‘Do you think Derek’s okay?’
Scott paused, fork halfway to his mouth. ‘What?’
‘Derek. Remember him? Tall? Dark? Handsome? Werewolf? Broods like it’s an Olympic sport?’ Stiles shoved some curly fries into his mouth. ‘Any of this ringing any bells?’
Scott rolled his eyes. ‘Of course I know who he is. What about him?’
‘Do you think he’s lonely?’ Stiles cringed inwardly, questioning the life choices he’d made that led him to a place where he worried about whether Derek Hale was lonely or not.
‘Why would he be lonely?’
Stiles resisted the urge to bang his head on the table. ‘Because his entire family was horribly murdered and now that you’re back to normal, he’s quite literally the only werewolf in town.’
It had been three weeks since Scott had reverted back to a full-blooded human. Stiles would have begun to wonder if Derek had died or left town, except he had spotted the Camaro around town. He didn’t think that Derek would give up his car unless he was dead. Maybe not even then.
Scott was staring at him as if Stiles had suggested that going for a second round of the werewolf thing would be a barrel of laughs. And okay, so Stiles supposed that to Scott, Derek was still the guy who’d screwed up his life, even if Derek hadn’t actually given him the bite and it had been only for about five weeks. Five hellishly terrifying weeks, admittedly.
‘Why do you care?’
‘It’s not that I care, as such -’
‘Then why are we even talking about him?’ Scott whined.
‘I – well, you see –’ Any minute now inspiration was going to strike. Any. Minute. Now. Honest.
Before Stiles could stammer suspiciously enough for even Scott to side-eye him, Allison dropped down on the other side of Scott. Stiles breathed a huge sigh of relief at not having to articulate something he really couldn’t at that moment. Sure, they had only known Derek for a month and a half, and for most of that he had been threatening them both with bodily harm of some kind, but even so, Stiles had ended up kind of liking the guy. When he wasn’t terrified of him, that was.
After Scott had reverted back to being human, Stiles had assumed that he’d never see Derek again. That he’d never want to see Derek again. Unfortunately, his brain hadn’t got the memo, because he kept finding himself thinking about where Derek was and what he was doing at the most inconvenient moments. Which had been unexpected. But apparently sharing a couple of life-saving situations with a guy endeared them to you. Who knew? Not Stiles, evidently.
‘Hi.’ Allison smiled cheerfully at them both and Stiles just about managed to resist rolling his eyes as Scott forgot everything they’d been talking about. He didn’t dislike her – actually he thought she was kind of awesome: she had used a crossbow to make the alpha burst into flames, after all – but it was grating the way the world fell away from Scott as soon as Allison entered the room.
On the other hand, it did mean that he didn’t have to worry about Scott wondering why Stiles was thinking about Derek.
After practice, Stiles threw his bag and lacrosse stick into the backseat of his Jeep and waved to Scott and Allison as they got into Allison’s car. At least he didn’t have to worry about Scott wondering where he was or what he was doing, or, worse trying to talk him out of what was undoubtedly a most awesome(ly awful) idea.
Not giving himself time to second-guess his actions, Stiles threw the Jeep into gear and pulled out of the parking lot.
On the way over he’d nearly turned back about a dozen times. Pulling up outside the Hale house, Stiles stared up at the burnt-out shell, his knee bouncing nervously, wondering, not for the first time, if Derek was ever going to rebuild the place. Frankly, it was damn creepy and Stiles couldn’t work out how Derek lived there. The roof hardly existed. What did he do when it rained?
Slamming the car door shut, he trundled over to the house, his hands pushed deep into the pockets of his hoodie, his eyes firmly on the ground in front of him. He didn’t want to fall flat on his ass and have Derek loom over him.
Reaching the steps, he jumped about a foot in the air when Derek’s boots appeared in front of him on the decking. He jumped backwards, his arms flailing.
‘Nnnnargh. Stop doing that.’
Instead of answering, Stiles took a moment to stare up at Derek’s brooding eyebrows. Ignoring the way his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest, Stiles found himself feeling normal - well, normal for him, anyway - for the first time in weeks. He really needed to assess his life choices if he’d missed seeing Derek’s scowl on a regular basis.
‘Doing what, Stiles?’ Derek snapped.
‘Sneaking up on me.’
Derek fixed him with a cold stare. ‘How is walking out of my front door sneaking up on you?’
‘Because you do it very quietly,’ Stiles told him, his heart still hammering wildly away. ‘And why do you even use the front door?’
Derek narrowed his eyes. ‘Stiles –‘
‘Because, I mean, most of the rooms don’t even have four walls, so it’s not like you actually need to use any of the doors, is it? It’s like you have a cartoon house.’
If he were Derek, he’d be worried that the whole place would fall down around him. Especially with all the walls that had been knocked through by all the fighting that had gone in the weeks leading up to their big bossfight with Peter Hale.
Instead of answering him, Derek growled softly, sending a shiver down Stiles’ back. ‘Stiles, what are you doing here?’
Stiles shrugged, realising for the first time that he didn’t have much of a plan past finding Derek. He certainly hadn’t taken the time to think of a reason for turning up uninvited and unannounced. And while it seemed okay for Derek to turn up at Stiles’ house whenever the mood took him, Stiles doubted the same applied to him turning up at Derek’s.
‘I ask again, Stiles: Why. Are. You. Here?’
He rubbed a hand over his head. ‘I was, you know, in the area.’ Shrugging, he said, ‘Thought I’d drop by and say hi. Haven’t seen you in a while…’ He trailed off under Derek’s increasingly hard glare. Feeling his shoulders start to curl in, he mentally kicked himself in the head and tried to square them.
‘In the area?’ Derek repeated flatly. ‘I’m five miles out of town.’
‘Exactly how were you in the area?’
Which was a fair question. Any way you sliced it, there was no way Stiles would be driving past Derek’s to get home…or to go anywhere in town, for that matter. ‘Well…’
‘Go home, Stiles,’ Derek said, slumping against the porch, looking suddenly tired. Stiles was surprised the porch didn’t crumble under Derek’s considerable weight. It didn’t look especially sturdy.
Derek pushed himself off the porch and Stiles had to back up a few steps as Derek came down the steps if he didn’t want Derek pressed right up against him. ‘You know Scott isn’t here, right?’
Stiles laughed. ‘Of course I know that. Scott’s with Allison, like always.’
Derek gave him a long, considering look and Stiles shivered. ‘Then why are you here?’
Stiles opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He may not have the best survival instincts around, but even he knew that telling Derek he thought he was lonely and needed company wasn’t the best way to keep breathing.
Something must have shown on his face because Derek’s scowl became even darker than usual. He grabbed Stiles’ arm roughly, but weirdly without really hurting him, and marched him back to his Jeep, ignoring all his protests. He wrenched open the door with way more force than was necessary.
‘Dude, seriously, I like the doors on my Jeep, you know.’ He really didn’t know what it was about his Jeep that meant werewolves wanted to kill it, but it just wasn’t acceptable. Dad had been pretty understanding about the engine being ripped out, but much more and he’d start asking questions.
Derek just growled at him, bundled him into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. He pointed back the way Stiles had driven. ‘Go. Home.’
Stiles sighed. ‘Look, man, all I want –‘
But apparently Derek wasn’t interested in what Stiles wanted because he turned and stalked back towards the house.
‘ – is to be your friend,’ Stiles finished under his breath.
There was a slight hitch in Derek’s step, but he didn’t falter and didn’t turn back around so Stiles turned the key and turned the car around. He might as well get home before Dad got worried.
He glanced in his rear-view mirror just as the house turned out of sight and nearly drove off the road when he saw Derek sitting on the top step, his arms resting on his knees. Honestly, he was too far away to see, but Stiles imagined there was a slight (very slight) smile on his face.
Stiles was totally going back.
_ _ _
For the next few weeks Stiles went back to the Hale house every couple of days, but Derek never seemed to be there.
It was almost as if Derek was avoiding him. Which was rude.
Where the hell could he be? As far as Stiles knew, all Derek did was brood, save his and Scott’s lives (and, yeah, that was less in demand now) and work out - although, surely there were only so many push-ups a man could do. Not that Stiles would ever discourage Derek from doing as many push-ups as he wanted. Not when it resulted in shoulders and abs like that. But Derek’s abs were beside the point.
The point was; evidently Derek didn’t know how persistent Stiles could be. And that was his first mistake.
Stiles drove up the track to the Hale house, already resigned to the fact that Derek wasn’t going to be there. Pretty soon he was going to have to come up with a different plan. Or, you know, an actual plan. But, as he turned the corner, he was surprised to see Derek’s Camaro sitting there. His palms immediately began to feel sweaty.
As Stiles pulled his Jeep up next to the Camaro, he almost expected the car to disappear in a puff of smoke, like a mirage. Walking up to the house, he definitely expected Derek to appear and throw him back into the Jeep and send him on his way. That didn’t happen though, and Stiles started to feel unaccountably nervous.
He walked slowly up the steps and pushed open the door, wincing as the door creaked. If Derek was about then surely that would have announced his arrival. So why wasn’t Derek looming dark and silent out of the shadows, demanding that he leave?
Very slowly and carefully, Stiles started going through the house, looking for Derek, even though he knew that if Derek were here then Derek would already be in his personal space, giving him shit about snooping around. He stepped over the debris around the house, marvelling at the fact that Derek still hadn’t started clearing the place up. Even getting rid of the mess on the floors would improve the place tenfold.
Eventually he had to admit that there was no way Derek was anywhere on the first floor. He’d checked every room and unless Derek was under one of the walls - and Stiles was relatively sure that no further walls had been knocked down since the last time he’d been in the house - then the first floor was Derek-free.
That left the second floor. He stood at the foot of the stairs, hand on the banister, staring up at the blackened ceiling. He really, really didn’t want to go upstairs. For all he knew Derek was out in the forest and not even in the house and Stiles was freaking himself out for no good reason. He was about to give up when he heard a noise.
Over the last few months, Stiles had become rather knowledgeable about strange noises. This noise didn’t sound threatening. If anything, it sounded pained. Very pained. And since this was Derek’s house, it could easily be Derek. Or maybe someone he’d gutted.
Stiles groaned to himself. He had been so close to just walking out.
Obviously he hadn’t learnt that much over the last two months, because instead of running away from the noise and calling either Scott (probably a bad idea) or his dad (definitely a bad idea), he moved towards it. Which meant going up the stairs. A place he’d never gone before, not that he’d had any reason to, but it seemed like he was crossing some kind of boundary.
Grabbing onto the banister, he shook his head at himself. If this were a movie, Stiles would be yelling at the moron about to walk up the stairs to run out the front door that was right there.
About half way up, there was a particularly ominous creek and Stiles froze. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this,’ he muttered. ‘No wonder Derek always jumps down the stairs.’
Scott had always assumed it was Derek showing off, but maybe it was the far more practical reason of the staircase being about to collapse.
Since standing there, waiting for the stairs to fall out from under his feet wasn’t really much of a plan, he forced himself to keep going.
‘It’s like I’ve forgotten every horror movie rule, ever,’ he said, standing at the top of the main staircase and kind of scared to move in case the whole place fell down around his ears.
‘Stiles. Shut. Up,’ Derek’s voice rasped from somewhere upstairs.
Stiles’ head snapped up, ears straining to hear any noise that would tell him where Derek was. ‘Derek? Is that you?’
There was no answer, but the atmosphere felt pissed off. ‘Right,’ he said half to himself. ‘Stupid question.’ He took a cautious step away from the banister. When nothing bad happened, he took another.
He looked left, then right. ‘Where are you?’
Stiles rolled his eyes. That was Derek for you: helpful as ever.
There were a couple of splashes of blood on the stairs to his left and Stiles reckoned that was as good a clue as any. Spying another splash of blood outside one of the doors, Stiles decided that was another good clue and pushed it open.
‘Derek...’ Stiles froze in the doorway. ‘Holy shit.’ He felt the blood drain from his face and his mouth fell open.
Derek was propped up against the wall, with his shirt in shreds around him and his hand pressed hard against against his side. There was blood seeping sluggishly through his fingers.
It wasn’t a lot - like his body was trying to heal itself, but couldn’t - but it was more blood than Stiles was used to seeing outside Derek’s body. It reminded him of when Crazy Kate had shot Derek with the wolfsbane bullet. He didn’t like that memory.
He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. ‘You didn’t get shot again, did you? Because that’s kind of careless.’
That kicked Stiles out of his stupor. ‘Oh god, you’ve been stabbed.’ He rushed over and knelt at Derek’s side, hands hovering uselessly over Derek’s wound, unable to tear his eyes away from the blood. ‘What happened?’
‘Hunters,’ Derek grunted.
‘Allison’s dad did -’
‘The Argents aren’t the only hunters out there,’ Derek said through gritted teeth.
‘Why are there more hunters in town?’
His fingers itched to text Scott and warn him, but since Scott was no longer a werewolf the fact that there were new hunters in town wouldn’t affect him.
‘Looking for me.’ He winced as he pressed his hand harder against his side.
‘To kill me.’
‘But. What? I’m confused. Some random hunters just turned up? Are hunting you and managed to stab you?’
‘Not random. They tracked me.’
‘From where? Walmart? And how did they know you were a werewolf, anyway? It’s not like you have a big neon sign over your head announcing it.’
‘From New York.’
‘New York?’ Stiles repeated, baffled. ‘Why New York?’
Stiles rocked back on his heels and stared at Derek, his mouth hanging open. ‘Did you just say you were at college?’
‘What did you think I was doing before I came back to Beacon Hills, Stiles?’
Stiles had from time to time wondered where Derek and Laura had gone when they had left Beacon Hills, but somehow the idea of college had never entered his head. What with all the brooding, snarling and generally terrifying demeanour, Derek hadn’t really seemed the college type. But now that the idea was there, it wouldn’t go away; especially the image of Derek studying in glasses. He had this vision of Derek sitting in his room, reading and making notes. It was oddly distracting.
‘Oh my god, were you, like, the big wolf on campus?’
Derek growled low in his throat, his eyes suddenly very bright.
‘Okay, so what you’re saying is that this isn’t the time or the place to make such jokes.’ Or the time to quiz Derek about what degree he did, either. Even if he was dying to know.
‘It will never be the time for those kind of jokes.’
‘Okay,’ Stiles said, scratching his head, ‘so hunters found you, but how did they get you?’ Because the idea that anyone could get the better of Derek without Supernatural abilities was just...unfathomable - Kate and her crazy notwithstanding.
‘One of them got in a lucky hit as I...’ He trailed off suddenly. His jaw was clenched even tighter and he was refusing to look Stiles in the eye.
‘As you what?’ He swallowed around the lump in his throat. ‘As you killed them?’ he asked as neutrally as he knew how. He wondered if this was the first time Derek had killed anyone other than his uncle.
Derek glared at him, his jaw clenched. ‘Yes.’
Stiles took a deep breath, held it and then breathed out. ‘So I don’t need to worry about a hunter creeping up behind me so he can finish you off, right?’
Derek’s eyes re-focused on Stiles, something akin to confusion in them. ‘Right.’
‘Good. But how did you end up bleeding out all over the place?’ Stiles frowned as he noticed some bloody pliers clenched in Derek’s fist.
‘Wolfsbane coated knife. Bit broke off.’
‘What?’ Stiles asked, horrified. ‘Like, inside you?’ Suddenly he thought he knew why Derek had the pliers.
Derek’s glare suggested that he had many sarcastic responses, but pain made him settle for an angry grunt.
Trying to ignore the blood, Stiles stared at the wound. ‘Are you sure it’s wolfsbane, though? I don’t see any black veins of death running up your side or anything. Believe me when I say, those were pretty memorable.’
‘Different kind?’ Stiles repeated faintly. ‘There are different kinds of wolfsbane? You’ve got to be kidding me.’
‘Like kryptonite,’ Derek said.
‘I - I have no response to that. How the hell are you the one who brings up kryptonite?’ Stiles asked. Derek shouldn’t be the one out-geeking him. ‘So, uh, why haven’t you removed it yet?’
Derek held up his hand and Stiles saw how badly it was shaking.
‘Yeah,’ Derek agreed. ‘You have to do it.’
Stiles felt his eyes widen in horror as his stomach dropped. ‘What? I have to what?’
‘If you don’t, Stiles, I’m going to die.’ Derek’s eyes were bright with pain.
‘Why do you always have to say that?’ Stiles moaned. ‘You always say that.’
‘Stiles,’ Derek snarled, his eyes turning blue. ‘Take the pliers and pull out the damn knife. Now.’
‘Why me? What did I do in life to deserve this? I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I’ve only been drunk a handful of times. I do my homework. Most of the time.’ He stared at the blood still seeping through Derek’s fingers.
‘I know, I know,’ he sighed. ‘If I don’t help you you’ll rip my throat out. With your teeth.’
‘Actually, I was going to say please.’
‘Oh. Uh, well...’ He squinted at Derek. ‘Really?’
‘Huh.’ Stiles glanced down at Derek’s hand that was clutching the pliers. ‘You’ll have to give me those if you want me to do this.’
Derek frowned down at his hand, as if he’d forgotten he was holding onto the pliers.
After watching Derek stare intently at his hand, Stiles gently took hold of Derek’s wrist. ‘Here. Let me.’
Derek sighed, but let Stiles pry open his fingers and remove the pliers. He shuddered as he felt Derek’s blood coat his skin. ‘Uh, you’re going to have to tell me what to do now.’
‘Hold the skin open, put in the pliers, pull out the sliver.’
Stiles could feel the panic rising in his throat. ‘Did you go to the Totally Uninspiring School of Pep Talks, because that was totally lame.’
Derek cocked his head. ‘You’re not going to faint this time, are you?’
‘Technically, I didn’t faint last time. I was grossed out,’ Stiles corrected, because such scurrilous lies had to be addressed. ‘And yes, this is icky, and yes, you seem to be dying again, but pulling out a sliver of knife is slightly different to cutting off someone’s freaking arm.’
As Derek held open his wound, Stiles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could do this. Really. All he had to do was put the pliers in and pull out a shard of knife. Piece of cake. Yeah, right.
‘Open your eyes, Stiles,’ Derek said, almost gently. ‘This will go much better if you keep your eyes open.’
Taking a deep, not particularly calming breath, Stiles opened his eyes, determined. ‘Okay, so here’s the thing,’ he said, as he placed the fingers of his other hand next to Derek’s and helped keep the skin open enough for the pliers.
‘Oh god,’ Derek groaned, ‘are you going to keep talking?’
Stiles looked up and caught Derek’s eye. ‘If you want me to do this without over-thinking it, then yeah, I’m going to keep talking.’
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Fine. What?’
‘What I was going to say before you so rudely interrupted me was, do you really live here?’
He glanced up at Derek to see him staring blankly at Stiles.
As the pliers entered Derek’s wound he carried on talking. ‘Because, I was thinking, there is, like, NOTHING in this place. Nothing. And that strikes me as, well, impossible because everyone needs clothes - even if they are all practically the same colour; food and stuff like that, you know. A bathroom to wash in; a kitchen to cook in; a bed to sleep in. And you have none of that. And, since you don’t look or smell like a hobo, I’m thinking that you have all of that stuff somewhere that isn’t here.’
He glanced up at Derek again who was watching him impassively. ‘You came up with that all by yourself?’
Stiles grinned. ‘Yeah.’
‘So, where do I live?’
Trying to ignore the way Derek’s skin was pulled open and the metallic smell of the blood that welled up, Stiles gave a half-shrug with the arm not currently digging about in Derek’s side. ‘Like I know. I just know you don’t live here. You want everyone to think that you do.’ He bit his lip in concentration as the pliers knocked against something and Derek winced in pain. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered, but Derek waved him off. ‘But you’ve got to live close, because you keep doing that thing where you appear out of thin air like a ninja.’
Derek raised an eyebrow at him.
‘It’s very unnerving,’ Stiles told him. ‘Ah-ha!’ he cried triumphantly as the pliers closed around the broken bit of the blade. ‘Got the bastard.’
‘Then pull it out,’ Derek growled.
‘Oh, right. Yeah.’
‘Slowly,’ Derek worried. ‘Get it all out. If any of it’s left...’
‘Yeah, yeah, I know. It’ll kill you even more slowly. I guessed that myself, thanks.’
As the shard left his body, Derek slumped, the tension draining out of him. Stiles hadn’t realised just how still Derek had been holding himself until he no longer was. He was taking deep, shuddering breaths and his eyes were closed. He was so pale that his five o’clock shadow was even more prominent than usual.
‘Is...is it all out?’ asked Stiles. He inspected the blade, doing his best to ignore the blood coating it. It didn’t look like there was any more broken off, but what did he know?
Derek nodded. ‘Yeah. Yeah, it’s all gone.’
‘Are you sure? How can you tell? Because I don’t want you keeling over in six months time because I did a shoddy job.’
Derek opened his eyes, a scowl already settling back on his face. ‘Believe me, it’s the kind of thing you know.’
‘Well, okay.’ Stiles raised his arms in a half-hearted cheer. ‘Yay me.’ He dropped his arms as a thought occurred to him. ‘But what about the wolfsbane? Don’t you need to neutralise it?’
Derek shook his head. ‘Not potent enough. Now that it’s been removed, my body will heal by itself.’
‘Really? How does that even work?.’ Stiles just wanted answers because curing wolfsbane poisoning with more wolfsbane still didn’t make any sense to him three months on.
‘You can go now,’ Derek said abruptly.
Stiles rocked back on his heels and whistled. ‘Well, there’s gratitude for you. Also, you’re an idiot.’
‘I’m fine. I’ll heal.’
‘Seriously. An idiot. I don’t think I can emphasise that enough.’
‘You look like shit,’ Stiles said bluntly. ‘I can’t imagine you feel great after having a knife coated in wolfsbane inside you and I know you don’t live here. You need help getting-’ He waved his hand vaguely towards the window ’- to wherever it is you really live.’
‘Shut up. You look like a small breeze could fell you.’ He poked Derek in the shoulder. ‘If I hadn’t come around today, you’d probably be dead. And we are totally going to talk about that later. You have a cell phone. I know this because I’ve seen it. You couldn’t have called? So, you’re going to let me help you stand and then I’m going to help you to wherever it is you live.’ He chewed his lip, only slightly worried that he’d overstepped the mark because, really, Derek could be dead. Stiles was allowed to be a little cranky. ‘Uh, you’re not going to kill me are you?’
‘Kill the guy who just saved my life? Seems ungrateful.’
‘Damn straight it is.’ Stiles said. Although he’d probably fall over after five steps, so Stiles wasn’t really all that concerned. ‘Uh, are you going to heal okay?’
Derek nodded tiredly. ‘Twelve hours sleep and I’ll be good.’
‘So, we need to get you to your bed.’ Stiles felt his face flame as he realised how that sounded. ‘I - uh-’
Derek, though, obviously wasn’t listening to him or if he was, he was ignoring Stiles’ lame double entendre. Instead he was pushing himself off the floor, his muscles straining with the effort.
‘Oh for the love of god, why are you so damn stubborn?’ Not expecting an answer - and he didn’t get one - Stiles helped Derek off the ground, giving his clothes up for a lost cause as blood rubbed off on to his shirt, and slipped his shoulder under Derek’s arm. ‘Come on, tell me where to go.’
‘You don’t want me to know where your batcave is.’ He shrugged. ‘I get it. The thing is, you need help getting there and I’m all you’ve got.’ He grinned as Derek scowled at him. ‘Look, just think of me as Alfred, okay? But not Robin. I refuse to wear those tights.’
‘Help me down the stairs,’ Derek said, settling against Stiles.
‘You mean those rickety, creaky things that will probably collapse under our joint weight?’
‘Just get me to the bottom of the stairs, Stiles. I can take it from there.’
‘Really?’ Stiles asked as they walked slowly towards the doorway. ‘You really think I’m just going to get you to the bottom of the stairs and leave you there to fall flat on your face about thirty seconds after I leave? Really?’
‘If I agree, will you shut the hell up?’
‘Yes. Well, probably.’ He paused for effect. ‘Maybe.’
‘I’ll be quieter.’
‘And you don’t tell anyone.’
‘Well, duh,’ Stiles said. ‘Talk about a no-brainer.’
‘I mean it, Stiles. No-one.’
‘Look, it’s not like I really have anyone to tell.’
‘Not even Scott. Especially not Scott.’
Derek paused at the top of the stairs, effectively halting Stiles, too. ‘No, I don’t think you do. You can’t tell Scott because-’
‘Because you don’t want him telling his girlfriend who might mention it to her hunter dad,’ Stiles interrupted, as Derek had to pause for breath. ‘Really, I can put these things together myself, you know. Also, the ever-present threat of you ripping out my throat is a pretty compelling argument as well,’ he added when it looked like Derek wasn’t convinced.
Derek nodded, as much to himself as to Stiles. ‘Why are you here?’
‘Why did you come by today?’
Stiles raised an eyebrow. ‘Do I really need to explain the awkwardness of being the third wheel to your best friend’s love fest with the light of his life?’
‘They still together?’ Derek asked as they started slowly down the stairs.
‘Now that he doesn’t have the whole werewolf thing to worry about, Allison occupies about, oh, ninety-nine percent of his time. You have no idea how many times I had to remind him that there were people out to kill him when all he wanted to do was moon over her.’
‘I have a fair idea,’ Derek told him.
‘Well, I suppose you did throw his phone against a wall after she called him and wrecked your little training exercise,’ Stiles agreed. He glanced at Derek, taking in how pale he was and the way he was sweating - not in a ‘holy fuck, he’s stupidly hot’ kind of way, more a ‘about to fall down the stairs dead’ kind of way. ‘Dude, are you sure you’re going to make it down the stairs without passing out?’
‘I’m not going to faint,’ Derek growled.
‘I said pass out, not faint. Totally different things. Or so my dad told me when I asked him a similar question one time.’
‘I’m not going to pass out either.’
‘Well, okay, if you say so.’
Derek squinted down at him. ‘Do you and Scott tell each other everything?’
‘Pretty much. Although, not as much recently.’
‘Allison,’ Derek guessed.
‘Actually, Allison is the one thing he’s more than happy to talk about and it’s not like I need him to tell me how it’s going with Allison. Aliens on Mars can see how crazy he is about her.’
‘No. Yes. Kind of,’ he admitted, as they paused at the foot of the stairs for Derek to get his breath back.
‘It’s a yes or no kind of a question, Stiles.’
‘No, it’s really not. Because, look, I’m not an idiot. I know that we’re both going to grow up and start doing things apart. It’s just. I never see Scott now. When we were kids we lived in each other’s pockets. We left our windows open for each other. I can’t go over to Scott’s now because either he’s not there or Allison’s there and I’ve already learnt that I do not want to be climbing through the window when they are otherwise occupied.’
Especially since the bed was directly under the window.
‘You interrupted them?’ Derek wasn’t smiling, but Stiles could hear the amusement in his voice.
‘They were only kissing,’ Stiles muttered, feeling himself flush in embarrassment at the memory. ‘Scott wanted to kill me. Allison found it pretty funny though.’
Derek’s eyes narrowed. ‘You like Allison.’
‘Yeah,’ Stiles agreed. ‘She’s funny and she’s pretty handy with a crossbow.’
‘But you don’t like her, like her?’
Stiles came to an abrupt a halt on the porch. ‘What? Allison? No. god, why would you even think that?’
‘So you like Scott then?’ Derek asked, tugging Stiles down the steps.
‘He’s my best friend, of course I -’ Suddenly he realised what Derek was really asking. ‘Oh my god, what is wrong with you? He’s my best friend. I’ve known him since I was three.’
‘You could have just said no,’ said Derek, smirking. And really, if he was smirking again, he was well on the way to being mended.
‘Look, Scott is pretty much my only friend. He puts up with how weird I am. My ADHD; the fact that I rarely stop moving or talking and that I say pretty much everything that comes into my head. Apart from my parents, Scott was the only one who didn’t care.’ Derek wouldn’t care about any of this, but Stiles couldn’t seem to shut himself up. ‘And now he’s off with Allison all the time, which is great for him, not so much for me. I see him at school - where he’s always staring at Allison or at practice where he’s always talking about Allison. I miss my best friend and I don’t know how to talk to him about it without sounding like a dick.’ He glanced around, suddenly hot with embarrassment. ‘Umm, uh, where are we going now?’
‘That way.’ Derek pointed past where he’d buried Laura with the hand that wasn’t holding onto Stiles tightly.
Derek was a big line of heat down one side of Stiles’ body and Stiles was very carefully thinking about the blood that was covering them both from where Derek had been stabbed and not the fact that Derek was practically shirtless and essentially clinging to him.
‘Scott still first string?’ Derek asked as they made their way slowly towards the line of trees behind the house.
Stiles laughed. ‘No way, man. Benched again. When he lost the werewolf mojo, he lost his lacrosse mojo. Coach just couldn’t get his head around the fact that overnight Scott went from being amazing to being crap again.’
‘Deal with it.’
‘Scott was okay with that?’
‘What? Me calling it mojo? I don’t think he really cares.’
‘No, idiot. With being benched.’
Stiles attempted to shrug, but it was hampered by the fact that Derek was kind of draped all over him. ‘He got the girl. I think he’s okay with losing lacrosse. Jackson’s pretty happy that he lost his lacrosse mojo, though.’
‘Yeah, he’s been a lot happier since Scott got relegated back down to loser status. I think he felt threatened by Scott’s awesomeness.’
‘Yeah,’ Derek deadpanned, ‘that’s what it was.’
‘Whatever, dude. Keep walking.’ Stiles managed to remain quiet for about ten seconds before his curiosity became too much to bear. ‘So what? Is there another house around here? A cabin in the woods or something because I find it difficult to believe that no-one has stumbled across it in the last six years.’ He glanced around, frowning. He and Scott had played around these parts for years. Surely they would have known if there was another house around the place.
‘Okay,’ Stiles said, slowly. ‘Are you living in a cave? Up a tree?’
‘Well what then?’
‘Stiles, shut up and keep walking. Once we’re through those trees, you can see for yourself.’
‘Oh. Well. Okay then. I guess we keep walking then.’
‘You think?’ Derek said dryly.
It was slow going, but eventually they made it to the trees Derek had pointed Stiles towards. They pushed through the undergrowth and bushes and came to a halt as Stiles looked around them.
‘Huh. So, a trailer. That makes sense. I’m surprised I didn’t see that one coming.’
He glanced over at Derek, about to say something, but Derek was staring straight ahead, his teeth clenched and, if Stiles didn’t know better, he’d say Derek was nervous.
‘Can we please keep moving?’ Derek gritted out.
‘Oh. Right. The whole pain thing. Sorry.’
As they moved slowly towards the trailer it occurred to Stiles that this was kind of a big deal. Huge, even. Derek was trusting Stiles enough to let him enter what was essentially his safe haven, his den. Which, wow.
‘Keys,’ he said, once they were stood outside the door.
Derek handed them over without comment.
Stiles managed to open the door without incident and was privately impressed that he hadn’t dropped the keys in the mud.
‘So help me, if you say that you can take it from here, I’m punching you in the side and showing you exactly how much you can’t take it from here.’
Derek grumbled under his breath, but didn’t say anything, so Stiles took that as the victory it was.
They made it up the steps slowly, Derek leaning heavily on Stiles. Obviously going up stairs was harder than going down them.
At the edge of the bed, Derek took a moment to find his feet, one hand gripping Stiles’ shoulder to steady himself. Once he got his balance, he pulled his wrecked t-shirt off, balling it up and throwing it on the floor. Derek’s balance then deserted him and Stiles was in no way quick enough to catch him before he faceplanted onto his pillow. Stiles cringed as he landed on his injured side and whined.
He took an abortive step forward before realising that Derek probably wouldn’t appreciate any comfort Stiles wanted to offer. And Stiles wasn’t going to examine why he wanted to comfort Derek too closely. It was purely because Stiles didn’t like seeing people in pain. Nothing more. Really.
Derek shifted slightly so he was no longer lying on his injury. Which, wow, already looked like it was a week old instead of minutes old.
‘So, uh, I guess I’ll, yeah, I’ll just be going then.’ Stiles shuffled nervously to the door, suddenly feeling nervous. It felt wrong being in what was essentially Derek’s sanctuary when he was barely conscious. ‘Yeah. Definitely going now.’
Stiles was at the door, hand on the handle when Derek made a noise.
Stiles whirled around, fear lodging in his throat that somehow some of the knife had broken off inside Derek and it was killing him. But all he was doing was shifting again, getting more comfortable. Stiles collapsed against the wall in relief. But just for a moment.
‘Okay. Definitely going now.’ He paused. ‘But, you know, you call me if anything happens, okay? You have my number. I know you do.’
Derek nodded sleepily. ‘I’ll call.’
‘Now get out and let me heal.’
Stiles grinned at him. ‘There’s the sourwolf I know and hate.’
‘Whatever,’ Derek muttered, dismissively.
Stiles closed the door behind him as he left.
‘Are you skipping practice?’ Derek asked, closing the front door of the Hale house behind himself.
‘Nope.’ Stiles slammed the door of his Jeep shut. ‘It’s been cancelled.’
Derek grunted. ‘So you’re here because?’
Stiles pulled a face. ‘Scott’s at Allison’s, my dad’s working and I’m bored.’
‘So you decided to bug me.’
‘Yep.’ He followed Derek as he walked towards the forest. Derek shot him an irritated look, but didn’t stop him. ‘So, um, uh, how are you feeling?’
‘You know, after you got stabbed last week.’ Stiles squinted up at him. ‘You do remember that, right?’
‘No, Stiles, I’ve completely forgotten the searing pain from having a dagger dipped in wolfsbane break off in my side.’
‘Okay,’ Stiles allowed. ‘Stupid question.’
‘But are you okay?’ Stiles repeated, scrambling over a fallen log to keep up with Derek, who was striding ahead.
Derek stopped and turned back to glare at him. ‘Do I look like I’m not okay?’
Stiles looked Derek up and down. He took in his t-shirt stretched tight across his shoulders, trying to ignore his appreciation of the fact that Derek had decided against his leather jacket for once.
‘You look the same as usual.’ He already knew from Scott’s time as a werewolf that there would be no scar on Derek’s side so there was no point looking, no matter how much his fingers itched to. ‘Which is to say I really can’t tell if you’re okay or not.’
‘I’m fine, Stiles.’
‘Yeah, but you would say that, wouldn’t you? Even if it wasn’t true.’
‘So why ask?’
Stiles scratched the back of his neck. ‘Uh, because - I, umm - don’t want you to die?’
‘Do I look dead to you?’ But he didn’t sound annoyed with Stiles. Which was... new.
‘Well, of course you aren’t dead...’ He trailed off, not quite knowing what to say to keep Derek from maiming him.
‘Come with me,’ Derek said.
Derek rolled his eyes and grabbed Stiles’ arm and started walking. ‘I said, come with me.’
Stiles pulled his arm free - or Derek let go of him. Whatever. ‘Okay, okay. No need to pull my arm out of its socket.’ He rubbed his shoulder and glared at Derek’s back. ‘Where are we going?’
‘Nowhere if you don’t get a move on.’
‘I’m walking as fast as I can, dude. You’re just using your freaky werewolf super-speed.’
‘Freaky werewolf super-speed?’ Derek repeated. If Stiles didn’t know any better he might say that Derek was laughing at him. If Derek knew how to laugh. Which was still up for debate. He slowed down enough for Stiles to catch up with him. ‘Is this any better?’
‘So are you going to tell me where we’re going?’
Derek just kept on walking.
‘Are we going to your trailer again? The place where you actually live?’
Stiles didn’t think he could find it again by himself and he really wanted the opportunity to rummage through Derek’s stuff. Last time he hadn’t really paid much attention to what it was like because he’d been more concerned with getting an injured Derek to admit he needed help. It hadn’t been until he’d nearly been back to his Jeep that it occurred to him that he had just missed the perfect opportunity to snoop through Derek’s stuff with Derek unable to catch him because he was passed out on his bed.
Although, now Stiles thought about it, Derek would’ve been able to tell if Stiles had touched a single object in his room because his scent would have been on it. So maybe it was a good thing that he hadn’t thought about it until it was too late.
Derek didn’t say anything, just kept walking.
As they walked past a particularly huge tree with deep grooves carved into it, Derek stepped closer to it. Stiles nearly tripped over his own feet as Derek’s fingers shifted into claws and added a new set of grooves - which Stiles could now see were claw marks - before calmly moving on as if nothing weird had happened.
Stiles stared at the tree: he could see a huge number of grooves carved into the tree. Some looked relatively new, which suggested this wasn’t the first time Derek had done this, while others looked years older. So probably not done by Derek then.
He was so busy trying to puzzle out why Derek was cutting innocent trees that he didn’t notice when his feet got all tangled in the undergrowth. He flailed, knowing he was about to hit the dirt, hard. But then he was being hauled backwards by his collar. All the air left his lungs as he slammed up against Derek’s chest, Derek’s arm locked across Stiles’ body to keep him on his feet.
‘Swear those roots weren’t there a moment ago,’ Stiles gasped.
‘Watch where you step,’Derek said, quietly.
Stiles glanced back up at the tree. ‘I take it that’s not a werewolf scratching post,’ he asked before he could stop himself.
Derek pushed him away, his eyes flashing blue, but his hands lingered a moment, as though to make sure Stiles didn’t fall.
‘I’ll take that as a no,’ Stiles said, feeling out of sorts and off balance. His stomach seemed to be competing in the gymnast Olympics judging by the number of somersaults it was doing.
He coughed, trying to get back on an even keel. ‘But if we’re going to your trailer then it’s taking ages and I think we’re going in the wrong direction anyway.’
‘Plus, you’ve probably moved it since I was there.’
Derek glanced at him almost sheepishly. ‘Yeah.’
‘So if we’re not going to your trailer, where are we going?’
‘Somewhere else, he says,’ Stiles muttered. ‘Like I couldn’t work that bit out for myself.’
Derek smirked, but refused to be drawn into any conversation about their destination.
After a few more pointless attempts to get Derek to talk, Stiles gave up. Obviously Stiles would find out where they were going when they got there. Instead he looked at where they were walking. It had been an age since he walked through the forest without fearing for his life. In fact the last time had been when he and Scott had gone looking for Laura Hale’s body.
He’d forgotten how much he’d liked the forest before there had been people trying to kill him in it. When you weren’t running for your life it was much easier to appreciate the beauty of the light threading through the trees. It was actually pretty as opposed to creating dark creepy shadows for people to jump out and threaten him from.
Out of the blue, Derek asked, ‘You sort things out with Scott?’
Stiles had become so used to the quiet, just the sound of the breeze through the trees and Derek’s surprisingly comforting presence at his side, that Derek’s voice made him jump.
‘I - uh, what..?’ He squinted at Derek, trying to work out why Derek was asking about Scott. Derek had never shown any interest in Scott or Stiles as people back when his uncle had been after them.
‘Scott. You. Are you two okay?’
Stiles wished there was an obvious path they were following because tree roots kept appearing and nearly tripping him up. Derek, though, obviously knew where he was going and all Stiles had to do was keep up. He was torn between keeping his eyes firmly on the ground so he could see the roots that seemed determined to kill him or on Derek’s back. It was a difficult choice: not falling over versus watching the play of Derek’s muscles as he walked. Perhaps alternating between the two was the answer.
‘Do you mean have I managed to find a way to tell him that I’m jealous of Allison, but not in a dickish way?’
Stiles snorted. ‘Not so much.’
Derek jumped over a downed tree. ‘You said Scott understands you?’
Stiles meanwhile scrambled over the same tree. ‘I, what? Oh, you mean back when you were - yeah, yeah. He gets me most of the time.’ And his brain was kind of spinning at the idea that Derek had been paying attention to Stiles’ mini freak-out about losing Scott while he had been near death. If Derek was listening to him ramble on then he had to be really lonely.
‘Won't he get this?’
As he waited for Stiles to regain his balance and straighten his clothes, Derek slashed more grooves into another tree.
‘Maybe,’ Stiles allowed, keeping his eyes averted. ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but Scott becomes a bit stupid where Allison is concerned.’
‘Scott is stupid when Allison is concerned?’ Derek repeated, sounding incredulous. ‘When is Scott not stupid?’
‘Hey,’ Stiles protested. ‘You didn’t know him before he knew Allison.’
‘Are you telling me that Scott wasn’t stupid before Allison arrived in town?’
Stiles opened his mouth, snapped it shut and then opened it again. ‘Not like this.’
‘Very convincing,’ Derek said, dryly.
‘No, look, yes, Scott has always been a little... oblivious about things.’ That had been okay because, really, Stiles noticed enough for the both of them. ‘But when Allison arrived on the scene… I dunno, maybe if the werewolf thing hadn’t happened at the same time, it wouldn’t have been quite as obvious. But it’s a little galling when your best friend is more concerned about getting to second base than whether or not he’s going to rip out your throat. And, really, he nearly ripped out my throat, like, a thousand times, dude. It’s not fun.’
‘A thousand times?’
Stiles held up his hand, less than an inch between his thumb and finger. ‘I may be exaggerating a little,’ he admitted.
‘A little,’ Derek snorted. ‘Yeah.’
‘But it did happen at least three times. That I remember. I mean, they were moments of high terror so I’ve probably blanked out a couple.’
Derek watched him impassively as he climbed up a surprisingly steep bank.
‘Why are you looking at me like that? It’s unnerving.’
‘Maybe it’s a good thing that Scott’s human again.’
Stiles blinked. ‘Really? I mean, obviously it’s a good thing Scott’s human again, but, uh, I didn’t expect you to think that as well.’’
‘Eventually he would have killed you.’
‘Scott would never -’
‘He would never have meant to kill you,’ Derek interrupted, his voice firm. ‘But sooner or later he wouldn’t have been able to control himself or you wouldn’t have been able to get hold of a fire extinguisher quickly enough.’
‘You know about that?’
‘Instead of learning to control his wolf, Scott was more interested in lacrosse and Allison. Eventually he would have killed you, his mom or someone else. It’s a good thing he’s human again.’
And Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so he didn’t. Instead of talking, he concentrated on keeping up with Derek.
‘So, are we actually going somewhere, or are we just walking for the hell of it?’ Stiles asked, eventually.
‘Walking, but not for the hell of it.’
‘So, we aren’t going anywhere specific, but at the same time we’re not going nowhere,’ Stiles concluded, frowning. ‘So what are we doing? Walking the perimeter?’
Stiles blinked. ‘Really?’ He looked back the way they had come. ‘We’re walking the perimeter? Why? Wait a minute, you have a perimeter?’
‘The boundary of my property, moron.’
‘Oh, right. Why do you walk it?’
‘So I can make sure that there are no strange smells or sounds out here.’ He glanced at Stiles. ‘How did you think I found you and Scott that time?’
‘Oh, well, yeah, I suppose that makes sense. I’d thought you’d just hung around until we came to find the - Laura.’ He remembered hating how people had referred to his mom as ‘the body’. ‘To find Laura.’
‘It would’ve been a long wait,’ Derek said. ‘Took you nearly eighteen hours to turn up.’
‘And I bet you hadn’t been expecting us.’
Derek snorted. ‘The Argents.’
‘So why did you talk to us?’
‘I knew the inhaler was Scott’s.’
‘How did you… no, wait never mind. Stupid question. His scent would have been all over it, right?’
Stiles cocked his head. ‘So you didn’t know Scott was a werewolf then?’
‘Huh. So, when did you find out?’
‘Wow. You really know how to tell a good story, don’t you?’
‘Okay, fine. Forget about that. Here’s a question,’ Stiles said. Even though Scott no longer needed him to research stuff, Stiles was still curious about the whole werewolf thing. ‘Would Scott have ever gotten as good as you at controlling his shifting?’
‘I don’t know, but no, I don’t think he would have.’
‘Because he was bitten, not born. Control is less instinctual.’
‘So born werewolves have more control than bitten ones?’ It had always been difficult to get an answer about this out of Scott. Stiles didn’t know, though, if that was because Derek didn’t say or because Scott didn’t pay attention.
‘Were you, like, born knowing how to shift, or did you have ‘shifting’ lessons? And do you shift from pretty much the moment you’re born or do you not start until you’re five or when you hit puberty or something?’
Derek eyed him for a moment, but it wasn’t hostile or irritated. ‘We start shifting after a couple of years.’ He shrugged. ‘We’re easier to instruct when we’re kids.’
‘So if you’re brought up being taught all that, so it’s like instinct to you, how were you going to teach Scott? Surely you’ve known it so long that you just know it, like it’s automatic.’
‘Dude, you did have a plan, right? That’s my best friend’s safety you’re talking about.’
‘Scott’s human and safe. You don’t need to know about this stuff anymore.’
‘Yeah, Scott’s safe, but that doesn’t stop me from being curious. I still have so many questions. And, you know, Scott was worse than useless while Wikipedia and Google brought up way too many results for Twilight, and that stuff is just scarring to all.’
Stiles grinned. ‘Are you pissed at me for talking or for dissing Twilight, because, I gotta say, if it’s the talking thing, you’re shit out of luck and if it’s the Twilight thing, I’m never going to find you even a little bit intimidating again. You’d be about as intimidating as those cute little puppies my next door neighbour’s dog had a couple of weeks ago. They bark - well, yap, really - and all you want to do is pick them up and cuddle them...’
Stiles trailed off as Derek growled again, deep in his throat. ‘It’s the Twilight thing, isn’t it? Oh god, you’re going to kill me for calling Twilight a bunch of crap. Death by Twilight. That’s so embarrassing. Scott will be too busy laughing his ass off to grieve for my untimely demise.’
‘Never, ever compare me to a puppy again. And if you mention Twilight in my hearing, I really will rip out your throat.’
‘Okay, shutting up now. Definitely shutting up. Commencing Operation Shut Up now.’ He mimed zipping his mouth shut and pocketing the key.
They walked on in silence for a couple of minutes, until, surprisingly, Derek started talking. ‘I have a book -’
‘Just one?’ Stiles quipped. He winced. ‘Sorry, couldn’t help it.’
‘I have a book,’ repeated Derek ignoring Stiles’ lack of a brain to mouth filter, ‘about werewolves. I found it in some of my stuff when it was sent down from New York.’ He glanced at Stiles. ‘You can have a look at it. If you want.’
‘R...really? Because something about werewolves, written by werewolves would be awesome. So much better than Google or Wikipedia, because, really? They aren’t the fonts of knowledge they seem to think they are. Or, certainly not when it comes to werewolves. Too much porn.’
‘Don’t make me regret offering this, Stiles,’ Derek warned him.
‘I won’t,’ Stiles promised, for once completely serious. He glanced at his watch and then had to look again. Nearly two hours had past since he’d turned up at Derek’s. ‘Does it usually take you this long to walk the perimeter? Because I gotta say, boring.’
‘So why...oh, wait. Stupid question.’ He rubbed his hand over his head. ‘It’s me, right? You’re walking as fast - or slow - as I am.’
Stiles winced. ‘Sorry. I’m sure you’ve got things you’d prefer to be doing.’ Part of him wanted to ask why Derek had let him tag along if it was going to take so much longer, but he’d enjoyed walking with Derek.
‘It’s fine,’ Derek said, gruffly. ‘Just over that ridge and we’re nearly back at the house.’
‘How long does it usually take?’
‘Roughly twenty minutes if I don’t find anything.’ Which, huh. Maybe Derek liked spending time with him. Because he’d just spent an extra ninety minutes walking his boundary and he’d dragged Stiles along with him. He would have known much how much longer it would take with Stiles there which was about seven kinds of awesome.
Derek stopped to attack yet another innocent tree and Stiles turned and looked back at the way they had come, chewing at his lip.
‘What?’ Derek asked, appearing at his side, eyes bright and alert, looking for signs of danger.
‘We just walked the perimeter, yeah?’
Derek nodded, his body relaxing as he realised there was no danger.
‘And you’ve been marking particular trees at certain intervals,’ Stiles continued slowly. ‘So when I said perimeter, you meant territory. You’ve been marking your territory, haven’t you?’
‘Took you over two hours to work it out.’
‘Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was in the middle of a test. Although I shouldn’t be all that surprised. Unexpected testing seems to be your MO.’ He skidded down a small incline as Derek walked down it gracefully, the house now close and in sight. ‘Hey, why was I being tested?’
‘Uh - it wasn’t a test. I just wondered how long it would take you to work out.’
‘Felt like a test,’ Stiles told him.
Derek walked towards Stiles’ Jeep. Just before Stiles could dart around him and open the driver’s door, Derek’s hand shot out, stopping him from opening it. ‘You haven’t actually read Twilight, have you?’
‘Dude.’ Stiles laughed nervously and glanced down at his hand, still on the door handle.
‘Stiles.’ A horrified expression flickered across Derek’s face.
‘Look, I read it to impress Lydia, okay? I thought it could be a conversation starter.’
‘Lydia?’ Derek repeated, ‘Lydia reads Twilight?’ Skepticism dripped from every word.
‘Uh, no.’ Stiles rubbed the back of his neck. ‘No, she does not. She thinks, and I quote, “that it is a terrible example of how a patriarchal and misogynistic society encourages women to stay in abusive relationships by telling them it’s their fault for not knowing how to keep their man happy”. But I didn’t find this out until after I finished the stupid book. I thought my brain was going to dribble out of my ears.’ He grinned up at Derek. ‘You say you hate them, but I bet you’re still Team Jacob.’
Derek growled at him.
‘You do realise that if you keep on growling this much then I’m going to stop finding it even remotely scary, right?’ Stiles opened his door and climbed in.
‘Go home, Stiles.’
‘Don’t think I don’t notice you evading the question,’ Stiles said, slamming his door shut. ‘Both of my questions.’
‘Next time, bring pizza.’
Stiles laughed as he threw the Jeep into reverse. ‘You should be so lucky.’
Stiles was sitting next to Scott, ignoring everything and everyone else around him. He wasn’t really in the mood for people, so he was only half listening to Allison and Lydia chatter about the double date they were planning to drag Scott and Jackson to - with Scott and Jackson looking on sullenly - when Lydia pursed her lips and looked right at Stiles. ‘Have you got a date tonight, or something?’
Stiles paused, his mouth half open.
‘Ew, close your mouth,’ Lydia commanded, scrunching up her nose. ‘Now. There is no way I want to see -’ She waved a hand vaguely in Stiles’ direction ‘-...that.’
Stiles snapped his mouth shut and swallowed hastily. ‘Huh? A date? Me?’ He glanced at Scott who looked as baffled as he felt. ‘Uh, I’m fairly certain I’d remember if I had a date for tonight.’ In fact, all he was doing after school was going to see Derek, but there was absolutely no dating going on.
‘I agree that it’s difficult to imagine,’ Lydia said, ‘but you have been humming an awful lot recently and you have a silly little smile on your face at the moment.’
‘Umm, no. No date. No date for Stiles.’ He shifted uncomfortably on the seat. ‘Not even a fake one. So, you know, Stiles is dateless.’
‘Actually, now you mention it,’ Allison said, and Stiles knew he was doomed, ‘you’re right. He has been happier these last few weeks.’ She grinned at him. ‘Are you sure you’re not seeing anyone?’
‘Positive. And even if I am happier, it doesn’t naturally follow that I have to be dating anyone. There are many reasons I could be happier, if indeed, I am happier, which I’m not.’’
‘I don’t care that he’s happier,’ Lydia said, making Jackson smirk. ‘I care that he’s being annoying.’
‘Well, it doesn’t matter, does it?’ Stiles said a bit too sharply, if the looks on Lydia and Allison’s face where anything to go by. He tried to soften his voice as he kept talking. ‘Because I don’t have a date tonight. Or any night.’
But really, Derek wanted to spend time with Stiles so maybe that was better than some random date.
‘What’s got you so happy then?’ Allison asked, resting her chin on her hand and smiling at him.
‘God, who cares?’ Jackson groaned. ‘This is somehow even more painful than talking about double dating.’
‘Why can’t I just be happy?’ Stiles protested. ‘I’m a happy person.’ He really didn’t want Allison and Lydia to tag team it out of him right there and then.
‘Whatever,’ Lydia dismissed.
Allison looked like she was going to keep the interrogation going with or without Lydia’s input so Stiles sent her an imploring look. She gave him a searching look, but nodded slightly and turned her attention away.
Stiles heaved a sigh of relief, feeling like he’d dodged a bullet. But he didn’t want to chance Allison and/or Lydia changing their minds and turning on him. So it was probably prudent to get out of dodge while the going was good.
‘I, uh, I’ve gotta grab a book from my locker.’ He grabbed his bag and slung it over his shoulder. ‘I’ll see you in class.’
Scott gave him an absent wave, too engrossed in whatever Allison was talking about while neither Lydia or Jackson acknowledged him at all.
‘Excellent. Right.’ He gave the table an abortive wave. ‘Bye then.’
He dodged a group of morons not paying attention to where they were going and breathed a sigh of relief as he hit the empty corridor and walked to his locker.
‘Are you sure everything’s okay? You seemed kind of jumpy.’
Stiles jumped as he pulled open the door and glared at Scott, who leaned on the locker next to Stiles’, grinning.
With a deep, steadying breath, Stiles dumped his backpack in his locker, closed the door and leaned back against it. ‘Dude, everything’s fine. I swear.’
‘So you’re not in any trouble?’
Stiles laughed. ‘If I were in trouble, don’t you think you’d be right there with me?’
Scott knocked his shoulder against Stiles’. ‘Yeah. I’d totally be there.’
‘So we can agree I’m not in trouble?’
‘Yeah. Okay. And you’re not dating anyone?’
Stiles rolled his eyes.
‘So there’s nothing going on?’
‘Nope. Nothing.’ Never had he been quite so relieved that Scott was a regular human again and could no longer detect when Stiles was a lying liar who lied. ‘Do I need to tell you at least one more time?’
Scott held up his hands. ‘Just checking. I can tell Allison we talked about it and it’s all cool.’
Irritation made its way up Stiles’ throat. ‘So Allison sent you after me?’
‘No, but you can bet your last dollar that she’ll ask me about it later.’
‘Well, you can assure her I’m very much single and nothing’s going on.’
Scott frowned. ‘Dude, are you okay?’
‘Yeah, I’m good.’
‘You don’t sound good,’ Scott said. ‘You sound kind of strung out.’
Stiles forced himself to relax and tried to smile. ‘There’s nothing wrong.’
‘That was a lie.’
Stiles leveled one of his best glares at Scott. ‘You don’t know that.’
‘Stiles, I’ve been your best friend a lot longer than I was, you know, and I know when you’re lying or deflecting.’
‘Seriously, I’m fine. Just a bit cranky.’ He opened his locker again and pulled out his backpack, trying to stop his movements from being too jerky. It wasn’t fair to expect Scott to have the date seared in his mind. Even if he had remembered every other year. ‘So, come on, tell me, how’s it going with Allison?’
‘I’m going to her house for dinner tomorrow night,’ Scott finally said after a moment of studying Stiles.
‘Is it me, or are they having you over a lot now that you’re less furry?’
‘Not just you,’ Scott said. ‘But her dad watches me like I’m about to transform any minute. Sometimes I think he almost hopes I will.’
‘Wow,’ said Stiles. But more because that was the first time Scott had specifically mentioned the whole werewolf thing since Derek had motioned Scott forward to finish off his last living relative. Chris Argent being a paranoid asshole wasn’t exactly a surprise. ‘That’s disturbing.’
‘Yeah. And her mom.’ Scott gave a full body shiver that any other day would have made Stiles laugh. ‘She’s terrifying. And possibly insane. I don’t get how Allison’s so lovely when her family. Her family -’
‘Is batshit crazy with a side of mentally insane?’ Stiles suggested with a shrug.
‘I dunno, dude. Mystery of genetics, I guess. Be grateful, though. Otherwise you’d have been dead while your ass was all furry.’
‘Thanks,’ Scott said dryly.
Stiles shrugged. ‘Just telling you like it is. Or was. Now at least they can’t do anything about wanting you dead.’
‘That makes me feel so much better.’
‘I aim to help, dude, you know that.’
‘And just so you know, I don’t believe for a second that you’ve just being cranky. So come on, dude.’ Scott knocked his shoulder against Stiles’. ‘What’s eating you?’
Stiles hesitated for a moment, considering having it out with Scott right there and then. Clear the air, even if Scott wasn’t aware there was air to clear. But -
‘Come on, man. I know something is eating you,’ Scott whined. ‘And Allison agrees with me.’
‘Oh, well, if Allison said so -’
The bitterness of his voice was so unmistakable that even Scott picked up on it and his eyes widened while his mouth tightened.
Stiles pressed his forehead against the coolness of his locker. ‘Just ignore me,’ he muttered.
‘Hang on, wait a minute, Stiles. Do you not like Allison?’
‘What? No of course I like her.’
‘Do you like her too much, then?’
‘No. Seriously, dude, no, that’s really not it.’
‘Then what is it, Stiles?’
Stiles banged his head a couple of times against his locker before turning around and slumping against it, and refusing to meet Scott’s eyes. ‘Nothing important.’
‘I never see you, alright?’ he snapped, Scott recoiling slightly. Softer, he said, ‘I just, I never see you anymore.’
‘Stiles, you’re seeing me right now.’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘At school. Doesn’t really count and you know it.’
‘We spend lots of time together.’
‘Where all you do is either watch Allison or talk about Allison.’
Scott frowned. ‘Are you saying I should break up with her?’ He took an angry step towards Stlies. ‘That I have to chose between you?’
‘What? No. Of course I’m not saying that. Idiot. I don’t know what I’m saying really -’
‘Well, that much is obvious.’
‘Look, you know I’m happy for you, right? Allison is awesome and you’re both awesome together, but, Scott, when you’re not with her, you talk about her all the time. I don’t mind, really. I like hearing about how happy you are and how wonderful she is, but it never stops and sometimes I just want things to go back to how they were.’
‘Back before I met Allison?’
‘Yes! No! Not like how you think I mean.’
‘Honestly, Stiles, I’m not sure what you mean, so why don’t you get back to me when you’ve decided.’
Before Stiles could formulate any kind of reply, Scott turned and walked back towards the cafeteria.
Stiles leaned back against his locker and banged his head against it a couple of times, ignoring the vaguely alarmed looks from those around him.
‘Well, that could have gone better,’ he muttered to Scott’s retreating back.
‘I brought pizza,’ Stiles called out as Derek appeared out of the gloom of the trees.
Derek cocked his head and regarded Stiles silently for a few moments. ‘Bad day?’
‘Uh, yeah.’ He looked down at himself self-consciously. ‘Can you smell it on me or something? Can you tell when someone’s had a bad day just by scenting them? Because no lie, that’s kind of creepy, dude.’
‘That, or maybe you just look like your favourite comic book character got killed.’ He jerked his head in what Stiles assumed was the direction of the trailer. ‘Come on. I wanna eat.’
Stiles ignored the thrill that went through him at the invitation; this would be the first time he’d been in the trailer since Derek had been stabbed. Maybe this time he might manage to get in some quality snooping time.
‘You just want me for my pizza,’ Stiles said, mournfully. ‘I feel used.’
Derek just rolled his eyes, grabbed the pizza from Stiles with one hand and brought the other up to rest on the base of his neck, steering him through the forest until they arrived at the trailer.
Derek let go of Stiles to open the door and Stiles missed the steady warmth on his neck. The few times Stiles had seen Derek since Stiles had saved Derek’s life, Derek had been, well, not exactly handsy, but he definitely touched Stiles, more - not that Stiles had been paying attention or anything. Because that would be pathetic.
He followed Derek in, kicking the door shut behind him. Stiles paused on the threshold and looked around the trailer. He didn’t really want Derek to catch him staring, but he was curious, dammit. Plus, Derek would probably think he was ill or something if he wasn’t overly nosy.
It looked pretty much like any other trailer Stiles had seen, but Derek had added a few personal touches here and there. There was what looked like a collage of photos by the bed - Stiles was vaguely surprised that he hadn’t even noticed it last time. Some of them were burnt around the edges and Stiles had a horrible image of Derek digging about in the rubble of the house to find them. A few pictures were stacked up in a corner that also looked like Derek had rescued them from the house. There were some clothes piled on a chair and Stiles could see others hanging in the wardrobe. And all over the place were small piles of books stacked haphazardly.
It wasn’t much, but Derek seemed comfortable and he certainly appeared more relaxed than usual.
Dropping the pizza boxes on the table, Derek turned and collapsed onto the sofa, his legs stretched out in front of him. It was only then that Stiles noticed that Derek wasn’t wearing any shoes.
‘You know,’ said Stiles, taking off his jacket and throwing it on one of the seats, so that he wouldn’t be caught staring at Derek’s feet, ‘if I went traipsing around the forest barefoot, I would have about twenty billion splinters in less than three minutes.’
Derek shrugged. ‘Werewolf thing.’
‘Avoiding splinters is a werewolf super skill?’
‘We have slightly thicker skin on our feet.’
‘So basically what you’re telling me is that you’re a hobbit,’ Stiles said with a grin.
Derek growled half-heartedly.
‘Hey, you’re the one who said you have thicker skin on your feet, not me. You’ve only got yourself to blame.’
To Stiles’ surprise, Derek threw a cushion at him and he laughed as he caught it and threw it back. ‘Hey do you have any drinks round here? I supplied the food. The least you can do is provide the beverages.’
‘Try the fridge.’
‘That would make sense.’ Opening the fridge, he paused and stared at the contents. ‘Holy cow.’
‘You have, like, ingredients in your fridge. Supplies. And not just stacks of meat. There are vegetables and everything.’
Derek shifted uncomfortably on the sofa. ‘And?’
Stiles whirled around to stare at Derek. ‘You can cook?’
Derek looked at him like he was crazy.
‘Laura was a shitty cook. It was either learn or starve.’
At the mention of Laura in a non-werewolf situation, Stiles’ mouth dropped open. Derek didn’t talk about Laura. Not unless he was reminding him and Scott that she was dead and he wanted vengeance.
‘Are you grabbing drinks or not?’
Stiles snapped his mouth shut and nodded. He grabbed a couple of Cokes and went and collapsed on the sofa next to Derek and handed him one. He totally ignored the way he flashed hot when Derek’s fingers skimmed his for a moment.
The next few minutes were quiet, except for the sounds of the two of them eating and Stiles kind of got distracted staring at the bizarre array of books Derek had by the bed.
He jumped as Derek kicked softly at his leg.
Stiles turned to look at him, blinking slowly. ‘Huh?’
‘Your bad day? What happened?’
‘Oh. That.’ Stiles huffed out a breath and slumped further into the sofa, pressing against Derek’s shoulder. ‘Scott hates me.’
‘Your talk with him didn’t go well?’
Stiles snorted. ‘You could say that.’
‘So what happened?’
‘I fucked it up. Said all the wrong words at the wrong time.’ He stared up at the ceiling. ‘Couldn’t find the right words. And now he thinks. You know, I don’t even know what he thinks right now. I mean, I did at least manage to convince him that I’m not harbouring some giant-ass crush on Allison.’
‘But above that? I have no idea.’ Stiles rubbed at his eyes. ‘I just. I don’t even know why I had to talk about it with him right there and then, you know? It was a stupid idea. Just asking for trouble.’
‘Telling Scott how you feel isn’t stupid.’
‘Well, of course it’s not. But doing it today? That was monumentally stupid. I was never going to be able to do it right today.’
‘Why not today, Stiles?’
‘Oh.’ Stiles frowned and let his cheek drop onto the sofa so he could stare at Derek. ‘Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t know.’
‘Sunday is the five year anniversary of Mom dying.’
Derek didn’t say anything and Stiles kept talking.
‘So, you know, not the best time to confront your best friend over, well, anything. I’m not exactly the best example of emotional stability at the moment. And I know that, so I was going to wait until next week till I said something, but he just. I dunno, he just said something. Something ridiculous and I snapped. And then it all came out wrong. And I don’t know how to fix it. Which is the worst because I’ve never had to fix anything with Scott before.’
‘He’ll come around. It’s virtually impossible for one of you to exist without the other.’
‘Yeah. Maybe. But what if he doesn’t?’
‘Then you explain it to him in small words that he’ll understand.’
‘How is it you manage to be both nice and insulting at the same time?’
‘I’m not nice.’
‘Hate to break it to you, but you really kind of are. You know, when you’re not being terrifying.’
‘What was she like?’ Derek asked, his voice soft and oddly soothing.
‘Funny and generous.’ Stiles bit his lip. ‘Like, she was always thinking about other people. Especially me and Dad. She was hilarious. But not in a mean way. I know that I’m talking with a kid’s bias, but I don’t think I ever met a person who didn’t like her immediately.’
‘How did she die?’ Unlike a lot of people, Derek didn’t look uncomfortable and his voice didn’t take on that strange, tinny tone that a lot of people’s did.
‘Pneumonia. Well, leukaemia, really. But it was the pneumonia that finished her off. I called for Dad when I couldn’t wake her.’ He swallowed thickly, absurdly grateful that Derek didn’t say anything or try to comfort him. ‘Dad. Dad, doesn’t do so well. And I worry about him, you know?’
Derek didn’t say anything, but he did shift closer, his warmth seeping through Stiles’ clothes. It was weird, the lack of questions. Everyone eventually asked him about his mom. Everyone except Scott and Dad.
‘She loved this time of year,’ Stiles said. ‘She used to take me hiking through the woods.’ He smiled as he remembered how she would point out all the different plants and critters, telling Stiles their Latin names. ‘I stopped going after she died. It felt kind of empty without her there.’
‘My family used to drive out to the beach at the end of each summer,’Derek said quietly. ‘I haven’t been near a beach since I was sixteen.’
‘You should,’ Stiles said.
Derek tensed and glared at him, but Stiles was sure he was right about this. He reached out and lightly rested his hand on Derek’s arm. ‘No, really. I mean, I think they’d like it, you know?’
‘Why don’t you go hiking then?’ It didn’t come out as mean as Stiles suspected Derek had meant it to.
Stiles took a deep breath. ‘I’ve been thinking about it, because recently I’ve been spending a bit of time in the woods. And it made me think. I might do one of her favourite trails.’ He glanced at Derek and hoped that his next words didn’t get him thrown out. ‘So maybe you should think about going to the beach, or at least, you know, stand by one, if only for a little while. Not immediately. But, maybe it’d be nice, no, better to remember them somewhere that isn’t here.’
Derek frowned, but it wasn’t angry or irritated. More thoughtful. ‘Maybe.’
Stiles shifted uncomfortably, not used to the far off look in Derek’s eyes and not wanting to intrude. ‘I, uh, I should maybe go?’
Derek blinked slowly at him, like he’d forgotten Stiles was there and was only just remembering. He shook his head. ‘Stay.’
‘Talk for a little longer.’
And on any other day, Stiles would take the opportunity to tease Derek mercilessly for wanting to talk, because, Derek? Wanting to talk? Yeah, right. But instead, Stiles settled deeper into the sofa, Derek pressed against one side, hugged the cushion he was holding tighter and nodded. ‘Yeah. Okay.’
He was totally going to tell Derek about the time his mom had found him and Scott foraging in the woods, and had only just stopped them from eating what turned out to be poisonous mushrooms.
Pulling into the driveway, Stiles was surprised to see that Dad’s squad car was already there. He couldn’t remember the last time he hadn’t not been the first one home. It was pretty cool, though. He felt like he hadn’t really seen Dad in days, despite having been woken up by him that morning.
‘Hey, Dad, you here?’ he yelled, opening the door.
‘In the kitchen.’
‘Are...are you cooking?’ asked Stiles, as he threw his bag on the floor by the table and wandered over to peer into the pan to see what was cooking.
‘Certainly trying to.’
‘Umm, okay, wow. Uh. I’m not complaining because I’ve just come from practice, but, uh is there some occasion I’m not aware of?’
‘Instead of laughing at me, why don’t you give me a hand and start cutting those vegetables?’ He pointed over his shoulder and Stiles turned to see a pile of vegetables just waiting to be attacked.
‘I can do that,’ said Stiles. He grabbed a knife from the drawer and started cutting. ‘What are we cooking?’
‘So, uh, you’re not working tonight?’ Stiles asked, slicing up a pepper. Because lately, he was always working. And Stiles got it. He really did. And yeah, the anniversary had been last week, but Dad rarely just snapped out of it so quickly. So this? This was a surprise.
‘Being Sheriff has to have some perks, right, son?’
‘I do believe that most people would call that playing hooky,’ Stiles said.
‘Do you think they would say that to my face though?’
Stiles picked up some carrots and started chopping. ‘I guess it’d depend on how much they wanted to spend a night at the pleasure of the sheriff’s department.’
The next hour was fun. Normal. And Stiles realised just how much he missed spending time with Dad doing absolutely nothing other than talking.
While Scott had been experiencing his furry problem, Stiles had been running here, there and everywhere and he’d been desperately trying to keep dad safe, so there hadn’t really been much quality time for bonding. And then there’d been a string of robberies that had kept the Sheriff’s department on its toes until the perp had been caught red-handed the week before.
In short, Stiles missed spending time with dad. And if one good thing came from Scott being cured, then it was the fact that he no longer had to try and lie to his dad about fugitives and murderers and supernatural shenanigans.
‘So, is Beacon Hills as quiet as the proverbial graveyard?’ Stiles asked as he set the table.
‘More or less. But then I think we’ve had our quota of weird and dangerous for the decade, don’t you?’
‘Definitely,’ Stiles agreed. ‘Maybe even for the century.’ Because if that stuff could never happen again, that’d be awesome. And his dad didn’t even know half of it.
‘So, I’m afraid I don’t have any files for you to snoop through, this weekend,’ Dad said as he brought the plates to the table and put them down.
‘Me? Snoop? I think you must have me confused with someone else.’
‘Somehow, I don’t think so.’
Stiles was about to attack the food with gusto when he noticed Dad watching him. ‘What?’
‘So, I hear you’ve been driving up to the Hale house.’
Stiles froze. ‘Where did you hear that?’
‘Few people have spotted your car in the area. They were concerned, so they mentioned it to me.’
For once Stiles’ mind was completely blank. He could usually think of something to say, but this time there was just nothing there. ‘Ummm...’
‘I’m going to take that as a yes,’ Dad said dryly.
‘That’s... probably a good idea,’ Stiles admitted. He set his fork down, guessing from the way his stomach was shrinking, that he wasn’t going to be able to eat until he knew what direction this conversation was going to go.
‘Are you going up there by yourself?’
‘Scott isn’t going with you?’
‘After practice, he’s with Allison.’
‘Okay.’ Dad nodded thoughtfully. ‘What does Scott think about you spending so much time with Derek Hale?’
‘I, uh, haven’t really told him.’ He shovelled some food into his mouth so that he wouldn’t expand.
‘And why’s that?’
‘Well, he’s got that whole thing with Allison going on,’ Stiles said around a mouthful of food.
Dad gave him a look and Stiles hastily swallowed.
‘And I think he might freak out a bit.’
‘Why do you think he’d freak out?’
‘He doesn’t exactly like Derek.’
Scott had been prepared to spend time with Derek when they had needed him to stay alive, but now he seemed perfectly happy to pretend he no longer existed. And Stiles just couldn’t do that.
‘Maybe Scott has good reason not to like him.’
‘Maybe.’ Because, well, he couldn’t deny that Scott did kind of have a reason. ‘But he doesn’t know him.’
‘And you do?’
‘More than Scott does.’
Stiles hadn’t really meant to be quite this honest, but he’d hated lying while the thing with the Alpha had been going on. Once it was over and finished, he’d promised himself that he would never lie to Dad unless it was a matter of life or death or involved revealing one of Derek’s secrets or talking about the whole werewolf thing. Plus, Dad would find out eventually. He always did. In fact, the werewolf thing was about the only thing he hadn’t ferreted out when Stiles had tried to be evasive over the years. Well, that and the whole harbouring a fugitive, but Stiles reckoned you could lump the two things together. Although Stiles suspected that had more to do with how improbable the whole werewolf thing was, rather than Dad losing his touch. So, yeah, he was prepared to have an awkward conversation if it meant not lying.
‘Stiles,’ Dad sighed, ‘I know he was cleared of those murders -’
‘Because it was Crazy Kate Argent,’ Stiles felt compelled to point out.
‘Yeah, because of that,’ Dad agreed wearily. ‘But he’s still dangerous.’
Stiles couldn’t really deny how dangerous Derek was and Dad could detect a lie a whole county away. He didn’t even need freaky werewolf powers to do it. Since Stiles sucked at the whole lying thing anyway, he decided to avoid that topic all together. He started talking, his brain shuffling through what he could and couldn’t say.
‘I know he doesn’t create the... best impression, what with the mono-syllabic replies and the thousand yard stare that could skin a deer-’
‘Not helping, kiddo.‘
‘But,’ Stiles continued, ‘it’s not really surprising, is it?’
Dad raised a questioning eyebrow and Stiles rushed on.
‘Practically his entire family was murdered in a fire when he was sixteen. Saying bye to everyone you love one morning and then by the afternoon finding out you’ll never see them again has got to mess you up big time. And then for your sister to be murdered by -’ At the last moment Stiles remembered that his dad knew nothing about Peter Hale ‘- some crazy bitch... Dad, he buried her. By himself.’ Every time he thought about that his chest went tight and he found it hard to breathe
Dad stared at him for a good long time. ‘What you went through with your mom isn’t the same as what Derek has been through.’
‘I know that. I still have you. And Scott. Derek has no-one.’
‘So what? You just go up there and hang out?’
Stiles shrugged. ‘Pretty much, yeah.’
Dad resumed eating. After a moment he said, ‘You should invite Derek over here.’
Stiles nearly choked on his food. ‘Uh, what? I, ummm... You mean like a Meet the Parents kind of thing?’
Dad narrowed his eyes. ‘Stiles, would it be a Meet the Parents kind of a thing?’
‘No!’ said Stiles very quickly. ‘Definitely not.’
Dad gave him a suspicious look, which, great, now he was going to think that Stiles was dating Derek and ban Stiles from ever seeing him again. And how many times would Derek kill him for making the sheriff think he was dating an underage kid? Stiles would bet his Avengers comics that it would hit double figures.
‘When I’m not here is fine. I’d be happier knowing you were at home and not gallivanting around the forest.’
‘Okay, I can do that,’ Stiles said, nodding. Dad was being extra cool, so Stiles thought the least he could do was make him feel better about the whole thing.
It wasn’t like it would be difficult to convince Derek to hang out at his house. He’d never had a problem stealing into Stiles’ room in the past and if food was involved the likelihood of Derek saying no was, well, it was pretty nonexistent.
‘Have I told you lately just how awesome you are?’
Dad laughed and rolled his eyes. ‘Just eat your dinner, and if you really want to say thanks then you can do all the washing up without me having to nag you.’
Stiles looked over at all the pans piled up by the sink. ‘Done.’
Stiles jumped as a hand clamped down on his shoulder. ‘You weren’t kidding when you said Scott had lost his lacrosse mojo, were you?’
‘Holy crap, Derek, was it really necessary to creep up on me like that?’ Stiles demanded, his hand pressed against his chest. ‘And I already told you that Scott was back on the bench with me.’
Derek raised an eyebrow at him. ‘You walked right past me as you were looking in your bag. Not my fault.’
‘Of course it’s not,’ Stiles muttered. ‘What are you doing here anyway? Scott already left with Allison.’
‘Why would I be looking for Scott?’ Derek asked blankly.
Stiles shook his head. ‘Sorry. I still haven’t quite got used to Scott being human again and our lives not being in mortal danger. Which is weird, because you’d think Scott would be the one finding it difficult to adjust, but he got used to it stupidly quickly.’
‘Scott was always more interested in Allison,’ Derek said. He glanced back at the lacrosse field. ‘How did you both get on the team in the first place?’
‘Thanks, man,’ Stiles said dryly. ‘You really know how to make me feel better about myself.’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Relax, I’m kidding.’ Kind of. And before Derek could call him on it, he hurried on. ‘And we’re on the team because Coach needs enough players to field an opposition team during practice.’
‘So Jackson can body check you for an hour,’ Derek said, his voice low in his throat but not quite a growl.
Stiles winced. ‘You saw that, huh?’
‘Yeah, Stiles, I saw that.’
‘He’s not as bad as he used to be.’
‘He was worse?’ The outrage on Stiles’ behalf made him feel warm. The only other people in his life who had ever gotten angry for Stiles as opposed to at Stiles were his parents and Scott.
‘Yeah, before the whole werewolf thing. Well, that’s not quite true. After Scott was bitten, Jackson was so busy trying to work out how Scott got so good that he forgot about me. He was a dick to Scott, but you know that already.’
Derek nodded. ‘Where’s your Jeep?’ He was staring at the place where Stiles usually parked.
‘In the shop.’ He sighed. ‘Scott and Allison were supposed to drop me off home, but they obviously forgot.’
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Come on.’
Stiles blinked. ‘Uh, what?’
‘I’ll drive you.’
‘Are you sure?’ Stiles asked, which was crazy. He’d wanted to get back in the Camaro since the time he and Scott had taken Kate Argent on a wild goose chase. He was still sore that he hadn’t been able to drive it.
He was about to protest that he didn’t need Derek to go out of his way for Stiles when he spotted Danny standing by his car and staring right at Derek, looking thoughtful.
Stiles could totally understand anyone being stopped in the tracks by Derek, but having Danny stopped by the hotness of Derek could only be a bad thing. He really didn’t need Danny connecting Miguel to Derek. It could only lead to awkward questions Stiles would have trouble answering.
‘Yeah, yes. Let’s go. Like, now.’ He grabbed on to Derek’s leather jacket. ‘Immediately.’ Stiles tried to hustle Derek towards the Camaro, but trying to forcibly move a werewolf was no easy task.
Derek merely raised an eyebrow and looked around the parking lot. As his eyes settled on Danny, he glanced at Stiles. ‘He won’t recognise me.’ But he did steal Stiles’ bag and shoulder it before leading him over to the Camaro, his hand a searing heat on the small of Stiles’ back, so maybe he wasn’t quite as convinced of that as he sounded.
Stiles thought back to the look on Danny’s face when confronted with a shirtless Derek and snorted. ‘He’ll remember those abs. Trust me. Plus, your bitch face is difficult to forget.’
Derek paused as he opened the passenger door. ‘Bitch face?’ he repeated, almost as though he didn’t know whether to be insulted or amused.
Stiles nodded. ‘Yep. Bitch face.’
Derek rolled his eyes as he slung Stiles’ bag and crosse stick in the back. ‘Just get in the car.’ He slammed the door shut before Stiles could reply.
‘Home, Jeeves,’ Stiles said as Derek started the car. Derek didn’t say anything, just shook his head.
As they pulled out of the parking lot, Stiles relaxed into the seat, enjoying the comfort of the Camaro now that his life was no longer in any danger. ‘I still can’t believe you let Scott drive your car that time,’ he said, closing his eyes.
Derek grunted, but didn’t say anything.
Stiles smiled. ‘Does that mean you regret letting Scott at the wheel of your baby?’
‘He crunched the gears. She spent three days in the shop.’
‘I’m surprised Scott survived that.’
‘There were bigger issues at hand, by that point.’
‘Scott was human.’
‘Ah. When you broke him, he’d stay broken.’
Derek hummed in agreement.
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Stiles cracked open an eye. Surely he should be home by now? ‘Hey, where are we going?’ he asked, sitting up and turning quizzically to Derek. ‘This is kind of opposite to where I live.’
‘We’re going to get something to eat.’
‘We couldn’t have raided the fridge when we got to my house?’ All Stiles had wanted to do was collapse on the sofa or his bed. But getting Derek to hang out at his place like he’d promised Dad was proving more difficult that Stiles had anticipated. Either he was going to have to get creative, or he was going to have to tell Derek about his talk with his dad and he didn’t want to do that because what if Derek decided that meant they couldn’t hang out together anymore?
‘Feel like a burger.’
‘Oh. Well, in that case. We’re going to In n Out, right?’
‘Is there anywhere else?’
‘Well, if you ask Scott, a burger is a burger is a burger.’
Derek slanted a look at Stiles that very clearly said why are you friends with that idiot? and Stiles shrugged.
‘It’s one of the few things we actually disagree on. I want to drive across town and he wants to stop at the first McDonald’s or Burger King that he sees.’
‘Scott’s a moron.’
Stiles snorted. ‘In this I can’t argue with you.’
‘That’s new,’ Derek said with a smile. A proper smile. Not a small smile or a half smile, but a real, honest to god smile.
‘Umm, uh, what?’ Stiles asked, momentarily distracted by the transformation of Derek’s face.
‘You not arguing with me.’ Derek pulled the car into the parking lot.
‘Shut up, I argue with you plenty.’
‘Don’t I know it,’ Derek muttered, getting out the car. ‘Come on. Let’s go.’
Stiles nearly tripped as he got out the car, but he righted himself and followed Derek in, his mouth already watering at the thought of his burger. In fact, he was so distracted thinking about food that he walked right into Derek’s back. Derek, though, didn’t even pause, glaring at Stiles even as he finished ordering.
As Stiles stepped forward to put in his order, Derek hauled him back. ‘I ordered for you. Go get our drinks and a table.’
Stiles was about to protest when his stomach rumbled. ‘Fine. Fine. I’m going.’
He watched Derek as he waited for their order to arrive, the few people around him giving him a wide berth, not that Derek seemed that bothered by it. It was kind of strange watching Derek in such a mundane setting. In Stiles’ mind he was, well, Derek; dangerous, grumpy, hurting. Him standing in a fast food joint didn’t really gel with that image. It got Stiles thinking about where else it would be weird to see Derek. And, well, the grocery store was definitely at the top of the list. Because the idea of Derek buying things like toilet paper was world altering.
He jumped as Derek dropped a tray of food on the table. ‘You’re quiet.’
‘I’m hungry,’ Stiles corrected, grabbing his burger and fries from the tray.
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘You’re always hungry.’
‘Says you,’ Stiles scoffed. ‘How many poor little critters do you eat a day?’
‘An even dozen,’ Derek said around a big bite.
Stiles laughed, delighted. ‘And people say you have no sense of humour.’
‘And by people you mean Scott.’
‘You really do have an idiot for a best friend.’
And there was really no way he was ever going to be able to explain to Derek why he loved Scott, so he let it go. ‘So,’ Stiles said, stuffing some fries into his mouth, ‘you’re a werewolf.’
‘A poignant observation,’ Derek said dryly.
‘I thought so too,’ he said, swallowing quickly. With a grin, he pointed his straw at Derek. ‘So, if you exist, what else exists?’
‘What?’ He took a gulp of his Dr Pepper. ‘I feel as though we’re at that point in our friendship where I can ask you these things.’
Derek gave him a dark look, but didn’t disagree with the friendship thing. ‘I knew, eventually, you’d ask me this.’
‘Well, it’s the obvious question, isn’t it? The only reason I didn’t ask it before was I was a little more concerned with keeping my best friend alive and I thought you honestly would rip my throat out.’
‘I miss those days,’ Derek said, leaning back in his chair, looking surprisingly relaxed. ‘When you were scared of me all the time.’
‘Lies,’ Stiles scoffed. ‘So, come on then. What else exists? Vampires? But if vampires exist please let them be of the “make you shit your pants in fear” variety and not the “sparkling in sunlight” variety.’
‘Technically I didn’t mention the name of the-book-that-must-not-be-named. I merely alluded to it.’
‘Still not allowed.’
‘You’re changing the subject,’ Stiles told him.
‘Vampires don’t sparkle.’
‘I knew it,’ exclaimed Stiles, punching the air. ‘I knew they existed.’
Derek groaned and dropped his head on the table. It was such a human reaction that Stiles forgot his excitement and just stared.
‘Uh, Derek.’ He poked him in the shoulder a couple of times. ‘I haven’t broken you, have I?’ When Derek didn’t respond, he poked him again, yelping when Derek’s hand shot out and caught his wrist mid-poke.
‘Can’t you just accept that some things you shouldn’t know about, exist?’ He rolled his eyes. ‘What am I even saying?’ he muttered. ‘Of course you can’t.’
‘Nope,’ Stiles agreed cheerfully.
Derek squeezed his hand before letting go. ‘Yes. Vampires exist.’
‘Tell me what you know about them. Somehow I don’t think Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a documentary.’
Derek shot him a long suffering look. ‘There aren’t many left and despite what Hollywood says, there are very few in America.’
‘Yeah? So they mostly live in Europe, I guess.’
‘Bizarrely enough, no. South America.’
Stiles blinked. ‘Really? That’s...random.’
Derek shrugged, taking a big bite out of his burger.
‘Well, okay. So vampires exist. What about witches? Demons? Trolls? Changelings? The fae? Ghosts? Oh my god, what about unicorns? Or selkies? Or succubi? Wendigos? Pixies?’
‘Jesus, Stiles. Just stop. How much have you been reading?’
Stiles shrugged. ‘A bit. Mostly, though, I’ve been re-watching Buffy and Supernatural.’
‘Look, there aren’t exactly a lot of books around on this kind of stuff. Accurate books. It’s not like our librarian is called Giles or Bobby. I have to make do with what I’ve got. And I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to research this stuff. It all happened rather quickly.’
‘I can find you books,’ Derek offered. ‘If you’re going to keep reading about this stuff, you should at least get it right.’
‘I - really? I was kind of expecting you to tell me to keep my nose out. That this kind of stuff has nothing to do with me.’
‘Would you listen?’
‘Well. No. Obviously not.’
‘So what’s the point of telling you not to dig?’
‘Stiles, if you know the wrong information, it could get you killed. A whole lot quicker than knowing the real facts. The likelihood of something supernatural turning up here of all places is... remote. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen one day.’
‘So I get books?’
‘You get books,’ Derek confirmed. ‘Although I’m sure I’ll live to regret it. Now shut up and eat your food.’
‘So how likely is a zombie apocalypse?’
Derek dropped the remainder of his burger back onto the table and stared flatly at Stiles. ‘Really?’
‘It’s a concern. I mean, the government actually has an emergency plan in place. Just in case.’
‘Which should tell you everything you need to know.’
Stiles stared at him blankly.
‘That a zombie apocalypse -’ Derek grimaced as the words passed his lips ‘- won’t be supernatural in origin, but man-made.’
‘You think a zombie apocalypse will be man-made?’ Stiles didn’t even try to keep the amusement out his voice or the smile off his face.
Derek scowled. ‘I don’t think there will be a zombie apocalypse at all. And this conversation has included the words ‘zombie apocalypse’ far too often.’
Stiles shrugged. ‘These are the things we have to think about in the twenty-first century.’
‘They really aren’t.’
‘When zombies are trying to chow down your brain, you’re going to be so relieved that I know this stuff.’
‘I really won’t.’
‘All lies. You know I’m awesome.’
‘The important thing is that you believe that.’
‘Ha, ha, you’re hilarious.’
‘Don’t you forget it.’
Stiles leaned back in his chair smiling. ‘This was a good time.’ His smile fell as he noticed the time. ‘Shit. My dad’s going to be home soon. He’ll kill me if I’m not there.’
‘Then we better get you back.’ Stiles would swear Derek sounded almost reluctant.
‘But, you know, thanks for the food and everything.’ He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling slightly awkward.
‘It was only a burger, Stiles,’ Derek said, standing up.
‘But a damn good burger.’ Stiles stood and grabbed the tray, squaring them away before he followed Derek back out into the parking lot.
‘Oh, and by the way,’ Derek said as they walked towards the car, ‘if you stopped tripping over yourself, you wouldn’t be half bad at lacrosse.’
Stiles, naturally, tripped over his feet as he tried to turn and gape at Derek. ‘Not funny, man,’ he whined as Derek smirked and steadied him. ‘And anyway, you just paid me a compliment.’
‘No, I didn’t.’
‘You totally did.’
Derek looked across the roof of the car at him. ‘If you tell anyone, I’ll rip out your throat. With my teeth.’
Stiles laughed. ‘Dude, that’s so sweet.’
‘So how’s Miguel?’ Danny asked, dropping into the seat opposite Stiles.
Stiles looked up from the history homework he was actually doing for once. In the library. Because he and Scott hadn’t really resolved anything and he didn’t need to hear about how beautiful Allison’s eyes were. Again. ‘I, uh, what?’
‘Or, as I prefer to call him, Derek Hale.’ And shit. Danny had totally clocked Derek in the parking lot. He knew it. Derek would be getting a bunch of ‘told you so’ texts just as soon as Stiles could actually text.
‘Who?’ Stiles opened his eyes wide, trying to look as innocent as possible.
Which wasn’t really all that much if the unimpressed look Danny was giving him was any indication. Something told Stiles that Danny had rumbled his less than elaborate ruse.
‘Oh, right. Miguel.’ Stiles squinted at Danny. ‘Hey, did you just call him Derek?’
‘Yeah, Stiles. I called him by his real name. Derek Hale.’
Stiles opened his mouth to deny it, but the look in Danny’s eyes suggested that he was wise to Stiles’ lying ways. Truth - to a point - it was then. ‘Umm.’
Danny settled back in his chair, fixing Stiles with a look that had him squirming to get away. ‘So, not really your cousin.’
Stiles shook his head.
‘But at the time a wanted fugitive.’
Stiles nodded his head.
‘So, why was he hiding out at your place?’
Stiles shrugged. ‘Who would think to look in the Sheriff’s own house for a suspected murderer?’ Which, actually, was the complete truth. Plus, Scott’s mom actually cleaned and tidied his room while Stiles’ dad tried to avoid his room like the plague. That had proved unsurprisingly useful when harbouring a fugitive. Also, Stiles was fairly certain that Derek would have snapped and killed Scott if he’d been subjected to hours on end of why Allison was awesome. And maybe Derek hadn’t appreciated the irony of committing a murder while being on the run for a murder he didn’t do.
‘You wouldn’t put your dad’s job on the line for just anyone, Stiles, so who is he to you?’
And that right there was a loaded question if ever Stiles had heard one. Back then Derek had been the guy who could get Scott out of a jam. Stiles had felt a stab of sympathy for him, but his focus had been on Scott and his trauma. But now, well, now Derek was so much more than that, but Stiles didn’t know what. He was important, though. And Stiles cared about him, that much he did know. So he settled for something true and neutral. ‘A friend.’
Danny raised a skeptical eyebrow. ‘A friend?’ he repeated.
‘Yeah. Is that really so difficult to believe?’
‘Honestly? Yeah. You wouldn’t put your dad at risk unless it was really important.’
Stiles couldn’t argue with that. Although he was slightly surprised that Danny knew that about him. He really didn’t think he had pinged that hard on Danny’s radar.
‘So?’ Danny prompted. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. ‘Why did you help Derek Hale?’
‘Look,’ Stiles sighed. ‘Following in the footsteps of the A-Team, he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit - and yes, I’m aware of how that sounds. Most people who are accused of a crime, committed said crime. But he didn’t. I knew he didn’t do it. So...so I was helping him clear his name.’
Danny nodded as though that made sense and Stiles congratulated himself for managing to evade a crisis. But then a look of confusion passed across his face and really that frown could only mean bad things. ‘Hang on, wasn’t he accused by you and McCall?’
Dammit. ‘Yes, yes. That was a whoops on an epic scale.’
‘And then you helped him?’
Stiles winced. ‘I realised we’d made a bit of a mistake and I felt bad.’
‘You felt bad?’ Danny repeated, an understandable look of disbelief on his face because Stiles was kind of redefining ‘lame’ here. Dictionaries from all over the world would be turning up to take his photo to slap in there next to the definition.
‘Well, yeah. Wouldn’t you feel bad if you’d accidentally turned someone into a fugitive?’
‘So you helped clear his name?’
‘Something like that, yeah.’
Danny’s mouth thinned. ‘There’s more to this story, isn’t there? Even as messed up as this is now, there’s more, right?’
‘I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.’ Because it’s not like he could tell Danny about the whole werewolf thing. Or The Argents. Or Peter Hale. He’d sound crazier than a March hare.
Danny snorted. ‘You’re a really bad liar, you know that?’
‘It’s been mentioned once or twice before,’ Stiles admitted. Mostly by Dad, Scott and Derek.
‘But you’re not going to tell me, are you?’ Danny didn’t sound angry about it, though.
Stiles shrugged. ‘There’s stuff I can’t tell you because it’s not mine to tell.’ He glanced up at Danny. ‘Sorry.’
‘Thanks.’ Because there weren’t many people who would accept that as an answer.
‘So you cleared his name and then you what? Became friends with him?’
‘Because I’ve seen you hanging around with him. And I’ve seen you driving in the direction of his house.’
‘You’re Jeep’s pretty distinctive, Stiles. And I know where the Hale house is.’
Everyone knew where the Hale house was. Sure, there had been the fire, but more importantly from a Beacon Hills High point of view, there had been a big, spooky house you could dare people to spend the night in. So, yeah, it really wasn’t that surprising that Danny knew where Derek’s house was.
Stiles groaned. ‘Really? You’re as bad as my dad and all the lovelies who felt the need to tell him about seeing my Jeep going to Derek’s.’ This was one of the perils of living in a small town and being the sheriff’s kid - everyone was up in your business. Quite how the Hales’ had managed to keep their secret, well, secret was a source of great mystery to Stiles.
‘Do you go up there a lot?’
‘Uh.’ Danny was watching him, something sharp and knowing in his eyes and it made Stiles rub at his shoulder uncomfortably. ‘I guess?’
Danny rolled his eyes. ‘You guess? That’s not really an answer, Stiles.’
‘Well, okay, I go up there a fair bit. It’s no big deal.’ Which was a barefaced lie. It was a big deal. It was a big deal to Stiles that Derek let him go up there and that he hadn’t got tired with or fed up of Stiles and finally sent him on his way.
‘What do you do up there?’ Danny was obviously striving for casual, but missed by a country mile or fifty.
‘Why?’ asked Stiles suspiciously. Because Danny seemed to be driving towards something and Stiles couldn’t for the life of him work out what.
‘Because you’re sixteen and he’s in his twenties and you’re my friend and I’m worried about you.’
‘Oh.’ Stiles blinked. ‘Huh. I wasn’t expecting that.’ Danny thought they were friends. He may never tell Stiles if he was attractive to gay guys, but they were still friends. That was kind of awesome.
‘Then you’re an idiot.’
‘Danny-boy, you say the loveliest things.’
Danny grimaced. ‘But you’re being safe, right?’
‘Safe?’ Danny didn’t know about the werewolf thing so it’s not like he was asking Stiles if he was keeping his tongue in check. ‘I really don’t think there’s all that much danger walking around the woods.’ Unless you happened to run into a crazy Alpha and that was unlikely to happen for a second time in three months. Stiles hoped.
‘Walking around the woods?’ Danny repeated, with a smirk.
Stiles shrugged. ‘Derek doesn’t really like being around people. He gets cranky.’
Danny leaned forward, surprise written on his face. ‘Wait, you mean you really just walk in the woods?’
‘Uh, yeah.’ Stiles wrinkled his nose in confusion. ‘What did you think I meant?’
Danny gave him a full-blown smile. It could even be described as shit-eating. To say it was unnerving would be doing it a great disservice. It was fucking terrifying. ‘Nothing, Stiles. It doesn’t matter.’
‘No, no you think you know something, dude. I have no idea what, but I want to know what it is.’
Danny just kept on grinning at him as he stood up and grabbed his bag. ‘You’ll get it eventually, Stiles. You’ll know what I know.’
‘Dude, dude, Danny,’ Stiles yelled, totally ignoring the other students hiding out in the library, who were all glaring or hissing at him. ‘Come on, man, don’t leave me hanging like this.’
Danny turned around, walking backwards away from the table. ‘Open your eyes, Stiles. Then you might see the blindingly obvious.’
‘What does that even mean?’ Stiles huffed to himself as Danny disappeared. There was no way he’d be able to concentrate on history now.
Stiles shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and hunched his shoulders against the tide of people in the hallway. It had been a shitty day and Stiles didn’t feel up to stilted and awkward conversation with Scott while they tried to get past their stupid argument.
‘Stiles, wait up!’
With a sigh Stiles turned around and stood fast against the tide of people eager to escape school as Scott skidded to a stop in front of him, panting slightly. ‘Hey, dude. What can I do for you?’
‘Things are weird between us and I don’t like it.’
‘You’re not the only one.’ He peered around Scott. ‘Not to make things more awkward, but where’s Allison?’
‘Her dad wanted to spend the afternoon with her, so she disappeared straight after class.’ The tone of Scott’s voice suggested that Allison had been exiled to Europe for four months.
‘They’re probably bonding over crossbows,’ Stiles guessed as they walked down the corridor, slightly slower than everyone else.
Scott shuddered. ‘Yeah. Probably.’
‘That’s kind of terrifying.’ If there was one thing that made Stiles relieved that Scott was no longer a werewolf, it was the fact that he never had to deal with Allison’s crazy family ever again. Well, except in his capacity as her boyfriend, obviously. Stiles didn’t envy him that.
‘Tell me about it.’ Scott sounded so dejected that Stiles had to bump shoulders with him.
‘I’m glad she’s our friend.’ If supernatural shit ever went down in Beacon Hills again, Allison and her crossbow were his first call. Well, after Derek. Derek would probably get the first call.
‘And I’m human again,’ Scott added, rubbing absently at his arm, obviously remembering the time Chris Argent shot him with an arrow.
‘It does, thankfully, lower the chances of her family accidentally killing you,’ Stiles agreed. He could only imagine the shit that would have happened if Scott had stayed a werewolf and he and Allison had kept dating. It could only have ended in tragedy. Stiles imagined they’d probably have had to fake breaking up, but Scott was a terrible liar so that wouldn’t have really worked long-term.
‘I still think her mom wants me dead, to be honest with you. She gets this look in her eyes like she’s working out the best way to do it.’
‘Relax, dude. It’s not going to happen. You’re 100% human and they can’t touch you. Scare the crap out of you, sure, but nothing more than that.’
‘I hope you’re right, I really do.’
‘Me too. I mean, I’m fairly certain that Argent’s only try to murder werewolves. I think they might consider murdering humans a whole different ballgame. But, seriously, what do I know?’
Scott scrubbed his hands through his hair. ‘I thought it would get easier once, you know, things were back to normal.’
‘So, I’m guessing you didn’t chase after me to talk about Allison’s messed up family, so what can I do you for, dude?’
‘Oh, that. I wanted to talk.’
‘I thought about what you said and I talked it through with mom and she told me I was being an idiot.’
Stiles grinned. ‘Wisest woman I know, Melissa McCall.’
‘Yeah. She might have called me a few other things, too. So I thought we could hang out some. I know Allison isn’t here and it looks all kinds of suspicious, but I swear that was lucky timing,’ he hastened to add. ‘I’d be doing this anyway.’
‘I don’t like fighting with you,’ Stiles said. ‘You’re my BFF.’
‘I know, dude. You too. It sucks big time. So are we done with this?’
‘Definitely,’ Scott said, nodding vigorously.
‘So, uh.’ Scott scratched the back of his neck. ‘Hey, you want to play Halo?’
‘Uh, Scott, have you met me? Am I ever going to turn down the opportunity to beat you down? Of course I want to play.’ Scott pulled him out of the way of a couple sucking face so hard they had no awareness of what was going on around them and flashed Scott a grateful smile. ‘Thanks, dude. So, when are you thinking? Tomorrow? Saturday? Give me a time and I’ll be there.’
‘Well, I was kind of thinking now.’
‘Now?’ The universe was evil and laughing at him. ‘Like, this afternoon? Now, now?’
Scott started walking in the general direction of his bike. ‘Hey, are you, like, busy this afternoon or something? Because, we don’t have practice so I assumed you’d be free.’
‘Me, busy? Ha!’
‘So, we can play Halo, right?’ Scott looked at him beseechingly and Stiles felt a bit like he was about to kick a lost puppy.
‘Except. Tonight I might actually already be kind of busy.’ He gave a half shrug.
‘But we don’t have practice.’ Scott cocked his head and looked adorably confused. ‘How are you busy?’
‘Maybe I have a hot date. Did you think of that?’
‘Jeez, blunt much?’
‘Sorry,’ Scott said with a wince. ‘I didn’t mean it like that.’
‘Whatever, man,’ Stiles said, waving away his apology. ‘I can take it.’
‘So if it’s not a hot date, what are you doing?’
Stiles worried his lip between his teeth. ‘So, right I have to, like, tell you something.’ And this wasn’t exactly where or when Stiles had wanted to tell Scott, but he couldn’t lie outright to his best friend. At least he couldn’t wolf out anymore if he got angry.
Scott’s grabbed him by the shoulder. ‘Dude, are you alright? Are you in trouble?’
Stiles wrapped a hand around Scott’s wrist. ‘I’m not in any trouble. Quit freaking out.’
‘So what is it? Come on, Stiles, tell me. There aren’t more, you know -’
‘You’re going to have to be a little more specific than that, buddy o’mine.’
Scott bared his teeth and bent his fingers, almost like claws.
Stiles snorted when he realised what Scott was trying to do and then dissolved into laughter, hand braced against the wall to make sure he didn’t accidentally fall. ‘Dude, I mean, dude, was that your impression of a werewolf? Seriously?’
Scott dropped Stiles’ arm and shifted on his feet. ‘What?’
Stiles rolled his eyes and gave Scott a push to get him moving again. ‘You used to be one. How can your impression suck that bad?’
‘It’s not -’
‘Man, that was more pathetic than the first time you tried to howl. And I think we all know just how pathetic that was. Like, dictionary definition bad.’
Scott glanced around, looking panicked, even though no-one was paying them any attention. ‘Look, can we not talk about that... I just wanna forget it ever happened.’
‘Yeah, I get that, man. But, uh, I kinda need to tell you something.’
‘You know you can tell me anything, Stiles.’
‘Yeah, well, this is going to freak you out a bit. It’s why I’ve been putting off telling you. It’s not like it’s a big thing or a bad thing, and my dad has been surprisingly okay about it - like, surprisingly okay. I can’t describe how surprising. But, I guess you’ll get that in a minute. But my point is that you don’t have to worry or do anything stupid or rash. It’s just something you should maybe know. Okay?’
Scott grabbed him by his shoulders and shook him a little. ‘Stiles, you’re making the kind of sense that doesn’t. What are you telling me?’
‘Oh. Right.’ Stiles took a deep breath. ‘So, well, I’ve been hanging out with Derek.’
Scott took a couple of steps back, nearly running into Greenberg and stared at him for a good few seconds before the words seem to register and his mouth fell open.
‘Derek,’ he repeated dumbly. ‘What the hell, Stiles? Why the hell are you hanging out with Derek?’ Scott pulled him away from the steps and down the side of the school building and out of earshot. ‘Have you forgotten who he is? Or what he is? Or what he did to us?’
‘It’s kind of hard to forget that the guy’s a werewolf, Scott.’
‘Then why are you spending time with him?’ Scott sounded so very confused that Stiles felt kind of sorry for him. He’d never quite got past the idea of Derek just being a danger to him and his friends; had never seen him as a person with feelings. And for the longest time, neither had Stiles, not really. He still felt guilty about that.
‘So what? I shouldn’t spend time with him because he’s a little different from us?’
‘A little different?’ Scott repeated incredulously. ‘Try a lot different. Like, happy to rip out your throat if you get him angry, kind of different.’
‘He’s… not that bad once you get to know him.’ Stiles winced at how lame that sounded. It was hard to argue against the idea that Derek was terrifying.
‘Once you... Shit, Stiles, just how much time are you spending with him? You’re not going up to his creepy house by yourself, are you?' Stiles didn’t have time to say anything before Scott’s eyes widened. ‘Oh, my god, you totally are. That’s not safe.’
‘Well, I’m not dead yet.’ Stiles spread his arms and spun around to prove it to Scott.
‘I think “yet” is the operative word.’
‘Look, Derek isn’t going to hurt me, Scott.’ He leaned back against the wall. ‘The most he does is growl. He doesn’t even slam me against any walls any more.’ He glanced to the side. ‘I almost miss it,’ he added wistfully.
‘How can you joke about that?’
‘Because that’s my thing? I laugh in the face of danger... and like the formidable Xander Harris before me, I then run away until it’s gone away.’
‘Stiles. I - I mean, it’s Derek freaking Hale.’
‘I know that.’ Stiles rubbed a hand over his head. ‘Look, I get that you don’t like Derek -’
‘Don’t like him? Stiles, the guy nearly wrecked my life for good.’
Irritation lodged in the back of Stiles’ throat and he glared at Scott. ‘Well, that’s not entirely true. Yeah, he was a dick, but he wasn’t the one who bit you and he tried his best to help us.’
‘And, just in case you’ve forgotten, he held down his uncle while you -’ Stiles made a slashing motion across his throat and Scott paled.
‘I know, I know. I remember.’ Scott looked down at his feet, his lips twisting unhappily. ‘I didn’t think I was ever going to have to think about him again.’
‘You don’t have to,’ Stiles said. ‘It’s me that’s spending time with him, not you.’
There was a flash of determination in Scott’s eyes which could only mean one thing; he’d had a thought. ‘I should come with you.’
‘Dude, that’s really sweet, but also kind of a terrible idea. You don’t like the guy. At all. Why would you want to spend actual time with him?’
‘To stop him from, I don’t know, hurting you or something.’
‘Scott, he’s not hurting me.’
‘So says you.’
‘You’d think I’d know. And I hate to say this, but even if he was, what would you be able to do about it? He’s a werewolf and you’re back to normal. I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t be a match for him.’
Frustration flashed across Scott’s face. ‘Is this because of our argument?’
‘Don’t be such a dumbass,’ Stiles snapped. ‘Of course it’s not. It would never be because of that.’ He might have ended up thinking about Derek because his best friend had been off having epic amounts of sex with his girlfriend and he might have decided to go up to the Hale house because of a mixture of boredom and worry, but it wasn’t payback. It wasn’t like Stiles would drop Derek if Scott ever decided to spend more time with him.
‘This has nothing to do with you and Allison. Jeez, how many times do I have to tell you that I like Allison; just not in the same way you do -? I started checking up on Derek way before we had that argument.’
‘So why then, dude? Help me understand why you would voluntarily spend time with Derek Hale?’
Stiles shrugged. ‘I was worried about him.
Scott laughed, but he sobered up when he realised Stiles wasn’t joking. ‘Worried about Derek?’ he repeated, as though the idea was totally alien. Which, to Scott, it totally was. ‘Hey, does this have anything to do with that time you asked me if I thought Derek was lonely?’
‘You remember that?’
Scott nodded. ‘I didn’t think you meant anything by it, though. That’s when you first went to see him, isn’t it?’
Lying was completely pointless, so he nodded.
‘Shit, Stiles. That was stupid.’
‘Why? Because he might glower me to death? He’s not a killer, Scott. You know that.’
‘But he’s dangerous.’
‘Well, duh.’ You’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see that Derek was dangerous. ‘But he’s not dangerous to m…everyone.’
‘Yeah, he is. He could lose -’
‘Please, you were the one who told me he has ironclad control over the wolf.’
‘And what if he loses it?’
Stiles shrugged. ‘Then he’s no different from anyone else, is he? Humans lose control all the time.’
‘Stiles. That’s -’
‘Immaterial, because he’ll never hurt me.’ He wanted to add that Scott had nearly killed him. Many times. And that he felt safer with Derek than he ever had with Scott, but he couldn’t say that to his best friend and watch his face fall.
Scott reared back a little. ‘You, you really believe that?’
‘Yes.’ It would be helpful if Scott had his werewolf superpowers in this moment so he could tell just how convinced Stiles was.
‘Because he’s my friend.’
Scott scrunched up his face, like the words made no sense. ‘Is… is he like, forcing you to go up and see him?’
‘Yes, Scott, he’s forcing me from five miles away,’ Stiles said dryly, rolling his eyes. ‘Freaky werewolf mind control is one of the superpowers he forgot to tell you about, because he just didn’t think it’d be useful to know.’
‘He could be threatening your dad. Or me.’
‘Scott, think about what you’re saying,’ Stiles said. ‘Derek could hardly stand to be around me. Do you really think that out of all the people in Beacon Hills I would be the one Derek would force to hang out with him?’
‘Okay, that’s a good point,’ Scott admitted, grudgingly.
‘Look, Scott, you don’t have to like it and you don’t have to understand it, but can you just trust me on this, yeah?’
‘I trust you, Stiles. It’s Derek I don’t trust.’
‘You don’t trust the guy who gave up his chance for a pack of his own so you could be cured?’ Stiles said flatly.
Scott winced. ‘When you put it like that, it sounds really bad.’
‘That’s because it is really bad.’
‘Fine,’Scott huffed. ‘Okay, so you’re spending time with Derek. I don’t get it, but okay. If you wind up dead, or anything, I’m setting your dad and the Argents on him.’
‘Agreed. Unless he’s trying to find who killed me and exact his bloody revenge. That, I’m okay with.’
‘Noted,’ Scott said. ‘Are you still going to ditch me and Halo to see Derek tonight?’
‘I promised him, dude.’ Which wasn’t strictly true; it was more like a standing… not-date.
‘I’m sure he wouldn’t mind you cancelling tonight.’
‘He’d never say anything about it,’ Sties agreed. ‘But I’m not going to do that to him. I wouldn’t drop you if it was him asking.’ And okay, maybe that had been a sly dig at Scott but Stiles was only human.
‘I can’t believe you’re ditching me for Derek Hale,’ Scott muttered darkly. ‘I hardly ever see you now.’
‘It’s not really ditching you,’ Stiles protested. ‘I see you all the time. We have practically every class together -’
‘But I don’t see you as much after school anymore.’ And, really? Now Scott wanted to talk about this? Awesome. No, really. Awesome.
‘Scott, we’ve talked about this. I don’t begrudge you getting a girlfriend. In fact, I think your girlfriend is more than a little awesome, but did you really think I was going to hang around, waiting for Allison to be busy so you’d hang out with me again? Really?’
‘Well, no - But...Derek?’
Stiles nodded because, well, Scott wasn’t really listening to his words anymore so why bother using them?
‘So, this is kind of awkward,’ Stiles said, after a couple of seconds of near silence.
‘Yeah. A bit.’ Scott squinted at him. ‘So, I, uh, I guess I see you in school tomorrow, then?’
Stiles nodded. ‘Yeah.’
And, boy, awkward didn’t even begin to describe how Stiles was feeling. He couldn’t ever remember feeling awkward around Scott. Not even after he’d walked in on Scott having a private moment . And, yeah, that memory could stay at the back of his mind, thank you very much.
As Scott started to walk towards his bike, he turned back to Stiles. ‘Just do me a favour, okay?’
‘What?’ Stiles asked, pulling his keys out of his bag.
‘Text me when you’re home?’
‘What? Really?’ But as ridiculous as it was, it made Stiles smile because it meant he and Scott were going to be okay. Maybe not that second, but soon. And really, how ridiculous was it that he was worrying about losing Scott because he got a new friend and Scott had never once worried about losing Stiles when Allison had burst onto the scene?
‘Please? This is kinda a lot to take in all at once. You, Derek and everything.’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘You’re being ridiculous. I wouldn’t do this for anyone else, just so you know. But fine, okay. I’ll let you know that Derek hasn’t ripped out my throat and mounted me on his wall, okay?’
‘Not funny, Stiles,’ Scott yelled over his shoulder.
‘That was pretty funny,’ Stiles muttered to himself, bouncing on his feet.
Stiles jerked awake as the police radio crackled to life. His face was pressed against the window and he truly had no memory of falling asleep. Last thing he remembered was telling Dad about how Scott was being a whiny bitch about Derek. He may have used those exact words.
Listening in to the call, Stiles rubbed his eyes, hoping to clear some of the cobwebs from his mind.
He gathered together the balled-up sandwich wrappers and threw them, along with their drink cans in the now-empty carrier bag. ‘So, break in at the community college, huh?’
‘Do you mind if I take this call before dropping you home, kiddo?’
‘No. Nope. You sheriff away,’ he said, waving one hand at the radio and using the other to muffle a yawn. ‘Hey, do we get to sound the siren?’
Dad rolled his eyes as the car pulled away from the curb they’d been idling beside. ‘It’s not a robbery in progress, so no.’
‘You’re no fun,’ Stiles said, pouting. ‘You know how much I enjoy the siren.’ His fingers itched to press the button. When he’d been a kid, Dad had always let Stiles hit the button, even if it wasn’t strictly needed.
With his eyes firmly on the road, dad grinned. ‘You think I’m not fun? It pains me that you say that. Pains me, I tell you.’
Stiles snorted. ‘You just enjoy messing with me.’
‘I’m a horrible father,’ he agreed solemnly. ‘You should call child services.’
‘If by “horrible” you mean “awesome”, then yeah, sure, you’re really horrible.’ He half-heartedly evaded Dad reaching over and trying to ruffle his hair.
‘Eyes on the road. Eyes on the road.’
‘My eyes are on the road.’
‘Then both hands on the wheel, yeah?’
Dad snorted and Stiles settled back in his seat, a smile playing on his lips. He dozed on the drive over to Beacon Hills Community College. He felt pretty tired - not hunter’s-and-werewolf’s-wanting-to-kill-you tired, just regular tired - but happy to be spending time with Dad.
He jerked awake for the second time that night as the engine died. Blinking against the street light streaming through the car window, he glanced around. And realised they were already in the parking lot. ‘We’re already here?’ Half the building was in darkness, the other half blazing light.
Dad opened the door, but paused half way out. ‘Stay in the car. Got it, kiddo?’
Stiles nodded. ‘Of course.’ He waved his hands to encompass himself and the seat. ‘Staying right here. Not moving an inch.’
Sending Stiles a knowing look, Dad sighed. ‘When you do get out the car, don’t wander too far, okay? And keep your cell on you. I don’t want to have to spend an hour searching for you.’
‘I won’t be long.’
‘Have you never watched a horror movie?’ Stiles yelled as the door slammed shut. ‘That’s the worst thing you could say.’
Stiles watched as Dad walked towards the entrance of the community college, relieved that he was back to dealing with regular, normal crimes and not supernatural feats that defied logic. Not that Stiles wasn’t used to walking around with a low grade buzz of fear in the back of his mind while Dad was at work.
After a few minutes of sitting in the car, jigging his knee with pent up energy he threw open the car door, needing to get some air and to be moving. He pushed the lock down just in case there was someone in the vicinity who was stupid enough to steal the sheriff’s car. Choosing a direction, he walked towards the cars that obviously belonged to those here for night classes. He didn’t want to move too far away from the cruiser. He’d had enough of stumbling unknowingly into life-threatening trouble to last him a lifetime, thank you very much.
He walked slowly up and down the rows of cars, glancing in all of them on the off chance that there might be anything interesting, hinky or just plain weird lying around. It never failed to amuse Stiles how people seemed to forget windows weren’t transparent. Unfortunately, everyone studying at the college seemed to be mind-numbingly boringly normal, although some of the floors managed to surpass even Stiles’ ‘ick’ threshold.
Stiles got to the end of the cars and was prepared to give up and go back to sit in the cruiser, because, damn it was kind of freezing. Just as he started to turn a familiar shape caught his eye, and, taking a couple of steps forward, Stiles realised that the car he was looking at was Derek’s Camaro. It was parked a little away from all the other cars, more in the shadows, which was why Stiles hadn’t noticed it before.
‘Derek’s here?’ he muttered to himself, his feet carrying him over to it, almost without Stiles noticing. He glanced back at the community college, wondering how long Dad was going to be. Because maybe, depending on when classes ended, he could hang around until Derek appeared. Stiles hadn’t seen him in nearly a week, what with lacrosse practice, homework and reading some of the books Derek had lent him, not to mention whatever Derek got up to when he wasn’t running around his territory, or spending time with Stiles. He missed having the grumpy guy around and just a couple of minutes with him would surely cure Stiles of that.
Stiles was knocked out of his daydream by approaching chatter and footsteps. He looked up from where he was leaning against the Camaro to see students walking out the doors. If he was lucky, this meant that Derek would soon appear, probably scowling when he saw Stiles ignoring the sanctity of the Camaro.
Despite the fact that Stiles kept scanning the crowds for Derek, he still didn’t spot him until he was close. He startled when he realised that Derek was nearly upon him, his head bowed as he read through what looked like notes, moving his lips silently. Stiles’ body did many weird things at once; his heart clenched while his stomach did a flip-flopping somersault and goosebumps pricked his skin. He tried to ignore the way his mouth went dry.
Stiles shook himself to try and refocus his eyes, but they didn’t really want to do anything but watch Derek as he approached. Derek frowned at him, and just as it looked like Derek was getting ready to say something, Stiles’ higher brain functions kicked into gear and allowed Stiles some semblance of control over his own body and brain. Well, about as much as he usually had.
Derek looked surprised, but - and Stiles didn’t think this was his imagination working overtime - happy to see him. It was kind of difficult to tell, but Stiles had made it a habit to study all of Derek’s facial tics so that he could get a better read on what he was thinking or feeling at any one time. It didn’t often offer much clarity, but there was the odd occasion where Stiles thought he had an idea and the way Derek’s mouth had relaxed and his eyes had softened, suggested that he wasn’t displeased with finding Stiles waiting at his car.
‘What are you doing here?’ Stiles asked, crossing his arms across his chest to try and keep warm. It seemed like a stupid question, but Stiles had learnt never to assume you knew something just because it seemed like the most obvious answer.
Derek stared at him for a moment before sighing. ‘I’m doing some classes so I can finally graduate.’
Which, actually, hadn’t quite been what Stiles had been expecting for some reason. ‘I guess it’s pretty boring around here how that no-one’s trying to kill us.’
‘Either that or I finally have the time to think about classes and I want to graduate.’
Even though he now thought of Derek as a person who did normal, everyday activities, there were still things that he had difficulty associating with him. Which was stupid, because he’d seen the number of books in Derek’s trailer and he often stole books from Stiles’ bookshelves.
‘I keep forgetting that you were at college before everything happened,’ Stiles said, his teeth chattering from the cold.
‘Is that really so difficult to believe?’
‘Yes,’ Stiles said without thinking.
Derek’s face fell blank and his eyes flattened and Stiles realised what he’d said and mentally kicked himself. Hard. Many times.
‘Not that you have a brain. That’s not surprising, not even a little bit,’ he hastened to correct. ‘It’s just. Look, after everything that happened, with the supernatural hijinks, and you creeping around and people dying and stuff it’s difficult to think of you being in a regular, normal setting. Like a college campus.’ He shrugged awkwardly. ‘Sorry.’
He let out a low shriek when he was hit in the face by something soft and with a frankly delicious scent. Smell, god he meant smell. Ever since he’d started hanging out with Derek he’d started with the word ‘scent’ and he couldn’t get it out of his head.
‘What the -?’ He pulled the material off his head and was surprised to see that it was a sweatshirt. He cocked his head and looked at Derek. ‘Huh?’
‘That’s because it’s cold. We don’t all have your werewolf constitution.’
Derek nodded at the sweatshirt. ‘So put that on.’
Stiles hesitated for a second before deciding that it would be stupid to argue. It was cold and he was shivering and Derek had offered him a warm garment. He was about to pull it over his head when he noticed the logo. ‘Columbia?’
‘Where I went to college.’
Stiles blinked. ‘You went to Columbia?’
‘Yes,’ Derek said, sounding irritated. ‘What of it?’
‘What’s it like?’ Stiles asked, his voice muffled as he dragged on the sweatshirt, marvelling at how soft it was. Derek was staring at him like he was crazy as his head appeared and Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘I’ve been looking at colleges. I dunno if I want to go all the way across the country, but I always liked the look of it.’
Derek shook his head. ‘I liked it. I’ll tell you about it sometime when you aren’t freezing in a parking lot.’ He glanced around. ‘What are you even doing here?’
‘My dad got a call. Robbery, apparently,’ he told Derek, distracted by the idea of Derek at college, going to classes, hanging out with friends. He wondered if any of his friends had known about Laura dying or what they had made of Derek just disappearing. Did they think he was still coming back? Had he spoken to any of them since he’d been in Beacon Hills? Stiles suddenly had a lot of questions fighting for space in his head but he decided to keep them for another time. Derek had said he’d tell Stiles about Columbia so maybe he could ask then and keep Derek’s irritation to a minimum.
Derek stood next to Stiles, his shoulder pressed against Stiles’ and Stiles was grateful for the heat radiating from his body. Perk of being a werewolf. ‘And you’re here because?’
‘I was in the car with my dad. We were supposed to be having dinner together, but he had to work, so we ate on patrol.’
‘I get that, Stiles, but why are you here? Out in the cold, instead of in the cruiser?’
‘Oh. That. I was bored and needed to do something.’
‘So you went for a walk around the deserted parking lot despite knowing what can happen in deserted parking lots.’ Derek sounded like he didn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed.
‘It didn’t really seem that dangerous,’ Stiles said. ‘I mean, you’re the only supernatural being around the place now, right? So my life shouldn’t be in any real danger.’
Derek reached up and smacked him round the head. ‘Idiot.’
‘Hey, what was that for?’ Stiles rubbed the back of his head and scowled at Derek.
‘I think the last few months have addled your brain.’
‘Huh? Also, addled?’
‘There are plenty of purely human dangers out there, Stiles. Muggers. Thieves. Murderers. You read your dad’s police reports. I know you know this.’
‘Well, yeah. But -’ He wrapped his arms around himself, still cold and looked around. ‘It doesn’t seem the same now, you know.’
Stiles jumped when he felt an arm slip around his shoulders, pulling him close to Derek’s side. It made his breath catch, but he knew it meant nothing more to Derek than just keeping an eye on him, which on this occasion meant keeping him from freezing. And he was okay with that. Really. ‘You still have to be careful,’ Derek murmured gruffly.
‘I know it’s difficult to believe, but I do know that.’ He let himself relax into Derek’s side. ‘I like being alive so I’m not going to go out of my way to get in life-threatening situations.’
Derek nodded. ‘Okay.’
Shifting closer to Derek, he briefly wondering why they didn’t get in the car they were leaning against, but Stiles was liking being exactly where he was, so he wasn’t going to bring it up. ‘It’s nearly spring break,’ he murmured.
He frowned when he felt Derek tense slightly because he didn’t think he’d said anything particularly controversial.
‘Are you telling me you don’t like being on vacation?’
‘What? Dude, no. I love being on vacation. I mean, no school, for starters. No getting out of bed at an ungodly hour in the morning. Who would be crazy to hate that? And, this time, as an added bonus, no Mr Harris, which deserves its own celebration.’
‘But -?’ Derek prompted.
‘What makes you think there’s a but?’
Derek stared at him.
Stiles sighed. ‘But this time, Scott’s with Allison, so what’ll I do? We used have have entire itineraries - I mean, this one time we decided we were going to hike all the way over to the next town. We got as far as the highway before my dad showed up to drive us back home.’
‘You were going to walk the highway?’ Glancing up, Stiles saw an amused twist to Derek’s lips.
‘What? We were eleven, dude. Higher planning wasn’t really our speciality back then.’
‘Still isn’t,’ Derek snorted.
Stiles pulled a face and stuck out his tongue. ‘Whatever, man. My point is, Scott and I had plans. Many, many plans. Epic plans, even.’
‘What did you have planned over Christmas?’
‘Uh, well, nothing all that special, to be honest.’ Stiles shrugged. ‘Just playing Medal of Honor and Assassin’s Creed.’
‘Sounds riveting,’ Derek said dryly.
‘Yeah, yeah, I know, not really your thing, dude. But for us, it was the height of awesomeness.’
‘But the thing is, we have no list this time. Not one single, solitary thing. And I get it, I do. He’s got a hot new girlfriend, of course he wants to spend all his time with her.’
‘He can’t spend all his time with her, you know that, right? He may be human now, but I think Argent would still kill him if he spent every moment tethered to Allison.’
Stiles laughed outright. ‘Well, yeah, you’re probably right about that. But when he’s not with her, he’ll want to talk about her.’
‘Thanks, dude. You’re all heart.’
And what Stiles really wanted to do was ask Derek to come over and spend the week with him and Dad, but there was nothing special about spring break, so he couldn’t think of a way to get both Derek and Dad on board without it being incredibly awkward. He kind of wished it was Christmas instead because then it would be so much easier to get Derek to his house.
Stiles was about to launch into one of his babble-until-he-got-round-to-what-he-was-trying-to-say monologues when Derek’s head shot up, suddenly on alert.
He lifted his head and looked around, almost expecting a new monster to loom out of the shadows. ‘What? What’s out there?’
‘Your dad‘s looking for you.’
Stiles frowned. ‘I thought he was going to call me when he was done.’ He leaned further into Derek, so that he could pull up the sweatshirt and get to his phone. He groaned when he saw the screen. ‘Whoops.’
‘Whoops?’ He could feel Derek breath ghosting along his cheek.
‘Seven missed calls from my dad.’
‘He’s going to be happy.’
Derek’s arm disappeared from around him and Stiles failed at swallowing his whine of protest as the cold seeped back. He’d liked leaning against Derek, just talking about stuff. Derek threw Stiles a slight smirk, but he didn’t say anything in lieu of nodding behind him and when Stiles twisted around, Dad was appearing from the shadows. God, but Stiles hoped Derek had dropped his arm before dad had seen. That was a conversation he really didn’t want to have.
With a cursory glance at Derek, he fixed Stiles with one of his sheriff stares. ‘I thought I told you to keep your cell on you.’
‘I totally did.’ He waved his phone weakly at him. ‘But, uh, next time remind me not to leave it on silent.’
With a roll of his eyes, Dad shook his head. ‘Come on, we can go home now.’
‘Did you get everything sorted? What got stolen?’
‘Never you mind. Now get back to the car.’
Stiles was going to say something clever, but he was blindsided by a massive yawn. ‘Okay, I can do that.’ He turned back to Derek. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, right?’
Derek glanced briefly over at Dad but whatever he saw there obviously reassured him and by the time Stiles looked at Dad, his face was slightly impatient, which wasn’t exactly unusual. Looking back at Derek, he was relieved to see Derek nod with agreement. ‘Yeah.’
As Stiles started walking back towards the cruiser, he was hit by another yawn and stumbled slightly, saved only by Dad grabbing his arm and steadying him. Keeping a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, he led Stiles in the right direction.
‘Where did you get that sweatshirt?’
Stiles felt his eyes widen as he glanced down at himself. He turned around so he was walking backwards. Derek was still standing next to the Camaro, his arms crossed as he watched Stiles disappear. ‘Hey, I’ve still got your sweatshirt.’
Derek’s shoulders hitched, almost as though he’d laughed. ‘Keep it,’ he called back. ‘You’re cold.’
Stiles pulled the sweatshirt closer, warmth spreading through his chest and grinned. ‘Thanks.’
‘Turn around before you fall over.’
Stiles laughed and waved, but did turn around just in case he did manage to fall on his ass.
Stiles threw open the oven door, the delicious smell of homemade pizza wafting out, just as Derek opened the side door. Perfect timing, if Stiles did say so himself. He knew that bribing Derek with pizza would finally get the guy to come over, making Dad all happy.
‘Dude, get in here and close the door, will you? I’m starving.’
Derek paused on the threshold, but not for long enough for Stiles to be able to comment on it. He kicked the door closed with his foot and it was only then that Stiles noticed that Derek was carrying something. Three somethings, in fact. And one of them smelled delicious.
‘What you got there?’ He leaned over from where he was kneeling on the floor, intending to flip open the box as soon as it was on the table, but his hand was slapped away by Derek.
‘Hey,’ he protested, pulling his arm back and rubbing his hand absently. ‘That was mean.’
‘Then quit being nosey.’
‘You’re the one who brought baked goods into my house. Don’t think I can’t smell them. I may not have your freaky sense of smell, but I can smell that sugary goodness.’ He stood and carefully slid the tray onto the counter. He didn’t want a pizza-covered floor. He knew from experience that it was a bitch to clean up. Not to mention the fact that he’d have to find something else to eat. Plus, he’d be finding splashes of tomato sauce for months after.
‘Did you make that?’ asked Derek, crowding up behind him and leaning over his shoulder to take a deep breath.
Stiles snorted. ‘Of course not. I got this from the deli down the road.’
‘Why would you go to a deli when you have a kitchen?’
‘Dude, trust me when I say, you never, ever want to taste my cooking. Your taste buds would rebel. They’d want to sue for abuse.’
‘It’s a good kitchen.’
Stiles glanced around. ‘It’s nothing special. Looks like every kitchen ever. The McCall’s kitchen is pretty awesome, though. When Melissa has time, she cooks the meanest pot roast ever.’
‘The best. Seriously. If you and Scott can ever handle being in the same room as each other again, I‘m definitely taking you over there.’ His stomach rumbled. ‘All this talk about food is making me even hungrier.’
‘So hurry up and cut the pizza, then.’
‘Impatient much?’ Stiles grabbed a knife from the block and started cutting the pizza into easily manageable slices. He elbowed Derek in the side. ‘We need plates.’
Derek pressed up along Stiles’ back and took another deep breath.
‘Seriously, plates.’ He nudged Derek’s shoulder with his. ‘Then you can smell it to your heart’s content, before wolfing it down.’ Derek snapped his teeth in Stiles’ ear, making him jump. ‘Please, you love my punning.’ He shivered slightly as the warmth from Derek faded as he turned away.
‘Hey, grab some glasses while you’re over there, yeah?’ he said over his shoulder.
As soon as Derek deposited two plates in front of him, he started piling the slices on. ‘Huh. I should have got two pizzas. Maybe even more. I didn’t really think of that.’ Because there was no way one pizza between the two of them was going to be enough. ‘My bad.’
Derek just snorted. ‘Get the bag. The smaller one.’
‘Huh? Really?’ Walking over to the table, he reached out for the box he knew had the baked goods in, curious about what Derek had brought along.
‘The bag, Stiles. I said the bag.’
‘You’re no fun,’ Stiles whined, changing direction and grabbing the bag instead. ‘What did you bring?’
He looked over at the pizza. ‘That’s, well, that’s probably a good thing.’ He reached into the bag and pulled out a tupperware container full of - Stiles raised the container to eye-level and cocked his head critically at the contents - mac and cheese, maybe. ‘Mac and cheese?’
Derek shifted. ‘Yeah.’
‘Pizza and mac and cheese?’
‘I like mac and cheese.’
‘No need to get all defensive, dude. I’m a huge fan of mixing different food groups.’ He shoved the container at Derek. ‘Microwave this baby.’
Derek raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t argue, instead accepting the container and moving over to the microwave.
‘No arguing. You must be hungry.’
Derek huffed, but didn’t disagree, making Stiles grin.
When the microwave dinged, Derek handed the mac and cheese over to Stiles, letting him portion it out, although he made sure to give the bigger portion to Derek, what with his werewolf appetite. He picked up the plates and walked into the living room, assuming Derek would follow.
Dumping the plates on the table in front of the sofa, Stiles grabbed the TV remote and threw on the TV. Flicking through the channels, he finally found animal planet. ‘Hurry up, dude,’ he called back into the kitchen. ‘Bring the drinks with you.’
He grinned at Derek as he walked past the back of the sofa, two glasses and a bottle of coke in his hands, placing them next to the plates.
‘What are we even watching?’
Stiles glanced from the TV to Derek. ‘Uh, animals being awesome?’
‘Because it’s interesting.’
‘Can you even survive without any noise?’ asked Derek, sitting on the sofa. He grabbed a slice, careful to make sure none of the toppings fell.
‘Not really,’ Stiles said, throwing himself next to Derek. ‘Silence makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me too much of how quiet the house was while mom was sick.’ He leaned forward to grab his plate, hugging it to his chest. ‘If it got too quiet, I’d freak out, and have to find her and make sure she wasn’t dead.’ He shrugged. ‘One day she was.’
And, wow. That was way more than Stiles had meant to say.
Stiles concentrated on stuffing as much pizza in his mouth as possible, and not Derek’s sharp intake of breath.
‘I didn’t ask before, but how old -’
‘Eleven,’ he said around some pizza before swallowing. ‘I was eleven.’ He sat very still, not quite sure what to do next.
‘Noise reminds me of what I lost,’ Derek said slowly, staring down at his hands with a lost look on his face that made him look both older and younger than he really was. ‘Our house was never quiet.’
Stiles’ heart lurched. He was hit all over again by the depth of what Derek had lost - which was a stupid word. Derek hadn’t lost his family; they’d been cruelly taken away from him. Without really thinking about it, Stiles reached out and grabbed Derek’s hand tightly, not trusting his words in that moment.
After a moment of staring at Stiles’ hand covering his, Derek shook himself.
‘Sorry, I - I didn’t - I should go.’
‘Uh, no,’ Stiles said, grabbing Derek’s wrist with his other hand. It wouldn’t matter if he really wanted to leave, but he doubted Derek would actually shake him off. ‘You should eat your pizza that I went to a lot of trouble and expense to acquire.’
‘But, I -’
‘Derek, I get it, okay.’ He squeezed Derek’s hand. ‘I get it. It’s - God, there aren’t really adequate words for how painful it is. But it’s that.’
‘Yeah.’ Derek looked at him then, his eyes raw. ‘Sometimes it’s good to remember.’
‘You’re a very complicated werewolf, you do know that, right?’
Derek’s face shifted through a range of emotions, all of them gone too fast for Stiles to decipher ‘No, I’m not.’
‘You really kind of are. But that’s okay. Nothing wrong with being complicated.’
‘So, why are you friends with Scott?’
‘Ouch. I mean, ouch, dude. That was uncalled for.’ Kind of. Scott wasn’t exactly a complicated person, but he wasn’t an idiot, either. Unless Allison was involved. And that was how Derek had got to know him. So maybe it wasn’t such a surprise that Derek didn’t think much of him.
Derek shrugged, obviously unrepentant.
‘You can be kind of bitchy when you’re not all grouchy and hating the world.’
‘I don’t hate the world.’
Stiles took a huge bite of a slice. ‘Uh-huh.’
Derek rolled his eyes.
‘You kind of do,’ Stiles said, swallowing his pizza. Not that he blamed Derek. With all the shit he’d been dealt, it was a wonder he hadn’t lost faith in everyone and everything.
Glancing at the TV, Derek grimaced. ‘Do we have to watch this?’
Stiles looked from the TV to Derek. ‘Seriously? It’s just a lion taking down a deer-thingy.’
‘Yeah. That.’ He looked quizzically at Derek. ‘Are you gonna hurl or something?’
‘No, I’m not gonna hurl.’ He elbowed Stiles in the arm, nearly knocking his plate into his lap. Thankfully, his pizza-based reactions were finely tuned and disaster was averted. ‘It’s just not something I need to have explained to me when I live it.’
‘Okay, that’s fair.’ Stiles handed the remote to Derek. ‘Have at it. Watch what you wanna watch. Man, do you even know what shows are on anymore?’
Derek glared at Stiles but the effect was kind of destroyed as he chewed on his pizza. ‘I’m not a hermit, Stiles.’
‘And here I was thinking we were participating in a meeting of hermits anonymous. But seriously, when was the last time you watched TV? It must have been forever ago.’
Derek glanced meaningfully at the TV.
‘This doesn’t count. And you don’t have a TV in your trailer. Unless you’ve been hiding it away from me. Which I so wouldn’t put past you.’
‘No TV,’ Derek confirmed.
‘How do you even live?’ Stiles wondered out loud. ‘No shows. No video games. No RPGs. No MMORPGs. Sounds like hell.’
Derek shot him a bewildered look.
‘You didn’t understand a word of that did you?’ he asked with a grin.
‘I don’t understand 90% of what comes out your mouth.’
‘RPG - role-playing game. MMORPG - massively multiplayer online role-playing game. And I’m going to be nice and assume you know what video games and televisions are because I’m kind like that.’
Derek stared unimpressively at Stiles.
‘Still nothing, huh? That’s okay. I don’t think they’d really be your thing, even if you got what they are.’
‘So come on, dude. Last TV show you were majorly into. Or as majorly as you could be with all the howling at the moon.’
‘I was more into books.’
‘I can’t really even pretend to be surprised by that.’
‘We didn’t really watch TV or play video games. When we weren’t at school we spent a lot of time in the woods or learning to control our wolves.’
‘Wouldn’t you have learnt all of that when you were kids - hey, are baby werewolves called -’
Derek clamped a hand over his mouth and Stiles stuttered to a stop. ‘If you even think the word ‘pups’ I will cheerfully rip your throat out.’
Stiles nodded, his eyes wide.
Slowly, Derek moved his hands.
‘No jokes about -’ Derek growled ‘- that. Not that.’ Stiles whistled. ‘Bit touchy about that, huh?’
Derek growled again and Stiles couldn’t help but laugh.
‘Before the fire I’d started watching Battlestar Galactica,’ Derek said grudgingly.
‘BSG? Oh, man, that’s an awesome show. Chief was my hero.’
‘I never finished season one.’
‘Oh my god, dude, you have to. So much awesome you have got to see. The moment of Galactica coming through the atmosphere of New Caprica was spectacular. Lee Adama in a fat suit, not so much.’
‘Lee -’ Holding up a hand, Derek shook his head. ‘No wait, don’t tell me.’
‘We’re totally watching that. You can’t go through life without seeing it.’
‘Laura made me watch Heroess. It was ridiculous.’
Stiles snorted. ‘It only got worse, believe me. You don’t want to know how many times Nathan died in the end.’
‘No, I really don’t.’
Finishing off the last of his mac and cheese, Derek glanced at the front door. ‘Are you sure your dad’s going to be okay with this?’
‘Okay with what?’ Stiles asked, trying to chase some stray cheese with his tongue. He glanced over at Derek when he didn’t answer to find him watching Stiles blankly. ‘Okay with what, Derek?’
Derek shook his head, blinking. ‘With me being here.’
‘Dad is more than happy for you to be here. He prefers it to your creepy house which he’s been up to enough times to know is this close to falling down. He thinks you’re going to fall through a floorboard and since he’s not privy to the whole werewolf super-healing thing, he thinks you’re going to die up there.’
‘It’s not that bad,’ Derek protested, but it was halfhearted at best.
Stiles paused, a slice halfway to his mouth. ‘Man, even you know how bad it is. You live in a trailer.’
Derek growled, but didn’t try to argue. Instead he just slouched down on the sofa, plate in one hand and the remote in the other.
‘Find something good,’ Stiles told him. ‘You may have control of the remote, but since this is my house, I still have ultimate veto.’
Nearly fifteen minutes later, Stiles banged his head against the back of the sofa a couple of times. ‘How can there be, like, a billion different channels and yet there is still nothing good on?’ He put his empty plate on the table and twisted around so he was sitting crossed legged on the sofa, facing Derek. ‘So, you went to Columbia, huh?’
Derek eyed him warily.
‘Don’t give me that look, you were the one who said we could talk about it later. This is technically later. Way later.’
With a reluctant sigh, Derek nodded. ‘Yeah, I went to Columbia.’
‘What did you study?’
‘Oh, wow. That. I never even thought of that.’
‘What did you think of?’
‘Honestly, I don’t really know,’ Stiles admitted. ‘But probably something that involved lots of books. Like history or English lit.’
‘Because you like books. Duh.’
‘What an excellent basis for your conclusion,’ Derek said dryly.
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Whatever. But hey. You never talk about college. How come?’
Derek shrugged. ‘Didn’t seem to be much point. I’m not there now.’
‘No, you’re not,’ Stiles agreed. ‘But that’s no reason not to talk about it. You’ve gone back to college to make up classes so it obviously means something to you.’
‘I -’ Derek stared unseeingly at the TV, but Stiles got the feeling he was trying to put his feelings into words as opposed to ignoring Stiles or anything. ‘I find it easier to not think about all the things I’ve lost.’
‘After Scott, you know -’ Stiles made a slashing motion across his throat ‘- did you think about going back to New York?’
Derek’s brow furrowed. ‘For what?’ He sounded genuinely curious.
‘Because you had friends there. Roots. Connections?’ Stiles hoped he’d had something in New York.
‘Laura had friends. Not me.’
It was…it was as though Derek had stopped his life after the fire. Like, Stiles got that. Grief. It did funny things to you. But Derek blamed himself for what had happened, that was obvious every time he talked about it. Derek had kept hold of his grief and his guilt, wrapped them tight around him and refused to let anything else past. It was the biggest case of self-flagellation Stiles had ever heard of.
‘But you must have known people from class, right? People you hung out with?’
Stiles wanted to grab Derek and hug him because, dude.
‘So, in New York, you had school and Laura? That’s all?’
Something flashed through Derek’s eyes, too quick for Stiles to read and his jaw clenched to the point Stiles was worried his jaw would shatter. ‘I didn’t need anything else.’
Stiles thought it’d be more accurate to say that Derek didn’t trust anything else, but he was wise enough to keep his mouth shut. About that, at least. He groped around to see if there was anything else. ‘Weren’t you part of a Pack there?’
‘They gave us shelter. Nothing more.’
Stiles nodded. ‘Okay.’ He cast around for something else, anything else to say. Derek looked like he was half a second from bolting. Stiles honestly couldn’t say what was keeping him there. The only thing that he could think of was that maybe he wanted or needed to talk about it.
Talk about navigating an emotional minefield.
‘So, no New York then. But you stayed here instead. Why?’
Derek shrugged. ‘Because.’
Stiles waited a beat before realising there was nothing else forthcoming.
‘Because? Seriously, that’s the best you can come up with?’ Cringing, Stiles slapped a hand to his forehead. Because, really? Mock the emotionally stunted werewolf sitting next to you who’s probably never opened up to anyone since he was sixteen. Brilliant plan. Genius, even.
But, peaking through his fingers, Stiles could swear that Derek’s mouth was slightly upturned. Like, the tiniest bit imaginable. But still, upturned. Which meant he wasn’t storming out the house and that could only be a good thing.
‘Where else could I go?’
Stiles inhaled sharply. He hadn’t expected Derek to tell him that and judging from the horrified look that crossed Derek’s face, neither could he.
He flopped down next to Derek, wiggling closer so he was pressing his shoulder firmly into Derek’s. ‘I’m glad you stayed.’ He wanted to make sure that Derek knew how honest Stiles was being; that there could be no way for Derek to misinterpret his words. ‘I like being your friend.’
Derek flinched, but he didn’t move away, instead settling next to Stiles and giving his knee a quick, strong squeeze. ‘Yeah?’
Stiles nodded. ‘And don’t you forget it.’
‘Uh.’ Derek knocked his shoulder awkwardly against Stiles’. ‘You should, uh, go and get the other bag and -’
Stiles’ head snapped up. ‘And the box? I can finally find out what’s in that box, right?’
‘I could change my mind, if you’d like.’
‘Nope, that’s okay.’ Stiles leapt up off the sofa before Derek could change his mind. ‘Consider it done,’ he said, grabbing their empty plates and hurrying into the kitchen.
He dumped the plates by the sink on his way to the table. He nearly dropped the bag because Derek hadn’t warned him that it was heavy. Asshole. The box, though, he was far more careful with. No way he was going to risk killing baked goods of some description.
‘You could have warned me the bag was heavy, you jerk,’ Stiles said, placing the box on the table and dropping the bag next to Derek, before collapsing back on the sofa with a bounce.
‘Why would I have done that?’ he asked with a grin, suddenly less tense than before.
‘You’re such a dick,’ Stiles said. ‘So, what did you bring? I’ll be honest with you, I’m hoping for chrusciki.’
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Go on, then.’
Stiles flashed Derek a quick grin, and threw open the logoless box. It was like Derek was purposely trying to stop Stiles from guessing what he’d bought. ‘Dude, you’ve a prince among men. A wolf prince among men, even. They’re my favourite.’
The fact that Derek knew Stiles’ favourite pastry gave him a sweet, gooey feeling. Not unlike the filling he was currently eating. It didn’t mean what he wanted it to mean, but it was pretty cool anyway.
‘So what’d you bring me, then?’ he asked around a mouthful. ‘I know it isn’t food. Because, well, I already got that.’
‘Whatever,’ Stiles dismissed with a wave of the hand not holding a chrusciki. ‘You still haven’t said what’s in the bag.’
‘Take a look.’
Stiles reached towards the bag, but paused. ‘Uh, my fingers -’ He waggled them in Derek’s face. ‘Bit sticky, you see.’
Shaking his head, Derek picked up the bag and flicked it open.
‘Those are books.’ Stiles frowned at them as Derek dropped them into his lap. ‘Really old books.’
Derek nodded in agreement. ‘Books about werewolves.’
‘Yeah?’ He twisted his head to look at the spines. ‘Not just about werewolves by the look of it.’
‘Well, it’s difficult to know what trouble you might attract.’
‘Dude, it’s not like it’s my fault. It wasn’t even me who got bit. I just got dragged into it by other people and then ended up being the brains of the operation.’
‘The brains?’ Derek repeated. ‘Are you sure we’re remembering the same time, here?’
‘I really wouldn’t call any of your harebrained schemes, brainy. Very possibly the opposite of brainy.’
‘Seriously? Come on, dude. Without that those molotov cocktails…’
‘Didn’t Lydia make them first?’
Stiles opened and closed his mouth a few times. ‘How do you even know that?’
‘Being a werewolf doesn’t give you psychic powers.’ He blinked, his mouth suddenly dry. ‘Does it? Wait, no. What am I even saying? Of course it doesn’t. You’re just messing with me.’
Licking the sugar off his fingers, Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘So how long can I keep them for?’ When Derek didn’t reply, Stiles paused, fingers still in his mouth and looked over at Derek and raised an eyebrow. ‘How long do I get to keep them?’
Derek blinked and shook his head and Stiles swore that Derek looked the tiniest bit flustered. He shrugged. ‘As long as you want.’
‘Yeah, Stiles. Seriously.’ He frowned at the TV. ‘I, uh, I have others when you finish those. If you want.’
‘Dude, I want. I definitely want.’ Wiping his hands on his jeans, Stiles picked up first book in the pile. ‘The Life and Mating Habits of Boginki. It says bad things about me that I can’t wait for the weekend so I can dive into these with no interruptions, doesn’t it?’
‘Just telling it like it is.’
Stiles carefully placed the books on the table. Biting his lip, he glanced over at Derek. ‘Hey, if I go upstairs and grab BSG, you’ll still be here when I get back, yeah?’
Rolling his eyes, Derek slouched further into the sofa and raised an eyebrow in challenge.
‘Okay then,’ Stiles said, standing up. ‘I’ll be right back.’
‘Well, that was stupid,’ Derek muttered.
‘Huh?’ Stiles paused on his way to the stairs.
‘You must have seen Scream.’
‘How have you seen so many horror movies but not that one?’
Stiles shrugged, one hand on the banister.
‘Put it on the list.’
Stiles sucked in a breath as his stomach clenched. Derek wanted to spend more time at Casa Stilinski. ‘Yeah. Definitely. Duly added.’ Before anything stupid fell out of his mouth, he disappeared up the stairs to grab the DVD.
It took them nearly three weeks to make their way through all five seasons of BSG.
‘Okay. I’ll do it.’
Stiles looked up to see Scott standing in front of him with a determined look on his face. ‘Do what now?’
‘Hang out with Derek if it’ll make you happy.’ It sounded like each word was being forced from deep inside Scott.
Stiles closed the book he was reading slowly, careful to bookmark where he was. He was in the middle of reading about the breeding habits of trolls. It was disturbing to say the least. He scratched absently at his nose. ‘Uh, what?’
Scott glanced around the library uneasily, and sat down opposite Stiles. ‘I don’t like him, you’re right, and I still don’t trust him. But you do. So, if it means I get to spend time with you, then I’ll do it.’
‘I’m still confused,’ Stiles confessed.
‘I’m not losing my best friend because of a guy.’
‘That sounds exactly like what I said to you about Allison,’ he said, with a quiet laugh. He glanced around the library, checking no librarians were creeping up on them.
‘Well, it made sense when you said it to me,’ Scott said, shrugging. ‘I thought it’d work here, too.’
‘Well, okay then.’ It was, in Stiles’ opinion a bit of a weird comparison, but then Scott was a weird kind of guy. ‘Whatever, man. My point is, you don’t have to do the hanging out with Derek thing.’
Stiles leaned forward across the table, ignoring his homework - like he had already been. ‘Seriously, Scott, you don’t like him. It’s not like you’re going to be able to fake suddenly liking him.’ And, if Derek even appeared when he sensed Scott’s presence, he would know Scott didn’t like him and would probably revert back to being a grumpy guts. Which would be so much fun. Or, worse, he’d come to some stupid conclusion like Stiles didn’t trust him all of a sudden. And Stiles didn’t want that.
Scott squirmed in his seat. ‘I guess he still kind of hates me?’
‘Hate is such a strong word.’ But possibly more true than Stiles wanted to believe.
‘I don’t think he hates you,’ Stiles hedged.
‘It doesn’t bother me. But I think we’ll have to learn to get along so you don’t have to keep giving us time outs, or anything.’
‘But, right, like I think he doesn’t get you. Like, you both came at the whole Peter Hale/Kate Argent/werewolf fuckery from such different perspectives that you’re always going to disagree.’
And Stiles got that the whole werewolf thing had thrown Scott, knocked him out of what was normal, expected and he’d reacted accordingly. Mostly by trying to ignore it, but who was Stiles to lecture someone on the issue of denial? He was a champion denier. First class.
But now he also got why the whole thing had angered Derek. Because Scott (and, by extension, Stiles) had mocked his very existence; had acted as though his way of life was an abomination, something to be disposed of as quickly as possible. Then, on top of that, they’d (mostly unintentionally) royally fucked up his attempts to find out what had happened to Laura and managed to get him a) arrested and b) turned into a fugitive. And yet Derek had still gone out of his way to protect and save them.
All in all, Stiles couldn’t be all that surprised that Scott wasn’t Derek’s favourite person. Seeing as how Stiles had been just as much of a dick, if not more so, he still couldn’t believe that Derek put up with him as much as he did.
Scott frowned, but he was silent for a moment, obviously thinking. Stiles wanted to make a crack about thinking too hard, but managed to bite his tongue because he was stupidly grateful that Scott was even thinking about what he said. ‘That sounds right,’ he admitted. ‘But I don’t want you to think I don’t care.’
‘Dude, like I’d ever think that. But the fact that you’re here is more than awesome.’ Stiles said, tapping his pen on the table until someone hissed at him. It kind of blew Stiles’ mind that, even with his head filled to the brim with Allison, he’d obviously been thinking about this. ‘But are you still mad at me for the whole, you know, Allison thing?’
‘I was,’ Scott admitted, ‘but then Allison said some things that made sense and I realised that I was being a bit of an ass.’
Stiles leaned back in his chair and arched an eyebrow. ‘A bit?’
‘Like, a total dick. I didn’t mean to be.’ He shrugged. ‘I guess I was jealous of Derek like you were jealous of Allison.’
‘But,’ Scott hurried to continue. ‘Allison pointed out that if I’m jealous of Derek, I should imagine how you must have felt when I, you know -’
‘Forgot I even existed,’ Stiles supplied.
Scott winced, but nodded. ‘Yeah. That. And especially after I was cured. And I’d never thought of that and I feel bad because that makes me a terrible best friend.’
‘No, no, dude, don’t be such an idiot. I mean, you got a smoking hot girlfriend who thinks you’re awesome and adores you. And you adore her. Who the hell stands in the way of that?’
Scott got his usual ridiculously dopey smile on his face as Stiles spoke about Allison and Stiles couldn’t resist reaching over and pinching his cheek. ‘See? That look, right there. It’s adorable in a sickening kind of way. How could I hold that against you?’
Scott ducked his head away from Stiles’ hand, rubbing his cheek but he was grinning. ‘Whatever, man.’
‘No, seriously, watching you two is like eating candy. I’m actually scared to go to the dentist in case I have to have a million fillings.’
‘You’ve always hated the dentist,’ Scott said, rolling his eyes.
‘Those drills, man. They freak me out.’
Scott laughed. ‘So, uh -’ He rubbed the back of his neck ‘- so we should, I dunno, make sure we actually spend time together, yeah? Without Allison or Derek?’
‘Excluding school and practice?’ Because while Stiles was kind of in shock that Scott had been the one to suggest it, he wanted to make sure he knew what Scott was saying before he got excited.
‘They so don’t even count. I mean, like before. When we used to hang out playing Halo.’
He didn’t stand a chance against the huge smile that broke out across his face. ‘Then I think that’s an excellent idea. I haven’t kicked your ass in ages.’
‘Like you can beat me,’ Scott scoffed.
‘Now you’re without your lightning reflexes, I’ll totally kick your butt all over the floor.’
Scott looked so affronted that Stiles burst out laughing.
‘Mr Mcall. Mr Stilinski.’
Stiles looked up to see the librarian whose name he could never remember, standing over them, hands on his hips, looking like he was mere seconds from going nuclear. It belatedly occurred to Stiles that they might have been being a little loud.
‘This is not your own private gossip room. People come here to study. If you are going to continue talking, then the door is over there.’
‘Right,’ Stiles said, trying not to laugh. ‘I think we’ll be, uh, leaving.’
‘Yes, I think that would be a good idea.’ And Stiles could feel the disapproval flowing off him in waves.
He rolled his eyes at Scott, who grinned back.
Stiles and Scott grabbed their bags, trying their best not to snicker, but every time they caught each other’s eye, they collapsed into helpless laughter, the librarian getting redder and redder. Stiles wouldn’t be all that surprised if there was a trip to the principal’s office somewhere in their near future.
Once they had managed to escape without getting into even more trouble, Stiles bumped his shoulder against Scott’s. ‘Seriously, man. Thanks. That meant a lot.’
Scott pulled a face but Stiles was fairly certain it was because they were still talking about Derek, not the fact that Stiles had strayed into feelings territory. ‘I just. It’s Derek, you know.’
‘Yeah, dude. I know.’
‘So, kid, everything alright?’
Stiles twisted around as Finstock appeared by his locker to make sure there wasn’t anyone standing behind him, but seeing as how he was the only person still in the locker room, it could only be him.
Finstock snapped his fingers right in Stiles’ face. ‘Bilinski, I’m talking to you.’
‘Uh, yeah. Yeah, Coach, everything’s fine.’ He closed his locker door slowly, not entirely sure where Finstock was going with his line of questioning. ‘Is there any reason it wouldn’t be?’
Coach cocked his head and looked at Stiles for a moment. ‘Your school work’s been more consistent over the last few months.’
‘Umm. Is that a bad thing?’
‘Well, I’m certainly not missing the papers on male circumcision.’ He shuddered.
Stiles shrugged and grinned.’It was a good paper.’
‘Not even the point.’ He continued to stare at Stiles. ‘How are things at home?’
‘Good. But, seriously, Coach, what’s this all about? Are you throwing me off the team?’
‘No,’ scoffed Coach. ‘Who else is Jackson going to practice on?’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Thanks, Coach. Glad to know I’m a valued and appreciated member of the team.’
‘Soooo..?’ Stiles prompted because Finstock was hovering and unnerving didn’t even begin to cover how that made Stiles feel.
‘So, it’s not like I, or the rest of the team, haven’t noticed your significantly older boyfriend hanging around practice over the last couple of months.'
‘My... my boyfriend? I have a boyfriend?’ Why did no-one tell him these things, dammit? Also, what?
‘Tall, dark and handsome. I’m told he goes by the name of Derek Hale.’
Stiles swallowed the wrong way and started choking on air, his eyes watering. He braced his hand against his locker door and stared up at Finstock. ‘What now?’
‘It’s not like the pair of you are subtle, kid.’
‘He hangs around practice, picks you up and I hear it’s not unusual for you to spend time over at his house.’
‘Oh my god, does everyone in this town keep tabs on me or something?’
‘Or something,’ Finstock agreed.
‘Well, that’s not at all creepy,’ Stiles muttered. Because, wow.
‘And while all this -’
‘Coach, you just gestured at all of me.’
‘- is refreshing, the fact that it probably has something to do with your significantly older boyfriend might be considered cause for concern.’
Stiles just stared at Finstock, more than lost for words, which, really wasn’t something he was used to. And this was way worse than talking to Dad, which was kind of amazing in of itself. And the stupid thing was that he couldn’t tell Coach that he and Derek were just friends. It sounded lame and like a complete lie in Stiles’ head and he knew it was true. Or certainly true on Derek’s part.
‘Everything’s fine, Coach. Honest. My dad knows about -’ He cringed ‘- stuff. He’s keeping an eye on us.’ Which, while a huge lie, was also weirdly true.
‘He is?’ Finstock gave him a hugely suspicious look.
‘Yeah, Coach. He is.’
‘So I don’t need to pretend to care about your sorry excuse of a life ever again?’
‘Well, okay then. Get out of here. Scram.’
Stiles grabbed his bag and scrammed as fast as he humanly could. He grabbed Scott on his way out the door and shoved him into the hallway.
‘Holy shit, dude. Did you hear that?’ Stiles hissed, glancing back to check Coach wasn’t following them.
‘Yeah.’ He grinned at Stiles, amused and somehow not freaked out like Stiles was.
‘Dude, that’s not funny. People are coming to the wrong conclusion about me and Derek.’
‘It’s not like Coach isn’t cool with it,’ Scott said, giving Stiles a perplexed look.
‘Cool? Cool with what? There’s nothing to be cool with.’
‘Well, you and Derek.’
‘Me and Derek? What do you mean, me and Derek?’ Stiles would deny to his dying day that his voice went quite as high as it did.
‘The fact that you’re, you know, together,’ Scott said slowly, like Stiles was the ridiculous one in their friendship.
‘Why… why would you think… that?’ He and Derek hung out in much the same way he and Scott used to - okay, they did different things because Derek wasn’t a teenager - and people had never decided that he and Scott were anything other than best friends. Thank god. But it was kind of the same thing. Really.
So what the hell was so different about him and Derek?
Well, apart from the fact that Stiles had never had a crush on Scott and the thing he had for Derek was a bit more than a crush. But it wasn’t like Derek had a thing for Stiles, so surely it shouldn’t matter? Derek hung out with him because Stiles was literally the only person in Beacon Hills who cared about him.
Scott’s face twisted in confusion. ‘You mean, you’re not together?’
‘No! Not even close.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Scott, I think I’d know if I was dating Derek, don’t you?’
Scott shrugged. ‘It’s just. The way you talk about him.’
Stiles grabbed Scott’s sleeve and pulled him to a halt. ‘What about the way I talk about him?’ Stiles didn’t think he mentioned Derek all that much to Scott. Had made an effort not to, seeing as how they didn’t really like each other.
Scott shifted on his feet, like he was suddenly uncomfortable. ‘It’s like how you sound when you talk about Lydia. Or sounded, I guess.’
‘No, no, I still sound like that when talking about Lydia.’
Scott shook his head. ‘You really don’t, Stiles.’
‘Dude, you’re delusional.’ Because Scott had to be wrong. Because if Scott had noticed, then who else had noticed? Or, to be more precise, who hadn’t noticed? Because did Derek know? He had to know, right? He was a werewolf. How could he not know? And if he knew, then he was ignoring it and if he was ignoring it then what did that mean? Was he sparing Stiles’ feelings for when he inevitably turned him down? Did he think it was just a stupid crush that would blow over and he just had to wait? Stiles felt totally confused and totally in way over his head.
‘Pretty sure I’m not the delusional one this time, Stiles.’
‘Actually, I’m fairly sure you are. Like Peter Hale levels of deluded.’
‘You’re really not together?’ Scott repeated.
‘No, we’re not. Of course we’re not together. Are you on crack?’
‘But you like him.’
‘Of course I like him,’ Stiles snapped. ‘But why would he like me?’ Which, like, wow. Stiles really hadn’t expected anything like that to come out.
Scott opened his mouth, but Stiles punched him in the arm before he could speak. ‘Don’t say anything. You’re my best friend. You’re contractually obliged to tell me how awesome I am and that Derek should totally be into me.’
‘Well, yeah.’ He rubbed his shoulder, giving Stiles the stink eye. ‘So what’s the big deal?’
‘The big deal is that I’ve only just managed to get the idiot to like me enough to be friends. You have no idea how much work that was and how worth it that was. I don’t want to screw that up.’
‘You won’t.’ The confidence in Scott’s voice was oddly comforting.
‘How do you know that? How do you know that the idea of me being into him won’t completely freak him out and make him not want to spend time with me? I like spending time with him, Scott. When he’s not avenging his family or a fugitive from the law he’s a pretty okay guy -’
‘And when you say “pretty okay” you mean “rocks your world”, right?’ Scott winked at him.
‘Oh my god. Don’t ever wink at me like that again. It’s disturbing. Like previously undiscovered levels of disturbing. But seriously. I don’t want to fuck that up. I have no idea if he’s into me and I’m not willing to risk him fucking off to become a misanthropic hermit if he’s not okay with it.’
‘He’s all alone, Scott. He has no-one.’
Scott froze as he walked across the grass to his bike. ‘Wow. Like, wow.’
‘What? Wow, what?’ Because Scott was staring at him as though he’d just figured what the answer to life, the universe and everything was.
‘You… you don’t just like Derek, do you?’
‘You’re, like, head over heels for him.’
‘You’re a lousy liar, Stiles. I don’t need extra senses to know that.’
‘I hate you so much,’ Stiles said with utter conviction.
Scott grabbed Stiles’ arm, looking earnest. ‘Listen, you know I hate talking about, you know -’
‘Your furry interlude,’ Stiles supplied.
Scott grimaced. ‘Yeah, that. But I do know this. I could smell that Allison loved me. It was as clear as day to me. Even after we broke up. I didn’t know how I was going to get her to like me again, but I did know she loved me. If Derek doesn’t know yet, he’ll work it out eventually.’
Stiles worried his lip between his teeth. ‘Well, shit.’
‘Do you really think a born werewolf would be worse at this than you?’
‘You think he already knows?’
‘I guess. Maybe. I really have no idea. It’s not like he’s the easiest wolf to read. If he knows, though, does that mean -’ He frowned ‘- Hang on. When you say you could sense Allison loved you, what do you mean? Exactly?’
The goofy smile that spread across Scott’s face, made Stiles want to shake him. Now was not the time for an Allison induced daydream. Stiles was having a crisis. ‘I knew that she, you know, that she wanted me. Like, all the time.’
Stiles rolled his eyes as what Scott was really telling him clicked into place. ‘You mean you could tell she was hot for your werewolf ass.’
‘So you could smell lust.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
Scott scrunched up his face in confusion. ‘I don’t -’
‘Forget it, dude. Doesn’t matter.’
So Derek could tell Stiles found him incredibly hot but not that Stiles liked him, the guy inside the attractive packaging. Stiles could work with that. Still. ‘Stupid werewolf super-senses. Always able to smash through a good bout of denial.’
‘Sorry, man,’ Scott said. ‘I just thought you should know.’
‘Yeah.’ He rubbed a hand over his eyes. How was this his life and why couldn’t it be simpler? ‘This is going to make tomorrow evening all kinds of awkward.’
‘Because I’m seeing him. He’s coming around.’
‘It’s like date night.’
‘Dude, it’s not a date. Dad’ll probably be there.’
‘Still, kind of a date.’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Oh for the love of god. Will you stop saying that?’
‘Why aren’t you seeing him tonight?’
‘Can’t. He’s got class tonight.’
‘Just don’t get a boner,’ Scott advised. Apparently in all seriousness.
‘Dude!’ Because, really, Stiles didn’t need words like “Derek” and “boner” in the same paragraph. Let-alone the same sentence. Especially when they were adjacent to words like ‘dad’. That was a boner killer, right there.
‘What? It’s sound advice.’
Stiles shrugged. ‘I guess.’ Because Derek might be able to ignore the low level of arousal Stiles often felt around him, but a raging erection might be a bit harder.
It wasn’t until Scott was crouching down to unchain his bike that he looked up at Stiles. ‘Hang on, what do you mean Derek has class tonight?’
‘I know he broods like it’s an Olympic sport, but that’s not actually all he does. I think brooding skills can only be honed for so long.’
‘Well, there are also his creeping skills.’
‘You really think he needs to improve his creeping skills?’
‘Good point.’ Stiles snickered as Scott checked over his shoulder almost reflexively. ‘So what does he do?’
‘Reads. Studies. Explores the woods. Ignores the fact that he really needs to have that house knocked down and rebuilt.’
‘He’s making up classes so he can graduate.’
‘Is he graduating from the werewolf university with degrees in how to glower someone into submission and how to rip out throats?’
Stiles laughed. ‘Uh, no. Columbia. Engineering.’
‘Columbia?’ Scott stared hard at him. ‘You’ve wanted to go to Columbia for years.’
‘So Derek’s smart.’
‘You like smart. You’d wax lyrical about Lydia’s brains as often as her looks. Smart is a turn on for you.’ His face twisted in horror. ‘I never want to think about what turns you on ever again.’
Stiles grinned. ‘So you’re telling me that if a miracle does happen, you don’t want a blow by blow account?’
Scott turned slightly green. ‘God, no!’
‘And yet you always tell me about you and Allison.’
‘I’ll never say another word if you promise to never tell me anything about Derek.’ The pleading look on Scott’s face was hilarious. Stiles was a terrible friend.
‘I don’t think you’ll have to worry about it,’ Stiles said with a shrug.
‘Look, if I thought you were going out and Allison thinks you’re together, then there’s something there.’
‘Aren’t you going to be late for work?’ It wasn’t his best deflection, admittedly, but he was feeling off balance.
Scott rolled his eyes and gave Stiles a look that said he knew exactly what Stiles was doing, but he let it go. ‘He was seriously at college?’
‘What can I say, dude? He’s a real person who does real person things.’
‘Derek as a real person,’ Scott repeated dumbly. ‘That’s just too weird to imagine.’
‘Weirder than being a werewolf?’
Balancing the groceries against the side of the Jeep, Stiles managed to pull his keys out of his pocket with a triumphant flourish and opened the door. As he shifted slightly one of the bags started to overbalance and he had a horrible vision of juice, milk and tomato sauce mixing together.
However, there was no major crash and Stiles realised there was someone standing next to him, holding up the bag so it didn’t fall. ‘Oh, thank -’ His voice died as he looked up and realised the person at his side was none other than Chris Argent. His stomach dropped. ‘Shit.’
‘Hello, Stiles.’ He smiled obviously trying to put him at ease, but really, it was just plain creepy. All Stiles could focus on was thinking about how Chris Argent had threatened him and Jackson in the hospital with the same creepy smile plastered on his face.
Hurrying to shove the groceries in the back of the Jeep - no way he was braving the insanity of the store again - Stiles twisted around to check he wasn’t surrounded by a ring of hunters.
‘Relax, Stiles. It’s just me here.’
‘That’s not overly reassuring,’ Stiles told him. ‘Like, so not reassuring. At all. I’d feel far more reassured if you took about ten big steps backwards.’
Mr Argent eyed him for a moment before holding up his hands and backing up a couple of steps.
‘You’ve got another eight steps to go there, buddy.’
But it looked like Mr Argent was done pandering to Stiles’ totally legitimate paranoia. ‘So, tell me, Stiles, how are you holding up after everything that happened?’
Snorting, Stiles raised an eyebrow. ‘Seriously? That was nearly four months ago and you chose now to make like you care about my mental state. Uh, no. Totally don’t buy it. Unless you’re not asking about the nightmares and the freak-outs, but are trying to subtly ask me about something - or someone - else.’
Stiles suppressed a flinch as Mr Argent’s eyes fell flat, even if it was a relief that he’d dropped the act.
‘I hear that you’re spending time up at the Hale house.’
Stiles crossed his arms and glared stonily at Mr Argent. Making a concerted effort not to say anything, Stiles bit the inside of his cheek. He wanted to find out what Mr Argent thought he knew.
‘And that Derek is spending time at your house.’
‘What of it?’
‘I was just wondering what your father would say if he knew.’
Stiles’ anger solidified in his chest at the idea of Chris Argent trying to use Dad against his friendship with Derek. ‘Probably something along the lines of Hi, Derek. Good to see you again. What delicious meal are you cooking tonight?’
Mr Argent’s eyes widened and Stiles felt a thrill of satisfaction. Plus a huge dose of relief that Dad did know.
‘Kind of makes me hard to intimidate if my dad already knows, doesn’t it?’
‘I’m not trying to intimidate you.’
Stiles snorted. ‘Could have fooled me. You’ll forgive me if I don’t put much stock in what you say.’
‘I just want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.’ The fake reasonableness was grating.
‘I’m not getting into anything. He’s my friend. He’s not going to, like, turn me or anything.’
Mr Argent’s face went extra intense. ‘How do you know that?’
Squaring his shoulders, Stiles lifted his chin. ‘Because I trust him.’ Also, the fact that he was an omega should be a giveaway, but if Argent didn’t know his werewolf lore, it wasn’t Stiles’ job to tell him.
‘That’s a mistake.’
‘He’s not human. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing that he is.’
‘He’s more human than Kate,’ Stiles snapped.
Mr Argent rocked back a couple of steps, his mouth dropping open. And Stiles nearly felt bad. But only nearly.
‘Your sister will always be more of a monster than Derek could ever be. Being human doesn’t make you innately good. Crack open a history book, dude.’
Mr Argent glowered, but didn’t actually disagree with him, which, yeah, just a little telling there.
‘So,’ said Stiles, clapping his hands, ‘this has been the complete opposite of fun and all, but I’ve got places to go, people to see.’ He looked pointedly at Mr Argent. ‘People to not see.’
‘If you change your mind -’
‘Not going to,’ Stiles interrupted. ‘Can you go now?’
‘Be careful, Stiles. You don’t know what you’re getting into.’
‘Oh my god, could you stop with the fortune cookie wisdom already? In case you’ve forgotten, I was there when Peter Hale died. In fact, I was kind of integral to you all not dying, so I think I have a pretty good idea about what I’m involved in.’
He held up his hands in surrender. ‘Fine. I’m leaving.’ He started walking backwards, towards one of his scary government looking cars. ‘But think hard about what I’ve said.’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Whatever. Now run along like the morally ambiguous werewolf hunter that you are.’
Stiles stood, his back stiff, and watched Chris Argent drive away. Once the black car was back on the road, speeding off in the opposite direction to Stiles would be going, Stiles slowly released a breath he was holding. Taking another couple of breaths, he pulled open his door and climbed in. He couldn’t wait to be home.
Thankfully, the drive back home was completely and utterly uneventful, but it did give him time to cultivate his anger. Who the hell did Chris Argent think he was assuming that Stiles was some kid who needed protecting from the big bad wolf? He’d survived the big bad wolf, helped set him on fire, thank you very much. He didn’t need anyone telling him about the risks, the dangers. If there was anyone who understood them, it was Stiles. He wasn’t burying his head in the sand. He had a healthy respect for what Derek was capable of. Trusting someone - especially when that someone had saved your life - wasn’t naive, and Stiles was pissed with Chris Argent for trying to say so.
Pulling into his driveway, Stiles came to a stop and just stared out the windscreen for a moment, his fingers drumming on the steering wheel. Gathering the necessary energy, he pushed open the door and clambered out. He was about to lean in and grab the groceries when he became aware of a presence at his back. He spun around, convinced that Chris Argent had changed his mind and followed Stiles home.
‘Jesus. Derek.’ He pressed his hand against his chest, trying to breath and get his racing heart under control. ‘What the actual fuck?’
Derek shrugged, a small smirk playing across his lips. ‘It was just too tempting.’
‘You are such a jerk,’ Stiles snapped, as he collapsed against the side of the Jeep. ‘I thought you were over the whole scaring me to death thing.’
Derek rocked back on his heels, hands stuffed in his jacket pockets. ‘Nope.’
Derek shrugged, his smirk morphing into a small grin. ‘It’ll never get old.’
Derek’s smile faded and he frowned as he lifted his head slightly and scented the air. ‘What’s wrong with you?’
He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Uh, nothing, nothing at all. Nothing wrong with me.’
Derek raised an eyebrow and waiting expectantly.
Stiles knew telling Derek about Chris Argent was an especially bad idea so he gritted his teeth and stared back.
The problem was, predictably, that Derek had infinitely more experience when it came to standing still and staring intensely at people. And he was at level twelve when it came to breaking Stiles with one well-placed glare.
Stiles shook his head wearily. He was an idiot for thinking he could lie to Derek. The best he could hope for was convincing Derek that it was nothing important, which considering Stiles’ day so far, was going to be a walk in the park. If that park was in hell. ‘Weird couple days at school, that’s all.’
Which, now he thought about it was both true and an understatement. Because, shit, his relief at seeing Derek and not Chris Argent had, for a few minutes anyway, completely made him forget about Coach thinking he and Derek were together. But that was rapidly flooding back, which, wow. Yeah, that was all kinds of embarrassing.
He shifted on his feet nervously as Derek studied him before glancing into the Jeep. ‘Want some help?’
‘Ummm, uh, yeah. Sure.’ Because really, who said no to having someone carry in heavy groceries?
As Derek reached past Stiles, his expression morphed into one of anger and he growled, making Stiles jump slightly. ‘What did Argent do?’
Derek grabbed his wrist, holding it between them. ‘Stiles -’
‘How do you even know that? He didn’t touch me. Just stood there, looking creepy.’
‘I can smell him on you. Faintly.’ Derek was standing unnaturally still and his eyes were burning a hole through his wrist. Or would be, if Derek was actually Superman. His eyes flicked up to meet Stiles’. ‘Did he hurt you?’
‘What? No. We were in the middle of a parking lot and it was just him. He just wanted to talk.’
Stiles shrugged, because, yeah, unless it was Allison, an Argent wanting to talk was like finding a mythical creature on your doorstep. Which, now he thought about it, wasn’t a particularly good comparison.
‘About what?’ Derek sounded like he was making a concerted effort not to growl. And failing.
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘He wanted to give me vague, dire warnings about being friends with a werewolf.’ Derek flinched and Stiles felt his anger reignite, low in his stomach. ‘Which is like, a) none of his business and b) it’s kind of hilarious he’s acting all concerned about my safety when he’s more than happy to manhandle me and Jackson back in the hospital. I mean -’ He sucked in a breath as Derek pressed up close. There was a possibility he might have squeaked. Might. ‘Oh, shit. I never said anything about that, did I?’
‘He. Did. What?’
‘Dude, relax, I’m obviously fine,’ he hurried to reassure Derek. ‘Both back then and now.’
Derek looked like he was on high alert, like Stiles could be attacked any moment. His eyes swept up and down Stiles’ body, and Stiles suppressed a shiver. With a slight hesitation, Derek stepped back, but he still held Stiles’ wrist.
Three days ago, Stiles would have thought nothing of presuming that Derek was worried about him on a purely friendship level. Because worrying about your friends when they were threatened by a crazy werewolf hunter with a fluid idea of morality was totally normal.
But after his talk with Coach, Stiles couldn’t help but wonder if Derek was reacting intensely because of other reasons. Coach had put this idea in Stiles’ head and he couldn’t quite shake it, couldn’t help but look at Derek’s actions differently, like it wasn’t just Derek being protective because Stiles was literally the only person in town who cared about him.
‘Really, I’m fine. I swear.’ He didn’t need to stand there and debate with himself about Derek’s motivation when Derek himself was right in front of him. ‘But, we, uh, we need to get the groceries in before the milk goes off.’
‘The milk’s fine.’ But Derek still grabbed the bags, hefting them like they were nothing. ‘Get the door.’
Stiles grabbed his school bag and dug out his keys as he followed Derek across the driveway.
‘Is it Scott?’
‘Is what Scott?’
‘Why you’ve had a weird time at school?’
Stiles shook his head. ‘Shockingly, no.’ He pushed open the front door and gestured Derek in first.
‘Harris still giving you a hard time?’ Derek asked as he brushed past Stiles, making Stiles shiver slightly.
‘Just a bit,’ Stiles said, giving himself a mental shake. It was like now Coach had cracked open the possibility of Derek liking him, Stiles couldn’t repress his reactions. ‘But, really, is that such as surprise anymore? I’d be looking over my shoulder expecting the zombie apocalypse if Harris was nice to me.’
Derek snorted as he walked into the kitchen, taking the bags with him.
‘We should order takeout,’ Stiles yelled after him, as he dropped his bag by the stairs. By the time Stiles entered the kitchen Derek had already thrown his jacket over a chair and had emptied half the bags and was busy putting everything away.
‘How is it that you have a better idea of where things live in my kitchen than I do?’
Derek glanced at Stiles.
‘Is it one of your werewolf superpowers?’
‘Putting away shopping?’
Stiles shrugged and grabbed the milk. ‘Doesn’t hurt to ask.’
‘I don’t know why I put up with you,’ Derek muttered. He pulled open a drawer and grabbed a knife before opening one of the cabinets and picking out some spices Stiles didn’t even know were in his house.
‘For my scintillating conversation and devastating wit, of course.’
Derek snorted, lining up the different vegetables. ‘Definitely not those.’
‘That hurts me, man. My sarcasm is golden.’ He wandered over to look over Derek’s shoulder. ‘What you doing?’
Along with the vegetables, there was a heap of potatoes. Like a mountain of potatoes.
‘What does it look like I’m doing?’
‘No need to get tetchy.’ Stiles pushed himself up onto the counter as Derek started to chop the vegetables. ‘So, you’re cooking?’
‘Your powers of observation are unparallelled.’
‘Okay, was the sarcasm really necessary?’
‘Are youseriously asking me about the necessity of sarcasm?’
‘Okay, good point,’ Stiles conceded with a grin. ‘But you are cooking, right? You’re not just vandalising the food I bought for the hell of it?’
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Yeah, Stiles, I’m cooking.’
‘I’m not vandalising any food.’
‘The proof of that’ll be in the taste, my friend.’
‘You haven’t complained yet.’
‘That is because your food is the stuff of gods,’ He shoved lightly at Derek’s shoulder, his hand lingering ever so slightly. ‘I can, you know, not burn stuff. Usually. But Dad’s idea of cooking is choosing a takeout menu and picking up the phone.’
Derek nudged Stiles’ knee. ‘Are you going to sit there and watch me do all the hard work?’
‘Definitely, dude. I mean, you’re better at this than me -’
‘It’s cutting vegetables, Stiles. I think you can cope with that.’
‘Really? You think me, knives and my fingers are a good combination?’ He waggled his fingers in front of Derek’s face for good measure, reasonably positive that Derek wasn’t going to try and bite them off. ‘I think we all know how that’d end.’
Derek batted his hands out of the way. Thankfully with the hand not holding the knife. ‘Yeah. Maybe not.’
‘So, you cut and chop and work your voodoo magic with the food and I’ll watch and be in awe of your skills, how’s that sound?’
‘Like a completely unfair division of labour.’ But there was a small smile on his lips and he shifted minutely so that his side was pressed against Stiles’ knee, his arm knocking lightly against Stiles’ leg as he peeled the potatoes.
Stiles felt as though he’d been kicked in the solar plexus and all the air had been punched from his lungs. All the touching was making him feel positively giddy. ‘Quit complaining, sourwolf. Who’s going to be setting the table, huh? And doing the washing up?’
Derek glanced over his shoulder, the movement pressing him a little harder against Stiles’ knee. ‘You have a dishwasher.’
‘So? It’s the principle of the thing. I’ll be the one loading the dishwasher. So don’t you go making a mess on purpose.’
‘I know you.’ Stiles poked him in the shoulder. ‘You’d totally do that, even with me sitting right here, watching.’
‘I’m not messy.’
Derek narrowed his eyes at Stiles’ agreeable tone, but didn’t call him on it. Unsurprisingly Derek didn’t carry on talking, and for once Stiles didn’t feel the need to fill the silence with meaningless chatter.
Instead, he watched Derek as he worked, because seriously, his brain couldn’t stop going back over all the time he’d spent with Derek in the last couple of months. Because had he read everything wrong? Had he been so convinced that Derek would never be interested in him that he’d ignored any signs that he was? Because pressing up against someone all the time was definitely a sign and Stiles had been missing it for ages. Stiles was the first to admit that he could be stupidly oblivious to things right in front of him. Plus, no-one in the history of humanity had found him at all appealing so, not exactly a surprise that Stiles didn’t think Derek could ever find him hot.
He jumped, the foot not trapped by Derek’s leg, kicking against the cabinets, as Derek snapped his fingers in front of his face.
‘Dude, not cool.’
‘You’re thinking too hard.’
Stiles blinked rapidly at him. ‘Huh?’
‘I can hear your brain whirling away.’
‘Oh.’ He gave himself a full body shake. ‘Right. Sorry.’
‘What were you thinking about?’
‘Oh. Uh, nothing.’
‘You do remember the part where I’m a werewolf and can tell when you’re lying, yeah?’
Stiles rolled his eyes. ‘Yeah, because that’s something I’m going to forget. I was just thinking.’
‘I guessed as much,’ Derek said dryly. ‘I was asking what about.’
Stiles bit his lip. ‘Okay, so you like me right? I mean, we’re friends, yeah?’
‘I’m standing in your kitchen, cooking you dinner.’
‘Valid.’ He worried the hem of his t-shirt. ‘That wasn’t actually an answer, though. Just so you know. That’s more of a statement that has very little to do with the question…in question.’ He cocked his head. ‘That sentence didn’t end where I expected it to.’
Derek frowned and Stiles was struck with the urge to reach across and smooth his fingers across Derek’s brow. But he didn’t. Because he sat on his hands.
Keeping an eye on Stiles without actually looking at him - which Stiles swore was a trick taught to werewolves and sheriffs - Derek threw the vegetables and potatoes in separate pans, added hot water and put them on the stove.
He then came and stood directly in front of Stiles, right between his legs. It wasn’t like this was the first - or the fiftieth - time that Derek had ignored Stiles’ personal space, but this was the first time Stiles had let himself think about what it could mean - other than Derek being a socially awkward turtle.
Seriously. Right. Between. His legs.
One of Derek’s hands was like a hot brand on Stiles’ knee. The other lifted Stiles’ chin so they were looking at each other. ‘Why would you think we’re not friends?’
Because friends don’t touch each other like this said Stiles’ traitorous brain. Thankfully, though, his brain to mouth filter worked for once and he didn’t say that.
‘I don’t,’ he blurted out. ‘I mean, I know we’re friends. Really good friends -’
‘But -?’ Derek prompted.
And Stiles knew he couldn’t tell Derek that he couldn’t get the idea of them together out of his head. Because Derek could still say no and Stiles just shied away from the panic he felt at the idea of Derek rejecting him. And, more than anything, really, he needed time to get his head around the idea of Derek wanting him being an actual, viable option and not just some pipe dream he tortured himself with when Derek wasn’t around.
If or when - bit stupid to get ahead of himself - they did talk about it, Stiles knew he couldn’t be freaked out because that would completely freak out Derek and, well, he didn’t imagine things would progress satisfactorily - or, at all - if Derek thought he was freaking out Stiles.
And, for the record, when he said ‘satisfactorily’ he meant kissing. Lots and lots of kissing.
‘So, Scott offered to hang out with you if it’d make me happy.’ And, okay, he hadn’t meant for that to fall out of his mouth, but whatever. It was probably better than talking about kissing.
The way Derek’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened was priceless and Stiles couldn’t help the bubble of laughter that escaped.
‘No need to look so horrified, dude. I said no. It’s not like I’m an idiot.’
‘Not a complete one,’ Derek agreed.
‘Wow, that’s, like, almost a compliment. Careful there, you might break something.’
Derek reached up and cuffed him lightly on his head. ‘Why would that make you wonder if we’re friends?’
‘It doesn’t. I don’t. Look, I’m not wondering if we’re friends or if you’re merely putting up with me. I know we’re friends.’ He patted his chest. ‘Steady heartbeat, right?’
Derek nodded, evidently not convinced.
‘I’m not lying so quit looking at me like that. I’m not questioning it, it’s just…’
Derek stared at him, unblinking.
‘It’s just my brain jumping all over the place. It doesn’t mean anything.’
‘Stiles, I’m not like Scott.’
‘I’m. Not like. Scott.’
So maybe Derek did get it.
‘Well, no. Of course you’re not. For starters, you have a five o’clock shadow by eleven am. Whereas it takes Scott two weeks to get one.’
Derek pushed away from the counter, rolling his eyes and Stiles immediately missed his warmth. ‘I’m putting on the steak.’
‘Remember to cook mine, yeah? I don’t want my dinner getting up and walking off my plate.’
‘It’s already dead.’
‘I don’t want my vegetables swimming in blood, okay? It’s kind of disgusting and looks like tiny people drowning in a sea of blood.’
‘Well, I’ve been told I have a way with words.’
‘Shame it’s not a good way with words.’
‘Case in point.’
Stiles laughed. ‘Whatever. I just want my steak a little bit cooked. Is that too much to ask?’
Leaning back on his hands, Stiles idly kicked his legs against the cabinets. Dad would kill him if he saw, but hey, what Dad didn’t know wouldn’t get Stiles dead.
‘I’m cooking the steaks.’
‘You know, it’s strange, but I can see that with my eyes. They kind of show me stuff that happens in front of me.’
Derek ignored him with a practiced ease. ‘You said something about setting the table earlier.’
‘And if you don’t get on that, the steaks will be cold before we even eat.’
‘You know, if you weren’t so bothered about eating at the table, that wouldn’t be such a problem.’ But Stiles didn’t really mean it, he got that sitting for dinner meant something to Derek. Had something to do with his family.
‘Set the table, Stiles.’
Stiles rolled his eyes, but jumped down and grabbed the cutlery. ‘So, spring break starts in a week,’ he said, bouncing through to the dining room.
‘You any closer to getting a list together with Scott?’
‘You must be joking. This is Scott and Allison we’re talking about.’ He stared at the table, trying to decide if he should sit next to Derek or opposite him. This wasn’t something he usually worried about. ‘The most we have are a few vague notions of going to the movies.’
‘That’s something, isn’t it?’
‘If we get to go. Do you have any idea how many times Scott has cancelled on me because Allison has suddenly become available?’
Derek glanced back at him. ‘Do you?’
‘I did. But, uh, I kind of last count a while back.’
Stiles froze, midstep as a thought exploded through his head. A genius thought, if he did say so himself. He could create his own list for spring break. One that was full of things he wanted to do. Really wanted to do. Maybe, just maybe it didn’t have to be such a bust.
Derek appeared in the doorway, his head cocked.
‘I had an idea,’ Stiles told him. ‘I can make my own list. I don’t need Scott to have a good time, to do stuff. I mean.’
Derek disappeared back into the kitchen. ‘I’m almost impressed that you came up with that all by yourself,’ he called through.
‘Screw you,’ he yelled back. ‘This is a big moment for me. Momentous, even. And you just make fun of me.’
‘I would never mock your momentous moments.’
‘You suck,’ Stiles told Derek as he walked back into the dining room, carrying two plates. ‘You just see if I include you in any of my epic plans.’
‘It’ll be awesome.’
Derek frowned as he brought his plate over to the table and sat down. ‘Stiles –‘
‘Yeah?’ Derek looked, well, he looked awkward. And with the way he was rubbing his neck, Stiles might even go as far as to say he was nervous. Either way, it made Stiles’ stomach turnover unpleasantly.
‘Look, about –‘
The sound of the front door opening made Stiles’ head snap up. ‘Dad’s home early.’ He glanced apologetically at Derek. ‘Could you –‘
‘I’ll grab him a plate,’ Derek said, sighing as he pushed his chair back and stood.
Stiles nearly felt bad because Derek had obviously wanted to tell Stiles something and Derek didn’t volunteer much, and he’d never talk about it while Stiles’ dad was around. But, on the other hand, Stiles was nearly positive he wouldn’t like whatever Derek had been about to say so he was happy to put if off for a while. ‘Dad, Dad. Derek cooked for us again.’
‘I guessed,’ Dad said, appearing in the doorway and sniffing appreciatively. ‘The aroma of unburnt food kind of gave it away, son.’
‘Hey! I only burnt dinner a couple of times.’
‘And the time you nearly set the kitchen on fire?’
‘You did what?’
Stiles glared between Dad and Derek. ‘It was only once and Dad was here, so there was no actual burning of the kitchen. The stove just got a little…singed.’
Dad smiled gratefully at Derek as he set down a plate brimming with food. ‘You really don’t have to keep doing this, you know.’
Derek shrugged, sitting back down. ‘I don’t like cooking for myself.’
‘Then our kitchen is always open to you,’ he said, digging in. ‘Maybe you could teach my kid not to steam everything.’
‘You need to keep your cholesterol down.’
Derek bit back a grin. ‘I think we can find a way to not steam everything, Sheriff.’
‘Seriously, Derek, enough with calling me Sheriff. When I’m at home, I’m just John.’
‘And weirdly, that’s what Grammy and Gramps called him; Just John.’
‘You’re hilarious, kid.’
Stiles waved a hand at himself. ‘This is all half you, you know. That makes it half your fault.’
‘Don’t remind me.’
‘And you do realise that now you’ve forbidden him from calling you Sheriff, he’s just going to call you sir instead, right?’
Derek levelled a glare at him, but Stiles just grinned back at him unrepentantly.
‘You call me John when we’re in my home, you hear me, Derek? Not Sheriff and not sir. John.’
Derek nodded. ‘John.’
Stiles felt like his smile was threatening to explode off his face.
The whole vibrating-in-one-spot thing made Dad throw him a suspicious look. ‘What’s with you?’
Stiles felt his eyes widen as he looked from Dad to Derek, who were both regarding at him with near identical expressions.
‘Who? Me? Nothing, nothing’s wrong with me.’ Because he couldn’t exactly say that this, just sitting down to dinner with two of his three favourite people in the world, was making him stupidly happy.
Stiles stared up at the Hale house, took in all the scaffolding obscuring it and scrambled out of the car.
As he approached the front door he was intercepted by one of the builders - maybe the foreman, if Stiles had to guess.
Stiles nodded, vaguely surprised that there was someone in this town who didn’t recognise his blue Jeep.
‘Hale left this for you.’
Stiles took the piece of paper being handed to him and wandered back to the car. Once he was sitting back in the car, he opened up the note.
House is being rebuilt. Take about three weeks.
Three weeks to knock down and rebuild a house? But when Stiles actually looked at the builders he realised they were carrying loads that no mere human would be able to. So, werewolf builders. Maybe Derek’s estimation wasn’t all that off base then. He turned his attention back to the note.
I’ll be back then.
Only phone if there’s an emergency.
On the one hand, Stiles was so pissed that Derek couldn’t even come by the house and tell him face to face that he was taking off for a while. On the other, Derek had left him a note. Stiles honestly wouldn’t have expected that if asked.
And, on the third hand, would Derek be back?
He said he would be.
But. Stiles chewed on his lip. Would he?
Spring break had sucked. Dad and the rest of the Sheriff’s department had been out in force, trying to deal with all the students passing through Beacon Hills on their way to San Francisco. Scott had, predictably, spent most of his free time with Allison. But even when he had had time for Stiles, Stiles had been so distracted worrying about Derek that he’d been no fun at all.
Now they were back in school, and Stiles still hadn’t heard from Derek, both Dad and Scott were sending him concerned glances, even if Scott couldn’t really understand why Stiles wanted Derek to come back.
He went up to the house periodically, partly to see its progress and partly to see if Derek’s Camaro magically reappeared.
It didn’t and Stiles really began to wonder if Derek was ever going to return.
The house had been finished for nearly a week and still Derek hadn’t come back. Stiles was alternating between still being pissed off and fearing that something had happened to him; that he was lying in a ditch somewhere, bleeding to death. Or worse.
Like Derek had asked, Stiles hadn’t phoned him at all, almost to spite him. But now he kept staring at Derek’s number, his thumb hovering over the call button. Everyday he got a little closer to finally giving in and calling.
Stiles was two days - tops - from calling anyway when he pulled into the clearing for his daily drive-by and finally, finally saw the Camaro parked in its usual spot. All its sleek shineness didn’t look so out of place now the house wasn’t a burnt out husk.
After a burst of relief spread all the way down to his toes, Stiles felt the fear and anger of the last few weeks take its place. As he marched up to the house he felt a scowl settle on his face. ‘Where the hell have you been, asshole?’ yelled Stiles, as Derek opened the door, pushing past him and stomping in.
Derek blinked as his eyes followed Stiles. He probably hadn’t expected Stiles to be pissed off. Which had been his first mistake. ‘Uh -’
‘Because I came up here first day of spring break and you weren’t here. You couldn’t even stop and say that you were heading out of town for a while?’
‘I left a note.’
‘And how informative that was.’
Derek rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. ‘Stiles -’
‘You couldn’t have called? Not even once? Not even a “hey, I got here alive” text?’
Derek growled, but Stiles was way past finding those intimidating. Which Derek knew.
‘Not that I even know where “here” is, but I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering if you’re okay. You didn’t reply to any of my texts.’
‘I was busy,’ said Derek, glancing at his hands.
‘Well, that’s an asshole thing to say. Also, lame.’
‘I didn’t mean -’ He rubbed at his eyes. ‘Stiles, I’m tired. I drove all night to get here.’
And Derek did look tired. And drained. Really fucking drained. What the hell had Derek been doing, and where?
‘But why did you even go anywhere?’
‘I wasn’t going to sit in my trailer and watch…watch as…’ Derek blinked rapidly and clenched his jaw. He was glaring hard at the wall by Stiles’ head.
‘I wouldn’t expect you to,’ said Stiles, softly, appalled at the notion. Because, god, that would be horrible.
‘So, what would you have had me do instead?’ Derek yelled.
‘We have a spare room,’ Stiles yelled back. ‘My dad would have let you stay.’
Derek went from rage-face to pure shock in under a second. Like the idea of actually talking to Stiles and asking for help had never even entered his mind. ‘I - what?’
‘You could have had our spare room,’ he repeated, glaring at Derek.
‘I…I didn’t think.’ He still looked completely stunned at the idea that Stiles would totally want to help him. Even after the past few months Derek still seemed to find it difficult to believe that Stiles genuinely liked him and would happily help. Wanted to help.
He took a deep breath. ‘I wouldn’t have wanted to be a burden.’
‘Then you’re an idiot,’ Stiles snapped. ‘You’re not a burden, Derek. Friends aren’t burdens.’
Derek stared at Stiles like he’d never seen him before. The open vulnerability on his face made Stiles ache.
‘I should have told you I was going,’ he said finally. ‘But I had to go. There were things I needed to get sorted in New York.’
‘You drove to New York?’
‘What did you need to sort out that couldn’t be done here?’ Stiles had wondered about Derek and Laura’s lives in New York but he’d never really considered what loose ends might still have been there.
‘Paperwork at the lawyers for Laura and Peter. Bank stuff. Graduation. Things I’ve been putting off for a while. Things that needed to be done to help me…carry on with life.’ He was holding himself really stiff and Stiles wanted to give the guy a hug or twenty, despite his anger.
‘Oh. Well.’ And it was kind of hard to stay mad at him for that. If he was dealing with things to do with his family, but Laura in particular, then Stiles couldn’t really fault him for not thinking of replying to the odd text or fifty.
‘I should have said. But you had the list, right? Had a good time?’
‘A good time?’ Stiles repeated, some of the anger flooding back at such a stupid thing to say. ‘Do you have any idea how crappy spring break was? Dad was out dealing with all the morons who thought that drink driving is a good life choice. Scott and Allison were joined at the hip and the few times I third wheeled was stupid awkward because they obviously wanted to be off getting horizontal with each other. I don’t really have any other friends - Jackson and Lydia went back to ignoring me and being all into each other pretty much as soon as the Winter Formal was over - and there’s only so many times you can go to the library without people looking at you weird. And I thought we’d been getting on alright and that we were, you know, friends.’ He could feel his face flaming and his heart beating wildly. ‘Like, really good friends. The kind that hang out together a lot because I’m fairly certain that you don’t hate me anymore, that you even like me. A lot. I mean, you said you did. And I’d been hoping, really, really hoping that we’d finally -’ And that point Stiles’ brain caught up with what was coming out of his mouth and he stuttered to a stop. He stared up at Derek, suddenly unsure of himself.
Derek blinked at him slowly and his eyes followed Stiles’ tongue as he nervously wet his lips. ‘Hoping we’d finally what?’
‘Finally do what, Stiles?’ Derek asked, advancing on Stiles, his movements deliberately slow.
Stiles couldn’t look away from Derek’s mouth and huffed out a breath of surprise when his back hit the recently-painted wall next to the front door. Despite being practically the same height, Derek seemed to loom over him, and Stiles felt as though his skin no longer fit him properly.
Stiles managed to pull his gaze from Derek’s mouth and when he looked at his eyes, Stiles saw they were flashing blue and he couldn’t help the smile that escaped. After a moment’s hesitation, he raised his hands and settled them on Derek’s hips, unable to stop the thrill that travelled down his spine as Derek shuddered and closed his eyes, his head dipping forward. He tugged at Derek. ‘Want you closer,’ he muttered.
‘Stiles -’ Derek’s breath ghosted over his neck, making Stiles shiver.
And then Derek was pressing him back into the wall, blanketing him with his body and it was the best feeling in the world. It wasn’t easy, but Stiles managed to convince one of his hands to let go of Derek, and he brought it up to slip around the back of Derek’s neck. He could feel his heartbeat racing along, but he felt strangely calm as he tilted his head and pulled Derek’s even closer. A sigh escaped his lips as they pressed against Derek’s and he couldn’t believe that he’d actually started this. Derek pressed him further into the wall with his body and deepened the kiss, effectively knocking Stiles’ brain off line.
He was vaguely aware of the noises he was making, but the ones he was concentrating on, couldn’t get enough of, were the ones coming from Derek. He was making a high, desperate whining sound, and Stiles didn’t know how he was doing that and exploring his mouth quite so thoroughly. But it was, hands down, the hottest thing he’d ever heard.
Eventually, though, they both needed air, and Stiles gulped in huge breathes as Derek nosed behind his ear.
‘Hey, wait.’ He pushed lightly at Derek’s chest, not wanting him to move but needing a little bit of space.
Derek pulled back enough that Stiles could look at him without going cross-eyed.
‘You aren’t going to disappear again, are you?’ He slid a hand into Derek’s hair, grinning slightly as Derek pushed back into it. ‘Because I get not wanting to be around while all this -’ He waved vaguely to include the entire house ‘- was happening, but that’s not going to be a thing, is it? I don’t want to come up here one day and find another note waiting for me.’
‘No more notes.’
‘That’s, uh, not really all that reassuring,’ Stiles told him.
Derek pressed a kiss to the side of his mouth. ‘No more leaving Beacon Hills.’
Stiles relaxed against the wall. ‘That’s way more reassuring.’
‘So, what now?’
Derek raised an eyebrow. ‘I was thinking we kiss for a while.’
Stiles huffed out a laugh. ‘Well, duh. Yeah, we’re going to do that. But, after that. I mean, kind of future-like stuff.’
Stiles blushed and ducked his head. Perhaps that was too much for Derek and he was being stupid and moving way too fast.
Derek slipped a finger under his chin and tilted his head up. ‘I got the house remodelled,’ he said softly.
Stiles looked around for the first time. ‘It’s different?’
‘Inside, yeah. Different layout. Different colours.’
Stiles nodded. ‘Okay.’
‘But I have to buy furniture and stuff.’ He rested his forehead against Stiles’.
‘Do you want someone with taste and style to accompany you?’
‘I don’t think Allison or Lydia would want to go shopping with me,’ Derek said with a grin.
‘Oh my god, stop trying to be funny. It’s unnerving.’
‘And I so hate unnerving you.’
‘You’re hilarious. I’m half tempted to walk out the door and take my kisses with me.’
Derek laughed and Stiles’ heart lurched dangerously. ‘Lie.’
‘Well, fine. You might be right about that,’ Stiles admitted. ‘So, can we go back to the kissing thing now? I was really enjoying that.’
Derek gave him a triumphant smirk before dipping his head to mouth at the nape of Stiles’ neck.
‘I don’t think that counts as kissing,’ Stiles gasped out. ‘Jackass.’
Derek didn’t say anything, just lifted his head enough that he could claim Stiles’ mouth. After what felt like hours of losing himself in the slip and slide of Derek’s mouth, Stiles tipped his head back against the wall, sucking deep breaths into his lungs as Derek’s hands stroked down his sides and he nipped and licked along his jaw.
Stiles sucked in a gasp as one of Derek’s hands slipped under his t-shirt. ‘Oh my god. We could do more than just kiss,’ he sighed.
His eyes blinked open - and seriously, when had he closed them - as he felt Derek tense beneath his hands.
And Derek was silent for long enough that Stiles thought he’d have to prompt him again. ‘We’re waiting until you’re eighteen.’
‘We don’t have to wait until I’m eighteen,’ Stiles said hopefully.
‘Yeah we do.’ Derek said it softly, but with steel in his voice.
‘I don’t mind if we don’t.’
Derek kissed him lightly, almost chastely. ‘But I do.’
Stiles frowned, but when he looked properly at Derek it was obvious that this was a big deal to him. He looked. Well. He looked like he would like to be as far from Stiles as he could be. But from the way he was plastered along Stiles’ front, he knew that couldn’t be right. From the way Derek seemed thoroughly immovable, he knew there had to be a story there; some reason for Derek to be so sure that sex wasn’t currently on the table.
‘But it’s just the sex that you want to wait for, right? Not everything. Like -’
‘The sex, Stiles,’ Derek said, rolling his eyes fondly.
‘Okay, that’s okay,’ he breathed, ‘I’m good with that as long as there’s kissing and touching.’
‘Yeah?’ Derek sounded surprised that Stiles wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it.
Stiles nodded impatiently. ‘Jeez, Derek, I’m sixteen years old and I’m really not looking to have sex in the next five minutes or anything.’
‘Most sixteen year olds are gagging for sex.’
Stiles dropped his gaze and shifted slightly. ‘Yeah, well.’
He jumped as Derek cupped his cheek. ‘What?’
‘Look, you see, the thing is, that first kiss we just had? That was my first. Like, ever. I know it’s difficult to believe, but I’m not exactly considered a catch to the student body of Beacon Hills and, well, you know I was crushing on Lydia for years until that boat sailed so I haven’t really had what you could call a lot - or, you know, any - experience. So to jump from a kiss - a seriously awesome series of kisses, don’t get me wrong - to sex is kind of terrifying, truth be told. I’d like to get used to the in-between stuff first and see if that takes us to me being eighteen. And, if it doesn’t, then we talk. Or, well, I guess I talk and you stare at me and grunt. But -’ Stiles sucked in a breath as Derek slapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes wide and stunned looking.
‘Breathe,’ he ordered.
Stiles nodded. He tried to speak, but Derek shook his head, his hand still firmly in place.
‘You didn’t breathe for a while there. Perhaps you should take a second.’
And Stiles couldn’t believe he had spewed all of that at Derek. They hadn’t even been kissing for an hour and he’d already been talking as though they were going to be together forever. Christ, he was turning into Scott. This was terrible.
Although, having said that, thinking back over the things Derek had said and talked about, maybe he was thinking about them in a similar way to Stiles. That. That would be pretty. No, majorly awesome.
‘Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do,’ Derek said, sounding surprisingly calm. ‘We’re going to take this at the pace that works for both of us.’
Stiles smiled and Derek cautiously removed his hand, letting it drop to rest on Stiles’ shoulder.
‘Don’t worry, I’m going to remember to breathe this time,’ Stiles reassured him, pressing a kiss to the hand on his shoulder. ‘But, yeah, that plan works for me.’
‘Okay, good.’ And Derek sounded relieved, like he hadn’t been sure Stiles would agree.
Derek seemed to decide that they were done talking and pressed his lips to Stiles’ again, not that Stiles was complaining. Duh.
After another couple of millennia, Derek pulled back, allowing oxygen to rush back into Stiles.
‘You okay?’ Derek hadn’t really moved all that far, his breath ghosting along Stiles’ lips.
‘Yeah, dude. More than fine. But, uh, kissing against a wall gets uncomfortable after a while.’
‘Does it?’ Derek sounded like he was laughing at Stiles.
‘Yeah, we totally need to get you furniture ASAP.’
‘I’ll get right on that.’
‘Sure you will.’
‘You know, in a little while.’
Before Stiles could suggest he got on it pretty sharpish, Derek claimed his mouth again, making Stiles forget everything.