A/N: Stiles: like a BOSS.

Chapter Eleven

Stiles' Jeep is parked on a side road about two blocks away. He walks there, not as slowly as he would have feared. He's still exhausted, but if anything the exhaustion has lessened, blown away in a wash of adrenaline and the exhilaration of victory. He calls the hospital while he walks, to check on his father. The nurse informs him that he's doing much better, and at the moment is sleeping peacefully. He was awake earlier and asking for Stiles, but subsided easily when told that he was in school. The plainclothes officer on his door has made sure that he wasn't disturbed.

Stiles had been worried that putting a guard on his father's door might tip off the Argents, but Carmichael had insisted. Scott and Derek had been taking turns staying with him, and both of them were tired. Stiles knew that the Argents had to be itching to get back in and give him another dose. But it was a risk he had to take. He wouldn't let his father be dosed again. It was too dangerous.

He feels better after hanging up with the nurse, and drives back to his house. Given the givens, he's not at all surprised to find Derek, Scott, and Lydia all on his front porch. He parks the Jeep and walks up to the door. "Hey, uh, hey guys," he says.

The response he gets is not what he expected.

"What did you do?" Derek snarls, and then before Stiles can even think about moving, Derek lunges at him. He knocks them both back through the railing of the porch, breaking it, and it hurts. It hurts a lot, and it hurts more when they slam into the ground with Derek's weight pinning him there, but somehow it doesn't hurt as much as Stiles suspects it should. "What did you do?" Derek roars, his eyes gleaming bright silvery blue only a few inches away from Stiles, and blue, that's not right – Derek should be alpha now, they should be red –

Stiles doesn't have time to say anything before Derek's weight is knocked off of him and he hears the familiar sound of Scott growling. The two of them roll away in a heap before getting back to their feet, both of them wolfed out, and start circling each other. Scott springs forward and Stiles moves without thinking, pushing his way in between the two of them and shouting, "Stop it!"

Much to his surprise, both of them do. They skid to a halt and just stare at him.

It's Lydia who finally says something, and then it's just, "Stiles, you – you – "

Stiles turns to look at her and sees himself reflected in the windshield of his Jeep, sees the bright crimson shine in his eyes.

"What," he chokes out. He clears his throat and tries it again. "What."

Derek is staring at him, his features slowly reverting back to normal. When he speaks, his voice is very quiet. "What. Did you. Do."

Stiles knows that now would not be a time for lies even if he could get away with it. He faces Derek and meets his gaze. He owes him at least that much. "I killed Peter. I poisoned him with wolfsbane. They, the Argents, they had him in their basement. They were torturing him. I had to. I had to."

Derek can still only stare, and the expression on his face is clogged up with so many different, conflicting emotions, Stiles can't even guess how he's really feeling, if it's hatred or happiness, loathing or love.

Lydia clears her throat and says, "Maybe we should take this conversation inside."

They file in slowly and go into the kitchen. Derek stands with his hands clenched down on the back of one of the chairs. "How long have you known?" he asks, his voice stiff, an inch away from a snarl.

"Shit," Stiles says, pushing his hands back over his hair. "Time has all kind of blended together. A week, maybe two."

"You didn't tell me." It's not a question. Derek walks over and traps Stiles against the wall, both his hands gripping down on Stiles' upper arms.

Stiles takes a deep breath and tries to stop shaking. It's been a hell of a long day. "No, Derek, I didn't tell you. Because I didn't know what you would do, and I was – I was scared for you. I thought you might bust in and try to rescue him and get yourself killed. Or bust in and try to kill him and get yourself killed. The only way any of us was getting in there was if I kept gaining Gerard's trust, so that's what I did."

Scott and Lydia are standing on the opposite sides of the table, watching this discussion, which is almost an argument but without any shouting, go back and forth.

"You. Didn't. Tell me."

"No," Stiles says, and lets it sit, just holding Derek's gaze, his face only a few inches away. "I didn't."

When the silence has drawn on a moment too long, Scott says, "But, how are you . . . I mean, he didn't . . ."

Stiles shakes his head. "He didn't turn me. Hell, he never even touched me. I can't even begin to explain why . . ." He almost can't force the words out, and when he does, they come out with his voice rising at the end, like it's a question. "I'm the alpha?"

Derek lets out a low growl.

"Well," Lydia says, her tone somewhat reluctant, as if she doesn't want to get involved and give an opinion, "this may have never happened before. I mean, alpha werewolves are pretty hard to kill. It would be rare that a human would be able to kill one. And when they do, it's probably always a hunter. A hunter wouldn't be part of a pack."

Scott frowns at this, putting it all together. "So a human can become the alpha of a pack, as long as they're part of the pack when they kill the alpha?"

"That's what the evidence would suggest," Lydia says.

"I'm sorry," Stiles says. The words come out in a rush. "But Derek, what you, you have to understand is that the uncle you loved, the uncle you cared about, he died in that fire. Because when I asked Peter if he had anything he wanted to say, he didn't take that opportunity to beg for his life or tell me to tell you he was sorry he had killed Laura or anything like that. He told me about how Gerard had run my father down and then laughed about it afterwards. With his last breath, he was still trying to get revenge on them. The Peter I killed wasn't the man you remember as your uncle, Derek, and he was never going to be that man again.

"I didn't do this because of what Peter did to me," he continues. "That's what you have to understand. I did it because . . . shit, Derek, because he was never going to stop. Because we were crippled without an alpha and none of us would have ever accepted him. I did it to stop him, I did it to save him, I did it for the pack, for all of us. And if you hate me for that, okay, I'll deal with that, but you have to at least understand why I killed him."

Derek says nothing for a long minute. Then he just leans forward, still keeping Stiles pinned, his forehead resting against the wall over Stiles' shoulder. Stiles wraps his arms around him and hugs him tightly. "Derek, I'm sorry," he says. "I am so damn sorry."

They stand like that for several minutes. Finally, Derek lets out a shuddery breath and pulls away. The others pretend they don't notice when he wipes his eyes with the corner of his sleeve before thudding into a chair.

"So what happened with the Argents?" Lydia finally asks.

Stiles gives her a thumbs up as the group of them sit down around the kitchen table. "All according to plan. Gerard's arrested and pissed as hell. Carmichael is taking him to lock-up a couple towns over – he wouldn't even tell me where. He says he wants to make sure there's no interference. Occasionally he can do something right, I guess."

"Was Allison okay?" Scott asks, even though Allison was never in any danger, because he's Scott.

"Yeah, she's fine," Stiles says.

"So . . . you're the alpha now," Scott says, as if he wants to be clear on this.

"I guess," Stiles says, with a shrug.

Lydia and Scott glance at each other. Then, in unison, they both nod a little. "Okay," Scott says.

"Okay?" Derek snaps. "He's not even a wolf. You wouldn't accept me as your alpha, but you'll accept him?"

Stiles flinches away a little, involuntarily. Scott just holds Derek's gaze and says, "Yeah, Derek, I will. Because I trust Stiles. I've known him since I was a little kid. I know that he'll always do what's best for the pack."

Derek pushes both hands through his hair. "That's really touching and all, but we can't have a human as an alpha."

It looks like Scott might take exception to this remark, but then Lydia reaches over and touches Derek's wrist. "But he's not just any human," she says. "He's Stiles."

Derek blinks at her for a minute, then looks at Stiles, almost like he's seeing him for the first time that evening. Then he just lets out a little sigh.

"I'm sorry," Stiles says. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't mean to steal something that was supposed to be yours. I had no idea it would happen this way. But . . . if we're going to be a pack, if we're going to make this work, I have to know . . . will you accept me as your alpha?"

Derek looks at him for a long minute. He doesn't glare, or snarl, or curl his lip. He just looks at him. Then he nods and says, "Yes."

Everything snaps into place then, and Stiles understands all in a rush what Derek had meant about how being in a pack, having an alpha, made them stronger. He can feel so much more than he could before. It dwarfs even the change of having become the alpha in the first place. He can feel Scott, warm and solid to his left, and Lydia, cool and clear like a spring night, even Allison, a faint hum of music. And Derek. A core of metal and earth, a rock he'll always be able to lean his back against.

From the looks on their faces, they're all affected the same way. Stiles lets out a shaky breath. "Okay," he says. "Okay, yeah, this . . . this is good, this is going to work." He laughs, a noise approaching hysteria. "Who wants cookies? Because I could really go for some gingersnaps right now . . ."

And then they're all laughing, even Derek.

"What if we want to add to the pack?" Lydia says, when the moment of hilarity has passed.

"Uh . . ." Stiles shrugs. "Derek can do it. He'll be, like, my right hand man. You know. In charge of the wolfy stuff."

Scott gives Derek a somewhat uneasy look, and then says, "What, like, co-captains?"

Stiles lets out an involuntary snort of laughter, even though it's not really funny. Because this isn't Scott making a joke. This is Scott testing the boundaries, pushing his luck, making sure that he's safe.

Derek gives Scott a look and just says, "Seriously?"

Now Scott laughs, too. There's a note of hysteria in it, a note of 'I can handle Derek being in charge of me if he doesn't take offense at everything I say', a note of 'everything's finally going to be okay'. Before long they're all laughing again.

Finally, Stiles wobbles to his feet. "I'm going to go to the hospital, then."

"What! No," Scott says. "You're going to stay here and sleep. You haven't slept in like three days and you look like a piece of crap."

"Dog crap," Lydia adds helpfully.

"Hey, uh, no, I'm going to go see my dad," Stiles says.

Derek folds his arms over his chest and says, "No. No, you are not."

Stiles scowls. "I thought I was the alpha now."

"Yes," Derek says. "You are the alpha who is going to stay here and sleep."

Stiles groans and slumps over the table. "You guys are bossy jerks," he says, but stops arguing. Derek has to carry him up the stairs, he's so tired. Lydia strips him out of his jeans and shirt while he mumbles about the joy of being undressed by her. He's almost asleep by the time there are three wolves on his bed with him, and he rolls over and leans his face into someone's fur, not knowing who it is, not even caring.

Derek doesn't say anything about it, but Stiles is learning to read him, so he calls Chris Argent on the phone the next day and says that Derek would like the body of his uncle returned to him so it can be buried on the Hale family property. Chris agrees to this, somewhat warily, and Stiles tells him to meet them at the house at four o'clock that afternoon. He still has school, after all. He visits his father that morning, but he's sleeping, and Stiles doesn't want to wake him.

He sets the stage carefully for this meeting, because he wants to make an impression. So when Chris Argent walks into the Hale house, he's almost immediately surrounded. Stiles is standing just to the left of the staircase, with his hand on the banister. Scott and Allison are sitting on the third step, holding hands, their legs touching. Derek is to the right, crouched in the corner just by the door, as dark and formidable as always, and Lydia is on Stiles' other side, leaning against the door frame to the next room. There's nowhere for Chris to go except right back out the way he came.

But he waves his men inside, two lackeys carrying an actual body bag. They lay it down just in front of Chris, being careful with it, almost gentle. Stiles is the one who kneels down beside it and unzips it a few inches, to make sure Peter's body is actually inside. He gives Derek a brief nod, and sees some of the tension in the older man's shoulders ease away. Stiles zips the bag up, gestures to the two men without looking up, and says flatly, "Get out."

The two of them give Chris an uneasy look, but he nods at them, so they back out of the house and shut the door behind them. Then Stiles rises to his feet and turns to look at Chris, his eyes flaring crimson. Chris actually takes a step back, though more from surprise than fear. Stiles holds out a hand and says, "Stiles Stilinski. I'll be your alpha this evening."

Chris clears his throat. "You . . ."

"I killed Peter Hale," Stiles says, "and this is my pack. We've got a few things we need to get straight."

Recovering from his shock, Chris gives him a nod. "Okay."

"I've got video of you at the crime scene where the omega was killed," Stiles says. "So far, Gerard is taking the fall for pretty much everything, but that's not the way it has to be. So. Let's be clear. There will be no more hunting of werewolves on my territory. No more traps, no more arrows, no more anything. My territory is this county. That ought to keep you out of my father's hair, too, since as you may or may not recall, he's the county sheriff. Is that clear?"

Chris nods again. "Yes."

"If you want to hunt werewolves outside this county, that's your business and their problem."


"If you have reason to suspect a werewolf – or any supernatural creature – is up to mischief inside my territory, you'll bring it directly to me. If it's someone outside my pack, I'll give you permission to hunt them down. If it's someone inside my pack, I'll deal with it myself."

Chris folds his arms over his chest. "What if I don't like the way you deal with it?"

Stiles gives him a smile that shows teeth. "Suck it."

Chris says nothing.

"Frankly I'd be happier if you just left my county altogether, but I don't want to have to listen to Scott bitch about how skype sex just doesn't measure up to the real thing," Stiles continues. Chris gives the couple on the stairs a sharp look. Allison innocently studies the ceiling. "And on that note, this whole thing with Scott and Allison? Yeah, that's not going away. Deal with it. They're going to keep seeing each other, and you'll just have to live with it. And even if they don't wind up living happily ever after, Allison is still a member of my pack, and that's not going to change. Is all that clear, too?"

Chris has to agree through gritted teeth.

"Okay. One more thing to remember. I know that what you're thinking right now is that I don't have enough evidence to get you convicted, or maybe even charged. You're probably right. Oh, I could probably get you on accessory to murder in the omega's case, but there's no evidence that you were involved in anything that happened with my father. And I don't think you were, obviously, or we'd be having an extremely different discussion. However, you might want to remember that your career is selling guns – mainly to law enforcement. If they get even the smallest whiff that you might have helped try to kill a cop, then you'll be blacklisted before you can take the fifth. I can't destroy you the way I did Gerard, but I can ruin you if you don't play by my rules. Got it?"

Chris nods. "I understand."

"Good. Now get off my territory. And never come here again. This is private fucking property. If you ever set foot on it again, I'll have you arrested for trespassing."

Chris gives a final nod, then turns and leaves the house.

The pack sits in silence for a few minutes, listening to the Argents get into their car and drive away. Stiles lets out a sigh of relief, glad that it's over with.

Derek rises from his crouch and walks over to his uncle's body. He pulls the bag's zipper down and studies the face underneath. It's a little gray, now, but the muscles have relaxed, the wrinkles smoothed out. For better or for worse, Peter Hale is at peace.

Stiles brought enough shovels for everybody. They let Derek break ground, but then they all help. He snarls a little, but doesn't actively try to stop them. They take turns, even Lydia, until the grave is deep enough. Then they take turns tossing soil over Peter's body.

Finally, it's done. Derek stands at the head of the grave, not saying anything, just staring at it, one knuckle pressed against his lips as though he's afraid of what he might say. Stiles stands with him. He doesn't say anything either. Finally, he leans against Derek, pressing his cheek into Derek's shoulder.

"You did the right thing, you know," Derek says.

"Mm?" Stiles replies.

"Killing him. It was the right thing to do."

Stiles glances up at him. "Does that mean you're okay with it?"

Derek lets out a sigh. "That might take a little longer," he says, but he wraps an arm around Stile's shoulders and pulls him closer.

The sun is setting and it's getting chilly. Finally, Stiles says, "One more stop to make today."

Derek lets him go. "I'll see you in a few hours."

When Stiles gets to his father's hospital room, Sheriff Stilinski is sitting up in bed, awake, eating a bowl of oatmeal, and talking to Melissa McCall. Stiles takes one look at him and finally breaks down completely. He's not even ashamed of it after everything that's happened. He sits down next to his father's bed, buries his face in his lap, and just sobs. His father rubs his back and smoothes his hair until he's cried himself out.

"You don't look so good," Stilinski says, when Stiles finally sits up and begins sipping from a cup of water.

"It's just . . . kind of been a rough week," Stiles says.

His father nods and frowns. "Melissa told me that I've been in and out for a couple weeks, but it's all pretty blurry. She said to ask you what's been going on, because you know more about it than me."

"Yeah." Stiles hiccups a little. "What's the last thing you remember?"

As it turns out, his father has no memory of seeing the omega killed, or being chased down by Gerard Argent. He frowns when he hears this story, mutters something about being a damn fool for not calling for backup. Stiles doesn't argue, because he privately agrees. There are obvious reasons why his father didn't call his men for backup, but he wishes that he had called Derek. He can see why he didn't, having watched Gerard cut a werewolf in half, but still.

Stiles even shows him the video in an effort to jog his memory, but there's nothing. From what Stiles knows of brain injuries – which is a lot, by now – he's pretty sure those memories are never coming back. And to be honest, he's okay with that. It must have been a pretty terrible experience, all things considered.

His father is alert and curious, so Stiles tells him everything. He starts with the sessions with Gerard and finding Peter in his basement, then the phone. He tells his father about how he put the pieces together. How Allison snuck into Gerard's room while he was showering and took a picture of his credit card so Stiles could track the financial information with Danny's help. How he put together the fact that his father was being poisoned with wolfsbane because he had accidentally poisoned himself with it while repotting it. How they had set up the camera in his room and all taken turns sitting with the feed in the bathroom until Scott had caught the lackey red-handed, and then flushed the toilet and left the bathroom, saying, "Oh, sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here right now." The henchman had slunk away, but not before they got his face on film.

"Huh," Stilinski says at the end of it. "That is some damned fine detective work there."

Stiles blushes and rubs his hand over the back of his head, embarrassed. He hurries on to explain how Allison let him into the house so he could confront Gerard and get his reaction on tape – carefully stopping the recording before anyone talked about who had killed Peter. Not that he's told his father who killed Peter yet. He wants to be honest, full and completely, but the idea of telling his father that makes his stomach squirm. He's not sure he can, but the moment of truth is fast approaching.

"So . . . Gerard Argent is being held for murder of the omega . . ."

"Whose identity is still unknown and whose body still has not been found," Stiles says with a nod, "but they'll find it soon, I bet, because Chris Argent probably knows where they buried it."

"And attempted murder in my case, and . . . aggravated assault for the poisoning, probably?"

"No, actually, because he never came in here and did it himself," Stiles says. "Their minion is getting charged with that one. Gerard got . . . conspiracy to commit a felony, or something like that." Stiles rubs a hand over the back of his head. He must be more tired than he had realized. "Shit, normally I would know this. Carmichael could give you more details, I guess."

"I'm glad he didn't give you too hard a time," Stilinski says.

"Well, once I had that video you took, he couldn't really shut me down," Stiles says, "and Mrs. McCall backed me up on the fact that you were being poisoned. Still, I spent half the damned day in his office answering questions."

"Were the Argents charged with anything in regards to Peter Hale?" his father asks.

Stiles chews on his fingernail, his feet tapping away at the floor. "Uh, no. Because Carmichael doesn't know anything about what they were doing to Peter Hale."

Stilinski raises his eyebrows at his son. "You just forgot to mention the fact that they had a man captive in their basement?"

"Dad, I – I need to tell you what happened to Peter, but I, I need you to promise me something," Stiles says in a rush. "Promise me that you won't hate me."

A frown crosses his father's face, but he sees that Stiles is serious. He lets out a little sigh and reaches out, giving Stiles' hand a squeeze. "Stiles, I could never hate you," he said. "This isn't to say that I don't sometimes find you infuriating. But you're my son, and I love you, and I will always love you no matter what. Never doubt that. Okay?"

Stiles nods and swallows the lump in his throat. He could look Peter in the eye before killing him; he could look Derek in the eye when he told him. But his gaze is trained on his shoes as he says to his father, "I killed Peter. I poisoned him with wolfsbane." He hears his father suck in a breath, and won't look up. "Without an alpha, the pack was always going to be weak. To be vulnerable to hunters, or any other werewolf pack that wanted the territory. And Peter had to be dealt with. Someone had to do it, and I was the only one who could get to him." His eyes are stinging now, and he wipes the tears away. "I couldn't let him get free, because he would have hurt people I care about. So I did what I had to do."

Stilinski slowly lets out a breath. "That . . . that is one hell of a thing you did, son."

Stiles nods again. "I know."

Stilinski rubs his hands over his face. "I won't say 'there must have been another way', because I know you, and I know that you worked through all the options. I know that Peter was crazy and that because he was an alpha, the normal law enforcement system couldn't have handled him. And I don't think it would have been better for you to put his death at someone else's door, not even Derek's." He reaches out and grips Stiles' forearm tightly. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I . . ." Stiles draws in a shaky breath. "I think I am. Because . . . Peter knew what I was doing. And he didn't tell me to stop. Didn't try to fight me. He . . . wanted it. In his own way. He needed it to be over as much as any of us did. And that's why I can deal with this. Because he didn't try to stop me."

Stilinski hooks an arm around his son's shoulders and draws him into another hug. Stiles relaxes into it.

"Oh, and uh . . . I guess I'm the alpha now." Stiles gives his father an almost sheepish smile. "Don't even ask me how that happened, nobody's really sure."

Stilinski frowns. "You're not a wolf."

"Nope. But I seem to have gotten some of the perks. They don't seem so much physical, the way Scott's were, but . . . things are clearer now. I got some of the heightened senses. And I can feel the others, like, internally . . . I would know if one of them were hurt or scared, and I can tell when one of them is getting close by. It's like . . . some kind of psychic link, I guess."

"Damn, son," Stilinski says with a sigh. "I didn't think things could get weirder."

"I know, right?" Stiles can't help but laugh. "But I think it's going to be okay, Dad. I, I really do. Things have been so awful and fucked up, but . . . they're getting better." He lets out a breath. "Finally, they're getting better."

"Okay," his father says. "And for the record, Stiles . . . you'll make a good cop someday. And a great alpha."

Stiles swallows and smiles. "Thanks, Dad."

Derek, as it turns out, studied art and architecture in school for the year that he actually went to college. He's apparently also a decent hand at carpentry, and helps them get the front steps of the Stilinski porch converted to a wheelchair ramp. He also fixes the railing that he broke, without being asked.

Sheriff Stilinski really doesn't want to use the wheelchair ramp, and Stiles has to remind him no less than four times that he still has quite a bit of rehab to go through before he's going to be walking around with any confidence. His gait is still somewhat unsteady, and his motor coordination has suffered some. His arm is in a sling to protect his fractured shoulder blade, and his ankle is still casted. The physical therapists are confident that he'll make a full recovery, but it's going to take time.

It's probably a good thing that he's not standing, since he almost definitely would fall over when he's greeted by the 'welcome home' banner and the crowd of people waiting to greet him. It's not a pack party, because Deputy Carmichael is there along with a bunch of other police officers, as well as Melissa McCall and some of their other neighbors.

There's plenty of food, although Derek can't be trusted with the grill because his idea of a cooked steak is 'lightly seared on both sides', so Stiles is in charge, though he makes sure to leave some extra rare for the wolves present. He also has to fend Scott off from his plate at least three times. He's starving; it feels like he's barely eaten in weeks.

So there's steaks and rolls and a veggie tray which Stilinski refuses to even look at, and Stiles reminds him not to eat too much red meat and then gives him a gigantic steak anyway. What the hell, they're celebrating. There's cake, of course, which says 'Welcome Home' on it. Stiles had the bakery at the grocery store do that. He can bake cookies, but he doesn't really know which end of a pastry bag is which. His father's not allowed to have alcohol yet so Stiles asked everyone to put up with it being alcohol free, and instead serves iced tea and lemonade.

Scott and Allison spend most of the party making out, and everyone's surprised when Chris Argent makes a brief appearance. He pulls Sheriff Stilinski aside and talks to him quietly for a few minutes before departing. "What was that about?" Stiles asks.

"He wanted to give me his assurance that the law has his full cooperation in the case against his father," Stilinski says.

Stiles grins. "Wonder what brought that on."

"I wonder," Stilinski says, rolling his eyes. But Stiles thinks that maybe, just maybe, Chris is just as relieved as the rest of them to be seeing his father behind bars. Gerard Argent has been denied bail, both because he committed crimes against an officer of the law and because he's been judged a flight risk. The case will be expedited, because he has good lawyers. Stiles talked to the prosecutor briefly about the fact that he will need to testify, since he's the one who found his father's phone in the Argent's basement, and the one who found the car. Stiles is almost looking forward to it.

But other things are going on, and it's not a huge weight on his mind. School is getting busy again. Harris seemed to think that Gerard's fall from grace meant he could go back to abusing Stiles in chemistry class. Stiles spent an entire period just grinning at him from his seat, no matter what Harris said. It unnerved the man so badly that from then on, he hasn't looked at Stiles once.

He's out of lacrosse indefinitely, because he'll need to be home to take care of his father and make sure he gets to all his physical therapy appointments for the next few months, by which point lacrosse season will be over. But he goes to the games to see Scott play and cheer him on, and in fact spent the last one with Lydia sitting in his lap, causing Jackson to miss three different goals.

Jackson has been informed by Stiles that he's not going to be a member of their pack, ever. Jackson got up in his face and again threatened to go public. Stiles just laughed at him and said, "Yeah, go tell everyone that the werewolf club is denying you entry. Have a jolly good time with that. Tell the men in white coats that I said hi."

Since then, Jackson has been a little less insufferable than usual, although only a little. He seems to be sulking.

Danny was rewarded for his help with Gerard's financials by a video of Derek getting up in the morning, forgetting all about the fact that he's naked, and wandering around with a coffee cup in one hand for a full ten minutes before it occurs to him that he's standing on the Stilinski's front porch and he might want to put some clothes on.

All in all, everything's working out, and if Stiles still has nightmares, well, he's not the only one in the pack who does.

The party winds down after a few hours, and it's getting late. The pack helps Stiles get everything cleaned up, all the trash picked up and the food put away. Then Stiles helps his father up the stairs. He's a little wobbly and clearly tired, but on his feet. He's steady enough to shower without help, and get into his pajamas. Stiles insists on tucking him in.

"You're going to be a pain in my ass about this invalid thing, aren't you," Stilinski grumbles.

"Oh, yeah," Stiles says, grinning. "Big time."

His father gives him a flinty glare, and Stiles loves every second of it.

The group of them settle downstairs to watch a movie. It's a school night, but nobody cares. Scott has already told his mother he'll be sleeping at Stiles' house that night. Since he seems to do more homework on the nights when he is at Stiles' versus when he isn't, she doesn't argue. Allison just does what she wants now, despite her mother's voluble protests, and Lydia's parents don't seem to have any idea where she is on any given night or that she hasn't slept in her own bed in weeks.

They adjourn upstairs at the end of the movie, and Stiles revels in the fact that it is a normal night with a normal routine. He packs a lunch to take to school for everyone, then showers and brushes his teeth and thinks about the fact that he'll need a haircut soon.

The others are all in bed by the time he gets there, but Derek is still in his human form, reading one of Stiles' comic books. They've left him his usual space, between Derek's reassuring, solid bulk and the tangle of limbs that is AlliScott. Lydia is in wolf form, curled up by Derek's feet, but when Stiles climbs into bed she stretches out, using his thigh as a pillow.

Derek starts to get up, knowing that if he shifts while in bed, he'll just mess up the blankets, but Stiles grabs him by the wrist and drags him back down. "It's okay like this," he says, not even knowing where that came from, but knowing that it's true. Derek subsides, slumping back down into the pillows, and Stiles nestles down into the covers.

It's dark and quiet, which would have bothered him two weeks ago, but he's used to it now. It's a different kind of dark and quiet from the trunk of the car, a warm and reassuring kind. Everyone else is asleep, so he takes the moment to say, "Hey . . . I really am sorry. About the alpha thing."

Derek is silent for a minute. Then he just says, "You couldn't have anticipated it."

"I know," Stiles says. "But I'm still sorry."

"It's okay." Derek looks over at him, his eyes just barely visible in the dark, that faint sheen of blue-silver that's always there. "I wouldn't have expected it to be okay, but it is. Because Lydia was right. You're not just any human. You're Stiles."

"So everyone keeps telling me," Stiles says, but there's a note of humor in his voice. He's thinking back to what Derek had said in the hospital, thinking he was asleep, about how he considered Stiles his equal. He's still not sure how any of this is going to work, how he and Derek are going to share responsibilities and make the pack theirs, not just his. But what he is sure of is that it will work. They'll work it out. It's a good feeling, a comforting certainty against the dark.

"You were right, though," Derek says. "I never expected I would be an alpha. I had older siblings, even older cousins, who would have been due for the position before me. Not only that, but one of them was Laura." He's quiet for a minute. "And Laura was just . . . amazing at everything she did."

Stiles reaches out to him, putting his cheek against Derek's shoulder, wrapping an arm around his waist. He wishes that there was something more he could do, some sort of comfort he could offer that would actually help. "Tell me about her?"

Derek doesn't say anything for so long that Stiles starts to worry he's upset him. But then he starts to talk. He talks about how Laura liked to climb trees, how she helped their father hang a tire swing for Derek when he was a little kid. How she encouraged him to go to school and study art even when other people made fun of him. How she held him at night, during those long, awful nights after the fire, how she was the only thing in his life he would have considered stable. How she had departed with the words, "I dunno, I just feel like something weird is going on. I'm gonna go check it out. See you in a few days."

It's difficult for him at first, but the words flow more easily, the more he talks about her, and Stiles gets a picture in his head of what an incredible person Laura was, and how devastating the loss had been. When Derek finally stops talking, Stiles says, "I'm really sorry, Derek."

"I know," Derek says. "Thanks. For . . . letting me talk about her."

"Any time," Stiles says.

He sees Derek smile just a little. "And that's why you'll make a better alpha than I would have. I'm okay at giving orders, but . . . not so good at taking care of people. And that's a big part of what the alpha does. Takes care of his pack."

"Yeah, I'm a natural at that," Stiles says, thinking back to all the time he's pestered his father to watch his cholesterol, to the times he's harangued Scott into doing his homework, to the times when he's sent flowers or little cards to Lydia when it was obvious that Jackson was being a jerk to her, just to see her smile. "That's okay too, you know. Sometimes you just need to let someone take care of you. Even you need that."

He expects Derek to scowl or snarl at this, but instead Derek just turns into him a little, nuzzling his face into Stiles' neck. "Maybe," he allows.

It's a win, and Stiles accepts it for what it is. He thinks of some different things to say, some of them clever, some of them sappy, as he lies there and enjoys being surrounded by his family, by his pack. Lydia's head is still resting on his thigh, and Scott has flung his arm out in his sleep so it's flopped against Stiles' stomach, and he can feel Derek's breath on his throat, which should be unnerving but isn't. He thinks of a lot of different things to say, but then he realizes that Derek has fallen asleep, and before long so he has he.


A/N: Thanks for reading, everyone! I've really loved writing this fic. I feel like there's so much more I can do with this AU I've created - it'd be fun to watch them bring the others into the pack, and then the alpha pack shows up and goes "what, a human alpha, how does that even *work*?" So more may follow in this series if I survive the Christmas chaos season. =D