The first day of August is a little early to be mostly packed for college, maybe, but Stiles thinks he can be excused, what with the fact that he literally -- and he’s almost a college boy now, he does know what that word means –- cannot wait to get out of this stupid town, and the inescapable reality that he’s going to have to do the same thing for Scott in a couple weeks, unless he wants Scott showing up with the t-shirt on his back and his half-full lacrosse bag.
Scott is sitting indian-style on Stiles’ bed, staring in bemusement at the few shirts and the lonely hoodie swinging forlornly in Stiles’ closet.
“Wow,” he says. “You’re excited, huh?”
“No,” Stiles says. “I have no idea what you could possibly be talking about.”
“Sure, buddy. Is this going to be like that year you missed Christmas because you were too excited to sleep for three days beforehand and your dad couldn’t get you out of bed? Or just like that year you almost missed Christmas because you were so excited you couldn’t stop throwing up long enough to open your gifts?”
“Neither of those things,” Stiles says, with dignity. “I have no memory of either of those things. If anything, this is going to be like that Halloween I bought all that candy in the post-gorging sales and actually kept it all for the next year. Remember that?” They both take a second to reminisce fondly -- they’d both gotten such bad stomach-aches they’d missed the next day of school, and their parents hadn’t known about Stiles’ secret stash, so they hadn’t even gotten into trouble. “I’m just being prepared. You should be too.”
“I’m just going to get my mom to help me,” Scott says indifferently.
“—And by ‘help’ you mean…”
“—Pack,” Scott says.
“Jesus,” Stiles says. “That’s embarrassing. I’d tell you not to tell Allison that, but I’m going to save you from yourself, help you out.” He pauses thoughtfully. “Although actually, I wouldn’t tell her you need me to pack for you either.”
“Thanks, dude.” Scott looks baffled, but that’s just his natural state, Stiles knows.
“Don’t mention it. We should definitely get a room together, right, and I know what I’m bringing, so we won’t double up.”
Scott brightens. “Yeah. That would be cool. I hope we do.”
“Definitely, we definitely will. You and me, and then Danny and Jackson, and Lydia and Allison. It’ll be awesome.”
“Yeah.” Scott sounds doubtful. “Maybe.”
Stiles hesitates. “What, you don’t think we will? You think they’ll put us with other people?”
“No, we both have our request in, it’ll totally be fine. Just—“
“It’s college, Stiles. I’m not sure us all rooming with our best friends from high school is— I mean, it’ll be fun. It’ll be awesome, totally, don’t be like that.” Stiles is most definitely not being like anything at all. “Just, the whole pack is already going to the same school and — you know Lydia could have done so much better, you could have too, don’t lie — and Derek’s coming too so we can all leave Beacon Hills and— You know none of us are really getting away, Stiles. I mean, not that that’s a bad thing! That’s awesome! You know I was always going to go where Allison went, and I really want you there too. But.” Scott shrugged. Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say. “I don’t know. It might be nice to meet some new people too?”
Stiles manages to scoff. “If Derek ever lets you out of his sight. He’s renting an apartment, right? Our dorm room’ll be bigger, I bet. He’ll probably be over every weekend. Christ, he hates me. I’ll have to stay with Danny and Jackson or something. Hey, you think Lydia and Allison would let me stay over?”
“No!” Scott says. “I do not.”
“You don’t know that, they might. Hey, if I bought and brought a hairdryer and then stole Lydia’s she’d come over to use ours, right?”
“Hmm. I don’t think you’ve ever been inside a girl’s bathroom,” Scott decides. “Also, you’d have to steal Jackson’s first.”
“Shut up,” Stiles says. “And I could totally steal two hairdryers. She totally would. This is going to be awesome.”
“Due to the amount of requests for on-campus housing—”
The letter crumples in Stiles’ fist as he fumbles to dial Scott.
“Hey, Stiles, what’s—“
“Did you get this?”
“Uh, get what?”
“Oh my god, please tell me you got this too.” Stiles frantically smoothes his letter out and rereads it again, just to be sure. Has been declined, he definitely sees that, that is definitely what it says.
“Got what, Stiles?” Scott asks again.
Stiles can hear Allison’s voice in the background, rising in inquiry. He drops his head to the kitchen counter, closes his eyes against it. “This letter from the housing department? This rejection letter from the housing department.”
Scott is silent. Allison’s voice pipes up again but Scott shushes her. “I was at work this morning, I’m just getting home for lunch,” Scott says, eventually. “Give me a minute and I’ll check the post.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, “okay. Just, I don’t know what I’m going to do, Scott, I didn’t think this would happen. I thought, worst case scenario, they’d stick me with somebody else. I thought if that happened maybe we’d even be able to swap, you know?” Stiles hears car doors slamming on the other end of the line. “Where will I live, how would I even find someone to share with, I need somewhere to stay before I get there. What if I hate it, what if I hate them? I could rent a single, right, but ohmygod no, I can’t live alone. Did you get rejected too, we can get somewhere together, it’ll be fine, right, it’ll be okay?”
“Um,” Scott says, “so you’re not my roommate.”
Stiles’ heart sinks. “But you have one. They gave you a roommate, they gave you a room.”
“Yeah. Sorry, Stiles.”
“No, that’s—Did everyone else get a room too?”
“I think so,” Scott says. “Lydia said Jackson was near you two, right? What about Danny?” Stiles can hear Allison’s affirmative before Scott says, “Yeah, Stiles, everyone else got one.”
“What about—You could still get a place with me, right? I mean just because they gave you something, you don’t have to take it, Scott, right?” Stiles is panicking, he can feel it surging up, squeezes his eyes closed again in an attempt to keep it in.
“I don’t think so, Stiles. I mean, I’d like to, but I don’t think my mom can afford that, you know? I can ask, but.” Stiles focuses on his breathing, on Scott’s breathing, his eyes drifting open again, his horror at the situation somehow calming him. “But I don’t want to ask. She can’t afford it.”
“Scott, what am I going to do?”
There’s no response (why would there be, when does Scott ever have any answers, Stiles thinks, ashamed of himself), and then Allison chimes in, clear as a bell in the silence. “So he’s going to live with Derek, right?”
“Right?” Allison asks again, into the deafening silence following her remark.
Her ridiculous, objectionable, invitation to homicide. Her prelude to finding Stiles’ bloody corpse in a ditch before classes even start.
“Uh, no,” Stiles says, “I’m not.”
“He nothing. No.”
“I’m not sure that’s the best idea,” Scott offers. “They don’t really get along. But—“
“No, no but, there is no ‘but’, Scott, bite your tongue!”
“I’m just saying maybe don’t mention it to Derek,” Scott says. “Maybe he won’t think of it on his own?”
“Why would he think of it? And even if he did, he wouldn’t want to! What are you even talking about?”
“Well, you are kind of pack, Stiles. So just don’t mention it to Derek, okay? Don’t mention you’re looking for a place. Don’t even mention we’re not rooming together. And definitely don’t mention it to Lydia. Or Jackson, you know what he’s like. Just— And when you find something, maybe don’t tell Derek you don’t know your roommates?”
Stiles is about to splutter out a protest when he remembers that Derek had been kind of iffy on the idea of any of them sharing a dorm room with a stranger. The weirdo, Stiles thinks virtuously, ignoring his own misgivings about his ability to share space with somebody who doesn’t already know him and isn’t already stuck with him.
“That’s ridiculous,” he says, decisively. “I’m not moving in with Derek. It isn’t happening.”
“Okay,” Scott says, supportively. He sounds dubious, but that’s just Scott, right?
That’s just Scott.
Stiles is an adult. Scott and Allison were being ridiculous with their suggestion of a roommate, but Stiles was a little over the top in his reaction to the news that he needed to find one, okay, he can admit that.
He gets over it, because he is an adult. He talks to his dad about a budget, and he reads the literature on off-campus housing, and he spends a few days browsing the ads that have popped up online.
He emails a few people, and okay, maybe one or two seem like they might be total psychos, which he supposes would matter if there were a chance in hell he’d ever agree to meet someone who wrote about their favourite sexual kinks on facebook (in the same update listing their requirements in a roommate) or a thirty year old who posted pictures of himself in a onesie, kissing a seventeen year old (same update, tagged!). The self-exclusion sort of reassures him. He can spot psychos! He can absolutely find a nice, normal roommate.
He has a couple of budding email exchanges going, and he’s checking to see if there’s been another response when Derek vaults through his bedroom window, out of nowhere, somehow managing to land right beside Stiles, in the perfect position to glower at him.
“What the hell,” Stiles says, “doorbell.”
“This is faster,” Derek says, and glowers.
“What do you want?” Stiles asks. “I’m a little busy here.”
“You’re looking for somebody to share a residence and living expenses with,” Derek says. “I know.”
“Allison told Lydia, and Lydia told you?” Stiles asks, philosophically. He isn’t mad, he knows how these things happen.
Derek blinks. “No,” he says. “Scott told me.”
Scott! Stiles pulls out his phone. Scott is going to be getting an angry text about this. “Scott shouldn’t have told you, it doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t matter because you’ll be sharing a residence with me,” Derek says, and makes for the window.
“Hey!” Stiles barks. “I will not be sharing anything with you, that is ridiculous.”
Derek slides back into the room to glare at Stiles some more. “It’s not ridiculous. I’m Alpha. It’s proper.”
Stiles wants to say that Derek isn’t his Alpha, but they’ve been down that road before. Derek will agree, absolutely, and then carry on regardless.
“Hey. I’m going to be a college student, okay, I’m going to share a place with other college students, that’s proper, you remember that, right, from way back when you did it?”
“I remember doing it. You aren’t going to.”
Stiles pokes the air in front of Derek’s chest while he comes up with a rebuttal. “I’m not living with you.” He pokes the air again, for emphasis.“We hate each other.” That isn’t actually true, Stiles doesn’t think, but Derek is way more frustration than he’s worth, and he definitely doesn’t like Stiles, so. He doesn’t really want this, so Stiles will be able to make him see reason for once.
“We’re sharing. Get over it.”
“No we are not, and I will not have to get over anything, because it isn’t happening.”
Derek rolls his eyes and goes for the window again. Stiles hesitates — has he actually won?
“Don’t pack too much,” Derek calls back, “there isn’t much storage space.” And he vanishes over the edge of the roof.
Derek is so frustrating. But he doesn’t really mean what he said. That’s just Derek, right?
Scott manages to look mildly guilty when Stiles confronts him with the whole Derek situation, but he gets over it fast.
“No, it’s really happening,” he says, happily. Happily! “When you said no, Derek said he’d talk to your dad about it.”
“Well my dad will say no,” Stiles says, also happily. Hah.
Scott scrunches his face up. “Are you sure? I don’t think so. He likes Derek since he found out about the werewolf thing. He’ll want you to be safe.”
“Safe?” Stiles hisses. “With Derek? He’ll kill me!”
“No he won’t.” Scott grins. “You’re being ridiculous.”
Stiles is outraged. “Ridiculous! Me! I’m the one who’s being ridiculous! Are you serious?”
“Well, yeah,” Scott says, unhappily. That’s an improvement, at least. “It’s the best thing. Just don’t—“
“Try to get along, that’s all. Derek will try too. Derek is really good at sharing space, you know, even with Jackson, and you know what Jackson is like.” Stiles does.
“No, he hates me!”
Scott smirks. “Aw, is somebody feeling a little insecure? He doesn’t hate you, Stiles, that’s just Derek. And it’s happening anyway, so.” Scott shrugs, apparently considering the matter settled.
It is not settled.
Stiles’ dad says it’s up to Stiles, of course, but he really thinks—
Stiles is furious. He tries Lydia, but hangs up on her after she just laughs and laughs and laughs at him — Stiles does have limits, okay, even if they’re about ninety seconds after they should have been. So he tries Jackson.
Jackson comes over.
“Yeah, I understand, dude,” he says, “I totally get it.”
“Right? Right?” Vindication!
“Right, yeah.” Jackson seems to feel like that’s enough of a contribution from him, and smiles blankly at Stiles.
“So I’m going to go with the guy with the cats, you think? I mean, it’s only two, and cats are fine, I can handle cats, you barely know they’re there unless they shed.”
Jackson is frowning. “Uh, no, I don’t think that’s—Do they shed?”
“Who cares if they shed?”
“It gets all over your stuff,” Jackson says, unhappily. “It sticks to your clothes. And if they sleep in your bed sometimes you wake up with a lump of it in your mouth. You could choke on it. And if you wake up with some in your mouth who knows how much more there was during the night, you probably swallowed it already, like with spiders.” This conversation is getting off track, and Jackson looks weirdly aggressive. “Cats are not right.”
Oh, that’s why. “Why am I even asking, you’re a dog.”
Jackson glares, but it isn’t effective. “I am not a dog.”
“Does your mom still have that tabby?”
“Shut up. She loves Admiral Pussington.”
“I’m not a dog, I can handle a cat.” Stiles thinks. “They have short hair, anyway, he said. And I can definitely close my bedroom door, okay, it’ll be fine, it’ll be good. I’m going to go for it.”
“Sure, whatever,” Jackson says. “Your funeral.”
Stiles decides that Jackson is totally talking about the cats.
The guy responds right after Jackson leaves, tells Stiles he can arrive whenever he wants, seems happy with everything.
That is settled.
Stiles thinks so for a day, until the guy emails him again, so sorry to hear about his newly discovered deathly allergy to cats, very understandable that he can’t move in, but really the language used was completely inappropriate, cats are not scum and they are definitely not demons in feline form, and if Stiles is the sort of person to blame an innocent animal for his own medical issues this would never have worked out anyway and a complaint has been filed with the local branch of an animal protection society, just in case. They’ll be keeping an eye on him.
Stiles was wrong. Stiles is going to kill Derek.
Derek doesn’t even have the grace to pretend to feel bad.
“It’s your own fault. If you didn’t want me hacking into your email account and rearranging your living arrangements you shouldn’t have made the stupid arrangements to begin with. We already talked about this, I don’t know why you’re here.”
“Are you—? Oh, wow, you’re actually serious. You do realise you sound insane? My dad is the sheriff, I can get a restraining order. And what do you mean, hacked my email, you don’t know how to do that. Did you get Danny to do that?” Danny!
“That reminds me, I have to talk to Danny.”
Derek pushes past Stiles on his way to the door.
“Wait, you can’t just leave. Derek!”
“Your dad has your key.”
“Derek, don’t even think about—“
But Derek’s gone. Of course.
Danny refuses to get involved, the hypocrite, so Stiles winds up seeking out Allison. It’s his last resort, because he still hasn’t forgiven her for putting the jinx on him to start with.
She rolls her eyes, but looks amused with him at the same time. “Stiles, I didn’t jinx you, and I didn’t say anything to Derek. And even Scott didn’t suggest this to him, he just had to tell Derek that you weren’t going to be his roommate.”
“You know you this is your fault, you totally did jinx me!”
“Inevitability isn’t jinx.”
“This is not inevitable, this is insane, I am not letting this happen. You have to talk Scott around, get him to make Derek see how awful an idea this is.”
“It isn’t an awful idea, though, Stiles. I know it isn’t ideal, but you’re overreacting, it’s going to be fine.” Stiles’ aghast expression just makes her smile. “It will. I know you and Derek don’t have the best of track records, and I understand why you wouldn’t exactly be looking forward to this, but it isn’t as if he’s actually some psycho who hates you and wants you dead. You probably won’t even see him most of the time. He just wants to know that you’re okay, and. And I think he probably wants to keep you close, maybe? Even if Scott likes his new roommate he’s tied to Derek, and we aren’t, not really, not in the same way. I think he’s afraid that if we drift away we’ll just leave.”
“I might,” Stiles says.
“No, I don’t want to, I don’t mean that I will, but I don’t want Derek telling me I can’t.”
Allison takes a breath, lets it out on a long exhale. “It’s just a place to live, Stiles. He’s not going to stop you doing things, meeting people — spending the night other places! — but this is going to make him feel better, and he’s going to turn into a total freak if you don’t do it.”
“Whatever.” Allison grins again. “Choose your battles, okay? And you know we’re all going to be over a ton of the time anyway.”
“Yeah.” Stiles can feel himself wavering; there’s only so long he can fight while everyone else is telling him he’s wrong.
“And, hey. If you really can’t take it after a while, maybe I could be talked into letting you borrow my room for a couple hours now and then.”
Allison is evil, Stiles knows that’s true, but—“Sold.”
So that’s how Stiles ends up in front of Derek Hale’s apartment door, working up the nerve to move in. He’s totally blaming Allison for this.
Derek’s already in town, but Stiles doesn’t know if he’s in the apartment. He hopes he isn’t. This would be so much easier if he wasn’t, and Stiles is hoping to see him as infrequently as is possible. Plus, and he isn’t ashamed to admit this, he’s still a little bit terrified. He wishes his dad had been able to come.
Derek opens the door.
“Hi!” Stiles says, waving awkwardly. “I was just about to knock.”
“No, you weren’t,” Derek says, disdainfully, but he disappears back into the apartment and leaves the door open behind him, so Stiles scoots in and closes the door, looking around curiously. It isn’t as small as Derek had suggested, but Derek’s house is pretty big, even if it is still falling apart, so maybe Derek had gotten used to that. Derek is nowhere to be seen, so Stiles checks the first door he comes to. Bathroom. Next is a completely empty room. The last is Derek’s bedroom, containing Derek and what is presumably Derek’s bed.
Stiles should be trying to avoid this, but he really doesn’t care about that right now. “Am I sleeping on the floor?” Derek looks up from whatever he’s doing in that drawer in the corner, counting the severed heads of his enemies or something. He doesn’t respond. “This place came furnished, right?”
“Yes,” Derek says. “I put the second bed into storage. I wasn’t expecting to be living with anyone else.”
“So why did you even get a two bedroom?”
“I had planned to use the spare bedroom for containment. In case of emergency.”
“Oh. Well what are you going to do now?” Derek shrugs. “You can’t use your bedroom, it’ll get destroyed.” Derek shrugs. “You are not using my bedroom!” Derek shoves impatiently past Stiles, out of the room. “Derek!” He’s heading for the front door. “Derek, hey, it is your leader of the pack duty to help me carry all my stuff up from the car!”
The door slams behind him. Great.
By the time Derek gets back, Stiles has all his boxes piled in his bedroom. The room looks like it’s about big enough for a twin and a wardrobe, and Stiles has the sinking suspicion that a lot of his stuff is going to be staying in the boxes. (Stiles is not an over-packer, no matter what Allison says.) Derek’s bedroom is bigger, of course; Derek has a chest of drawers, a bedside locker, and a double. Stiles isn’t jealous, he’s just naturally resentful.
Stiles stays in his room, sitting on a box of clothes, leaning against the tower beside him. He isn’t being petty ignoring Derek, it is completely justified, because Stiles is exhausted, and if he’d known Derek was going to take off he would’ve timed his arrival so Scott was around, he knew he should’ve done that, but Scott swore blind Derek would help him move in with those supernaturally strong muscles. The liar.
A couple of minutes pass, and Stiles is drifting off when he’s startled back to awareness by a quick rap on his closed door. That’s unusually courteous for Derek.
“You knock now?” Stiles leans against the doorframe, blocking Derek’s entrance. Also trying not to fall straight back to sleep.
Derek blinks. “It’s your room.”
“Never stopped you before.”
Stiles thinks Derek looks uncomfortable, but it’s difficult to be sure.
“I brought your furniture.” Derek tilts his head towards a mess of what appears to be random bits of wood leaning against the wall beside Stiles’ door.
“Oh, thanks.” Stiles has no idea what he’s supposed to do with any of that. There is a bedside locker for him too, and that hasn’t been disassembled, but he doesn’t think he can sleep on it. Oh, hey, there’s a mattress! His room is pretty full already, though, and he doesn’t think that’s going to squeeze in. “I’m going to sleep on the couch tonight, okay? I’ll get going with this tomorrow. I need a bit of a rest before I get started, and I can’t remember which box I packed my hammers and wrenches and assorted similar items in.” Stiles doesn’t have any of those things, but he’s sure he can borrow them off somebody tomorrow. Maybe he can even borrow somebody to show him how to use them. “There’s screws and stuff too, right?”
Derek picks up a small box and hands it to Stiles.
“Great.” Stiles backs up, dumping the box on top of a pile that doesn’t look like the added weight will make it topple.
“Holy crap,” Derek says, suddenly inside the room. “Did you bring everything you own?”
“No,” Stiles says, keeping a wary eye on the latest box, tilting alarmingly after all. “I am a very efficient packer.”
Derek nods, grabs the top three boxes and drops them on the floor. “Sure.”
“And why are you in my room, I thought you were respecting my space?”
“Sure,” Derek says, and leaves. Fantastic.
Stiles feels a little hesitant about going out into the living room when he can hear Derek pottering around out there, but there’s only so long he can stay in his bedroom once he’s filled the three tiny drawers of his locker with clothes. That’s only, like, a box and a half. He doesn’t want to look at the amount of stuff he has to find space for anymore.
Derek is in the corner of the living room that’s tiled, set up as the kitchen. He appears to be cooking.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Stiles asks, bouncing over to peer over Derek’s shoulder. Derek shrugs him off.
“I’m making dinner.”
“Cool! I didn’t know you could cook.” It’s something with mince and vegetables, and it smells delicious. “What’re you making?”
“Tortillas. For myself.”
“Yeah, but there’s enough for two, though, right?”
“No,” Derek says pleasantly. “Absolutely not.”
“Oh, come on,” Stiles protests, knowing he’s grasping at straws, but unwilling to give up. “You made a ton.”
“And I’m going to eat it all.” Derek dishes up, and turns his back on Stiles with the plate.
“But if you didn’t I could finish it, right? I’m just saying, it looks like there’s a lot.”
“Are you criticising the amount of food I eat?” Derek’s already on his second, but he stops shovelling his food into his mouth to glare over his shoulder at Stiles.
“No, not at all. I’m just making sure that if I happened to eat leftovers you wouldn’t slaughter me for it.”
“There won’t be leftovers.”
“But if there were—“
“Stiles,” Derek growls. “Do not eat my food. Look. I’m going to leave these two in the fridge—“ He demonstrates, like he’s one of those girls on the Price is Right, and slams the fridge door shut. “—and I’m going to go out, and I expect them to still be there when I get back. If not, I will eat you. Understood?”
“Completely.” Stiles raises his hands in surrender.
Derek growls, and vanishes out the door again.
Stiles heads over to Scott’s once Derek takes off.
He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but once he locates Scott’s dorm room he finds Scott nestled into his bed, halfway through a six-pack. His roommate is searching for funny videos on youtube, and is making headway on his own six-pack. Seriously? How is this fair? How is this Stiles’ life?
“Hey!” Scott says, making room on the bed.
Stiles flops down, grabbing a bottle. Then he realises he’s clearly spent far too much time with Derek already.
“Hey,” he says, reaching across the room from his spot on the bed, shaking the guy’s hand. “I’m Stiles, Scott’s friend.”
“Jeremy,” the guy says. “Hey, have you seen this one with the skateboarding dog? Little trucker just keeps on getting back up!”
And that’s how the night goes.
Stiles ends up a little too drunk to be driving, so he doesn’t make it home until late next morning.
Derek is home too, sitting on the couch. There’s no television. He appears to be there for the express purpose of glaring at Stiles. “You’re looking especially scowly today!” Stiles says brightly. “What did you get up to last night?”
“None of your business.”
“Oookay.” He drops his keys on the coffee table and walks towards his room to get a change of clothes. “My dad said he’d bring up a tv first time he visits,” he calls back to Derek. “I didn’t have room in my truck.”
Stiles’ bedroom door bounces back when he throws it open, and when he pokes his head inside his bed is put together, squeezed in behind the door, and the boxes have been piled high to the ceiling to give a little room.
“Hey, Derek, thanks!” he says. “That’s really nice.”
“Awesome, thanks,” Stiles repeats happily, on his way back out with his clothes. Things are looking a lot better this morning. He drops his clothes on the sofa beside Derek and goes over to the kitchen to see if there’s anything he can get away with stealing for breakfast. “Let me know if there’s anything you need me to do around—oh, hey, you never finished your tortillas.”
“I didn’t want them,” Derek says.
Stiles pulls the plate out of the fridge. “So can I finish them now?”
“No,” Derek says, pouncing on Stiles, grabbing the food from his hand, and slamming the bedroom door behind him.
“Okay,” Stiles sighs, “fine.”
He goes into the bathroom to have his shower, but he steals two of Derek’s pop-tarts first.
Derek is in the kitchen again when Stiles gets out of the shower, and Stiles assumes he’s spotted the missing pop-tarts because of the glare he gets thrown, but really, who knows. Derek’s stirring something in a saucepan, adding milk.
Stiles towel-dries his hair in the middle of the room, wishing there was a radio, anything to provide a distraction. Derek’s wooden spoon scrapes steadily against the sides of the pot.
“Where were you last night?”
Stiles looks up, but Derek’s back is turned and he’s bent over his work. “I slept on Scott’s floor. It was really bad, because they had a spare duvet, but not a spare pillow, so I was curled up all night like a little hamster. Jeremy’s really nice, though.”
“You should stay here tonight,” Derek says. “It’s important to settle in. And Scott needs time to acclimate too. You shouldn’t impose on him.”
Stiles’ indignation doesn’t prevent him being drawn over to Derek by the smell. “I wasn’t imposing, Scott would never think that.” Derek appears to be grating cinnamon for his porridge. “Hey, my mom used to do that,” Stiles says, startled. “Do you put fruit in too?”
“No, I don’t,” Derek replies, after a beat.
Stiles wanders back to his bedroom. He doubts Derek will decide there’s enough for two, even if they’ve both already eaten.
Stiles ends up back at Scott and Jeremy’s room that afternoon. Lydia and Allison haven’t arrived yet, and neither Scott nor Stiles feel compelled to check in with Jackson and Danny; time enough to see them when they all wind up at Derek and Stiles’ apartment.
Jeremy doesn’t have any friends here yet, nobody he knows is attending, so he wants to go out and try to meet some more people.
Stiles isn’t quite sure how he ends up falling off a bar stool at a quarter to seven that evening.
It’s okay, though, they’re in town, close enough to walk back home, and Jeremy wants to stop for food on the way, so everything is really awesome, even if there’s nowhere they can actually eat at in their condition. Eating Chinese take-away while staggering down the street towards your first apartment is like a rite of passage or something. Stiles is sure of this, and Jeremy agrees, so they must be right. Scott is just no fun.
Scott pulls Stiles’ half-finished house special from his hands when they get to Stiles’ street, dropping it into a trashcan. “You’re spilling that everywhere,” he says. “You know Derek would make you eat every last grain of rice from the floor.”
Jeremy’s not too drunk to throw Scott a doubtful look at that. It’s the first piece of information either of them has volunteered about Derek.
When they reach his doorstep Stiles wants to invite Scott and Jeremy in — he hasn’t had that much to drink, really, he’s just never had shots before — but he doesn’t know how Derek would react. He wants to stay with them again, but — Derek said not to, and also, Stiles thinks Derek might have been right about imposing, just a little bit. He’s suddenly fiercely resentful of Jeremy for getting to go home with Scott, of Scott for abandoning him here.
He laughs, slaps them both on the back. “Night, guys,” he says. “See you tomorrow.”
When he gets inside, Derek isn’t there.
The next morning Stiles staggers out of bed, into the living room. Derek is cooking again, but Stiles doesn’t even bother, just collapses onto the couch to wait until Derek is gone, so he can steal some more pop-tarts. He really needs to go grocery shopping.
After a minute, Derek drops a bowl of porridge onto the coffee table in front of Stiles, before taking his own into his bedroom. There’s fruit in it.
Stiles isn’t quite sure what to do with that.
To be honest, it isn’t a problem he’d ever expected to confront, Derek Hale being all sensitive, or kind, or whatever. It isn’t like it would be a problem if it were anyone else, either; Stiles just isn’t sure how to react to prevent Derek flipping his lid, taking it out on Stiles, and taking back all the porridge, ever.
It's really good porridge, though. Stiles hasn't tasted anything like it in years.
Maybe he should just ignore it.
Derek eventually comes back out of his room, taking his empty bowl over to the sink and rinsing it out.
“Thanks, dude,” Stiles says. “I was starving.”
“Don’t call me dude,” Derek says. “Jackson and Danny are coming over this evening.”
“Oh. Lydia and Allison are only arriving this afternoon, so it isn’t a meeting, is it? Do I have to be here?”
“No.” Stiles can’t help but think that was a pointed response, but he doesn’t know whether Derek was suggesting that Stiles not be here, or whether Derek was suggesting that Stiles is a douchebag for not wanting to play hostess to Danny and Jackson.
“Okay, well, I’m going to spend the afternoon with Scott and Jeremy again, don’t know what time I’ll be back.” Derek looks disapproving, but Derek can shut up. They’re the only people Stiles knows here; Derek doesn’t count. “Hey, what are you doing this afternoon?”
“Nothing,” Derek says, but he leaves before Stiles.
Jeremy isn’t in the room when Stiles gets over. Apparently he did actually meet some people last night after they dropped Stiles back at the apartment and he’s out with them now.
Scott is excited, anticipating Allison’s arrival. Stiles tries to have a nap in Scott’s bed, but Scott’s bouncing around like a hyperactive little kid, and Stiles gives up in frustration.
He is so relieved when Allison finally texts Scott, telling him they can come over.
When they get to Allison and Lydia’s room there’s already a group of girls clustered around, darting in and out, chattering away to each other.
Lydia is directing Jackson, who’s unpacking the last of her boxes, and having about three separate conversations, none of them with Jackson. Allison is slowly hanging up her clothes, jumping in on Lydia’s conversations here and there, until she spots Scott and jumps on him instead. They all look really happy, so Stiles gravitates to Jackson, who looks longsuffering. That’s less depressing.
“Hey Jackson,” he says, “how’re you?”
“Fine,” Jackson says. “Hey Lydia, where do you want all these shoes? There’s nowhere for them.”
She ignores him, and he subsides unhappily. All of the girls are ignoring him, too busy talking to each other. He’s pouting really obviously, but nobody cares.
“So where’s Danny?”
“Derek,” Jackson says. “I was too but then Lydia called.”
“And where’s Derek?”
“Sure, of course, and where’s that?”
Jackson looks belatedly suspicious, but Allison bounces over. She has the worst timing.
“Hey, we’re going to go out and get something for lunch. Are you guys coming?”
Jackson shrugs, but with him, that’s always a yes. “Sure,” Stiles says, “where are we going?”
They end up back in town, and there’s actually some pretty nice places to eat there, when you’re not so drunk they won’t let you through the door.
Stiles ends up getting spaghetti, and Jackson spends a minute judging him for it. “—and anyway, I’m supposed to be cooking later, so—“
“Oh, we aren’t supposed to be meeting at your place later, are we?” Allison asks Stiles. “We already have plans.”
“No, just Jackson.”
“—oh,” Allison says, and smiles, like she thinks Jackson needs her to be supportive. Jackson glares. Tries to, really; Stiles doesn’t know why he bothers. Stiles doesn’t know why he couldn’t have traded with Jackson. Jackson would have loved living with Derek.
“Danny’s coming too,” Jackson sulks. Right, that’s why.
Stiles stays with the girls for a couple more hours after Jackson takes off, but eventually Lydia gets swallowed up by a gaggle of girls she’s made friends with in the two seconds she’s been here and Allison kicks him out of her room, keeping Scott.
He hasn’t had dinner yet, so he decides that Derek had wanted him there for the thing with Jackson and Danny, and wow, he’s late, the food will be gone.
There’s chicken casserole in the oven, half-eaten. It’s okay. Jackson isn’t a great cook, but Stiles couldn’t make a casserole to save his life, so he isn’t complaining.
When he’s done he goes to check if anyone’s here. Derek’s door isn’t shut, so Stiles pushes it wide gently and leans in.
“Hi,” he whispers. Derek is in the bed, watching Stiles, Jackson curled up around him, asleep, Danny lying on the other side, eyes closed. Danny isn’t sleeping, though. He never does, like this. “Um, are you guys going to be here for a while? Down for the night, or?”
Danny opens his eyes. “I don’t think we’re doing anything else. Going back to our room later, maybe.” And closes them again.
Great. Stiles waves in Derek’s direction and pulls the door close to the frame on his way out.
He’ll just watch some tv on his laptop, maybe a movie. It’s kind of weird to think of what’s going on in the apartment — he’s seen Derek do that with the other wolves before, but he’s never been sleeping next door to it, Derek in bed with Stiles’ friends draped all over him for comfort.
He calls his dad instead, a little unsettled.
“Stiles,” his dad says, “what’s wrong?”
“What? What’s wrong? Nothing! What?”
“You don’t check in once since you leave and now you’re calling at nine on a Saturday?”
Stiles sighs. “Nothing’s wrong, dad. Just wanted to see how you were.”
“All right,” his dad says, like there’s any chance he believed that. “I’m all right. Just got home from work a half hour ago, making dinner—“ Stiles thinks he can hear the microwave in the background. “—Steaming vegetables as we speak, very healthy, looking after myself.”
“Sure you are, dad.”
“What about you? Not out with Scott tonight?”
“Nah, Allison got into town today, so he’s busy. We went out last night.”
“Mm. I hope you weren’t doing anything I’d take exception to.”
Stiles scoffs. “Not a thing! I know how understanding and reasonable you are.”
“Right,” his dad says, amused.
“Really, though, nothing much. Got home early, went to bed.”
“Mm. It takes a little bit of getting used to, being away from home like this, so many strangers around. Sounds like you’re settling in okay, but things will be better once classes start.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, “I hope so. Things are fine. I’m having a good time. Scott’s roommate’s cool.”
“Is he? How’s Derek treating you?”
“Fine,” Stiles says. “Good.”
“Mm. Is he there now?”
“He’s in bed.”
“In bed? It’s nine, Stiles.”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, it is. He’s tired, he’s working hard. Pack stuff, you know.” Stiles’ dad is never ever going to find out that Derek takes care of pack business in bed.
“Well, I hope so. He get a job yet?”
“Uh.” Stiles’ mind is blank; it had honestly never occurred to him that Derek would need one. “I don’t know,” he says slowly. “He still has the life assurance money left, right?”
“Man needs a job.”
“Uh, I think you should tell him that, if that’s what you think. I’m not going to.”
“No, Stiles, I mean everybody needs to do an honest day’s work. Last we spoke about it, Derek was going to be looking for a job down there. What did you think he was going to be doing for years on end in that little college town? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.”
“Nothing, of course. I don’t know what to do with you sometimes, Stiles. Everybody has to do something.”
“Well, I’ll ask him and let you know.”
“You do that. What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Last day of freedom. Everybody has to do something.”
“They do.” His dad sounds amused again, rather than exasperated, and doesn’t keep Stiles on the line too much longer, letting the conversation wind down.
Stiles settles back in bed and starts a video, trying not to think about anything at all. He never thought he'd be thinking this, but he can’t wait for classes to start. He is such a loser.
Danny and Jackson are gone by the time Stiles gets up the next morning. Derek’s halfway through some toasted cheese, standing hunched over the kitchen counter.
“Morning.” Derek jerks his chin up in acknowledgement and keeps eating. “Good night last night?” He grunts. “Danny and Jackson stay late?”
“Rest of the night.”
“Does that bother you?” Stiles is genuinely curious. “I know everyone landed on you whenever they felt like it back in Beacon Hills, but you had more space there, right? And it must be annoying to have to give up so much of your time to that.”
Derek shrugs. “It’s how it works.”
Stiles doesn’t think that’s true: he can’t imagine Peter Hale letting Jackson scramble all over him like a puppy. Not without tearing out his throat, at any rate. “Yeah,” he says. “But it can still be annoying.”
Derek shrugs. Then he turns his head and smiles at Stiles. Smiles at Stiles. He looks a little sly when he says, “Maybe.”
“Dude—“ Stiles says. He has no follow up. That’s all he has.
“Don’t call me dude,” Derek says. He doesn’t even sound angry!
“Oh my god, you like it! You secretly like it, right, that’s why you’re actually happy right now? Jackson hugging you all night has just turned your frown upside down! You’re a stealth-cuddler.” And okay, maybe Stiles is worried he’s gone too far and is about to die a messy death on his kitchen floor, but no, Derek is still smiling.
“Stop being ridiculous.”
“I saw it with my own two eyes, you can’t deny it. That’s hilarious. I’m telling everyone.” Stiles can feel the grin stretching his mouth, but he can’t stop it.
“Do that,” Derek says, innocently. “I’m sure Allison will be thrilled with your insight. Scott does that too.”
Stiles gapes. “That was a joke! That was a joke about human relationships and interaction! I’m so proud. It’s like I’m watching my toddler go off to his first day of kindergarten. I’m tearing up over here.”
Derek’s still smirking, but he seems to be done. “I have to go,” he says, moving towards the door. So polite! Stiles is amazed, and half-believes the crap he just gave Derek.
“Hey, wait a sec,” he says, remembering. “I was talking to my dad last night—“
“I know,” Derek says, turning back.
“Oh, right.” Derek can hear everything going on in the apartment; he’d always been able to hear everything in the house in Beacon Hills too, but Stiles had never been one to stay over so it had never really affected him before. God, Derek can hear everything. “Right. You wouldn’t listen to my phone calls, though, right?” Derek shrugs. “Of course you would. So you know my dad was asking about you finding a job, then? I didn’t even know you were looking. Is that what you’ve been doing, looking for a job?”
“I have a job,” Derek says.
“Oh. What is it?”
“I’m a bartender,” Derek admits, reluctant.
Stiles starts laughing. “Awesome, that is so awesome.”
And the scowl is back. “I don’t want you coming in. I told Jackson and Danny already.”
“I’m going to have to make something up for my dad.”
“No, you aren’t.” And he’s gone. Stiles is still laughing.
Stiles doesn’t really do anything that afternoon, but when he realises he’s forgotten to eat lunch and there’s nothing in the fridge he does finally go grocery shopping.
He’s unloading his bags when Derek comes back.
“Hey, were you at work?” Stiles asks. “Do you work at a place called Dutch’s?”
“No, it’s called Fitzpatrick’s.”
“You don’t have to go back to work after the meeting, do you?”
“He doesn’t want me on nights until I have more experience. I’ve only been there a couple days.” Derek is watching the food as it comes out of the bags. He looks personally interested.
“I don’t really cook.” Stiles shrugs, feeling weirdly apologetic. “I can grill meat and microwave rice and vegetables, that’s about my limit. But Jackson’s coming over soon. You want to wait?”
“No,” Derek says. “What did you get?”
Stiles isn’t sure if that’s a demand for food. Did Stiles not just tell him he couldn’t cook? And Stiles isn’t sure what kind of ideas Derek has about this living situation of theirs, but Stiles is not his slave.
“I am not some kind of slave around here,” Stiles says, waving his hand at the bags to disclaim all responsibility. Derek can’t be expecting him to do this stuff.
Derek raises an eyebrow in the direction of the coffee table, and the three empty chip bags littering it. “I had noticed.”
“Oh, well—“ Stiles says, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly, and then jogs over to toss the bags into the trash. When he gets back, Derek hands him the last of the brown paper bags to get rid of too. He’s examining Stiles’ selection, looking kind of disgusted at the amount of microwave dinners and sugary breakfast foods. But Stiles got healthy stuff too; there’s meat and — microwavable French fries. That counts! That’s potatoes. And microwaving is healthy: it’s called steaming. His dad says so.
Derek pulls aside the chicken fillets and opens a cupboard door. There isn’t any other food in the house, Stiles checked before he went shopping. There’s just vegetables and rice and stuff, nothing you can actually eat. Derek pulls out the rice. And a wok. Stiles gapes.
“Put those away,” Derek growls, gesturing at the rest of Stiles’ shopping, still sitting on the counter. Stiles isn’t really sure where Derek wants the stuff, but he starts opening cupboard doors, trying to figure it out. “Do you want some?” Derek asks.
“Do I want—what?”
“Meat, rice and vegetables.” Derek grins. “Your specialty, right?”
That wasn’t really the question Stiles was asking, but. “Absolutely,” he says, hopping up on the counter to watch as Derek pulls out sauce and some spices from one of the presses. Stiles doesn’t even know what you’re supposed to do with those things. He tried sprinkling spice on like salt once, and his dad almost had to take him to the emergency room.
“Put those away,” Derek repeats, glaring, and Stiles jumps back down.
“So what are you making?” Stiles asks, peering around Derek to see what’s going on, pulling open doors, looking for somewhere to stick cheese string.
“Just chicken stir-fry,” Derek says. “I’m starving.”
“Yeah, me too.” Stiles watches Derek grab a red onion and a couple peppers and something else from this vegetable rack thing he has — it’s a whole stand! just for vegetables! Stiles didn’t know such a thing existed — and start chopping. Stiles makes sure to keep moving, slowly, so he can keep an eye without getting yelled at. Derek’s a fast chopper.
Stiles catches Derek’s eye on him and jumps, throwing a few items away in random places. Derek must notice, but he doesn’t say anything about it until Stiles puts the strawberries in the vegetable whatsit. “Fridge.”
“Hmm?” Derek’s stirring, and it’s starting to hiss.
“Strawberries go in the fridge.”
“No they don’t. They’re not in the fridge at the store.”
“Put them in the fridge.” Stiles holds his hands up in surrender and retrieves the strawberries. “They last longer,” says Derek, grudgingly.
“Oh.” Stiles grabs the cream on his way. He’s totally having those later. Maybe Derek can share. Depends on how good dinner is, though. Strawberries and cream has to be earned. That’s the end of his shopping, so he hops back up onto the counter beside Derek.
“Didn’t your mother keep strawberries in the fridge?”
Stiles has to think about that for a minute. “I don’t think she ate strawberries.”
“Oh. Who doesn’t eat strawberries?”
Stiles shrugs. “Did yours?”
“She loved them.”
“Keep them in the fridge, I mean.”
“Of course.” Derek looks at Stiles, amused. “You’re supposed to.”
Stiles doesn’t know why he asked that. He isn’t having a conversation about moms. He definitely isn’t having a conversation about moms with Derek Hale.
“We could make Eton Mess tomorrow, maybe,” Derek suggests, low-voiced, fiddling around with the spices. “That would be fun.”
“We could make what?”
“Eton Mess. It’s a dessert my mother used to make. It’s the reason strawberries were invented.” Derek is smiling into his wok.
“I don’t bake,” Stiles says. “I’ve never made dessert in my life.”
Derek says, “It’s easy. It’s a lot of fun.” He’s smiling at Stiles now.
Stiles shrugs. “Hey, how come stores don’t know you’re supposed to keep strawberries in the fridge?”
Derek blinks, surprised by the switch. “You don’t have to, they just keep better.”
“But how come stores don’t know that? Are you supposed to keep everything in the fridge? Strawberries and apples and grapes and bananas? What about peppers, why don’t you keep your peppers in the fridge? Don’t they keep in cool temperatures too?”
Derek ignores him. “Set the table, Stiles,” he says.
Stiles thinks Derek might be mad at him, maybe, but he’s too glad to be able to get away to worry about it. He leaves two plates by Derek and takes the cutlery over to the coffee table. He wanders back over, but stays out of Derek’s range.
“Yeah. You’re cleaning up before the others get here.”
“Jackson’s going to be so jealous.” Derek glares, and Stiles grins, a little relieved at the sign of normalcy. “Don’t worry, this can be our little secret.”
Derek carries his food over to the sofa, leaving Stiles to grab his own.
“Thanks, dude.” Stiles joins Derek to eat on the sofa with a blank wall in front of them. “We really need a TV. This wall isn’t even a decent colour.” Stiles is pretty sure there’s mould growing on it.
Derek is concentrating on his food. Stiles has barely started, but Derek’s plate is emptying quickly. “I don’t really watch television,” Derek tells him.
“Just when I think you can’t get any weirder.”
Derek stops eating to scowl.
“No, seriously, you don’t have a computer either, what do you even do all day?”
“I have a life outside my bedroom.” And Stiles does know that Derek doesn’t mean that the way it sounded, but he’s about to go for the joke anyway when Derek says, “We never had them. We weren’t allowed.”
“We weren’t allowed to have computers. Or a television, even in the family room. They were considered isolating.”
“They were considered—“ Okay, so Derek came by his weirdness honestly. “You know how to use a computer, though.”
“We went to school. We watched television at our friends’ houses. We were encouraged to do so. We had to be able to exist alongside society.” Derek looks frustrated with Stiles’ lack of comprehension. “We needed the ability to blend in and coexist with outsiders,” he tries to explain, “but we were never really part of that. Our family was our own. We had our own practices and our own way of functioning, our own rules, and our lives were our own and each other’s.”
Okay, so maybe Derek was raised by a cult.
Derek apparently abandons his attempt to make Stiles understand, and continues, “But anyway, I never had a television until after—Until after I left Beacon Hills.”
The questions are there for the asking, but Stiles isn’t sure he wants to hear the answers.
“Well, we’ll have to get you up to speed,” Stiles says. “You have a lot of catching up to do. I wonder what you’d be into?”
His mind is still back on the history Derek volunteered, though, worrying it over. It didn’t sound like Derek has left it very far behind at all, and that’s a little worrying, Stiles thinks, unable to keep from dwelling on the behaviour he’s seen Derek engage in that Stiles had let slide, knowing it was strange, but not really understanding it or making the effort to.
“I watched some television after I left home,” Derek says. “I didn’t like it much.”
Stiles remembers that he’s only here because of Derek — he’s only going to this college because of Derek — that Lydia is too. He thinks of the piles of people in Derek’s bed, and wonders, for the first time, what that actually signifies; of the amount of time Derek spends training and the amount of time he makes Scott and Jackson train, and the times Scott has actually been hurt by overstretching himself; of the time when Lydia was newly turned, and Derek’s first act as her alpha had been to forbid her from wearing perfume because the scent in his home disturbed him.
“But I watched it sometimes. I had a television in my dorm room.”
Stiles is kind of terrified by the fact that none of his friends have ever really protested this. Complained, sure, but they’ve never really seemed to be genuinely bothered. Stiles doesn’t understand anything.
“I liked Battlestar Galactica,” Derek offers, sounding hesitant now.
Stiles hasn’t really been paying attention, but—“Wait, Battlestar Galactica, really? New or old?”
“Hold up, did you say dorm room? You had a dorm room? I didn’t know you went to college.”
Derek gets up to put his empty plate in the sink, and Stiles remembers that he’s supposed to be eating, picks up his fork again and starts shovelling. Derek is quiet for so long that Stiles has almost forgotten he’s asked a question by the time he speaks. “Before Laura—Before I had to come back to Beacon Hills for Laura. I needed something to do.”
“Everybody needs something to do,” Stiles mutters.
“Why aren’t you going to school with us, though? Is working in a bar what you want to do?”
Derek shrugs. “College wasn’t what I wanted either.”
“So what is?” Stiles asks, and that’s a question he knows he wants the answer to; but Derek’s drying his dishes, and there’s a knock on the door, and he knows he isn’t getting one.
Stiles darts across the room to leave the rest of his dinner in the microwave, the one place Jackson never goes near when he’s cooking, like he thinks microwaving your homemade meal into being is unseemly. The fool. But it does mean Stiles will be able to finish that later. It was good.
Stiles hovers awkwardly. Somebody tries the doorbell. Derek’s putting everything away, hiding the evidence, and Stiles should get the door but he doesn’t want to, doesn’t want to greet his friends at the threshold and play host.
He stays behind in the kitchen while Derek goes to answer. Okay, it’s the same room, the front door’s just in the sitting room area, like ten feet away, but. It’s the principle that counts.
Lydia, Jackson and Danny pour in as soon as the door opens. Jackson has plastic bags, but he’s cooking for everyone and he bought enough that Danny’s carrying a couple too.
“What took you so long?” Lydia snaps. “I thought we were going to freeze to death out there.”
“In our apartment hallway?” Stiles asks.
“Yes,” Lydia says, narrowing her eyes at him. “And what were you doing just standing there while I was ringing and ringing and ringing? Rude.”
Stiles always wants Lydia’s attention until he has it.
Lydia is looking around the room in excitement. “This is nice, Derek!”
“Thank you.” Derek sounds surprised. It’s probably been a while since anyone has said that to him about his house, but Stiles thinks he knows that’s only true comparatively.
“I want a tour!”
“Sure,” Stiles agrees, and guides it with gestures. “His room, my room, bathroom. Anything else you want to see?”
Lydia ignores him, and grabs Jackson’s arm. “You were here yesterday, right? Show me!”
She drags him off. Danny stays behind to unpack the bags, but he takes his time, lining everything up neatly on the counter for Jackson to choose from, so he isn’t done by the time they get back.
“It’s great, Derek,” Lydia says. “Stiles, your bedroom looks like a rubbish dump. I don’t know why I was surprised.”
“I haven’t finished unpacking yet.” Stiles doesn’t know why he lets her needle him, but she manages it without fail.
“You mean you’ve started?” She wrinkles her nose in disgust, and dismisses him from her attention. “Derek, do you want me to do anything? I could pick paint colours, or get you cushions.”
“For the couch? You don’t have any. We’ve talked about this type of thing before. And this place is so nice, this kind of thing really stands out. It catches the eye here.” That’s so backhanded. Stiles is kind of admiring, kind of insulted on Derek’s behalf.
“That’s all right, Lydia, thank you. I’m fine.”
She throws her eye around again. “At least let me get you a television.”
“No,” Derek says, and leaves it at that.
Lydia gives Derek up as a lost cause and moves swiftly on to greener pastures. “Why aren’t Scott and Allison here yet? They’re late! They’re so late, Derek.” In fact, Lydia was a little early. “I think we should go ahead and eat without them, don’t you? Jackson, are you making dinner yet?” She releases his arm. “Why don’t I see you cooking?”
Jackson looks miserable. Stiles isn’t sure why he still lets Lydia treat him like that. They haven’t dated in years, but somehow when they both became werewolves Lydia got to stick Jackson with all the downsides of being her boyfriend without any of the benefits. For life, it seems.
Jackson joins Danny at the counter, fiddles aimlessly with the food.
“You’re messing up my arrangement,” Danny says. Jackson flinches, but Danny just bumps up against him companionably. “What’re you making?”
“I told you already.”
The doorbell rings, and Lydia sweeps over to pull the door open. “You’re late.”
Scott’s frowning down at his watch as they enter, but Allison just rolls her eyes.
“Hi,” she greets Stiles and Derek. “Nice place. How do you like it, Stiles?”
Stiles finds the arrangement much more to his taste than he had expected, but he doesn’t want to admit that to Allison. “Oh, I—like it. I suppose.”
Allison smiles at him, her eyes too bright to be buying what he’s selling. “That’s good, I’m glad.”
Lydia trails back over to them, apparently having ground Scott down enough for the present. She jostles Allison, taking her place at Derek’s side. “This apartment is way too good for Stiles, and that’s saying something. I can give you the tour, Allison. But maybe we should skip Stiles’ bedroom. It’s an embarrassment, and nobody wants to see that anyway.”
“Hey, is this going to take long?” Scott asks. “Only we were going to meet up with Jeremy after, go out. You want to come, Stiles?”
He really does. “Yeah, could be fun. What are we doing?”
Scott has extremely detailed plans for his evening’s drinking. Stiles tunes him out when he starts describing the specialties of the various establishments they’re going to be patronising. If Scott really tries as many best drink evers as he thinks he will they’re not going to get past the first bar anyway.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Allison interrupts, absolutely certain of herself. “We’re not doing that.”
Stiles does not need to hear Allison win another fight, but he isn’t sure Derek and Lydia’s conversation is much better.
“—don’t even know why we have to be here,” Lydia is saying, which is a promising start! “You’ve already gone through what you expect of us, and if these idiots can’t adhere to it they’re stupider than I ever considered possible.” And down in flames.
Derek makes a doubtful noise. “Your instincts are excellent. I’m not sure Scott and Jackson understand the guidelines in the same way. And you’re very disciplined, Lydia. Even if they understand I’m not sure they’ll be able to follow them.”
Lydia is preening, but the glow Derek’s praise has put on her face allows Stiles to excuse her smugness. “That is true. It’s a constant disappointment, but that is true. I can teach them how to behave, Derek. You don’t need to worry about it so much. I can help you.”
“You’re a good example,” Derek says, and he genuinely seems to mean it. “But you don’t need to do that.” Lydia starts to protest, but Derek overrides her. “No,” he says, “I don’t want you saddling yourself with that. It isn’t your responsibility.”
“I wouldn’t be saddling myself with anything—“ Lydia says, but Derek silences her again.
“You’re their friend. Plenty of time to be more.”
He leaves Lydia, walking over to speak to Jackson. Lydia watches him, her face troubled until she notices Stiles looking at her, and sneers. She turns to Scott and Allison, still arguing. Allison’s winning, but Scott has plenty of whine left in him.
“You know there’s no point making plans for after a meeting, Scott,” she interrupts sharply. “You don’t know what Derek’s going to want us to do.”
“But it’s the last night before classes start, we have to do something. Everyone does. It’s the way things are. Derek will understand.”
“Oh, shut up,” Lydia snaps.
Scott doesn’t, until the doorbell drowns him out.
Halfway to the door, Lydia stops dead, realising they’re not waiting for anyone else to arrive. “Who’s—?”
Derek moves past her, pulling the door open fully, barely glancing at the visitor as he steps inside. Stiles has never seen the man before, but Derek obviously knows him and, given the casualness with which he’s letting the other man into his home and around his pack, Stiles assumes trusts him.
Lydia and Scott don’t seem to share his opinion, both moving forward to block the man’s advance, stopping just out of his reach. Derek is behind the man, observing Lydia and Scott, posture still relaxed, but Scott’s tense as a wire. Stiles can’t judge Lydia as accurately, but she’s growling, rising in volume every second she stands there ready to pounce, so he doesn't have to guess.
Somebody should be doing something; why is Derek just standing there while his friend is about to get jumped by his pack? “Uh—“ Stiles says.
“Oh, hey Dutch,” Danny interrupts, and thank God, because Stiles had no idea what he was possibly going to do there. The man nods, but doesn’t speak. “I’m Danny, we met the other day,” Danny informs him helpfully.
“I know you meet a lot of people, it’s okay.”
“Hello Jackson,” Dutch says, pointedly, and Jackson looks up from where he’s still bent over the cooker, deliberately oblivious to what’s going on behind him. Allison has backed up until she's between Danny and Jackson, looking ready to dive for cover.
“Hello,” Jackson says sulkily, and turns away again.
Dutch, right, Danny and Jackson had been at his house with Derek the other day, Stiles remembers. He hadn’t considered that Dutch might be a person: he hadn’t imagined that Derek might have friends.
Scott and Lydia are still unmoving, forcing Dutch motionless, trapped between them and Derek, Derek between him and the door. Stiles would be bothered by that, particularly the way Lydia is still growling, but Dutch hasn’t reacted since Scott and Lydia moved to block his path.
Lydia’s volume increases again, and Derek finally puts an end to the standoff, stepping forward and placing a hand on Lydia’s arm, gesturing to Dutch with the other. “This is Lochlann. I’ve been working for him for a few days, and I invited him over for dinner.”
Lydia looks like Derek’s touch is all that’s stopping her from starting something right in the middle of Stiles’ living room. He’s seen the aftermath of werewolf aggression a lot, but he’s never had to deal with the clean-up, and he doesn’t want to start. This is his home; he doesn’t know what Lydia thinks she’s doing, but it isn’t going to happen.
“Hi, Lochlann,” he says, shouldering past Lydia and extending his hand. Lochlann takes it, because Lochlann, unlike anyone else Stiles knows, is familiar with the basics of human civility. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Stiles. I live here. Do you want the tour? I can give you the tour. Lydia has been giving the tours, but I think we can dispense with Lydia, don’t you?”
Lochlann looks mildly amused. At Stiles, true, but it’s better than nothing.
“Stiles,” Lydia growls, “get behind me.”
"Don't you need to check on Jackson, make sure dinner's coming along?” Stiles reaches out to grab Lochlann’s arm, intending to pull him past Lydia, into the bosom of the rest of these weirdoes, but Lochlann steps back. His amusement remains, but the distance does too.
“Uh, coming?” Stiles invites.
“Stiles—“ Lydia protests, anxious.
“Lydia,” Derek says. “No.”
Lydia has to fall back under her alpha’s command, allowing Lochlann to pass her and Scott; she isn’t focussed on Lochlann anymore, and Stiles thought that would be a relief, but instead she’s staring at Derek, looking betrayed. Stiles has no idea what is happening, but he knows he doesn’t like it. He frowns at Derek, sure of the appropriateness of that action, at least.
And now Lochlann is waiting expectantly for Stiles to take him on a stupid tour, when he obviously knows he can just look around and see everything. He’s just forcing Stiles to do this because it will make Stiles look silly; Stiles understands why he’s friends with Derek. Although they’re not exactly friends, so Stiles was right about something tonight.
“So, you’re Derek’s boss, huh? There’s nothing much to see around here, but you definitely need to see Derek’s bedroom. You need to ransack it.”
Stiles can hear furious whispering behind him as he leads Lochlann into Derek’s room, but without the benefit of werewolf hearing he can’t decipher anything.
“So, this is it,” Stiles says, sweeping his arm out to indicate Derek’s Spartan existence. “Please, turn the place upside down and let me watch.” There has to be something interesting stashed away in here, right?
“No, thank you. I don’t commonly take that much of an interest in my employees’ personal lives.”
That doesn’t sound like total disinterest, and Stiles is halted by the possibility — he’d just been joking, he hadn’t really thought Derek’s boss would want to poke around in his bedroom. “Derek doesn’t have a personal life,” Stiles says, taking a closer look at the man beside him.
Lochlann is standing a couple of feet inside the door, smiling benignly at Stiles, his face not giving a thing away. He’s a large man, taller than Derek, tougher looking, though not as built. He might have been, once. Nothing much to him, Stiles decides. He’s kind of boring, didn’t even react to the strangeness outside. In the moment Stiles had just been grateful he hadn’t done anything to exacerbate the situation, but that meant he hadn’t participated. Everybody needs to participate, Stiles thinks, even if it’s in total craziness. Dull.
“So, Lochlann,” Stiles says, sure he’s going to have to do all the heavy lifting here. Maybe Lochlann will be amused, and one of them will get something out of this. Stiles just wants to stay where he is until things outside have calmed the fuck down, okay? “That’s a Gaelic name, right? Are you half Dutch? Did you live in Holland? You morally or financially object to buying a girl dinner?”
“No. And it’s Irish.”
“Right.” Stiles was correct: boring. “So do you own Fitzgerald’s? It’s called Fitzgerald’s, right? Are you Fitzgerald, is that your surname?”
“It’s called Fitzpatrick’s,” Lochlann says. “And it’s Smith. Must we discuss my name? Derek has things under control, come on.” And Lochlann’s gone, leaving Stiles alone in Derek’s bedroom.
Stiles casts a quick glance around on his way to the door; he definitely wants to take the chance to poke around in Derek’s stuff, little of it as there is, but he’s afraid Derek’s going to come and retrieve him by his ear if he lingers.
Outside, the group is standing in sullen silence, waiting for Stiles to return.
Lydia slits her eyes at Stiles, and he can see she’s dying to let some bile loose, but she’s biting her tongue. Stiles guesses she is disciplined, when she bothers to try. Allison seems to have relaxed, at least, although she's sticking close to Scott's side, smiling nervously at Lochlann.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” Derek tells his boss, sounding more uncomfortable than he has at any point so far. “Let’s sit down.”
Lochlann nods, doesn’t move. Derek goes to the kitchen, grabs a chair from the counter and carries it over to the couch, depositing it at the end, angled slightly apart. He spends a beat too long looking at it before crossing the room to Jackson. “Ready?” he asks.
“Sure,” Jackson says.
Even Stiles know that you’re supposed to cook meat longer than that, but the werewolves like it bloody on occasion. That’s the reason Stiles has the remainder of his dinner waiting in the microwave: you can never tell whether you’re going to want to share a werewolf’s meal.
Jackson starts cutting strips off the carcass while Danny spills pasta and vegetables into serving bowls and carries them over to the coffee table.
“Scott,” Derek growls, prompting Scott to join Danny in grabbing the last of the bowls and the cutlery, looking around for anything else that needs to be done. Lochlann is standing where he was when Stiles came out, stance unchanged, watching the activity calmly.
“Ready,” Jackson says, placing the last piece of meat on the serving dish, and takes a plate, barely beating Scott and Lydia to the punch.
“Wait,” Derek bites out, and the three of them freeze, hunched warily over the food. “Jackson, serve our guest first.” They all look at the plates in their hands. “Put those down,” Derek says, “and serve our guest if you want to eat tonight.”
There’s a moment of frozen horror, and then the plates are down on the counter and Jackson, having dropped his like a hot potato, is picking one up again and smiling stiffly at Lochlann. “Dinner is ready. Would you like some?”
“Yes, please. No vegetables.” Lochlann is grinning at Derek; it’s the first expression of emotion Stiles has seen on his face, and he doesn’t much like it. He really wants to know what the hell is going on here, but he’s afraid of what will come out of his mouth if he opens it, and he doesn’t want to make the situation worse. But, seriously, someone needs to tell him what’s going on here.
He slides casually over to Allison, hoping she’ll take pity on him, but she shakes her head decisively when he tries to get her attention.
“Not now, Stiles.” She’s watching Lochlann too, taking his food from Jackson and turning to Derek politely.
“Jackson, serve everyone else and then you can all join us.” Derek ushers Lochlann over to the coffee table — and hey, maybe they should hit up ikea, although Stiles isn’t sure a proper dining table would fit in the room even if they got rid of the coffee table and gave up the hope of a television — and says, “Please, take a seat,” gesturing to the lone chair. Derek takes the end of the couch, beside Lochlann.
Everyone takes their food from Jackson, kind of jumpy about it, and they all shuffle over to the couch and stand around awkwardly. There are only two more seats. “Stiles, sit down,” Derek says, impatient, “it’s your home. Lydia.”
Stiles feels like he should protest, because Derek is being weirdly formal about all this, and this is his home, so shouldn’t he let a guest take the last seat on the couch? But he doesn’t think arguing with Derek is going to achieve anything. Lydia immediately takes the seat next to Derek, and Stiles reluctantly sinks down beside her.
Jackson hands Derek his plate, and everyone begins to fall to the floor, all grace. “Ow!” Scott says. “Danny!”
When they’re settled, Derek says, “Stiles, you weren’t present when I told the rest of the group that aside from being my boss, Lochlann is a werewolf, the only one in town,” and begins to eat.
Stiles catches himself gaping, shuts his mouth when he sees Lochlann’s eyes on him, amused again, and saws off a forkful of meat before he remembers that, oh, yeah, there was a reason he wasn’t going to eat that, and almost gags.
He has questions, he has questions he wants answers to right now, right this very second, thank you very much, Derek Hale, you are in so much trouble, but nobody else is reacting, eyes fixed on their plates as they eat or don’t, as the case may be.
Stiles takes a deep breath, knowing most of the table is listening to it, and picks at his vegetables. “It must be nice to work with another werewolf,” he ventures, when the silence is becoming oppressive. “Understanding each other so well.”
“It does remove the necessity for fanciful explanations of simple events,” Lochlann allows.
Nobody else says anything. “Does it make staffing the full moon difficult?”
“Derek is my only werewolf employee, so I don’t foresee a problem.” Stiles isn’t really comfortable having this much eye contact with a strange werewolf. It’s creepy, like that man at the park who used to try to start conversations with unsupervised children. Stiles feels like he should tell his dad about this too.
“It must be handy for you too, Derek,” Stiles says, turning away. He can still feel Lochlann’s gaze on him, like the creeper he is. “Not having anything to explain away, not having to ask for the time off.”
“It’s working out so far,” Derek says, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Stiles doesn’t feel it appropriate to point that out. Not in front of Derek’s boss, at any rate.
Stiles can’t think of anything else to say — they can’t talk about pack business in front of this guy, and he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about anything personal either, not classes or missing his dad or where people want to go later. He feels like Lochlann is sitting there quietly taking murderous notes, like a ninja serial-killer barkeep, like if he knows which bars Scott wants to check out he’ll pop up from behind the counter swinging a sword, or with a battle cry and a couple of throwing daggers. Maybe those things that chick from Kill Bill had. Stiles doesn’t know, but he knows it’s going to happen, okay?
Though surely if that were the case, Derek wouldn’t have invited him into his home? Stiles knows that has to be true, but he doesn’t feel like it is: he just feels terrified.
Apparently he isn’t the only one feeling that way; everyone who had to sit on the floor is clustered around his end of the couch, as far away from Lochlann as they can get. Allison and Jackson have their plates on their laps.
“Everyone got all their books okay?” He knows the answer, but he has to say something.
“Yes!” Allison says eagerly. “We did. I had to force Scott to go to the bookstore but then we went clothes shopping and he watched me try things on.”
“He likes that,” Stiles says, “I know.”
“I do not!” Scott’s blushing.
Stiles and Allison tease him a little bit, and things go easier after that. They manage to keep the conversation going, even if it is all small talk, a film Scott and Allison saw a couple of weeks ago, a new band Danny likes. Jackson is silent, but that isn’t unusual; Lydia’s quietness is rarer, but she seems committed to her sulk. Derek is quiet as well, throwing the odd comment in here and there, mostly whenever they draw his boss into the conversation. Stiles can’t help throwing Derek nervous glances, wondering what the game here is.
When they’ve all finished eating, Derek stands, followed by Lochlann. Stiles tenses, can feel the anxiety spreading through his friends, but Derek just says, “Thank you for joining us, Lochlann.”
“It was my pleasure,” Lochlann replies, and they move towards the door. Wait, that’s it? “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
Derek nods, says, “Have a good evening,” and shuts the door behind Lochlann.
“What—“ Stiles starts, but Derek holds up a hand for silence. Lochlann can still hear them. Derek is listening to his footsteps retreat, Stiles knows, but the fact that his boss is still within earshot doesn’t prevent Derek from throwing the group a furious glare. Lydia pops up on her knees and hangs over the back of the couch, meeting Derek’s angry stare with one of her own. Derek’s is better, but it’s a good try.
They stay locked like that for a minute, Derek’s hand still in the air, and then he drops it, and Lydia hisses, “What were you doing, bringing him here?”
Stiles is in total agreement, but Derek still looks pretty mad so maybe Lydia can take this one.
“He is the alpha werewolf in this territory,” Derek grits out, “and that was disgraceful.”
“This is ours, this is our place,” Lydia argues, voice rising. “He should never have been here.”
“I invited him.”
“You shouldn’t have!”
The tone of the discussion just got dangerous. “Oh, my god,” Stiles mutters, helpless with anger. He doesn’t even know who he’s mad at.
“I shouldn’t have invited my boss over for dinner? I shouldn’t have invited the only werewolf in the area, the alpha whose home this is, over to meet my pack?”
“No, you shouldn’t have!”
“I thought it went well,” Scott says.
“He liked my food,” Jackson offers.
Okay, Stiles is mad at everyone.
“Lydia, we are not in Beacon Hills anymore. We do not control this territory. This is a college town, it’s as close to neutral ground as you can get. But Lochlann has been here for years and we just arrived, and he was here by my invitation. You are lucky that he didn’t decide to take your disrespect out of your hide. I might have let him.”
Stiles can’t quite tell whether Lydia’s harsh breaths are holding back snarls or sobs. She whirls blindly, and rushes into Derek’s bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Jackson stirs unhappily, looking between Derek and the closed door, undecided.
“Leave her be,” Derek says. “If she knows what’s good for her she’ll get over it fast. And we need to get this straight.
“I know none of you have much experience dealing with other werewolves. Sooner or later, that’s going to change. This was supposed to be easy.”
“How was this easy?” Scott asks. “A werewolf we don’t know just invaded our home. An alpha!”
“And what would you have done if you’d walked into his bar with your new friends and seen him there for the first time? Gone at it right there? You need to learn how to deal with this.”
“He’s an alpha!”
“He can’t exactly change that, Scott. I understand why you would be wary, but he wasn’t threatening you and you had no reason to react as though he was. It was disrespectful, and you’re lucky he didn’t respond in kind. That was out of courtesy to me. You made me look bad.”
“Sorry,” Scott says, sarcastically, “that’s the worst thing that’s happened all night.”
Derek’s eyes narrow, and Stiles has to bite the words back. Now is not the time to start something with Derek. Stiles can wait until things have calmed down and everyone has left and start something then.
“You’re going to have to interact with other packs and other werewolves. As far as I know there are no other werewolf students at this school, but the fact is that I don’t know and you need to be prepared for that possibility. College towns are so transitory that werewolf packs don’t tend to settle in them, because situations like ours cause more trouble than they’re worth, but that doesn’t mean that we get to move in and call it ours. Lochlann was an easy start for you and this was an easy way to do it. The next time you see him will be in his bar, on his territory, and I don’t know how you’re going to cope with that if you couldn’t even handle him here, when we were in control.”
“It’ll be fine,” Scott says, though he looks doubtful. “Jackson’s already done it.”
“And Jackson did fine tonight. You did not.”
Scott frowns and shifts guiltily simultaneously. “You should have warned us.”
“I hoped you didn’t need to be warned. But even if you did, you should have known enough to take your cues from me around another wolf. I was disappointed in you both. You too, Jackson.”
Jackson’s head snaps up; he looks distressed. “I—“
“You didn’t do badly, but you could have done much more. I expect more from you.”
Jackson is surprised, and he’s a little defensive, but all he says is, “Okay.”
“It’s a sad day when humans handle werewolf socialisation better than the wolves do.”
That—is that really praise or is it just a shot at Scott and Lydia? Either way, Stiles can’t help the frisson of pleasure, but he tamps it down. Allison’s trying to hold in a grin too. Doesn’t look good when Scott’s getting told off in the same breath.
“This is the first time any of you have been out of town, away from your family units. It’s going to be a difficult adjustment. You’re going to have to learn how to deal with humans as well—you’re living with strangers, in closer conditions and with less privacy than you were living at home. And the consequences if you slip up are much more serious. I know you don’t want to have to deal with this, but that isn’t an option. You need to be on your guard.”
Stiles thinks that sounds paranoid, but just a little. It isn’t wrong, just — unwelcome.
Derek sighs, frustrated. “This was not an auspicious beginning. But go home. Enjoy your first day tomorrow. Come over afterwards. We’ll talk more then. Be careful.”
Everyone gets to their feet, and start to move towards the door.
“Take Lydia with you,” Derek tells Jackson.
“You don’t need to talk to her?” Jackson asks. He probably just doesn’t want to have to deal with her himself.
“She heard what I said. I don’t have anything else to say to her.”
“Okay,” Jackson says, looking even more shifty than usual, but he just ducks into Derek’s bedroom to retrieve her.
“Hey,” Scott whispers to Stiles, keeping a wary eye on Derek, “coming? I’m not sure what we’re doing, but you should come.”
Stiles hesitates — he’d wanted to talk to Derek about this whole thing, and how not okay with it he was — but he isn’t looking forward to it, and what’s he going to do with the rest of his night once Derek brushes him off and storms out like always?
“Sure,” Stiles says softly, and stays on the opposite side of the crowd from Lydia as they exit the apartment, leaving Derek behind.
When Stiles stumbles back into the apartment it’s the early hours of the morning, and the living room is dark, a faint glow from the clock on the cooker the only illumination. Stiles wants to sneak into his room without attracting Derek’s attention, assuming he’s here, but Stiles also has the suspicion that Derek is lurking in wait, so he snaps on the overhead light to check.
The living room is empty, no Derek, so Stiles maps his path to his door and turns the light back off. He doesn’t do too badly, only falling over once on his way to the wall, and once he’s there it’s easy to find his way to his bedroom.
When he gets inside and turns on the light he turns around to find Derek sitting on his bed with his laptop, eyebrows raised.
“Dude!” Stiles says. “What are you doing lurking in my bedroom?”
Derek’s eyebrows go up further. Stiles didn’t know that was possible. That is really high for eyebrows to go. “This is my bedroom Stiles. Yours is the next door down.”
“Oh.” Stiles giggles, and flops onto Derek’s bed. “I don’t know if I can make it that far,” he mutters into the bedding. The bedding is hard under his face. What is up with Derek’s blankets? No, wait, that’s Derek’s body. “Hard,” Stiles moans.
“Hard, Derek, oh my god, you are so hard.” Stiles is on Derek’s legs, and he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to be on Derek’s legs, so he works his way up the bed, bypassing the laptop with some difficulty, and puts his head on Derek’s stomach instead. Except Derek is still sitting up, so Stiles’ head falls onto Derek’s lap. Stiles shoves at Derek’s stomach until Derek falls back onto his elbows and Stiles can keep his head there. Derek’s stomach is hard too, but it’s warmer than his legs, and Stiles thinks he can hear Derek’s heart beating. Or maybe that’s Stiles’ own heartbeat echoing in his ears. Whatever, it’s nice. He’s comfortable.
Except Derek is propped on his elbows, staring down at Stiles, who’s using Derek’s belly as a pillow. Stiles turns his head into Derek’s belly to hide his face, and laughs. He can’t help it.
“You’re going to kill me, right?” he asks Derek, grinning. This is funny!
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Derek says, setting aside the laptop, and Stiles takes that as an invitation and settles in. He punches at Derek’s stomach a bit; Derek grunts. It doesn’t get softer, not like a proper pillow would, but it’s still nice.
Stiles sighs, feeling himself drifting off. He blinks a couple times, trying to stay awake, but he doesn’t think that’s going to—
“What are you doing?”
“Mmph?” Stiles jerks upright, and collapses back onto Derek when he sees nothing is wrong.
“Are you falling asleep on top of me?”
“No, dude, of course not. I just don’t think I can make it to my room, and I don’t really want to anyway, and it’s warm so—“ Stiles trails off, rubbing his face against Derek’s shirt — the cotton is soft, even if Derek isn’t — before he remembers that he was speaking. “So I’m just going to stay right here.” He pats Derek’s tummy sleepily. “Okay?”
“I’ll help you back to your room.”
“No, I don’t want to. Everyone else stays here, you let everyone else stay.”
Derek’s silent for a minute, and the rise and fall of his stomach with his breathing is lulling Stiles back to sleep when Derek says, “Come on, let’s go, Stiles.”
“Nooo,” Stiles moans, but the movement of Derek’s body makes him tumble off, into the bed. This is a great mattress. Why doesn’t Stiles have this mattress? Life is so unfair. “Don’t wanna. You let Danny stay.” And Stiles is living here; he totally has more rights than Danny! “That reminds me, I had to tell you about earlier.”
“Earlier?” Derek prompts, after letting Stiles spend a minute wriggling around in his bed, getting settled in.
“With Lak—Loh—With Lalk—Whatsisface. Your boss. You know who I mean.”
“I do, yes.”
“Not okay?” Derek’s voice is quiet, and that might not be a good sign, but Stiles is mostly still too drunk to care, and besides, he knows he’s right.
“This is supposed to be my house too. You can’t just do werewolfy tests or life-lessons or whatever the hell that whole thing was without telling me. That isn’t good roommates. What would've happened if Lydia had went crazy and killed him?”
Derek doesn’t respond, so Stiles assumes he’s contemplating the answer with horror, the way Stiles had at the second — third? — bar earlier, when Lydia had threatened to do exactly that.
“I would have lost my security deposit, that’s what,” Stiles says, indignantly.
“You didn’t pay a—“
“So you need to tell me about these things. You get that, right, you can’t just be springing this stuff on me in my own home? It’s not like this is your place in Beacon Hills, okay, this is supposed to be—I mean, if this is supposed to be—“
Stiles is drifting off again. The bed isn’t as nice when he isn’t on top of Derek, but the pillow smells good, and is a pillow instead of a tummy, so he can mangle it into shape and curl up around it.
“It is,” Derek says, but Stiles is too close to real sleep to be paying much attention. The weight on the bed shifts and Derek scoops him up, startling him awake. “No, want to stay here. Stay here and sleep and not wake up. Don’t want to wake up and go to classes, Derek. Don’t want—“
The smooth rhythm of Derek’s gait is interrupted, resumes. Stiles whines, but Derek carries him into his room and deposits him on his bed, gently enough that he doesn’t completely rouse, pulling the covers over him. The bed is cool and empty, but Stiles is out before he hears the door close.
When Stiles wakes he’s cuddling a pillow that isn’t his and someone's banging on his door. “Stiles,” Derek yells. “You’re going to be late!”
It’s Stiles’ first day of classes, and he’s hungover, stinking of a brewery, and sleeping on Derek’s pillow. Fantastic.
He rolls over and falls out of bed.
Derek sticks his head in the door. “What was—oh. Come on, get up.” His head vanishes. Stiles groans.
When he makes it into the kitchen, he catches sight of the clock and jesus, it’s early. Stiles didn’t sleep through his alarm like he’d thought; his alarm hasn’t gone off yet. And with that realisation, the siren starts blaring in his bedroom, and he has to stumble back in to silence it. He hits his knee on the door on his way back out.
“Ow, ow, fucking ow!” he yelps, hopping zig-zag across the room. Derek's fault. “What did you wake me for?”
“It was time to get up.”
Stiles takes one of the tall stools by the counter, tries not to fall off. “I had my alarm set a ton. I would’ve gotten up on time!"
“I’ve been knocking on your door for ten minutes.”
“You probably think this is fun.”
Derek grins. “Not at all,” he says, chipper. He is a sadist. Worse, a morning person.
Stiles lets his head drop onto the countertop and tries not to despair. That isn’t going well for him. Then a cup and a bowl appear in his eyeline, and when he drags his head up to check he has coffee and his porridge. That doesn’t make this okay — nothing can make this day okay — but, “Thanks,” he says, and eats.
He feels better when he’s done, but he needs more coffee. He has time.
“I thought you were looking forward to classes,” Derek says.
“I was. Whatever.”
“Yeah. It’ll be a light day. And we’re meeting again tonight.” Stiles grunts. “No surprises this time. Sorry.”
Stiles pauses to look at him, surprised, and his coffee burns his tongue. “Crap!” he says, sloshing it everywhere as he drops the cup to the counter. He grabs a glass of water from the sink, and when he finishes it Derek is mopping up the last of the coffee with the kitchen-roll.
“Thanks,” Stiles says slowly, testing his tongue. “Thanks. Not that — whatever, I’m not arguing with the way you want to handle the pack, even if everyone else thinks you’re wrong, maybe me too, because it’s clear I don’t know anything about any of it—“
“You’re not that bad,” Derek says mildly, stopping him dead.
“But—“ Stiles stutters, determined to make his point no matter what craziness is happening here. “But it’s my home too.”
“Yeah,” Derek says, “I know.”
He takes his cup to the sink; Stiles can’t look away. “Have your shower,” he says, not turning around. “Water’s hot.” And escapes into his bedroom.
Stiles decides he’s keeping the pillow.
Stiles’ first day is not as good as he’d secretly been hoping, not nearly as bad as he’d been dreading. He meets a few people, gets a couple of numbers, has to blow off a couple of invitations and is back home by late afternoon.
Maybe he can talk to Derek about missing these meetings — he’s not a werewolf himself, and he’s still mad he couldn’t stick with that group of girls. Maybe he can give them a call and meet up with them later. Maybe the meeting won’t last long, or maybe Derek won’t need him for it.
“Derek?” Stiles yells.
There’s no answer. Damn. Stiles checks Derek’s room to be sure, but there’s nobody here.
Maybe Stiles should track Derek down to ask — he’s probably at work, though, and Stiles’ dad always gets annoyed when Stiles interrupts him when he’s working. Scott texted earlier, said he and Allison were coming over soonish, but Stiles needs that to be now, because what is he going to do in his empty apartment in the meantime? He does not do well with spare time or empty spaces.
He needs a pet. He needs a girlfriend. He needs Derek to be here. He needs a distraction.
A pet’s probably the most likely, but Stiles, while fairly certain by this point that Derek isn’t going to hurt him, isn’t actually all that sure that he wouldn’t kill a pet.
He bounces around a bit, couch, phone, window, ends up at the fridge. He isn’t doing a Jackson here, but there’s a huge frozen pizza, and if nobody arrives in time to share it, well. He’s pretty sure it won’t go to waste.
Once the pizza’s in the oven he realises this isn’t actually all that distracting. Watch pizza cook, watch paint dry.
There’s a knock on the door. A knock! On the door! Stiles bounces over. “Hey Scott—oh.”
It isn’t Scott.
“Hi, I’m Ashley? Two doors down.” She points.
“Stiles.” He spreads his hand awkwardly, in the approximation of a wave. It takes a second, but she smiles at him. “Yeah, I’m Stiles.”
“It’s really nice to meet you. Listen, I don’t want to be rude, I know you don’t know me or anything, but is there any chance I could borrow some milk? My mom’s here, and she already thinks I can’t handle living alone and now I don’t have milk. I can’t tell her I don’t know anyone in the building yet.”
“Sure, we have milk.” Stiles hesitates, debating inviting her in, but he does know better, even with how hot she is. “Back in a sec.”
He turns away to grab the milk. “Just moved in?” Ashley asks, and she’s taken the opportunity to step inside.
“Uh, yeah, few days ago. You?”
Stiles brings her the carton, and he isn’t trying to hustle her out the door or anything, but. He is.
“Last week. With my roommate from last year. It’s the first time either of us has lived off campus. My mom’s kind of freaked.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I’m here with a friend from back home. He’s probably due back soon, and he’s a little bit intense about his privacy, so—“
“Yeah,” Ashley breathes, pushing a lock of hair back behind her ear, mouth twitching into a smile. Oh, of course. “Oh, yeah, I think I’ve seen him. This isn’t his milk, is it?” She grins. Stiles holds the carton out but she doesn’t take it. “I hope he won’t be mad.”
“No, no, he won’t even notice. He doesn’t look after himself, he can’t cook, he doesn’t care about things like that.” Wait, do girls like that? Ashley is looking excited, nodding eagerly along with every false titbit Stiles is feeding her in an apparently futile attempt to discourage her and get her to leave the apartment. He shouldn’t be talking about Derek at all.
“Hey, I don’t want to keep you from your mom. She must be getting impatient.”
“Oh—right, yeah. Yeah, I should get back.” Stiles reaches past her to open the door, casually trying to herd her out, back to her imaginary parent. “Look, my roommate Stephanie and I are having a housewarming tomorrow night. You two should come! You can meet our friends from school and some people from the building. We’ll have fun!”
“Sure, yeah.” That gets her to the other side of the door, and that’s all Stiles cares about. “Maybe.”
“Cool! Number nine. Don’t forget!”
She’s waving as he shuts the door. He still has the milk, but she doesn’t come back for it; given Derek’s absence, Stiles supposes she got what she came for.
Stiles is crouched on the floor in front of the oven, tapping his fingers on the glass of the door and waiting for the timer to ding when he hears Derek’s key in the door.
There’s still a minute left until it’s done, so Stiles gets up to greet him, brushing off the knees of his jeans. “Hey, dude.”
Derek drops his keys on the coffee table before joining Stiles. “What are you doing?”
“Oven pizza.” Stiles drops back to the floor to try and peer through the smoked glass some more, but he hasn’t developed x-ray vision in the last ten seconds. “Hey, can you see through the door?” he asks.
Derek actually checks to make sure, sitting down beside Stiles. “No, I can’t see through walls, Stiles,” he says, rolling his eyes. “You’re safe in the shower. Who was here?”
“What? I’m what?”
The timer goes, cutting off Derek’s response, and Stiles hops up to pull the pie out. Derek unfolds himself, standing up. He stands up further than Stiles. He’s kind of really tall. And he’s kind of looming a bit, but he’s just watching Stiles cut the pizza so it isn’t scary looming or anything.
Stiles shrugs, and tries to look up at Derek, but Derek’s too close, so he keeps his eyes on the knife. “It’s just pizza. It doesn’t even have toppings.”
“Mm.” Derek is distracted by the food, grabbing two plates and waiting impatiently for Stiles to finish dividing it up.
“Do you make pizza? I bet you make pizza. Like, from scratch, with the dough, and all.”
“I know how,” Derek says, holding out his plate for Stiles to fill. “I don’t really see the point.”
“We don’t even know where’s good to order—“ There’s a knock on the door again, and Stiles tenses, guessing Ashley remembered her milk. She was probably watching their front door the whole time, just waiting for Derek to get home.
Derek moves to answer and Stiles grabs his arm, holding him back. “I’ll get it.” Derek is taken by surprise, so Stiles manages to push past him before he gets going again. “You eat, I’ll get the door.”
Derek shrugs, takes a bite. “Who was here, Stiles?”
Stiles yanks the door open. “Scott! Dude, hey, come on in. Hi, Allison.”
“Stiles.” And there’s a rumble in his voice, working up to a growl, so Stiles doesn’t think Derek’s going to let this slide. “Who was here?”
Scott stops, two steps in the door, sniffing. “Hey, yeah, who was here? Did you bring someone over?” He looks really excited about that for a second, and then his face falls, presumably anticipating Derek’s probable reaction to such an event.
“No!” Stiles says firmly. Thanks, Scott. He swings around to face Derek. “No, the girl from down the hall dropped by earlier. She’s kind of pushy; I only turned my back on her for a second and she was inside. It wasn’t my fault.”
“Yes, it was.”
Okay, maybe it was, but. “Derek, dude, she was just inside the door. It’s not like I invited her in to roll around on your bed.” Stiles bets she would have done that. “She was only here for a minute. Look, even if you don’t want me having people by having people by, people have to be able to drop by. I’m not some dog you can lock into the house when you go to work every day, okay, I can reach the door latch.” Stiles catches himself pointing an emphatic finger at Derek, and remembers that never works out for him, so he retracts it speedily. “She only wanted to invite us to her party tomorrow night, anyway.”
“Oh, a party!” Allison says, brightening right up.
Not a chance in hell, Stiles thinks. She probably wouldn’t let him in the door without Derek.
“No,” Derek says.
“Yes,” Stiles says, meaning it.
“No,” Derek says, obviously meaning it as well. The growl is fully formed, but Stiles is too angry to be intimidated in the slightest.
“Yes,” he repeats calmly. “We’re going. You and me and Scott and Allison — I mean, she doesn’t know you exist, but she won’t mind as long as you come with us,” Stiles tells them.
“She likes you, huh?” Scott’s grinning, his happiness for Stiles overruling any other consideration.
Stiles waves him off. “Not the point.The point is, she was nice enough to invite us and we are going. We are going to meet her roommate, and we are going to meet people we are going to be going to college with — older people, probably cool people! —“
“But Derek’s older—” Scott interjects, sounding dubious.
Which is a fair point, but Stiles doesn’t have the attention to spare for anyone but Derek. “And for all your talk about socialising the pack, you are going to go out with us for one goddamn night and act like a human. Do you think you can do that for me?”
Stiles can hear the silence fall in the wake of his impulsive declaration, but he doesn’t care. He deserves this, Derek should know that, Derek should do this for him. He does everything for Derek, for Scott, for everyone else; he knows he shouldn’t have let Ashley in, knows he can’t have people over, can’t have friends, can’t have girls, can’t have guys. He knows, and he’s going to do it, he is, but it isn’t fair; he isn’t a werewolf, he can’t ever be part of this and that isn’t fair, it isn’t fair for Derek to ask this of him.
He deserves this, and Derek is going to give it to him.
The silence stretches, and then Derek raises his chin in acknowledgement and Stiles can feel the tension break. Stiles wasn’t tense; he isn’t. Derek is still looking at him, and Stiles isn’t afraid.
“All right,” Derek says, “we’ll go,” like it was his decision. He doesn’t even seem to be angry, and Stiles is distantly surprised, but he can’t really feel it right now.
“And these girls wanted me to go out with them tonight and I had to tell them I couldn’t because of your stupid meeting, why do I even have to be here?”
This one comes faster. “You don’t have to be here, Stiles,” Derek says evenly. “You can go.”
“Stiles,” Scott says loudly, voice breaking in alarm, and that’s enough to make Stiles blink, turn to see Scott for what feels like the first time in a while. Scott’s face is working, holding something in check; beyond him Allison is all large eyes and pale fear.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Stiles,” Scott says, urgent. “You want to be here. Come on, you know you do.”
Stiles doesn’t know whether that’s true — maybe he does, maybe he wants to be right here and he just can’t be, not properly, but can’t help trying either. Or maybe he would rather be anywhere else in the universe. He doesn’t know.
He can’t tell that to Scott’s kicked-puppy face.
“Yeah,” he says, “I know. Sorry, dude, those girls were really hot, I was just mad, I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”
Scott’s face breaks into a smile, unreserved relief, but Allison still looks apprehensive and when Stiles swings around to try and include Derek in that apology without having to fake regret, Derek’s face isn’t giving him a thing.
Whatever. Stiles doesn’t care. Maybe he feels a little bit hurt or something, but he doesn’t know why, and it doesn’t count if you don’t know why. Or if it has anything to do with Derek Hale. Which this doesn’t, anyway.
Stiles shrugs. “Hey, they’ll be just as excited to see me tomorrow, right?”
“You can’t see them tomorrow.” Derek’s voice isn’t telling Stiles anything either. “We’re going to a party. Right?”
“Yeah.” So what if he doesn’t like Ashley or her stupid face or her stupid party. Stiles is still making Derek go, if only because Derek is going to hate it, and reciprocity in relationships is important, right?
Stiles still has to sit through Derek’s stupid meeting, after all that, so he goes back to the pizza, and Scott’s beside him in the blink of an eye. He doesn’t even bother with a plate, just downs his slice in two mouthfuls and goes back for another.
Derek comes over for the rest of his, and Stiles’ shoulders twitch. With things calmed down, he’s kind of embarrassed. Not that he’s going to admit that. Because he’s right, damn it.
“When are Lydia and Jackson and Danny getting here?” Allison asks in a strained voice.
“Soon. Lydia’s leaving early,” Derek says. “She made other plans.”
Stiles’ fingers tighten, and then there’s pizza sauce all over his hand and cheese dripping from his nails. He dumps the slice in the trash, refusing to look at Derek, even though it feels like Derek is daring him to, because he knows if he has to look at Derek’s stupid face he’s going to start screaming like a fishwife. Again.
“What about you two?” Stiles asks instead. “Any plans?”
“Uh, no, nothing yet,” Scott says through his half-chewed food.
“Scott, gross,” Allison says. “Seriously, don’t.”
“Don’t what? Oh.” Scott swallows, blinks, and takes another bite.
Allison wrinkles her nose in disgust. “I don’t know what Lydia’s doing, I haven’t talked to her in a while. We might do that, or we might try and meet Jeremy.”
“I’m working,” Derek says. “Lochlann wants you to drop by. I think it’s a good idea.”
Stiles’ mouth sours. He doesn’t want to do anything with Derek. He certainly doesn’t want to go all the way to Derek’s workplace to satisfy his boss, or Derek’s insane need to test or train or whatever it is Derek’s doing that Stiles has no part of.
“Oh, yeah,” Allison says, “sounds great.”
“Awesome!” Stiles says. “I can meet up with my new friends later after all.”
Scott frowns, and Allison’s mouth turns down unhappily. Derek face doesn’t change, no scowl, no growl, so that’s totally fine. Stiles is going. They’ll be fine without him.
There’s a bang on the door, and Allison takes her chance to flee, if only for a moment. The rest of the pack piles in, and Lydia throws her eye around, registering the group’s discomfort and ignoring it.
“I need a key,” she says. “Derek, you should get me one made.”
“Why do you need a key? You are not having a key to my apartment.” Stiles is genuinely appalled by the thought.
Lydia opens her mouth to argue her position, but Derek says, “We’ll discuss it,” before she can get started.
“I have many valid reasons!” she says.
“Not you,” Derek says, “Stiles.”
Lydia snaps her mouth shut with a click and glares at Stiles, but he’s over that by now.
“If she gets a key I want one too,” Jackson chimes in.
“Nobody’s getting a key, Jackson,” Danny says.
Apart from Scott, maybe. Stiles doesn’t mind if Scott has a key.
“Can we get on with this?” Lydia asks, annoyed. “I’d prefer to get out of here as quickly as possible.” She pulls out a tube of eyeliner and begins touching up her face. Nobody seems to know where to start. “Apparently unlike the rest of you I do have something to do tonight, so, please. Anytime.”
“Everybody had a good first day, no disasters?” Derek asks, brusque.
He doesn’t really want to hear the answers to that question, but Stiles is tempted to describe his day in excruciating detail, just to be a bitch. He’s starting to feel like he may — may! — have overreacted a little bit earlier, but he still wants to piss Derek off. That’s just the natural way of things! That’s a totally natural reaction to Derek even when Derek isn’t ruining Stiles’ entire life. Or trying to. Whatever. Stiles’ bad attitude is justified by Derek’s stupid face, that’s what matters here. Anyway, he’s still right. Mostly. That counts!
“Blah, blah, it was fine,” Lydia says, moving on to her mascara.
“Good. New people, new place, new experiences, whatever, I don’t care. It’s exciting, I know. That’s dangerous. It’s easy to think these new friendships are important, these people are meaningful, you want to make real connections, whatever ridiculous crap. They aren’t and you can’t. You can’t trust these people. You don’t know them. Be careful.”
“No pillow-talk, got it.” Lydia’s on to blusher, Stiles thinks. Or — some sort of shiny gold foundation? It’s flattering, he’s sure, even if she looks like some sort of high-fashion robot clown right now, pink and gold streaked on her cheeks.
“And even if you are careful, it’s easy to get involved in these things anyway, drift away from the group. You can’t afford that. Don’t. Got it?”
“Got it,” Lydia says, smoothing lipgloss on blind on her way to the door. “I’ll be home by morning.” She blows a kiss, and she’s gone.
Sitting in the middle of a group of girls in a booth at a bar later that night, Stiles is less sure that this was the awesome idea he’d been convinced it was.
The girls are nice, and they’re all really pretty, and they’re all talking to him, some of them like they’re actually interested. He’s in a good place right now.
He can’t stop thinking about what’s happening over at Lochlann’s.
He’s not truly worried somebody’s going to end up dead, but only because Lydia isn’t with the pack tonight. Scott’s perfectly capable of getting into a fight without her, and given his previous reaction to Lochlann and the fact that he’s going to be in Lochlann’s territory Stiles isn’t sure he won’t. Could be anybody — could be Jackson, could be half a frat, worse, could be Lochlann, and Stiles isn’t certain Derek wouldn’t side with his boss.
Girls keep breaking away from the group to chat to other groups of people, flirt with other people, other groups of people, sometimes, but Stiles doesn’t really have the patience to participate in that kind of scene. The girls keep coming back, though, he’s constantly surrounded, and it isn’t like he regrets not going to Lochlann’s, and it isn’t like he wants to leave, but—
Allison will talk Scott down, Stiles knows she will, but—He should have gone. He needs to know.
There’s no new texts on his phone. He fires off another one to Scott, asking for an update again. It sounds less like he’s joking this time; maybe Scott will actually reply. Maybe he should try Allison too.
Stiles is still typing when his new friend Stacey gets back to the booth.
“Hey,” she says, sitting down beside him. “You’re really nursing that, huh?”
Stiles is too nervous to drink. Who knows what he might be called on for later tonight — bail, grave-digging. He needs a clear head. He finishes the text to Allison before putting the phone on the table and turning to Stacey.
“Not much of a drinker,” he lies, smiling right into her eyes. Girls like that, right? She seems charmed, which is more than he was expecting, to be honest. “But I always like to have a good night out anyway.” She’s still buying it!
“Oh, that’s nice! That must be great for your friends.”
“Yeah. I can be useful.” Her smile dims a little, so he adds, “They all really appreciate having me around, and I have fun too.” He doesn’t even sound bitter. That’s a bit of a relief.
“I don’t think I could do that. I mean, I never have, but I don’t think I’d like it. I don’t want to know how dumb I am when I’m drunk and I don’t think I want to know that about my friends, either.” Her eyes widen. “Not that I drink too much! Just—I think I would find it boring.” She almost knocks her new drink off the table in belated horror. “Not that you’re boring! Not that your choices are—“ She gives up with a quick sigh, another smile. “Oh, hey,” she says, fronting like she’s just been inspired by the blocks littering their table, “want to play Jenga?”
Fortunately, Stiles is a master at Jenga. “Loser does a shot?”
So that’s how the rest of the night goes, and by Stacey’s third loss running, yeah, he gets her point.
And as it turns out, Stacey is a pretty dumb drunk.
Not that Stiles is judging; she’s far from the worst he’s seen tonight, and he knows he drinks more than she does and must be much more annoying, but Scott’s eventual text just said coming home soon? and Stiles really just wants to be there already.
She’s wasted, though, and she refuses to get a cab, so he feels compelled to walk her back to her dorm. Halfway there, she starts swinging around the lampposts like she’s Singing in the Rain, and she even tries to do a line of the song, but she’s laughing too hard. It isn’t raining, so Stiles doesn’t really get it.
She’s having fun, and he supposes that’s to be encouraged, until she trips over her own feet, stumbles into him and almost sends them both sprawling into the middle of the road.
Stiles would probably be laughing too, if he were as drunk as she is.He takes her arm and tugs her onward, making sure she stays close. She’s still giggling quietly to herself. If this is what being a werewolf on a heavy night out is like, Stiles isn’t sure why any of them ever even leave the house.
When they reach her dorm (she says it’s her dorm, at any rate, and he supposes he’ll have to take her word for it), the giggling becomes full-fledged, with hiccups thrown in for good measure. It’s cute.
“So, you got it from here?”
“Ye—Yeah, yes,” she burbles. “I—“ She’s swaying standing still, so Stiles pulls her to the top of her steps, just to be sure. “I do to have it. Tot—totally. I totally do have it.” And she sways forward onto his lips.
It’s a good kiss, as these things go. And really, Stiles has never kissed anyone when he was this sober, so comparatively, it’s pretty good. He closes his eyes, opens them, closes them, he thinks; but just when he thinks, yeah, maybe, another giggle breaks them apart.
He pushes her through the door, waves her off wryly. He can hear loud laughter in the lobby while he walks back down the steps. At least she isn’t laughing alone anymore.
The walk back to the apartment seems a lot longer than it had that afternoon, but Stiles bounces up the couple of flights to his door when he gets there.
When he lets himself in, Scott is sprawled upside down on the couch. He appears to be playing some kind of game on Derek’s laptop. On Derek’s laptop. Stiles doesn’t understand how he’s still standing. Figuratively.
Allison’s sitting beside him, watching in amusement. Stiles lets his head drift to the side. It is pretty awesome that Scott’s winning. But irrelevant!
“Where’s Derek?” he hisses. “Does he know you’re doing this? He doesn’t know you’re doing this, does he, oh, man.”
Scott pauses his game. “Hey Stiles! What are we doing?”
“Using Derek’s computer!”
Scott scoffs. “He uses everybody else’s all the time, and he never asks.”
“Did you ask?”
Looking shifty, Scott slides to his feet. “Dude, why did you send me like, twelve texts? What’s up?”
“Nothing’s up with me, what’s up with you, what happened?”
Scott looks puzzled. “Uh, we had a couple of drinks at Dutch’s?” He lights up. “Oh, he gave us a round on the house!” Huh. Stiles wants one on the house! He knew he should have gone. “You should have come!” Thanks, Scott.
“It was fun,” Allison confirms. “It was fine. Nothing happened.”
“Lydia didn’t show?”
“Nope.” She doesn’t look happy about it, but surely she understands the disaster that would have befallen them all. Just the memory of that dinner is making Stiles feel twitchy. He shrugs his shoulders, rotates his neck, shakes it off.
“Well, she’s probably having more fun than any of us.”
Scott resumes the game. “Speak for yourself!”
“Did you leave early?” Stiles checks his watch.
“Not really. Derek’s still closing up, but Jackson and Danny came back with us. They’re in Derek’s room.”
Stiles blinks. “How did you even get in?” he asks over his shoulder as he hurries over to Derek’s bedroom to ascertain exactly what is going on here.
“He gave us his key,” Allison says defensively.
“Pretty sure he didn’t mean you to do this with it,” Stiles says, gaping at Danny and Jackson, curled up in Derek’s bed, in what have to be Derek’s pyjamas. Unless they packed an overnight bag. Stiles has no words. He is literally speechless.
“Hey, Stiles,” Jackson says from his place in Derek’s bed, like Ernie to Danny’s Bert, if Bert and Ernie had shared a bed. Although Stiles thinks they did on youtube, probably, he should ask Jeremy. And he’d totally believe that about Danny and Jackson if he thought Jackson were capable of having a real, functioning relationship with a real boy like Danny.
Danny is reading a book, also presumably Derek’s; Jackson is just sitting there, doing nothing.
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for Derek to get back,” Jackson says, like duh, how did Stiles not know that, and Stiles supposes he should have.
“This isn’t as weird as it looks,” Danny asserts. “We have permission to be here. We have—ongoing permission. It isn’t weird at all.” Danny knows how weird it is, so he gives Stiles the eyes, but Stiles is not affected by Danny’s eyes.
“Absolutely,” Stiles says, and gives Danny a look like, uh, does Danny not notice how crazy/creepy this is, which Danny does, so he goes back to his book.
“Getting in?” Jackson asks, so Stiles raises his hands in surrender and backs out of the room. It’s their weirdness, their problem; it’s Derek’s problem if he wants to let them do that, if he wants that happening in his bed all the time.
Stiles gets back out just in time to see Scott flame out in a massive fireball on the laptop’s screen, probably because Allison has decided to recreate the Spiderman kiss on Stiles’ couch, where he eats his breakfast.
Stiles clears his throat politely, and when that proves ineffective, walks over and plants his foot in Scott’s stomach. “Guys, come on!”
“Sorry,” Allison says, but he knows she isn’t.
Scott shoves Stiles’ foot off, but doesn’t bother to move. “So,” he says.
Stiles waits. “Yes?”
“What did you do tonight?”
“Nothing,” Stiles says, though he can’t meet Scott’s eyes. That’s true, mostly; Stacey probably won’t even remember kissing him tomorrow, and even if she does it isn’t as if it counts. But Stiles can’t really remember the last time he kissed somebody — graduation, maybe? He doesn’t remember much of that night at all, but he certainly hopes so.
Scott’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “You were so into those girls, though. What happened? You bomb?”
“No! I mean—“ Stiles doesn’t want to tell him. “Nothing, whatever.”
“Fine,” Scott says, sulkily. “Hey, how come you didn’t text me back?”
“Text you back? I texted you a hundred times! You just asked me to come home!”
“No, I asked if you were coming home. Because I wanted you to pick up take-out on the way. I’m starving.”
There are at least two people here who could fix that, but Stiles doesn’t offer.
“Mm, I’m kind of hungry now too,” Allison says, yawning. And that has Stiles yawning in sympathy, and thinking about cereal. Scott joins in too, with sound like a little meow, though he’d deny it til his dying day.
“We could go to that Vietnamese place on the avenue,” he says, sifting her hair through his fingers absently. “It’s still open, right?”
“For a little while.” She yawns again.
“We could eat on the way home.”
“I might fall asleep in my tray.” She’s looking a little bleary-eyed, and it takes her more than one attempt to get off the floor. “I should probably go anyway,” she tells Stiles apologetically. “I’m in early tomorrow morning.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, rubbing his eyes. “Classes, right? Can’t wait.”
“I’m excited!” She seems to mean that.
Last night Stiles had a nightmare where his first professor took one look at him and realised there’d been a huge mistake, Stiles wasn’t here to go to college, Stiles was here to have all his teeth pulled out, just come on up.
Maybe he should have had coffee instead of those beers.
“Yeah, it’ll be good,” Stiles says. “Better with food.”
“Yeah,” she says, stretching and shaking herself awake. “Okay, let’s go.”
“I’ll call you at lunch!” Scott says, and shuts the door behind them before Stiles has a chance to reply.
Stiles has phantom hunger now, so he eats two bowls of cereal before he gets ready for bed, before the emptiness of the apartment slowly forces his feet over to Derek’s bedroom door again.
He left it ajar, so he just sticks his head in to see what’s going on now, to make sure it’s nothing weirder than before. Danny is still reading, lying down now, Jackson’s head on his shoulder, ignoring the intrusion. Stiles thinks Jackson is asleep until he stirs under Stiles’ regard and holds up a corner of the blanket.
Okay, his judgement is clearly compromised, so this does not count. Stiles doesn’t exhale until he’s in the bed, under the blanket, a good foot of space between him and Jackson, less than he’d like.
And if it is better to suffer this than to have to worry in his own bed, alone, well. He isn’t going to tell.
The click of the lightswitch wakes Stiles what feels like seconds later, and he blinks awake to a dark room and a shadow in the doorway.
“Derek?” Stiles whispers, lifting his head from the pillow, checking Jackson and Danny, seeing them still asleep. Jackson’s arm is thrown over Stiles’ middle.
“Yeah,” Derek says quietly. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Oh, uh—“ Stiles casts an uneasy glance at his bedmates, wanting to detach Jackson, but not wanting to risk unleashing his crazy. “Are you coming to bed?”
Derek is silent for a minute. Stiles can’t make out any features, just a silhouette against the light from the kitchen. “No,” he says. “Looks pretty crowded. Go back to sleep.”
The door closes with a click.
It takes Stiles a long time to drop off. He doesn't dream.
The next morning, Danny kicks Stiles out of bed, sending him to the floor with a thump.
“Jackson’s alarm didn’t go off!” Danny tells him, frantic.
Which might be fine, right, because this is college, but on the other hand, holy god, what if Stiles’ first professor is actually the creature from Stiles’ nightmares who donates to PETA and experiments on his students instead of animals? Okay, so Stiles’ first class is econ, but it could happen!
Tearing back to his room, he’s in such a rush to get dressed that he almost doesn’t notice that his bed is neatly made. Stiles never makes his bed.
He stops for a second, staring, but he doesn’t have the time to deal with that, can’t even think about it.
Derek is in the kitchen when Stiles bolts past, just behind Danny and Jackson. Danny doesn’t even take this class, but is he ever freaked.
“Late!” Stiles yells in explanation. “Later!” And then they run for Jackson’s Ferrari, parked half the street away.
Stiles is so nervous that he doesn’t even mind that he ends up wedged into a seat in the middle of the row, half on top of Jackson, who’s throwing him annoyed glares but not moving to get any of Stiles’ stuff off his lap. Jackson actually looks less irritated with Stiles than everyone he just climbed across to reach his seat.
“Hey,” Stiles whispers, sticking his pen into his mouth so he can dig through his bag for his calculator. “This is—this is going to be fun, right?” He sounds desperate even through the biro.
“No,” Jackson says, tapping his pen against Stiles calculator. Hey, his calculator! Stiles grabs it from Jackson’s lap. “No, this is not going to be fun. This is going to be boring. This is going to be the most boring class I have ever sat through. This is going to be even more tedious than high school. I can’t believe I let my dad talk me into taking this.”
Stiles blinks slowly, surprised, twirls his pen in his mouth. “What did you want to do instead?”
Jackson scowls out at the universe. “I don’t know! Why do I have to know?”
“Well, you don’t, uh, nobody else does either, probably, but parents like you to pretend, I think.”
“Shut the fuck up!” the girl beside Stiles hisses.
Stiles and Jackson trade sceptical looks, then turn to the professor droning on in front of them.
“Well, we were half an hour late,” Stiles says, “we should maybe try to catch up.”
Somebody behind them throws their eraser at Stiles’ head. Stiles shuts up.
And so maybe Jackson wasn’t totally terrible to share a bed or a class with, but that doesn’t mean Stiles wants to share his lunch with him too.
When Jackson drops his tray on the table, takes the seat across from Stiles and reaches for one of Stiles’ fries, Stiles slaps his hand away, but Jackson slaps back harder and takes the fry anyway.
Stiles grabs a leaf from Jackson’s salad in retaliation, but Jackson doesn’t even try to stop him so that doesn’t count.
“That was okay, right?” Jackson asks, picking up his fork and digging in. Stiles doesn’t understand how Jackson has reached his current size and muscle mass if this is what he eats all the time.
“It was really boring, you were right. I think I’m going to drop that one.”
Jackson looks envious. “My dad really wants me to do it.”
Stiles shrugs. “Just pick something else, he won’t care if he thinks you know what you’re doing.” Which Jackson doesn’t, obviously, but, “I said ‘thinks’!” Stiles says. “He doesn’t have to know.” Even if Stiles’ dad seems to know everything. It’s frequently an embarrassing inconvenience, but Stiles does know when he has it good.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jackson says, stabbing a tomato with fervour, “I know exactly what I’m doing. Economics.” He bites the fruit in half and the juice makes it all the way across the table, ending up on Stiles’ face.
“Oh, gross,” Stiles says, wiping at it, but then his phone rings, distracting him.
Stiles rummages through his bag because he knows it’s going to be Scott, and he wants to talk to him, wants to arrange about Ashley’s party tonight. It isn’t Scott.
“Hi, Stacey,” Stiles says.
“Hey!” Stacey says. “How are you? Are you at lunch, can you talk?”
“Absolutely,” Stiles says, even though he can’t. Jackson is still eating, paying serious attention to his lettuce, but Stiles knows he’s listening.
“Cool. Hey, look, I wanted to apologise for last night. I was really drunk, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no, that’s fine.”
“Yeah, we had fun, right? I shouldn’t have gotten so out of it, but I had a good time.”
“I did too.” That’s only partly a lie.
“Great! I mean, that’s cool. We should do it again some time.”
“Oh, yeah,” Stiles says, mind racing, “yeah.” Stiles doesn’t really want to, not if this is going where he thinks it is, but he kind of had a good time, and it isn’t Stacey’s fault he didn’t have a better one. He can handle this. “Yeah!” he says again, sure this time.
“Cool. Cool. Uh, tonight?”
“Oh, I can’t.” And maybe not so sure, because was that a little too eager? Stiles needs to check with Allison. “I have something.”
“Oh.” She sounds disappointed. “Oh. That’s cool. Listen, I’m sorry if I shouldn’t have done that last night, kissed you, I don’t want this to be weird, I didn’t mean anything by it. But we had a good time though, right?”
Jackson is devoting himself to scraping up the last of those little twigs – those aren’t really wood, are they? – on his plate, so hopefully he’s missing this whole thing. Why would he even bother eavesdropping on Stiles’ phone conversations?
“Oh, no, we did.” Kind of.
“Cool. Cool. So we can do it again? Not kiss! That would be weird. Hang out, I mean?”
“Oh, yeah. Definitely.” That might be nice, if she means it. Stiles can’t quite tell if she’s awkward and cute, or if she’s about to pull a Glenn Close.
“Cool,” she says again. “Cool.”
And that’s getting less cute with every repetition, so Stiles is glad when she says, “Okay. Talk to you soon?” and hangs up, pleased with his affirmative.
“Sorry,” Stiles says.
Jackson shrugs, says, “So—“ and Stiles’ phone goes again.
“Sorry,” Stiles says, waving it awkwardly at Jackson. “Hey Scott!”
“Hey Stiles,” Scott says, “you on lunch yet?”
“Yeah. You just get out?”
“Yeah. How’re you, things okay?”
“Fine,” Stiles exclaims dismissively, knowing Scott knows how ridiculous he’s been. “Totally! How’d you get on?”
“Uh, yeah.” Scott huffs out a breath. “Yeah. It was, uh, something.”
Stiles raises his eyebrows. “That bad?”
“I don’t know. It might have been that bad, yeah.”
“Well, first day, right? You’ll get into the swing of things.”
“Or they were starting us out easy and things are going to get much worse from here on out.”
“Or that,” Stiles says, frowning. Scott sounds really worried. “You’ve got more of the same this afternoon, right?”
Jackson has finished eating and is staring in Stiles’ general direction, looking bored out of his mind, so Stiles offers him a fry, but Jackson shakes his head. Stiles eats it for him. He probably didn’t even want the first one.
“Yeah. I’m thinking I might just skip?”
“Jesus, it’s your first day. No. No, you are going to your class and you are going to pay attention, and then we’re going out tonight. If you don’t pay attention in class you are going to have to stay in and study, Scott. Do you want that? Huh? Do you?”
“No,” Scott says. “Fine. Whatever. But I don’t like it.”
“I don’t care whether you like it; just do it.”
“Fine. But I know you’re only making me do this because you want to go to that girl’s party tonight.”
“Not really, dude.”
“I know you’re into her, don’t lie. And she’s into you, that’s why she asked you to go. Why else?”
“No, but you know it’s true.”
Stiles shakes his head. “It really isn’t, Scott.”
Scott is going to see just how wrong he is about Ashley tonight, when Stiles delivers her up Derek. Stiles isn’t having second thoughts, though. This is a great idea, he’s sure of it. It isn’t going to be like last night at all.
It might be worse, but. He’ll see.
“Whatever,” Scott says, giving Stiles too much credit, “you’re just saying that because you like that other girl better.”
“That is true,” Stiles admits. Not that that’s saying much. “I’m looking forward to it, anyway,” he lies. “You coming over after class?”
“Yeah,” Scott says. “See you then. And I knew you were going to be fine, I told you you were being stupid.”
Scott hangs up before Stiles can thank him for that rousing endorsement.
“So,” he says, turning back to Jackson, “you got any plans for tonight?”
“Dutch’s,” Jackson says. “You?”
“Oh, this girl in the building invited me to her housewarming, so that should be cool.”
“Cool,” Jackson mimics. “Cool. Just don’t pick up too many bad habits from your girls, Stillinsky.” And smiles mockingly. Of course.
Stiles is feeling pretty upbeat about everything when he slams into the apartment later that afternoon. He had an okay day, in the end, and given how much he’d been dreading it, and how much less he’s dreading this party tonight, it’s sure to turn out to be so much better. Absolutely sure.
Derek’s in the shower, but there’s half a roll sitting on the counter, ham and turkey and cheese and green stuff. That’s for Stiles, right? That has to be for Stiles.
Derek wouldn’t have left it out where Stiles could get to it if it weren’t for Stiles, he decides, halfway through eating it.
He’s swallowing the last of it when Derek emerges, wet and in a too-small towel, and ducks into his bedroom.
“Hey, dude,” Stiles calls, his certainty over the roll buoying his confidence. “Just checking here, but did you sleep in my bed last night? Because, is that kind of weird? I mean, I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with these things, but it seems kind of weird to me, you know?”
There’s no response for a minute, then a drawer closes loudly and Derek comes back out, still in the towel, and walks over to Stiles a little bit more pointedly than Stiles is comfortable with. Stiles opens the fridge door to try and improvise some sort of barrier, but Derek slams it shut, using the movement to lean into Stiles.
“Weird? You think it was weird that I slept in your bed? Where would you rather I had slept? The couch? The shower? The floor? Maybe I think it was weird that you slept in my bed with two of my packmates.”
“Uh—“ Stiles is backed up against the refrigerator door, head tilted back against it. Derek is really close, forearms propped on the door beside Stiles, enclosing him like Derek is afraid Stiles is going to run away. Stiles wouldn’t run.
Running would make Derek hunt him down. And the werewolves might get some sort of perverse thrill out of that sort of thing, but Stiles isn’t into it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, okay?
“And,” Derek continues wrathfully, “you didn’t even make it!”
Derek’s chest is getting Stiles’ shirt wet. Stiles can feel his heart pounding. He knows Derek can too.He isn’t afraid.
“Uh,” he says breathlessly, “sorry?”
Derek narrows his eyes, but he releases Stiles abruptly and takes a long step backwards, apparently accepting the apology.
“You can’t sleep in someone else’s bed and leave it a mess like that, that’s really rude. I had to make both! And you’re going to be a bad influence on Danny and Jackson. They’re going to think they can do that too.”
“Sorry,” Stiles says, cautiously detaching himself from the fridge and taking a slow step forwards. “I didn’t mean to, we were just in a rush this morning. And, uh, I’m not exactly up on all the rules for this thing.”
Derek frowns, looking uncomfortable. “You shouldn’t have done that last night.”
“Done what?” Stiles asks, annoyed. “Climbed into your bed? Everybody else does. Why can’t I?”
“No reason,” Derek denies. “You can.”
“Really? Didn’t seem that way when you threw me out that one time I was too drunk to make it to my room.”
“I was being helpful,” Derek lies, badly.
“Or last night, when you refused to get into your own bed just because I was in it too.”
“I wasn’t expecting you. It isn’t allowable to show up unannounced in somebody’s bed.”
“Not that I’m not welcome,” Stiles prompts.
“Yes,” Derek says, reluctantly.
“And it was totally fine for you to sleep in my bed without invitation, permission or announcement.”
Stiles isn’t sure why Derek even tries sometimes. “You know I know you’re lying, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My problem with you being in my bed with Jackson and Danny wasn’t a problem with you being in my bed. It was being there with Jackson that was a problem. You’re both pack. It had the potential to upset the balance of power in ways you don’t realise.” That’s — plausible, but Stiles isn’t satisfied. Derek barrels on before Stiles can speak. “And regardless of the fact that you’re sharing it, this is my home and that is my bed.” Derek’s jaw twitches in frustration. “The fact that you don’t understand how your actions may be interpreted doesn’t make your blunders any less serious.”
And if that stings it's only because Derek is being so unfair.
“Hey,” Stiles says sharply, “don’t act like I should have a clue here. You don’t tell me anything. I’m not a werewolf. And I’m not, what, part of the pack, I don’t even know what, okay? And you can’t act like you have these expectations of me when there’s not a chance in hell that I can meet them.”
Stiles does not feel like he’s about to cry. This is not going to be like that time when he opened his college acceptance letters with his dad and had to make his dad open the one for this stupid college. He doesn’t even know why he did that.
You could tell by the size of the envelope, anyway, but Stiles couldn’t do it.
It wouldn’t have mattered. Only to him.
Derek steps close to Stiles again, and Stiles has to fight the instinct to cede ground. “You are and you will.”
“You are part of the pack unless you choose otherwise.” There’s a steady growl underlying Derek’s words that’s making Stiles’ pulse jump. “And you will meet my expectations.” Derek shakes his head. “You’re more trouble than Jackson sometimes.”
“I am not!” Derek smirks. Whatever, he so is not. “And I’m not a werewolf, I can’t belong to the pack, I don’t understand—“
“Exactly,” Derek interrupts, shrugging. The water on his skin has dried, so now he’s just standing there with a towel around his hips for no reason. “You don’t understand, Stiles, and you should take it that I know what I’m talking about.”
“It’s another thing if you don’t want to be involved in this.”
Derek is watching him closely. Stiles laughs self-consciously, rubbing the back of his head. “I didn’t say that. Don’t go putting words in my mouth.”
“I don’t know when anybody would have the opportunity.”
“Hey,” Stiles says, “you planning on getting dressed at any point? I’m going to have to start looking for the webcam, dude.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Derek lies, again, retreating to his bedroom.
Scott has arrived with Allison by the time Derek emerges, and Stiles has come to the conclusion that none of that ever happened and it need never be referred to again.
Allison is using the light over the cooker to put on her make-up, asking Stiles and Scott worried questions like there’s any possibility they might actually know the answers, let alone that she’d take their advice. “—not as much, that’s what everyone always says, not to put it on too heavily, but I don’t know, all the girls I’ve met look like they’re wearing plenty of make-up.” She dabs at her mascara with a tissue. “Are they just better at applying it than I am?”
“You look great,” Scott offers, sincerely and unhelpfully.
“Hey—“ Allison says, twisting her body quickly towards Scott and Stiles, “you look great Derek.”
Stiles twists around too, and refuses to be impressed. Scott just looks blank.
“Thanks,” Derek says. He isn’t even dressed up, really, he just somehow does look great. That’s unfair too. So many things about Derek are unfair tonight.
Should Stiles change? He hadn’t been planning on it. He doesn’t like this girl, so he hadn’t been planning on bothering. But if Derek and Allison are making an effort maybe he should too.
“Should I change?” he asks Allison.
“You look fine,” Derek says.
“Yeah, you should change,” Allison says, and makes it happen with her own two hands, while Derek and Scott watch the clock outside.
Stiles isn’t nervous when he knocks on Ashley’s door. Sure, he’s forgotten her apartment number and he’s brought two strangers along, but down this end of the corridor he has a fifty/fifty chance of being right and he brought Derek along too, so he’s golden.
“Hi!” Ashley says when she opens the door. “It is so great to see you!” She isn’t looking at Stiles when she says any of that, but she throws the door open wide to the group, grinning. This is going to be fine.
“Hi!” Allison says, introducing herself and Scott. Ashley takes them in stride, not removing her eyes from Derek’s face.
“And you know Derek!” Stiles says when Derek continues to ignore Ashley, and elbows him in the ribs.
Derek grunts grumpily at Stiles, but he makes eye contact with Ashley and Stiles gets them all inside the apartment without incident, and he’s counting that as a win.
There’s a lot of people here already, quite a number Stiles recognises from nodding to in the hallways of the building, and he knew Ashley was a liar, but it’s still satisfying to see the proof with his own eyes.
She doesn’t make introductions, instead corralling their little group in a sparsely populated corner. She seems to be trying to block Derek from the room’s view and stick her boobs into his face at the same time. She looks like a hunchback who’s doing some sort of interpretive dance. It’s an interesting effect, if not what Stiles thinks she was going for.
“Can I get you something?” she asks Derek hopefully.
Derek is gazing over her head, eyes roaming the room. “We’d love a drink,” Allison says awkwardly, glancing at Scott to check.
“Do you want to point us—“ Stiles asks, but Derek cuts him off.
“We’re staying here.”
“It’s a good spot, right?” Ashley says, thrilled. “I knew you’d like it. I picked it out especially for you.” It’s a corner. Could be any corner. Derek likes having his back to two walls, Stiles thinks.
“Nobody’s waiting to steal your spot, Derek,” Stiles says, irritated.
“Oh, no, he’s right,” Ashley trills. “You don’t want to lose it. Stay right here and I’ll get you a drink. What would you like?”
“Jack,” Stiles says.
“Beer or wine,” Ashley says, shortly. “Or water. Tap.”
“We brought beer,” Stiles says. “We’ll have that.” He doesn’t trust that she won’t spit in his.
“And we brought you wine!” Allison remembers. “Scott!”
“Huh? Oh.” He bends to dig through the bag.
Ashley isn’t interested in the wine. “What about you, Derek? My roommate Stephanie has a little collection. Would you like to take a look?”
“Are we late? Who was here earlier?” Derek’s frowning, eyes still canvassing the room, but there’s nobody interesting here, just their neighbours, a bunch of post-grads and a handful of people who look like they’re too old to be hanging around Ashley.
“Oh, no, you’re not late, you were right on time! More people are arriving later, but I suppose some people popped in to say hi and left already. Were you looking for somebody?” Her forehead is wrinkling, though she’s trying to smile through it.
“No,” Derek says. “Nobody, just—“
“Is Stephanie around?” Allison asks. “I’d love to meet her.”
“Oh, she’s gone on a beer run,” Ashley says. “It was all so last-minute—I mean, we weren’t expecting so many of our friends to turn up!” She barely bothers to try and retrieve the slip, not really caring if Stiles knows she lied to get them here.
“Who’s new?” Derek asks.
“Nobody,” she says, surprised. “Just—“
“You’ll have to introduce us,” Allison says.
“Oh, sure, they’ll be back soon. I’m going to get the chips from the kitchen.” She hovers indecisively, looking from Derek to the other guests, but decides there’s no serious threat present. Stiles knows this building is home to more hot girls than Ashley, but he doesn’t see any of them here. “Don’t go anywhere.”
“Wow,” Scott says, once she’s gone. “You really weren’t joking when you said she wasn’t into you.”
“No,” Stiles says, glum on principle.
“What?” Derek asks, distracted.
“Ashley’s into you,” Stiles admits. “I actually thought she’d be more obnoxious about it, it’s a little disappointing.”
“What?” Derek asks, attention on Stiles for a second, then drops it, turning back to the room. “It doesn’t matter. A werewolf has been here today.”
“What?” Stiles says.
“What?” Scott asks, stretching to his full height and paying attention to the rest of the room for the first time since they’ve arrived.
“What’s going on?” Ashley chirrups, returning with her chips and dip.
“Ah, nothing!” Stiles says. “Absolutely nothing!”
“Where?” Scott asks.
“Not here now.” Derek is tense, though, eyes flicking from faces to the door to the windows. Stiles is not going out those windows.
“Why don’t I notice these things?” Scott asks in annoyance. “Why do you always have to tell me, why can’t I ever just notice myself?”
“Notice what?” Ashley asks.
“Shut up,” Derek says.
“Oh,” she says. “O—okay.”
“Not you,” Stiles reassures her, though Derek doesn’t trouble. “Scott.”
“Oh!” she says brightly. “Okay!”
Then there’s a key in the door, and even Scott goes on alert without having to be told.
“Oh, hey Stephanie,” Ashley says, shoving the chips at Stiles and actually leaving Derek’s side to go to someone else. A girl, even.
Or, of sorts.
Derek and Scott are pulled taut, vibrating with tension. Ashley’s friend is staring straight at Derek, lips pulled back into a snarl, but no sound coming from her mouth.
Then her shoulders drop, tension in her body disappearing, and she smiles widely at Derek.
“—right? Steph, are you okay?”
Ashley puts her hand on Stephanie’s arm, and her friend doesn’t shake her off. That’s better than Stiles was expecting, but Derek and Scott are still and poised beside him. Allison’s hissing at Scott, register rising as his focus remains fixed on the other werewolf in the room.
And that’s a scary thought to be having about a neighbour, a girl his age with a pink streak in her hair. The other werewolf, like it’s been decided, just like that.
But Derek still hasn’t said anything. They need him to do something so they know how this is going to go down. He isn’t moving.
“I’m fine, Ashley,” Stephanie says. “Introduce me to your friend.”
“Oh, no,” Ashley says. “No, I don’t want to.” There’s a pout in her voice. “This one’s mine, Steph, we talked about this, you said—“
“Ashley.” Ashley shuts up. “Introduce us.”
The pout is on Ashley’s face, too, lower lip sticking out as she looks from Stephanie to Derek and sighs, leading the way over.
Scott moves restlessly as they near, but Derek is better at not letting his discomfort show openly.
That isn’t comforting, because Derek isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable in this situation — he lectured everybody about this very thing just a couple days ago — and his edginess is communicating itself to Stiles.
Still, Stiles smiles at Ashley’s group when they arrive. Stephanie’s eyes don’t leave Derek. There’s a tall guy who’s standing close to Stephanie, taking the time to study Derek when he should be heading to the kitchen to drop off all the beer he’s carrying.
Ashley makes quick introductions. Stephanie smiles at Derek, who barely restrains his snarl. The guy, Howard, drops his crates to the floor, all the better to attempt to loom. He has the size for it; he just isn’t very good at it. Stiles gives him an encouraging smile.
“Derek,” Stephanie says, ignoring the rest of the group. “Welcome to my home. I know Ashley invited you.”
“She did,” Derek says, short, eyes still locked with hers, and Stiles needs to break that gaze, because it’s gone on long enough that he’s getting disturbed. “When did you get here?”
“Last night. But I didn’t move in until this afternoon. When did you?”
Derek bares his teeth. “Last week.”
Stephanie manages to keep her response to something resembling a smile, and Stiles doesn’t like that she seems to have better control than Derek. “Don’t do that in my home, alpha.”
Stiles is so tense that his back is starting to hurt, okay, because she shouldn’t be talking like that to Derek, and she shouldn’t be throwing that word around in front of her human friends like that.
Stiles turns to Ashley, worried. She’s still looking besottedly at Derek, but she’s looking irritated and impatient too, so. “Hey Ash,” he says, and she turns on him with a more impressive snarl than he’s seen on many a member of the pack.
“Don’t call me that,” she snaps, and returns her attention to Derek, no longer bothering to hide her bad temper, not that anybody notices.
“Steph,” she says, “don’t you and Howard want to put some of that in the fridge?”
Derek is slowly forcing himself down, shoulders lowering by degrees, but his fury is mounting with every inch he gives her. “Where’s—“ He stops, clears his throat, tries again. Stephanie doesn’t look amused. “Where’s your pack?”
“Iowa. I’m here on my own. Where’s yours?”
Her hand clenches, releases, but she doesn’t allow any other reaction to show. “Keep them away from here,” she says.
“Gladly,” Derek spits.
“Stephanie!” Ashley says. “Don’t be rude to Derek, oh my god. She doesn’t mean it Derek, you are totally welcome at any time.”
“Oh, that’s—nice,” Allison says faintly.
“All of you,” Ashley adds half-heartedly.
“Ashley, your new friend is a werewolf,” Stephanie says.
“No he isn’t! What are you — oh, wow, really?” She’s looking at Derek with sudden stars shining in her eyes.
“You’re welcome to stay tonight, because you were invited. You won’t be welcomed back in.”
“You won’t be welcomed at all,” Derek says, and Stephanie grins, turns away deliberately. Stiles is so relieved.
“Why aren’t these cooling?” she asks, hefting two crates effortlessly, leaving the third behind. “Howard, come on.”
She vanishes into the kitchen while he crouches down to grab the third.
“It was very nice to meet you, Howard,” Stiles manages.
“Howard is my last name,” he says, the first time Stiles has heard his voice.
“Oh. What should we call you?”
“No, Howard’s fine,” he says, waving amiably and following after Stephanie.
“So, Derek,” Ashley says, mouth open in fascination. “Really? Like, really, really?”
“Ashley!” Stephanie yells from the kitchen.
Ashley jumps, looks from the door to Derek’s stony face a few times, and reluctantly obeys the summons.
“Oh my god,” Allison rushes out, once they’re alone. It’s a sentiment with which Stiles thoroughly agrees. “Oh my god, what was that? Derek, what was that? Scott, come on, let’s go, let’s go, we have to go before they get back.”
“No,” Derek says, “we have to stay.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” Stiles says dubiously.
“It is.” Stiles is starting to hate the sound of that rumble in Derek’s voice, but it doesn’t stick around long this time. Derek clicks his teeth impatiently, and deigns to explain. “We’re in her territory without her permission, but at the invitation of a human who lives here. Given that this is a social situation, she has given her approval to our temporary presence. We can’t leave right away. It would be rude.”
“Never reject a werewolf’s hospitality if you want to make it back to your own place in one piece,” Stiles informs Allison, jokingly authoritative.
“Exactly,” Derek says, satisfied with Stiles’ easy understanding.
“What, really?” he asks, eyes widening.
“Yes, really,” Derek says, rolling his eyes at Stiles. “I mean no, not really, but only because she wouldn’t want to start something with me. We’re not going to be impolite and give her a valid reason to try something, if she ever thought she could get away with it.”
“Okay,” Allison says, too quick. “Okay, I get that, I think. Scott, I really don’t want to do this, Scott.”
“She has to.” Derek’s voice has gone flat, and he’s back to scanning the room, but the tension hasn’t left him.
Scott takes Allison’s face in his hands. “I know, I know you don’t want to, but I need you to, okay? Can you do this for me?”
Allison looks overwhelmed, but she takes a couple of deep breaths and gets herself together. She’s so good at that. Stiles is mad jealous.
“Thank you,” Scott says. “Thank you.”
She nods in acknowledgement, and turns a bland face to the room, slight smile looking natural. She has chops.
Stiles is pretty sure his face doesn’t look anything like hers.
“Stiles,” Derek says, “calm down.”
“Oh, no,” Stiles says, pleased that his voice doesn’t sound hysterical, “not happening.”
“Don’t growl at me!”
“Stiles,” Derek says, growl gone, patient. “You can’t do that here.”
“Around another wolf. You can’t challenge me.”
Stiles tries not to be too pleased that it’s a request. “I suppose I can manage. Depends how long we have to stay.”
“Good,” Derek says, like that’s it, settled.
“Hey,” Stiles says, panicky. “Hey.”
“Stiles. Calm down.”
Derek does know that he’s a werewolf, not a magician, right? Stiles really wants to say that aloud, feels his mouth moue unhappily, keeping it in. Stephanie might be listening.
He hopes she’s too busy getting her stupid friend under control, because he knows he shouldn’t but he needs to talk about this, he doesn’t even care if she can hear every stupid word about to come out of his mouth.
“Hey, so,” he starts, stops. “So. She’s not going to kill you to gain power and take us all as spoils of war, right? I mean, not that she could, not that I think she could! But. Is she going to try?”
Stiles knows his eyes are wide with anxiety, but he can’t help it, can’t do anything to fake it until he knows. He needs Derek to tell him. Everything will be okay when Derek tells him that it will, because Derek wouldn’t bother to lie to him.
Derek takes a second to answer, eyes on Stiles’ face. “I don’t think so,” he says.
“That is not reassuring,” Stiles says, striving for calm. Not challenging, not challenging, he’s being good, panic isn’t a challenge.
If it was, Derek would have slapped him down, so. He knows he’s okay, which is a good thing, because he kind of wants a paper bag right now.
“Seriously, you need to tell us what this means.”
“Nothing that bad,” Derek says dismissively. “It’s just awkward, not dangerous, not unless we fuck up really badly. Relax. We can talk about it later if you really want to. Just be polite for a while, okay? We just need to get through the next hour or so and then we’re done.”
An hour, okay. Stiles can handle that. An hour at a party! With half the building squeezed into the other werewolf’s sitting room. He can totally do this. It isn’t as if she could try anything with this many people around even if she wanted to.
He feels the steel in his shoulders uncoil, and grabs a beer.
“Want one?” he asks Allison.
“Oh, uh.” She looks around the room, everybody clustered in groups like theirs, nobody looking at them, nobody looking like they’re having a very good time. “We shouldn’t, right?” Stiles scoffs, and she takes the proffered bottle.
“Be careful,” Derek says.
“Duh,” Stiles says, knocking back half his bottle in one gulp just to take the edge off. “Of course!” Derek’s exasperation doesn’t lessen, but Stiles does mean it. He’s still too terrified to be reckless.
But he’s also afraid his fear is going to lead him to do something really stupid, like call Lydia for backup, which would only be helpful if he was in the mood for a dogfight. He’d put money on Lydia, but he doesn’t think Derek would like that.
So relaxing will be good. Derek was relaxed with another werewolf in their apartment, and everybody seems to be trying to pretend relaxation now, although Derek is doing it really badly.
Stiles wishes he’d seen Derek at work, in space owned by another wolf — then he’d know if it’s always like this, if Derek is all talk or — something. It would give him a frame of reference.
He’s feeling lost in a way he hasn’t since Derek took over the pack.
“Remember when you kept trying to kill me?” he asks Scott offhandedly, and Scott frowns, upset.
“I didn’t keep trying to kill you, Stiles, okay, that never happened, that is such an exaggeration.”
“Okay,” Stiles says equably.
“Why are you even bringing this up?”
Scott always gets grumpy when he does; he should have remembered. “Just feeling nostalgic, man.” Hoping history isn’t going to repeat. Stiles is okay with the werewolves he knows, they’re plenty, he doesn’t need this.
Stephanie comes back out of the kitchen, trailing her two friends.
“Huh,” Stiles says. “How come their kitchen’s a real room? How big is this place?”
“It’s a three-bedroom,” Allison says. “I don’t think there’s anyone else, though.”
“Stephanie is probably going to lock herself up in the spare during the full moon,” Derek says. “I miss having a spare bedroom. That room was going to be useful before you moved in.”
“No it wasn’t. You were never going to lock yourself in the boxroom, come on.” Derek doesn’t argue because it’s true. “But hey,” Stiles says, and breaks off to watch Ashley approach.
“Hey,” Ashley says, obviously trying to be cool about it, but failing horribly, throwing long glances at Derek from under her lashes while pretending not to look. “Stephanie wants to invite you to join our group.”
It isn’t a group; it’s just Stephanie and Howard. Stiles looks over, catches them both looking back. Stephanie looks away quickly, but Howard waves, before Stephanie slaps his hand right out of the air. He smiles instead.
“That’s very kind of her,” Derek says, and gestures for Ashley to lead the way.
They all shuffle awkwardly when they reach Stephanie, apart from Ashley, who drapes herself on the arm of the couch beside her friend, posing like somebody’s about to take a picture, and Derek, who’s gone back to staring.
Stiles coughs, bringing his hand up to cover his mouth and using the movement to elbow Derek fake-accidentally, so Derek turns to glare at him instead of staring at Stephanie.
“Sorry,” Stiles says, and he does try to sound sincere.
“I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves,” Stephanie says. “Please, someone sit down.”
There’s an empty cushion beside Howard. Derek doesn’t move and Allison’s sticking to Scott like glue, so Stiles takes it.
“Hey, man,” he says.
“Hey.” Howard toasts him with his can, slumped back into the sofa. Stiles doesn’t think that’s the only thing he’s had tonight. He blinks at his beer and tilts it towards Stiles in offering.
Stiles holds his own beer up in case Howard somehow missed it. “I’m okay, thanks.”
Stephanie notices the exchange and kicks Howard in the ankle, kind of hard.
It takes Howard a minute to react. “Ow!”
“We’re having a great time!” Allison says, eyes wide.
“Great!” Scott chimes in lamely.
“Good.” Stephanie’s amused. Stiles isn’t sure how to take that. “I don’t know anyone here yet, but Ashley does, she can introduce you.”
“Steph!” Ashley protests. “I don’t want to talk to these people.”
“Then you shouldn’t have invited them,” Stephanie says, annoyed. “You have to like some of them, just introduce them to the good ones.”
“I don’t!” Ashley says. “None of them!”
Is Stephanie even an alpha? Probably not, Stiles realises. She’s really young.
Derek and Laura were young too, but that’s probably not the norm. Peter was probably closer to the ideal. Stiles shivers, shakes it off.
“Cold?” Howard asks, slinging a companionable arm around Stiles’ shoulders.
“No,” Stiles says, giving the arm the stink-eye, but not willing to reject the overture. “No, I’m fine, Howard.”
“Howie,” he says, beaming. “Call me Howie. Everybody else does.” Ashley and Stephanie are still bickering in the background, and Scott’s eyes are starting to look a little crazy, so Stiles settles in.
“Cool, little man.” Stiles doesn’t feel that he can accurately protest that description, sheltered under Howie’s arm as he is.
“Stiles,” Derek says.
Stiles looks up. Ashley is gone, presumably to round up some of her friends, and everyone is staring at Stiles. “Yeah, Derek?”
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” he says, knowing that wasn’t what Derek was really asking, torn between telling Derek to leave him alone and doing what he knows Derek wants. “I’m good here, right?”
“Fine,” Derek says stiffly, and turns back to Stephanie, asking her something about her family.
Stiles wants to listen, but he’s busy over here, with Howie tilting back to the ceiling, pulling Stiles with him, blowing out a gusty sigh. “Hungry, little dude? I am so hungry right now. I could eat what she eats.” He grins at Stiles, all teeth, letting him in on the joke. “I wouldn’t, though.” He pats Stiles’ head reassuringly. It hurts a little bit.
“I’m okay,” Stiles says.
“Sure? There’s brownies in the kitchen.”
“Uh,” Stiles says, blinking.
“They’re so good,” Howie says, lustful, faraway look in his gaze at the ceiling. “So good. I want one so bad.”
“I don’t think so,” Stiles says, uncertain. “Maybe?”
“No,” Derek says, kicking Stiles’ foot and continuing his conversation with Stephanie.
“No,” Stiles says, relieved to have the decision taken out of his hands.
“Sure, little guy? They’re so good for after you toke.”
“Oh!” Stiles says. “For after, right. Okay.”
“Yeah,” Howie says, smiling a little bit patronisingly, but still kind. “For when you got the munchies, you know. Or just for when you’re hungry, either way. So you want one? I want marmite and nutella on mine.”
Derek already said no. “No,” Stiles says mournfully. He really does want a brownie, though.
Howie sighs. “All right. You got a smoke?”
And Howie sighs again. It's getting a little embarrassing. “A cigarette, little man.” He pulls out a battered box from his pocket, checks to make sure it really is empty, and dejectedly returns it to his pocket. “If I can’t have a brownie I need nicotine.”
Nobody said he couldn’t have a brownie. His werewolf isn’t mean like that.
“Bottom of the wardrobe under my clothes,” Stephanie interrupts.
“Awesome.” Howie levers himself up, surprisingly steady on his feet, which is a relief, since he brought Stiles along with him and is now carrying him at his side.
“Put him down,” Derek growls, hackles back up. And things had been going so well.
Scott’s arm is stretched out to Stiles, frozen in mid-air, undecided.
“Howard, jesus, put him down!” Stephanie snaps. “Are you stupid?”
Howie raises his hands in supplication, dropping Stiles in the process. “Sorry, sorry,” he says, to Derek, then turns to look at Stiles, groaning on the floor. “Sorry, little man.”
Once Stiles is out of Howie’s grasp, Scott drops back to Allison’s side, leaving Derek to pull Stiles up off the floor. “You’re fine,” he says, placing Stiles on the other side of his body, away from Howie, keeping him close.
“I’m fine,” Stiles agrees, dusting himself off.
“Sorry, dude.” Howie’s grinning again, amused with himself. “I didn’t mean to get all up on you. Or to drop you on your ass. I definitely did not mean either of those things, and I apologise for the accidentalness of it all.” He’s giving Derek the puppy-dog eyes, so sincere, but Derek is unmoved, possibly because Howie isn’t very puppyish, apart from the eyes, which are making Stiles melt, he can’t even help it.
“Aw, come on, look at him! He’s sorry.”
Howie grins, tosses his dreads mischievously.
“Stiles,” Derek says. “There are brownies in the kitchen. You and Allison should go and have some.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, and he needs to stay, he needs to protest, but he can’t. He told Derek he wouldn’t. “Oh, okay.”
“Are we—“ Allison says, disbelieving, “are we going to the kitchen? Really?”
Scott detaches her hand from his arm, giving her a pained grimace. She doesn’t look impressed.
“Yeah, come on,” Stiles says, and she turns to him, brave, as always. “I’m told there’s nutella.” It takes her a second to dredge up a smile. “Come on.” He takes her arm, leading her away, not looking back.
There’re people smoking in the kitchen when they get there, but Stiles doesn’t recognise any of them, so he brushes off their greetings. He pulls Allison to stand in the space beside the fridge, then decides that they might as well actually raid it while they’re here.
There’s a full jar of nutella hidden in the back, behind the beetroot, wrapped in tinfoil for safety. When Stiles hands it to Allison, she tears it open and doesn’t wait for him to find a spoon, just sticks her finger right in.
“Gross is right,” she says, “why would anybody keep nutella in the fridge?” She keeps eating. “I’m taking this home with me.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, “okay. I’m not exactly pleased either. But, hey. I mean, it’s not like I really wanted to be there, right? That was a disaster. Maybe I didn’t want to be sent to my room like a little kid, but at least I’m not out there?”
“No,” Allison says.
“No,” Stiles agrees.
He ducks back into the fridge, looking for something else to eat. He isn’t sharing Allison’s gross nutella. There isn’t much in here besides beer, so he starts pulling the tinfoil lids off things. Pineapple slices, okay, he can work with that. And vodka in the freezer, great.
He looks towards the door. “Think I could just stick my head out?”
“I think we should do that,” Allison says.
“Yeah, probably not. This fucking sucks.” Stiles uncaps the bottle and takes a swig. He’s never had vodka this expensive before. He can’t really tell the difference.
“He didn’t have to do that.”
“Derek never has to do any of the — stuff he does. We probably shouldn’t talk about him when other people might be listening.”
“I meant Scott.”
“Oh, no, Scott really did have to do that. Maybe wanted to too, but once Derek said—“
“I don’t think I can do this,” she says, miserable.
Stiles hands her the bottle, but she just looks at it dubiously. He bites into a pineapple slice, but it’s in natural juice, not even syrup, and this night is just disappointing every which way.
“You can do it,” he says, sure. “If you want to.”
“Yeah,” she says, and drinks, wincing. “I know.”
Stiles doesn’t want to think about that, and since it isn’t his problem he doesn’t have to. He takes another drink anyway.
“They’re fine, right?” she asks.
“Yeah, they are,” Stiles says truthfully. “What sort of trouble they might be starting—“
“Hey,” Scott says from the doorway, completely unharmed. Allison doesn’t leave Stiles’ side. “We’re leaving, come on.”
“Just a sec.” Stiles stashes the vodka, and when he turns around the nutella has vanished, presumably into Allison’s handbag. “Ready.”
Making their way back through the sitting room, over to Derek, Stiles tries not to notice the way people are very deliberately not looking towards Stephanie and Derek, the way eyes keep sliding towards his group and then away, as if compelled not to look.
Stiles doesn’t know what Derek did, but it doesn’t matter, he’s still going to kill him.
Howie and Ashley are huddled on the couch, Stephanie towering over them. They’re also taking pains not to look at anything or anybody, and when Stiles’ group returns they don’t look up or offer any acknowledgement.
“Hey,” Stiles says, awkward as ever, but this time without hope that might change.
Derek chooses to believe the greeting is directed towards him. He’s wrong. “Hello. Are you ready to leave?”
Howie looks up at that, but doesn’t speak or smile.
Ashley’s eyes dart angrily to Stiles, away to Howie. She looks like she’s been crying. She throws Stiles another split-second glance, long enough to make sure he knows this is all his fault.
He is beyond ready to leave.
Stephanie walks them to the door, if only to hurry them out, and Derek lingers after the three of them have left the apartment, turning on the threshold.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” he says politely. “This was illuminating.”
Stephanie barely waits for him to make it out the door before slamming it.
“Allison!” Scott hisses. “Come back!”
She’s halfway to the stairs, heading out without a word; at Scott’s call she speeds up.
Stiles wants to be able to talk to her, talk her around, even just make her feel better, but he doesn’t think he’s capable of any of that right now.
He wants to shout after her, tell her he’ll phone her tomorrow, but he’s almost sure that would sound needy and pathetic, and that’s something Stiles tries to avoid.
“Derek,” Scott says, “can I—?” He jerks his head towards the stairway Allison is disappearing down.
“Fine,” Derek says cooly. “You should both be here after class tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Scott says, frustrated, and immediately takes off after Allison, leaving Stiles alone in the corridor with Derek.
Scott is such a great friend sometimes, Stiles can’t even believe it.
Stiles doesn’t have anywhere else to go, so he makes for their door at a quick clip, but Derek, after lagging behind for a second, taken by surprise, outpaces Stiles within a couple of steps, triumphantly reaching the door first and throwing it open.
Stiles walks straight past him into the apartment, going for his bedroom before he reconsiders, turning around and walking back to Derek, still locking the door.
“What the hell was that?” he asks helplessly, baffled, completely at a loss. “What was any of that?”
“What?” Derek asks cautiously.
“Seriously?” Stiles groans. “Seriously.” He turns his back on Derek, hoping not having to see his stupid face will magically conjure up some calmness. No such luck. “You mean that, don’t you, you have no idea there was any sort of problem there.”
“No,” Derek says slowly, “that was a very awkward situation. I brought it to your attention, of course I know!”
“Not—“ Stiles drops his head to his hand. He does not have the strength for this. “I know you noticed the pink-haired werewolf in the room, Derek, that was very clear to all involved. I’m talking about everything that happened after that. You’re just totally satisfied with how all that went down, right?”
Derek looks uncomfortable. “It’s not something I’ve encountered before.”
“Having to deal with a strange werewolf living in my territory before, in shared territory I can’t defend. I tried—”
“I tried to make things as easy as possible. I’m sorry I didn’t succeed, but given the circumstances, I had no choice.”
Derek’s fur is rubbed against the grain, Stiles gets it. But. “You’re incredibly difficult to deal with, you know that?”
Sulkily, Derek says, “You’re difficult to deal with.”
“You’re just completely irrational.”
Derek looks wounded for a second, before his face blanks. “I’m not. My actions are completely logical if you understand the language of the community and the expectations of the people who form it. Scott gets it. You don’t understand.”
“So make me!” Stiles says, all out of patience. “Let me! Just fucking tell me, Derek.”
“What do you want to know?” Derek asks, jaw clenched.
“Everything!” Stiles yells, then realises that might be a bit of a tall order. “Will you just answer a goddamn question for once in your life!”
“Ask!” Derek says, eyes wide, hands spread, all amiable invitation and utterly annoying.
“You didn’t know she was going to be there, did you?” Stiles asks, and he knows Derek didn’t, but he needs to be sure. “That wasn’t some sort of test, the way Lochlann was, was it? Because you know you can’t do that, right?”
“I didn’t know and I didn’t do anything.”
“That wasn’t your werewolf boss, those were humans who share our building. I pass those people going up and down the stairs every day. You did something.”
Derek goes shifty-eyed. “I was just sta—clarifying the position. All those humans shouldn’t have seen it, but it had to be done.”
“Why? What was so bad about Howie picking me up? He didn’t mean anything by it, he was just being friendly!”
Derek’s jaw hardens again. “It was inappropriate. I was very kind to him, considering.”
“And now he’s not being friendly anymore. Thanks.”
“Mission accomplished,” Derek says, cockily.
“Oh, so I can’t have other friends, that’s what you’re saying.”
“No,” Derek says, frustrated again, and he can join the club. Stiles is president. “That isn’t what I meant. There are different rules for—“ He stops, swallows, starts again. “There are different rules for people who know what you are.”
“What I am?” Stiles says. “I’m nothing! I’m a human too, Derek, I know you don’t forget, I’m reminded often enough!”
“What we are,” Derek clarifies.
“No,” Stiles says, “no, let’s backtrack.”
“Fine,” Derek says breezily. “Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re part of my pack, as he is part of her pack, despite being even worse at it than you are. Things would go a lot more smoothly if you stopped trying to deny it.”
“I’m not trying to deny anything, okay, you’ve said that before but it doesn’t make sense! I’m not a werewolf. How could I be part of the pack?”
“You are,” Derek says, like he actually thinks Stiles won’t notice that’s not an answer.
Stiles jabs a finger in Derek’s face, not even caring if Derek bites it off. “What does that mean!”
“It means you should start behaving like it,” Derek growls. “And it means other werewolves, and people who are aware of us, should know enough to treat you like it.”
“Treat me like what?”
“Like you’re part of the pack! The way you’re supposed to—he should have known, he may not have known what he was doing but he should have. Stephanie should have told him.”
“The way you’re telling me?” Stiles asks. “Because I’m still not really getting anything. What should Stephanie have told him?”
Derek looks away. “She should have told him not to touch you. It was a challenge to my authority. He should have known that.”
“I didn’t know that,” Stiles says softly.
“You should have known,” Derek says sharply.
“Yeah, well, you should have told me.”
Derek shrugs. Stiles is taking that as agreement. “You know now. The same rules apply within the pack, to a lesser degree.”
“So if Scott slaps me on the back you’re going to freak out again?”
“I did not freak—never mind. No. If it’s contact you’re not objecting to, it’s fine. To a degree.”
“To what degree?” Stiles asks suspiciously.
“To a degree to be determined by me.” Stiles wants to laugh, but Derek doesn’t seem in the mood to be made fun of.
“You’re going to have to spell that out for me,” Stiles says.
“I’m not unreasonable,” Derek says, and he’s still a terrible liar. “We should play it by ear.”
“By ear?” Stiles asks sceptically. “I don’t think that’s going to work out for us.”
“It’s working out fine so far,” Derek says, and Stiles gapes, can’t do anything else. “Mostly. Right?”
Stiles just doesn’t have the heart. “Sure,” he says helplessly, against his better judgement. “I guess you could say that.” Stiles has just said it, even if it was a total lie: you can say anything.
“With the odd blip,” Derek continues. “But we can get that straightened out.”
“Let’s,” says Stiles, enthusiastically if sceptically. “Educate me. Teach me what I need to know to stop you from being a crazy person. I am ready and willing to learn.”
Derek glares, but Stiles is inured to it by now.
“I feel like you should know.”
“Well, I don’t, you big girl,” Stiles says, knowing he’s taking his life in his hands but feeling completely justified.
Derek huffs. “Not like that, it’s just really obvious stuff that I think you should be able to recognise.”
A little stung, Stiles says, “Clearly I can’t, so you’ll have to explain.”
Tilting his head back, eyes to heaven, Derek says, “Clearly. Fine. Well, the other night with Danny and Jackson — I can’t see how you don’t understand how that would annoy me.”
It’s Stiles’ turn to glare. Derek responds quickly; Stiles can see why he does it so often. “It’s my bed, it’s my space—you get it, right?”
“That isn’t an explanation, so no.”
“No.” Derek lets out a long breath. “I don’t have to explain myself.” Stiles is about to protest when he says, “Usually, I mean. I’m not used to it.”
“Do it anyway.”
“Yeah. Look, this town isn’t mine. It should be — not this town specifically, but a pack needs to be in its own territory. Even before Stephanie moved in, this building wasn’t mine. There’s a reason I stayed in my family’s old house in Beacon Hills. It’s mine, and that matters. Here, the only territory I control is this apartment. And you’re here, and that’s fine, because you’re pack, and Jackson needs to be close all the time, and that’s fine too, but it’s my space, and it’s my decision who’s in it.”
“So you’ll let Jackson and Danny in but not me.”
“No,” Derek says. “That isn’t it. It’s my bed, and they were in it at my invitation. You had never been in it before, you hadn’t been invited, and you shouldn’t have been there without it.”
“And that bothered you.”
Stiles nods. “So you’ll let them in but not me.”
“You didn’t ask,” Derek growls. “Don’t act like I refused.”
“You did, you—“ Stiles breaks off, unwilling to get side-tracked. “Never mind.”
“And Jackson knew that. He shouldn’t have taken it upon himself to bring you in. He had no right.”
“Oh.” Derek sounds angry. Stiles is surprised; it seems like Jackson gets away with everything lately. “So you weren’t mad at me?”
“I didn’t blame you.”
That’s close enough for Stiles. He doesn’t know why he feels relieved, but there’s no point denying it. “Okay. So—“ Stiles isn’t going to ask. He doesn’t want to sleep in Derek’s bed; he just didn’t want to be the only one who wasn’t allowed.
“So you blame Jackson?”
“He knew what he was doing,” Derek says dryly. “He won’t do it again, don’t worry.”
“Not worried,” Stiles says, “why would I be worried?”
“You don’t have to be.”
“Okay, but why would I be?”
“Because he knew what he was doing and he did it anyway,” Derek says. “And you didn’t realise there was anything wrong with it. It didn’t have any consequences, but if he does it again it might.”
“Because you’ll kill him,” Stiles says. “That, I get.”
“No,” Derek says, “it might have consequences for you. The error might be more serious next time.”
“But you can tell me everything. So I’ll know.”
“I can’t tell you everything, Stiles,” Derek says. “It’s impossible.”
“No, hey, you can—“
“I can’t. It’s easier if you’re a born werewolf, if you’ve grown up with it, but even if you’re turned you pick up so much by pure instinct. I wouldn’t know where to begin and there are things you wouldn’t be capable of understanding.”
“Somewhere’s better than nowhere, right?”
Derek shakes his head. “I wouldn’t even know what I was leaving out.”
“So how does it work?”
“How does what work?”
“With humans? How do they—“ Stiles waves his hand vaguely in circles. “—get all caught up? How does this usually go?”
“It doesn’t usually go like this,” Derek says.
“Yeah, so how does it?”
“This doesn’t usually happen. Humans who become part of the pack don’t tend to stay human.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, weakly. He tries to come up with something more, but he’s at a loss. Derek’s looking at him, and he can’t think of anything else. “Uh—“
Derek smiles slightly. “That’s enough for now, right?” Stiles nods numbly. “Want to go to bed?”
“Do you want to share mine?”
Stiles sighs, can’t help it. “Yeah.”
Stiles gets the bathroom first, so he gets to the bedroom before Derek does, even though he has to go back to his own first to get changed. He sits cautiously on the edge of the bed. He knows Derek won’t mind if he gets in, everything is right this time, but it feels weird being here, would feel weirder lying there in Derek’s bed, waiting for him to climb in after Stiles.
So he just sits there, wriggles a bit, looks around, waiting for Derek to join him outside the covers, which is so much less awkward.
He wants to be here, but Derek’s absence is making him jittery, and he’s started to think about cutting and running when Derek arrives.
“Hey,” Stiles says, trying to be cool, doing the dude chin-jerk of greeting, absolutely sure he looks like a moron.
“Hey,” Derek says, crossing easily to the other side of the bed.
Stiles bounces up like a jack-in-the-box. What if he’s on Derek’s side? Derek just gets in, though, so Stiles drops back down to his place on the bed, patting the covers, smoothing them over, not looking at Derek.
Derek sleeps in his boxers. Stiles normally does too, but he put on pyjama pants and a t-shirt tonight. He doesn’t know why he did it, but he kind of wishes Derek had too. He’s sure he’d be more comfortable then, even if he knows he’s wearing too much and he’s going to be really warm.
Derek reaches for the lightswitch, but Stiles is still sitting frozen, watching Derek move, too daunted to feign ease.
Derek raises his eyebrows impatiently. “Are you going to stay there all night?”
“No,” Stiles says, can’t stop it from coming out combative. He sighs, forces himself under the quilt beside Derek.
It’s a big bed, comfortably contained Danny and Jackson along with Stiles the other night, but it feels a lot smaller now.
Flipping off the light, Derek lies down beside Stiles. There’s quite a stretch of sheet between them, but Stiles shifts restlessly anyway, moving his feet around in discomfort.
Derek gives him a minute before he rumbles out, “Stop twitching,” sounding a little sleepy already.
Stiles is wide awake.
“Okay,” he says, forcing his feet still, trying to calm his heartbeat, keep his breathing regular. He bets Derek is listening. That’s not a helpful thought, sending a spike of adrenaline through him. He shifts again.
Stiles’ fingers are rubbing compulsively against the sheets, the friction warming the soft material, distracting him, until Derek reaches out and stills Stiles’ hand with his own.
“You okay?” Derek asks.
“Fine!” Stiles’ hand spasms, and Derek’s fingers tighten around his. “Totally fine!”
“All right,” Derek says, “good.”
Stiles’ body is quiet, tethered to the bed by the small point of contact with Derek, but his mind is still racing, unsettled. “Why do you do this?”
“It encourages closeness.”
“It gets people dependant on you,” Stiles counters, thinking of Jackson just lying around for hours, waiting for Derek to get home.
“They’re already dependant on me,” Derek says. “They get something out of it. Access, comfort.”
“Yeah. They don’t have that outside your bed?”
Stiles can feel the mattress shift with Derek’s shrug. “They feel it more here. It doesn’t have to be logical, Stiles. It’s the way things have always been done.”
Stiles gets that, he supposes, even if it doesn’t feel right. This isn’t something he’s incapable of understanding, though; he wouldn’t be here if it was.
Derek’s wrong, anyway: there isn’t going to be anything he won’t be able to make himself understand.
Stiles can hear Derek’s even breaths in the silence, feel his own inhalations lengthening to match Derek’s. His body is utterly relaxed, head lolling on the pillow, face drifting towards Derek’s. Stiles can just about make out Derek’s face, all darkness and shadow. He’s looking at the ceiling, but after a second of Stiles’ regard, his fingers stroke over Stiles’ palm, settling into the hollow. Stiles can’t stop his hand from curling into the motion.
“And Jackson doesn’t have the right to offer me access.” See, Stiles gets it.
“No, he doesn’t. That wasn’t on the table.”
“Yeah it was. I’m here now.”
“But Jackson couldn’t offer it to you. He was offering access to himself.”
Stiles wrinkles his nose. “Ew, no he wasn’t, come on.”
Derek is quiet for long enough that his voice breaks into the pleasant swimming haze in Stiles’ head when he speaks. “What do you want, Stiles?”
The unwelcome question shakes Stiles out of his stupor. “Derek, I was just falling asleep,” he says, pretending annoyance, to give himself a couple of seconds to think.
“Sorry,” Derek says. “So?”
“Uh, what do I want out of my life? Where do I want to be in ten years?”
“At the end of the school year? I’d rather just focus on getting through tomorrow.”
“Yeah, what?” Stiles doesn’t know how to answer the question. He doesn’t know what Derek wants him to say, and he doesn’t know what his answer actually is.
“I need to know.”
“I don’t know!” Stiles says, irritated. “Who actually knows what they want? My dad probably couldn’t answer that. What kind of question is that? What do you want?”
Stiles can hear the sheets shift beside him, and when Derek speaks again his voice is closer. “You really don’t have any idea?”
“Okay,” Derek says, and lets his breath out in something that sounds like a sigh. “Go to sleep.”
“What, that’s it? I don’t get an answer?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Derek says.
“It matters to me!”
“Stiles.” Derek reaches out, presses his arm across Stiles’ middle, holding him down like that will somehow shut him up. “Go to sleep.”
Stiles blinks. Derek is facing Stiles, eyes closed. He looks tired. “Fine!”Stiles huffs. “You’re the one who woke me up!”
But when he lets his shoulders relax, the rhythm of Derek’s breath recapturing his attention, the only thing he knows is the air gusting against his cheek gently, a comforting sensation, and then nothing.
Stiles awakens to Derek’s face buried in his back, morning stubble scraping his skin. His face is shoved into his pillow, and it’s really fluffy, so much better than the one in his own bed. He can’t bring himself to lift his head.
Derek’s still asleep, so it must be early. He drifts for a while, warm and sleepy and safe, waking again when the alarm on his phone blares.
He feels Derek wake behind him, stiffening. He’s plastered to Stiles’ back, arms wrapped around him, fingers stroking Stiles’ bare sides before he notices and stops himself. This is pretty awkward. Stiles doesn’t even know where his t-shirt is, he wasn’t even drunk last night, and he just knows he’s going to get blamed for this somehow.
Derek doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to retreat, though, hands lax against Stiles’ stomach, his bare skin. “You alive back there, dude?” Stiles asks, after a worrying minute of immobility.
“Yeah,” Derek says, clears his throat, yawns. “Yeah, I’m up.” He lies there for another second, then pats Stiles’ belly before releasing him.
“Where’s my shirt?” Stiles asks, and maybe some unnamed members of the pack would tell him to try not to stick his foot in his mouth, but screw those guys.
“On the floor,” Derek says.
“Okay...” Stiles prompts.
“Oh, you were too warm. I took it off.”
Derek hops up, stretches in what must be counted as a fairly obscene manner. “Rise and shine,” he says, smiling, his eyes crinkling with it, and he’s out the door, leaving Stiles in his dust, in his bed.
When Stiles manages to dress himself and makes it into the living room, Derek already has breakfast on the table, halfway through his. He’s running late today, though given the hours he works, Stiles has no idea what he gets up at this time for anyway.
He takes a bite of his muesli. He thinks it might be homemade. It doesn’t taste like it comes with ten spoonfuls of sugar per bowl, at any rate. He supposes it’s still good.
“What do you have today?” Derek asks.
“Mandarin.”Stiles takes another bite. “What are you doing today?”
“Tonight, right? Maybe this afternoon?”
“So what are you doing this morning?”
“Why?” Derek asks. “What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing, just being nosy.”
“Oh.” Derek goes back to his breakfast.
“Oh.” Derek looks up. “Nothing. Going for a run.Working out.”
He shrugs. “I’ll make lunch, too. And then Jackson’s coming over.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, and makes a mental reminder to pick up a life for Derek, and to phone his Dad about that television.
When Stiles gets home at lunchtime after surviving his second day of classes, Lydia is asleep on his couch, mascara smeared across her face, lipgloss but a distant memory.
“Hey,” Stiles says loudly, poking her. “Up, get up, wake up!” She moans in protest, turns over, giving Stiles her back and hiding her face against the couch cushion.
“She doesn’t wake up that easy,” Jackson says, startling Stiles. When Stiles spins around, he’s lounging in the doorway of Derek’s bedroom, amused.
“Bastard,” Stiles says, because he is. Jackson’s eyes narrow, but what’s Jackson going to do, go cry on Derek’s shoulder?
“Did you make lunch?” Stiles asks.
“No,” Jackson says, and there’s the pout, right on schedule.
“Well are you going to, or—do we even have anything?” He goes to check.
“Derek made lunch,” Jackson says. “You’re late, you missed it.”
“Great,” Stiles says. “Although if you were here that was probably for the best.”
“Leftovers in the fridge,” Derek says, coming out of his bedroom, and Stiles doesn’t care if he’s doing it now too, it’s still not right that Derek is cuddling Jackson in bed in the middle of the day. Not that Stiles and Derek were cuddling! Not really, it doesn’t count if you’re asleep, and it was all Derek’s fault, anyway. The point is, Jackson is weird.
“Great, thanks,” Stiles says, diving in to look. There’s some kind of soup. Stiles isn’t really a connoisseur of soups, so he has no idea what it is. He tries a spoonful, and he still has no idea what’s in it, but he keeps going. “Did Lydia just get in?”
“Yes,” Derek says, disapproval clear in his voice, though Stiles thinks it less about Lydia’s partying, and more about the fact that she’s inflicting the aftermath on him.
“About an hour ago,” Jackson says, like that’s better. “She’ll be up soon, she just needs another few minutes.” He manages to say that like he means it, obviously hoping Derek will have left before she gives him the lie. “Danny’s got to go back to class, he couldn’t make it out for lunch.”
“I’m finished for the day!” Stiles is delighted with this day, and nobody is convincing him otherwise.
Jackson slopes over to lean dejectedly on the counter beside Stiles. “I’m just starting.”
“You’re looking sad, but I know you came over as soon as you got up and Lydia was already asleep on the couch when you got here, right?”
Jackson makes a haughty face and doesn’t respond, like he’s refusing to dignify that with an answer. Stiles laughs, choking on his soup. “You can’t lie, don’t even try, you haven’t gotten any better since that time you almost got us killed by Allison’s dad, remember that? You’re a worse liar than Pinocchio.”
Jackson’s face has changed to ‘mortally offended’, but he just says, “Mr. Argent wouldn’t have killed us,” like that has anything to do with anything. Stiles laughs harder, can’t stop. Derek is still standing in the middle of the floor, staring at him in bemusement. It’s turning into one of those really embarrassing laughs, getting worse every time he looks at Jackson’s face, and he’s afraid he’s going to honk at any second. It’s been known to happen, but please god, not in this company.
Jackson, evidently realising Stiles isn’t going to stop of his own accord, raises his voice to override Stiles’ hysteria. “What are you doing for the rest of the day Stiles?”
Stiles tries to answer, but ends up waving his hand randomly in Jackson’s general direction, unable to even make a coherent hand gesture.
“Finished with classes for the day?”
“Yeah, he is,” Derek says, the stalker, although if Jackson is asking the question he must know the answer too.
“Oh, that’s great, it’s wonderful to have so much free time, isn’t it?” Stiles is getting things under control, but he still can’t speak. “Specially when you have so many new friends to spend it with, right?”
“What new friends?” Derek asks, suddenly alert. “Stephanie?” Paranoid, Stiles thinks fondly.
Jackson furrows his brow maliciously. “Was it Stephanie?” he asks thoughtfully. “I thought it was Stacey, but I could be wrong. Stiles is probably kissing so many girls he can’t keep them straight either, right, buddy?” He smiles wide, slaps Stiles on the shoulder hard. “Hopefully he can keep straight the ones he’s arranged to go out with again, though — dating’s kind of awkward around here already, without bringing Stiles into it.”
“Stiles,” Derek growls, and Stiles can see the ripple of the shift starting, Derek’s fingernails lengthening, thickening into claws.
“No, no, no!” Stiles yells in alarm. Derek doesn’t seem to be listening, though, and Stiles freaks out, turning to Jackson and slapping at him in an attempt to get him to do something to stop this, but Jackson just looks panicked, giving Stiles wide, scared eyes and a shrug.
“Dude!” Stiles howls, and it may not be a real howl, a werewolf howl, but it’s the closest Stiles has ever come, and that’s before he sees that something is happening to Derek’s face, skin shifting like tectonic plates, flesh swelling and distorting. It’s gross.
“You should maybe not do this?” Jackson suggests tentatively, then, more confident, “This is a bad idea, Derek.” He looks crestfallen when Derek ignores him, and vaguely frightened for Stiles which is just pants-wettingly reassuring, really. “I’m just going to wake Lydia,” he tells Stiles, and makes a break for the other side of the room, ducking behind the couch to wake his ex-girlfriend so she can save them, and taking the excuse to hide like a coward, the sofa and Lydia’s body between him and the problem still developing.
Derek’s gotten taller when Stiles gives up on anyone helping with this and turns back to him. It’s the middle of the afternoon in the kitchen; Stiles is still holding the soup Derek made earlier, trying not to slosh it all over the floor. Derek might be annoyed by that, after. Yeah, after this is over, Derek wouldn’t like that Stiles had done that. Never having seen the change in full anatomical close-up gross-out, view unhindered by shadow, distance, or the werewolf bolting as is still common practice round these parts, Stiles is fascinated. He’s also regretting the soup: he feels like he’s going to puke a little bit.
He can’t stop staring at all the tiny, snowballing changes in Derek’s face, the lurch and stretch of his body, and he has to gasp air in before he can speak, but his voice is steady when he says, “Dude, stop, come on. I’m trying to eat here.” Derek’s still getting bigger. “It’s putting me off my food, not gonna lie. And really, that’s what you’re going to do, you’re just going to wolf out on me over nothing here, like you’re Scott?” He sticks a finger in Derek’s face, and he thinks Derek is listening now, so his hand isn’t shaking as much as it had been a second ago. “Like you can’t control it? You can’t stop?”
That’s all he has. Is Lydia still asleep? He can’t take his eyes off Derek to check, can’t drop his finger, like he’s actually putting faith in it keeping Derek at bay, which is crazy, he knows, okay, but it’s the only thing he has and Derek isn’t moving, isn’t growing larger. He isn’t fully transformed, and he starts growling, a low constant sound, and then it’s the soundtrack to a different transformation, muscles quivering, tightening, contracting, hair disappearing and skin smoothing. Stiles keeps his gaze on Derek’s chest for this part of it, and when he can bring himself to meet Derek’s eyes again they’re his regular icy blue, looking straight back at Stiles. He looks furious, but the growl cuts off, and Stiles can hear his own heavy breaths in the silence. He still feels nauseous.
He turns his back on Derek, leaning over the sink, arms numb on the steel, and he isn’t quite sure he won’t faceplant on the draining board. He’s okay, now, he’s pretty sure, and his whole body is shaking in reaction.
“Stiles,” Derek says, from behind him, too loud, too close, and “Stiles!” when he doesn’t get an answer, insistent.
“Derek!” Lydia’s voice is shocked, and Stiles can hear her scramble over the back of the couch, the thump of her feet on the floor as she crosses to him. Derek emits another low growl, but Stiles flinches, and Lydia grabs him, yanking him around to face Derek, but keeping herself between them, and Stiles has never been so grateful that she always has to run the show. He’s always liked that quality about her. “Take a powder,” she instructs, and drags Stiles past Derek, past Jackson, gets him over the hurdle of his own stumbling feet and into his bedroom.
Once she’s slammed the door, the first thing she does is round on Stiles and demand, “So this is all your fault, right?”
Stiles is so not in the mood to take this crap. “Wrong,” he says, definite. “That had almost nothing to do with me.”
Lydia smiles patronisingly. “Right,” she says. "What did you do?"
Stiles has no idea. "What could I possibly have done? Absolutely nothing!"
“Whatever,” she says, with a quick roll of her eyes, and dismisses the issue, which means she knows he’s right. “I’m not saying it’s rational, but I’m not criticising my alpha.” She throws Stiles a filthy look, blaming him despite reality giving her no reason or excuse. She sits down on his bed, kicks off her shoes. “We should stay in here for a little while.” She sounds drowsy again, but her eyes are alert. “Maybe until Derek goes to work?”
“No,” Stiles says, like that’s ridiculous, but it takes him a moment to finish the thought. “No, I’m not hiding from Derek in here.” Lydia makes a face and gestures widely, encompassing Stiles and the room, where he’s hiding right now. “Just for a couple minutes,” he hedges.
She yawns. “Fine. Wake me when you’ve calmed down.” Her head is barely on the pillow before she’s sitting back up. “Why does your bed smell like Derek?” she asks, eyes narrowed accusingly.
“Uh, does it?” Stiles wouldn’t know; he hasn’t slept in his own bed since Derek hijacked it. “He just needed someplace to stay."
“In his own home.”
“His bed was full,” Stiles says innocently.
“Full of what?”
“People! What else?”
“No reason he wouldn’t be in it too. But if he was in your bed, you must—“ She closes her eyes, just for a second. “He couldn’t sleep in his bed because you were in it. And he wouldn’t get in and he wouldn’t kick you out. Who were you with, Scott?”
“Jackson,” Stiles says.
“Jackson.” Her eyebrows rise so far he thinks they’re going to jump right off her face.
“So? I’m allowed now, so it doesn’t matter. I still don’t think it was fair that I was the only one not allowed.”
“You’re allowed now.” She breathes out jerkily, looking distressed for a moment before her face smooths, just a ripple through water. “You feel the need to foster closeness with Derek? Really? You?” At least she’s polite about her incredulity.
“No. Maybe.” He pulls his pointing finger out again, because it’s worked for him once today. “None of your business.”
She glares at his finger, and maybe he’s never really been worried that Derek will bite it off, because his first instinct with Lydia is to snatch it away, curling his hand into a fist protectively.
“So what did you do?” she asks, snappish now. “To set Derek off?”
“Nothing!” Stiles defends. “Absolutely nothing! I mean, I guess he was mad because he thought I was going to bring this girl over to the apartment for a date, but that wasn’t even what Jackson said, never mind something I would actually do. He completely overreacted!” Stiles pauses. “He isn’t listening to me, is he?”
“Oh, most definitely!” Lydia says brightly, not even bothering to check. “So what did Jackson say?”
“If he didn’t say anything about the apartment, what did he say?”
Stiles shrugged. “He just told him about Stacey.”
Stiles blushes. “Ask Jackson.”
“Never mind, I can guess,” she says glumly. She presses the heels of her hands against her eyes, and when she looks at Stiles she’s upset, not even attempting to hide it. “I genuinely can’t believe this,” she says quietly, “not even a little bit. I mean, seriously? You?”
“Of all people.”
“What do you mean, me of all people? What’s wrong with me? And what are we even talking about here?”
“Nothing,” she says, “never mind. It doesn’t matter. I just can’t believe I wasted so much—I can’t believe I thought—“ Her eyes, which had been growing steadily more distant as she threw herself a little pity party on Stiles’ bed, snap back into focus purely so she can frown angrily at him. “No, you know what, it does matter. It does,” she repeats, convincing herself, jaw wobbling.
“What does?” Stiles asks, completely baffled.
That seems to snap her out of it, because she’s up on her knees in a flash, fuming. “I do, damn it.”
Stiles thinks he might rather be outside, with crazy, out of control Derek. He fumbles for the doorknob. “How’re things out there?” he asks. “We set?”
“I guess,” Lydia says indifferently. “They’re gone.”
Stiles slams his bedroom door open, tumbling out into the living room, glancing around the empty space with growing outrage. It feels pretty good, actually, so he dwells on it a little, lets it fill him, lets the temper push out the last of the fear.
“Yeah.” Lydia doesn’t deem that worthy of a response, twirling her hair around her finger pointedly. “I don’t know why I thought he might not be a jerk.”
“Oh, whatever,” Lydia says, exasperated. “He had to work, but he said not to have anybody over while he’s gone.”
“Seriously,” Stiles says, “he wasn’t enough of a bitch about that already? And stop talking to each other about me behind my back with your stupid super-hearing!”
“I don’t know why I sometimes think that you might not be an idiot,” Lydia grits, and turns her back on him, going into Derek’s room.
What is it with Derek’s bed? If it secretly has magic fingers and nobody told him, Stiles is going to be so mad. He follows her into the room just in time to see her climb in, stripped to a vest and her underwear.
“I’m coming in too!” he warns, and tries to yank his shirt off over his head too quickly, getting a finger caught in a buttonhole, an arm caught in a cuff, and almost strangling himself before working it off. He lost a button, he thinks, but he feels victorious. He kicks off his trainers but leaves his trousers on, because he’s totally normal, no matter what stupidity he may be wilfully engaging in right now.
“Derek won’t like this,” she says, but Stiles isn’t afraid anymore, and he is ignoring all ridiculousness.
When he crawls in beside her, settling down under the covers, familiar to him now, Lydia folds her arms and cocks an eyebrow at him. “I win,” he says.
“You win,” she says, sarcasm saccharine-sweet.
“I do,” Stiles says, shrugging. “Point proved.”
He has to think about that for a second. “You’re not better than me,” he says, because it’s the only way he can think to verbalise it, and it feels close enough to the truth.
Lydia nods, holds it for too long. “Yes I am,” she contradicts half-heartedly. Before she turns her head away Stiles sees that she’s about to cry or scowl, and he can’t tell which, so he changes the subject, desperately trying to get rid of that face. “Really, though, what’s wrong with Derek? I mean, I know he’s all weird about us being super, super careful, but I wasn’t going to have her over, come on, he didn’t really think that, did he? Jackson was just messing with me.”
“You should talk to Derek,” Lydia says reluctantly, “because it seems like it worked. Things usually work out for Jackson.”
“Eh,” Stiles says, thinking of Jackson determined to take a class he hates, “not really.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing works out for everybody,” he says, sidestepping.
“What isn’t working out for Jackson?” she presses.
“Nothing. And what are you even doing here? Are you just going to hang around all day waiting for Derek to get home from work?”
“No,” she says, but doesn’t offer any additional information, like what exactly she might be doing instead. Stiles doesn’t know why werewolves think they can lie to him and get away with it, like their ability to detect an increase in heartbeat somehow works in reverse, shielding them from detection. They’re all terrible liars.
“Derek isn’t going to be back for hours.”
“Yes, Stiles, I noticed.” She addresses the wall, like she thinks it’s the more interesting conversationalist.
“So why do you want to be here?”
“I don’t,” she says, after a minute. “I don’t want to be here.”
She doesn’t move, doesn’t look at Stiles.
“Don’t you have class this afternoon?” he prompts. “You missed this morning and it’s only your second day. You should at least show up before you decide you’d rather spend your mornings puking.”
“I don’t puke,” she says, but she throws off the covers and grabs her clothes on her way to the door, so he’s taking that as a win, even if he suspects she’s at least as much trying to get away from him as she is taking his excellent advice.
Stiles only believes in taking other people’s advice, not his own, so he lies back and lets himself drowse, not worrying about time slipping away or what anyone walking in on him will think. He isn’t weird; other people are weird. He’s fine. The bed’s comfortable and warm. He’s safe. He’s allowed to be here. He’s supposed to be here.
He wakes up to a shadowed room and Derek standing over the bed.
“Have you been there long?” he mutters, rubbing his eyes. Derek doesn’t answer, still staring down like somebody Stiles should report to the police. “Because that’s really creepy, just saying. I thought only vampires were supposed to be this type of creep.”
“Didn’t we just talk about this?” Derek rumbles.
Stiles stretches, but he’s really relaxed; even Derek’s growliness isn’t enough to get him out of this bed right now. He pats the mattress beside him invitingly, but Derek doesn’t take him up on the offer. “Talk about what?” he asks, not really caring.
“You sharing my bed with other people in my absence.”
“Oh.” Stiles blinks. He isn’t in the mood for this. He knows he needs to, let’s say, communicate his displeasure to Derek over that small incident earlier, but can’t they postpone the whole thing for a little while? He’s still half-asleep. If Derek would just get into bed, they could both go back to sleep until they felt better. Foolproof plan.Stiles flips over onto his stomach and sprawls, spreading out onto Derek’s side, hoping he’ll take the hint, but he’s still looming, so Stiles says, “I thought we settled it. I thought it was fine. All taken care of.”
“Evidently not,” Derek says, but he sits on the bed, so that’s something.
“You should take off those clothes,” Stiles says, looking him over. “You can’t sleep like that.” In response, Derek yanks on Stiles’ earlobe. “Ow!” Stiles shoots up, clapping a hand to his ear. “What was that for?”
“We’re not sleeping, we’re talking. You’re going to listen this time.”
“Wait, what?” Stiles asks, mad again, great. “You don’t want me in here with Lydia? Why not, there was nobody else around, who cares!”
“For one thing, as discussed, it’s a challenge to my authority.”
“You said I was allowed! I wasn’t trying to challenge you, Jesus! Lydia wouldn’t either, she said you wouldn’t like it!”
“And yet,” Derek says slowly, like Stiles is stupid, and needs the extra seconds to understand the words.
Stiles gestures extravagantly, but Derek doesn’t seem to take that as the winning argument it undeniably is. “What? What’s the second thing?”
Derek sighs and rubs his eyes, looking tired. He’d be a lot happier if they were asleep right now, as Stiles had been very effectively demonstrating. This is all his own fault for not following Stiles’ lead. “I told you what I needed you to do. I thought you understood. I can’t keep going around in circles here.”
“So, what, I just have to do whatever you say or you’re going to flip out?”
“Yes,” Derek says, “that’s usually how it works. Some things are open to negotiation, but given that you just disobeyed me, this isn’t one of them.”
Stiles shifts uncomfortably under his stare, but Derek doesn’t look away. “And this is how it is all the time? We all just have to do whatever you say.”
Derek hesitates. “You, not so much, usually. But things are unsettled right now.”
“Because I’m a human?”
Derek shrugs. “Nothing in particular,” he lies. “You’d be just as much trouble as a wolf.”
“That’s the truth,” Stiles says, because it is. “Want to try telling me why again?”
“No,” Derek says. “I need you to stop fighting me on this.”
Stiles exhales, frustrated beyond belief. “I can’t — I don’t know if I can do that.”
“I need you to,” Derek repeats, like that’s all there is to it, Stiles just has to agree and easy, everything’s fine!
“Yeah, well, I need you not to lose your mind and change in the middle of the day a week before the full moon. Think you can do that for me or is it just too much for you?”
That makes Derek drop his eyes, which is a relief. Stiles feels his shoulders loosen. “That was a mistake,” Derek says.
“Oops, you spilled the milk?” Stiles asks, disbelieving. “I can’t even think about agreeing to what you’re asking when you’re going to turn around and pull this crap on me. I hadn’t even done anything wrong!”
“The two aren’t connected,” Derek says, eyes sliding away, shoulders twitching.
“Like hell!” Stiles says. “You were so out of control, for no reason, how’m I supposed to—“
Derek straightens, meets Stiles’ eyes. “It won’t happen again.”
Stiles thinks it’s sweet that Derek actually believes that, but he can’t maintain the smile it brings. “Yes, it will.”
“No, it won’t,” Derek says, temper flaring.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “You can’t even keep it under wraps for twenty seconds!”
Derek settles back down, fuming. “I realise it was an inappropriate reaction,” he allows tightly. “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it.”
“Doesn’t mean you wouldn’t do it again,” Stiles says.
Derek closes his eyes. “I won’t,” he says, resolute.
“So you don’t want to,” Stiles says, “but—“
Derek’s face darkens, but he keeps it under control. “You need to trust me,” he says, flatly, like it’s nothing, like he thinks Stiles can just do that, like Stiles can do any of this.
Stiles’ mouth works, trying to come up with a response to that independent of his brain, which is spinning its wheels uselessly. Derek waits for a long time before Stiles says, “You haven’t given me a reason to.”
“I haven’t given you a reason not to,” Derek says after a moment, which from his point of view is probably almost the truth, Stiles thinks. Almost. “I won’t.”
And he believes that, Stiles knows he does; he just doesn’t know whether it’s possible for Derek keep his word.
“What was that?” he asks, the right question for the first time, but he doesn’t like how pleading it sounds, so he cuts himself off, even though he wants to press, feels like he needs to press to get an honest response out of Derek.
“It was nothing,” Derek says, proving Stiles’ point.
“No,” Stiles says, “tell me.”
Derek looks away first. “It was a threat to the integrity of the pack.”
“What was? I was?”
“No,” Derek says, “no, not you, not—what Jackson was implying.”
“It wasn’t even true,” Stiles says, can’t help it, even though he knows that’s just feeding into this.
“I know. But I thought it was, and I overreacted, okay?” He’s annoyed again, but Stiles isn’t worried by it, and at this point both of those things are bizarrely reassuring. Derek’s jaw clenches, and he forces it to relax. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“Okay,” Stiles says, incredulous, “okay.”
Derek takes that as acceptance of his apology, rather than the random blurt of acknowledgement it was meant as.
“Good. It won’t happen again.”
Stiles would forgive Derek in a second if he thought he could believe that. “You know something else is going to make you want to do it, right? What happens if Danny and Jackson have a fight and Danny doesn’t come around for a month?”
“That would be understandable—“
“Or Lydia gets a new boyfriend and a new group of friends and decides the only time she needs to see any of us is for the full moon?”
“That won’t happen,” Derek says, but his eyes shift away.
“I know, but what if it does?”
“Stiles,” Derek says, exasperated now, which is totally unfair. “I won’t be in that situation again. It just took me by surprise, anyway.”
“Other things are going to take you by surprise.”
“Derek,” Stiles interrupts, “I just need a reason to believe you, okay?”
“You shouldn’t need a reason,” Derek says, but Stiles can’t even let himself consider that, and, “I won’t allow myself to do that again,” Derek says eventually, patient. “It would be counterproductive.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, mere acknowledgment again. “It would be bad for the pack?”
“It would, at that,” Derek says, amused.
Stiles is not amused by anything right now, and he doesn’t appreciate Derek laughing at him. “So why’d you do it?”
Derek’s smile fades fast. “I couldn’t help it. It was instinct. It won’t get the better of me again.”
It takes a minute, but, “Okay,” Stiles says, and means it this time, if only because he doesn’t see that he has any real choice. “Just—“
“Yeah,” Derek says, and that’s enough for Stiles. He lies back down, closing his eyes and rubbing his knuckles hard over his forehead. There’s a headache gathering. “Do you want something for that?” Derek asks, and Stiles startles at the unexpected touch of Derek’s fingertips against his temple.
He throws caution to the wind, because he wants this disaster over with. “Is this a good time to tell you that I did agree to go out with that girl again?”
Derek’s hand falls to the pillow beside Stiles’ head, hazy darkness filling Stiles’ vision. Stiles grabs Derek’s hand and tries to move it, then angles his head to see around it when Derek is resistant. Derek doesn’t look mad. It’s surprising. Derek always looks mad, even when Stiles hasn’t just maybe given him a reason.
Stiles feels like Derek should be mad, but Derek’s never been real good at concealing his temper, Stiles doubts he could start now. Maybe he isn’t angry. Maybe he’s just as tired of all this as Stiles is.
“So?” Stiles asks, hoping Derek isn’t about to start yelling.
“So what?” Derek asks, and it doesn’t even sound like a slight, which—A lot of the time the way Derek speaks to Stiles makes it clear that Stiles is barely tolerated. Stiles doesn’t know why this situation would be any different, but he’s grateful.
“Okay,” he says, because he’s established that word means nothing and he’s hardly willing to admit any of this to himself, let alone give Derek any indication of it whatsoever. He’s sure Derek’s newly discovered lenience wouldn’t extend far enough to spare him mockery for gratitude, god.
He covers his eyes with his palm, blocking out the light. Can headaches be psychosomatic, or is that just a stress headache? He needs to figure that out tomorrow. After it’s gone. Everything can wait until this has gone away.
Derek makes an impatient noise and then his fingertips are digging into the vulnerable flesh at Stiles’ hairline. That isn’t where the headache is at all, and Derek is exerting enough force that Stiles thinks his fingers might just push through skin and bone. It isn’t exactly a pleasant sensation, but it’s incredibly distracting, forcing Stiles to focus on it, and Stiles hears himself make a noise of relief from a long way away, echoing in his head, throbbing. He grabs Derek’s hands, tries to press closer. Derek doesn’t even pull Stiles off, just drags him along as he moves his fingers around Stiles’ head, sharp pressure and temporary reprieve everywhere he touches. Stiles is vaguely aware that he’s clinging to Derek’s hands like a limpet.
Derek’s hands stay curved hard around Stiles’ skull for a moment, before he says, “This isn’t going to work,” and pulls them away.
“No, no, it’s working!” Stiles protests, blinking his eyes open reluctantly.
“Not well enough. I’ll be back in a minute.” Derek vanishes out the door.
Stiles carefully tries probing at his own head, but he can’t do it right. When Derek comes back, he’s carrying something fizzing in a glass, and Stiles knocks it back as directed, hoping it’s something strong, not that homeopathic stuff Derek swears by. Scott made him try it once, and Stiles gave it the benefit of the doubt: maybe it works on werewolves. He doubts it.
Derek settles down beside him on the bed, jacket gone. “Do you want to go to sleep?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Stiles decides. “You?”
“I can stay,” Derek says, which Stiles does realise isn’t an answer, and what time is it, anyway? “Seven,” Derek says. “I’ll wake you in the morning.”
Stiles had a later bedtime in first grade, but he isn’t up to protesting. “Lie down,” he says crossly, and he hears Derek move around until his head is on the pillow too. He’s on top of the covers, but Stiles supposes that’s okay. He probably has to go to work soon. “Don’t let me keep you.” Derek doesn’t reply.
“You’re not mad?” Stiles asks after a while. The fizz must be kicking in, because he’s feeling pretty good.
There’s a rustle, and Derek’s breath is on Stiles’ face. “I’m not mad,” Derek says. “I wish you wouldn’t do this.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, “but I can’t just not do anything.” He’s relaxing quickly now, reassured, comfortable again, and he doesn’t even know if he’s making any sense. “I need to do something, you know?”
Derek’s quiet for a long time, and Stiles thinks maybe he’s fallen asleep beside him, on top of the blankets in his jeans. Stiles should wake him up for work, but he’s too close to sleep himself to do more than think it, struggling to stay conscious, worry nudging at him. Then Derek says, “I wish she wasn’t what you wanted,” and Stiles knows he’s still awake, so everything’s all right, everything’s perfect, and Stiles lets himself go.
The room is pitch black when Stiles wakes again, and he stubs his toe on the dresser on his way to the door. It’s half eleven, and the apartment is empty.
It’s too late to do anything, too late to phone anybody, so gets dressed and wanders the wrong way down the deserted street, away from the college. He hasn’t gone this way yet. He stops at the first fast-food place he comes to. He isn’t hungry, but he hasn’t eaten and he’s supposed to be old enough to look after himself now.
He doesn’t meet anyone on the way back either. The food is awful, but he forces himself through it, washes and dries his plate. Then it’s after midnight and he has nothing else to do, so he goes back to bed.
There’s a missed call from his dad, one from Scott and a text from Stacey. She wants to meet for coffee tomorrow afternoon. It’s too late to text back, but he knows he’s going to do it. She’s a nice girl, and he just wants to see. He needs to see.
He needs something else, needs something to change. He isn’t going back to Beacon Hills at the end of the year the same way he left, watching Scott and Allison be perfect together, watching all his friends belong to something he doesn’t, no matter what Derek says. He isn’t going to be the person who devotes himself to something he has no part of.
He can have something of his own. It’s true, he knows it is. He can find something he wants.
The front door opens, but Stiles doesn’t bother getting up. He can hear Derek moving around outside, opening and shutting the fridge, running water, moving around restlessly. It takes a couple of minutes, but he shows up in the doorway, taking Stiles in as he pulls off his t-shirt.
“Still in bed?” he asks.
“Back in bed,” Stiles says. “Pretty much still in bed, yeah.”
“You slept all day.”
That’s true. Stiles doesn’t really have a comeback, but it doesn't feel like a criticism, so he stays quiet. Derek folds his clothes before he drops them on the floor. He watches Stiles until he snaps off the light, and Stiles knows Derek can still see him, but he can pretend. The bed has shrunk since the last time they shared it; Derek was not this close to him then. Stiles twitches against his will, and Derek turns him away, shoves him over onto his side, settles him with a hand on his hip.
Stiles knows that’s a temporary fix, but he’s going to be tossing and turning all night, so he’ll take it. He falls asleep before Derek does.
He doesn’t stir until morning, when he’s woken by Lydia looming over the bed, staring down at him. When he realises this isn’t a nightmare he jumps out of his skin, flails out of bed, lands hard on the floor. Jackson laughs briefly behind Lydia, and Derek pulls himself to the edge of the bed to peer over at Stiles, mostly still asleep. Lydia continues to stare. It’s a stare of judgement. Stiles has received enough of them from Lydia that he’d hoped to have become immune by now, but no such luck.
“Good morning,” Derek says pointedly.
It doesn’t make an impression on Lydia, but Jackson says, “I made breakfast!” and bolts, like a normal person. Lydia appears to be sticking around to pretend not to be glaring at Derek while he dresses, so Stiles leaves the room without another word.
“What the hell,” he asks Jackson, but there’s no possible answer to that so Jackson just shrugs.
“Sure,” Stiles says, although he’s a little bit afraid of salmonella, here. “Let me just—“ He jerks his thumb towards his bedroom, and he almost makes it there before Lydia comes out of Derek’s room.
“He throw you out?” Jackson asks. Mean.
Lydia flips her hair, a controlled movement. “Where’s Danny, Jackson?” she asks sweetly.
Jackson flushes. “How should I know?”
“Oh, no, you don’t know?” she coos sympathetically. “I’m sorry.”
“Where’s the dude from last night?” Jackson asks.
“I don’t care!” she says triumphantly.
Stiles scrambles for his bedroom door.
“Get back here, Stilinsky!” she yells. “We haven’t even gotten to you yet! What do you even need to go into your room for? With the amount of time you’ve been spending in Derek’s bed lately I assumed he had everything you needed.”
Derek emerges from his room, fully dressed and furious. Stiles dives into his bedroom without a backwards glance.
He stands there for a second with no idea what to do about anything, then dives on his chest of drawers, looking for something clean to wear to class. He has to go to class now, he can go, he can leave. Maybe not right away, Lydia and Jackson have class too, it’ll look weird if he leaves before they do. Maybe if he just buttons up his shirt very slowly, maybe that will buy him some — nope, done.
Teeth! He needs to brush his teeth.
He needs to know what’s going on outside before he opens the door, though. He presses his ear to the wood, but it doesn’t help, he still can’t hear anything, so he drops to his knees and tries to listen through the keyhole. Nothing. He stands up, braces himself, and opens the door, speeding through the sitting room.
Derek and Lydia are glaring at each other in silence over at the kitchen counter. Jackson’s lying on the couch texting, ignoring the universe.
“I’m not inappropriate,” Lydia says angrily. Stiles quickens his stride. “And I’m not—“ He slams the bathroom door behind him.
His dentist would be proud of the length of time he spends brushing his teeth, but eventually his gums start to hurt, and he has to go back out there.
He cracks the door and sidles out, ready to break into a sprint. Derek, Lydia, and Jackson are sitting on the couch, eating their omelettes. “—great TA,” Lydia is saying. “Like, she’s seriously awesome.” They’re all looking at him. “Are you going to stand there all day, Stiles?”
“No,” he says. “No, I have to get to class.” He doesn’t move. They’re still staring at him. “I have to leave now.”
“Eat first,” Derek says, so Stiles goes to get his breakfast.
“I’m going to see if she wants to do something sometime. Maybe go to Dutch’s, that would be cool, right? Because I know the owner!” She says it like it’s news she’s just dying to share with the rest of them, like she’s the only one who knows him. “And the bartender,” she adds, much less enthusiastically. “That’s okay, right?”
“Whatever,” Derek says indifferently. How come Stiles is the only one who isn’t allowed to have other friends? He takes an extra couple of seconds futzing with his food so he won’t start yelling when he sees Derek’s stupid face.
He doesn’t look at Derek or Lydia when he joins them, sitting on the arm of the couch beside Jackson, but Jackson stands up, topples Stiles onto his cushion and steals Stiles’ seat. Stiles is sprawled awkwardly in Derek’s lap, and he’s still holding his plate, so he doesn’t have the leverage to get himself back up. Derek is holding his food over Stiles’ head, like he’s going to use it as a table. He supposes he’s lucky Derek’s reflexes saved Stiles from knocking the food onto the floor; he probably wouldn’t have gotten to eat his own then. On the other hand, he would have had an excuse to leave.
Lydia reaches out a hand and lifts him upright. “They do that, don’t they? She’d like that. I don’t like her hair, though. Apparently she changes it all the time, but that might make it worse. She’s still totally cool, though.” She sounds a little dubious. “Really cool.”
“How do you know so much about your TA’s hairstyle?” Stiles asks, trying to ignore the warm line of Derek against his side.
“Colour,” Lydia says. “And I asked people. Are you new?”
“You asked people about your TA’s haircolour.”
“Not just her haircolour,” Lydia defends. “What she’s into, who she’s friends with, where she hangs out, the usual.”
Derek and Jackson appear to be accepting this with equanimity, so Stiles decides concentrate on his omelette. It’s not bad. It has ham too, but it doesn’t taste like a messy death by food-poisoning. “This is good Jackson, you should make this more often,” Stiles says, pleased. Jackson grunts. Lydia keeps rambling on about her new future bff.
Stiles’ phone vibrates in his pocket, and he pulls it out to read a text from Scott, asking about lunch. It jogs his memory, and he fires off a reply to Stacey, setting something up for this afternoon. He can feel Derek tensing beside him, and he hesitates before sending, but he taps the screen and refuses to think about it.
He’s going to have a good time. Derek won’t mind. Stiles will be good; it will be fine. Everything will be fine.
He leaves for class.
“—at the quad, but I said just to meet at the coffee shop, it’s nearer, that’s cool, right?”
“Yeah,” Scott says, distracted, “there’s nothing wrong with meeting at the coffee shop, it’s just a terrible idea in general, you shouldn’t do it.”
“Why?” Stiles says. He doesn’t want to know, but he doesn’t think Scott has a real reason, or even a considered opinion, and being called on it will get him to back off.
“For myriad reasons, Stiles, all of which I could detail, but I don’t think I need to because do you even like this girl?”
Or not. “Allison nag you into reading those word of the day emails she signed you up for again?”
Scott’s face falls, which is a bit of an extreme reaction to being forced to read a dictionary entry a day. “Yeah, listen, none of that matters anyway, do whatever, it’s your funeral, I don’t care. I need to talk to you about Allison.”
“Thanks dude,” Stiles sighs. “Go ahead.”
“She’s been really weird for the past couple weeks, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. What do you think is wrong with her?”
“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “What has she been saying is wrong with you lately? That might give you an indication.”
“Nothing much,” Scott says, “nothing important. I mean, I guess she was upset the other night? At Stephanie’s, when you and her had to go into the kitchen because Derek was getting all whatever and we didn’t want you to see it? She called me a douchebag and said I was infantilising her. Nothing major.”
Stiles picks his jaw up off the table. “No, dude, I think that might be it. She, you know. Carries a grudge, sometimes. It’s a failing.”
“No it isn’t.” Scott frowns disapprovingly at Stiles.
“I know, I know,” Stiles says apologetically, “Allison doesn’t have any failings, I get it. Just, you’re my bud, and I didn’t want to agree with her about the whole assface thing, but.” Stiles shrugs. “She’s right, it’s true, I can’t lie.”
“Douchebag,” Scott corrects.
“Yeah, that too.” Scott’s face is both puzzled and annoyed, so Stiles barrels on before he has the chance to settle on one. “Anyway, don’t whatever me, this is important. What was Derek getting like?”
Scott goes to shrug, retreats, moves his head around uncomfortably. “I don’t know.” Stiles gives Scott his best intense and meaningful gaze. It’s his Blue Steel, but better, because it has soul. It demands answers. Scott, like the rest of the world, is powerless under its onslaught.
“Geez, don’t look at me like that,” Scott mutters. Victory! “Your eyes look like they’re going to pop like overripe blueberries, that freaks me out, dude.”
Stiles maintains his compelling stare. “Tell me,” he says, “and I’ll stop.” That counts!
“Nothing,” Scott says, looking away. He is overcome! Stiles drops his (successful!) facial pose, because a muscle in his cheek is starting to twinge. “She should have kept her friend under control, that’s all. It was her responsibility and she knew it. She acknowledged it.”
“That’s it? They just had a peaceful little discussion?”
Scott won’t meet Stiles’ eyes. “Derek may have gotten a little het up,” he says weakly.
“Assface,” Stiles says.
“You said that already.”
“It wasn’t Derek’s fault,” Scott says, and he’s looking at Stiles now, so he must mean it. “Even Stephanie said.”
“After he terrified all her friends and intimidated her into it.”
“No,” Scott says. “—Well, kinda, but—“
“No, shut up,” Stiles says. “I shouldn’t even be talking about this with you.”
“What are you talking about, we bitch about Derek behind his back all the time,” Scott says, baffled.
“You shouldn’t!” Stiles says.
“Uh, when I say ‘we’, I mean you,” Scott says. “You bitch, I listen.”
“That isn’t true.” Anymore. “Why are you bringing that up? I’m not doing that now.”
“Since when?” Scott asks sceptically.
“Since it isn’t right,” Stiles says. “Since I realised that.”
“Yeah, but. He’s a good alpha, but he is still an ass, though,” Scott says earnestly. “I’m here to listen.”
“That’s sweet,” Stiles says repressively. “I don’t have any complaints.”
“That’s sweet,” Scott says, going goofy, though Stiles has no idea why. “So can we get back to Allison, then? She said I’m paternalistic and patronising, like what even is that? I don’t get it. Is reminding her of her dad a bad thing? I thought she liked him!” Stiles drops his head on the table in despair. “Hey, you okay, man? Oh, long night? You too scared to sleep beside Derek? Jackson told me.” Scott is grinning at him knowingly, for whatever godforsaken reason. Stiles doesn’t care. “You get some rest, I’ll wake you in time for class.” Stiles leaves his head where it is and gives Scott a thumbs-up; if Scott thinks he’s asleep maybe he’ll stop talking about Allison.
Stiles gets to the coffee place before Stacey, and manages to secure two seats at a half full table with some difficulty. He puts his bag on the empty chair and glares around protectively. She better get here soon.
Class was long and boring, and although Scott did stop talking to Stiles about Allison while Stiles faked slumber, he did phone her and unsuccessfully attempt to cajole her out of starting a fight with him over the phone, so Stiles gave up and glared at Scott for the ten extra minutes it took him to get off the phone with Allison, whereupon he went straight back to asking Stiles’ opinion on his relationship before completely disregarding it.
Stiles is not in the best mood.
“Hey! Hey! Hi!” Stacey shoves her way to the table. “Is there—did you get a second seat?” Stiles drops his bag under the table and gestures. “Oh, thanks.” There isn’t enough room under the table for her backpack and her handbag both, but she squeezes them in. The people they’re sharing the table with are shooting them dirty looks, but she doesn’t notice and Stiles is used to it.
They get through most of a coffee talking about their new classes, professors, the difference between high school and college, share phony laughter over the niggling worry that they genuinely might not survive the adjustment, and then the conversation dies a death.
Stacey stirs her fluffy, sugary drink, darting nervous looks at Stiles. “I’m glad you came,” she says tentatively. “Your friend didn’t seem to like me much. I was hoping it wasn’t anything you had said.”
“My friend?” Stiles wants another coffee, but he isn’t sure he wants this date to last that long.
“Yeah, the one who answered last night?” Stiles is going to kill Derek, he means it this time. “He wasn’t very friendly.”
“He’s like that with everyone on the phone,” Stiles says. “He’s totally different in real life; he just has a terrible telephone manner. He’s a pussycat.” It’s a safe lie to tell, because she’s never going to meet Derek, so she’s never going to know he’d hate her just as much in person.
Feeling vindictive, Stiles flags down a server, ordering another for both of them.
“I was kind of drunk,” she admits shyly, her cheeks pinking. It’s cute. “I shouldn’t have called so late, but I was scared to do it.”
She’s relaxing, obviously feeling that this is going well. Stiles isn’t so sure, but he likes her well enough not to want to ruin it for her. “What were you scared of?” he asks, making light of it. “Me? I’m not scary. My roommate, on the other hand—“ Stiles catches himself. “Well, sometimes. But only over the phone.”
She laughs. It’s a nice sound. “I’m glad,” she says. “I really wanted this to go well.” Her smile fades, and he’s worried for a second, but then she’s leaning forward, kissing him. Her mouth tastes like peppermint. “Is this okay?” she asks anxiously.
“Um—“ Stiles says, and sucks the peppermint off his lips. He likes peppermint. She takes that as affirmation, and leans forward again. This is a good thing, Stiles thinks. He’s pretty sure. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s a good thing to do. And it’s actually really nice, kissing her when she’s sober too. She’s better at it than he’d remembered. He closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to think about how rarely he does this, or how rare this chance might be. He doesn’t want to think about her, about it. He doesn’t notice when their coffees arrive.
Stiles gets home later than he’d expected, so Derek’s already there. Damn it.
He’s in his bedroom with the door open, talking to — Danny, now, really? — so Stiles tries to sneak past, real quiet, he can do it, they won’t even notice. He trips on his own shoelace and crashes into the wall beside the door. Well, that was never going to work anyway. He bounces up and tries to shake it off.
Derek’s in the doorway, glaring out at him. “Stiles.” He’s annoyed, probably because he can smell Stacey on Stiles.
Can werewolves smell girl? Like, separate from perfume and obvious stuff like that. Stiles will ask Derek some other time, when it’ll be less blatant. Or he’ll ask Allison; she probably already knows.
Stiles hovers nervously, not breaking eye contact; he isn’t totally sure that Derek isn’t going to get all weird on him again. Derek glances back into his room, looking undecided, and Stiles tries to dart past. Derek grabs the front of his shirt and hauls him into the room, dropping him on the bed beside Danny.
“Hey, dude,” Stiles says, trying for nonchalance.
Danny nods. “Yeah, we can finish this up later.”
“No, you don’t have to go.”
Danny’s halfway across the room. “I can stand being spared the interrogation for a while,” he says, and it doesn’t even sound wry, just factual. “You have other things to take care of.” He throws a meaningful look at Stiles, and Stiles feels like he should be offended or outraged or something, but he’s alone in the room so he really can’t be bothered. He flops back on the bed and rotates his arm in the socket. He’s used to this from lacrosse. He’s totally fine. He keeps shifting the joint until Derek gets back from walking Danny to the door.
“What was so important you had to throw Danny out?” Stiles asks, stretching lazily. It’s just a coincidence that it’s still exercising his shoulder.
Derek ignores the attempt at misdirection. “Scott told me about your date,” he says, sitting on the end of the bed.
Stiles watches him warily, but he seems calm. “Yeah. I didn’t tell her anything. I didn’t even mention you. It’s okay, right?” Crap! He does not need to ask permission. Derek’s the one in the wrong.
“It’s okay,” Derek says slowly. “I understand why you would want to—“ He lifts his hands from his thighs, lets them fall.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, when it becomes clear that Derek’s done using his words. “I mean, I have to be able to. You get that, right?”
“Yes,” Derek says. Stiles wriggles up the bed a little, getting comfortable. “Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “It was fun, I guess.”
“What did you do?”
“We just went for coffee. It was no big deal. It was nice, though.”
“Good,” Derek says stiffly.
“You know I’m not going to say anything to her, right?” Stiles asks after a minute. “It isn’t serious, and even if it was I wouldn’t. It’s not like it’s something she’d need to know about me. It’s not like I’m a werewolf. It isn’t a secret that would matter. Right?”
Derek shrugs. “That’s why they’re secrets.”
“They matter,” he says. Stiles can’t see his face.
“Yeah, but. Not to me — not to her, right?”
“Right,” Derek says, hand tightening on his knee. Stiles needs to change the subject. “My shoulder still—“ he starts, because it’s true, but Derek doesn’t let him get the whole sentence out before flipping him, planting his foot on Stiles’ shoulderblade and pulling his arm steadily backwards. “Ow,” Stiles says, “ow, that’s — wow, hey, that’s—“ Derek grunts, keeps pulling.
“You had a good time?”
“Yeah,” Stiles gasps. “We’re doing something tomorrow.” He pauses to suck in a breath. “That’s okay, right?” He doesn’t let himself question seeking permission; he needs it. He needs to know he isn’t going to mess anything up.
“It’s okay,” Derek says, giving a stronger pull and dropping Stiles’ arm, falling to the mattress beside him. “Don’t turn around.” It does still twinge when Stiles tries to prop himself up, so he stays where he is. “Humans are fragile. It’s inconvenient.”
“Sorry,” Stiles says cheerfully. “Don’t mean to put you out.”
“You don’t,” Derek says. “You like this girl.”
Derek sounds really uncomfortable with this conversation. Stiles doesn’t think he’s had many of them; he was pretty young when his family died and he left to do whatever it was he did, all on his own. He doesn’t talk about it, so Stiles doesn’t ask. But sometimes trying to have a personal conversation with Derek is like Russian as translated by babelfish.
“Sure,” Stiles says sleepily. “She’s nice. No big deal.”
“I’ll wake you for dinner,” Derek says, apparently having reached his limit. Stiles doesn’t feel him leave the bed.
Stiles meets Scott and Allison for a few drinks after Derek leaves for work. They want to go to Dutch’s, but Stiles thinks maybe he could use a little time away from Derek so they end up in a total dive all the way across town. And not dive in a good way; this is the sort of place where it looks like the bartender is thinking about asking them for ID. It’s like he doesn’t even know where his bar is.
“Told you we should have gone to Dutch’s,” Scott says sulkily.
“No,” Stiles says. “Not happening.”
“We’re not always going to do what you want to do,” Allison says snootily, though she doesn’t look too thrilled to be here either.
“Clearly,” Scott says, “since we aren’t.”
“What did you even get me up there? Is this a light beer?”
Thus begins ten minutes of pointless bickering that Stiles tunes out while sipping his own (terrible) Coors light and twirling his phone, wondering if texting Stacey out of boredom might be misinterpreted. After Scott’s voice becomes worryingly shrill, Stiles decides he definitely needs an answer to that question. “Hey Allison,” he butts in, “is it too early to text Stacey? We went out this afternoon and we’re going out again tomorrow. Too much too soon? And is it too soon to be texting her because my friends are boring the crap out of me and I want a distraction? Is that rude? But if I didn’t tell her why I was doing it would she think I was way more enthusiastic than I really am?” Stiles waits expectantly. Allison will have all those answers, he knows. She always does.
Allison blinks. “Don’t tell her that.” Scott kicks her under the table. It isn’t subtle. “Ow! I mean, don’t text her!” She glares at Scott, bending down to rub her ankle.
“Why not?” Stiles asks, honestly puzzled. He thinks Allison would like Stacey, and she’s never met her so even if she wouldn’t like her she doesn’t know that yet. It’s a headscratcher.
Allison glances at Scott, uncertainty overcoming her irritation with him. “You know Derek doesn’t like it, right?” she asks tentatively.
“No, he gets it. He said it was okay,” Stiles tells her.
“Uh, no,” Allison says with a disbelieving smile. “No, it really isn’t.” She glances at Scott. “Right?”
“Yeah, Derek doesn’t like it at all,” Scott confirms, looking amused. “Jackson told me all about it.” His face falls into a frown. “I didn’t really get it, though. I mean, I get it! I just don’t get exactly why? It was hilarious though, we laughed forever, Jackson couldn’t stop!” He turns to Allison. “Why—?”
She rolls her eyes, focussing on Stiles. “Neither of you are mentioning any of that to Derek, obviously,” she says.
“Yeah, we really need to be told not—” Stiles says sarcastically.
“Oh, okay,” Scott says. Stiles’ years of practice at not rolling his eyes stand him in good stead.
“Yeah,” Allison says. Her glee sounds a little bit malicious. Stiles is getting worried, but it’s none of his business. He catches his face scowling and shakes it off.
“I’m texting Stacey,” he decides, and if it’s just to see Allison be mad at someone else for a while nobody has to know.
Allison and Scott do end up joining Lydia at Dutch’s after a while, but Allison says she’s confiscating his phone if he’s coming, and Stiles isn’t willing to go down that road — he knows he’d forget to get it back from her at the end of the night and he just had a nightmare about what that one professor might have done to punish him for being late to her class that one time — no way is he going to be late a second time and give her a reason.
Stiles catches himself halfway across Derek’s bedroom floor, on his way to the empty bed, and he manages to redirect himself to his own room without examining any of that. He’s pretty sure that would give him another nightmare; easier not to think about it at all.
His bedroom is empty too; his bed is cold and doesn’t smell of anything. It’s only been a couple nights since he’s slept here, but that’s a long time when everything is new.
He’s still awake when Derek gets home, and he lies there listening to the routine of Derek preparing for bed, brushing his teeth, checking the fridge, walking into his room without hesitation, the creak of bedsprings, nothing more. Derek must like it, Stiles thinks, more room to stretch out without Stiles in there with him. Stiles doesn’t have any room in here, but he supposes that isn’t Derek’s fault.
So the next morning Stiles gets out of bed on the wrong side or something — whatever, he’s way too grumpy to bother figuring out what’s causing his bad temper. When he sees Derek, though, already up and fixing his own breakfast, Stiles’ ready and waiting on the kitchen counter — well, he’s pretty sure his bad mood is all Derek’s fault.
He realises that might sound ridiculous to some people, Derek included, so he graciously lets it slide, stumbling over to grab his food. “Thanks,” he grunts unconvincingly.
Derek’s watching him consideringly, which is one more black mark in his column because it is way too early for Derek’s weird intensity and Stiles is not taking it.
He takes his bowl instead, all the way over to the couch, sitting down with his face to their blank wall and his back to Derek. He’d rather eat in his bedroom but if he tried that Derek would probably follow him inside to find out what was wrong or something, god. He’s so annoying.
Derek follows him to the couch: point proven. He doesn’t even sit, standing behind the couch, out of Stiles’ eyeline but inside his personal space; it’s like he’s deliberately trying to be infuriating this morning. Stiles ignores him.
“Did you have a good night?” Derek asks.
Stiles wants to snarl in response, but Derek would probably sense the challenge somehow and start mutating in the middle of their kitchen again. “It was fine.”
“You didn’t come to the bar,” Derek says, still hovering behind Stiles. “Scott said you came home instead. You haven’t been.”
“No,” Stiles says. He keeps eating.
“You know you’re allowed to come,” Derek says.
“You know you’re allowed to sit down in your own house, right?” Stiles says, and then regrets it when Derek does so, dropping some sort of croissant-thing on the table, like what time did he even get up this morning to make that for himself? Derek tears into it, and it looks good which makes the whole thing worse. Stiles puts his porridge down half-finished and crosses his arms, uncrosses them because that feels childish and defensive and he is neither of those things.
“You’re not going to come?” Derek asks curiously, through a mouthful of pastry, which is just disgusting.
“I would’ve, but I was talking to Stacey,” Stiles says, which isn’t even a lie, technically.
“Oh,” Derek says slowly. “Allison didn’t seem to think that was going well.”
“Allison was wrong,” Stiles says. “Allison is wrong about a lot, okay?”
“Okay,” Derek says, doubtful. He’s finding the dirty wash of white in front of them just as fascinating as Stiles is. “That’s true, but relationship stuff? She says you’re always asking her for advice.”
“Lies and calumny,” Stiles lies. “I don’t need any advice, everything is great.”
“Good,” Derek says after a minute, going back to his unfairly attractive croissant. “That’s good. I’m glad.”
“Whatever,” Stiles says, and apart from Derek’s massively irritating chewing sounds the room is silent until the doorbell rings. Stiles hops up to get it because he isn’t sure why he’s still sitting there staring at the wall but he’s been doing it so long he feels like he needs a reason to stop.
It’s Lydia. She looks worse than Stiles feels, which gives him some satisfaction. Stiles tries not to indulge in schadenfreude but sometimes it’s good for the soul.
“Derek,” she hisses, storming past Stiles. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Derek gets up to face her, using his height to stare her down like he thinks that’s intimidating but Lydia isn’t afraid of Derek any more and he knows it.
“I could ask you the same question,” he says quietly.
“Making friends!” Lydia says, voice still low.
“Not suitable,” Derek says. “And she isn’t your friend.”
Lydia looks mutinous. “Just because you can’t make friends with other werewolves doesn’t mean I can’t,” she says. “We aren’t all incapable.”
For a second Stiles thinks Derek’s going to hit her. He’s terrified. It’s stupid, he knows it is, but he doesn’t relax until Derek steps away, and then he barely remains upright, strings cut. But it’s stupid — he’s seen Derek and Lydia fight, he’s seen the wounds they’ve left on each other, but it didn’t seem to matter when Lydia was a wolf, clearly stronger than Stiles, almost maybe able to hold her own against Derek. That wasn’t the same thing at all.
He knows it was, knows Lydia would kill him for even thinking about trying to protect her, but he can’t help it and it doesn’t matter in the slightest when he’d be completely unable to do it.
Lydia stretches tall, squaring for battle only after Derek’s retreat. She drops the stance quickly, because she isn’t stupid, but she doesn’t step back. “Well, it’s true,” she says, less certain. “I can be friends with her.”
“We really shouldn’t be talking about this here,” Derek says, pinching the bridge of his nose, then dropping his hand, looking self-conscious about it.
“Why, because she might be listening?” Lydia asks, raising her voice. “Where can we talk about it then? She could be anywhere!”
“So why were you whispering a second ago?” Stiles asks.
“I know she’s here,” Derek says. “You should too.”
Lydia takes a second to admit, “No, I do know. I was just proving a point.”
“Fail,” Stiles says, but Lydia just huffs, shrugging him off.
“The point is, this is ridiculous! You can’t interfere in my friendships!”
“Yes, I can,” Derek says.
Lydia ignores him, not in a mood to acknowledge truth when she’s so outraged. “What are you going to do next, tell me I can’t take the class?” She looks worried. Derek isn’t going to do that, right? He’s worryingly quiet. “Derek, tell me I can take the class!” she blares.
“Fine, I suppose you can,” he allows gracelessly. “But that’s it. She’s member of a rival pack—“
“Not rival, they’re not rival!” Lydia says triumphantly. “Her family isn’t even in the state! And how come she gets to go to school away from home?”
Lydia’s looking emotional, and that’s a bad thing, that’s a really bad thing, Stiles can’t cope with emotions. Also, Derek’s furious again, possibly because Lydia might have a point. “Shut up,” Stiles says.
“Stiles,” Derek says.
“What?” Lydia asks, and now she’s on the verge of laughter, so that’s something, if not very flattering to Stiles.
“No, really, you can’t say that, definitely not if she’s listening, right?”
“Like I care,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes, but she shuts up.
“Stiles,” Derek says, “I can handle this.”
“But—oh. Okay.” Derek’s furious with Stiles now, not the reaction he was going for. He flaps a hand between the three of them. “Handle away.”
“There’s nothing to handle because we’re done here. Lydia, go to class. She isn’t your friend and she isn’t going to be.” Lydia doesn’t move. “We can talk about it later if you need to, but that isn’t changing.”
Lydia turns and leaves without another word to either of them. Stiles stares after her, completely thrown — that’s it? He doesn’t know what else she could have done, had told her to shut her mouth, but he hadn’t actually expected her to accept it, go away defeated and unhappy. He’s never seen Lydia let something go without a fight. It’s disturbing.
“Stiles,” Derek says, “get dressed. You have class too.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says belligerently. “I know.”
Derek looks at him narrowly. “Do we have a problem?”
“No,” Stiles says. It’s true, although he doesn’t mean it one little bit. It has to be true, right? There’s no way he can win this. There’s no way Lydia could win this; she didn’t even try. And if she can’t, Stiles doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Is he supposed to be okay with that? IsLydia?
“Stiles—“ Derek says, but, “No,” Stiles says, and goes straight out the door and into his car, taking off without a clue where he’s going.
He doesn’t notice he’s only wearing his pyjama pants until the guy at the McDonalds drive-through checks him out. This is all Derek’s fault.
Jeremy answers the door when he gets to Scott’s room.
“Hey, oh, okay, come on in.”
Scott’s still asleep, but he smells the fries and almost falls out of bed in his haste to get to them.
“We need to talk,” Stiles says, tossing him the bag.
“Sure thing,” Scott says happily, face stuffed with his fries. “Wait, what time is it?” He glances around like he’s expecting to see a clock on the wall, like his cellphone isn’t his primary method of timekeeping. Damn, Stiles left his phone behind. He’s lucky his housekey is on the same chain as his carkeys. He isn’t going back for the phone.
“I need to borrow some clothes,” Stiles says, giving Jeremy an evaluating look. “Hey man, what size shoe are you?”