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This Story's Got a Playlist Stuck in the 60's

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Creedence Clearwater Revival comes on his iPod the second Derek slides into his jeep and the first thought in Stiles' head is that even he's not witty enough to truly capture the ridiculousness of this moment. He gives himself a few more years, a dozen more pop culture references at his disposal, maybe the whole vocab section of the SATs in his back pocket, and then he might be able to come up with something good.

For now, though, he just presses his lips together hard and keeps his eyes on the road.

"You're mad at me, too," Derek says in greeting, and it's not like Stiles has ever made a habit of reining in his emotions, but that still doesn't stop it from being creepy whenever Derek calls him on them.

"Now why would you think something like that?" he snaps, shifting the jeep into drive. "Would it perhaps have something to do with your attempt to assassinate the fairest maiden in all the land like a cruel and callous and utterly jealous-of-her-perfect-strawberry-blonde-locks evil hag?"

He doesn't need super wolfy senses to know Derek's glaring at him, but he guesses there's a little credit to be given that, instead of a face full of steering wheel for the comment, he gets an, "I said I was sorry, Jesus."

And yet, somehow, the moment manages to become even more eyeroll inducing.

"While I accept you anointing me your lord and savior, what you actually said was-" Stiles does a horrific approximation of an irritated growl, but he's not really trying (he could be a good wolf if he tried. But then, ugh, all that wolf angst and no, he gets enough of that from Scott, thanks), "and then a melodramatic 'but we tested him!' which I'm sure would have been followed by a massive amount of exclamation points if the words had appeared in a speech bubble over your head."

Derek does a pretty good rendition of the growl himself, but there's just something about holding a guy up in a pool for over two hours that makes him the opposite of scary.

"Ah, see, now I get it," Stiles says with a put on air of knowing, "there was definitely a more apologetic edge to the other one. It's a very subtle difference, but you can hear it in the way the rumbles change the tone."

"Just shut up."

Now that Stiles is going, though, his mind racing on all the things Scott told him about his confrontation with Derek, he doesn't really feel like sitting there all quiet and steaming like he'd planned.

"I heard you actually meant to kill Jackson when you bit him," he says conversationally, catching the way Derek stills out of the corner of his eye. "I'd say 'nice one', because, let's all be honest here - the world without Jackson Whittemore is a better place - but doesn't that go against your little mental rulebook to kill....well, I don't wanna say 'innocent people' to describe Jackson. How about 'terrible human beings who have at least not murdered anything but my spirit time and time again'?"

"Lapse of judgement," Derek snarls, and Stiles takes his eyes off the road long enough to chance a peek over at the man. He's glowering out the window, arms folded across his chest, and it must be the chlorine still drenching his brain, because Stiles gets a stray thought that Derek is being kind of adorably pouty - almost like a little kid. 

"What?" he snorts, waving his hand with a fluttery motion in the space between them, "Did you, Mr. I'm-The-Miyagi-of-Control-Sit-The-Fuck-Down-and-Listen-Scott, actually let the wolf side win for a second there? The shiny new Alpha side of you see Jackson as potential competition?" He's joking, mostly, but Derek doesn't growl or glare or speak or really do anything but stiffen even more.

Huh.

"Hmm, you know," he continues blithely, stroking his chin while he makes a left turn, "That is an interesting response, truly interesting. Intriguing, almost, if I would go so far to say."

"Stiles." The growl this time is deeper, darker, but Stiles still isn't really feeling the old need to quake in his Converse.

"It's okay to admit you don't know what the hell you're doing for once in your sketchy werewolf existence." He shrugs and gets distracted when they pass a McDonald's; he hasn't eaten all day, what with the trying to protect Lydia from the small army of superhuman creatures with paranormal abilities, and fighting for his life tends to take a toll on his hunger levels. The jeep jerks as he cuts to the other side of the lane, makes an illegal U-turn, and finishes with, "Hey, maybe you just weren't up for the job."

Abruptly there's a hand gripping his neck, and huh, Stiles is only as half-afraid as he should be in this situation, he thinks. Mostly he's worried about the bruises, because how the hell is he going to explain that to his dad?

"Y'know, I don't, in fact, heal as fast as you guys do," he rasps, fingers clutching onto Derek's wrists in a pathetic attempt to yank him away. "I get it, okay? Sore spot, shutting up, you can remove the intense pressure from my jugular now."

Derek holds on for only a few seconds more, then releases his grip and shifts even farther into the corner of the jeep. Stiles isn't sure he's ever seen the man look that small and it's kind of weirding him out.

The road is empty and he thanks whatever kind of god is up there, because by the time he looks back they've drifted to the opposite lane, almost to the sidewalk. He jerks the jeep again, this time to correct their path, and he's suddenly very glad that he made the executive decision to detour for food before they meet up with Scott and Allison. Scallison. Alliscott? McCargent.

His night plans already involve the potential death of a much-hated classmate, the inevitable avoidance of looking at that bitch Erica's awesome breasts, Isaac probably creeping on him and Lydia existing (still, thankfully). There's no way he'll be adding a moody werewolf going through an Alpha-identity crisis to that list on an empty stomach.

----

"You do eat normal food, right?" Stiles asks the second they pull away from the drive-thru window. He hadn't bothered getting an order from Derek (the guy had still been a sulky little sulk sulk) and had just listed off the entire dollar menu a few times over, figuring that there had to be something on there that would appease a werewolf stomach. Nothing in any of the lore he's read has indicated that they're picky eaters. "I mean, not just like, Thumper and Bambi and the occasional piece of human flesh, right?"

He parks, shifting the gears, and lowers the volume on the stereo (currently on "Li'l Red Riding Hood" because apparently his iPod is being simultaneously nostalgic and sardonic this evening) before opening the first of the several bags and digging in. 

Derek stays silent for a moment, then huffs, "I don't eat forest animals."

"Noted," is Stiles' simple response. He holds up a papered package in each hand. "My next question involves the highly controversial dilemma of cheese or no cheese?"

A snort comes from Derek, as if he's actually amused, and Stiles tries to ignore the way that sound kind of fluffs up his insides. It's definitely the leftover chlorine infecting his neurons.

"A dilemma for who?" Derek says, reaching out to grab the one with cheese. Stiles doesn't ask how he knew.

"Communists," he replies instead, unwrapping the other burger because, really, as long as it's food, he doesn't care what's on it. 

"So you okay with us being our own little pack following Scott's lead?" It's an entirely different topic, barely even related to what they'd been talking about earlier, but it's been on Stiles' mind all night. "I should warn you, I'm really the brains of the operation so it's really like my lead, which, wow, isn't that an amazing and horrifying thought for mankind?"

This time Derek's quiet because he's chewing, but Stiles is almost positive he caught Derek shoving fries into his mouth after the question was already asked.

Stiles almost gives up on getting any answers until, after a few more minutes, Derek says slowly, "Despite what you guys think, I don't want innocent people getting hurt, in my pack or not. Omegas are easy targets. Scott's not. And I'm strong enough on my own now without him anyway." Derek does a sort of half-shrug and picks idly at the bun of his burger. "It doesn't really matter now what he does. The only part of him that's a threat is his stupid bleeding heart."

Stiles takes a second to inhale a long gulp of his soda, then sits back and gasps in mock horror.

"Scott has a bleeding heart? No, no, must be the wrong guy. McCall. Scott McCall. See, the one I'm talking about spends all his free time kicking puppies."

There's the amused snort again from Derek, only this time it's so close to the edge of a full on chuckle that Stiles finds himself leaning toward it before he realizes what he's doing. He catches himself and slides back, wondering if maybe the pool had some sort of weird mind-altering parasite in the water that got sucked up his nose or something.

The silence that follows as they continue to eat is almost companionable, and Stiles tries not to analyze that fact; he knows he'll stress himself out even more than he already is. He's likely going to be the only one with his head screwed on straight tonight, he needs to remain as panic-free as possible. Especially when Derek doesn't bother trying to hide the way he's constantly sending odd looks in Stiles' general direction.

With the kind of long-suffering sigh he hears daily from his father, Stiles opens the wrapper of another burger.

---

Two days later, he's alone again with Derek - sort of. They're both standing outside of a glass cage, where Jackson is chained up in his Kanima form, down in the basement of the abandoned warehouse that Derek's pack apparently calls "home". It's... a fixer-upper to say the least. Still, it's an improvement over the Hale house.

Stiles makes a face at the lizard, using his fingers to pull his mouth into an ugly stretch.

"You know, this isn't like the interrogation room at the police station," Derek says gruffly, but he doesn't sound irritated - just tired. Probably from the fight to capture Jackson. "He can see you do that."

As if to verify Derek's statement, Jackson's tail slams against the glass hard enough for Stiles to make a noise that he'll later deny was a squeak. Derek's hand lands heavily on Stiles' shoulder, as if to ground him, and when Stiles looks over his shoulder at the man, he catches the hint of a tiny grin.

Just like that, Stiles feels the chlorine parasite come back.

----

They're not alone again for another week or so, but there are still these strange moments that only Stiles notices, when no one is looking but him, when Derek will let more than just his normal, constipated "I'm a big scary wolf rawrrrr" expression cross his face. Sometimes it's the more frequent displays of amusement, other times it's scarily close to a depressed blankness, but every time it's gone by the time Stiles has elbowed Scott in the side to look.

If those other moments were beacons of light in the sea of Derek Hale, the next time it's just the two of them (sort of), Derek's face is in full blown technicolor. He's cold and sharp and dark and angry as he barks orders for Scott, Allison, Isaac and Boyd to not return without a copy of the Wolf's Bane bullet that has Erica bleeding out on the warehouse floor. The instant the four of them are gone, the emotions switch to worry, fear, and...shame? After almost two weeks of secretly (probably not so secretly, if he's being honest) watching Derek, Stiles fancies himself kind of an expert on his expressions. He hasn't seen this kind of vulnerability before. 

Awkwardly, he puts a hand on Derek's shoulder, tensing as he waits for it to either be shoved or glared away.

Derek's attention is solely on Erica and the hand gets to stay.

Good so far.

"Hey...dude," Stiles tries, squeezing his fingers a little and not at all sure where he's going with this, "this isn't your fault."

"I didn't train her well enough," Derek says flatly, instead of the threatening growl Stiles is wholly expecting. Pursing his lips, Stiles moves his head from side to side as he tries to come up with something even vaguely supportive.

"Sure, you did," he settles on, because hey, he's on top of this.

"No," Derek snaps, the contradictory bastard. There's no heat behind it, though, which is the worrying part. "I'm the Alpha, it's my job to make sure they can survive. To train them to survive."

"It's okay," Stiles says in another attempt at comfort, just as weak as the first. He curls the hand on Derek into a fist and lightly punches him in the shoulder, "Big guy."

This time Derek does glare at him and, yeah, Stiles thinks, he's gonna be fine.

----


It's not the next time they're alone (even sort of), it's a few times later, but the situation has still managed to follow the trend of being even weirder than the alone-time before.

In this case because he's reclined in the passenger seat of a sleek Chevy Camaro with a hand down his pants and a tongue in his mouth. It's not so much the fact that he's getting his first kiss and possibly losing his virginity all in one go that's surprising him, but he did think it'd be on a soft bed and Lydia would somehow be involved.

Instead, the hand gripping him is rough and calloused and big where he knows Lydia's would be soft and dainty and small, and he really can't find any part of himself that wants to complain.

"Is this a heat thing?" he manages to get out as Derek nibbles a trail along his jaw. "Are you in heat? Because that's totally okay if you are, but I think I should-"

"Stop talking." Before this, Stiles thought he was long past taking any of Derek's orders lying down (ha ha); somehow the way the growl filters through his skin actually makes him want to shut up and listen.

---

He and Derek aren't alone much after that without some sort of groping being involved. Stiles is a teenage boy and Derek, well, he's been alone for awhile and Stiles imagines the guy has needs (ones that Erica might have taken care of once upon a time, if the way she glares at Stiles lately is any indication). It's weird how much their packs work together for being supposedly separate, and how Derek is still technically the Head Wolf In Charge for Scott. But Stiles is reaping the benefits of this strange little co-op; he doesn't want to be the one to say anything.

Lydia's joined them on the research side (and the homemade artillery side on the rare days they don't have Allison to count on) and Jackson's finally learned to control his reptilian ass, so they've got him to more-or-less rely on as well. It's all even more bizarre than anything Stiles has been able to find online about pack dynamics, but he'll take it.

The only bad parts are when someone gets hurt - whether it's someone in Derek's pack or Scott's pack or somewhere in between. Then Derek gets dangerous and scary until the immediate danger has passed, until he's done all he can do and everyone else but Stiles is gone, and he gets that look on his face like when Erica had been shot. Like it's his fault that he's not a good enough Alpha to protect everyone.

Pfft. And he says Scott has a bleeding heart.

Those are the times when groping doesn't occur. Stiles just sits next to Derek, barely touching, and waits for the insecurity to move on and for rational thought to take over. It's always hell, his mind is always racing, his limbs get jittery, but if he can't be the go-to research kid now that Lydia's in the pack, the least he can be is this.

-----

"So what's going on with you and Derek?" Scott asks the fist time they're alone (completely) in what feels like months. It just might be. Allison is usually somewhere close by, or some other member of their ridiculous alternative-lifestyle pack, or they're at school. It's just the two of them now, though, on Scott's bed, and Stiles freezes when he registers the question.

Before Stiles can even get a word out, Scott interrupts with, "Your heartbeat just took off, dude."

So instead of words, Stiles groans, flipping himself onto his stomach so that maybe he can drown in the pillows.

-----

The weird thing is that nobody is gravely wounded, there's no covert mission happening, Stiles and Derek are totally alone, and there is zero happy moaning going on. They're on a beat up couch that Erica brought in because she was tired of sitting on crates, watching cartoons on the TV that Isaac and Boyd brought in because they were tired of getting bored. There's no way in hell that Derek is any kind of okay with Stiles' choice of programming, but he hasn't said anything since Stiles changed the channel ten minutes ago and Stiles isn't going to ruin his luck by opening his mouth.

His leg starts bouncing steadily on its own, pent up energy begging to be released even though his attention is squarely on the gumball machine yelling on screen, and later he'll swear he doesn't shriek when Derek reaches down and grabs his legs, yanking them so that Stiles is lying with his feet on Derek's lap. Derek doesn't look away from the TV, despite obviously not being very invested, but he does curl his fingers around the ankle of Stiles' jittery leg. The hold grounds Stiles, forces the energy to move to his toes where it easily dies out.

They go back to watching TV.