If riding on a motorcycle behind his sentinel counts as any sort of hint, Stiles is going to hate the next five unavoidably celibate months of his life.
Their final stop is what used to be Beacon Hills’ rather limited industrial district. The area had been sold to the Hale Pride when the trucking company that operated it had collapsed. Rather than allow the buildings to rot and become the natural habitat of illicit college parties for the local branch of the University of California (Go, Werewolves!), the Pride had repurposed the old warehouses into a pod of sentinel-friendly apartments.
Asphalt deconstruction had officially become a popular pastime for the young unbonded sentinels of Beacon Hills County and, man, did they get creative.
Derek actually has an apartment on the grounds but they aren’t supposed to enter into such ‘an intimate setting’ without a chaperone. Since they lost theirs when they left his dad’s house, they head directly to the dorm building they have been assigned. The inside of the building Derek leads him into looks like something out of a reality television show only much cleaner, and done all in tasteful earth tones.
As soon as the door falls shut behind them and Stiles takes the duffle he’s been wearing as a backpack off, a blond-haired, blue-eyed version of Scott bounds over to them.
“Welcome to the No Sex Dorms!”
Like he needs a reminder. Stiles doesn’t even try to stop his eye roll.
“I am Erik Sigurd, one of your Resident Assistants.” And he looks like he should be going through a wardrobe to Narnia with a bunch of siblings. Stiles hates him already. Maybe. Ok he doesn’t hate the guy just his job but emotional transfer is a thing. It may be a personality flaw but Stiles is prepared to accept without shame. Everyone needs a coping mechanism.
“There are four of unbonded sentinels that cover this building so that one of us will be here to monitor you and your roommates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. James handles the grocery shopping, Victor launders the linens, Rob is in charge of the kitchen and I handle the bathrooms, so don’t be afraid to let us know when you need something or if something needs to be corrected around the dorm.”
King Peter the Magnificent proceeds to give them a tour. Kitchen on the left side of the entrance with the dining area on the right. The bathroom takes the entire back end of the building. The toilets and showers are in stalls. Stiles officially lives in a place with fucking stalls.
Stiles drops his bag in the room Derek picks, and digs out his laptop and phone. His town is in fucking shambles and not nearly enough of the Pride is doing anything about it.
He spends the next 20 minutes on the phone with the Center being left on hold and transferred around before Derek takes his phone, hangs it up, dials a new number and hands it back to Stiles still ringing.
A woman picks up and she sounds all prim and proper. Like she hasn’t even been working at all. Like she’s been sitting at a desk doing her nails all day. Like she hasn’t even looked outside.
Stiles is instantly furious. “Why aren’t we doing anything?”
“Sir, the Center is very busy at this time. I don’t know how you got this number or who you think you are-”
“Stiles. This is Stiles Stilinski.” Stiles might be a little too smug about the horrified quality to the silence emanating from the other end of the line.
“Oh, I-. We-. I-. Your instructions, Alpha?”
“Send me information on what resources we have so that I can come up with a plan. My betas will bring them in and we’ll all carry them out.”
“And who are your betas, sir?”
Stiles glances at Derek. His sentinel just gives him an eyebrow flick/shoulder shrug combo that he decides to interpret as Derek letting him know it’s his choice. ” Sheppard-Rabb for now but I want to meet with Blake-Asan as well.”
Derek turns away, pulling out his own cell phone. Probably to call his cousin.
“I would be happy to arrange that meeting for you, sir. When are you available?”
Stiles gets to spend the rest of his evening poring over information with Dave Sheppard and his sentinel, Harmon Rabb. The betas improve, legalize and systematically initiate every single one of his ideas.
Is this what it’s like to have minions?
Derek chokes on his dinner. Stiles is fairly sure it’s because he caught Stiles’s mental image of the older men painted yellow and wearing nothing but goggles and blue jean overalls. Derek gives him a mildly constipated look that Stiles chooses to interpret as Derek being in awe of his guide’s brilliance.
“Wait, what is it? What is that?”
“It’s an empathic containment circle.” Derek drops the carpet and stands facing Stiles. “Empathic output can’t leave or enter the circle but a properly shielded transmitter – a guide or a sentinel – can.”
“What is the point of that?”
“It allows unbondeds to drop their shields and relax. It will allow us to casually share mental space to help facilitate bonding later on.” Stiles gets a mental image of two big cats rubbing their sides and sleeping together so their scents and hair cling to each other. He’s pretty sure it’s coming from Derek. On purpose, even! It makes him grin a bit.
It sounds cool. Interesting, except – “I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”
Derek just nods, “Fair enough,” and climbs into the bed.
Climbing into bed with Derek is surprisingly hard. His sentinel has already proven himself to be intelligent, flexible, protective, loyal and hard working. Bonus! The man is so gorgeous it should be illegal. But making the choice on his own right now with no emergency, no distress, and no need driving Stiles like whip is really intimidating.
Derek just sits back up and holds his hand out for Stiles. When Stiles takes his hand, Derek pulls his guide to bed, slowly so the smaller man can object or make changes if he wants to. He doesn’t. Derek tucks Stiles’s back against his chest and curls them together on their sides.
Derek’s gut unclenches when Stiles relaxes.
Stiles can do this. Stiles has done this. Stiles is actually really, really down with doing this. Derek’s body is warm and solid against his. It’s not really a brotherly experience but Derek keeps a tasteful gap that only allows them to touch above mid-chest and below mid-thigh.
Dad will never believe he didn’t just jump into bed, into sex, into bonding and just everything with Derek.
Stiles didn’t. He really didn’t.
Even if you ignore the weeks of text conversations and the three shared meals he didn’t- wait, were those-? “Those were dates, weren’t they?”
Stiles can feel Derek’s tired amusement. “What?”
“The bowling with Scott and Allison, the movie with Lydia and Jackson and your sister’s birthday dinner? Those were dates?”
Laughter. The fucker. “Yes, those were dates.”
Well, okay then. Something inside Stiles unclenches and he allows his shields to relax. He can feel Derek’s mind on the edge of his own, a warm hulking source of support and comfort. Not all that different from Derek’s physical body, really. Stiles doesn’t reach out to him like he knows he could. This isn’t the time. Baby steps, Stiles, baby steps.
Derek’s arm snakes up Stiles’s chest to settle over his heart.
It’s all okay. Quite comfortable, actually.
Derek seriously has the strangest fucking dreams. Seriously.
All Stiles can remember is firelight, golden walls and Egyptian hieroglyphs. It’s cold but it’s not a physical cold?
Stiles shakes his head to clear it as he moseys down the stairs to the kitchen.
Sirius Black (his name is Rob, actually, but Stiles is trying very, very hard not to care) is passed out and drooling on Stiles’s favorite chair as of the night before. He has three limbs scraping the ground, the fourth one sticking up in the air like an antennae, and his neck is at an angle Stiles is pretty sure belongs only in a horror movie. Stiles generously allows him to carry on.
Scott and Kira are in the kitchen with an older bonded pair that Stiles doesn’t recognize. Hopefully the strangers are making breakfast because Stiles knows better than to expect something actually edible to happen if Scott is running the kitchen.
Derek is sitting at the bar with Emma, working his own sentinel way into full not!happy! mode.
“No one is letting me wander alone, Der. Why do you think Olivia and Paula are here? At least my babysitters are family,” she jerks her head toward Sirius. “And awake.”
Derek huffs and focuses on the woman closest to him. She looks like him but not. They have the same hair and eyes. Definitely related. “How’s John?”
Olivia grins. “Not even going to pretend, are you? We all know John is your favorite.”
Stiles’s sentinel just shrugs, gives a little grin and says, “He’s a wolf.” like that explains everything. In some ways it does. Derek’s mom was a wolf and his guide is a wolf; he’s genetically predisposed to love them.
“He’s on some super-top-secret mission that everyone knows about but no one will discuss. Something happened though,” Olivia Sheppard makes eye contact with Stiles over Derek’s shoulder. “Blair wanted me to let you know that he, Ellison, and my dads will be in DC for the next day or two. They snuck off last night, trying to fly under the radar. They will definitely back for the funerals.”
Emma gives an angry sigh. “With half of Capitol Hill, no doubt.”
And isn’t that an awkward subject? “How is,” Stiles swallows. “All of that coming?”
Emma Hale fucking growls. “It’s not. Every time I make progress on the plans I get a call from a senator or a governor or a cabinet member with suggestions or expectations. This one wants a funeral for each bonded pair, which is ridiculous, would take days and leave out the mundanes that died. – Even if you’re just looking at the Hales! That one wants a big, publicized, televised affair like some sort of royal wedding. This one wants a private, invitation only, high security affair.
“You know what mom and dad wanted?” Emma is epically angry, at this point she’s shouting the words. There may be spit. “A barbeque! They wanted to be cremated and buried with their memorial tree. Then they wanted their friends and family to get together, crank up the grill, tell funny stories about them and get smashed. That’s it. That’s all! And these politicians want to make my parents’ death a spectacle.” Spectacle comes out of her mouth almost violently. There was definitely a bit of spit involved. “They see our family’s losses as a source of ammunition. They want to make statements. They want to use the Hale Fire and the Hale Funeral to get re-elected.”
Stiles lets her gather her breath, feeling both relieved and guilty that maybe she doesn’t have it all completely together.
“So, let’s have a barbeque.”
The look Emma gives him could turn someone to stone. “We can’t ignore them. The Center learned that lesson more than 20 years ago. Of course, they won’t listen to me because I’m not the Hale Family Al-” Her eyes flick up to Stiles.
Stiles gives her a little grin and nods. Yeah, he’s taking it.
Emma’s eyes flick over the Derek who just nods his confirmation.
A smile dawns on Emma Hale’s face like the sun breaking through storm clouds. “Your orders, Alpha?”
“We’ll give them a parade. A somber one, like they did for Kennedy, but here in Beacon Hills. The wagon will have pictures of everyone killed or injured in relation to the Fire rather than a casket and a flag. They want to make it a national tragedy? Then we will but we aren’t going to make it about the Hales. Or sentinels. Or guides. We’ll make it about all of us.”
“We’ll make a separate Memorial Forest for the Hale Fire victims. Plant a tree for everyone. Something like Oak for Mundanes; Apple for kids; Rowan for Sentinels and Ash for Guides. Or we can have the victims’ families pick their trees? Ashes optional. Obviously, we won’t have any ashes to burry with the tree if they are still alive so let’s just make it optional for everyone. If they push it we’ll televise the first few.”
“They will probably want us to televise mom and dad’s trees at least.” Emma agrees, taking notes on her tablet.
Stiles rolls his eyes but nods. “Make them ask for it, though. Actually, maybe we should make Dave and Harm do it?”
“I’ll get them over here.” Olivia turns to call her brother and his sentinel.
“Was anyone overseas affected? Or did we lose any members originally from other countries? We might need to have a color guard or something carry all the right flags. Or we can have a flag for each person? Maybe no wagon just people carrying the photo of their loved one? One person, one photo kinda thing?”
Stiles glances around, a visual check on all Sheppard and Hale affiliates in the room. He’s greeted with the sight of bobbing heads so he continues. “After the planting, we can have the private barbeque your parents wanted. Make it something everyone can participate in separately, maybe? Can we do that?”
“We can buy the old saw mill on the edge of town,” Emma is thumbing through screens on both her smart phone and her tablet, looking for something. “That way the Forest will be associated with the Pride directly and not just the Center in general. The Mill has the cleared ground for the new Forest and a house we can convert for a caretaker. There’s also an old logging camp not far from it if we decide we need more room.”
“Good, let’s do that.” Stiles agrees.
“What if someone doesn’t want the person they lost involved with the ceremony?”
“We’ll frame a blank or black piece of paper and set it with the others so the count is still right and, we’ll plant a general, unlabeled tree. Actually, let’s not label any of the trees once we are past the planning stage. If our point is that ‘we’re all in this together’ then labels would fight that message. If plaques are wanted, they can go in whatever offices we set up at the Forest. Nothing on the trees or grounds.”
“What about a wake?” Paula Cassidy asked from her spot in front of the stove.
“You don’t think that’s redundant? A wake and a barbeque?”
“No, not at all. They serve different purposes. The wake lets you focus on the loss and you memorialize that loss with the funeral. The barbeque is a celebration of how they lived, a party.”
“And the wake,” Olivia pitches in, coming back from her phone call. “Gives the people a place to send their condolences and flower arrangements so that no one has to have them at home.”