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a bulwark never failing

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"Lydia?"

"What?"

"Oh good, your hearing is working."

"Do you have a point?" Lydia asks. She's leaning over the reception desk flipping through the reservation ledger for the restaurant and looking extremely disinterested in whatever Stiles is up to.

"I felt the need to test considering the phone has been ringing for twenty minutes and you haven't answered it."

"People are being stupid today," Lydia says airily. "I've decided not to deal with them."

"That's an option?"

"It is for me," Lydia says, then rolls her eyes when Stiles just glares at her and plucks the phone up. "Crescent Moon Inn, how may I help you?" she asks in a voice that would sound polite to an outside observer, but Stiles knows is her mess with me and I will end you tone. They're scarily similar for Lydia.

Once she's done, she turns and sees him still hovering. "What?"

"Just... we need to be super awesome and professional today," Stiles says, wringing his hands.

"Why?"

"Because Deaton's thinking of selling the Inn," Stiles says.

"So?"

"Ugh, so? That means unemployment, begging on the streets, living in cardboard boxes."

"Stiles, stop being so dramatic. You can get another job."

"Where? We live in a town the size of a postage stamp. What would I do, work at the video store with Greenburg?"

"You could move to Silver Lakes. Your dad's there and it's bigger. You'll be fine."

"I like this job," Stiles whines pitifully. "Plus, Silver Lakes doesn't have Derek."

"He could commute."

"It's a three hour round trip and he works seven days a week! When would I see him?" Stiles demands.

"I'm offering solutions. You're the one coming up with problems," Lydia says, then tilts her head, taps her sparkly, feathery blue pen on her chin. "Why do you think the next owners wouldn't want us?"

"Deaton's only thinking of selling because he got a good offer from a developer. The developer's only interested in the land, not what's on it."

"I'm surprised he didn't offer you the option to buy the place first. You practically grew up here and Chester did."

"He... did. That's why I know he's serious about selling."

"Why don't you?"

"With what money?" Stiles says, incredulous. "I haven't had a savings account since I was twelve."

"Surely you've got something squirreled away?"

"My nuts are well and truly spoken for," Stiles says and when Lydia gives him an evil grin he adds, "Yes, I know what I just said, shut up."

"How can you not have anything?" Lydia asks, and Stiles knows that most people wouldn't ask that kind of question, would consider it rude. Lydia is not like other people but Stiles finds himself answering anyway because it's Lydia and she never means to be rude, it just comes kind of naturally.

"Because I live with a six foot three bottomless pit who I can't dress in discarded kitchen scraps and tissue box shoes."

"What about your dad?"

"I get the distinct impression he has less pennies to rub together than I do."

"He's got that house though, his parent's-"

"No!" Stiles snaps, grimaces when Lydia blinks at him. "Sorry, just, I can't ask him to do that. Not... it's only been six months. I can't ask him for a loan."

"What about your grandparents?"

"Did you miss the fact that they hate me? Plus, they're paying for Chester's school and they're going to pay for college. I don't think I could be more in debt to them if I tried."

"How about Der-?"

"I'm just going to stop you right there," Stiles says, holding up a hand. He'd contemplated it for about three seconds, before discarding the idea. It might be silly to be proud about something like this, but Stiles just doesn't think he could bring himself to even ask Derek. He doesn't want to put Derek in a position where he wouldn't feel like he could say no, not that he would necessarily.

"Stiles, until he started dating you and took in Isaac, the guy was basically a grouchy hermit who dragged himself out of his cave only to cook eggs and serve coffee. He has the first dollar he ever earned in a frame on the wall in his diner. You can't tell me he hasn't ferreted away every one after it, possibly under his mattress until he's perched on loot like Smaug."

"I'm fascinated by how your brain works," Stiles says, a little mystified.

"Maybe Jackson can buy the place. He's been looking for another investment now the Soda Shoppe is established."

Stiles winces reflexively at the mention of the Soda Shoppe which has been the bane of Derek's and therefore his existence for the last few months. It doesn't help that the Soda Shoppe is right next to Derek's diner so Derek gets to see Jackson in his stripey apron, bow tie and shit-eating grin every day. Derek's threatened to shove the extra 'p' and 'e' somewhere very uncomfortable on Jackson's person.

"I'd rather work at the video store," he says morosely.

"I know it's completely out there as an idea, but what about a small business loan?" Lydia asks. She's actually trying to help, Stiles is oddly touched to realize. He supposes it might be because if Stiles owns the place, Lydia will remain an employee and a boss she can walk all over, but he's long learned that Lydia has few very people, probably only enough to count on one hand, that she gives a damn about and she will be ferocious about that caring.

"I've looked into it. With my second mortgage and therefore nothing to offer up as collateral, it's a no-go. They might consider it if I had a hefty deposit amount, but I don't."

"Has Deaton given you some time to come up with something?"

"Yeah, he's given me ample time to turn nothing into even more nothing. Maybe I should buy a bunch of lottery tickets?"

"There we go, a practical plan," Lydia says sarcastically.

"I'll think of something, won't I?" Stiles sighs, dropping his head on the reception desk and letting Lydia pet the back of it in sympathy.

"You will," she says but she sounds about as sure as Stiles is, which is to say, not very much.

*

"Oh my god, thank you," Allison says, watching as Stiles ducks around her, grabbing the oranges that have scattered every which way since she dropped the bag. She has one hand resting on her sizable belly and she's smiling at him fondly. "I think if I tried to get down there now, I'd never get back up."

"We need to get you one of those reaching claw toy thingies," Stiles says as he gathers the last of the fruit and herds it back into the bag, folding it over and cradling it against his chest.

"Only two more months until I'm able to duck and weave with the best of them again," Allison says, then frowns down at her belly.

"Are you okay?"

"I just miss seeing my feet. I can't even remember what shoes I'm wearing. Are they cute?"

"The cutest," Stiles enthuses, nodding.

"You're totally lying since my feet are currently the size of small boats and don't fit into any of my cute shoes, but thank you anyway," Allison says, leaning across to peck him on the cheek.

"Can I walk you and your Sunnybest oranges somewhere?" Stiles offers his elbow and Allison tucks her hand into it.

"Actually, I'm craving a milkshake."

"Diner it is," Stiles says. He starts tugging Allison but she hesitates, chewing on her lip. He grimaces and says, "Oh no, not you. How could you betray us?"

"Derek's food is better but the milkshakes at the soda place are just...I can't describe how good they are. Haven't you tried them?"

"No," Stiles huffs. "Mostly because I like sleeping with my boyfriend and he would cease to sleep with me if I was to ever step inside that abomination of stripes and fake smiles."

"Stiles, I'm pregnant, you can't judge my choices," Allison says. "I no longer dictate what goes inside of me. This guy does." She pats her stomach and Stiles sighs heavily.

"Fine, I can escort you to the door, but I can go no further," he says, lowering his voice dramatically and flinging an arm out. He glances around furtively as he shuffles Allison across the street to Jackson's shop. Allison giggles helplessly when he starts humming the Mission Impossible theme as he plasters himself against the wall to the shop so as to stay out of sight of Derek's diner windows.

"There you go m'lady," Stiles says, sweeping an arm in the direction of Jackson's door. Then, "No! No, no, no, no, no!" he wails when Allison turns large, pleading eyes on him.

"You wouldn't just send me in there alone, would you?"

"Allison, I caaaaaaan't," he protests, but he knows he's done for, and she does too. He drags his feet as she tugs him inside and they're greeted by bubbly Jenny Harrison who looks surprised to see Stiles but recovers quickly, leading them to a window table and setting down candy-striped menus.

"Can't we sit somewhere less conspicuous?" Stiles hisses. "Like, maybe under the counter?"

"Stiles, what Derek doesn't know won't hurt him," Allison dismisses, waving a menu at him which he refuses to take by crossing his arms and hunching down in his seat. "Now, you're not sitting across from me and not having anything," she adds and her eyes have gone from puppy pleading to stern pay your invoices or you'll regret it.

"Fine, just, pick something for me."

Allison orders for them and it's not long before Stiles has a tall glass in front of him, stripey straw sticking jauntily out of the top that he uses to stab his bright green ice cream. "What is this?" he asks suspiciously.

"Just try it," Allison says, rolling her eyes.

"Okay, but I can tell you now that I won't... oh my god, what is this?" Stiles moans. He'd been petulantly sucking on his straw while still mostly hunched down in his chair but now sits up and drags his glass closer to him. He snatches the long spoon from Allison's fingers that she'd been using to dig into her own milkshake and uses it himself, shoveling ice cream into his face with reckless abandon. He only stops when he gets an ice cream headache and Allison makes sympathetic noises as he clutches at his freezing brain.

There's an almighty thump on the window right next to Stiles' throbbing head and Stiles nearly sends the rest of his shake all over Allison, only catching it at the last moment. He turns slowly, knowing exactly what he's going to see considering how guilty Allison looks and it's of course Derek standing outside, breathing so hard and so furiously on the glass separating them that it actually fogs.

"You have to come out and explain how this is all your fault," Stiles says desperately.

"I'm not finished and besides, it'll take me like half an hour to stand up again. I'm pretty sure that's a get outside immediately face."

"Coward!" Stiles hisses and risks a look back at Derek who points at Stiles, then at the door. "Tell Chester I loved him and that my death was caused by his evil Auntie Allison."

Stiles trudges outside and is collected by Derek who basically lifts him off the top step he's in such a hurry. Stiles likes being manhandled by Derek, he's found it's a bit of a thing but that's just plain rude. Stiles smacks his hands off. "I'm your size, how are you able to pick me up like that?" he demands.

"I bench press Greenberg for practice," Derek says and Stiles feels a little of his anxiety ease because Derek is cracking jokes, so he mustn't be all the way over in the red zone. He actually looks more annoyed than mad and he flails a hand at the Soda Shoppe. "Explain. Use small, fast words."

"Allison wanted a shake buddy. I can't deny her anything because I can't risk her ire filtering through to the mini-McCall. He/she can't pop out hating on the favorite Uncle."

"Why didn't you guys come into the diner?"

Stiles sighs, girds himself. "We-ell."

"Stiles."

"Okay, so your ice cream always has that weird frost on it and your syrup bottles are older than me. Maybe, in this one little area-"

"Don't say it," Derek groans, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"-you could admit-"

"Don't say it."

"That Jackson is better than you."

"Stiles!"

"I'm sorry, I just tasted heaven and I don't think I can go back."

"You're the worst."

"Derek, no one makes burgers like you and I'm pretty sure I have more of your coffee in my bloodstream than actual blood. Jackson had pancakes on his menu for the first week after he opened and took them off again because no one was eating them since they love yours, frosty ice cream and all. You always complain when you have to make a milkshake, to the point where you actively discourage people from ordering them and you think putting ice cream in soda is disgusting and refuse to do it."

"I'm sure you're meandering up to a point," Derek says, but he looks the tiniest bit mollified by Stiles' effusive praise of his wares.

"Jackson's managed to, and I'm sure by accident rather than design, open a place that doesn't compete with you in any way."

"They bring his to-go cups into the diner. They sit down with their stupid, stripey little cups and think they can eat my food. He wants us to have a voucher program between us."

"You're resisting because it's Jackson, rather than because it's a bad idea," Stiles says, prodding Derek in the ribs and he huffs and curls away, but he's also looking resigned.

"There's gotta be some way this whole thing has been engineered to infuriate me. He just hasn't dropped the boom yet," Derek complains.

"Hey, with his place right next door, at least he's going to stop trying to turn this block into a car park," Stiles points out.

"Fine," Derek grunts, then snags the back of Stiles' shirt when he beams, drops a kiss on Derek's mouth and turns back to Jackson's.

"Hey-urk! What?"

"Where do you think you're going?"

"To finish my tasty beverage," Stiles says, but after he's turned back around to face Derek, he pouts and says, "Or not?"

"I'll make you one," Derek says and when Stiles pulls a disgusted face, he scowls and says, "Just for that I'm making you banana."

"No, gross! You monster!" Stiles wails, tugging at his shirt but Derek just ignores him and tows him back to the diner.

*

"You can talk to me about anything, you know that right?" his dad says that weekend.

They have fortnightly Sunday lunches, alternating between Beacon Hills and Silver Lakes. Chester joins them when he doesn't have homework due, Stiles made it clear that it was his choice because he didn't want to lump his kid with two mandatory familial obligations. Chester makes it more often than not though but that week he had a birthday and Stiles is kind of glad he couldn't make it if the conversation is going in the direction he thinks it is.

"Lydia ratted me out," Stiles grumbles and his dad pauses in picking up the plates off his table from their cold chicken and salad lunch. They're in Stiles' dad's apartment. It's small and cluttered and Stiles loves it. He can sometimes wistfully picture he and his mom there when he was younger, all jammed together, in each other's pockets and not caring a bit.

"She's just worried," his dad says.

"Y'know, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you guys having your little war councils."

"Stiles, it's not that. She's a lovely girl who cares about you."

"You don't talk to Derek as much as you talk to Lydia."

"What are you saying?"

"Do you... wish I was with someone like her?" Stiles asks.

"God, kid, no," his dad says, looking horrified. "I don't... I know you don't know me very well but I don't care who you're with as long as they make you happy. You love Derek and he clearly thinks you hang the moon. I've got no complaints."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, it's okay. We can talk about this stuff, it's good," he says, setting the plates down and sliding back into his seat. "Just like we can talk about maybe working something out with your Inn."

"I'm working on it," Stiles says, rubbing over his face.

"Look, I've been meaning to sell my parents' house anyway."

"No! I don't want you to do that. You've held onto it for a reason."

"Mostly silly sentimentality. I was hoping I'd need it someday for a family. I really don't mind if it serves the family purpose in another way."

"You love that house. Your father built it, you told me that. You don't want to sell it."

"Okay, well, maybe it can be yours anyway, if you were to move here."

"I'm not there yet," Stiles says, then looks at his dad when he's quiet. "I... Beacon Hills is just home, y'know?"

"I know. It's probably selfish wanting you and Chester closer."

"It's not selfish," Stiles says, getting up so he can wrap arms around his dad's shoulders from behind and squeeze. His dad pats his hands, smile lines digging deep around his eyes. Stiles has always been a tactile guy and he's raised Chester the same way. His dad had been hesitant at first but now initiates hugs as frequently as the other Stilinski men do.

"I know you're probably used to resisting help, trying to do everything on your own but I want to. I want to help you."

"Let's say that's Plan B, okay?" Stiles offers after a moment, resting his forehead on his dad's shoulder.

"Okay, Stiles," he sighs, pats at the part of Stiles' head he can reach.

*

"We're trying this again?" Stiles says, seeing Derek at Isaac's shoulder on his doorstep. "Seriously?"

"I can contain myself," Derek grumbles.

"That's what you said the last four times."

"It's a family activity," Derek says, shoving Isaac ahead of him and quickly ducking in to brush a kiss over Stiles' mouth. As Isaac makes a disgruntled noise and disappears in the direction of the living room, Stiles catches Derek by the back of the shirt.

"It's not a... it's a me and Chester activity, that Isaac has invited himself to so he can eat pizza and steal daring glimpses of Chester's ankles."

"You don't want me here?"

"It's not that," Stiles says, smacking Derek's shoulder lightly. "You don't want to be here. You try, valiantly I might add, but you fail and we end up arguing and then you leave in a huff."

"I can do this. I've done worse things."

"Stop it before I expire from your enthusiasm."

"Stiles."

"Seriously, it's no big deal."

"If you would just watch something normal-"

"Oh my god, already? You're starting already? You haven't even reached the living room yet."

"It's a show about-"

"It's not just a show," Stiles hisses, scandalized and pressing a hand to his heart. Derek eyerolls so hard that his whole body gets involved. "It's a religion."

"It's a show about teenage werewolves."

"So? We acknowledge that it's dumb and fluffy but we like it."

"It's ludicrous."

"You're just jealous because the Alpha werewolf is my TV boyfriend."

"Your what?"

"He's totally on my list."

"Your what?"

"Oh!" Stiles says, beaming and dragging Derek towards the kitchen where he can dig through the piles of crap pinned to the refrigerator with over taxed magnets and find the scrap of paper he's looking for. "We all made these a few weeks ago after you huffed off again."

"Stiles, what is this?" Derek demands, sounding dangerous.

"Those are the people that I get a free pass on. If I ever sleep with them, you can't get mad at me."

"I don't remember agreeing to that," Derek says, sounding completely exasperated and then his brow furrows. "Wait, Harrison Ford? He's a zillion years old."

"Hence why in brackets I have circa Star Wars when he was young and lovely and a carpenter."

"Why is that important?"

"Good hands," Stiles says, holding his own up and waggling his fingers with a dirty smirk.

"Gambit? He's fictional."

"Bite your tongue!"

"That's the only name I'm comfortable with on this list, because he's fictional. Also I'll let you keep Harrison Ford because you would've had to have invented time travel and if you manage that I'm willing to give you a little leeway." Derek plucks the pen stuck to the fridge off and uncaps it, starts crossing out names.

"Hey! You're abusing your veto powers," Stiles complains, crossing his arms and watching with a scowl.

"He found the list?" Chester asks, meandering into the kitchen with Isaac in tow.

"I showed it to him," Stiles says and Chester snorts.

"He leaving you anyone?"

"A mutant and someone I'd need a Delorian to reach," Stiles says, pouting.

"That's more than Isaac left me with," Chester says. Isaac pulls a face and Stiles can't help but break down into helpless giggles.

"Save us from these controlling men," he says, collapsing dramatically across the kitchen table.

"I'm trying to remember why I like you," Derek says, not pausing in his efforts to make Stiles' list positively spartan.

"You could make a list too?" Stiles offers, making weak grabby hands at his piece of paper.

"I don't want anyone else," Derek says, then his hand tightens so hard on the pen he's holding that it snaps and Stiles just stares at him.

"Something really gross is about to happen. Flee!" Chester cries, herding Isaac back out of the kitchen. There's the sound of them thumping outside, presumably trying to reach minimum safe distance.

"Um-" Derek starts to say, but Stiles doesn't let him finish. He bolts upright, grabs the front of Derek's shirt and tugs. Even though they're of a size, Stiles knows he wouldn't be able to make Derek budge if he didn't want to, but Derek lets Stiles tow him upstairs without protest, face adorably flushed. "I meant-"

"I know what you meant," Stiles says, which is why I need you to fuck me right this minute."

"The boys-"

"Are outside and have self-preservation instincts great enough to know to go and paw on a neighbor's door until they're fed. They won't risk coming back for at least an hour."

"Your show-?"

"I changed my mind. I couldn't care less about teenage werewolves," Stiles says, then when Derek raises his eyebrows while being pushed onto Stiles' bed, Stiles makes a face and says, "Okay, just for now I don't care about them. I can download it later."

"Stiles-" Derek starts to protest again and Stiles pinches his side, Derek letting out a surprised yelp that dissolves into honest to god giggles as he tries to curl into himself to protect his ribs. Stiles is having none of it, pushing Derek back, urging him up the bed. He strips him quickly of his belt and then peels apart his jeans, making sure to rub the heel of his palm against the hot line of Derek's cock under fabric and Derek makes a choked sound that zings through Stiles' core.

They've done this enough now that it's comfortable, it's good. Stiles divests Derek of the rest of his clothes and strips himself, quick and mostly efficient and only nearly falls off the bed the once, Derek catching him and reeling him back automatically. He prepares himself, held over Derek while his eyes go dark and hungry, then he's lowering himself down and they're both making punched out whines.

"You know... I can't handle it... when you say... unbelievably mushy things without meaning to," Stiles groans out as Derek pushes up to meet him, as they find a rhythm.

"You know I can't handle that you talk the entire time," Derek groans back, hands gripping Stiles' hips and urging him faster.

"Tell me when you're-"

"Yes, I'm-"

"Okay, well, maybe help a guy out?" Stiles says, taking one of Derek's hands off his hip and nudging it towards his straining dick.

"Pushy, pushy, oh, god, yeah," Derek grunts out and then he's tipping Stiles sideways. When they've both gotten their breath back and Stiles control of his limbs, he holds a hand up. "How many times have I told you that we're not high-fiving after sex?"

"Why not? We're awesome! Good team work."

"You're so weird," Derek says, but he's smiling fondly and rubbing a hand over Stiles' hair, nuzzling into his neck.

*

"Can you apologize for me?" his dad asks and Stiles sighs heavily as he jogs down the hall in Chilton leading to the auditorium. "I just feel terrible."

"Of course, it's fine," Stiles says, injecting false cheer into his voice. He's heavily disappointed, but he's hoping the fact that he's badly out of breath from sprinting from the car park will mask it. He'd been relying on his father to be his support as he attended Chester's swearing in ceremony for student council along with his grandparents. He was looking forward to having someone to sit with so he could smugly ignore them. He'd already given Derek a pass because Isaac was in a school play and Derek had been so happy that he'd joined in on an extra-curricular activity that he'd promised to run lines with Isaac the whole afternoon.

He wasn't looking forward to sitting alone per usual or worse, forced to sit awkwardly with the grandparents but his dad was pulling a double shift because he had deputies off sick and he'd already called three times to apologize. This made number four.

"I'll make it up to him. I don't really want to start disappointing him so early."

Stiles pauses, leaning over his knees so he can pull air into his lungs and actually keep talking. "He's fine, I swear. He understands."

"Do you?" his dad asks, always scarily astute.

"I'll recover," Stiles says bravely. "I might need to call you so you can tell me that I'm loved and important after the grandparents smash my ego under their designer shoes."

"I'm on till two," his dad says, sounding warm and amused and it makes everything just that little bit better to hear him say, "Call me if they're mean to you."

Stiles spots Chester hanging out of the doors of the auditorium and slides to a halt. "What time?" he asks, heaving and holding a hand dramatically over his heart.

"Five past eight," Chester says and Stiles stamps his foot, irked.

"No way! I totally left on time and everything. I swear there's a time warp engaged whenever I get into the jeep that makes me late for everything."

"You're not late."

"How am I not late?" Stiles asks, raising a suspicious eyebrow.

"It starts in ten minutes."

"You told me eight!"

"I know," Chester says, unapologetic and Stiles throws his hands up.

"I'm assuming you told them the right time?"

"They're punctual. You have a time warp problem."

"Fine," Stiles huffs and then holds his phone against Chester's head. "Say hi to your grandpa and let him say sorry for the one hundred and thirty second time."

"Hi Grandpa," Chester says, face automatically warming as he leads Stiles inside and pushes him down on a seat. Chester's backpack is hooked across two extra seats and Stiles shakes his head violently. Chester scowls at him and points when Stiles makes to get up. Chester finishes talking on the phone and hands it back. "Stay!"

"Can't I just-?"

"Stay!" Chester orders and Stiles groans, then when Chester turns his back, pushes his bag off the saved seats. It doesn't matter because only a moment later Davis sits down next to him, Felicia on Davis' far side.

"Stiles," Davis greets coolly. Unlike Felicia who swings wildly between remote to outright rude, Davis has merely been politely dismissive of Stiles their entire relationship. He's not sure if that's any better because at least he rates an emotional response from Felicia. From Davis he gets nothing.

"Chester said he was saving us seats, that he put his bag down," Felicia huffs to her husband and Stiles nudges Chester's backpack under his chair with his feet as surreptitiously as possible.

The ceremony is pretty dry, like most Chilton Academy events tend to be. Chester makes a speech about school spirit and responsibility that Stiles has already heard and catcalled in the safety of their living room. Right now, Chester looks dignified and responsible and it makes Stiles warm to think that he's the only one to see his kid doing the same speech in monster feet slippers and an Adventure Time t-shirt.

"He should have combed his hair down," Felicia murmurs and Davis makes a noise of agreement. Stiles bites on his bottom lip to tell them that it's fine, that Chester actually spent about an hour on his hair that morning but he knows it's a useless argument. "We should get him a new jacket. He's already growing out of that one."

It's true, Stiles is surprised to notice. Chester's nobby wrists poke out of the ends of his sleeves when he raises his arms up in a stretch just before he finishes speaking and is moving off to the side of the stage. Stiles curses inwardly, but supposes Chester rarely wears his jacket outside of school, basically flinging it as far away from him as possible as soon as he passes the gates so it's a little hard to keep track of the fit.

"We've ordered a new one already," Stiles lies, feeling judged about his attention to detail.

"Winter or summer jacket?" Felicia asks archly and Stiles opens his mouth and closes it again because why are there two different jackets?

"Uh, winter?" he tries, because it's still pretty crisp.

"That'll be too heavy in a month," Felicia dismisses. "We'll get him a summer one."

"Why do they have a summer jacket?" Stiles can't help but ask. "He's not in school for most of it."

Felicia just looks at him like she really wants to squish him under her expensive shoes and then she leans into Davis and says, "I'm going to go and sit with the Fremantles. I have something to discuss with Eleanor."

Stiles slumps further down in his seat when Felicia moves away. He plans to just stare straight forward and not make a peep for the rest of the miserable assembly when a crisp, white card moves into his line of sight, attached to Davis' hand. "Uh, what?" Stiles says intelligently, eying the card like it's going to explode in his face.

"It's my office address. I need you to come in," Davis says, and Stiles thinks it's the most the man has said to him, ever.

"What? Why?" Stiles asks, supremely suspicious.

"I have something delicate to discuss with you. Are you able to come in at four tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Is there a better time?"

"Why do you want me to come into your office?" Stiles asks, pushing himself all the way upright and still refusing to take the card. Davis doesn't waver, keeps holding it out and Stiles is starting to wonder if maybe this is where he and his mother got their stubbornness.

"I need to discuss something with you," Davis repeats.

"I know, you said. I want to know what."

"We can discuss it tomorrow. Four o'clock?"

Stiles knows, suddenly and with great certainty, that he's not going to get any more information out of Davis except the time and place. He finally plucks the card out of the man's hand and fingers it, feeling the thickness and bending one of the corners nervously. "Not even a hint?" he tries anyway. Davis doesn't say anything so Stiles sighs heavily and says, "Yes, okay, four o'clock is fine."

"Good," Davis says and then his attention is back on the stage.

Stiles swallows, feeling a sinking sensation.

*

"Stiles, calm down," Derek manages to say when Stiles is mostly winding up his anxious babble. He's standing outside waiting the school for Chester to say goodbye to his grandparents before they leave. He'd been glad for the distraction because it meant he could call Derek without a witness that's related to him.

"This is not an occasion where that's going to work for me," Stiles hisses, hunching over his phone when a loose cluster of parents look over at him in a concerned way.

"What's not going to work?"

"That soothing thing you do with your voice. I'm not a spooked horse, I'm a guy with legitimate grounds to freak out." Stiles' voice goes up comically high on the last word because he's still trying to mostly whisper.

"Why are you freaking out?"

"I just told you-"

"Stiles, you called and then basically made noise at me for ten minutes straight but I refuse to believe there was an actual word spoken."

"Davis served me."

"A drink? A sandwich? Help me out here."

"He served me Derek. It's happening."

"I still don't know-"

"They're going to sue me for custody!" Stiles gives up on whispering and pretty much yells that last part.

"Stiles," Derek groans because he's a terrible support system who very obviously doesn't believe him.

"Davis wants me to go into his office. He gave me a card."

"How do you know it's about Chester?"

"It's either that or he's finally decided to have me killed, but I wouldn't expect him to invite me to his office for that." Stiles taps fingers on his chin for a second. "Except, if I get into his office and there's a plastic sheet on the floor I am so out of there."

"You're banned from watching any more crime procedurals."

"Derek!"

"Stiles, how about instead of working yourself up about it, you just go along and see what he wants?"

"That's annoyingly reasonable."

"Do you want me to come with?"

"He already thinks I'm a flake. I'm not sure if I want him to think I'm a flake that needs my boyfriend to hold my hand."

"I get that you want to stand up for yourself, that you think he would be judgmental about it if you let yourself lean on someone, but I'm here and I'm willing. I know you act like you don't care what they think but you do. It hurts to watch you bend over backwards to please them when..."

"When what?" Stiles asks, small-voiced.

"You never will."

It's harsh, but deep down Stiles knows it's true. Stiles catches himself hoping futilely sometimes that Davis and Felicia will eventually come around, decide they don't detest his very existence and welcome him in as wholly as they have Chester. It's a foolish dream and one he can't believe he's still hanging onto after all this time.

"Maybe if I was bringing my husband instead-"

"Don't you dare," Derek interrupts, sounding horrified.

"What?" Stiles says, surprised.

"We're not having that conversation over the phone Stiles, christ," Derek says before Stiles can work himself up again, this time positive that he's being rejected.

"But it's a conversation we can have, in the near-ish future?" he presses, because he wants to know he's not the only one who's thinking about it.

"I was thinking less conversation and more question with a guaranteed positive outcome," Derek says and Stiles can hear the fond smile in his voice.

"Wait, am I the one asking?"

"Of course, and I want it to be spectacular, and a surprise."

"Hot air balloon, candles, that kind of spectacular surprise?"

Derek makes a choked off little noise and at first Stiles thinks it's a laugh, but then his voice sounds a little weird when he says, "Wait, you've already got a plan, don't you?"

"Maybe," Stiles acknowledges after a beat and Derek makes another choked off little noise and, "Oh my god, are you crying?"

"No!" Derek snaps and hangs up.

"What's that look on your face? Get it off, it's weird," Chester says, ducking into Stiles' line of sight.

"Come here, I need to cuddle you in front of all your friends and their parents," Stiles says, holding out his arms.

"Oh my god," Chester groans, but Stiles adores him more than words can express when he just mutely steps into the circle of Stiles' arms.

*

"I appreciate you coming on such short notice," Davis says. Stiles has never been to his grandfather's office. It's a little cold-looking complete with an austere woman at a desk just outside Davis' door who had accepted Stiles' attempt at conversation with a raised eyebrow and a tight little smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"I'm really surprised there isn't a plastic sheet."

"Pardon?"

"Nothing, it's... you needed to see me about something?"

"I have something for you." Davis moves behind his overlarge desk and rummages around for a moment before he comes up with an envelope. Stiles' heart plummets into his feet. Davis sets the envelope down in front of Stiles and he fights the urge to bat it to the floor like a spider, but only barely.

"You can't make me take that."

"You don't know what it is."

"I can guess."

"I highly doubt it," Davis says, frowning. "Don't you want to open it?"

"Not even remotely."

"I see," Davis says in way that really means I don't at all and then he sits down, not behind his desk but in the chair opposite Stiles on the visitor side and steeples his fingers. His expression is very serious and Stiles swallows against a suddenly dry throat. "When your mother was born, as is the tradition in our family, I made a real estate investment in her name."

"You... what?" Stiles gets out, completely thrown. "You couldn't have just bought an impractically large teddy bear?"

"That would not be a very wise investment."

"I guess so."

"Unless it was a collectable item, a toy wouldn't improve in value."

"You're absolutely right. What was I even thinking?"

"When your mother passed away, I transferred the investment to your name."

"What?"

"It seemed the appropriate thing to do."

"Did you bring me here to tell me you're taking something off me I never knew I had?" Stiles asks, incredulous.

"Why on earth would I do that?"

"For funsies?"

Davis is looking steadily at Stiles and if Stiles wasn't staring back so hard, he would've missed the way the skin around Davis' eyes tightened just the tiniest bit, like he almost had an expression but fought it off. "I received a phone call from the lawyer representing the investment group I bought the property through. They're building a highway through your investment."

"You brought me here to tell me someone else is taking away something I didn't know I had?" Stiles presses, thoroughly confused.

"The complex was sold and all the investors received a payout. This is yours." Davis nods at the envelope and Stiles finally picks it up. It's unsealed so it's easy to ease open and then he's tugging the slip of paper out that's inside and gaping at it.

"This is a check."

"Indeed."

"This is a check for seventy five thousand dollars."

"Your voice is doing something weird. Are you alright? Do you need water?"

"This is a check for seventy five thousand dollars that has my name on it."

"It's your money."

"Are you trying to buy Chester from me?"

"That's... Stiles, that's absurd. This money has nothing to do with Chester. I made an investment a long time ago, it matured and now it's been closed out."

"Is this about his last name? I told you-"

"Stiles, listen to me. I know it's probably hard to accept, but this is your money, free and clear, no ties, no favors. If it helps, you can think of it as being from your mother, not from me."

"It's not a trick?"

"I made this investment in your mother's name and it passed to you. Legally, I’m obligated to give you that. This isn’t some kind of sinister plot, it's the law."

"It's the law I get seventy-five thousand dollars?"

"Sometimes the law works in your favor."

"I don't know what to say."

"Nothing to say," Davis dismisses, standing. Stiles follows his lead, clutching the envelope and the check, unsure whether he's supposed to shake Davis' hand but Davis just motions him out and Stiles goes, still utterly bewildered.

Before he escapes completely, Davis clears his throat and Stiles turns. "I do have something to discuss with you actually."

"Here we go," Stiles groans.

"Nothing to do with the money, I assure you. Chester has been asked to escort Stephanie Anderson to her debut. It's expected for the parents of both the debutantes and their escorts to attend." Davis hands Stiles another envelope, with a card inside of stiff, white paper, obviously an invitation. "Do you have a tuxedo?"

"I have an old Halloween Dracula costume that... no, I'll hire one," Stiles says at Davis' unimpressed look.

*

"I have to go to a thing," Stiles says, waving the invitation at Derek when he barrels into Stiles' living room later. Stiles gave Derek a key two months ago and he'd been weirdly uptight about using it and insisted on still knocking, till today apparently.

"You didn't call me all day. I was fretting."

"I didn't know I was supposed to...you were fretting?"

"Hayley said I was fretting. Apparently I was bugging everyone in the diner. Hayley sent me here. She said she would have sent me home but since home was upstairs and she would be able to feel me fretting from in the diner I had to be sent further away."

"Hayley can't do that. You're the owner, remember?"

Derek flails his hands out. "And yet."

"I love that you were fretting, especially after you made fun of me being anxious."

"Your anxiety is infectious. It's like an illness. You passed it to me. Why are you so calm?"

"Because you were right. It wasn't anything bad, except I have to go to a thing."

"Specifics, Stiles! You can't make me think the world is ending and then be vague."

"Just," Stiles shoves the invitation at him and Derek reads it in an impatient way, like he would've preferred to have been told rather than having to find out for himself. Stiles is filled with a sudden and deep affection for Derek who is usually steady as a rock but apparently can be sent into a complete flap when Stiles is involved.

If that's not love, Stiles doesn't know what is.

"They're making Chester debut into society?"

"He's going to be escorting someone. Being arm candy which, what can I say, he has good genes for being candy of the arm."

"Why do we have to go to this again?"

"Only I have to."

"The invite has a plus one."

"It does?" Stiles says, hopping up and snatching it back. His eyes go round with glee. "Oh my god it does! You're my plus one, that's your duty. You have to come with me."

"Can we forget that I pointed that out?" Derek groans.

"Oh, it's black tie. I bet you look totally Bond in a tuxedo."

"Is this all Davis wanted to see you about?"

"No, oh! Look!" Stiles digs through his pockets until he unearths the other envelope he'd jammed in there. He waves it aloft. "Lookit! For the first time in my life I'm a thousand-aire!"

"What are you talking about-?" Derek starts to ask, but then he's got the check and his mouth drops open. "Wait, are you serious? This is great. You'll be able to buy the-" Derek stops what he's saying, his mouth clicking shut so hard it's audible.

"I'll be able to buy the what?" Stiles asks slowly, suspecting that there's a ratty rat person who ratted him out.

"The completely impractical thing that I'm sure you were planning on buying?" Derek tries, but then deflates. "I'm sorry, Lydia told me. I swear it was because she was worried about you."

"Traitor," Stiles grumbles.

"I was going to offer you the money to buy the place. I know how much it means to you and-"

"You have that kind of money?" Stiles asks, surprised. Derek lives in a tiny apartment above his diner and cycles through only three shirts. Stiles isn't sure why it didn't occur to him that this didn't mean that Derek had money stashed away somewhere.

"Until I had Isaac, I didn't really have anything to spend my money on. Listen, the seventy-five is a good starting point but if you want, we can still go into the hotel together. I can provide the rest of the capitol, you can run the place and pay me back out of your share of the profits till we have a fifty-fifty split."

"I didn't want to be beholden to someone else."

"Beholden? Stiles, I'm offering because I trust this is a good business and I trust you. I'm offering because I can."

"Just... let me look into getting a loan the conventional way first, okay?" Stiles begs, unsure why he's being stubborn about it and feeling awful when he sees Derek's face fall. Derek's offer is great and he should be jumping at it but he just can't bring himself to. Independence is a habit he just can't seem to shake, despite Derek's and his own father's obvious frustration.

"Will you promise to think about it?"

"Of course," Stiles agrees readily, grateful that Derek's willing to let the matter drop for now. "Hey, at least I know you're not going to marry me for my money."

"Nope, purely animal lust."

"Awesome."

*

Chester is making unimpressed noises into the printout of the Town Meeting agenda. Stiles finally pushes the paper down so he can hear the actual words. "It's so nice that you and my grandparents are in cahoots now. Ca-hoots."

"I swear, I didn't know you hadn't agreed to it," Stiles whines, thumping his head on the back of Erica's chair. She reaches behind to push at his head absently without stopping her conversation with Allison. He should've known that he couldn't get out of a meeting with either Davis or Felicia without being horribly betrayed in one form or another. The monetary trade-off doesn't do much to make Stiles feel better about Chester's tragic face now.

Okay, it maybe helps a little, especially when he'd burst into Chester's room that morning, threw the check on the bed and demanded Chester roll around in all the money with him.

"Tell them you can't do it then," Stiles offers. "I'll totally back you up."

"They've already accepted for me. There'll be some poor girl without an escort if I cancel now. They made it very clear I would be ruining lives."

"What'd I miss?" Derek asks, glaring at Greenburg until he moves out of the chair on Stiles' other side so he can drop into it.

"Hey, hi! What are you doing here?" Stiles asks, surprised. Derek does come to Town Meetings occasionally, but he'd said he was going to be missing this one because he had to wait for a supplier.

"Jackson left a note for me."

"He left you a note?"

"If he's trying to rezone again-" Derek starts to growl, eyes blazing.

"He wouldn't. He'd be rezoning himself now, remember?"

"I don't like it. This reeks of Jackson's scheming."

"If he was scheming he wouldn't want you here. He'd want you as far away from here as possible."

"Maybe," Derek allows, slumping further down in his chair.

The agenda is full of the usual stuff. There's an upcoming Dandelion Fair and Jackson calling for volunteers to clean up the town square. Two different re-enactment societies are fighting about who gets to use the gazebo on the eighth and Jackson deals with that in short order. One thing Stiles can give the guy is that he's efficient, even if he isn't always particularly fair.

"What do you think this is about?" Erica asks in a not-very-quiet whisper, leaning over the back of her chair and waggling the agenda in Derek's face. Stiles looks at his own and figures she's asking about the item listed just as very important business regarding S and D.

Stiles blinks.

"Hey, wait a minute-" he starts to say.

"A very serious matter has been brought to my attention. We need to discuss the potential ramifications of the diner owner and the Inn owner dating," Jackson announces up the front.

Stiles turns to Derek, who is flushing an interesting shade of outraged red. "Are you cheating on me with an Inn owner?"

"We mean when you purchase the Inn, honey," Mrs Anderson, the music teacher from BHHS pipes up from the other side of the room.

"I haven't-"

"We need to consider whether we can support this," Jackson interrupts, banging his gavel.

"We're sitting right here you know," Stiles splutters. He's gripping Derek's arm who still hasn't spoken and Chester is goggling at the room at large.

"You're welcome to voice your opinion as a member of the town Stiles, at the proper time."

"Oh my god," Stiles squawks.

"I'm opening up the floor for discussion...now," Jackson says, giving Stiles a pointed look. Stiles hadn't noticed it before, but at the side of the room where there's a space between the rows of chairs and the wall, there's a microphone stand. People start standing and shuffling over to it in an orderly kind of way.

Stiles grabs Chester's sleeve when he stands. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm an interested member of the town," Chester says, looking far too amused and Stiles yanks him back into his seat.

"I'll start," Jackson announces as Greenburg, at the front of the queue, fusses with the microphone. "Both establishments are very important to the community and when the relationship goes sour again, because let's face it, neither Stiles nor Derek have a great track record-"

"Hey!" Stiles splutters, using his grip on Derek to jostle him but Derek remains stubbornly silent in his seething.

"We'll have to choose and you'll either be a Stiles or a Derek or, if you're Greenburg who can't make a decision to save his life, neither."

"For the record, I'd be a Stiles," Greenburg says into the microphone.

"Uh, thanks?" Stiles manages and Greenburg flushes and gives him an embarrassed thumbs up.

"It's potentially disastrous for our economy," Jackson finishes.

"Are they going to vote on whether to break you up?" Chester leans over to hiss, his amusement disappearing.

"This is a little crazy," Boyd pipes up and Stiles claps him on the shoulder, grateful for at least some support.

"Remember the gift shop and the flower store? Charlie and Linda?" Jackson demands and there's murmurs in the crowd.

"That was bad," Boyd admits and Stiles would smack him if Boyd weren't big enough to punch Stiles into next week if he wanted to.

"Valentine's day was a nightmare," Paul Betts agrees loudly. "Not to mention when there was a wedding!"

"They both left town," Jackson continues. "Those store fronts were empty for a year."

"We think Linda is still living in a cave at Mason Point," Greenburg adds in a hushed tone right into the microphone.

"I've taken the liberty of mapping out the division if it becomes necessary," Jackson says, plucking a large poster-sized map of the town from beside his podium and setting it up on the easel next to him. Different areas of the town are colored in blue and pink with a few orange spots.

"Am I pink? Why am I pink?" Stiles says, because he needs to concentrate on a small aspect of the craziness because the overall crazy is too big for him.

"We just thought Derek was more of a blue," Mrs Anderson says.

"We?"

"There was a committee," Jackson says.

"You put together a committee for this?"

"What's the orange?" Allison asks. She throws an amused glance at Stiles over her shoulder and he fervently wishes that Scott was there instead of on dinner service at the Inn because seriously, he has no support.

"Those are areas still under debate. We're thinking of classing orange as neutral territory."

"Alright, that's it," Derek growls, standing up and stalking down to the front of the hall.

"Uh, there's a line here!" Greenburg pipes up, but then actually cringes and hides behind Tony Asper when Derek throws him a murderous glance.

"This relationship," Derek seethes when he gets up and jostles Jackson out from behind his podium. "Is no one's business. Not yours, not yours, not-" Derek is angrily pointing around the room but when his finger lands on Stiles he pulls a face. "I mean, yes, yours, but no one else's."

"Derek, we're merely thinking of the economical impact if you break up."

"We're not going to break up!" Derek explodes and Stiles fights the urge to fan himself because Derek is really doing it for him right now. He must be wearing some of that on his face because Chester jabs him in the side with an elbow and mouths gross at him.

"You can't guarantee that," Jackson denies haughtily.

"I'll move," Derek says, smacking the map to the floor. "If we break up, I'll close up the diner and move away. Problem solved."

"Can we get that in writing?" Jackson says.

"Where will you go? Have you actually been outside the town limits your entire life?" Erica asks, waving a hand.

"I'll go live in the cave with Linda. I wish I was there now." Derek stalks back to Stiles and Chester, grabs a handful of both their shirts and hauls them up. "Meeting's over!" he barks.

"I didn't-!" Jackson shrills as everyone starts getting up and heading for the doors.

"Why Derek, I do declare, I am all a-flutter," Stiles gushes, clasping his hands under his chin and fluttering his eyelashes.

"Shut up," Derek grunts.

Stiles is still chuckling when they're outside and his phone rings. "Hey Daddy-o! You'll never guess what kind of meeting-"

"Stiles?" It's a woman's voice, decidedly not his father speaking.

"Uh, hi? Sorry, who-?"

"This is Deputy Fields."

"Oh, right," Stiles says. He remembers her vaguely, a woman with smiling eyes and a competent air about her. "Sorry, I'm a little confused. Why are you calling me on my dad's phone?" Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles sees Derek freeze and spin back to him. He'd had Chester in a headlock but he releases him abruptly and his face does something that Stiles never wants to see ever again.

"Listen, he's okay now but you're dad is in the hospital."

"Um... did he... was he...?" Stiles isn't sure what he wants to ask, isn't sure of anything right now. All he knows is that Chester is looking at him and Derek in confusion and Derek's at his shoulder, hands grasped loosely around his bicep all of a sudden.

"You should come. He's in Silver Lakes Memorial."

"I... right, yes. I'll do that. Thank you," Stiles says stiffly and ends the call.

"Dad, what?" Chester presses in close on his other side.

"Um," Stiles says and knows, without a shadow of a doubt that he's about six seconds away from crying if he has to say anything else.

"Just tell me where. I'll drive," Derek says. He's hooked onto Stiles and Chester again, towing them towards the diner but this time he's painfully gentle about it.