The story goes like this: A new girl moves to Beacon Hills when Stiles is in the third grade. She's pretty, her eyes are green and her hair is strawberry blond, and Stiles falls for her head over heels.
He literally falls, stumbling over his feet and landing face down on the floor, and pretty much the entire class laughs. Even Scott cannot hide a smile, although he also cringes and grabs Stiles's arm to pull him up.
Stiles doesn't care. All that matters is New Girl and as long as she has noticed him, everything is fine. Hopeful, he looks up at her, but she has already turned away and is talking to another girl.
Stiles's expression falls.
"She did look," Scott says when they are on their way home that afternoon, "and she laughed just like everyone else if it helps." He doesn't sound like he believes it might be helpful.
"It does," Stiles says firmly. It has to. That girl is special he already knows and even if his first impression was a little awkward he'll make up for it the next day. It cannot be that difficult, can it?
The story goes like this: The new girl's name is Lydia Martin. She has a beautiful smile and shiny hair, and she sits with the popular kids at lunch. She talks a lot and laughs and is generally adorable, and Stiles watches her from afar, sitting with Scott among a bunch of other kids he doesn't really know.
"One day I'll ask her out," he tells Scott. "It's going to be beautiful."
Scott shrugs. "Have you talked to her yet?"
"Yes." Stiles looks over at the other table. "Today I said, Hello, Lydia."
"Then you talked, right?"
"Um." Stiles looks down at the table and gives his orange a little push. It rolls towards Scott, who picks it up. "Not exactly. But she nodded. And I'm almost sure the nod was meant for me."
(Scott does this a lot. Sighing like Stiles is unreasonable. But Stiles is actually the one who gets things done, thank you very much, so he doesn't think too much about Scott's reaction.
Stiles couldn't have known that this time would be the one time when Scott was right, now could he?)
The story goes like this: Lydia is probably the smartest person in class - and Stiles is including their teacher. Lydia doesn't like to show it, though. She acts like she's average in school, but whenever she isn't quite paying attention, whenever she's called to the front, her answers are razor sharp and always to the point.
Stiles notices because he, too, is smart. However, in his case the results are mostly that he's bored with everything around him and often doesn't bother to pay attention to any of his teachers because he already knows all the stuff or understands it long before the teacher is done explaining. So he spends his time joking around with Scott or staring at the back of Lydia's head or her profile.
She's really, really pretty.
"One day, I'm going to marry her," he says to Scott. "We will live in a really big house and have lots of super smart babies. It's going to be awesome."
Scott looks over at the table where the popular kids sit. Lydia is among them, laughing about something Danny Mahealani is saying, and Stiles would be totally jealous of Danny, but Danny is really the nicest guy in the world. It's impossible to hate him.
He's also gay, so he most definitely isn't attracted to Lydia. That helps too.
Stiles wonders to whom Danny is attracted. His best friend Jackson Whittemore perhaps? Or maybe someone else, someone who's easy going and funny? Someone like Stiles?
"Let's not plan too far ahead," Scott says because he's a party pooper and has never been in love. "Let's start with asking her out, huh? Maybe you could invite her to the ice rink. I think I heard her talking with one of the girls about it a few days ago."
Stiles heard it, too, probably because he'd stuck around in the proximity of Lydia's locker, hoping to find a reason to talk to her. He'd hoped she might drop her books and he could help her pick them up. That's what happens in books or movies all the time, doesn't it?
But Lydia is the opposite of clumsy, and the only one who had dropped his books had been Stiles. And the only one who had helped him pick them up had been Scott.
"Yeah, I'm working on it," Stiles says to Scott. "It's just ... I should probably ease her into the idea. You know, make a joke or two and start talking and -"
"You haven't talked to her yet?"
Stiles glares at Scott. There's really no need for Scott to sound so incredulous. "I told you, I'm working on it."
Scott looks at him with pity.
Stiles kind of hates him for it.
"Maybe start with something simple. Borrow her pen or something."
Stiles huffs a laugh. "Seriously? A pen? Dude, you need a little more imagination. There's no way any girl would fall for something this lame."
Scott glowers and pouts, but Stiles is convinced that he's right.
(A few years later, there'll be another girl new in class and Scott will give her a pen. They will start talking and dating and eventually they will fall in love.
Stiles will think back to this moment and wonder if maybe he should have listened to Scott.)
The story goes like this: Lydia is the most popular girl when they start their freshman year in high school. Plenty of boys ask her out, and Lydia mostly just looks at them, her eyebrows raised, and sometimes she even laughs condescendingly. The boys scramble away and realize that they are just not in her league.
Stiles doesn't ask her out because as long as he doesn't ask, she won't crush his heart, and he likes to believe that one day she will wake up and look at him and suddenly see him.
Also, she isn't dating anyone at all. Maybe she's waiting for Mr. Right. She's smart, she won't just go out with anyone.
Stiles has to find a way to catch her attention. Preferably a way that doesn't end with his face planted to the floor.
"I'm thinking about trying out for lacrosse," Scott says during lunch one day.
"Lacrosse? Dude, what about your asthma?"
"I'm not going to be held back by something that simple." Scott looks pretty determined and it's a good look on him. Usually he just follows Stiles's lead.
"But freshmen never make it first line," Stiles says.
Scott scowls. "Jackson did."
Stiles's eyes grow huge and he looks over to the popular kids. Jackson looks indeed very smug today and Danny is shoving him good-naturedly.
And Lydia is bestowing a smile on Jackson that Stiles hasn't seen on her face ever before.
Something hot and ugly curls up in his belly.
"Yeah, okay," he says, turning abruptly back to Scott. "Let's go to the try-outs. In the worst case scenario, we'll have to sit on the bench forever."
(They do sit on the bench for a year, and Stiles even a lot longer than that.
Lacrosse, it turns out, is neither his calling nor a way to win Lydia's heart.)
The story goes like this: Jackson Whittemore becomes the star player, makes captain of the lacrosse team and starts dating Lydia Martin.
Stiles watches it happening and grits his teeth.
It's okay, he tells himself. It's just like in the movies. The most popular girl will date the most popular boy for a while, but then they will realize that they don't match at all, and one of them will fall for the unpopular kid, the nice one, and they will be the endgame couple. And Stiles is convinced that Lydia will be the one who will start looking for someone else, someone who shares more of her interests because Lydia is smart and beautiful and Jackson is just the jerk-jock that will try to keep them apart for no other reason than his own ego.
(It's just ... Jackson isn't just a jerk. He's best friends with Danny, who doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he works really hard because Stiles has often seen Jackson training all alone when everyone else had already gone home.
It's true. Jackson isn't nice, he doesn't go out of his way to make friends with someone like Stiles, but that's mostly because Jackson never notices Stiles or Scott at all.
And here's another truth: Neither does Lydia.)
The story goes like this: Lydia and Jackson date. They make out in the hallways, they cuddle in Jackson's stupid Porsche and they have their hands all over each other whenever it's possible.
"It isn't love," Stiles says and stirs his yogurt quite vigorously. "That's just lust combined with society's expectations of them."
Scott looks at him with the befuddled puppy look of his. "Society expectations? What?"
"Yes. You know, the whole shebang pressure about having to have a girlfriend or boyfriend while you're in school. And that the queen bee has to date the popular jock."
"Maybe she just likes him," Scott mentions. Stiles glares at him and Scott adds hastily, "No. I don't know either why she would like him, but if she didn't, don't you think she would simply look for someone else?"
"Like I said, society expects her to be with Jackson."
"Just because he's captain of the lacrosse team? I don't know. If it's just about popularity, there are other guys she could date."
"Whose side are you on, Scott?"
Scott swallows. "On yours. Totally on yours. It's just a phase. She gets Jackson out of her system now and then she'll be free for you. By the way, have you had a conversation with her yet?"
Suddenly, the yogurt demands Stiles's whole attention and Scott switches their conversation to lacrosse.
(So, maybe Stiles hasn't talked to Lydia yet. That doesn't mean anything, though. It's just difficult to make Lydia pay attention to him. But Stiles knows that they would be good together. He knows that Lydia is smart and funny and sometimes mean, and he knows her favorite color and what she likes to eat. He knows her favorite movie is The Notebook and he knows that she is one of the two people in the world Jackson allows to drive his car.
All right, Jackson does seem to really like her. Stiles just hates acknowledging it because he's in love with Lydia and has been for years, long before Jackson and Lydia started dating. It's not fair.)
The story goes like this: Lydia and Jackson don't break up, and Scott is bitten by a werewolf and turns into one. Suddenly Scott is good at everything - except when it comes to using his brain - and he makes first line, while Stiles is stuck on the bench. A new girl comes to school and Scott falls for her the way Stiles did for Lydia. But Allison Argent likes Scott back and things are sunshine and roses and puppies for them.
Except that Allison's father is a hunter, and so is her aunt, and Allison has no idea about it or about Scott's little furry problem. Allison becomes best friends with Lydia almost immediately, and that's awesome because for the first time there's a reason for Lydia to take notice of Stiles.
There's just one problem. Stiles has other things to do now. He cannot focus on Lydia. Instead he has to run through town to save Scott's little werewolf ass, he has to figure things out to keep Scott under control and he has to deal with Derek Hale, who has come back after six years and actually is a werewolf, too.
(Stiles hasn't really known Derek before Scott was turned into a werewolf. Years ago, he has sometimes seen him in town from afar and he probably knows more about the fire at the Hale house than he should because he always reads his father's files and listens to his phone calls whenever it's possible.
"Did you know Derek Hale?" he asks his father one day. "Before the fire?"
"No, not really," his father says, "but I knew his mother. She was with the PD and my partner for a few weeks. Then she married Derek's father and a couple of months later she was pregnant with Laura. They were good people, though, even if they kept to themselves.")
The story goes like this: Lydia is busy with Jackson, and Stiles is busy with Scott, and then there's Derek Hale.
Stiles doesn't know what to think of Derek. The first time he sees him in the woods, he feels awkward and clumsy, and his stupid memory is dragging up everything he remembers about Derek. He tells Scott who doesn't seem to be impressed with Derek, but then Scott's brain has stopped working the moment he first heard Allison's voice.
Stiles's brain never stops working, and that's the problem. It jumps from one point to another and in-between finding out that Scott and Derek are werewolves and wondering whether Derek is a murderer, Stiles learns that the dead girl in the woods is actually Derek's sister Laura and finds himself asking Scott whether he thinks that Stiles is attractive to gay guys.
Perhaps there's a connection between all of that, but Stiles never takes the time to figure it out. Instead he deals with Scott's first full moon and the fact that Derek has decided that Scott should be with him, and Stiles doesn't like it. He doesn't know whether he likes Derek, actually, because his confusion from their first meeting fades and is replaced with fear and distrust.
But that's not quite true, is it? He isn't just scared of Derek, he starts to learn to be scared for him as well. There's excitement he feels when he's around Derek, but there's also the never-ending concern for Scott, who just doesn't think about the consequences of him playing lacrosse or dating a werewolf hunter's daughter.
Scott comes first, Stiles decides, and if Derek is dangerous for Scott, then Stiles will do everything he can to keep him away.
("You have to protect the people you love," his mother used to say, "and you have to keep your priorities straight."
"You're my priority," Stiles always answered. "You and Dad and Scott. You're the most important people in my life."
"And you are most important to us. Never doubt it."
Stiles never did. But one day his mother stopped telling him that because she was dead, and Stiles was lost.
He never wants to experience a loss like that again, so he has to keep his father and Scott safe. They are his priorities.)
The story goes like this: Jackson is attacked and Lydia sees the Alpha, and there's a moment Stiles thinks he's sharing with Lydia, only it really isn't. Lydia is drugged out of her mind and for a second Stiles really, really wants to be weak and take what has never been offered to him before.
But Lydia is only thinking about Jackson.
Jackson who's becoming more dangerous for Scott than Derek. Jackson who's asking questions and drawing the correct conclusions. Jackson who's still dating Lydia.
(Nowadays Stiles doesn't think all that much about the last part anymore. There are other things and people that demand his attention.)
The story goes like this: Allison breaks up with Scott, Scott becomes co-captain and makes out with Lydia, and Jackson ends things with Lydia and starts sniffing around Allison.
Stiles isn't involved in any of it, not as a participant. No one gives any consideration to his feelings and Stiles cannot even fight about it with Scott because Derek comes back from the dead and tells them that they have to find out who the Alpha is. Stiles spends another day with Derek, probably annoys him plenty, but he isn't all that scared of Derek anymore and Derek protects him from the Alpha.
Stiles may have some warm and fuzzy feelings for Derek afterwards.
Of course, Derek joins the Alpha then and threatens Jackson and Scott, and that's the end of these warm and fuzzy feelings.
(Stiles just cannot figure Derek out. Every time he believes that he might be starting to understand what kind of a person Derek is, Derek does something completely unpredictable, and Stiles doesn't know whether he likes Derek or not, let alone whether Derek hates him, tolerates him or is starting to care about him.
His feelings for Lydia are so much less complicated. Lydia is beautiful and smart and only, like, sixty per cent evil on a bad day, and she doesn't see him at all. It's easy to understand, and the flutter of his heartbeat when he's around her is familiar and comfortable.)
The story goes like this: Allison makes Lydia go to the Formal with Stiles and Lydia only thinks about Jackson.
Stiles goes all out, does it all and compliments her all the way. He tells her that she's beautiful and smart and everything anyone could ask for. She looks at him like she sees him for the first time, but he's only fooled for so long. Lydia keeps looking for someone else, and Stiles accepts what he has denied for so long.
Lydia hasn't just been with Jackson because he's popular, but because she likes him, because she's in love with him.
It hurts to admit it, but Stiles likes to think of himself as a good guy and he lets her go. Maybe Jackson is it for Lydia the way Allison is it for Scott. And maybe, if Stiles lets Lydia go, he'll find someone who will look at him like Scott and Allison look at each other. Maybe there's someone out there for him.
(However, out there is actually Peter Hale, the Alpha, who attacks Lydia and offers Stiles the bite. There's a moment when Stiles wants to say yes because look at Scott! Scott is popular now, he's first line and co-captain and he's dating an awesome girl. Stiles could have all of that, too.
But then he thinks of the hunters that are threatening Scott's life constantly, he thinks of Lydia, hurt by the Alpha and still entirely in love with Jackson, and he thinks of Derek and the pain in his eyes. Derek who has lost Laura, his only family, because of the man in front of Stiles.
"I don't want to be like you," he says, and no matter what the Alpha says, Stiles isn't lying. Maybe he'd like to be like Scott or Derek, or maybe he would like for Derek to actually talk to him instead of only trying to talk to Scott through Stiles, or maybe he'd just like to be noticed for himself by anyone, just for once, but nothing of it can be achieved just by accepting the bite from a crazy murderer.
Stiles wants a lot. But there's nothing he wants from Peter Hale.)
The story goes like this: Lydia doesn't heal the way Scott did, Derek kills the Alpha and becomes the Alpha, and Jackson asks him for the bite. Scott isn't happy about any of it, but at least Allison knows everything now and she still loves Scott and wants to be with him.
Stiles is totally jealous of them.
He's once again left with nothing because Lydia might talk to him nowadays, but she's still only looking at Jackson, and Scott jokes with him, but he's busy sneaking around with Allison, and Derek has decided that other people are more worthy of his time than Stiles. He gives the bite to three of Stiles's schoolmates and their entire demeanor changes afterwards. They start looking like a biker gang and they try and start fights with Scott all the time.
"I don't want to be like you," Stiles says to his mirror image after he helps Derek and gets Isaac out of prison. "I don't want to be like you."
(He doesn't know anymore whom he's talking to.
Is it still the memory of Peter Hale?
Or is it Derek nowadays?
Or is it Stiles himself?
Stiles doesn't know - and he has no one to ask.)
The story goes like this: There's a new creature, a kanima as Stiles learns a lot later. Lydia is crying in her car while Jackson is on the field playing lacrosse, and Stiles gets stuck in the pool with Derek, who is paralyzed from the neck downwards and says, "You don't trust me. I don't trust you. But you need me to survive, which is why you're not letting me go."
Something inside Stiles snaps then, and he does let go in an attempt to save the day, in an attempt to show Derek that he's not keeping Derek alive just because he needs him to survive, but simply because he wants Derek to live. But Scott doesn't take Stiles's call, and Stiles dives for Derek although he already knows that he won't be able to keep them above the surface for much longer.
When Scott comes to the rescue in the nick of time and the kanima runs off, Derek and Stiles are saved, but something inside Stiles is shattered. Derek tells them what it is they're facing, and all Stiles can think is that Derek knew all along and never bothered to tell them. Derek claims that he didn't know before and just figured it out, but Stiles still remembers his words about trust, and ultimately that's all it boils down to. Derek doesn't need them and he doesn't trust them, and no matter what Stiles does, it won't change anything because Derek doesn't change. Stiles is a means to an end for him, useful at times, but nothing more; and to pretend that it might be different now, to pretend that the way Derek looks at him and includes him in the conversation, instead of just focusing on Scott, might mean anything would be a waste of time.
Derek says, "And when I find it, I'm gonna kill it," and Stiles closes himself off.
(He never says what he thinks, never asks, "Why don't you see me? Why don't you see me for who I am instead of what I can do for you? Why am I the only one who's always trying?"
He knows the answer.
There's something broken inside Derek, but everyone Stiles knows is a little broken. He sees it in the way Jackson sometimes looks when he doesn't know he's being watched, he sees it in Lydia's shaking shoulders and desperate sobs, and he sees it in Allison's forced smile and in Scott's worried frown.
Stiles is running himself already haggard, trying to keep Scott and Lydia together and trusting Allison that she can do it for herself or with Scott's help. Stiles cannot take someone else onto his shoulders, especially not someone who doesn't want him to.
And sometimes Stiles just wishes that someone would look at him and see him and ask him if he needs anything. He wishes he had someone he could lean onto, someone who would help him carry his weight and keep him from drowning.
But Stiles still only has two people in his life, only two people who consider him most important, and he cannot weigh down either of them.
His father doesn't know anything and Stiles hopes that this will keep him safe and alive, and Scott is already taking on responsibility that isn't his to carry. Stiles doesn't want to add to it.
He just has to keep moving, has to be there for Lydia and Scott and Allison. And even Derek and Jackson if they ever want his help. That's what he has to do.)
The story goes like this: Derek decides to kill the kanima at all costs and sets his eyes on Jackson and Lydia, and Stiles is too exhausted to even make a fuss.
It's just the way it is. Derek doesn't give a damn that Lydia matters to Stiles and Scott and Allison. He doesn't give a damn that he'd been the one to bite Jackson. He doesn't give a damn that Jackson and Lydia are important to a lot of people or that people would cry if anything happened to them.
Scott goes out to talk to Derek, but Stiles doesn't even offer to come along. It would be futile, he knows, because Derek doesn't give a damn about their opinion. He doesn't trust them. He only trusts himself.
All they can do is trying and protecting Lydia.
"She's in love with Jackson, isn't she?" Stiles asks Allison later while they are watching Derek and his leather werewolf gang through the window.
Allison looks at him, pity in her eyes.
He hates her a little for it.
"Yes. I believe she is," Allison says softly.
Instead of meeting her eyes, he stares at Derek's face and the faint amused smile like Derek is entertained by their resistance.
"Does she ever, you know, talk about me?" He carefully avoids looking at Allison. He keeps his eyes on Derek, the biggest threat out there.
Derek turns his head and their eyes meet. Stiles swallows.
"Not the way you would like her to," Allison admits.
It hurts. He has already known it, of course, but it still hurts.
Derek is still looking at the house.
"Maybe -" Allison says, but Stiles interrupts her, "Don't. Just don't." Because he lies enough to himself and pretends that one day someone will wake up and see him, but he doesn't want Allison to have to pretend as well. Allison has enough issues she has to deal with. She doesn't need Stiles's on top of her own.
"I was going to say, maybe I should call Scott now."
It's a lie. It wasn't what she had wanted to say. They both know it.
Stiles is grateful for her kindness, though. "Yeah," he says, staring hard at Derek, who has put Jackson into danger and is threatening Lydia's life. "Do that."
("Derek. Shoot Derek. Preferably in the head," he says later, and then Isaac comes in, and then Erica, but Allison and Stiles put up a good fight. And the entire time Stiles is thinking about his mother's voice and her words to him, "You have to protect the people you love, and you have to keep your priorities straight.")
The story goes like this: Jackson is the kanima and Lydia is in love with Jackson. Allison is a warrior princess and Derek calls Scott the Alpha of their pack.
Stiles doesn't even bother to be a smartass about it. He doesn't point out that he's the one who's always making plans or that Allison is the one who fights better than Scott. He doesn't even say that Scott isn't their Alpha, simply because they don't have or need an Alpha. They are friends, they work together and trust each other.
They go after Jackson then. Scott and Stiles because they want to help him, and Derek because he wants to take care of the problem. It's difficult. First they have to find him, then they have to convince him of what has happened to him, and then Jackson freaks out and goes crazy for a while.
The hunters become more and more obsessed, and Allison is struggling to lose neither her family nor Scott. As the time passes, it becomes something of a losing battle for her.
Lydia has issues of her own. Stiles eventually learns that she keeps seeing Peter Hale and he tries to be there for her, but he isn't the one she wants or needs. She's always worrying about Jackson now that she knows the truth about everything. Stiles still offers comfort, but the glimmer of hope that Lydia will look at him one day is starting to die.
Derek has his own troubles or makes his own troubles, you never know with Derek, but Stiles simply stops coming along when Scott doesn't ask him explicitly to be around when he needs to talk to Derek. Stiles isn't needed there. Derek sees Scott as the Alpha even if Scott himself refuses to think that way.
"I'm not the Alpha," Scott says once. "And you're not a sidekick. And Allison's not a love interest."
"I know that," Stiles says, watching Allison and Lydia at the table of the popular kids talking with Danny, who is frowning because he, too, is concerned about Jackson's increasingly erratic behavior.
"I'm just saying it because you always complained that I might think that way. I want to make sure that you know I don't."
"I know that."
"But you're not okay."
Stiles looks at Scott and sees the concerned puppy eyes directed at him. "Why would you say that?"
"Because I have eyes, and you look exhausted all the time. That's wrong. You're always the one who's moving. Endless energy and everything. But now, there's nothing. Are you okay?"
"I'm -" Stiles frowns because he knows that if he just says that he's fine, Scott won't believe it. "I'm worried. You and Allison. And Jackson. And of course Lydia."
"Oh," Scott says knowingly. "I'm sure she'll start to get over him soon."
Stiles smiles and changes the subject because that isn't what has been bothering him for weeks.
(Lydia is in love with Jackson and Jackson is in love with Lydia.
Scott is in love with Allison and Allison is in love with Scott.
Stiles has deep feelings for Lydia and he has some feelings for Derek, and he knows that neither returns his feelings.
It's pretty simple once you accept the truth.)
The story goes like this: Stiles gets home from school one day and goes right to his computer because he's still searching for something that will help Jackson either to return to human or to turn him into a real werewolf. Right now, Jackson is entirely imbalanced and that's making Danny and Lydia upset.
Stiles might not particularly care for Jackson, but he likes Danny and Lydia and doesn't want them to be unhappy.
You have to keep your priorities straight, he keeps repeating to himself.
He flinches and whirls around, and really, he shouldn't be surprised because lurking in corners is what Derek has always done. That he's doing it in Stiles's room for the second time in a year should almost be expected.
Stiles sinks back into his chair and looks up at Derek.
"Derek," he says. "Let me take a wild guess here and assume that you're here because you want to threaten me into telling you something or doing something for you. And while I do appreciate that you've come in person instead of sending one of your little lackeys, I'd still prefer it if we just skipped the whole threatening stuff and got right to the point, so you can go back and hang out with people you actually like while I do stuff that is actually important to me."
There's a beat of silence and Derek just stares at him. Stiles simply stares back, not wanting to prolong everything by joking around.
Something is different about Derek, though. Maybe it's his clothes, which seem weirdly ill-fit, or his face and the exhausted lines he can see around Derek's eyes. Maybe it's the missing smugness that Derek has displayed almost all the time since the moment he became the Alpha.
Or maybe it's just that Stiles hasn't seen Derek for so long. When they met in the past few months, it had always been fleeting moments and mostly Scott and Derek had dealt with their issues while Stiles had kept his focus on other stuff like Derek's pack or Lydia or Jackson.
"Stiles," Derek says again, a slight frown on his face, "what's wrong?"
Stiles snorts in disbelief and shakes his head. "That's not why you're here. Can we just skip the usual bullshit, please?"
"It isn't ..." Derek narrows his eyes. "I thought you were fine. That Scott's pack was all right."
Stiles opens his mouth, then closes it again. You cannot lie to a werewolf, but you can keep the truth from him.
"What do you want, Derek?"
Derek takes a step forward, but he's still on the other side of Stiles's room. "I -" And he looks like it pains him to speak, but what he says next explains the lack of enthusiasm, "I need your help."
Stiles wipes his hand over his forehead. "My help."
Derek glares. "Don't make me repeat myself."
Stiles smiles without feeling funny. "What do you need from Scott that you won't ask him yourself?"
"Nothing. That's not -" Derek's frown deepens. "I'm not here because of Scott."
"Allison then." Stiles nods in understanding. "The hunters. You need interference or information, right?"
"No," Derek says slowly, "it isn't about Allison either."
"If you plan on attacking Lydia again -"
"No! What's wrong with you, Stiles?"
The force in Derek's voice makes Stiles lean further back in his chair. "Do you have problems with the police? My father?" He doubts it. His dad would have told him about it. Probably.
"No. And do you want to keep guessing?"
"If you aren't talking, that's all I can do. But I don't believe there's a lot I haven't said yet. It isn't about Jackson because you usually talk with Scott about him, don't you?" Derek nods. "Which leaves me pretty much with nothing."
"I told you I need your help." Then Derek is silent again.
Stiles sighs and shifts in his chair. "You aren't talking with a werewolf here, Derek. I cannot read your scent or your heartbeat. And I'm not a mind reader, which is a good thing because I really don't want to know what's going on in the heads of pretty much everyone I know."
Derek makes a face like he has bitten into a lemon and says, "I need to talk to you."
"Because -?" Stiles waves his arm impatiently.
"Because," Derek says, his voice almost angry, "I need to talk to someone I trust."
"And I'm supposed to find that someone for you?"
Derek stares at Stiles like he has lost his mind. "Seriously?"
Stiles crosses his arms in front of his chest. "You don't trust me. I don't trust you. Does that ring any bells? And right now, you don't need me to survive, so ..."
For a second Derek closes his eyes. "Are you going to make me apologize for that?" he asks, sounding dismayed.
Stiles falls back into his chair. "No. That isn't. I don't want a fucking apology for being told the truth, okay? I'm a big boy, I can handle the truth just fine. I just don't know what you want from me."
"I want." Derek stops. He looks around and Stiles gets the impression that he's feeling uncomfortable about something. After a moment, Derek sits down on the end of Stiles's bed, so maybe he has been tired of looming over someone. "I want you to be Stiles."
Stiles laughs. He cannot help it, and it's an ugly sound that's falling from his lips, not like his usual bright laughter. For someone with a sensitive hearing like a werewolf, the difference must be impossible to miss.
Derek's eyes look almost helpless.
"Sorry," Stiles says, lifting his hand, and he works on keeping himself under control. "Sorry. It's ... I just thought of something funny."
"No, you didn't."
"Right. Werewolf lie detector. Got it. Fine, it wasn't exactly something funny, but that's neither here nor there. What do you want?"
"Is your father all right?"
Stiles sits up straight, tension flooding his body. "My dad?"
"No, no," Derek says quickly. "I wouldn't know anything. I just want to know if you're worried about your dad and that's why -"
"No. My dad's fine. Stressed and not so sure about the reelection for plenty of reasons - some of them include the nice stuff going on with your pack by the way -, but he's okay."
"Right." Derek frowns at Stiles. "What about Scott? He's good?"
"Yeah. I mean, you know how it goes, but he's dealing." Stiles is starting to get confused.
"Why are you -?"
"Just tell me what's wrong."
Stiles makes a face. "I thought you said that there was something you wanted to talk about. If you want to know how everyone is, maybe you should just go and check on them yourself."
There's a moment when it looks like Derek wants to shuffle his feet, but he doesn't. "Look, Stiles, you're obviously not okay and I just. If you need to talk about it, you, um -"
"I, um, what?" Stiles spins his chair once before he puts his feet down again. "I, um, can talk about it? With you?" Derek's jaw clenches. "Yeah, I thought so. Look, Derek, just. Just tell me what you came for and I'll look what I can do, and we'll just keep going like we always do. No big deal."
Derek looks at him thoughtfully and Stiles can't help but think that Derek isn't agreeing with what Stiles has said, but then Derek shakes his head and drops his face into his hands. His shoulders sag, and once again Stiles takes notice of just how exhausted Derek seems to be.
"I'm losing it," Derek says quietly.
Stiles cocks his head, but manages to keep his mouth shut and wait.
"I'm ... I'm screwing it all up and -" Derek breathes. "I have no idea what I'm doing here." Then, quickly, he looks up. "Not here here, I'm talking about the whole Alpha business."
Stiles eyebrows rise. "I'm sorry. Alpha biz is Scott's thing, isn't it? You called him our -"
Derek glowers at him. "You enjoy this, don't you?"
"I know you won't believe me, but no. Actually I don't."
Derek stares at him with wide eyes and, yeah, right, werewolf lie detector. Of course he hears that Stiles is telling the truth.
But for some reason, Derek actually looks a little less tense when he says, "No. Or, rather, yes, I did call him that, but Scott keeps saying that he doesn't want to be and that if anyone in your little pack had to be the Alpha, it would be you or Allison or even Lydia if she chose to join officially. Not Jackson, though. Scott wouldn't want him as an Alpha."
That does sound like something Scott would say.
"And even if Scott was an Alpha, I'd still rather talk to you."
Stiles blinks. "Why?"
Derek looks down at his hands. "Because you're the only one I trust not to stab me in the back, ever."
"Wow." Stiles shakes his head. "Wow. I didn't expect that. But you're wrong. Scott wouldn't stab you in the back either."
Derek rolls his eyes. "Scott can hardly stand me. He accused me of murder when he knew it wasn't I who killed all those people. He told me to go to Hell instead of joining my pack even before I screwed up everything. And every time I need his help, I have to point out that I'm more useful to him alive before he deems me worthy of his time."
Stiles makes a face. "That's not fair." But he knows that there's some truth in Derek's words, and Derek doesn't even bother responding to it. "But certainly you can trust your pack." After all, Derek is their Alpha.
Derek shakes his head. "I'm doing it all wrong. I think I did it all wrong from the beginning. They aren't ... they aren't like my siblings." Stiles swallows, hearing the grief in Derek's voice. "And they aren't like Scott who's actually really well-adjusted. Especially compared to my pack."
"They are all over the place."
Derek nods, obviously grateful that he hadn't been forced to say it.
"Okay. And now you're trying to figure out what to do?" Stiles balances a pen on his finger.
Derek nods again.
"Any ideas already? Something we can start with?"
Derek shakes his head and opens his mouth, but before he can reply, Stiles hears the front door opening and his father calling, "I'm back!"
Derek stiffens and Stiles says, "You could stay." He frowns at himself a second later because, really, where did that come from? How would he explain Derek's presence to his father?
But Derek is already shaking his head. "No. I'll come back if that's okay?"
And to Stiles's surprise it actually sounds like a genuine question and not like an already foregone decision. Stiles nods without thinking and Derek disappears out of his window.
(I want you to be Stiles.
That's what Derek has said, but who is Stiles?
Stiles has never thought about that question before except when he had been in a really dark mood and had wondered what was wrong with him. Why it was that no one, neither girl nor guy, would ever look in his direction twice.
I want you to be Stiles.
Derek had never seemed to like him much, rather to tolerate him to get things done when it was needed. Why would he want Stiles to still be that spastic teenager that's too loud and too smart and too much most of the time?
I want you to be Stiles.
The story goes like this: Derek comes back the next day. And the day afterwards. And then he skips a few days because Stiles isn't at home and then Derek has stuff to deal with, but he comes back, and comes back, and comes back. And they talk.
Derek is in over his head, Stiles is starting to figure out. Erica and Isaac are getting out of control and Boyd has always been too silent to make it possible for anyone to tell what he's thinking, so maybe he has never been under control. Derek has trained them to be fighters, but he hasn't trained them to live like normal human beings in society.
"It's you," Derek says once, and Stiles blinks confused, not really following Derek's train of thoughts. "It's you," Derek repeats. "You've been the one who helped Scott stay who he is and be more. I only showed him what to watch out for, but you kept finding ways to make it possible for Scott to live his life."
Stiles flushes and looks down to the floor. "Scott stayed Scott because he fell in love with Allison. He wanted his chance and it was important to him. It still is."
"Yes. She's important to him."
"She's his trigger and his anchor." Stiles isn't even jealous anymore. He's glad that Scott has Allison. "Maybe your wolves need someone like that."
"No. They had crushes. Have them probably," Derek says with a careless shrug. "But I picked outcasts. People who didn't like their lives and wanted more. I thought I was doing the right thing because they would get something out of the deal."
"But now you don't think that anymore."
"No. Because they have no reason to want to fit in and be normal. They want to stand out."
And that's bad because in a town filled with hunters, in a school with a hunter as the principal, a werewolf needs to keep the head down.
"So you need to re-socialize them. Which, I guess, isn't your specialty?"
Derek sends him a dark look, but doesn't deny it.
"Look," Stiles says with a shrug. "I think I can bring Scott and Allison around to bond with them if you want. But you have to make it clear to Erica that she needs to stop hitting on Scott. Allison will cut a bitch if Erica can't keep her hands to herself."
Derek nods and points at the stacks of printouts that are covering the entire floor of Stiles's room. "How's your research going?" He knows what Stiles is researching, of course he does, but to Stiles's surprise he has shown real interest in it and even brings him more myths and stories about kanimas from time to time.
Sometimes Stiles thinks that Derek might be feeling guilty about what happened to Jackson.
Sometimes Derek looks at him, and Stiles thinks that Derek might be doing it just because he wants to help Stiles.
(Sometimes it feels like they're becoming friends.
But that's what it felt like before Derek became the Alpha and look how that turned out, so Stiles refuses to jump to conclusions this time. Perhaps once Derek has his pack under control and a new truce with the hunters, he'll stop coming back to Stiles.
Sometimes Stiles dreads that day.
That's when he hates himself the most because there are more important things than Stiles's brittle feelings and one of them is making sure that no one gets hurt.
Priorities, he repeats to himself every day. The priority is protecting people.
However, not even his mantra stops Stiles from wishing that Derek would decide one day that Stiles is important to him even when Derek doesn't need him.)
The story goes like this: Lydia tells Danny everything and Danny nods and says he's known some of it for a long time - apparently Scott and Stiles aren't as sneaky or stealthy as they think. Then Danny and Lydia get up their asses and corner Jackson who has managed to get into another mess and actually is a mess himself.
Stiles never finds out what has happened next exactly. Neither of the three ever tells anyone what they did or talked about, but from one day to the next, Jackson changes. He calms down, comes to school without running off in the middle of the day because he's losing control, and he sits at the table with the popular kids again. As usual, Danny is next to him and they are talking, and Lydia is snuggled into Jackson's side like they never ended things.
"What the -? Can anyone explain that to me?" Stiles says dumbfounded when he watches them during lunch.
Scott shakes his head, his mouth open.
Isaac glowers at Jackson's head.
Erica giggles. "I guess a good woman's love will transform the beast into a prince."
"Since when is Lydia Martin a good woman?" Isaac scoffs.
"Don't be jealous, darling. It isn't a good look on you," Erica coos.
"I miss the times when we were trying to kill her," Isaac mutters, and Scott and Stiles glare at him.
"Seriously, though. What did they do to make Jackson turn around like that?" Stiles repeats, looking back at Jackson, who's fist-bumping Danny. "We spent so much time talking to him and doing everything we could think of, and nothing worked."
"You said," Boyd says and draws everyone's attention on himself because he still doesn't talk much, "that a kanima isn't looking for a pack, but for a friend."
"You mean Danny ...?"
"All we had to do was make Danny talk to him and tell him that he's still Jackson's best friend?" Stiles says when Scott never finishes his sentence.
Boyd shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine. I know little about Jackson, but is there anyone besides Danny and Lydia who really matters to him? Anyone he trusts enough to let his guard down and to believe in their words when they tell him that they still love him no matter what he has become or said or done?"
"I wanna seduce Danny," Erica mutters to herself.
"Danny's gay," Scott points out.
"All the good ones are gay or taken," Erica says, eyelashes fluttering at Scott, and Scott shakes his head.
"I'm very taken. Utterly and completely taken. We've talked about that, Erica." He glances at Stiles who feels dread pooling in his belly. "Why don't you set your eyes on someone else?"
Please, say Isaac. Please, say Boyd. Please, say anyone but me.
But Erica is already following Scott's gaze and looks at Stiles with consideration in her eyes. "Yeah, maybe I should do that."
Scott winks at him and Stiles decides that he will kill his best friend one day.
(All right, so Erica is okay once you get used to the whole femme fatale thing she has going on and once she decides that she doesn't want to rip you apart just to show you how superior her body is to yours. She can be a bit much at times, but Stiles is starting to get along with her.
Boyd is pretty much awesome anyway, and he's probably been like that before the transformation. Stiles really doesn't know why no one ever talked with Boyd.
And Isaac? Well, Isaac is a different story. The only ones he really gets along with are Erica, Boyd and Danny.
But nowadays Derek's pack sits with them at lunch, and they don't ignore each other in class or start fights, and that's a start.)
The story goes like this: Lydia and Jackson are back together and happier than ever before.
They start hanging out with the group from time to time and Stiles has to watch them up close when they are cuddling and kissing and generally displaying how much they are in love.
There's still a pang in his chest, but it isn't as bad as it was once upon a time, he tells himself firmly. Stiles's feelings have settled and he has gotten to know Lydia and Jackson. Lydia is still awesome and Jackson is still annoying. Stiles still thinks that Jackson isn't good enough for Lydia and that he would be a better match for her.
It doesn't change the fact that he knows that Lydia is in love with Jackson.
It doesn't change the fact that he knows that Jackson is in love with Lydia.
No matter what Stiles thinks about good matches and bad matches, it doesn't change reality.
Sometimes love is one-sided. Sometimes things aren't like in the movies or the books. Sometimes the queen bee and the popular jock are actually both okay and genuinely in love. Sometimes the unpopular kid doesn't get the prettiest girl no matter how long he pines because the girl has given her heart to someone else.
"It's fine," Stiles says and pokes his apple with his finger, not feeling hungry. "I've known for a while that Lydia really likes Jackson."
"There are other fish in the sea," Scott says and nods in Erica's direction. Allison kicks his shin and shakes her head. "Too soon?" Scott asks.
"Too soon," Allison confirms. "Stiles, do you want me to keep them at another table for a while?"
Stiles shakes his head. "No. We're kind of friends, Lydia and I. And the more friends Jackson has, the better for the world. I'm okay. It wasn't supposed to be."
(It wasn't, but he isn't okay.
He's tired of pretending that he is.
He wishes someone would look at him and see him, not just the mask he keeps showing the world to keep his dad and Scott from worrying.)
The story goes like this: Danny, Lydia and Jackson are happy. Allison and Scott are happy. Boyd, Isaac and Erica act less like big were-douches and more like normal teens; and the hunters back off a little. Happiness all around.
Things are starting to feel normal again. Stiles collects the printouts in his room and puts them away because it's possible that they might need them again one day, but hopefully not for a long while. There's something final in doing it, and Stiles wonders if this is a good thing.
One chapter finished. Time to move on to the next.
But what's next?
Stiles wishes there was an easy answer to that question.
His room darkens when Derek slides in through the open window, and he watches Stiles going about his work.
"It seems like Isaac is starting to get along with Lydia and Jackson," he says eventually.
Stiles huffs a laugh. "He doesn't have much of a choice if he wants to spend time with Danny. Danny wouldn't dump Jackson for anyone. And Lydia was friends with Danny before she was friends with Jackson."
Derek looks at him thoughtfully and a little too long.
"What?" He feels defensive and doesn't even know why. Angrily he turns his back to Derek and picks up more papers.
"You're still hung up on her."
Stiles freezes and doesn't turn around.
"I can hear your heartbeat -"
"- and smell my emotions," Stiles finishes and closes his eyes against the pain.
"Yes," Derek says quietly. "I can't always read them correctly, mind you, but your feelings for Lydia never were much of a secret."
Stiles's fingers curl into fists. He wants Derek to shut up.
However, Derek never does what Stiles wants.
"It's okay to be hurt because your feelings aren't reciprocated."
Stiles huffs. "What do you know about that, huh?" He turns around and his eyes are burning, but at least the tears don't fall. A little bit of his pride he may be able to keep. "What do you know about being refused? All you have to do is look at a girl and she will throw herself or her number at you."
He expects Derek to frown or get angry, but instead Derek is calm and quiet. "I was in love once, too, you know," he says softly.
Stiles throws the stack of papers he had collected against a wall. "Let me guess. She broke your heart, but you got over it and in retrospect it wasn't that bad because it wasn't meant to be and it wouldn't have worked out anyway. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Other mothers have beautiful daughters, too. And I'm still young and will find someone else." Stiles knows that he's sounding petulant and whiny. A typical teenager.
Any moment now Derek will figure out that he has better things to do than hang around Stiles when he isn't in a good mood. Isn't that their deal? That Stiles helps Derek to deal with all the stuff that is too much for him and in exchange Derek spends some of his time with Stiles and makes him feel like they are friends?
There is a smile around the corners of Derek's lips. It isn't amused, though, but self-depreciating. "Yes, she broke my heart, and yes, I got over her, but no, it was bad. It was the worst actually because she never was in love with me, but only used me to get to my family."
Stiles stills, suddenly aware of where this is going.
"My family died, Stiles, because I fell in love and trusted someone I should have never let in. Yes, I'm talking about Kate Argent."
Stiles puts his hand against the wall to hold himself up. "Why are you telling me that?"
"Because," Derek stops and thinks for a moment. "Because I want you to understand that I get that you're hurting. And that it's okay if you're not fine. You love Lydia."
It hurts so much. Stiles makes a face to hide it. "She loves Jackson. Jackson loves her. That's all that is to that story."
"No," Derek says firmly and steps forward. To Stiles's surprise he puts his hand on Stiles's shoulder, a strangely comforting touch. Usually Derek avoids physical contact with everyone if he isn't fighting. "No, Stiles, that's not all that is to the story. You are part of the story and you're a fucking important part of it. Your feelings are just as meaningful as theirs."
"Not to them. Not to her."
"To you. To Scott. To Allison. To your father. To me."
Stiles stills, his thoughts are suddenly fuzzy.
"You're in pain. But you don't have to be alone."
Stiles's vision starts to swim. Fuck. He's going to cry in front of Derek. Congratulation, Stiles, you're once again ruining every good impression you have given for weeks.
He looks down to the floor and presses his lips together.
Derek's hand is still on his shoulder.
"You don't have to be strong all the time for everyone. Sometimes you can just let go. That's what pack is for. If you need someone, your pack is here. I'm here."
"You've been there for me when I was losing my mind and needed someone to listen. Don't keep it all inside." He puts his other hand of Stiles's other shoulder. "Let me be there for you. Trust me."
A sob escapes his lips and Stiles drops to the floor, slinging his arms around his body and hiding his face against his knees. It's pathetic, he knows it, but he can't stop it, can't stop the tears or anything because it hurts so much to accept that Lydia will never look at him the way she looks at Jackson.
It hurts so much to give up on something and let go for good.
Strong arms wrap around him, the smell of leather infiltrates Stiles's snotty nose and he cannot move his face or he will get tears and snot all over Derek's jacket. He's shaking all over, but Derek keeps holding on and it reminds Stiles of the way his mother used to hug him, all encompassing love wrapping around him, making him feel safe and protected.
But Derek isn't his mother.
Derek is the other unavailable person in Stiles's life, the one Stiles just cannot figure out.
But right now he's here and he lets Stiles cry on him like it's not the most embarrassing thing Stiles has ever done in front of him.
He gives Stiles the feeling that he's important to Derek.
Stiles's fingers clench into the back of Derek's jacket and he holds on.
(Here's the thing. Stiles has had a crush on Derek for about a second after meeting him in the woods, but then he thought that Derek was a murderer and that was pretty much the end of his little crush. Then he thought they were starting to become friends, but Derek turned away from him the moment he became the Alpha. Then, one day, Derek showed up in his room and told him that he trusted him and wanted him to be Stiles.
Derek gives Stiles a whiplash of emotions and has done so since the moment they met.
Stiles knows better than to fall for him. He really, really does.)
The story goes like this: Over days and weeks and months and years, two packs become one and people who have never thought it might be possible become friends.
Stiles doesn't know when it really happens. He doesn't know whether everyone realizes it for oneself or if some of them figure it out together. But one day, they are all in the Hale house and Stiles just knows that they are pack, all of them.
For Stiles, it has been a slow slide. Being best friends with Scott led to meeting Allison. Allison brought Jackson and Lydia into their lives, and Jackson is a package deal with Danny, just like Stiles is with Scott. Derek stumbled in and out of their lives for a while and then turned Erica, Isaac and Boyd and brought them along for the ride. There have been fall-outs over the years, moments when one or another thought that there might be something better out there, but it's like a magnetic pull that keeps drawing them back together.
"I'm glad we're friends," Lydia tells Stiles when they're sitting on the porch one day, heads bent over a chess game. "Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by total idiots, but then I turn to you and find that there's at least one person who has half a brain."
"Thanks," Stiles says dryly. "But do try not to flatter my ego too much. You wouldn't want my head become too big, right?"
"Don't move the queen, or we're finished in three moves. And I don't care about your head. It's Jackson's head that I need to keep an eye on."
He smiles and moves the queen. "Are you happy, Lydia?"
"Two moves. What's with that question?"
"I was just wondering. I admit when you first started dating Jackson, I thought it wouldn't be for long. And now you've been together forever."
Lydia takes his knight and says, "Check and mate." Then she lifts her head to meet his eyes. "Stiles, I know you had feelings for me once."
Stiles makes a face and smiles a little. "I didn't want to drag that up actually."
Lydia shrugs. "Look. I know about them. And I knew about them back in the days. At first I didn't care because you were one among many, and then I got to know you and you were always nice to me. And you know, sometimes I thought that I should go for it because you were the easy choice. The safe choice. You would have worshipped the ground I walked on and never done anything to break my heart. If I had had any common sense, I would have chosen you. That's what everyone would say, right?"
Stiles shakes his head, but doesn't interrupt.
"But that's just the thing. There never was a choice for me, not at the time when I started to care about you. Because I already was in love with Jackson, and feelings don't have common sense. To be honest, I'm glad because I love Jackson and I'm happy with him. I'm just kind of sorry that I hurt you because of it."
"It wasn't your fault."
"No, obviously not," Lydia says with an eye-roll. "It really wasn't because I never asked for you to like me. But I get that it sucked, and I'm glad that it isn't that bad for you anymore. I'm glad there's someone else for you."
"We aren't -"
"No, not yet. But I'm willing to bet that it won't be long anymore. He just had to wait until you were grown up and not jailbait. And you had to get over me first."
"Lydia, quit trying to set up Derek," Jackson says, stepping out on the porch. He bends down and kisses Lydia on top of her head.
"It's not setting people up when you're only telling them to get their shit together."
"It's meddling and Derek doesn't like it."
"Derek doesn't have a lot of room to speak," Erica interrupts joining them after coming back from a run through the woods with Isaac and Boyd. "I'd just like to point out that Derek wanted to pimp me out once."
"Are we talking about all the things that annoy us about Derek?" Danny, Scott and Allison have followed Jackson outside, and Scott is grinning and talking, "Can I play along? He's always so growly and grouchy. Like he needs to get laid."
Allison rolls her eyes. "Right. If we're already stating the obvious: for some reasons there are some hunters he has issues with. I wonder why that is ..."
"Not with your family. Since you're the boss there," Lydia laughs up at her.
Allison shrugs. "I'm the leader of a family of hunters and I'm part of this pack. Like Hell, I will let anyone touch one of my families."
"Hey, hey, we're getting off topic here!" Erica reminds them. "We were just pointing out all the annoying things about Derek."
"Just why are we doing that?" Boyd asks.
"Because it's fun?"
Danny laughs. "You would say that. But okay, I don't have issues with Derek -"
"That's just because it's impossible not to like you," Isaac grumbles. "Not even Derek finds it in himself to be mean to you."
Danny grins at him and continues, "- but to show that I'm a team player, I'll give it a shot. The first time I met Derek, he pretended to be called Miguel."
Stiles buries his head in his hands, and Lydia and Erica shriek in laughter.
"Why was that?" Boyd asks.
Danny shrugs. "Because he was a wanted fugitive at the time. But that's not actually the point. It gets better."
"Danny, -" Stiles says and hates that he doesn't have it in him threaten Danny. At all.
Jackson glances at Stiles, his eyes glittering in unabashed delight, and he shoves at Danny's shoulder to make him say it. Danny smirks.
"He pretended to be Stiles's cousin."
Even Boyd starts to laugh.
"Why didn't you ever tell us before?" Jackson asks between gasps.
"It never came up."
"I really don't know what's so funny," Stiles mutters, getting to his feet.
"Aww, honey," Erica coos, "don't be like that. You have to see the humor in it. I bet that Derek would refuse to be introduced to anyone as a relative of yours nowadays."
"Except if they have an incest kink," Jackson says, and then everyone is laughing again.
"Years ago it wasn't like that, okay?" Stiles says, although he already knows he is fighting a lost battle. "We weren't even friends."
"Oh, how things change," Allison says, but there's a sweet smile on her face.
"Back on topic," Erica demands. "Complaints about Derek. It's your turn, Boyd."
Stiles wanders off, leaving the pack to it.
(He loves them. They are annoying and they drive him crazy and he really, really wishes that they wouldn't be all that nosy, but he loves them. Even if he could, he wouldn't change anything.
Well, except maybe ...)
The story goes like this: The pack is having fun, and Stiles rounds the house and finds Derek lying on the grass, reading a book.
"So," Stiles says and drops down next to him, "I'm going to assume you heard all of it."
"And you didn't bother to come over."
"Wow. Are we feeling talkative today?"
Derek shoots him a look. Then he puts his book down and sits up. "Is there anything you want to talk about?"
Stiles shrugs. "No. Not if there isn't anything you want to discuss."
"Are we seriously playing a game of chicken here?"
"I'd say that depends on you."
Derek sighs and glances towards the house, probably listening to everyone's voices. Then he says, "Yes, Stiles, I heard everything. You know what's funny? Usually they at least try to stay out of my radar before they start pestering you or they wait until you're away before they take me on."
"Jackson did say that Lydia was pushing it."
"She was. Jackson was here when she started it. I assume he was keeping an eye on me to gauge my reaction."
"Hm," Stiles hums.
"You aren't going to ask me, are you?"
"No," Stiles says calmly.
"And why is that?" Derek leans a little more towards him.
"Because I'm assuming that you have your reasons for not saying anything about it."
"Well," Derek raises his eyebrows, "you could always say something first."
Stiles shakes his head. "You can read my heartbeat and my scent. You know what I'm like when I'm in love with someone. You were there when I was all about Lydia. You know what I feel."
Derek smiles. It's a quiet, private smile that Stiles has never seen directed at anyone but him. It always makes his heart race.
"That's why I believe that if you don't say anything, you have reasons."
Derek nods. "You've been in love with Lydia for a very long time."
"Yes. But you know that I'm not anymore."
"And you were a little young when you started looking at me with serious interest instead of just a crush."
"It's embarrassing to know that I could never hide anything from you, but yes. Go on."
Derek touches his hand. "You never looked for other options. I didn't want you to feel pressured into this, just because everyone else was dating within the pack."
"Yeah. You would have just loved it if I had screwed around, wouldn't you?"
Derek shoots him that sardonic smirk of his. "I would have hated it, but if it had been what you wanted, I wouldn't have stopped you from anything."
"Derek," Stiles says and angles his body towards Derek, "we both know that you're a big creeper and lurker, so there's no way that you don't know by now that I was in love with Lydia since third grade and never so much as looked at any other girl. There was only one person who started to slip beneath my skin while I was in love with Lydia, and even that would have never had any impact on me, if Lydia had so much as glanced at me at that time. What makes you think that I would be any less steadfast when I got over her and fell in love again?"
"Nothing," Derek admits and Stiles can feel his breath on his skin. "But I still thought I shouldn't pressure you."
"Okay." Stiles nods, mock serious. "That's fine with me. Just tell me when you stop being all selfless and stupid. I'll be right here. Take your time." He lets his body fall back into the grass and smirks in Derek's direction. "I wouldn't want to pressure you into anything, you know?"
"You crazy, li-" Derek's head is looming over his and Stiles smiles up at him brightly. Derek's words die on his lips, his eyes softening.
Stiles reaches up and touches Derek's cheek. "Seriously, Derek. No pressure."
"You're the most annoying human being I've ever met." But he leans into Stiles's touch.
"That's just because Scott, Jackson, Erica and Isaac have been turned before you really got to know them."
Derek shakes his head. "Shut up, Stiles."
His lips are warm and firm on Stiles's, and he kisses Stiles like he's been thinking about it for years. Stiles really likes the thought. Smiling into the kiss, he slides his hands into Derek's hair and pulls him down, closer. Derek doesn't hesitate, he goes with it, his body settling over Stiles and it's breathtaking. Stiles gasps and Derek's licks into his mouth, slow and steady, learning every bit of him, and Stiles doesn't want this moment to end, ever.
Of course, that's when an oh-so discreet, "Hrm, hrm," comes from above them.
Annoyed, Stiles opens his eyes a little, but Derek doesn't seem to be disturbed at all and continues the exploration of Stiles's mouth. Stiles's eyes fall closed again.
"Hrm, hrm." It's louder this time, and Stiles identifies it as Lydia's voice.
He hears Derek sigh against his lips, but instead of pulling away, Derek rests his forehead against Stiles's.
"HRM, HRM." That's not a throat being cleared anymore at all, but a very pointed reminder that, hello, people are here and want attention.
Derek growls low in his throat and slides off Stiles, pulling Stiles up into a sitting position at the same time.
"What?" he barks.
"Well, hello, Derek. We just happened to pass by -" Lydia says innocently.
"All of you?"
"I like to keep Lydia close to me," Jackson claims, lifting his hands in defense. He doesn't suppress his smirk though.
"Lydia told me to come," Allison says, her eyes so wide and harmless that anyone who had never seen her with a crossbow would have thought of her as innocuous.
"I," Boyd says and looks pointedly at Erica, "was forced."
"I wanted to see you make out," Erica says without a hint of shame.
"It was indeed nice to watch," Danny agrees, but his smile is as genuine as always.
"You all suck so much," Isaac complains. "Seriously, Derek, they do."
Stiles cannot stop the giggle that is blubbering up his throat.
"What about you, Scott? You just happened to tag along with Allison?" Derek asks and crosses his arms over his chest.
"No," Scott says calmly. "I'm here to make sure you don't hurt Stiles. And to give you The Speech."
"Scott, no," Stiles starts, but Scott waves his words away.
"Just so you know, Derek, if you hurt Stiles, I'm going to kill you. I'm probably going to tear you into pieces, but maybe I'll just rip your throat out. Or I'll have Allison shoot you. Or -"
Derek glares at him. "I believe I'm getting the gist of it. Please, feel free to stop any time you want."
Scott smirks unrepentantly. "Oh, but I'm only getting started. And it's more fun than I imagined it would be."
Stiles knows that there's only one way to end this without a fight, only one way that will give them a few more hours before they'll have to deal with all the teasing again.
He looks at Allison. "Allison?"
Visibly, Allison's heart melts. Within a moment she straightens her body and says sharply, "Jackson, Danny, Boyd, it's your turn to do grocery shopping and I want to start cooking in less than an hour, so it'd be best if you started moving now. Isaac, Scott, Erica, Lydia, with me. There's something we need to discuss."
"Aww," Erica says, "but I don't want to go just yet."
"That's too bad. You're still coming. Believe me you want to come."
Erica glances at Allison, then she looks back at Stiles and Derek, and there's an unholy glint in her eyes. "Okay," she chirps.
They all walk away, leaving Derek and Stiles behind.
"Hm," Derek says, "I suppose dinner won't be fun."
Stiles shrugs. "Oh, it will be fun for the pack. Just not for us."
"Great. I should have never turned a bunch of dumbass teenagers."
"Maybe. But that was years ago. It's too late to regret it. So, we have about two hours. Any ideas on how you'd like to spend them?"
The look in Derek's eyes is promising.
"Oh, plenty," he says and pulls Stiles into his arms.
(It's worth the wait, by the way.
It's worth the wait, the heartache and the heartbreak.
It's worth it.)
The story goes like this: Stiles Stilinski doesn't end up with Lydia Martin, his first love, but he does find the right person in Derek Hale, who gets to know him, sees him for who he is and wants him to be exactly that person. Stiles doesn't have a bunch of crazy-smart kids, but he does have a pack that will make fun of him and tease him and be there for him when he needs them. His life isn't like he thought it would be when he was a child, but it's everything he wants it to be now that he's grown up.
And Stiles? Stiles is happy.