So, Stiles is not a pervert. For the record.
First of all, Scott’s been getting all buddy-buddy with Isaac now that he’s moved in, despite the whole Allison/Isaac thing, so he basically talks about nothing but Isaac nowadays. Stiles has been told—by both Scott and his father, separately, which only adds insult to injury—that he needs to learn to share and this will therefore be very good for his personal growth. Or something. But that hasn’t been going so well, because Isaac is a douchebag, and he tends to tune out when Scott starts up about Isaac.
Second, they’re on Scott’s bike, which is very loud. Plus, the wind. Plus, Stiles is wearing a helmet.
Which brings him to number three—the helmet that he’d picked up at the thrift store, when Scott became his ride to school every day (and isn’t that a weird role reversal) while the insurance company hems and haws about Stiles’ poor Jeep, is not… Well, the helmet itself is in perfectly good shape. It’s just that the chinstrap is broken. So whenever Stiles rides on the bike, he has to hold the helmet on his head with one hand, and cling to Scott for dear life with his free arm.
(Dad must never find out about this.)
What it comes down to is that he’s not a pervert. He just wasn’t listening to Scott, for very good reasons.
- Scott’s been rambling on about Isaac
- It’s hard to hear on the bike
- Stiles is busy with more important things like keeping his helmet on his head and not flying off the bike
So he totally can’t be blamed for almost missing it when Scott yells something about Derek being… endowed?
“WHAT?” Stiles bellows, when the words belatedly register.
“DEREK!” Scott yells.
“HE’S WELL-ENDOWED?” Stiles yells back.
Scott rolls to a stop at a red light and immediately swings around to stare at him. “What?”
“Wha—don’t look at me!” Stiles protests. “You’re the one who said it!”
“I said he’s back in town,” says Scott, horrified.
“Oh,” Stiles says. “Right. Huh. I thought he’d be gone longer. It’s only been, what, two weeks?”
“Three,” Scott replies.
“He’s got a nice place,” Scott says. “Like I think he’s actually paying for this one.”
“I don’t think I can picture that,” Stiles says. He tries. “No. No, I can’t do it. Give me details. Does he have throw pillows? Drapes? A welcome mat? Oh my God, tell me he has one of those Wipe Your Paws welcome mats.”
“Uh. No,” Scott says slowly.
“I’m gonna get him one,” Stiles decides. “Can you picture his face? What’s his address?”
Scott doesn’t laugh. “Stiles…”
"I mean—don’t you think he’s been through enough?” Scott asks tentatively. “It’s kind of a… I mean. It’d be one thing if it were me. Just, maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Yeah, but his face,” Stiles insists.
Scott bites his lip, frowning, but then the light turns green and the discussion gets left behind.
After school, Stiles bikes to Bed Bath & Beyond, intent on buying a welcome mat for Derek. It isn’t until he’s actually staring his options, though—there’s an adorable one with a border of paw prints around the edge—that Scott’s words come back to him. It takes all of a minute for Stiles to decide that…
Yeah. This is sort of jackass thing to do. It makes him feel all twisty and sick inside, when he really thinks about it.
But actually, now that he’s here, it would be sort of nice to get Derek a housewarming present. A real one. Derek has had kind of a shit… life… and when Stiles really thinks about doing something nice for Derek, it makes him feel all twisty and warm inside. It’s a nice feeling.
After much deliberation, Stiles gets Derek a very nice set of maple wood stirring spoons, buys a big green bow to stick to the pack, and plays the most terrifying game of Knock Knock Zoom Zoom he’s ever played in his life dropping it off at Derek’s door.
(He thought about gift-wrapping it, but they only had red wrapping paper at home, which seemed a bit insensitive. Also, if it had been wrapped, Derek probably would have thought it was a bomb and thrown it out. Or left it for his least-favorite neighbor. Derek’s a jackass like that.)
It’s only an hour later that Derek comes tumbling through Stiles’ window and immediately stomps over to him and snarls, “What the hell are these?”
“Uh… spoons?” Stiles says, looking up from his homework.
“I’d. Noticed,” Derek says through gritted teeth. He comes to a stop at Stiles’ desk, glaring fiercely, spoons held tight in one clenched fist. He looks like a homicidal Gordon Ramsay.
Stiles stares. “Aaaaannd?”
“Seriously?” Derek demands. “I don’t know if it was a joke, or if you were being serious, but this completely inappropriate, Stiles. You can’t just—do things like this.”
“Well, with gratitude like that, it’s no wonder no one ever does anything nice for you,” Stiles snaps, stung.
“Nice? You call this nice?”
Stiles stares. “Is this a cultural difference thing? Do werewolves not give presents? Should I have given you a broken leg as a housewarming gift instead, maybe a nice case of wolfsbane poisoning?”
“Stiles, you got me sex toys,” Derek says flatly.
“I—” Stiles’ jaw hangs open. “What?”
Derek brandishes the note that Stiles had left with the spoons. “Dear Derek,” he reads. “I got you the good kind so they won’t snap on you. The one with the holes in it is seriously the best. If you’re ever interested in a partner, give me a call. Stiles. XOXO.”
“Cooking!” Stiles flails. “I meant a cooking partner, oh my God!”
“You signed the note with X’s and O’s!”
“Those were ironic X’s and O’s,” Stiles moans.
Derek stares at him incredulously.
“Shut up,” Stiles says. “I just wanted to get you something nice, okay? Not everyone is secretly trying to bone you.”
“You got me a housewarming gift,” Derek says, disbelieving. “You. Got me a housewarming gift. You, who hate my guts and would happily see me bleed out in the street.”
“Oh my God, not really,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Were you never a melodramatic teenager?”
“They’re nice spoons,” Derek accuses, frowning down at them.
“Yeah. Yeah, they are. And actually, if you look on the little tags, they’re the ones they use at the CIA. Which is totally not the CIA you’re thinking of right now, by the way, it’s the—”
“The Culinary Institute of America,” Derek says impatiently. “I know.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, deflating.
“Contrary to popular belief, I’m not an idiot.”
Stiles sighs, because there are so many, many things he wants to say to that.
Derek scowls and thrusts the spoons at him. “Take them back.”
“What? No!” Stiles says, pushing himself backwards in his rolley chair. “We just went over this, dude—they’re nice cooking spoons! You can use them for sauces and stuff.”
“Take them back,” Derek insists.
Stiles sets his jaw. “I threw out the receipt.”
“Then you can have them.”
“I already have a set,” Stiles says.
“Stiles, I don’t need your—” Derek’s face twists up. “—your pity. Take them back.”
“I know you don’t need pity,” Stiles says exasperatedly. “I didn’t get you pity. I got you spoons. Useful spoons! Nice spoons!”
Stiles makes a face. “’Cause… I don’t know. I was there, and they were there, and I thought I’d buy them for you. To say thanks or something. Okay?”
Derek’s left eye twitches.
“I should have just gotten you a bomb,” Stiles grumbles.
“What,” says Derek.
Stiles waves a hand. “Go away. Take your spoons. I have to finish writing an essay for a book I didn’t read.”
Derek doesn’t leave. He looms there awkwardly for a few minutes, while Stiles scrolls through the Spark Notes for chapter four again and does his best to act natural.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God?” Derek eventually asks.
“That’s the one,” Stiles sighs, tapping the abandoned book that’s sitting on his desk.
“I liked that book,” Derek says. “You should read it.”
“You read it? Hey, awesome! Wanna help me write about how Janie’s identity vacillates between black and white, and how this affects the theme of racism presented in the novel?” Stiles asks hopefully.
“That would be cheating,” Derek says, frowning at him.
“You’re opposed to cheating,” Stiles says incredulously, actually turning around to stare at him. “You.”
Derek frowns harder. “Education is important.”
“You’re hurting my brain. Go away.”
“I’m—sorry,” Derek mutters. “For yelling, earlier.”
“It’s okay,” Stiles says. “I mean, it’s you. I’m pretty much used to it.”
Derek scowls, but Stiles no longer has time for this, and plugs himself into his essay with renewed effort. He will be in bed before two, tonight. This is going to happen. He is going to get four hours of sleep and it is going to be fucking glorious.
He doesn’t get four hours of sleep. His Adderall wears off completely around one, and he gets sucked into TVTropes for nearly an hour before he realizes it, and it’s another twenty minutes before he can pull himself off and force himself back to his paper. Then he has nightmares courtesy of the Nemeton, and before he knows it he’s dragging himself out of bed for mandatory 6:15 a.m. lacrosse conditioning sessions.
Stiles lightning edits his paper in the library on a bathroom break during history (Lydia gives him the most judging look in the history of ever), turns it in next period, and by economics the only thing keeping him awake are Scott’s helpful, periodic pencil-shanks. Thankfully, Finstock spends most of the class on an anti-cheating rant, because he’d found a soda bottle with test answers written on the inside of the label in his trashcan on Monday. Now everyone is going to retake the test on Friday. Oh, joy.
Stiles manages to drift deep enough into sleep that he has a very brief, strange dream in which Derek is sitting in the back of their economics class, nodding along with Finstock’s rant sanctimoniously. He’s wearing a button-down shirt and glasses.
The glasses are really hot, actually. And now Derek’s lowering them, turning to stare at Stiles over the thick black rims of his glasses, tongue poking out to lick his—
Scott pencil-shanks him, and Stiles jerks awake again.
When lunch time finally arrives, Stiles opens his locker to cycle out his book load and finds a warm, greasy bag of takeout with extra curly fries, a chocolate milkshake, and two five-hour energy shot bottles.
“Awesome,” Stiles breathes.
Lydia raises an eyebrow at him, when he plunks his lunch down at the table.
“What?” Stiles asks defensively. “I know it’s not healthy. I am aware of my life choices right now.”
“And your girlfriend supports them wholeheartedly?” Lydia asks archly.
Lydia points a finger at the takeout bag, and Stiles sees exactly what she’s talking about.
There, scrawled in black marker on the side, is “XOXO”.
I’m so happy about the food and caffeine I’m not even going to ask what creepy method you used to find out that I was majorly sleep-deprived today. And, you know, my locker location and combination.
Now we’re even.
What? You didn’t owe me anything.
OMG. DUDE. You really don’t understand the concept of gift-giving, do you?
Seriously, man, it totally negates my gift if you just give me one right back. What am I supposed to do now?
Nope. Unacceptable. Prepare to be un-gift-negated.
It ends up taking Stiles a few days to un-gift-negate Derek. He’s busy with his standard insane load of homework, which is temporarily more insane now that he has to re-study for his economics midterm, plus lacrosse conditioning, sleeping and the nightmares that now come coupled with that, and also, it takes him a while to think up a present for Derek that isn’t more kitchen supplies.
All told, it’s Saturday afternoon before Stiles is chaining his bike to the rack outside Derek’s apartment, gift in hand. It’s wrapped this time, in red, because if Derek is going to be a stupidhead gift-negator, then he can deal with red wrapping paper.
Stiles knocks and doesn’t run away.
Derek opens the door and promptly scowls at him.
“For you!” Stiles announces, thrusting the present forward. “I promise it’s not a bomb.”
“Why would it be a bomb?” Derek demands, even as he’s handling it like one.
“You know someone would give you a bomb,” Stiles says. “Don’t even front with me. Look at your track record. You’re clearly escalating toward a bomb.”
Derek glares, and for a second Stiles’ heart stops at the sound of claws ripping through—
“You totally could have done that with your fingers,” Stiles accuses.
Derek smirks, and shreds the wrapping paper some more with his unnecessarily huge claws.
“Now you’re just making a mess,” Stiles complains.
When the last of the wrapping paper falls to the floor, Derek turns the book over to read the title.
The Zombie Survival Guide.
“It’s for Peter,” Stiles says helpfully.
“This is a terrible gift,” Derek says.
“What? No! This is just as useful as the spoons, if not more. It’s educational, which is apparently important to you, I had a dream about it the other day and everything—and! And! Constant vigilance. You’re all about constant vigilance. I know you are. So…” Stiles gestures at the book. “Now you can know what to look for.”
"You had a dream about me,” Derek says flatly.
Stiles flushes. “Uh. Yeah. Don’t look at me like that, it’s normal! I bet you’ve dreamed about me, too. You dream about people you know. I know you. You know me. It’s normal. It’s not weird. It’s not. Stop looking at me like that!”
“It’s weird,” Derek says.
Derek smirks. “Yes it is.”
“You’re an asshole,” Stiles says.
Derek looks down at The Zombie Survival Guide pointedly.
“Yeah, but the thing is, we’re two different kinds of assholes. I’m a funny asshole. You’re just an asshole. Totally different assholes,” Stiles explains. He pauses and frowns. “Hey, isn’t it kind of weird that we call it an asshole, isn’t it? The body part, I mean. Like, how come we have an asshole, but we don’t have faceholes, or noseholes, or… side-of-headholes? Like, shouldn’t the asshole have its own name, too?”
“I think it’s called the anus,” Derek says.
Stiles deflates. “Oh. Yeah.”
Derek sighs and stares down at the book. “Let me guess. You threw out the receipt?”
“And I already have my own copy,” Stiles confirms.
“Of course you do,” Derek mutters.
Stiles preens. “Hell yeah.”
“That wasn’t—” Derek sighs. “Never mind. Are you leaving any time soon?”
“Now that you have been appropriately un-gift-negated, yes,” Stiles says, nodding. “I’ll see you around. Or not. I dunno.”
Derek raises his eyebrows.
“Bye!” Stiles says, and waves.
Derek shuts the door.
“Twix, Red Vines, Cow Tails, Mountain Dew, Pepsi. Twix, Red Vines, Cow Tails, Mountain Dew, Pepsi. Twix, Red Vines, Cow Tails, Mountain—Derek!”
Derek looks up long-sufferingly from his spot in line for the register.
“Hey!” Stiles says, with a wave.
“Hi, Stiles,” Derek sighs.
“Fancy seeing you here,” Stiles says brightly. “At the, uh, gas station. Didn’t realize you were here. The Toyota just doesn’t stand out like the Camaro did, you know? Hey—what happened to that thing, anyway? I never asked.”
“I sold it,” Derek says.
“For charity,” Derek deadpans.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Fine. Keep your secrets.”
Derek scowls. “Don’t you have things to buy? Or did you just come in here to harass me?”
“Both,” Stiles says petulantly, even as he realizes—fuck—he’s totally forgotten his shopping list. He gives Derek a quick grin, before whipping out his phone and texting Scott for the shopping list. Then he wanders over to the drinks aisle, because he at least remembers the Mountain Dew. He and Scott always get Mountain Dew.
And Red Vines. Stiles remembers the Red Vines.
He’s considering the Kit Kats when Scott finally texts him back.
Mtnd, pepsi, twix, rvines, cow tails. Plus Isaac just texted to ask for 3 musketeers. Also hurry up gas is done its cold!!!
You’re a werewolf dude suck it up.
Stiles just barely manages to hold everything at once, until he goes to stand up, and the Pepsi falls to the floor. It doesn’t break open, but it does hiss threateningly, and light brown fizz quickly rises at the top of the bottle.
Fuck. Shit. Balls.
Who the fuck likes Pepsi, anyway? Douchebag, scarf-wearing, best-friend-stealers with poor taste in sodas, that’s who.
“Personal growth,” Stiles reminds himself under his breath, as he picks up the soda. “This is good for you, Stiles. Sharing is caring.”
He gets a basket, and then switches the soda out for a different one—which he feels marginally bad about, but he’s already pushing his limits, exchanging the sodas. Buying both of them is officially too much. Plus, doesn’t soda, like, settle back down after a while? Or something?
Whatever. After the last year, Stiles has karma coming out his ass.
After paying and shoving his loot into his backpack, Stiles heads out to the parking lot and sees Derek and Scott engaged in conversation. They stop talking when Stiles approaches.
“Hey, man,” Scott says. “I was just telling Derek that we were thinking about having pack meetings, and he should come.”
Stiles raises his eyebrows. “We were?”
“Yeah. Didn’t I tell you? Deaton said it would be a good idea.”
“Oh, Deaton said,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Never mind that I suggested it like six months ago.”
“Yeah, but six months ago, we were—” Scott visibly remembers who’s with them. “—uh, younger.”
From Derek’s expression, he knows exactly what Scott was going to say anyway. Stiles feels the inexplicable urge to apologize, but he tamps it down, because saying, “Sorry for reminding you about that time when you were the Alpha and had a pack and stuff,” feels disloyal to Scott somehow, and also, he doesn’t think Derek particularly wants an apology.
Scott looks like he’s having similar thoughts.
“I’ll think about it,” Derek says to Scott, with a stiff nod, and then he turns to leave.
Stiles makes a face right back at him.
Neither of them move until Derek is in his car and driving off.
“That was bad,” Scott says guiltily, eyes going in the direction that Derek had driven off in.
“He’ll be fine, bro,” Stiles insists, with an indifference he doesn’t actually feel. “So he’s not the Alpha anymore. He can put on his big boy pants and deal with it.”
Scott gives him a reproachful look.
“C’mon, let’s go,” Stiles says. “I’ve got to be home in three hours for family fun night.”
Scott shudders. “Monopoly?”
“Monopoly,” Stiles says happily.
Back at Scott’s house, Isaac is sprawled out on the couch like he’s waiting for the GQ photographer to finish using the bathroom so they can continue the photo shoot. He’s wearing a scarf. Inside. Who even does that?
Personal growth, Stiles reminds himself.
“Sorry we took so long,” Scott apologizes. “We ran into Derek at the gas station.”
Isaac arches an eyebrow. “Did you kick him in the nuts?”
“No,” Scott says slowly.
Isaac sighs, and lazily pulls himself from a sprawl into a normal sitting position to make room for the rest of them.
Stiles deposits his backpack on the couch and waves a hand at it. “Food’s in there. I’m gonna grab some of last night’s chili leftovers. Anyone else?”
“Oh, no, it’s all gone,” Scott says, with the second guilty look of the day. “We ate it this morning for breakfast. Sorry, dude.”
“Hey, Stiles,” Isaac says slyly. “Big plans for tonight?”
“No, it’s famil—” Stiles stops short, though, because Isaac is holding up a strip of XXL condoms.
“Dude!” Scott says excitedly.
“And when I say ‘big’…” Isaac continues, waggling the strip.
“Those aren’t mine!” Stiles protests. “Those—I didn’t—shit, it must have been Derek.”
The silence is deafening.
“Not—oh my God, not like that!” Stiles yelps.
“Dude,” Scott says.
You are the worst.
Monopoly at the Stilinski house is a rare but awesome thing.
“So in exchange for Indiana Avenue,” Stiles says, pointing to the property card in question, “you give me $80 now, and for the next six turns, I pay no parking fees on your orange or red properties, and half the fee of your green properties, unless you should place more than two houses on any of them, and then I pay seventy-five percent. And our previous deal regarding the B&O and Short Line Railroads remains in effect.”
“Unless you go to jail,” Dad says.
“Unless I go to jail,” Stiles agrees.
Dad studies the board for a long moment, and then nods. “Sounds fair.”
One of the egg timers goes off, as they exchange goods.
“That’s the free parking,” Dad says, as he sets it for another five minutes. “We’re now down to an eighty-twenty split, if I land there.”
“You’re going to land on it,” Stiles insists, because he hadn’t surrendered that Get Out of Jail Free card for nothing.
“Your turn,” Dad replies easily.
Stiles blows on the dice for good luck just before he rolls, and prays for a five, seven, or something higher than a nine.
On Monday, Scott has to go to school an hour earlier to meet with Coach Finstock—what they have to talk about for an hour at five o’clock in the morning, Stiles doesn’t know—so Stiles is biking to school. Scott offered to pick Stiles up at quarter to five, but Stiles’ life basically revolves around sleep, and biking means he could sleep ten minutes more, so… biking it is.
He’s huffing and puffing his way up Sacramento Ave, regretting all the life choices that have led to him being too paranoid to wear headphones while biking, when he sees it. It’s a flash in the corner of his eye, barely visible in the morning darkness, and it’s only instinct that makes him stop.
There’s a thin river of it flowing from the alleyway between Chipotle and Hearty Wares’ Hardware. It’s mostly dried, but there are portions that still glitter with wetness. How long does it take for blood to dry? Stiles feels like this is something he should know.
He stays on his bike, just in case he needs to get away, and awkwardly toes his way forward to line up with the alley.
There’s a body pushed up against the first of a row of dumpsters, partially bisected by the ripped-off lid of said dumpster. It’s gruesome enough that it takes him almost a full minute to realize that the body is Derek.
“Oh shit,” Stiles says, and drops the bike, rushing forward. “Shit, shit, shit.”
He rips the lid out of Derek’s side with a grunt, and the immediate gush of blood makes him remember that you’re not supposed to do that.
“Shit,” he hisses, and for a moment he wildly contemplates shoving it back in.
But Derek’s breathing.
Derek’s a werewolf. Right.
Stiles hefts the lid into the nearest dumpster and crouches in the veritable lake of blood surrounding Derek’s body. His hands hover uselessly over the gaping wound, fluttering in the air, before finally settling on Derek’s shoulder and hip. Intestines disappear before his eyes as dense pink-white fascia knits itself back together.
“Oh shit,” Stiles says, and swallows convulsively. One of his fingers twists in Derek’s belt loop.
Derek coughs weakly, and Stiles just barely keeps himself from flailing back on his ass. Blood dribbles out of Derek’s mouth.
“Derek?” Stiles tries, awkwardly patting at his face. It’s even more beard-y than usual. “Dude, you should definitely be awake right now, because there is no way I’m hauling your ass out of here. You’re like two of me. C’mon. Wake up.”
He gets a gurgle and some more blood, which is less than promising.
Stiles takes in a breath and glances around the alley for—he doesn’t even know. “Okay,” he says, looking down at Derek and forcing himself to think. “Okay. Uh. Scott! Right, right. Scott. He can help.”
He fumbles for his phone, grips Derek’s shoulder with his free hand for balance, and presses the Scott shortcut on his main screen.
The call goes to voicemail.
“Shit,” Stiles says, and hangs up. He realizes too late that the voicemail recorder was on, but whatever. He looks down at Derek again, at his misshapen side that is healing way too slowly for a werewolf, and— “Seriously, dude, look at your clothes. You’re literally soaked in your own blood. I mean, like, you look like you’re encrusted into the ground. That is so gross. Did you know that you can use meat tenderizer to remove blood stains? Like, the powder. Not the scary metal hammer thing. You can use ammonia, too—that’s what I use—but the smell’s really awful, so it must be even—”
“—oh my god you’re awake—”
“Shut up,” Derek croaks.
Stiles shuts up.
Derek coughs, and then groans.
"Yeah,” Stiles says, wincing in sympathy. “There was sort of a dumpster lid in your side. It was mega gross. Hey, werewolves can’t get infections, right? Because I don’t even want to think about the bacteria that grow on dumpsters. Ew.”
“I’ll be fine,” Derek insists, though he rasps it out with all the lung capacity of an asthmatic kitten, so Stiles is less than reassured.
“Uh-huh,” Stiles says skeptically. “Sure.”
Derek grunts and sort of twitches.
“Can you, like, stand?” Stiles asks, eying Derek’s side.
Derek gives him a withering look.
“Well, I don’t know!” Stiles says, throwing his hands up. “I’m fresh out of stretchers, bud.”
“Go get my car, dumbass,” Derek snaps.
“And what? Carry you over to the backseat?”
“It’s at the Walgreens on Fifth,” Derek says. “By the time you get back I should be able to stand. Keys are in my pocket.”
“That’s like seven blocks away!” Stiles protests.
“Exactly,” Derek grunts.
Stiles huffs and shoves a hand into Derek’s pocket. “Fine. You’d better not die while I’m gone. What even happened to you?”
“Dumpster diving gone wrong,” Derek says. “Obviously.”
Stiles abandons the keys to pinch Derek’s thigh through the fabric of his pocket.
“Can you not,” Derek growls, eyes flashing blue, but it’s not much of a threat considering that he can barely lift his head.
“Can you not tell me the truth? If there’s some new big bad in town, we really need to know,” Stiles retorts.
“It was just an omega, all right?” Derek sighs.
"Did you kill it?” Stiles asks, head whipping up, but there’s no mauled corpse sprawled in the alleyway or suspicious limbs hanging out of any of the dumpsters.
He looks back down at Derek in time to see him, with great effort, raise his head up enough to shake it. “No.”
“Oh, good,” Stiles breathes, relieved.
“I mean, bad. Bad. Obviously, that’s bad. Just, you know, dead bodies are—”
“Stiles, go get the damn car.”
Stiles bikes to Walgreens, and ends up having to walk up and down the rows of cars while hitting the unlock button on Derek’s fob, because the soccer mom car is a lot harder to find than a Camaro—seriously, why did Derek give up that car—which has to look suspicious as fuck. Eventually, he realizes that when Derek said, “at the Walgreens on Fifth,” he didn’t mean in the parking lot. He meant, literally, the car was stopped on the side of the road in front of the Walgreens.
Jesus Christ. Derek must have so many parking tickets by now. How does he still have a driver’s license?
Then Stiles takes forever and a day to figure out how to get the seats to fold down so he can load his bike, because apparently someone in the car industry was concerned that people weren’t using their owner’s manuals enough in today’s modern age. He doesn’t end up having to pull out the owner’s manual. It’s a close thing, but eventually he gets all the right buttons pushed in and levers pulled out-then-down-then-up, and the seats bow down before him as they well should.
When he pulls up to Chipotle, Derek is not standing there waiting for him. Instead Stiles gets to haul Derek to his feet and play human crutch while Derek hobbles his way over to the car, bitching all the way. Stiles dumps him in the passenger seat with less care than is strictly considerate. There’s going to be blood on the seat, but Stiles figures that Derek must be a pro at blood removal by now.
Maybe he just gets a new car when the current one gets too bloody? Maybe that’s what happened to the Camaro.
Scott calls, halfway to Derek’s apartment.
Stiles, being a conscientious driver, doesn’t pick up. Instead he presses ignore and thumbs his way to the text screen without looking, and holds out the phone to Derek.
“Hey, be useful. Text Scott and tell him I’m not dead.”
“Why does he think you’re dead?” Derek mutters as he jabs at the screen with one finger, the phone resting in his lap.
“I called and left an empty voicemail when I first found you,” Stiles answers. “He was in a meeting, so he probably just saw my call now.”
“What kind of meeting does Scott have at six in the morning?” Derek grouses, like he’s the one being dragged out of bed for it, not Scott.
“Lacrosse captain meeting thing,” Stiles replies, waving a hand to indicate the lofty yet vague importance of high school varsity athletics. Which Derek should well understand, given the number of times in the past year werewolves and lacrosse have interceded to unfortunate ends.
There’s a pause, and then—
“Scott wants to know where you are.”
Not at lacrosse practice, that’s for sure. There’s no way Stiles is going to make it onto the field in his gear in the next ten minutes. Finstock’s going to tear him a new one.
“Saving hairy, ungrateful werewolves, like usual,” Stiles sighs.
Derek doesn’t reply, but when Stiles glances over at a stoplight, he’s sourly pecking out another text.
By the time Stiles parks the car in front of Derek’s apartment building, Derek is holding his own head up, and though he needs help getting out of the car, once he’s on his feet and his side has stopped gushing fresh blood, he can walk on his own. Mostly. Stiles, however, has visions of Derek passing out in the elevator and creating lots of paperwork for his dad and Ms. McCall when someone calls 9-1-1, so he follows him in.
“I’m fine, Stiles,” Derek insists breathlessly, as he gimps along at a speed that a legless, bullet-ridden zombie could overtake.
“Humor me,” Stiles says.
Keeping one eye on Derek, he pulls out his phone to text Scott about the Omega that got away. This is the conversation history that greets him, when he thumbs up the lockscreen:
Stiles: Not dead
Scott: Where r u?
Stiles: V busy bein a jackass ttyl
Scott: Lol what?
Scott: Stiles? Practice in 5!!!!
“I wasn’t being a jackass!” Stiles complains, looking up to glare at Derek’s blood-encrusted back. “Also, I can’t believe you used TTYL. Correctly.”
“Stiles,” Derek huffs, “my generation invented chatspeak.”
“Your generation,” Stiles scoffs. “Okay, grandpa.”
Derek gimps along without a response, but Stiles just knows that he’s rolling his eyes.
Stiles unlocks the door to Derek’s apartment while Derek leans against the wall next to him, sending showers of dried flakes of blood to the ground. It doesn’t occur to him until he’s held the door open for Derek and is looking around for a place to put Derek’s keys—a rack, a bowl, anything—that he’s inside Derek’s apartment.
It’s kind of… sad. Barren. The only thing of real note is a bookcase against the wall that’s crammed with books that are clearly old. The Zombie Survival Guide, with its shiny white plastic spine, stands out starkly against the faded cloth maroons, blues, greens, and browns. The fact that his book there at all, instead of in a trash bin, is definitely surprising.
Derek trips halfway down the hallway and goes flying into the wall with a loud smack, and Stiles swears.
“This is what you get for not calling for backup,” he snipes, hauling Derek away from the wall and slinging one bloody arm over his shoulders. “Jesus, you weigh a ton. Are we going to the bathroom or your bedroom?”
Derek makes a face. “Bedroom.”
“Unless you want to take a shower with me?”
Aaaaand now Stiles is picturing just that. God dammit.
“But—” He flounders, desperate to get that out of his head at any cost. “But—your sheets!”
Derek is apparently recovered enough to roll his eyes at Stiles. “I can buy new sheets, idiot.”
“Or, you know. Wash them. You unenvironmental, consumerist heathen.”
Derek just grunts.
Stiles elbows Derek’s bedroom door open, and finds it to be equally barren. There’s a bed—not the California king that had been in the loft, just a full sized bed with only one stack of pillows, which makes Stiles’ heart feel funny even though this is not at all the time or place—and a mismatched dresser and nightstand that have both seen better days. Taped to the wall just above the nightstand is a photo of Derek and Cora, both in sunglasses, sharing some alcoholic drink the size of a fishbowl. They’re both grinning so widely they have dimples.
Stiles didn’t know Derek had dimples.
The bed is unmade so Stiles just dumps Derek onto it. Derek manages to fall mostly in line with the pillows, and only has to shift himself over a little bit to get comfortable. As comfortable as anyone can be after nearly being cut in half, anyway.
Stiles starts undoing the laces of Derek’s boots. “Your feet had better not stink.”
“Don’t you have lacrosse practice?” Derek huffs, and toes off the boot that Stiles has finished loosening.
“Nah,” Stiles replies. “Missed the beginning. If I turned up now, I’d just be running suicides until the start of school. I was gonna crash on your couch and take a nap, then bike to school.” He looks down at himself, then belatedly adds, “And, uh, maybe borrow some of your clothes. I kind of look like an extra in a horror movie.”
Derek snorts. “Sure. Good luck finding something that fits your skinny ass.”
“Good thing baggy is my style,” Stiles retorts.
“Mm,” says Derek, smirking, and yeah, Stiles lost that one. Whatever.
He roots around Derek’s Goodwill dresser—the middle drawer sticks so badly that when Stiles manages to get it open, he nearly gets knocked to his ass, which makes Derek snicker—until he finds what he knows to be the tightest outfit Derek owns.
And no, he is not going to explain to anyone why he knows exactly which pair of jeans and which black t-shirt to seek out from Derek’s wardrobe. That’s between him, himself, and… him.
(And maybe sometimes his right hand.)
Scott keeps giving him weird looks in economics. Eventually, when Finstock has stalked over to the other side of the room to yell at Greenberg, Stiles kicks Scott’s sneaker.
“What?” he hisses.
“What?” Scott hisses back.
“You. With the faces.”
Scott gives him his biggest, saddest puppy dog eyes.
Stiles kicks his sneaker again. “You know what face, jackass. Is this about lacrosse this morning?”
Scott’s face scrunches up. “Sort of? But also, dude, you kind of smell like Derek.”
Stiles’ mouth opens, but no words come out.
“Like, a lot,” Scott adds.
“Yeah,” Stiles says.
“Are those his clo—”
“McCall! Stilinski!” Finstock barks. “Thank you for volunteering. Up to the board, right now, it’s time to find us some elasticities.”
They exchange oh shit glances with each other, and scramble for a board when Finstock tacks on an irritated, “ Now!”
Stiles means to talk to Scott after class, but Finstock holds him after class to ask him about missing lacrosse this morning.
Finstock doesn’t scream, which is weird. Instead he gets weirdly serious, and says, “Stilinski. I’m gonna be honest, kid—you aren’t looking too hot these days. I know you’re keeping your grades up, but you just keep showing up to school looking more and more tired. You couldn’t even get a goal past Greenberg Monday morning.”
Stiles shrugs and picks at a thread on his backpack strap. It’s true.
“Whatever you’ve got going on, you’ve got to sort it out. We need you on the team. So, you know, if you gotta haul your ass down to the guidance counselor, or find a support group, or hell, do some of that hippie-dippie meditation crap—just do it and get better.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, planning to do exactly none of that.
“You can’t miss practice,” Finstock says, like Stiles doesn’t know that already. “I can keep you on if you’re too tired to know which end of the stick to hold, or if your grades start to slip, but you can’t miss practice.”
“Okay. Well. Don’t let it happen again,” Finstock tells him.
Finstock nods back, like they’ve made real progress here, and lets Stiles go to his next class.
Are you dead? Stiles texts Derek, during lunch.
Not dead sux 4 u, Derek replies, the asshole.
\\/\\/4`/ 70 937 /\\/\\`/ |-|0|D35 (_)|D, Stiles replies.
“Doesn’t your father know you’re not supposed to be texting in school?” Lydia drawls.
Stiles looks up. “Huh?”
“Your father,” Lydia repeats. “Or are you texting your mysterious fast-food girlfriend?”
“Um.” Stiles looks around, but all the people that he could feasibly be texting are at this table except for Allison, who’s eating lunch outside with Isaac. “It’s just Derek. He was just letting me know about—something. Nothing important.”
“You were smiling,” Lydia says.
Stiles blanches. “It was a facial tic.”
Stiles needs to find new, less perceptive friends.
During biology, Stiles gets a text from Derek.
Whatever. He’d probably cheated and found a 1337 translator on the internet.
The next day, Stiles has Scott stop by Derek’s apartment on the way to school. He has a brown paper bag with Derek’s clothes in it, as well as a jar of meat tenderizer, and instructions for how to use it to remove blood from fabric, printed out from WikiHow (with pictures). On the outside of the bag he’d written NOT A BOMB.
“Dude,” Scott says, when Stiles gets back out, “what’s going on with you and Derek?”
“Nothing,” Stiles replies, and it’s true. Mostly. “C’mon, we’re gonna be late for practice.”
Scott gives him a weird look, but hands Stiles his helmet and lets it drop.
Definitely new friends.
Stiles doesn’t miss lacrosse practice again that week, and somehow, he isn’t given makeup laps for Monday’s absence. He’s pretty sure that it’s because Finstock is genuinely worried that the extra mileage might do him in, especially when Stiles shows up for Tuesday morning conditioning and spends a solid two minutes trying to fit his right hand into his left glove.
He spends the entirety of Wednesday evening researching “imagery rehearsal therapy”, which is supposed to be a miracle cure for nightmares. The idea is that you take a nightmare you’ve had, reimagine it so that it’s happier or whatever, and then try to hang on to the image of the reimagined nightmare throughout the day. He’s skeptical about the efficacy on supernatural nightmares, but he figures it can’t hurt to try.
Next on the list is lucid dreaming.
Then polyphasic sleep.
And if those don’t work, Stiles is pretty sure his only other options are drugs, or living like this indefinitely—neither of which sound appealing.
He knows that Scott and Allison aren’t having these problems. It’s just him. And it’s weird because Stiles had thought that of the three of them, he’d had the strongest connection with his anchor. He’d been in love with Lydia for years. Allison had only started her thing with Isaac weeks ago, at the time, and Scott had only been working for Deaton for a year. When they’d went under, Stiles hadn’t been afraid that Lydia wouldn’t pull him back—he’d been afraid that he would be the only one to survive.
Part of him wishes that they were having these nightmares, too. He’s a horrible person like that.
He wonders, once or twice, if Derek would have any advice. Granted, Derek probably shouldn’t advise on any matter more complicated than “How do you make a PB&J sandwich?”, but Stiles can’t imagine that Derek hasn’t been plagued with nightmares, given the… everything… of his life. He must have some way of dealing with them, after a decade.
The problem is that Derek has a real apartment now. And a soccer mom car. And dimples.
So, no, Stiles is not going to bring up Derek’s shitty past just when he seems like he’s finally moving on.
Plus, Derek’s coping method for nightmares probably involved horrible self-flagellation and the capitalization of werewolf healing powers. Stiles will stick to methods that are science-tested and human-approved, thank you very much.
On Friday morning, Stiles finds his own clothes waiting for him inside his bike helmet, in the garage. It takes him a moment before he realizes that these are the bloody clothes that he’d left at Derek’s on Monday, and a closer examination reveals that the bloodstains are gone.
It takes him even longer to realize that his cheeks hurt because he’s smiling so wide. He can’t help it. Derek actually used the meat tenderizer, and the thought makes his heart swell like a balloon.
Then he goes to pick up the helmet by its sad broken strap, ready to go outside to wait for Scott, when he realizes that’s not his helmet.
This helmet is new. It’s nice. It has a working strap, and lots of plush padding on the inside, and even a visor for his face.
Bright, sharp irritation lances through his happiness and Stiles whips his phone out, scowling.
Are you fucking kidding me?!? The tenderizer was like $5, WTF??
He thinks about leaving the helmet and forcing Derek to take it back later, but his old one isn’t anywhere in sight, and knowing Derek, it’s probably already on its way to a landfill, in pieces. The asshat. So he storms out of the garage, leaving his clothes because he can’t even deal with those right now—Derek cleaned his clothes and bought him a new helmet, seriously, he can’t—and stands in front of the house.
A minute later, when Derek hasn’t responded, and Scott still hasn’t shown up, Stiles starts texting again.
That wasn’t even a gift, dickface
Seriously I just threw it in the cart at the grocery store. And paid with dad’s card. It was just some POWDER
This is so unnecessary I can’t even
He’s pacing the driveway by the time Derek texts back with, Protective headgear on the road is always necessary, Stiles. Helmets reduce accident fatalities by 40%
Stiles flails in the driveway, nearly sends his phone flying across the yard, and fires back with, THAT’S IT. PREPARE FOR WAR, ASSHOLE.
“Dude! Nice helmet!” Scott says, when he finally deigns to show up.
“Do not,” Stiles hisses, poking a vengeful finger in his direction.
Scott blinks. “Uh. Okay. Awful helmet.”
“Yes,” Stiles agrees, jamming it onto his head with a scowl. “Yes, it is.”
That night, he takes Dad’s car to Target and spends most of his meager savings stocking up on gifts, and also a ludicrous amount of time selecting a wrapping paper that is just the right shade of electric blue. Scott and Isaac are having a Mario Kart night, and Stiles was invited, but video games are yet another area where werewolf powers give them an up, and Stiles isn’t in the mood to have his ass kicked all night to the tune of Isaac’s snide comments and mouth breathing. Plus, Stiles has a war to start. He can build character later.
On Saturday, he gives Derek the absolute tackiest picture frame that could be found, with things like SISTER, BROTHER, LOVE, FAMILY, and FRIENDS FOREVER carved into it. Also, hearts. Attached to the wrapping paper is a note that reads, this is what a gift looks like dumbass
On Sunday, he gives Derek a tub of hot cocoa mix, a bag of marshmallows, and a recipe card with instructions for Snowman Soup & Snowman Poop, complete with a drawing of a half-melted snowman. The note for this one reads: WINTER IS COMING.
On Monday, he gives Derek tea, honey, and sugar cubes and a note that reads, in case werewolves can’t have chocolate, though dogs actually react to the theobromine in chocolate, which is also in tea and sodas, just in lesser amounts, so don’t kill yourself with the tea either
On Tuesday, the station has a Thanksgiving potluck, which means that Deputy Manning brings out his mammoth deep fryer and deep fries five turkeys, much to Dad’s excitement and Stiles’ horror. He almost has a heart attack himself when this year, Dad tries to bring home a container of leftover turkey.
“Absolutely not,” Stiles declares, making a grab for it, but Dad is too quick. “This is not the deal, Dad. You don’t get leftovers!”
“No one else wanted them,” Dad says, dancing away.
"A likely story,” Stiles snipes, feinting left and then diving right—but Dad outmaneuvers him again, and he swears under his breath.
“Should have played basketball like your old man,” Dad says, smirking even though he’s panting a little. “Told you not to go out for lacrosse.”
“Yeah, give me a big stick, and we’ll see who ends up with the turkey,” Stiles retorts.
Dad laughs, and then somehow manages to fake Stiles out, despite the fact that Stiles is twenty-five years younger and just tried that. But Stiles flies after him and catches up easily, snatching the container out of Dad’s hand with a yell of triumph and sprinting the rest of the way to the car.
“This is not going in the house,” Stiles declares, when his winded father finally catches up. “Do you know how unhealthy this is? One bite of this is like a week of non-meat protein for you.”
“Stiles…” Dad groans.
“Tofu,” Stiles says threateningly. “Quinoa. Chickpeas. Lentils.”
“All right, all right,” Dad says, holding up his hands in surrender. “Fine. Give it to Scott and Melissa. You win.”
Stiles punches the air in victory.
“My tastebuds hate you,” Dad sighs.
“Your arteries love me,” Stiles replies, and then beats Dad to the driver’s side of the car.
He drops Dad off at home, claims he’s going over the McCall’s to drop off the turkey leftovers, and then heads to Derek’s place instead. Derek was supposed to get winter window clings today, with snowflakes and snowmen and adorable little squirrels in fuzzy hats, but Stiles thinks he’ll appreciate the turkey more. He wonders if Derek has Thanksgiving plans. Dad is working most of the day, so Stiles will just mooch off the McCalls and then bring home leftovers for family fun night.
The lights in Derek’s apartment are on, which is good news, because Stiles needs to
steal borrow something from Derek’s apartment in order to set up another one of his presents. He’s been waiting for Derek to be home all week.
What does Derek even do? Where does he go?
Stiles imagines Derek lurking on the highest rooftop in Beacon Hills—the Red Roof Inn off the highway—and broodily staring out at the city. Shirtless. In skin-tight jeans. Hair too heavily gelled to whip in the wind.
His snickering stops, though, when he sees that Derek’s door is open.
Derek never leaves his door open. Ever.
Stiles fumbles for his phone and approaches the door cautiously, ears pricked for noise, but he can’t hear anything. That’s good, he thinks. Werewolf fights are loud.
He sets the container of turkey down in the hallway as quietly as he can, and tries not to think about the fact that if there are evil supernatural creatures in there, they definitely already know that he’s out here in the hall. Stiles pulls out his phone and taps out a text to Scott, 911 at Derek’s apt, with shaking fingers and hovers his thumb over the send button as he knocks on the door.
“Derek?” he calls, hoping that if something’s wrong, Derek will yell out something helpful like, “Run away, Stiles, a vampire is eating me!”
But there’s no answer.
Stiles cautiously pushes open the door, every muscle prepared to run, wildly thinking that he should really ask Dad for some police academy training in how to safely clear a building—but there’s nothing in there.
The living room and kitchen are clear, and undisturbed—although there’s so little there in the first place that ‘undisturbed’ doesn’t really mean much. The lights are on, and Derek’s keys are on the counter. His boots are by the door. There are dishes in the sink, and a sage green henley slung over the back of the couch.
“Derek?” Stiles calls again, moving toward the hallway, still ready to press SEND and flee at a second’s notice. He is going to kill Derek if he gets brutally murdered because of this damn turkey. And his dad, for trying to take it home. And Deputy Manning, for owning such an unnecessarily huge deep fryer in the first place.
The bathroom and bedroom are also empty and undisturbed.
What if Derek’s been kidnapped? What if he’s dead?
“No,” Stiles says out loud, and then flinches and glances at Derek’s closet—which he hadn’t had the balls to open—but nothing jumps out.
He swallows, and heads back for the living room.
Derek isn’t dead. He doesn’t die. He gets brutally tortured, maimed to the brink of death, and then somehow always appears hale and hearty a few days later, like nothing ever happened (haha, get it, hale and hearty, oh god Derek’s probably dead—)
The door opens and Stiles snatches the first book within reach, opens his mouth to scream, pushes down on SEND—
Shirtless, a gallon of Tide in one arm and Stiles’ turkey in the other, and staring at Stiles first in bewilderment, then alarm.
“Stiles! Put that book down,” he orders.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Stiles demands, not putting the book down at all, because it’s a fucking book and Derek is not dead, take a guess which one Stiles is more concerned with right now. “You left your door open! And your lights were on and your keys were here and I thought you’d been kidnapped, you asshole!”
“I was doing laundry,” Derek snaps, crossing the room.
“Laundry? And, what, you just left your door wide open? Anyone could have gotten in! What the hell is wrong with you, you never leave your door open! I thought we had hunters, or another Alpha pack, or fucking vampires eating your face off—fuck, I texted Scott, fuck, fuck, fuck…”
He scrambles to text Scott that it’s a false alarm, never mind, don’t show up, but halfway through Derek snatches the book out of his hand.
“Don’t touch the books,” Derek grits out, placing it back on the shelf. “Those are expensive, and they belong to my clients, who will not be happy if a three hundred-year-old spine breaks because some idiot teenager threw it at my head.”
"I thought you were vampires! ” Stiles says, flailing in indignation, then pausing when the rest of the sentence sinks in. “Wait, clients? You have a job?”
“Yes,” Derek says stiffly.
“Holy shit,” Stiles breathes. “No, wait, wait, I have to text Scott and tell him not to come flying to the rescue, then you can tell me all about it.”
Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. “I’m going to tell you all about it?”
“Duh,” Stiles says, finishing the text. He follows it up with, Seriously this is Stiles, not an evil person , and after some thought, In first grade I peed on your sandcastle because you were sad the moat had no water.
A moment later Scott replies with, You peed on it because you were a little asshole. Are you sure you’re okay?
All good, Stiles responds, and refocuses on Derek.
“Okay,” he says. “You have a job?”
“You brought me this,” Derek answers, shoving the turkey container at Stiles.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, not taking it. “Leftover deep-fried turkey that my dad is not allowed to have, because of stupid human things like high cholesterol and clogged arteries. And while we’re off topic, do you always do your laundry shirtless? Do you get a discount?”
“Yes,” Derek deadpans. “The coin machines see me and go ‘Oh, baby, you wash for free.’”
“Do they make a pun about your washboard abs?” Stiles asks, waggling his eyebrows.
Derek sighs and turns toward the kitchen.
“I’m a font of comedic genius!” Stiles calls after him.
Derek doesn’t reply.
When he looks down, Scott has texted him back with, Dude, why are you at Derek’s place anyway?
Stiles locks the phone and slips it into his pocket, then bounds after Derek. “Hey! You didn’t tell me about your job! What do you do with old books?”
“Why do you care?” Derek asks, long-suffering.
He’s bent over as he stores the turkey in the fridge, and Stiles has no problem helping himself to the view.
“Because you work with old books and shit, it’s got to be a cool job, whatever it—hey, you used my hot chocolate!” Stiles says happily, distracted by the supplies on the counter.
Derek looks at the hot chocolate and marshmallows like they’ve betrayed him, and if Stiles didn’t know better, he’d say that Derek’s ears were turning pink. “Yeah,” Derek says, turning to glare at Stiles. “Did you think I was going to throw it away or something?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know. No. Did you like it?”
“It’s the best,” Stiles agrees. He hesitates, and then adds, “It’s my mom’s recipe.”
Derek looks surprised for a moment, but then he raises and eyebrow and asks, “And I guess you named it?”
Stiles laughs. “You’d think—but no, my mom named it, too. Hey, wait, we’re off topic again! Your job, dude!”
“It’s not that interesting,” Derek sighs.
“I bet it is,” Stiles says.
“I’m a rare books dealer,” Derek says. “I find buyers for books I have, and I find books for buyers. That’s it.”
“That is cool!” Stiles insists. “Oh my god, did you ever get one of those books bound in human skin? Did you have to sniff it to tell if it was real?”
"…No,” says Derek.
“Does human skin leather have a distinct scent, or does it just smell like cow leather?” Stiles asks.
“How would I know?” Derek asks.
Stiles shrugs. “You’re the one always wearing leather, dude. Just extrapolate.”
Derek gives him a flat look that does not bode well for extrapolation. Whatever. Stiles will just Google it.
“So, do you have a degree in library science or something?” Stiles asks, and wanders back into the living room to get a second look at Derek’s bookcase now that he knows it’s for work. Although— “Hey, if these are all for your clients, then why is the zombie guide here too?”
“Where else was I going to put it?” Derek asks. “And yes, my master’s is in library science. My undergrad was in linguistics. I mostly work with European literature.”
Stiles groans. “Seriously? Why does everyone around me speak like twelve languages? Did my parents get left out of some town-wide donation of Muzzy tapes?”
“I’m only fluent in Spanish,” Derek says, and when Stiles glances back to give him a skeptical look, his arms are folded over his chest. “Really. I know only enough from each Western language that I can recognize the books I need to.”
“So, like, Polish?” Stiles asks.
“What about it?”
“Hello? It’s the language of my people,” Stiles says obviously.
“I thought the language of your people was 1337,” Derek replies.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “My people have many languages. We’re culturally diverse like that. Are you avoiding the question because your Polish sucks?”
“Nie jestem,” Derek replies, a bit grumpily, and Stiles grins.
"Sweet. One day, if you’re really good, I’ll show you my real name, and we’ll really see how good you are at your pronunciations,” he promises.
“Shouldn’t you be home by now?” Derek asks, unimpressed. “In bed, ready for school tomorrow?”
“Okay, dude, you no longer literally live under a rock, so you have no excuse for not knowing that it’s Thanksgiving on Thursday.”
"I didn't forget about Thanksgiving, Stiles," Derek snaps, glaring.
"Sure thing, big guy. Hey, do you have plans? Like with Cora or something?"
Derek's entire face shuts down at the mention of Cora, and Stiles' gut twists with regret.
"I mean," he says hastily, "Dad and I are just gonna play board games after he gets off from work that night, and probably eat whatever leftovers Scott’s mom sends us. If you wanted to come. We don't play anything too weird, just the like Monopoly and Clue and stuff."
"I'll think about it," Derek says, looking like he'd sooner play Monopoly with the Argents.
"Seriously," Stiles presses. "It'll be really low-key. And my dad likes you, I think. Just make sure you come in through the front door this time."
"We'll see," Derek says, and his face looks less like a block of granite, so Stiles is hopeful.
Derek breaks their stare first, abruptly turning and heading down the hall, leaving Stiles with a clear invitation to see himself out. And he's about to. Really. It's just that he has to do some quick snooping.
He moves as quietly as he can, craning his head and examining the surfaces of the apartment.
Not on the couch, not on the window sill, not on the counter...
Stiles creeps over and starts moving through the stack, discarding a credit card offer, a "To Our Neighbor At" card from Verizon, another credit card offer, a letter from Beacon Memorial Hospital, that's weird, why would Derek—
"Stiles!" Derek calls, making Stiles jump about six feet in the air. "Why are you still here?"
"Going! Going, going, going now!" Stiles yells, and gathers the remaining stack of mail up before scrambling for the door.
He'll bring it back when he's done. Judging by the size of the mail stack, it's clear that Derek doesn't go through his mail that often anyway.
On Wednesday, Stile gives Derek a sweater. And not just any sweater. The softest, warmest sweater Stiles could find for a reasonable price that also came in a neutral tone, because as fun as it would be to get Derek a lurid teal sweater, Derek would never wear something like that and the whole point of this is to show the dumbass what actual gifts are. Stiles is at war here.
Thanksgiving at the McCall house is always early, because the nursing shifts switch at four and Melissa always works the evening shift (she says she prefers to get the casualties of family feuds, rather than the casualties of kitchen idiocies). Stiles usually turns up early to help, but this Thanksgiving he’s at the door by seven o’clock because it turns out that having more time to sleep just means having more time to have nightmares. So much for his imagery rehearsal therapy.
Melissa looks at him suspiciously when he appears in the kitchen, pausing in the middle of basting the turkey. “Stiles? Are you sleepwalking again?”
“No. I haven’t done that in years,” Stiles protests.
“You know it’s seven in the morning, right?”
Stiles nods. “Yep. And I am here and reporting for duty. What can I do to help?”
The suspicious look doesn’t go anywhere, which Stiles finds offensive—he is a model of helpfulness, okay, and there’s nothing wrong with being up early—but she eventually waves a hand at a half-chopped pile of sweet potatoes.
“Well,” Isaac says, when he and Scott finally stumble downstairs a few hours later to find Stiles and Melissa busily skinning potatoes, “I guess the early kissass gets the worm.”
Stiles flips him off.
“Isaac,” Melissa reprimands, then notices Stiles’ finger. “Stiles!”
“He started it!” Stiles says immediately.
“Dudes, come on, it’s Thanksgiving,” Scott pleads, giving both of them huge, sad eyes. “Aren’t we supposed to be nice to each other?”
“Actually, I think we’re supposed to pat ourselves on the back for being gigantic douchebags,” Stiles says snippily. “It’s like they made a holiday just for you, Isaac.”
Melissa slaps him on the arm.
“Play nice, both of you, or no sweet potato casserole,” she says.
“I made the sweet potato casserole!” Stiles whines. But Scott is giving his those eyes, and dammit, Stiles hates him so much.
The truce between him and Isaac only lasts for so long, though.
It’s t-minus forty-seven minutes until eating time, and thirty minutes since Melissa kicked them all out of the kitchen, when Stiles mentions that Derek might come over later that evening for family fun night. What he really wants to know is why Isaac couldn’t have spent Thanksgiving with the Argents, leaving him, Scott, and Melissa to their traditional meal together, but he can’t bring himself to hurt Scott like that be bringing it up. So, Derek it is.
Scott takes both eyes off the Macy’s Day Parade to give Stiles a perfect copy of his mother’s suspicious expression. “Did you… warn him?”
“Warn him about what?” Stiles asks innocently.
“Uh, that you and your dad play board games like crazy people?”
“First of all,” Stiles says, jabbing a finger at Scott, “Dad and I just have an advanced appreciation for strategy. Second of all, it’s not like we’re going to play poker and steal his money. And third, he didn’t exactly have any other options for today.”
And now Scott’s got the eyes again. “He didn’t?” he asks, horrified. “But what about Cora? Or… Or…”
“Peter?” Stiles suggests dryly.
“Oh, man. I should have invited him over,” Scott says guiltily. “Do you think it’s too late to ask him to come?”
“Definitely,” Isaac cuts in sourly. “He’s not the local charity case, you know.”
“But he’s our—” Scott flounders.
“Friend?” Isaac sneers.
“He’s… not a bad guy,” Scott tries.
“He can go fuck himself,” Isaac says flatly.
“You could be a little more grateful, you know,” Stiles says, glaring at Isaac, feeling suddenly and unaccountably pissed. “It’s not like he’s saved our lives a dozen times or anything.”
Isaac snorts. “Oh, look at Stiles, coming to Derek’s defense. Two months ago, you hated him. Remember? Or did you forget all about that when you became his latest piece of ass?”
“Isaac,” Scott says sharply.
“You think Derek and I are having sex?” Stiles says—laughs, and he doesn’t know why it comes out an octave too high. “That’s crazy, that’s not even—what the hell?”
“Don’t even try to deny it, Stilinski. It was like a week after Jennifer Blake fell off his dick that you hopped on and you ha—”
“Guys!” Scott yells, eyes flashing red. “Cut it out! It’s Thanksgiving. C’mon. Just—Isaac, let’s go for a walk outside, okay? Stiles, can you go help Mom in the kitchen?”
"Sure,” Stiles bites out, furiously pushing himself off the couch. “Go take your puppy for a walk. Don’t forget the leash. Or is that what the scarves are for?”
Isaac snarls, and Scott forcibly drags him toward the backdoor.
Douchebag, scarf-wearing, best-friend-stealers.
The meal itself goes over without a hitch, if a little subdued, mostly because both Melissa and Scott seem ready to shank the first person to say anything out of line. Afterwards, Stiles unloads Tupperware from his backpack and fills up on everything but the sausage stuffing and the green bean casserole, because what Dad doesn’t know won’t hurt him or his arteries. Then he begs off of dishes, since he helped with the cooking, and heads home on his bike.
Stiles makes healthy green beans for his dad, instead, and does his homework, and goes for a run, and cleans the house, and is generally very busy not thinking about whether or not Derek will turn up tonight, or the fact that apparently Isaac (and Scott?) think that they’re having sex.
Why did Scott send me a text warning me not to come tonight? Derek texts him, mid-afternoon, and unwittingly sending Stiles into a panic.
Scott if you talk Derek out of coming over tonight I will tell him you had wet dreams about his baby sister.
OMG BRO CODE DUDE!!!
I CAN’T HELP IT I LIKE STRONG WOMEN
Now Scott says he was lying and I should absolutely show up tonight. What’s going on?
NOTHING. Scott is a butthead. Come over.
Three nail-biting hours later, Derek does come over. In the sweater.
Stiles is winning.
He’s so pleased with himself he gives Derek a hug. “Oh my God, you’re so soft.”
Okay, the sweater is soft. Derek’s body is basically heated granite.
“Sorry,” Stiles apologizes, pulling back with a wide grin, because, victory. “I couldn’t resist. Come on in, we just heated up the leftovers. You came hungry, right? Dad! Paws off the mashed potatoes, hungry werewolf incoming!”
“Your dad doesn’t get a free day on Thanksgiving?” Derek asks, as he stands in the entryway looking phenomenally awkward.
“He gets one,” Stiles says, and pulls Derek inside the house. “I just try to minimize the damage. Come on, I’ll negotiate a better handicap for you later on if you give Dad your Little Orphan Annie eyes and get him to hand over the last of the pecan pie.”
“It’s a hard knock life,” Derek says dryly, and follows Stiles into the dining room.
“Hello, Derek,” Dad says, when they enter.
“Sheriff,” Derek replies.
It does not escape Stiles’ attention that his father’s plate looks like it’s increased its portions of things like sweet potatoes and gravy, while Stiles’ plate only appears to have gained green beans.
“Gee, Pops, you look like you could definitely spare some food for Derek,” Stiles says, not at all pointedly.
“I really don’t need—” Derek starts, but Stiles shushes him and goes to get him a plate.
“You will eat,” Stiles insists, because Derek is here, in the fuzzy sweater, and now he will have delicious food and board games and Stiles will hear no complaints.
“So, Derek,” Dad says, as Stiles thunks a plate down in front of Derek and starts transferring food, beginning with his father’s unnecessarily huge mound of mashed potatoes. “You like board games?”
Derek loses horribly despite the generous handicap Stiles negotiates for him, but it was Settlers of Catan, so he did get to play until the end. Plus, his loss was for a good cause—that is to say, taking down Stiles’ father. Stiles sends him home with all the remaining leftovers and a bright promise to play Clue next time. Derek goes out the front door looking no less awkward and confused than he had when he’d first come in.
Dad is by the stairs, waiting.
“So,” he says.
“Yes?” Stiles asks, guilelessly.
“Derek Hale,” Dad says.
“Yeeeees?” Stiles asks.
“I texted you! You had prior warning!” Stiles says, less than ten seconds into the silence. Damn his father for being a trained interrogator. “And he had nowhere else to go. He was going to be all alone, all day, and—”
“—you, being the kind, generous, thoughtful human being that you are, decided to open our home to him?” Dad asks dryly.
Stiles glares. “I’m very thoughtful.”
Dad rolls his eyes. “Stiles, I love you, but I also know you. You are kind, generous, and thoughtful with exactly two people in this world.”
That is… okay, that’s true.
“Look, Derek and I are just having a bit of a fight—an argument ,” Stiles corrects hastily, when his father’s eyebrows shoot up. “That’s all. There’s nothing weird going on, or whatever you’re thinking. He probably won’t be over for Christmas dinner or anything.”
“Okay,” Dad says slowly. “But he’s coming over again to play Clue?”
“Hopefully,” Stiles replies. “We never get to play Clue.”
Dad doesn’t exactly look convinced, but all he says is, “Just so he knows that I’m always Colonel Mustard.”
“Derek doesn’t like bright colors, anyway,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “He’d pick black, if it were an option. Maybe he’ll be Professor Plum? Or Miss Scarlet, though maybe not, considering the whole Alpha thing.”
Now that Stiles thinks about it, Mrs. Peacock’s token is sort of the exact color of Derek’s eyes, but Stiles is always Mrs. Peacock, so Derek will just have to get over that. Stiles has had a crush on Mrs. Peacock’s hat since he was seven and played his very first game of Clue with everything carefully balanced on his mother’s hospital bed.
His mom was always Mrs. White. Somehow, Stiles can’t see Derek going for her.
"Stiles!” Dad calls from the kitchen, and Stiles starts, not having realized that he’d zoned out for so long. “Where the hell is the rest of the pecan pie?”
“Beats me!” Stiles lies, and figures this is an excellent time to go hide in the shower.
On Friday, Derek gets a paper-clipped set of parking tickets, pre-filled out. Stiles may or may not have a stash of his own, because it’s perfectly legal and also super helpful. The note attached to these reads, since you usually end up parked illegally in the name of vanquishing evil.
Saturday morning, Stiles goes to the deep freeze in the garage, because it’s where he hides the bacon and he’s home alone until four today. There are many things he has genuinely learned to like, after years of pretending in order to make his father more cooperative, but turkey bacon has never been and will never be one of them.
Plus, he’s baking it. Everyone knows baked things are healthier than pan-fried things.
But then he opens the lid of the deep freeze, leans back to avoid the clouds of freezing white that billow out of it, and then nearly drops the lid when he sees the giant slabs of meat lying there right on top. Seriously. They’re huge, and red, and plastic-wrapped, and for a moment Stiles is already starting to prepare the lecture to end all lectures for his father, but then he catches sight of the clean, empty Tupperware stacked neatly and tucked into one corner of the deep freeze.
Stiles lets the lid slam shut and whips out his phone.
“Please tell me I do not have Bambi in my deep freeze,” he orders, when Derek picks up.
“You don’t have Bambi in your deep freeze,” Derek repeats, irritated. “It’s bison.”
“You killed a baby buffalo?” Stiles shrieks.
“Bison are adult buffalo, Stiles,” Derek says, like Stiles is stupid.
“No,” Stiles insists, “no, because the joke. What does the mother buffalo say when her kid goes to school—it’s bi-son. Sweet, innocent little baby buffalo! That you slaughtered!”
“No, I didn’t—buffalo and bison are interchangeable, Stiles. Look it up,” Derek snaps. “And I didn’t slaughter it. Where the hell would I get a buffalo?”
“I don’t know, where did you get it?” Stiles fires back.
“There’s a market up in Redding that does grass-fed bison,” Derek says obviously, and Stiles can just see him rolling his eyes. “I drove there, and bought it, and gave it to you. Did you miss the label?”
“Uh,” says Stiles, and pulls the lid of the deep freeze open again. “Oh. Yeah. There are labels there, yes.”
Heritage Bison Farms is printed in large, cheerful bubble letters on each of the meat packages, right above the nutritional information.
“Bison is—it’s supposed to be healthier,” Derek says, but hesitant now. “Good for cholesterol.”
“You got me expensive, healthy red meat. That my dad can eat,” Stiles says slowly.
“You got me a tea,” Derek replies resentfully.
“Yes, and the point of the tea was that it was a gift, you utter dipshit. A present. You don’t owe me anything for it. Oh my God, it’s not that difficult of a concept! Stop trying to get even!”
“The meat is non-returnable,” Derek says smugly.
“I will get you for this,” Stiles hisses. “You just wait, Derek Hale.”
And he hangs up the phone, feeling a brief nostalgia for the flip phone he had in middle school, which was much better for his dramatic exits. Then he heads back inside to start researching how the hell you cook buffalo. Bison. Whatever.
Stiles shows up at Derek’s apartment on Sunday afternoon, prepared.
Derek answers his door in grey striped pajama pants and a maroon sweater with thumbholes. He’s barefoot. Stiles’ brain short circuits a little.
“Stiles,” Derek says.
“Derek,” Stiles manages, and pushes his way into the apartment. He has things to refrigerate. No time for staring at gorgeous werewolves in comfy clothing.
“You look like shit,” Derek informs him.
“You look like you’ve got a few hours of free time today,” Stiles replies, with extra brightness, because maybe he is getting into the danger zone with his sleep deprivation, but that’s for later. This is for now.
Derek folds his arms over his chest, which makes the fabric pull tight because thumbholes.
Stiles sets his backpack on the kitchen counter, which thuds heavily. He opens the front zip and removes the first items on his agenda.
“This,” he announces, presenting the plastic card to Derek, “is your library card. It’s good for all the Beacon County libraries.”
Derek takes the card with a frown. “Don’t you need proof of res—”
“This is your gas bill,” Stiles adds, shoving the envelope in with the card in Derek’s hand.
“And a driver’s license?” Derek asks, eyebrow raised, now.
Stiles waves a hand. “I had a copy of that from last year. Plus, the head librarian was my mom’s bestie, so she’s got a soft spot for me. Which is why I also present you with coupons.” He adds a stack of bright pink slips to Derek’s hand. “They’re each good for two dollars off of library fines. They usually give them out during Library Appreciation Week, but there are always extras.”
Derek stares at him.
“This,” Stiles continues, sticking a post-it to the coupons, “is the username and password for mine and Scott’s Netflix. You’ve got your own profile set up—it’s the one with the Grumpy Cat icon. Just don’t be a douche and upgrade the account to get DVDs. We’ve only got the instant watch part. You… have a computer, right?”
“Of course I do,” Derek says, scowling.
Stiles raises an eyebrow.
Derek’s scowl deepens. “Cora made me get it.”
“There we go,” Stiles says, and goes back to his backpack. “And now—and this is where the free time comes in—we are going to make some delicious, heart-healthy bison chili together. I brought, like, everything we should probably need, because I have this theory that the only cooking supplies you own are the spoons I got you.”
“The bison was for your father,” Derek says, still scowling.
“And I’ll take some home,” Stiles promises. “Come on. You wanna do the veggies, or the meat? Chop chop!”
Derek just stands there as Stiles unloads the vegetables and piles them on the left side of the cutting board. The meat is at the bottom of the backpack, all the spices and cans on top, and he unloads those on the opposite counter. Eventually, Derek unsticks himself and moves into the kitchen, opening a drawer and pulling out his own cutting board.
Stiles grins, but doesn’t comment. Instead he removes the bulkiest item from his backpack—the pot—and places it on the powerburner of the stove. He likes powerburners. Ooo, hey, Derek’s stove has a simmer burner too. Sweet. They can use that later. This is gonna be delicious.
Stiles uses his knife—because it turns out Derek has his own knife as well as his own cutting board—to slice open the packaging of the meat.
“Whoa, dude, you recycle,” Stiles says, when he discovers not one but two trashcans in the cupboard below the sink.
“Yes,” Derek says stiffly.
“I mean, you know, that’s cool. So do I!” Stiles adds hastily. “Saving the environment and all. Yeah.”
Derek moves on to the cauliflower.
His brain goes into overdrive trying to find something to change the subject to, something that won’t piss Derek off, something that will make him happy, something—
“So where’s Cora?” Stiles blurts out.
He’s just about to open his mouth to take it back—and probably blurt out something even worse, because his mind is kind of a mess today—when Derek answers, “She’s in Argentina.”
“Wait, she speaks Spanish too?” Stiles asks incredulously.
“Yeah,” Derek says.
Stiles raises his eyebrows at the meat he’s cutting. “Was I right about the Muzzy tapes, then?”
“What the hell is Muzzy,” Derek says flatly.
“Language learning videos,” Stiles says, waving his hand in the air dismissively. “For kids. It’s a cartoon.”
Derek catches his wrist and forces his arm back down.
Right. That’s the hand with the knife.
“So, what? You’re both too young for Dora the Explorer,” Stiles reasons, going back to cutting the meat. He’s almost through. He should probably start heating the pot. The recipe said to put the burner on high, right?
He pulls out his phone.
“Peter’s wife was from Argentina,” Derek says, and Stiles almost misses it because he’s scowling at the stupid recipe website on his phone that’s taking forever and a day to load.
“Someon—oh,” Stiles says, just barely stopping himself from blurting out, Someone married that creep? “That’s, uh, that’s cool. They say that the best time to learn a language is when you’re, like, under the age of five. I used to speak some Polish when I was really little, you know, because my grandparents would call and it’d be cute that I could say witam, babcia, and kocham cię. But I just know the basic phrases.”
“Spierdalaj?” Derek asks, and Stiles laughs.
“Okay, yeah, I know the swear words too,” he admits.
“Is the meat in a resting phase?” Derek asks, cocking an eyebrow.
"Crap,” Stiles says, and turns the burner on high. “Sorry. My mind is like—” He mimes explodey hands around his head. “—today. Where are my spoons?”
“My spoons,” Derek corrects.
“Okay, yes, asshole, your spoons. Where are they?”
Derek points to a drawer. When Stiles opens it, the spoons are the only things in the drawer besides a cheese grater, which brings Derek’s known kitchen supplies up to six in number.
“So, is Cora with your aunt’s pack? Ex-pack? Or do you guys merge with marriage? How come Peter didn’t join her pack?”
“She’s with her pack, yes. It’s where she went after the fire,” Derek says. When Stiles looks over, he’s de-seeding the bell pepper with smooth strokes. “We don’t merge packs. And she—Aunt Addie moved to California to get her Ph.D., and didn’t want to leave. She never formally left her pack. The marriage was more of a… favor.”
“Whoa. Peter was okay with that?”
Derek snorts. “Peter did as he was told.”
“Are arranged marriages, like, common in werewolf… society?” Stiles asks, eyebrows sky-high.
“They’re not uncommon. It’s a good way to make an alliance.”
Stiles’ eyes practically bug out. “Are you kidding me? Dude, I am so glad you’re no longer Alpha, there is no way I would ever do that.”
And, oh, shit, there he goes again with his mouth.
“Sorry,” he adds, wincing. He focuses on stirring the meat in the pot.
“I wouldn’t have married you off, anyway,” Derek replies, sounding genuinely amused. Stiles looks over to make sure, and yep, he’s steadily dicing the pepper, a smirk on his lips. “You would have been shipped back to us in a week, alliance or no.”
“I will have you know that I am a gift to this world,” Stiles declares, leveling his wooden spoon at Derek.
“Truly,” Derek agrees dryly.
“I’m making you dinner, jackass. Where would you be without me? In-and-Out?”
Derek smiles with all his teeth. “I’d just hunt up some baby buffalo.”
“That’s not funny,” Stiles says. “Have you seen baby buffalos? They’re adorable. Like little fuzzy cows. Teddy bear cows.”
“Your meat’s burning,” Derek says.
“Shit! Ugh, no, it’s just stuck to the stupid pot.”
Stiles chisels at the chunks of meat until they come free, leaving little brown imprints on the pot, but whatever. They’ll soak off when the chili is simmering later.
“Stiles,” Derek sighs, “get out of the kitchen before you hurt yourself.”
Stiles looks up, offended. “What? Dude. I am the head chef right now. You are the sous chef. You can’t kick me out. There will be no sous coup.”
“I’m not kicking you out,” Derek says, rolling his eyes. “Just—go sit on the couch. Where’s the recipe?”
“No! This is part of you learning to accept gifts. You’re not getting out of this,” Stiles declares.
“Your gift to me can be not burning down my apartment,” Derek replies, and edges Stiles away from the stove.
“Fine,” Stiles huffs, and hands his phone over. “Recipe’s on there. All my other tabs are porn videos—you have been duly warned.”
Derek nearly drops the phone, and his head shoots up to give Stiles an ‘are you fucking kidding me’ look.
Stiles waggles his eyebrows.
Okay, so all his other tabs are meditation/relaxation websites that he’s been using to put himself to sleep, under the theory that if you fall asleep calm you stay calm throughout the night. No luck so far, but he kind of likes the website that guides you through breathing exercises while flying you through space.
"Like I needed to know that,” Derek snaps, dropping the phone on the counter, and it might be Stiles’ imagination but he thinks Derek’s ears are pink.
“Your meat’s burning,” Stiles says.
Derek growls in frustration and grabs the wooden spoon out of Stiles’ hand.
Stiles smirks and grabs his backpack off the counter, heading out of the kitchen. He has something else in his bag for Derek, and this is the perfect time to distribute it. He’s like Mary freakin’ Poppins today.
“So,” Stiles says, as he pulls out the set of cheery winter window clings. “What’s new in the book biz?”
“Nothing,” Derek replies.
“Okay. You… kill any Omegas lately?”
“Befriend any neighbors?”
“Receive any bombs?”
“Stiles, shut up.”
Stiles grins, and presses a snowflake to the window.
He’s got a pretty sweet design going on Derek’s window, and is debating whether he should extend it to Derek’s bedroom window or just embellish on what he already has out here, when Derek finally notices.
“Stiles, what the hell are you doing to my window?”
“It’s festive!” Stiles says, and when he glances back, Derek is scowling at the window and has his arms crossed over his chest.
Stiles decides against his plan to try for Derek’s bedroom window.
“Take them down,” Derek orders.
“You need more stupid, happy things in your life,” Stiles argues. “It’s good for you.”
Derek sighs and casts his eyes up to the ceiling. “It’s really, really not.”
“Go cook the chili, Derek,” Stiles says, pointing at the kitchen.
“Sit down and shut up, Stiles,” Derek shoots back.
“Hey, buddy, you’re the one that started this conversation,” Stiles says, raising his hands in innocence. “I was being completely silent until you were all, ‘Stiles, why are you putting pictures of squirrels in fuzzy hats on my window, I am a grinch and repulsed by such adorableness’ and then I—”
“Sit,” Derek repeats, and punctuates it with the wooden spoon, jabbing it at the couch. “Read your stupid zombie book. Don’t touch any of the other books.”
Stiles exhales, but drops the remaining sheet of window clings and goes over to the couch. He doesn’t grab the zombie book, mainly because the material hits a little too close to the content of some of his dreams and that is not conducive to his imagery rehearsal therapy. Instead he sprawls out, feet hanging off the arm of the couch, and stares up at the ceiling.
It feels like he only blinks, and the sun is almost set and Derek is setting a steaming bowl down on the floor next to his head. It smells delicious.
“Oh my god, your couch is way too comfortable,” Stiles complains, pulling himself upright. Shit, how long had he been asleep? With no nightmares, even.
“I’ll get right on that,” Derek promises from somewhere else in the apartment.
Stiles grabs his bowl from the floor. “What the hell, dude, this looks awesome. I mean, minus points for the lack of cornbread, sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits, but still. Have you been holding out on us this whole time with your secret mad cooking skills?”
“It’s chili, Stiles,” Derek says exasperatedly, emerging from the kitchen. He’s got his own bowl. “A trained monkey could make it. And I thought the point of the chili was that it was healthy?”
“Well, yeah, but not for me. My dad’s the one with heart problems.”
“You don’t think you’ll be in the same boat one day?” Derek asks.
Stiles shrugs. “Probably. But, you know, gotta take advantage of the metabolism while I’ve got it. Plus, let’s face it, as the token human in a pack of werewolves, my odds of surviving long enough to worry about my cholesterol are basically nil.”
Derek’s eyebrows lower severely at that, but he doesn’t reply.
“Sit,” Stiles instructs, patting the spot next to him. “Stop looming over there like a weirdo.”
Derek sighs, like this is his least favorite chore in the world. “You’re leaving after this, right? There’s not a singing telegram waiting for me outside my door or anything?”
“Dude ,” Stiles says, his mind immediately jumping to the handful of drama people in Beacon Hills High School who can actually sing and could be cheaply bribed into doing just that—and the most important questions, what song will they sing?
“I’m an idiot,” Derek sighs, sitting down on the couch heavily.
“You’re a genius,” Stiles says fervently.
Derek glares at him over his bowl of chili.
“Why are you sitting all the way over there?” Stiles asks, suddenly noticing that Derek is crammed against the opposite arm of the couch, instead of the spot that Stiles had so generously patted for him. He grins with all his teeth. “I don’t bite.”
Derek is unimpressed.
Stiles rolls his eyes and shifts a foot closer.
“Yes?” Stiles asks, innocently shifting even closer.
“There are broken springs,” Stiles lies shamelessly, moving closer still. “I think you’re sitting on the only good part of the couch.”
“Weren’t you just complaining that the couch was too comfortable?” Derek asks through gritted teeth.
“I’m cold,” Stiles says instead, just as he presses right up against Derek and settles in comfortably. “And you’re really warm, goddamn. That’s a werewolf thing, right?”
“Yes,” Derek says stiffly.
"Awesome,” Stiles declares. Then he takes a bite of his chili, and moans. “Ooooh my god, this is somehow even tastier than it looks. How did you do that?”
“Just shut up and eat,” Derek snaps, and when Stiles looks over, he’s—yes, that is in fact, Derek Hale, blushing.
“It’s okay, buddy,” Stiles says sympathetically, patting him on the thigh, which somehow makes Derek go even more rigid. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
Derek doesn’t relax an inch.
But gradually, as Stiles rambles on about the upcoming Twilight movie while they eat, the tension drains out of Derek’s body until he’s cautiously relaxed against Stiles, like a normal person. Stiles is pleased.
No one is willing to deliver a singing telegram for less than $50, and Stiles is close to broke after his Target run for Derek, so it looks like that’s not going to happen unless Stiles himself does it. Which. The point is to give Derek a present, not more nightmares. Anyway, when Stiles leaves Derek’s apartment on Sunday evening, he’s feeling good. Derek has a library card, coupons, Netflix, adorable window clings, and half a pot of delicious yet heart-healthy bison chili. He and Derek are basically friends, now. Stiles didn’t even really get him presents this time.
But no. Apparently none of this friendship, gift-giving stuff has sunk into Derek’s thick skull, when Stiles comes home on Wednesday to discover a brown paper bag waiting for him in his room.
“You’re got to be kidding me,” Stiles mutters, and throws his backpack on his bed before stalking over to the bag on his desk.
He’s going to throw it away. Whatever ridiculously expensive present Derek has gotten him now, Stiles is going to throw it out, because Derek needs to understand that Stiles isn’t doing him favors. He’s not indebted to Stiles. No one’s keeping a ledger.
Stiles grabs the bag and opens it, peering inside, and finds—
Despite himself, Stiles snorts.
A second look reveals that the rocks are actually stones, round and polished, and there seems to be some kind of rope in the bag with them. Curious, Stiles dumps it all out onto his desk to get a better look.
It’s a chain of stones, like a giant necklace. Each stone is about the size of a golf ball and has a hole bored into the middle, and the stones are tightly woven together with some sort of twine or hemp or something. Even with Stiles’ human nose, he can tell that the stone chain smells like earth and smoke. Some kind of incense. Stiles picks it up and strings it between his hands. It’s probably four feet long, and heavy.
It takes him a few moments to notice that there’s writing on the other side of the bag.
put it on the floor, at the end of your bed
That’s it. No explanation.
Stiles sighs, and opens up his computer to start researching.
Stop trying to repay me for my presents, asshole. It’s bad manners.
Then stop giving me presents.
Not gonna happen, jackass.
Stiles hits the snooze button on autopilot. He pulls the covers up, burying his face a little deeper into the crease between his pillow and the comforter, hating lacrosse more than anything else in the world. What a stupid sport. And it’s raining, and cold, and it’s December now so Finstock will really start stepping up practices in preparation for the coming season. Thursdays are cardio days, which mostly means distance running with bouts of sprinting thrown in because why not.
On the bright side—if there can be a bright side to being dragged out of bed at ass o’clock in the morning to go run through the freezing rain for a sport that no one outside of Beacon County and a few prep schools on the East Coast actually cares about—Stiles is actually feeling more rested than usual. That’s good. Yesterday, he’d fallen asleep on Scott’s back while they were riding to school, which had been mega embarrassing. Thank God he had that new helmet, because the old one would have fallen right—
Wait, wait, wait.
Stiles’ eyes fly open and immediately seek out the chain of adder stones lying on the floor at the foot of his bed.
“Motherfucker,” he swears, because now there’s no way he can throw it out.
Fucking Derek. Stiles will show him. He is going to end this.
“You’re awake,” Lydia observes, turning in her desk to follow his progress.
“Yes,” Stiles says guardedly, and forces himself not to look down at his fingers. He is awake. He knows this.
Lydia’s eyes narrow. “Why?”
“Uh. Adder stones. They’re these stones with holes in the center, they were popular during the Middle Ages—”
“I know what they are, Stiles,” Lydia says sharply.
Lydia’s expression softens. “I’m glad that they work. You look better.”
“Thanks?” Stiles says.
Lydia looks like she wants to say something else, but she doesn’t. She turns back around in her desk and opens her notebook, and doesn’t look at Stiles again for the rest of class.
Dude why is Derek on our netflix?
You put Isaac on there last month
Can I come over tonight? Just me, no Isaac or anything
Hey, you know that you weren’t the problem, right? As my anchor. You’re an awesome anchor.
If you weren’t, I would have died in that tub. You pulled me out.
You have the adder stones now. It’s fine.
YOU ARE THE BEST ANCHOR
YOU ARE THE BEST ANCHOR
YOU ARE THE BEST ANCHOR
I CAN DO THIS ALL DAY
REALLY I CAN
YOU ARE THE BEST ANCHOR
YOU ARE THE BEST ANCHOR
OKAY. Fine, I’m a good anchor. Stop texting me, it’s inappropriate for my phone to vibrate this much at the dinner table.
This has to be, Stiles has decided, the gift to end all gifts. The freaking adder stones actually worked. Or maybe it’s psychosomatic, but psychosomatic probably doesn’t work on supernatural psyche invasions. Whatever. The point is, he’s well rested, and he’s pissed that he’s well rested because Derek shouldn’t have gotten him anything in the first place, the asshole.
So. Now Stiles has a new plan. He is officially done with this small-gesture stuff. No, this time, he is going to knock Derek’s socks off. He is going to get him something so good, so mind-blowingly incredible, that there is no way Derek would ever be able to get even, short of paying for Stiles’ entire college education or something similarly insane.
(Did Stiles look into resurrection spells? Okay, yes, but only for like two minutes. He’s seen Pet Sematary. He knows better.)
Stiles will teach Derek to be socially functional if it kills him. He just needs to wait for Scott to say what he has to say—Stiles is almost certain that it’s going to be a lecture about getting along with Isaac, after last week’s Thanksgiving flop—so Stiles can get down to business and plot out the details.
“So,” Scott says, as he sits down on Stiles’ bed. He frowns. “Dude, come on, computer later. I wanna talk.”
Oh boy. This is definitely about Isaac.
Stiles sighs, but pulls himself out of his chair and slouches across the room. Scott’s sitting cross-legged on the bed, so Stiles sits opposite of him and mimics his pose.
Scott beams. He probably watched a bunch of Ted Talks about leadership before he came over. God, what a dork. Stiles has no idea why he loves him.
“Okay. Get it over with,” Stiles sighs, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling.
It takes Scott a few moments, but eventually he screws up his face and says, “You, uh… Remember how we talked about Isaac? And, like, sharing me?”
“I’ve been sharing!” Stiles says defensively.
“You’ve been a total dick to Isaac,” Scott says, unimpressed.
“Isaac’s been a dick to me,” Stiles points out.
“I know, I know. I’m just saying, neither of you are blameless here.”
“Actually, I’m pretty sure that when he tried to eat me, and then continued to be a raging jackass afterwards, he started all this.” Stiles jerks his thumb at his chest. “I’ve just been defending myself.”
Scott raises his eyebrows.
Stiles raises his own right back.
“Stiles,” Scott says.
“Well, he did start it,” Stiles insists.
Scott makes a sympathetic face. “Okay, maybe, but Isaac was having a really rough time then. You know becoming a werewolf isn’t easy—I kind of turned into a raging jackass, too, remember—plus with his dad and everything…”
Stiles rolls his eyes.
"Look, I’m not asking for you guys to be friends or anything,” Scott says, which makes Stiles snort. “You guys don’t like each other. That’s okay. Just, maybe, stop being pricks to each other? It really sucks being stuck between you two all the time.”
Ugh. Puppy dog eyes.
“Scott ,” Stiles groans. “I don’t like him. He wear scarves indoors, and he likes Pepsi. And he’s a douchebag.”
“He’s just prickly. Like someone else I know,” Scott says, and goddamn that little smile of his. “Come on. You said you’d try, before, but I know when you’re half-assing something, Stiles.”
“This is really important to me,” Scott says, eyes huge and dark and soulful.
“Fine! Fine. I’ll play nice if he will,” Stiles snaps.
Instantly, Scott’s smile blossoms. “He will.”
“If you say so,” Stiles sighs.
Sharing is Caring Round Two—once more, with feeling.
“Okay, so, we’re cool?” Scott asks.
“We’re cool,” Stiles sighs, because they always are.
“Okay then,” Scott says, with a nod that is eerily reminiscent of Finstock’s.
Stiles has a terrible, terrible suspicion that there will be trust excises and bonding activities on the horizon.
“That was all?” Stiles asks, and glances at his computer. “I mean, awesome talk dude, but I’ve sort of got some stuff to do, so…”
Stiles gets off the bed and goes back to his computer, scowl back in place. “Derek. Remember the days when we had no idea who he was? I do. I remember them fondly.”
“Uh,” Scott says slowly. “Are you guys… fighting?”
Stiles snorts. “Oh yeah. See, Derek has this ludicrous paranoia about gifts—like, if you do anything that could even be vaguely construed as nice for him, he totally freaks out and thinks that he has to buy you, like, a private island so you won’t hold it over his head one day. So that needs to stop, obviously.”
“Obviously,” Scott repeats, sounding a little dumbfounded.
“That’s what the Netflix account was about,” Stiles adds. “I’ve been doing some exposure therapy on him. Sorry for not telling you. I don’t even know if he’ll use it, since I think he’s a secret bookworm.”
“Dude. You’ve been buying Derek Hale presents?” Scott asks.
“I know, right?” Stiles sighs. “It didn’t even start out as a thing, but he refused to stop getting me presents back. I had to do something.”
Scott gets up, squinting at the computer. “Are you buying him something right now?”
"Not… as such,” Stiles says, minimizing all his windows, because plausible deniability is important for Scott. “More like, planning the retrieval of one. The last one, if I have any say in it. It’s gonna be epic.”
Scott stares at him.
Stiles circles impatiently with his hand, because hello, plotting to do.
“Stiles,” Scott says eventually, in a strange tone of voice, “remember that time when you bought Lydia like ten birthday presents because you couldn’t decide which to give her?”
“Yeah? Are you implying that I’m bad at picking out gifts? Because I have way improved my gift-giving game since last year.”
“I’m sure,” Scott says.
Stiles frowns. “Is this about Lydia? You know I’m over her, right? Like, that ship has sailed.”
“That’s… kind of my point, dude,” Scott says.
It takes Stiles a moment.
“You think I—Derek?”
Scott shrugs, looking guilty and defensive all in one go.
“No,” Stiles says emphatically. “No, no way. I mean. I don’t. Derek?”
“So you’re not dating?” Scott asks, sounding, of all things, skeptical.
Stiles almost flails off his chair. “No! Oh my god, how could you think that?”
“You were wearing his clothes,” Scott protests. “You had him over for Thanksgiving! He willingly played board games with you and your dad! I won’t even do that for you, and I’m your best friend.”
Stiles groans and buries his head in his hands. “Oh my god.”
“So, you guys are just friends?” Scott asks weakly.
“No! I mean, maybe. A little. Not really.” Stiles exhales, frustrated. “He’s very dysfunctional, okay, it makes it hard to gauge.”
There’s a long silence, and then: “Do you… want to be dating him?”
“No,” Stiles snaps, glaring.
Scott looks at him sympathetically.
“Out,” Stiles orders, pointing at the door. “Out with you. Out, out, out.”
Scott holds up his hands, laughing, and heads for the door.
Does Stiles want to date Derek?
Pffft. No. Please.
Saturday night, Stiles pulls into the police station parking lot in his dad’s car. Dad got off shift an hour ago, and Stiles had greeted him at home with the offer of pizza from Angelo’s, as long as they got the whole wheat thin crust with the veggie supreme. After a brief argument, his father had conceded, and Stiles had volunteered to go retrieve the pizza.
He will go get the pizza. He just has an errand to run first.
“Hey, Barb,” he says when he goes in.
“Stiles,” she says, and nods at the file box in Stiles’ hands. “Delivery?”
“Yep,” Stiles replies, and she waves him back, returning to her computer. Saturdays are the most popular day for paying off parking tickets, and Barb’s first task on night shift is always to start processing payments.
In the back, there’s just the new deputy, Kyle or Killian or something. Dad likes him a lot, but the newbie always gets stuck at night desk duty for the first few weeks. Eventually, he’ll get pushed into the rotation for night patrol duty, probably third shift, and then where he goes from there is mostly up to the vacation and health whims of those higher up on the totem pole.
It’s a small department. It takes a while to work your way up.
“Hey, Stiles,” Probably Kyle says when he sees Stiles. “What’ve you got?”
“Just running this in for Dad. Riverdale missed another evidence box.” He makes a face, and Kyle makes a face back.
The Beacon County Sheriff’s Department had moved to Riverdale’s headquarters for a few weeks, following the mass shooting last spring. In the confusion of being in a new place and understaffed in the worst way, Beacon Hills evidence and files had piled up in weird places, and even months later Riverdale was still sending them the occasional box of unearthed possessions.
“He said just to dump the stuff on the table, and he’ll sort it out when he gets in tomorrow morning. I guess it’s kind of a mess.” Stiles tips the box forward a little and cracks open the lid, so the collection of evidence bags and papers and office supplies is visible.
“You need me to let you in?” Kyle asks, pushing himself back from his desk.
“Nah,” Stiles says, shaking his head and sliding the box under one arm so he can retrieve the swipe card from his back pocket. “I’ve got Dad’s card. Thanks, though.”
“No problem,” Kyle replies, settling back down at his desk.
Stiles goes past him and down the hall to the evidence locker. He’s only been inside the evidence locker a handful of times, mostly on errands from Dad, but he knows enough that he should be okay.
The card works, which is good, because this isn’t actually his dad’s swipe card, it’s a copy he made himself.
Inside the evidence locker, not much has changed. There’s a to-be-filed table just on the inside right, with various clipboards and file racks on the wall just above it, stacks of empty evidence bags, and some signs detailing how to properly label and sort things, and misfiling is bad, to please talk to Barb Greeley if you’re confused. Then there are rows and rows of metal shelving units that hold evidence from all cases that are still open from the last twelve months.
Stiles sets his box on the to-be-filed desk and heads into the stacks.
Everything is organized by date, and Stiles quickly finds January, moves past shelves of boxes and boxes and boxes until he finds Laura Hale’s case number, memorized almost a year ago. The box is light, when he pulls it off the bottom shelf, and inside, there are only a few bags of evidence, a slim folder of photographs, and a padded yellow envelope that contains the interrogation tapes. Derek is on those tapes. Stiles is on those tapes, when he’d made his official statement about finding Laura’s body buried by the Hale house.
Stiles shoves the memories back and starts shuffling the bags of evidence around. It’s all stuff that the police had eventually found in the woods—muddy, shredded clothing, shoes, a necklace, a purse, car keys. The copy of the article that had sent Laura running back to Beacon Hills in the first place.
He grabs the purse and the necklace and closes the lid, sliding the box back into place.
Back at the to-be-filed table, Stiles opens the box he brought in and takes out the fake evidence bags. He put the purse and the necklace at the bottom of the box, before dumping the fake bags’ contents into the box and putting the empty evidence bags in the trash. Then he closes the lid, grabs the box with one hand, and lets it dangle as he leaves so that it gives the impression of being light and empty
He nods at Kyle and Barb as he walks past each of them, and gets distracted goodbyes as he does. Neither of them notice that he’s shaking.
His heart doesn’t stop pounding until he’s picked up the pizza and driven home and stowed the box safely away in the garage.
Something like this, Stiles doesn’t want to truss up with wrapping paper and bows and leave on Derek’s doorstep with a cutesy note. But he also doesn’t want to be in the room when Derek opens it, because this is definitely something that should be done in private. So he puts it in an old shoebox, bikes over to Derek’s apartment, and knocks on Derek’s door. He doesn’t run away.
It takes Derek only a few seconds to answer.
“For you,” Stiles announces, shoving the box forward.
“No,” Derek says flatly.
“Yes,” Stiles says.
Derek sighs. “Stiles, stop wasting your money on me. Go return it.”
“I didn’t spend any money on this one,” Stiles insists.
Derek looks skeptical.
“Take it,” Stiles orders, and pushes it forward until Derek grudgingly takes hold of it. “Seriously, you’ll want this one. Just wait until I’m gone to open it, okay?”
“It’s a bomb, isn’t it?” Derek says, long-suffering.
Stiles cracks a smile. “Yeah. How’d you ever guess?”
Derek doesn’t say anything, but after a moment, he looks down at the box.
“Well, I’m gonna take off,” Stiles says, jerking his thumb at the elevator, “before that thing explodes. See you later.”
Derek rolls his eyes.
“Also, winter break is in two weeks, and you are officially invited to the next family fun night!” Stiles adds over his shoulder. “My dad wants to play Clue. Prepare your social calendar accordingly.”
When he gets on the elevator, Derek is still standing in the doorway, staring at him with an unreadable expression.
Being able to get actual hours of sleep at night is amazing. Stiles is back in the zone with lacrosse, he’s remembering that he actually kind of likes school, and the dark circles under his eyes have faded after only a few days. He, Scott, and Isaac go see the late night showing of Breaking Dawn and heckle it obnoxiously with the group of wasted college kids who’ve sat a few rows in front of them. He and Isaac are surprisingly civil the whole night. Stiles makes bison burgers for his father, and his father almost weeps for joy at the sight of burgers made of real red meat. He and Lydia study together for history, and eventually wind up wasting two hours on YouTube watching Monty Python sketches.
Stiles doesn’t hear from Derek at all.
Good. Derek must have finally learnt his lesson, then.
Stiles is in the middle of a cleaning spree in his room, brought on by his shiny new outlook on life, when he finds the rest of Derek’s mail.
Stiles thumbs through it, hoping that it’s all junk mail so he’ll just be able to throw it out and not have to awkwardly return it. He gave back the gas bill, and he doesn’t remember there being anything else particularly important in the stack of mail. Credit card offers, Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, a letter from Beacon Memorial Hospital…
He remembers being puzzled over this letter before, but now he has the time to seriously examine it. It’s addressed to Derek Hale, and it doesn’t look like a bill. The envelope is made of thick, expensive paper, and Derek’s name is actually printed on it, instead of on a label or something. Stiles has never seen a letter like this from Beacon Memorial Hospital, and he’s seen a lot of letters from there.
Opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense.
But, hey, so is stealing evidence from an ongoing police investigation.
Stiles tears open the envelope. Inside of it is a letter printed on similarly thick, expensive paper.
Dear Mr. Hale,
We would like to express our gratitude, again, for your generous donation to this past year’s Auto Auction for Autism event. The Camaro truly rounded out our lineup of automobiles, and the proceeds have gone on to contribute to a great cause. If you haven’t already, please feel free to visit our website at www.bmh.org/autism for more information on how we’ve been making a difference these last few months, and our plans for the future.
And there’s more to the letter—Stiles skims over more effusive gratitude and unsubtle hints about future events could also benefit from donations, monetary or otherwise—but his mind is stuck on the most important part of the letter: Derek had actually donated the Camaro.
Stiles had thought the asshole was joking.
But no, Derek Hale had donated his stupidly sexy Camaro to charity, and replaced it with a stupid soccer mom car. The thought makes Stiles’ heart thump, and oh, he knows that thump. Stupid Derek with his stupid dimples and his stupid sweaters with thumbholes and—
And he’d just gotten over Lydia.
It’s been almost two weeks since Stiles last saw Derek, and he’s in the middle of finals, so he thinks he can be forgiven for being a little slow on the uptake. His head isn’t quite as spacey as it was before his beautiful, wonderful adder stones came into his life, but it’s also not great.
“Dude,” Scott says, as they brake to a stop in Stiles’ driveway. “I thought they wanted to total it?”
Stiles pulls his helmet off, planting his feet on the ground. “Uh. Yeah. I thought so too. They must have changed their minds. Sweet!”
“Guess you won’t need a ride to school tomorrow, huh?” Scott asks.
“Nope,” Stiles says happily, hopping off the bike. “Isaac’ll be thrilled.”
“It looks awesome, man,” Scott says, and it really does. It’s been so long that Stiles can’t accurately remember exactly which parts of his Jeep were damaged during the wreck, and therefore would have needed replacing, but he’s fairly certain that he hadn’t needed four brand-new tires. Or a new bumper.
Huh. Guess he is in good hands with Allstate.
“Baby!” Stiles cries, plastering himself to the corner of his Jeep. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you!”
“I’m gonna take off before you start humping it,” Scott says.
“Oh, werewolf’s got dog jokes,” Stiles mutters, rolling his eyes and flipping him off without looking back.
Scott laughs, and pulls around in the driveway. “See you tomorrow!”
“Later, loser!” Stiles yells, and backs away from his Jeep so that he can get into his pocket for his phone. He starts circling his baby as he dials his father’s number, inspecting every visible inch.
It looks amazing. He should crash his car more often, really.
“Stiles?” Dad answers. “What’s up?”
“You mean other than you not telling me that my baby was out of the shop?” Stiles asks.
“My Jeep,” Stiles says. “I thought they were totaling it?”
“They… were,” Dad says slowly.
Stiles squints in through the window, and yep, all the cigarette burns on the seats are there. “It’s sitting in our driveway right now, looking better than it has in like ten years.”
A pause. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope.” Stiles finishes his walk-round of the Jeep.
“Well,” Dad says. “I guess I’ll call Allstate and see what’s going on. Not sure how they got to our house, though. We should have gotten a call telling us to pick it up at the garage. Strange.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agrees.
He heads up to the garage to set his helmet down—which he won’t be needing anymore, awesome. Take that, Derek. Stiles Stilinski didn’t need your stupid, expensive… presents… any…
“That fucker!” Stiles swears.
“Derek!” Stiles bangs on Derek’s door. “Derek, you had better open up, you asshole. I know you’re in there! I saw your stupid soccer mom car in the parking lot!” The stupid soccer mom car Derek had because he’d donated his muscle car to charity. “Derek!”
Derek yanks the door open just as Stiles swings his fist forward, and of course, Derek grabs it out of midair instead of letting Stiles punch him in the face like a considerate werewolf. God dammit.
“Stiles, what’s wrong?” Derek demands, wide-eyed, looking Stiles up and down.
“What’s wrong is you, you socially dysfunctional moron,” Stiles explodes, jabbing Derek in the chest with a finger, forcing his way into the apartment.
Understanding dawns on Derek’s face as he stumbles back.
“See! You know what you did!”
“I was just—”
"You fixed my Jeep! What did you even do, steal it from the garage and unbend it piece by piece with your stupid werewolf muscles?” Stiles’ hands are flying everywhere right now—his sides, the ceiling, into his hair.
Derek has the gall to look annoyed. “Well, what did you want me to do?”
“Nothing! I wanted you to do nothing!”
“Stiles, you got me Laura’s… I had to do something, the Jeep was nothing, I couldn’t even begin to make up for—”
"No, you see, that’s just it,” Stiles interrupts. “That was the point! You can’t make up for it, because you don’t have to, you idiot.”
“I told you not to get me anything in the first place,” Derek says, scowling. “You were the one who wouldn’t stop.”
Stiles throws his hands up. “I just wanted to get you some presents!”
“Why?” Derek demands.
“I don’t know! Because you deserve some nice things, dickwad!”
“You deserve nice things,” Stiles repeats, through gritted teeth, because what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound. “That’s why, okay? That’s the secret. And when you give me presents back, it’s like you’re saying, ‘No, I don’t deserve these things’, and you do, you utter—flipping—dumbass. You deserve presents.”
“Yes,” Stiles says.
“You actually donated your Camaro to charity,” Stiles says, and watches Derek’s face blank in surprise. “Yeah. Yeah, I know about that. And you came back to Beacon Hills, twice, even after it traumatized you to hell and back, like, ten times. You’re a good big brother. And you—I don’t know, you went after an Omega even though you could have just foisted it off on Scott, almost got yourself killed, and then went back and finished the job. You’re just—you’re a good person. I mean, you’re also a douchebag. Like, a complete douchebag. You should really just have your own page on TVTropes. Oh my god, why are you smiling?”
“Because you’re an idiot,” Derek says, and he’s moving forward, now.
“I’m—no I’m not! That’s you. Weren’t you listening?”
“Stiles,” Derek says, with a predatory glint in his eye that has Stiles backing up against the wall. “You like me.”
Stiles folds his arms over his chest. “Not that much.”
“You’re blushing,” Derek continues, smirking, only getting closer.
“You know werewolves can hear lies, right?”
“I’m not blushing, I have a—a naturally rosy complexion!” Stiles hits the wall, and Derek stops just short of him.
“Did also you know,” he says, very quietly, “that werewolves can smell arousal?”
Derek reaches out and gently unfolds Stiles’ arms, holding each of Stiles’ wrists between his fingers. He leans forward, face inches from Stiles’. “We can. That’s how I know that right now, you want me to kiss you. That you’ve wanted me to kiss you for a while, now. Isn’t that right?”
“Maybe?” Stiles squeaks.
Derek leans in and—
“Wait!” Stiles says, jerking his head to the side. “This had better not be some fucked up present for me in return for me for Laura’s stuff, okay? You don’t owe me anything. Actually, I owe you, because you had to go and magically fix my Jeep, ‘cause you’re stupid. And—and I want to do a lot more than kiss you. Like, go to the movies. So, if you don’t actually want to—you know—”
Derek is watching, waiting. The glint in his eyes is nothing but lupine.
Stiles glares. “Just—this isn’t just for me, right?”
“Trust me, Stiles,” Derek all but purrs. “This present? Is all for me.”