in. He and Lydia are sitting at home base (also known as Melissa McCall's formal living room), where he and Lydia were overseeing the execution of a tracking program-spell hybrid that Lydia and Stiles conceived and then Stiles and Danny set up.

Derek huffs out a tired laugh and tips his head back so he's looking up at where the crescent moon would be were it not hidden by dense, rain-heavy clouds.

"Dude," Scott says softly, and Derek drops his gaze back down at him questioningly. "Are you busy tomorrow? I want to try something."

Stiles feels his vision start telescoping dangerously, so he wheels around and starts back toward the Jeep before he has to hear Derek's answer.

Stiles glances at Scott out of the corner of his eye and finds the alpha already looking back out of the corner of his own, a closed-mouth grin on his face. Stiles jerks back in surprise and his fingers spasm on the game controller. On screen, the green knight lobs a completely unnecessary poison bomb at an immune enemy. The pink knight scurries to pick up his slack.

"What?" Scott asks after they've secured the gem for the level.

Stiles sighs and lets the controller sag in his grasp. Scott obligingly pauses the game.

"How'd it go?" he asks. His knee jiggling is making the controller rattle slightly in his hand, but he doesn't stop himself because if he doesn't have this outlet he might vibrate right off the couch. "You know, with Derek?"

Scott beams. "It's going to work," he says and then stares into the middle distance. "Did you know he's got a new tattoo?"

Stiles lets out a noncommittal hum, eyeing the suspiciously familiar black leather jacket Scott is wearing, indoors, in May.

"It's a map of the Lupus constellation," Scott continues, and now he's looking a bit dreamy-eyed. "He says Cora has the same one. They got them together. Just above his right hipbone."

"Fascinating," Stiles bites out and unpauses the game.

"We did some yoga afterward," Scott goes on, face one massive dimple. "He likes the meditation stuff, and how it really makes you aware of your connection to the earth, you know?"

Stiles is pretty sure he doesn't, and neither does Scott, for that matter. If he grinds his teeth any harder he's going to need to start using his mouthguard during the day again.

They make it two more levels and Scott blithely nattering on about Derek's and Cora's road trip and the smoothie recipe he promised to email him and how they braided each other's hair in the postcoital glow (OK, maybe he's stopped listening once his brain detected Allison-levels of infatuated gushing and shut down in self defense) before the words honest-to-God just jump out of his mouth: "Are you guys, like, boyfriends now?" he asks, interrupting what sounds like a musing on whether the pack should also get some sort of wolfy-symbolic group tattoo.

Scott falls silent and stares at the side of Stiles's head, since Stiles is resolutely flipping through the game map to pick out their next mission and ignoring how hot his face feels.

"I thought you of all people wouldn't be judgmental about this," Scott says, tone full of confusion and soft hurt. And now Stiles feels like an asshole. Great.

It's not like it's Scott's fault that, now that he's been exposed to the glory of Derek's fucking hip tattoo, he's a little bit gay for Derek. Who isn't a little gay for Derek? Stiles used to say to himself hysterically before he figured out that he was a little bit gay for a lot of people. And it's certainly not Scott's fault that Derek has had a giant Scott-boner from the moment Scott hit supernatural puberty. Which means it's totally not surprising that their needs-must situation apparently morphed into feelings and sharing. Not that he'd be into that when he and Derek, like, do it.

He swallows and cracks what he knows isn't a terribly convincing grin. "Sorry, I'm just... a little freaked out by this whole thing. And, you know,"—he huffs out a huge breath—"my turn." Which he hasn't been thinking about. Much. Except in the shower in the morning (but not in the shower after practice, sweet merciful lord), between classes, during class (but not in the classes that he shares with Scott or Isaac), when he's prepping dinner (fucking fruit salad), in the middle of research, before he goes to sleep, and at 4:00 AM (after he's calmed down from whatever screaming nightmare he's woken from that particular night and just staring at his ceiling waiting for morning).

Scott quirks a grin and nudges their shoulders together in brotherly solidarity. "Don't be. Seriously, I was freaked about it going in too, but it was really amazing." And Stiles wants to vomit rainbows at how sweetly sincere his best friend sounds.

"Look," Scott says, taking a deep breath and shifting so he's actually facing Stiles. "I know you're still having a hard time," he says. "And I know you've been talking to Lydia about it more than me." He steamrolls right over Stiles's indignant protests. "Which is totally cool. I get that you might feel weird since Allison and I haven't had problems in a while, since the two of us got together with Isaac. And that we can be a little intense sometimes."

"You mean grossly sappy and lovey and gross," Stiles interjects, in part because he's an ass and also because Scott expects him too. He holds back the other, bitterer observations he might make, automatically redirecting the restless energy into fumbling his phone out of his pocket so he can text Lydia "sleepover?"

Scott sighs and drapes an arm over Stiles's shoulder. "I know," he says softly. "My point is, I'm glad we both have more than just each other now."

Stiles leans in to the embrace. "And now we'll also all have Derek too," he says, proud of how level his voice is. Because Scott is right. All his insecurities and jealousies aside, this is about pack, about being part of something greater and stronger than just an ordinary group of friends.

Lydia texts back, "Fine. We're having a Chris Evans marathon." He wishes he could delude himself into hoping that might mean something like Captain America or The Avengers. Even still, the arm around him and the promise of a peaceful night are enough to ease the anxious tightness that's been steadily building up in his chest.

Scott shakes him a bit by the shoulder and bumps their heads together. "Exactly!" he says and drops his arm so he can pick the controller back up. "I did Derek since, you know, I'm the alpha and it seemed like I should be the giver, you know? But I think you should let Derek do you. Isaac wouldn't shut up about his hands for hours after he got home. I had to put him to bed he was so limp and blissed out."

Stiles wishes there was a way for the green knight to poison allies too.

Isaac really won't shut up about Derek's hands. He keeps going on about how big they are and Derek's werewolf strength and his precise knowledge of just how much the supernatural body can take.

"It was like a religious experience," Danny agrees solemnly over cafeteria fish sticks and mac-n-cheese. Allison is wide-eyed and nearly bouncing in her seat as she reaches next to her and gives Lydia's wrist an excited squeeze. They're supposed to go over right after school.

"Ecstatic moaning and praising to a higher power?" Lydia asks, waving a carrot stick in a vaguely inquisitive manner.

"I don't even know what noises were coming out of my mouth after a while. I swear to god at one point it was like I was floating on the ceiling watching the whole thing happen." Danny's eyes glaze over a bit, probably imagining the spirals of Derek's tattoo undulate with each flex of his powerful, sweaty body. Stiles ruthlessly focuses on the plastic taste of cheese in his mouth and swiping one of Isaac's fish sticks in passive-aggressive retribution for starting them on this conversation topic in the first place. He'll be damned before he pops a boner over Derek Jesus Hands Hale in the presence of not one but two werewolf bros.

Scott, the beatific bastard, is looking adorably smug as he presses a kiss to Allison's hair and says, "You two have fun tonight." He's still wearing that goddamn leather jacket.

Allison's expression sharpens like it does when she's considering the best angle to hit a target. "I hope he has enough stamina for two at once."

And Stiles is just done. He's faking a panic attack next period and going home to hide in his bed for the rest of the day. It's not like the nurse calls his dad anymore as long as he remembers to bring in a (forged) note the next day.

He stares at the unknown number with a faint frown before shrugging and answering. He's about four books deep on research into brownie lore, and his eyes are starting to cross. Unknown caller roulette sounds like a diverting thirty-second break.

"Hello?"

"Stiles," Derek says.

Stiles surges upright in his desk chair, feeling like he's just touched a live current. "Derek, hey, what's up? What's wrong? Is it the brownies? Have they fucked up someone else's yard?" He drags his notebook over the top of the book he'd been reading and flips back a few pages. "Do you know if, um—" He trails his finger down the scrawl of his notes and tucks the phone between his ear and shoulder to free up his other hand to flip open the second book he'd referenced. "Here we go—do you remember seeing or, like, smelling foxglove in any of the yards? It's kind of a long-shot, but I was reading this one thing about—"

"Stiles," Derek says, exasperated. "I'm not calling about the brownies."

He freezes and realizes that he's halfway out of his seat, book open under one hand and notes clenched tightly in the other. Loosening his grip requires a bit more concentration than he would like, but he manages it on a steady, quiet exhale of breath through his nose as he sinks back down into his chair.

"Then, um." He coughs and deliberately slouches back in the chair and pushes back to put a bit of distance between himself and the desk. "Ah, what do you need?"

"Do you want to come over tomorrow?"

"Do I what?" Stiles squeaks, sitting bolt upright again. "I mean, yeah, I guess. I know I'm the only one who hasn't, uh,"—he winces—"been by yet? Haven't experienced your magic hands." And now he's using the hand not gripping the phone to tug fruitlessly on his hair as his mouth just keeps moving. "Anything I should do to prepare?" Some supernatural evil needs to bust through his window and put him out of his misery right now. "Stretches? Need me to bring anything? I've got, you know, stuff."

"Stiles," Derek says, "calm down. I have everything we're likely to need. Don't worry, we'll discuss what you like, what your limits are, and work from there."

He's alone in his room, nary a werewolf to be found nearby, which means he doesn't hold back the explosion of pornographic images Derek's words set off in his minds eye. A shockwave of warmth shudders down his spine, loosening each vertebrae until he's sitting limp and a bit glassy eyed in his chair.

"Yes. OK," he says on an exhale. "That sounds like a plan. Um, what time?"

"Midmorning all right?" Derek asks.

"Sure," he says faintly and asks for Derek's address. He crows when he realizes that Derek picked one of the apartments he'd starred as a favorite. It was a bit on the expensive side, but it had a fucking sensual master bath and giant picture windows in the open plan living/dining/kitchen area that overlooked the preserve. Plus, it was only a mildly sketchy five-minute walk from his and Scott's favorite diner.

When they hang up almost ten minutes later ("Get some sleep, Stiles," said in the tone of someone who could probably smell the insomnia), Stiles realizes he's got a goofy smile lingering on his face. With a groan, he knocks the palm of the hand holding his phone to his forehead and slumps right off the chair onto the floor.

After he parks in the lot of Derek's apartment complex (in a guest spot because this is the kind of living arrangement where one can reasonably expect guests to visit), Stiles has to take a moment to go through a breathing exercise or five before he even unlocks the door.

When he's feeling a bit more centered, logically run through all the reasons why he can absolutely do this, no big, virginity's a social construct, he's a big boy and can set his personal feelings aside for the good of the pack, etc.—he puts one hand on the door handle and reaches out the other to hover indecisively over the crumpled paper bag sitting on the passenger seat. On the one hand, Derek said Stiles didn't need to bring anything because Derek has everything covered. On the other, Stiles, in an overabundance of caution after the XXL incident, has a lot of stuff. In stashes. Everywhere he could conceivably need access to them in his day-to-day life. And, like, some of it was even purchased when he was in a pretty optimistic frame of mind. There are flavors, is what he's saying, and warming agents, and possibly a few items that are edible. And maybe the whole thing will go smoother (oh god, he's started doing it to himself) if Stiles can bring some levity and uncomplicated enthusiasm to the table.

His phone pings, and he startles, snatching his hand back from the bag to his chest before rolling his eyes at himself. He digs his phone out of his pocket and reads, "Get up here," in about the judgiest text tone his brain has ever narrated.

He takes a deep breath and holds it in his puffed-out cheeks before letting it out in a rushed plosive. "Man up, Stilinski. Time to take one for the team," he mutters and opens the door.

The jog up to the third floor takes way less time than he was expecting, and suddenly he's standing with a fist awkwardly raised to knock but not sure if he's mentally ready to. Except then Derek's opening the door before he can tie himself up in any more mental knots.

To be honest, he was half expecting Derek to already be naked, but instead he's wearing soft yoga pants and a tee shirt. He rakes his eyes over Stiles's jeans, eyebrows caterpillaring in what looks like confusion and his mouth quirking up into the question-smile he's been doing recently that brings out those goddamn laugh lines. And Stiles can't bear it, doesn't want to think about any of it a second longer, so he launches himself across the threshold and buries his fingers in Derek's hair, kisses his mouth, bruising, fierce.

Derek stumbles back into the apartment, a surprised-sounding noise caught in his mouth, which Stiles chases after determinedly. But the surprise only lasts a second before Derek's crowding closer, kicking the door shut a half second before he's pressing Stiles back against it. The door knob's digging into his lower back, and Stiles thinks about complaining except he loses track of the thought because there's stubble stinging the edges of his lips, roughing along the edge of his jaw, before scratching against his neck as Derek mouths and bites and pants his way down until he's sucking determinedly at the juncture of Stiles's neck and shoulder.

"Oh shit," Stiles gasps, running his hands up into Derek's seriously soft hair and gripping for dear life.

Somehow, Derek's hands are already up under his shirt, hot and spread wide over the bottom of his ribcage. Derek drags his thumbs up and down over the midline of Stiles's abdomen just above his belly button. And it's like an elevator drop as his head goes light at the same time his gut goes heavy and warm.

"So you're into this," Stiles gets out at the tail end of a high-pitched groan. "This is a thing you're actually into."

Derek just snorts and lifts his head to breathe, "Nope, not at all," hot across his collarbones before reattaching his mouth on the other side of his neck.

Stiles's laugh ends on a moan, flexing his hands in Derek's hair. "Sorry. I just. Didn't think you'd be this enthusiastic about this."

And now Derek rears back to look at him, eyebrows flying up practically into the ceiling. "So you just jumped me on the off chance I would be?"

"Hey, let's not kid ourselves," Stiles says, pushing up on his toes to gain the couple inches of height advantage it affords him. "We both know what this is about," he says, freeing one hand from Derek's hair to gesture between them. Derek smirks, so Stiles slides his fingers back through his hair down back to where his other hand is still fisted, and flexes both gently to tug Derek's head back and down.

Derek's eyelashes flutter and his Adam's apple stands out in stark relief as he swallows. "Yeah?" he asks.

"Yep," Stiles says, fascinated by the bit of Derek's front teeth he can see through his half-parted lips. He shifts his fingers, nails scraping over Derek's scalp, and the older man shudders, eyes slipping all the way closed. So Stiles keeps scratching lightly until Derek's head is a limp weight cradled in his palms. He swallows heavily. "But seriously, you OK with this? Totally on board the sex-with-Stiles train?"

Derek huffs out a breathy laugh but doesn't otherwise move or open his eyes, leaning more and more of his weight against Stiles's chest and hips. "You're ridiculous," he says and slits his eyes open. They glitter pale blue under the shadow of his eyelashes. "Yeah, I'm on board."

Stiles maybe whimpers then, and he bends the short distance down and kisses Derek with all the pent-up lust and longing and frustration he's been feeling ever since Scott said the words love and accept and imploded Stiles's ability to reason. Derek surges up into it but doesn't try to tip his head up. Instead, he drags his hands down the outsides of Stiles's hips and gives them a quick squeeze. Getting the idea, Stiles hops up and lets Derek drag his legs around his waist. He digs his heels up under Derek's ass once they're locked together and curls his upper body over Derek's to deepen the kiss. It means he doesn't have the right leverage to rock his hips against Derek's, but it's not like the position lets them line up right anyway. Besides, it does mean he has the leverage to tug Derek's head back just that half an inch further with one hand and drag the fingers of his other around the side of Derek's neck and down the front of his throat.

Derek shudders against him and then starts fumbling at Stiles's belt, shoving his hand down inside so Stiles can grind against it helplessly. At that, Stiles makes a broken sound into Derek's mouth and has to pull back to tip his head up and pant. And then Derek's sucking a sharp bloom of color against the base of his throat around a whispered litany of "come on come on please come on." Stiles braces his shoulder blades against the wall and uses the leverage to grind down against the bulge in Derek's pants in jerky counterpoint to the rhythm of Derek's almost too-rough grip. And he wants to ask, suddenly, about Scott, about Isaac, about all of them, whether Derek wrecked them this hard, whether they couldn't stop making noise the way he can't. But when he opens his mouth it's just to shout because he's coming, one hand still wrapped gently around Derek's throat.

He's sitting upright, heart beating frantically in his chest, before he's really aware that he's awake. The bare windows he's facing overlook a dark forest, branches just barely gilded with moonlight. It's not a view he knows, and he sucks in a shaky breath and looks around. His gaze almost immediately lands on Derek's bare ass, and he experiences a moment of incredible cognitive dissonance; maybe the reason he feels so disoriented is because he hasn't really woken up. But then his adrenaline-addled brain trips over the dirty, filthy memories of the day before and his body flushes with remembered heat.

Before Stiles had even finished coming down from his post-orgasm high, Derek had carried him into the bedroom and leaned him against the door jam of the en suite with the stern instruction "condoms" before turning for his bedside table. Stiles had found a sad, crumpled box under the sink with one lonesome condom rattling around inside. When he'd sassed Derek about only talking a big game about being prepared, Derek had pulled a face and tossed a half-empty bottle of lube at him before stripping off his shirt. Stiles shut up in favor of helping with his pants. It wasn't like he didn't have an entire bag of "preparedness" sitting in his Jeep anyway.

Derek had been excruciatingly thoughtful with everything: pillows for Stiles's hips, warming the lube between his hands, murmured questions about his comfort, his readiness, his needs. When Stiles rolled his eyes and tried to reach back and physically pull Derek closer to getting things going, Derek had just stroked up and down his hips like he was an overeager horse that needed to be soothed. Considering Derek proceeded to ride him hard right down into the mattress, he guessed it wasn't a completely off-base comparison.

Afterward, Derek had flipped him over and pinned him flat to the bed with a hand spread wide over his chest and sucked him off with a dark-eyed certainty. Once the feeling had returned to Stiles's extremities after that orgasm, they'd shuffled to the living room and put on a game show network while waiting for a frozen pizza to heat in the oven. While they ate, they'd gotten into an increasingly tense competition over Jeopardy answers that was equal parts genuine animosity and bizarre sexual foreplay. After cleaning up (both the food and the aftermath of aggressive mutual handjobs), Stiles had been prepared to find his clothes and call it a night, but while he was trying to come up with an exit line more graceful than, "Thanks for all the intense sex, and welcome to the pack!" Derek had crowded up to him from behind and set his hands on Stiles's hips and his teeth on the back of Stiles's neck. That somehow led to Derek letting Stiles come on his chest and both of them falling asleep again from the intensity of it all.

When he'd come over yesterday morning, Stiles hadn't thought that four (five?) rounds would be necessary to cement the scent-love-acceptance pack bond—he's covered in spit and sweat and come, eyelashes to ankles—but he wasn't going to question such a spectacular dedication to thoroughness. Now, though, at 5AM, fresh off the adrenaline high of a dark-hearted nightmare that he can't quite remember, he's feeling awkward and grimy. As far as he knows, no one else stayed the night. He figures Derek can't begrudge him too much since, if memory serves, they passed out at roughly the same time, Stiles slumped in the dregs of his own come and Derek pawing lightly at his head mumbling something about cleaning up. Judging by the way the sheets are practically crackling every time Stiles shifts and the white flecks on his abdomen, clearly cleaning didn't happen.

He debates what to do next. He's not going to be able to fall back asleep, and the longer he sits listening to the soothing, regular rhythm of Derek's breathing beside him, the more he feels like a voyeuristic creeper. He desperately wants a shower, but figures that will probably be too disruptive for a sleeping werewolf. Which means TV is also out. He could just leave, but every time he tries to imagine how he'd word a note or text to leave to explain his absence, he sounds like he's trying to duck an awkward one-night stand. Which, OK, there's a lot that's appropriate about that classification, but it seems counter to the spirit of the whole event, which is about bonding and welcoming and pack-ness and stuff.

In the end he tiptoes into the living room, pulls a book at random from the low bookshelf behind the couch, and turns on a small lamp to read.

Around 6:30 Derek shuffles out of the bedroom, hair tufted and eyes squinty.

"Oh thank god," Stiles says and then follows Derek's puzzled gaze to the pile of books spilling over his lap onto the couch and coffee table in front of him. After about five minutes of Tolstoy he'd realized the error of his strategy and added a book on Russian history, a Tolstoy biography, and a book on nineteenth-century Russian literature. The pattern of light cross-referencing has been keeping his twitchy focus engaged.

"Uh, I didn't feel like going down to the Jeep for my Adderall," he says with a shrug.

Derek grunts and makes his way over to the kitchen. Stiles fumbles the books into a more-or-less orderly stack on the table before wandering after Derek. The werewolf is scowling his way through grinding coffee beans to put into a space-age looking coffee maker. Stiles stands next to the counter and watches. When he notices that he's gnawing on a pokey cuticle, he shoves his hands in his pockets and tries not to vibrate out of his skin.

"How you feeling?" he ventures finally when the coffee's dripping and Derek's just staring blankly at the slowly filling carafe. "Pack bonds coming along nicely?"

Derek blinks and angles his head to squint at Stiles blearily. "Pack bonds?" he grunts and then his eyebrows arch up and then swiftly crash back down. "They're fine."

"Good. Great." Stiles bobs his head up and down a little too enthusiastically, eyes tracking over the poof of Derek's bedhead, the slight hunch in his shoulders against the weak sunlight peeking in from the living room, to the strong lines of his feet bare and pale against the kitchen tile. Pre-verbal morning Derek is absolutely killing him. Stiles is not a morning person, but by comparison he's positively chipper, and the disparity makes him want to hang off Derek's shoulder and sing "You Are My Sunshine" in an obnoxiously enthusiastic voice just to make Derek growl.

Derek, who is now turning toward Stiles and reaching forward to hook two fingers into the front of Stiles's jeans, tugging lightly. And nope, Stiles is feeling way too maudlin now to deal with another round of punishingly fantastic sex For The Team.

"Well, ah," he says, ducking down and back to both dislodge Derek's hand and put a bit more distance between them. "I better head back." He jerks a thumb over his shoulder to indicate he doesn't even know what—the Jeep would actually be to his left and home his right. "You know, homework to do, showers to take," he says with an exaggerated grimace and plucking at the front of his shirt.

Derek's frowning at him, eyes tracking all over his face, before he finally nods. "I'll see you," he says, and wow pre-caffeine Derek has trouble with his interrogative statements.

"Sure. Next pack meeting is Thursday."

Derek opens his mouth partway before closing it, lips thinning, and for a moment Stiles feels a wave of nostalgia because this Derek is probably more familiar to him than the one he's come to know in the past couple months. A Derek whose face is closed and distant, eyebrows always slightly furrowed in confusion or disapproval. But instead of scowling or telling Stiles to shut up, his expression relaxes into what looks like speculation. Stiles fights the urge to fidget.

"OK," he finally says, nodding to himself and turning back to the coffee maker. Stiles lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding and practically flings himself at the door.

On the way home he can't get that last expression on Derek's face out of his head. Did Stiles let something slip? Was it rude for new pack brothers to jump ship before breakfast? Or maybe Stiles is just being hypersensitive and pre-coffee Derek needed extra time to mentally review his calendar to make sure there weren't any conflicts on Thursday. Maybe he was just contemplating what to bring for his share of snacks.

He's saved from the downward spiral of his thoughts when he steps through the front door because his father is waiting for him. The sheriff is casually reading the newspaper while sitting not-so-casually on a chair that's been dragged over from the living room and placed in the middle of the front hallway. He doesn't look up when Stiles opens the door.

Stiles freezes, hand still on the doorknob. "I forgot to text you that I'd be staying over last night."

The sheriff smiles tightly, folding the newspaper closed and setting it on his lap before crossing his arms and relaxing back further into the chair. "Yep," he says.

"How's it feel?" Scott's asking when Stiles walks into the McCall house that Thursday, plastic bag of Doritos and Twizzlers hanging from his wrist.

"Good," Derek answers, verbose as always, but there is distinct warmth to his tone that's more common these days but still utterly bizarre to hear.

Stiles rounds the corner into the formal living room (Pack Headquarters), and almost trips over the edge of the floor rug. Everyone's already there, and everyone's looking at him expectantly. Danny's smirk is downright lewd. Stiles feels his cheeks flush bright red without his permission, because he has nothing to be embarrassed about. Except… well, OK, he was the one hold out for this whole exercise, and also this was the big cashing in of his V card, which, due to his gigantic mouth, everyone was incredibly aware of. And maybe Scott had laughed at him for about a million years at school on Monday when he'd relayed he wouldn't be able to hang out that night since he was grounded for spectacularly breaking curfew ("pack bonding is not an excuse for making your old man wonder whether he should start sending out patrols to make sure you weren't lying dead in a ditch somewhere," his dad had insisted, even though Stiles knew Scott had been the first person his dad had called when Stiles didn't pick up his phone, so he knew exactly where Stiles was).

"Heeeeey, guys," he drawls, easing his backpack off his shoulder and letting it and the bag of snacks drop next to the wingback chair Scott's lounging in.

"Hey, buddy," Scott replies, beaming like a fucking ray of sunshine. "Have a seat."

The only open seat is on the couch between the armrest and Derek, who has his arms stretched out over the back. Lydia's half reclining against his chest on the other side, legs hooked over Allison's lap as she reads a magazine. And that's uncool—usually Lydia makes a point to sit with him at these meetings, especially when they haven't found time in a couple days to reaffirm the anchor bond. He hasn't played the heart-of-darkness-needs-its-anchor card with his dad yet this week because he'd confirmed on Sunday that he was still allowed to attend the pack meeting. If he doesn't get any Lydia time in this evening, he'll have to negotiate with his dad for visitation rights.

Stiles squints at both Scott (for the almost manic grin cracking his face) and Lydia (who smirks to herself but doesn't deign to look up from her magazine) as he crosses the room. When he plops down onto the couch, it's at the very edge so he's propping himself up by his elbows on his knees. He's worried if he settles back into the seat and feels Derek's bicep against the back of his neck he'll do something embarrassing like pop a boner or melt into an obviously smitten puddle of goo. As it is, he's incredibly aware of Derek's knee pressing against his thigh.

"First of all, congrats on bonding with the pack, Derek," Scott says, dimples working overtime.

Stiles can't see him, but he assumes that Derek must nod or something because a moment later Scott's turning to Isaac, who's sprawled in the other wingback like a Renaissance painting, with Danny the benevolent angel perching above him on the arm of the chair.

"Anything interesting last night on patrol?" Scott asks.

Isaac smirks and taps the side of his fist against Danny's leg. "Danny scared off a really vicious raccoon."

Danny rolls his whole head back. "God, shut up about that already. I saw glowing eyes at humanoid height—I don't have a super nose to tell me it was just a treed rodent."

"He fell over backward and broke his flashlight," Isaac says with devilish amusement.

"Do you or do you not want your private-time browser history publicized to the entire school," Danny snaps back.

Isaac holds his hands up in surrender, and Scott's already rolling his eyes and turning to Allison for a download on the hunter convention she and her dad attended the previous weekend.

The moment official business is finished, Stiles pops up and retreats to the kitchen for a soda. He grabs a sparkling water for Lydia, prepared to use it to lure her away from Derek so he can discuss some quality anchor time in relative private. When he turns around, though, Derek's walking through the doorway straight toward him.

"He-ey," he says with a half-grin, waving the soda he's holding in awkward greeting. He swallows heavily when Derek doesn't stop at an appropriate distance but instead crowds up until Stiles could catalog the exact colors of his ridiculous eyes if he wanted.

"So what's up? How's pack life?" he tries, determined to ignore Derek's lack of personal boundaries.

"Scott told me you got grounded," Derek says, instead.

"Yeah. No need to apologize or anything." Derek just raises his eyebrows. Stiles scoffs. "Hey, I was all ready to leave after pizza. You're the one who insisted on another round."

"I didn't hear you complaining," Derek replies, and that is definitely him staring at Stiles's mouth.

"Mother Teresa wouldn't complain." It could be his imagination, but it feels like there's heat building up between them, like the air between their bodies is at least ten degrees hotter than the rest of the kitchen.

"Not my fault you forgot to pull your head out of your dick," Derek returns with a smirk.

"Yeah? Who's cornering who in the kitchen, buddy?"

Derek bares his teeth at him in a sharp grin. "You're standing in front of the refrigerator."

Stiles glances over his shoulder and realizes he's uncomfortably close to the sunflower macramé magnet Scott made for his mom in first grade. "Oh," he says and staggers sideways and out of the way. Derek opens the refrigerator and pulls out a sparkling water with exaggerated movements, his eyebrows high on his forehead the whole time.

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Yeah, big win there."

Derek takes the most sarcastic sip of fake grapefruit flavored carbonated water Stiles has ever seen, and Lydia practically inhales the stuff.

Holding his (soda-filled) hands up in mock surrender, Stiles backs into the living room to find everyone studiously not looking at him. Except for Lydia, who has her hand out imperiously to accept her water with her patented "You're an idiot" expression on her face. Stiles slides into the spot Derek vacated and wraps an arm firmly around her waist, relishing in the warmth of her seeping into his side. When Derek sits back down next to him, the werewolf doesn't make any pretense about giving him space, and Stiles finds himself snuggly sandwiched between the guy he just boned and the girl he still on occasion wishes he could be boning. Part of him thrills in being smothered in the warmth of pack, but another part of him can only focus on how each person is half of the relationship he wishes he could somehow find with someone at the same time.

The tension must win out, because Lydia threads her fingers through his and gives them a squeeze, and Derek turns his mouth toward his ear and murmurs, "Relax." Amazingly, he does.

And so Derek's part of the pack. He helps them bust up supernatural tomfoolery around town, gets worked into the patrol rotation Lydia manages, shows up for movie night, and picks up Melissa from her shift at the hospital once when Scott has to borrow the car for the day. He also turns up at Stiles's house with takeout when his dad's on shift and fucks him against the wall and later lets Stiles blow him in the shower. And Stiles would wonder, except he also hears about the "yoga sessions" he has with Danny over at Danny's place, and he notices the way Derek will bump shoulders with Scott when they stand side by side and how he'll grip Isaac's shoulder as he passes him. He tucks Lydia's hand into his elbow when they go shopping for a few more odds and ends for his apartment, and he offers a Allison a piggyback ride back to the cars after she pulls a hamstring running down a stray brownie in the woods. There's a lot of physicality going on, is what he's saying. And, yes, the rest of them hang all over each other, but they've had over a year and a half to figure out how they fit and to settle into each other's pockets. For Derek, it's like he's just been waiting for the excuse, like it's a relief. Stiles gets that; he gets a little touch-starved himself sometimes when his dad takes back-to-back double shifts, and Scott is tied up (sometimes literally?) with Isaac and Allison, and Lydia is being guilt-napped to somewhere expensive by her parents for a long weekend, and Danny's wrapped up in either his boyfriend or code (or both—they're working on some hush-hush, no-doubt 100 percent legal project together and it's fucking adorable). Coming off a stretch of days like those, Stiles will seek out the nearest available pack member and drape himself over them like an obnoxious cape, deaf to all protests that you're too tall for this, Stiles, I don't have werewolf strength, Stiles, fucking Christ your hands are cold get them out from under my shirt, Stiles. Anyway, he knows about that, and he can respect it. He can also respect that for Derek Poor Dating Choices Hale it must be a little fabulous to have six trustworthy, willing bed partners and all the totally-not-weird pack-bonding excuses one could want to get his freak on. It puts the half-empty bottle of lube and lonely condom into new perspective. And even though Stiles kind of wants to claw his own face off a bit every time Derek smiles into a kiss, he's a mature enough individual to gracefully accept what's on offer without getting (too) bitter about what isn't.

"He does have great hands," he tells Isaac, resigned. "That tattoo is nice," he says to Scott. "All the appeals to higher powers," he assures Danny, and "Werewolf stamina, amirite," to the girls with a hand up for a high five. Allison dimples and indulges him, but Lydia just narrows her eyes and twirls a lock of hair. Maybe the painted-on enthusiasm is a bit too over the top, especially for Lydia, who now always has a bit of extra insight into whatever undercurrents happen to be dragging him down. So he shuts up and goes with the flow.

Derek texts him Come over tonight, in the middle of history, which is super awkward because it immediately sets off a domino effect of speculative fantasies, and Stiles doesn't need to be fighting down a boner when his teacher is lecturing about quilts and the Underground Railroad.

Later that afternoon, he takes the stairs two at a time up all three flights and arrives at Derek's door wheezing and regretting his life choices. Whatever, it'll be an excuse to make Derek do all the work. But when Derek opens the door, Stiles is immediately ushered back down the stairwell and toward Derek's incredibly practical SUV.

"I got held up earlier and haven't had a chance to go shopping yet," Derek says when Stiles whines about all the sex they aren't having.

"Did you run out of lube?" Stiles demands as he yanks his seatbelt on. "That is the only reason I'll accept for this cruel bait and switch."

"No, but I am out of food, and I'm not letting you guilt me into getting takeout from that disgusting cafe again."

Stiles gasps in mock horror. "Cafe Steak Burger is a treasure."

Derek rolls his eyes and braces his hand on the back of Stiles's seat as he checks the rearview window and backs out of the space. He lightly cuffs Stiles in the back of the head when he pulls his hand back to the wheel. Stiles hisses through his teeth and rubs exaggeratedly at the spot while muttering about pack abuse.

"What do you want for dinner?" Derek asks, after they've acquired a cart and are wheeling toward the cereal aisle.

"Who all's coming over?" Stiles counters as he snags a box of Reese's Puffs from the shelf and tosses it into the basket.

Derek's silent for a beat before asking, "Who do you want to invite?"

Stiles blinks and turns from scanning the fourteen flavors of Honey Bunches of Oats (thinking "why?") to stare at Derek. Who's stopped the cart and is staring down at where his hands rest on the handle bar.

"No one?" Stiles asks, feeling suddenly like his elbows are sticking to far out from his body. He tucks them in against his sides and covers his fist with his other palm. "Just, grocery shopping. Domestic errands. Domesticity," he says as he taps his fist with nervous fingers. "Makes me think of pack dinners, not post-coital munchies."

Derek shrugs and looks toward the opposite shelf. "In that case, you're getting Hamburger Helper," he says and picks up a box of Kashi bars—the flavor bars Lydia and Scott both like.

"God, you know my feelings on anthropomorphic accessories. Do you want me to starve?" He sidles up next to Derek and bumps their shoulders together as Derek starts pushing further down the aisle. "I need my energy to keep up with you, wild thang."

Derek groans and hip checks Stiles away from him. Stiles staggers away a step, cackling, before throwing his weight left so he careens back into Derek's space. Derek absorbs the crash, sighs, but doesn't protest when Stiles flings an arm over his shoulders and starts walking in tandem with him.

"So pasta? Or hamburgers," he prompts. "Your mind went to that horrific place for a reason, I'm thinking. What are you craving?" When Derek smirks to himself he jumps in with, "And don't say me, because, like, obviously, but let's try to stay focused here. The sooner we get this over with the sooner we can get back to your apartment and down to the important business."

Derek's face does that blank face thing it does sometimes when he's feeling an attack of emotions and doesn't know how to handle them. "Whatever you want, Stiles," he says, tone neutral to the point of brittle. Guy's going to give Stiles emotional whiplash. Is he having a bad day? Maybe Hamburger Helper is a comfort food his mom used to make or something, and Stiles is just pissing all over those memories with his (rightful) judgment.

"Hey, I'm a growing teen and will eat just about anything you put in front of me. You shop for you, buddy, don't even factor me in." He gives Derek a little squeeze around the shoulders and then breaks away to head toward the candy aisle to stock up for his own purposes. When he glances back just before he rounds the corner of the aisle, Derek's contemplating box dinners for one with an unhappy set to his mouth. Yeah, Stiles definitely fucked up with the Hamburger Helper crack. Shit. This, right here, is why he can't get too woe-is-me about not having a boy and/or girlfriend, much less an honest-to-god relationship with Derek Sensitive Chef Hale. He's not even capable of managing a fuck-buddies arrangement without kicking his partner in the emotional balls. Derek is so getting a blowjob later in apology.

Sometimes the nightmares are so vivid that he has to fight the urge to call people just to ensure they really are OK and/or do still love him. Other times, he's just left grappling with nameless, formless terror. He kind of hates those more, because at least in the first case there are supposed facts to either refute or confirm. When he wakes this time it's on a choked sob, adrenaline surging through his sleep-drunk limbs as he lurches up and away from something.

"Stiles?" Derek slurs from his left, practically jackknifing upright, hair duck-tufting up in the back and eyes wide and vibrant blue. "What's it? What's wrong?"

Stiles shakes his head, fisting the comforter in his hands and automatically looking toward the digital clock on Derek's nightstand. 4:01 AM, safe as houses in bed with a highly protective werewolf, and yet the persistent, itching sense shuddering up the back of his spine that something just isn't right.

Derek is watching his face expectantly, hands hovering near like he wants to touch but isn't sure it would be welcome. Stiles swallows and hunches forward a bit. He wants to run a hand over his face, tug on his hair, run rough nails over his neck and scalp to scrub out the goosebumps, but he can't seem to make his hands unclench from the covers.

Like he can read his thoughts, Derek wraps a strong hand over the back of his neck and squeezes firmly. The warmth and grounding strength in the touch is enough to dissipate most of the lingering unease.

"Sorry," he croaks out, letting his head hang lower as Derek keeps up a rhythmic clench and release on his neck that's turning his muscles to putty. "Nightmare."

"About the omega?" Derek asks, voice subdued.

While it had been a spectacularly gory fight that had definitely seen the contents of Stiles's stomach upended onto the base of an unsuspecting tree, it had just been run-of-the-mill violence, nothing especially horrific about it. He shakes his head. "Don't remember. Your hands are magic."

Derek snorts but doesn't stop the half-massage he's giving. "Think you'll be able to go back to sleep?"

Stiles is surprised to realize that he's already halfway there. Which is a relief, because Lydia has plans with Danny today, which means going to her place for a nice anchor nap isn't in the cards. "Yeah," he says, easing back down and curling up on his side facing Derek. "Maybe just—" he starts, not entirely sure what he plans on asking for, but Derek's already shifting over to face him, resettling the covers over their shoulders. Once that's done, he snakes one arm through the tiny gap between the pillow and Stiles's shoulder and uses his other hand to bring Stiles's forehead to press against his own neck. Their knees are bumping together awkwardly, and Derek's arm weighs a ton when he drapes it over Stiles's waist, and frankly, cuddling with a werewolf furnace is not a sustainable sleep model. But if Stiles concentrates, he can feel the faint tattoo of Derek's pulse fluttering against his forehead. He falls asleep before he can get uncomfortable enough to move.

When Stiles wakes up the next morning, it's to the spectacular view of Derek transitioning from a plank position into cobra, his shoulder blades cupping around the rippling lines of the triskelion on his back. After a moment he realizes he has such a great view because he's lying almost diagonally across the bed, his cheek at the absolute edge of the mattress and his left hand brushing against the carpet. Derek's a few feet from the bed, facing the window that overlooks the forest and running through a set of easy yoga poses. Absolutely naked.

"Your butt is, like, a testament to the beauty of the human form," Stiles slurs. "It's so pretty and flexy."

Derek snorts and moves up onto his hands and knees to go through a few cat-cow back stretches. Stiles is pretty sure this is on purpose and shifts a bit to give his morning erection a bit of friction. He watches the morning sun gild the long, lean lines of Derek's body as he moves through a few more rounds of plank to floor to back stretches. The whole time, he lazily rutts against the mattress, a dopey smile on his face.

"You going to lay there all morning?" Derek asks just as he pushes up and back into a downward-facing dog. And, oh, that's just too much to resist.

Stiles rolls off the bed and steps up behind Derek, straddling his thighs. He puts his hands to Derek's hips and lines himself up before slowly sliding his hands down along Derek's back, lowering his torso carefully as he goes until he's draped over him, erection snug against the cleft of Derek's ass. He sets his teeth to the back of Derek's neck and continues the slide of his hands over Derek's arms until he can grip his wrists.

Derek shifts under him, hands flexing where they're braced against the floor, and Stiles just lets more of his weight settle onto him. "How long do you think you can hold this pose?" he asks, mouthing a bit at the back of Derek's neck. Derek's breath shudders out on a half laugh, half groan, and Stiles grins.

He calls Scott later that afternoon. "Scotty!" he cheers when Scott picks up. He's doing an awkward dance to keep the phone squished between his ear and his shoulder at the same time he's jamming his feet into his sneakers. He's starting to feel the urge to make pancakes or "accidentally" leave clothes in Derek's hamper—sure signs that he needs to jump ship—but Derek's in the shower, and he'd feel awkward bailing without saying goodbye. So, he figured he'd use the time to iron out the details of the bro date he and Scott have been planning for the evening. "No SOs allowed," Scott had promised with what Stiles thought was an overly exaggerated wink considering the only SOs in the equation were Scott's.

"Hey, what's up?"

"Hanging at Derek's," he replies. "What's on the agenda for tonight? CoD? Something old school? Or I could tie you to the couch, tape your eyelids open, and finally make you watch Star Wars with me." Which, rewinding that last bit in his head, a little dark.

To his credit, Scott just laughs at the implied torture. "You don't have plans with Derek?"

"What? Oh. He mentioned something about seeing that movie with the guy with the face, but I told him you and I had a date."

"Oh," Scott says, long and drawn out, and Stiles narrows his eyes. "I just remembered,"—and no, Stiles does not like where this is going—"I promised Allison I'd do this thing, like, with her and her dad. At their house." Stiles can practically see him wincing on the other end of the call.

"Buddy," he says, patient, "you promised me. You said 'no SOs' and then forgot how to blink not like a robot."

"I know!" Scott says, earnest. "I'll make it up to you, I swear."

And normally, Stiles would just roll his eyes and extort some ridiculous concessions, probably involving food and the lending of favorite games, but this is the third time in the past week and a half that Scott's bailed on him at the last minute. Lydia had already flatly refused to see him this weekend, even when he'd put mani-pedis and a snark-free viewing of The Notebook on offer. When he'd pointed out that it'd been almost a week since their last anchoring session, she'd scoffed and said he'd be fine. Which, maybe, sure, if he could guarantee some quality time with his best bro and alpha.

"Scott," he says, and closes his mouth on the rest of what wants to escape, because it's bubbling up too harsh and hot in his throat.

"But hey!" Scott's going on, enthusiastic and chipper. "Let me know how the movie is. You guys should try out the new toast place by the theater. I hear it's, like, seven dollars a slice," he says, reverent, "and they have a 'cinnamon crunch' flavor that tastes exactly like the cereal."

And while Stiles is generally a fan of meta, hipster food trends, what he cannot handle right now is anything approaching date territory with Derek Cuddle Pro Hale. There's already too much domesticity and fond, no-reason kisses happening in between the bouts of incredibly athletic sex for Stiles's heart to take.

"You're killing me, buddy," he says on a sigh, scrubbing his free hand over his face. "No, it's cool. Go be with one half of your sickening fairytale romance. Try not to piss off Argent and end up with a bullet in your ass."

"Hey," Scott says, soft and suddenly unsure. "You OK? I thought things were going well?"

And, OK, considering the hopeless pining, feeling a bit abandoned by his best friend, and definitely unmoored from his anchoring goddess, Stiles has been keeping a pretty even keel. Marathon sex with a werewolf apparently equals more exhausted and therefore nightmare-free nights of sleep than not. And even though his preferred pack members have been MIA, almost all of that time has been filled instead by either him or Derek seeking each other out for some seriously nasty, intense pack bonding time. But just because his darkness is staying firmly in shadow territory doesn't mean he has to like the upsets in his life.

He also can and should be the bigger man here. "You owe me twelve dinners at the diner, five packs of Reese's—king size—and I get to choose your character in Mario Kart for the next three months."

Scott groans. "Ugh, fine. You're ruthless."

"I don't mess around when it comes to best friend time," Stiles corrects.

Scott grumbles a little more but wishes him a fun night with Derek. Stiles doesn't bother to correct him and instead promises to text him the next day.

He jabs the end call button a little too forcefully and tosses the phone on the table. When he sinks back into the couch in a dejected slump, he realizes he can't hear the shower running anymore.

Sure enough, a moment later Derek walks out of the bedroom in a pair of sweats and a waft of lavender-chamomile-scented steam.

"Scott?" he asks as he ambles over to the windows and starts cracking them open to let in the spring air.

"Yeah. He just bailed on bro night."

Derek frowns sympathetically. "We could go see that movie," he says, and kind of swaggers back over to Stiles's side of the room. "Or we could stay in." He quirks his eyebrows, a little smirk playing on his lips, before he glances down at Stiles's feet and it morphs into a frown.

"You were leaving," he observes.

"Mm," Stiles agrees, ruffling frustrated fingers through his own hair. "I have a paper I need to start today," he says, which is absolutely true. Maybe he doesn't need to work on it all day, which his statement might have implied, but it would definitely be in his best interests to spend at least fifteen minutes on an outline and thesis statement. It would also be in his best interests not to hang out at Derek's when he's already feeling sorry for himself. It might lead to inappropriate comfort seeking in the form of non-sexual snuggling.

Derek's face, when he glances up, is a study in blankness. "You could work here. I have some job applications I need to fill out. We could order from that cafe you like."

Stiles groans and lurches to his feet, swiping his phone off the table. "Dude, do not offer to pity hang with me."

Derek rolls his eyes. "I'm not—"

"You just tried to bribe me with Cafe Steak Burger."

"That's not pity, it's—" he cuts himself off with a huff and throws his hands in the air. "Sometimes I don't know why I even try with you."

Which, ouch, OK? Maybe Stiles is totally trying to weasel out of hanging out with Derek any more than he has to, but it's out of self preservation. Derek will cup his cheek super gently just before he kisses him sometimes, and snag Stiles by the wrist and pull him into his lap at pack meetings. But he's also got Scott's favorite blanket folded and draped carefully over the chair he likes to sit and read in, and one of Allison's spare bows in his hall closet. Lydia has one of her emergency makeup kits stashed in his bathroom cabinet and her second-favorite book on particle physics on his bookshelf. Stiles has found at least three of Danny's yoga shirts in Derek's closet when he's rummaged around for something clean to wear to bed. The refrigerator is always stocked with Isaac's favorite soda. He knows he's not special, even though he desperately wishes he was. This is just pack for Derek, and maybe Stiles isn't quite meeting expectations all the time on that front, but he's doing as much as he can cope with.

"I'm sorry," he says, low and a lot rougher than he intended. Derek's eyes widen. "I just"—Stiles swallows down the lump that's trying to form in his throat—"I swear I'm not trying to be a dick. I know I'm kind of an asshole, but." He spreads his hands wide, trying to convey his helplessness. "I really need to go home and work on my paper right now."

Derek takes in a deep breath through his nose and turns his face away for a long moment. When he looks back, his mouth is set in a grim line, but he nods. "OK. Call me when…" he trails off with a firm shake of his head. "I'll see you next pack meeting."

Which isn't until a week from Thursday. Stiles's heart squeezes a bit in his chest. That sounds a lot like Derek doesn't want to see him until he has to. Which, fair enough, Stiles just mostly admitted he's trying to duck out of non-sexy pack bonding time. Given Derek's history, it's pretty shitty of Stiles to expect he'd be cool with just sex. The thing is, Stiles is pretty in over his head with this whole friends with benefits thing they have going on. If Derek isn't willing to do the sex without the friends, then Stiles needs to shift this thing back to just friends, for the good of both the pack and his sanity. Which means a cooling off period so he can get his heart out of his dick (or his dick out of his heart?) is 100 percent in order.

"Sure, buddy," he says with a faint smile.

Derek doesn't walk him out when he leaves.

That Friday during study hall, Lydia marches up to him in the library and drags him by the wrist into the stacks. "I'm doing this under protest," she tells him, voice tart and eyes narrowed, "and only for the sake of our group project. I'm not failing AP chem because you're too sleep deprived to finish your part of the write-up."

Stiles stumbles along behind her, still foggy from the half-doze he'd fallen into while attempting to get through the assigned chapters for English. It takes until she's pushed him down to lean against a bookshelf and arranged herself half in his lap for her speech to resonate.

"Why are you mad at me?" His voice is scratchy and too deep. He thinks he's slept about twelve hours total since staying over at Derek's last Saturday night.

"Because I shouldn't have to do this anymore. It requires a lot of maintenance and and energy to maintain this bond—more than either of us can really afford. Especially with finals coming up." She's huffily pushing and pulling at his limbs so that his head is resting on her shoulder and his arms are wrapped around her waist. The warmth and steadiness of her slowly starts to seep in, but it's sluggish. It's been almost two weeks since she last agreed to let him come over and snuggle, and in the past week he hadn't even bothered to ask, too tied up in his own head about Derek and feeling sulky about Scott and Lydia ducking out on him.

But Lydia is right. Their anchor bond is the weakest of the three sacrifices, and it's required a lot more time and energy and diligence to keep it effective over the past year and change. And while he's known for a while that Lydia is bound for the East Coast, and that he'll be sticking near his dad and Scott on the West Coast, he's been avoiding making any real plans for what he'll do when she's gone. Deaton's hinted that in time Stiles can learn how to become his own anchor—in part because of his spark—but in Deaton's typically vague way that suggests it won't be easy and also that he might not ever be bothered to tell Stiles how. What Stiles needs to do is use Scott as leverage to prise some legitimate intel about his condition from the enigmatic asshole, and sooner rather than later, but something else always seems to come up.

"Sorry," he mutters and is surprised to feel his eyes prick with sudden tears. "I know this isn't fair to you."

"Hush," she says, softer now that she has him situated to her liking and has had her chance to say her piece. "I'm worried about you. Just get your act together, Stilinski. It isn't like you to be this careless." She pauses and then pats his hand. "Well, I suppose it is your welfare we're talking about. Silly of me to entrust that to you. Do you want me to speak to him for you? He's just as much to blame for letting it come to this."

Stiles snorts. As much as he'd love to watch Lydia sashay into Deaton's office and lay the vet low on his behalf, this is absolutely something Stiles should be handling himself. "No, I got it. I've just been putting it off."

Lydia hums to herself. "No doubt you've had more enjoyable activities to distract yourself with lately."

Jesus H. It's all wink-wink, nudge-nudge with the pack lately. Like, OK, he gets it, everyone's super glad they added Derek to the pack, and they're all really self-congratulatory about all the hot action everyone's been getting as a result. But the last thing he wants to do right now is compare notes with Lydia. So he groans and turns his face further into her neck to convey his opinion on the subject.

"Oh," she says quietly and lays a tentative hand on the back of his head. "Did you have a fight?"

"Something like that," he mutters.

After a moment she turns and presses a quick peck to his cheekbone. "Come over at eight and bring that organic, no-salt popcorn. I'm holding you to your promise about mani-pedis. You can pick the movie."

He'll have to clear it with his dad, but even the possibility of a full-night's sleep is enough to bring him to tears at this point. That Lydia's not planning to hold him to his Notebook promise has him fighting back actual sobs.

It all comes to a head at the next pack meeting. Stiles arrives early and walks into the McCall living room to find Allison, Isaac, and Scott in a hushed, tense conversation around the coffee table. All three startle and look up at him guiltily when he lets the front door close a bit louder than usual.

"What's up?" he asks, squinting at them with suspicion. "You talkin' 'bout me?"

Isaac's eyes are about three times too large when he says, "No," in a completely unconvincing drawl. Allison rolls her eyes and lets her forehead thunk onto Scott's shoulder in despair. Scott just sighs and looks to the ceiling for inspiration.

"Stiles," Melissa snaps from above, and he turns to see her jogging down the stairs in scrubs and tennis shoes. "Don't slam my doors."

"Sorry," he says and pulls a Reese's pack out of his snack bag as a peace offering.

She eyes it and him with an unimpressed pinch to her lips. "You better be," she says finally and swipes the package out of his hand only to brandish it back in his face. "And I'm not the only one you should be apologizing to. Whatever dumb thing fell out of your mouth, just say you're sorry. I can't keep having twenty-something men with attractive scruff showing up sad and lonely at the hospital to talk with me without developing a certain reputation. And while it's not necessarily a reputation I mind, it's also not deserved. So, just—" She breaks off to wave the Reese's at his face in an extremely dissatisfied manner. "Fix it, Stiles."

She steps around him and calls an absent goodbye to the others before leaving through the front door, closing it firmly but softly behind her.

Stiles blinks rapidly before turning to look at Scott, Isaac, and Allison, who are all watching him with knowing and vaguely disapproving expressions.

"I didn't—" he starts to protest before rolling his eyes and throwing up his hands. The bag with the Reese's bangs against his arm. "I was trying to do the right thing. I realized I couldn't handle it anymore, so I backed out before things got too weird."

"Stiles, you really hurt him," Allison chastises.

He can't keep looking at their huge, sorrowful eyes, so he stares down at his sneakers, hands curling into fists at his sides as he feels guilt and rage and bewilderment roil up from his gut to the back of his throat. OK, so he's the chump who walked into the whole thing with feelings he couldn't seem to untangle from the physical act. He's the unenlightened one who couldn't handle the sweet deal they all had going for them. Fucking fine. It's not like this was his pack first before Derek came along and started turning his big, dumb smile indiscriminately on everyone. But obviously Stiles doesn't have as much to offer the group as Derek Hale. And who's he really kidding here? Of course they'd take Derek's side. He's integrated so seamlessly, so quickly, made the pack that much warmer and stronger in the past few weeks than they'd managed by themselves over months and months. If one of them should shoulder the blame for the sudden dischord, it probably is Stiles.

He swallows down the dark feelings sitting on the back of his tongue and just nods wordlessly. "I'll apologize. I can't… I can't keep doing what we were doing before." He shrugs. "But I'll try being buddies, if he's cool with that."

Scott walks over and claps a hand on his shoulder and shakes him lightly. "Hey, Stiles, I don't know what happened between you two, but are you sure buddies is going to be enough?" He ducks down to catch Stiles's gaze. "I mean, you seem pretty stupid over him."

Stiles closes his eyes tight and grits his teeth. He can forgive some of the ridiculously oblivious stuff that comes out of his best friend's mouth sometimes. Even when it feels like a knife to the eye. He knows Scott doesn't mean it maliciously.

"It'll be fine," he insists. "No worries, dude." He won't fuck this up for everyone else.

Scott's eyebrows are caterpillaring as he searches Stiles's face, but then the doorbell rings. Stiles takes the distraction of Danny and Lydia arriving like the godsend it is and quickly wedges himself into one of the wingback chairs. Lydia takes one look at him and perches in his lap without prompting, and he presses his face into the floral print of her dress between her shoulderblades and lets the chatter of the rest of the pack wash over him. There's an awkward silence when Derek arrives, possibly made more awkward when Stiles doesn't bring his head up to acknowledge his entrance, but Scott gamely starts off with a digest of the previous two week's patrols before it can stretch on too long.

Eventually, after a lot of pointed and pointy prodding from Lydia, Stiles brings his head up to rest his chin on her shoulder and really join the conversation. Derek meets his gaze for a long, excruciating eight seconds before pointedly turning away and not looking at him again for the rest of the meeting. Stiles can practically feel his balls crawling up into his torso and fights the urge to burrow back down into Lydia's hair.

Not surprisingly, Derek's the first one out the door at the end of the meeting, almost before Scott's finished saying, "OK, I guess that's all the official business."

The door hasn't even finished closing behind him before Danny's leveling a judgmental glare at Stiles. "Real smooth, Stilinski."

"Seriously," Issac chimes in. "I mean, do you think you're ever going to do better?"

"Stop it," Lydia says, cold and furious.

"Stiles said he would apologize," Scott says in his gentlest alpha voice. "Let's just move on."

"Why should Stiles apologize?" Lydia demands.

"Lydia, it's OK," he murmurs, wanting to melt back into the fabric of the chair.

"No, it's not. One, Stiles is several thousand times better than all the other embarrassments Derek Hale has been self-loathing enough to date, and two, it's not only Stiles's fault if things didn't work out."

"But Derek's the one who's been acting like someone drowned all the kittens and puppies in the world these past two weeks," Isaac points out.

Lydia makes a furious noise in her throat, but before she can jump in, Scott says, "Stiles has been upset too." Stiles startles and looks over at his best friend in surprise. He'd honestly thought Scott had been too wrapped up in school, pack stuff, his SOs, and all his other billion commitments to notice. Scott smiles weakly at him. "He just doesn't mope in public."

"OK, so you're both sad and being ridiculous," Allison says, throwing up her hands. "What's the problem, anyway? Can't you work it out if this is making you both so miserable?"

Stiles rolls his eyes, beyond done with the whole conversation and just wanting to retreat back to his room to burrow in his bed with his laptop and Netflix.

"Look," he says, deciding to just put it out there, "I'm just not as progressive as the rest of you. I can't just have a bunch of casual sex with a dude I like and be fine sharing him with the rest of my closest friends without also having—why the hell are you all looking at me like that?"

"Stiles," Danny says, over enunciating each word, "what are you talking about." There's no question mark in that sentence, but a lot of flat judgment. And Stiles is just about through with Danny's judgy face today, OK? And he'd tell him that, except everyone else is looking at him with varying expressions of confusion—except for Lydia, who's dropped her face into her hands and is muttering to herself.

"Uh," he starts and then pauses to lick his lips. "All the sex we've all been having with Derek. Because that's what Scott said we needed to do to make him part of the pack. And how I can't deal with that because I kind of want to have his babies or puppies or whatever and discovered I'm kind of needy. I mean, the open love thing obviously works for the three of you," he says with a hand wave in Allison, Isaac, and Scott's direction, "but you guys are all committed to each other, and I realized I really couldn't deal with just sex, so I had to stop sleeping with him." And now he's glancing frantically from pack member to pack member's dumbfounded face with a leadened feeling in his stomach. "I mean… you all fucked him, right? That's what—"

"No, Stiles," Scott says slowly, sounding mildly horrified. "We talked about our feelings while I gave him a back rub? And then I gave him a blanket to sleep with, and he loaned me one of his jackets? I kept wondering why you weren't saying anything about it. I thought I looked really cool." He trails off and looks to Allison beseechingly.

"Lydia and I took turns doing partnered yoga with him, after the way Danny was raving about his form," she says tentatively.

"He gave me a massage," Isaac offers.

Stiles opens his mouth but finds he has absolutely nothing to say. It suddenly feels like his head is stuffed with cotton, and there's a faint buzzing in his ears.

"You've got to be kidding me," Lydia finally says, flinging her hands up and out and then turning in his lap to fix him with a furious stare. "Does this mean you also don't realize he's become your anchor? Why did you think you were doing so well when you and I hadn't been working on our bond?"

It kind of feels like his brain is melting out of his ears. He's pretty sure this is what that guy who chose poorly at the end of The Last Crusade felt like in his final moments.

Scott winces. "And I guess all those times I thought I was giving you time to go do couple-y things you thought I was just bailing on you."

"Ooh, ouch," Isaac hisses through his teeth, and then hunches over when Allison jabs him sharp in the side with her elbow.

"Only you could be in a relationship and not realize it," Danny sighs. "But I'd bet cash money that Derek's at least fifty percent responsible for that."

There's a lot of sage nodding around the room to that statement, though Scott's still looking adorably puzzled.

"I still don't understand, though. Why did you think I told you to have sex with him?"

"I clarified." His voice is too high and breathy, and his hands keep clenching spastically on the skirt of Lydia's dress. "I verified that we were all on the same page about the sexing. Danny's face was totally lecherous."

Danny shrugs as if to say "fair enough."

"Stiles," Lydia snaps and pries his hands off her dress. When he finally gets his fingers to unlock, she stands and twirls to face him, hands on hips. "Go," she says, flicking one hand toward the door.

He nods dumbly and stumbles to his feet.

"Do you think he's OK to drive right now?" he hears Scott ask as he opens the door, and Isaac answer, "You really want to be there when they sort it out?" as he slams it behind him.

About halfway to Derek's apartment, Stiles realizes he's not really sure why he's driving to Derek's apartment. So, he pulls over to the side of the road, turns off the Jeep, and lays his forehead carefully against the backs of his hands where they're gripping the top of the steering wheel. His head's still reeling from the revelation that he's the only one who interpreted "love and accept" as "jump his bones hard," and that Derek didn't find anything suspect about it. Obviously it worked out about the same, since Scott confirmed the Monday after the initial jumping that Derek was "totally connected now."

So, what, Derek just thought that Stiles was choosing sex over yoga as their way to bond? Obviously chemistry and desire weren't an issue, given the inept flirting beforehand and the equal-opportunity booty calls that continued after. But Derek couldn't be completely chill with their arrangement given the fight that started this whole thing. And, looking back, a dozen or so little clues and incidents seemed to confirm that Derek wasn't happy with how Stiles kept ducking out whenever things got too domestic or relationship-y or whatever.

But.

Wait.

Stiles entered into this whole clusterfuck thinking sex was the only thing on the table. Derek knew there were other options for bonding from the get go and must have thought choosing (ha!) to cement things with sex was the start of something. So, if he wanted more than just the physical, why the fuck hadn't he said something? And, Stiles realizes with slowly dawning horror, why did he just roll over and let Stiles stomp all over his overtures of relationshippy development again and again with nary a word until he finally snapped?

He starts up the Jeep again and peels out of the shoulder and makes it the rest of the way to Derek's in record time.

As he pounds on Derek's door, chest heaving with exertion, he has a moment of disconnected clarity that he keeps running up that stupid flight of stairs even though he knows he's not fit enough for it. It's like he's a masochist or something, constantly doing things—eating an entire pizza, sprinting up three flights of stairs, entering into a fuck-buddy relationship with a guy he has genuine romantic feelings for—that he knows, empirically, he can't handle. The thought ratchets up his frustration and crazy just that little bit more, so when Derek finally opens the door, chin tilted in a stubborn angle, he just rages:

"I thought you said you've been in therapy. Why the fuck did you let me treat you like crap for so long? You deserve so much better than my passive bullshit, what the fuck is wrong with you, you ridiculous, martyring, adorable asshole."

Derek's eyes widen and his mouth drops open a bit before he seems to collect himself. He yanks Stiles into the apartment by the arm while furtively glancing up and down the hallway. Stiles can't even spare a moment to be incredulous that now, after all his creeper high school lurking of the past, Derek is suddenly choosing to be self-conscious about his reputation in the community.

"What the hell are you talking about," Derek hisses once he has the door closed. He's looming up in Stiles's space, teeth bared and eyebrows set to murder, and hey, nostalgia.

"I'm talking about you being an even bigger idiot than me," Stiles snaps, gripping Derek's hips and shaking him a little. "I thought sex was the only option and figured when we kept doing it that, hey, this was just how pack rolls, and I shouldn't rock the gift horse in the boat or—whatever! I wanted to stab my own eyes out every time we hooked up because I thought the amazing sex and the pack-buddies friendship were all I was allowed. I thought I was being selfish to want more. So I kept as much distance as I reasonably could without fucking shit up so I wouldn't fuck shit up."

Derek's eyebrows are caught in some sort of tug-of-war between his hair and his nose as he tries to process Stiles's slightly hysterical rambling. His grip on Stiles's biceps has gone slack, and Stiles takes the opportunity to duck out from the small space between him and the door so he can release his pent-up energy via fruitless pacing. It's that or clock Derek one in the jaw.

"But Derek, you!" he raves, gripping his hair briefly before wagging a finger absently in Derek's direction. "What is your excuse? If you thought we were, I don't know, starting a relationship or boyfriends or lovers or something—why did you put up with me cutting-and-running right and left? Cause I felt pretty shitty about it, and I thought we were both just doing this for sex, but knew it was better than dripping unasked for feelings everywhere." He stutters to a stop and turns back to where Derek's still standing by the door. "But Jesus Christ, Derek, if you thought we were actually together, I've been a fucking asswipe." He shrugs expansively. "Why would you just accept that? Why didn't you kick my ass, or sit me down for a talk about, I don't know, respecting your feelings, or even, like, passively-aggressively hold out on sex in exchange for cuddles?"

Derek's face is a picture of stoicism. "So to summarize: you're pissed at me because you've been a jerk?"

"No," Stiles bellows and wrings his hands together in Derek's general direction. Maybe if he wishes hard enough he can Vader choke him. "I'm pissed at you for not having more self-respect. You deserve nice things."

And the eyebrows are back to defying gravity. Derek actually rocks back on his heels a bit in surprise before he folds his arms across his chest and ducks his head down. He mumbles something that Stiles doesn't quite catch.

"What?" he demands and stomps toward him until they're only an arm-length apart.

Derek huffs out a breath. "I said, I thought you weren't ready to be in a relationship."

Stiles just stares, fish mouthed, until Derek rolls his eyes and elaborates.

"That isn't a crack about your age. You were just being weird, and I thought there must be something holding you back—maybe commitment phobia but more likely emotional trauma or feeling strange about things with Lydia or, I don't know, because I'd be your first relationship with a guy."

"I am so pissed at you right now," Stiles chokes out. "First, Lydia and I are soul-anchoring bros. I mean, full disclosure, if she said tomorrow that she wanted me to be her sex slave, I would probably need a good thirty seconds of frantic what-if fantasizing before I turned her down. Second, you're not my first sex-adjacent encounter with a guy—I have had many respectable make-out sessions at the Jungle and various parties, one of which was broken up by my father to my ever-loving regret and shame. Third, you giant fucking hypocrite didn't therapy teach you anything? If you thought I might have trauma, why didn't you talk to me about it? Why didn't you talk to me about any of it?"

Derek glares. "I'm sorry, who's calling who a hypocrite?"

Stiles flails. "I'm not saying I didn't also fuck this up. I'll put it on a billboard if you want: I fucked up—on multiple levels. But I was operating under, I think, more legitimate false assumptions."

"Are you even listening to yourself," Derek demands, unfolding his arms in favor of fisting his hands at his sides and taking an aggressive step forward.

"Not even the point," Stiles deflects, taking his own step forward. "What were you even trying to do? Wait me out? Ease me into it? Hope I'd wake up one morning and realize, whoops, we're boyfriends and hey it doesn't suck, and we'd have a profound moment of silent understanding?"

Derek's face flushes right up to his ear tips, but he doesn't look away, just juts out his chin a bit more and says, "I'm not the one who assumed being part of a pack automatically meant orgies twenty-four-seven."

"Yes! You're right!" Stiles yells, gripping his hair again and waving his arms out to make the most sarcastic jazz hands of all time. "I assumed, and I made an ass out of u and me. I'll buy you a fucking motivational poster to commemorate it." And he leans in close. "Why aren't we making plans to bake shit and go to the farmer's market on lopsided double dates with Scotty and the gang?"

Derek bares his teeth, which are looking a little fangy at the moment, but instead of answering he ducks down and shoves his shoulder into Stiles's gut, hoisting him up over his shoulder and stomping back toward his bedroom.

Stiles grunts and retaliates by slapping Derek's ass, hard. "No, dammit, we're going to yell about this some more. Jumping straight into sex is what screwed all this up in the first place."

Derek tosses him on the bed and starts furiously stripping his clothes off his body. "You want to talk?" he demands as his belt gets caught in the loops of his jeans and refuses to budge even as he keeps yanking on it.

Stiles folds himself up in the middle of the comforter and glares, arms crossed. "Yes. But don't stop stripping—it's a hell of a view."

The belt slides free with a whip snap, and Derek flings it to the ground before wrestling with his fly. "How about this: I came back because I felt like I was finally in a place where I could form meaningful relationships and be a fully functioning member of a pack again. And then you showed up and I thought, yeah, this could be good, I want to try this with someone I know I can trust. But then it was weird—you were weird—and maybe I got a little too invested in trying to make it work anyway."

Now he's hopping awkwardly from one foot to the other while he tries to pull off the legs of his jeans without falling over. Stiles's frustration and anger are quickly flowing out of him as he watches Derek Angry Eyebrows Hale acting like a complete doofus as he furiously talks about his emotional growth and feelings. It might also be because it's finally catching up to him that it looks like he's going to get what he wants, what they apparently both want.

"Well I guess I can give you a pass on that," he drawls as he unfolds his legs and splays them out wide. He leans back on his hands and smirks. "Once you had a taste of this, you couldn't stand to go thirsty again."

Derek finally kicks his jeans off and pauses, naked, to stare at Stiles in incredulous disbelief, chest heaving as he pants in exertion and probably emotion.

"You're such a shit," he finally says as his eyebrows flatten into the a resigned line.

"And yet, you want to take long walks on the beach and go out for fondue with me," Stiles returns, smirking what he's been assured by multiple parties, usually in colorful language, is his most shit-eating, know-it-all grin.

Derek buries his face in his hands and moans out what sounds like a, "god help me, yes." Stiles just cackles and scoots to the edge of the bed so he can reach out and drag Derek closer by the hips.

"You are so going to regret this so hard," he says in as faux gentle a tone as he can muster, stroking up and down the outsides of Derek's thighs soothingly. "I am going to be all up in your business all the time, demanding Cafe Steak Burger and annoying you for attention while you're trying to read. I'm going to start leaving my shit everywhere, and I absolutely won't do my share of the chores unless you devise some sort of negative incentive system to keep me in line. When I go to college, I'm going to be the most clingy LDR you've ever conceived: texts every thirty minutes. You're going to look back on these days when it was all wham-bam with rose-colored glasses, big guy."

By now Derek's dropped his hands from his face and is just gazing down at Stiles with an amused tilt to his lips. "You know my track record with relationships, Stiles." He brings one hand up to palm the side of Stiles's face. "I think I can handle it."

Stiles grins, tips his head a bit to press into Derek's hand, and opens his mouth.

"Nope," Derek says, shifting his hand over the front of Stiles's face and pushing him back. Stiles lets himself flop back onto the bed, laughing slightly. Derek immediately crawls up onto the bed over him and hunkers down with his forearms bracketing Stiles's head. "No more yelling. No more sarcastic commentary. We're doing this. We're together. Everything else we'll figure out as it comes."

Stiles can't help the wide grin playing havoc with his face muscles. "You just want to jump straight to the make-up sex." At the same time, he's reaching down to work on his own belt and fly, so maybe there's a bit of a pot-kettle situation happening here. Apparently being raging hypocrites is their thing.

Derek smirks and doesn't disagree. But then, a moment later he's shifting back down Stiles's body to help remove his jeans, and he's making serious eyes at Stiles's dick through his boxers, so Stiles thinks he'll hold off on calling him out until much, much later.

Epilogue

"That's all the official pack business," Scott says, and sits down on the arm of the couch to signal he's shifting from Alpha Mode to Co-Pack-Member mode. "What's everyone doing this weekend?" he asks.

Allison leans her head against Scott's hip and shrugs. "It's the first weekend there isn't a graduation party going on. I was just going to crash."

Lydia's curled up against Stiles's chest, sitting across both his and Derek's laps, which puts her feet within poking distance of Allison's leg. She prods Allison a couple times without raising her head from where it's tucked under Stiles's chin. "We have a shopping date," she reminds her.

"I have a shopping date with Lydia," Allison recites dutifully, "and then I was planning on crashing."

"I'm down for crashing," Danny agrees. He and Isaac are occupying the two wing backs today, and both look just a bit wrecked. "We're absolutely sure that the brownies are one hundred percent gone this time?" They'd been on patrol this week and taken the brunt of not one but two resurgences the pack had had to put down.

"As sure as we can be about creatures that have evolved the ability to hide in plain sight," Derek mumbles, head tipped back against the couch.

"I have a proposal," Isaac says, and there's something about the studied innocence of his tone that has everyone looking at him warily.

"What kind of proposal," Derek says flatly.

"Well I was just thinking, if everyone's free this weekend," he starts, and suddenly the way he's reclining in the chair doesn't look so much like an exhausted slouch as an indolent lounge. Stiles thinks it's the artful arch of his eyebrow and the way he's begun casually stroking his fingers over his belly.

"Oh my god," Stiles groans, thunking his head back against the couch. "Is your proposal an indecent one, by any chance?"

Isaac shrugs, and it's fucking eloquent, the angelic bastard. "Stiles's misunderstanding just got me thinking. A lot." He grins, sharp and predatory.

Around the room, everyone's reacting in typical fashion. Lydia just snorts and pulls out her phone to check her email, snuggling in further to both Stiles and Derek. Derek, for his part, starts muttering something like "why did I ever think it was a good idea to bite him" under his breath. Danny is protesting about being in a monogamous relationship with someone who doesn't know about werewolves and barely understands/tolerates the amount of undue touching that happens within the pack as it is. Scott is quietly asking Allison if Isaac has ever talked to her about this, and does she think that maybe this means he isn't satisfied with just them anymore.

Stiles pitches his voice to carry over the hubbub. "Isaac, are you seriously suggesting we have some sort of group sex thing this weekend, or are you just being a trolling asshat?"

The question does as he'd hoped, and everyone quiets down to fix questioning gazes of varying intensity on Isaac. He sits up straighter in the chair, a little wide-eyed now that everyone's taking him seriously.

"Well?" Lydia drawls when Isaac doesn't immediately speak up.

"Um," he says and then kind of does a weird throat-clearing thing. "Yes?"

"To which part?" Danny fires back.

"Kind of both," he admits, cheeks going pink. None of the werewolves are calling bullshit, so Stiles figures he should just roll with it.

"So you weren't being super serious, but you do think it would be awesome if we all had a giant orgy?" he clarifies. Hooray explicit communication.

Isaac nods. "Allison, Scott, and I are together, but we've talked about our other 'if I were single' fantasies, and Stiles I've seen the way you and Derek are kind of almost you, Derek, and Lydia." Lydia tenses up in Stiles's arms, but doesn't pull away and doesn't disagree. Suddenly Stiles's heart is pounding wildly, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Derek slowly unfold his arms and place one hand on Lydia's knee and the other on Stiles's forearm where it's lying across Lydia's lap.

"And, Danny, I know you're about done with that guy. Your eye's been wandering—where it always does when you're between boyfriends." And here Isaac looks meaningfully at Scott and Stiles and then down at his own chest briefly.

Danny looks like he's thinking about denying it, but eventually he shrugs and relaxes back into his chair.

"I just thought I'd point out that most everyone here is either already having sex with each other, probably about to be, or has at least considered it." Isaac spreads his hands out tentatively. "It's our last hurrah before everyone splits for college in the fall. Why not explore all that hot sexual potential to the fullest?" And with that he sits back and places his hands on his knees like he doesn't know what else to do with them.

Stiles takes a deep breath and lets it shudder out of him. "Ohhhhh kayyyyyy," he says when it looks like everyone else is still too stunned to speak. "Let's not pull a me here and go assuming anything too quickly."

Scott nods decisively and scoops up Allison's hand into his own, squeezing tight. "Yeah. Let's talk this out." He takes a fortifying breath and squares his shoulders. "Who wants to go first?"