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Revenge Fake Dating Is Totally A Thing

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"Goddamn freaking werewolves," Stiles grumbles as he stomps over to the window, unhooking the latch so that Derek can slide up the window and climb inside. "Why do you always come in through my window? And in the middle of the night, too?"

"This is the second time I've climbed in through your window. Ever," Derek says, his brows furrowing. "And you told me to come in like this because your dad's home."

"Second time? Really?" Stiles asks. "Feels like you've done it more often."

"I haven't even been in your house more than five times," Derek says. "Now, do you want to know what I found out about your teacher or not? And where is Scott?"

Stiles shrugs. "Scott's mom cornered him. They're having family night, so he can't get away."

"It's 1 am. Why doesn't he sneak out the window?"

"It's McCall family night," Stiles repeats. "Basically they eat tons of popcorn and chips and watch every single animated Disney movie made between 1989 and 1999 until they pass out on the sofa. They're probably not even halfway through Aladdin yet and Scott and his mom always stay awake until after The Lion King because you can't miss The Lion King. Obviously."

"Obviously," Derek echoes. "Well, do you want to know what I found out about Samorog or not? I have better things to do than to listen to you talk about nothing."

Stiles sighs. "Why do you always have to be so difficult? Go get a massage the next time you're downtown. That should loosen you up a little."

Derek narrows his eyes and takes a step forward, the corners of his mouth lifting in a small smirk when Stiles gulps and takes a step back.

"Hey!" Stiles says. "Didn't we talk about this? My house, my rules, so back off and tell me what you found." He punctuates his words by giving Derek a small shove.

Derek, not willing to give even an inch, just rolls his eyes as Stiles shoots him a betrayed look and shakes the pain out of his hand.

"Fine," Stiles says. "Be like that. I can wait." He flops backwards onto his bed, hissing when his head hits the headboard with a dull thunk.

"Ow, ow, ow," Stiles moans, rubbing the back of his head.

Derek sighs and pulls Stiles' hand away, cupping the back of his head to feel the extent of the injury. It's only a small bump, probably not even enough to hurt when there's no pressure being put on the spot. To get Stiles to shut up, Derek runs his hand over the small swelling, sucking out the faint traces of pain Stiles is feeling.

Stiles sighs in relief, his eyes drifting closed.

That's when Sheriff Stilinski opens the door and asks, "What the hell is going on?"

"What? Nothing!" Derek says hastily. Stiles is scarily adamant about the sheriff not being involved in 'supernatural shenanigans' - as he puts it - any more than absolutely necessary. His dad knowing about the supernatural isn't, according to Stiles, an invitation to lay all the supernatural crap at his dad's door.

A few seconds tick by where all three of them are entirely motionless, then the sheriff slowly raises an eyebrow, giving the hand Stiles reflexively put on Derek's thigh when he had half-knelt on the bed to check the wound a pointed look.

Derek stands up and lets go of Stiles fast enough that Stiles nearly smacks himself in the face with the hand Derek had been holding up until a second before. Stiles looks at him, the expression of bliss on his face when Derek had soaked up his pain replaced by one of annoyance. Then his expression changes and settles into one of balanced calm as Stiles turns back to his dad.

Before Stiles can open his mouth, the sheriff holds up a hand. "Let me stop you right there, Stiles, before you lie to my face. Again," he adds, running a hand over his face before using it to hide a yawn. "We can talk about this tomorrow."

#

Saturday morning breakfast in the Stilinski house is usually a very casual affair. This time, though, Stiles puts it off for as long as he can, going so far as to get showered and dressed before 9am on a Saturday before he makes his way downstairs and squirms under his dad's heavy gaze.

"I can explain!" Stiles blurts.

"I'm sure you can," his dad says easily, breaking some eggs into the pan. "But don't you think we should eat first?"

As if on cue, two slices of toast pop out of the toaster and his dad smiles. "Get the toast please, Stiles. Pour yourself some juice."

"Right." Stiles grabs the toast, making a face at the almost charred bread. He dumps them on his dad's plate and changes the toaster settings from 'charcoal' to 'lightly toasted' before putting in two slices for himself. His dad puts a lid on the frying pan and gets a whole basket full of freshly baked rolls out of the oven.

Five minutes later, they're sitting across from each other at the table, eating in silence. Every bite Stiles swallows feels like lead in his stomach. The rolls - deliciously soft and fluffy as clouds - taste like putty and his bacon is both the tastiest and the most horrible thing he's ever eaten.

When his dad puts down his fork, Stiles perks up. He still doesn't want his dad involved in every single supernatural situation they're dealing with, but so far all he has is suspicions. There's nothing to tell his dad - yet. He doesn't even know if Samorog is anything dangerous - he could turn into a fluffy bunny or have the powers to turn any weapon into flowers. But a new teacher that pings everyone's supernatural radar isn't something they can let slide. The point is, Samorog could be harmless and after Derek backflipped it out of Stiles' room fast enough the night before to leave the two humans blinking at his empty spot for a moment, Stiles didn't even get to hear the results of Derek's recon mission. He can't lie about what he doesn't know, can he?

But instead of declaring their breakfast of silence over and done with, his dad grabs the newspaper and starts to unfold it. Stiles has never done well with silence and they both know it. That's why the perfectly civilized but absolutely silent treatment is his dad's favorite method of interrogation. He knows Stiles with spill everything just as soon as he gets the chance to finally talk again. He simply can't bear it.

"Dad, no!" he blurts. "If you'd just let me expl--"

His dad shoots him an unimpressed look and holds up the paper. "Shh, I'm reading the paper, Stiles."

"It's not what you think, Dad," Stiles tries again.

"Hmm," his dad says.

"Daaaad." Stiles glares at the paper - not being able to read his dad's expressions is not the best way to do this, but he can deal. He talked his way out of the Renovation Fiasco of '07 and the Great Camping Adventure of '08. He can get out of this. But before Stiles can make another attempt, his dad sighs and puts down the paper.

"All right, Stiles, since you're so impatient," his dad says. "Let's talk about why Derek Hale was in your bed at 1 am this morning."

"What? No." This is not the opening Stiles is expecting and it throws him for a loop that his dad doesn't go his usual route of yelling about being included in the supernatural shenanigans. "Dad, what are you saying?"

"Don't try and deflect the question, Stiles. I can think of two reasons why Derek Hale would be in your room, and it can't be because you've been discussing a new supernatural threat." His dad levels him with an intent stare. "Because you swore to me, Stiles, you swore that you would keep me in the loop on that account. So there's really only one reason that I can think of why he's sneaking into your room at night."

Stiles has the uncomfortable feeling that his entire argument has been derailed from the start. Put like that, from his dad's point of view there is only one reason why Derek would be anywhere near his room in the middle of the night.

He can't tell his dad that he broke his promise - worse, his oath - after not only six months. He can't.

Things with his dad are still strained. Not so that anyone would notice at first glance, but Stiles feels it acutely. They hug considerably less these days, and sometimes Stiles catches his dad looking at him like he doesn't recognize him any more. Being possessed by the nogitsune didn't help matters. It's one more thing they don't really talk about and the timing - right after his dad found out about the supernatural - couldn't have been worse. His dad doesn't realize how lucky Stiles is to be alive and sane - how lucky they all are to have survived as much and as well as they have. But the fact of the matter is that the supernatural is bad luck. Allison lost one parent to the supernatural and then they lost Allison. Scott is a werewolf, Melissa has been abducted and threatened and Chris is a freaking hunter. The supernatural is not a good thing to be involved in unless there's no other choice, and his dad has a choice.

He's choosing the wrong thing, though, and Stiles can't let him do that, even at his own expense. Stiles shamelessly blames it on Derek that the supernatural even factors into his life and his interactions with his dad. It all traces back to Derek's arrival in town. By that reasoning, it's definitely Derek's fault that his dad takes his pained, contemplative silence as some kind of admission of guilt.

"I don't think I have to tell you that it's not a good idea to sneak your boyfriend into your room in the middle of the night and then make enough noise that it makes your dad check up on you," his dad says. "What were you even doing that--no. You know what? I don't want to know. Be safe, be responsible, and please, for the love of all that is holy, please stop sneaking around. We've had more than enough sneaking around to last us a lifetime. I for one know I'll sleep better if I know why you're really hanging out with Derek Hale of all people. I know I don't have the best track record of being understanding of alternative lifestyles, but I try, Stiles."

"I know that, Dad," Stiles says automatically.

His dad thinks he's dating Derek because he wants to believe Stiles hasn't broken his promise. Again. It's the absolute worst feeling in the world, being confronted with how shitty of a son he is.

"No need to sound like someone killed your pet hamster," his dad says. "You'll see, in a few years you'll laugh about this."

"Yeah," Stiles says. "It was pretty funny."

Stiles' thoughts are racing. He can't tell his dad the truth, but that in turn means he'll have to lie more. The only silver lining is that his dad and Derek haven't talked since the last time his dad arrested Derek and they worked together with Chris Argent to stop -- well …him. Nogitsune him.

His dad frowns. "Are you okay?"

Stiles nods. "Yeah. I just bumped my head."

"Anything I need to know about?"

"No," Stiles says quickly. "Just bumped it on my b--" Stiles cuts himself off and closes his eyes briefly. He can almost feel the color rising in his cheeks.

His dad raises a questioning eyebrow.

Stiles sighs. "I bumped it on my bed's headboard. Last night."

His dad picks up his newspaper again and Stiles can see it shake with his dad's suppressed laughter.

Stiles sighs again and pushes his plate away.

#

Scott laughs for a solid ten minutes when Stiles goes over to the McCalls' to complain about his life. Not even the three pillows, four books and one pencil that Stiles chucks at Scott's head in a desperate attempt to shut him up help.

"Only you, Stiles," Scott gasps, letting out a small half-laugh, half-sigh. "Only you would have secret meetings about a new creature in town and end up with your dad thinking you're dating Derek."

"Oh, yeah, laugh it up, Scott." Stiles throws himself onto the bed next to Scott. "Ignore my pain," he grumbles as Scott hisses and tries to extract his arm from where it's being squished under Stiles' body.

"Sorry," Scott says, sounding anything but sorry. "You have to admit it's funny though."

"I don't have to admit anything."

Scott turns around and snickers into his pillow.

Stiles sighs. "What?"

Scott turns his head until he can open one of his eyes to look at Stiles. "Nothing. Just… you didn't have to admit to a thing for your dad to believe it's true! Your dad," Scott repeats. "He fact-checks everything that comes out of your mouth. Has done since we were nine when you convinced me that mice were going to eat me if my breath smelled like cheese and I refused to eat cheese for a months and ended up calling 911 anyway because I was afraid the mice were going to get me."

"Why does everyone keep bringing that up?" Stiles asks, even though Scott's the first to mention that story in over a year. "Why is it my fault that you're so gullible?"

"I was nine," Scott says, giving Stiles a hurt look. "Besides, that was your defense the first time around. I have no idea whatsoever why it would make your dad think twice every time you tell him a story," he adds airily.

Stiles huffs and accidentally-on-purpose elbows Scott as he turns to face his best friend. His best friend who is totally not living up to the job of sharing his pain.

"What's the big deal, Stiles? Just tell your dad it was a misunderstanding and that Derek stopped by to pick up a book or whatever."

Stiles raises an eyebrow. "At one in the morning?"

Scott shrugs. "It's Derek, man. Blame the weirdness on him."

"I blame everything on Derek. But Dad will never go for it. He made stupid remarks all morning. He even gave me some money to buy condoms. He's absolutely 100 % convinced that I'm dating Derek Hale," Stiles says, screwing his eyes shut in misery. "I still don't know how Dad even came up with the idea that I'm dating the guy. Sure, he was kneeling on the bed with my head in his hands, but that was just because he wanted to make sure I hadn't given myself brain damage. How anyone can make a relationship out of that I don't know."

When Scott doesn't immediately agree, Stiles cracks one eye open and finds Scott giving him an amused look.

"What?"

"You don't know why your dad thinks you're dating Derek?"

Stiles narrows his eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"When you and your dad came over for dinner last week, you spend over half an hour complaining about the way Derek eats burritos."

"That's because he does it wrong!"

"There is no wrong way to eat a burrito."

"Uh, yes, there is," Stiles says insistently. "You can't tell me it's normal to eat the filling first and then the tortilla. It's unnatural. It defeats the purpose of the burrito and it's just plain wrong."

"Uh-huh."

"And you know what the worst thing about Derek eating a burrito is?"

"Enlighten me," Scott says in his most dry tone of voice.

"He does it with so much delight - it's like he knows he's doing it wrong and he's doing it on purpose!"

"But you have no idea why your dad would think you're dating."

Stiles frowns. "No. Why? What does the burrito have to do with anything?"

"Stiles," Scott says, gently patting his chest, "you wrote a ten page poem in sixth grade about Lydia eating a strawberry."

"Oh please," Stiles says as dismissively as he can, "by that logic you're in love with Danny."

"What? How so?"

"You kept talking about Allison's perfume back when you first got together. You also spend a lot of time talking about the Armani aftershave after you sniffed pretty much every guy on the team."

"That's not the same," Scott protests. "I talked about Allison's perfume because I like it on her. I talked about Danny's aftershave because I wanted it on me."

"Exactly," Stiles says. "I talk about Derek's abysmal burrito eating habits because they personally offend me, not because I want him to eat me like a burrito."

"Okaaaaay, no sure what I'm walking in on," Melissa says from the doorway, letting her gaze flit from Stiles to Scott and back, "but I'm heading in to work, boys, so behave yourselves."

"We will," Scott promises, jumping up to give his mom a kiss on the cheek. "Oh, hey Mom?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you be surprised if I told you Stiles and Derek were dating?"

Melissa shoots Stiles a speculative glance and then shakes her head. "I wouldn't be surprised at all. In fact, I've been waiting for John to call me in the middle of the night because he caught Derek sneaking into Stiles' room and he needs someone to calm him down so he doesn't go for the shotgun."

Scott nearly doubles over laughing and Stiles scrambles up to hit him over the head with a pillow.

Melissa gives him an exasperated look. "Stiles, really? Sneaking a boy into your room? While your dad is home? Nope, still not surprised." She shakes her head. "I'm sure Derek isn't what your dad was hoping for, but he's had some time to get used to it. At least we know you're not gonna let Derek walk all over you even though he is a few years older."

"You got that right," Stiles says before he realizes that Melissa will take it the wrong way.

"All right, I have to leave or I'll be late. There's leftovers in the microwave, but not much else unless you decide to go shopping which guess what? The chore plan says is your chore for this week." She gives Scott a pointed look. "Stiles, feel free to stay for dinner, but you'll probably have to fight Scott for it."

Melissa leaves with a wave and Scott takes a deep breath, straightening up slowly. "You do realize you pretty much just confirmed to my mom that you're dating Derek, right?"

Stiles purses his lips and shakes his head decisively. "Nope. I'm blaming this one on you, buddy."

#

When it comes right down to it, the whole thing is Derek's fault. There are no two ways about it. It's Derek who fucked up by getting them caught and behaving in the most suspicious way possible. And now Stiles has to live with the consequences. He doesn't even know why people-- no, why Derek is so surprised when he get served his just deserts. It's not like Stiles to take anything lying down, and this is no different.

(Maybe it's a tiny bit Melissa's fault for planting the seeds of the idea in his mind though.)

#

Probably the weirdest thing in Stiles' life - weirder still than the chaos spirit possession and the fact that his best friend is an honest to god werewolf - is the fact that Derek Hale has been a gainfully employed member of society for the last three months. Oh, he still wears too much leather and glares at anyone who even looks at him like they might want to start a conversation with him, but he's been holding down a job at the library for the entire summer and it doesn't look like he has any intention of quitting.

Stiles still gets a weird jolt through his body every time he walks into the library and sees Derek sitting at the information-slash-reference desk at the other end of the high ceilinged foyer. Having Derek work at the library is both a stroke of luck and Stiles' worst nightmare. On the one hand, Derek doesn't blink an eye at any of the weird subjects he researches for fun or the pack - Julie had started giving him concerned looks after he'd looked up a ton of parenting books in order to figure out how they could occupy a baby hydra until her mother came back to pick her up - and he is surprisingly helpful sometimes. On the other hand, these days 90 percent of Stiles' library visits include seeing Derek. Derek who scowls out of basic principle and sometimes makes him trudge all the way down to the archives only to 'discover' the very book Stiles had been looking for in every corner of the library right on the edge of his desk.

When Stiles breezes into the library a couple of days after the breakfast disaster - he needed a few days to regain his composure and his ability to look his dad in the eye, and to make a plan, obviously - Derek is at the reference desk, flipping through a book at breakneck speed. Julie and Brenda - the supervisor and Derek's co-worker - are in deep conversation next to the reference desk.

Stiles smirks, then schools his features into a pleasant smile. From the look on Derek's face, the skip in Stiles' step is a bit much, but that could just be Derek's face. Stiles is usually pretty good at telling when Derek is genuinely pissed off and when he's scowling just for the sake of scowling.

Before he can chicken out, Stiles walks around the semi-circular reference desk and drapes his arms over Derek's shoulders, resting his chin on the top of Derek's head. Stiles doesn't even have the chance to get used to it before he accidentally bites his own tongue when Derek jerks back and tries to shake him off.

Out of the corner of his eye Stiles can see Brenda and Julie watching the spectacle with curious eyes. Stiles shoves his pain aside and tightens his arms around Derek's neck. He make sure to keep his head away from Derek's though, leaning to the side a little to coo into Derek's ear.

"It's fine, honey. Now that my dad knows about our love, there's no reason to keep hiding it!"

Julie's mouth falls open and Brenda gasps, but Stiles doesn't notice in the heat of the battle he and Derek are fighting.

"Stiles, what the hell!" Derek all but growls. Stiles can feel it travel up from Derek's chest and it reflexively makes him tighten his hold on Derek's upper body.

Stiles smacks his lips right next to Derek's ear and Derek, panicking from the threat of possibly being kissed on top of being forcibly cuddled, grabs Stiles' wrist, turning in his chair until Stiles draws in a pained breath and lets go of Derek to avoid his arm being twisted. Derek drops his wrist, a wild look in his eyes.

Stiles shoves the small pang of guilt at the sight Derek's freaked out eyes to the back of his brain and sniffs. "Rude," he declares. "See if you get any kisses from me later with that attitude, mister!"

Color returns to Derek's cheeks and he scowls, turning the eyebrows from 'freaking out' to 'I'm gonna murder you' in two seconds flat. Luckily, Brenda chooses that moment to pointedly clear her throat.

Stiles whirls around, conveniently putting some distance between his side and Derek's elbow. "Brenda, Julie, good afternoon, ladies," he greets them, putting on his most winning smile. "I know it's not my honeybear's break yet, but Dad wants him to come around for dinner tonight. Derek actually keeps his cell phone turned off when he's at work - what a role model, am I right? - and I couldn't resist stopping by in person."

Brenda and Julie exchange a look.

Derek glares, his knuckles turning white where he's gripping the table. "What?"

The clipped tone and the murderous expression on Derek's face would be scarier if he wasn't reigning himself in because of their audience. The wood under Derek's fingers creaks ominously, but they leave no visible dents in the tabletop.

"Dad's making steaks," Stiles says. "Don't worry, I told him you like it so bloody it's practically still mooing." He checks his watch. "Well, I gotta run. I'm meeting Scott for some extra lacrosse practice. I just wanted to let you know about dinner. Seven pm. Don't be late."

Derek is still glaring, but Brenda and Julie are avidly watching the exchange. It puts Stiles in a difficult position. Brenda and Julie bought his show, hook, line and sinker. He can't walk out without the right finish to the act, though, or they'll know it was fake. Stiles is counting on the relative security of having two witnesses when he leans down and pecks Derek on the cheek.

Stiles is nothing if not committed to his roles.

He waves at the women before leaving.

#

They all watch Stiles hurry out the front door. Derek feels… he's not sure how he feels. Angry. Confused. Annoyed. Like he wants to bite something. Derek isn't sure what the fuck just happened but he's trying a new track. No more power games. No more mindless violence. No more snap judgments. Stiles isn't making it easy though.

The door falls shut behind Stiles and Julie and Brenda exchange another look. Julie leans on the reference desk and waves him a little closer. Her voice lowered conspiratorially, she says, "So, Derek. Tell us more about your relationship with Stiles. I had honestly given up hope that you have anyone in your life at all, so it's a relief to hear you've got a boyfriend and that his dad is so accepting of you two."

"It's a new development," he says after a beat, when he realized Julie's serious about it. All of it.

Brenda nods in understanding and Derek slips his phone out of his pocket. He actually does keep his phone turned off at work, although how Stiles knows that is anyone's guess. He sends Stiles a quick text that reads "what the fuck stiles", hoping the lack of spelling and proper capitalization tells Stiles exactly how pissed off he is. "explain." he adds in a second text.

Derek goes to slip the phone back into his pocket when it beeps and vibrates in his hand.

Stiles' answer is simple: "revenge."

For what? Derek doesn't know. He's about to type in an angry question when he remembers Brenda and Julie. He looks up and offers Julie an apologetic smile. "I was just, uh--"

"Texting the boyfriend?" Julie says with a smile. "Recent development, huh? Well, as long as he doesn't distract you from work, I don't mind."

"How did you get together?" Brenda asks. "I had the impression that you didn't like each other very much."

"Uh…"

A mom and her two kids banging in through the doors save him from the inquisition. Julie wanders off when the woman keeps listing children's books she wants to read to her spawn and Derek patiently tells her where to find them. He manages to foist her off on Brenda who is in charge of ordering reading materials on loan from other libraries.

#

The library closes at six on Tuesdays. Derek gets home at six twenty-three and spends half an hour doing a light work out to get rid of the tension Stiles' visit at the library had brought into his life. After a quick shower, Derek slips into his favorite pair of sweat pants and heads into the kitchen.

It's 7:07 pm and Derek has just microwaved his day old Chinese takeout when his phone rings. When he sees Stiles' called ID he debates not picking up, but Stiles generally doesn't call him for no reason. He has Scott for that. And Lydia. And Malia, who loves all the random crap Stiles keeps spewing when he's bored. If Stiles is calling him, it's probably an emergency and he can't reach Scott.

Derek sighs and picks up.

"Where the hell are you?!" Stiles all but hisses into the phone.

"…At home?"

Stiles lets out a frustrated groan. "Wow, are you old enough to have dementia already? Your so-bloody-it's-still-mostly-rare steak is currently contemplating making a break for it and my dad is politely staring at his plate like he doesn't care his food is getting cold."

Derek hears the words, but they're not making sense.

He's still processing when the silence drags on too long for Stiles.

"Well?" Stiles asks sharply.

"What are you even talking about?"

"Din-ner," Stiles says slowly, putting emphasis on both syllables. "I would have thought the scene I made about it at the library would have made you remember, but nooo, apparently not!"

Derek frowns. "But that was your stupid revenge plot. Embarrass me in front of my boss? Ring any bells?"

"Yes," Stiles says. "That was the reason why I didn't just send you a text. If I suffer, you suffer."

"I thought that was it. Quid pro quo, Stiles."

"Hahahaha," Stiles says, entirely unamused. "Did you miss the part where my dad thinks we're dating?"

It's a really obvious thing to say, but a part of Derek feels like it needs saying so he opens his mouth and says, "We're not dating."

"No kidding," Stiles replies. "Look, you were the one who was all over me on Saturday. That and your stupid guilty reaction and the goddamn blush on your face made it hard to argue with my dad when he asked me how long we've been dating."

"Stiles," Derek says slowly. "We're not dating. Tell your dad."

"I can't! If I tell him we're not dating, he's gonna know we were talking shop and I promised him full disclosure on the supernatural."

Derek wants to feel sympathetic, but-- no. He actually doesn't. It's Stiles' own fault for keeping secrets from his dad. Again.

"Bully for you," he says instead, smirking slightly.

"Derek!" Stiles says, his tone demanding and slightly whiny.

"Stiles!" Derek replies mockingly.

"Oh, come on. Are you really saying no to a steak? Your dinner plans probably involve crying into Chinese and watching soap opera reruns."

Derek shifts uncomfortably shifts and switches the TV to a news channel. "I can think of worse ways to spend my evening. Having your dad glare at me over dinner, for example. He hates me enough already without throwing 'dating his son' into the mix."

"My dad is hating you more the colder his food gets," Stiles snaps. "Get your butt over here or I'll--I'll--I'll think of something. You know I'm creative!"

Derek is about to ask what's in it for him when he realizes something: the sheriff thinks he and Stiles are dating. He's expecting to have dinner with his son and Derek Hale, boyfriend. Not Derek Hale, werewolf or Derek Hale, murder suspect. Depending on the sheriff's take on this new romantic relationship, Derek can get back at Stiles with this one. Make him squirm and curse the day he refused to correct a small misunderstanding and subsequently made Derek's life a lot more uncomfortable.

Derek smiles. Forget the performance at the library. This dinner is going to be a masterpiece.

#

"Calm down, Stiles. You're making me jittery with all that pacing."

Stiles stops and turns his back to the window. "Sorry, Dad."

"Don't worry so much," his dad says. "You said he was on the way."

Stiles nods eagerly, turning back to the window before the fake smile can give him away. Derek hadn't actually said that. His last words before he'd hung up earlier had been 'All right, I know what to do, Stiles'. That's the kind of answer that can mean anything from 'fuck off' to 'I'm sorry, I'll do better from now on'.

The noise of a car engine makes Stiles look out the window. Derek's Soccer Mom SUV is pulling into the driveway. He watches Derek climb out of the car and then reach back in for -- a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine? Frowning, Stiles studies Derek. He's wearing his denim jacket, not the leather one, and he's traded the red shirt he'd been wearing earlier in for a light blue button down. The semi-formal shirt goes surprisingly well with Derek's usual skin-tight jeans.

Not that Stiles is noticing Derek's jeans or how tightly they fit.

Derek rings the doorbell and Stiles trips over his own feet in an effort to get there before his dad comes within hearing distance.

"You had car trouble," Stiles whispers as soon as he's pulled open the door, "and you're very, very sorry that you're late!"

Derek smiles and Stiles looks up at him suspiciously. It's the kind of smile that looks pleasantly enough at first glance, but once Stiles looks a little closer he can see the dangerous edge peeking through. It instantly makes him three times as nervous.

Derek rolls his eyes and shoves the bouquet of flowers into his hands. They're red gerbera daisies -- Stiles' favorite.

A rope of dread slowly unwinds in Stiles' stomach, uncurling and spreading throughout his body as Derek pushes through into the dining room and hands his dad a bottle of red wine. He catches the tail end of Derek's apology when he barges into the room after Derek.

"--ry if I made a bad second 'first impression'."

"Hmm?"

"As Stiles' boyfriend." Derek turns up the charming smile to eleven. "Sir."

"Right," Stiles' dad says. "Well, no harm done." He gives Derek a cautious look, like he's not quite sure what to make of this smiling, polite Derek Hale just yet. "I put the steaks in the oven to keep them warm. Might be a bit dry, but I'm sure we'll be fine."

"Again, sir, I am so sorry. You have to let me make it up to you. Come to dinner at my place," Derek says while Stiles looks on in horror. "How's this Saturday for you?"

Stiles shakes his head, hoping that it's just a dream. Unfortunately it isn't. Something is Very Wrong. This isn't the plan. The plan is to make sure Stiles' dad doesn't find out the truth and then, in a few weeks, Stiles will sulk for a weekend and tell his dad they broke up. If he's feeling generous, maybe he'll even tell his dad that they're still friends.

Stiles isn't feeling very generous right now though. He catches Derek's eyes behind his dad's back and glares, making "abort, abort!" gestures that fall on deaf ears. So to speak.

When his dad agrees to an early dinner on Saturday - early because he's on night shift that weekend - Stiles puts every ounce of murderous intent into his glare and slowly drags a finger over his neck.

Derek's mouth curves up on one side as he completely ignores Stiles' very serious warning and says, "Great. I'm thinking pork ribs with baked potatoes for dinner. Lots of butter and cheese. And maybe chocolate caramel brownies for dessert."

If he didn't know any better, Stiles would have thought his dad planned the whole thing so he can guilt Stiles into eating the heart attack on a plate that Derek's planning to serve them for dinner. As it is, his dad sends him a guilty look as he confirms the dinner plans and then moves into the kitchen to get the steaks.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Derek?" Stiles whispers furiously the second his dad is out of the room.

"I'm not doing anything," Derek says innocently. "Except helping you lie to your dad."

"Look, you can't just--"

"Can't I?" Derek interrupts him. "Isn't this what you wanted, Stiles? Your dad thinks we're dating. I'm just making it believable."

"No," Stiles says. "No, you're making it worse."

Derek shrugs. "Fine. Then tell your dad the truth."

"I can't!"

Stiles' dad steps back into the room, a plate in each of his hands. "Stiles, can you get the last plate? I couldn't find the tray."

"Sure," Stiles says, shoots Derek a warning glare that says 'behave or else' before he darts out of the room to grab the third plate. He doesn't want to leave Derek alone with his dad for a second longer than he has to so he doesn't waste any time grabbing the plate and heading straight back to the dining room. He's halfway there when he realizes that a plate fresh out of the oven is a little hot to the touch. He spends the last few feet until the table shuffling the plate back and forth between his hands to avoid touching it for longer than he has to.

Stiles sets his plate, which is heaped with beans, potatoes and a big, slightly dry steak, down with a thunk, ignoring the few beans that spill over onto the tablecloth. If he backtracks his way to the kitchen, he'll probably find more spilled beans. Not that it matters when Derek Hale is at his dining table, exchanging a commiserating eye roll with his dad at Stiles' antics.

They don't talk much during dinner. Stiles uses every chance he gets to glare at Derek and Derek lets a smirk play over his lips every time Stiles' dad isn't looking.

After dinner, Stiles' dad asks if Derek wants to join them for a movie. Stiles, who's clearing the table, nearly drops a plate and flails so hard trying to catch it that he makes the entire table wobble. His sigh of relief when Derek begs off because he has to work early is so loud that Stiles has to cover it with a coughing fit that leaves him coughing for real. Derek thumps his back - harder than necessary, thank you very much - and then offers to help with the dishes before he leaves.

"All right, I'll leave you boys to it," Stiles dad says with a smile. "Good night, Derek. I'll see you Saturday for dinner."

"Looking forward to it," Derek says, smiling until Stiles' dad has left the room.

Stiles turns his glare back on full force and angrily piles the dishes on top of each other so he doesn't have to make more than one trip. Derek follows him into the kitchen and grabs a dish towel without being prompted. The helpful, silent Derek only makes Stiles angrier, and he fills the sink with water so hot that steam starts to rise in the air.

He yanks the dish towel out of Derek's hands and says, "You clean, I dry."

Derek hardly even blinks at the too hot water, making quick work of the three plates, three glasses and the cutlery. Stiles dries them with angry swipes of the towel.

When Derek turns to him and opens his mouth, Stiles throws down the dish towel and hisses, "Just leave, Derek!"

"All right," Derek says. "I'll see you Saturday." He smirks and adds, "honeybear."

Stiles doesn't wait for Derek to drive off before he stomps up the stairs and throws himself onto his bed face down. Just like he'd suspected: Derek is in fact the absolute worst. No surprise there.

#

"Wait, wait, wait," Scott says the next day at lunch. "Your plan is to keep dating Derek?"

"Stiles is dating Derek?" Kira asks, setting her tray down at the table.

Lydia, taking the seat across from Kira, fixes Stiles with a piercing look. "Can't say I'm surprised about any of this but you letting Scott steal the thunder of this particular bit of news. I would have expected you to tell us the second it happened like you did with any other relationship - if you can call them that - in the past. I guess that means it's something serious."

Stiles gapes at her for a moment, his mouth working soundlessly while he processes the fact that there's yet another person who thinks he and Derek Hale being together is not at all surprising. This isn't--why doesn't anyone burst out laughing and says good joke, tell me another? He definitely hasn't told Lydia about Derek's weird burrito eating habits, so it can't have anything to do with that. It's absolutely - what's the word? - inconceivable that he and Derek are any type of couple at all, let alone a serious one. They barely even like each other!

Okay, so maybe that's not entirely true. They aren't BFFs or the kind of friends who call each other at two am because they're bored and can't sleep. But they're friends. Sort of. Stiles trusts Derek (against his better judgment sometimes) and while Derek isn't the type to talk about feelings, least of all his own, Stiles is reasonably sure that it goes both ways.

Malia digs her elbow into his side. "Don't stall, Stiles. You were telling Kira and Lydia all about your newly discovered epic love story."

Kira frowns at her like she's trying to puzzle something out. Stiles gets it. Malia's serious tone is, like Derek's, pretty much indistinguishable from her deadpan joking tone. Malia doesn't really do emotions. Instead, she scowls and deflects and uses sarcastic commentary to convey her feelings which, again, is a lot like Derek's preferred method of communication. Maybe it's a born were-creature thing that makes it harder for them to put their feelings into words? Stiles would need to meet more werewolves and gather more data to make a more conclusive observation, and that's definitely not on the plan for the near future. There's enough supernatural this-and-that creeping around town. Speaking of which…

"We really need to talk about Mister Samorog."

Lydia raises a perfectly-shaped eyebrow at him. "First, let's talk about this epic love story. Then we'll deal with the new teacher who probably isn't even a threat to us. Unless you count the threat he poses for your chem grades."

"There is no epic love story," Stiles says. "There is, however--"

"Stiles," Lydia interrupts him. "Are you or are you not dating Derek Hale?"

Stiles glares and mouths 'rude' at her across the table.

Scott, barely containing his grin, takes the chance to butt in again. "He is definitely dating Derek. Ask the sheriff."

Stiles shifts his glare to Scott and throws a spoonful of his peas at him. "Pretending!" he snaps at Scott. "We're pretending to date!" Stiles' eyes flit from Lydia to Kira to Malia and back. "But only for my dad. And whenever it will embarrass Derek."

"You're pretending to date," Kira says slowly, "…because of your dad?"

"Yes!"

Malia leans forward, thoughtfully chewing on a mouthful of fries. "Look, I spent a few years living in a forest, so maybe I'm missing something here, but how does that make sense? What dad wants their kid to date someone they arrested once?"

"Twice," Scott says almost gleefully. "Stiles' dad arrested him twice. For murder."

"Okay, that's it," Stiles cries. "Lydia, do you wanna be my new BFF? Scott is officially on probation."

Scott chuckles, still too amused by the entire affair to be upset about his probationary best friend status. That's okay - Stiles can be patient. In about three weeks' time, when the teachers start giving them the first pop quizzes of the school year, Scott will be without his usual study buddy and come slinking back, offering his apologies.

"You're pretending to date Derek Hale," Lydia says, awe and horror warring in her voice. "I'm not sure if I should be impressed or concerned. What happens when your dad finds out?"

"He's not going to find out," Stiles says. "Because nobody is going to tell him. Or are you?"

"Nobody is going to tell him anything," Kira puts in. "But maybe it's not such a good idea. Won't it make things awkward between you and Derek?"

"Awkward? Why would it make things awkward? We'll have dinner with my dad a few times and then we'll break up." He snorts. "But don't worry - we'll be very civilized about it and manage to stay friends. My dad will be awed and impressed by my maturity."

"Because it was so mature to go to the library and make Derek squirm in front of his co-workers," Scott mutters.

Stiles swears Lydia's banshee powers come with super hearing because she hears Scott over the cafeteria's ambient noise and Stiles' loud sigh.

"So Stiles visited Derek at work," she says. "Tell me more."

"No," Stiles says to Scott, who snaps his mouth shut and then manages to go two whole seconds without grinning. "And it was for revenge," he adds, looking at Lydia.

"You revenge-visited Derek at work?"

"It's all his fault anyway. He's the one who made Dad think we're dating!"

"Because he was in your bed in the middle of the night."

Scott has his hand in front of his mouth, but it's not like Stiles doesn't know he's the one making smart-ass comments under his breath.

"Derek was on my bed, not in it, and his guilty, suspicious demeanor is what made my dad think something hinky was going on between us. Making Derek's co-workers think the same was only fair. He should be glad I didn't take out an ad in the paper. He only has to pretend when he's around dad. I have to pretend all the time. Did I mention that Dad asks about Derek now?" Stiles asks. He nods, in case Lydia has any doubts. "Yeah. Good morning, Stiles. Do you have any plans after school? Going over to Derek's?" he imitates. "My house is now a Derek-friendly zone. So really, he could have it worse."

"You called him honeybuns," Scott points out.

Stiles throws his hands up. "So what?"

Kira and Lydia exchange a look, then Kira pats him on the arm. "Stiles, maybe you should just tell your dad the truth."

"What she means," Lydia says, "is that your entire plan sounds a bit crazy."

"What? No!" Stiles says, affronted. "It's genius."

"Crazy genius, maybe," Scott mutters. Malia laughs and Kira tries to hide her smile. It's not a malicious comment, but Stiles is too insulted to be the bigger man. He sniffs and picks up his tray.

"Wow, look at the time. Lunch is almost over and you've spent the entire time talking about how Scott can't keep his big mouth shut," Stiles says, forcing a cheery smile onto his face. "If any of you want to discuss the fact that our new chemistry teacher is probably something the Nemeton dragged in--"

"Just sit back down, Stiles," Lydia says.

"Please," Kira adds. "We're sorry."

There is a brief pause where nobody says anything, then Malia and Scott flinch and Stiles has to suppress a smile. Kira is kind of awesome.

"Sorry." Malia sounds like she's not entirely sure what she's supposed to be sorry for. If he's honest with himself, neither is Stiles.

"Yeah," Scott says. "You know I have your back, even if the whole faked relationship thing is one of your worst ideas yet."

"Shut up," Stiles mutters, putting his tray back down. "All of my ideas are awesome."

The others exchange a look that clearly says they have their doubts, but no one says anything.

"Okay. Let's talk about the real problem…"

#

It first dawns on Derek at work the morning after his dinner with the Stilinskis that keeping up the charade of dating Stiles will have repercussions for his own life as well. When he gets in five minutes before his shift starts, Brenda ambles over and asks how his meet-the-parent dinner went. The library doesn't open for another thirty minutes so he can't hope for any customers to deter the questions. Derek doesn't doubt that if he denies the relationship to his co-workers it will eventually get back to the sheriff. And if that happens before Stiles has a chance to come clean, Stiles will make his life miserable.

(He doesn't examine any of the more complex reasons for playing along with Stiles' harebrained idea. Like the fact that Stiles is the one he thinks of in a crisis or the itch he feels under his fingernails when Stiles looks like he's going to cry.)

Apart from the rocky start, Derek's day goes smoothly enough. Julie doesn't ask about the dinner, but Derek sees Brenda step into Julie's office during lunchtime. Derek briefly wonders how Stiles is doing at school - no doubt Scott and Malia are still laughing at him. Kira will be more sympathetic, and Lydia won't sink low enough to point and laugh, but she'll enjoy giving Stiles telling looks all morning.

He spends the day scanning books and fielding requests and then re-shelves the returned books in the early afternoon hours when there are fewer people in the library. When six pm rolls around and Derek can officially call it a day, no one's mentioned Stiles or their fake relationship again and Derek stops looking over his shoulder, expecting Stiles to jump out of the shadows to tackle-hug him without any warning.

Wednesday sets the tone for the rest of the week and the days pass slowly, steadily and without incident. It's not until he's chewing on his sandwich during lunch hour on Saturday that Derek remembers that he invited Stiles and his dad for dinner. He waits until after lunch before he brings it up with Julie, and she agrees to let him leave two hours early as soon as the words 'dinner' and 'Stiles' dad' leave his mouth. It makes him a little apprehensive - there's bound to be another barrage of questions about his and Stiles' relationship come Monday morning.

The supermarket is packed with people doing their weekend shopping after work, loitering teenagers and old people who are enjoying the hustle and bustle of so many shoppers. Derek grits his teeth and throws himself into the fray, pushing around and straight through groups of people, going so far as to stare down an old lady who goes for the last package of ribs.

Derek makes it back to his car faster than he would have thought and he needs the extra few minutes to catch his breath. On days like these he's glad not to be an alpha any more. Control comes easier without the added powers, the crushing sense of responsibility and the urgent need to enlarge and protect his pack.

Back home, he has an hour and thirty minutes until Stiles and his dad arrive. The food doesn't take that long to prepare or cook, but the moment he steps back inside, Derek becomes aware of another problem. There is nowhere to sit and eat. He has the absolute minimum of furniture: a bed, a couch, a couch table, an industrial table and several chairs, none of which match each other or either of the tables.

Derek's first impulse, even now, is to call his alpha. Scott isn't technically his alpha. They're not pack - they're allies. But Scott is Stiles' alpha and best friend and he's the only one Derek can call.

Derek prepares the ingredients for dinner, but it's still too early to fire up the stove. He casts a critical eye over the loft and then grabs his broom. He's just finishing the sweep of the loft when the door bangs open and Scott stumbles in. He's struggling with a folded up round plastic table - it's not the weight, it's the unhandy shape and size that's giving him trouble. Derek steps in to help him and together they get the table set up in no time.

It's old and battered, but it's clean and stands steady. The large scratches in the black plastic look like white scars and Derek frowns at them, wondering how to place his pots to hide the worst of it when Scott slaps a tablecloth into his hands.

Scott helps him spread the tablecloth over the table, transforming a piece of the McCall's decade-old garden furniture into a respectable dining table. They find three chairs that - while mismatched - are at least similar in height.

"There," Scott says. "All ready for your date." He checks his watch. "Okay, I'd better go before your boyfriend and his dad show up."

Derek has a brief moment of panic where he thinks Scott doesn't know, but then Scott bursts out laughing and Derek growls. That only makes Scott laugh harder though.

"It's not funny!"

"Are you kidding me? This is the funniest thing in ages," Scott gasps out between giggles. "But I'm on best friend probation, so I'm not allowed to laugh at Stiles any more."

"So your bright idea was to laugh at me?"

Scott shrugs. "Honestly? You're a lot less vindictive than Stiles."

"Yeah," Derek mutters darkly. "I'm starting to get that."

"Look, Derek," Scott says, suddenly serious. "I know Stiles can be a bit much sometimes, but he's just trying to protect his dad. I really don't know what the sheriff is going to make of it when you two 'break up', so can you please not make it too hard on him?"

Derek raises an eyebrow. "And have you had this talk with Stiles? About how I don't have to do a damn thing and he should be lucky I'm playing along?"

Derek doesn't even have to look at Scott to know he hasn't.

"Please, Derek," Scott says. "If not for Stiles, then for the sheriff. He's noticed how you two are together and he thinks Stiles is happy with you. He just wants Stiles to be happy."

Scott might not be Derek's alpha, but that doesn't make him immune to Scott's soulful pleading puppy eyes. He agrees to play along until he and Stiles can 'break up' and watches Scott head back out. He's setting the timer for the potatoes when he realized what Scott has said. The way he and Stiles are together. Now what's that supposed to mean?

#

Stiles is understandably nervous when they arrive at Derek's place. They've taken his dad's cruiser which means his dad will have to drop him off at home before his shift. Having to leave when his dad does is the only good thing about this second 'family dinner' with both his dad and Derek at the same table. Stiles is still convinced that his plan is solid - it'll make sure he won't have to confess his lie to his dad and it'll keep his dad safe. But Stiles can't shake his pack's reaction to his fake relationship with Derek, like there's something he's missing. Something that could potentially make the plan fall apart around him.

"Which one…?" his dad asks, his hand hovering over the elevator buttons.

"Top floor," Stiles says.

The elevator rattles and groans, and some of the metal parts grind on each other with a sharp, piercing shriek. The ride goes smoothly enough though, so Stiles tries not to see it as a bad omen.

Derek is waiting at the door - Stiles makes a mental note to tell him to stop doing that before he remembers that his dad knows about werewolves and their enhanced sense of hearing.

"Sheriff Stilinski," Derek greets, smiling in a way that almost looks natural.

Stiles smiles, too, but it has more to do with the delicious smell that comes wafting out of Derek's place. He's so focused on the food that he's completely unprepared when Derek wraps an arm around his shoulder and presses a kiss to his temple. Derek's nose stirs the hair gel stiff hair on Stiles' head and Stiles blinks, his mind completely blank for a second.

Derek Hale had kissed him. On the temple, sure, but Derek's lips touched his skin. Derek kissed him, why would--

Stiles catches his dad turn away with a smile on his face and--

Right. Derek kissed him because his dad was watching them. That's… acceptable.

His dad walks down the few steps into the main space of the loft and Derek slowly lets go of Stiles. Stiles peeks at Derek out of the corner of his eye, but Derek isn't looking at him. Maybe Kira was on to something when she said it could make things awkward between them. But they don't have much of a choice, so Stiles resigns himself to uncomfortable half-hugs and hopefully realistic looking cheek kisses when they're in his dad's presence. He can live with that for a few weeks, and hopefully so can Derek. Stiles glances at Derek again, but Derek still isn't looking at him. Instead, his eyes track Stiles' dad's movements as he looks around the loft. His ears though - the tips of his ears are burning red.

"This is, uh, an interesting place, Derek," his dad says, and Stiles bites his lip to keep from blurting out how it's still a lot better than decade-old ruins or abandoned train stations.

Instead of fading back to their usual color, Derek's ears turn an even darker shade of red. He ducks his head a little and lifts one shoulder in an embarrassed shrug.

"I know it's very spartan, but I don't like clutter. And usually I don't need more furniture than what I have." Derek goes to join Stiles' dad at the improvised dining table. "I didn't realize I might need a proper table until today. Scott helped me set this up."

"You didn't have to go through all the trouble," Stiles' dad says. "A table is a table. We could have just used that one," he adds, gesturing to the long steel table set up in front of the windows. It was higher than an average table and the pack regularly used it for planning sessions, spreading out maps and research as needed.

The kitchen timer picks that moment to go off and Derek heads through the open doorway - more like a hole in the wall - that separates the kitchen area from the rest of the loft. Stiles hesitates for a moment, then hurries after him in case there's anything he needs to do. Derek has never mentioned being able to cook. He's certainly never offered to cook anything in Stiles' presence. If the pack is at the loft and the wolves get hungry, Derek's usual response is to growl at them to order a pizza and leave him the hell alone. Sure, the loft is filled with yummy food smells, but Derek could have ordered a meal and popped it in the oven.

But Derek has things well in hand by the time Stiles gets there. He's arranging the food on three plates, holding a heavy iron-cast baking dish effortlessly with one hand while he divides and plates the ribs with the other. On the counter next to Derek are several steaming, foil-wrapped potatoes waiting to be added to the plates.

"Do you need me to do anything else?"

"Grab the sour cream from the fridge," Derek says. He dumps the baking dish in the sink and, after a quick glance to make sure Stiles' dad is out of sight, picks the hot potatoes up with his bare hands to peel off the foil.

"Do you want me to--oh hey, is that cheese?"

"Hmm, yes," Derek answers. "I took them out just before you got here and filled them with a sour cream, cheese and bacon mixture. Gives it a little extra, don't you think?"

"Yeah, that's very, uh, Martha Stewart of you," Stiles says weakly. Derek Hale knows how to cook. Judging by the number of kitchen appliances, the expensive, professional knives in the knife block and the spice rack that's so extensive it takes up half a wall, Derek not only knows how to cook, but he loves doing it. Derek Hale probably reads Cooking Light religiously every month and watches the Food Network for fourteen hours straight when he gets bored. He probably has a subscription to Taste of Home and trades recipes with old ladies at the grocery store.

Stiles wanders back out of the kitchen and puts the sour cream down on the table. His eyes dart around the loft, but it looks the same as it always has. No secret craft supplies or knitting needles. No indication that Derek has any other hobbies besides brooding and, apparently, cooking.

Derek comes out, carrying all three plates at once and it makes Stiles wonder if he's ever been a waiter. Maybe as a teenager, to earn money for his first car. Or when he was in New York with his sister.

Suddenly it's like the floodgates have been opened and Stiles can't stop thinking about Derek. What did Derek want to be when he grew up? Did a five-year-old Derek want to be a race car driver or an astronaut? Did a sixteen-year-old Derek want to be a firefighter after losing his family in a fire? Did he always like to cook? Was it something his mom taught him or did he only start learning after he and Laura were on their own? What else is there about Derek that he doesn't know?

The food tastes as good as it smells, but Stiles eats almost mechanically, paying next to no attention to what he puts in his mouth, his mind too preoccupied with the sudden mystery that is Derek Hale. It's a sobering thought to realize that he knows the exact shade of red of Derek's blood, knows the way he tenses and grits his teeth against pain - physical and emotional -, knows that he'll do whatever he can to protect the people he cares about. He knows the deepest, darkest secrets of Derek's past and his family, he knows what Derek looks like when he's desperate, with tears in his eyes, in pain. He knows so many things about Derek, but he doesn't know Derek. So much of their interaction is shadowed by pain and danger and suffering that he's never taken the time to get to know the person behind the scowling eyebrows and the sharp teeth.

"Stiles," his dad says while Stiles is contemplating his chances of getting Derek to cook the next time the pack has a strategy session at the loft. "Is everything okay?"

"Huh?" Stiles asks, looking up. His dad and Derek are looking at him with twin expressions of concern. Of course they are - he's been quietly shoveling food into his mouth for ten minutes, not saying one peep the entire time. "Oh, I'm fine. It's just - this food is excellent. I mean, I'm an okay cook - we haven't starved yet, have we? - but this is something else. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you hired a five star cook to put this together."

His dad nods. "Yes, I have to say these are possibly the best ribs I've ever had in my life - but don't tell your grandmother I said that," he adds, giving Stiles a warning look.

Derek smiles politely, but his gaze rests on Stiles, a surprised, slightly puzzled expression on his face. Stiles raises his eyebrows in question, but Derek shakes his head and turns back to his food.

The following silence is surprisingly companionable. Instead of the furious tension that had hovered between Derek and Stiles the last time the three of them had sat down together, the atmosphere is almost friendly.

"Do you have time for dessert, Sheriff?" Derek asks once the ribs have been reduced to a pile of bones and all that's left of the potatoes are the sour cream stains on the dishes. "All I've got is ice cream though. I didn't have time after work to make something more elaborate."

"Nothing for me, I think," Stiles' dad replies, patting his stomach. "I'm about ready to burst as it is."

"Stiles?"

"I've never said no to ice cream in my entire life," Stiles says truthfully.

"Unfortunately." His dad nods mournfully. "There were a few occasions where you should have, son. Like that time at the amusement park."

"That doesn't count," Stiles says. "Scott made me puke on purpose."

"Scott made you puke because you made him puke first."

"Yeah, well… " Stiles shrugs. "I still want ice cream."

Derek declines their offer of help and clears the table on his own. When he comes back own, he has two bowls in his hand. He hands the one that is absolutely heaped with ice cream to Stiles and keep the one that only has one scoop in it for himself.

"Ooh!" Stiles says when he sees the bowls. "Rocky Road! Gimme!"

"Whoa, slow down there, sugar fiend. I'm pretty sure Derek bought your favorite ice cream mostly for your benefit, so you won't have to fight for your portion." His dad looks at Derek. "…unless it's your favorite, too?"

"Um, no," Derek says, spooning a small amount of ice cream into his mouth. "I prefer plain vanilla, actually."

Stiles can't help the sound of disgust or the face he makes at that. Why anyone would choose plain vanilla over any of the many amazing flavors of ice cream is not only a mystery to him, but an affront to ice cream at large.

Derek frowns at him. "What?"

"Plain vanilla is so… plain. I mean, why bother with the plain stuff if you can have cookie dough or strawberry shortcake or rocky road?"

"Because," Derek says. "If you get the plain vanilla, you can add pretty much anything and it'll be good. Fruit. Syrup. Chocolate sauce. Chocolate chips. Cake. Anything. You could put honey on it and it would be great."

"I see your point," Stiles says contemplatively.

"Thank you," Derek says dryly. "Besides, this way I only have to stock one type of ice cream and I'll still have endless varieties."

Stiles nods. "Although… I could add all of those things to Rocky Road and it would still be awesome."

"You think a cut-up pineapple would taste good on chocolate ice cream?"

"It would be awesome no matter what you put on it," Stiles says, loyally defending his favorite flavor of ice cream. Even if pineapple isn't something he'd necessarily want on his Rocky Road. His dad and Derek look patently unconvinced, so Stiles narrows his eyes. "It would," he adds in a tone that conveys that this is his final word on the matter. Derek rolls his eyes but goes back to eating his ice cream without arguing the point. Across the table, Stiles' dad is grinning at them, clearly amused by their exchange.

"Well, I have to get going if I don't want to be late. I might be the sheriff, but that doesn't mean I can come and go as I like," Stiles dad says, patting down his pockets for his keys.

"But Dad!" There's still half a scoop and a half of Rocky Road left in his bowl. Stiles gives his dad a look of alarm and then scrambles to stuff as much of the ice cream into his mouth as he can. He nearly chokes on a frozen marshmallow bit when the coldness gets to be too much and he starts swallowing the ice cream without chewing it properly.

Derek hits him on the back a couple of times before Stiles can wave him off - he's grateful to know Derek wouldn't let him choke to death, but they need to have another conversation about werewolf powers and how much they need to not be used on the humans. His back feels like he was just shoved into a brick wall which is a feeling he already closely associates with Derek Hale. They are definitely going to have to talk about this.

Stiles calms down a little and longingly looks at his ice cream. He doesn't want to risk a repeat of the incident, but he doesn't want to leave it either.

His dad pinches the bridge of his nose than then looks up, exhaling loudly. "You know what, Stiles? Why don't you stay here?"

"For how long? I don't have my Jee--"

"I meant stay here. For the night."

Stiles blinks, the ice cream forgotten. Next to him, Derek turns to Stiles and they share a moment of complete and utter agreement. Just as Stiles is sure that his face clearly shows his emotions - that mostly consist of what the hell? and um… NO - he can easily read the 'I must have heard that wrong' look on Derek's face.

Stiles turns back to his dad, his eyebrows raised. "Um… Dad? You wanna elaborate on that?"

"I trust you, Stiles," his dad says. The expression on his face is serious but fond and it makes Stiles feel like shit. "I know the last couple of years haven't been easy on us. In fact, things haven't been easy since your mom got sick. We went a little off the rails for a while there, but I finally feel like we're back on track. You're not a little kid any more, Stiles, and I think it's time I acknowledged that."

Stiles shot a quick glance at Derek, who was looking at his dad with a stony expression on his face. Thankfully his dad didn't seem to be waiting for a reply. He put an arm around Stiles and then raised the other one to put a hand on Derek's shoulder.

"Stiles, you and Derek, you're both old enough to know what you're doing and I trust you. I'd rather know where you are than have you sneaking around. It's not a school night and you don't have work tomorrow, right, Derek?"

Derek's eyes dart down to the hand on his shoulder and then back up. "Um, no."

Stiles' dad drew his arms back and clapped his hands. "Good. Then I'll pick you up in the morning. Treat you both to breakfast." He looks at them expectantly. "What do you say?"

Derek and Stiles exchange an uncomfortable look. Then Stiles takes a deep breath. "That's… great, Dad. Sure. Um, thank you?"

Derek nods, managing a small smile while his eyes look like he wants nothing more than to run away. "Breakfast. That's nice."

Stiles' dad nods at Derek and returns the smile before he grabs Stiles and hugs him. Stiles hugs him back extra hard, clinging a little more than usual, all the while feeling like the shittiest son on the face of the planet.

After his dad has left, Stiles sinks back down into his seat, slowly slumping forward until his forehead rests on the table and his nose is squished flat. "I am the shittiest son on the face of the planet," he mumbles into the tablecloth.

Derek doesn't say anything, but the way his clothes rustle loudly in the silence of loft sounds like agreement.

#

Derek clears the table and puts the dishes in the dishwasher. The baking pan he used for the ribs is encrusted with congealed fat, so he runs hot water over it until the worst is gone and then leaves it in the sink to soak overnight. Anything else can wait until he feel less like he's been punched in the gut.

Derek slowly wanders back into the main area and finds Stiles in the position he'd left him in, with his face pressed to the table and his hands over his head, wallowing in self pity or whatever it is he's doing.

Sheriff Stilinski trusts him. Sheriff Stilinski trusts him with his son. It's been so long since anyone has actually approved of anything Derek has done or of Derek as a person that Derek had almost forgotten what it feels like. The last person to look at him with so much acceptance and fondness had been his mom. Laura's gaze always held an edge of pain. Peter can't see past the things that Derek took from him and Cora looks at him with an air of expectation on her face. Scott's pack doesn't look at him in distrust any more, but there is too much history between them all for unconditional acceptance. It's one of the reasons he can't join Scott's pack or accept Scott as his alpha.

Stiles groans and slowly sits up. He shoots Derek an apologetic look. "I didn't know he was going to say all that, I swear to god. I would have come in my own car if I'd had any idea."

"It's fine."

"No," Stiles says. "It's really not, because I'm kinda stuck here. Scott and Kira are shadowing Mr. Samorog, Malia and Lydia are at that health spa weekend retreat they've been talking about and wow, is it just me or is it mildly scary that they're like BFFs these days? That only leaves Danny - but Danny and I don't really hang out and it's probably best if he doesn't know any more about you than he already does - and Isaac."

"Isaac isn't back from France yet."

"There is that," Stiles agrees. "Also the fact that Isaac has no car. And that he'd probably laugh at me and hang up because we're sort of like anti-BFFs. Not enemies, but the sort of friends who tolerate each other for the sake of our other mutual friends."

"You mean Scott."

Stiles nods. "Yes, I mean Scott."

"I could give you a lift," Derek says, "but your dad has invited us for breakfast. I'd have to pick you up again early enough so we're both here when he comes back. When does his shift end?"

"Six am, but he'll probably go home and change first. My dad isn't cruel enough to wake us up at six thirty on a Sunday morning." Stiles glances at the couch. "Do you have an extra blanket I can use? Or not. I mean, that's--it's your place and--"

"Relax, Stiles. You can spend the night."

"Oh, good. Thank you. And have I said sorry? Because I had no idea where my dad was going when he said he'd drive. He must have been planning this from the start. I don't believe it."

Stiles descends into muttering about his dad's deviousness and how he shouldn't be surprised that it rubbed off on Stiles. Derek ignores him and takes an old pair of sweatpants - ones that Cora had used when she'd been in town - and one of his t-shirts out of his dresser and throws them at Stiles.

"Hey!" Stiles starts, but then he looks down at the comfortable clothes in his hands and his face brightens. "Oh. Thank you. This is so much better than having to sleep in jeans."

Derek turns his back on Stiles and ignores the rustling as Stiles gets changed. He grabs a pair of sweatpants and a tank top for himself and changes quickly, dumping his dirty clothes in the hamper in the bathroom. When he comes back out onto the main floor, a heap of Stiles' clothing is in a pile on the floor right next to Derek's couch and Stiles is crouched in front of the small bookshelf, his head tilted to the side as he reads the titles.

"I hope you don't mind. It's way too early to go to sleep and I don't have anything to keep me occupied. My dad probably didn't think it was necessary. In fact, I'm pretty sure he thinks we're--" Stiles screws his eyes shut and shakes his head sharply. "Yeah, not thinking about that. Anyway, I didn't bring anything by way of entertainment, and my phone's battery is at, like, thirteen percent, so..." He gestures to the bookshelf and pulls out a book that Derek recognizes as a book on poetry from the golden era of Russian literature. Not exactly light reading.

Stiles reads the title and then makes a face, casting a resigned eye over the collection of books. Derek takes pity on him and plucks the book from his hands.

"Let me let you in on a secret," Derek says. He heads over to his bed and picks a small remote up from the bedside table. At the push of a button, a panel on the wall slides back and reveals the TV Derek had installed when he decided to stay in Beacon Hills indefinitely.

"Oh my god, you own a TV!" Stiles says excitedly. "But isn't it kind of inconvenient that the couch is all the way over there?"

Derek shrugs. "I don't watch much TV, but when I do, it's usually late at night. It made sense to put it there." He hands Stiles the remote and sits down on the bed, stretching his legs out in front of him. Stiles is already flicking through the channels. The book on poetry is still in his hands, so Derek opens it at a random page and begins reading. A lot of the poems deal with things he can't relate to at all - farming and harsh winters and the challenges of life in Russia - but beyond the superficial topics of the poems, the underlying themes resonate with him. Belonging and family, pain and suffering, struggling and falling and getting back up again.

It takes Derek a good five minutes to realize Stiles is still standing next to him.

"You can sit down," Derek says dryly, enjoying the way Stiles jumps at the sound of his voice.

Stiles walks around the bed and gingerly sits down, mirroring Derek's pose.

"Scott was here earlier."

"Did he laugh at you, too?"

Derek sigh. "Yeah. A lot."

"Me too," Stiles says. "I put him on probation for being mean to me."

"You might want to consider knocking some time off his sentence."

"I might? Why?"

"He asked me to play nice."

Stiles stops playing with the remote and looks at Derek. "He did?"

"He made a good point," Derek says. "You might be a little shit who deserves to have this blow up in your face, but your dad doesn't."

Stiles inclines his head, his eyes thoughtful. Then he nods. "You know, I don't think I've ever been grateful and insulted at the same time, but thank you," he says, his head still tilted to the side. "So… truce?"

"Truce," Derek agrees. "I pretend to be your boyfriend for your dad, and you stop making me pretend in front of other people, too."

"Deal."

They don't shake on it, but the serious nod Stiles gives him is good enough for Derek. Stiles skips through a few more channels and they end up watching most of Galaxy Quest. After the movie Derek goes back to his book and Stiles channel-surfs, watching a few minutes of this and a few minutes of that.

When Derek looks up again half an hour later, Stiles is lying on his side, curled around one of the pillows. He's fast asleep, the remote held loosely in one hand. Derek closes his book and sends a glance at the couch. He can carry Stiles or he can take the couch. Neither option sounds appealing - Derek isn't going to be kicked out of his own bed for anything, and carrying Stiles would no doubt wake him up.

Normally Derek has no problem waking Stiles up, but Stiles is like a wind-up toy. Once he's wound up - or awake - he'll keep going until he drops again, and that could be in ten minutes or three hours. There's also the fact that Stiles has nightmares and intermittent insomniac episodes, thanks to the nogitsune. They don't talk about it, but they all know that it's not just his medication that's keeping Stiles awake at odd hours these days.

With a sigh, Derek gets up to check the windows and lock the doors before turning in for the night.

#

Derek had his morning workout and his shower and is slowly drinking a large glass of grapefruit juice when Sheriff Stilinski knocks on the door at eight the next morning. He sets his glass down on the couch table and opens the door, raising one finger to his lips when the sheriff opens his mouth.

The sheriff pauses and looks curiously past Derek.

Stiles is still asleep. After Derek left the bed, he gravitated towards the middle, flopping over onto his stomach. One of his socked feet hangs off the bed while his other leg is curled up underneath him. The blanket is bunched up around Stiles' middle, the majority of it having slid down the bed to pool on the floor. Stiles' face is buried underneath the pillow he's hugging to himself with one arm.

The sheriff grins at him. "Why don't you wake up Sleeping Beauty while I make a quick pit stop?" he whispers, pointing in the direction of the bathroom.

Derek nods and closes the door, following the sheriff into the loft. He waits until the sheriff has disappeared into the bathroom before he unceremoniously plucks the pillow out of Stiles' hand and yanks off the blanket. Stiles jerks up and blinks against the light coming in through the windows. He squeezes his eyes shut again and scoots backwards to get out of reach of the light. Unlike Stiles' bed, Derek's doesn't have a solid wall up against it, and Stiles inevitably hits the edge of the bed, flails and the lands on his butt beside the bed.

The sheriff comes back into the main room just as Stiles looks up at Derek with a betrayed look in his eyes and grumbles, "Oh my god, you suck!"

They wait in a somewhat awkward silence while Stiles hits the bathroom and gets dressed, and Derek is glad when they get on the road and head out for breakfast.

The sheriff stops the car at a small diner at the edge of town. Derek's eaten there before, but it's a little out of the way so he's not a regular customer like the sheriff and Stiles seem to be. They steer him towards a booth in the back that overlooks the diner. It's along the window front, so it also has an excellent view of the parking lot and the road beyond.

Stiles slides into the seat beside Derek, with the sheriff sitting opposite them.

Derek sinks back into the soft vinyl and listens with half an ear as Stiles asks his dad about his shift. The diner looks like it's stuck in the 70s, with slightly cracked mint green vinyl seats and faded, orange patterned wallpaper on the wall behind the counter.

The waitress takes their orders and quickly returns with a pot of coffee. Stiles empties a truly impressive amount of little sugar sachets into his mug and then leans back to slurp the sweet concoction. Derek takes a sip of his own black coffee and catches the sheriff watching them out of the corner of his eye as he pretends to check out the desserts and pies arranged on the counter on the other side of the aisle.

Derek slowly takes another sip of his coffee and then puts the mug down. He leans back and casually puts his arm over Stiles' shoulders. The reaction is instantaneous: the sheriff relaxes a little and turns more of his attention to the pies while Stiles swallows his mouthful of coffee in one large gulp and then tenses, sitting stock still with the mug of coffee cradled in his hands.

The urge to roll his eyes - always strong in Stiles' presence - reaches near epic proportions, but Derek pushes it aside and squeezes Stiles' shoulder, raising an eyebrow and letting his eyes flicker over to the sheriff when Stiles finally looks at him. Stiles follows his gaze and his eyes widen a little. He goes back to sipping his coffee and relaxes enough that his posture looks natural instead of forced.

The waitress arrives with their breakfast - an everything omelet, bacon and eggs for Derek, an enormous stack of pancakes for Stiles and a breakfast platter with extra fruit for the sheriff, the extra fruit being Stiles' idea of making sure his dad is healthy. They're halfway through the meal when the sheriff points his fork at Stiles and says, "You know, I just remembered: I did have a weird call last night."

"Yeah?"

The sheriff nods. "I was coming back from my lunch break when the call came in, and since I was in the area, I took it. It was actually a teacher of yours, Stiles. He's new in town, the replacement for Mr Harris."

"Mr Samorog, yes," Stiles says. "He started at the beginning of the year."

"He heard a weird noise and saw someone creeping around his backyard. They knocked over his trash cans when he turned on the porch light and he said it looked like a couple of teenagers," the sheriff says. He fixes Stiles with an accessing gaze. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

Stiles' eyes widen and he raises his eyebrows, his mouth open and working soundlessly. Stiles' "who, me?" expression is a little over the top for Derek's tastes, and the sheriff seems to agree. He looks like he's gearing up for a lecture, so Derek quickly steps in.

"Well, it certainly wasn't Stiles," Derek says. "In case that's what you were implying. Sir."

The sheriff blinks and turns his attention to Derek. "No, Derek, I know Stiles was with you. But there is very little that goes on in this town that I don't know about. And the things I don't know about, my son usually has his nose in. If it wasn't him, there's a good chance it was one of the others," he says, giving Stiles a pointed look.

"Lydia and Malia are at a spa," Stiles says defensively. "And Scott and Kira were on a date."

"A date, huh? Well, then. Mr Samorog says nothing was damaged or taken, so we're going to let it slide. Unless there's something you want to tell me?"

Stiles' heartbeat skips, his scent projecting misery and anxiety, but his expression never changes. "I have no idea why anyone would creep around the guy's backyard and tip over his trash cans, Dad."

It's not even a lie - Scott and Kira were supposed to stay off the grounds and not go anywhere near the house. Derek is impressed against his will. Stiles' powers of obfuscation are a force to be reckoned with. Even feeling nervous and guilty, Stiles manages to lie without lying.

"All right." The sheriff nods, then turns back to Derek. "Oh, and Derek? Call me John."

#

The conversation about the call at Samorog's house kills the chill atmosphere and Stiles finds it difficult to relax afterward. It doesn't help that Derek keeps touching him, leaning into his side, patting his shoulder and his arm and his hand and - in one memorable instance - his thigh, putting his arm around him. When Stiles lets Derek out of the booth to head for the bathroom, he presses a quick kiss to Stiles' temple and his reaction isn't any better than last time. All of the physical contact leaves him reeling, unsure where to put his hands and how to respond in a natural way.

The only people Stiles touches with regularity are his dad and Scott. He exchanges hugs and pats on the back with his dad, and he's not ashamed to admit that there's some clinging to his dad and falling asleep on his dad's shoulder going on whenever he has a nightmare these days. Scott is such a big part of his life that he's almost an extension of Stiles himself. Stiles doesn't have to consider appearances and relationship statuses if he's with Scott. He's never had to think about where he's touching Scott or for how long or how often.

Derek is different. They're floating in a weird space that's somewhere between friends and allies, with a lot of mutual respect but also a lot of mutual annoyance. There have been many times when Stiles has wanted to kill Scott or his dad for something they said or did or didn't say or do. He feels that way around Derek as well. Quite a lot, actually, but with Derek it has a different quality to it. Everything with Derek is somehow more - more volatile, more exciting, more exhausting, like there's a lot of untapped potential, but Stiles has no idea where it's going. What if he dips his toes in and he ends up somewhere he didn't want to go?

Stiles sighs and pushes his plate away with a groan. Half a soggy pancake is sitting in a puddle of syrup.

"Are you not going to finish that?" Derek asks.

"I want to," Stiles says, looking at the rest of his breakfast, "but I can't."

Derek hums and spears the pancake with his fork, stuffing it into his mouth. He chews and swallows with a grimace. "That," he says, "was disgusting. You know pancakes don't actually have to be drowned in syrup."

"Yes, they do," Stiles argues. "Otherwise they're not sweet enough."

"There's sugar in the batter," Derek says with absolutely no sympathy in his voice. "Which means there's absolutely no need to pour over almost an entire bottle of syrup."

"Pancakes only taste good with syrup," Stiles states. "That's why I put syrup on them."

"I'm just saying," Derek says. "A little bit goes a long way."

"Stop complaining about the way I eat my pancakes." Stiles narrows his eyes. "Pancake thieves don't get a voice anyway. If you don't like it, don't steal it. No, wait. In fact, just 'don't steal it' is more than enough."

"Or what? You'll make me give it back?"

Stiles makes a gagging noise. "Ugh, Derek, that's disgusting."

Derek smiles, but doesn't say anything. Since he had the last word, Stiles counts it as a victory.

His dad asks for the check and then he and Derek do a semi-polite push-and-pull where Derek insists on paying his half of the bill while his dad keeps muttering "I said it was my treat" until Derek relents and lets him pay. Stiles rolls his eyes and grabs his jacket to wait outside.

When his dad and Derek join him, Stiles keeps himself calm and relaxed when Derek slings an arm around his shoulder, leaning into Derek's side a little to make sure he's selling the part. He can't see Derek's face, but Stiles is sure he approves.

His dad is fiddling with the receipt, trying to fold it up small enough that it'll fit into one of the credit card slots in his wallet. Stiles is so focused on watching his dad, that Derek takes him by surprise. Again.

"Why don't I give Stiles a lift home? You don't mind, do you, John?"

Stiles turns his head to look at Derek, but Derek just tightens his hand around Stiles' shoulder and keep giving Stiles' dad a charming smile. "He'll be back before lunch," Derek wheedles when Stiles' dad doesn't respond right away.

"All right, all right," his dad says with a laugh. "I remember what it was like to be young and in love. I'll see you tonight, Stiles."

His dad drives off with a wave of his hand and Stiles feels Derek's arm slide off his shoulders.

"What the hell did you do that for, Derek?"

"Come on," Derek says, pointing his thumb at the SUV. "I'll drive you home."

Stiles says rooted to the spot, arms crossed in front of his chest. "What the hell," he repeats, glaring at Derek.

"I needed to talk to you."

"About what?"

Derek reaches out and puts his hand on Stiles' shoulder, close enough to Stiles' neck that Derek's thumb brushes over Stiles' collarbone. Stiles jerks back, stumbling a little when he trips over a stone.

"About that," Derek says, pointing at Stiles with an all-encompassing gesture. "Your dad kept looking at us and it took me a moment to figure it out. We don't behave like a couple. He's going to expect us to be comfortable with each other and that means you need to stop freezing up and jumping every time I touch you."

"But--"

"No buts, Stiles," Derek interrupted. "He was waiting for us to show some affection. I put my arm around you and it worked. But he's gonna know something is up if you freeze like a deer caught in the headlights every time I put my arm around you. The first couple of times we can probably put it down to embarrassment and the--" Derek waves his hands around. "You know, novelty of the situation. But if you don't stop, he'll get suspicious."

Stiles groans in dismay. Derek is right, and that just makes it worse. "Well, how am I supposed to do that?" he snaps.

"I don't know," Derek says. "You don't freeze up when Scott touches you. Just do the same!"

"That's not the same," Stiles protests. "Scott is my best friend. He touches me all the time. I hardly even notice it any more."

"The easiest option would be to call the whole thing off and tell your dad everything."

Stiles exhales through his nose and gives Derek an annoyed look. "You know I can't do that."

"Well, then we need to do something about this. Your dad thinks we're doing a hell of a lot more than hugging - we need to be comfortable with casual touches if you want to keep up this ruse."

The moment Derek hints at the fact that Stiles' dad thinks they're sleeping together, Stiles' mind goes into overdrive to supply him with as many pornographic images as it possibly can. Flashes of soft lips and a scratchy beard, of hands on his bare shoulders, his hips, his ass, of Derek's heavy weight on top of him.

Cheeks burning, Stiles clears his throat. "Desensitization."

Derek nods slowly, his expression neutral. "Desensitization," he repeats. "Is that anything what it sounds like?"

Stiles nods. "Doing something so much that you get used to it and it stops being a surprise," he explains. "Basically, we need to practice."

Derek hums in agreement and takes a step forward. He wraps his arms around Stiles and Stiles freezes up despite the fact that he saw it coming. Stiles lets his forehead bump into Derek's shoulder and consciously relaxes his muscles, slumping against Derek.

Sighing, Stiles slowly puts his arms around Derek, turning his head so he can speak into Derek's neck. "We need to practice a lot."

Derek nods in agreement.

#

They hold hands in the car. It's all very innocent and incredibly weird. Stiles' hand is sweaty and he fidgets in his seat, his fingers twitching like he wants to pull them out of Derek's grasp. Derek simply tightens his grip and brushes his thumb over the back of Stiles' hand until he calms down and stops reacting to the touch.

The sheriff's cruiser is parked in the driveway behind Stiles' Jeep, so Derek stops at the curb, the engine idling while Stiles pats down his pockets to make sure he hasn't forgotten anything.

"Remember, tomorrow after practice. We're meeting at Scott's," Stiles says. "It's about time we found out what's up with Mr Samorog."

Derek nods. "I'll be there. I have to work until six, though, so I'll be late."

Stiles shrugs. "We'll be there all evening - we're making spaghetti and afterward, we're watching Serenity." At the sight of Derek's raised eyebrows, he adds, "We're still catching Malia up on almost ten years of pop culture and anything that a modern teenager absolutely has to know about."

"See you tomorrow then," Derek says.

Stiles nods. After a brief moment of hesitation, he leans over and kisses Derek's cheek, right above the edge of his beard.

Derek waits until Stiles has disappeared inside before he makes his way back home.

#

Half of Scott's pack is sprawled all over his bed when Derek gets there. From the looks of it, the girls have claimed the bed and all of the pillows, ousting the boys. Scott is sitting on the floor, leaning back against the bed and Stiles is stretched out in the chair. They're not even five minutes into the movie, so nobody complains when Scott hits the pause button and makes everyone go down into the living room for their planning session.

"Are you hungry?" Scott asks on the way down the stairs. "We made spaghetti earlier and we have a ton left over."

It's been a long time since his lunch break, and Derek hasn't made any plans for dinner yet. "I could eat," he says.

Stiles follows them into the kitchen while the girls spread a map out over the dining room table and set up what looks like dozens of tiny red flags on it.

Scott shovels a mountain of spaghetti and Bolognese sauce onto a plate and pops it into the microwave. Stiles, meanwhile, walks up to Derek and grabs his hand. When Derek looks at him, Stiles shrugs and mouths desensitization.

"Go on," Scott says. "I'll be there in--" He checks the timer on the microwave. "One minute and seventeen seconds."

Stiles fingers twitch as they walk out into the dining room, but none of the girls are paying them any attention.

"These," Lydia says, "are the places Mr Samorog has visited over the last week. At least when we were there to watch him."

The school and his home address have multiple flags on it, other places around town have one or two.

"Great," Malia said. "So he washes his laundry at the laundromat on Main and he likes shopping at Target. How does this help us?"

"It helps because we can try and spot a pattern in his movement. See if he's been anywhere outside of his usual parameters," Stiles said.

"But there's nothing here," Malia says. "It's all perfectly normal."

Derek hasn't met the man yet, so he hasn't had a chance to see for himself what about him made Scott's pack sit up and notice. "Are you sure he's not human?" he asks.

"Yes!" the girls all exclaim with varying degrees of hostility.

"He is something else," Scott agrees, handing Derek a plate and utensils.

Derek lets go of Stiles' hand and clears a small area of the table to put down his food. "Okay, then tell me more. What about him makes you so sure he's not human? Is it a scent?"

Scott and Malia exchange a look. "Maybe," Scott says. "I'm not sure. He smells…" he trails off with a shrug.

"Wild," Malia supplies. "He smells wild."

Derek leans forward. "Feral?"

Malia shakes her head. "No, just… you know when you're around pets and they have that cuddly tame feel to them with just a hint of wildness? Well, Mr Samorog feels like the opposite of that."

"Like he's dangerous?"

"Sort of, yeah."

"Which, mind you, doesn't actually mean he's necessarily evil," Lydia says. "Pretty much all of us can be dangerous, but that doesn't mean we're a danger to anyone."

"At least not often," Stiles mutters.

Malia grins, wild and carefree, and Derek feels his lips quirk up in response. All of them are dangerous in their own ways, but Lydia is right. Just because somebody isn't human or has a certain abilities doesn't make them evil. They need more information. Just as he is about to suggest it, Stiles opens his mouth.

"We need to step up our surveillance. Find out as much as we can," he says. He gestures to the map. "This alone doesn't help us figure out what we're dealing with. I'd say we give it a few more weeks to see if he does anything, and if he doesn't, we'll try something else."

"Like what?" Scott asks. "Talk to him?"

Stiles frowns. "Uh, no. More like, wait until he's somewhere else and then break into his house."

"What is it with you and breaking the law?" Scott asks, his voice somewhere between admiring and reproachful.

"It's a talent," Stiles says airily.

"Okay, I want to get back to the movie at some point tonight, so let's work out a schedule," Lydia says, snapping her fingers.

"We'll go in teams of two," Scott says. "Kira and I, Lydia and Malia, Stiles and Derek." He pauses like he's waiting for someone to protest so either Stiles hasn't told him about the truce he and Stiles worked out or he doesn't believe it. But when neither Derek nor Stiles say anything, Scott continues. "Kira and I watched him Saturday night and last night--"

"Yeah," Stiles cuts in. "Good job on the trash cans, by the way. My dad was really impressed."

Kira winces, giving Stiles an apologetic smile. "Sorry."

"So it's Lydia and Malia tonight and then Derek and Stiles tomorrow," Scott continues like Stiles hadn't interrupted him. "And we'll keep that pattern."

"Great," Malia says. "Can we go back to the movie now?"

"Wait!" Kira says. "Is there anything else that can give us a starting point to do some research? I can't really think of anything - all I felt when he stepped into the room was, um, it was like static electricity dancing over my skin."

"He controls electricity?" Stiles asks. "Why hasn't anyone mentioned this?"

"No, no, no," Kira says quickly. "The electricity is all mine. It was a reaction to his…" Kira trailed off and shrugged. "I don't know. His aura?"

"Did anybody else feel like that?"

"I didn't," Lydia says. "No urge to scream or find a dead body." She shudders. "Thank god for that," she adds.

Scott just shakes his head, but Malia slowly raises her hand. "I thought it was just because my control isn't that good yet, but my claws came out."

"Okay," Stiles says. "I have to think about this, look up a few things. Lydia?"

"Tomorrow at the library," she says. "Before your surveillance date."

Stiles rolls his eyes, but doesn't argue.

Derek takes the last bite of his dinner and carries the plate into the kitchen. By the time he gets back into the dining room, the map is rolled up and the only one still downstairs is Stiles.

"This is a little awkward, but five minutes of holding hands isn't really going to cut it if we're serious about this desensitization thing," Stiles says. "So I'm going to hug you."

"Okay," Derek agrees. He waits for Stiles to initiate the hug this time, and it takes them a minute to get comfortable enough to relax.

"This is weird," Stiles says, rubbing his nose against Derek's jacket.

Derek nods. Hugging Stiles isn't unpleasant, but it feels like a chore rather than something he should enjoy. He gives it another minute before he steps back and says, "I should go."

Stiles frowns at him. "Go? You're not you staying for the movie?"

Derek raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware I was invited."

Stiles shrugs. "You are now."

Derek hesitates. He's already pushing the boundaries by socializing with Stiles and his dad. Hanging out with the rest of his pack outside of emergencies isn't something he usually does. Not that it's strictly verboten, but being an Omega means walking a fine line. He can be a friend and an ally, but he isn't part of the pack. Scott knows that better than anyone, but Derek isn't so sure about everyone else in Scott's pack. None of them are werewolves, though. Pack bonds could be affecting them in different ways, if they even feel them.

"Come on, Derek. We're missing the kickass rescue scene," Stiles whines. "And no excuses - you know you love Firefly."

"How would you know?"

Stiles snorts. "Because everyone loves Firefly. Duh."

Derek lets himself be pulled up the stairs against his better judgment. The girls have once again commandeered the bed and Scott has taken advantage of Stiles' absence and claimed the chair. That leaves the flood in front of the bed as the only place left to sit.

Lydia raises an eyebrow at their tangled fingers, her expression calculating and, quite frankly, scary. Kira smiles and gives them a thumbs up, but Malia growls. It takes Derek a second to figure out it's because they're blocking the view of the TV, not because they're holding hands. He tugs Stiles down and, when Stiles can't stop fidgeting, puts an arm around his shoulders and pulls him closer.

Stiles doesn't tense up. Derek would count it as progress, but he can't be sure how much of that is simply because Stiles is distracted by the Firefly crew pulling off a bank heist.

#

Stiles is acutely aware of Derek beside him for the entire seventy-three minutes that they're watching the movie. Derek's arm is heavy on his shoulders and his body heat is a distraction of the highest order. It's both a blessing and a curse that Stiles knows the movie so well. He might have spent more time trying to concentrate on the plot - and the absolute hotness that is River taking on a roomful of Reavers - but as it is, Stiles is mostly glad that he's seen Serenity enough times to not be upset about the parts he's missed because he was too focused on Derek.

It's unfair that Derek makes it look so easy. Stiles can't even touch Derek's arm without running through a list of pros and cons and then playing through a dozen different scenarios in his mind, and yet Derek seems to have no trouble at all to initiate a variety of touches. When Wash dies, Derek lifts his hand from Stiles' shoulder and puts it on his head, running his fingers through Stiles' hair in a comforting fashion. It's a nice counterpart to Malia, who turns around on the bed and slaps the back of his head. It's not hard enough to hurt, but the slap does sting.

"What was that for?"

"You didn't tell me anyone would die," Malia hisses. She sends him a filthy glare and raises her hand again, but Derek catches it before she can hit him a second time.

Malia pulls it back reluctantly.

Stiles is pretty sure that only Derek's presence saves him from permanent brain damage.

After the movie, Kira gets up to take the DVD out of the player and Stiles carefully sits up. Derek pulls his arm back and stretches before getting up. He reaches down a hand to help Stiles up and keeps holding his hand when they're both standing.

"Careful there," Lydia teases. "People might think you're dating."

Stiles makes a face at her. "Careful there," he imitates her tone. "Stiles might put you on friend probation like Scott."

"Seriously though," Malia says, "are you two going to start making out next? Because I might need some kind of warning beforehand, you know, to prepare myself mentally."

"Nobody is making out with anybody!" Stiles drops Derek's hand and crosses his arms. "Except maybe Scott and Kira."

Kira blushes and bites her lip, and Stiles instantly feels bad about what he said because it's not an embarrassed kind of expression but an uncomfortable and insecure one. He turns to Scott with a questioning look on his face.

"We're, uh, taking it slow, you know, after..." Scott trails off uncertainly, but they all know anyway.

Like a switch has been flipped, the atmosphere changes from companionable and relaxed to guilty, tense and uncomfortable.

"Right," Lydia says. "I'm heading home to get changed for surveillance. Anyone need a lift?"

Kira and Malia both perk up and it only takes a few more minutes until the girls are gone.

"I'm leaving, too," Derek says. He squeezes Stiles fingers and Stiles leans in to peck him on the cheek. It's not an automatic thing yet, but it's a definite improvement over the poor performance from the day before.

"You and Derek were very cuddly today," Scott says when Derek is gone. "Just an observation," he adds defensively when Stiles narrows his eyes at him.

"We need to be convincing for my dad," Stiles says shortly. It's a little more complex than that, but Stiles doesn't have the time or the inclination to disentangle the swirling mass of emotions in his chest. He needs to show his dad that he has normal things in his life, like a relationship, and his dad needs to believe it, too. Everything else is secondary to that.

"I don't want you to get hurt."

Stiles' first impulse is to assure Scott that he's not going to get hurt in any way, but the words won't come out. "Don't worry about it," he says instead.

"Okay," Scott says. "Are you going to go home or do you want to stay? I know your dad is on nights this week."

"If I stay, do you promise to drop the subject of Derek?"

"Only if you stop being mad at me."

Stiles heaves a long-suffering sigh and rolls his eyes. "Fine," Stiles says, and Scott whoops. "But you go back on probation the second you start that discussion again."

Scott blinks at him. "What discussion?" he asks, letting his eyes unfocus and go a little vacant.

Stiles grins and hugs his best friend.

#

The next few weeks pass in a blur of work, Stiles, the sheriff and Scott's pack in a way that makes him uncomfortable with how comfortable it is. The more time he spends with Stiles, the easier it gets to reach out touch Stiles and to accept Stiles' touches in return. The more he hangs out with Scott's pack, the more he feels like he's there for his own merit rather than for his and Stiles' improvised desensitization therapy. The more dinners he shares with Stiles and his dad, the easier it gets to pretend. The more Derek settles into the role, the more he expects it to blow up in their faces. Things continue to go fine, though, and it makes Derek slightly uneasy, like a prickling sensation in the back of his neck that he gets when he feels like he's being watched.

Stiles suddenly clamps down on his hand, his eyes wide. "Oh my god, I think he noticed us!"

Derek carefully wriggles his fingers to keep the blood flowing despite Stiles' iron grip and casually licks at his ice cream cone. "No, I don't think so. He's going to the shed."

"Why?"

"I don't know, Stiles. To get his lawn mower? To get his watering can? To feed the zombie he keeps in there?"

Stiles gapes at him for a moment before he shoots him a reproachful look. "I knew you weren't completely oblivious of pop culture." He yelps and lets go of Derek's hand, transferring his own ice cream cone to his left hand so he can lick up the glob of half-melted ice cream that has dropped onto the fingers of his right.

Derek flexes his fingers and averts his eyes. There are some things he simply doesn't need to see, and Stiles' agile tongue lapping at his too-long fingers is somewhere at the top of the list. To cover for it, he glances up and down the street.

Their observation spot isn't ideal for covert observation, but they're not super spies and their target is a chemistry teacher. He and Stiles took a leisurely walk around the block earlier before stopping at an ice cream parlor. Armed with two ice cream cones, they made their way down Samorog's street again, stopping to loiter on the sidewalk near the man's house.

Stiles had declared it necessary that they shake up their surveillance routine. Instead of taking the car or waiting until dark, here they were, eating ice cream on the sidewalk.

"This was a bad idea," Stiles whispers in Derek's ear. "He's so totally on to us. We should have taken the car."

"He is not on to us," Derek says reflexively. He bites a piece off the waffle cone and makes a face. They always taste like cardboard, but it would be a waste to toss it out after he's paid for it. Derek makes a mental note to make sure Stiles eats his waffle cone as well. After all he's the one who paid for that, too, since, according to Stiles, the observation outing counts as a date and between the two of them Derek is the one with the paying job.

Just to make sure that Stiles isn't on the right track about them having been made by their target, he turns towards Stiles and looks at Samorog out of the corner of his eye. The man is pushing his lawn mower over the grass of his front yard, but he keeps looking at them.

"You might be right," he says. "I think he noticed us."

"Oh my god," Stiles hisses. "What do we do?"

"Nothing," Derek says. "We move on. Stiles, he's probably just wondering why we're standing around here."

"But we can't go around the block again," Stiles says. "If we come this way again today, he's going to know for sure."

"So we finish our ice cream and leave."

Stiles nods. "Yes, good. We can call Scott and see if one of the others can take over."

"Or we'll leave, get the car and come back in that."

Stiles freezes for a moment, then he twitches like he wants to shout at himself but can't because he's in public. He takes a deep breath. "Yes, Derek. Or that," he says, his voice forcibly calm.

Derek is almost done with his ice cream when Stiles tenses next to him and starts hitting his arm. "Oh my god, oh my god, Derek. He's coming this way! Do something! Anything!"

Derek blames the ice cream.

Stiles has been smacking his lips for a good ten minutes, making slurping noises and humming in appreciation of his ice cream. His lips are wet and shiny and there's a small fleck of green mint ice cream at the corner of his mouth. When Stiles tells him to do something - anything! - Derek doesn't hesitate to lean over and press his lips against Stiles'.

Stiles' lips are cold and his mouth drops open in shock when Derek kisses him. But he recovers quickly and starts kissing him back just as Derek realizes what a bad idea it is to be kissing Stiles in the first place. Instead of pulling back like he means to do, Derek presses in closer, flicking his tongue out to lick away the drop of mint ice cream. Stiles' free hand bumps into Derek's hip and he clenches his fingers around the thin material of Derek's t-shirt.

When melted ice cream starts dripping all over his fingers, Derek finally pulls back. For a moment, he and Stiles look at each other in a daze, both of them trying to catch their breath.

"That, um," Stiles says, swallowing loudly. His eyes flicker away from Derek's. "I, uh, I don't think he's looking at us any more."

"No," Derek agrees. "Probably not."

"We should, um."

"Get the car."

"Yes." Stiles tosses the rest of his ice cream cone into the bushes and stalks back towards the place where Derek parked the car earlier.

Derek shakes his head a few times, taking a calming breath.

And then another.

And another.

#

The kiss makes the rest of the evening extremely awkward. They sit in Derek's air conditioned car, both of them keeping strictly to their own side of front seat, and watch Samorog through the tinted windows. He mows the lawn, then waters the flowers in the flower beds and heads inside for the night. The lights in the living room stay off, but the flickering blue shine of the TV tells them enough without being able to see inside. Once the TV shuts off, he and Stiles sit side by side in the dark, not touching and not talking.

This is a good thing because it means Derek has the peace and quiet he needs to sort out his thoughts and to try and figure out what it all means.

It's also a bad thing because Derek's thoughts are going in a dangerous direction that can only lead to heartache and yet more suffering.

Stiles sighs heavily and Derek can feel it down to his bones. The same weariness he sees on Stiles' face has settled on him.

"Can you drop me off at home?"

Derek nods. "Sure."

They don't talk about the fact that it's a Friday and that the sheriff lets Stiles stay over at Derek's place on the weekends.

#

The lights in the living room are on when Stiles gets out of Derek's car and heads for the front door. He waits until Derek has pulled away to let himself in, hoping against hope that his dad is too preoccupied with the TV to notice him. But luck isn't on his side today. At all, it seems.

"Stiles!" his dad exclaims, appearing in the living room doorway only seconds after Stiles has locked the door and dropped his keys on the small dresser beside it.

Stiles smiles. "Hi, Dad."

"You're back …early," his dad says, raising his eyebrows.

"Uh-huh," Stiles says noncommittally.

"Is everything all right?"

"Everything is fine, Dad," Stiles says, trying to look earnest and serious without letting his smile slip.

His dad gives him a searching look and then crosses his arms. Stiles gulps internally - this is the look he puts on when he's getting ready to interrogate a suspect.

"Are you sure?"

Stiles frowns. It can't just be the fact that he's home and not spending the night with Derek that has his dad so interested. "Um… yeah?"

"Because I drove past you and Derek earlier tonight and you didn't look too happy with each other," his dad says casually, not looking at Stiles. It was another one of his dad's tactics - appear less invested than you are and people are more likely to tell you what you want to know.

Stiles sighs and leans back against the wall, letting his head fall back so he can look at the ceiling instead of having to look at his dad. "Derek and I had a… thing."

"You mean a fight."

Stiles shrugs. "Not exactly. More like… a minor disagreement."

"Your first fight," his dad says knowingly. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles can see him nodding. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Does he want to talk about?

Does he want to talk about the fact that he and Derek were watching someone he'd promised his dad they weren't going to go near? Does he want to talk about the fact that they were shaking up their routine at his request and ended up having to make out to escape notice? Does he want to talk about the fact that he had Derek Hale's tongue in his mouth and it was the hottest, most arousing kiss he'd ever had but it's all fake?

Stiles huffs. "No, Dad, I don't wanna talk about it."

"All right," his dad says. "But I'm here if you need to talk."

"And I appreciate it," Stiles says with a nod. "But we really are fine, Dad. You can see for yourself at dinner tomorrow, remember?"

"Okay," his dad says. "Do you want to watch a movie?"

"No, I think I'll head upstairs. I'm pretty tired."

His dad nods sympathetically and reaches out a hand to briefly put it on Stiles' shoulder and squeeze. "You do that, son. Sleep well."

"You too, Dad," Stiles says, making his way up the stairs.

Stiles goes through his getting-ready-for-bed routine automatically, unable to settle the uneasy feeling in his stomach.

It takes him a long time to fall asleep.

#

Saturday seems to be stuck in a strange time warp that makes it simultaneously pass very slowly and be over in a flash. One moment Stiles is doing homework and checking his watch every few moments to see the hands have not moved at all, and the next moment they're at the loft and he's out of his dad's car, bouncing on the balls of his feet while waiting for his dad to catch up.

Stiles doesn't wait for his dad when the elevator stops at the top floor. When Derek opens the door, Stiles steps closer and wraps his arms around Derek's neck.

Derek freezes under Stiles' hands, holding himself stiffly and unsure.

"My dad thinks we're fighting," Stiles urgently whispers in Derek's ear. "You'd better hug me like you mean it!"

Derek puts his hands on Stiles' hips and pushes his nose into Stiles' neck. That's more convincing, and Stiles smiles. He run his hand over Derek's cheek when he pulls back, his eyes widening when Derek leans in and places a short, very chaste kiss directly on his lips. Stiles' heart does a backflip and he feels himself blush because he knows Derek has probably heard that. But Derek doesn't look away and his smile doesn't change.

It's not until his dad clears his throat and brushes past them that Stiles realizes they've been blocking the doorway, staring at each other. Derek lets go of his hips, a faint blush settling on his face when he turns to greet Stiles' dad.

"Hello, John."

"Hello, Derek." His dad grins at them. "Glad to see you boys have made up. Now, what's for dinner?"

Stiles hangs back as his dad and Derek head for the kitchen to get the food. But the lingering nervousness he feels settles and fades away when Derek brushes a hand over his back when he and his dad come back and take their places at the table. They're chatting about fish - one of the few things they have in common. Stiles' dad likes to catch them and Derek likes to eat them.

Dinner is, as always, delicious and the dessert is a fruit yogurt combination that is both tasty and healthy. Stiles isn't sure if Derek is actually getting invested in his dad's healthy after a month and a half of fake dating, but he'll take it for as long as--

Oh.

Stiles briefly closes his eyes and silently curses himself. He had the perfect opportunity to 'break up' with Derek, and instead of grabbing it with both hands, he's done his best to convince his dad that they weren't even fighting. They haven't found out Samorog's secret yet, but at this point Stiles feels it safe to say he's probably not a danger to Beacon Hills. He had the chance to get out of the fake relationship and the lie to his dad, and he hadn't even noticed.

Derek sends him a concerned look when his heartbeat spikes, but Stiles minutely shakes his head. Nothing he can do about it now.

#

After the sheriff leaves, Derek and Stiles have a moment of mutual agreement where they look at each other awkwardly and then, like the day before, silently decide not to talk about the kiss. Either kiss.

Derek takes a deep breath and starts clearing the table. Kissing Stiles - either time - wasn't the wisest decision Derek's ever made. If he's honest with himself, he still doesn't know why he did it. Panic perhaps, or mere familiarity. They've been keeping up the charade for so long that it feels natural to brush his knuckles against the back of Stiles' neck when he walks past behind his chair. When he needs Stiles to move, he doesn't ask with his mouth but with his hands, nudging Stiles side or his hip until he lets Derek pass. He's come to expect Stiles' feet in his lap when they watch TV at the Stilinski house and the extra onion rings Stiles shifts over to his plate whenever they meet up with the pack and go for burgers.

Stiles wanders over to the windows and starts talking about the pack, updating Derek on their love life (non-existent for Scott and Kira, unknown for Malia and frequently changing for Lydia) and their progress in school (everyone is doing well, even Malia who is still catching up and seriously struggling with math).

When he's done with the kitchen, Stiles is already in his sleep clothes. They're the same ones he wears every time he stays over: one of Derek's old t-shirts and a pair of comfortable sweatpants.

"What are we watching today?" he asks, squatting down to look over his book shelf.

"All three Men in Black movies," Stiles says. He sighs and leans back against the headboard. "I need to get my hands on one of those flash things."

"Neuralyzer," Derek says. He glances at Stiles. "You do know that the Men in Black don't actually exist, right? And that there's no comparable institution for supernatural-related crimes?"

Stiles sighs again, deeper this time. "Why do you have to destroy my dreams?"

"Just trying to save you from yourself," Derek says, his eyes falling on The Hobbit. Adventures, trolls and dragons. Why not? He grabs the book and heads over to the sleeping area. "Besides, if there was a supernatural task force, they'd probably come to arrest us, not help us."

"True," Stiles says.

"Start the movie," he says. "I'll be right back."

Derek changes in the bathroom and brushes his teeth before joining Stiles on the bed.

Derek keeps an eye on the television, but the focus of his attention is on the book. Or it was, until Will Smith's character undergoes testing at the MiB headquarters. Stiles starts chuckling the moment he stalks into the building and he's full-out laughing by the time Jay mocks the military men who are taking the test alongside him.

It's… distracting. Stiles laughs with his whole body. He slaps his thighs, his shoulders shake and whole face lights up in delight, his mouth is stretched wide, his nose is scrunched up and his eyes are half-closed in mirth. He leans this way and that, like all of the movement his body makes is still too contained for the endless amount of laughter trying to break out of him. He nudges Derek's side, his eyes sparkling, and Derek grins. The scene is amusing; Stiles' reaction even more so.

His own reaction, however, is somewhat disquieting. Bilbo has barely left Bag-End, but Derek can't seem to make any progress on his book. Every few minutes, he finds his eyes straying from the page to glance at Stiles. Stiles, in turn, is completely captivated by the action on the screen.

Derek finds his gaze lingering on Stiles' lips when he bites them in reaction to something the Edgar-Roach does in the movie. Stiles gets up to get a drink of water and Derek watches his throat work as he swallows, his supernatural vision letting him see Stiles even in the half-dark of the kitchen. When he realizes that he's staring, Derek hastily turns back to his book and tells himself that he was simply noticing the mole on the side of Stiles' neck. Derek absolutely does not notice that Stiles sits a little closer when he comes back from the kitchen.

When Stiles hits his arm until he pays attention to the talking alien dog, Derek can see Stiles out of the corner of his eye. He's sitting Indian style, his upper body leaning forward a little. Derek's t-shirt is too large on Stiles and it has slipped on one side, revealing the top of Stiles' shoulder and his collarbone. There is nothing suggestive about Stiles' pose or his demeanor, but Derek feels himself flush and he glues his eyes to the book for the next ten minutes, not wanting to risk seeing any more new facets of Stiles for the night.

Stiles makes it until halfway through the third movie before he nods off. He's sitting up against the headboard, eyes drooping. His arms are already wrapped around his pillow and when Derek suggests turning the movie off, he insists that he can make it till the end.

Five minutes later, Stiles slides sideways, fast asleep and with his head resting on Derek's shoulder.

#

Stiles usually wakes up alone in Derek's bed. Derek - the big freak - gets up at the crack of dawn (or very nearly) and works out before taking a shower and waiting for Stiles' dad to pick them up for breakfast. Usually he manages to kick Stiles out of bed between his work out and the shower and by the time he gets back out of the shower, Stiles is awake enough to take a shower himself and get dressed.

This time, however, Stiles opens his eyes without Derek's no-so-gentle prodding and comes face to face with Derek's hand. Derek has a few stray hairs growing on his knuckles and his fingernails are neat and clean, so unlike his wolf claws. Stiles looks down at his own hand. Somehow, Derek's hand looks larger even though Stiles has longer fingers. Maybe it's not the size but the perceived strength. Derek's hands look perfectly ordinary - perfectly human - but they're so much stronger than that.

Stiles sighs quietly and closes his eyes, but he's been awake too long to drift back to sleep easily. Instead, he opens his eyes again and looks at Derek. Unlike some people, Derek doesn't look younger when he's asleep. He just looks less angry, the slopes of his eyebrows relaxing until they're not quite as steep. He also looks less burdened, like the weight that's been pressing down on him is lifted whenever he closes his eyes.

Derek's mouth is open, just a little bit. Enough to let a hint of his frankly adorable front teeth shine through. Derek would probably kill him for thinking it, but the slight bunny teeth just add to his charm - when he's not being a giant asshole, that is.

Now that he's looked at Derek's mouth, Stiles can't look away. Derek's lips are pink and soft and it's a strange thing to know exactly what they feel like against his. His own lips tingle just thinking about it, and Stiles closes his eyes. If he keeps looking at Derek's lips, he's going to do something stupid, like lean over and kiss him. Again.

But kissing Derek would be crazy. They're fake dating for his dad's benefit. That's the only reason Stiles is even in Derek's bed. Derek has been acting - he hasn't even really looked at Stiles straight on since his dad had left the night before. If there was anything mutual going on, Stiles would have noticed it by now. There isn't even anything going on on his side, really. He's just been spending a lot of time with Derek. This weird attraction he feels is mostly proximity and maybe a smidgen loneliness and the desire to have someone look at him like Scott used to look at Allison, like he's starting to look at Kira. Like Stiles himself used to look at Lydia.

Derek's hand nudges his and Stiles' eyes fly open.

Derek is blinking slowly, squinting his eyes against the light. "Hey," he says, his voice barely above a whisper.

Stiles can't help the soft smile that spreads on his face. "Morning," he says. "So either I'm awake at an ungodly hour or you slept in."

Derek half turns and looks over his shoulder at the alarm clock. "We still have a little time before your dad gets here," he says, turning back around. He buries his face in the pillow and pulls the blanket up to his chin. "Why don't you take the first shower?"

Stiles laughs and gets out of bed, grabbing his clothes on his way to the bathroom. He takes his time in the shower, letting Derek doze a little longer.

Derek is sitting on the edge of the bed when Stiles emerges from the bathroom fully dressed. His hair is sticking up in several places - not in the artfully disheveled hipster look but in the literally just got out of bed look. It's enough to make Stiles bite his lip in an effort not to laugh out loud.

Derek shuffles into the bathroom and Stiles sits down on the couch, tapping his knee impatiently. His dad may already be downstairs for all he knows. He hasn't come up to the loft to pick them up since the third Sunday when he'd walked in and found Stiles still asleep and - the way Derek tells it - with his butt half hanging out of his sweatpants. If Stiles doesn't have someone or something to keep him from moving too much during the night, he'll wake up in the strangest positions after twisting and turning in his sleep. Derek's old sweatpants hadn't been up to the challenge and slipped down his legs - at least that was Stiles' working theory. God knows what his dad had made of the entire thing - although considering that Derek had also been in the room, still bare-chested after his shower, it would have sent his dad's imagination into overdrive.

Suddenly feeling a little warm under the collar, Stiles stands abruptly. "Derek!" he yells. "I'm going downstairs to wait for Dad!"

Stiles takes the stairs, hoping to burn off some extra energy. He grabs the banister and jumps down the last four steps on the first flight of stairs, letting out a whooping laugh. His good mood lasts until he gets to the landing on the floor below Derek's and runs straight into Derek's stuck-up, bigoted downstairs neighbor who's constantly complaining about everything, but especially Derek. He's run into her several times now and it's been a progression of immediate antipathy that slowly developed into a deep-sated dislike over time.

The first time she'd merely tutted at him, casting a disapproving eye over his Avengers t-shirt. Ever since then it's been muttered remarks - and by remarks he means insults - and accusing glances and The Lecture. That's what Stiles calls it in his mind. He's only heard it twice, but it's a very impressive piece of homophobic rhetoric that he has successfully ignored so far.

Stiles had even been prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt at first, considering that she was probably justified in her noise complaints. A lot of the supernatural crap that goes down in town happens to make a stop at the loft at some point. Still, having legitimate reasons for the occasional complaint doesn't make it okay to complain about stuff that isn't Derek's fault. (Stiles still hasn't figured out how Derek is responsible for the corruption of an entire generation of upstanding citizens and other 'decent' folk.)

"Young man," she says, somehow looking down her nose at him even though she's a good foot shorter than him.

Stiles rolls his eyes. His dad hasn't called him 'young man' in that tone of voice since he was ten.

She sees the eye roll and tuts. "No manners, this generation. But then again, what can one expect from someone of your sort?"

Stiles sighs. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Help me?" She scoffs. "I think not."

"Right," Stiles mutters, turning to continue down the stairs. He doesn't even know why he stopped, except that his parents raised him to have manners, no matter what Derek's neighbor thinks.

"Help me," the neighbor repeats, continuing under her breath. "As if you didn't keep me up half the night with your disgusting behavior. Oh, what your poor mother must think of you!"

Stiles freezes. He doesn't even know the woman's name. Actually, he's not sure that Derek knows her name. But for a moment, there is no one he hates more.

He turns around, the biggest, fakest smile he's capable off on his face. "Oh dear," he says, enjoying the way the woman jumps now that he's stepping back towards her. Stiles has no intention of hurting her - whatever deviant behavior she thinks he's engaging in, Stiles knows better than to attack people for saying stupid, hurtful and ignorant things. Attack physically, at least.

"I hope you weren't looking for us to complain," he says, sugary sweet. "I mean, we were a bit loud last night, sure, and you've got all the right in the world to want some peace and quiet on the weekends, but my dad - he's the sheriff, you know - he doesn't really like it when we have one of our sessions at the house, so we usually end up at Derek's place on the weekends." He gave her a fake smile dripping with even faker sympathy. "I'll tell Derek not to be so loud in the future, okay? He can't help it, he's a screamer. Especially when I bring out the whip and the handcuffs," Stiles says with a chuckle. "He just can't keep quiet, if you know what I mean," he adds, waggling his eyebrows at the woman.

She's pale and can't seem to do more than gape at him. She squeaks when Derek clamps a hand around the back of Stiles' neck and all but drags him over to the stairs, leaving her standing on the landing, looking after them with her mouth still hanging open.

#

Breakfast is a tense affair.

Stiles keeps sending him concerned glances, like he doesn't know exactly what's wrong. Derek ignores him and eats his omelet mechanically, not even bothering to steal some of the pancakes off Stiles' plate like he usually would.

Stiles' dad is the sheriff and as such a person Derek tries not to piss off. At least not too much. But when Derek finally screws up the energy to smile, it's wooden and fake. He says goodbye at the door, barely glancing at Stiles. Stiles and the sheriff watch him drive off with matching puzzled expressions on their faces.

Derek spends the rest of the next week avoiding Stiles, the sheriff, his neighbor and just about everyone else. He alternates between feeling betrayed and feeling angry, with a healthy dose of self-loathing thrown in the mix.

In a way, Derek is surprised that Stiles has lasted this long without betraying their deal not to flaunt their fake relationship when the sheriff isn't around see them. That doesn't stop him from feeling betrayed. Now he can't even enter or exit his own home without fear of running into his neighbor, a woman he hasn't exchanged more than three words with since he moved in, but who he's passed in the staircase often enough.

He's not even sure what prompted the whole thing in the first place. Or had Stiles been ignoring their deal the entire time? The only thing Derek can think of is the kiss. Kisses. Stiles can't hold him responsible for the heat-of-the-moment kiss in Samorog's street, but the one in the loft? That's all on Derek. He'd been… curious, to test both his own and Stiles' reaction.

He thought--well. Obviously he thought wrong. He read too much into it and ended up watching Stiles play games with his heart.

Derek looks up and catches Brenda and Julie gossiping in the open door to Julie's office. Even without werewolf hearing it's obvious they are talking about him. Watching them reminds Derek of the first time Stiles had marched into the library and declared them boyfriends out of revenge.

Slowly, a smile begins to spread on Derek's face. If Stiles wants to play games, Derek will oblige him. He'll play Stiles' game, and what's more - he'll win.

#

It's Friday after school and the lacrosse team has practice. Derek leaves work early, thanks to Julie's continued investment in his relationship with Stiles, and finds himself a place on the bleachers to watch the team run around. According to Stiles, Derek is the resident creeper king of Beacon Hills, and he intends to live up to that name.

All of the other onlookers are students, making Derek stick out like a sore thumb. Scott, Stiles and Kira keep sending him worried glances, but he smiles whenever they look up at him and waves them off if they look like they want to come over.

When the coach announces one last round of suicide runs before the end of practice, Derek leaves the bleachers and takes a walk around the school. When he makes his way back to the gym, practice is over and half the team has left already, preferring to shower at home. Scott, Derek knows, has to work tonight which means he'll shower in the lockers. It's a reasonably sure bet that Stiles will hang around, too.

Derek strolls up and down the corridor outside the lockers, glancing up whenever anyone leaves the room. One squirrelly kid actually scoots around him with his back pressed to the opposite wall, and as soon as he's around the corner, Derek hears him start running. Rolling his eyes, Derek turns to look at a pinboard littered with flyers and announcements. The theater group is looking for new members and apparently it is no longer allowed to spend more than three consecutive hours in the school library.

The door to the lockers opens again, but this time it's not a student.

Coach Finstock looks back into the locker room with an exasperated expression on his face. "For God's sake, Greenberg, no one's out to get you! Don't hide in that corner -- what, are you going to sleep here? Just go home! Shoo! I don't see why you came back in through my office just to tell me about suspicious characters lurking around, but there's no reason you can't leave that way, too. You'd better not be hiding in the locker room when I get back!" Finstock slams the door, grumbling about this Greenberg kid under his breath.

Finstock crosses his arms and looks at Derek. "You're Derek Hale, right?"

Derek nods. "Yes."

"I thought so," Finstock says. "I saw you out on the bleachers earlier. Greenberg almost shat himself. He thinks you're a serial killer." Finstock gives him a stern look. "You're not though. Are you?"

"No," Derek says, amused. "I'm not a serial killer."

"Good," Finstock says. "That would be bad." Finstock looks up and down the corridor, then narrows his eyes and looks back at Derek. "You here to make trouble?"

Derek is a little impressed. He can hear Finstock's rapid heartbeat and see the sweat beading on his forehead. He's afraid - not deadly afraid, but afraid in the sense that he knows Derek can take him. The man seems like the biggest flake in the entire school, but he actually cares about his students. Enough to approach a shifty looking guy in a leather jacket with a potentially sketchy criminal record to make sure he's not out to hurt anyone.

"No, no." Derek waves him off, smiling to put Finstock at ease. "I'm just waiting for my boyfriend."

Finstock blinks. "Your… boyfriend?"

Derek nods. "Yeah. He's on the team."

"McCall is your boyfriend?" Finstock's eyes widen. "Damn! I hate to tell you this, but I caught him making out with one of my new players, like, two weeks ago. A girl, too. I'm not--"

"Oh, no, not Scott," Derek interrupts. "Stiles is my boyfriend." When Finstock looks at him blankly, Derek adds, "Stiles Stilinski? The sheriff's son?"

"The weird kid? Bilinski?"

Derek raises his eyebrows. "Hmm, yeah, I suppose he is a little… unconventional. But that's okay. I kinda like it freaky," he says, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "I probably don't have to tell you that, being the coach and everything, but Stiles is reeeeeeally flexible. If you know what I mean. And his mouth? Don't get me started on his mouth. The things he can do with his tong--"

The door to the lockers bursts open and a flustered Stiles comes running out, followed by an amused but confused Scott. Derek smirks and lets Stiles get a taste of his own medicine.

#

Seeing Derek at practice is weird. Derek disappearing before the end of practice without talking to them is weirder still. But at this it point it's only a continuation of the weirdness that has settled over his life during this last week. Derek was distant all week and his dad treated him with kid gloves for some strange reason. Even Scott sent him the odd look every now and again.

"Dude," Scott says. "Derek is outside."

Stiles shrugs, bending down to lace up his shoes.

"No," Scott says. "He's right outside the door, talking to the coach."

"Huh," Stiles says, switching to his other shoe. "Talking about what?"

Scott doesn't answer right away, and when Stiles glances up at him to figure out why, there is a blush spreading over Scott's face. But he's smiling, like whatever he's hearing is pretty amusing.

A faint feeling of unease invades Stiles' stomach and he sits up, pulling a plaid shirt over his t-shirt. "Scott, what are they talking about?"

"Derek is telling Coach about your sex life. In great detail."

Stiles had almost expected it, but that doesn't diminish the flare of anger he feels. What the hell is Derek playing at? This is his school. That's his coach Derek is talking to, alienating him with things that aren't even true.

Stiles bursts out of the locker room and barrels almost straight into Derek in his haste to shut him up. Derek catches him around the waist, pulls him closer and kisses him.

It's nothing like their first two kisses. Unlike their hot, sweet-tasting first kiss and their chaste, soft second kiss, this one is not a kiss that's intended for company. Derek kisses him in the most outrageous and filthy way Stiles can imagine, open-mouthed and wet and demanding. It goes straight to his dick and Stiles can't help but kiss Derek back. He completely forget about Scott and Coach until Derek slides his hands down from Stiles' waist to cup his ass, squeezing and groping him. In public.

In front of Scott and Coach.

Stiles' eyes snap open and he pulls back, giving Derek a light shove against his chest to put some distance between them.

Scott's blush has returned full-force and he's smiling the wide, open-mouthed smile he smiles when he's too overwhelmed to form actual words. Stiles knows the feeling.

Coach, meanwhile, gapes at them for a few moment before he blinks. "Bilinski. Hale." He glances at Scott. "McCall." He narrows his eyes at them, looking at each of them in turn until he's certain they're listening. "No hinky stuff on school property - you know the rules. And you, Hale, you're not even allowed on school grounds."

"Sorry, Coach. Won't happen again," Derek says with a smile. "Sir," he adds when Coach gives him a suspicious look.

Coach nods once and walks off towards his office, muttering about weird kinky little shits. Coach has been giving him the side-eye since before the whole werewolf business started, and it's only gotten worse over time. There's no telling what this will mean for the future - an endless supply of bondage cracks in the locker room, probably.

"What the actual fuck, Derek?" Stiles asks heatedly. "Are you insane?"

Derek smirks at him and shrugs. "I don't know what your problem is, Stiles. You didn't mind telling my neighbor about our kinky bondage games; I figured it was okay to share."

Scott makes a noise like he's choking on his own tongue and Stiles shoots him a concerned look.

Scott waves him off. "I'm fine," he says. "Just… I don't think you need me here for this conversation."

Stiles watches as Scott beats a hasty retreat, the traitor. Derek is still smirking at him, and it's driving up Stiles' heart rate, albeit not in the fun, aroused kind of way. More in the angry, heading towards pissed off kind of way. He hasn't felt this angry at Derek since the bad old days of Derek version 1.0, the scowly, irrational beta-then-alpha whose personality was permanently stuck on the asshole setting. It doesn't help that Derek seems to have reverted back in more ways than one. Instead of wearing his usual clothes, he's back to the black-in-black color scheme and the too-large leather jacket. The only thing that distinguishes him from the old Derek is the beard.

Stiles crosses his arms and glares at Derek. "Did you actually want something or did you just come here to embarrass me in front of Coach Finstock and to smirk at me?"

Derek raises his eyebrow. "You were the one who started this whole fake relationship."

"So?" Stiles says. "You were the one all over me and my bed."

Derek scoffs. "You were the one who couldn't even lie down without almost braining himself on the headboard."

Stiles feels the flush creep up his neck and ruthlessly holds on to his anger to cover the embarrassment. "You were the one who couldn't operate a damn phone," he points out smugly. "You could have just call me instead of climbing in through the window. I mean, who even does that?"

"You told me to stop by," Derek says. "Besides, it was a stupid misunderstanding," he adds, pushing his index finger against Stiles' chest. "You're the one who insisted on not telling your dad. You're the one who insisted on this damn lie!"

There is nothing Stiles can say to that. It's the absolute truth. But at this point Stiles is beyond pissed off. His blood feels like it's boiling in his veins and he angrily bats Derek's hand away from his chest. "Well, you're the one who--" Stiles flounders, and Derek's lips quirk up in another smirk, smug and so very infuriating.

"You exist, okay?!" Stiles blurts out loudly. "Everything sucks because you're here!" he continues, gritting his teeth against the anger. "You exist, and that's reason enough."

Derek blinks, his face closing off between one blink of an eye and the next. Stiles looks at Derek's suddenly vacant and stoic face and the sudden silence in hallway seems to echo Stiles' words back at him. His heart clenches and he raises a hand, reaches out to Derek.

Derek takes a step back, putting himself out of Stiles' reach. "Yeah," he says quietly. "Apparently it is."

He turns to walk away and Stiles' hand closes around thin air. "Aw, crap," Stiles mutters.

Derek reaches the end of the corridor and as he turns left, his eyes flicker over to Stiles. He looks like he's breaking apart inside. The last time Derek had looked at him like that had been after the pool incident. But this time it's not the rest of the world that's breaking Derek, it's Stiles.

"Derek, wait!" he yells. "I didn't--"

When he rounds the corner, Derek is gone.

"--mean it," he finishes quietly.

Well, fuck.

#

Stiles drives home on autopilot. His lacrosse gear is still in the locker room, but he's reasonably sure that no one is going to steal his sweaty uniform or his stinking sneakers over the weekend.

His dad is sitting at the kitchen table, working on the crossword puzzle in this morning's newspaper.

"Hey, Stiles," he says, looking up briefly when Stiles wanders in.

"Hey, Dad," Stiles says, sinking down into the seat across from him.

"You're quiet," his dad says after a few minutes, looking up from his crossword again. He frowns. "Are you okay, son?"

Stiles bites his lip, feeling like he's going to burst into tears if he opens his mouth. He should have gone to Scott. Talking to his dad is the worst idea possible. His dad doesn't even know the real story - how can he talk about what happened if he can't actually talk about it?

"Stiles?" his dad says, his voice soft.

It's not even like this is his first fight with Derek. He and Derek fight all the time. So what if there is a difference between their usual bickering and real fighting? There have been enough occasions, especially back when Derek first arrived back in town, where Stiles fervently and sincerely wished for his death. That, at least, has changed, but he and Derek have enough topics that they regularly and heatedly fight over.

Stiles isn't even sure why he's so upset. His thoughtless words have hurt Derek, but Stiles saying something hurtful in the heat of the moment isn't exactly new either. A stupid misunderstanding and two months of fake dating can't change things that much, can they?

None of it explains why Stiles feels like his heart is being squeezed too tightly and he almost can't breathe when he thinks about that moment in the corridor and the look on Derek's face when Stiles had said one of the shittiest things he's ever said to someone.

"Did you have another fight with Derek?"

Stiles looks down at the table and nods.

"About the same thing?"

Stiles shrugs. He doesn't even remember what - if anything - he's told his dad about their first fight.

"Did you try talking to him?"

Stiles shrugs again, wishing he'd gone over to Scott's instead.

"You know, son," his dad says, leaning back in his chair, "relationships are all about compromise."

His dad goes on talking about relationships, but Stiles is only listening with one ear. His dad's sympathy and advice just make it hurt more because it's not like that. It's never been like that. He and Derek don't have a relationship.

"Look, Dad," Stiles interrupts. "Can we please not talk about this?"

"I was only trying to help."

"Yes," Stiles says, trying to stay calm, "but you're just making it worse!"

"By offering some advice?" His dad raises his eyebrows. "Stiles, I'm a good thirty years older than you and I'm pretty sure I know more about relationships than you do. I'm not saying every situation is the same, but some things are universal. I've had enough experience apologizing to my wife that I'm sure I can give you decent enough advice on how to fix things with Derek."

"It won't work," Stiles says, his leg twitching. He fights the urge to run away and hide out at Scott's.

His dad gives him a surprised look. "Why not?"

"Because there's nothing to fix!" Stiles shouts. "We aren't--weren't dating," he adds, more quietly. "It wasn't real, okay? So there's nothing to fix."

#

Derek instinctively runs into the forest, following a deer track through the trees. He's almost at the old house when he remembers that his car is still at the high school, that he lives in the loft now and that there is absolutely nothing in the old house that can comfort him. The house looms ahead, looking dark and dead against the grayish blue evening sky.

The sun has only just set, but it'll be fully dark by the time he's reached his car.

Stiles' Jeep is gone from the parking lot when Derek jogs over the lacrosse field and around the corner to the front of the school. The school itself is empty and closed for the night. Derek looks up at it and shivers, remembering Peter's claws stabbing him through the back. It doesn't feel much different, having Stiles' earlier words echo around in his head. That his presence -- no, his mere existence is the root of all evil is a thought that Derek's had more than once. But it's different when it's coming from someone else.

Derek wants to go home, but his home is a burnt-out shell full of ashes and ghosts and his loft isn't safe. Never really has been, now that he thinks about it. Everyone walks right in, with no respect for his boundaries or his privacy. At the loft he can't be sure that Stiles or Scott or even the sheriff won't be there waiting for him.

He doesn't want to talk to any of them, especially not Stiles. Being a werewolf is a double-edged sword. He can hear a lie - or the truth - but the truth is always relative. People say things in anger or out of hurt and they mean them, if only for a split second. Stiles, he knows, meant every word he said - for all of two seconds. They've never had a heart to heart about how they're friends now or swore each other eternal friendship like Stiles and Scott did, but Derek knows Stiles doesn't hate him. He knows Stiles doesn't think he's useless and that they'd all be better off without him. But Derek also knows that he can't look at Stiles' rueful eyes and listen to a heartfelt and serious apology while being reassured that they are still friends. Because--

Because.

He doesn't want Stiles to apologize for what he said like that. He doesn't want Stiles to tell him what great friends they are and then have their relationship go back to a somewhat strained friendship.

Derek parks downtown in a supermarket parking lot and starts walking. He stops at the first bar he comes across, knowing that nobody is going to come looking for him there.

#

Stiles fidgets, feeling a little trapped under his dad's unblinking stare. The silence between them stretches until Stiles is nearly ready to cry.

"Son," his dad says eventually, "you're gonna have to explain that one."

Stiles sighs and briefly closes his eyes. "It all started a few months ago. We were doing some recon on a new supernatural creature in town. Totally harmless, Dad, I promise! It was all really harmless stuff, just checking his house and his--"

"You're talking about that new teacher, aren't you?" Stiles' dad interrupts him. "I knew it! I knew you knew something about that. Damn it, Stiles!"

Stiles winces. "I'm sorry, Dad, I was just--"

"Lying to me. Again."

Stiles swallows, feeling crushed under his dad's heavy look of hurt and disappointment.

"So let me guess," his dad says. "You didn't want me involved, so you and Derek were sneaking around behind my back. And when I caught you, you made up this lie to cover your tracks."

Stiles nods.

His dad sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Stiles, you should know by now that lying doesn't help. I don't know why we have to have this conversation every time something supernatural happens in this town, but it stops. Now. I'm going to talk to Scott, Derek, Melissa, Chris - hell, I'm going to talk to everyone - so when the next thing happens, someone will tell me what's going on in my own damn town!"

Stiles flinches back when his dad gets progressively louder with each word, punctuating his words by slamming his hand down on the table. He can't tell what hurts worse - the anger and disappointment on his dad's face or the shock and hurt on Derek's.

"Now," his dad says, forcibly calm, "tell me what's up with you and Derek."

Stiles does. He tells his dad everything, even the things he really doesn't need to know. It's part of Stiles' brand new full disclosure policy that'll probably continue at least until everything goes back to normal. If it ever does.

"…and then he just ran off and now he hates me!" Stiles finishes his account, leaning down to butt his head against the hard wood of the kitchen table.

"Hmm," his dad says. "That sounds to me like he doesn't hate you. But you've got your work cut out for you if you want to win him back."

Stiles carefully lifts his head. "What do you mean?"

"Well, here's a thought," his dad says. "You like Derek."

Stiles frowns. "Uh, obviously."

"No, Stiles. You like Derek," his dad says, pointing his finger at Stiles. "You want to date him."

"What? No!"

His dad raises his eyebrows.

"No." Stiles shakes his head. "Dad, we're friends."

His dad continues to stare at him.

"We're--We--I--" Stiles breaks off, thinking back over his interactions with Derek in the last year. "Aw, crap," he mutters, wondering how this is even a surprise for him.

"Congratulations," his dad says dryly. "Welcome aboard. Now, you need to find Derek, apologize, and make up."

Stiles gives his dad an unconvinced look. It's one thing to be blindsided by his own feelings - been there, done that; by now Stiles almost expects his emotions to run off into the opposite direction of where he thinks they'll be heading - but he's not completely blind. If Derek had feelings for him, Stiles would have noticed. He's sure of it. "I don't kn--"

"Stiles." His dad slowly shakes his head. "I've spent the last six weeks having regular meals with you and Derek. For months before that I've watched you two dance around each other. Trust me when I say that there's something there."

Stiles blinks. It can't be. Except… Derek had kissed him. Several times. The first time doesn't count - it was for surveillance. The third time definitely doesn't count. But the second time, in the loft? There hadn't been a reason for that kiss. Derek could have just as easily kissed his cheek or hugged him, but instead he'd kissed him. Now that Stiles thinks back to that day, Derek's eyes had been soft and hopeful, a combination that is enough to put some hope into Stiles' own heart. "You really think so?"

"I do," his dad says decisively. "You know," he adds, looking thoughtful, "at first I was convinced you were playing me, trying to distract me from whatever was really going on. I waited for a few days for you to come clean, and when you didn't, I decided on a nice family dinner to force your hand. But then Derek actually showed up for that dinner even if he was a bit late, and he invited us for the next dinner, so I decided to give you two the benefit of the doubt. I made you stay over on purpose that night, you know? I wanted to see how serious it was, if it was even real. But you stayed over at his place without your pillow and you were still asleep when I got there," his dad says, a touch of amazement in his voice. "That convinced me that it had to be a real relationship. And not just a real relationship - a serious one."

Stiles feels his stomach drop. He's been sleeping at Derek's place - really sleeping - for weeks now, and he hadn't even thought about bringing his pillow with him. Not once.

Stiles' eyes widen. He doesn't just want to date Derek - he's completely and totally in love with Derek.

"Holy crap," he whispers. "I think I'm love with Derek."

"I told you so," his dad says smugly. Then his face turns serious. "Now go and talk to him."

"Right," Stiles says. "Talk to Derek." He nods, his heart pounding. "I can do that."

"You're not moving, Stiles."

Stiles blinks. "In a minute," he says absently. "I'll go over and talk to him. In a minute."

His dad rolls his eyes and gets up. He grabs the back of Stiles' shirt and hauls him to his feet. "Are you okay to drive? And don't lie - I'll drive you if you think you're too distracted."

"I'm okay," Stiles says.

"Good," his dad says. "Go find your boyfriend."

He gives Stiles a shove between the shoulder blades and then closes the front door behind him.

Stiles takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders and heads for his car.

#

Derek isn't at the loft. Neither is his car.

Stiles drives to every place he can possibly imagine finding Derek: the school (no Derek) and the library (no Derek - and also it's closed, why the hell has he been wasting time driving here?), the old Hale house (depressing for reasons other than the absence of Derek) and the abandoned train station (no Derek, thankfully - Stiles feels a little desperate just checking the place, but he's glad Derek hasn't reverted back to his old self and sought refuge in abandoned buildings and crumbling ruins). When none of these places give him even a hint of where Derek might be, Stiles drives back to the loft, hoping against hope that Derek is home by now.

The loft looks exactly the same as it had the last time he was there the week before. But now that he's looking, Stiles can see all the little changes that happened over the last few weeks. His influence is all over the loft. The lamp from next to the sofa is now next to Stiles' side of the bed - and whoa, Stiles has to sit down at the thought of one side of Derek's bed being his - and Derek has bought a new lamp to replace the one Stiles has appropriated. There is a whole drawer full of snacks and junk food in the kitchen - has been ever since Stiles had spent one Saturday night whining until they'd gone out to get some movie-accompanying snacks. There's a notebook on the kitchen counter for shopping lists - Stiles has been shopping with Derek and he'd been appalled to find out that Derek's system for an efficient and successful shopping trip was 'show up and buy whatever looks interesting'. A pair of Stiles' sneakers sits under the bed on Stiles' side, and - probably the biggest indicator that Stiles feels at home in the loft - after he'd bugged Derek into getting internet access at the loft, his phone automatically connected with Derek's router when he was in range.

Stiles leans back on the sofa and looks at the grubby ceiling. He wants Derek so badly he can almost taste it. It's like eating a burning hot piece of pie. The crust is sweet and crunchy and fine, but the filling is hot as hell and burns your tongue all the way to the back of your throat. But you eat it anyway because it tastes so good that you can't help yourself.

Stiles stares at the ceiling for a while; his pie metaphor is getting creepier by the minute. He isn't sure what to do. Does he wait for Derek and hope he won't get thrown out the second Derek lays eyes on him? Wait until Derek's cooled down a little and then try again? Only Stiles is relatively sure he'll chicken out and never talk to Derek ever again if he goes home now, so he does the only logical thing: he calls Scott.

"…but I couldn't find him, so now I'm at the loft to wait for him," Stiles ends his account of what happened during the evening. "And I keep thinking about these weird pie metaphors to describe our relationship. I don't think I ever want to eat a slice of peach cobbler ever again - don't ask; you don't want to know - and you know how I feel about pie, Scott!"

"Okay," Scott says, "calm down, Stiles."

"I am calm!" Stiles almost yells down the line.

"Yes, I can hear that," Scott says, amused. "Okay, so let me recap: you had a horrible fight with Derek and said something really nasty. He ran off and you went home and confessed everything to your dad. You realized that Derek is your one true love, your soulmate, the other half of your--"

"Scott."

"--and now you're trying to find him to apologize and start a real relationship with him," Scott continues smoothly. "Well, sounds to me like Derek is hiding. He doesn't know about your latest revelation, so he's probably somewhere licking his wounds. And since he's at none of his usual hangouts, it probably means he doesn't want to be found. So if you want to find him anyway, what do you need to do?"

"What do I need to do? Scott, I have no idea. That's why I'm calling. I'm freaking out and you're giving me riddles, are you kidding me right now?!"

Scott rolls his eyes - Stiles can't see him over the phone but he knows Scott; he knows the kind of silence that means Scott is mocking and/or judging him - and sighs.

"What did you do the last time you were trying to find a werewolf who didn't want to be found?"

"I called your phone, Scott," Stiles says. "Not that you picked up or anything. I'm not still bitter about that. Not at all."

"You were trying to rope me into the sheriff's department bachelor auction, Stiles. I'm not going to apologize," Scott says. "And I meant that time Peter forced you to find me."

Stiles frowns. "Track his phone? Shouldn't I try calling him first?"

"If you think he'll pick up," Scott says. "Look, I have to go. I'm bringing my mom lunch - she's on nights this week. But call me if you need anything else. And good luck."

Stiles hangs up the phone and turns his eyes back to the ceiling, tracing a dusty cobweb across to the kitchen doorway. He's still stumped - he doesn't know Derek's password (or user name, but he doubts either one of them is Allison) and without both the password and the user name, he can't log into Derek's account and turn on GPS tracking.

But maybe--

A slow, devious smile spreads over Stiles' face and he picks up his phone and dials.

"Danny, my man!" he says when Danny picks up the phone. "Tell me, are you busy right now?"

Danny scoffs. "It's Friday night, Stiles. I'm--"

"Not busy?" Stiles interrupts. "Great! Because I need your help."

Danny sighs heavily. "Is this the kind of help that will get me arrested or, in this town, eaten?"

Stiles freezes. "Eaten?"

"Yeah," Danny says. "Or if not eaten, exactly, then at least severely dismembered by anything with fangs and claws. Or anyone with a grudge. And magic," Danny adds, sounding a little disgusted. "Magic's a bitch."

"Yeah," Stiles agrees before his brains even processed what he just heard. Then he frowns, playing Danny's words back in his mind. Stiles sits up abruptly. Wait a second!

"Well? Is this a werewolf thing?" Danny asks before Stiles can finish the thought. "Because I refuse to get involved with that. Werewolf business is why my family left Hawaii two generations ago and I'm not gonna be the Mahealani that drags the family back into that."

Stiles can't answer; he's too busy gaping because holy shit Danny knows about werewolves. When had that happened?

Danny's loud "Stiles!" snaps him out of it, though.

"Technically it is about a werewolf, but it's not werewolf business?" Stiles says cautiously. "Pretty much zero possibility of being eaten. Well, maybe a 5% chance of being eaten because this is Beacon Hills. Living in this town pretty much guarantees that you'll be involved in something sooner or later. But no, no werewolf business. It's my business. And Derek's."

"Derek, huh?" Danny says, letting out a low laugh. "Well, congratulations, Stilinski. Didn't think you had it in you."

"Yeah, well, uh," Stiles says intelligently. But really, what can he even say to that? Thanks?

"Okay, what do you need?" Danny asks, putting Stiles out of his misery.

"I need you to track a cell phone."

"Uh-huh. Are you sure this isn't werewolf business? Because last time--"

"I'm just trying to find him," Stiles interrupts. "To apologize, mostly, before he starts thinking worse and worse things about me."

Danny sighs. "Fine. Give me the number and I'll text you the address when I have it. Shouldn't take too long."

"Thank you, Danny. I owe you one."

"You can pay me back by getting your hunk of a werewolf to make an appearance at the next foam party at Jungle," Danny says, somehow managing to put a leer into his voice.

Stiles laughs. The chances of that happening are lower than the chances of no supernatural activity in Beacon Hills, but Danny doesn't have to know that, does he? He does not, Stiles decides. "I'll do my best."

Stiles heads downstairs and waits in the Jeep, thinking that maybe he'll send Danny a picture of Derek's naked chest as a thank you. Steel-hard abs like Derek's should be appreciated, and Stiles has no doubts that Danny would be very appreciative.

#

Derek's shot glass is loosely cradled in his hands, and he stares down at it, wondering why he's even at the bar. He can't get drunk in public. The amount of alcohol needed to temporarily overload his healing and make it stick is more than any sane bartender would ever give to one single person, and even if he can somehow manage to get around that he can't really risk losing control among so many people. There's no telling what kind of damage a drunk-off-his-ass werewolf can do to whatever gets in way.

"Get you another?"

Derek looks up.

The bartender is an older guy in his fifties, with a scraggly gray ponytail and horn-rimmed glasses. He looks down at Derek's nearly full glass and raises an eyebrow.

"I'm not really in a drinking mood," Derek says.

"I can see that," the bartender says, sounding more amused than pissed off that Derek probably isn't going to make him much money tonight. "Only two reasons a man comes to a bar: to drink, or to talk."

Derek shrugs. "I'm not really in a talking mood either."

"Nobody ever is," the bartender says. "That's why most people get drunk first."

Derek nods. "So people come in, get drunk, and then tell you their life story?"

"Pretty much." The bartender casts a glance around the bar and Derek quickly does the same. It's busy enough, but no one Derek can see wants any immediate attention from the bartender. He seems to have come to the same conclusion because he leans against the counter, one elbow propped up against it. "I'm Keith."

"Derek."

"Nice to meet you, Derek. So… money trouble or girlfriend trouble?"

Derek laughs without much humor in his voice. "My problems are never that easy."

Keith raises his eyebrows.

Derek shrugs. "I guess you could say I have… boyfriend trouble." Keith expression doesn't change, and Derek counts that in his favor and continues. "Although he's not technically my boyfriend."

"That part of the problem?" Keith asks, a knowing look in his eyes.

Derek sighs. "It's complicated."

"Most relationships are," Keith says. Along the bar, someone waves at him and he nods. "Let me know if you need a friendly ear while you try and un-complicate things." He grins. "Or if you ever do want a second drink."

Keith moves down the bar and starts pouring drinks, and Derek goes back to contemplating the color of his scotch.

The thing is, his relationship with Stiles is the most complicated, inexplicable, baffling relationship in his life. And it shouldn't be. His relationship with Stiles should be easy and uncomplicated. Stiles is Scott's best friend and the annoying kid who sometimes helps out with whatever crap they're dealing with. Derek is the wolf-brother of Stiles' best friend and the one Stiles can go to if he needs protection. Simple, straightforward and somewhere way down on his list of priorities - that's how it should be.

Instead, Stiles has somehow wormed his way into every part of Derek's life. His colleagues - hell, his boss - ask about Stiles. The sheriff stops and chats with him when they run across each other in town. The ladies at the supermarket he and Stiles sometimes go to smile and give them extra because they're such 'good boys'. And it's not just other people. Derek himself is way too involved in Stiles' life. When he walks into the loft, Stiles' scent is almost as heavy in the air as his own. He added junk food to his shopping list because Stiles whines and bitches until someone goes and gets him a snack during movie night. He looked up a few healthy, low-fat recipes because the sheriff is supposed to keep an eye on his cholesterol. He gets weird text messages at two a.m. because Stiles can't sleep. He has sacrificed a pillow solely for Stiles' use and he's come to expect a pair of Stiles' sneakers placed at a strategic place in the loft so that he trips over them within four hours of Stiles' taking them off.

The thought of suddenly not having all of these things in his life isn't very appealing, despite the sneaker traps and all of Stiles' weird habits. Oh, he's still angry at Stiles and his stupid mouth, saying unnecessarily hurtful things because he just doesn't think before speaking. But most of Derek's anger is directed firmly at himself, for getting too comfortable with the charade. For falling for Stiles.

#

Stiles' gut churns with a weird mix of hope, nerves and fear. Derek's cell phone, and by extension Derek, is in a bar downtown. It doesn't look like much from the outside. A short flight of stairs leads down to the basement level entrance. A row of small windows stretches down the building to the right, but all Stiles can see through the semi-opaque glass is a warm yellow glow.

Inside is a line of booths to the right and a tightly-packed maze of small round tables to the left. Straight ahead is a wooden bar. Derek is sitting on a barstool in the middle of the bar, empty seats on either side of him and what looks like an untouched glass in front of him.

Stiles hesitates. Derek doesn't look like he wants company. What if he doesn't want to talk to Stiles? What if he doesn't want a real relationship? What if he's going to laugh in Stiles' face? Perhaps he should wait outside. Talk to Derek without an audience.

While Stiles is hovering near the doorway, a tall blonde from one of the booths makes her way to the bar. Her friends are giggling and nudging each other, watching the bar with avid interest. Stiles frowns and turns back to the bar.

The blond woman has wedged herself between Derek and the empty barstool on his right, leaning over the bar to talk to the bartender. The bartender moves away and starts pulling bottles down from the shelves behind him. The blonde unsubtly pushes her breasts against Derek's arm as she sits down sideways on the empty barstool, one leg crossed over the other. The move shows off her toned calves and it brings the tip of her heeled shoe right up against Derek's leg.

Derek finally glances over, an inscrutable expression on his face as the blonde starts talking - no, flirting - with him, slowing running the tip of her shoe along the outer seam of Derek's jeans.

The blonde reminds Stiles of someone, but he can't quite put his finger on it. He glances at the bartender who is still busy mixing drinks for the blonde and her friends. Stiles wishes he'd hurry up so the blonde can go back to her table.

At the bar, the blonde's blood red nails reflect the light as she leans forward and puts her hand on Derek's arm. Her black leather skirt, already very short, rides up another inch and Stiles swallows hard. How can he compete with a gorgeous woman like that? Like Derek is going to look at him twice now that he has the attention of a hot blonde who's closer to his age and a lot of other things that Stiles isn't and never will be.

He's about to turn away and go home to wallow in self-pity when the bartender sets down a line of multi-colored drinks and accepts the blonde's credit card. The blonde grabs one of the drinks and takes a sip before she stands up and - again - lets her chest brush against Derek.

Stiles feels a stab of jealousy at the thought of that woman putting her hands - and other parts - all over Derek. He feels even worse at the thought of Derek putting his hands all over her body. If Derek touches anyone, it should be him. Stiles is the one who voluntarily skips to the next scene if any movie they're watching has a house fire in it. Stiles doesn't tell the waitress at the diner to hold the onion rings because he knows Derek likes them. Stiles knows Derek and he knows Derek's history and he'll never be mad because Derek is crabby sometimes. He knows what it's like to randomly remember something about a dead family member and feeling like shit for the rest of the day.

The blonde leans in, her lips almost brushing against Derek's ear. Stiles can't hear what she's saying - not having werewolf senses is a blessing in this instance, he's sure - but he can read the suggestive smirk on her face perfectly. He frowns. That smirk - it looks just like… Stiles' eyes widen and he takes in the uncomfortable set of Derek's shoulders, the blank, serious face and the hand that's clutching his glass like a lifeline.

The blonde reminds Stiles of Kate - same dark blond hair, same toned body, same smirk. Kate is dead - twice over, and good riddance - but Derek can't function normally where Kate is concerned, even when it's just a Kate look-alike.

Time to rescue his man.

Stiles stomps over to the bar, eyes fixed on Derek. Derek, either through intuition or his supernatural senses, notices him the moment he starts moving and watches him approach out of the corner of his eye. Stiles can't interpret the expression on Derek's face. It's a new one, intent and serious, but with soft eyes and a hint of sadness around the mouth. Stiles almost feels like they're on even ground because the faintly puzzled look in Derek's eyes tells him that Derek has equal trouble reading Stiles right now.

Ignoring the woman, Stiles pushes forward until he's almost between them and reaches up, putting a hand on Derek's jaw. He runs his fingers through Derek's beard and slowly turns Derek's head to face him. Stiles breathes a little easier when Derek doesn't resist but instead minutely pushes his face into the caress.

"You need to be my boyfriend again," Stiles says. And wow, smooth, Stilinski. That's not exactly what he'd intended to open with.

Derek meets his eyes, and Stiles can read something akin to a challenge in them.

"Because of your dad?" Derek asks.

"No." Stiles slowly shakes his head. "Because it's been not even a week since everything went to shit and I miss cuddling up to you for movie night and making Scott uncomfortable when he overhears things he shouldn't and I miss our fake dates and family dinner with my dad and I even kinda miss arguing with your about over-sharing and your neighbor's interest in our kinky sex life."

The woman, who had been unsubtly kicking Stiles' heel with her pointed shoe, gasps and grabs as many drinks as she can carry, heading back to her table and her tittering friends.

Derek huffs out a laugh and turns towards Stiles. "My boss likes you. You were always an easy excuse when I needed to take a day off work. And the old lady at the supermarket's meat counter is always more generous with her measurements when you come shopping with me. But I--"

"God, Derek, I'm so sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it, I swear," Stiles blurts, unable to keep it in any longer. "Your existence is like the best thing about you. Besides the eyebrows of course."

For a moment, Stiles doesn't think Derek will respond, but then Derek's lip pulls up at one side. "Of course," he mutters. "Always the eyebrows." Derek nudges Stiles' thigh with his knee. "I miss the cuddles, too."

"Oh, thank god," Stiles breathes. He leans forward and buries his face in the crook of Derek's neck. Derek wraps his arms around Stiles and lowers his head, rubbing his cheek against Stiles' hair.

"So, Derek," Stiles says, muffled by Derek's shirt. "Wanna be my boyfriend? Like, for real this time."

Derek squirms as Stiles' hot breath tickles his neck, but he nods without hesitation. "Yes - but only if you finally admit that you started this whole thing."

Stiles pulls back - not far enough to let go of Derek, but far enough that they can argue while looking at each other. "Me? I think you're remembering it wrong. Let me reiterate: you were the one caught in my bed."

Derek narrows his eyes. "Exactly. It was your bed."

Stiles narrows his eyes right back at him. "You were in it."

"So were you."

"It was my bed."

"So you admit it!" Derek says.

"What? No. You were the one who--"

Derek catches Stiles' chin, tilts his head up and cuts him off with a kiss. The first of many.

Chapter Text

John is in the kitchen when Stiles blows into the house, dragging Derek after him by the hand. He only catches a flash of them before they're thundering up the stairs. Seconds later Stiles door slams shut and John huffs out a laugh. He looks down at his list - people he needs to talk to about not letting his son leave him in the dark when something's happening - and circles Chris and Melissa's names. It's way past time that the three adults - the three parents - in this pack or whatever they call it had a long talk about their kids, including the ones not related by blood. Werewolf, kitsune, werecoyote, banshee or human, they're still kids and ultimately it's their parents who are responsible for making sure everyone and everything is all right.

John tears the page off his notebook and stuffs it in his front pocket. Derek and Stiles are talking - he can hear their muted voices from upstairs - and John smiles a little as he walks into his study and opens the safe under his desk. He's still in full uniform even though he isn't going back into work today. He takes his gun out of its holster and quickly switches the clip for the anti-werewolf ammo he got from Chris. Stiles may have said their teacher isn't a werewolf, but a little extra protection can't hurt, can it? He pockets his taser for the same reason.

Upstairs, the murmur of voices changes to giggles and - yup, there are moans now. John knows exactly why he let Stiles stay over at Derek's place on the weekends, even if - as it turns out - they've never actually done anything before now. Derek must be too preoccupied to realize he's still in the house and neither of them are thinking about the fact that Stiles' room isn't soundproof.

John sighs and jots down a quick note about where he's going. If everything goes according to plan, he'll be back before Stiles finds it. Judging by the sounds coming from his son's room, he'll be too preoccupied to come looking for him anyway. John makes a face and hurries out of the door. His son's and his son's boyfriend's loud moans and breathy sighs aren't anything he wants to hear - ever.

#

The house is a small middle-class home with a perfectly cut front lawn and a meticulously well-maintained paint job. Before he can change his mind or admit to himself that it's pretty stupid to show up on the man's doorstep late on a Friday night, without backup or any idea what he'll be facing, John gets out of the car and knocks on the front door.

Samorog is a little taller than John, with surprisingly long fine blond hair and bright blue eyes. His nose is a little too long and narrow for his face and when he smiles, he looks like he has at least ten extra teeth in his mouth, but he doesn't look threatening. He dresses like the original professor cliché: tan slacks, light blue button down shirt and a sweater vest. The outfit includes brown leather loafers and a pocket protector. The only thing missing to complete the look are the glasses.

"Ah, Sheriff Stilinski," Samorog says. "I was wondering when you'd stop by."

"Uh… you were?"

Samorog nods and takes a step back and to the side, allowing John a view of a very quaint and tidy living room. "Come in, please. I'm sure you have a few questions."

"Well," John says, stepping into the house. As a cop he has a finely developed sense for danger, and Samorog doesn't trip it. He doesn't feel like he's in immediate danger, so he takes a seat on the sofa - very nice, not too soft or too hard - and agrees to the offer of coffee. While Samorog is in the kitchen, John takes the chance to look around. There are no pictures in the room and the only decorative item is a small porcelain figurine of a dancing fairy that has taken center stage on the mantelpiece.

"Cream?" Samorog asks. "Sugar?"

"How about you tell me what you are and what you want first." John winces internally, but doesn't let anything but a stern look show on his face. After all, Stilinskis aren't much for subtlety.

Samorog raises an eyebrow and puts the creamer back down. "All right," he says easily. "I'm a unicorn."

John blinks. It sounds a little too fantastical to be true, but most days he talks to at least one werewolf. Keep an open mind, John, he reminds himself.

"Sheriff? Sugar or cream, or both?"

"Whiskey," John replies because no matter how used he is to the weirdness that is his life, there are just some things that are weirder than anything else put together.

Like unicorns.

Samorog gives him a knowing smile and walks over to the bar in the corner of the room. He pour a generous shot into John's cup and then fills it up with steaming black coffee.

John takes a sip. He isn't sure if it's the whiskey or the fact that the coffee is still very hot, but he feels the burn down to his stomach. "So," he says, "a unicorn?"

"A shapeshifter who takes a form that is commonly referred to as a unicorn," Samorog clarifies. "Ages ago, my ancestors were not as careful as we are today and the myth of the unicorn was born. These days we are all too aware of CCTV cameras and smartphones with amazing video resolution."

"I doubt you came here because you heard what a quiet and peaceful town Beacon Hills is," John says, taking another sip of his laced coffee. "Why did you move here?"

"Oh no," Samorog says with an amused smile. "The town's reputation is exactly why I moved here. You see, my kind aren't as wide-spread as we once were. I'm sure you've heard tales about the powers inherent in a unicorn's horn."

John nods.

"Well, all those tales and myths you know carry a kernel of truth. We aren't mythical beasts that live in forests, of course. We're people like you and… me, I suppose. But unlike other shifters whose powers lie in their predatory side, ours are much more docile. We used to be hunted more than any other type of shifter because our horns are more valuable than you can imagine. They're the seat of our power, our soul and our life source. Cut off the horn, and the unicorn dies." Samorog pauses and sets his coffee cup down with a clink. "I hope you realize that I'm putting myself completely at your mercy here, Sheriff."

Samorog catches his eye and John feels paralyzed. Suddenly the man's open and friendly expression looks fierce and ruthless, his blue eyes have taken on a white glow and his long blond hair shimmers silver in the warm light of the room. John raises his hands, palms out. "Trust me, I'm not here to cause trouble for you. We have a strict live and let live policy in place here. If you can convince me you're not a threat, then you're welcome to stay for as long as you like."

In the wink of an eye, Samorog turned from slightly terrifying unicorn back into a normal guy. "I'll be staying for one year," he says. "I'll move on in the summer." He smiles. "One year should be enough."

"Enough for what?"

"Unicorns can exert a stabilizing influence on supernatural energies. We soothe supernatural upheaval and bring calmer times after a catastrophic event. Traditionally unicorns are mediators - we go where two packs or clans are warring, where hunters hunt indiscriminately, where unexpected actions blur the natural boundaries of supernatural energy. In the past that often meant exposing ourselves to many dangers and as a result my kind is nearly extinct."

"So you're telling me you're a magical band-aid?"

"Essentially, yes."

"And that it's a danger to your life to do this, but you still do it?"

Samorog raises one eyebrow. "Sheriff, you're a police office. Surely you can understand the need to put oneself in danger if it serves the greater good." Samorog shrugs. "Additionally, there is also the fact that unicorns feed on supernatural energy. There is a surplus of energy during conflicts that we can consume without harming the environment or the supernatural occupants of a territory."

"Shouldn't you want to create more conflict then? If that's what you feed on?"

"Perhaps," Samorog says contemplatively. "I can't say it never happened. But to me nothing tastes as sweet as the energy of a resolved conflict."

"That's… admirable, I guess," John says.

"If it helps, you can check with with the local emissary," Samorog says, taking a sip of his coffee.

The only emissary John knows of kidnapped him, Melissa and Chris and was later found dead in the same place she was found barely alive nearly a decade before.

Samorog must have seen his slight frown because he offers him the name of Alan Deaton.

"The local vet?" John blurts. He'd known Deaton was involved somehow, but so far he'd assumed it had more to do with his profession and less with the fact that Deaton himself was somewhat… enhanced.

"Yes," Samorog says. "He called my clan and asked if anyone would be willing to move into a town with a newly awakened druid tree." Samorog smiled. "I was intrigued by reports about a true alpha in the territory, so I took the job."

"Well," John says, getting to his feet. "Thanks for that, but I really should be going."

"Of course," Samorog says. "It's late; you probably want to go home."

John suppresses a wince and wonders if he can risk it yet to walk past Stiles' bedroom to his own. He'll have to - no way is he spending the night in his car because his son is making up with his boyfriend. Loudly.

"Oh, and Sheriff?"

"Yes?"

"If you could make sure to keep the true alpha from sneaking through my flower beds in the dead of night, I'd appreciate it," Samorog says with a smile.

John smiles back, feeling unaccountably embarrassed on Scott's behalf. "I'll do what I can."

They say their goodbyes and John gets back into his car, steering the vehicle home. Samorog seemed authentic to him and John 100 % approves of his presence in town if he is what he says he is and does what he says he will. He'll do some fact-checking, of course, just to make sure the guy isn't bullshitting him. Looks like his bullshit-o-meter is a little off, considering Stiles has lied to him again. Which--there will be consequences. Grounding. Additional chores. An earlier curfew for a while …but starting tomorrow. No way is he going anywhere near Stiles' room tonight.