Stiles scrubs a hand over his face in the passenger seat of Derek’s camaro. He glances at the clock, doesn’t believe his own eyes when he sees three am there, and shakes his head. “You gonna fill me in on why we are stalking the Argents? I thought we were in some kind of uneasy truce with the Hunters right now. Like, they don’t kill Scott, he still gets to date the daughter.”
Derek rolls his shoulders, stiff from so many hours in the car, and glares as best as a man can do in the middle of the night. “It’s not the Argents I’m worried about, for now. It’s their henchmen.”
Stiles thinks he should be celebrating open and communicating Derek, but he has to go to school tomorrow. There is no way in Hell his dad is going to let him off with the age old “violent and explosive diarrhea” trick again. Not after the last time, when he found Stiles creeping around his newest crime scene instead of worshipping at the altar of the porcelain god like he was supposed to be right now. Someday, Stiles will get to call himself a true smooth operator. Until then, bumbling fool and accidental genius will have to do. “Derek, they are getting drunk in the middle of the forest. The worst thing they could do right now is pee on some trees or start a forest fire.” Derek harrumphs, ignoring him, and Stiles decides to return the favor. “I’m going to sleep, wake me up if I need to call Smokey the Bear.”
Derek doesn’t wake him, though. He wakes up on his own, with the help of the unrelenting California sunshine, and his cell phone ringing off the hook. Derek is passed out next to him in the driver’s seat, his arms crossed over his chest and a small frown on his face. He looks even more pale in this light, and Stiles can’t help but smile when he looks at him. He really doesn’t want to look at the clock, or his phone, because that’s when reality takes over again. He does it anyway, because, as badass as it is to do an all-night stakeout like a cop on Law & Order or CSI, he’s got a dad who is a real cop and is going to kill him. He answers his phone on the sixth ring without looking at the caller ID and is relieved it’s Scott and not his dad.
“Where the fuck are you?” Scott hisses, like he isn’t calling from the boy’s locker room. Stiles can tell; he can hear the hollow way Scott’s voices echos around the room and comes through the phone tinny and high.
“With Derek.” He snorts when the alpha stirs at the mention of his name, and Stiles waves at him when he cracks one eye open. “Stakeout. You didn’t miss much.”
He can almost hear Scott’s disbelief over the phone. “I’m sure I didn’t.”
Derek groans, starting the car up. Stiles points over to where the Argents’ hunters are all still passed out and drunk in the grass beyond them. “I told you so,” he mouths, holding an unnecessary hand over the mouthpiece of his phone. Derek gives him the finger, before peeling out of the forest.
“You coming to class at any point today, bro? You’ve already missed first period.”
Scott is, like, the worst killjoy who has ever existed. Stiles punches Derek in the arm. “I told you I’d miss school. My dad is going to kill me.”
Derek grips the steering wheel like it’s the only thing keeping him from beating Stiles senseless and says, “say something else smart and school will be the least of your worries.”
“You’d think waking up to my sunny face in the morning would make you a little bit less of a bitch. I was wrong, Scott. There is no hope for him.”
Derek ends up leaving him on the side of the road.
“We live in goddamn California, you’d think it’d be warmer,” he complains, teeth chattering. Allison looks as equally frozen in the winter night, shivering against the tree trunk. A sharp switch from one of the barren and dry trees had cut her cheek, and she thought that maybe that last fall had knocked her shoulder out of place.
“Scott is always nice and warm,” she agrees in a jittery voice.
“I hate werewolves,” he growls, stamping his feet impatiently on the dirt. It’s hard and packed, not at all warm and loamy like it is in summer, and he curses Derek’s name in several creative fashions. “They get all the good parts of being human and none of the shitty ones. How dare they leave us behind like this?”
Allison shrugs, then winces at the pull on her shoulders.
“Your dad is not going to be happy if we return you damaged goods,” Stiles says with a sudden clarity. “Oh, shit.”
“I know,” she grimaces again at the pain. “He’s going to kill Scott.”
“And Derek will kill him. This is going to be so bad. Wait, come here.” Allison shuffles forward and Stiles feels her shoulder. He can definitely feel the rounded joint of arm in what he knows is not the right place for it to be at all. “Yep, dislocated.”
Allison keens a little, deep in the back of her throat, before she steels her voice and says, “can you pop it back in?”
“No, no way, absolutely not. I am not a doctor, or a nurse, or even a guy who plays one on TV.”
“Fine, then.” Stiles knows this is going to be bad, because she’s got that look in her eye that frightens him and makes him suddenly realize why Scott loves her so much. “Then just stand still.”
“No, wait, hold on. Here, bite my coat and I’ll pull it back into place. This is going to hurt, okay? But you can’t scream.” She buries her face in his shoulder and bite his coat to keep from screaming. He can’t decide if counting it out would be more humane, so he goes halfway with, “on three” and forgets to say it out loud. She groans loudly and he feels her sag into him deeper after he pulls her arm as hard as he can. He hears it pop and he almost throws up. “Holy fuck, we are never doing that again. That sounds like permanent nerve damage. We are never doing this ever again. Doctors are good. They are trained for this.” He realizes belatedly that she passed out on him, so he lays her down on the forest floor and calls Scott.
When the cavalry arrives, they all look so much worse for wear. Lydia still looks perfect, because even if she was wearing a burlap sack, she’d make it look like a designer dress. Jackson’s nose has dried blood on it, but he’s not actively bleeding anymore. Scott looks pissed, but that could be because his girlfriend is piled in Stiles’ lap, or because he can smell the pain and blood in the air around them. “Her shoulder should be good, but I suggest you get her home and filled with pain meds, like, yesterday.”
Derek, of course, just stares at him with that dead-eyed gaze, and Stiles tries to figure out if he can even get off the ground. He feels like his butt has frozen to the dirt, and he kind of wants to just lay down and never move again. Derek has different plans. “Come on, kid,” Derek mumbles, hand wrapped around Stiles’ forearm. “I’ll get you home.”
Stiles barely makes it to the car. “You’ll carry me through the window, right?” he mutters and Derek shoves him into the Jeep. “We are so not subtle. My dad is so going to catch us someday.”
He giggles stupidly and grabs Derek’s wrist. “Hey, how are you getting home?”
“Guess I’m walking,” Derek whispers, driving silently and following Jackson’s porsche back into town.
“Just stay, it’s not like you don’t spend more time in my room than anywhere else.” Stiles was fully committed to arguing Derek into to staying, except the steady rhythm of his shitty shocks lulls him to sleep, and the next time he opens his eyes, it’s already morning. Derek is asleep, leaned back in his computer chair, and Stiles smiles into his pillow. “Okay, asshole, I’m impressed. You can sleep anywhere.”
Derek smirks in his sleep and Stiles knows he heard him.
Camping wasn’t Stiles’ idea, no matter how much Jackson blamed him. In keeping with that theme, it was also not his fault that they decided to camp in a valley, and that it was going to flood. They manage to rescue three of the tents, which was probably all of the tents they were actually going to use anyway. They resign everything else away to the mercurial whims of nature and try to set up on a little hill overlooking the previous site. The day isn’t really a total waste. Scott pushes Jackson into the lake, which gets hilarious until Jackson takes Scott’s legs out from under him and tries to drown him. Lydia and Allison catch them their dinner, which would emasculating except that Stiles worships the both of them and has absolutely no qualms about this fact.
As night falls, Lydia and Allison claim one tent, and Derek drags his away from everyone else like it’s his right as alpha, so the other three boys grimace at the last remaining tent.
“This was not the purpose of a pack camp out,” Stiles says, arms crossed over his chest.
Jackson is glaring over his shoulder at Lydia’s tent. “There was a purpose to your little family outing?”
“This was not my idea!” Stiles fumes. He unzips the tent and thinks about how there is no way the three of them are going to fit in there in any way that isn’t going to end up with him laying on top of Scott. He loves Scott but it’s not happening. He wonders if the girls would be willing to share when Allison emerges from their tent and motions at Jackson.
Oh. “Shit,” he mutters, as the boys trade a quick, triumphant smirk, and each squirrel away with their girlfriends in the two tents. “I’ll just sleep out here by myself, no problem. You guys all suck as friends, you know.”
Allison unzips their tent flap again, opening her mouth to say something except Scott butts in, “your idea, brother.” He zips the flap up again while Stiles shouts, “NOT MY IDEA” at the sky.
Stiles looks around their campsite and thinks about his life for a moment. Even when nothing is his fault, it still all comes around to his fault. Their fire is nothing but black soot and the discarded sticks they had used to toast marshmallows. It takes him about fifteen seconds before he realizes that his sleeping bag isn’t here. “This is great, this is fantastic.” He glares at the fire and thinks about how safe it would be to light that sucker back up for the night. He’d still probably freeze, though. Goddamn summer nights in the flat land. He just can’t win any time of year. “I hope you lot are happy,” he shouts at the tents. The only response he gets is a high female giggle he thinks is Lydia and a rustle from his tent.
He turns sullenly towards Derek’s tent. He thinks seriously about waiting for one of them to get done and then crashing the party, so to speak, but then he really thinks about how he’s saying and decides Derek is probably the less dangerous choice. Allison would probably shank him, and Lydia would fry his balls for breakfast in the morning.
“Don’t start,” he says, when he unzips Derek’s tent flap and the alpha glares at him over the edge of his sleeping bag. “I just got sexiled from both tents, okay? And my sleeping bag is M.I.A. And I think it’s going to rain again. So, save all your insults for the morning and I will graciously accept them. I will even flinch and cower appropriately for you.”
“Stiles.” His voice is rough and tight, and Stiles knows he had pulled Derek back just from the edge of sleep. He’d feel guilty, except he hasn’t done anything that can’t be blamed directly on Jackson and Scott’s libidos, so he feels like he can adequately deflect this.
Stiles just crawls up beside him and pushes against Derek’s back, trying to get warm. “Shut up, Derek. I’m trying to sleep.” Stiles just chuckles when he feels Derek’s elbows digging into his ribs. “Kill Jackson and Scott for me in the morning, okay? It’s their fault.”
“Whose idea was this camping trip?” Derek says, and Stiles can hear the sarcasm dripping off of it.
“Yours, you bastard. Thanks for letting me take all the heat for it, though, by the way.”
In the morning, Stiles wakes up with Derek’s sleeping bag draped across his shoulders, and the sound of some really annoying whining filtering through the fabric. He drags himself out of the tent, hoping someone had already started boiling the water for the instant coffee. Lydia and Allison are sitting on a log overlooking the valley and giggling into their tin cups. Stiles steals Allison’s, because Allison loves him best, and sits down beside them. “What’s so funny?”
He looks down into the valley where he sees now where all the whining had come from. Scott and Jackson were wading through the small swamp leftover from yesterday’s downpour to retrieve their stuff, yelling at Derek the whole time.
“Serves them right,” he says, smiling around the rim of Allison’s coffee. “Now this is my idea of fun.”
The picnic, however, is completely his idea. He goes into the bathroom and practices his speech for a few minutes, before stomping into the living room and shouting, “Pack up your shit, we are getting out of this house.” That wasn’t the opener he’d practiced, but what in his life actually worked out like he expected it to?
Everyone glares at him, which he thinks is a welcome relief from them all glaring at each other, so he sallies onward. “I’m sick of you, and of you, and of you, and especially of you,” he says, poking Scott in the chest. “So, here’s what we are going to do. We are going to get in our cars, and we’re going to drive someplace and we are going to sit down and eat a meal and everyone is going to work their shit out with each other.”
Jackson opens his mouth to protest, but Stiles just holds up the picnic basket he had carefully packed early and says, “no” very loudly. “Sandwiches, and soda pop, and candy. We are going to feast and you and Scott are going to get over this lacrosse bullshit, and Lydia and Jackson are going to kiss and make up. And Allison will stop giving Derek the stink-eye over breaking Scott’s arm last week. I want to be able to sit in the same room with you people without having to wield a butter knife in my back pocket just to cut all the tension around here.”
They all look like they are itching for a fight, and Stiles figures, if they hate him, then they don’t have the necessary excess energy to hate each other. Unite fighting factions against a common goal, right? He might lose the battle, but he’ll win the war. He shoves the basket into Derek’s arms and says, “let’s roll, daddio.”
He sits in the camaro for a few minutes, waiting nervously to see if anyone will actually do it, when Scott and Jackson emerge from inside the Hale house with their keys spinning around their fingers cockily. Derek slides into the driver’s seat, setting the basket on Stiles’ lap without any delicacy or grace, and smirks at him. “You are a fucking idiot.”
Stiles smiles as Derek shifts it into drive and leads the rest of the cars out of the drive. “Yeah, I am. But it’s been working out for me so far.”
Scott and Jackson wrestle a little in the field Derek takes them to, and somehow, that works out all of their pent-up, infantile aggression towards each other and they come back with more bruises than they left with and huge smiles. Allison gets a little less chilly around Derek, probably just because Stiles called her out on the frigid bitch routine, and even helped him spread out the large blanket Stiles had strategically placed in Scott’s car this morning for the expressed purpose of a picnic. Lydia decides that she is going to be magnanimous towards everyone and doles out smiles and sandwiches like it’s her good deed of the day. All in all, he thinks he wins the award for Best Pack Case Manager of the Year.
“I am so awesome,” he hums as Derek lays down beside him on the blanket. “I’m literally just basking in the glow of my own victory right now.”
“It was pretty ballsy of you to go directing a bunch of angry and impulsive werewolves around,” Derek acquiesces. He’s laying on his side, looking down at Stiles, and Stiles honestly can’t even deal with getting praise, however backhanded, from Derek Hale.
“I’m going to get a gloryburn from all this basking,” he smiles, eyes squinted against the sun shining behind Derek’s head.
“Shut up.” It’s quiet and private, not at all a reprimand, and Stiles just turns his face in towards Derek’s shoulder, shields himself from the sun with the alpha’s shadow.
“I can do that,” he mumbles.
“Could have fooled me,” Derek deadpans.
Stiles rolls it right off his back, like the metaphorical duck. “Today, I can do anything.” Derek flops over with a sigh and Stiles can feel his bare toes grazing against the fabric of Derek’s jeans. “So what I’m going to do is go to sleep.” He cracks one eye open, just to peek, and nuzzles into the scratchy blanket. He can feel the blades of grass bending underneath their weight, and the warmth of Derek’s body next to him. He can smell Derek’s cologne, warm and spicy in the summer sun, and he thinks this is the life. “Stop basking in my glory, Derek.”
Derek doesn’t respond, and Stiles figures it because he’s already asleep. He’d take time to analyze what that means, except that Stiles had the nap idea first, so he isn’t about to be out-done by an overgrown puppy dog.
Stiles has a lot of feelings about the fact that Derek is still living in a shitty, burnt-down house. Most of those feelings are very angry, edging on determined. That’s part of the reason he shows up with the back end of his Jeep full of plywood and drywall putty. He sends out a mass text that basically tells Jackson and Scott to get their ugly asses up and to bring food. He’s always had to keep a firm hand on Scott (honestly, he thinks this whole pack thing is working out great for Scott, because kid needs all the help he can get), but the power is exerts over Jackson freaks him out sometimes. He gets over it, though, when pretty boy shows up with, like, four buckets of chicken. He should start demanding things more often around here.
What really happens, though, is they spend three weeks just cleaning out the debris from a six year old fire. Stiles wonders who runs this town that this place hadn’t been condemned and torn down shortly after it was abandoned. He wonders just how long the arm of the family Hale is now, and how long it used to be when it was vibrant and alive and a true pack.
He Googles a lot of stuff about fire clean-up and load-bearing walls and what the hell a stud is. He gets a lot of stuff about horses he didn’t need to know, but he knows now. Thanks, Internet. He watches a lot of HGTV, sitting in his underwear on the couch, eating a bowl of a cereal and studiously avoiding his dad’s questioning gaze about his sudden turn from Cartoon Network to the DIY channel. He tells his dad to not even worry until he starts referring to himself as a Weekend Warrior. “Once that happens, I’m done for. Just- Put me out to pasture.” He consoles himself that he mainly sticks to the carpentry shows and hasn’t yet succumb to the siren song of House Hunters. (He forgives himself the rare episode of the International version; he feels more cultured afterwards, now that he knows the capital of the Dominican Republic and all.)
They spend three whole days just ripping up the floorboards and replacing them with a suitable sub-flooring that doesn’t give Stiles a small heart attack every time he takes a less than stable step. Derek orders a rich cherry hardwood so smooth Stiles spends a solid five minutes just caressing the finish lovingly. Lydia literally rips it from his hands and totes more than her own fair share into the house. Stiles grimaces, but he makes Lydia the best glass of lemonade later because she’s awesome and he loves her in a hero-worshipping kind of way. Jackson, Allison, and Scott crawl across the floor, bitching about the soreness of their knees, while Stiles, Derek, and Lydia are trying their best to lay the ceramic tiles in the kitchen in the right pattern. Allison is the one who buys the art they hang on the white walls Derek had insisted on, because she’s the one with the eye for color and detail. The furniture is a rag-tag mix of all their styles, each of them bringing something or other home. It’s still mostly empty, the Hale house. They get the living room into something that looks halfway decent, but the kitchen is still bereft of any appliances, and the foyer is basically a blank canvas. They had barely touched the grand staircase in the center at all.
It’s a Wednesday night and the quartet of awkward has decided to attempt another double date, which Stiles assumes will either end in disaster or some kind of orgy. He’s never sure which one he’s rooting for more, except he just hopes that they choose to do whatever it is somewhere besides where he is. Right now, he’s got a hot date with a broom, a dustpan, and some sandpaper. He can see Derek in the kitchen, futzing with some electrical wiring that gives Stiles a nervous breakdown to think about, in a house this old. “If you get electrocuted, I’m not helping you. I will not put you out when your fur catches on fire."
Derek swears heartily, dropping the pliers he was holding, and sits up. “I was doing fine without your two cents, Stiles.”
“Lies,” Stiles sings cheekily, stopping to wipe the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his hand. “Just, don’t get electrocuted. We haven’t put a working phone line back in here yet and you literally have the shittiest cell service out here.”
“I think I would survive,” Derek murmurs, loping into the foyer, wiping his dirty hands on his tank top. Stiles forgets about Kate Argent, sometimes. It’s not because he’s as dippy as his dad seems to think he is; it’s because he’d really rather not think about what happened down in that basement. Stiles keeps his eye on his work, sweeping seriously at the same spot for a few minutes, avoiding Derek as he walks past him and drops down on one of the stairs.
Stiles is honestly surprised how structurally sound those motherfuckers are, considering the fucking inferno that blazed through this house six years ago. He still walks up and down them gingerly, always waiting to be that guy who drops a leg through a trick step like he’s living in Hogwarts or some shit. Stiles sort of resigned himself to always being the Neville Longbottom of any group, with the sad parent story and the funny ears. He consoles himself with the knowledge that Neville Longbottom grew up good. He cut the head off a goddamn killer snake so he’s failing to see the problem with being Neville Longbottom, in the long run.
“Stiles,” Derek says, drawing him out of his little fantasy about wielding a sweet-ass sword. “Come on, take a break for a minute.”
Stiles gently sets the broom down, savoring the beautiful, rich hardwood floors, and turns towards Derek on the stairs. The wood is still a little charred and grey. It looks smooth enough, though, and Stiles thinks if he sits down for even a second, he’s not going to move for a long time. Derek is sitting on the second step, his left leg hanging down to hit the new floor and his right leg propped up on the step. His back is angled against the partially rotted bannister, and Stiles knows they are probably going to go flailing backwards and end up ass over teakettle on the hardwood, but it doesn’t stop him from settling into the inviting space between Derek’s thighs and leaning his back against his chest. He allows himself one second to panic about his bold choice, before he licks his lips and says, “is this okay?”
Derek had been suspiciously still since he sat down, and Stiles is pretty sure that werewolves still require oxygen. He is just about half a second away from jumping up and running all the way back to his house in order to hide from his own humiliation when he feels Derek’s arm sneak around his hips and settle across his stomach. Stiles lets out a shaky breath, relaxes back just that little fraction more, and turns his face so that his forehead rests against the side of Derek’s neck. Derek’s free hand comes up to brush against Stiles’ slightly damp hair, his chin pressed against the crown of Stiles’ head.
“You keep doing that and I’ll never get up,” Stiles says, lacing his own fingers between the ones laying on his stomach.
“Good,” Derek whispers. “Go to sleep, Stiles.”
Stiles thinks this is probably the point where they should be talking, not cuddling on a set of decrepit stairs in Derek’s partially renovated childhood home, except that it doesn’t seem like all the words in the world would be worth messing this up right now. They don’t seem to communicate well, and one day Stiles is going to work out that little chink in their armor, but right now, actions seem to be speaking a lot louder than words. He sighs into the embrace, trying to let Derek know that this is exactly what he wants, too. The last memory he has before falling into sleep is the dry press of Derek’s lips to the top of his head and the ghost of a breath against his ear.
Stiles wakes up to the sun beaming through the open slit of his curtains. The window is slightly ajar from where Derek had left it open last night, and a breeze blows against his face. He can distantly hear his phone ringing and he digs around under his pillow for it. “This better be good, Scott,” he mumbles, burying his head in the sheets to block out all the cheeriness of a Saturday morning. His dad had left last night for a quick trip to Oregon to visit an ailing great-aunt that Stiles had never heard of before. He thought that sounded suspiciously like his dad had a girlfriend he didn’t want Stiles to know about, but he wasn’t going to question it until his dad wanted him to. God only knows that awkward questions were the last thing Stiles needed right now. He had had a lot of plans that mostly involved spending the whole weekend at the Hale house, until Derek had turned up at his window roughly around one in the morning. He seems to remember another night where a grumpy werewolf kept him awake way past his bedtime, except this time, he liked their chosen activity a lot better. Derek was still sprawled along his back, the stubble of his beard leaving raw patches on Stiles’ shoulder blades.
“I think Mr. Argent is going to kill me?” Scott says as way of answer.
“Important question. Scratch that, two important questions. One: is this a ‘I’m a werewolf and he’s decided he hates us again’ sort of situation, or is this a ‘he caught me fucking his daughter again’ problem?” Stiles can feel Derek’s frown pressed into the skin of his back, his arms tightening around him.
“Um, both? Both. Mostly both. Although, getting caught in Allison’s room this morning didn’t help.”
Stiles sighs heavily, turning over so that Derek’s head rests on his chest now, and he can run his fingers through his hair. “Damn, Scott.”
“I know, dude. I know. What was the second question?”
“Are you dying, like, right now? Or is this a crisis I can pencil in to my calendar tomorrow?”
“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” Scott yells through the phone. When Stiles doesn’t answer him, he carries on. “I can’t get ahold of Derek, either.”
“That’s a problem I can fix,” Stiles murmurs, tightening his grip in Derek’s hair.
Derek looks up from where he’d been pressing lazy kisses to the soft skin of Stiles’ ribs and glares. “No.”
“Come on, Derek. Scott’s dying.”
“Don’t care,” he says, taking the phone from Stiles’ outstretched hand anyway. “What?”
Stiles can hear Scott say, “this is not something I’m ever going to get used to,” before he launches into a long story that involved a lot of silver dinnerware getting polished in front of him threateningly while he was forced into eating an Argent family breakfast. Derek listens with a stony face, glaring at Stiles like it’s his fault. “What if that was my last meal this morning?”
“I don’t think you are in immediate danger,” Derek mumbles. “He’s not going to break our truce, however fragile it is right now, goddamn it, Scott, over this. He might break your neck, but you might come back from that.”
Stiles snorts, taking the phone away from him. “What he’s trying to say is, lay low. Don’t do more stupid shit today. If hunters actually come for you, call us.” Derek growls at that, crawling up the bed to nuzzle against Stiles’ neck. “Okay, call Jackson first. Call us as a last resort.”
“Jesus Christ,” Scott grits out, hanging up.
“I think we grossed him out,” Stiles says, absently dropping the phone onto the carpet beside his bed so he has both hands free to wrap around Derek’s neck. “Which is rich, coming from the guy who just called us to let us know he got caught doing the horizontal tango himself.” He pushes against Derek’s cheek, turning in to catch his lips in a kiss. “Good morning.”
Derek smiles against his lips quickly, before ducking down to kiss at the mark he’d already left on Stiles the night before. “Good morning.”