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There are no monsters under my bed… they’re in the closet

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College wasn’t everything Stiles had hoped for but it wasn’t everything he had feared either. It turned out to be an interesting mix of tortuously long lectures, stupid pranks, even stupider roommates, life on nothing but instant noodles and a very significant lack of anything supernatural wanting to kill him – at least for the first few months anyway.

There were parties though, huge parties even and he was invited to most of them. It still felt like a little miracle that he was included, suddenly had a social life that wasn't limited to pack. It was something new, situations where he could be himself without risking his life.

Oh and yes, there were new friends. Friends who had no idea what kind of ass he actually could be. At least, not yet. But if he was honest, that was probably mostly due to the fact that Freshmen year was only halfway done and Stiles having had no time to really mess up yet yet or be socially awkward Stiles thought he wasn’t that much of an ass when it came to his friends anyway. Even Derek once admitted to that being true… sometimes.

Stiles mostly spent his time alternating between being stuck at the library, waiting in lecture halls that were way too stuffed, hanging out with his new friends and trying to find the best coffee shop in walking distance.

College life could be hard like that. It was a refreshingly different 'hard' than what he'd lived through back at home.

Also figuring out which bar, bistro, dinner not to frequent, either due to potential food poisoning, too many people wanting to do the same or simple lack of funds, was not as easy as he had imagined.
This city had way too many food and drink related locations, so he wanted to try and find the very best to support his continued survival of college.

Aly always made fun of him for being religious about his coffee (and sometimes even tea because really, he needed to have some variety in his life – at least in all the aspects that counted), but the first time she’d seen him in the morning had very rapidly discouraged her from ever mocking him again. So, what if he was the biggest ass in the mornings before his first cup of sweet blackness? Everyone had their cross to bear, or so his dad always tried to tell him.

All in all, college was good. Or, you know, it was okay.

Sure, he was already flooded with a tremendous amount of homework, rarely had time to indulge in such life-affirming things as playing Mario Kart all night with Scott on Skype or Liam on the phone cursing up a storm, but he still enjoyed college life more than he’d anticipated.

Which probably was mainly due to the fact that his roommates provide an infinite source of entertainment. Sometimes Stiles wasn’t sure if they weren’t doing it on purpose but mostly he thought he had never met more oblivious people in his life.

Aly, Jamie and Jules were, to say it in the most flattering way, totally maladjusted to how live in the human community really worked. Oh, they blended in just fine, passed for regular college students who were totally stressed out and living on three hours of sleep per week. They socialized, had acquaintances, did all the stupid things only teenagers on the brink of being real adults could come up with.

And Stiles had to acknowledge the fact that they tried, really tried, to keep everything remotely suspicious away from him.

Only, they didn't know him that well, because he’s Stiles after all - research genius extraordinaire, with an extensive list of experience concerning supernatural shenanigans (and he really should stop using his dad’s antique vocabulary when thinking about the supernatural, even if it was only in his head. Or rather, especially when it was just in his head).

And the fact that he was Stiles, that he was from Beacon Hills and had dealt with very strange things during the last four years sort of made it obvious to him that his roommates belonged to a community a little removed from the human one.

He applauded their effort to keep it from him, which would most likely be successful if he didn’t have a keen eye for things being a little screwed.

It were the little things which provided him enough info to support his theory.

For one, they talked too loud. He didn’t need to have any advanced abilities to be able to eavesdrop at any given moment. The fact that they seemed so oblivious to their surroundings once safely inside their student housing complex showed that they probably grew up in spaces where everyone was aware.

Secondly, they tried to play heroes one time too often. Stiles thought he’d missed the first few attempts of them solving supernatural mysteries with any real guidance or support. But stumbling upon them beheading a ghoul sort of made it clear what was going.

Thirdly, figuring out what exactly his roommates were had been the most fun Stiles has had in months. He loved solving a good mystery and that certainly was one of the better variety.

He fully engaged all the resources he could get his hands on, which basically meant Deaton and Derek, since everyone else was just as busy with college life as Stiles himself.

So, Stiles was sharing his on-campus apartment-like accommodation with three supernatural idiots. Okay, that probably was a bit too harsh because they actually were kind of brilliant when it came to their studying regimen.

It was four of them on their floor – each of them with their own room, only sharing the bathroom, the kitchenette and the common living area. Stiles had scored the first room after the living area. It was also the biggest, with morning sun and an awesome view down the street.

Aly’s room was right next to his, which he was sort of grateful for. She was very quiet once all doors were closed and everyone was hidden away in their own little kingdom.

Aly was also a witch, which meant that the protection she has cast around her room was bleeding through to Stiles’ a little. So it took him way less effort on his own part to cast some protection, just using the surplus of Aly’s magic.

Being a spark sometimes had its advantages.

The bathroom separated the front rooms from the two in the back. Those were Jamie’s and Jules’, a werewolf and a shape shifter, as life – or int his case wealthy families who could afford to buy into student accommodation so that their kids could live together - would have it.

Stiles still wasn’t a hundred percent sure what kind of shifter Jules exactly was but he had seen him morph into various shapes and colors on different occasions, so it was safe to say that Jules had extensive abilities.

Jamie was a gentle soul, sort of atypical when it came to werewolf behavior during certain moon phases. He was more of a puppy than any other werewolf Stiles had the pleasure to encounter (yes, even more than Scott could ever be).

Jamie was always calm, always seemed settled, never even let a growl slip. It might have been his upbringing, his parents had probably warned him about to never let anything show or it might just be his nature. Stiles has never seen him shift but he knew enough about werewolves to recognize one. Deaton providing pack names helped a tiny little bit as well.

So, that was a witch, a shape shifter and a werewolf living with Stiles – and they all thought he had no clue.
It took him only a week to figure it all out. Then he knew this year would be fun.

The first mystery he solved though was the one about him ending up in such a great room like he had.

At first he’d been really confused about how they all had managed to score one of the rare – which according to rumor were always booked with no chance of freshmen ever getting in – apartment-style floors on Greenwich Street. He’d already resigned himself to loud freshmen dorms, because let’s be honest even student accommodation – on or off campus – was almost un-payable in New York without any kind of parental support or a scholarship.

His own scholarship didn’t cover this kind of living at all.

Stiles, in an attempt to settled his curious mind, spent three entire nights hacking into not so secure databases (and he fears for his more sensitive data on school-owned servers now) until he found some sort of donation account linked to their names.

He knew his roommates’ parents were sort of well-known names in certain circles (namely circles linked to the Upper East-side) but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out who’d pledge for him with this kind of money. It wasn’t until he accidentally stumbled upon an old student register with ‘D.Hale’ plastered on top that the penny finally dropped.

So far he hadn’t tried to bring it up, didn’t know how to and didn’t know what it would matter in the end. It wasn’t like he could demand for Derek to take the donation back or something.

It was just that Stiles didn’t really know why Derek would go to such expenses for him. In the end it remained kind of a mystery to him.

Stiles’ roommates’ antics were also one of the main reasons why he had kept up constant contact with Derek after graduation and let's be honest, fleeing to the other side of the country. Even though he still thought ‘fleeing’ was a too strong a word to use but his dad had yet to be convinced otherwise. Stiles knew he’d always be losing this argument, seeing that not only his dad but Scott, Melissa and sometimes even Kira and Liam would join in on it and plant themselves firmly against Stiles’ points of NYU offering the best package.

Surprisingly, it always was Derek who never said anything other than NYU being a good place with a lot to show for itself. Stiles had never seen his dad glare any harder than at Derek during this particular dinner during senior year.

Stiles still was a little confused why he ended up calling Derek that first time a few weeks into the semester. It just felt right back then, with Lydia off to Boston to do great things and the clear order to not bother her safe for life-changing (read: life-threatening) things.

Somehow relationships had changed senior year, maybe even before that.

Scott was still his best friend but not necessarily the first person Stiles went to anymore. Lydia slowly inched into this spot followed by Derek sometimes, always dependent on the topic Stiles needed to rant about or advice for.

Liam sort of adopted and embodied the role of annoying younger brother, not only to Stiles but to everyone else as well. So it was like joined custody most of the time. Along with Liam came Mason, who turned out to have a better survival instinct and saved their asses a couple of times.

Kira, well she was still more firmly planted on Scott’s side of the equation and Stiles actually thought it perfect this way. All four of them stayed in California, either still in high school or choosing different colleges but staying close to Beacon Hills for different reasons.

Malia, well Stiles had no idea where she was right now. She went off to have some self-finding thing with Cora, like a family reunion no one ever thought was needed. There had been a huge blow-up about it, something about not trusting enough, not being open enough. Stiles still wasn’t sure who accused whom of what but it had been a loud end to something he was still very confused about.

Derek stayed because he could.

It was Hale territory, it was mostly still Derek’s land and there was a job for him now as well. No one was exactly sure how that happened but people keep muttering about the Sheriff having a too good of a heart an d taking in strays left and right.

It wasn't even that complicated. Stiles remembered it being a pretty simple thing. After their Mexico adventure, after Derek proving that he'd do a lot to save the pack and could actually be pretty resourceful when it came to investigations, Stiles' dad just offered the position.

It took Stiles a week to make Derek see that it was a good idea. Sometimes, he thinks he should have kept his mouth shut. These days he tried valiantly to not think about Derek in uniform but usually failed spectacularly. It was a constant source of amusement for his dad, who for some reason had gotten it in his head that there was something between his son and resident sourwolf that was worthy to tease them about.

Right. No.

Well, maybe. But really, no. Not really.

Anyway, Derek ended up being the only one back home who could retell every single detail concerning Stiles’ roommates. He never seemed to mind when Stiles forgot about the time difference and called in the middle of the night or during one of Derek’s shifts.

Well, at least Derek never pulled a Sheriff and hung up when Stiles called in the middle of a shift, which rude on his dad’s side and very nice on Derek’s. Stiles had a bet going with himself for when Derek would finally lose patients but so far Stiles was the one on the losing end of that bet.

“Really, Stiles?”

“Hello, to you, too Grumps. I’m excellent , how are you doing this fine day,” Stiles mocked, voice teasing to make sure that Derek heard it loud and clear. He flopped on the couch, dragged the plate that hold what could go through as lunch close and grinned at Derek’s put upon tone when he finally replied.

“How often have I told you not to call me that?”

“About as often as you told me not to call you Sourwolf.”

“Right, what does that tell you about your nickname-finding abilities?” Derek sighed. It was cute how he could sound so resigned when talking to Stiles but never refused to do so anyway. That thought made something warm spread throughout Stiles' chest. He ignored it, as always.

“It tells me that you don’t appreciate my awesome name-finding abilities. Because, they are. Awesome, that is. My ideas always fit you to the core, so shut up and take it,” Stiles crowed and only stopped to think about his words when there was a choked sound on the other end.

Yeah okay, so his inability to actually use the filter between his brain and his mouth had only gotten worse since he actually started really talking with Derek instead of just trading sarcastic jibes.

“Why are you bothering me this time? You are aware that I am on shift, right?”

“What? It’s not like you have anything to do right now,” Stiles mumbled through the muffin he had liberated from the pack that lay unclaimed on the kitchen counter.

Things with no name on them belonged to the public, everyone knew the rule. Stiles never felt bad about taking food this way. He was a poor student after all, he had to find creative ways to get his daily needed calorie intake – at least on some days.

“Said who? Paper work was still work. I know you’ve heard that argument before. Also, not having anything to do doesn’t mean I want to talk to you,” Derek’s was voice neutral. Stiles knew only too well that it meant either annoyance or amusement and hoped for the later.

“But… but, I’m the only source of real entertainment in your dull life. You know you want to talk to me. You need more fun in your life. I am it. Me and my stories. And really, Derek, masturbation doesn’t count as entertainment.”

“Oh God. Stiles!” Derek groaned at Stiles. It was that kind of long suffering groan Stiles knew meant Derek was about to settle down and start listening to him. Mission accomplished.

“What did they do this time?”

And that was how their conversation started lately.

Stiles would tell him about his roommates, then Derek would reassure Stiles that everything at home was fine, that his dad was eating healthy and nothing supernatural was trying to decimate the pack.

Then Stiles would spin stories about his professors that were mostly true but only meant to make Derek snort with laughter before they would switch to random things which always end with Derek giving him tips about where to go in the city. They could talk for hours without ever being interrupted if Derek wasn’t on shift.

This time though it went a little differently.

“Kanima.”

“What?” Stiles knew Derek had sat up, all alert and worried now, then he heard something shuffle over the phone and could guess it was either Parrish or his dad listening in now.

“They came in last night, talking. Guess they didn’t see me all sprawled out on the couch – which come on, werewolf.... he should have at least heard my heartbreak. Anyway, I was enjoying one of the most delicious lángos I’ve ever had, thanks for the tip Der…”

“Stiles…”

“Oh. Yeah, sorry. Anyway, they didn’t see me, kept on talking about something stunning students on the campus of CUNY, that it might be a Kanima and how they could get rid of it. Their sources seemed pretty legit.”

Stiles made sure he was alone before he called Derek. Would just be his luck to be walked in one while he discussed his roommates illustrious lives.

“Please, tell me you don’t plan to go and solve that problem all by yourself,” his dad interrupted and Stiles actually snorted a laugh at his father’s resigned tone.

“No, dad. I do not plan to be this stupid. I haven’t been this stupid in a while and I haven’t been this stupid with all the other things my rather oblivious roommates tried to deal with this semester.

Also, the problem has already been solved. I planned on staying up tonight to get a good look at their confused faces when they return from yet another unsuccessful supernatural hunting trip,” Stiles sighed into phone and settled further down into the cushions behind him. He should thank Derek for telling him about the secondhand furniture store, he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t already because this couch was heaven.

“And how exactly did you solve that problem, Stiles,” his dad asked.

“Called the emissary of the Ithaca pack. They took care of it. Man, that were two interesting phone calls. Guess, being associated with the Hales still holds some value. Also, I might have exaggerated my role in the pack a little.”

And Stiles seriously hoped that they took this conversation into his dad's office. Some things should really stay within a certain circle.

“What did you do this time?” Derek sounded grumpy again.

“Nothing much, no need to sound so put upon. I only maybe might have told them that I’m the Hale emissary. Just, you know, so that they give me the time of the day?” He wasn’t fond of how unsure he sounded.

The silence that greeted him from the other end had him worried instantly. He knew he might have overstepped a line the second he told that lie but it didn’t feel wrong saying it.

There was no real emissary in Beacon Hills, well at least not for the Hales, and as there was no real Hale pack left they all thought it okay.

But whenever the topic of him maybe training with Deaton to maybe become an emissary one day came up Stiles could never stand there and swear his allegiance to Scott. He couldn't even really explain it. It just felt wrong in a lot of ways save for one.

He knew, deep down, that he could never be Scott’s emissary. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to be despite his spark actually getting stronger and settling into something useful during senior year. But if he was ever going to be that, if he was going to fill that position, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t mind being associated with the Hales.

Stiles was about to apologize when his dad broke the silence.

“Would you stop trying to break my deputy when he’s on shift? Couldn’t you at least wait until he was home?”

“What? Dad? Is Derek alright?”

“I’m fine, Stiles. And I don’t mind. I was just surprised.” The snort that accompanied Derek’s words proved that Stiles’ dad was thinking differently. Stiles would have to call his dad later to dig deeper.

“If you call looking all proud and red in the face surprised, I’d agree,” the Sheriff said all fond, which had Stiles’ face heating up in sympathy.

His dad had, in the recent years, transferred his preference of embarrassing Stiles on to Derek for a reason Stiles had yet to figure out. He was just glad that his dad actually seemed to like Derek and having him on the force.

“Uh… right. Anyway. Problem solved without any Stiles and any other college student being injured. So, yay me?”

A small beep signaled the end of him being on speaker. He heard shuffling over the receiver, a sure sign that his dad had shooed Derek out of his office. At least Stiles hoped that's where they had been while he was audible to everyone within a certain radius.

“Again… how is it possible that your roommates still don’t know that you are aware? I thought one of them was a wolf? He should have at least smelled some of the pack on you.”

Stiles thought he shouldn't find it adorable how confused and put upon Derek sounded when puzzling about Stiles' roommates. It was ridiculous how much he seemed to like it though.

“Derek, as I said before, I have no idea. Maybe they think my friends have never told me what they were and think it’s not their right to do it? Maybe they don’t want me being introduced to the gruesome world of the supernatural? Really, I don’t know. “

Stiles shrugged, remembered that no one could see him and rolled his eyes at himself.

“But, dude. It’s so much fun watching them, listening to them when they think they are being subtle. I seriously hope we never were like that in high school. Dude, that would explain so many of the weird looks we always got. Oh my God, we were exactly like that in high school. How are we still alive? How are we not locked away?”

Derek was laughing at him now, Stiles could hear it clearly and he smiled at the sound. It still always surprised him that Derek actually let loose these days, didn’t hold back so much anymore. It felt good to know that he was the reason for it sometimes.

“Luck, Stiles. Pure luck.”

Stiles heard his dad shout for Derek to go back to work. That always was a sure way sign that the Sheriff’s patience with them was wearing thin. Derek was on shift after all.

“Call me tonight?”

“Sure. After I watched them trying to puzzle out what went wrong this time.”

“Just, be careful, okay? This could turn sour pretty fast if you don’t watch out.”

Stiles smiled. Concern had always been there but the fact Derek let it shine through was a recent development. The werewolf had made him promise numerous times to be vigilant ever since Stiles told him about his roommates.

Because, of course, Stiles would end up rooming with a werewolf, a witch and a shape shifter, who seemed to have formed some kind of supernatural justice league.

“I’ll be careful.”

Dial tone in his ear he grinned a little, feeling settled like he usually did after talking to Derek. Derek, now, felt more like a connection to home home than Scott.

Stiles settled down for a long evening of either bad TV or weird but interesting documentaries. He felt lazy enough that standing up to either get his laptop or any of the movies they have lying around the place was out of question.

+++

Stiles was in the middle of a very detailed documentary about foxes, all relaxed and sprawled out on the couch that still felt like heaven when the apartment door crashed open.

He flailed, his arms in the air and his legs twitching under the comforter – what? He was cold and it was almost winter in New York – he flailed so hard that he ended up on the floor in front of the couch.

“We really need to dust more around this place,” he grumbled while getting up, glaring at Jamie who stood smirking in the doorway. “Also, fuck you. Why do you always have to crash into the place like that?”

“’Cause it’s fun seeing you flail around,” Jamie said, smirk still firmly in place. It only wavered a little when Aly (and Stiles sometimes still had trouble calling her that because her name was Alysa and not Allison) smacked the back of his head.

“You’re an ass, Jamie. Oh, foxes. Let’s watch this,” she almost yelled while plonking down on the couch next to Stiles.

“Where have you guys been anyway? Another party I wasn’t invited, too?” Stiles actually had a hard time suppressing the grin that wanted to break loose and went for an exaggerated pout instead. It always worked and this time was no different.

Aly pulled him close, cooing and petting his hair a little. She did grimace in disgust though when half of the muffin crumbs on his shirt transferred over to her.

“How many have you liberated?”

And wasn’t it a sign how well they already knew each other when she was using his own brand of language?

“Uh, two? Okay, four.” Her puppy dog eyes were almost as bad as Scott’s, and she was the witch in this weird trio infernale.

“Just for this, I’m going to drag out for a run with me tomorrow,” she said, smirking almost as evilly as Jamie had been just a few minutes ago.

“No. Oh God. It’s cold out there. Have mercy.”

“God, you are such a Californian pussy. You’re not gonna freeze to death out there,” Jules – who hated being called Julian – groaned when he flopped down on Aly’s other side, cup of coffee cradled between his incredibly long fingers.

If things were different Stiles would actually consider Jules an option. But as they were he was neither interested nor inclined to change that. Even though he really hadn't defined his own situation as off yet, only knew that Jules wasn't in it. Pity as it was Stiles actually thought it better this way. He still could look and acknowledge pretty things though.

And really, failed relationships among roommates could be very, very awkward for all parties involved and he was planning on living here for the rest of his college career.

“Hey, no need to be sexist. Pussy’s can be very strong,” Stiles interrupted with a grin and settled more firmly against Aly who was already totally engrossed with what was happening on the screen.

“Right. Oh and to answer your question, we were at the library. Winter break is getting closer and the profs are demanding stupid shit. Meeting up was a coincidence.”

Stiles had to give it to them, they all could lie very believably. If he didn’t know what was going on he would have had no clue whatsoever. So he just nodded, grabbed another muffin, which turned out to be Jamie’s, and went back to watching foxes mate. He only rolled his eyes a little bit.

++++

Stiles grumbled his way out of bed the next morning. Aly had already knocked on his door twice, the last time threatening to get cold water to wake him up.

He stumbled across the hallway once he had managed to actually leave the warm cocoon of his blankets and then proceeded to crash into walls, furniture and Jules on his way to the bathroom.

He’d fallen asleep talking to Derek about coming back home during the holidays and where they would celebrate this year. They’d come to the conclusion that after invading Stiles’ home last year that it was actually Derek’s turn to host the pack.

They’d agreed on Stiles, his dad, Scott and Melissa (and maybe even Rafael, depending on his schedule) spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at Derek’s before having Lydia and Kira plus families over. Liam and Mason would have a family holiday.

He was still thinking about the logistics of it all when he tumbled his way into the kitchen ready to pray to any gods that would provide him with coffee. It was Jamie handing him a cup in the end.

“Spending the night with your boyfriend again?”

“Huh? I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Go on telling us that until we start believing you, honey,” Aly laughed.

Stiles knew that at least Jamie could hear him talking to Derek more often than not. And he probably could hear Derek as well if he concentrated enough, though Stiles hoped he didn’t, because privacy.

But Stiles always tried to keep supernatural things out of their conversations when everyone was home.

Right now, Jamie looked like an actual puppy, head tilted, eyes focused solely on Stiles and nose twitching as if he could sniff out the truth.

It was such a familiar view that he suddenly missed home, missed his pack fiercely. He ducked his head a little, hiding his eyes so no one could ask about the sadness probably visible in them. The werewolf probably smelled it on him anyway. Like he maybe smelled the contentment that Stiles knew settled around him after talking to Derek, too. It wasn’t all that far-fetched of them to think Derek was more than just a friend.

If only that was true, though.

Sure, Derek and he got along better now. Things were not as tense (or maybe just tense in a different way, a voice suspiciously sounding like Lydia added almost every time Stiles let himself think that way).

Just being away from home, being away from that tension between them (that really had always been there in different forms – thanks, Lydia), it made Stiles miss Derek more than he’d expected.

He was keenly aware of the ridiculous way his chest squeezed tight every time he thought about Derek. Stiles knew what it meant, had known in it for quite some time but also knew that he might just as well be alone in this.

Facing things, no matter which nature, was always the hardest thing to do. Stiles had yet to make that step towards facing this particular thing.

Derek has never given any kind of indication that he actually could see Stiles as more than what they were right now.

It was a little frustrating to be honest, because at the same time Derek wasn’t dating anymore, hadn’t ever since that thing with Braeden fizzled out.

Not that Stiles has had any meaningful relationship either after Malia. There have been two hook-ups during his first month in town when he enjoyed his first college parties.

But Stiles has been acutely aware of the fact that this crush he’d nursed and tried to hide ever since the first time he laid eyes in Derek Hale somehow persisted and came back full force once they had an entire country between them.

Sometimes Stiles thought that whoever came up with this stupid absence makes the heart grow fonder saying could go and screw themselves because they were actually right.

And he had no damn idea how to go about that.

“Ready for that run?” Aly practically yelled into his ear. Stiles jumped, almost slid of the stool he was perched on and hit his elbow on the edge of the kitchen counter. He was met with three identical snorts and didn’t even try to dignify that with a remark.

“Urgh, please… no.”

“Get our shoes and let’s go. You’ll thank me later.”

He sure as hell would not. But Stiles didn’t protest, knew it was useless anyway. Aly was the kind of girl that got what she wanted with the minimal amount of pressure, she was just that persuasive and fierce.
It was only grab-and-go with his shoes, so Stiles wasn’t sure why they thought it a good idea to start a discussion on the supernatural with him only seconds away of coming back into the room.

He did roll his eyes pretty heavily.

Did they really think he couldn’t hear them?

At least Jamie should be aware of Stiles lurking close by. He leaned firmly against the wall and risked a glance around the edge. All of his roommates had their backs turned towards him. He bit into his palm to keep from laughing out loud. This was pure comedy gold and no one was around to enjoy it with him. It was a little sad.

“Seriously, that woman was scary,” Jules said in between bites of French toast.

“I know. I’ve never met an emissary this strong before. And I’ve lived in New York all my life. There were some pretty scary ones around,” Jamie agrees.

“And when she said that the Hale emissary sent her and that the Kanima was taken care off I almost lost grip on my form. I mean, come on, how could the Hale emissary know about this?”

Remembering Derek’s reaction to that little lie made the heat shoot up in Stiles’ cheeks. There was no reason to be embarrassed about it but with Derek actually seeming to care made it a little more important.

“Maybe they are psychic? I’ve read about psychic emissaries and don’t they have a Nemeton in Beacon Hills? My mom said something about it being finally put to rest. It could be all about magic and seeing things happening before they do,” Aly added, voice unconcerned, and Stiles admired her for her unclouded way of seeing things.

“I mean, think about it. This wasn’t the first time this year that one of our missions turns out to be resolved before we start. I know our parents told us to hold back and concentrate on school for once but maybe they let word out and someone is watching us? Could be a psychic emissary, could be someone in our lectures keeping an eye on us. Who knows, it’s not like our parents would admit to anything.”

Deaton had provided Stiles with a detailed list of packs in the area, the city as well as the state of New York. Jamie’s and Aly’s families had been among the names on it. That’s how he found out about them for sure after he’d had some suspicions. Jules’ supernatural identity had only been a matter of well-placed observations even though they hadn’t been as detailed as Stiles would have liked.

Anyway, Deaton’s books had provided a good overview. So Stiles at least knew that his roommates grew up being taught pack histories. But it still sounded strange to hear them talk about it.

“If it’s the Hale emissary, I sorta feel honored,” Jamie said. Stiles perked up.

“Remember how our parents always talked about the Hales? How strong the pack was and how strong the ones that survived must be? If there’s still a Hale pack and an emissary, and if they are still watching over the community, guess that means they are stronger than we ever thought.”

Jamie sounded so reverent that Stiles had to swallow. Sure, he knew that Derek’s family had a reputation before the fire, one that still opened doors these days. He also knew that Derek himself had built up some kind of rep during the last few years, helping Scott and consequently other packs. He just never knew that the name Hale still held so much honor and meaning even among the next generations.

“I remember meeting Derek and Laura when I was little. Before everything I think. They were up in summer camp my aunt held, still does. You know, the one for kids like us?” Jules said, head bowed a little and Stiles wondered all over again what kind of shifter he actually was. Aly and Jamie nodded but stayed silent, so did Stiles. He wanted to hear this.

“That boy was so bright, brilliant even. He talked a lot, mostly about his family and how close they all were.”

Stiles closed his eyes for a second, took in these words, savored them because he knew this about Derek, had sat down to hear stories about the Hale pack from the werewolf himself. Hearing others tell about how Derek used to be, it hurt.

Stiles hurt for Derek, for the fact that Derek lost all of that. He could see that brilliant little boy, who was talkative and open, shine through sometimes now, when Derek was unguarded, when he felt safe among his friends. But it was still too rare, didn’t happen often enough.

“It was fun watching them that summer. They were so carefree. I was jealous. I told my dad when I got back home and he was all up in arms about it, made sure I didn’t offend the Hales or did something stupid. Man, I was so mad at him for not even asking how my summer was. Later, my mom would sit down and explain the Hales' importance and ever since I wondered how they’d be today, you know? Derek Hale was kind of my role model for a while. He was so put together and still so happy.”

Stiles almost laughed out loud again, bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t wait to tall Derek all about it. His roommates were practically fanboying over him. This was brilliance.

That was enough though. Purposely crashing into the wall he leaned against Stiles stumbled out, hoped that he was succeeding in looking all innocent and grinned at the sighs that followed his flailing. He had years perfecting his innocent face in the presence of werewolves after all.

“There you are. I was starting to think you’d gone back to bed,” Aly said with a slight smile that, for a second, made Stiles think she knew. But then she lugged a bottle of water at him and made towards the door.

“I wish I had. Do I really have to? It’s cold outside,” he whined deliberately annoying to cover the skip in his heart.

“Come on, Stiles. I know you are from Cali but this isn’t bad. The sun’s out and the chill is manageable. This would do you good. You’ve been cooped up in here all weekend and come Monday you’ll be all cooped up in the library again.”

He knew she was right but that still didn’t mean he wanted to be outside and run. He only ever runs when his life was in danger and he wanted to keep it that way. He hated running, lacrosse didn’t help with that, neither did coach’s training methods.

He did end up circling the close-by park three times before his whining got on Aly’s nerves so much that she dragged him into the nearest coffee shop only to shut him up with a bagel and venti hot mint chocolate.

If he grinned all satisfied because of a mission accomplished no one needed to know.

++++

Thanksgiving was sort of a quiet affair. Stiles didn’t have time to fly home and his dad could only get two days off, which meant spending it on Skype during the meal and watching the game together this way as well.

But it wasn’t bad. He wasn’t alone, never felt like it either and he could actually live with how things went down. He had the apartment to himself for the weekend and made the best out of it.

Aly had invited him to come along with her but after talking to Scott and Deaton Stiles had decided not to infringe on another pack’s territory just yet. New York City was a neutral place, the state of New York as well as any other surrounding states were not. Aly had only let him stay after he’d ensured her that scheduled Skype sessions with his dad and friends were perfectly fine by him.

So he’d stayed.

He had actually managed to acquire a decent Thanksgiving meal from their next door neighbor and had thrown himself into Black Friday online shopping like there was no tomorrow. He’d even decided to let Derek sleep in and call midday instead of when he was still awake at 4 in the morning.

Derek had wholeheartedly appreciated that decision or had at least grunted as much into the receiver when Stiles finally got around to call, which had made Stiles snort very obnoxiously.

Derek had the pack over so Stiles made them all talk to him for at least ten minutes and smiled through every single one of those conversations, even if Liam told him about how his grandmother threw up over the entire table and Mason talked about nothing but the sores on his foot. He loved his pack even if they made him a little nauseous at times.

He fell asleep listening to Scott and Derek arguing over how to correctly set up the new gaming system they all somehow managed to talk Derek into buying. Stiles still had the pages long text conversation saved on his phone, looked at it from time to time to imagine Derek scowling and growling while reading the multimillion word answers directed at him. It always had Stiles smiling in the most stupid ways.

Jules was the first to come back, packed with leftovers that were sure to help them over the next few days. The freezer was stocked pretty well by the time Aly and Jamie had settled back into college life.

Classes were busier than he’d expected, leaving a little less time to Skype home or call Derek when he was on shift. But it was okay, Christmas was coming closer and he’d never thought he would be looking forward to going back to Beacon Hills this much.

There were so many reasons why he chose New York, why he needed to get away and distance himself from that place, none of them had prepared him for how much he’d miss the people he left behind.

“Hey, how about we go to Susi’s tonight. I’m graving Finnish vodka,” Jamie asked a week after Thanksgiving, flopping down next to Stiles on his bed. Stiles hadn’t even heard him come in. Seemed like it was all wolves’ ultimate goal to bring him to an early grave through scaring him to death. He took a deep breath, sighed it out and hit Jamie in the side.

“Hey!”

“Dude! I told you not to sneak up on me.”

“Sorry, man. I sometimes forget.” Jamie actually sounded contrite there.

Flashes of the Nogitsune, of not having any kind of control, of being surprised in a bad way at every turn still made it into his mind now and then.

It was a lingering presence; making nightmares all the more nightmarish, having him call Derek in the middle of the night without being able to say a single word. His roommates knew about his night terrors but not the real reason for them.

Stiles closed the study guide, let it slide over the edge of the bed and sighed again at the satisfying thumb it made.

“Going out you say? Sure, sign me up. I’ve been cooped up way too long in here.”

“Great. Awesome. Let’s meet up on the steps of the Met around seven. I’ll let Jules know. Aly will probably come later.”

“On the steps of the Met. So you’re Queen B now and who am I?”

Stiles couldn’t help it, late nights spent watching crappy teen television while trying not to worry too much about the members of the pack being out had made some cultural references stuck more than others. And Jamie just gave him the perfect set up.

“Well, if you’re asking like that, don’t be late Lonely Boy.”

They both snorted, grinned at one another until Stiles rolled his eyes and angled himself over the edge of the bed to fish for one of his other books he needed to get done with the history paper. Maybe he should call Derek later, that guy seemed to have a vast knowledge of everything historical. Maybe even Skype, he missed seeing the wolf.

Four hours later he was drunk of his ass and trying not to get eaten by something that very much looked like one of those carnivorous plants only with arms and legs.

Jules was lying unconscious next to the backdoor of the bar they’d all been in. Aly was bleeding heavily but still stood tall. Jamie tried to circle the thing before it could make another step towards Stiles where he was leaning against a dumpster.

He had no idea how they all ended up out here. One second he was enjoying a really good Irish whiskey, that a guy at the bar had insisted on buying him, the next a very weird looking woman was dragging him through the bar.

It wasn't like he was opposed to attracting attention - even though lately he hoped for more attention from a certain wolf-inclined person. But this being manhandled and babbled at wasn't what he'd imagined when thinking about college life and how to get around still not being exactly legal.

Weird looking lady had mumbled something about seduction, about making him feel good before she got her hands on him. And Stiles? Well, he’d laughed right in her face. Probably not the wisest of decisions.

He'd later blame his mind for the fact that he'd sort of missed the dangerousness of the situation and for totally getting lost in a fantasy about being curled up with a certain werewolf and having that very good whiskey.

Anyway, laughing in a person's face while they're obviously trying to put a spell or something similarly evil on you could be seen as mocking. Which Stiles guessed she decided to do so.

Unfortunately, the combination of angry frown and total confusion on her face didn't do anything for Stiles to not snort right into her face again.

Maybe he should listen to Derek more often and analyze situations more thoroughly.

Because weird looking lady frowned even more, then blinked at him and finally asked in a voice that could cut glass why he wasn't swooning, falling all over himself to get it on with her.

The next minute was a blank spot in his memory. He wasn't sure what he said but it must have been the total opposite of what she wanted to hear.

Suddenly there had been sharp teeth, black eyes, a head that seemed to transform into petals – what the hell? – and the grip on his arms tightened painfully, almost to a degree where he couldn't stand it anymore.

For a second Stiles was shocked how used to situations like this he apparently was because his mind instantly switched to spells he could use. He didn't even need to really think about it, had the spells ready and was actually about to mutter the words when the tight grip on him was suddenly gone.

Stiles sort of flopped around, spun by the force which got the woman away from him. The momentum carried him backwards, stumbling, flailing to find purchase somewhere before he ended up on his ass.

His head hit the lamp post behind him harder than it was good, black spots appeared in his vision making it hard to focus, to concentrate on the situation. There were growls, almost sub-vocal but still audible to his trained ear.

He struggled back up to his feet, head dizzy, vision blurry. He should get out of the way, find a spot where he could collect himself and be able to actually take in the situation and chose the right spell.

Things were too chaotic, too entwined to be able to make sure that he hit the intended target.

Suddenly he was flung to the the floor again, blurrily watching Jamie fly through the air with eyes glowing golden and fangs barred.

Right, the roommate squad to the rescue – his rescue this time.

The pulsating ache at his temple intensified then, made it harder to see what was going on and had him wishing he could lie down.

Then Aly was right at his side - blood running down her arm, her face blue but already healing.

Stiles blinked groggily at her knowing he was about to pass out.

Jules groaned close by. Stiles could barely make him out but saw him pressing a hand to an obviously injured side.

All three of them were huddled close now, Aly crouched over Stiles between him and Jules. The thing was readying for an attacked again when Stiles realized that Jamie was too far away from them to help out, slumped over after being flung against the bar's backdoor.

Aly and Jules still too winded from the fight weren't anywhere near ready to go another round.

Time for plan B then, which had been plan A before the supernaturally inclined roommates formed a rescue squad.

Just a few murmured words, hopefully too low for even werewolves to catch but still there to latch on to the target, and Stiles felt the warm tuck of magic inside of him.

The thing, whatever it actually was, Stiles thought realm of the wood fae or something close seeing as it's head turned into petals – still, what the hell – stumbled when the words found their way and hit.

It groaned, confused and irritated, distracted enough for Jamie to make the final move.

It collapsed the second Jamie got his claws in it.

That was actually the last thing Stiles really saw, before first dizziness and than blackness claimed him.
Waking up after hitting your head pretty hard was never fun, waking up to his roommates hovering around him was really kind of weird.

Stiles was bundled in fleece blankets feeling entirely too hot. Why did werewolves always think that bundling someone up like a breakfast burrito was comfortable? Sure, he would complain about being cold on any given day but that was usually to get the cuddling started. Being submerged in fleece wasn't all that nice, at least not when he couldn't move an inch with in the blankets. How many were there anyway? It felt like a hundred.

Oh and there was Aly, crowded close without actually cuddling him. Jules and Jamie were perched on the chaise-lounge perpendicular to the couch.

“I’m so hot,” Stiles mumbled without really thinking about it.

“Not right now. Right now you look a little too blue and pale for it being anywhere near hot,” Aly whispered into his ear and sighed when he tried to squirm out of the blanket burrito.

Three pairs of eyes were locked onto him with concern shining through when he finally managed to break through the layers and take a deep breath of freedom. Yeah, okay, he was being a little bit dramatic but waking up like that and maybe having to face his friends with the truth, well it made his heart skip in ways it hadn’t since the first time Derek had really, actually growled at him.

“What happened?”

He decided to play dumb for the time being.

“Someone wanted to mug you. We came looking for you. Made them book it, but not before they knocked you down good,” Jules replied sounding surprisingly convincing in his concern.

Stiles wanted them to stew a little. Because let’s face it, he was an ass sometimes and he had to indulge that side of is admittedly flawed character from time to time. It was like an addiction.

“But I saw you bleed Aly. Were you hurt, are you okay?”

He saw them flinch minutely, all three of them grimacing ever so slightly and he knew they hadn’t thought about a proper explanation. Lying really wasn’t their strong suit which made him happy in many ways. Those three were good people.

“Uh… no. I’m not hurt. Probably saw your own blood on my hands. Head wounds are a bitch.”

This would be really hilarious if it weren’t a little sad at the same time as well.

Stiles got why they didn’t want him involved. He really got it. He wasn't part of their packs, wasn't part of their families and they didn't know he knew. Getting someone involved bore a risk in so many ways that not telling them was often the better solution. Until it wasn't anymore.

And still, it hurt just a little bit that they didn't trust him enough to tell him. H couldn't help but feel sort of rejected over it. He suddenly could understand how his dad must have felt when Stiles was lying to him at the beginning of all these werewolf shenanigans.

The guilt was overwhelming for a second.

Stiles wasn't in the right mind to deal with everything now. Maybe he never was and never would be when it came to supernatural problems, but right now he just wanted the headache to be gone.

He decided another nap was required.

“Okay. So... thanks for saving me guys. Very much appreciated,” he whispered into the room while settling down against the still warm blankets.

He could feel the relief spreading through the room on his skin. It made him smile a little.

++++

“When does you flight leave?”

“God, don’t remind me. At 7.00. That is 7.00 AM, Derek! AM. I’m not equipped to get up this early, especially not when I have to find my way through New York’s public transport and through the airport,” Stiles whined into phone that was tugged between his ear and his shoulder while he folded the last one of his shirts to press into the already full suitcase.

“You really are a drama queen. Just take a cab then.”

“Right, and spend money I don’t have, only to sit another hour in traffic while panicking that I won’t be able to catch my flight. Brilliant idea, sourwolf,” he didn’t want to sound as snappy as he probably came across but last night had been a long one.

Again.

There had been a nest of harpies close to the lake in the park, which he’d known about for a while but thought they’d keep quiet enough and stay hidden till spring.

When a jogger turned up with bite marks, though, and no memories of how she got them, Stiles knew he would have to do something. He’d sat down with Lydia on the phone, the bestiary open in his lap and ten cups of coffee. Four hours later he’d had a plan and was trudging through the first sludge of the winter.

He’d been happy to realize that none of his roommates had heard about the harpies but had wished for the back up once he was in the middle of eviscerating them. In the end it had taking him longer than he’d anticipated and resulted in him frozen to his bones as well as soaked all through. Turned out rolling through fresh slushy snow stuff was not all that much fun while fighting supernatural creatures with sharp teeth and claws. He already missed his winter jacket that died a very cruel death last night.

Stiles felt like he still hadn’t really thawed all the way and Derek was bearing the brunt of it now.

“Sorry. I’m sorry, Derek. It’s… it was a bad night and my nose is stuffed, I don’t think I can get this stupid shirt into my stupid suitcase even though I knew it fit when I took it from home. My coffee is empty, I just want to lie down and sleep and I still only have half my stuff packed. And now I’m whining. I’m sorry,” he sighed and flopped down onto his bed. He was alone in the apartment and was grateful for it.

There was silence for a minute or two, not uncomfortable but sort of settling, like Derek was giving Stiles a minute to calm down.

“You do know that you don’t need to bring your entire apartment, right? We still live in somewhat civilized circumstances,” was what Derek answered with in the end.

The laugh that escaped Stiles was startled but genuine and he let it travel, let his body relax for the first time in hours and just lets it go. When he calmed down again he could hear Derek chuckling a little at the other end. It knocked something loose in his chest, something that had been weighing him down for a while already. Something he wasn’t really sure he wanted to analyze just then. More than a crush then.
“I’ll be at the airport tomorrow.”

“What? Oh.. okay.” He knew it wasn’t the smoothest answer ever but he was surprised, so that should count for something.

“If you don’t want me to, I could ask Parrish. It’s just that your dad has a meeting with the Mayor so he’d only be able to get you later. Or maybe I could ask, Scott… He said he’s a shift but maybe…” Derek was rambling. Stiles didn’t know how to deal with this. It never happened before. So he did the only thing he could think of. He interrupted before this got anymore mind-boggling.

“Derek! Derek, it’s okay. It’s cool. I’d like that. Also, despite that fact that your car is a monster, it’s also pretty comfy,” he said with a smirk he knew Derek could hear.

“My car was not a monster, Stiles.”

“It sure as hell is not the elegant smoothness of the Camaro. May it rest in peace. Your car could transport an entire p… junior soccer team,” he managed to press out at the sight of Jamie standing in his door, eyebrows raised in amusement and in question.

“I’m not a soccer mom,” Derek’s indignant shout was audible even to non-werewolf hearing and it made Jamie snort a laugh.

“Sorry, grumps. But with that car, you are. See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Tomorrow. “

Derek hung up first, as he always did and left Stiles with the dial tone he had started to loath.

“Shit, Stilinski, you should see your face right now. All devastated and lonely. What was that again, you don’t have a boyfriend? Word of advice, use the holidays to make sure that this changes. This face of yours right there? It’s pretty pathetic.”

“Did you want anything, Bower? Or were you just wasting space?”

Jamie held up his hands in a placating manner but smiled like he knew he had hit a nerve there, had probably heard Stiles heart skip a beat or two, that werewolfy bastard.

“Actually just wanted to say bye. I’m gonna head out to the Hamptons now, Jules will come with. So I’m not going to see you tomorrow morning.”

It actually warmed Stiles’ heart a little, how far they’d already come after only a few months together. He genuinely cared about those three supernatural idiots and he knew they cared about him as well.

“Aww, you gonna miss me,” he said, grinned unabashedly and moved in for a hug Jamie surprisingly granted. Jamie, despite being a werewolf was rather shy about touches.

“Have a nice time at home, Stiles,” Jamie mumbled into Stiles’ neck. When Jamie let go, it was with a little awkward smile and a shuffle Stiles tried not to find adorable.

“Have fun at your posh Hamptons home, Jamie. See you next year.”

Jamie left with a small smile and a shake of his head.

Stiles just went back to finally finish packing, trying not to curse too loud.

Jules showed up to say goodbye about thirty minutes later. There was another hug but this time not as surprising, Jules was always very tactile, with everyone and everything.

He even had some sort of cuddling pillow on his bed that no one but him was allowed to touch. There had been one hilarious Saturday evening when Jules had brought someone home with him only to throw her out ten minutes later with a rant about personal space and stupid narrow-mindedness. They never talked about that but kept their distance from Jules’ pillow.

Aly crawled into his bed latter that night. She had been doing that more frequently lately, ever since the episode on the alley behind the bar, and Stiles realized that some of her mannerisms were so wolf-like that no one could deny her growing up in a pack as fact.

“You know, I never asked where in Cali you are from,” she said out of the blue, face turned into Stiles’ neck like she always did when they ended up cuddling, usually after a rough night for him (because, yes, night terrors and all that ) or a sleepless one for her.

“Why do you want to know?”

Maybe she had figured it out? Maybe the calm after the alley storm was just to collect all their evidence against him. Because that was what has been bugging him for a while now. They never talked about that evening – not even among themselves, so there hadn't been any eavesdropping going on on his side. They just let it slide how the thing that attacked them suddenly stumbled and was open for a counter strike.

Or maybe they just thought they were that good.

Maybe she has been this uncaring about who heard them on purpose, to give Stiles an opening, a reason to approach them and talk about what he had already seen in his life.

“Oh, just wondering if you’ll spend your break being a complete surfer dude. You know, all bedhead hair, flip flops and a long-board. Out in the sun. Had that image in my mind and now I can’t get it out anymore,” she replied with a grin.

Or not.

His New York born and bread roommates, ladies and gentlemen.

“Oh my God. Do I really look like a surfer dude to you? Okay, if we really were talking about clichés, I have to tell you that you were a total disappointment as an Upper East side girl,” Stiles countered.

“Why’s that?”

“Well, you are as far from a stuck-up snob as one could be.”

She laughed, a little breathless and a little giggly as well.

“Thanks, I think. So, no surfer dude, then?”

“Nope. I do know how to surf. A little. But I’m from Northern California. Not from the coast. It’s not far but still a bit to go. It’s mountains and woods, sometimes even snow.”

“So, you were just yanking our chains with all your complaining about the cold, huh?” she mock-slapped him on the chest which forced a grunt out of him and a laugh out of her.

“Dude, no. I hate the cold. At least the one that is native to this parts of the country. I’m not used to wearing thermal underwear. It’s very constricting, let me tell you.”

“And here I thought you’d be used to it judging from those skinny jeans you seem to prefer.”

They ended up talking half the night away before Stiles actually fell asleep. He kissed her forehand in thanks when he actually woke up on time the next morning due to the three extra alarms she had set for him.

++++

The sign read ‘hyperactive spaz’, was covered in neons as well as glitter and was being held up by an exceptionally grumpy looking werewolf. It was such a hilarious sight that Stiles knew Derek had been bribed into doing it.

God, he had missed his pack.

He had missed Derek.

That was probably the only reason why he just dropped his suitcase and carry-on the second he laid eyes on Derek and jumped. The cardboard sign clattered to the floor and a second later strong arms folded around him, held him up and dragged him close.

They stood like that for a while, Stiles didn’t know for how long. But it was time enough to take a deep breath and savor the closeness. It was ridiculous how much he had missed that, how he only realized now how much he craved being physically close to home, to Derek. The constant flutter in his belly, the tightening of his chest and the skip his heart did every other second was even more ridiculous.

He felt like sixteen all over again, laying eyes on Derek for the first time.

“It’s so good to be home,” he said into Derek’s skin without really thinking about how close it was to his lips.

“Good to have you back. It’s been too quiet.”

And wasn’t meant as a dig.

Derek really meant it, hugged Stiles close one last time before he put him back on his feet. He let Derek scent him for another minute, knew it was important to get it out of the way now.

He was aware of smelling like stale plane air, of hundreds of other people, probably of Aly, Jamie and Jules as well. He felt Derek tense for a second and then relax minutely until it seemed like the werewolf was satisfied.

It never got awkward either. It felt natural to just hug it out, to step back and grab his luggage before heading off towards the car. They’ve come a long way from shoving each other into walls, wanting the other as far away as possible to tentative acquaintance and finally ending up being closer than Stiles had ever thought they’d be.

Sometimes he thought it was a miracle how they could talk these days, how they knew what the other meant without them really having to use all the words. Communication between them was something significantly them that would sometimes confuse and annoy the rest of their friends but worked perfectly for them.


Art by AkumuBlack

“Scott?” Stiles finally asked when Derek stowed the sign away in the back of the car

“Mason and Liam, actually. With strict order to return it in one piece.”

“What did they get you with?”

Stiles didn’t need to elaborate, he could see that Derek knew what he meant.

They got into the car, put the seat belts on and merged into the traffic eastbound before Derek actually answered. It gave Stiles time to just watch him, to take in the fact that there were less frown lines and more laugh lines present on the werewolf’s face now. It gave Stiles the opportunity to realize that Derek actually looked relaxed, rested, less tense and somehow settled. It was a good look on him, too.

“Your Christmas present.”

“What?”

“They saw it. Threatened to tell your dad, which means the entire station would have known and I wouldn’t have had a single quiet day for weeks. I could life with the ribbing but only for so long,” Derek said with a quirk to his lips as if he knew that Stiles now wanted to know about the present. Derek probably did know, the bastard.

“How do they know you actually used the sign?”

“Made someone take a picture at the airport. Don’t worry, I had sunglasses on,” Derek deadpanned in a way that Stiles just stared for a second. He could picture Derek standing there, sign in hand, sunglasses put up and walking to someone unsuspecting asking for a picture.

The first snort erupted without him really recognizing it, a second later he was howling in laughter. He was shaking in the passenger seat, gasping out words like ‘oh my god’ or ‘really?’ all the while Derek was calmly driving towards home.

Stiles calmed down enough after a while to wipe the tears from his cheek and be able to look at Derek without breaking into another round of giggles, it was hard but he managed.

“I just… Just that image of you asking for that picture. I’m sorry but… oh my god… I need to thank Mason and Liam.”

“You do that. I think they were very satisfied with their idea.”

Didn’t sound like Derek minded it much.

The quirk around Derek’s lips remained throughout the entire drive to Beacon Hills and it was still present when Derek parked the car in front of Stiles’ childhood home. It was basically a visible declaration of how happy Derek was these days and in this moment particularly.

Stiles just smiled, was right there with Derek feeling content and happy. He was home again, a place he thought he'd never miss but ended up almost craving to get back to.

Maybe home – the people here more like it – missed him just as much.

Scott barreled into him the second Stiles stepped out of the car.

They almost crashed back into the passenger seat seeing as the door was still open behind Stiles, who only barely managed to catch them in time, with both hands braced against the car’s frame.

“Dude! Let me live. I want to see Christmas happening,” he laughed and then squeaked embarrassingly high when Scott stuck his nose into the crook of Stiles’ neck.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Derek looking all smug and satisfied. Stiles had already resigned himself to being scented by every werewolf available, but having Derek being all smug about being the first one to do so, well, it did things to him.

“Come on, Scott. Let me go.”

Surprisingly, Scott actually did let him go.

They shuffled their way up to the house and were already halfway inside before Stiles realized that Derek was behind them with all of his things grabbed firmly beneath both arms. It was just a tiny little bit embarrassing that Stiles ran first into the door frame and then his dad at the sight of bulging muscles.

No one said a word about it.

Snorts could be heard though.

++++

The week until Christmas was spent catching up with the pack.

There were countless video game marathons, movies no one wanted to watch alone, some research into things that did not have priority, shopping with Lydia, hanging out with Scott and ending up at Derek’s more often than not.

It were these quite moments with Derek that had Stiles realize how much he missed home. Being there with Derek, talking about the most random things and having him listen, it made Stiles feel the most relaxed he had been in months.

New York always somehow felt temporary, Beacon Hills, as much as he had needed to get away from it was home and always would be. But Derek slowly but surely became something much more profound to Stiles. Maybe even the place he really belonged to.

Only, he wasn’t really there yet.

There were still things to be achieved, goals to be reached, things to be done before he could think about it, could think about really settling down.

The knowledge that Derek might be there in the end, waiting for Stiles to reach that point, soothed the constant ache in his chest that flared up every time he went without talking to Derek for longer than two days, that made his heart thump painfully whenever he thought about Derek not being there for him to talk to.

Derek had become his anchor, his fix point to focus on when he was close to losing his mind to night terrors or homesickness.

This epiphany sort of steamrolled him when Scott, in his unique oblivious way, talked about how Derek had been doing while Stiles was gone. Just knowing that Derek actually missed him just as much, well, okay Derek told him so but hearing others confirm it – it made him smile. It made him smile and realize that Derek’s helped him way more than he’d been ready to admit.

Three days before Christmas and the city was actually crowded. Everyone was home, doing late shopping or just catching up with people they hadn’t seen in a while. The spirit of just being together again hang over Beacon Hills like a slight reddish-pink fog.

Stiles loved it.

Stiles loved being home right now.

Stiles loved....

Oh hell..

Lydia seemed to know what he was thinking about the second she gracefully slid into the empty seat next to him. This hadn't been planned but Scott had dragged him out after yet another CoD marathon and they'd somehow ended up in the diner across from the station.

Kira had joined them ten minutes ago, constantly on her phone texting Liam or Mason or both of them.
Stiles thought their little corner would get a little crowded pretty soon.

Lydia looked at him knowingly for a second before she took the menu out of the holder. She didn’t say anything but Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if mind-reading was suddenly a part of her banshee powers.

But Lydia had always had a sixth sense for certain things. Stiles blinked when she perused the menu.

Nothing about that sight send his heart racing or had him frantically searching for a topic to talk to her about. This was just Lydia, his friend, doing mundane things he didn't freak out about anymore.

Stiles wondered when she became one of his best friends, when stopped being featured in the column of ‘potential interest’.

It has been a while.

“What are we talking about?” Lydia asked while flicking through the menu even though it hadn’t changed in all the years they’ve been coming here and she knew it by heart.

“Oh, how Derek almost tore Liam a new one when he was still on the computer a minute before the bi-weekly scheduled Skype call to New York,” Kira delivered with a smugness Stiles didn’t like. He also didn’t like the look that passed between the girls.

“Ah. Yes. As if Stiles wouldn’t try calling for at least an hour if the first call didn’t go through. It’s a little pathetic to watch them be this desperate. But then I guess being slow and realize things at a snail’s pace does warrant some degree of desperation.”

Kira outright laughed at that, smirked into her strawberry milkshake when Stiles could only glare at her. He really did not appreciate being the center piece of their artfully constructed sarcasm.

A glance at Scott told him that his best friend was as confused as ever when things weren’t really spelled out for him. At least Stiles wasn’t that obvious.

“Come on, you are being unfair. We aren’t… I mean I’m not… Oh screw you,” he gave up when Lydia started to giggle right alongside Kira. And Lydia almost never giggled.

But knowing that Derek was keen on talking to him? Yeah, that felt good to know.

“So they still haven’t confessed their undying love to each other? I thought they’d at least taken more than tiny toddler steps?” Scott deadpanned so drily that Stiles couldn’t help but laugh.

Of course, Scott wasn’t that oblivious, he just liked to play it up to get more information. People tended to dismiss him when he played dumb. Stiles had to admit that he did, too, sometimes.

“Could we not? Please?”

He was saved by their food arriving and Lydia ordering half the menu making them stare in astonishment.

Conversation drifted towards future plans, to meet up more often because they all felt the strain being apart for so long put in the pack. Lydia mentioned the emissary training Stiles had promised to think about after graduation and off they were discussing that for the next few hours.

+++

Stiles also ended up at the station a couple of times during that week. Mostly intent on making sure that his dad ate right and didn’t grab too much of the work for himself but usually ending up perched on Derek’s desk rambling on about things and the world.

Parrish even stopped trying to engage in the conversations after the fourth or fifth time he got lost along the way. Now he only rolled his eyes when he saw Stiles bending over Derek trying to explain what he found at the library at one of his late night study sessions.

It was during one of those station visits that he remembered all about Jamie’s and Jules’ fanboying over Derek. The thought weaseled his way into his mind so suddenly that he stopped mid-rant about the awful fake cheese they use on the pizzas at one of the student union cafeterias and giggled. Honest to God giggled and then blushed like he hadn’t done in years.

Derek’s head snapped up almost simultaneously with Stiles burying his head in his hands.

“What was that?”

“Nothing,” Stiles mumbled into his hands and contemplated his chances of sliding from his perch and out of the door undetected. He guessed his chances of that being successful tended towards double negative digits, so he just stayed sitting there and hoped for Derek to let it drop.

“Right, because you just stop mid-rant and giggle like that all the time,” Derek said in that deadpan voice of his that always made Stiles laugh. This time it made him groan and bury his heated face even deeper into his hands.

Derek had stopped typing up the report he was working on when Stiles had dropped by and was now granting Stiles all of his attention.

“Shut up, Hale,” Stiles said without heat, then finally dared to peek through his fingers. Derek’s raised eyebrows and slight smirk did nothing to entice him into actually saying anything. But he knew if he didn’t tell now Derek would make him later.

“Damn you. Okay, so my roommates sort of know about your family. Like, their families know about yours and have told stories to their kids. You guys were like a legend to them? And I just… guess I eavesdropped on them fanboying you. Like seriously fanboying, calling you role model and all.”

Derek’s eyes grew wider and wider with each of Stiles’ words and it shouldn’t be such an adorable sight but it really was.

“Huh? I don’t remember meeting any of them when I was living in New York,” Derek said, sounding nonplussed and adorably confused.

“Oh no. It was way before that. At a summer camp. They were talking about you being young, all carefree pup and stuff.”

“Pup and stuff? Really?” But Derek looked amused now, as if he could remember what Stile was talking about and actually having it be a good memory. So Stiles shrugged.

“I just imagined their faces if I ever get to introduce you to them,” he said instead and then immediately choked on a laugh at yet another wide-eyed stare from Derek.

“Come on, you have to admit, that would be hilarious. They think I’m so oblivious, know nothing and then I introduce them to their childhood hero, who happens to be a werewolf.”

Stiles grinned, proud of himself for remembering where they were and lowering his voice during the last part. You never know who was listening in. He had learned that much in New York.

“God, Stiles, Shut up.” But Derek looked pleased now and Stiles knew he had to introduce Derek to his roommates somehow. Just seeing their faces would be worth it. Not to mention having Derek in New York with him.

+++

Christmas at Derek’s was actually a really festive affair. The loft was all decked out and there was a real tree in the corner by the huge windows. The hole in the wall was gone and the spiral staircase looked new and polished. Stiles was impressed.

The big table was covered in a white table cloth, place mats set at every chair and silverware placed according to rule. It looked great.

There were dark red candles arranged between the foods already on the table. Three different glasses were standing in line at every plate. It was upper class and nothing like Stiles had imagined. He liked that Derek was still able to surprise him with things like this.

Stiles actually stared a little when he arrived, carrying pie and a bag full of presents. His dad cursed when he almost crashed into Stiles, only just so avoiding the second pie’s imminent death by Stiles’ back.

“Stiles!”

“Sorry. Sorry… I.. this… just…”

“Well done, Derek. I haven’t seen him this speechless in… well, forever.”

Stiles scowled at his dad, glared at Derek when the man snorted at the attempt. Not everyone could be a master of glares and Stiles knew he could at least intimidate his dad a little.

“You think you are funny. But you’re really not, dad.”

He walked further into the loft, took in all the changes before placing the pie on the kitchen counter that suddenly seemed to be just there. It had always been sort of hidden underneath cups, plates and books. Stiles wasn’t really sure if he’d ever seen it without being cluttered to all hell.

There were all kinds of different foods already assembled, ready to be either taken to the dining table or consumed later on. It all looked really well thought through.

“Melissa helped,” Derek said from behind him, smirk firmly in place when Stiles jumped and just barely suppressed a squeak. Instead of using all the words on the tip of his tongue he glared once more and pushed the gift bag into Derek’s hands before marching off towards the set table.

“Never knew he could flounce like that,” he heard his dad say and tried hard not to react. Of course, it was just his luck that his dad would team up with Derek.

“He’s been doing it for a while. I think it’s better than the pouts he uses to look all innocent but still annoyed. Makes him look a little like a deranged puppy.”

“Hah, yes. I know what you mean.”

“Okay, enough. Making-fun-of-Stiles-time is over for now. You two had your entertainment and all. I’m hungry, let’s eat,” Stiles almost yelled at them. He didn’t really know how but they always managed to make him feel like a child when they did that.

“But we haven’t really started yet,” Derek replied with a smile that wasn’t mocking but softer around the edges.

“Also, let’s wait for the others to arrive first. Let’s show them we possess basic human manners and courtesy.”

“Do we have to?” Stiles whined just because he felt like it. Derek rolled his eyes, opened the bottle of wine the Sheriff had handed him and started pouring it into the decanter. Stiles was surprised that Derek even owned such thing. Maybe it was left by Peter after… well, after everything went down the way it did and left Derek with even less of a pack or family.

“It was a gift from Cora,” Derek said softly, having read Stiles’ look at the decanter perfectly.

“She coming home for the holidays?”

It was a delicate subject, the relationships within the Hale family. As much as Cora and Derek loved each other, they had totally different views on what Beacon Hills meant to them.

“No.”

This was the only word necessary. It wasn’t said with anger or annoyance, it was just simply stating a fact.

“Malia still with her?”

“As far as I know, yes. They wanted to spend the holidays hiking to a temple in the jungle.”

Well, to each their own. Stiles didn’t really think much about Malia these days. That part of his life would always be connected to the Nogitsune, to the dead pool, to Kate, the Berserkers, Mexico and a relationship that had been sort of really unhealthy from the start.

He could feel his heart rate increase, just a bit but enough to know that if he didn’t stop thinking about it all he’d be heading for a panic attack right in the middle of Derek’s festively decorated oft. This so would not be the way he wanted to start of Christmas.

“Breathe,” was whispered against his ear, a warm hand curving around his shoulder. He didn’t even need to turn to know who it was, just leaned against the touch, breathed in slowly and nodded once the feeling of being overwhelmed faded into almost nothing.

This still happened from time to time, still pulled him under occasionally. It was foot to know that just a simple touch, a word whispered, the knowledge that he wasn’t alone were still able to pull him out.

“Okay?”

“Yeah. I’m good. Thanks.”

Derek shrugged at that and went back to placing various bowls with delicious smelling food on the dinner table. Just like that everything was okay again, not a big deal, nothing to dive deeper into. They acknowledged that things could still go haywire if specific triggers were hit but most of the time just being there for each other was enough.

Stiles felt his dad’s eyes on him for a brief second, looked up to see the Sheriff going back to the book he’d taken out of Derek’s extensive collection. Things were good again.

Stiles was so hungry it wasn’t fair that he had to wait. He stole a roasted potato half quickly before Derek was there tapping his fingers slightly and scowling.

“Did you even wash your hands before you dunked them into the food?”

At the snort coming from the corner were his dad had settled down with a book Stiles huffed indignantly. It’s not like he was five and had to be told to go to the bathroom.

“Of course. Dude, who do you think I am?”

“Stiles,” Derek answered so emotionless that this time the Sheriff laughed outright.

As if his name alone would explain everything. But then Stiles thought that maybe it actually did. His name embodied everything he was, simply because it was his chosen name and not the one he’d been settled with. It was his way to express himself from an early age on. So Derek just simply using it as an explanation was sort of a valid characterization. Stiles had to give him that.

He still huffed again before plonking down into one of the chairs at the dinner table. He was hungry, dammit. Derek just chuckled a little as if he could read Stiles’ mind. But seeing as Derek seemed to know him pretty well these days Stiles thought that it wasn’t all that far from the truth. Derek probably really knew what he was thinking.

Sitting there, among all the decoration, the nice decked out table, the awesome smelling food, with Derek being a perfect host providing drinks unasked and his Dad settled calmly on the couch being relaxed like Stiles hadn’t seen him in ages, it all made something click in his chest.

He’d missed that.

Not just while being away in New York but during the last years in Beacon Hills fighting supernatural evil and generally running for his life. These calm moments had been few and far in between. Now though, things seemed more grounded, the pack established, more equipped to deal with most of the supernatural puzzles life liked to throw at them.

They all were more grown up, more level headed and it showed.

He smiled at the thought. This was actually a pretty good situation to be in.

Scott and Melissa arrived a few minutes , packed with sweet potatoes and more wine. More food and alcohol, Stiles could see this evening was going to be perfect.

There was so much food now that he simply knew that they’d probably heat up most of the things for tomorrow's extended pack dinner again and didn’t have to cook too many things. He thought that Derek’s plan to overwhelm the closer circle with enough food that they wouldn’t eat too much the next day was brilliant. He also knew that Lydia and Kira would bring more as well.

There were pleasantries exchanged, hugs given and some talk about their days the last week. Melissa pulled the Sheriff into a conversation about some of the deputies while Scott was busy regaling tales of furry little creatures to Derek. Stiles was listening, taking it all in and basking in the feeling of warmth that had enveloped him the second he stepped into Derek’s loft.

“Okay, let’s eat before Stiles vibrates out of his skin,” Derek suddenly said, grin in place and eyes sparkling mischievously. Stiles liked this side of the werewolf because it came out so rarely, even now that things have calmed down. Derek was still mostly closed off and more sarcastic than anything. But more and more this gentle side peeked through.

“Finally! Food!”

“He acts like he doesn’t get anything at home. There were pancakes for breakfast. I even got up early to make them,” the Sheriff remarked with an eye roll.

“That was hours ago, dad. You can’t really think I’d survive this long without food. Do you know me at all?”

“You’d think he was a wolf, the way he puts away all that food. I’m waiting for the day when his teenage metabolism turns into the slow way processing of old men without any step in between.”

“Slander! That will never happen. My body is a temple and will never do that to me,” Stiles said with a decisive nod and all but dove for the nearest bowl on the table. Derek just laughed this small amused laugh that Stiles liked to hear.

Dinner was an animated event.

Not loud but not awkwardly quiet either.

Scott entertained with stories about cats and squirrels that let to Derek sharing stories about his childhood in the preserve. It all developed smoothly, everyone contributing without any kind of pressure to show off or be someone they weren’t.

Well into the night, with half of the food gone and everyone just sort of lying around as close to a food coma as they could be, Stiles realized that Beacon Hills was home again. That this right there, these people were all he’d ever need to feel at home, not present pack members included of course.

Beacon Hills hadn’t felt like that after graduation, hadn’t felt like that during the summer when they all went road-tripping and Stiles wished he could just stay away, stay traveling. It hadn’t even felt like that during the first few weeks of college when he was busy making new friends and settling into a totally new life.

It had only started to feel like that again when he’d established somewhat of a schedule of calls, texts, e-mails and Skype sessions with Derek. Derek was first, then came his dad and Scott and then the rest of the pack.

He had been squished into the corner of the couch with one of Derek’s mythical anthologies for a while when his dad announced it was time for him to go home. Stiles whined a little under his breath too comfortable to even consider moving.

“You stay here, son. If that’s okay with Derek. Seeing as we’ll end up here in the morning again. I just need to check into the station before breakfast tomorrow.”

They all knew Derek had enough space available in the building to provide sleeping arrangements but they all also knew that the Sheriff rarely slept anywhere but in his own bed.

“Stiles can stay,” Derek replied without much emotion in his voice. If Stiles didn’t know him he’d call that a very reluctant offer. But Derek actually liked to play with Stiles perception of him, had even made it into a game having Stiles figure out if he was serious about something or not.

“Wow, how very magnanimous of you,” Stiles said just as deadpan and earned a laugh from his dad as well as a snort from Scott who’d also gotten up to get ready to leave.

“I know. I should earn a medal for constantly having to deal with you.”

Just a summer ago Stiles would have taken that to heart, would have believed that Derek actually meant those words. Now though he could hear them for what they were, a gentle mocking. They really had come a long way.

“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then. Stiles, please behave.”

“Really, dad? Really? You do know that I’m nineteen and not nine, right?”

“Sometimes I wonder.”

With that, a hug for Stiles and a heartfelt thank you to Derek, the Sheriff left, followed by Scott who’d promised to meet up with Liam and later with Kira. Melissa just hugged them both, smiled gently and left behind her son.

The loft stayed quiet for a while, Derek busy rearranging things for tomorrow and cleaning up everything that would be needed again while stuffing the rest into a dish washer that definitely was knew because Stiles had never seen it before.

There were a lot of those little things around the loft now that showed that Derek was actually planning to stay, to maybe settle down. It made Stiles feel like he had another place in Beacon Hills than just his own house and Scott’s to come home to.

It shouldn’t be this important but it somehow was. Derek being there, being close when Stiles needed him to be was important in so many ways, more ways than Stiles was able to grasp right now.

The loft was a home now, felt warm, comfortable, lived in. It was such a different place from the run-down industrial-like space where things had gone wrong and Stiles had lost so much, had threatened lives in, that it was hard to reconcile everything with the recent picture.

It settled something deep inside of him, something he hadn’t been ready to address as of yet.

“Today was good,” he said into the silence when Derek sat down next to him and handed over a warm cup of tea. No coffee for Stiles this late, they’d both regretted late-night coffee binges on numerous occasions during study sessions for finals.

“Yeah,” Derek simply said, book with the pages down in his lap and a cup of his own cradled in his hands.

They let the quietness fall between them, not uncomfortable but appreciated. Stiles got lost in the tales of mythical creatures, about herbs and spells. Time slipped by and Stiles was only startled out of his trance like state when Derek placed yet another old, leather-bound anthology into his lap.

This one though looked expensive, valuable and not something Derek would give out of his hands. There wasn’t any supernatural crisis happening, at least not one Stiles knew of, so this wasn’t an indirect request for research.

“What’s this?”

“A book,” Derek answered, eyes fixed on the Christmas tree that Stiles and Scott had forced him to put up. It didn’t sound like he meant it in a mocking way but with Derek you never knew.

“Really? Why are you giving it to me?”

“Because it’s after Midnight. It’s Christmas and as far as I know we give each other presents on that day. I do know that half your heritage is Jewish but since you insisted on celebrating Christmas I assumed you wouldn’t mind presents.”

Stiles actually laughed because now Derek really was making fun of him. He turned on the couch so that he was facing Derek, took the book and placed it more securely on his thighs. It was heavy, smelled dusty and felt like something powerful.

“Ass.”

Derek smirked. “It’s nothing much, just something that was in the vault. I thought you’d make use of it.”

Stiles flipped through a couple of pages, took in the runes, the gold-tinted ink of the calligraphy and drawings. There were intricate spells in there as well, mostly made for protection but definitely ones directed towards pack.

This was something emissaries generally kept under lock and guard. It was a source for them to use. Stiles blinked.

“Did you just make me your emissary?”

“What…”

And Stiles had thought they were beyond using no inflection or punctuation when posing questions.

“This book is for emissaries. All the information in here, as far as I can see from just flipping through it, is for protecting the pack and developing well-maintained inter-pack relations.”

“I… no. That… maybe,” Derek stammered a little, in a way Stiles hadn’t seen him do in ages. “You’re doing it already anyway. This could help.”

And Derek was right. Stiles really was doing it already even though he never really thought about it. He never really knew if he wanted to be that, to be connected to a pack like this and get pulled into things even more. He deliberately chose a college far away from Beacon Hills. But he knew he couldn’t keep away from it forever.

“Yeah. You are right. And Scott has Deaton. I never even really thought about it. But… you giving me this… I think I do want to do it. I’d be honored to be associated with the Hale pack like this.” He smiled at the way Derek’s eyes grew a little wider, how there was a faint red tinge to the tip of the werewolf’s ears.

“Even if there isn’t much a pack left?”

“It’s still a pack,” Stiles replied. He continued to browse through the compendium, because that was what it was. It would actually make thinks in New York a little easier when he didn’t have to run to the Ithaca pack for every little piece of information or wait for the time difference to be less annoying for calling Deaton.

Because even though he'd never really thought about pursuing this, taking this position, even though he knew he'd never be that for Scott's pack, Stiles, just by having given this book suddenly knew that this was his place to claim.

“Thank you, Derek. Really, thanks. This means a lot.”

Derek just nodded and didn’t say anything more. It seemed like he was a little embarrassed by it all.
Stiles was about to get ready for bed to catch a least a little bit of sleep before having to deal with the pack the entire day when a thought occurred to him.

“Wait. I have something for you as well. Just something small that maybe now is the right time to hand over,” he said getting up and rummaging through the overnight bag he brought with him, already anticipating he might end up spending the night. He unearthed the small wrapped package he had stowed there instead of the big bag with all the other presents.

He had the generic gift card for Derek as well but this was a little more personal and it was really just the perfect moment to hand it over.

Derek looked a little uncomfortable when Stiles returned to the couch. And if Stiles sat down a little closer than before none of them mentioned it.

“You didn’t have to, you know.”

“Yes, Derek. I’m aware that you don’t expect any nice things to happen to you. Shut up, and just accept the present. Oh and Happy Birthday.”

Derek growled a little, playful but still enough to make Stiles heart to blip slightly out of rhythm. Derek’s raised eyebrow didn’t really help with calming it back down. So Stiles just thrust the package into Derek’s hands and waited.

For a second he thought that it might be too much, too personal but then he remembered what he felt when he found it and new that Derek just had to have it.

When the wrapping paper was gone and Derek had flipped the small book open silence reigned. It lasted so long that Stiles started to fear that this might have been a bad idea after all.

“Where did you find this?”

“The Ithaca pack. When I heard Jamie talk about this summer camp thing I asked their emissary about it. They had all those knickknacks from it, from all the generations of kids going. Some of them are your age, so the alpha sat down and looked through it all.”

Stiles watched Derek trace his fingers over the two photographs neatly clued inside the covers.

“She said, she remembered you. And your family. Said the Hale name was still held in honor and that she wanted you to have them as well. She said your pack would always be welcome in her territory if you needed a place to get away to. It’s beautiful out there. Woods, lakes, all nature and still so close to the city.”

He knew the photos had pulled Derek into the past but the werewolf didn’t look like it was anything painful he was remembering. There was a soft smile on his lips.

“Thank you.”

Derek gently place the photos on the side table, turned toward Stiles and then just pulling him into a hug. With Derek’s arms around him and his head buried against Stiles’ neck Stiles had a good view on the two pictures.

One showed Derek, head turned slightly away from the camera, so there was no flare. The grin was so big that it took over almost his entire face. Stiles didn’t know how old Derek was back then but assumed it was around ten. A little girl was clinging to his hand, wide eyes looking up at Derek, in the background wooden cabins were visible. The pack of the picture read ‘Cora’s’ first camp.

The photo spoke of love, of family, of a good summer day.

The second picture was of Talia and Laura standing next to a black, sleek car, laughing and watching Derek, who clearly was on the verge of being a teenager plastered against the window from the inside. It was such a family picture, such a snapshot of a happy moment that Stiles couldn’t help but smile at it.

When Derek pulled back they locked eyes. And Stiles felt at home all over again. Derek made him feel at home, feel safe and cared about. It’s really all he could do to say thank you for that.

And he did just that.

“You already said thanks, Stiles,” Derek said quietly, eyes never leaving Stiles’ face.

“No, I know. Not for the present.”

“Oh? I didn’t do anything.” Derek actually looked confused.

At this moment, being presented with the proof that Derek did good things without ever expecting or even wanting something in return, Stiles admitted to himself that he was falling. He was falling hard and he didn’t even spend a single thought about fighting it.

“I… Damn, I don’t really know how to put it, because I might have entertained some illegal measure to acquire that set of information and I don’t know what you’ll think about that…”

“Stiles. Just out with it.”

“I… well, thank you for getting me into housing on Greenwich Street. I would have never had a chance without you.”

Derek looked stunned for a second, then he laughed a little incredulously and shook his head.

“Only you. Should have known you’d find out. And it was nothing. Just a talk to the Dean and to the head of accommodation. I lived there because Laura couldn’t afford anything bigger than a one-room before the money was released and my scholarship covered everything. Just thought it would fit you.”

“Thank you. Really, it made my life a lot easier. And I don‘t know what I did to deserve it but I am grateful.” Stiles moved so that he could slide down a little and get comfortable against Derek’s side.

Derek just moved with him, slipped his arm around Stiles shoulders to pull him closer. It just felt natural to do this, to just go by instinct without discussing it to death first.

“Stiles. You didn’t have to do anything. I have the money. It’s mine. I don’t really know what else to do with it and it seemed like a good investment,” Derek shrugged, then looked down as if embarrassed but didn’t move away from Stiles.

“Thank you,” Stiles said one last time before he settled more firmly against Derek’s side, his head dropping down onto the firm muscles of Derek’s shoulder.

“Whoever said you weren’t a good man was wrong. You are one of the best there were, never let anyone tell you differently, Derek Hale,” Stiles mumbled almost half asleep already.

+++++

Christmas Day was as good and as stressful as Stiles had anticipated. It all felt like a well-practiced dance when he and Derek moved around each other to provide food and drinks to everyone present.

He didn’t even mind the comments from his dad and Scott about them seeming so domestic and playing host together. He saw Derek duck his head down several times to hide a smile or even a smirk but none of them really cared about it.

They had breakfast as a feast, then just fell back on to various soft surfaces afterward, and Stiles so did not miss the look his dad sent him when he ended up next to Derek on Derek’s former bed (because the guy finally manned up and claimed one of the upstairs bedrooms as his own).

Lunch was breakfast leftovers and presents being handed out.

Stiles finally got to know what had made it worth for Derek to be bribed into holding up a neon, sparkly poster at the airport. It was a voucher for meals at Stiles favorite bistro in New York, worth enough to help him through at least until the end of the academic year.

Derek just shrugged, reminded Stiles how often he’d complained about the cafeteria food and not having enough money to get food somewhere good.

The hug he gave Derek was worth the harping and sly looks he got from Scoot and everyone else for the rest of the evening.

All in all it was a good day. Loud and hectic at times but quiet and slow the rest of it.

Christmas was over way too soon for Stiles’ taste and things got a little busy and hectic.

He had papers to finish, something he’d neglected during his time home in favor of spending his days with his friends. Now, it came back to bite him.

Most of his time not dedicated to working on his papers was either spent decimating enemies with Scott on screen or with Derek reading or going over things he might need to talk to Deaton about once he decided when to really start up emissary training.

Not once did Derek or Stiles mention what had been decided between them. It simply wasn’t necessary to declare the changed status between them. Stiles thought if it ever should be important he’d gladly tell anybody who wanted to listen that he was the Hale’s emissary or you know, would be when he was all trained and ready to be even more awesome than he already was. Derek had just rolled his eyes again, the way he usually did when he thought Stiles was being ridiculous.

If that had Stiles' heart beating a tad faster, well, they didn’t mention that either.

+++

New Year’s was weird.

For several reasons.

He wasn't drunk but felt tipsy throughout the entire night. If he had to really describe it he'd say out-of-body-experience but he was still very much present for everything that happened.

Then he spent the entire party, one of Lydia Martin’s famous happenings, plastered close to Derek, talking low and private, watching the rest of the pack enjoying themselves.

It felt good. Doing this without and imminent threat hanging over their heads.

Derek seemed to think so as well, judging from the small content smile he allowed to show. This last year had probably been the longest time they'd gone without fighting for their lives or being caught in some intricate supernatural dilemma.

Derek stayed close to Stiles as well, never really left his side and on one occasion even sort of growled at one guy being too obvious about his flirting with Stiles.

Usually Stiles would have scowled at Derek for ruining his chances of a fun night. Not this time. Not this evening. He felt flattered in a weird way. Flattered that Derek was aware enough of that thing between them to allow some of his possessiveness to make an appearance.

Stiles almost snorted at himself for how much he apparently seemed to like this side of Derek.

But come Midnight they both sort of pulled back, like they suddenly weren’t sure that these were the right circumstances. So instead of doing what Stiles had imagined them doing for a while now Derek smiled, leaned in and placed a soft kiss on Stiles’ cheek. Then whispered “Happy New Year” before hugging him close and vanishing to call Cora.

Stiles thought he'd feel disappointed about a missed chance but instead he was thrumming with anticipation. There was more about to happen, this wasn't just a glitch in the relationship between them.
And Stiles was looking forward to it.

If he sported a rather ridiculous grin for the rest of the part and for the rest of the time he was home no on said anything but he could feel all the knowing looks anyway.

Derek was on shift when Stiles went back to school two days later but was on the phone with him the entire trip to the airport. The Sheriff never commented, just drove and let Stiles have at least a little illusion of privacy.

Stiles was still on the phone with Derek when he’d already claimed his seat and was politely asked to end the call because taxing-off was about to start.

He couldn’t even really recall the good-bye with his dad, only remembered a few words about behaving and letting Derek do his job once in a while as there was something called time zones and a Deputy needed his sleep.

Stiles refused to feel embarrassed about the fact that he’d apparently dismissed his dad and a tearful goodbye in order to be able to talk to Derek as long as possible.

He was so screwed.

He was equally as gone over the werewolf, so being screwed might turn out to be something good in the end.

+++

Back in New York Stiles tried to settle back into his routine of holing up in the library, vegging out on the couch, occasionally going on a run with Aly, trying (emphasis on trying) to get all his papers finished and sent off and talking to Derek almost every day.

School was still a few days away when things with Derek suddenly got weird. Stiles couldn’t really pinpoint the moment but conversations got shorter, more abrupt, ended with Derek just switching off the screen.

Thinking back on it, it might have started when Jules wandered into Stiles room one night while Derek was on Skype. Jules being his flirty self didn’t even lower his voice and Stiles being used to it responded in kind. Derek though, had gotten quieter by the second, found a flimsy excuse to end the call and hadn’t called for an entire day.

Stiles felt like Derek was suddenly holding back again, taking a step away from everything. Maybe Derek was being cautious, had second thoughts or wasn’t that into Stiles after all. Maybe it was really just about friendship and being pack.

It stung a little, that Derek wasn’t talking to him, wasn’t letting him in on what he was brooding about this time.

Stiles tried to reason with himself, tried to stay calm and not make a big thing out of it. He liked Derek, was falling hard and fast, could admit that much. But he wanted to give the werewolf space as well.

He didn’t want things to be different. He wanted to stay friends. And if this was what Derek wanted then Stiles would do just that, would be his friend and would be there for him. Having Derek there, being able to talk with him about things, was important to Stiles.

Maybe Derek just needed time to get used to the idea.

They started to talk again after that day of radio silence. The usual topics with a lot of sarcasm added in and some quips due to Stiles’ own insecurities. Things were strained though.

And it hurt.

+++

It was gradually getting better again once school started and Stiles had to schedule his entire days.

Stiles got Derek to smirk again. It wasn’t the content smile Derek let slip through during Christmas but it was a step away from the deep scowl and angry frowns that Stiles thought had been in the past already.

It probably helped that Stiles told Derek about Jules’ nightly exploits and how those were a constant reason for teasing.

There wasn’t any time to actually dwell over things as Stiles was busy stuffing his brain with knowledge. Derek had barked a laugh over the Skype mic when Stiles used those exact words to describe his mental state. Jamie had actually stopped short in Stiles' doorway at the sound of it, head tilted and providing the perfect imitation of a dog.

It made Stiles snort his water through his nose which had Derek groaning resigned but still somewhat pornographically and Jamie scrambling to get away from the scene.

There were study sessions through the night, mad scrambles to finish papers last minute between Skype calls home in the middle of the night or early morning hours, and text message marathons with either Scott or occasionally Derek.

Sometimes Derek would send him pictures from home. Scott wrapped up in strings because one of the cats at Deaton's had run circles around him. Liam proudly presenting a new lacrosse stick or Kira with her new katana.

One of the most memorable though came from Scott. It was of Derek half asleep in front of the Skype screen showing Stiles. Derek looked like he'd fallen out of bed, hair up in all directions but looking incredibly fluffy, eyes half closed, lips a little parted and body hidden away in a sweater that clearly showed the BHHS logo.

Stiles was pretty sure the sweater was one of his.

He apparently cooed a little too loudly at the picture because Aly came in demanding to know what kind of cuteness had Stiles make these kind of noises. She was caught in the fangs of Derek's perfection the second she looked at Stiles' phone screen. Or so Stiles liked to think judging from the slightly glazed look Aly got when looking at Derek.

Then there were meetings with the Ithaca pack in between school and his life happening, and their emissary occasionally. Mostly to help Stiles along with the first steps towards real training. It was the first time Stiles experienced real inter-pack relations first hand. It was exciting, also anxiety-inducing since he always feared he'd mess it up.

There were also minor supernatural incidents, which Stiles solved - sometimes alone and sometimes with the help of his new found allies.

His roommates remained as clueless as ever.

Safe for a misguided text message from Jamie about a ghoul being on the loose Stiles’ friends didn’t slip up. And really, he had to commend Jamie for his awesome excuse of playing a role-playing game with Jules sending the text accidentally.

He called Derek to have a good laugh about it and ended up promising the beta to be careful and not risk anything when helping out. Derek sounded so serious about it that Stiles spent almost the entire night talking to him and even skipped his 8.00am class.

Jamie mocked him mercilessly about his zombie-like look the next day, making it hard for Stiles not to comment about stupid werewolf hearing.

Stiles also went out with Jamie, Jules and Aly on a pretty regular basis, dancing off the stress of the week.
It was on one of those nights when the next supernatural surprise walked into Stiles’ life or rather into Jules’.

At first he wasn’t sure what he was dealing with but Jules suddenly started to stay out late not telling any of them where he was or what he was doing. He started to look gaunt, worn down and tired all the time.

Jules barely spent time with them anymore. It was like someone worked hard to completely isolate him from his friends, even from his family judging from the calls Jules’ mom left on the apartment’s answering machine.

When Jules stopped showing up to classes, refused to leave his bed during the day and vanished during the night Stiles had enough.

It was obvious that Aly and Jamie had no clue whatsoever about what was going on with Jules. They felt as helpless as Stiles did, scrambling for information the same way he. But the packs in the area didn't have much an idea about what was going on. Only the Ithaca emissary seemed to have a vague idea.

Stiles called Deaton. He handed over all the info he had, then holed up in the English department’s library for hours but researching every single angle he could think of.

In the end it was one of his own memories that sent him down the right trail. He remembered that during one of their nights out Jules had hooked up with a pretty cute girl. Thinking back on it there had been something dark surrounding her but not really her rather her companion who had kept in the background the entire time until Jules had vanished with her.

Stiles wasn’t sure why that particular memory kept coming back to him but it set something off that were more than warning bells. He told Deaton, went to meet with the Ithaca emissary and finally, when none of them could think of anything better to do, resorted to just following Jules one night.

And here he was now; crouched behind a car watching the townhouse Jules had walked into just five minutes ago and trying not to freeze his ass of in a New York winter night.

The lights were on inside and Stiles could see into the first floor windows. It all looked warm and cozy inside. There wasn’t much going on, just a few people sitting around, holding flutes and apparently discussing pictures displayed on a canvass.

He couldn’t see Jules, though.

He stayed crouched and hidden for another thirty minutes, making sure that he could watch the front door as well, so that he wouldn’t miss anybody leaving. He was so focused on that that he almost missed Aly and Jamie slinking through the shadows across the street.

They apparently had had the same idea - following Jules to figure out what was going on.

Stiles decided to let them take the lead this time. He hated going into situations blind, without any kind of real knowledge.

Maybe watching Jamie and Aly might give him an idea what they were dealing with. He just hoped they’d be careful and not reckless when it came to getting Jules out of whatever he had gotten caught up in. There had been too many close calls lately.

Another thirty minutes later and after having watched his friends breaking into the townhouse through one of the basement windows, Stiles reluctantly left his hiding place. He wanted to know what was going on.

He stepped close to the window his friends had entered through. It was like he was stepping through a veil somehow. Things became sort of muted, dulled and he felt a tingle along his spine. There were faint traces of protective magic present, similar to the spells Deaton used on the vet clinic. But much more complicated from what he could tell. Stiles could feel them thrumming through him, maybe even reaching out for something within him.

There should be fear, there should be warning bells but despite everything Stiles felt safer than he had out in the streets trying to hide.

The thrum didn’t feel dangerous just unexpected. Stiles didn’t feel threatened just a tad more cautious. The tingling sensation intensified the closer he got to the walls of the building. When he carefully peered inside through the open basement window something flashed at the corner of his eyes, making him blink and stare.

The flash was gone as soon as it had appeared but it left something behind, something that was slowly cursing through his body until it touched the tiny spark at his core.

The spark that helped him with mountain ash, that let him use the most basic spells but was useless otherwise. It had never felt like this before. It had never felt this charged, had never reacted this strongly.

A slow burning sensation started up inside Stiles, making him gasp out in confusion. It didn’t hurt as such but it was uncomfortable. Something like blue mist suddenly settled over his eyes making it hard to see anything in the orange glow of the street light.

He felt dizzy, unfocused, not really like himself anymore. He swayed, had to reach out to hold himself up against the wall. There was a screeching sound, making him flinch hard and screw his eyes shut against the sudden pain. Everything around him was ringing, was out of focus, unclear, threatening.

Then there were voices, from inside, audible through the wall he was touching. He stepped back, tried to look at his hand to figure what the hell was happening to him when another screech made him sway back against the cool bricks.

“Jules! Come on. You need to come with us. This isn’t safe. Jules, please!”

This was Aly pleading. Stiles could hear her loud and clear.

She sounded desperate, urgent and Stiles knew they didn’t have much time trying to get Jules out of there.
Please, listen to her, he thought. He had no time to freak out, to give in to the panic that was threatening to take over. Not the time and certainly not the place.

He could feel his breaths getting caught in his throat instead of making it all the way out or into his body. He knew he was close to a panic attack but tried to starve it before it could get any worse.

“You have to leave,” Jules sounded blank. No emotions present, no indication that he’d even recognized Aly.

“Jules, man, come home with us. Something really isn’t right here,” Jamie tried this time but didn’t seem any more successful than Aly had been. There was a thud, then a scuffle and finally a slap that had Aly gasping out.

“Leave. Before she comes and gets your souls. Yours aren’t as pure, would just blemish everything,” Jules voice sounded strange, hollow and dark.

Stiles swayed even more, not sure he could stay upright any longer, feeling nausea rising within him. He felt motion sick, or at least what he thought would feel like motion-sickness, something he’d never experienced before and hoped he never would have to again. Knowing his life, this hope probably was futile.

He felt himself slowly slide down against the brick wall, felt the cool slickness of the melted snow around the house seep into his pants. He couldn’t see much through the blue mist over his eyes but he could almost feel his breath crystallizing in front of his face.

“Shit, Jamie. God, this is a soul sucker. Black maiden and a demon. This is so much worse than I thought it would be,” Aly sobbed out, sounding closer now and Stiles realized that they were coming back through the basement. And he knew they’d be without Jules.

He didn’t know how or even why but just the thought of them finding him there, unable to really see or explain what was going with him sent another flare of panic through him.

The tingling feeling got even worse, send his mind spiraling and his stomach dropping dangerously. He groaned low, wishing he could just lie down for a while but knew he couldn’t. Moving was torture, slow going and almost painful. But he managed to get back up onto his feet, hand still braced against the wall when the tingling almost got too much to bear.

He wished he’d be back home again, nausea free and warm again.

He almost thought he heard Jamie gasp but when Stiles opened his eyes he was back in his room, standing in front of his own bed in closes that were completely dry and snow free.

This couldn’t be good.

This couldn’t be good at all.

“Oh shit,” he grunted out before he fell face first onto his bed and was out like a light.

+++

Scott and his dad understandably freaked out when he called them the next day. Derek kept surprisingly calm about it, just asked if Stiles was alright. Deaton, though, insisted in talking it through with everyone present.

What followed was a long winded conference call via Skype that include Deaton, Lydia, Derek, his dad and Scott as well as the Ithaca alpha and their emissary.

Stiles relayed the news about the soul sucker to everyone, listened to the more experienced adults talk it through and agree on what kind of action to take.

Stiles watched them all silently, took in their worried looks and concerned frowns when it became apparent that only a strong spell could get Jules out of the situation and defeat the demon behind it all.

Apparently soul suckers could lure in other supernatural beings just as easily as they could humans, using a specific glamor and the help of the so-called Black Maiden to entrance victims.

Basically it was all about siphoning life energy out first before going for the jackpot. No one was sure if it was really about souls or if those even really existed. But, what everyone agreed on was, that the life was gradually sucked out of the victim and they ended up dead.

“We have two pretty strong witches in our pack and we have Sara with the druidic magic. I think we can come up with enough power to take it down,” Wanda, the Ithaca pack’s alpha said decisively.

Deaton nodded, agreed to help with figuring out the correct set-up for the spell and urged them to make it happen soon. None of them knew how much time they had left.

Wanda left the conference call with a few gentle words for Derek and one or two about appreciating Stiles’ help since he’d arrived in town. There was something about being honored having the Hale’s emissary as an ally but Stiles wasn’t really listening because Scott’s wide eyes made it sort of hard to feel happy about those words.

There was a long conversation overdue but it had to wait until everything was solved and Stiles could actually care about those kinds of things. As much as he felt guilty about not telling Scott. this had to take a backseat right now.

“Stiles?”

“Huh? What?” He hadn’t even realized that he had zoned out there. Deaton was looking at him with concern shining through and it made Stiles sit up a little. When Deaton looked at you this way things were heading into a direction no one would really like.

“I asked for you to describe your experience again. This time with all the details please.”

So Stiles did. And when he was done, Deaton was positively gleeful, Derek looked even more worried, Stiles’ dad frowned and Scott looked as lost and confused as Stiles felt. Lydia just looked thoughtful.

“So. What’s the verdict doc? Am I finally losing it?” The ‘again’ wasn’t said but heavily implied and the way Derek scowled even deeper showed that the werewolf had caught it.

“It seems like your spark decided to fully awake after all. It happens sometimes that a weak spark that has been dormant most of the time reacts strongly to magic. It appears like your spark woke up when it was triggered by the protective spells surrounding the demon’s dwelling place,” Deaton said in a calm yet sort of gleeful voice. The good vet sounded like this was something he hadn’t expected to ever happen but was really happy that it did.

“What you are saying is that I’m magical.”

“That appears to be the case. Yes. You spark in combination with the magic of that protection spell acted toward fulfilling your wish, your desperate need to get away from that situation. It means your spark is in tune with your entire being, Mr. Stilinski.”

“Huh.”

Stiles sort of bowed out of the following discussion about the training he’d need to control it all, about the meaning for his life and how that dragged him even deeper into the world of the supernatural.

He only reacted slightly to his dad’s suggestion of coming home for a while to deal with everything. If he had been in the possession of all his senses he’d have protested more strongly than with a simple “No, dad,”.

But he felt overwhelmed by it all. Nothing in his family’s history had ever suggested something like that could be remotely possible or even happened. And Deaton could insist on it being pure coincidence, a genetic blip or whatever, as much as he wanted, Stiles would always think about how it could be hereditary.

He thought it might have been a slight shock that had left him feeling dizzy, unfocused and not up to par with everything being discussed during the conference call but he did realize when his friends and dad agreed on sending Derek to New York.

New York was neutral enough that it wasn’t pack territory. There were enough wolves around but most of them were either students, or wolves working in the city while their pack was living somewhere else, or simply just Omegas.

Well, Stiles could really use all the help he could get. And really, having Derek close for a few days wasn’t exactly a hardship.

“Hey,” came softly over the speakers and when Stiles blinked only Derek was still in the call. He couldn’t remember the others leaving.

“You were gone for a while there. Where did you go?”

“I don’t really know.”

Derek didn’t say anything, just waited for Stiles to continue. The werewolf had learned that sometimes it was best to wait Stiles out, to see where he wanted to go with his words. Stiles appreciated that immensely.

“I’m scared, Derek,” is what came out in the end. It was the absolute truth concerning his situation. He was scared for Jules, was scared they might be too late, was scared that whatever was happening with him might turn into something bad, evil, like it did before.

“I know you are. I know, Stiles. But hey… hey look at me,” Derek demanded gently. And Stiles did, his eyes move out of their own accord to lock onto Derek’s on the screen.

His heart skipped a beat there and it was almost painful.

“We’ll get through this. Like we always do. You aren’t alone in this. You’ll never be alone in this. Okay? Take a deep breath, look at me and tell yourself that we’ll be fine. I promise.”

Stiles wanted to say that Derek shouldn’t, that their lives didn’t leave room for promises like that and that he should know this. But looking at Derek, seeing him offering positive support let Stiles think that this was actually possible. Derek would be there for him. He wasn’t alone.

“Okay,” Stiles said after a while. Derek nodded. It was like a silent agreement that they’d go to hell and back to fulfill this promise.

Stiles, again, became acutely aware how screwed he actually was but this time he knew he wasn’t alone in this. Whatever happened that had made Derek draw back for a few days didn’t matter anymore. Stiles knew, without a doubt, that Derek was just as screwed as Stiles was.

What a pair they would make.

+++

Derek arrived in New York two days later, books from Deaton in tow and the familiar scowl deeply edged into his face.

“I’m fine, Derek,” was the first thing leaving Stiles lips.

It sort of worked as an ignition because Derek kind of exploded into movement. He dropped his bags, move with long strides toward Stiles and then cradled his face in his massive hands.

The kiss was gentler than Stiles would have expected considering the circumstances. But then again he didn’t expect a kiss at all. Anyway, there he was being kissed so gently and still so thoroughly that everything else became unimportant.

Derek’s lips felt surprisingly soft, his tongue was inquisitive but never intrusive. It was gentle but deeply infused with emotions.

It was one of the best kisses of his life. And Stiles never wanted to stop again.

Aly’s loud cough ended it all too soon.

When Stiles pulled back with a slight laugh, sliding his fingers out of Derek’s hair and turned in Derek’s arms - and he didn’t even remember when they’d gotten tangled like that – he sheepishly grinned at her.

She looked tired, all red-eyed and worried. Stiles knew that he and Jamie hadn’t stopped trying to get Jules back and had failed every single time. Stiles also knew that their respective packs told them to stay out of it, having been informed that the Ithaca pack, as well as others, was already trying to solve it. The warning clearly hadn’t been heard, or it had but they didn’t care because Jules was their friend. Stiles could totally understand that.

Aly smiled or tried to at least. It looked more like a grimace and Stiles felt Derek squeeze his side a little at the sight of it. The werewolf felt sympathetic and it made Stiles heart warm a little.

“Aww, is this Grumps?” she said at last and actually managed a real smile when Derek huffed exasperatedly.

“Yep,” Stiles grinned.

“I didn’t know he’d be around. I thought he lives in Cali.”

“That he does. But he’s here on business matters. Grumps, this is Aly,” Stiles said only to squeak a little when Derek’s squeeze turned into an actual dig into his side.

“Hi,” Derek almost growled but managed a quick quirk of his lips. There he was again, the socially shy Sourwolf Stiles sometimes even missed a little.

“Nice to meet you. Well, Stiles I think Tony, the bony barista, will be very disappointed to learn that you actually did follow our advice over the holidays. I’d love to stay and chat, but unfortunately I have to go.
I’m meeting Jamie about… uh… things. We’ll crash at my parents, so you’ll have the place all to yourself.”

This sounded like Aly and Jamie were about to do something stupid and Stiles suddenly knew they didn’t have time anymore. His spark thrummed with an energy he had never felt before and it worried him. It felt like an omen about the things to come.

“Aly? Are you okay? Is this about why Jules isn’t around anymore?” he knew he was pushing it but he wanted Aly to ask for help or to even just consider telling Stiles to make her life a little easier. But he knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t work like this.

“Yeah, don’t worry Stiles. Everything is fine. Enjoy your time with Grumps,” she replied with another tired smile before she slipped out the door leaving Stiles and Derek worriedly looking after her.

“Wow, I never realized how bad a liar you become when you’re all stressed out and don’t have the faculties to concentrate on the lie anymore. Man, I seriously owe my dad like a thousand apologies.”

“You’ve always been a bad liar when you wanted someone to find things out without having to talk about them, Stiles,” Derek replied while turning Stiles around and smothering his protests with another gentle kiss.

“If I’d know that another crisis and me turning magical would make you kiss me, I would have done it way sooner. Let’s say around the time I was sixteen.”

“That would have been a really bad idea… for several reasons,” Derek laughed and let Stiles drag him towards the couch in the living area.

“Guess you are right. I’m glad you are here. I just… I don’t know but I need you close right now. I would have gone for dad or Scott or anybody as well but I’m glad it’s you.”

Stiles settled them so that he could slide close against Derek’s side like they always did these days and still look at him when they spoke. Derek just let him do it and simply smiled slightly when Stiles turned to him with raised eyebrows.

“What?”

Oh see, the inflection is back. Stiles almost chuckled but managed to keep it back.

“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I mind. In the contrary, I really like it. But what’s with the kissing? I mean, why now?”

“It felt right.”

And Stiles knew it was all the explanation he would get from Derek. But it was all that he needed anyway. If Derek was ready, if he felt this was right then Stiles knew it could go somewhere.

He lifted his hand to do what he’d been wanting to for ages and let his fingers scratch through Derek’s significant stubble. Seemed like the werewolf had gotten lazy again with his shaving routine. Stiles liked it way too much.

He was amused at the reaction he got though. Derek closed his eyes, sighed and leaned into the touch. He looked more like a satisfied puppy than a grown man and Stiles found it adorable. Then Derek opened his eyes again and looked at him with such a longing that adorable was the word farthest from Stiles’ mind.

Stiles leaned in again to steal another kiss, still struggling with the concept that he was allowed to do so now. He moved slightly so that his side was more closely pressed against Derek’s chest. He could feel the slow rumble moving through the werewolf and couldn’t help a satisfied grin.

“So… Tony, the bony barista?” Derek sounded hesitant but curious.

“No. Nope, absolutely not. Don’t even go there. It’s a stupid inside joke. The guy is a horrible, smelly douche with weird pick-up lines.”

“It just sounded like there was something going on … I don’t really know if you tell me everything. Because, you don’t have to. That’s not what this is about. But…”

Stiles could feel Derek shrug where he was pressed against the werewolf’s chest. Ah, so this was part of the reason why Stiles had to go through emotional trauma for a few days after Christmas. Derek was just as insecure as Stiles felt sometimes. It made sense, considering everything the man went through in his life already.

Love, relationships, even only simple friendship – it all had turned on Derek one too many times in the past.

Stiles smiled, slow and gentle.

“I do, though. Tell you everything, that is. Also, I’m so not in the mood for this cliché misunderstanding between us where one of us thinks the other has someone else and gets distant and then it takes us ages to puzzle it all out again. As much fun as a little heartbreak is in romance novels, in real life it sucks. Like a lot. So, nope. And we had drama enough already.”

Derek’s lip was twitching, just slightly but Stiles saw it anyway. His heart was thundering in his chest, excited at having avoided a potential crises and happy at making Derek smile.

“And Aly, well, she thinks ‘you’ are my boyfriend.”

“She does?”

“My roommates have an unhealthy tendency to eavesdrop on my phone calls with you. They are convinced that we are secretly married or something.”

That got a laugh out of Derek.

“Tell me about them. Tell me about your life here.”

And Stiles knew that Derek wanted to know everything they hadn’t already talked about. Derek wanted to know him.

So Stiles told him.

++++

Wanda called them two days later. It was the go they had been waiting for. It would happen during the early evening hours, when moonrise was about to start. This provided the best setting for the spell, according to Deaton.

The spell was set-up, they had figured out how to get into the townhouse undetected and were ready to bind the soul sucking demon to a pretty locket they’d unearthed through a lot of research and digging around.

Of course, things didn’t really pan out according to plan. How could they, this was Stiles’ life after all.

His magic sort of went haywire again when he tried to get close to the front door, so him and Derek tried the back, only to get stuck in the yard as well. Stiles was shivering almost violently, magic running through him in waves, uncontrolled and only bearable just so.

Derek stuck close to him, protecting and watching the Ithaca emissary preparing everything and the witches getting ready to start the chant. There were several wolves around as well, hackles raised and ready to pounce if necessary.

The emissary was raising her hand to sign for the beginning of the chants when Aly and Jamie crashed into the back yard. Jamie was wolfed out, eyes flashing golden and fangs white in the moonlight. Aly’s fingers were glowing greenish blue with magic, showing that she was ready to cast spells.

There also was a broad sword being brandished and it took Stiles a while to realize that it was Aly who controlled it. They had come prepared but Stiles didn’t know if it would have been enough.

They stopped short at the sight before them, eyes wide in confusion.

This little delay, and them setting of the warning spells inside the house, were enough to give the demon and his Black Maid time to prepare for a fight.

They slowly stepped out onto the back porch, Jules in tow, eyes empty and face blank.

The demon looked like Stiles remembered him, dark appearance even though he was blonde and green-eyed. The girl looked different though and for a second Stiles didn’t know why. Then she blurred, moving too fast for the human eye to really catch.

She reappeared in front of Jamie, who stood with fangs out and claws ready.

Stiles shouted out a warning but it was too late. That thing had already gotten its fangs buried deep into Jamie’s side. There was a moment of total stillness where Jamie stared down at what was happening to him and where Aly stared at Jamie, her hands now firmly closed broad sword.

Then suddenly everything was in motion again.

Jamie groaned in pain and Aly yelled out a curse.

Stiles felt his magic whirling around him before he felt himself move. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of Jules. Without any real idea about what to do next he reached out.

His fingers connected with the cold skin of Jules’ hand.

Nothing happened for a second. Then both of them were thrown backwards, like repelling magnets. Stiles blinked, could see the stars above him and struggled back to his feet. He felt more settled now, as if his spark had found an outlet and had calmed down a little.

Jules was sitting on the porch steps, looking around him in confusion and fear.

His eyes kept moving from one point of the back yard to the next and back again, taking in everything and probably barely registering it all.

The spell he’d been under seemed to be broken, though. There was a small trail of blood running out of his nose but it seemed to be a minor thing. Stiles sighed in relief and was about to make his way over to Jules when the demon appeared in his line of sight.

“You! What are you?” it hissed, looking directly at Stiles and taking a step forward.

Stiles turned to run and even managed a few feet before he was tackled to the ground by a massive body of black fur.

“Urgh. Get off. I need to help Jules,” Stiles tried to argue but the wolf kept him pinned.

Stiles craned his head to see what was happening, could see that two of the Ithaca wolves were dragging the Maiden off.

He saw Aly swinging the sword towards the demon when black smoke rose, a deafening screech started up and Stiles realized there was chanting coming from the two witches.

Then everything was over.

Just like that.

It was so abrupt, so sudden that the fighting went on for a a second or two before it all came to a screeching halt.

The demon had vanished in a cloud of smoke that was sucked into the locket.
The Black Maiden lay ripped to pieces in the snow covering the backyard.

No one seemed to be injured, just a little shaken judging by the way Aly and Jamie looked, and a lot confused in Jules’ case.

Wanda was rounding up her wolves after a minute, making sure everyone was okay and then ordered her emissary to take care of the evidence.

It all happened so fast that Stiles didn’t really have time to register that he was still lying on his back in the cold snow or the fact that his magic seemed to happily hum inside of him now instead of making him all dizzy and weak in the knees.

He probably should really call Deaton about those training exercises they talked about when Stiles wasn’t really paying attention.

There was a huff next to his ear and a short lick to his face before he was finally let up again. Derek looked all smug and proud of himself, like he’d saved Stiles life or something. Well, when he actually thought about it, Derek actually had.

That was worth a hearty scratch behind the ears even though it earned him a baleful glare. Derek loved and hated being scratched and petted. Stiles used every opportunity he could, those were very rare and far in between.

When he looked around for a second time the Ithaca pack was already gone, as were the remains of the Maiden. Only Jules, Jamie and Aly were left standing in the backyard, eyes wide and filled with fear.

Stiles was about to open his mouth to tell them everything was okay when Aly’s eyes grew impossibly wider and Derek growled so low it made Stiles shiver. Then Derek leaped before everything was going dark around Stiles.
He thought this would hurt a lot before he submitted to unconsciousness.

+++

Waking up wasn’t fun.

It hurt just like he’d predicted and his room was way too bright to help with the pain. There was something very warm and heavy plastered against his side though, which made him feel a little better. At least now he knew Derek was okay and still around.

When he finally managed to open his eyes he was met with judging blue ones in the face of the black wolf that was lying across his chest. He sighed out, rolled his eyes and was about to pet Derek when there was a gasp from his door way.

He glanced up to see Aly and Jules squeezed into the opening with Jamie standing behind them. They all looked so certain that something really bad was about to happen that Stiles had to suppress a snort. They looked like children who’d smashed their mother’s favorite vase and were about to confess.

“Hey, guys,” Stiles tried, not sure talking to them now was actually a good idea. Jamie looked like he was about to lose control, Jules was rather green in the face and Aly seemed about to be ready to collapse into a heap in the floor.

It was Aly who dared to say something first: “Uh, please Stiles, don’t freak out. There was a trap in that yard. Just a tiny little spell that would have gotten you good if he hadn’t leaped. And now… well… It’s just that, he wouldn’t leave you. Allowed us to get you home but growled when one of us got close to you. We just….”

Jules, looking a little better now, interrupted before she could go any further. “You see, there’s a giant wolf in your bed. It might be dangerous to move. So please don’t freak out.”

Stiles snorted, loud and unattractively, could see Derek actually rolling his eyes and wondered how that was even possible in his wolf form.

“You think?”

“Uh, what?”

“There’s a giant wolf in my bed and you think I didn’t notice? Really? I might have been clocked into the head but I’m not really stupid,” Stiles managed to croak out, wishing for some water to magically show up in his hand. When it actually did materialize Stiles didn’t question it and vowed to contact Deaton as soon as possible.

“You’re remarkably calm about this,” Jamie noted, frown set deeply into his usually so sunny face.

Stiles glanced down at Derek, who had his snout firmly placed against Stiles’ neck. The wolf snuffled once and twitched as little as if to say that it was Stiles’ decision to spill it all. Brilliant blue eyes blinked at him once more before closing with a content sigh. Typically Derek then, letting Stiles do the talking when got to be complicated.

“Care to join the human race again, Sourwolf?”

Because Stiles really didn’t want to explain things while Derek was hiding away underneath his fur. Derek huffed again but moved sideways so that he wasn’t crushing Stiles with his entire weight once shifted.

“Stiles?” Aly asked sort of confused looking weirdly at him and Derek.

“Did you guys really think that when an unknown wolf turns up in New York City, saves my life and doesn’t leave my side that he’s really just a wolf? I know you guys think I have no idea. But again, I’m really not stupid.”

Stiles bit back the laugh bubbling up before it actually gets out. They don’t deserve to be laughed at.
He was trying to come up with the right words to say when he felt Derek finally shift back into his human form, thus presenting the three in the door way with a probably glorious view of his body.

Stunned silence reigned for a while. Stiles could see his roommates taking everything that was present to them, all the evidence, the new information, what it actually meant for them.

“Oh… oh my god, that’s a triskele,” Jamie finally yelled, pointing a finger at Derek’s back and practically vibrating out of his skin in excitement.

This time Stiles did laugh and then buried his face against Derek’s naked shoulder when three identically glares were turned towards him.

“Sorry. I’m so sorry. But having lived through your adoration for the Hales this is really, really funny,” Stiles replied between giggles. Derek finally wiggled under the covers before pointedly clearing his throat.

“Right. Uh, Aly, Jules, Jamie this is Derek. Grumps, to you guys. Derek please say Hi to my roommates.”

Derek actually lifted up onto his elbows to turn his head towards the door for the first time since he shifted, the stares he was getting only made him smirk in the most smug way Stiles had seen in while. His boyfriend could be a real ass sometimes.

Also, Boyfriend.

Naked Derek, who now was his boyfriend, was lying next to him in his bed. Excuse him if he was a little preoccupied with that fact. This was almost a little too much to deal with right then.
Derek was naked in his bed.

They’d only kissed a handful of times.

“Derek Hale. Pleasure to meet you,” Derek actually said before plonking down next to Stiles again. Stiles could only stare. This shouldn’t be as hot as it actually was. Confident, smug Derek reminded him a little if the douche-Derek he got to know at sixteen but was still far enough away to make Stiles want to jump him.

“Uh, excuse us for a bit, guy? We can talk later. We can discuss how you thought you were being subtle and why you thought taking risks fighting supernatural evil alone without the back-up of a pack was a good idea. Right now though I need to get to know my boyfriend’s body,” Stiles said calmly, watching the three figure still seemingly rooted into his door way.

“Boyfriend, huh?”

“Oh, you can bet on that. It’s what we agreed on, Hale.”

“I never agreed on anything. I simply didn’t comment. But I can’t say I disagree.”

There was shuffling then, an exasperated sigh Stiles knew came from Aly and then the door was closed.

A minute later Derek snorted a laugh against Stiles’ skin. There was some very extensive muted shouting going on in Jamie’s room. But Derek was only relaying bits and pieces, telling Stiles when they figured out that he was the Hale emissary helping them along all this time. Derek grinned when the arguing turned into a repetition of their names being said in variations of disbelief, stunned acknowledgment and a little bit of anger.

There would definitely be some serious talking later.

For now Stiles just wanted to be close to Derek, to revel in the fact that they actually managed to safe Jules and to get out of it alive and healthy.

Stiles wiggled closer to the warmth next to him, smiled when strong arms wrapped around him and when he was pulled against Derek’s chest.

“You good?”

“Yeah, just a little headache. I’m tired though. Sleep?”

Derek just rumbled deep in his chest, pulled Stiles even closer and sighed out. Stiles turned his head, pressed a soft kiss into the stubble he found there and closed his eyes.

“Sleep then. Oh and thank you, for saving me. Thank you for being there, for keeping your promise,” Stiles whispered against the warm skin of Derek’s jaw, moaned a little when soft lips met his.

“Any time, Stiles.”

+++

If there was a warm apple pie waiting for him and Derek the next morning with an elaborate Thank you note from Jules for saving his life and if said apple pie together with a can of whipped cream vanished into Stiles’ room no one mentioned it later.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – Stiles still hated that saying even if it was proven right in his case.
He’d win the hell out of his long distance relationship.

And Derek would be there for the entire ride.