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C'mon Now Sugar

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Stiles squinted up at the wriggling body duct-taped to the flagpole. He didn’t recognize them - that mop of hair was definitely not familiar, nor were the eyes staring defiantly down at him. Well, trying to, at least. It was more like a puppy trying to stare down a much larger, much older dog; stubborn, kinda cute. A black bag of what looked like sports equipment sat vulnerable and unguarded at the base. Good thing Lydia and her gang hadn’t happened upon this scene before Stiles; they’d have enjoyed the opportunity to steal it.

With a put-upon sigh Stiles reached into his backpack and extracted a penknife. This was probably going to take a while.

 

---

 

After painstakingly pulling all the duct tape off his skin, the boy threw the crumpled mass into the trash bin and returned to where Stiles stood, picking bits of adhesive off the knife’s tiny blade.

“So, I’m guessing you’re the new kid, huh?” Stiles looked up from his task long enough to see the kid nod. 

“Yeah. Scott. I’m Scott. McCall. My mom and I just moved here.”

“Welcome to Beacon Hills, Scott. Land of the rich and entitled. What the hell did you do to earn your little trip up the flagpole so soon?”

“I don’t know! I was checking the information sheets about lacrosse tryouts today, looking for somewhere to sign up? And all of a sudden these guys just grabbed me and —”

Ahhhhh,” Stiles nodded, “that’s what did it. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret fact: the lacrosse team here? Are like royalty. The crazy, incestuous, kill the peasants kind of royal family. And they really,really don’t like it when you try to weasel in on the bloodline.”

Scott’s face paled, but his featured hardened. 

“That’s not fair. I’m a good player, I just want a chance!”

Stiles checked his watch.

“Well, then I came to your rescue just in time, because try-outs are starting, like, right now. If you run you can probably make it still.” Scott shakily pulled out his phone to check the time himself. In a flash of limbs he was throwing his bag over his shoulders and rushing in the direction of the field. “Hey! Hope you shove it up their ass!” Stiles yelled encouragingly at the retreating figure.

Scott stopped, turning with a smile and a wave. “Thanks!” He yelled. “Hey, what’s your name?” 

“Stiles.” Dropping his cupped hand from his face, he turned and headed towards the parking lot to his Jeep.

 

—-

 

Apparently, Scott had shoved it up their asses. Far, far up. Far enough to earn himself a spot on first line. 

The news of the new kid and his talent at lacrosse hit the school like a bomb, and quickly spread to Stiles. By lunchtime, all anybody could talk about was Scott, the new kid, the new poor kid, with a single mom and small house, but lots and lots of potential winning power, so that could be ignored for now.

Stiles couldn’t help the disgusted laugh that escaped him as he watched the kid stroll across the courtyard, lunch tray in hand, smiling broadly at the people who greeted him as he passed. Jackson, with Danny tucked neatly under his arm, flashed his shit-eating grin and motioned for Scott to join them. Even Derek deigned to look up from his plate and glance at him, and he didn’t even toss out one of his patented scowls or a threat to Scott’s life. Wow. Amazing. The kids who were no doubt were responsible for Scott’s predicament yesterday were already welcoming him into the fold with open arms. 

Stiles definitely didn’t miss that part of it, the two-faced nature of their dealings with everyone.

He looked down and realized he was angrily stabbing at his mac n’ cheese. He didn’t stop.

“That bad, huh?” His head swung up wildly. Scott stood hovering next to the table. “Anybody sitting here?” Slowly, Stiles shook his head. His brows furrowed as Scott lowered his tray and slipped onto the adjacent bench, immediately applying himself to gobbling down his pizza.

“Uh, not to be rude or anything, but what the hell are you doing?” 

Scott stopped chewing, but didn’t bother to swallow before answering, “Uh, eating?”

“Yeah, I can see that Wilbur, but why are you doing it here? Next to me? Didn’t Jackson invite you to sit with them? He is the captain of your new team, you know.” Scott did swallow this time, looking down at his half-demolished slice for a beat.

“I know that. I also know that he was probably the one who tried to humiliate me yesterday. Lacrosse captain, King of the freaky incestuous royals, right? But you are the one who saved my ass when nobody else bothered to help me and allowed me to get on the team. So.” He stopped, that defiant puppy dog look coming into his eyes again. Oh, Laura would have liked him.

“That’s sweet and all man, but — did you not ask around…? Do you have any idea who I am?” 

“You’re Stiles.” Oh, wow, this one was gonna be a handful.

Pursing his lips, he jerked head at the tableau behind Scott, and Scott turned to look over his shoulder. 

The entire courtyard was full of people casting questioning glances at them, confusion clear on their faces. Jackson and his crew looked on mutinously. And oh, there was that scowl of Derek’s that Stiles and Laura had once been so fond of mocking, leveled at full force on them. Stiles watched Scott shrink under the scrunity.

“I’m going to regret this decision, aren’t I?”

“Definitely.”

 

—-

 

Having solidly secured Scott’s position in the school as the ‘only tolerated for his talent pariah’, Stiles figured he at least owed the guy a little explanation. As he gave him a ride home that afternoon, he outlined the basics. Well, as basic as you could get for shit that sounded like a bad soap opera.

 

—-

 

Stiles’ father was once the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, and Stiles was thus accepted as a part of the privileged crew. He dated Danny (“You’re gay?” “Yeah, so? Jackson and Danny are together pretty openly in case you didn’t notice man.” “Oh. Oh, okay then.”), and was best friends with one Laura Hale, Derek Hale’s twin sister.

Laura was his constant. She was there for him when his mom died, and he was there for her after her own tragedy. In their sophomore year, a huge fire killed every member of their family but Laura, Derek, and their uncle Peter. Peter, however, was horrifically injured, and currently comatose, being cared for at the Beacon Hills Hospital.

Derek and Laura had inherited everything, which was a whole fucking lot because the Hale family was (or had been) huge and powerful, and they had their lawyers emancipate them as legal adults, allowing them to live without a guardian. They lived together in the rebuilt mansion that was their old family home, and refused to leave, no matter how much Stiles insisted that it was creepy and depressing for them to stay.

Stiles had been there for Laura through the entire ordeal, and he would have done the same for her grouchy ass brother had he let anybody in at all. Derek had shut out the world, including his twin for a time afterwards, retreating into himself. It made Stiles and Laura closer than ever. 

Then, only a year later, Laura was murdered.

The only evidence found at the scene apparently linked back to a member of the Hale family, but with Peter comatose, the only option was Derek. Derek, who loved his sister more than life itself. He had an alibi, claimed that he was in the woods practicing for lacrosse, but there was nobody to back him up, and so was still considered a person of interest. Stiles refused to believe that Derek had anything to do with Laura’s death, but he also refused to believe his father was wrong. 

Derek retreated even further into himself, living alone in that mausoleum of a house, before throwing himself into his new occupation of being full-time jackass and enforcer for Jackson’s crew. He refused to speak to Stiles after the Sheriff’s accusations, no matter how hard Stiles tried to get to him. Only Derek understood how much Stiles had loved Laura, like a sister he never had, and he still wished they could have helped each other. 

But when push came to shove and the powerful families of Beacon Hills rallied around Hales, with all their money and lawyers, Stiles had stood by his father.

Sheriff Stilinski lost his job, forcing him into the private detective business. Laura’s case was never solved, and Stiles wound up losing not only his best friend, but his reputation, his boyfriend, and everything else he once thought mattered in his life. 

 

—-

 

“And so now all my old friends hate me, my ex-boyfriend is dating their reigning douchebag, and Derek refuses to tolerate my presence. I help my dad out with the agency, and I’m pretty damn good at it, too, if I do say so myself. But basically, you picked the worst possible friend to make, ever.”

Scott stared, jaw hanging open, stunned, as Stiles finally wound down from his heated explanation. 

“Wow.”

“Yep.”

“Just. Wow.” He looked out the passenger side window of Stiles’ Jeep into his own front yard; they had been parked in his driveway for a while now. “But,” he turned again, eyes bright, “we are friends, right?”

Stiles couldn’t help the huge smile that spread across his face. He wished desperately that Laura could meet Scott, puppy-faced and loyal. 

“Yeah, man. Of course. Friends.”

Chapter Text

Stiles flung himself onto the chair in front of his dad’s desk. Keith Stilinski looked up from the file he was perusing, dark circles under his eyes. Stiles felt his heart sink a little; ever since Mom died, Dad had days like this, weeks sometimes, where sleep rarely came and he threw himself completely into his work. He’d done it as Sheriff, and he did it as a private investigator. Thorough, dogged, unable to let go, that was a Stilinski for you. Stiles didn’t know what else he could do to help him, besides try to stay in good spirits and help keep the agency afloat. 

“Well, Papa Bear, I hope your bail jumper was more exhilarating than the Nueves case. I swear, he wasn’t even trying to be sneaky. What is it with lazy philanderers these days? Don’t they know swift minds like mine require an actual challenge?’”

“Stiles,” with a long suffering sigh, his father removed his reading glasses to level a look at him, “did you get our money shot?”

“Please, Pops, don’t be insulting.” He tossed a few blown up shots on his dad’s desk, all of Mr. Nueves engaged in rather bland acts of coitus with his eldest daughter’s best friend. Mrs. Nueves would be paying them in full with her alimony. “But really, how’d your guy go?”

“No major hiccups, caught him a few miles from the border. Between these two cases we might actually be able to buy something other than frozen pizza for a while.” His face softened into a smile. “Good work, kid.”

“Got that Stilinski magic, what can I say? So, what’s that you’re looking at? Anything I help with?” He craned his neck forward to try and read the upside down words, but his father closed the folder. 

“No, just paperwork. You need to be home, studying for that test you’ve got on Friday. And I know for a fact you haven’t opened any of those college brochures yet.”

Stiles threw back his head and groaned. 

“Boooooooring.” 

“C’mon kid, seriously. We’ll be flush for a little bit now, so don’t worry about helping me. Take some time for you, for school. I’ll pick up dinner on the way home. What do you say, thai tonight?”

“Alright, alright. Thai sounds good, I’ll see you later Dad.” He rolled his body out of the chair and with one last wave headed home.

 

—-

 

“That new lens working out for you alright?” Allison asked that Friday as she slid on the seat next to Stiles, reaching out to sip from his can of soda. 

“Oh yeah, it’s great, used it to get the latest money shot and everything.” Allison made a face. “Tell your friend at the tech shop thanks again for special ordering it for me.” She shrugged, showing a half of her radiant smile. 

“It was no problem. God knows I’m in that place enough, they owe me a few favors.” 

“Oh, I’m sure.”

Allison Argent was a techno-genius. Stiles made her acquaintance late last year after discovering the bogus investment scheme she’d run on the richest kids in the school using her hacker identity: The Archer. She’d taken the elite of school out of a nice chunk of change, but after Stiles found her out, she agreed to anonymously return it all in exchange for his silence. That truce became the basis of a tentative friendship, and who was he to turn down friends? Especially ones with such useful talents and loose morals, at least when it came to sleazebags. 

“Hey Stiles! Hey, oh, uh -” Scott came to an awkward stop at their table. His jaw was hanging slightly open as he stared unblinkingly at Allison.

“Scott! Sit down, dude,” Stiles said brightly, sweeping aside his backpack from the table to make room. Scott sat, still not looking away from Allison. “Scott, this is my friend Allison, and Allison, this fine drooling specimen is Scott.” At that, Scott managed to snap his mouth shut, a blush creeping up his cheeks. 

Stiles turned to find Allison giving her full mega-watt smile at his new friend, the one usually reserved for her latest gadgets. Interesting. 

“It’s nice to meet you Scott.” He mumbled a reply, but it was cut off when she turned to address Stiles once more. “So Sam Spade, big plans for the weekend?” She waggled her eyebrows.

“Oh-ho, don’t you know it! Leftovers and Buffy, the best combination. Plus I promised my dad I’d take the weekend off from sleuthing for him to look at colleges.”

“And I’m sure that’s going to happen.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault that there are so many dirty deeds to be uncovered in this town!”

“Wait, so you’re not going to the lacrosse game tonight?” Scott spoke up finally, eyes wide and beseeching. 

“Ah, well, thing is, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not exactly their favorite person dude. Danny and I are cool, I guess. Well, as cool as you can be with your ex in that he pretends I don’t exist, but Jackson?” Stiles sucked in a breath through his teeth, making a hissing sound. “Not so much.” And Derek no doubt would use any excuse to add the actual death part to his death glare.

“Oh,” Scott sounded dejected, “I was kind of hoping you’d come and watch me play? And we could like, get burgers or something after? To celebrate my first game? But if you don’t want to, that’s fine I guess…” 

A kicked puppy. Nice going, Stiles. He could practically hear Allison cooing in sympathy beside him.

“No, man, that - that sounds fun. I’ll come.” Scott perked up.

“You know what? I’ll come too,” Allison said. Stiles was surprised Scott didn’t fly off his seat into the sun.

“Where exactly are you going, sugar, and can I take you there?” A smooth voice came from behind them. Stiles and Allison turned on the bench to look up at the lithe figure standing there, a motorcycle helmet tucked lovingly under one arm. The other hand rested easily on a cocked denim clad hip. Lydia Martin’s perfectly glossed lips pursed and smirked. “I’ve got an extra helmet if you don’t mind messing up all that pretty hair.” 

Allison raised an eyebrow, meeting Lydia’s eyes, but not replying to the remark. She turned to smile briefly at Stiles, then a bit longer at Scott, before standing and slinging her bag over her shoulder. 

“I’ll see you guys tonight.”

As she walked away, Lydia swept another appreciative glance down her back, before taking her spot next to Stiles.

“Hey freak,” she started, but the greeting lacked any real venom. “My boys were released last night, all charges dropped.” The green eyes beneath impossibly long lashes met his steadily. “We appreciate your help. I owe you one.”

“Oh, why thank you Your Majesty,” Stiles didn’t flinch beneath her stare. She gave him a smirk and rose, tucking her helmet back under her arm. “What, leaving so soon? Don’t you want to thank me some more? Or do you have somewhere to be? A riot to cause? Or maybe a world crisis to solve?” Lydia gave a tiny wave with her free hand, not bothering to turn around as she left, hips swinging rhythmically. 

“Dude, what the hell.” Scott’s incredulous tone had Stiles raising his eyebrows to their highest possible position on his forehead.

“What?”

“That was Lydia Martin.”

“…yes.” 

The Lydia Martin.”

“…”

“Leader of the motorcycle gang Lydia Martin!”

“Scott, really, they prefer to be called a motorcycle club -“

“Why does Lydia Martin owe you a favor?”

Stiles shrugged.

“I, ah, may have helped ensure that some evidence regarding activities a few of her crew were found participating in was rendered inadmissible…” Scott’s jaw was back to hanging open. Really, he should get that looked at, maybe get some headgear or something. “What? The charges were trumped up, and they didn’t press any against the pack of rich kids they found doing the same thing the next week. Our current Sheriff is incompetent.” 

Scott finally regained his voice. 

“I still can’t believe that a girl is head of a biker gang. And that she got them to allow other girls in, too.”

“Heard about that, huh? Well don’t let her hear you say that, bro. There’s a reason she’s in charge. Lydia isn’t just stunning and totally freaking badass, she’s also one of the smartest kids in this school. The entire state, probably. Her test scores are off the charts - don’t ask me how I know that,” he said before Scott could finish the question, “but basically, she’s the last person you’d want to be up against in the streets or in the classroom. So when she very cordially asked me to look into the case for her, how could I, gentleman that I am, refuse her?”

Scott stared at him, lips quirking up.

“She terrifies me.”

“As she should, my friend, as she should.”

Scott glanced at his phone. 

“I gotta go, I need to report to the office.”

“Why, what for?”

“The diving class I signed up for didn’t have enough students, so they canceled it and put me on for credit as an office aide.”

“Dude! That’s awesome!”

“What? Why?” Scott paused. “Awesome for who?”

“Me, duh! You’re my new in for snooping in school records!” Stiles’ grin split his face, and his clapped Scott heartily on the shoulder as they walked towards the doors. “You might be useful after all!” 

“Hey! You know what, man, I’m going to abuse my power now and find out your real name!” 

Then they were running, well, Stiles was running, chasing after the laughing form of his soon-to-be-dead friend.

 

—-

 

Stiles and Allison settled onto the metal bleachers, and he could feel the eyes on them from all sides. Most notably from the players performing last minute warmups and sitting on the lowest bleachers on the sidelines of the field. 

Allison clapped a hand on his back supportively. 

“I’m glad you decided to come. I knew you wouldn’t back out and break your friend’s cute little heart.” Stiles snorted. “Oh hush,” she said with her little half smile, “I know you’re just a big softie. Look, there’s Scott!” She pointed down at the figure waving enthusiastically up at them.

Stiles still couldn’t help but return the wave with one of his own. Soon after, though, he felt a shiver run through his body, and not from the tiny chill in the evening air. Slowly he scanned the bench until meeting a pair of gleaming hazel eyes. 

Derek sat straight and still, stick held lightly in one gloved hand propped against the ground, staring unwaveringly at Stiles. Stiles felt his mouth go dry. Fucking Derek Hale. They hadn’t had a real conversation since last school year, when Stiles tried once more to talk to him about Laura.

The two of them had never been close, not like Stiles and Laura, but their relationship was never outright antagonistic. Derek and Laura were extremely close, the only children to their parents, though part of a fairly large network of cousins. Since Laura and Stiles spent so much time together, it was inevitable that sometimes Derek came along on their hangouts; they would gang up on him about his anti-social manner (“Jeez, smile grumpy”) , his clothing choices (“Really, more gray? You aren’t in a black and white film, Derek”), and of course his taste in movies (but of course when he wanted to watch the Star Trek movies, they were all on board). Derek, simply by being around them so much, knew almost as much as Laura had about Stiles’ mom, the way her death affected his family, his then-relationship with the up and coming lacrosse team goalie (for all that Derek desperately tried to avoid such conversations, awkwardly bowing out usually halfway through, much to Laura’s odd delight), and Stiles’ desire to follow in his Dad’s footsteps into law enforcement. 

The summer before the fire Stiles thought they might actually have been close to really being friends. 

But the fire ripped through that possibility. Laura and Derek lost everybody; even the extended family from the neighboring counties had been visiting that weekend for a family reunion or something. Stiles still remembered vividly that day.

After explaining to Stiles that she and Derek couldn’t make his Back to School Denial moviefest because of ‘family stuff’, Laura had given him the brightest smile he’d ever seen from her. 

“I’ve got a secret, Stiles. It’s a good one too. But I can’t tell you until later, okay?” She’d leaned in and given him a light peck on the cheek. “Have a good weekend!” 

When she’d called him in the wee hours of the morning that’s what he’d thought she was going to discuss, but then he heard her frantic sobs and the sirens in the background. All talk of secrets was forgotten in the aftermath; all he could do the next day was hold her against him while she cried in the police station, Derek silent and firm on the other side of her. When Stiles made a move to extend him arm past Laura and place his hand on Derek’s shoulder, the boy had stilled, and seemed at first to lean into the touch, before tearing himself away, standing from the bench and stalking out. That was the last time Stiles touched Derek. 

Slowly, Laura worked her way through the tragedy. Stiles and his father helped with the lawyers, and though the twins were officially staying at a hotel until their house was rebuilt, Laura spent more nights than not on their pull out couch. 

Stiles tried to extend the courtesy to the other Hale twin, but he maintained the wholly detached demeanor he’d cultivated around Stiles. Stiles tried to talk to him, tried to get Laura to talk to him, to find out why he wouldn’t let Stiles just help, but Laura had just sighed, sadness clear and deep in her own hazel eyes. 

“You’re still his friend Stiles, don’t worry, it’s not that he doesn’t like you. Not at all. It’s just… My brother’s way of dealing is by not dealing. He’ll come around eventually. We just gotta keep at him.”

She always had been incredibly perceptive. She knew things about people that should have been impossible, and Stiles could never manage to lie to her. He’d eventually stopped trying and learned to listen to her advice regarding others.

Eventually Laura had learned to laugh again. Derek never even cracked a smile anymore. Stiles and Laura were determined to help her brother out of his cold shell, but then…

Then Laura was gone. Then Stiles lost everything. 

The last time he’d tried to talk to Derek (to tell him that he was sorry about everything, that he knew Derek hadn’t killed Laura but he had to have his Dad’s back, they were the only family left to each other, and couldn’t he understand that?) before last school year was out, he’d found himself shoved roughly against the brick wall, Derek’s fists tight in his jacket, face close and furious.

“Just stay the fuck away from me, Stilinski.”

All Derek had left was his comatose uncle and a house full of ghosts, but all he wanted was to be left alone. By Stiles, at least. He still hung out with Jackson and the team, rarely speaking, but looking gorgeous and brooding in his dark jackets. 

Gorgeous? Where’d that come from?

Huh.

A hand flew in front of his face.

“Huh, whaaa?”

“Stiles! You alright? You were like, hypnotized or something.” Allison sounded worried. Stiles realized that he’d been staring straight at Derek for a few long minutes now, and their gaze only broke when Allison had waved her hand. The game was starting, and Derek was prowling onto the field, face dark and lined. Great, he’d just inadvertently stared down the person who hated him more than anybody else on the planet. He’d probably issued some pissy alpha male challenge without realizing it, too caught up in his own thoughts to break away from Derek’s glare. 

As Scott flew across the field towards the goal, Derek roughly knocked a member of the opposing to the ground with a loud crunch.

Shit. 

 

—-

 

They won, (go Pirates!) with Scott scoring two of the total goals. Stiles watched as Scott’s teammates clapped him heartily on the back, joyful from the win, and even though Jackson kept his distance, the captain’s sneer didn’t really seem to reach his eyes. Stiles watched Danny lean in towards Scott and say something, no doubt calm and dry as always, and saw Scott’s laughter. He waited for the tightness of jealousy to hit his gut, but none came. It didn’t even spark when Jackson put a possessive hand on the back of his neck as they walked towards the locker rooms. 

Stiles missed Danny, but whatever attraction he’d once felt had apparently faded. He wished things weren’t so messed up, that they could be friends again, but - if wishes were horses and all that…

He and Allison made their way down the bleachers; she told him that she was going to run to the bathroom before the three of them left, and that she’d meet them in the parking lot, so Stiles went towards the locker room himself. Though never officially on the team himself, he’d been in the locker room enough times with Danny after games to know the drill. Checking the time on his phone, he leaned against the wall a few doors down to wait, knowing Scott would probably want to grab a quick shower before being seen by Allison.  Tilting his head back against the wall, he closed his eyes and listened to the faint clamor of slamming lockers and rowdy voices.

 

—-

 

“Stilinski,” a low growl broke his reverie, and he almost whacked his head against the wall as he flailed up and his eyes opened. Oh god, no -

Derek, black hair still gleaming from a shower, eyes focused and intense, stood directly in front of him.

Christ, Derek - “

“What are you doing here?”

“What do you mean? I came to see our school’s glorious victory of course.”

“You don’t come to lacrosse games. Ever.”

Well, he hadn’t since the fire. Laura hadn’t for weeks either, and she’d begged him to come with her when she finally started again, but Stiles politely refused. Once it’d been fun to huddle in the bleachers with her and cheer on Derek and Danny, but then Derek had gone cold, and it was… awkward. And then, of course, with Laura gone, and Danny very publicly getting over him, what reason did he really have? 

Besides, Stiles had his dad and his jobs to keep him busy. He nervously ran his tongue along his lips, and saw Derek’s eyes follow the motion. 

“Yeah, well. Uh. I know, I know I don’t usually, but, Scott. Scott asked me to come.” Stiles was tense, waiting to duck and run if Derek made a move toward him - he had no desire to find himself chucked against a hard wall again. But Derek didn’t move, just continued to stare and speak menacingly softly.

“The new kid? McCall?” A shuttered look came into Derek’s eyes. 

“Yeah, Scott McCall -“ 

STILES!” Allison’s shout echoed through the hallway, accompanied by the sound of running feet. She appeared at the end of the hall, running towards them in a dead sprint. “Stiles, you need to come hear this!” She slowed, breathing harshly as she approached, ignoring the looming figure over Stiles. 

“What happened?” He felt a cold dread run up his spine.

Derek sniffed lightly, eyes darkening.

Allison’s eyes were wide and white. 

“They found a body. In the woods.” She kept breathing deeply even as Stiles sucked his own. Derek’s broad body beside him tensed. “Some hiker, or something. They’re saying it was completely ripped apart.”

“Like an animal attack?”

Derek moved too swiftly to be real, disappearing down the hall before Stiles finished the question. His and Allison’s gazes both followed the retreating back curiously, but after a beat she turned back to him.

“I don’t know.”

Stiles couldn’t repress the shudder that wracked his entire body. Couldn’t this damn town go one year without a horrific death?

Chapter Text

The body, understandably, was all the town could talk about. By Saturday afternoon no official information had been released, but by that night, Stiles had heard every variation of the possible crime. Animal attack, they said. Brutal murder, others whispered. All Stiles knew for sure was that the victim was male, and had been found out along one of the trails in the reserve. 

Stiles knew he should let the police handle it. It was their job, after all. Nobody had come to Stilinski Private Investigations about it, they had no right and no jurisdiction. But…

He hadn’t been lying when he’d told Scott that the new Sheriff was incompetent. Don Lamb was a mean, stupid son of a gun, and Stiles didn’t trust his investigative skills as far he could throw him. 

His dad had left early that morning on a bail-jumper call, leaving Stiles with $20 for dinner and explicit instructions to “not do anything stupid”. Like break into the Sheriff’s office. But what if the Sheriff couldn’t find anything out? What if he proved Stiles right and was totally useless and allowed another person to get killed? Then Stiles would feel guilty for not employing his superior brain on the case purely out of respect for jurisdiction rights. Maybe they hadn’t released an official statement yet because they couldn’t gather enough information?

The itch had started in his brain. By early in the morning Sunday, Stiles brushed aside the calculus homework he’d been attempting and the carton of cold lo mein sitting on his desk, and started working on a plan.

 

—-

“We’re going to do what?!” Scott’s jaw was doing that hanging thing again. 

“Break. Into. The Sheriff’s. Office,” Stiles repeated slowly. “Well, I am going to break in. You are going to be my lookout. I need to get a look at the files about the body.”

“Why? Why can’t you just let them handle it?”

“Because I need to, Scott, I can just feel it, okay? It’ll be fine, I’ve got a plan. But I need your help. C’mon, man, please?”

Scott squinted incredulously at him, but already Stiles could feel his friend’s resolve weakening. And his curiosity growing. 

“What’s the plan?”

“The oldest one in the book, of course. Distraction.” And now that he had Scott on board, he needed to make a phone call.

—-

He could practically hear Lydia’s scowl through the phone.

“Look, Stilinski, I understand that I owe you a favor, and I will gladly repay it, but I don’t think your little mind has comprehended the situation. I only owe you because you got my guys out of trouble with the police, and now you want us to aggravate them further? No. Another day, maybe, I’d be all for it, but we need to stay low for a while.”

“You don’t actually have to do anything that they can arrest you for! You just need to… occupy them for a bit. Draw them out.” Out of my way, at least.

“The answer is still no, Stilinski.” Lydia did actually sound a little bit sorry, but the hard edge in her voice told Stiles that he wasn’t going to get her help just by reasoning.

“I’ll give you Allison’s phone number.”

He held his breath.

“See you in twenty minutes.” She said brightly, and Stiles grinned into the silence as she ended the call.

—-

Stiles and Scott peeked out from behind a police cruiser to watch the scene building in the parking lot in front of the station. Lydia and ten of her crew were lazily circling, engines revving non-stop, cat-calling at passersby and each other. Most of the staff was already outside, scowling and trying to gain some semblance of control. Stiles needed one particular face to show, though, before could continue with his plan. 

And there - there was Sheriff Lamb, finally, coming out to do his job. Give ‘em hell for me, Lyds, Stiles thought, and then turned to Scott to signal their move. They stayed low and hidden, creeping around to the back of the station. It was Sunday, so as long as they hadn’t changed the schedules since he’d last been here, that meant Jackie would be working the desk outside the Sheriff’s office, and Jackie was smack dab in the middle of menopause. Her legendary hot flashes meant that she often kept the window nearest her wide open for the breeze.

Stiles eyes scanned the side of the building until… there! Yes! Thank you, Jackie. He turned to Scott.

“Okay, uh, wait here by the corner and keep an eye out. As soon as you see the Sheriff heading back into the building, you need to let me know.” Scott nodded, fixing his eyes around the corner, and Stiles crept towards the window. 

It was about shoulder height, and for a moment he wished that he’d been better at pull-ups. But, hey, even if he wasn’t exactly a Marine, he’d scrambled his way through enough windows in his line of duty to have the upper arm strength for this. He threw the bag he carried slung over his shoulder through it first, hearing the thump on the ground, and when no yells came and no heads poked through the window at him, he figured it was safe enough to head in. It took a couple minutes, and a lot of grunting, but he managed to finally roll himself through the window and onto the beige carpeting. Jackie’s desk, and all those around it were empty, thank God. Thank Lydia.

He scrambled upright, grabbing his bag, and headed for the door behind him, praying now furiously that the Sheriff hadn’t thought to lock it on his way out. He hadn’t. The handle turned effortlessly. Stiles could have squealed with happiness if he wasn’t, you know, a mature adult who did not make those noises. His plans, however brilliant, never went this smoothly.

The Sheriff’s office hadn’t changed much - it still looked like it did when Stiles used to sit in here doing his homework and listening to his dad on the phone. Only now instead of pictures of Stiles and his mom on the desk, there were signed photographs of Nascar drivers. And the file he needed. How convenient! Knowing his time was limited, Stiles pulled the camera out of his bag and immediately began flipping through the pages, taking high res photos of each crime scene photo and page of reports. He didn’t bother paying attention to them now, that would be for later, after he’d gotten out of here. He had two pages left when Scott’s voice came from the open window outside the office.

“Stiles, get out of there!”

He got the last two shots and immediately shoved his camera into the bag, legs carrying him hurriedly out. He hoped the door would shut behind him, because he could hear approaching footsteps and didn’t have time to rearrange the scene exactly the way it was when he entered. He climbed out the window and fell, landing hard on his shoulder, curled protectively around his camera. Then Scott’s hand was helping him up and they were running full speed away.

—-

Staring at the photos on his computer screen, Stiles tried to hold back the bile rising in his throat.

In life, the victim - who had been identified via dental records as one Mark Cahn - had been well muscled and slightly better than average looking, if a little on the greasy side. The picture in the records was a mugshot from a few years back, and his record had a few black spots on it: trespassing and petty theft, mostly. He seemed like the kind of guy who didn’t mind breaking the rules a little to make a buck. So, not exactly an upstanding citizen. 

In death, however, all that muscle and the smarmy grin he’d sported hadn’t done him any good.

The body was ravaged. What looked like claws had destroyed his face, raking down his neck and shoulders. Bites and tears covered the sides of the body and legs, flesh torn open and blood strewn about. It was the most gruesome thing Stiles had seen since… since Laura.

But what had his back tense and his breathing harsh and his stomach churning wasn’t the gore. In fact, it was the only non-gorey part of the scene.

Mark Cahn’s chest was virtually untouched, no claw and bite marks, at all, just a few inches of smooth skin, only blemished by the symbol carved in the center of it. The three interlocked spirals were the ruddy red of dried blood, dark against the skin, standing out. Stiles knew this symbol, he’d seen it before, numerous times.

—-

Laura and Derek had gotten matching tattoos at the end of their freshman year. Derek’s on the center of his back, newly broad and developed from lacrosse and his religious work out routine, and Laura’s low on her hip, smaller and easily hidden. Still, Stiles saw Laura in her bathing suit or pajamas more often than not, so the little swirls of ink were often in sight.

He’d been astonished that their parents had let them get tattoos, and was completely jealous of how badass it was. But the Hale twins had never gone out of their way to show off their ink to anybody, despite all the street cred it no doubt would have gained them. 

He can’t remember how many times he’d asked about the symbol, but every time Laura had just smiled sweetly and told him it was a family thing. She’d told him the name once, but he couldn’t recall it now.

Why the hell was this symbol, a symbol with ties to the Hale family, carved into Cahn’s chest?

Stiles thought now that it was fortunate that the Hales had been so secretive about their tattoos. Sure, the lacrosse team no doubt knew about Derek’s, but did any of the team members have connections to the police department who could identify the mark? He racked his brain for any and came up empty. Which meant that the police might not already be looking for Derek to question him. Which meant Stiles could ask him about that symbol. Which meant willingly interacting with him. He shuddered. 

But he needed to know what this symbol meant, and that meant he needed the name. There was a high possibility that Derek wouldn't even answer Stiles' questions, but he would definitely want to know why Stiles was suddenly so interested, and it was probably in his own best interests to keep the number of people who knew he had access to the Sheriff’s files to a bare minimum.

So how else could he get the name?

Oh!

Scott. New, sweet, charming, Scott. Scott, who had lacrosse practice this week after school.

—-

He wondered if Allison would still talk to him come Monday. He’d gotten a text from her late Sunday night that read only: “I hate you.

—-

“I have never feared for my life more, Stiles. I hope you know that. I hope you know that practically interrogating Derek Hale was more terrifying than being jumped and tied to a pole. The glare he gave me when I asked… it was like he was shocked that I’d dare speak to him at all, and then I felt like a bug he wanted to squish. And he could, you know, he could squish me dead.

Stiles held the phone away from his ear, but he could still hear Scott’s tinny yell clearly from the speaker. He waited a beat for it to subside, hoping his friend couldn’t sense Stiles’ eyeroll through the phone.

“Yes, Scott, you are a brave and mighty warrior. Men will write songs about the time you valiantly talked to a guy on your team.”

“A guy who hates you! And probably me now!” 

Stiles did have to give him that.

“Did you find out what I asked to you?”

“Yeah. The symbol is called a…” Scott stumbled over a few syllables, “triskelon? Triskele? Something like that, he only said it once and then went back to silently glaring.”

“Great, thanks,” Stiles’ reply was distracted, as he was already searching the word online. “Triskelion?”

“That’s it!”  

There are a huge number of results on the symbol, from various mythologies. Stiles was twitching now with anticipation as he opened a few tabs. God, he loved this part.

“So are you going to tell me what the hell is going on now?” Stiles had almost forgotten Scott was still on the phone until he spoke. “I’ve risked arrest and seriously injury in the past few days for you, I think I deserve to be let in on whatever freaky theory you’re investigating, dude.”

Stiles wasn't used to sharing information on cases with anybody, but Stiles also hadn't had many friends for a while, so maybe he was just out of practice. Scott had been enormously helpful. And friends told each other stuff.

“Yeah okay, you’re right. Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? My dad should be home by then, and I’m making chili. I’ll fill you in on what I know then.”

“Okay. See you later.”

“Later, man,” and the connection was ended.

Later, he’d explain. But right now? Now he had things to read.

—-

The information he’d found on the triskelion was running on a loop through his mind as he slipped into the Stilinski Private Investigations office.

The three spirals sure had a lot of meaning packed into them. Progression, cycles, all kind of trinities, like past/present/future and the three worlds of Celtic myth, other/mortal/celestial. 

But the connection almost every article had stressed was with the moon and the lunar phases: new, half, and full. The word “triskelion” meant “three legs running”, and in alchemical and old european art, things considered “lunar creatures” were only shown with three legs. This piece of information had lead to another search of what exactly was meant by lunar creatures, and gave Stiles a whole list of animals associated with the moon and its phases, like owls, bats, bears, wolves, and moths.

Which was all very interesting and whatever, but it still didn’t answer his question of why such a symbol would be a “family thing” for Laura, or why it was carved into the chest of a dead man. 

He needed more

The thought left an unpleasant taste in his mouth that only increased as he slipped in his dad’s office. Dad had called last night to say the case he was working on had experienced some ‘turbulence’ and that he wouldn’t be home until later tonight. 

His dad didn’t know Stiles knew the code to the safe.

Stiles crouched down in front of the safe in the corner, and keyed in his parents’ anniversary. The latch clicked and the door swung open easily when he pulled. Trying not to mess up the stacks of papers too much, he dug through case files and insurance information until finding what he was looking for.

The Laura Hale case file. 

He booted up the copier, staring at the packed manilla folder in his hand. His dad shouldn’t technically have any of this, since he wasn’t police anymore, but Stilinskis didn’t have a habit of letting things go. 

He perused the documents as he copied. He remembered most of this.

The last person to see Laura was Derek, who said she was going to visit their uncle in the hospital, as she’d been doing pretty regularly the past few weeks. But nobody at the hospital saw her that night. Her car was found abandoned in the next town over, clean of any evidence or signs of a struggle. 

Derek was the one who found her body, too. Stiles shuddered when he found the crime scene photos. Even now, months and months later, this hurt. Her beautiful face broken and beaten, lacking animation, hazel eyes empty, dark hair tangled and sprawled. He almost couldn’t bring himself to look at the rest of the body. Her faded Beacon Hills Lacrosse t-shirt and denim shorts torn and dirty, barely covering the multitude of angry bruises on her arms and legs. His best friend, beaten and choked to death, according to the coroner’s report.

He paused, though, when he came across something in the report he didn’t remember. Among the bruising, they found faint marks from where the body had be tightly bound in a rope of some sort. The marks had apparently been made post-mortem. What? She’d be tied up? After they’d already killed her? 

He scrambled through the pages to find Derek’s statement. He’d never read it before, just gotten the story from his father, who he’d thought had told him everything. Guess not. His dad must be better at lying than Stiles realized. An unsettling thought. What else didn’t he know then?

He skimmed the statement until Derek finally spoke about finding the body, and… yes, she had been tied up. But not with regular rope, a rope woven from some sort of plant? Derek had apparently torn through it in his attempts to revive his sister, and thrown it from the body before realizing that Laura was really, truly dead, and calling the police. The officer taking the statement noted that Derek’s hands were red and almost blistered, when they arrived at the scene, supporting this, although nobody could figure out why he’d had such an adverse reaction to touching the plant, as none of the officers were affected. ‘Allergy?’ somebody had scrawled in the margin.

A few more pages flipped frantically gave Stiles the next bit of information he was looking for. The plant the woven rope had been made of was called ‘aconitum’. Huh. 

His hands were shaking. How had he not known about this bit of the puzzle? This hadn’t been released to the press. This hadn’t been released to him. Why hadn’t his dad told him? Why hadn’t they investigated this further? Post-mortem bondage with some sort of plant? That was not a typical way of dealing with a body. Copy machine forgotten, he plowed through the rest of the files, looking for any other details, but he found nothing. 

“Stiles? What the hell?” His dad’s voice, shocked and angry, broke through the daze. Keith Stilinski stood in the doorway, duffle bag in hand, staring at his son and the papers now littering his desk. 

“Why didn’t you tell me Laura had been tied up? That’s a pretty freakin’ important detail don’t you think, Dad? So why didn’t I know about it?”

The duffle thudded on the floor, and his dad was close then, leaning across the desk, eyes bright and furious.

“Because I didn’t think you needed to know, Stiles. You were, you are, just a teenager! You’re not an adult, you’re not a cop, you’re not a P.I.! Your best friend was dead and that was bad enough, I didn’t think you needed to know all the gory details!” 

“But-“

“It was my decision, as the sheriff, and as your father!”

“But the rope, that had to be symbolic or something, to the killer-“

“I understand that, Stiles.” His voice was no longer raised, but the thread of steely fury was still strong. “I was investigating it. But then I was removed from office. And then the Hale lawyers made it very clear that if I were to stick my nose in the investigation any further or pursue any of my leads, life would become very difficult for me. And you.”

Stiles quieted. His dad still thought Derek was the murderer, he could tell, and the fact that the Hale lawyers had apparently threatened him into stopping the inquiries about the rope would only have inflamed that suspicion further.

But why would Derek have tied her up only to rip it off? And why would he even touch the stuff for that long if he was allergic? That didn’t make any sense. Of course, on the surface, if Derek was the killer, it didn’t make any sense for him to report the murder, either, but Stiles knew that things weren’t always the way they seemed. Murderers called in their own kills all the time, for the rush or glory or whatever.

His dad believed Derek was guilty.

And Stiles didn’t know what to think.

The tension was slowly seeping from the air around them. His dad was still angry, and Stiles was still shaken, but they never could maintain a fight for very long between them.

“What were you doing looking at those old files anyway?”

Stiles briefly considered telling him about the police files he’d taken, about Laura’s tattoo on the body, but shook it from his mind. 

“I just - I, ah. I miss her, Dad.” His voice broke as he stared down at his hands, spread over the papers on the desk.

“I know, son.” Keith came around the desk, wrapping Stiles in a tight hug. “I know.”

Stiles breathed harshly into his dad’s jacket, trying to calm himself down. He needed to go home, to think, to figure out how this information changed things. And how did Cahn play into all this? 

“Go home, Stiles. I guess I need to change the code to the safe now.”

“I’ll just figure it out again,” he gave a shaky laugh. “I’m making chili for dinner. Scott’s coming over.”

His dad stared at him, a sad smile set on his lined face, and waved a hand in the direction of the door. Stiles gathered his things quickly and was gone.

—-

The beef was browning in the pan as Stiles sat in the kitchen with his computer. Dad would be home any soon, and Scott would be arriving, so he only had a few minutes.

Aconitum turned out to be a plant known as acconite, or monkshood, or wolfsbane.

“Wolfsbane? Like, The Wolf Man wolfsbane?” Stiles muttered to himself as he scrolled down the screen. 

Oh, it was poisonous. Lovely. 

“Highly connected to werewolf lore…” he read as he clicked through a few links until finding a promising one. “The herb is said to have mystical properties that can have an adverse affect on werewolves, and force transformations from, or be used to hide the human side of, the lunar creatures -“ 

Lunar creatures?

Wolves were counted in that list, so why wouldn’t werewolves be? Beasts controlled by the light of moon and its phases, their lives following according to its cycle…

A thought formed in his brain that was so ludicrous, so preposterous, so monumentally —

The front door opened and he slammed his laptop shut. 

“Hey kid, look what I found outside. He yours?”

By the time his dad walked in, dragging Scott jokingly by the collar, he was at the stove, adding the beans. 

“Awwww Daaad. Can we keep him? Please?”

—-

The thought wouldn’t let him go.

He chatted all through dinner, quips flying, his dad’s eyebrows doing that thing where they wanted to disapprove but were just amused, lacrosse talk, school talk, college talk (ugh), making an effort to seem normal and keep the tentative peace he and his dad had settled into.

But he couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

There was no way Laura was a werewolf. He’d have noticed that, right? They were together all the time

Sure, she was fast. And strong. And highly intuitive. But she worked out, she was just good with people. There was no way Stiles would not have realized that a few days every month she turned into a monster —

Oh.

The first time Laura had said she couldn’t hang out because it was her “time of the month” Stiles had blushed and stammered so furiously that she laughed until she had tears in her eyes. 

“Don’t be a baby, Stiles. I just, need a few days to myself, you know? I get kinda cranky.”

He hadn’t pushed it. It was normal soon. Laura cried off, and he found other ways to occupy himself for a few days. No big, he hadn’t tracked it or anything - that’d be weird

He had noticed that it seemed to set Derek on edge too. When he’d brought it up, sarcastically drawling about her brother’s synced cycle, she’d giggled and said it was just a twin thing. That was good enough for him; he was an only child, what did he know about weird sibling vibes?

But what if it hadn’t been a twin thing, really? What if it had just been a Hale thing? A werewolf Hale thing?! Laura’s body had been wrapped in wolfsbane. Derek had pulled it off of her, and his hands had gotten red and blistered. 

Shut UP Stiles, he yelled at his brain, forcing his way back into the conversation happening around him about Scott’s mom’s job at the hospital. 

—-

The table was cleared, the dishes were washed, and Dad was safely enraptured by the television when Stiles finally closed and locked his bedroom door, throwing himself onto the bed and glancing at Scott’s figure on his chair. 

“Okay. Now can you please tell me what the hell is happening with you?”

Stiles threw his own file of their stolen police reports at him, and then tossed the few pictures and documents he’d managed to swipe from his dad’s copier before leaving the office. He watched Scott’s eyes bulge as he flipped through them. 

“What in the - ?”

“Okay. So. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but -“

“I do not like the sound of that.” 

” - I think Derek Hale is a werewolf.”

Chapter Text

Looking at the Hale mansion now, you would never have guessed that only two years ago it was mostly a crumbled, black shell. Money can make a lot of things happen very quickly, and the work rebuilding the house started only a few short weeks after the fire. 

Stiles stared at the gleaming white facade, made strong and whole once more, and remembered breathing the acrid, charred air as he stood behind his father’s line of men, watching the fire department try to salvage the house, trying to save anybody inside at all. Paramedics had tried to take the Hale twins away from the site to the hospital, but Laura could not be pried from Derek’s arms, where she sobbed violently; every time somebody tried to approach them, Derek let loose a feral noise and held her tighter, burying his face in her hair. 

The house was located in the swankiest neighborhood of the already stupidly wealthy Beacon Hills, but the huge property was the farthest back, close to the thick woods, away from any neighbors. This isolation meant the fire did not spread, but it also meant that nobody saw the flames until it was too late. 

“We were,” Laura’s voice was shredded and raw as she sat on Stiles’ couch the next day, “out taking a walk, down that path in the woods we like… I didn’t — but then we could smell smoke and I knew something was wrong…”  She couldn’t finish the sentence, and pressed her face into Stiles’ neck, her strong body shaking and unbelievably fragile as he held her.

There was a knot the size of the The Incredible Hulk’s fist in Stiles gut that tightened with every step towards the door, memories of this place assaulting him. Game nights in the pool house, concocting disgusting midnight snacks in the enormous kitchen, watching Derek practice from Laura’s window and yelling both taunts and encouragement out of it with her, sitting on her bed complaining about physics homework while she did her makeup to go to a party.

And God, this theory was stupid, so stupid, but he could feel the buzzing in his skull of an idea that would never let him go if he didn’t do something about it. The evidence fit. What if all that time that he’d spent talking with Laura about coming out to his father, she’d been holding in a secret of her own? Stiles thought that they’d told each other everything… No, he knew they had, so why hadn’t she told him this? Didn’t she trust him? And if this was connected somehow to her death, and it had to be, could he have helped her if he’d just known?

His breathing was uneven when he finally reached the door, and he hesitated a moment to steady himself before lifting his fist to knock. His knuckles had barely connected with the wood when it swung open. Derek glared at him, standing in the doorway in only loose sweats and a Dodgers shirt, his feet bare and his expression withering.

“What do you want.”

Some answers. Some closure. Some peace. 

His best friend back.

The truth.

How the hell was he supposed to approach this conversation? He already felt like he was losing his mind, and if he was going to get his head ripped off for initiating a conversation with Derek Hale, let alone one where he accused him of being a monstrous mythological beast, he might as well just get it over with. Jump right in.

“So were you guys ever going to tell me about the whole werewolf thing?”

The change in Derek’s expression might have been humorous if Stiles wasn’t paralyzed with fear. His stubbled jaw actually dropped (only minutely, but still), and the murderous glint in his eye was replaced with startled disbelief. For a brief moment, he looked actually frightened. 

Stiles flinched at that. 

“I mean, it’s totally cool and everything, but I’d have appreciated being clued into the fact that my friends turned into —”

His sentence died out when it became directed at Derek’s back as he turned and walked away from the door, heading down the hallway towards the kitchen. Stiles stood frozen in his place outside a moment, before throwing all caution to the wind and following.

“Derek! Derek, you can’t just ignore me, you of all people should know that doesn’t work!”

Stiles found him leaning over the kitchen sink, facing out the window, hands fisted tightly on the counter on either side of him.

“That body they found? The guy had the triskelion carved into his chest. The same as the tattoo that you have, that Laura had.” He was working himself up, he knew but he couldn’t stop. “I figured it out, Derek. I know about the symbol. And the wolfsbane. I know you hate my guts but I also know that you know I’m not fucking stupid. I know what you are and I know it has something to do with this body. I know it has something to do with Laura! I need to know - !”

“For someone who knows so much, why couldn’t you know to just keep your nose out of it?” The growl in Derek’s voice was only half-hearted, like he was too tired to manage a full blown one.

He wasn’t denying it, wasn’t even trying to. But even with a scary probable werewolf before him, Stiles couldn’t help the eye roll.

“Me? Keep my nose out of something? Please,” he quipped, but his voice was off, the buzzing in his head and the pressure in his chest making it too high.  

Silence stretched between them then. Stiles watched the tension in Derek’s back, filling the room with every breath until he thought he might choke on it, watched the minute movements of his clenched hands as they slowly loosened. Eventually they were open and flat against the counter, and when Derek’s whole body moved, Stiles jumped, having been so focused on only the one part. 

Derek was facing him now, but his head was hung low, eyes refusing to make contact. 

“She wanted to tell you. About our family.”

Stiles felt his world shatter. He was right. Laura Hale, his best friend, the girl adored by the entire school, had been a werewolf. And so was her brother, Stiles’ once almost-friend. 

“She was serious about it too. The night of the fire, that ‘family reunion’? That was the annual big pack meeting. Laura decided to ask for permission to tell you our secret. Having humans in the know wasn’t a new thing - lots of us end up with human spouses that have to be brought into the pack, but having one that wasn’t a mate or the family of a mate was a little different. But Laura -” Derek’s voice cracked. “Laura loved you. She thought we could trust you with it. She wanted you to be a part of us. And Laura’s word… it had influence. She was born with Alpha in her blood, so they listened to her. They decided to put it to a vote. That’s why we were out in the woods. She didn’t want to just wait around in her room for them to finish the deliberation, so we went for a walk instead, as a distraction. And then…after… we couldn’t tell you, couldn’t risk it. Somebody wiped out our entire pack, wolves and humans alike, we couldn’t take any chances.” 

Stiles hadn’t heard Derek say so much in two years. He focused on this at first, instead of the information, not wanting to overwhelm himself completely. Derek’s voice was sliding under his skin, slightly raspy from emotion and probably disuse (who was there to talk to in this big empty house?), digging at Stiles in ways he didn’t understand. The way he didn’t understand what was happening now. Laura wanted to tell you. What can you say to that kind of revelation?

But there was more in that explanation that he didn’t comprehend, things that provided a safe distance from the sorrow threatening to swamp him.

So Stiles did what he does best and started to pick them apart.

“Well. Uh, wow. What did you mean, she was born with Alpha in her blood? Like the alpha wolf of a wolfpack? Your family was a pack, you said, so do you, uh, werewolves,” he still couldn’t believe he was saying that word, “use the same ranking system?”

Derek finally looked up from the floor, his eyes narrowed, and gave Stiles an odd look. But he answered.

“In a way. There different kinds of… us. I’m only a beta, so I can’t fully shift, and I can’t turn anybody. Alphas are different, more powerful. They’re in charge of the pack, have control over them, take care of them and in return the pack connection gives them strength. Their forms are more animal. They’re also the only ones who can turn a human.” Stiles opened his mouth to interrupt but Derek cut him off.  ”And before you ask, yes, humans can be turned with a bite from the wolf, but it’s dangerous. My father was the Alpha of our pack. Laura was next in line, meaning that when my father died, or willingly stepped down as Alpha, the power would pass to her.”

“But then… after the fire?” 

“Laura was technically my Alpha. But she was only a teenager, not mature enough for the powers to be fully developed. And with only pack member left…”

Stiles heart clenched. 

“So the fact that you were outside with her is the only reason you’re alive, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Uh, don’t take this the wrong way, but why were you? If it was a family… pack… voting… thing, then why weren’t you involved in the decision?”

Derek’s broad shoulders gave something resembling a shrug. 

“My presence was irrelevant. Everybody already knew where I stood on the issue.”

He elaborated no further. Stiles suddenly found himself unable to think straight, his brain flooded with life-changing information, new reality defining facts, and it felt like the ground beneath his feet was shifting.

This was actually the most bizarre thing that had ever happened to him, and that was saying a lot. He was standing in the Hale kitchen talking to Derek about werewolf lineages. Derek, who was a werewolf. Stiles had to be insane, that was the only explanation. Or he was in the Twilight Zone. Yeah, that sounded about right. 

“Stiles?” Derek’s voice broke the daze he’d gone into. 

“Yeah, yeah, this is just… a lot to take in.”

“So what are you going to do now?” The question was loaded and wary. The fear that Stiles had seen in the doorway was there again, faint and almost unrecognizable, but Stiles saw it. Derek didn’t look away this time, those bright eyes meeting his for a long moment. What are you going to do now that you know I’m a monster? That’s what Derek was really asking. 

“Well I’m not going to tell anybody, if that’s what you’re worried about. Except Scott probably, because ah, sorry man, he kind of already knows?” 

Scott knows?!” And there was the full-throated fury he’d been expecting from the very beginning. Derek pushed away from the counter and Stiles held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. 

“Yeah well he was the one who helped me break into the Sheriff’s office for their files and I needed a sounding board for my theory and wow please don’t kill me. Or Scott. He’s a good guy, I promise!”

“You better be right.”

“Hey, I have good taste in people! I chose Laura didn’t I? And as to what I’m gonna do now, I am going to figure out what the hell is going on in this town. This latest body has something to do with Laura’s murder, and knowing what I do now about your family, I’m willing to bet the fire is connected too. I’m going to catch her killer is what I’m going to do.”

“No.” It hit Stiles like a brick to the face. 

“What do you mean, ‘no’? Whoever is doing this murdered my best friend, your sister, and you just want me to —!”

“Stay out of it. It’s too dangerous. You have no idea what kind of forces and people you are dealing with Stiles, and you’ll just get yourself killed.”

“Then help me!” He was shouting now, not caring that Derek was suddenly very close. 

“No.”

“I’m not going to just let this go! I won’t. I couldn’t save her but I will damn well find her killer and put him to justice!”

“And what if I’m the killer?” They were mere inches apart now, Derek’s eyes gleaming down at his as they threw the words.

“Oh don’t you dare act like I ever accused you! I stood by my father, by my family, but I never blamed you. I know you didn’t kill her, Derek, I know it.” This last was quieter, now. Stiles felt exhausted, too much emotion surging through him to focus on anything clearly. “Look, you hate me, I get it. You put up with me for Laura’s sake and you didn’t want me in your pack and I get it. But I’m going to do this, with or without your help, so you might as well help me. One last time. For her.”

Derek’s breath caught slightly and he took a step back, placing distance between their bodies once more. 

“What do you mean, I didn’t want you in my pack?” 

Stiles flashed him an incredulous look. 

“That’s what you meant when you said you didn’t need to be in the meeting because they knew your opinion about it, isn't it? You could barely stand talking to me for twenty minutes, why in the world would you want me to know about your secret? You know I’d just ask too many questions and annoy the hell out of you.”

“I was with Laura because everybody knew I agreed with her. I wanted you to know. I wanted to tell you. You were practically Pack already.”

Stiles’s mouth snapped shut. He couldn’t form a response to this.  

“Fine. I’ll help you. But only because Laura would hate me forever if I let you get killed.” 

Derek’s voice was steady, but Stiles could feel the tingle under his skin that told him something wasn’t right. Derek may have been agreeing to help, but there was more to this than he was letting on. Something connected to the tiny flash of panic Stiles had seen when he’d mentioned the fire, perhaps? 

Stiles would find out what it was. Later, though. 

For now, he had what he came for. The unbelievable truth about the Hales, and Derek’s tentative agreement to help him. All the adrenaline had left his body, and he felt totally worn out. And for all his muscled strength and glare-y murder eyes, he knew that talking about Laura and this huge secret couldn’t have been easy for Derek, either. 

Stiles had watched his father interview clients and suspects galore. He wasn’t going to push any more right now. 

“Did you seriously break into the Sheriff’s office?” Derek sounded skeptical. Stiles grinned, ready to regale him with the details, when the theme song for the classic Batman show filled the kitchen. Stiles scrambled for the phone in his pocket. 

“It’s from Scott.”

That was definitely a growl and Stiles was definitely not going to comment on it. 

He opened the text.

hope ur not kibbles n bits yet cuz they found another body

“Oh, fantastic. C’mon Lassie, if you really want to help me, let’s go. They found another body.”

Derek scowled, but followed him as he walked back down the hallway towards the front door, stopping only to grab a pair of shoes. The scowl deepened when he saw Stiles’s Jeep parked in the driveway.

“We are not taking that.”

“Oh shut up and get in the car. I’ll even roll the window down so you can stick your head out.”

Chapter Text

Scott wouldn’t stop staring at Derek. 

The three of them sat piled in the Jeep, parked a little over a block away from where police cruisers formed a blockade around the alley where the latest body had been found. Ever since they’d picked Scott up from outside his house, he’d been casting curious glances at the werewolf sitting beside Stiles from his place in the backseat. Every time Stiles had caught a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror, he’d been torn between a cringe and a chuckle. Derek looked increasingly murderous with every mile.

Scott was apparently still stuck on the whole ‘mythical creature of legends actually existing’ thing. Stiles understood (really, he did), but had elected to personally slide right on past all the sanity-doubting and reality-reshaping for now and focus on how Derek’s “special talents” could actually help them. 

“Alright, so, I’m praying that there’s some truth to the enhanced werewolf senses stuff I read about, because it would be really awesome if we could get a name for this guy without having to break into the police department again.” 

Derek turned to face him, looking wary. Stiles expected that he was weighing exactly how much information to reveal. 

“That ‘stuff’ is true, yes. We’re stronger, faster, and have much better senses than you.”

Dude,” Scott whispered, probably without even realizing it, his voice filled with awe. Derek bristled, but did not turn around, returning his glare to the scene in front of them. 

Stiles silently agreed with Scott (because honestly? This was werewolf thing was so cool) but they really didn’t have time right now, and Stiles needed to focus on the case. 

“So the name? Can you try and get it for me?”

Derek nodded.

“Drive a little closer, roll down the window, and be quiet.”

“Yes Sir,” Stiles rolled his eyes at the commanding tone, but did as Derek requested, inching the vehicle as close to the cruisers and yellow tape as he dared.

As Derek closed his eyes and cocked his head slightly towards the open window, Stiles took a moment to look at him. Really look. 

His jaw was covered in stubble, as usual, and it was clenched tightly as he strained to hear the conversation of the police officers; Stiles could see tension there. The faint beginnings of dark circles were just visible under his closed eyes, and Stiles felt something stir inside of him. 

Derek was definitely keeping something hidden, yes, but Stiles knew Derek hadn’t killed Laura. The two of them loved each other too entirely, too completely. For all the years they’d spent together, even before Derek had decided to tolerate Stiles’ presence on a regular basis, Stiles had always sort of seen Derek through Laura’s eyes. He was her slightly awkward, quietly intense younger (by one minute!she’d loved pointing out) brother, and Stiles had laughed and poked and prodded at him good-naturedly along with her. Even during their almost-friends period, his every experience with and memory of Derek had been tinted with Laura.

Now, though, it was different. Laura, of course, was the whole reason Stiles had decided throw himself into this mess, but she wasn’t actually there. He could picture her clearly in his mind, could hear her bursts of laughter, but nothing could change that she was well and truly gone, and that fact, along with time, had torn down the filter Stiles had once seen Derek through.

It’d been over a year since Stiles had last sat next to this Hale twin. Stiles had changed a lot in that past year, and he was beginning to realize that Derek had as well. Or maybe Stiles was only just noticing.

His face was harder, more set. The dark circles were only expected, Stiles supposed; Derek had lost so much in so little time, and yet he was still here, willing to help them (sort of), trudging through old memories, the kind that were covered in blood and ash and sorrow. He would always be Laura’s little brother, but the reality was that he was the only (functioning) member of his family left; he was the Hale family now. The intensity he’d always had was magnified. And as he sat there, inhumanly still, Stiles felt as though he were being drawn in, compelled by some force to lean in and…

Derek’s eyes flew open and caught his. 

Oh shit, werewolves weren’t, like, physic or anything? Right?

But Derek said nothing. He just continued to hold Stiles’s gaze, jaw still clenched.

Scott cleared his throat. 

“Catch anything useful?” Stiles’s voice was not shaky, thank you very much. 

“Yeah.” When it seemed like Derek did not intend to continue, Stiles flapped his hands in an expectant gesture. 

“And…?”

“From what I heard, they’re calling the victim Amanda…Pines, I think it was. The body is in the same condition as the other, but I think she must have some visible track marks because they’re talking about possible drug use. The triskelion is there too, same as the other.” His voice was grim.

“That’s, ah, amazing. Wow. Yeah. I can definitely work with that,” Stiles stumbled through the sentence, attempting to be cool while also processing that super werewolf hearing had been the provider of the latest piece of the puzzle. 

“Sooo Derek,” Scott drawled from the back seat, “any clue as to why your family symbol is carved on a couple of dead bodies?”

Stiles gave props to Scott for managing not to wet himself at the scowl Derek finally turned his way.

“No.” The low admission rumbled through the car. 

“Alright Cujo, calm down. And Scott,” he gave his friend an exasperated look, “please, just - ?”You are not trained in the ways of secret ninja Stilinski interrogation timing yet my friend. Stiles did notneed to lose another friend to a violent death. “This is what we know: whoever set the fire at the Hale house is most likely the person who killed Laura, and what with their apparent knowledge of all things werewolfy, they are also probably our current culprit. Now, the fire and Laura’s death, those make sense, kind of,” he ignored Derek’s flinch, “if we are dealing with somebody who does not like werewolves. A hunter or something. Those do exist, right?”

It took Derek a long while to answer. 

“There are certain factions that aren’t exactly friendly towards our kind, but my family has never had any issues with hunters, at least ones that follow their code- ” His voice was terse and too steady and Stiles wasn’t having it. 

“Stop bullshitting me. There are humans who hate werewolves and want to kill them. Am I right or not?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. So, as I was saying, if this person is a hunter, the fire and Laura fit. But why are they killing these people now? They aren’t werewolves, right? Do you know them, Derek? Mark Cahn? Or Amanda Pines? They have any connection at all to your family?”

“Not that I know of, no.”

“So why are they the ones dead and carved with werewolf graffiti? And how did the bodies get so torn up? I saw pictures, it was like,” he took a moment to steady himself, “it was like something had torn them apart. Without the symbol I’m sure they’d have dismissed it as a wild animal attack, to be honest.”

“Attack dog?” Scott offered.

“Hunters will do a lot of things that might shock you. If it suits their purposes,” Derek said quietly.

“Well, their utterly terrifying methods aside, I think the thing we need to focus on next is why these two particular fully human folks are dead, and not, say, you,” he directed the last at Derek. 

“Is there anyway to figure out if they were connected?” Scott asked.

Stiles shot him a grin. 

“Do you know who you’re talking to, dude? Now that we've got a name, I’m going to work some wonders.”

—-

Okay, so, maybe wonders was an exaggeration. 

Stiles hoped that his dad didn’t have a change of plans (he was supposed be out tonight having drinks with a few officers he knew from his former career) because he wasn’t sure how exactly he’d explain the figure of Derek Hale sitting at the foot of his bed. 

He also didn’t want to have to explain the information database page he had open on his computer, the one he’d logged into using his father’s registered name and password. 

Both Scott, who was situated at the head of his bed, and Derek watched Stiles intently while he scrolled through the pages of information he’d gathered on their two victims.

He’d already known most of the things they’d pulled in Mark Cahn’s brief background check - a few scrapes with the law, not really a nice dude, but also not a werewolf or a werewolf hunter apparently. 

Amanda Pines’s search also gave a small number of warnings and arrests, mostly for possession and one for intent to sell. She’d done a few months in juvie but hadn’t been behind bars again since she’d turned 18 a few years ago. The drug use the police had been speculating about was probably correct, then. But again, she had no apparent ties to the Hale family.

Stiles spun in circles in his computer chair, trying to shake off the frustration, but succeeding only in making himself dizzy.

“So, what? This guy decided he was sick of hunting werewolves and switched to killing off petty criminals and junkies?” 

“There’s nothing in common, at all?” Derek’s hand landed on the back of his chair, stopping the motion. He leaned over Stiles shoulder to read the screen and Stiles tried not to be distracted by the skin of his neck or how awesome he smelled. Earthy, like the woods after a summer storm. Stop that. 

“Er, no. No similar contacts, not even the same arresting officers. They lived in the same neighborhood, but on opposite ends. In fact, their addresses might be the only things that are even remotely the same.” An idea had formed in his mind. It was probably not a great one but… he was already investigating ritualized murders… with a werewolf

What could one more bad idea hurt?

Derek scowled as Stiles scrambled for his phone.

“Who are you calling?” 

“An… associate.” He shushed Derek when he tried to speak again, listening to the sudden brief silence as the other line picked up.

“What do you want now Stilinski?”

“Lydia! My fierce Amazon queen, how are you doing tonight?”

Scott made a strangled noise from on the bed. Derek’s scowl deepened. He was definitely going to get premature lines from that. 

“I repeat my previous question.”

“Oh I’m fantastic, thank you for asking! How are things with Allison progressing? Trying to take her to the dance in a few weeks?” Behind him there were more choking noises.

Lydia’s voice was a low purr through the line. 

“She says she’s got someone else in mind already, but that’s nothing I can’t handle. But I’m serious, Stilinski, I’m not looking for a girl talk pal, and neither are you, so what do you want?”

“Just to see if you have any information that might help me out.”

“What kind of information?”

“Well, you know your neighborhood pretty well, don’t you? Like to keep an eye out for the general goings-on? Or at least have people who do it for you?”

“My neighborhood? You mean the slums, right?”

“Look, Lydia -“

“No, I understand. Outsiders come poking around, they don’t get much out of us. But an insider like me…”

“Exactly. It’s got to be kind of under the radar, of course -“

“Of course it does.”

” - but if I send you some names do you think you could see what you could dig up for me? Specifically if they were connected at all? And do it all as quietly as possible?” The last thing he needed was the police to hear about his little side investigation. Bad news for all parties involved. 

“And what do I get out of it?”

“How about this time I owe you the favor?” 

There was a long pause, and Stiles imagined her pursing those perfectly shaped lips. Weighing the pros and cons. Solving the riddles of the universe while she was at it. 

“Okay, we’ve got a deal. You know, Stilinski, this is shaping up to be a very promising little enterprise we’ve got going on.”

“Hey, you scratch my back and -“

“You wish. Send me those names. I’ll get back to you by tomorrow.” She ended the call without a goodbye.  

“What was that?” Scott demanded. Stiles didn’t look up from where he was texting the names to Lydia.

“Well, for one, that was me finding out that you better be asking Allison to the dance or she’ll be showing up on a motorcycle, and two, seeing if we can’t get another side of the story about our victims’ than the police files. Lydia likes control, so I know she’s got contacts in places we can’t imagine -  if there’s a connection between them, she’ll find it.”

“….you really think I should ask Allison to the dance?” 

Scott’s phone was already in his hand, no doubt ready to text her and meet up as soon as they finished here. Stiles let out a little breathy laugh. Why let a gruesome murder investigation ruin a chance for some romance?

“Man, you really got it bad, don’t you?”

“Nothing bad about this, my friend.” Scott’s smile was wide and genuine.

“So,” Derek interrupted the moment, still standing next to Stiles’s chair, “what do we do now?”

“Now we do what most investigations actually consist of… we wait.”

—-

The next morning before school Stiles spotted Lydia leaning against the lamp post next to where her bike was gleaming in the sun. Stiles swung his keys around his index finger as he approached. 

“Anything good for me, oh Glorificus?”

She cocked an eyebrow.

“I hope you know it was a pain my ass getting anything on those names without pulling the cops down on me. You ask for some interesting favors, Stilinski,” she drawled. But Stiles knew that Lydia wouldn’t ask any more questions; she was too smart for that. Plausible deniability and all.

She straightened.

“Unfortunately I don’t know if I can tell you anything you aren’t already aware of. Cahn liked to go places he shouldn’t and take things that weren’t his, and you could count on him to take on any dirty work you didn’t feel like doing yourself if the paycheck was right. He was always looking for cash, most likely to fuel his gambling habit. And that girl Amanda had issues with her lowlife parents, which lead to issues with drugs, mostly crank. She got clean for a while after she finished her time in juvie, but recently she’d been spotted back in her old dens, looking for bigger and better things than before. Begging for money, probably turning a few tricks. I couldn’t find any connections though. Neither had gang ties, no overlapping friends or family. Best I can tell you is they were both opportunists looking for cash anyway they could to feed their own vices. Plenty of people probably wanted to hurt ‘em, but I don’t know why they’re dead - maybe they both ran across the same money lender of the nasty sort and it went the wrong way. That’s all my people could get, though.”

“When you say dirty work and opportunities… could that possibly entail, oh, a little arson?” 

She narrowed her eyes, but nodded.

“Probably. But what does that -? No, you know what, I don’t want to know.”

“Ah, yeah, that’s probably for the best. You’ve been a real help Lydia.”

“I’ll give you a call when I need to cash in that favor.”

“Of course.” 

She looked at him a moment longer, an indulgent smirk passing over her lips, and turned to sway lethally towards the school. 

Stiles was suddenly bursting. He needed to talk to Derek.

—-

Being on strict not-speaking-to-or-even-interacting-at-all-with terms with somebody for months and months made it slightly difficult to find an inconspicuous way to talk to them at a crowded school. 

Stiles jiggled his foot impatiently as he watched the leather jacketed form wind down the hallway. Derek met his eyes and raised a questioning eyebrow, but didn’t resist when Stiles grabbed the sleeve of his jacket and forcefully pulled him into the boy’s bathroom. He did, however, let out a low warning growl.

“Okay, okay, I’m letting go!” Stiles said as he released him, moving to check that nobody else was in the bathroom, and jamming the door shut with the stopper. 

“What?” 

The demanding tone didn’t even phase Stiles, he was too hyped up on theories. ”I talked to Lydia and this morning and I think she might have figured out our connection for us! God, she’s so smart. If I liked girls -“

“Stiles.”

“Right. The two victims were perpetually in need of cash, so she mentioned they might have crossed the same loan shark or something. But what if it wasn’t a loan gone wrong? What if it was our hunter?! I think they might have been paid to start the fire at your house, and now the hunter is covering his tracks!”

He was met with silence. Derek looked pointedly at the space just over Stiles shoulder, hands shoved into his jacket pockets. 

“Oookay. I’m going to take your silence as agreement and awe of my obvious brilliance and as encouragement to continue. We’ve got no other avenues left but trying to figure out who the hunter is and -“

No. ” Derek’s eyes had snapped back to his, flashing briefly an icy blue that made Stiles take a startled step back.

“What? What now? That was the point of this - ?”

“This was a stupid idea, Stiles. It’s too dangerous. I can’t let you… You and Scott should let me handle it from here.”

“Bu-“

“Hunters are ruthless. They hate us and they will hurt and lie -“

“The way you’re lying to me?” Stiles was furious. Finally they’d made some progress, and now Derek wanted them to stop? “You agreed to help me! You knew that this would lead us to something dangerous, you said you’d - ! God, Derek, you - aaargh! ”

Stiles ran his hands along his buzzed head, trying to articulate through the anger clouding his brain.

“I know you’re hiding something. Something big. And I think it’s time you came clean. Because obviously there is more to the story than you’re letting on, and my plan remains the same: I will pursue this whether you help me or not. But since you’re suddenly so concerned with my well-being, if what you are keeping hidden down in that scowly little werewolf brain has something to do with Laura’s death, your sister’s death, my best friend’s death, and it will help us find her killer than you better just fucking tell me! I’m trusting you here, and even if you hate me, I don’t care, I need you to trust me too. Trust me! She was my family too, Derek.”

And then he was leaning against the bathroom wall, head tilted back as he tried to remember how to breathe - you are not having an attack right now, Stiles, just get a grip - trying to force the churning in his stomach to subside. He pressed the base of his palms to his eyes and pretended he couldn’t feel the way his arms were slightly shaking. 

“You’re right.” Derek’s voice was soft in his ears. Long fingers wrapped around Stiles’s wrists and pulled gently, and then Derek was there, in front of his face, looming as always, but it wasn’t threatening. His eyes were impossibly sad and Stiles could have wept at the sight.  ”You have a right to know. But later, okay? We’ve got to go to class now. I will meet you after school and tell you. Everything. Are you alright?” He ducked his head to meet Stiles’s eyes straight on, and Stiles could have sworn he was actually worried. 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I’m good. I just… I’m fine.”

He realized that Derek still held his wrists, fingers locked loosely around them at his sides. His breath hitched. 

Derek pulled away then, shoving his hands back into his jacket, and gave a perfunctory nod. 

“Okay. Later, Stiles.”

“Later… Derek.”

And he was gone, the bathroom door swinging behind him. 

Well. That was… odd.

Somewhere between his rush of anger and his almost panic attack (probably his survival instinct kicking in far too late because of his yelling at and making demands of a friggin’ werewolf), he’d realized that he wanted to kiss Derek. Or for Derek to kiss him, either way would have worked.

He wanted to sink his fingers in that dark hair and pull him in and kiss him until all the bullshit in their lives was only background noise. He wanted to run his hands along a body hardened by lacrosse and the moon and grief and pull the animal out from under his skin for a rut against the goddamn bathroom wall. Derek Hale, Laura’s brother, werewolf Derek freaking Hale who wanted absolutely nothing to do with Stiles more than was necessary - 

Damn. 

This might be a problem. 

Chapter Text

Thinking about kissing Derek was totally off the menu. Thinking about Derek's lips at all was too, unless the thoughts were about how those lips liked to keep secrets. The bad, dangerous kind of secrets, though, not the sexy kind. 

But even his very real anger at Derek's caginess couldn't completely cover up the low buzzing of arousal as he watched him move agilely across the field. It was annoying. And extremely ill-timed.

He tried to focus on the dull pain in his back from leaning on the metal bleachers where he watched the practice from, to think about how Derek had coldly dismissed him before when he'd only wanted to offer friendship and comfort, to think about Derek's stupid need to be an island on his own with his issues and lies, but Stiles's mouth still went dry when a rough play left Derek on the ground. Stiles realized that he must have excellent control over his abilities to play the sport and not reveal anything the others might see as odd. 

When practice was over, Scott waved enthusiastically at Stiles from the field. Once the other boy had his attention, he gestured with a gloved hand, and Stiles followed the direction to see a glimpse of brown hair standing down by the edge of the bleachers. Allison. He gave Scott a thumbs-up. Scott was involved in this too, but Stiles could tell him what he needed to know after; as frightening as this might turn out to be, Stiles could feel that this was a conversation that he and Derek should have privately. 

He was twiddling around on his phone when the large shadow fell over the bleacher next to him. Derek stood above him, freshly showered and dressed in his usual monochrome color scheme, looking like a man about to face his own execution. 

"Where's Scott?"

Stiles shrugged.

"With Allison."

Stiles knew he was right about the need for privacy when Derek's face looked just a little less deathly at the news. But only a little. He shifted awkwardly, hands shoved in their default position in his jacket pockets. Stiles sighed. This was going to be like pulling teeth.

"Derek. Sit." Derek's face soured again, but at least annoyance was better than fear. He did sit, though, lowering himself and taking a place a good foot and a half away from Stiles on the bleacher. "Now, spill."

Derek's shoulders hunched and Stiles thought he might be actually trying to push in on himself and turn into a black hole. 

"I know who set the fire. At my house."

"What?! But - "

"Stiles! Shut up. I need," he drew in a deep breath, "I need you to just be quiet and let me tell you. Okay?"

Stiles snapped his mouth shut and drew his fingers across his lips, miming a zipper. 

"A few weeks before the fire I met this woman. I was walking on those trails behind our house and found her. I told she was trespassing and she just kind of laughed. Said she'd been hiking and gotten lost; she asked if I could show her the way back the main trail on the reserve. I couldn't just let her wander around our property on her own, obviously, so I agreed. She talked to me while we walked - I was, uh, upset over something, that's why I was out walking alone, and she could tell I think. And I was just... stupid. She was beautiful and I was feeling reckless, so I... talked. Kind of. She said she was in town visiting family but that she didn't really get along with them and I mentioned that my own was set for a visit. I should known something was up when she seemed so interested. I took her back to the trail, but she... We went back to her motel room." Derek leaned forward and rested his forehead on his clenched hands. His voice was thick. 

"After, she still wanted to talk. She said our property was beautiful, asked some questions about it. Too many damn questions and I didn't even pick up on it. I think I was just stunned that... I just thought she liked me. After the fire, though, I knew. I called the number she'd given me before I left and it was disconnected; turned out it was a burner phone. And I knew it was her. I fucking found a hunter on the property and instead of getting rid of her I gave her everything she needed."

Stiles opened his mouth but Derek held up a hand to halt any sound from it. 

"I know I should have told somebody. Then, as soon as it happened. But the only person left to tell was Laura, and she... well you know how she was then, after. I couldn't do that to her, couldn't hurt her any more than she'd already... I tried to find the woman. But all I had was her first name, Kate, if that's even her real name at all, and the disconnected number. I wanted to ask around, but I knew that if she was a hunter her family was mostly likely as well. And I couldn't tell the cops or even hire anybody to help because there was always the chance that they'd find out about us, and with so few of us left that was a risk I just couldn't take. And Laura... I felt so awful that I could barely stand to look at her. But you were there for her, even when I couldn't be, and eventually she seemed better. She was better. You'd helped her, you... you helped us both. I finally told her everything." He gave a low chuckle, but there was no real humor in it. "She was furious with me. But she was determined to continue the search, even though I told her it was a dead end. And you know how Laura got when she was determined about something. She hadn't been getting anywhere with her search at all, either, it seemed. But I guess she did find out something, because a few months after that she was murdered."

"Der-"

"I thought for sure that I was next, that it was Kate coming back to finish what she'd started. The wolfsbane rope you read about it? That's ancient stuff, our old lore. Wolfsbane can force the transformation. We bury our dead with it so they can run as their wolves in the afterlife. But Laura... she wasn't buried. She was just wrapped and waiting there for me, like they knew I'd find her. Like a sick idea of a present. And she was her wolf, but I had to know for sure, that it was really her, so I pulled it off. That wasn't a proper burial at all. No respect in it, just... taunting. And when I finally called the cops I knew there'd be trouble, but I thought that soon enough I'd be dead too. I called the hospital and had security around Peter increased - I figured if they'd been watching us long enough to surprise us that they'd eventually target him, but nobody unusual went to see him into the hospital. I couldn't stand be around... anybody without thinking that they might get hurt too, just for being near me. But here I am, still alive, and I don't understand. If this really is Kate, she's obviously waiting for something. She's fucking toying with me. And you, you have to be careful, Stiles. I know you think that I don't trust you or like you or whatever, but that's not true, and if something happened to you because of this... because of shit pulled down on us by my mistakes..."

Derek looked deflated. His shoulders drooped and his voice was raw. Stiles had never seen him, usually so proud and commanding, look so weary. His guilt was a tangible thing, swirling in the air around them and congealing in his lungs.

Stiles waited until he was sure that Derek's confession had run its course before finally answering. 

"Damn. Alright, man. I've got some things to say you. A lot to say to you, actually. But I think there's one thing that I need you to hear most of all. All this that's happening? It's not your fault. No, don't say anything, you had your turn and now it's mine. It. Is. Not. Your. Fault. That woman? She took advantage of you. You said she was older, and you were what? Sixteen? You were a child. And yeah, maybe you did or said some stupid shit, but that does not place the blame for her actions on your shoulders. She killed them, not you. Not telling Laura was a stupid move too, you're right. Even if you guys didn't want to let me in on any of it, which still stings a little, I'm not going to lie, she would have helped. She probably would have figured out a way to get my dad to help, even without telling him. But you said it yourself - she tried to figure it out on her own and..." He pressed a hand to his mouth to still the sudden trembling of his lips. "And we all know what happened. But that is all shit we can't change now, you can't change, no matter how hard you try. You can't just trap yourself with guilt and self-loathing forever. If you do that, Kate won't even have to come back and kill you, you'll end up doing it all on your own - you'll run yourself into the ground. The only way to go here is forward. And I think we both know that forward for us? It's finding her killer. It's closing her case. Her death is like a blockade in my road, a wall I can't get past, I think about it every damn day, and I'd bet my life it's the same for you. But we can figure it this out. We will do this. I will help you." Stiles reached forward but Derek flinched, and he aborted the movement, turning it instead into a rough run over his own head. "I'm still going to do this. Yeah, you should have told me about Kate earlier. But whatever, I'm moving past it. I'm doing this trust thing. So we have a name now. And you remember what she looks like, I'm sure. So that's a description. And you have me." He couldn't help the hitch in his voice at this last. "So what do you say, Derek? Ready to give your brooding a rest for a while and help me sleuth?"

Derek was silent for a long while. Stiles realized he was holding his breath. 

"Stiles, I -" Derek let out a heavy sigh and leaned back from where he still rested his head on his hands, sitting up straight and tall again, reminding Stiles that in those broad shoulders was unimaginable strength. "Yeah. Okay."

"Okay? For real this time? No more curveballs hidden in those eyebrows to throw at me?" And was that a laugh? No, couldn't be. 

"Yeah, Stiles, for real this time."

"Alright great! I think you need to write a description for me of everything you can remember about this Kate, everything, and I'll see what I can dig up. And I know you're not keen on anybody else knowing about your little condition, but might I suggest coming up with a little white lie that we can maybe tell Allison to wrangle her help? She's a whiz with computers."

Stiles was already standing and collecting his things, flinging his backpack over his shoulder, ready to head home and start working. Derek hadn't moved from his seated position though; instead, he was staring up at Stiles, his expression one that Stiles couldn't fathom. The closest descriptor he could think of was... fond. Weird. 

"What?"

Derek swallowed thickly.

"Thank you."

Stiles's heart thudded.

"Of course, man."

And then they were clomping along the bleachers towards the parking lot, the metallic sounds reverberating around them as Stiles led the way.

Another little niggling thought had bloomed in Stiles's brain and he was feeling good enough to let it wind down to his mouth. He tried to recall the weeks before the fire, pushing aside his memories of Laura, and dug around to see if he remembered anything being off with Derek. But those had been a busy few weeks, what with getting ready to go back to school and planning a few last ditch day trips and movie nights. Not to mention he'd been in a whirlwind of hormones and infatuation around then after he and Danny had finally slept together for the first time. But he couldn't seem to remember anything particularly bad happening to Derek. 

"So, hey, since we're doing the trust thing, I'm curious - what were you so upset about that day, if you don't mind me asking?"

A huge clanging noise behind him had Stiles whipping around in a startled move. "Wha-?!"

Derek was sprawled across the bleachers, his butt firmly stuck in a gap between them where he had tripped.

Chapter Text

"Scott, where are you?"

"Uh, at Allison's. Why, do you - ?"

"Perfect. Tell her I need her help. Meet me at my house in ten minutes."

Stiles didn't wait for Scott's response, knowing that even if he had interrupted something there, Allison's natural curiosity would overcome any of Scott's protests. His eyes flicked momentarily from the road he was driving on to Derek. 

"So, if she asks, we're just telling her that you're looking for someone who might know something about the fire, right?"

"I think that's best. It's the closest I'd like to have her to the truth..."

"...Without actually telling her the truth. Okay, man, that's all up to you."

Stiles was practically vibrating with excitement and nerves by the time they pulled up his house. Scott and Allison lounged on his front steps, leaning into each other and looking couple-y enough to make Stiles want to gag. In a friendly, mocking way of course, because honestly? They were pretty cute together. 

They rose when Stiles and Derek climbed out of the Jeep, and Stiles saw the glint of curiosity in Allison's eyes. They flicked between him and Derek. He gave a little shrug.

"Uh, yeah. Allison, this is Derek. Derek, Allison," he gestured awkwardly between them. As if the introduction was necessary - everybody knew who Derek Hale was, especially Allison. She'd listened to his rants about the guy and his deathwish for Stiles before. Which made this all the more awkward. "Derek is... helping." The last bit fell flat. 

Allison made a hrmm noise and her eyes promised a barrage of questions later. 

"Right. So, what kind of questionable practices do you need me for now? Hacking? Tracking? Changing a few grades in the school system?" She winked. 

Scott gaped. "You can do that?!"

"We need you to help us find someone. I could run names and try to figure out who she is on my own, but time is kind of of the essence here, and we both know you're faster and better on the computer. Interested?"

"Always," she said through a cheeky grin. "Let us in and we can get started."

---

The four of them were huddled into Stiles's room around his laptop as Allison pulled up a few sites and databases when she finally asked.

"So why are you looking for this person anyway? Something to do with a case? They going extra-marital?" She queried absently, never taking her eyes from the screen. The silence that met her question made her whip around, and Stiles had to lean back to avoid getting smacked by her brown curls. "What's this? Stiles Stilinski quiet? C'mon, don't hold back on me now, I know you've got your whole confidentiality thing, but usually you give me enough tidbits to satisfy me while I work."

"Uh, well, the thing is --"

"It's for me," Derek said. They were the first words he'd said since pulling up to Stiles's house, and Allison's eyes zeroed in on him sharply. "Stiles is helping me. We're looking for someone who might have had something to do with the fire at my house."

"Oh," her eyes softed. "Oh, wow, uh, okay. Of course, Derek. I'll do whatever I can. Can I get those details now? Any names, features, places?"

"She was in her late twenties, maybe early thirties. Blonde hair, green eyes, sharp features. Around 5'8". Met her on the nature reserve, hiking. She was staying at the Camelot Motel, but visiting family. She told me her name was Kate."

Allison's fingers stilled on the keyboard where they'd been furiously typing as Derek spoke.

"Why did you say you were looking for this person again?"

"She might have... information about the fire. We need to talk to her," Stiles almost couldn't get the words out through the sudden inexplicable tension in the air. "Why, isn't that enough info to find her?"

"No, it is. But you don't need any computers to find her. I know who that is." Her voice was chilly. 

"Tell me," the growl from Derek's throat made Stiles blood run cold.

"No," Allison finally turned to look at them, and the determination in her face was formidable.  "I'm not telling you any more until you tell me exactly what you're looking for from her. What information would she have about your house fire?"

Derek's lip curled in a snarl and Stiles put a hand on his shoulder, as if he would be able to restrain him should the werewolf actually try to attack Allison. But the touch was effective in distracting him momentarily, as Derek looked down at Stiles's hand in surprise. He didn't shrug it off, even as Stiles spoke. 

"Derek, uh, met her around that time. Look, Allison, we've been investigating, and there's some evidence that the people that have been killed recently? They were the ones that set the fire at Derek's.... and this woman might have been involved."

"Why? Why would she do something like that?" Allison's voice was higher now, a thread of panic running through the words and it set Stiles's nerves on edge.

"There are certain people who hate my family. They would do a lot things to get rid of us," Derek seemed to have pulled his scowl back, if only a little.  

"But why?"

"Look, Allison, obviously you know who this is, and we really need to talk to her. Just talk," and Stiles ignored Derek's flinch at that, "we need to know what she knows." He felt sick to his stomach. He suddenly wished that he hadn't even brought Allison into this, because he hated this. He hated lying to her. But there was so much at stake. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Please just tell us."

Her eyes shot around them, settling finally on Scott's quiet form where he sat on the bed. Stiles hadn't had a chance to fully update Scott yet, but Scott did know about the Hales, and that they were searching for a hunter. He couldn't have failed to make the connection that this Kate had something to do with that. 

Scott looked up from where his hands were tightly grasped together, and his brown eyes were soft as they looked at her.

"It's true, Allison."

Allison worried her lower lip and looked away from them, casting her eyes down. Long seconds passed.

"That sounds like my Aunt Kate. Kate Argent."

Stiles sucked in a deep breath and felt Derek's muscles tense immediately underneath his hand.

"I remember her being here then, because it's the last time I saw her, in person at least. Our family... we don't really talk to her much anymore. She and my dad had a huge fight a long time ago and their relationship has been strained ever since. She came that year to talk to him about something, I remember, something to do with the fight I think, but I'm not sure. My parents aren't really big on the whole sharing information thing." The hard determination was back in her face when she met Stiles's eyes.

"Do you know where we could find her?"

"To talk?" It was a pointed question.

"To talk," Derek answered when Stiles's words stuck in his throat. 

"She doesn't live around here. Last I heard she was in San Diego. I can call her."

"Do that."

"Please," Stiles tacked on to Derek's command, shooting him a meaningful glare. He may be used to Derek's brusque manner (and wow, when did the comfort level between them shoot up to that?) but Allison didn't know why this was so important to them.

"Look, guys, I don't know why you think she had anything to do with that fire, or these people. Kate may not get along with some people, but she's not... she's not bad. I... I can't believe that she would ever deliberately get involved in anything like that. I'll call her and see what I can do, but only because I know you're going to realize that." Allison's voice wavered just enough that Stiles wondered who the speech was really supposed to convince. 

Derek gave her a long look, and stepped away from the computer, moving out of Stiles's grip. Stiles missed the contact immediately.

Scott filled the space Derek left and reached out to take Allison's hands in his.

"Thank you."

She gave a tiny nod. Pulling her hands away, she reached into her pocket for her cell phone and proceeded to scroll through contacts. The room was utterly quiet when she raised it to her ear.

"Hi! Oh, hi. Is Kate there? This is her niece - oh. Really? Are you sure? Oh, okay then. Thanks. Bye," she sounded dazed as she hung up.

"What's wrong?" Scott asked gently.

"That was her friend. On Kate's home phone. She said she's house-sitting while Kate is away 'on family business'... in Beacon Hills."

---

"Are you sure this is her room?" Scott whispered. Stiles stared at the metal 16 hanging on the motel door.  

"Well, it's rented under the name Kate Archer, and this is the area where Allison tracked her cellphone signal. I don't know how sure we can be past that."

"She's staying at the same place," Derek sounded incredulous. "It's like she's not even trying to hide."

"Also, multiple counts of murder? Not exactly inconspicuous," Stiles pointed out. 

"I still think we should have told Allison," Scott muttered. Derek glared.

"Tell her what? That her aunt is a werewolf hunter? So she can run back to the rest of her family, who are also probably werewolf hunters and tell them about me?" He scoffed. "Of all the girls to date, you would pick her, McCall."

"Hey!" Scott and Stiles protested at the same time.

"She my friend too, Derek, and she's great. Don't forget she's the entire reason we even know who Kate is," Stiles couldn't keep the irritation out of his voice. This was getting entirely too complicated. Beacon Hills may have been a relatively small town, but there was no way this many people should have been connected. There should be a new theory: six degrees of Beacon Hills.

"Whatever. Let's just do this," Derek turned hard eyes on them. "Stay behind me, and if she draws any kind of weapon, you run." He flashed the blue in his eyes when Stiles opened his mouth to protest. "No, don't argue with me on this. I need you to be safe. I need to you to promise me." 

Beside him, Scott muttered something that sounded like, "I have no problem with that" and Stiles felt himself nod. The intensity of Derek's stare frightened him.

The three of them were standing on the balcony of the Camelot Motel, about to burst in on the person who burned down Derek's house and had brutally murdered two other people in the last week. So maybe it wasn't just Derek's stare that frightened him. And maybe the intensity of it wasn't misplaced. 

Allison had been called away by her mother for family dinner, but her departure had been extremely reluctant. The sour feeling in Stiles's stomach hadn't gone away. But he had promised that it would be Derek's decision about how much she knew, and Stiles tried to logic his way out of the guilt by thinking that she was probably much safer not knowing the extent to which her aunt was involved.

She had wanted to call Kate's cellphone after the conversation with her friend, but Stiles had somehow managed to talk her out of that. The truth, of course, was that they didn't want Kate to know they were coming, but he had just told Allison that they didn't "want to spook her". It was a stretch and they all knew it. But she also knew now that her aunt was in town and hadn't told a single soul in their family, at least that she was aware of. Her suspicion had made her snippy, but she'd traced the number for them. He was going to owe her for this. Big time. Family was hard. And Allison was one of his best friends... but so was Laura. For her, he'd risk a lot of things. Maybe that was stupid, but it also wasn't going to change. 

After Allison's departure, Derek had immediately sprung into action. He protested Stiles and Scott's decision to join him, but backed down before Stiles had to launch into yet another tirade about how they were doing this together or not at all. 

"Please, I need you to not do anything stupid." There was iron in Derek's voice as he directed this at Stiles. His eyes followed Stiles's tongue as it flicked out to nervously lick his lips. 

"Yeah, okay."

Derek reached for the door handle, and Stiles almost made a comment about how they didn't have a key, but then he saw the long vicious claws extending from Derek's hand and it turned into an aborted squeak. 

The wood and metal of the door and lock protested loudly as Derek gave it a rough turn, and it splintered. The motel room door swung open and Stiles tensed behind where Derek had stepped in front of him and Scott. But the sight that waited for them in the room was not of an angry werewolf hunter equipped with a crossbrow to shoot them - Kate was there, alright, sprawled out on the bed. Bloody. Mangled. And very, very dead. 

Well fuck. 

Derek's howl of pain and frustration made Stiles's hands shake as he reached for his phone to call the police. But he caught sight of another cell phone on the floor next to the night stand, the screen cracked as if it had been flung there during the struggle. 

"Oh, God, this is so illegal, so so illegal," he muttered as he scooped up the phone and hit dial on his own. 

The police found Kate's body that night after an anonymous tip to the station, but they did not find her cell phone in the room. 

---

Stiles couldn't sleep. 

Every time he closed his eyes he was assaulted with torn bodies and bloodied sheets, all them with the same empty hazel eyes. 

He tried to imagine them the way he remembered before, bright and full of mischief. The Laura he's doing all this for.

But then the eyes weren't hers anymore. The brows above them are thicker now, and they're set above high cheekbones that lead into a stubbled jawline. Stiles can feel it under his fingertips, tracing lightly up and around to card through dark hair. The lips against his were dry and firm, opening without hesitation to let his tongue slip inside. 

He tastes blood and he realizes the teeth inside it are sharp, inhuman. 

Stiles woke from the dream he'd fallen into and rubbed a hand harshly down his face to clear his head. 

His life was very confusing.

---

Stiles badly wanted to avoid seeing Allison the next day, but he knew he couldn't. That would have just been a dick move. And so when she marched toward him in the hallway the next morning, her eyes red rimmed with grief and anger, he did not give into the urge to run away. He stood and took the pounding of her fist into his chest with only the manliest of 'ow!' s.

"You! Tell me, now! NOW!" It was the loudest whisper he'd ever heard and the pain in it rang in his ears. 

"Yes, yes, okay, not here though - come on," he moved out of range of her fists and slipped through the crowd towards the men's room. 

"Stiles, I can't -," she protested furiously, but he yanked her in after him, making sure to kick that ever-handy doorstop into place. He really needed to find a better place for in-school clandestine meetings. 

"We found her like that, I swear. We didn't get a chance to talk to her and we didn't see anything. I don't know what happened, it must have been the same person who got the others. The person who killed Laura. That's who we're really looking for, I'm sorry I didn't tell you. Oh, God, Allison, I'm so sorry. So sorry," and then he hugged her, hard and pulled tight against him, and she plastered herself to his front, arms curling up around his shoulders, and she cried. 

He stroked her hair and didn't let go until she was breathing evenly again.

"Stiles," her voice was muffled against his shoulder and she pulled back to meet his eyes. "I need to know the truth. Everything this time, not just some bullshit you guys pulled on me to keep me in the dark. My aunt is dead. My family is freaking outI am freaking out." She dragged in a deep, ragged breath. "I need to know how she was connected to the fire. And to... Laura's death? Oh, God, really?" She trembled, as if Stiles's earlier words were only just sinking in now. "I need to know what is really going on here." 

Stiles closed his eyes briefly and wondered once again when this became his life. Investigating murders. Keeping werewolf secrets. Lying to his friends. It sucked. 

"Okay, okay. All I can tell you is that yes, we are investigating Laura's death. But we have reason to believe that your Aunt Kate? She paid those other people they found to set the fire at the Hale's. And so we thought... Well, we thought she was involved in Laura's murder, too, but now... It looks like somebody is taking out everybody involved with the fire. Maybe the same guy that killed Laura."

"But why?! I know Derek said their family had enemies but why would Kate want them dead? I don't understand," the tears were forming her eyes again, but her voice didn't waver. 

"I... I can't tell you. I wish I could, but I just can't. I think you need to talk to Derek," Stiles raised his hands in surrender when she made a move like she was going to hit him again. "Please, Allison, just talk to him. The thing with Kate and his family - it's big. Like, really big. It's not my place. But I will talk to him about this, because you deserve to know. Meet me at lunch?" 

She pulled back, wiping at stray tears. Her eyes were narrowed with distrust and Stiles wanted to cry with her at the sight. He leaned forward and framed her face with his hands, running thumbs along her cheeks and pressing his forehead lightly against hers. 

"Please just trust me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he whispered. 

She nodded and stepped out of his hold, brushing past him out the door. 

---

sent: ditch your jerk posse and meet me by the field at lunch

received: news?

sent: no but you owe her an explanation

---

Allison leaned heavily into Scott as the three of them walked towards the field. Stiles's mouth was dry.

He almost breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Derek's figure standing by the bleachers, hands shoved in his pockets and his stance stiff. Almost. At least he'd showed. When Stiles hadn't received an answer to his last text, he'd wondered if Derek would even make an appearance. But here he was, and Stiles had no idea what he was going to do about Allison. He only hoped that Derek would trust her enough to tell her the truth. They needed her on their side. This thing was getting messier by the second, and he didn't want to see anybody else get hurt.

Stiles reached up a hand to stop Scott, and his friend pulled up short beside him. Reluctantly Scott unlaced his fingers from Allison's, and nodded towards Derek. Allison's eyes flicked between Scott and Stiles, searching. She must have found what she was looking for, because then she was leaving them behind, walking towards Derek.

Derek met Stiles's eyes. Stiles gave a small nod and he watched Derek's jaw clench. Tell her. Trust me. 

Stiles couldn't heard the words they exchanged when she reached him, but he saw Derek lower his eyes and duck his head, looking almost soft for a moment. Giving his condolences, he thought. Then they were walking away from him and Scott, towards the wooded area at the edge of the fields, and Stiles felt like a trespasser.

"C'mon man, let's go. They need to talk."

Scott followed as he walked away.  

---

Derek was nowhere to be seen the rest of the day. 

Allison, however, showed up to Civics looking thoroughly rattled, and Stiles knew that Derek had told her everything. 

She sat down heavily in the seat next to his and turned, mouthing ' werewolves? ' and he could only nod. He knew that feeling. 

Well, sort of. He didn't know what it was like to also find out your aunt was a murderous werewolf hunter. 

The teacher broke them into groups for classwork, and he and Allison were seperated. After class, though, she pulled him aside and leaned in closely to speak.

"I don't know why Kate did what she did. I don't know if I can believe that, but, I also trust you. I'm really pissed at you for lying to me, but you are my best friend. And you trust Derek. So, yeah, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around... everything. But I do know that no matter what she may or may not have done, she was family, and somebody hurt her. If you guys are seriously going to go after whoever did this - to Kate, to Laura, to those people - I want to help." 

Stiles stared at her. The strength in her voice and the set of her jaw was amazing. She was awesome. Scott was lucky. 

"Welcome to the team, Archer. Newsflash: werewolves make things really complicated."

And now would probably be the time to tell her that he'd taken Kate's phone. 

Chapter Text

Scott went home with Allison that afternoon, and Stiles watched them lean and whisper intimately to each other as they departed from him in the parking lot. He knew Allison was a trooper, but the quiet acceptance she'd settled into of their current situation had still somehow surprised him. He was monumentally glad that, for now at least, she was on their side.

Stiles still hadn't seen or heard from Derek by later that night. He'd gone as far as to type an "are you alright?" text, but hadn't actually gotten around to sending it yet. The little (1) in his drafts folder taunted him. He and Derek may have suddenly started spending time together again, a lot of time, but that didn't mean they were friends. They were joined by a common goal. He hoped that after this was all over, as long as it ended with none of them dead or in prison, that maybe he and Derek could start reforming some semblance of the friendship they'd once had, but there were no guarantees on that.

It didn't help that Stiles was also apparently dreaming about him now.

Derek had let someone else in today, another person now knew his deepest secret. A person whose family member was responsible for the worst pain he'd ever known. It was potentially dangerous and incredibly brave. Derek had trusted Allison, and he'd trusted Stiles, and now Stiles could only hope that trust would be justified. Stiles had no idea how the guy was dealing with this, and so he decided at long last to just give him some time.

He pulled a meatloaf from the oven (his mother's recipe) just as his father stepped into the kitchen, hair gleaming with moisture from his shower. Keith had arrived home about twenty minutes earlier, tossing Stiles a hurried a "hello" before heading to the bathroom; he'd been working a local case all week investigating a secretary whose boss suspected her of using her lunch break to sell company secrets. 

Stiles threw an absent smile at his father and Keith sighed. A heavy, fatherly sigh. Uh-oh.

"Okay, give it up. What's wrong?" Keith leaned on the island across from his son, his wedding band glinting under the center light. 

"What do you mean?" Stiles sounded defensive and he knew it. 

"What I mean is that you've been quiet. Too quiet. And you haven't stopped by the office to bug me for a few days. I know that I probably shouldn't be complaining, but honestly it's starting to freak me out a little. You didn't even give me grief about putting on the slow jazz station last night. So what's up? Drugs? Boys? Freaky cult indoctrination?"

Stiles snorted. 

"Hey, if you want to bore yourself into an early grave with that crap - "

"Stiles," and this time his name was soft and worried. His chest constricted. 

What was wrong? His best friend was a dead werewolf, the biggest lead they had regarding her death they'd found slain in a motel room, he was illegally hiding important evidence from the crime scene in his bedroom, and oh, not to mention he was starting to think he wanted to be a lot more than almost-friends with one Derek Hale.

"Just school stuff, Dad. Don't worry about it. I've got a paper that's been kicking my butt."

Keith nodded solemnly.

"Alright, fine. I," he paused, and the uncertainly on his dad's face made Stiles's brow furrow. "I know that the stuff that's been happening around here has got to be digging up some memories. And I hope you know that I'm always here, if you want to... talk."

Stiles pulled his oven mits off and walked around the island, pulling his dad into a tight hug. Keith was startled and stiff at first, but soon his arms were tight around Stiles. 

"Thanks, Dad," he muttered against his dad's shoulder. "I love you."

Keith clapped a hand on his back as they pulled out of the embrace.

"You too, son." 

The tension in the air dissipated as they set the table and cut into the meatloaf. It almost felt like normal life for a while, and Stiles put werewolves and murder out of his mind to chat with his father about the secretary (who Keith believed was actually innocent) and argue over Stiles's continued resistance to looking at the college brochures piling up on the coffee table. In the back of his mind Stiles already knew that he'd only be applying to colleges close to home, but his father didn't like to hear that, so they teased each other about his chances of heading off to the Ivy League.

They watched the cheesy buddy cop movie playing on TV after dinner, until Keith was snoring lightly on the couch and Stiles knew he couldn't ignore his life anymore. 

There was a dead woman's cellphone waiting to be snooped through. 

---

The number looked like it had a local area code, but Stiles didn't recognize it. It was strangely formatted in such a way that made him question if it was even sent from a phone. The text was in Kate's received messages folder, hidden among others from what he supposed were her friends back in San Diego inquiring about how "business" was going and why wasn't she answering their messages? and Stiles felt sick to his stomach reading them, but it was necessary. 

The lone text from the unknown number was his golden ticket, though. 

Beacon Hills needs another extermination.

Well.

At least it wasn't "I know what you did last summer". 

Somebody had wanted Kate Argent back in Beacon Hills, and they must have pushed the right buttons, because she sure had come running. The vicious murderer headed straight into the arms of... well... another vicious murderer. Stiles wanted to call it poetic justice but he was too busy trying not to feel queasy at memories of the crime scene.

His mind was a war zone that night, his calculus homework forgotten on his desk as he combed through every detail they'd uncovered so far. Kate had been their best chance. 

All those killed so far had been werewolves or had been involved in the Hale fire. Who else in this town knew about the Hales? Allison had said her family was estranged from Kate, but that didn't mean they didn't know about Kate's sick little hobby, or even that they weren't involved. Allison wouldn't be happy if they were forced to look at the Argent family.

These killings were looking more and more like revenge, the spirals of the Hale family carved into the victims's chests as retribution for their awful crime. Stiles could no longer ignore that fact. But with all the Hales besides Derek dead or comatose, Stiles didn't know what to think of it. There was no way Derek had anything to do with this. His entire body rebelled at the thought. Derek had been torturing himself since the beginning of this whole ordeal, thinking his old mistakes had come back to haunt them again. Derek wasn't a killer. 

The phone in Stiles's hand was their only lead now. He knew they needed more. It was time for a fresh perspective.

If Laura really had been investigating the fire like Derek claimed, there had to be something somewhere that showed her progress, right? Derek said he'd searched Laura's room after her death, but he didn't know her the same way Stiles had. Stiles desperately needed to look for himself, for anything that could help.

Tomorrow he would give Allison the phone and let her work on tracing the number. Even if it was unfamiliar or not from a cell, with enough time he knew she'd find a source. And he'd talk to Derek about searching Laura's room again. Hopefully the guy would be in school tomorrow. 

Stiles pulled out his own phone and stared once more at the unsent message. Worrying his lower lip, he opened it and typed out a new text, sending it before he could stop and think about it too much.

good night

He fell into an exhausted sleep and didn't see the answering text he'd received a few minutes later until the next morning.

Good night Stiles

---

Derek's Camaro was in the lot the next morning, but he himself was nowhere to be seen as Stiles headed in to the school.

Allison's usually cheerful greeting for him was subdued today, and her smile cracked momentarily when Stiles handed over Kate's cellphone. 

"I can't do much until I'm home, and then it'll be a matter of making sure my family doesn't see anything. So I'll just let you know later, if and when I find something."

She didn't wait for a response, heading for her first class with her back straight and without a backward glance.

Scott appeared to lounge beside him at his locker a few minutes before the first bell sounded.

"She didn't say anything to her parents, you know," he started, and didn't wait to hear Stiles's squawked protest that he never suspected that she would, "but I almost did. Her mom is scary, dude."  

---

Stiles spotted Lydia's bouncing locks on his way to his Journalism class and, in a moment of blind stupidity, reached out to curl his fingers around her passing elbow. 

Instantly he was shoved hard into the row of lockers behind him by two of Lydia's crew; Boyd's forearm pressed against his throat and Isaac's blue eyes threatening. But the shiver of fear that slid up Stiles's spine was because of the low, feral noise coming from the edge of the crowd of students gathering around the tableau they made. He found Derek's eyes and his breath would have caught, but the arm on his throat was currently preventing that.  

"Let him go," Lydia said lightly, and the noise stopped as Stiles was released from their hold.  

Stiles reached a hand up to rub his throat as he coughed and sucked in air.

"Well, I was going to thank you again for getting that information for me, but damn, Lydia, if I knew my attempt at gratitude would get me jumped, I'd have just texted you."

She moved towards him, mouth pouted in a faux sympathy, and reached up to pinch his cheek. He slapped her hand away and she laughed. 

"Aw, poor baby." But then she rested the raised hand lightly on the side of his neck in a wordless apology, and leaned up to speak softly by his ear. "Some of the crew have been on edge recently, what with the goings-ons. I'll let them know not to take it out on you, alright?"

"Appreciated."

Her smile reached her eyes as she walked away, with her glaring goons following her. Stiles let out a deep breath and closed his eyes, leaning his head against the lockers, the metallic clang echoing as students around them dissipated, no doubt disappointed that there wasn't going to be a fight. 

He felt Derek's glower before he even saw it. The werewolf loomed over him when he opened his eyes. 

"You're an idiot," Derek said.

A bell sounded and let him know they were late to their classes.

And then Stiles was being moved forcibly down the hallway towards his classroom by the firm grip of Derek's hand on the back of his neck. If Stiles noticed the way the fingers brushed lightly over the spot where Lydia's had been moments before, he didn't say anything. 

---

He did, however, let out an "Uhhhhh?" of surprise later that day when Derek plopped down next to him at the lunch table. 

"What are you doing?" Stiles hissed.

"Eating," Derek replied around a mouthful of pizza.

"No! I mean, what are you doing here, sitting with me? Where people can see us? Won't your posse subtract your cool points? What if they take away your sweet leather jacket?" Stiles craned his neck around to see Derek's usual crew staring at them, Jackson looking like somebody had pissed in his Wheaties. 

Derek looked too, briefly, and turned back with a shrug and an eyeroll.

"Don't be - "

"- an idiot," Stiles muttered. "Yeah, I know. That seems to be the theme of today."

He watched Derek demolish his slice of pizza in record time.

"Oookay, since you're here, then... I went through Kate's phone last night. There was a text message from a weird number telling her that Beacon Hills 'needed another extermination', and I'm betting it was our killer luring her back. They obviously knew she wouldn't be able to resist another go at..."

"Extermination." Derek's voice was ferocious, cold with rage. "Like we're pests. Fucking hunters." 

Stiles had the insane urge to reach out and draw his hand along Derek's clenched jaw. He kept talking instead.

"I gave the phone to Allison this morning, she'll try to trace the message for us later." The corners of Derek's lips turned down at Allison's name, but he just nodded. "I'd also like to come over to your place after school today and look through Laura's room. See if I can find some evidence of her investigation."

Derek's eyebrows attempted to bridge the divide between. "I've already looked. Multiple times. There was nothing."

"And while I am not doubting your super special werewolf investigative powers, I am the private investigator -"

" -unlicensed," Derek muttered.

" - AND the best friend," Stiles continued. "You guys may have been close but there's a lot of stuff you show your friends that you might not want your brother to know about."

"Like what?" Derek snapped defensively.

"Would you have shown Laura where you kept your porn?"

Derek flinched. Stiles smirked.

"Come over after practice."

They said no more on the subject, and fell into what could almost have been considered companionable silence. 

For a few minutes, anyway. Then Stiles started telling Derek about the case where a man had suspected his girlfriend of cheating on him and had his father follow her, only to find out that she wasn't lying about being "at work" at all, because she was actually a porn star.

If a few heads turned around at the sound of Derek Hale's bark of laughter, neither Stiles nor Derek noticed. Allison and Scott exchanged a look before changing their original course towards the pair and finding their own table.

---

Stiles knew he wouldn't be able to focus on any work at home just waiting, and he also didn't want to fuel any more dreams with footage from Derek's lacrosse practice, so he drove straight from school to the Hale house and settled in to wait in his car. 

He was almost done outlining his first college admissions essay (he did listen to his dad, no matter what Keith thought) when the purr of the Camaro's engine pulled him out of it. He climbed out of the Jeep to follow Derek's strides towards the front door.

"You didn't stay for practice," Derek remarked as he slid in his house key.

"No, I did some work instead. What? You starting to miss my cheerleading skills?" He asked, bemused. Derek's shrug was almost nonchalant.

"Just figured you'd be there." Derek tossed his backpack on one of the tall chairs around the kitchen island and headed for the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of water. "Want anything?"

"No, thanks."

Stiles couldn't help but watch the way Derek's throat worked as he sucked down the water. Stop that, he scolded himself, but it didn't really help.

"I've barely touched anything in her room, except when I looked," Derek said after coming up for air, and it took Stiles a moment to remember exactly why he was here. Laura's room. Right. "It should all be the same. I... I didn't want to move anything. Disturb it." 

Stiles felt like a stone had settled in his stomach. 

"Okay. Let's do this, then." 

He didn't need Derek to lead him to Laura's room, he'd been there more times than he could possibly count. He traced his fingers along the wallpaper as he walked up the familiar staircase and made a left to the wing of the house that had been the twins's. 

He forced himself not to hesitate in opening the door. Specks of dust glinted in the sun rays coming through the window in her room. The sight of cheerful light green walls and white furniture hit Stiles like a brick. He felt Derek behind him as he slowly stepped over the threshold. 

Stiles moved carefully through the room. He saw Laura's favorite perfume on her vanity and had to dig his fingernails into his palm to stop from reaching out and spraying it, just to feel like she was there. The tattered stuffed dog she'd had since the third grade sat on her perfectly made bed, as if waiting. He lifted a hand to cover his mouth as he stopped in the center of the room to steady himself.

"Stiles?" Derek's voice came from where he stood in the doorway. The concern in it made Stiles's heart constrict. 

He took a deep breath and pulled himself together. He had a job to do.

"I'm alright. It's just... a lot. You know."

Derek didn't respond as Stiles began to move with purpose. He pulled open all the drawers in the room, sifting through clothes and makeup and forgotten sheets of paper covered in doodles and math problems. He checked behind the vanity and bureaus. He pulled the books off the bookshelf and shook each one out before replacing it. 

The last item on the shelf was a photo album, and even though he knew it wasn't what he was looking for, he couldn't stop himself from opening it up. The first picture there was of him and Laura, grinning like lunatics up at the camera from where they were submerged in her pool, their arms resting on the side to hold them up, elbows touching.

Stiles felt his knees wobble and he sat heavily on the side of the bed. A shift told him Derek had joined him, but he didn't look up from where he was slowly flipping through the pages.

Pictures of Laura with her family, of her and her mom all dressed up for what looked like a wedding, of Laura and Derek at beach (with Laura's cheeky grin contrasting against Derek's surly stare), of Stiles at his birthday party with Laura's arms thrown tight around him as she lead the rest of the guests in singing. That had been the year after his mom died, and Laura had showed up with a batch of homemade lasagne, his favorite meal, what his mom had made every year for him. There was Stiles and Laura dressed in school colors and clutching signs that read "WE LOVE YOU DEREK" and "GO DANNY". 

As he flipped through, he noticed a few pictures were missing. 

"Where are the rest of them?" He turned to Derek, uncaring that he would no doubt see the sheen of tears in Stiles's eyes. 

"I took some of them," Derek answered, looking as worn as Stiles had ever seen him.

"Could I...?" Stiles trailed off, knowing that Derek would understand. Derek lowered his eyes, but gave a curt nod. He stood and walked out of the room, leaving Stiles on the bed. Derek's room was right across the hallway where it had always been; apparently he hadn't moved into the larger wing his parents used to occupy. 

Derek came back cradling a few dark wood picture frames in his arms, which he placed gently on the bed beside Stiles. Stiles grabbed for them like a starving man, drawing his fingers along the frames.

There was one of teenaged Derek and Laura in front of a mantel that was decorated for Christmas, arms around each other and their smiles bright. Another of them when they were much younger, dressed in matching "Thing One" and "Thing Two" shirts, with their dad laughing in the background. The last looked the most recent, and had all four of the Hales standing together on the front steps of their home, which stood beautiful and unblemished behind them. 

Slowly, Stiles picked up each one to look at them before placing it back on the bed. 

"Thank you," he whispered. 

"There's, uh, one more," Derek said quietly. He reached into the back pocket of his pants and pulled out a beaten brown leather wallet; long fingers pulled a folded photograph from it. Stiles gently smoothed out the worn picture on his thigh. 

It was from the Hales' last 4th of July party. Laura, little tipsy on her father's favorite beer, was in the center, with her arms thrown over Derek's and Stiles' shoulders where they flanked her. Her eyes were bright with mirth and Stiles's mouth was open in laughter. Derek wasn't facing the camera directly, but the picture caught the small smile on his profile as he looked at his sister and her friend. Stiles remembered this. Right after Mrs. Hale had snapped the picture, Laura had given them both big sloppy kisses on their cheeks, proclaiming that they were "her favorite boys". 

Stiles traced the lines where it had been folded and refolded and pressed in its place in Derek's wallet. 

He handed it back to Derek and wiped at the stray tear on his face. 

"We're going to find them. Whoever did it to her, we are going to find them. They won't get away with it. We are going to find the truth."

"I know," Derek replied, placing the picture back in his wallet and sliding it back into his pocket. 

Stiles was on his feet again then, conviction strengthening his shaking knees. He dropped to all fours and flipped up the bed skirt to crawl under it. 

"What are you - ?" Genuine surprise rang in Derek's voice.

"There's a patch of carpeting by the wall here that's loose," Stiles explained from under the bed, aware that he probably made a ridiculous sight with his legs and butt sticking out from beneath the bedframe. "Laura used to hide stuff she didn't want people to see there." Like the photos from the night of the Homecoming dance, where they didn't actually attend the dance so much as party in the rented limo. 

But all Stiles could feel was hard flooring as he dug around beneath the loose patch. He arched his back and slid out, making sure not to hit his head, looking up just in time to see Derek's head swing away from where...

Had Derek been... staring at his butt?

Not that it wasn't a nice butt. It was, he knew. But was it nice enough that Derek Hale, his ex-enemy (sort of) and now up-and-coming star of his fantasies, would steal a look? 

Stiles couldn't help the tiny quirk of a smile he got on his face and decided to file that away for future analysis. 

He brushed dust of his jeans as he stood. Where else had Laura liked to hide things? Stiles turned in a slow circle around the room, trying to remember. He eyes latched onto the air vent high up on the wall. Bingo.

He grabbed the chair from in front of the vanity and pulled it across the room. Derek's eyebrows raised almost to his hairline as he watched Stiles climb on the chair and reach for the corners of the vent.

Much to Stiles's delight, the screws meant to hold it in place were indeed loose, and with a few twirls, he was yanking the vent cover off. Straining his arm back into the recess, he almost shouted with triumph as his fingers found the edge of a box. He pulled the shoe box out of the vent leapt off the chair, heading straight to where Derek still stood by the bed to dump the contents out on the comforter. 

"Jackpot," he said, just as Derek let an out a rather undignified, "How did you - ?"

"I'm awesome, that's how." 

But then he was too busy being thoroughly impressed by the contents of the box to quip anymore. 

Laura really had been investigating. Seriously investigating. Stiles had no idea how she'd gotten this stuff. The box contained police records about the fire, and mugshots of both Mark Cahn and Amanda Pines. 

"But how did she...?" Stiles was dumbfounded. How far had Laura gotten in this investigation? He turned to Derek, who looked just as stunned. "Did she show you any of this?"

"No. She never said... anything." Derek picked up Amanda Pines's picture. "Why wouldn't she have told me?" The current of hurt in his voice had Stiles's fingers clenching around the piece of paper he held. 

"I don't know, Derek, I really don't." He stared at the drawing on the paper. It was the only thing that was unfamiliar, the rest looking eerily similar to the evidence they'd been uncovering. The figure on the paper was hastily sketched, a long, canine looking creature, with a small sun in background. On first glance he thought it was a dog, but no - there was only one animal this could be, he was sure of it: a wolf. "Do you recognize this?"

Derek reached for the picture and stared so hard at it that Stiles was afraid the paper would burst into flames.

"No."

"God, why didn't Laura tell me she was like an investigative wizard? How did she get this stuff?  My father would have hired her for detective in a heartbeat!"

"Are you... jealous?"

"Yeah," Stiles's voice was absurdly high, "yeah, I think I kinda am!"

He ignored Derek's smirk and grabbed the paper back from him.

"You're sure you don't know what this is?"

"I've never seen it in my life."

"Huh," Stiles licked his lips. He pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the drawing. "Allison and Scott are probably at her place by now, working on the text. Maybe they can check this online and see if they can find anything about it..." He sent the picture to Scott's phone. 

He didn't expect his phone to start ringing only a few minutes later, screeching the Buffy theme at him. The caller ID said Scott but it was Allison's voice that answered his hello.

"Where did you find that?" She sounded just as astounded as Stiles felt. 

"The picture? We found it in Laura's room, along with a bunch other stuff she found while investigating the Hale fire."

"Investigating Aunt Kate, you mean," even through the phone line, Allison's voice was prim.

"Well, uhm, yeah."

"She must have been pretty damn close, then. That picture? I've seen it before, on a pendant Kate used to wear. A big silver thing, she loved it. Told me it was a family heirloom."

Stiles was stunned.

"She did it. She really did it." Laura had somehow put it all together. She'd tracked down Kate Argent and the goons she'd used to start the fire. And Stiles hadn't known any of it. "How?"

But now they'd never know. Laura was dead. And somebody had found the same information as she had, and they'd taken down every person involved. Had they found it on their own or did they somehow have access to Laura's investigation? Who would she have gone to, if not her own brother or Stiles? And Laura had been a victim in this, so why was she dead? Had she gotten too close? Maybe to something even bigger than the Hale fire?

Or maybe Derek had been right and Kate really had killed her. But then who killed Mark and Amanda and Kate?

"Stiles? Stiles!" Allison's voice on the other line brought him out of the whirlpool of thoughts he was caught in. Too many 'maybe's whipping around his skull. Derek's hand was heavy on his shoulder and his hazel eyes were full of concern.

"Sorry, yeah, sorry, I'm alright," he said to both, "I was just... thinking." He blinked up at Derek as he removed his hand. "Allison said - "

"Yeah, I heard it," Derek tapped one of his ears, which Stiles noticed were adorably small and round compared to rough planes of his face, and then he remembered that those were not acceptable thoughts as Derek continued, " - werewolf senses." 

"Oh, cool."

"I needed to call you guys anyway. I have news of my own," Allison said. "I ran the trace on that number. You were right, it's not from a cellphone at all. It was sent through a computer."

"You can do that?"

"Yup. And as far as I can tell, the computer it originated from is located somewhere in Beacon Hills Memorial."

"The hospital?"

 Stiles pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut, willing away an oncoming headache. 

"Yeah. It might take me a little longer, but I might be able to tell which computer it was. Not promising anything, though."

"Okay, yeah, that's... great. That's," he let out a high pitched exclamation, "freaking amazing. You're amazing. Keep at it."

"Sure thing, Stiles. Anything to get the bastard..." Allison trailed off.

"Tell Scott not to do anything stupid that might chase your amazing little behind away from him."

Her laugh made him feel a little better.

"Will do. I'll talk to you soon."

Stiles clicked end on the call.

"So. Got any friends and/or enemies connected to the hospital?"

Derek's eyes darkened.

"No. Just Uncle Peter. I know some of the staff there, from visiting, but I've never seen or heard anything unusual."

Something was kicking at the back of Stiles's brain, but he couldn't quite make the thought into words. Unless...

"Laura visited Peter a lot in those last few weeks, didn't she? I mean, that's what she was doing when she disappeared."

Derek's brows furrowed.

"Yes. I mean, we always made a few visits a month, but she definitely started going more often, and alone. I asked her about it once and she just shrugged it off, said she thought he might need the company. Laura was always more optimistic about his recovery than I was, even though the doctors said...." And there it was again, that low current of sorrow that made Stiles want to lose his mind and throw his arms around Derek.

"I know the police questioned the hospital staff about Laura's visits, but they were only looking at it as that isolated incident. Now that we have more information, about the fire and Kate and stuff, maybe we can get something out of one of them that could help. We'll have to go to hospital anyway once Allison pinpoints that text. Maybe one of them saw our killer!" 

They were finally making progress and Stiles was torn between wanting to whoop with joy and curl into the fetal position with anxiety. 

He checked the time on his phone and both those options flew out the window.

"Oh crap." His dad was going to arrive home any minute, and Stiles needed to start dinner. Looked like tonight was going to be quick and simple, maybe spaghetti... "I need to get home. My dad's going to wonder where I am if he gets there first." 

Stiles took one last long look at the room around him, basking momentarily in all the good memories he had of it. Then he was flying down the stairs and gathering his stuff. Something stopped him before he crossed the threshold of the front door, though.

Maybe it was the quietness of the house that made his every frantic movement echo like thunder, or perhaps it was the gleaming empty kitchen that looked barely used. The Hale house was big and lonely, and so was it's sole occupant, standing awkwardly in the hall watching Stiles with what almost appeared to be disappoint. Where those... where those puppy dog eyes? From Derek

"Uh, did you..." Stiles cleared his throat. "Did you maybe want to come? Over? For, uh, dinner?" 

Derek was visibly surprised.

"Are you sure? I mean, won't your dad - ?"

Keith Stilinski would certainly not be happy to find Derek Hale in his kitchen, but Stiles really couldn't bring himself to rescind the invitation. His Dad may think Derek was a killer, but Stiles knew better; he would be getting untold piles of crap dumped on him later for this, no doubt, but he really didn't care. 

"My dad will keep his mouth shut if he knows what good for him, and if he doesn't want to go to bed hungry."

There was a long pause. Stiles licked his lips and swallowed nervously. 

"Yeah, alright," and Derek grabbed his jacket from where he'd tossed it over the railing. 

Then they were off, Stiles's Jeep cruising down the winding driveway and out past the gated homes of the richest and famous-est of Beacon Hills. 

"Werewolves eat pasta, right?"

Chapter Text

Derek’s looming form took up a great deal of space in the kitchen as Stiles tried to maneuver around him to make dinner. Stiles’s attempts at conversation kept getting pushed off track as he nervously watched the clock and waited for his father to return home, and Derek didn’t seem to know what to do with himself. Eventually Stiles figured he might as well make use of the extra hands, even if he wasn’t sure that ordering Derek around would leave him with his own not gnawed off; the guy must have been just as restless as Stiles though, because he didn’t make a single objection when Stiles started assigning duties.

Derek was setting the table as Stiles stirred the pasta when Keith walked in. His eyes flew to Derek, widening, and then hit Stiles full force.

Stiles gave an awkward wave.

“Uh, hey Dad.”

“Can I speak to you for a minute,” his dad gestured towards the stairs, and the question was not a question.

Stiles looked at Derek, who gave a small nod. Go.

Keith followed him up the stairs. Stiles took a seat on his father’s bed as Keith hung his jacket in his closet.

“Do you want to tell me why Derek Hale is in our kitchen?” Keith’s voice was scarily even. 

“I invited him for dinner.” 

His dad’s mouth tightened when Stiles didn’t continue. Stiles sighed. 

“We’ve been… talking. You were right about these murders bringing back unpleasant memories. And you know how you said that I always could talk to you? Well, Derek… Derek doesn’t have that,” Stiles kept his voice hushed, hoping that Derek wouldn’t be listening from the kitchen below. “I know you don’t trust him – “ 

“Don’t trust him? He was my prime suspect in murder case,” Keith hissed.

“What, you think I don’t remember that? He didn’t kill Laura!” Stiles spat, anger making him forget his quiet momentarily. He and his dad exchanged charged glares, before he continued, soft again, “Maybe you don’t believe that, fine, whatever. But I do. And you might not trust him, but you trust me, and so that’s what I’m asking for now. Don’t be an ex-cop or a private investigator tonight. Don’t treat him like a suspect. Be my dad, and treat him like my friend. Please?”

Keith’s lips tightened stubbornly and Stiles was afraid that this dinner would turn out to be a big mistake. But then his father nodded slowly.

“Alright,” he looked down. “Alright. I’ll be down in a minute. But this conversation isn’t over.”

Stiles headed back downstairs into the kitchen. Derek was straining the pasta over the sink and looking awkward, like someone desperately trying to not appear like they were eavesdropping. When he turned and his eyes were strangely dark, Stiles knew that despite his caution, Derek had heard every word. Derek leaned with his palms against the sink, and briefly met Stiles eyes before looking down at his shoes.

“Stiles, I –“

“No, no, no. Nope. This dinner doesn’t need any more awkward conversations. Let’s just eat,” he said, plastering on a smile. Derek gave an almost imperceptible nod and turned back to finish straining. 

Dinner was ready on the table when Keith came down. Derek tensed in his seat next to Stiles. Keith took his place at the end of the table, turned to Derek, and complimented him on his goal in the last lacrosse game. (Even if he didn’t attend the games, play-by-plays spread through town like wildfire.) 

The conversation that followed was stilted and awkward, but nobody once brought up the murders or Laura or their history, and soon most of the tension had drained from Derek’s large shoulders. Stiles smiled warmly at his dad as they cleared the cleared the table, waving away Derek’s attempts to help.

Keith disappeared upstairs as Stiles and Derek headed back out to the Jeep.

Stiles turned the radio on to fill the silence on the drive back to Derek’s. He pulled into the long driveway next to the Camaro, and let out a sigh of relief. 

“Well. That could have been worse.”

“Stiles,” Derek had his intense face on. Not that he really had many other kinds, but still, this was more piercing than usual. Uh oh. “You seem to think that I don’t like you, or that I have a death wish for you or something stupid like that. I don’t.”

Stiles gaped. “You didn’t talk to me except to threaten me or tell me to ‘stay the fuck away’ from you. For months."

Derek grimaced. 

“You have to understand. After the fire, I thought Kate was coming for me. I wanted… I needed to minimize… the damage, I guess. It was my fault that my family was dead, and you were close to us. But you just didn’t go away. You were there for Laura and you were there for me, even when I didn’t want you to be. Then it was quiet for a while, and I thought that it would be alright for us to friends. That it might be safe. And then Laura died. People close to me… they get hurt. I didn’t want that to happen to you. But I knew that if I told you that, you’d just ignore me like you always did because you’re an idiot who lacks a sense of self-preservation, so I did what I had to, to keep you away. But I have never hated you.” 

And then he was out of the car and strolling towards the house, all broad shoulders and leather in the night. 

Stiles’s mouth hung open. 

His head fell forward against the steering wheel. It was more painful than he had expected and he let out a yelp. 

“Fucking werewolves,” he muttered. But no, not really. Fucking Derek Hale. The single most confusing person in Stiles’s life. All sharp edges and glares for months, and now this. Calling him an idiot (which was totally unnecessary) and admitting that his surliness was his way of protecting Stiles?

In a moment of curiosity, he leaned forward to catch a glimpse of the moon. Nope, not full. No help explaining Derek’s behavior there.

If this was what being friends with Derek Hale was going to be like on normal nights, what would the full moon do?

Maybe Derek had a point about the whole self-preservation thing.

--

Keith was sitting on the couch when Stiles arrived home. He stood and opened his mouth, but Stiles put up a staying hand.

“Can we just, not? At least not right now?” 

Keith looked like he was going to argue. But then he took his seat again, turning wordlessly back to the television. 

-- 

Stiles walked towards Allison’s dark head of hair and took a seat across of her the next day at lunch. She beamed at him, the first real smile he’d seen from her since she’d heard about Kate, and he couldn’t stop the answering grin. 

“Good news, Archer?” 

“Kind of, I think.”

“Kind of, you think.”

“Wait till the others get here. Scott and I might have a plan.”

Oh boy.

Scott and Derek approached together, and this time only a few wayward eyes followed them. Jackson staunchly ignored them. Scott settled next to Allison, and Derek on Stiles’s left.

“Okay, shoot,” Stiles said. 

Allison took a deep breath. 

“I might have got something on that computer the text came from. We knew it was from the hospital, but from what I’ve found, I think I might be able to identify the exact computer if I was able to pull up the system information and compare it to the information I got from the text. This means we’d know where it came from and who had access to that computer. But it also means a lot of snooping in a place we don’t have access to, unless –“

“Unless you have a key card. Like the one my mom has,” Scott jumped in with a grin. “She doesn’t work tonight, she’s going out for dinner and drinks with some friends. I can swipe her card, we can sneak into the hospital tonight, and the three of us can work distraction duty while Allison does her thing.” 

Stiles felt bad for the hint of surprise. It was actually a pretty solid plan. 

“Sounds good,” Derek said.

“Sweet. Good work team,” Stiles gave a small salute and started to focus on his mac n’ cheese. 

“Cute,” Lydia said from behind Scott and Allison. She lifted a booted foot and wedged it between their bodies on the bench. Startled, Allison moved over and Lydia immediately sat in the small space she left, separating her from Scott. “I like this little Scooby Gang thing you’ve got going on, it’s kind of adorable. You, of course, are the most adorable,” she crooned at a blushing Allison. 

Stiles leaned forward over the table, his chin resting on his fists. 

“What, no goons to beat me up this time?” 

“You’re not still upset about that are you?” She pouted. “I brought you a present. Of sorts,” this last was accompanied with a grimace.

“A present?” Lydia looked surprised when Derek spoke. 

“Yeah,” she turned back to face Stiles. “That case I know you’ve been following… I still am not getting involved. But. I’ve heard things about those bodies they found, about there being some kind of weird symbol on their chests? A few of my guys were out on the Res last night, looking for a, ah, private place to indulge in their less legal pursuits, and they stumbled on something that freaked them out pretty good.” She pulled a folded up piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to him. 

On it was a blown up, grainy cellphone picture of a deer carcass. It was obviously a few weeks old, the carcass rotting and picked over by scavengers, except for one part. The side facing up was relatively untouched, but for the triskelion carved there. Stiles pushed his food away. 

Derek didn’t make a sound from where he leaned over Stiles’s outstretched arm, but his teeth were suddenly bared in a ferocious scowl. 

“This kill… this isn’t recent.” He met Stiles’s eyes. “It might even date before the first victim.” 

Allison’s face paled and she turned away from the picture when Stiles spread it across the center of the table. Scott hissed in a breath.   

“Where was this found?” Derek demanded. 

Lydia looked to Stiles, and he gave her a nod. 

“They said they found it a few miles east of the main trail.” She raised her hands in a gesture of surrender. It looked odd on her. “And that’s all I know. I just figured I’d pass on the information, in case you wanted it. That’s it.” She slapped her hands back on the table and hoisted herself up. Scott filled the space in a heartbeat, plastering himself back to Allison’s side. Lydia smirked. 

“Thank you, Lydia,” Stiles said. She inclined her head and was gone. 

“I need to go and find that body,” Derek said. Stiles nodded. 

“Yeah, you do. We might not have had access to the human victim’s bodies, but maybe there’s something on the deer that you super senses can pick up.” 

“If it’s not too deteriorated,” Allison added. Derek nodded. 

“Okay, so you go search the woods tonight then,” Stiles started. 

“No, tonight is the hospital,” Derek interrupted. 

“But Derek, this could be important – we can handle the hospital on our own. The faster we collect information, the closer we are.”

“I don’t want you guys going without me, in case something happens.” 

“What’s gonna happen? Worst-case scenario, we get caught snooping, I evade, we get yelled at by hospital staff and kicked out. It’ll be late at night, with less people on shift, and we’ll be careful. I promise I won’t try and grill anyone about Laura’s murder without you there, okay? We can do that together another day, when more people are around to question.  It’ll be strictly watch and distract while Allison works on the computers. We aren’t going to be any help out in the woods, and honestly we’ll probably just slow you down if we come. So, you go, find the body, do your wolfman thing, and come meet us at the hospital later.” 

Stiles squirmed under Derek’s steady gaze. Derek’s jaw tightened stubbornly, but he relented. 

“Okay. But be careful.” 

Stiles rolled his eyes. 

“Yes, Mom.” 

Allison broke their staring match with an eager little wiggle, and Scott said drolly, “My life was much less exciting before I met you guys.” 

Stiles couldn't help his amusement.

“I know, man, I know.”

The bell announcing the next period rang and they broke ranks, each scuttling towards their classes. Just before he reached the closest door, a firm hand on his arm stopped Stiles. He turned with an exasperated sigh, expecting another argument over tonight’s plan with Derek, but instead it was Danny’s soft smile that greeted him.

“Danny! Uh, hi,” he stumbled.

“Hey Stiles. Look, I know we don’t talk much anymore, and I’m sorry for that, but I just wanted to let you know that I’ve seen you around with Derek… and I’m glad. I know you guys were friends before, and that it’s been rough for both of you. It’s good to see him actually talking to someone who can understand. And it’s probably good for you.” Danny’s dimpled smile faded. “I felt pretty shitty when I broke things off, but I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t deal with it all, and I want to apologize for that."

Stiles shuffled his feet.

“No, Danny, don’t… don’t apologize. I get it, I guess. I mean, obviously I was pretty upset for a while there, but I’ve had time to get over it. And I have, er, gotten it over it. So, it’s alright?”

“Okay...”

“Okay?”

“Okay. See you around, Stiles.” Danny’s hand dropped from his arm and the boy disappeared into the flow of bodies. Stiles blinked dazedly after him. These certainly were turning out to be an interesting few weeks.

--

Derek’s Camaro was mysteriously parked next to Stiles’s Jeep when he got to the parking lot after school. That definitely hadn’t been there this morning. Derek’s long frame leaned on the passenger side.

Ah, so here was the argument he’d expected earlier. Only… it wasn’t.

As Stiles approached, Derek’s face scrunched like there was something unpleasant under his nose. It was kind of cute.

“Are we going to have to hash this out again? The plan is set, it’s not changing,” Stiles said with a sigh.

“Why where you with Danny?” Derek asked. Stiles gawked.

“How did - ? That was, like, hours ago.” Derek tapped his nose. “Oh, jeez, that’s weird, dude.” Derek just stared, waiting for an answer. “He only touched my arm, for like, two seconds. He wanted to apologize for how he ended it, and say that he’s glad you and I were, like, patching things up. It wasn’t a big deal.” Stiles cocked his head, curiosity suddenly brimming. “Can you really smell him on me? And like, other people? Like, could you name everybody that came into contact with me today?”

Derek looked nervous suddenly.

“…Yes.”

“That is so freakin’ cool, man. Wow. Really, really freaky and kind of stalker-ish, but cool.” 

Derek’s posture relaxed minutely. 

“I try not to do it, not on purpose. If I let my senses run rampant it can be… overwhelming. But I recognized his scent and I know you guys have history, so I just wondered…”

“What? If he was trying to mack on me again or something?”

“Or something,” Derek dropped his gaze.

“Nah, just talk. I know I’m a hot commodity and all, but Danny is still with Jackson, remember? He’s the loyal kind. I would know.”

“I suppose you would,” Derek replied darkly.

Stiles narrowed his eyes at the tone but chose not to remark.

“So what did you want?”

Derek leaned forward into Stiles’s space; it was a move he wasn’t used to, but instead of stepping back, he actually had to fight the urge to take a step forward of his own.

“Just wanted to ask that, since you’re set on tonight’s plan, you text me when you get to the hospital. Or have Scott or Allison do it, whatever. Separating all of us bothers me, I don’t like it.”

“What, is like another wolf thing? The whole hunting in a pack instinct?”

Derek heaved an exasperated sigh.

“Sure, Stiles. Whatever. Just do it, alright?”

“Okay Mr. Growly, I will. Same to you, you know. Let one of us know when you’re on the way to the hospital?”

“Of course.”

“Uh, okay then. See you later tonight, then. Good luck,” Stiles fumbled, aware that neither of them had yet moved out of the other’s way. He shifted first, reaching for his door handle, but stilled when Derek’s hand gripped his arm lightly and brought his eyes back to Derek’s hazel gaze.

“You too.” Derek released him and walked around to the driver’s side. He was pulling out of the parking spot already when Stiles’s engine turned over. Sitting in the car, Stiles took a deep breath. His arm was doing a weird tingly thing where Derek had touched him. He realized it was the same place where Danny had gripped him earlier.

Coincidence?

Stiles was suddenly certain that it was not. His senses were all in a flurry just from sharing a few breaths close to Derek’s face, that intent gaze was permanently burned in his brain, and he wanted badly to brush his lips against the dark stubble on that wonderful jawline. All this was interesting enough on it’s own, but it was made even more so by the fact that Stiles was beginning to think that if he acted on one his new favorite fantasies, Derek wouldn’t push him away.

For a moment he thought he caught a glimpse of bright hazel eyes, rimmed with long dark lashes, in his rear view mirror. A tinkling laugh sent chills down his spine. “For a private dick, you sure are slow on the uptake sometimes,” Laura said.

Stiles rubbed his eyes with the base of his palms until the sensation disappeared. 

Okay, so, maybe there were a few things he had to rethink. And another frank discussion with Derek was in order. After, he promised himself, after this is over. Right now he had to stay focused. But he really hoped tonight yielded something useful. He was suddenly very anxious to test his theory.

As he pulled out of the school, he wondered what Laura would have had to say if she knew he was planning on kissing the hell out of her brother. He could have sworn more faint laughter followed him as he drove towards home.

--

Allison and Scott drove in her car and met Stiles in the fairly deserted hospital parking lot. Scott bounded from the passenger and flashed his mother’s ID card along with his grin. Stiles returned it. He pulled out his phone to send off a text to Derek. 

the scooby gang is at the hospital

“So, where are we starting,” he asked.

Allison held up her phone, the screen of which displayed a chunk of computer jargon that made Stiles’s brain hurt.

“I looked at the hospital building plans a little, and I’m thinking that if the labeling on those plans for the equipment lines up with the way they’ve set up the computer system, our computer is likely be somewhere in the west wing. Of course, they could be totally different labeling systems and we’ll have to search every computer in the building, but I’m hoping for the best.” 

Scott and Stiles locked eyes, sharing amusement and delight at their friend’s excited whisper, and her undeniable smarts. 

“The west is it,” Scott said and started for a door. 

The trio soon lost their playfulness as Scott slide the keycard through the strip to let them in a private staff entrance, and anxiety had them all on high alert as they moved through the hallways. It was late, way past visiting hours, and the hospital was creepily quiet. They moved swiftly but noiselessly, staying close to each other and avoiding the staff as best they could. A nurse sat at her computer at the first nurses’ station they came upon, and so Scott and Stiles snuck away to loudly knock over an empty tray down the hallway out of sight, and then sprint in the opposite direction. They came back to find Allison, her dark head bent over the deserted station computer, tapping away on the keyboard, her eyes shifting between the data she’d pulled up on the screen and her phone. A few tense moments passed, then she looked up for them and shook her head. 

One computer down, no luck. Okay, only a few hundred possibilities to go. 

Stiles sincerely hoped Allison’s hunch was right, because there was no way they’d be able to avoid the staff all night, even as sparse as they were. Mrs. McCall’s keycard helped greatly, getting them behind doors and through wings quickly and without fuss, but after two more failures, they were feeling discouraged. 

The last computer to check on this side of the building was the one by the long-term care facilities. At least here they wouldn’t have to worry about ducking behind counters to avoid late night rambling patients, unless some of the coma patients decided to up and start exploring suddenly.

It seemed they didn’t even have any staff to worry about disturbing here. It was eerily deserted, and Stiles felt a chill go through him beneath the low lights. He and Scott leaned uneasily on the counter as Allison did her thing. His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he checked it to see a text from Derek. 

Any luck?  

Not yet, he responded.  

But of course, right after he hit send, Allison let out a little gasp.

“Got it! I got it!” 

The two boys swung on her. 

“Really,” Scott asked as Stiles said, “Are you sure?” 

“Yeah, I’m sure,” she responded. “This computer is the location our mysterious text is from.” 

“Can you find out who sent it?” Even though they were alone, Stiles kept his voice hushed.

She pursed her lips. “Give me a few more minutes.” 

Stiles nodded, his fingers dancing nervously on the counter top, when he spotted a name on a manila folder on the desk. Swinging around the counter and behind Allison, he ignored her curious look and snatched the folder, flipping it open.

Peter Hale, Rm. 306.  

How could he have forgotten so fast? Derek’s uncle was in this ward. The last person to see Laura Hale alive was just down the hallway. 

He fought with himself. 

He’d promised Derek he wouldn’t ask any questions or pursue the investigation past Allison’s computer ninja skills tonight. He had no reason to go down that hall and disturb Peter Hale. But it wasn’t as if the man could actually answer any questions Stiles had. He worried his lip between his teeth. He shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t; it would be an incredible invasion of privacy. He’d never even met the man. 

He glanced at his hacker friend digging through private hospital records. He thought of Laura, and how her currently unresponsive uncle was probably the last familiar face she’d ever seen. 

“Guys, I’ll be right back.” 

“What - ?” Scott hissed, but Stiles just shook his head. 

“Keep an eye out for her, yell if I need to bail or something, but I have to… I have to see something.” He moved down the hall before either of them could protest. 

He followed the numbers until he found the room. 306. Hale, the chicken scratch beneath the number read. He pushed open the door quietly. Instead of the prone figure on the bed he’d expected, Peter Hale’s body, dressed in a hospital robe, was in a wheelchair facing the window. Stiles crept forward until he could see the man’s face. 

Dead eyes stared blankly out into the darkness. The right eyelid drooped, the skin looking like melting wax. That entire side of his face was covered in vicious pink whorls, the hair missing from the side of his head, and his full lips twisted in a permanent grimace. Stiles saw the burns on both hands that peeked through the robe’s sleeves. A deep sadness welled inside him, along with a sense of extreme discomfort. 

“What are you doing? You can’t be in here,” a sharp voice jolted him from his examination. A blonde nurse stood in the doorway, fury plain on her face. 

Stiles hadn’t heard Allison or Scott call out for him, so she must have come from the other end of the hallway. Hopefully she hadn’t spotted them before coming in here. He let out a booming, “GUYS! RUN!” and prayed they’d hear him and skedaddle in time. 

The nurse’s face twisted in rage. She moved towards him, looking lethal. He backed up instinctively, not expecting to have his back meet with a very solid chest. 

He turned with a suppressed yelp and found himself staring into the icy eyes of Peter Hale, no longer blank, but filled with life, and a glimmer of amusement. The monstrous lips curled into a cruel smile. 

“You must be Stiles,” they said, and then a sharp pain bloomed in the back of Stiles’s head, and he was falling forward into darkness. 

Chapter Text

Stiles woke with a headache that reminded him once again why he’d vowed to never try to finish an entire bottle of Jack Daniels himself in one night (and wow, thanks for that Laura, who had probably been using her werewolf strength to keep up while laughing at him the whole time). As consciousness crept up on him, he remembered that this was no hangover – the throbbing in his head, centered at a point of the back of his skull, was the result of whatever hard heavy item the nurse from the black lagoon had clocked him with.

Details of his surroundings began to filter in. His legs were bound to a set of chair legs, and his wrists were tied uncomfortably tight together around the back. The carpet beneath his sneakers was a soft brown that looked… familiar? Stiles forced his slitted eyes to open completely, taking in the room. He knew this place. The huge comfortable armchairs and couch were gone, as were the dark wood shelves that had housed a ludicrous about of books. It was eerily empty now, save for the utilitarian chairs like the one Stiles was bound to. The carpeting was the same, though, as was the mossy green paint on the walls. Those details were replicated perfectly, indistinguishable from the original design of the room, as had been the builders’ instructions.

Stiles was in the former Hale family library, located in the basement of the Hale mansion. It was in this room that most of the bodies had been found after the flames were extinguished.

The builders had fixed the charred basement to look like new, but neither Laura nor Derek ever expressed any interest in recreating the room. In fact, after they’d moved back in, they tended to avoid it all together. Stiles didn’t blame them one bit.

Although maybe if they’d decided to spring for a few new recliners he wouldn’t be tied up in such an uncomfortable chair.

“You’re awake,” a silky voice said, and Stiles whipped his pounding head around to watch Peter Hale descend the stairway from the main floor. “Finally. I was beginning to think she’d done some serious damage with that crowbar.” No wonder his head hurt.

Peter grabbed another of the chairs and dragged it into position in front of Stiles. He flipped it around and sat backwards on it, resting his forearms on the back and leaning over them with an expression that at first seemed open and curious. The unblemished side of his mouth was curved in an easy smile, but his eyes were stony. The rolled up sleeves of the crisp, black dress shirt he wore revealed mottled scars along his arms.

Stiles dragged his gaze up and along the man before him. A man thought by everybody, including his own kin, to be a vegetable, an unresponsive shell. How long had Peter Hale been able to walk, talk, and kidnap innocent(ish) high schoolers without anybody knowing? Had his supernatural healing powers finally begun to work on repairing the devastating damage to his body? And why hadn't he let on to his recovery? Even if the human hospital staff couldn’t understand, why didn’t he tell Derek? Or Laura, his most devoted visitor? His head protested violently at the rate through which his brain went over and re-examined all the information they'd gathered in the past weeks. 

Stiles met that cold gaze and felt things sliding into place. Instead of the intense satisfaction he normally felt upon solving a case, a sweet slide of fulfillment in his stomach as he pieced a puzzle together, Stiles felt his breathing stutter as his chest constricted.

You,” he whispered. Then again, louder, “you! You killed those people. You killed Laura!”

“Yes,” came the response. It was soft and even.

Stiles made a noise he’d never heard come from his throat before. A scream of rage and grief, like a feral creature. He tried to lunge at Peter, fighting against the ropes binding him, but his attempts manifested as nothing but ineffectual squirming.

“That’s enough,” Peter said, eyes flashing red. The sharp command penetrated Stiles’ fury, as did the sight of vicious claws growing from Peter’s hands, and he stilled. Peter’s little smile returned. “Good boy. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…” He tilted his head slightly to the side, the movement canine and curious. “I’d like to talk to you while we wait.”

“Wait for what,” Stiles asked, his voice cracking slightly in his raw throat.

“From what I understand, you know what I am now, thanks to my earnest little nephew, so let’s not bother with pretenses. I’ve heard quite a lot about you, you know,” Peter continued smoothly, ignoring Stiles’ question. “Even before the fire. Whenever I called or visited, it was always ‘oh, Laura is out with Stiles’ or ‘Stiles dragged the twins to a movie’. I doubt I was the only member of the pack who was less than surprised by her request to have you brought in to the family. You would have made it, I think. I was looking forward to meeting you,” he trailed off, sounding odd, as if something he’d said had surprised him. “But then I too busy watching my family be burned alive to care about some human boy.” Peter’s gaze roamed Stiles’ face, and Stiles thought he could feel every touch of those cold eyes. “When I could finally hear again, think again, think about anything other than the utter pain of just existing, I still heard your name, though. The visits were... both heaven and hell. I craved the sound of my niece and nephew’s voices, the knowledge that at least some of my family was safe, but it was torture, too. Hearing and seeing them without being able to respond. Trapped in this charred shell,” he turned his head and displayed the horrific side of his face.

With a sigh he turned back.

“Perhaps you won’t believe me, what with our current circumstance and all, but I would like to thank you Stiles.” Stiles felt a chill go through his body as Peter said his name. “You helped them, so much, when I could not. Their voices were less weary with every visit. When Laura began her regular visits, she mentioned you constantly. And Derek… well, Derek rarely deigns to talk about anybody, let alone a human, and so I knew you must really be something special.”

As he spoke, something resembling fondness crept into Peter’s eyes, locked once more upon his captive audience, and it made Stiles’ gut churn. A moment of silence passed between them until Stiles managed work up a passable sneer through his terror.

“Aw shucks. Nothing like praise from a psychopathic murderer to brighten up your own assault and kidnapping. Still doesn’t explain why you pretended to be comatose or why you killed your niece, though. And what did you mean, while we wait? What are you waiting for?”

Peter made a tsk-ing noise.

“Clever little Stiles. Haven’t you figured it all out yet? I mean, you are the one who came to me. I hear you fancy yourself a private investigator, so why don’t you put that quick little brain of yours to work?”

“It’s still pounding from getting clobbered by that hell bitch nurse of yours, thanks for that. And how did you get her to keep your recovery a secret, anyway?” Stiles thought while he spoke, and his answer came without any response from Peter. “You offered to bite her, didn’t you? To make a werewolf?”

“Correct.” Peter sounded pleased. “She was shocked, at first, but when I explained how I was healing, and just what I could do for her if she helped me… Well, she understood that such power would come at a price. She not only kept my secrets for me, she helped me a great deal when I still too weak to do what I had to.”

“But you couldn’t have bitten her. Derek said only an Alpha can…” Stiles trailed off, finding each puzzle piece he put into place more gruesome than the last. “Laura was your Alpha. You killed her to take it!”

Peter looked impressed.

“You have been well informed, haven’t you?”

“You killed Laura to take her power! Why? So you could bite your nurse? Laura would have helped you, if you’d just told her you were healing. You were her family, she loved you,” Stiles spit, fury and adrenaline burning through his fear. Peter’s face fell.

“Oh, my boy, you were so, so close, but no. As if I would ever sacrifice my own blood for a human.” The word was full of distaste. “True, I would never have been able to turn my nurse as a beta, but that was never really my intention. I promised her that to secure her cooperation. She played her part perfectly, and now she is… fulfilling her final service to me,” Peter said slyly, and Stiles knew somehow that she was dead. A curl of pity arose in his gut, but then his skull throbbed, and he quashed it. Peter continued, un-phased by his confession to yet another murder. “But without the power of being Alpha, my recovery would have continued at a glacial pace. I would have been stuck in the hospital for many more months, unable to avenge my family.”

Peter closed his eyes, a breath of pain escaping him. “And perhaps that would have been acceptable, had Laura not decided to act as she did. When she first told me she was investigating the fire, I was still unable to respond. I intended to help her, as soon as I was able, knowing that with every visit we were both closer and closer – I, to my recovery, and she, to the truth. I waited every day to hear from her, to learn the newest evidence, to have another name to add to my list. I thought that when I’d finally healed, we would destroy them, together, as a family, as a pack. But then that name I’d heard so often came again: Stilinski. But not you this time, Stiles. Your father, the sheriff. Laura was going to go to the police – to humans. As if you and your laws could ever bring justice to our family. She spoke with such faith that I knew she was lost to me. I was alone again. Derek knew nothing, she’d said, but I also knew that if it came down to it, he’d side with Laura. His sister, his twin, his Alpha – I couldn’t fault him for that. Loyalty is a hard quality to find in people, but in wolves…”

“So you murdered her instead.”

“I made a necessary sacrifice. As Alpha my rate of healing grew exponentially, and now look at me.” Peter suddenly grinned, and the expression warped the planes of his face even further into a grotesque creature. “I can finally do this,” and his eyes flashed again. The red burned into Stiles’ eyes, which widened in disbelief as Peter’s face changed before them. The scars on his skin began to disappear, twisting and sinking into new, unblemished flesh. The monster that had been sitting in that chair only moments before was now whole again, his handsome face full of righteousness.

“I have completed my mission. I destroyed them all. Those filthy creatures that slaughtered my family, and that evil hunter bitch. Taking Laura’s power… it hurt me more than I could ever hope to express to you, believe me. But as Alpha it was her duty to avenge us, and she was too weak to do so. I did what I had to.”

“How?” Stiles’ voice was barely above a whisper. He was so angry, so full of grief, at knowing this man, a member of her own family, had done that to her. He needed to know everything, even if none of it made sense.

“Stiles, please, I’m sure we really don’t have much time left, and there are other matters I’d like to –“

HOW,” Stiles repeated, and this time it was most definitely not a whisper. Peter’s jaw clenched.

“Very well. Maggie – my, ah, ‘hell bitch nurse,'” he said it with a low chuckle, “– was instrumental in that as well. She and Laura knew each other well by that point, and so it was almost pathetically easy to get her to lure Laura away. Laura’s trust made her vulnerable. Maggie brought us both into the woods and I… well. We don’t really need to discuss that part, do we,” Peter asked, grimacing. “And of course, it was she who followed my instructions on how and where to leave the body. I was still too weak at that point to be able to handle wolfsbane, but a human could. And Laura would be set free in her death. Then, when I was strong enough, I hunted down those murderers and gave them what they deserved. I had Maggie contact the hunter, knowing she wouldn’t be able to resist. It was almost embarrassingly easy, but she… oh, she was the best of them all.” Peter’s smile turned cruel. “I made her apologize. I made her say she was sorry for decimating my family, and then I tore her apart.” 

Peter lifted his hands into the air, a gesture reminiscent of surrender, but Stiles knew that wasn’t what it meant.

“I really don’t wish to discuss it anymore. That’s all in the past. I should think you’ve had your fill of answers, and I believe it is finally time to discuss why I’ve brought you here.”

Terror, cold and pure, slide down Stiles’ throat.

“You mean that it’s time for you to kill me.”

“I certainly hope not,” Peter said calmly.

What? But… Peter had answered his questions. He’d told Stiles the story. He’d confessed. Stiles knew the statistics, had known from the moment Peter had shown his face, played his hand, that Stiles was most likely going die.

In a slow, graceful movement Peter rose from his chair and came to crouch before Stiles, their faces intimately close.

“I brought you here to talk about the future. Justice has been served for my family, and now I want to begin again. I want, no, truthfully, I need a pack. I want what is left of my family to be together again. Derek should be here soon – I’m sure your scampering friends have alerted him to the situation. Your visit forced my hand a little sooner than I’d anticipated, but I am adaptable. And I always have a Plan B. This time it’s you, Stiles.” And there it was again, that fondness that set Stiles teeth on edge. “Smart. Loyal. Everything we look for in pack mates. And mates, though I suppose my nephew has a prior claim there. That works even more in my favor, though.”

Wait, what?

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Peter shifted, reaching his hand around the back of Stiles’ chair and drawing his (thankfully claw-free) fingers down his arm, coming to rest on the tender skin of Stiles’ wrist, just above the rope. The movement brought them even closer and Stiles thought he could smell smoke.

“I’m offering you a gift, Stiles. The Bite. A place in the pack. The Bite is dangerous, but I think you’re strong enough to survive it. We’ll be stronger together.”

Stiles couldn’t seem to keep up. The words registered but meant nothing until he’d replayed them over in his head. Peter wanted to make him a werewolf.

“You’re crazy,” he said finally. “You’re absolutely nuts.”

“Don’t play coy, Stiles, it’s not necessary. I know you’ve thought about it – the power, the strength, the speed. It’s indescribable. You’ll never have to feel weak again.”

Stiles had thought about it. He’d thought about every single night since finding out the truth about the Hales. Stiles knew he wasn’t bad at what he chose to do, but he’d imagined what it’d be like to be better. To be the best. How it would change his life, and his father’s. But Peter’s words didn’t ring true.

“Never feel weak, huh? Weak like how Laura must have felt when you took advantage of her trust and killed her? No, I don’t want it. I don’t want to be like you.”

Peter removed his hand like Stiles had burned him. The soft smile was still on his face, but his eyes hardened.

“I can hear your heartbeat racing. I know when you’re lying.”

“You can hear my heartbeat racing because I’m tied up in a basement with a CRAZY PERSON. And if you think for one second that Derek will join you, well, I think you might have sustained some serious brain damage in that coma. You killed Laura. You said it yourself – she was his sister, his Alpha. You think he’s just going to forgive and forget that?”

“No, of course not. Derek will require… coercion. But I know my nephew, I can make him see reason. We are the only family we have left. He’s so lonely – I could tell every time he spoke to me. He needs me, and I need him. And if you just so happen to be a part of the package…”

Stiles felt bile rise in his throat.

“No,” he spat, and Peter’s smile faded. “My answer is the same. And I won’t let you brainwash Derek.”

“Then I guess this night will end the way you’d guessed after all. I truly hate that you’re making me do this, Stiles. You’ve really disappointed me. I was so looking forward to getting to know you.”

Long, vicious claws teased but didn’t break skin as they drew parallel lines down Stiles’ cheek. He hissed at the almost-pain of it, but managed to choke back a sob when they came to rest around his throat. Peter was going to kill him. He needed to do something. There was no way he was going to let himself die in this basement, no way this psychopath was going to take him away and leave his father all alone.

Stilinskis didn’t give up.

A door slammed in the house above.

Peter grinned.

Finally. It seems our time is up Stiles,” and the fingers around his neck began to squeeze. Stiles felt blood running in rivulets down his nape.

With one last deep breath that pushed the claws farther into his skin, Stiles threw his head forward into Peter’s forehead. Jesus, his head was never going to not hurt again.

The head-butt took Peter by surprise, and knocked him off balance enough that he released Stiles’ throat to steady himself. It took only a fraction of a second, but it was long enough for Stiles to throw his body backwards with enough force that the chair tilted back – he landed hard on top on his bound arms and sucked in a scream of pain. Peter had recovered, his red eyes hovering over Stiles’ form, and Stiles threw his body once again, this time to side, rolling off his poor wrists and knocking the chair to its side.

He heard a loud wooden crack and for a second he thought he’d managed to break the chair. Then a monstrous growl came from the other side of where Peter was advancing, and Stiles strained his neck up to see the source. Derek’s fingers sprouted their own nasty claws, and his face was almost unrecognizable. Hair grew down the sides of it, his ears were pointed, and his jaw jutted forward to accommodate the fangs. The icy blue Stiles had seen flash in his eyes before was burning there now. The noise he’d heard wasn’t the chair, but the bannister on the basement steps – it had cracked and fallen when Derek had gripped and leaped over it, using it propel him across the room.

Derek was here. Stiles wasn’t dead yet. They had a chance, if Peter didn’t manage to convince Derek to join his pack. And Stiles had meant what he said – no way was he letting that happen.

“Derek! It’s him! He killed her!” Stiles shouted desperately. Peter howled furiously, and the noise was matched by Derek’s answering growl.

Stiles’ breath caught as the two werewolves began to circle – he was still between them, frantically trying to track their movement as they stalked each other around his prone body. Vultures circling carrion.

He didn’t see who moved to attack first, but suddenly Derek was lunging at Peter, leaping over Stiles and knocking his uncle into the wall. Peter’s huge hand – now looking more and more like a paw – reached out and struck Derek squarely across the cheek, his neck snapping horrifically and his body stumbling back. Peter moved again and grabbed the lapels of Derek’s jacket, and he threw him across the room. Derek skidded to a halt near Stiles with a whine of pain. Oh shit.

Peter stalked towards them, his movements slow and deliberate, and Stiles wondered what was happening, until he heard the snapping of bones and saw the contortions of Peter’s body. Clothes fell away in tatters as Peter transformed. The Alpha looked like nothing like Derek’s werewolf form; it was a monstrous black creature, like something from a nightmare. The handsome face became a snapping muzzle, the lean body a massive wall of muscle and fur.

They were fucked.

“Derek,” Stiles said softly, and he wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say. Get up? Help me? Keep going? Stay down? I’m sorry?

Derek stirred beside him, pushing up on shaky arms. A claw flashed before Stiles’ face and he flinched, but then his wrists were free, the rope falling to floor as Derek severed the knot. Derek rose to his feet as Peter reached them and rushed at him, sinking those claws into the mountains of Peter’s shoulders and making the Alpha snarl in pain. Stiles yanked his one arm from where it’d been trapped under the chair, shaking both limbs to regain some feeling in his fingers. Nothing was broken, he was pretty sure, but he could already see ugly bruises forming where he’d been bound and where the chair had pushed into the flesh.

Derek had managed to move the fight backwards once more, giving Stiles room to reach down and work at the knots securing his feet to the chair legs. He was thankful for the three months he’d spent in the Boy Scouts before they’d kicked him out (for snooping in the Leader's cabin... more than once) – he’d been there long enough to learn knots. Once freed, he leaped up and immediately looked around the basement for anything he could use as a weapon. But the room was depressingly empty, except for the chairs.

So a chair it was. He picked up his former prison and assessed the scene.

Peter’s back was to him now, both werewolves completely absorbed with the battle. Dark blood matted Peter’s fur where Derek’s blows had landed, but Stiles saw the way Derek was moving slower than before. They were both hurt, but if this continued, Peter would win.

Stiles channeled his best WWE fighter and rushed at Peter, ignoring the pins and needles in his body as he swung the chair at the back of the Alpha’s head with all his pitiful human strength.

Peter swung around with a spine-chilling roar and all Stiles could see were glowing red eyes. He felt the Alpha’s noxious breath on his face and silently began to apologize to his dad. Then the awful face was yanked back by hands around its throat. Derek had taken advantage of Peter’s momentary distraction to leap onto his uncle’s back. With an animal sound of pure fury, Derek dug his claws into the exposed flesh of Peter’s throat and dragged them across it.

Blood spurted from the deep wounds and Peter let out a final roar, though it was weak and fading. His body fell to its knees and Derek released him. Stiles stepped back just in time to avoid being crushed by the massive creature as it crashed down. By the time it hit the floor, it was Peter again, naked and human. Blood pooled on the carpet, and Peter’s body twitched a few moments, before finally laying still.

Stiles looked down at the body, and at himself, his body bruised and his clothes stained with blood, and felt a deep sadness move through him. Another life lost in this tomb of a basement, another Hale gone.

In that nervous habit he’d never been able to break, he dragged his hands along his skull, and looked up at Derek.

Derek’s face was back to normal, his shoulders heaving with every breath he dragged in, panting and exhausted.

Derek met his gaze and Stiles saw the blue light recede from his eyes, only to be replaced by a flash of red. Derek had killed Peter, and now he was the Alpha. Then they were hazel again, cloudy with too many emotions for Stiles to name as they took in the blood and bruises covering Stiles’ body. Derek let out a low whine.

“Jesus, Stiles.”

He stepped around the fallen body of his uncle and began to run his hands frantically over Stiles’ body, gently checking his limbs for damage, not stopping even when Stiles yelped, “Derek, I’m fine, I’m okay, please, I’m okay.”

Derek was eventually satisfied that no permanent damage had been done, and he stepped back.

Tonight Stiles had been assaulted, kidnapped, tied up, and nearly murdered. He decided right then and there that he was thoroughly done dealing with constipated werewolf feelings, and reached across the space Derek had put between them to pull him into a hug.

For a long moment Derek was still. But then his arms were crushingly tight, and Stiles could smell the leather of his jacket as his face was pressed against the collar. Stiles reached his arms up and stroked the back of Derek’s hair and nape, soothing the immeasurable tension there.

“I didn’t know where he’d gone. When Scott and Allison called and told me what had happened, I knew, I just knew – it had to have been him. But I didn’t know where he’d taken you. I went to where he’d killed her, where I found Laura's body, but he wasn’t there, you weren’t there, and I didn’t know - ” The words were muffled to Stiles ears, but the distress in them was unmistakable.

“Derek, it’s okay, you got here. You saved me. Thanks for that, by the way,” Stiles responded, keeping his voice even and calm as he continued the pacifying motions on Derek’s neck.

“But I almost didn’t. I almost didn’t get here in time. I’m sorry.” Derek’s grip tightened and Stiles made an effort not to gasp. He figured his lungs could take a little discomfort if it helped Derek settle.

“But you weren’t, and you did. And I’m sorry,” Stiles paused, unsure of how to properly say it. “I’m sorry you had to do that.”

Derek’s throat worked furiously and Stiles imagined he was swallowing back his grief.

“That… thing… That wasn’t my uncle. The Peter I knew would never have hurt Laura – he would never have done this to us,” he said quietly, although Stiles didn’t hear any real conviction in it. He sunk deeper into the embrace. Stiles didn’t know how long they stood there like that, but eventually the reality that a dead body was still in the room with them refused to be ignored any longer.

“Let’s get out of here. Please,” Stiles said and Derek nodded. Stiles reached down and entwined his fingers with Derek’s, consciously ignoring the blood on them, and pulled them up the stairs into the main house. He kept pulling until they were outside, the cool, fresh night air hitting them hard. Stiles refused to let go, sticking close to Derek’s side even as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket (the screen cracked from some abuse it had apparently suffered tonight) to call Scott.

“Oh thank God,” his friend answered with.

A few short minutes later Allison’s car turned into the Hale driveway and the two of them leaped out.

Allison gasped at the sight of their blood-spattered clothes.

“Oh my God, what happened?”

“Peter. Peter was the killer. He killed Laura, and the arsonists. And Kate,” Derek answered softly. “He’s dead.”

Stiles squeezed his hand.

Allison’s hands clasped before her mouth and tears welled in her eyes. Scott ran his hands up and down her arms even as he turned to speak to Derek.

“You need to clean up – the cops are probably going to be here soon,” he said and Derek’s eyes flashed their new Alpha red.

“You called the cops?”

Scott’s face hardened.

“No, I didn’t. But according to the police scanner in Allison’s car, they’re currently trying to find out why a nurse and a coma patient are missing from the hospital, and since you’re that patient’s next of kin, they’re probably going to want to talk to you,” he said smoothly.

Well, shit.

“Uhhh, I guess we should get that dead body out the basement before they get here then. Just to be on the safe side,” Stiles muttered. Derek tensed and Stiles instinctively moved a little bit closer to him. “We’ll do it, Derek, you go get yourself cleaned up.”

“No. I’ll – I’ll do it. I should do it,” Derek spoke loud enough for all of them to hear, but Stiles felt that it was directed mostly at him. Stiles wanted to disagree, to insist that Derek go and wash away the blood on his hands, but Derek’s jaw was set in its stubborn position. Stiles sighed.

“We need to get it out of the house, into the woods. Hopefully we’ll have time to at least clean you up before the cops arrive and you two," he looked to Scott and Allison, "can help get the blood out of the carpet. But uh, let’s keep them out of the basement, okay?” It felt good to delegate. They were about to cover up the murder, of a murderer, and it was going to be awful and gruesome, but handing out tasks made him feel in control. He’d stopped trembling with adrenaline and knew that he didn’t have much time left before he crashed.

Derek’s entire body radiated tension as they made their way back into the house. Scott went to locate a bucket for cold water and Allison went in search of something else to pull up the bloodstain.

Stiles carefully stepped over the pieces of the bannister on the floor as they entered the basement again. He and Derek didn’t speak at all as they finally separated and moved to either side of Peter’s prone body. Derek turned the body over, his movements wrenching in their tenderness. He slid his hands beneath the shoulders and hoisted Peter under the arms, and Stiles grabbed the legs.

Stiles had been a pallbearer at his mother’s funeral. This felt awfully like that as they carefully made their way up the stairs and through the house. Derek managed to open the sliding door to the Hale’s enormous backyard with his foot, and Stiles stumbled a bit in the darkness when they finally reached the edge of the trees. They placed Peter’s body down against a large tree about five minutes into the woods, and Stiles watched in silence as Derek hunched down to close his uncle’s eyes.

---

Freshly scrubbed, clothed, and (in Derek’s case) interrogated, Stiles curled up against the solid, warm body that sat next to him on his couch.

While Scott had moved Allison’s car from the Hale driveway and waited down the street, Stiles and Allison had huddled at the top of the stairs to eavesdrop. If Derek’s wet hair at such an unseemly hour of the morning had troubled the officers who knocked on the door, they didn’t seem to show it; the rest of Derek, freshly dressed in an old t-shirt and sweats, had appeared perfectly normal. The bleariness of his eyes could be chalked up to tiredness from having been awakened at such an early hour.

Their conversation was blissfully short. Derek assured them he hadn’t been to see his uncle since last week, said that yes, he had known the nurse, Maggie Candleman, but no, he hadn’t seen her either since his last visit. He didn’t know where she might be, or if there was any reason to suspect that she’d taken Peter from his bed. The officers assured Derek that they were doing their best to find her and his uncle, and that medical staff were ready to re-attach Peter to his necessary life-support means when his body was found.

Stiles let out a heavy breath of relief when Derek finally closed the door behind them.

Allison left them with a gentle squeeze on the arm and went to go meet Scott. Stiles and Derek had stood in silence for a few long moments, but the creaking of the house around them set Stiles’ teeth on edge.

“We’re going back to my place,” he’d said firmly, and Derek hadn’t argued.

Stiles entire body was sluggish and uncooperative at that point. He’d changed from his bloody clothes into extra sweats from Derek, and even pitted against the pounding in his head, the warmth was dragging him towards sleep. Derek offered to swing by the hospital to pick up Stiles’ Jeep, but he refused; they could do that later. After they’d passed out of Hale driveway, Stiles had reached over and once again twined his fingers with Derek’s, and spoken in soft tones on the ride towards Stiles' house, outlining what he'd learned from his talk with Peter. Derek flinched almost imperceptablely some parts, but Stiles' just tightened his grip on his hand. 

When they arrived at the Stilinski house, Keith was still asleep in bed where he’d been when Stiles had snuck out earlier that night, and Stiles thanked God for that small mercy. Stiles hadn’t relished the thought of explaining why he’d rolled in way past any acceptable curfew with Derek Hale, blood dried on his neck, wearing Derek’s clothes. As it was, he was going to have a hell of a time finding some way to explain the ugly splash of bruises that covered his arms. Helping Scott with lacosse practice, maybe?

He’d deposited Derek on the couch and run upstairs for a much needed shower. Derek hadn't had any ibuprofen in his house, saying that it didn't affect him, and Stiles eagerly found the bottle in his medicine cabinet, downing twice the recommended dosage for his still throbbing headache. He’d headed back downstairs, all the blood and horror of the night scrubbed viciously off his skin, intending to herd Derek upstairs into his room, but the werewolf was absorbed with something on the television. The volume was too low for Stiles to hear.

Stiles took a seat beside Derek and promptly closed any and all space between their bodies. They’d only stopped touching each other when it was necessary since the hug in the basement.

Wordlessly, Derek picked up the remote and increased the volume for Stiles’ human ears. It was the first round of the morning news shows, and a Breaking News banner was flashing along the bottom of the screen. A slender brunette with perfect makeup spoke in modulated tones.

“The body of Margaret Candleman, a nurse at the local Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital, was found this morning in her car just outside city limits. Authorities have yet to release a statement, but our on-site sources tell us that all signs point to the death being ruled a suicide. Ms. Candleman was the head nurse in charge of the care of a Peter Hale, the sole survivor of a devastating house fire, in the Beacon Hills Memorial long-term care facilities. Authorities began their search earlier this morning when Mr. Hale’s body was discovered to be missing from his room, along with all traces of Ms. Candleman. We have no word yet as to the status of the search for Mr. Hale, but it seems he was not in the vehicle with Ms. Candleman. In perhaps what may be the most intriguing piece of this developing story, we’ve also received exclusive information that reveals a note in Ms. Candleman’s car may link her with the still unsolved death of Beacon Hills High student and niece of the missing patient, Laura Hale. Further details are incoming, and we will be sure to keep you informed as this story develops - ”

The TV screen blipped out as Derek turned it off.

“Before you got there,” Stiles said softly. “Peter told me that his nurse was ‘fulfilling her final service’ for him. This must be it. He killed her and set her up to take the blame for Laura’s murder.”

“We can’t tell anybody the truth. Not the cops, not your father,” Derek said. Stiles chewed his lower lip, nodding reluctantly.

“I know. Too much at risk.” Derek’s face still looked pinched. Stiles reached his hand up and pressed it to Derek’s cheek, gently angling his face towards Stiles. “Hey. I told you I’d keep your secrets, and I will. There’s going to be a lot of shit to deal with these next few days, but we will deal with it, however we have to.” Stiles’ thumb stroked lightly across Derek’s cheek, and Derek pressed eagerly into the touch. “We did it. We found her killer. Sure, it was utterly horrific, and I’m – God, Derek, I’m so sorry for that, for what you had to do, but it’s done now. Even if we can’t tell the world the truth, we know. We know what happened to her.”

Even with his complete weariness bearing down on him, Stiles couldn’t help but feel… lighter. He’d sworn to find Laura’s killer and he had. He’d wanted to bring him to justice, but now he knew that wasn’t possible. It was going to have to be enough. For both him and Derek.

“I need to bury him.” Derek’s voice cracked, from exhaustion or grief or both. Stiles turned, moving over Derek’s body on the couch until he was practically in his lap, knees on either side of Derek’s hips, and both his hands running along the sides of Derek’s face, down his neck, through his hair. Stiles knew Derek would normally at least pretend to protest at being petted in such a manner, but neither of them cared at this point.

“I know,” Stiles said, and leaned forward to press his forehead against Derek’s. “We’ll do it tomorrow. Well, today. But later. Much later, after we’ve both had time to sleep and process. We’ll do it together.”

Derek nodded, the motion making his stubble scrape along Stiles’ palms. Stiles felt Derek’s hands at his hips, nothing demanding in the touch, but knew that the points of connection between their bodies were all that were keeping either of them centered in that moment.

Stiles pulled back his forehead and readjusted the angle of his face to lean in and press his lips to Derek’s. Maybe it was awful, inappropriate timing, but Stiles didn’t care. After everything that had happened these past few weeks, after all that Derek had done for him tonight, he couldn’t let himself go one more minute without this.

Cold fear that he’d misinterpreted everything ran down his spine for the few short moments it took Derek to respond. But then respond he did, hands sliding up Stiles’ sides to grip at the back of his head, erasing any thought of pulling away. Derek pressed eagerly up into the kiss, and Stiles steadied himself by moving his hands into Derek’s hair and holding tightly. They broke for air and dove back in.

If they’d been any less exhausted, Stiles doubted the make-out session would have remained so tame. But they were both too beaten and drained to do much else besides trade soft, desperate, half-open kisses for a few long minutes.

When they finally broke apart, the sharp angles of Derek’s face looked smoother.

“You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he said, in a tone Stiles had never heard from his before, and faint color stole into his cheeks. Derek Hale, brooding, handsome, acerbic loner Derek Hale, was… blushing.

The grin that split Stiles’ face was almost painful. He thought of the picture in Derek’s wallet, the one he’d chosen to keep with him at all times. Laura, Derek, and Stiles, caught in time, together and smiling forever. He imagined Laura's reaction to this scene, her best friend straddling her brother on the couch, and imagined he could hear a laughing "took you long enough." 

“Then I guess we have a lot of time to make up for,” Stiles said and leaned back in.

It was only when Stiles nearly started snoring as Derek worried a tiny mark on his neck with his teeth that they realized it would probably be better to just go to sleep and finish this another time.

---

TWO WEEKS LATER

Stiles practically vibrated with excitement. His father had hestitantly mentioned over dinner that night that he was considering running for Sheriff again in the next election.

The Laura Hale murder was closed. Maggie Candleman’s “suicide” note included a confession and details that only the police (well, and Stiles and his friends) were privy to. Peter Hale was still missing, but was mostly presumed dead; a long-term care patient could never have survived so long without medical treatment.

The town was growing increasingly unhappy with Sheriff Lamb’s progress in the search for his body, as well as the still unsolved murders of Mark Cahn, Amanda Pines, and Kate Argent. And although Stiles knew that even if his dad wouldn’t have much more luck on those cases if he did get re-elected, he also knew that nothing would make Keith Stilinski happier than to have his job back. Keith loved the agency, but not the same way Stiles did; his dad was meant for law enforcement. Besides, Stiles figured that he could still carry out his own investigations (as if anything would ever stop him). Stiles also knew that Derek wouldn't be content to just let Stiles run around solving any more mysteries on his own, and would no doubt insist on accompanying him everywhere, but there were a lot worse things than having a werewolf with super senses to help you solve crimes.  

Derek had been spending most of his time at Stiles’ house. After they’d dragged themselves from bed back to the Hale mansion and given Peter a solemn, silent burial deep in the Beacon Hills Preserve, Derek had been understandably reluctant to go back to the huge, empty house. Stiles was slowly working up points to present to Derek about possibly selling the house and finding some place of his own, somewhere smaller and less full of ghosts.

And now that Keith no longer had reason to suspect Derek, he’d grown to, however reluctantly, accept that Derek Hale was fast becoming a permanent fixture in his son’s life, and in his household. He’d grumbled at first about he fact that he suddenly seemed to be housing two teenage boys instead of one, but Stiles saw the soft light of parental concern in his dad’s eyes on Derek whenever the radio or television news mentioned Laura’s name.

Of course, Keith didn’t know that Derek spent most every night in Stiles’ room. Turns out that having a werewolf boyfriend capable of scaling the side of his house to crawl in his window (after saying goodbye to Stiles and his dad and heading out the front door every night) was kind of awesome.

Tonight, though, Derek had returned home after school to get ready for tonight. It was during this now rare father-son only dinner that Keith had told Stiles his plans. With the combination of this news and his anticipation of tonight, Stiles felt… happy. 

The sharp knock on the front door had Stiles springing from his seat on the couch and rushing to answer it.

“I was hoping it was you.”

“Were you expecting somebody else,” Derek asked lightly.

Standing on Stiles’ porch, Derek looked devastatingly handsome in his black dress pants and gray dress shirt. The light gray contrasted nicely with Stiles’ own collared shirt, a soft faded purple. Stiles grinned and felt a kick of arousal, and maybe something more, in his gut when Derek answered with a little smile of his own.

“You ready?” Stiles heard the delight in his own voice, and Derek’s smile notched up a fraction.

“Let’s get this over with,” he grumbled, but there was no real heat behind it.

A few eyes still stared at them as they walked into the school gymnasium, dark and decorated with streamers and lights that flashed to the music. Neither of them paid attention to the people watching or loosened their grip on the other’s hand.

People had been talking and staring and talking some more ever since they’d shown up to school together in Derek’s car, their arms linked and heads bent intimately close as they spoke. Derek sat with Stiles, Allison, and Scott every day now. When word had gotten out about the head cheerleader’s pregnancy, the news that Derek Hale and Stiles Stilinski were a couple had been relegated to old news.

As Stiles steered them through the mass of people towards where Allison and Scott sat at a table, Stiles caught sight of Danny and Jackson by the punch bowl. Danny waved. Jackson sneered.

Stiles’ friends greeted them cheerfully when they reached the table. Allison, Scott, and Derek weren’t quite “friends” yet, but they were getting there. Stiles didn’t think Derek knew how to act around them yet, unused to having this many people, let alone humans, know his deepest secrets. Stiles still felt like a bridge between his boyfriend and his friends sometimes, but slowly they were all learning to feel comfortable with each other. Allison and Derek’s chilly stance towards each other had thawed; they might never see eye to eye on Kate, but Allison knew exactly what Derek had sacrificed that night. Scott was deliberately contrary when it came to Derek, but Stiles could see that Derek was less annoyed by it now and more amused, their interactions becoming less hostile and more bantering.

“So did we miss anything,” Stiles inquired as they sat. Allison let out a laugh.

“Just wait until you see Coach’s suit,” she said. Scott was relaxed back in his chair, his eyes on his date, full of utter devotion.

Stiles spun around in his chair, immediately searching the room for a glimpse of their school's eccentric lacrosse coach, but stopped when he saw who was entering the auditorium. He wasn’t the only one who noticed, either; all eyes swung to door where the newest couple had appeared.

Lydia Martin strolled into the room in her usual get-up of impossibly tight jeans and calf-high boots. Her perfectly fitted leather motorcycle jacket hung open just so, giving her look a daring kind of charm. But the tableau was made complete by the bodacious blonde in killer leopard print heels and a black mini-skirt who had her arm curled possessively around Lydia’s. Her white v-neck t-shirt boasted the logo of Pan High, Beacon Hill’s nearby rival. The crowd split like the red sea as the stunning pair made their way into the room. Lydia pulled to a halt by Stiles’ table, pink lips twisting into a genuine smile.

“Evening, Stilinski,” she purred. “I’d like to introduce you to Erica. Erica, this is Stiles, his boytoy Derek," and Derek didn't even bat an eyelash at that, huh, "Scott, and Allison.” She gestured to each person as she spoke, her grin getting a little wider as she came to Allison. Stiles didn’t miss the cheeky wink she sent her way. Allison flushed, but her answering smile was real. “We’re going to hit a party on the beach after this. You guys should come.”

“Ah, thanks. We’ll definitely consider it,” Stiles answered smoothly.

They waited a few minutes after the pair had moved on to grin like idiots at each other.

“I think Lydia has moved on from you Allison,” Stiles said through a laugh.

“And I wish them the best of luck,” she replied.

“I don’t know which one of them scared me more,” Scott said, and even Derek let out a bark of laughter.

The music changed to yet another slow, overplayed pop ballad, but Stiles was too happy tonight to really care about the musical integrity of the soundtrack.

“C’mon Derek, let’s dance,” he said, standing and turning to present his hand to his date.

“I’d rather not,” the grump replied. Stiles considered just dragging Derek to the dance floor by his expensive black tie, but another solution popped into his mind.

“Fine. I’ll just go ask Danny –“

His sentence was cut off when Derek rose swiftly from his seat and yanked Stiles by his proffered hand towards the dance floor. Stiles didn’t bother hiding his smug smirk. Derek gathered him into his arms, and they awkwardly positioned their hands and arms for a minute until finding a comfortable fit. Their cheeks brushed as they swayed in time to the music, and with a contented sigh, Stiles felt Derek pull little closer to brush his nose along where Stiles’ jaw line met his throat. The moment was over too soon, but neither one of them really wanted to put that much of themselves or their relationship on public display just yet.

Things between them were good, really good, but they were still just beginning. They were slowly working their way beneath each other’s skin, stitching up the wounds the past few years had left.

A few nights ago, as they’d lain in Stiles’ bed, with Derek sprawled out on his stomach and Stiles absently tracing the lines of his tattoo, Derek had started talking. He’d just started telling stories about Laura, about the pranks he remembered the two of them playing on him and the epic reciprocations he’d planned but never been able to execute, about going for their license test together (she’d failed her first time, he hadn’t), about eavesdropping when his father would take in the basement to talk about the duties of becoming Alpha. Derek had talked until his voice was cracked and raw, and Stiles hadn’t said a word, just listened, never stopping the movement of his fingers as they traced designs on the expanse of skin on Derek’s back.

"Why didn't she tell me," he'd asked then, quietly, and Stiles knew he meant Laura. Laura had kept her investigation a secret from the both of them, and becase of that, they hadn't been able to protect her. 

"I don't know," Stiles had answered honestly. Laura was just as stubborn and protective as Derek; maybe she'd thought it would be better, safer, to keep them both uninvolved. But Stiles truthfully couldn't explain her reasoning, and they'd never be able to know for sure now. They could hash it out, blame her or blame themselves all they wanted, but nothing would change what had happened. 

Stiles had leaned forward and placed a kiss in the center of Derek's tattoo, and they'd spent the next few long, quiet moments in open, honest sadness.

Afterwards, Derek had fallen into a deep sleep, and woken looking better rested and less gaunt than he had since Peter’s death.

The damage done to Derek by everything, Kate, the fire, Laura’s death, Peter… it was extensive, and Stiles knew that it would take time to see Derek become somebody resembling the boy he’d once been. Or least, someone who could trust others again the way that boy had. Stiles didn’t think Derek would ever be the same – some things changed people too completely to ever go back. But Stiles was different too, in just as many ways, and he hoped they would be able to help each other heal and grow into whoever they were becoming. With the mystery of Laura’s death finally solved, they could move on, the way he knew she would have wanted.

The full moon was next week, and Stiles knew Derek was worried about how his new Alpha status might affect him, but they’d already agreed to tackle any problems it caused together. That fact alone gave Stiles confidence; Derek was letting him (and even Scott and Allison, to some degree) in. Maybe they weren’t a “pack” the way Derek had known, but they were a support unit.

But Stiles didn’t want to worry about those kinds of things right now.

Right now he wanted to focus on the solid body swaying against his, arms tight and secure, and the softness he could see in Derek’s face. To outsiders, the teen no doubt looked just as surly as usual, but Stiles knew better now. He could practically feel the waves of contentment rolling off Derek’s body.

So, yeah, things were good, and getting better each day. Not perfect, but nothing ever really was, and besides… where would the fun be in that?