The best things about being a camp counselor at Camp Arrowhead, Stiles has found, are all the kids; Stiles is pretty sure he's gotten some amazing campers, he loves the crap out of mentoring his little woodchucks. The hot dogs are great, too, because the only things that roast better on a stick over an open flame are marshmallows, and Stiles has a thing about meat. And, of course, the awesomeness that is swim time at the shared lake-front, because there is nothing so lovely as seeing all the preternaturally hot Camp Moonbeam counselors in their bathing suits, Stiles is perfectly okay with being shallow like that. He may or may not have a crush on all three of the Hale siblings, they're equally scary and ridiculously good looking and Stiles has a problem, but whatever.
The worst things are all the werewolves.
He's done his research; there are no wolves in this part of California. He can't be the only one that hears the howls at night, okay?
Scott rolls his eyes at him, but he also has the situational awareness of a headless chicken when Allison's around, so he can just bite him. It may be Stiles first year at camp, but Stiles is totally going to figure it all out.
The Argents have a kennel of hunting dogs, sure, but the dogs bark and go crazy a couple times a day, occasionally at night if they catch wind of a raccoon or cougar - the eerie howling is something entirely different. They make the hairs on Stiles's nape prickle, sometimes he feels like he's being watched whenever he's walking on the paths after dark.
On the first full moon of the summer, he makes sure his little woodchucks have buddies for the bonfire and he nixes any plans of staying up to ‘stargaze’ with Lydia's chickadees – ugh, twelve year olds - and he shuffles them into the cabin an hour before curfew under the pretense of playing board games and sharing candy.
And then, you know, after they fall asleep, Stiles does his own exploring.
He takes a flashlight and his cell phone, even though the reception out there is spotty at best.
The walk to the lake seems abnormally quiet, but when the woods open up to the water, the bullfrogs are croaking and there's a chorus of crickets and a general—bug sound, that makes Stiles breath a huge sigh of relief. The moon is high and bright and reflects off the water – he angles the flashlight along the ground and gazes out across the dock and sighs. He hasn't heard any howls yet, but it's early.
Stiles kicks at a rock, listens to it skitter across the wood and plop into the water. He's kind of pissed off that Scott didn't come with him, but Scott was meeting Allison, and Stiles is a bro and didn't bother pointing out that Scott had promised to go with him into the woods that night. But, whatever, Stiles can face werewolves all by his lonesome, and if something rips his face off, well, then Scott will feel bad about it and that'll at least be a little gratifying.
And then he hears a growl and a splash and he freezes. It sounds like something heavy and disgruntled is snarling and splashing around in the lake and Stiles takes a giant step backward.
Stiles says, “Hello?” briefly thinking about making a run for it, and then a faint, “Oh my god,” when out of the water rises a moonlit body of perfection, water sluicing over ridiculously cut muscles as—Derek Hale stalks out of the lake like an angry god. Stiles's eyes follow the bunching of a bicep as a hand comes up to swipe dripping dark hair out of his scowling face. “Oh my god.” He can see shadows and pale skin and impressions and wow, okay–
“You're staring,” Derek says, like Stiles has any choice in the matter.
“Are you—are you skinning dipping?” Derek doesn't really seem like the skinny dipping kind of guy – he's sort of gruff and angry looking and always yells at his kids for running too fast on the dock.
Derek shifts back and forth on his feet, like he's uncomfortable but trying really hard not to be. His arms are at his sides and his fingers are twitching and his shoulders are tense. Stiles clicks off his flashlight, which hides absolutely nothing, but maybe helps give Derek the illusion that Stiles can no longer see his dick.
The full moon is bright, okay, and Stiles had more than enough time to get his eyes adjusted to the dark.
Stiles says, “Um. What—”
“My sister pushed me in,” Derek says. He's looking everywhere but at Stiles, which is fine, because Stiles can't look away from Derek's hipbones and abs and thighs and Jesus Christ, is this embarrassing? Stiles is too turned on to figure out if this is embarrassing or not, his face is hot and his heart is pounding and his grip on the flashlight is sweaty, and apparently the Hale siblings go bounding around naked in the woods on the full moon and—
“Oh my god,” Stiles says, and Derek scowls at him and says, “Could you leave now?”
“I'm—” Stiles slaps a hand over his eyes and says, “Shit. Sorry,” because none of this is for him, and Stiles is being really inappropriate, right?
He hears shuffling and then, uh, sniffing? And then a flutter of a breeze in the otherwise still, summer air and when he risks looking again, Derek is gone.
“So I think the Hales are werewolves,” Stiles says to Scott the next day, walking their woodchucks and honey bears to the lake for morning swim. Camp Moonbeam? It's almost too easy.
Scott looks at him. “What?” To his credit, he doesn't quite look like he thinks Stiles is out of his mind. More—curious than anything else. Scott's a bro; he's always giving Stiles the benefit of the doubt.
“Derek was naked at the lake last night—”
“You met with Derek at the lake? Bro!” Scott holds out a congratulatory fist to bump, and Stiles does it without thinking, even as he opens his mouth to protest, no, but then Derek is stomping past him with his jaw clenched and Stiles—
“Dude,” Scott says. He's staring after Derek with an absent frown, and Stiles hastily says, “It wasn't like that,” and Derek glances over his shoulder at him with an eyebrow arched, faintly amused? Pissed off? Constipated?
And then Laura rings an arm around Derek's neck, bringing his head down for a hair-ruffle – she winks at Stiles and Stiles has no idea what's going on. Do they know that he's onto them? Is this some kind of warning?
Either way, Derek has on some amazing swim shorts. They're, like, not quite speedos but these tiny little booty shorts with adorable white piping and he's glaring at everyone and Laura and Cora look so smug, Stiles is sure he's lost a bet.
If at some point in the near future they're planning on catching and eating him, well—at least he can enjoy the view.
Every two weeks, Camp Moonbeam and Camp Arrowhead have a combined bonfire, the kids go crazy on sugar and hot dogs, at least five people inevitably get burned by charred sticks, and almost all the counselors stay up late and get drunk.
Well, the Camp Arrowhead counselors get drunk; the Moonbeam ones usually drink everyone else under the table.
Stiles has a can of cheap beer warming in his hands and Cora Hale is scowling at him – not a new development, Cora Hale is almost always scowling at him. He's leaning against something warm and smells nice, and has his feet in Scott's lap and he could probably fall asleep here; he slides down his warm backrest until it's a comfy pillow and Cora is glaring at him sideways.
“What?” he says.
Someone, somewhere above him says, “Cora, it's fine,” and Stiles would be more concerned with that if he wasn't trying to figure out how to drink his beer laying down. It's really hard, his neck doesn't actually bend that way and he mostly just gets beer all over his shirt.
Cora makes what Stiles is pretty sure is a you disgust me face, but it's so close to all her other faces it hardly even registers.
He sighs and tips his head back to look up at the sky, the blurry stars, hums home, home on the range – there's a hand on his chest, and he wraps his fingers around it before closing his eyes.
“You've got to be fucking kidding me,” Stiles says, stepping out of the shower stall to find—absolutely nothing. No towel, no change of clothes, no dirty clothes, and this has Douchebag Jackson stamped all over it. Crap.
He'd ducked out of dinner early, so chances are most everybody is either at the dining hall or their cabins, but he snatches a paper towel and tries to strategically cover himself as he sidles out of the showers, soaking wet. It's not dignified, but if he hustles he can hopefully make it back to his cabin without getting caught.
Of course, the second he steps out into the path, Derek Hale is there.
Derek, who isn't even a counselor at Camp Arrowhead, is there. On the path. In front of Stiles. He's sort of blocking his way, actually, frozen and wide-eyed, and Stiles says, “Okay. Uh.” He cocks his head. “So now we're even?”
Derek jerks backward, like he didn't realize he'd been staring, face red. Stiles thinks he mutters something about Laura being an asshole, which yeah, and then says, “I can't fucking believe this,” with angry eyebrows and a flat mouth. Let it be noted, though, that Derek does not look away. Or move.
“Hey.” Stiles waves a hand down his body, watches as Derek's eyes follow it. “I'm a perfectly fine specimen of manhood.”
The tips of Derek's ears are pink. “Please don't say manhood.”
Stiles smiles, saunters forward, tries to seem a lot more outwardly confident than he feels. What he feels like is ridiculous, the paper towel is thin and soaked and see-through and it's basically just his one hand covering his junk, at this point, and it's probably not doing a very good job of hiding anything. Still, he saw Derek in all his glory; he's going to suck up this humiliation and surge onward.
Derek backpedals, then stops and clenches his jaw and holds his ground as Stiles walks toward him.
They're practically of a height, nearly nose to nose when Stiles stops in front of him. He says, “Excuse me,” and he swears Derek's eyes flash gold for a split-second before Stiles shoulders past him.
The back of his neck is burning, and he's ninety-nine percent certain Derek is watching his ass as he walks away.
Stiles has eight woodchucks staying the entire summer. Two are criers, one has to be forcibly shoved into the showers every couple of days, three have life-threatening allergies – two peanuts, one bees – and one has a delicate stomach and an inability to say no to any and all dares. The last is Freddy, who isn't a crier, but definitely misses his mom the most.
Stiles sits up with Freddy when he gets homesick at night. He's probably not the only one that gets like that, but he's the most vocal about it, Stiles suspects he can produce tears on demand – they sit on the porch with a lantern and Stiles breaks out his stash of comic books and they sit close together and share a bag of popcorn.
It's closing in on midnight and Freddy can't stop yawning, so Stiles says, “One more page, dude,” and hands over the comic before stretching his arms above his head.
In the distance, a howl echoes – it starts low, then gradually gains in pitch until Stiles feels like it arches high above the trees.
Freddy doesn't even flinch.
“Hey,” Stiles nudges his arm. “You were here last year, right?”
Freddy makes a face. “My mom makes me come every summer,” he says.
Three more howls answer the first one, and the slight tilt of Freddy's head is the only indication he gives that he hears them, too.
Stiles dithers a minute before saying, “You're not scared of the wolves?”
Freddy says, “Uh, what wolves?” then rubs his palms over his face to cover another huge yawn.
“Right.” Stiles thinks everyone is crazy, there's no way those howls were the Argent's four beagles. “Ok, bedtime, little buddy.”
They both stagger to their feet and Stiles prods Freddy through the doorway. He sees the shine of little eyes staring at them from the bunks and says, “Sleep, guys.”
He falls onto his cot with his shoes on, listens the rustle of Freddy getting under his covers. Ben is snoring again. He stays up, staring at the ceiling, but there are no more howls.
Stiles is on an honest-to-god mission now.
Scott and Isaac think he's crazy – well, Isaac had rolled his eyes and Scott gave him that super-frown that makes his eyes go liquid and concerned, but, whatever - he's totally not. Because Derek's eyes had that freaky flash thing going on, and Laura grins like she wants to eat him up all the time and Cora has this aura of a casual predator about her, like a disinterested lion. Like she could kill him, but she's just had a full and tasty meal; he's too stringy for her to bother with unless he doesn't get out of her face.
But, anyway, it's a week past the full moon and Stiles is going to do some recon. At Camp Moonbeam. Right.
Camp Moonbeam is a good fifteen minute hike from Camp Arrowhead, with the lake dock in between. It's all uphill and the path is well-worn, but it's dark out and Stiles is clumsy even under the best and brightest circumstances, so it's inevitable that he trips on a root and goes headlong down a hill.
He lands on his back with one leg twisted up under him and he doesn't even have to move to realize he's done something terrible to his ankle. Crap.
He slowly unbends his leg and groans and takes stock of everything else – mild knock to the head, scrapes along his bare arms and calves, throbbing right ankle. Probably a sprain; he winces as he flexes it.
At least he didn't break an arm or anything, right?
He's just thinking about maneuvering to his feet to see how well he can stand when the woods go quiet. Like—preternaturally still; Stiles's heartbeat speeds up and there's a rustling of leaves, a snap of a twig, like something big is making noise for the sake of making noise. And then something cold and wet nudges at the back of Stiles's neck and he screams.
“Holy crap,” Stiles says, flipping over and scrambling backwards and finding himself face-to-face with a huge black wolf.
And then he says, “Ow, fuck, ow,” and drops down on his ass to clutch his ankle, because he's managed to wrench it more, and he can't exactly tell in the darkness, but it looks pretty swollen now.
“Are you okay?” someone says, and Stiles says, “No, I'm not okay, what the hell,” and it takes a couple seconds to register that someone is talking to him, and that there's suddenly a warm hand on top of his and that when he glances up he can see a naked Derek Hale crouched over him, brow creased with what he's pretty sure is concern.
“Um.” Stiles's throat is dry.
“Stiles,” Derek says seriously, like he isn't kneeling down next to Stiles's leg, like his thigh isn't touching the outside of his calf, like Stiles's forearm isn't so close he can feel the heat from his groin. “Is it just your ankle?”
“Um,” Stiles says again, and Derek reaches for his head, wraps large hands around his skull to tug him forward, fingers running over his scalp, pressing Stiles's nose into his collarbone. “I'm fine?” Stiles manages eventually, only slightly high and cracked.
Derek pushes his head back with his palms on either side of his face, frowning. “What the hell were you thinking?”
Obviously—obviously Stiles wasn't.
And this is apparently why Derek carries him all the way back to his cabin, cradled against his hot, naked chest.
Stiles gets one of the woodchucks to go wake up Scott and help him to the infirmary. Derek had made noises like he'd wanted to take Stiles there directly, but Derek wasn't wearing any pants, so there were no valid arguments he could make.
“What were you doing, dude?” Scott says, letting him lean on him as they hop across the campground to wake up the first-aid nurse.
“I, uh—” Stiles suddenly finds himself very reluctant to tell Scott about his now visible proof of the Hales' werewolf shenanigans. It's kind of like—Derek trusted him with this, there weren't even any threats to keep quiet. “Just out for a nightly stroll.”
Scott eyes him like he doesn't believe him at all, but he lets it be.
Stiles has had a total of three conversations with Derek since the start of summer. And he uses the term conversations loosely, because Derek has the eyes of a serial killer and a general inability to engage in small talk – there are grunts and meaningful glares that Stiles flat-out ignores in favor of telling Derek all about the genius of Hillbilly Handfishin’, how Doug triggered a cabin-wide vomit fest of horror, all the times he's made Jackson almost-cry, Jonah and the unfortunately placed poison ivy outbreak, the history of s'mores—
Half the time Derek looks like he wants to strangle him, but the rest of the time Derek has his mouth quirked, like he's amused despite himself; don't think Stiles hasn't noticed that.
But now they're sitting on the edge of the lake in lawn chairs, watching twenty-four or so pre-teen hellions try to beat the crap out of each other with pool noodles, and Stiles is trying really hard not to stare at Derek's thighs. Where those ridiculous shorts he's still wearing every day just—they end at the crease of his groin, Stiles is pretty sure, and the bet he lost must have been spectacular.
The sun is hot and Stiles feels extra crispy, even though he's slathered on sunscreen – there's sweat dripping down his forehead and the tip of his nose feels like it's going to shrivel up and fall off. He rubs his cheeks and winces.
Derek huffs and takes his baseball cap off, leans over and slaps it onto Stiles's head, tugging the brim so it shades most of his face.
“You're going to peel,” Derek says, gruff, and Stiles just grins at him.
Derek cares if he peels, that's kind of awesome. “You love me,” Stiles says, tipping the hat back a little so he can see Derek's eyes.
Derek ducks his head and blushes.
It wasn't like Stiles wanted to go skinny dipping. It certainly wasn't his idea – that night, at least - but Stiles is handicapped at the moment, so it's either hobble down to the lake with Scott, Allison and Isaac or stay cooped up with eight twelve-year-olds for the evening and watch Jonah try not to itch his ass.
And then Allison starts taking off her clothes and Scott isn't going to say no to that – honestly, Stiles isn't going to either - and Cora shows up and shoves Isaac in, and swimming is basically the only thing Stiles can do with any grace, currently, so he unwraps his ankle, tugs off his shirt and shorts, and hops to the end of the dock, splashing his way into deeper water.
So he's the odd man out, so what? It doesn't really matter unless Cora and Isaac start making out.
Which they do, of course, because this is Stiles's life, and Allison and Scott have predictably disappeared, and Stiles is stuck trying to figure out how to climb back onto the dock without using his right foot. He should have thought this through.
It's only just past dusk, there's this blue-white cast to the woods, and Stiles clutches at the end of the dock and—watches as Derek walks casually out of the woods and down to where Stiles is clinging half submerged in the water, barefoot, in a tank top and board shorts, hands tucked into his pockets.
Water drips off the end of Stiles's nose. He tips his face up to Derek and says, “We've got to stop meeting like this.”
Derek smirks and says, “Oh, I don't know.” He crouches down in front of Stiles, elbows on his knees, and swipes water out from under Stiles's left eye. “This is nice.”
It is nice. Stiles's face heats up, he's probably getting stupidly blotchy all over, and he's extremely grateful that the dying light hides most of it. He heaves himself up half out of the lake by the arms, leans his stomach into the rough boards of wood.
Derek's hand slides from his face to over his shoulder, and he arches a questioning eyebrow.
Stiles grins at him, then makes a fast grab for his wrist, falls backward, and tugs him in.
The only reason he manages it, Stiles thinks, is because it was the last thing Derek expected. Derek comes up spluttering, hair flat over his forehead. He's scowling, but his lips are twitching a little, like he has to force it. Probably. He says, “Stiles,” through his teeth, and Stiles shoves water into his face and takes off across the lake.
When Derek catches him, when he slips arms around his waist and twists him, laughing, into the catfish shallows, oh so careful of his ankle, Stiles is hyperaware that Derek no longer has a shirt on.
When he presses him down into the muddy shore, the thigh between Stiles's legs feels bare, and Stiles has no idea when Derek had time to get naked, but he's totally on board with it.
“This is so gross,” Stiles says, feeling the ground squelch against his shoulder blades.
Derek stills above him, and Stiles rolls his eyes.
He says, “The mud, dude,” and grabs for Derek's face, sliding one hand down his back to squeeze his ass. It's a fantastic ass, and despite all the times he's seen it naked, it's a still a little surreal he's actually getting to touch it.
Derek groans into his mouth and mutters, “You drive me crazy,” gripping Stiles's hips, and Stiles isn't the one who started this naked business, that was all Derek's fault.
Stiles tangles his legs around Derek's and rolls them over, arching above him, and says, “I think we should find a less disgusting place to make out.”
Derek says, “Okay, sure,” but then he's pulling him down for a kiss and there's friction and the mud is actually making everything slide a little easier, but that doesn't actually make it any less gross. Lake mud smells. He should probably care about that more.
But then Derek shoves his hand in between them and Stiles stops thinking about anything at all.
“So,” Stiles says, sprawled out, half on top of Derek on the dock, “werewolves.”
Derek's palm is warm in the middle of his back. “Everybody already knows, Stiles.”
“Everybody does not,” Stiles says, leveraging himself up onto his elbows. Derek looks smug and naked, but Stiles will not be distracted by either of those things. Probably.
“It's not a big deal,” Derek says.
Scott's been working there for two years and there's no way he could keep that kind of secret from him, his eyes say too much. On the other hand, it would explain Isaac's, “So what?” when Stiles first started talking about all the werewolf howls in the woods. He says, “Is this, like, a rite of passage?”
Derek sighs. “No.”
“Fight Club?” First rule of werewolves – don't talk about werewolves?
Derek looks exasperated; he tugs on Stiles's arms until they give way, flopping him down across Derek's chest again. When Stiles can't see his face anymore, Derek finally says, softly, “It's a little like Fight Club,” and Stiles says, “Ha! I knew it.”
“You've failed your sacred bro-duty,” Stiles says, and Scott winces.
He says, “Dude, I know,” and tackle-hugs Stiles, hangs onto him like an octopus until Stiles laughs and says, “Fine, fine, I forgive you, let go.”
Scott lets him go and pokes at his neck and says, “Is that a hickey?”
“Yes, Scott,” Stiles says, rocking back on his heels, “yes it is.” Generally, Stiles thinks hickeys are gross, but this one just feels like he's been werewolf approved. He's been mouthed all over, it's pretty awesome.
Seriously, werewolves are the best.
From behind them, Freddy yells, “Stiles! Doug's throwing up again!” and Stiles just face-palms, because Doug has to learn to stay away from the sloppy joes, okay?
“Woodchucks suck,” Stiles says; they're the total worst, Stiles has seen enough vomit and shit and blood – who thought it was a good idea to give Tiny Mike a staple gun, Arts and Crafts People, really? – and Scott just bumps his shoulder in commiseration.