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+

Stiles Stilinski has exactly two friends growing up.

Lydia Martin and cars, and he’s honestly not sure if Lydia is in it because she likes him, or simply because he’s the only one in their shitty little podunk town that can keep up with her magnificent brain.

She just decides that they’re friends one day, because she’s first in their year, but Stiles is a close second and everyone else is just… a bit too slow and dull and not nearly entertaining enough. So she walks up to him, gives him a hard look and says, “You’re smart. We’re friends now.”

And Stiles is either a) too terrified of b) too lonely to say no.

Both, perhaps.

“Uhm, okay? I mean… yeah? Super?” He tries out a few more reactions, until she rolls her eyes and grabs his hands to drag him off to start fires with the magnifying glass she stole from the biology lab.

After that, Lydia runs his life.

Like, when she’s thirteen, she spends a summer reading all the philosophers and rambling to Stiles about utilitarism and social contracts and how morality is an arbitrary notion of the small-minded.

Literally. She’s lying on her bed, perfect hair arranged around her like a halo, and saying, “I have decided that morality is an arbitrary notion of the small-minded to keep their betters on uneven footing and I am refusing it.”

She blinks doe eyes at him and says, “You should join me.”

“I kind of feel like you just made me a very immoral offer. It’s kind of turning me on.”

“Shut up, Stiles.”

“As you please, mistress.”

Their relationship is a strange one.

+

From then on, Lydia and Stiles don’t measure their actions by right and wrong, but by how high the risks and gain are, the probabilities of success and defeat. They get really good at statistics and that’s where Stiles’ second friend comes in.

Cars.

Because Stiles loves cars but he lives on a single parent’s salary and so he calculates his desire for a fast car against the likelihood of his plans catching up with him in a bad way and once he’s decided it’s worth it, he steals Mr. Emmerson’s candy red Camaro right out of his driveway.

Because he wants to.

In Lydia and Stiles’ world, that is a perfectly legitimate reason. Want, take, have, is all he’s saying, even if Lyds doesn’t get the reference because she refuses to be dragged down to his level of awesomeness.

Only she calls it loserness.

Whatever.

“We need someone to teach us how to drive properly,” she intones in the passenger seat, watching Stiles crunch the gears. Again. He thought he was getting the hang of it a few minutes ago, but apparently not.

“Won’t be sixteen for another year,” he points out and takes them down a deserted forest road with the engine howling. “Not that that’s really stopping us from anything, except buying booze, and not even that, because I can’t pass, but you are a goddess with perfect make-up and if you flash old Willy at the liquor store a little boob, he’s bound to throw in a boner for free, so.”

Lydia gives him a scathing look. But Stiles has a superpower, and that superpower is immunity to Lydia Martin’s glares of superiority.

“So it needs to be someone who won’t tell.”

She hums quietly. “Ethan and Aiden.”

The twins are two years older than them and Lydia may or may not have evidence that proves them to be dealing drugs at school, because she is terrifying and Stiles is good with a camera.

“Spectacularly bad idea,” Stiles prophesies, and floors it.

+

So how, on god’s green earth, does Stiles end up a cop?

+

By the time they finally hit sixteen, Stiles can drive a car like he’s making love to it. Hot, angry, passionate love. He can crack a car in five seconds, take an engine apart and put in back together in twelve hours.

He knows everything there is about cars, roads, traffic and the cops’ patrol routes, because he has a police scanner and he knows how to use it. Sometimes he runs drugs for Ethan and Aiden, sometimes he races, and sometimes he’s just stupid and bored out of his fucking skull.

It happens.

He has ADHD and there’s so many shiny things in the seedier part of town, so many ways for a lonely, fucked-up boy to lose himself.

Lydia is dating Jackson Whittemore, who everyone knows is a mob baby, and Stiles drools over the douchenozzle’s Porsche and asks, “Does dear Jackie know you’re only fucking him so you can marry him and take over his family business?”

She loves the idiot, Stiles is pretty sure, but she’s not going to let that stop her.

And Lyds blinks lazy eyes at him and says, “Shhhhh.”

So there’s that.

+

Stiles knows that his lifestyle, even before he turns legal, is what most people would term ‘criminal’.

He’s okay with that.

Because morality is pretty much arbitrary and he watched his mom turn to nothing in a hospital bed, has had his ass handed to him by people stronger and older than him too many times, witnessed his dad losing himself in his grief and Jack fucking Daniels. He knows the way the world works and words like ‘fair’ and ‘good’ don’t come into it. So yeah, he’s angry.

At everyone.

The world owes him.

He steals cars and takes them for rides, sometimes with Lydia in the passenger seat, sometimes without. He chases the next adrenalin high all over his shitty hometown and yeah, he’s addicted to the rush, but he’s aware of it, so he has it under control.

Sort of.

Every now and then, he gets arrested a little, but they never stick him in juvie for more than a few months because everyone knows that he’s the only one keeping his dad – the sheriff – propped up after his wife’s death.

Cronyism at its finest.

Lyds doesn’t give a fuck about his record, school is as done with him as he is with it and it’s not like anyone else cares.

Except his dad, who gets a little more hollow-eyed every time one of his deputies drags in his only son in handcuffs. Sometimes, Stiles hears him mutter his dead wife’s name, praying, perhaps, for help. For strength.

Those are the nights Stiles doubles up on his Adderall and goes out to fuck shit up until he crashes in Lydia’s bed in the wee hours of morning, burnt-out and bloody.

+

Lyds blows out of town on a full ride at Harvard, Jackson drooling at her heels and Stiles… doesn’t.

He stays. Community college bores the shit out of him, but he does it anyway. One of the twins gets shot in the face during a deal gone wrong and the other gets twenty-five to life for murdering his brother’s killer.

So it goes.

Stiles is suddenly not only out of friends, but also out of a job.

His life just sort of… stalls. He’s too young for a quarter-life crisis.

And then his dad dies.

His dad dies from a heart condition Stiles didn’t even know about and they hadn’t spoken in three months. At the funeral, his dad’s co-workers all glare at him like he held a gun to his father’s head and squeezed.

He didn’t.

Because that would have required caring and Stiles loved his dad, but he never really cared about the man because he believed, in all kinds of things Stiles couldn’t believe in anymore after Mom, and the booze.

Stiles never forgave him for the booze.

So he ducks his head and doesn’t meet anyone’s gaze across his last living relative’s grave.

Two days later, he packs his shit, drives all the way to LA to enrol in the police academy. It’s the only apology he can manage.

+

Stiles spends the first week in LA marathoning Angel, seasons one through four (five is shit) and hiking around town, looking for places from the series. He never finds the Hyperion and buys too much ice-cream to eat while watching TV, because that’s what his mom used to do.

Buy them ice-cream and then watch Buffy with him, even though he was way too young.

Grief, Stiles figures, kind of fucks him up, because, hey, that’s the wrong parent he’s grieving for, but, whatever. A decade around Lydia has apparently trained him out of correct emotional responses to anything.

Go Lyds!

Once he runs out of episodes to watch, he throws out the leftover ice-cream and enrols.

+

“Do you think he would have liked it?” Lydia asks, making judgmental faces via Skype.

“I think he was so disappointed in me that he didn’t even tell me he was dying,” Stiles retorts, perfectly flat, because that’s also something Lydia decided for both of them one summer: they can lie all they want, but not to each other.

Besides, she reads him like a book anyway.

“If you think it’s the right thing to do,” she says, lips pursed.

+

He makes friends with Allison Argent mostly by accident and sure as hell before he knows that her family pretty much is the LA police department.

Her father fucking runs the show.

They bond over shitty academy classes and the fact that they’re both here because of their fathers, because of duty. Allison says there’s been a locker with her name on it at the station since she was born and Stiles doesn’t tell her about the way he’s trying to be a good son, for no reason he can figure.

He misses Lydia, who could have set him straight.

But Lydia has moved on to bigger, better things, leaving Stiles as a small time criminal in a small time town, destined to go the way of the twins within a few years and he doesn’t want to be that.

So.

Cop.

For once (for one last time) Stiles will be a good son.

+

Stiles is good at being a cop.

It’s kind of funny, in the way where no-one laughs.

+

“I just don’t know what to do!” Allison whines, curled up on his sofa, mug of hot chocolate (with plenty of Kahlua) in hand.

“Well, what do you want to do?” Stiles asks, because he’s an awesome friend, but he doesn’t really know how to deal with female insecurity. Lydia has never been insecure in her life. She’s currently trying to decide which coast to start her take-over of the Whittemore family from. Weak is only in her vocabulary insofar as she sometimes uses it to describe the people whose skulls she is crushing under her perfect heels.

Allison curls up more. “I don’t know. I… I like Scott. Really, really like him. But he’s…”

From the wrong side of the tracks, just like Stiles. Only Stiles has, according to Chris Argent, “Seen the error of his ways,” and Scott McCall, street racer and possibly worse, hasn’t.

It’s only funny because, in another universe, Stiles might be in Scott’s place right now, twenty-five and constantly in trouble, a train just waiting to derail. But Stiles pulled himself out of that swamp by his own hair. Stiles is a good son.

Allison is a cop’s daughter, a cop herself, who is star-crossed-lovers in love with a criminal boy from Echo Park.

Shakespeare is weeping, somewhere.

They met while Alli was doing drunk-tank duty, for God’s sake. He purportedly spent the whole night glued to the bars, serenading her beauty and her dimples until she caved and gave him her number. Because that’s not fucking suspect at all and what is that thing called professional conduct?

“Either I lose my family, or I lose him.” Hey, at least she has either of those things to lose. The only thing Stiles has left to lose are his car keys and he’d be happy to lose those because he cannot rock the mom mobile he’s currently driving. He just cannot.

He flinches. “Is there an option you can live with?”

Alli takes a sip from her mug, looks up at him with dark eyes and says, “That’s what scares me.”

+

“So,” Stiles tells her, six months later, during a rare, shared lunch break. “Your dad wants me to go undercover, which is kind of brilliant, but also, absolutely not, and he still terrifies me by the way, I think he thinks we’re sleeping together, what’s up with that anyway? Are you using me as your beard for your illicit love affair with Scott McCriminal?”

She goes bug-eyed. “Really? That’s awesome!”

“That fact that your father thinks I’m your beard? Yeah. Totally. You need to, like, shave me off before he gives me the shovel talk.”

She rolls her eyes at him, but mimes hitting him with a shovel, which, hell yeah. Introducing Allison to Buffy made her a lot scarier, but at least someone speaks his lingo now.

“I meant you going to get to go undercover. It’s a chance and you deserve it.”

Stiles, who is mostly used to deserving a beating and a jail sentence, still blinks, caught off guard, when she says stuff like that.

“Yeah. He knows about my past, and he says it’s an… asset. Gave me the whole spiel abut not losing myself and how I should put my duty above any and all temptation I might encounter and make him proud. I think he actually used the words ‘your police family’, which, so Godfather, seriously, I was expecting a beheaded horse to gallop past.” He flails his arm and bits of his donut go flying across the mostly empty bullpen.

Chris Argent is… intense. He also thinks he lives in a world where it’s okay to give speeches like that, but. Whatever.

“Okay.” Allison pouts. “You don’t look happy.”

Stiles snorts, stuffs the rest of the donut into his mouth in one go and, around it, says, “They’re sending me after the Hales.”

Alli loses all colour.

+

Here’s the plot for a lifetime movie:

When Derek Hale was sixteen years old, Kate Argent burned down his family home because his mother was the supposed head of a supposed crime family.

No-one has ever proven that claim. So either Talia Hale was a James Bond Villain level of criminal mastermind, or she was a housewife who had the misfortune of landing in the crosshairs of a psycho bitch with a lighter.

Derek went bugshit and almost beat Kate to death with his bare hands only hours after ten members of his family died screaming.

Kate went to jail. In a wheelchair.

Chris Argent has been trying to avenge his sister ever since, even though, Allison says, he’s washed his hands of her aunt. But family works in weird ways. Blood is something Stiles doesn’t understand. He’d die for Lydia. That’s as close as he gets to family.

Derek go two years juvie, got out and, in a fit of irony, set himself up as the very thing his mother probably never was. Twelve years later, he’s got a ragtag group of racers and criminals around him, all loyal to a fault and all, probably, tied to a recent strings of truck-jackings that are going to get someone killed one of these days.

And now there’s Stiles, Chris’ prodigal son, sent to bring down the Hales.

Full circle, or something.

Stiles stares at the files for hours.

Derek Hale is the kind of beautiful that’s fucking unreal. But he’s also an asshole. They have hundreds of surveillance pictures of him and he scowls in every one of them and the gunshow? Hella impressive, except for how he almost beat a woman (who deserved it) to death with those arms. He’s sex and danger wrapped into one delicious package and if Stiles weren’t a cop and he weren’t a mark….

Yeah.

He’s… unreal.

Scott McCall is his right hand man. Close as brothers, they say. Derek took him under his wing in juvie and the two have been through hell together since.

He’s handsome, Scott is, in a wholesome way, with his asymmetrical jawline that Allison goes goo-goo over at the drop of a hat, and his criminal record makes it very clear that Scott goes out of his way not to hurt anyone. Stiles understands why Alli is ass over elbows for him. He seems like the epitome of Honour Among Thieves and when Stiles grows up, he’d want to be him, except he’s kind of a fuck-up, so.

Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd are also a part of the group, recently married. Boyd is their logistics guy. He runs the books at both the Hales’ shops – garage and diner. Erica is a spitfire, inside and outside of a car.

Isaac Lahey is Derek’s heavy hitter. By all accounts, he’s a very sweet guy, until Derek snaps his fingers. Then he fucking loses his shit at whoever Derek aims him at.

Derek has two sisters, Cora and Laura, who also survived the fire, but Laura moved Cora across the country when Derek went off the rails. All the family he has left now is his uncle, Peter, who’s sort of like Isaac, only worse.

They have no proof that any of the Hale Clan have ever even been close to one of the jackings, but Chris is determined to take them down (for justice and the way Kate can’t move anything below the waist anymore) and Stiles is how he plans to do it.

“This is gonna end in tears,” he decides, flicking a file back onto his desk. Allison pats his shoulder, hands him a coffee.

“I can introduce you to Scott?”

She’s kind of adopted the view that Scott has to be innocent and Stiles will only prove that, so it’s all good.

Somewhere, he can hear Lydia howling with laughter. Scratch the tears. This will end in blood.

“Yeah, because he’s going to trust someone his cop girlfriend introduces him to. Perfect character reference,” he says.

It’s a backward world they live in.

She frowns cutely at him. “I don’t really want you to lie to him.”

Honestly. Shakespeare.

Stiles looks down at a picture of Derek Hale, hands crusty with Allison’s aunt’s blood, face bruised black and blue from where they pulled him off of her. He nods. “Yeah.”

+

“So,” he asks, a few days later, leaning over the counter of the Hale-owned diner into Scott’s space. “Can you refer me to a decent garage around here? My car needs some… TLC.”

He makes a self-deprecating sound and sits back. Scott blinks at him and yeah, it’s kind of cute. In a lost puppy way. Stiles would ride him like a pony, but the little kid grin kind of doesn’t do it for him. At all.

Besides, at this point, he thinks Allison falls under the bro code. So he can’t have Scott anyway.

Eventually, he gets a nod. “Yeah, yeah. Actually, I know a good place. Not far from here. What do you need?”

Stiles rattles off a few minor mods he wants to do on his shiny new Eclipse, sponsored by your friendly tax-payer next door and watches Scott’s eyes get bright because, yeah. Cars.

The guy nods along, pipes up with suggestions and completely ignores the elderly couple in the corner until Stiles points and says, “Dude, I think they wanna pay.”

“What, oh, shit.” Scott takes off and Stiles watches him go, laughing.

He gets a punch in the shoulder when Scott scrambles past him again to get the check and laughs louder.

Five minutes later, the last paying customers are gone and Scott says, “Actually, I know the guy who runs the place. If you can wait half an hour for me to lock up, I can show you the place. Probably make sure you’re not getting robbed, too.”

That’s how Stiles ends up sweeping the floor of the diner with Scott McCall waxing poetic about his car and his girlfriend.

By the time they make their way out to Stiles’ ride, they’re fast friends.

+

“Guys?!” Scott calls, entering the open bay doors of the garage. “Anyone here?”

A call comes from the back, followed by a tall, lanky guy with too many fucking curls that Stiles identifies as Isaac. He bounds over like a puppy (seriously, these guys make canine jokes too easy) and hugs Scott.

Cue the violins.

Either their bromance is truly epic, or Scott has a piece on the side and Stiles needs to murder him on principle for fucking with Alli. But then the boys back off and Stiles decides on bromance. Probably.

Maybe Alli’s kinkier than he expected?

Isaac is talking a mile a minute, until Scott shuts him up and points at Stiles. “Paying customer, dude. Don’t scare Stiles off.”

“Stiles?”

“Nickname,” Stiles explains, because he’s so, so over telling people how his name is indecipherable and the only person who ever called him that has been dead for almost twenty years. “I just moved here and I’m in the market for a decent garage? I don’t just let anyone at my baby.”

Isaac gives Scott a questioning look, earning himself a nod. “It’s a sweet ride,” he confirms and Isaac squirms past him and out into the lot. A moment later, he wolf whistles.

“Hot shit,” he agrees, when they follow him out. “But who the hell did your paint job, man?”

Yeah. The lime is kind of questionable.

+

They tinker until late and Stiles doesn’t think they’d stop, if a dark shadow didn’t suddenly blot out the overhead lights around midnight.

He looks up from where he was watching Isaac poke at the engine, muttering about mods and upgrades, and kind of goes blind for a moment, because nothing - nothing - could have prepared him for Derek Hale in real life.

He’s not as tall as Stiles expected but even broader. His body’s a weapon and his face says he knows how to wield it and while half of Stiles thinks, I am so very fucked, the rest of him is all, can I climb that like a tree, yes, please?

He opens his mouth, swallows his tongue, chokes a little and tries again.

“Hi?”

Suave, Stiles. Really.

Five years since they met in person, and his inner sarcasm voice still sounds like Lyds.

Derek glowers at him. His eyes, which are blue, according to his file, are absolutely not blue and also trying to set Stiles on fire.

Starting with his non-existent underwear.

Jesus.

But then Scott’s there, slapping Derek on the back. “Dude, Stiles has the sweetest ride. You gotta check it out.”

“You missed dinner,” Derek says, and his voice isn’t half as deep as Stiles expected it to be and, Christ, he has bunny teeth.

Just take Stiles out back not and shoot him.

“You sound like my mom,” Scott complains.

“Call if you’re doing to miss dinner,” Derek goes on. He doesn’t look like he knows how to spell ‘smile’.

Stiles wants to teach him how to spell ‘dick’.

Strangely, the Mom-glower works on Scott, who ducks his head and rubs his neck. “Sorry, man. Got caught up.” He waves a vague hand at Stiles and his Eclipse and just like that, the scorching glare is back on him. Yay.

“I… that… you… Scott!” he manages, and then sticks out his hand, realizes it’s grease stained, pulls it back, realizes that Derek is a mechanic, sticks it out again and then drops it, raises it, waves a little. Jazz hands.

He thinks he might spy a hint of amusement on Derek’s face, which he is going to dream about, because those cheekbones and that scruff. Or maybe he’s giving Derek an aneurism with his spazziness and the twitching is just an early symptom. Chris would definitely give him that promotion if he managed to kill Derek Hale dead with the power of his awkward.

Which, right, he’s a cop. Serious, grown-up man with a serious, grown-up job. No more flailing.

“I’m Stiles,” he says. “Sorry about the… dinner thing.”

The twitch turns back into a frown. Those eyebrows are really kind of impressive. “Not your fault.” He turns back to Isaac and Scott. “We’re leaving now. Lock up.”

Stiles watches them scamper off. “Can I, like, come by in the morning? Isaac has some really awesome ideas.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why come back?”

“Dude, I told you. My car. Isaac. It’s a match made in heaven.”

The look he gets is… distrustful. Actually, it outright questions Stiles’ very existence. Stiles, who isn’t exactly the kind to trust easily himself, feels something like pity for the guy, because there’s paranoia and then there’s this.

He backs up a step, hands in the air. “Dude, seriously. I’m new in town and I don’t know anyone.” Lying is far too easy, really. “I met Scott at the diner and he’s kind of adorable, you know? Isaac’s nice, too. Just making friends.”

Derek growls. Like, actually fucking growls. “Don’t call me dude,” he commands. “Scott and Isaac have enough friends.”

“Are you, like, their mom or something?”

He knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as the words leave his mouth, but then it’s already too late.

“Get out!” Derek snarls and Stiles thinks of the pictures he saw of Kate Argent’s body, turned into so much pulp, and knows, without a doubt, that Derek would and could have killed her if he hadn’t been pulled off.

He gets out.

+

The next morning he’s back, bright and early, only to have Isaac avoid his gaze and Scott walk him backwards with a hand on his shoulder. “Look man, I’m sorry, but Derek doesn’t think you should come around. He’s… he doesn’t trust new people.”

“And you always do what Derek tells you?”

Something flickers across Scott’s face. “Unless he’s being stupid, yeah.”

“So this isn’t him being stupid?”

Scott shifts, uncomfortable. “I… things aren’t so hot right now. He doesn’t approve of my girlfriend. I don’t wanna provoke him.”

It’s not fear that drives Scott to please Derek. It’s the same thing that makes it so Stiles still knows Lydia will drop everything and fly to the rescue if he needs her to. Loyalty. Family.

He nods.

There goes his in.

+

“I think your boyfriend just job-cock-blocked me because he’s stupidly in love with you,” Stiles announces as soon as Alli picks up her phone.

“What?”

“That’s what I said.”

+

Two weeks later, with Chris breathing down his neck, Stiles has an alternate way in.

He drives up to the race event of the month, parks his car in the most dickish way possible, stalks right up to Derek fucking Hale and says, “I’m gonna race you.”

“Are you now?”

Erica Boyd starts cackling.

“Yeah. And if I win, you’re gonna let Isaac and Scott out to play after school.”

Head cocked to one side, the man actually looks interested. “And if you lose?”

“I’ll disappear?”

That gets him a dark, dark look and a smile full of teeth. “Yes. You will.”

Gulp.

+

He loses.

Spectacularly.

He tries to justify it with the fact that he hasn’t really raced in years, but he knows that’s not it. He still would have lost if he’d been in top form.

Derek smirks at him as he climbs out of his car. “Goodbye,” he says, and motions for everyone to step aside so Stiles can make like a tree.

That’s when the sirens start.

+

Stiles knows how cops bust races. The patterns, what they search for, how they spread out. Which is why he goes exactly two streets, backs into an alley, kills the engine and holds very still.

Five minutes later Derek comes pelting down the street – on foot - at full throttle and fuck, he’s fast. Like, that much muscle should not be able to move that quickly, but. But he’s got three patrol cars on his ass and no matter how fast he is, he can’t outrun those.

Stiles pops the passenger side door and hollers, “Get in!” even as he guns the engine.

Derek doesn’t bother stopping, just grabs the door and swings himself inside, feet first. They’re flying before the door is fully closed and then Stiles does what he’s really good at: race through traffic.

He ran drugs from ages fifteen to twenty. Fuck drag, this is what he does.

Weaving in between cars, left right, left right, he gets them away from the cops and then away from the city. At a make-out spot above the city, he stops the car, opens the door and lets himself fall flat on his back, arms spread, laughing his ass off because, fuck, he’s missed this, he’s missed this so bad, sirens howling, blood pumping, metal humming under his hands and the sky above, sunshine ‘till midnight and never, ever stop.

Derek blots out the moon a moment later, looming over him with his arms crossed and Stiles just goes, “Duuuude.”

“That was pretty decent driving,” the big guy admits.

Stiles beams stupidly and makes a dirt angel with his limbs.

“But then I’d expect nothing less from a former drug runner.”

His heart skips a beat. Not because Derek had him researched, but because he really, really hopes that Chris’ reassurances as to how his cop life is buried too deep for anyone to find, will hold up. Because the best CV is a real one and so they didn’t give him a new one, just struck certain pertinent facts from his old one.

Like, you know, how he’s here to arrest them all.

Minor details.

“You had someone look me up,” he finally manages to get out, sitting up. His voice doesn’t even squeak. He’s awesome.

The look that gets him is a very clear, of course, moron.

Shrugging, he offers, “Fair enough.”

Derek leans against the hood of the car and stares at him. And stares. And stares. Stiles feels naked, and not in the good way.

“Why race me?”

“What?”

“Why race me?”

Because repeating the question makes it clearer. “Ima actually need you to use more than three words here. And maybe some actual verbs? Sentence structure? Super big bonus if you can do it all without ellipses. I had this English teacher once, hot like you wouldn’t believe, and she had a really hard on for, you know, never mind.” He stops, waits.

Derek stares.

“Do you always talk that much?”

“Aaaand that was actually a whole sentence! Kudos! I knew you could do it!”

“Stiles.”

It’s actually impressive, how much menace the guy can express with one word.

Rolling his eyes and hitching his knees to his chest, Stiles shrugs. “Usually. I’m an annoying little shit. Fair warning.”

Silence. Then, “The race? Why?”

It’s like playing Crocodile Dentist, for fuck’s sake. Rubbing a hand over his face, Stiles sighs. “Honestly? Because I’m fucking lonely, man, and Scott and Isaac were nice. I’m a cheap lay like that. Emotionally, I mean.”

Derek cocks his head to one side. The canine jokes just write themselves, for real. “You’re not lying.”

He isn’t, is the thing.

Derek shrugs and gets into the car. On the driver’s side. Presumptuous asshole. “Come on.”

“Hey, dude, I just saved your ass, you owe me, I am not letting you drive my car, get out!”

Because there are rules.

“Get in the car.”

“My car. My car!”

“Get. In.”

He actually starts the car. Like, what the fuck?

“And don’t call me dude.”

Revs the engine.

Stiles scrambles.

+

On the way back to Derek’s place, Stiles suddenly starts flailing and waving and shouting, “Pull over, pull over, why are you driving my car, pull over!”

Derek pulls over.

Stiles more or less falls out of the car ass over elbows and lands with a thump, staring up at the building in front of him.

“Are you completely fucked in the head?” Derek asks, almost conversationally.

Stiles shushes him. He’ll have a heart attack about it later. “Dude. Hyperion Hotel.”

“What.” Also, inflection. It’s not just whole sentences they will need to work on.

“Angel, man. Buffy was better, but, whatever. Angel. Hotel Hyperion. Don’t tell me you never watched the show. It’s a travesty.”

Derek squints at him across the roof of the car. “You’re too young.”

Stiles shrugs. “Watched Buffy with my mom. She never lived to see the last seasons, and my dad never let me watch it alone. First thing I ever did with my library card, man. I spent five days awake, watching all twelve seasons. I think I was hallucinating at the end, but that may have been the bad writing.”

He shrugs again and turns away from that almost-soft thing in Derek’s eyes. He’s a poor fucking orphan. It’s cool, no need to pity him.

Instead he spins to stare at the majestic beauty that was once the set for a campy fantasy show far, far ahead of its times.

After a few minutes of silence, Derek says, “I’m leaving now,” and Stiles has to scramble to not be left behind by his own car. Again.

+

Here are the things Stiles never puts in his reports:

Erica has a sense of humour so raunchy, Stiles blushes. Boyd is an amazing cook. Isaac is so touch starved, that he’ll accept cuddles from virtual strangers. Scott loves Allison to the point of idiocy, but it’s true love. Peter Hale is a sociopath on his good days, but he’d to anything for his family, including kill and be killed and it’s calming, in a way, to know that someone will defend that rag-tag group of people.

And Derek…

Derek isn’t angry.

Derek is broken.

“Don’t mind him,” Scott says one day, after Derek storms through the garage with a deadly glower and gives Stiles a look that says, fuck off an die more clearly than a billboard could. “He’s always been like this.”

A few feet away, Peter’s smooth expression flickers with sorrow and Stiles thinks, probably not always.

He hooks an arm around Scott’s neck and says, “I’m hungry and you’re buying, bitch.”

+

It’s late, the garage is empty and Stiles is laying in the lot, shirtless, sweating like a pig because it’s a bazillion degrees.

Boyd and Isaac are arguing about the suspension of an old Honda and Derek is fucking about under his Camaro. Scott is on a beer run.

Erica sits next to Stiles, molesting a straw with her mouth while they’re discussing comics. They’re settled the DC/Marvel issue and have now moved on to superheroes.

“Catwoman is way better. She has a dark side. It’s totally hot.”

“Batman has a dark side,” Stiles argues. “And he’s a regular human, doing good.”

“That’s a bit flat,” she tells him.

“True, though.”

“Boring,” she sing-songs.

“Just because you don’t have a counter argument, that doesn’t make mine boring.”

Erica gives him a low, narrow-eyed look. Then she upends the rest of her iced tea on his face.

Stiles yelps, curses and goes for the hose. Boyd jumps in to defend his wife, Isaac joins Stiles. They keep at it until Peter comes out of the back office and Derek yells at them all to fucking. Stop.

When they don’t, he wades in, grabs Boyd and Stiles by the scruff and drags them apart like naughty puppies. He forgets that Stiles still has the hose in hand, though, and he angles it at the big guy, who promptly smacks Boyd into him.

They both go down, rubbing their heads and groaning. The hose drops and starts dancing madly, spraying literally everything.

By the time Scott comes back, the lot is a fucking pool.

+

Later, once everyone else has rolled out, Stiles helps clean up the lot. He and Derek work quietly, without talking. Or rather, Stiles rambles, but doesn’t talk, and Derek silences at him a lot.

It’s late, dark already, and the city’s growing quiet around them and it occurs to Stiles that these quiet moments alone with Derek always happen late at night.

Like some forbidden romance, or some such shit. Except Stiles doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body, and neither does Derek. Probably. So they’d be, like, vampires or something. Except Derek couldn’t pull of vampire at all. He’s more like a werewolf. Overprotective and growly.

Stiles giggles in a very manly way.

In the process of tidying up the hose, Derek stops.

“What?”

The older man cocks his head to one side. “You’re weird.”

“Dude, I used to boost cars for fun and spend my evenings listening to my best friend turn moral relativism into a justification for world domination. I was bound to come out funny.” It’s true. Stiles makes no excuses.

“Weird,” Derek confirms and Stiles begins to suspect that, under all the scruff and the hurt and the sheer aura of fucked-up, don’t touch the man exudes, Derek might actually have a sense of humour. Dry as the fucking Sahara, but there nonetheless.

It boggles the mind.

“Yep. And I was serious about the world domination thing, so don’t be surprised about that. It’ll happen one day.”

Derek nods. “Right. Moral relativism.”

“It’s a legitimate thing. I swear.” He grins, ten thousand watt and counting.

Derek doesn’t grin back, but the corners of his mouth twitch for, like, half a second. Stiles takes it.

+

“Oh, honey,” Lydia says, and for once it’s not even in that sardonic way she has, but in a serious and completely honest way. “You’re in too deep, aren’t you?”

Stiles blinks at her. “What? No. Lyds, it’s just a job. I mean, it’s hard, because it brings up a shit ton of memories. Remember that time we busted the Camaro and took it for a joyride? That’s… it’s a throwback, that’s all. Like, god, I could be either one of them, if I hadn’t gotten out when I did. I wasn’t very far from being a random street thug, you know?”

She snorts. “You were never going to be a thug,” she informs him. “At least until you joined the dark side.”

“The police is not the dark side.”

A huff. “That’s your opinion.”

“Lyds.”

Eyeroll. “Do whatever you want, Stiles, but don’t fucking lie to me. Anyway. I’ve decided to move back to Cali. We’ll do lunch in a few weeks.” She gives the camera a stern look, nods to herself and does her trademark hair flip because she knows he hates it.

Then she hangs up without saying goodbye and he’s left to give the finger to the blank screen.

+

The first time Stiles is invited to stay for dinner, Derek sits at the head of the table and Peter at the foot and everyone else in between, digging in without ceremony.

Canine jokes.

Stiles grabs the potatoes for himself before they’re gone and listens to Scott wax poetic about Allison. Again. Seriously, if the girl weren’t a good friend, he’d hate her, just because of the verbal vomit going on.

Erica rolls her eyes a lot, Isaac listens like it’s church time on Sunday and the rest ignore Scott. Boyd and Derek talk about the garage. Stiles is left with Peter, who gives him a very even, very dangerous look.

And just keeps it up, and up, and up.

Apparently, the staring runs in the family.

Stiles tries to distract himself with food, fails, and finally loses his patience. “So,” he asks, “poison or machete?”

Conversation grinds to a halt around them. Peter’s expression widens into something that could generously be called a grin. Too. Many. Teeth.

“What?” Scott asks.

“When you’re done staring,” Stiles says, to Peter, not Scott. “Are you going to murder me with poison or a machete? I can’t decide if you’re the neat or the really, really messy type.”

Isaac chokes on his steak. With laughter.

Scott and Boyd look flabbergasted. Erica crows.

Derek is unreadable and Peter? Kind of looks really pleased.

“Don’t give me a reason to show you,” he drawls.

+

The thing is, Stiles thinks he might deserve to be machete-murdered because Chris keeps saying things like, “This time we’ll get them, no matter what,” and Stiles still isn’t sure there’s even anything to get them for.

+

It’s hot.

Like, it’s so hot that Chris Argent blew off their super-secret information exchanging meeting with the words, “I’m melting, go annoy someone else.”

Apparently, his Godfather persona doesn’t stand up to LA heat waves.

Stiles shrugged and drove to the diner, where he found Scott sweltering and sweating and groaning on his own, not a customer in sight.

That was three hours ago.

They’re outside now, sticky from head to toe because Scott was pouring them cokes and Stiles was chewing Mentos and great minds think alike.

Coke fountain, dude.

It was fucking awesome. Sugar-sticky beats sweat-sticky every time.

The entire parking lot is damp with sugary goodness and Stiles might need to cut those jeans off his body. Or undress in the running shower. He’d suggest going over to the garage and hosing down, but it’s not happening, because if they get in a car like this, it’ll need a new interior and he’s not even exaggerating.

Scott doesn’t seem concerned with the logistical problems of being doused, head to toe, in heart attack juice. He dug a battered old skateboard out of the trunk of his car fifteen minutes ago and has been wiping out all over the diner’s parking lot since, adding all kinds of dirt to his base coat of coke.

It’s like the twenty-first century’s answer to tarring and feathering.

Stile is sitting in the shade, watching, and occasionally licking his arm for flavour. This is the harmless kind of mayhem he never got around to as a kid because he was busy learning how to drive getaway cars, steal shit and fire guns.

Watching Scott land on his ass again, he thinks, ridiculously, that he never might have gotten so screwed-up if he’d had the other man around growing up. If he’d been doing this, coke fountains and cheap skateboard tricks, he might never have gotten into all the shit he did.

Stiles needs someone to stop him and Lydia, bless her black little heart, has never once reigned in any of his shitty ideas, no matter how self-destructive. Scott probably would have.

Huh.

He’s about to get deep on that, when Boyd’s Supra rolls up, spitting out the rest of the crew, minus Peter. Derek was driving of course, but he throws Boyd his keys back even as he looks critically over Scott, Stiles, and the mess of empty bottles and sadly popping foam on the ground.

Scotty grins, waves at them and pulls out another roll of Mentos. “You gotta see this shit,” he says and his mouth is full of teeth even as the puppy dog eyes pop.

Isaac doesn’t even blink, just jogs off to fetch more bottles while Erica strips down to a bikini top and short shorts. Boyd shakes his head at his wife and collects both their electronics to lock up in the car.

Two minutes later the four of them are dancing through the sweet rain, whooping hollering and generally scaring the natives.

Derek watches them from a safe distance and Stiles, across the lot, watches him, watching them. He looks almost content, standing there with his customary scowl melting a little. It’s Sunday, which means he probably just talked to Laura and Cora. His sister’s always leave Derek raw, better and worse than he is the other six days of the week. Stiles pretends it doesn’t break his heart, just a little.

Their gazes meet through the mess and Stiles wriggles his nose because there’s coke up it, thank you very much, and not the fun kind.

Derek snorts and then, for just a moment, wriggles his nose right back.

+

“You like them,” Allison says, humming around the mouth of her beer bottle.

Stiles salutes her with his own. “I see what you see in Scott,” he allows. “He’s adorable. I want to pet him, and that’s not even a euphemism.”

He’s come to the conclusion that a Stiles with a Scott would have turned out very differently than this Stiles with Lydia did. Which is not to say that Stiles doesn’t love Lydia like cars and bad movies, just that, as far as influence in his formative years goes, he could have had better.

Alli smirks. “You’re trying to change the subject.”

Damn cops and their instincts. He thought he was being subtle about it, too. “Maybe,” he hedges, not sure what he’s answering.

“My dad is trying to get me to break up with Scott,” she says, letting him off the hook.

Well, shit. Stiles slings an arm around her shoulder. “You could always quit and stop letting him run your life,” he offers.

She leans into him, hums. “We could run away. Just… leave it all behind. We both hate this job anyway.”

He stiffens. “I don’t hate being a cop.”

Her eyes almost cross as she glares up at him from her position snuggled up against his shoulder. “Stiles, you hate being a cop more than me. At least I have the slightest chance of ever pleasing my father. But you… yours is dead. You’ll never….”

“Stop,” he says. Because she needs to not finish that sentence. A lot. Stiles knows. He’s known for a while. “Alli, stop.”

“It’s true.”

“Doesn’t change anything.” He’s known that, too.

“So you don’t like the Hale Clan? You don’t feel… at home with them?” It’s cute, how she thinks he even knows what that means. He’s a screwy only child from a single parent household that smelled of booze and a dead woman’s perfume for almost as long as he can remember.

He grabs her bottle, shoves it up to her mouth and keeps pushing until she drinks and shuts the hell up.

+

Erica and Boyd disappear at odd intervals, incidentally also today.

Isaac and Peter are out for the weekend. Work, Derek says when Stiles asks. Nothing more. Scott has run off to woo Allison into abandoning her law-abiding life and riding into the sunset with him.

That leaves Derek and Stiles at a Mexican stand-off over the Eclipse, where Derek glowers and Stiles wonders if they’ve all been sent off to plan a heist, with Stiles being distracted and Scott diverting Argent attention.

They haven’t really talked since the night of the race. Derek glowers a lot and Stiles talks a lot and he thinks they might be friends, but they’ve only exchanged actual words a handful of times. Still, Stiles kind of likes their quiet non-conversations as long as Derek doesn’t lay on the gloom too think.

The man lives in a tower of woe and angst, brooding too many days away at the fringes of his family, always guarding. Canine. Jokes. And Stiles feels sorry for him because whatever he’s done, whatever he’s become since he got out of jail, he was a kid once.

Stiles fucked himself over. He did it with both hands and in full control of his faculties, just went out and did the dumbest shit he could think of because he wanted to and he could blame Lydia for that, but he’d be lying. Stiles fucked himself over. Derek got fucked over.

“Wanna go for a drive?” he asks.

Derek blinks, like he got pulled out of deep thoughts, hesitates, then nods. Shock and awe. Then he stalks off toward his car, ignoring Stiles’, which is right there, completely.

“What? Dude, seriously, you have control issues. As in, plural. All the issues. Hey! Hey, are you leaving without me? Hey, dude!”

He scampers after him and barely manages to slip in shotgun before Derek tears out of the drive.

His sunglasses make him look douchetastic and also, unfairly hot.

“Don’t call me dude.”

+

Derek drives them to shack by the ocean where they get seafood and talk about nothing at all. Or rather, Stiles talks and Derek gives him Looks.

After, they end up at the make-out spot again and Stiles drawls, “Careful. You’re giving a boy ideas.”

Derek shakes his head, but it looks fond. They sit next to each other on the hood of the car and stare down at the city for a while. Stiles babbles, but it’s really just white noise.

Until Derek says, “You know about Kate.”

Everyone knows about Kate. Stiles doesn’t say it.

Derek glares down at LA in all its smoggy, dirty glory. He looks like he’s in pain and Stiles wants to stop him, to shovel the words back in his mouth because they’re having a moment, Jesus, he’s having a moment with Derek freaking Hale and that cannot happen. It cannot.

But Derek is apparently not as well versed in telepathy as he’d like people to believe, because he just keeps on talking. “I was sleeping with her. I thought I was in love.”

Were you? Again, Stiles bites his tongue. Give him a fucking prize.

“My mom threatened to call in the cops if she didn’t back off.” There’s a moment, two, three. Stiles counts out his heartbeats. “So she burnt my entire family alive.”

His mom died in a hospital bed. His dad died alone in his office, slumped in a creaky old chair. Stiles has nightmares about going out like this, quiet and weak and silent.

He thinks he’d rather burn.

“Why are you telling me this?”

Derek shrugs. “You should know,” he says.

Then he takes a deep breath, like the moment before the plunge, and presses Stiles backwards into the hood of the Camaro, wedges a thigh between his knees and proceeds to kiss him stupid.

+

“Do you think your parents would be proud of you?” Stiles asks, later, stretched languidly along cooling metal. He hasn’t had sex on the hood of a car since he was sixteen.

He doesn’t think Derek has had sex at all since he was sixteen.

There’s a silence long enough that he thinks he’s offended the big guy, but then, “I think they wanted me to be happy.”

Stiles presses his eyes closed until he sees stars. “Listen,” he mutters, rolling off the car to grab for his jeans. The shirt is unsalvageable.

He just fucked a mark. Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t regret a second of it. Jesus fucking Christ.

“I have some errands to run tomorrow, so I probably won’t be by until late. That cool?”

Derek, jeans still unbuttoned, shirt and boots in hand – Stiles would have felt awkward in the face of all that hotness once, would have felt inferior, but he’s all grown up now - Derek nods. “Fine.”

+

There’s no-one at the garage, the house, or the diner when Stiles comes knocking around dinnertime the next day.

Three hours later Chris Argent is screaming at him via phone, and he knows where they all went.

+

“They were gone?”

“Yes. Their cars were there, their usual ones, I mean, but they weren’t. I couldn’t reach anyone.”

“Then we’ve got them.”

“What?” Stiles blinks, flabbergasted, because, what, no!

Wait. No?

“We got a few partials off the last truck. Together with them being MIA at the time of the jacking, we have enough for a warrant. And that’s going to get us these bastards on a platter. Good job, Stilinski.”

Except Stiles hasn’t done anything and his gut feels like it wants to spill out on the floor, in a bloody heap, which is not a very nice mental image, but it’s what gutted means and he feels it.

“Warrant will be through in a couple of hours. Stay away from them until then. You get out clean, we can use you again.”

He nods, numbly, shakes Chris’ hand and stumbles out of the hideout.

He gets in his car, drives a few miles without knowing where to and then calls Allison.

“Run away with me,” he says, as soon as she picks up.

“What?”

“Your dad has a warrant.”

Silence. He listens to her breathe. There’s no shock, no surprise. Allison knew already, the same as he did, that the Hales aren’t innocent. It just doesn’t matter.

It never fucking mattered.

Because Allison loves Scott and Stiles plays chess with Peter and talks comics with Erica, plays pool with Boyd and Isaac and he let Derek fuck him on the hood of his car and he maybe he’s still the lonely, terrified boy he was when Lydia took him on, but maybe he isn’t.

Maybe they’re worth it, even if he’s known them for less than two months.

Or maybe, maybe he just spent too long staring at pictures of Derek’s burnt out shell of a childhood home, at the scars on Isaac’s back, of the reports about domestic abuse at the McCall house.

Maybe he just fucking wants to.

On the other end of the phone, Alli says, “Okay.”

+

He parks two blocks away, sneaks in through the backyard. He finds Derek in the kitchen, head in his hands, staring at the kitchen table.

He doesn’t look up when Stiles comes in.

“Why?” Stiles asks, no preamble.

“What.”

“Why the fucking trucks, Derek?”

And that earns him eye contact, finally, earns him a look that should be able to kill. “What.”

“Answer the question, dude.”

He waits for Derek to tell him not to call him dude, but the other man’s eyes go to where Stiles knows a gun is hidden in the junk drawer. He takes a step to the left, putting himself smack in front of it, keeping his arms crossed. Not attacking.

Derek’s eyes are bloodshot. “What do you know?”

“I know there was a jacking, I know it went wrong and I know I spent two hours last night trying to get a hold of any of you and couldn’t!” He doesn’t mean to shout. It just sort of happens. Hello anger, haven’t seen you since Dad’s funeral.

Derek’s eyes are bloodshot. He sighs and it sounds… way older than his thirty years. Stiles’ words hang between them, heavy with implication, for a long minute.

Then the older man seems to make some kind of decision. “Erica is pregnant.”

“What?”

“Erica is pregnant. She and Boyd have wanted to get out for a while. Isaac got an admission to college. He wants to go. Scott is in love. I thought… we needed some cash, that’s all. Just enough to start over.”

As far as good reasons for shitty things go, this one is the best. And it sure as hell beats boosting cars just to prove you can. Shit.

He rubs a hand over his face, into his hair, scrubbing hard. Okay. Okay.

“Here is what we’re going to do,” he says, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. “Call everyone. Tell them to meet us there.” He flicks the address onto the table. “Then get what you can’t leave behind here. We leave in five.”

Derek takes the paper, looks from Stiles to it and back again. “Why?”

Stiles smiles at him, crooked and off centre and not terrified at all. He should be. He should be too terrified to breathe, but this is the easiest thing he’s ever done. “Oh, and don’t bother with Scott, he’s on his way.”

“Stiles…” low and threatening and angry because it took him a moment, but, yeah, Derek’s not exactly dumb.

Stiles shakes his head, squeezes his eyes shut tightly. “We don’t have time for this, Derek. I’m on your side.”

“Prove it.”

He’s asking too much and he knows it, but this is not exactly something he planned for, even though he should have. This is Stiles Stilinski, flying by the seat of his pants as always and hoping he won’t crash. Hoping Derek won’t leap for the gun and pop him, one, two, three, because that would really suck.

“I’m trying to,” he answers and steps aside, slow and deliberate, making way for the other man to reach the weapon. “Fuck, Derek, I’m trying to.”

They stare at each other for far too long and Stiles thinks that Derek’s eyes have a weird colour and that they only fucked that once and only in the dark and he wants to do it again. In daylight. Where he can see every second of it.

“If you’re lying to me, I will kill you. I will…”

He knows. So he kisses Derek, just to shut him up.

+

What Derek can’t leave behind turns out to be a lock box with a lot of papers, two photo albums and a few knick knacks from everyone’s rooms after Stiles tells him they won’t be back.

He still hasn’t asked how Stiles knows what he does, or why they have to go. He’s probably guessed at least one truth. Either that, or he actually trusts Stiles, which is enough to make his heart skip a few beats. Jesus. He embarrasses himself. Where did the devil-may-care drug runner go?

Duffle slung over one shoulder, Stiles takes a deep breath and pulls Derek by the arm. “Play along,” he hisses and opens the front door, frog marching the big guy toward his Camero, not giving him time to think anything through, because then he’d never go along with this. Rightly so.

It takes the guys parked down the street thirty seconds to job up to them. Stiles greets them with a grin. “Patterson, Jones,” he says, all civil.

They both dislike him. Stiles is okay with that.

“The fuck are you doing, Stilinski? Boss said for you to stay away.”

And if Derek didn’t know everything, he does now. Spectacular work, guys. Stiles feels the muscle under his hand clench tight and squeezes in warning. Then he takes a shallow breath and lets the bullshit flow. “Mr Hale here wants to make a full confession. I’m just escorting him to see the chief. It’s going to save us a shitload of paperwork, if you know what I mean. And I absolutely mean that you should be happy because I’ve seen your attempts at a report and monkeys have better prose than you, Pats. So. Mind if I do my job now?”

Patterson curses but Jones just gives him a narrow-eyed squint before turning to Derek. “He telling the truth?”

As if Derek’s going to say no. As if Stiles left him with that option. If he does anything but agree, they’ll both be booked and locked away by noon. He ducks his head, then raises it again, glowering.

“My family had nothing to do with this,” he snaps and it’s valid enough for Jones to believe the confession thing. He glowers at Stiles for bagging the confession, then waves them on.

Stiles gets in the car, Derek riding shotgun, and they drive very slowly down the street. The trick to lying is looking like it’s the truest thing you’ve ever done.

Three blocks down the road, Derek says, “You’re a cop.”

Stiles snorts, adrenalin slowly bleeding from his veins, and it’s not even bitter. “Not anymore, dude.”

+

The others meet them at the airfield, with Scott and Allison bringing up the rear. She comes tumbling out of the car and throws herself at Stiles to hug him.

Laughter bubbles in his throat. “Run away with me,” he says, and Alli answers, “I’ve considered all my options.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Besides, I just quit.”

Scott blinks at them, really slow. “You two know each other?”

Stiles laughs for real this time. “Since the Academy. Erica, Boyd, congrats on the rugrat. Can we go now?”

On cue, Lydia Fucking Martin comes strolling out of the hangar, hair perfect, shoes flawless, outfit gorgeous. She holds out a hand for Stiles like she wants him to kiss it and he takes it, raises it up and spins her into his arm, laughing, hugging her tightly.

“Jesus, Lyds,” he says, and she pats him on the head with a wicked, red grin, because she has never even tried to reign him in.

“I thought you were smart,” she chastises. “You’re a fucking idiot.”

“I’m smart!” he defends, “I’m getting out before my ass is on fire.”

“You’re going to be wanted.” She sounds half excited, half put-out about it.

“Morality is an arbitrary notion of the small-minded to keep their betters on uneven footing and I am refusing it.”

She slaps him on the shoulder with pursed lips to hide a smile, steps back.

“What’s that mean?” Isaac asks.

Lydia and Stiles both shake their heads and she turns to lead the way inside, waving for them to follow them to a private jet. The others trail after them like confused ducklings, because Stiles knows the cop girlfriend but he also knows the bombshell with the private. Fucking. Jet.

“Christ, Lyds. Does Jackson know he’s funding this mad escape?”

She smirks. “Jackson knows what’s good for him.”

“Have you told him that you’re taking over his criminal empire yet, or does he still think he’s getting the perfect mob-bride out of you?”

The smirk grows wider. “Get on the plane, Stiles, and call me from Venezuela, will you? We’re thinking of having the wedding down there and I need to know if it’s too humid. You know my hair turns frizzy in humidity.”

He salutes her because he loves her and then watches her take her flawless, terrifying self away again, deus ex fucking machina, queen of fucking everything and every fucking thing.

He turns to the others.

Allison looks scared and relieved. The others look… terrified and confused and hopeful and awfully blank. He scratches his head. “So that was my best friend. She’s plotting world domination, so don’t piss her off.”

“She’s Jackson Whittemore’s girl,” Boyd observes.

“Yeah, no. Jackson Whittemore is her boy. You should have seen them in high school. She said jump, he climbed on top of the chem building and leapt.”

True story.

Isaac giggles.

“Come on,” Stiles says.

“Are you sure?” Derek wants to know. Like it actually matters anymore now. Then he shakes his head, answers his own question. “Moral relativism.”

Stiles laughs, shrugs.

“Spectacularly bad idea,” he prophesies, but he’s grinning as he does it and Peter rolls his eyes and shoves them all toward the plane.

+

Venezuela does turn Lydia’s hair frizzy, but she needs Stiles to be her bridesmaid and he went and made himself a fugitive, so she makes do.

The gang sits in the first row, where family goes, and Stiles looks at them and knows he won’t die quietly at all.

But he also won’t die alone, so that’s okay.

+