Actions

Work Header

Important Things

Chapter Text

Since getting Betty - his beloved jeep - the weekly grocery run had become Stiles' responsibility, in that he volunteered. It wasn't like Dad didn't have enough to worry about already, what with working all hours at increasingly bizarre and gross murder scenes that Stiles had to lie about, like, every day.

Okay, so the motivating factor since Scott's wolf-out may have been guilt - but hey, at least Dad didn't have to worry about the groceries.

Of course, his life being what it was now, his usual timetable was running a little differently. This evening, for example, had involved visiting Lydia in the hospital and watching Scott and Allison sucking face at what was supposed to be a homework session at his place (and hands teasing towards inappropriate directions that Stiles did not need to see. Seriously, worst friends ever). Anyway, Stiles had hightailed it out of there with a warning not to get his bed...dirty...and as a result, he was now doing the grocery shopping on a different day and a lot later than usual. Dusk had long since fallen, but the shop was well-lit with plenty of witnesses, so he figured the chances of a rogue werewolf attack were low (he figured it paid to be paranoid even though Peter Hale was deader than dead, and this kind of thought process was his life now, what the hell?).

Life wasn't all bad. Sure, he'd freak out the entire time he was putting the bags in his jeep, convinced something was about to leap out and rip out his spleen, but right now he was listening to his iPod, bopping along the aisle as he pondered breakfast cereals. He was contemplating trying something new - he'd been feeling that way a lot, lately - when his cart stopped abruptly with a clang, making him jerk back and instinctively yank his earbuds out.

He opened his mouth, already intent on apologising - this crap was always his fault; he was never paying attention to anything he was supposed to - and his mouth froze there when he recognised exactly who he'd barged into.

Derek. Was. Grocery shopping.

It was the first time he'd seen Derek since the guy had literally shredded Peter Hale's neck, subsequently becoming the new Alpha in the process. There was probably some kind of protocol for this situation in Werewolf Land.

"Oh my God, you eat Pop Tarts!" was probably not the most appropriate reaction, but the idea of an Alpha werewolf chowing down on the same sugary goodness Stiles enjoyed was too bizarre to pass up mentioning. "And drink root beer," he continued, spying the cans. "Got a sweet little werewolf tooth on ya, huh?"

Derek didn't say anything at all. He just stood there looking broody and rugged and handsome and like he thought Stiles was a waste of space.

It was a look Stiles was unfortunately familiar with.

Not that silence stopped him from talking. At first. "I would've thought your food would be more...uh...au naturel," he hinted. It was weird to think of Derek doing normal, mundane things like toasting pop tarts or enjoying a can of root beer on a sweaty day.

Derek still didn't say anything, just kept staring at him and being generally creepy.

Right. Stiles was starting to get the hint. "Well, uh, I need to check out urinal cakes, so-"

"Stiles Stilinski! Is that you?" a high-pitched and unwelcome voice interrupted and Stiles spun, wild-eyed, to see his nemesis.

Crap. "Hi, Mrs Wilkinson." He managed to fake enthusiasm - just barely - and shuffled closer to Derek, which said a lot about who he currently feared more. Mrs Wilkinson had, for some truly unfathomable reason, developed a soft spot for Stiles over the past few years, and every time she happened to see him she tried to set him up with her niece - a perfectly lovely and very attractive girl, who wouldn't be interested in Stiles if he was literally the last person on Earth. She knew it. Stiles knew it.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Mrs Wilkinson didn't know it.

"Did you hear? Katie's in town!"

"Really?" He faked a smile. "I didn't know. That's great! I know how much you love seeing her." Even as he was replying, Stiles' mind was working on overdrive, trying to think up a viable exit strategy.

"I know how much you love it, too," she teased, practically glowing, before launching into the inevitable. "I know! Why don't you come and join us for some pie when you're finished here? I know it's last minute, but-"

There was no other choice. Stiles just had to take the plunge and hope that Derek didn't kill, eviscerate, or rip out his spine in some spectacularly violent way. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs Wilkinson," Stiles faked sincerity the best he could, "I really can't make it. Plans." He nodded incrementally towards Derek, hoping that maybe Derek wouldn't see. It didn't work, of course. The moment Stiles moved his head even slightly in Derek's direction, Derek turned his head and glared at him.

Oh, well. Mrs Wilkinson was still scarier.

Pausing, looking confused and clearly not familiar with Derek at all, Mrs Wilkinson frowned between them, before an expression of understanding flittered across her face. She began to smile, looking embarrassed. "Oh, well goodness. I just feel so silly. That explains so much." What the heck did that mean? Derek looked as confused as Stiles felt.

"Why's that?" Stiles asked curiously.

"Well, Katie tried to tell me, but I didn't believe her. I just thought she didn't want me interfering. I should've known she wouldn't lie to me - I must apologise to her," she explained, which was no explanation at all because Stiles still didn't know what the hell was going on. Or, more honestly, was trying not to understand what the hell was going on.

On the plus side, it sounded like she was going to leave him alone from now on, which could only be a good thing. "That's...good?"

"You could've just told me," she urged, leaning closer as if to speak in confidence, "I wouldn't have cared. It would've saved us both a lot of embarrassment. But I understand that, even these days, you still have to be careful. Sad world," she muttered, shaking her head grimly. "Well," she continued brightly, and holy crap, she was so not suggesting what he thought she was suggesting! "I'll go off and decide on a pie. Have a good evening," she said genuinely, pausing to wink at Derek. Wink at him. "You've got a good one there," she said slyly - oh my God, Derek could rip out Stiles' spine any time now - before sashaying off with a extra swing in her step.

Retreat was absolutely the best option. He fumbled for his shopping cart and ending up tripping over his own feet, but at least he didn't face-plant on the floor. He maneuvered his shopping cart until it was between them, as if that would protect him in any way, shape or form, and started backing away, pulling the cart with him. "That was totally not what I was trying to do!" he exclaimed, building up speed. "I just meant we'd be hanging out, you know, like bro's. Like me and Scott. Not like...not that there's anything wrong with that!" he added, because hey, these things were important even if Derek wanted to kill him.

A startled squawk finally made him stop and he turned to see that he'd barely missed barrelling into someone. "Sorry!" he yelled, because it was a yelling kind of event and when he turned back Derek was turning away himself, pushing his cart in the opposite direction. Apparently, Stiles wasn't going to be killed tonight. This kind of news was always appreciated.

The relief he felt...seeing Derek of all people walking away without threatening death on pain of death...a guy could only deal with so much. He couldn't help himself.

"Not big on communicating, are you?" he called out. "How are we ever going to make this relationship work?"

Derek didn't seem to react in any way and Stiles grinned gleefully, turning away as he pumped his right fist in triumph. 1-0 to Stiles.

Two seconds later, he got clobbered on the back of the head with a box of Sugar Puffs.

It was only later, after he'd paid, realised he'd lost his headphones - again, Dad was going to kill him - and was shoving bags into the jeep, that he thought over exactly what Mrs Wilkinson had said.

What did she mean, that explained so much?

*

"You are kind of...odd," Scott offered the next morning, because that was the kind of crappy friend he was. "But not in a bad way," he rushed to add, like that made it sound any better. "And you never go on dates with anyone - girls or boys."

Stiles refused to believe that, even if he happened to be gay, he would be a stereotype. He slammed his locker shut. "Dude, you run around ripping your shirt off all the time with other guys. If anyone's gay around here, it's you."

"Hey, you asked what she meant," Scott pointed out. "I'm not saying I think that way, but she is kind of old-fashioned..."

Hmm. Maybe. "Well, on the upside, at least she won't be bugging me anymore." And it wasn't like being thought of as gay would have any kind of negative effect on him personally. His popularity with the female population of the school was already at zero; it couldn't get any lower. And actually, it said something good about him.

"What are you smiling at?" Scott asked, frowning at him in confusion, which was pretty much Scott's default expression.

"Think about it," Stiles began, clutching a book to his chest, "she thought I could bag a guy like Derek. Me! It seemed within the realm of possibility," he concluded happily. When Scott just kept frowning, Stiles explained. "Have you seen Derek? With the face and the chest? The muscles? The wardrobe all in varying Shades of Night? The cool leather jacket he wears no matter what time of year it is?" Maybe that was because of a werewolf thing? Extra body heat or something? Probably didn't need to worry about wrapping up. Stiles, meanwhile, needed six layers just to avoid a slight chill.

"Yeah," Scott scoffed, "because that's not gay at all."

"You're just jealous," Stiles sniffed. "My fake boyfriend is way hotter than yours."

"I don't even have..." Scott stopped, throwing up a hand. "Do you even listen to yourself sometimes?"

"No, but you shoul-"

"Allison!" Scott darted off towards a figure in the distance.

Ah, well. There went that conversation.

*

Life continued. Lydia was eventually released from the hospital, shaken but seemingly unaffected. She definitely hadn't turned, to the secret relief of Stiles, Scott and the Argents in general, who'd been twitching just at the idea of another werewolf in town. Since killing Peter, they'd left Derek alone, but it was evident they were keeping a close eye on the situation. That included Scott who, so far, hadn't been barred from seeing Allison entirely, but pretty much only saw her at school after her parents suddenly needed her to 'help out' at home most nights.

Jackson, on the other hand, was even more of a dick. His temper was shorter, his reactions more aggressive and his attitude even crappier.

"I'm telling you, man," Stiles gasped, collapsing onto the bench and sporting a fresh bruise, "definitely a werewolf." Jackson's skill at lacrosse had always been good - okay, really good, he was forced to grudgingly admit - but this was on a whole other level, like the step up Scott took post-werewolf. As the two of them watched, he annihilated Wentworth. Stiles made a face in sympathy. "Oww."

Scott stared at Jackson intently, watching his every move. "If he is, his control's a lot better than mine was after I turned."

Yelling in rage, Jackson launched his stick forward, scoring another point. "Right. Perfectly in control."

"He's not shifting at all," Scott argued. "Sure, he's...angry, but there are never any claws. No change in eye colour. Nothing. And he doesn't smell like a werewolf."

Now that was interesting. "There's a werewolf smell?"

"Sure," Scott said casually, like this was every day information. "Everyone has a smell."

"You never told me that!" Stiles complained. "What do I smell like? Awesomeness and curly fries, am I right?"

Scott chuckled. "It's not like that. You smell like...Stiles. Not bad or good, just...Stiles. I know that sounds lame, but it's the only way to describe it."

Okay, then. That was kind of a letdown. "And there's a different smell between humans and wolves."

"Oh, yeah, definitely. And whatever's going on with with Jackson," Scott nodded towards him, "he doesn't smell like a werewolf."

Stiles sensed a hesitation coming. "But?"

Scott slowly turned his head to face him. "He doesn't smell human anymore, either."

Ah. So.

Steroids were definitely out, then.

"Stilinski!" Finstock yelled, jolting Stiles to his feet. "If we can tear you away from your BFF, there's this little thing called lacrosse to get on with. Let's move!"

*

Betty gave up the ghost one night after Stiles had just picked up a DVD at the rental place. He usually preferred streaming something to watch, but that level of computer technology just confused the hell out of his dad and for once they were actually going to watch something together. He'd been paranoid about going in but thankfully no huge, terrifying wolves had smashed through the window and killed anyone. The only terrifying thing was the price of the snacks he was always stupid enough to buy.

Betty was now punishing him for his weakness.

She groaned again as he turned the ignition. "Aww, come on, Betty! Don't do this to me!" She may have been old, but she'd been pretty reliable ever since he'd gotten her. And the way things were at the moment, he wasn't about to ask his dad for another car.

"Come on, baby," he pleaded, "just get me home tonight, and I promise I'll get you to a mechanic first thing tomorrow. I'll hold your hand and everything."

She still didn't start. Banging his head against the top of the steering wheel, Stiles resigned himself to the inevitable and opened the door. Pointing at the bag of cotton candy resting on the passenger seat, he huffed as he got out of the car. "This is your fault!"

Popping the hood, he moved to the front of the car, lifting the hood up before propping it open. Surveying the contents beneath, he sighed and nodded slowly. "Well, Betty, we totally need to call a mechanic, because I...know absolutely nothing about cars."

"Betty?"

The quiet voice came seemingly out of nowhere and Stiles gasped really quite manfully as he stumbled around to see Derek standing behind him. "You totally did that on purpose," he accused. Derek didn't even deny it. But then he didn't actually say anything at all, so a denial would be kind of tough. "And yes," he gestured towards the jeep when his heart rate had finally lowered, "this is Betty. She's been good to you," he reminded, "so be nice."

"I'd never be rude. To your car," he added and yes, Stiles could see what he'd done there. He frowned at him, even as Derek shoved him out of the way to get a look under the hood.

This was another surprise. "You know about cars?"

"No," he replied dryly, "I just like staring at them."

"Well, you stare at everything - this is not exactly unusual behaviour. How am I supposed to know the difference?" He shivered. It'd been hot during the day, but a cool breeze was picking up in the darkness and Stiles was only in a short-sleeved t-shirt. He hadn't counted on Betty betraying him when he'd left the house.

Instead of responding verbally - or looking at him at all - Derek stripped off his leather jacket and thrust it towards Stiles. "Don't get this dirty."

Surprised, Stiles took it dumbly. He told himself Derek absolutely wasn't intending for him to wear it - and would likely go at him with his claws if he did - so instead he folded the jacket over his arms and held it tightly. "Thanks for the help. I guess." Derek grunted, leaning in further and just as Stiles was pondering the fact that werewolf vision must be coming in really handy in the low light, he realised this was the perfect opportunity.

"Oh, hey," he began not-at-all casually, "so is Jackson a werewolf now, or what?"

Sadly, Derek didn't hit his head on the hood. Stiles imagined it happened anyway, just for laughs.

Derek did go very, very still before responding. "I gave him the bite," he said eventually and well, that answered that question.

"Oh." But Scott had said...

"It didn't take," Derek continued, still working. "I don't know why. But...something happened. He's different."

"His smell," Stiles agreed, and at that Derek nearly did hit his head on the hood, body shooting up. "Scott," Stiles explained, and his body relaxed.

Slowly nodding, Derek wiped his hands off against each other. "She should start now," he nodded towards the jeep, "but you need to get her looked at."

Surprised, Stiles' eyes widened. "Dude, seriously? Thanks!" He held the jacket back out towards him. "I gotta say, it's really weird you knowing anything about cars."

Derek eyed him. "As opposed to a guy who drives a car but has no idea how it works?" Well, when he put it like that...

"My expertise lies in other areas," Stiles argued.

"Sure it does," Derek drawled, reaching for the jacket. When he touched it, he paused, randomly changing the subject and holding Stiles' gaze. "Until I know exactly what's going on with Jackson, you need to stay away from him."

"Great plan," Stiles agreed, staring back awkwardly and not sure why, "already on the Avoiding Jackson Train. Next stop: As Far Away From Him As Humanly Possible. The others, too. Well, As Far As Wolf-ly Possible in Scott's case." He may have been babbling. "We'll all be careful."

"Stiles?"

And that was someone else's voice. "Danny!" he declared, feeling flustered and cheerful at the same time. "Didn't see you there!"

"Obviously," Danny remarked, looking from Stiles to Derek and the jacket between them. Stiles hastily shoved it into Derek's arms. "Car trouble?"

"Oh, yeah, there was, but Derek was able to fix it." Of course, at the moment that was all supposition, but Derek didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd be unsure about his work.

"Cool," Danny nodded slowly, frowning at Derek speculatively. "We've met before, right? I thought it was...Miguel?"

Stiles actually had to stop his own hand from smacking himself on the forehead. Derek just gave him that, 'You are an idiot,' look as he carefully pulled his jacket back on.

"Yeah, long story," Stiles blurted out suddenly and awkwardly. "My bad."

Danny studied him curiously. "...right. I'm gonna go and..." he gestured with a thumb behind him to the DVD store. "You two have a good night. Enjoy your movie," he said significantly.

He left then and...wait, what? Stiles held up a finger. "Uh, that's really not what we-"

But Danny was already stepping inside the store.

Right. Okay then. "So, thanks!" he enthused, turning towards Derek.

Who was looking at him. "My first car was called Max," Derek told him randomly, and then vanished.

Betty started like a dream.

At school the next day, he found himself talking to Scott in the locker room. "Hey, when you think about Derek, do you ever think of him doing, like...regular stuff? Cleaning the toilet. Taking out the trash. Fixing a car." Stiles was used to thinking of Derek rattling around inside the remains of the Hale house alone, being sad and mysterious, surviving on nothing but his broodiness. These new little insights into his life outside of the werewolf stuff were throwing Stiles off-center.

Scott glanced at him, securing his right glove. "I don't really think about Derek at all."

That seemed unlikely. "Really? Even with everything that's gone on? The...Alpha-ness," he added quietly, glancing around the locker room. "You don't feel like that could affect you personally?"

"Sure, it could," Scott acknowledged, dropping his arm, "but until it does, I just feel like it's best to stay away from him for a while and not think about it at all."

Huh. Leaning against the locker, Stiles frowned as Scott jogged off somewhere.

Lately, all he seemed to do was think about Derek.

TBC

Chapter Text

That evening, he found himself Googling Derek. He wasn't famous of course, so Stiles wasn't expecting to find much at all and that was exactly what he got - not much at all.

There was nothing about him at all at first - who knew that Hale was such a popular surname? - but after refining the search, he got a few articles about the fire. There were no pictures of Derek but then Stiles hadn't been expecting any after seeing what'd happened to Derek's mugshot (did all pictures of werewolves in their human form turn out the same way, or was it just when a flash was used? Some kind of reaction with their eyes? These were the kinds of important questions Stiles needed the answers to).

In the end, he didn't even find any articles mentioning Derek's name specifically, just that there had been three survivors. It took a few frustrating moments to realise it'd probably been for their protection.

Which didn't help Stiles one iota.

Glumly scrolling through a local news report, he soon had a eureka moment. The Hale family had a long history in the Beacon Hills area (had to be a werewolf thing) and a long history of attending Beacon Hills Highschool.

Now he just felt like an idiot for not thinking of it sooner, and it didn't fix all his sleuthing problems - he doubted they still had all records on site of students who left under tragic and mysterious circumstances six years earlier. And even if they did, how the heck was he going to get access to them?

*

"I don't get why you want to know at all," Scott mumbled around a mouthful of food. Allison clearly didn't care about the lack of manners - if the way she was grinning at him was any indication, she just found it endearing.

Stiles was about to pretend to stick his fingers down his throat when he felt pressure against his leg. "Hey!" he yelled in warning, jerking away. "Stop sexually harrassing my leg!" Allison was undoubtedly hot, but she was going out with Scott and Scott was his best friend and it was just...wrong.

Blushing, she ducked her head in embarrassment and sidled closer to Scott. "Sorry."

Aww, heck. He hadn't meant to make her feel bad. "Eh, it's okay. Young loooove and all its passions." He waggled his eyebrows. When she gave him a smile in response, he nodded and focused on Scott, picking up his water bottle. "Anyway, Scotty-Boy, you know me - I always want to know everything about everyone. When you got turned, I went into werewolf research overdrive, right?"

"Sure, but that was about werewolves in general," Scott said. "And it was something new and amazing. Interesting, you know? I don't get the big deal about just one guy."

"One guy who's a werewolf," Stiles hissed, leaning forward. "And has been his entire life. You cannot tell me that's not interesting."

"Not to me," Scott brushed off, still clearly living in Delusion Avenue, just off Head Buried in the Sand Drive. One of these days he was going to have to realise that not only was he going to have to interact with Derek again, he might actually learn something from the experience.

Which might have been fine for Scott, all this figuring it out later stuff, but Scott wasn't the one who kept bumping into Derek at random places, only to have anyone who saw them randomly assume they were together. Like, together together.

And Scott wasn't the one finding Derek to be something new. And interesting.

And he was so screwed.

Stiles barely had time for any kind of 'hey! maybe I'm gay!' crisis (maybe it was a werewolf crisis? Could someone be attracted only to male werewolves? Again, important things Stiles needed to know), when he heard a noise and realised that Lydia had deigned to join them.

"Hello, peons," she greeted, albeit cheerfully, and she elegantly slid into the seat next to Stiles. If he hadn't been in the middle of a gay/werewolf/Derek Hale inspired crisis, he would've appreciated her choice of seat a lot more.

"Hey, Lydia," Allison greeted. "How're you doing today?"

"I swear, if one more person asks me that question," she warned, prompting Allison to hold her hands up in apology, silently agreeing to leave it alone. "Tell me you're actually having an interesting, intellectually stimulating conversation for once."

"Stiles wants to find out about a student who used to attend the school, so we're thinking up ways to break into the school records," Scott explained, like it hadn't been a secret at all.

"Scott!" Stiles sat up straight, waving his water bottle around. So much for the bro code. "What the hell?"

"Who's Lydia gonna tell?"

"Oh, don't worry, Stiles," Lydia retorted, "he's got a point for once. Since I got out of hospital, my popularity has sunk to the depths of yours, like they're all worried that the attack on me is...catching or something. You know you're the only people who look me in the eye anymore?" It was meant to sound derisive; insulting.

It just sounded sad.

For once, Stiles didn't know what to say. Lydia didn't give him the opportunity to say anything at all. "Anyway, you should've come to me. You guys truly don't know the source of all useful information at a school, do you?"

The Beacon Hills Highschool newspaper was called 'The Beacon' - there'd clearly been no waste of imagination that'd gone into the development of that name.

"The school newspaper? Really?" Stiles followed her into the shabby office. "Isn't that a little...obvious?" After all, although it was run by the student body, there was only a certain amount of information they could get away with printing.

"Oh, not the trash that gets published," Lydia explained, walking up to a desk, "but the people who publish it. Trust me, they hear everything. Even things that happened years before their time. Hello!" she announced loudly to the girl sitting at the desk, who was staring in Lydia's general direction in horror but looked everywhere than at her actual face. "He'd like to see some back issues," Lydia announced, pointing a single finger towards Stiles, "and I'd like a little one-on-one time." She narrowed her eyes. "With you."

The girl swallowed. Stiles had seen her around but didn't know her personally, and didn't feel sorry for her at all.

Once shown where he could look through the back issues, Stiles decided disavowing all knowledge was the best course of action and left Lydia and the girl at the other side of the room. She'd handed him actual paper copies - he seriously thought everything was computer only, these days - and he quickly flicked to the years he figured Derek had been at the school.

It didn't take long to find them - The Beacon only published once a month and sometimes not even then. Naturally, Derek's name wasn't slathered across them in huge, bold writing, and Stiles knew he might not find anything at all. When he heard Lydia's voice making a particularly obnoxious point, he lowered his head and kept looking.

It was some fifteen minutes later that he hit the jackpot - the jackpot being, in this case, a group shot of a bunch of kids on the bottom half of page two. The article was nothing special, just your typical page-filler about how awesome the school and its students were, usually forced in there by a teacher desperate to be inspirational.

But on the right-hand side of the photograph, head turned to one side (deliberately?), was Derek.

He looked younger, obviously, the features familiar but undeveloped. Most startling of all, he had his head thrown back in laughter, eyes crinkled shut in amusement.

This looked like the kind of guy who enjoyed eating Pop Tarts and drinking root beer, fumbling underneath the hood of a car and giving it a quirky name. This looked nothing like the man Stiles knew now.

Only...

"You done?" Lydia asked, suddenly next to him and no, he definitely didn't give himself a paper cut in surprise.

Shaking his hand with a hiss of pain, he swivelled around in the chair and held the newspaper up in his non-paper cut hand. "Hey, can I get a copy to go?"

As soon as they left the room, Lydia snatched the piece of paper out of his hand. Stiles made a grab for it, but failed miserable as Lydia deftly danced out of his grasp. "I've seen him around town - wanted posters aside," Lydia told him, nodding to herself. "He's hot. You have excellent taste," she told him with a smirk, handing the paper back.

He grabbed it quickly and started folding it up just as his mouth developed a bad case of Need To Shut The Hell Up-itis. "That is totally not...I just wanted to...I don't even..."

"Aww, you are so adorable," she said in a tone that said she meant what she was saying, even if she was being incredibly irritating about it. "I meant me, Stiles," she continued smugly. "I mean, you've had a thing for me since third grade, right? So you must have excellent taste."

There were moments Stiles was grateful she'd never given him the time of day. This was one of them. "Are you gonna tell me what you found or not?" She refused to show her hand, however, just leading him along the corridor until they were standing next to the trophy cabinet. "What are we...?"

Lydia just nodded towards it.

Shifting to study the contents, Stiles frowned. He'd looked at it before plenty of times before, but most of the names meant nothing to him at the time. Disturbingly, it didn't take him long to spot a trophy with Peter's name on it and eventually, at the back of the cabinet on the left-hand side, behind a much bigger trophy, Derek Hale. MVP "Lacrosse?"

Lydia shrugged. "From all accounts, well-liked but not in the 'in' crowd. Good at lacrosse but not the star player. Your average high school student - until the fire."

Stiles' expression settled into a grimace at the thought. "And then?"

"He and his sister just vanished. No official notice. Transcripts never sent anywhere. And then five months ago, he turns up here and she turns up..."

"Dead," he finished quietly, vividly remembering finding her body. Half of it, anyway.

"So, I have a question," she said immediately, placing her hands on her hips and fixing him with what he'd long termed as the 'Lydia Look'. "Does what happened to her have anything to do with what happened to me?"

Ah. Awkward.

The problem was, she had a right to know. The other problem was, it wasn't his secret to tell.

"The police have been saying animal attacks for months now, but I'm not stupid," she continued and no, she really wasn't, "something's going on and no one's telling me about it." There was The Look again.

Stiles gave her the only answer he possibly could. "I don't have an answer for you."

It wasn't what she wanted to hear and Lydia made no bones about it. "My considerable patience isn't going to hold out forever, you know. After Jackson and the...attack," her eyes shined, slightly too glassy, "I decided I'm putting myself first. So, take some time to get your head out of your ass and get back to me, okay?" The question was entirely rhetorical as she swung away, hair flying out behind her. If it'd been any longer it would've smacked him across the face - no doubt an intentional move on her part.

Watching her stomp away, Stiles sighed just as the bell for class rang.

*

Deciding a few days later to take Derek's advice to heart - and leaving Scott and Allison to stew over the issue of whether to tell Lydia everything; it was really more their decision than his - Stiles took Betty for a check-up. Now, Stiles knew Betty wasn't perfect, but he also knew the mechanic was feeding him a line of bull about the cost of repairs. Just barely stopping his mouth from talking him into another price hike, Stiles grumbled as he made his way to the waiting room - only when he opened the door there was some kind of...substance on it. Clear and almost jelly-like - and totally, utterly gross.

"Wonderful. Nice sanitation you got here," he muttered as he closed the door behind him, idly reaching up to wipe his hand off on his hoodie. Pulling out his phone, he opened up a new message to let Dad know he'd be out later than anticipated just in case he got in early (unlikely), but when he went to press the next button...nothing happened. His fingers wouldn't...move.

Fighting down the quickly growing sense of panic - his body wasn't responding - he found he was able to jerk his head up to see the mechanic through the window. Maybe if he could call for help... "Hey..." he managed to get out, and then he saw it.

A lizard. A giant, man-sized lizard, climbing down the side of the car hoist. Towards the mechanic.

Holy shit.

"Hey!" Stiles forced out, not loud enough, not nearly loud enough to be heard over the noise the mechanic was making (Toby? Tony? Stiles didn't even know his name) and stood there, helpless, as the lizard reached out a clawed hand and scratched the back of the mechanic's neck. He and Stiles collapsed at the same time and Stiles just lay there, gasping, in shock, thinking inanely about paralysing agents and reaction times when exposed directly to the blood stream as opposed to skin contact and the lizard had done something because the hoist was lowering down into place with the mechanic laying paralysed beneath it.

It was enough to snap his mind back into focus. He wasn't about to let anyone die right in front of him without at least trying to do something about it. His phone had landed a few inches from his left hand and he found, if he concentrated really hard, he could slowly move his hand and fingers enough to touch the keypad. He got as far as dialling a 9 when a loud hiss made him snap his eyes back to the glass panelled door. The lizard was right there on the other side of the door, hissing at him aggressively, and Stiles was going to die of a heart attack at the tender age of 17 if the lizard didn't get there first and-

Then the lizard was flying across the garage, almost howling as it was grabbed by its tail and thrown to one side by a truly unmistakable figure.

Derek.

Relief? Meet Stiles.

The lizard scurried off, and as Derek turned to follow it he must've finally caught a glimpse of Stiles on the floor. The way his eyes bugged out would've been comical at any other time. "Stiles?"

Stiles swallowed convulsively. "D-don't touch the-" The door exploded inward, "-or kicking. Kicking the door's good. The mechanic-"

"Already moved him," Derek said quietly just as the hoist clunked loudly into place. He knelt down next to Stiles, looking him over intently. "Are you hurt?"

He tried to shake his head, but that didn't work very well. "Nope. J-just paralysed. Lucky me." Closing his eyes - something he could still do - he let out a shaky breath. Sensing movement, he opened his eyes to see Derek reaching for the phone on the floor, and listened as he made the call to 911. Although they both knew he couldn't feel it, Derek placed his free hand on Stiles' shoulder.

"Won't be long," Derek assured him when the call was over.

"Never is when your Dad's the sheriff," Stiles tried to joke, then carefully licked his lips. He needed to do something right now and at least he could use his mind. "We need to figure out what we're going to tell him."

"The truth, or at least some version of it," Derek shrugged, then nodded in the direction of the mechanic. "We're not the only witnesses."

"I...I don't think he saw anything. Or at least, not for sure. It got him from behind."

In the end they decided to go with the 'crazy guy in a lizard mask' story just to cover all their bases. There wasn't much they could do about the paralysing goo as it was on Stiles, the mechanic and what remained of the door - and maybe that wasn't a bad thing, anyway. Having someone in a professional capacity studying that stuff might turn up something useful.

Derek stayed there next to him, and didn't move even when sirens finally sounded.

Stiles closed his eyes. "By the way - any monster we know?"

"I followed Jackson here," was all Derek said in response; all the response that was needed, and then voices and footsteps were barrelling into the garage.

The feeling in his limbs started to come back as the EMTs were looking him over, and he silently thank God or whatever diety wanted Stiles to pray to them because to get the use of his body back, he'd do just about anything. Praying didn't even come close.

By the time Dad was shoving Derek out of the way to get to him, Stiles was able to hug back.

"I'm fine," he promised carefully into the hug, so glad to be able to do this again and seeing that the mechanic still couldn't move on the floor behind Dad. At least he wasn't alone anymore, flanked by EMTs. "I'm fine."

Dad pulled back, hands on Stiles' shoulders as he looked him up and down, checking him over himself. "I thought...they said something about paralysis?"

"Mostly gone," Stiles assured him, but naturally his balance went as he was talking, forcing Dad to clutch at him even more and assuring him of nothing whatsoever. "Emphasis on the mostly."

One hand still on Stiles' shoulder, Dad turned his head to give Derek a slow, uncomprehending look. "I don't know what you of all people were doing here, Mr Hale," he cast a quick flick of his eyes back to Stiles, and hey, what did that look mean? "But I know you helped my son tonight. So thank you." He held out his free hand and Derek didn't hesitate at all, returning the gesture and shaking hands slowly. He and Dad had this really weird stare-off for, like, five entire seconds, and then Dad was pointing a finger right in Stiles' face. "You, hospital. No arguments."

Stiles screwed up his face in complaint - and man, it was nice to be able to do that again. "Dad!"

"And you'll have an armed guard for at least the rest of the night."

Not that Stiles didn't appreciate being protected from a psycopathic lizard with parental issues, but he didn't want some deputy watching his every move, either. "Come on, Dad. Doesn't that sound like overkill? And a waste of valuable - expensive - police resources?" He heard all the time about what an issue the budget was. "Derek can-" he began because it seemed like the most normal thing in the world to imply that the former-accused murderer he barely admitted to knowing, kind of, vaguely, just a little bit more than his dad expected, would protect him all night - and then stopped. When he realised he'd just spoken like it seemed like the most normal thing in the world to imply that the former-accused murderer he barely admitted to knowing, kind of, vaguely, just a little bit more than his dad expected, would protect him all night - right in front of his dad.

And in front of Derek himself, in a way that was more than a little presumptuous.

Okay, absolutely and totally presumptuous. They didn't have that kind of relationship.

Friendship.

Basic social interaction.

Shit.

"Oh, Derek can, can he?" Dad asked, doing a pretty scary Lydia impression with the whole hands-on-his-hips thing. "No offense, Derek," he added, without looking away from Stiles for a second.

"None taken," Derek replied calmly. Ass.

"I'll tell you what, son," Dad began, much too calmly, "how about you let the sheriff of this town decide what's best for its citizens? Even if the citizen in question happens to be his idiot of a son?"

"All right, all right," Stiles gave in glumly, having had more than enough humilation for the evening. As Dad playfully clapped him around the head, Stiles caught the expression on Derek's face as he watched them and paused when he realised Derek looked...wistful. Blinking, Stiles glanced back at his dad. He'd lost a lot, no question there, but at least Stiles still had a dad to give a crap about him.

So Stiles let himself be taken to the hospital. Let them run a bunch of tests. Gave his statement. Let them confiscate his hoodie and put up with the cop who was never more than five feet away from him at all times. And didn't complain once.

Well. Hardly at all.

TBC

Chapter Text

Stiles normally got up at 7:30 for school, but when he felt a hand on his shoulder waking him up to see Dad standing over him, the clock on his bedside table said 8:02. Wiping away any evidence of drool, he yawned and sat up half-heartedly. "Hey, whassup?" He scratched at his head.

"How you doing, kid?" Dad asked gently.

Glancing down at himself, Stiles wiggled all fingers and toes experimentally. "Everything seems fine."

"Good," Dad replied, attitude changing immediately. "Then get your butt out of bed. You're late for school."

Stiles rolled his eyes, shoving the covers to one side as he swung his legs out of bed. "Feeling the love, Dad. I could be traumatised!" He reached for a drawer on the nearby dresser, pawing through shirts. "Is Deputy Dawg still around?"

"His name's Donald and you know it."

Stiles waved a shirt in a closed fist. "Trust me, Dad. He loves the D jokes."

"No, he really doesn't," came the reply, "and I let him go a few hours ago." Awesome. So he was no longer under house arrest. Stiles made a happy noise as he tugged on the shirt, getting the neck caught around his head when Dad spoke again. "You have visitors."

The moment Dad finished speaking, footsteps thundered on the stairs. It was clearly Scott, who'd just as clearly been using his heightened senses to listen in. Subtlety had never been Scott's strong point. None of that mattered as Scott and Allison ran into the room, skirting around the negligable room around Dad to get to Stiles. Allison threw her arms around him before Scott moved in himself. Okay, so some of the time his friends were actually pretty swell.

"Are you okay?" Allison asked urgently.

"Yeah, man, we heard what happened," Scott shook his head. "Guy in a lizard mask? Crazy stuff."

As opposed to werewolves? "You don't know the half of it." Stiles chose his words carefully, well aware that Dad was only just leaving the room.

"I can't believe you didn't let us know," Allison rebuked.

"What was the point?" Stiles asked. "It was Dead O'Clock in the morning by the time I got home from the hospital. No point in waking you guys up. Oh, and Dad's still forcing me to go to school!" he yelled at the empty doorway, making what he felt was an extremely valid point.

The doorway wasn't empty for much longer, as Chris Argent calmly stepped into view. "How fortunate, then, that your father's letting me drive you to school. I'll get you there in plenty of time." He flashed an - extremely creepy - friendly smile.

Scott and Allison could only stand there, looking guilty for not warning him. By the time they got into Mr Argent's car, Stiles felt entirely justified in sticking one of them with the passenger seat and deliberately chose the seat directly behind Mr Argent, to make eye contact in the rear view mirror as difficult as possible. He had no doubt some form of interrogation was about to begin.

He wasn't wrong.

"So, Stiles," Mr Argent began, selecting the driving gear and checking the mirrors before pulling away from the curb, "what exactly happened last night?"

Scott and Allison were both staring at him pensively; Scott next to him, Allison from the front. He shrugged, shaking his head. It wasn't like it was a werewolf, so telling Mr Argent would...probably be okay? A hunter knowing about this kind of thing had to be good.

Right?

"Most of what you've probably heard was true. There was an attack at the garage. Me and Mr Mechanic Guy were both hurt-"

"Tony," Scott told him.

Ah. Okay, then. "But it wasn't a guy in a lizard mask. It was an actual lizard. Like a...six foot tall lizard. With scales. And claws. And venom - the whole shebang." The car stopped. Everyone was staring at him. "I'm not making this shit up!"

"No one thinks that," Allison assured him, then focused on her dad. "Dad? Ever heard of anything like that before?"

Shaking his head, Mr Argent started driving again. "No. I'll need to do some research. Venom, you said?" He glanced in the rear view.

"Paralysing venom," Stiles revealed, and at their expressions of complete shock, came to an understanding. "I guess Dad's trying to keep that part quiet."

"Were you..?" Scott began.

"Oh, yes. Being paralysed is quite the fun time. Everyone should experience it." He clenched his right hand into a fist just because he could.

"And is it true," Mr Argent continued, taking the next left, "that Derek Hale saved you?"

For once, Stiles considered his words carefully. There was a lot of bad blood between the two families and God knew he didn't want to make that situation any worse by running his mouth off in a way he shouldn't - unfortunately, that was his speciality. "He did. He didn't wolf-out in front of Tony or anything. He just...threw the lizard into a wall. It kind of ran off after that."

"Don't blame it," Scott joked. Stiles grunted softly in agreement.

"I wonder why he was even there..." Mr Argent said leadingly. "Or where the lizard came from in the first place."

Stiles froze, giving nothing away - or at least desperately trying not to. Jackon was so...Jackson, but even he didn't deserve having hunters trying to kill him. "Dunno. All I know is they were taking his statement when they took me to the hospital. That's the last I saw of him." That, at least, was the absolute truth.

The rest of the journey was made in silence, until they pulled up outside the school. "Well, all things considered," Mr Argent turned in his seat to look at him, "you were very lucky last night."

Uh huh. "That's me," Stiles said weakly, "Mr Lucky." It wasn't until the three friends were climbing the steps into Beacon Hills High that Stiles spoke again. "No offense, Allison, but your dad is creepy as hell."

She didn't disagree with him. "It has been...weird since I found out the truth about my family. I know that he does what he does because he cares, because he thinks it's the right thing to do, but..." She stopped, arms folded across her body.

"What, hon?" Scott encouraged, touching her arm. Stiles made a mental note to mock him for the pet name later, because even he knew that now wasn't the time.

"It's like I don't even know him anymore," she finally admitted, smiling sadly, stepping forward into the building.

Most of the school seemed to be aware of what'd happened last night, giving him a variety of sympathetic or worried looks. The weirdest thing was everyone knowing who he was in the first place - he'd never been Mr Popularity and all the attention was disconcerting. Lacrosse practice, at least, wasn't too bad. He received a few 'glad you're not dead, bro' arm punches, which was practically a love sonnet in the world of the sports jock. Mostly, though, he'd been trying to concentrate on whatever Jackson was doing, all the time. He'd half-expected Jackson not to come in to school today but there he was, crabby as usual. Stiles was peeking around a shelf, watching as Jackson fiddled with the threading on his lacrosse stick, when Danny came up to him.

"Hey, Stilinski," he greeted and Stiles tried not to look guilty as he swung around, he really did. "Good to see you in one piece."

He and Danny had never been close, but they'd never hated each other, either. "Thanks, man."

"I heard Derek saved you?" He made it a question but it clearly wasn't one at all.

Stiles wasn't particulately fond of the way Danny said it, either. "Saved isn't really the right term. More like...rendered assistance." Rendered assistance in that he threw the giant killer lizard smack into a wall in a way that Stiles never could, but Stiles was beginning to get sick of feeling like a Disney princess that needed rescuing every five minutes.

"Whatever, man," Danny gave him a small smile, "I'm just glad he was there for you, that's all."

Again with this theory. "He wasn't 'there for me'," he pointed out with fingerquotes, "at least not in the sense you seem to-"

"What are you two talking about?" And hey, there was Jackson. Stiles stared at him silently, trying to see any sign of the lizard. Nothing. Just plain-old jerkwad Jackson.

"The attack at the garage last night," Danny explained.

"What attack?" Jackson...didn't seem to be lying. Or if he was, he was a much better actor than Stiles gave him credit for - and Stiles was willing to admit that he didn't give Jackson credit for anything at all.

Jackson listened quietly as Danny described what he knew about what'd happened, before snorting - and then breaking into a bitter laugh. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

Hey, now. "Seriously, dude? I know we hate each other's guts, but-"

"Not you, asswipe," Jackson interrupted, "Tony at the garage." Seriously, did everybody know his name except for Stiles? "That moron tried to rip me off on a wheel replacement. Believe me, there's a court case in his future." Looking pleased with himself, Jackson walked off, giving his stick a few experimental swipes through the air.

Interesting.

Things got even more interesting out on the field when it became clear that Isaac Lahey had suddenly become a werewolf. Just like Scott when he'd first turned, it was obvious he was finding it hard to rein his inner wolf in.

"Did Derek say anything?" Scott asked from where they were standing on the sidelines, watching Isaac got toe-to-toe with Jackson and keeping up with him for the first time.

"Oh, sure," Stiles mocked, "after being attacked by a giant, paralysing lizard, the first thing we did was paint each other's claws and talk about his latest werewolf conquests."

When Isaac crunched Jackson onto the ground, eyes flashing yellow, Finstock howled in glee. "I don't know what you guys are on lately, but keep it up!" He paused, as if realising what he'd just said. "Unless it's steroids!" he added. "Steroids are bad!"

"I need to get out there," Scott growled, launching himself onto the pitch.

"One thing's for sure," Stiles muttered to himself, "we'll definitely win State this year." Two werewolves and a lizard? No one else stood a chance. He winced as all three tumbled into a pile.

If they didn't kill themselves - and everyone else - first.

*

The moment the bell for end of day rang, Stiles bolted out of Econ. Dad had made it clear before school that, given what'd happened last night, Stiles needed to be home before dark. And given that Stiles' car was currently out of commission due to being evidence at a crime scene - oh yeah, he was Mr Lucky all right - the journey he needed to make to Derek's place was going to take a lot longer than usual.

He'd been stewing over Derek's decision to turn Isaac for the entire last period. Why Isaac? Why now, when the Argents were actually leaving him alone? Why was he so stupid?

Stiles jogged down the steps out of school, taking them three at a time and miraculously not landing on his face when Scott caught up with him.

"Hey, where're you rushing off to?" Scott asked, grabbing his arm.

Catching his breath, Stiles nodded into the distance. "Was gonna see if I could find Derek. Try and find out what's going on with Isaac."

"Oh," Scott said, surprised, dropping his hand. "Maybe I should come with you. Ask what he was thinking. Only..."

"What?"

"Allison and I decided we're going to tell Lydia the truth. About me, at least."

Ohhh. Suddenly Stiles' urge to get to the Hale house didn't seem so important. "Maybe I should come with you." His feelings for Lydia were all mixed up lately, but he still cared about her. She was in for one heck of a surprising night.

"No," Scott announced with unusual decisiveness. "They're both important - and we need to find out about Isaac." After the game, he'd privately admitted that Derek had turned him and that he'd wanted the bite, but not why Derek had done it in the first place. The full moon was two weeks away yet, so Scott wasn't overly concerned about Isaac completely losing control, and strongly suggested he avoid aggressive activities for the time being. "Go and see Derek. We'll talk to Lydia. Maybe you can try and catch up with us after," he suggested, though it didn't seem likely.

The walk to the woods wasn't a long one. The walk once he got into the park was longer, but at least he knew to expect that. It was the perfect place, really, for a werewolf to roam undetected. There wasn't much else to do but think as he walked, and he found himself wondering what life was like for a family of werewolves (seriously, what a weird idea). Did they used to run around in a pack? Or were they more careful, only going out one at a time, or in pairs? Could Derek turn into the full wolf, the way Peter'd been able to? More importantly, would he let Stiles see him as a full wolf because really, seeing a Wolf up-close that wasn't trying to kill you was the ultimate in cool. And Derek only wanted to kill him about 50% of the time these days, so the odds of survival weren't absolutely horrible.

When the house finally came into view Stiles stopped, leaves crunching underfoot. He could hear...music? Stiles must've heard it somewhere before because it was familiar, but he had no idea who the actual artist was. He started walking again, this new piece of information dancing around inside his head. Music meant electricity, and as he drew even closer he could see a light through a downstairs window.

Derek had obviously been busy.

He hesitated briefly as he reached the wooden steps to the house, but he forced himself to move. Naturally, the moment he stepped up onto the porch, the music stopped abruptly. Stiles' anxiety shot up and he didn't even have to knock on the door before it was swinging open and Derek stepped out, wiping his paint-splattered hands on a rag. He was dressed in jeans and a wifebeater and looked like some kind of Greek god dressed rather strangely in jeans and a wifebeater.

Yeah. Stiles definitely had a problem.

Derek tilted his head towards Stiles in a silent question. This time, Stiles actually managed to not blurt out the first thing that came to mind ("You're decorating?"). Unfortunately, what he blurted out instead was,

"Are you an idiot?"

Rolling his eyes, Derek turned away and walked back into the house. "For not telling you to get lost immediately? Yes." He didn't close the door behind him however, so that was obviously an invitation to come inside.

Stiles hurried after him, following Derek into what used to be the living room. "You know what I'm talking about! You-" He stopped because, before, where there'd been nothing but bare wood and stained walls, there was now a comfortable looking sofa on one side of the room. On the other side was a table with a toaster, microwave and CD player resting on top, and there was a smaller table with a lamp on it, angled towards the wall Derek was in the process of painting. "You had the wiring done," he said inanely as he dropped his school bag on the floor because seriously, messing with his whole worldview here.

"Some," Derek said, grabbing the roller from the tray it was resting on behind the lamp, slathering a new layer of blue paint on the wall in question.

Right. Anyway. Stiles had forgotten to be all affronted and was finding it kind of hard to build that level of frustration back up. "You turned Isaac," he said finally.

Derek didn't stop painting. Didn't even look at him. "He wanted it."

That was a whole other kettle of fish, but not the point he was trying to make. "You have to know the Argents are watching you. That they don't want any new werewolves being made."

"I'm sure they'll survive."

"Yes! Exactly!" And oh look, there was the frustration back in action. "By killing you! Do you have some crazy werewolf death wish or something?"

Finally, finally, Derek stopped painting, letting his arm fall to his side, roller pointing to the floor. He spoke quietly. "I have to be stronger."

"You can be stronger," Stiles argued, "by working as a team made up of people that aren't going to get you killed. Work with me! Scott! The Argents!"

Turning, Derek's eyes flashed red, and Stiles might actually never get used to that. "Work with the family that wiped out my entire family, you mean? Those Argents?"

"Admittedly, yes, it's crappy deal for you," which may have been the understatement of the century, "but Chris Argent and the others had nothing to with it. That was all Kate, and you know it. And it's better than - oh, I don't know - dying?"

Growling, Derek dumped the roller back in the tray. "You don't know anything about wolves."

"Enlighten me," Stiles ordered, crossing his arms. Derek glared at him and Stiles really needed to think about the way he was speaking to an Alpha, but he couldn't seem to help himself.

Two seconds later, Derek was stepping way into Stiles' personal space. Stiles blinked up at him in surprise. "Strength," Derek told him, "true strength, comes from your pack. As the Alpha I'm physically stronger than I was before, but I'm stronger still with a pack. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Trust me when I say that you have no idea what it's like."

Stiles wasn't about to argue with that. He wasn't about to step back out of the way, either, determined not to show any sign of weakness. He was, however, beginning to realise something. "That's why you gave Jackson the bite." He'd been an Alpha with no pack to rule.

"It's a drive. An impulse that gets even stronger when you're Alpha. But when it became clear something had gone wrong..."

He'd stopped. But then why start again? "But now you've turned Isaac."

Derek turned away, forcing Stiles to stare at his back. "We have no idea of that creature's full capabilities. Its strength. I have to make sure I'm ready to face it."

The timing, though... "Isaac wasn't a werewolf before today. What'd you do? Give your statement then go straight to Isaac's to play happy funny bitey times?"

Derek flexed his neck. "It nearly killed two people last night. Seemed a good time to take the risk."

Rubbing a hand over his face, Stiles shook his head. "Well, if it really is Jackson, I spoke to him today." Derek cocked his head to one side in interest. "Seems he had a bone to pick with the mechanic-"

"Tony?"

"Oh my God, yes!" Stiles snapped, because seriously, the world was just messing with him now. "Tony. Tony! Are you happy?"

Spinning around to stare at him, Derek gave him both eyebrows. "Are you having a breakdown?"

Stiles ignored the question. "My point is, maybe it's a revenge thing, whether he realises he's doing it or not. Getting back at all the people who've wronged him - which is very large pool to choose from. If that thing goes after all the people that've pissed Jackson off...it'll be an endless killing spree! He hates the world and everything in it!"

Head suddenly turning towards the blocked-up window, Derek frowned. "Not everything."

Stiles did some frowning himself. "What're you-?"

But Derek was already brushing past him on the way out of the building. Stiles was hot on his tail, stumbling out on the porch to see Lydia standing ten feet away, panting for breath. She'd obviously run the whole way there.

Tears were streaming down her face.

Stiles took a step towards her instinctively. "Lydia-"

"Hi," she addressed Derek. "Lydia Martin. I believe I've already have the pleasure of meeting a relative of yours. Scott tried not to tell me anything more than I needed to know, but it didn't take much to put two and two together. Any inherited conditions I need to know about?" She stared up at him defiantly.

"Yes," Derek said simply.

Setting her jaw, Lydia swallowed. "Show me." And Derek did, right there, face morphing into jagged teeth and red eyes. Watching him, she nodded shakily, a fresh stream of tears making its way down her face. "Okay. Okay."

Stiles leapt off the porch, jogging towards her. "Lydia-"

She shoved him away. "I remembered things, you know? Flashes. Things that didn't make sense. My therapist said it wasn't real, that my mind was trying to 'process the trauma'. It was just an animal attack. But the guy I keep seeing coming towards me with a mouth full of sharp teeth? He was real. He. Was. Real," she grunted, shoving Stiles again with every word. "How could you not tell me?"

"Lydia," Stiles tried again, finally managing to get his arms around her, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Sniffing, she pulled away from him. "Screw sorry," Lydia told him, looking from Stiles to Derek. "You're going to tell me everything."

Neither one of them could say no to that...so they did. All three of them went into Derek's house where they told her everything. Kate and Peter, the Argents, their fears about Jackson - and Isaac, the new werewolf on the block.

And somehow, Stiles and Lydia helped Derek finish painting the living room.

In the end it was Lydia who made him realise how late it was getting. She sighed, glancing at her watch. "I should get home."

Checking the view from the front door, Stiles saw that dusk was settling in. Technically it wasn't dark yet, but Dad was bound to kill him anyway. "Me too." The sound of tinkling keys made him turn around.

Derek was walking towards him. "I'll give you a ride."

They dropped Lydia off first who, upon leaving the car, made it clear she was never to be excluded from anything ever again. Stiles was too frightened of her to disagree and secretly suspected that Derek felt the same way. When they pulled up outside Stiles' house, Derek turned to look at him. "You should get going." Through the window behind Derek, Stiles could see Dad opening the door and watching the car curiously.

He looked back at Derek. "I meant what I said."

"Which part? You say a lot."

Stiles made a face at him. "Cute. And I meant the not getting yourself killed thing. It would suck, that's all I'm saying."

"So eloquent," Derek teased.

"Oh, bite me," he replied without thinking, reaching for the door release and suddenly Derek's eyes were red and wow, moment.

"Don't tempt me," he said in a low voice and Stiles was fumbling the door open and spilling out of the car. "Thanks for the ride!" he called out as he hoisted the strap of his bag over his shoulder, but the car was already screeching away. Watching the tail lights fade away, he tried to force his goosebumps down before heading towards the house. Dad was still standing there, had probably even made special arrangements to make sure he'd be there with Stiles tonight. His guilt spiked. "Technically it's not dark yet," he began, but Dad seemed less concerned about that and more concerned about the fact that Derek had been the one to drop him off.

Watching Derek's car disappear into the distance, Dad turned grim-faced back to Stiles. "I think it's time we had a talk."

Aww, crap.

TBC

Chapter Text

The thing was, he and Dad didn't really have talks - especially since Mom died. The only time Dad talked about Mom at all was when he was drunk, and that in itself was a rare event. Not to mention that Dad was always at work and though Stiles spent most of his home-time alone, he was glad that Dad had something to do - especially something so important, that needed to be done. Stiles not so secretly thought that the job was the only thing that kept him going during that first year after. The memories of that first year were a jagged mess, terrified and isolated with so many memories of Scott holding him while he cried. There's a reason Stiles forgives Scott for a lot.

They'd not had a talk, at least not for a very long time. The last one had been particularly memorable with Dad giving him this kind of garbled version of advice that was mainly confusing and full of things like, "A man needs to take responsibility for his actions," and "Men and women...or men and men...or, uh, women and women who love each other can make a baby...well, no, only men and women, but a man needs to take responsibility for his actions no matter what. Because of diseases, and...well, because that's what it means to be a man." Fortunately, Mom had come in a few minutes after Dad had left and explained everything very matter-of-factly.

All signs pointed to the fact that Dad was about to give 'the talk' another run. Over Derek. Which was...so out of the realm of possibility it wasn't even funny.

"Stiles..." Dad began awkwardly on the other side of the room, his face showing every sign of the fact that he wanted to do this about as much as Stiles did. At least that was something. "Genim..." he continued, and woah - shit just got serious. Mom was the only one who ever got away with using his real name.

This was bad. Stiles found both hands clinging on to each other. He may have started twitching from where he was perched on the sofa. Dad just looked at him from his chair.

"First," Dad cleared his throat, "let me make it clear that there's nothing you could ever say, do or...be...that would ever make me turn my back on you. Okay?"

And it was, it was, it was the sex talk and the gay talk and Dad was being so sincere and was pretty much the best person on the planet. Stiles still didn't want to do this. At all. "Uh, thanks, uh, Dad, but I'm getting the impression you think something's happening that's totally not happening. Let me assure you," he quickly continued, "it is totally not happening." He swung an arm through the air because emphasising this point was very, very important.

Dad still just kept staring at him. "Do you want it to happen?"

Stiles spat out a "No!" before he could even think about it, and then when he stopped to think about it still agreed with his immediate response. No was definitely the right answer because honestly, at the moment, he didn't know what the hell he wanted.

Nodding slowly, Dad moved on. "And he hasn't..?"

"Oh my God, no!" Stiles jumped out of his seat. "Dad, trust me. He's been a perfect gentleman-" And wow, what, why did he even need to say that? "-in that he doesn't need to be a perfect gentleman because he hasn't done - or tried to do - anything. Period. Hell, half the time he wants to kill me!" He thought over that for a moment. "Uh, not literally," because hey, Derek had already been accused of murder more than once.

Leaning foward, hands clasped together, Dad eyed him carefully. "I think it's about time you tell me just how long you've been...friends with Derek Hale."

Ugh, was that meaningful pause really necessary? "We're not friends," he argued, falling back onto the sofa, "not really. We just seem to bump into each other a lot, you know?" 'Bump into' as in, Stiles climbing into the police cruiser Derek was in the back of or Derek coming to find Stiles in the parking lot after he'd been shot.

Purely accidental stuff.

Right.

"And even when he was a murder suspect and on the run? You kept...bumping into him?"

Aww, hell. They'd touched on this briefly after Lydia had been hurt, but both had been avoiding the reality of it until now. "Does it help that I didn't think he was guilty?" He knew the answer already, but that didn't stop him from asking.

"Stiles!" Dad got to his feet. "For God's sake, you can't just do things like that!"

Jumping back on his feet, Stiles rushed over to him, unthinking. "But I knew I was right! I knew it! I'd lost Mom and he'd lost his family, we'd both lost so much and - I knew him, Dad. I knew him." And...there was a realisation he hadn't admitted to himself before, out and proud for all the world to see. For all that he'd joked about Derek rattling around inside an empty house alone, Stiles lived his life exactly the same way.

Making a face, shaking his head and sighing (somehow all at the same time), Dad placed a hand on Stiles' shoulder. "I know I...haven't been there for you the way I should."

Stiles was still reeling from his own realisation, but was aware enough to know that, hey - important moment here. "What? Dad, come on, shut up-"

"We both know it," Dad pressed on, "so don't try and tell me otherwise." For once, Stiles kept his mouth shut. "You've basically raised yourself since your mom died. I've lost count of the amount of times I've come home late to find you in bed, dinner made and homework done, dirty plates in the dishwasher. Or I've gone to the closet in the morning to see that the laundry's already dried and hung. And it's not like I think you're perfect, because I sure as hell know you're not. You got a mouth on you and you cannot stay out of anyone's business. And the less said about your attention span, the better. But...I know I've screwed up, I know I still will, but just for the record," he paused, voice breaking, "I don't care. I wouldn't care if it was a girl, guy, or an alien from the planet Kryptom."

"Oh my God, Dad," Stiles rasped, eyes burning, "I've told you before about trying to make pop culture references."

Dad wisely ignored the blatant diversionary tactic. "If you believe in them? That's good enough for me. Although you may have to give me some time to adjust if they are accused of murder," he joked.

How about trying 'he's a werewolf' on for size?

Wait, no. That...so wasn't happening because he and Derek so weren't happening, even if he had these crazy, weird reactions around the guy lately.

"All I ask is that you let me know where you're going to be, if you're...with him."

If this continued, the whole town was going to have them married and off on their honeymoon by the end of the month. "That's really not what-"

"It has nothing to do with him being him or him being older," Dad insisted, "and everything to do with your safety. Until we catch the guy that attacked you and Tony last night, I'll rest better knowing where you are. I know you can take care of yourself, but it doesn't hurt to know that he was able to scare off the guy who tried to hurt you."

Oh. Well. That was a good point. "Okay."

"You could've died last night," Dad said, which explained a lot about how emotional he'd been. "For all I know, he's the reason you didn't. That tends to make a father forgive a few things."

Wiping the back of his hand quickly across his face, Stiles turned around, Dad's hand slipping from his shoulder. They'd never had any kind of interaction that intense, apart from the day after Mom's funeral. Dad didn't get emotional in that way.

Until now. And Stiles couldn't help but feel that in this father-son talk, he'd left his Dad short-changed.

"Dad, I..." he swallowed. "He genuinely hasn't tried anything. I don't think he...he sees me that way. But I..." Closing his eyes he let out a long breath, trying to unfurl the ball of anxiety that seemed to be residing in his stomach. "Am really confused." It wasn't enough and more than enough at the same time as he felt the warmth of Dad's hand back on his shoulder.

The hand squeezed. "I know," Dad said, which probably should have freaked him out, but actually made him feel like Dad still knew him, despite everything. "What do you say to pizza for dinner?"

And this was back in familiar territory; the way they usually communicated. Dad offered junk food to try and make him feel better; Stiles made an argument for something healthy so Dad would live longer. He was glad to get back to it. "When I said green vegetables with every main meal I meant it," he instructed, marching off towards the kitchen.

That night, he slept peacefully and dreamless for the first night in a long time.

*

As they arrived for Chemistry the next day, all four of them - Lydia included - immediately darted for the stools closest to Isaac. Stiles paused as he adjusted his stool next to Isaac when he realised everyone was staring at them. "Uh, we might need to work on our subtlety, guys."

"Might?" Lydia asked, nodding her head to the back of the class where Jackson was watching them with interest. And annoyance, if his face was anything to go by.

"Just act naturally," Allison whispered, opening her book.

"Like nothing's different," Scott agreed, groping at his pockets. "Has anyone got a pen?"

"Definitely nothing different here," Stiles muttered, holding one out to him before turning to Isaac with an ingratiating smile. "Heeeey, buddy. How's it going?"

Isaac looked back at him, unimpressed. "You don't have to watch over me, you know. It's just Chemistry. Nothing in here to make me...lose control."

"You sure about that? What if an experiment blows up in your face? You sure you're not gonna go Wolfman on us?"

Isaac's face transformed into shock, like he hadn't considered that possibility at all. "I...no, I guess not."

"We're not trying to make things difficult for you," Allison promised, "we're just aware how hard it was for Scott after he first turned. It's as much about protecting you and keeping you out of trouble as it is about protecting others, okay?"

Staring at her curiously for a few seconds, Isaac eventually nodded before glancing down at his book. "It is a bigger adjustment than I expected."

"What, you thought becoming a werewolf would be a walk in the park? Without a leash?" Stiles looked up when he realised they were all glaring at him. "Oh, come on, no dog jokes now? That's like half my material!"

"No," Isaac ignored, "Derek was very honest about what it would be like. But even so..." He sighed. "Just as well we start training tonight."

Oooh, interesting.

Scott got there first. "Training?"

He nodded. "He came to see me last night. The full moon's a fortnight away, so he wants to build up my control before then."

Now that? That sounded like an Alpha who was trying to do things the right way, not like that maniac Peter who bit Scott just before a full moon and left him to it.

And Stiles so knew what he was doing after school.

Of course when it came to crunch time, to actually letting Dad know his plans, he still found it very, very strange and very, very stress-inducing to type going to dereks into his phone. As he slowly trudged through the woods - he'd given Isaac more than enough time to get there ahead of him, werewolf abilities aside - he got a message back that read, Have fun. Capital letter and period and everything. Dad was a total grammar nazi when text messaging and refused to abbreviate.

He was also pretty much the best dad on the face of the planet, so the good far out-weighed the bad.

When the house started appearing in the distance, Stiles kept to the trees, peering around each one to make sure no one was watching before darting behind another. He slowly crept his way closer and closer to the house, until he peered around one and Derek was just there right in front of him, arms folded across his chest, glower firmly in place. Stiles may have thrown his hands up in surprise, because he had totally not been there three seconds earlier.

"Man! You-" he stopped to catch his breath. "Just how fast are you, anyway?"

The glower didn't disappear. "You need to leave."

"You know I'm not buying your threats anymore, righ-?"

"For your own protection," Derek said roughly, pushing him up against the tree and it'd been a while since the physical violence. Stiles had almost missed it, or perhaps more honestly, the way Derek had his hands on him and was staring down at him from mere inches away.

Stiles couldn't help but stare back up at him and just as there was the risk of there being an embarrassing situation starting to arise, Isaac appeared next to them.

"I don't mind if he stays," Isaac said, which at least made Stiles turn his head to look at him. Derek just kept staring at Stiles like a crazy person. "He might even come in handy. Someone to try and avoid eating when I get angry," he joked.

Stumbling as Derek finally released his grip and turned away, Stiles quickly found his feet and waved after them. "Always happy to help!"

"Stay out of the way and stay quiet," Derek snapped.

Sitting on the edge of the porch seemed the best option, so that was where Stiles ending up parking himself. Training seemed to consist of a lot of encouraging Isaac to charge at Derek, who would deftly move out of the way, not even needing to shift while Isaac was fully wolfed-out. It was fascinating watching them work. Their bodies looked the same but were capable of so much more - faster, harder, better. By the end of the first hour Isaac seemed to be making some progress, nearly getting a good hold on Derek a few times. Derek then decided this was the time to move on to all-out fighting. As with the first hour, Derek didn't give Isaac any instructions, just taunted him to try and hurt him (seriously, death wish) and Stiles watched wide-eyed as they battled each other. While Isaac got a few scratches in here and there, it was obvious Derek was holding back - and not just a little.

It was also obvious that Isaac was getting more and more frustrated at his lack of progress, his attacks become wilder and less controlled. After one particularly vicious attempt, Derek flipped Isaac flat onto his back but Isaac was back up within moments, howling in complaint, eyes immediately focusing on Stiles as he charged straight towards him.

Panic was swift, Stiles dropping the twig he'd been fiddling with, hands and feet scrabbling on the wood beneath him as he shoved himself closer to the house and tried to get to his feet, but it wasn't going to work, wasn't going to be enough, Isaac was moving so fast with the teeth and the eyes and-

Derek was faster.

Before Isaac even reached the porch Derek was between them, facing Isaac, and the noise he made could only be described as a roar.

The effect was instantaneous. Isaac crumpled to the ground, whimpering, holding his arms up over his face in fear and submission. When he lowered them a few moments later, his face was human again.

Derek stood over him. "You're never going to be as strong as I am. I'm Alpha and I was born werewolf - but you're still going to be stronger than you ever dreamed of. In time," he added, then nodded to the left. "Training's over. Go home."

Head still bowed, Isaac got to his feet shakily before zipping off. Watching him go, Derek turned back to address the rest of the forest. "He's not hurt," and wait, what? Someone was here? Stiles looked around the forest, trying to catch a glimpse as Derek kept talking. "I wouldn't let that happen. If you're really interested in what we're doing, Scott, come back here tomorrow."

Scott was here? Stiles kept looking, and as he watched he thought he caught a glimpse of a dark head sprinting off into the distance. When he focused back on Derek, he saw that the man in question was staring at him with a knowing look...because Stiles was still plastered against the front of the house.

Right. Clearing his throat and peeling himself free, Stiles cocked his head from side to side. "I concede your point. In this situation, you probably know what's best for my safety."

"Probably?" Derek asked, eyebrow arching, as he ascended the steps to the house.

Despite what'd just happened, Stiles couldn't contain his excitement, chasing after Derek as he went into the house. "Come on, you gotta admit that was really cool, right? Two werewolves fighting each other, right in front of me, and then that thing you did at the end, with the roar? Awesome! What was that?"

Derek led the way into the dark house, flicking the lamp on in the living room before turning to face Stiles. "I'm the Alpha," he said matter-of-factly, and that just left Stiles feeling strange and awkward.

He shuffled in place, absently clenching his fists, causing spots of mild pain to throb on the palms of his hands. He glanced down at them, seeing the splinters embedded in the flesh that he'd probably been too freaked out to notice until now. Not the end of the world; he'd start plucking them out on the way home and-Derek was suddenly right in front of him, grabbing his left hand.

"You're hurt," he said, like an accusation, yanking the hand closer to his face.

Stiles didn't know what the heck to make of that reaction, other than a general sense of confusion. "Uh, barely. And given that you threw me up against a tree two hours ago, a few splinters from your house don't seem much to-woah, okay!" Derek had extended the claws on just one hand, and was now using the claws in question to pull the splinters out. It was weird, intimate and disturbing all at the same time and as he usually did in all situations, Stiles found himself talking. "You know, I could just get some tweezers when I get home." Derek stayed hard at work, head bent down in concentration. It didn't really hurt when he pulled a fresh splinter out, but it was a little sore. When he switched to the other hand, Stiles was reminded of something he'd seen on TV and he had to say something. "I've seen stuff like this before. Grooming. Is this grooming? Are you grooming me?" And then he remembered the other connotation of grooming and why didn't he just stick his entire leg in his mouth while he was at it? "And I meant stuff on Animal Planet, you know, animals in the wild cleaning each other and I'm gonna shut up now."

"That would be useful," Derek muttered, finally releasing Stiles completely and stepping back, but Derek wasn't the only one who'd noticed that someone was injured.

"Your turn," Stiles announced. Turn about was fair play, right? Now it was Derek's turn to endure poking and prodding.

Derek frowned. "What?"

"Hey, I know you kicked his ass, but he got some pretty good dings out there."

"I heal fast."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Legendary werewolf healing and all that, but there's still the risk of infection. Look, the sooner you let me check there's nothing in the scratches, the sooner I'll get out of your hair. Or fur, for that matter."

It must've been a compelling argument because Derek immediately reached up and started tugging off his shirt and holy shit Stiles had not thought this through at all. Determined to be as professional about this experience as possible, Stiles kept his gaze firmly planted on Derek's face until given that annoyed, well, get the hell on with it already face.

There was barely anything on Derek's chest, so Stiles eagerly moved on to looking at his sides. There were a few scratches there and Stiles had to lean in close to get a good look at them. Derek smelled surprisingly appealling for a guy who'd spent the last two hours sweating. Clearing his throat, he moved on to study Derek's back and it felt safer back there, somehow. And though he was meant to be only be checking out the scratches, he was definitely getting distracted by the tattoo.

Derek spoke low and quiet, surprising him. The muscles across his back shifted. "What are you even doing here, Stiles?"

Stiles followed the path of four scratches across Derek's left shoulder blade. "Isn't it obvious? I'm fascinated by everything werewolf."

"Scott's a werewolf."

"Yeah, but you were born one," his hand reached out to the scratches, but he stopped himself from touching them. "It's different."

Derek turned his head to the right. "Do you want the bite?"

Blinking, Stiles stood up straight. It hadn't sounded like an offer - just simple curiousity. "Already passed on that invitation, thanks."

Derek suddenly spun around, making Stiles stumble back. "Peter offered?"

"After he kidnapped me and forced me to find you, yeah." That was a particularly fun memory.

"Why you?" Derek demanded, like Stiles had any clue.

"I don't know - he said I was the brains of the operation; maybe he appreciated my enormous mind."

Derek looked him up and down. "Good thing something is."

Now, wait a minute. "Hey!"

Derek pulled his ripped shirt back on. "You're gonna keep coming, aren't you?" he asked, resigned.

"Even though it's probably not good for my health," Stiles agreed, because werewolves.

Derek shook his head softly. "At least try and get Scott to come with you. The others, too. It's better if there's more."

"What's better?"

"You should go now," was all Derek said, and then he turned, walked away and started making his way up the dark, dingy stairs. Where Stiles knew for a fact there was no electricity and no furniture of any kind.

Stiles watched him go, but couldn't keep his mouth shut. "Come on, I thought we were past the 'lurking in the dark to scare people off' stage of our relationship." A growl came out of the darkness, making him jump. "Okay, going, going, geez," he hissed as he jogged out of the house and back into the forest.

Some people couldn't take a joke.

TBC

Chapter Text

The next day, it was immediately obvious to Stiles that Scott was avoiding him. But this was Scott, so it was also immediately obvious to everyone else. In every morning class, each time Stiles would quietly try to get his attention, Scott would deliberately turn away, trying to look like he was actually invested in the lesson.

No one was buying it, a point proven as they left Calculus and Jackson shoved Stiles in the general direction of the wall. "Aww," he mocked, "did the two lovebirds break up?"

Because Danny was awesome - far, far too awesome to be friends with Jackson lately - he grabbed Jackson's arm. "Hey, man, come on. We talked about this."

Shaking off Danny's hand, Jackson glared at him - but then actually followed Danny's advice and walked away.

Surprised, Stiles stared after them open-mouthed. "Dude, whatever mind ninja skills Danny has, I wants them." He turned to smile at Scott about his Gollum impression, only Scott wasn't there.

Oh yeah. Scott was busy being a dick.

It was no better at lunch. When Stiles approached the table Scott, Lydia and Allison were sitting at, Scott got up with an angry huff, stomping away and leaving his food behind.

Lydia didn't even glance up from the test paper she was glancing through. "Go after him and knock some sense into him. I'm getting sick of his whining already."

"What's he whining about?"

"Do you want the list?" she asked with a disinterested sigh, licking an index finger to turn another page. "Stiles is mean. Derek is mean. Jackson is mean. Life is mean. Lydia needs to find new friends," she finished, turning another page emphatically. "That last one was mine."

Yeah, that much was obvious. Watching Scott bolt out the door from the cafeteria, Stiles sighed as he picked up the apple still resting on Scott's tray. "How do you put up with him?" he asked Allison good-naturedly, not meaning it.

"Can't help but love him," she shrugged happily, before sending Stiles a sly look. "Maybe it's a werewolf thing."

Aaaaaand...he was leaving now.

He found Scott sitting passive-aggressively on a bench outside, body turned away in that familiar 'leave me alone-no, tell me you love me-no, leave me alone' way that was classic Scott.

Plopping down next to him, Stiles held out the apple. "Whether you're pissed at me or not, you know you need to eat." Since the turn, Scott burned through calories a lot faster and needed to eat a lot more. After the apple was silently snatched from his hand, Stiles spoke again. "What did I do? Is it because I went to the...training last night without you?" Stiles honestly didn't know what else the issue could be. The werewolf thing was technically Scott's thing - him actually being a werewolf - so maybe he was...weirdly possessive about it? "Come on, man, I'm not psychic - though, imagine how cool it would be if I was-"

"You smell like him. All the time, lately."

Stiles sat up, back straightening in surprise. "Uh, okay." Smelling like Derek didn't sound in the least bit strange, right? Not at all. "Well, I did keep running into him. And then there was Isaac and training, so..." Please let Scott not be implying what Stiles thought he was implying. Please, please, please.

"And you keep talking about him. When you're not researching him, every conversation now starts with his name."

Oh man, it was. He'd just gone through this with his dad - he wasn't up to doing it so soon with Scott. "Scott, I-"

"He took away the only chance I had to be normal! The only chance I had to build a good relationship with Allison's parents! Do you know what it's like when you can't stop talking about him?"

Ohhhh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Pleased that, at least, this wasn't going to be an entirely different discussion, Stiles thought over the past couple of weeks. Derek had killed Peter, apparently destroying any possible chance of a cure for Scott, any chance of returning to a regular, normal life where he could date Allison. More importantly, he wouldn't have had to worry that her parents were going to try and kill him in grotesque and complicated ways. And almost the entire time since, Stiles had been talking about Derek, bringing him up at every opportunity, rubbing Derek in Scott's face (not literally, because...just, no). It made so much sense when he thought about it, how dismissive Scott had been each time Stiles had mentioned Derek or suggested talking to him. Stiles had completely forgotten what Derek had done to Scott, what he'd taken away from him that night in the woods because he'd been so wrapped up in his weird, confusing fascination with the guy that nothing else seemed as importa-

Aww, man. He was like Scott with Allison!

No, he was exactly the same way with Derek as Scott was with Allison.

"Oh, God," he muttered, lifting a hand to cover his eyes. He was one of those annoying yet endearing guys who could not stop going on about their crush and didn't even realise he was doing it. He was one of those guys. "Oh, God," he whined, the second hand coming up so he could rest his head in his hands.

Okay. Fine. Decisive action was needed. Lowering his hands and sitting straight again, he vowed not to bring Derek up unless it was really, really important. He was not going to be one of those guys. There was only room for one in their group and Scott already had it covered. "I'm really sorry, Scott. I mean it," he continued, as Scott cautiously glanced over at him. "I was so interested in the werewolf stuff-" kind of the truth? "-that it overshadowed everything else and I forgot...well, forgot the thing that's really important. It was a shitty thing to do to the guy who's supposed to be my best friend and I'm sorry, okay?"

Shifting to face him, Scott tipped his head awkwardly to one side. "I should've just said something," he offered, "and then when I saw you'd gone to training last night too, it just...I don't know, it was just the final straw, you know? There you were with him again."

"I was just curious," Stiles explained, which was again kind of the truth, "but if you want me to stop going-"

"No," Scott interrupted quickly. "That's not what I..." He sighed. "I don't want you to stop doing anything you're interested in. I just wanted you to know."

Nodding, Stiles pressed his lips together before speaking again. It was worth asking. "Maybe you should take his invitation. I know there's a lot to work out," he added before Scott could say anything, "which is like Understatement City. I get that. But you can't tell me that you don't want to know more. That you aren't curious. Why else did you turn up last night? And this way you can keep an eye on what he's up to, too." He nudged Scott's knee playfully with his own, before pressing two fingers to his right temple and squinting as if he were concentrating on reading Scott's mind. "Remember: The Stiles knows all."

As planned, Scott grinned and shook his head. "More like The Stiles is a know-it-all."

Stiles flexed his eyebrows dramatically. "The Stiles brought you an apple because he is awesome."

"The Stiles is a weirdo who talks about himself in the third-person."

"The Stiles is impressed that you know what third-person is."

"The Stiles is about to get this apple shoved down his throat," Scott threatened with a small grin. "I do pay attention sometimes, you know. The wolf stuff is just...hard to deal with." Scott had definitely been doing better academically before he was bitten. Stiles tended to focus on the cool side of lycanthrophy, like extra speed and strength, but when he thought about all the stuff he'd seen Scott go through and have to deal with...yeah. Dropping grades were totally understandable and he couldn't honestly say that he'd handle it any better.

"Well you know I'll always be here," Stiles told him, because what else could he say? It was the truth. "And you know Allison will always listen to anything you have to say. And - weirdly enough - even Lydia, these days. Although that's mostly because we're actually telling her the truth now." Drawing in on himself, growing quiet, Scott nodded tightly.

Yup, something had to be done about that.

Stiles slapped him on the arm. Hard.

"Hey!"

"Come on, Grumpy Face," Stiles stood, making Scott look up at him, "we're having lunch, finishing school for the day, and then I'm gonna watch you frolic through the forest and mock you for it. Endlessly." He took off for the canteen. He knew Scott would catch him half-way there, which he did, and that Stiles would probably trip - which he did. But at least Scott was laughing.

Totally worth it.

*

Unfortunately, Stiles had a few errands to run after school, so he arrived at Derek's place later than he'd originally planned. By the time he approached the clearing, all three of them - Scott, Derek and Isaac - were facing-off against each other.

They were also all shirtless.

Stiles somehow managed to keep moving and make it up the steps to the house without tripping, despite the fact that he never fully looked away from the scene before him. Grunting as he threw himself down next to Lydia, he kept staring. He knew, objectively, that Scott was hot, but seeing all three of them all...shirtless and...sweaty and...angry...

"Holy Homoerotic Hotties, Batman."

And suddenly they were all turning to stare at him.

Stiles closed his eyes protectively. If he didn't look, they totally weren't staring at him. "I said that out loud."

"Yes," Lydia replied, amused, "you did."

"And they have awesome werewolf hearing."

"Yes, they do."

He opened his eyes and - yup. They were still staring. "Take the compliment, guys!" he yelled eventually, raising one hand in a half-hearted wave, before unzipping his bag and sticking his head inside to look for something, anything. He emerged with his homework, deciding he might as well get it done while he was sitting there. Everyone seemed to have moved on by now, Derek saying something intently to the other two. "So...what's with the shirtlessness?"

"My idea," Lydia shrugged, tapping a pen against the book in her lap. "Those nails do a lot of damage. This way they don't have to keep replacing - or explaining away - shirts with tears in them." She smiled at him. "You're welcome."

"Nooo idea what you're talking about," he replied, snapping his head back down to his homework, well aware that the others could well be listening in. "Where's Allison?" he asked, to change the subject as much as anything else.

"Still working on her parents," she sighed. "It's so much easier when your parents give more of a crap about fighting with each other than they do with caring about you. I get to do anything I want."

The killer was, she actually sounded happy about it - but Stiles knew better than almost anyone what a good actress she was. "Yeah," he said in a hollow voice, "sounds awesome."

That became their routine over the next week. When they had no other plans they'd gather at the Hale house. Derek would put Isaac and Scott through their paces; Lydia and Stiles would sit on the porch, doing homework or researching. Stiles had started bringing print-outs from home, stuff he'd found on the internet on lycanthropy. He was working on the theory that it was almost guaranteed to be entirely fictional, but there might be some real information buried in there somewhere and maybe he could find something useful.

Lydia started researching lizards.

Stiles didn't talk about it at all until, one evening, Lydia abruptly said, "So, say that we prove that Jackson is this...lizard thing..."

The pen Stiles had been tapping against his leg stopped mid-tap. "Yeah?"

She stared at him. "What do we do with him?"

The problem was, they hadn't actually talked about a plan yet. At the moment they just seemed to be going with 'make the wolves stronger' and as there hadn't been any more lizard attacks (his life, seriously) everyone seemed happy to go along with it.

They needed to think this through more.

After everyone else wandered off, Stiles hung around, watching Derek's bare back (and, okay, the rest of his body, too) walk into the house. He'd been deliberately avoiding one-on-one time with Derek since that talk with Scott, hoping that time and space would give him some perspective on the way he felt when he was around Derek - and it had. Not having to worry about what he was thinking, saying or doing in regards to Derek had given him a lot of perspective and a lot of time to think. He was now able to admit, at least to himself, that he was attracted to Derek. That the way he reacted to Derek was a lot like the way he used to react to Lydia. Which apparently made him bi or gay or attracted to werewolves or something. Definitely not straight, in any case.

And...that was okay. It'd been weird and worrying at first, just because it was something he hadn't expected, hadn't planned for. Not only was Derek a guy, he was a werewolf. Of all the guys he had to develop feelings for, it had to be a werewolf. Really, it was typical of Stiles' life so far that this kind of thing would happen to him.

Like most people who were attracted to someone, he was just worried about not making himself look like an idiot - not an easy task when he was Stiles Stilinski.

It didn't really matter, anyway, he told himself. It wasn't like Derek returned the feelings or would ever make a move. They could continue on just like they always had, and Stiles would get over it. It wasn't like he was pining or broken-hearted. It was just a crush.

Hearing a noise, Stiles glanced up to see Derek standing in the doorway again, this time with his shirt back on. "What do you want?"

Game time. Stiles grinned enthusiastically. "Why, to see you, Mr Cheerful." He hopped up onto the steps, pausing part-way up. "And actually..." he let the smile fade. "To ask what you plan on doing with Jackson...the lizard...once you have it."

Derek looked at him for a while, before shrugging. "Depends. He hasn't killed anyone, so hopefully we can find some way to control it."

"Control him? Or the shift?"

"Either. Or both. Anything that helps."

Stiles worried his lower lip with his teeth for a moment. "And what if he does kill someone?"

Derek stared back at him impassively. "Then I'll do what I have to. You should go," he said, and turned into the house.

Oh, Stiles was so not being dismissed like that. Clambering up the rest of the stairs, he jogged into the house. "You can't kill him!"

"If he's killing people, I'll have no other choice," Derek's voice said from the darkness, and then there was a click and light flooded the room.

Stiles blinked to help his eyes adjust, Derek a dark blur against a blue background. "But it could be like with Scott, you know? He tried to kill me not long after he turned. It's not like he wanted to - he had no control over it."

Derek tilted his head forward. "And if Scott had killed you, I would've put him down, too. Or maybe you'd prefer that I let them run around un-checked, killing innocent people at random?"

Well... "No. Of course not." He just didn't like the idea of anyone killing anyone else. And Jackson may have had issues up the wazoo, but he didn't deserve to die. "I guess I'm just a lover, not a fighter, you know?"

"Noble," Derek admitted, "but unrealistic. Especially in a world where creatures like us exist." He moved over to the table the CD player was, obstensibly to fiddle with the buttons, but to Stiles it seemed like he just wanted to look busy. "Anything else?"

With his head cast down that way, the light from the lamp hitting directly on his face...

Stiles frowned. "Are you having trouble sleeping?"

Surprised, Derek looked back at him. "What?"

"Bags," Stiles replied, gesturing towards his own eyes, "you're getting the start of a nice pair there. Could use some cucumber slices on those babies."

"I have a lot of responsibilities," Derek said mysteriously. "And I'm not putting cucumber on my eyes."

"Oh, come on, all the stylish werewolves go to the salon. Get their claws done. Extensions for their fur, you know - the works." Derek just kept looking at him. "Is this stuff ever gonna make you smile?"

"No," Derek replied, but...ha!

"You twitched!"

"What are you talking about?"

Stiles stepped closer gleefully, pointing at him. "Your mouth! It twitched! On one side!"

"You're delusional."

"And you're in denial," Stiles retorted. Derek was trying so hard not to smile, he could see it. "The fact is, you think I'm awesome, you think my jokes are awesome and you wish you were me."

"I wish you were somewhere else right now, that's what I wish."

"Sadly," Stiles continued, "you can't all be as brilliant as I am."

"Nor as modest," Derek quipped.

"Now you're making a joke!"

Bringing a hand up to his face, Derek pinched the bridge of his nose. "Get out." There was no heart in it.

"Nothing wrong with smiling. Or laughing." Stiles thought back to that picture of Derek in The Beacon - open and carefree. "I know you used to."

Hand falling to one side, Derek regarded him somberly. "A lot changed."

Suddenly the mood had dropped to depressing as hell. Stiles found it difficult to adjust to the sudden change around, but took a few moments to form the right response. "It's never too late to start living again, you know. You obviously want to," he added, looking around the refurbished room meaningfully.

Now Derek just look aggravated. "Oh, and you're suddenly a mind-reader who knows exactly what I want?"

Hardly. Stiles shook his head. "No. But I know a lot about being lonely," he said, holding Derek's gaze and - hell. He couldn't not say it. His mouth was always getting him in trouble. He might as well live up to his reputation. "And I know a person who's hiding when I see one. This isn't who you really are. Might be nice to see that guy come out again." He didn't run, exactly, but he sure as hell didn't stay around to hear or even see Derek's response.

He was most of the way across the clearing, stomach fluttering and heart racing at his own stupid recklessness, when he heard Derek's voice.

"Stiles."

He stopped, but didn't turn around, fingers tightening on the strap across his shoulder.

"Be careful."

Nodding, he started walking again.

He didn't stop again, didn't look back, didn't speak. But somehow he knew that Derek followed him all the way home.

Just to make sure.

TBC

Chapter Text

Spending time studying in the school library was usually a painless experience.

Emphasis on the usually.

"Hey, Freakazoid."

Sighing, Stiles didn't even look up from his work. "Always a pleasure, Jackson."

"I know," Jackson replied sweetly, a blatant lie. "Look, my highlighter's crapped out. Let me borrow yours."

That was one of the weirder requests he'd ever had, and considering what his life had been like for the past year, that was saying a lot. "And I would do this why?"

"Because if you don't, I'll..."

Nothing seemed to be forthcoming. "Threaten me with an empty threat?"

"Just let me borrow the damn pen," Jackson snapped.

Rolling his eyes and still not looking up at Jackson, Stiles silently shoved his whole pencil case in Jackson's direction. Stiles continued to communicate with him as little as possible - i.e., not at all - even after the pen was returned. However, when Jackson was still hovering next to him fifteen seconds later, Stiles finally gave up the illusion and turned, looking up at him. "Yes?"

Jackson actually looked...hesitant. "Nothing."

Uh huh. Sure. Stiles sure as hell wasn't about to waste his own time trying to coax anything out of Jackson, and-

"Have you spoken to Lydia lately?"

Who was this pod person and what had they done with Jackson? Putting his pen down, Stiles frowned up at him curiously. "...yes?"

Seeming unsure of himself, Jackson looked everywhere than at Stiles. "How's she doing?"

Stiles just frowned harder. "No."

Surprised, Jackson finally met his gaze. "No what?"

"No, I'm not doing this...conversation by proxy, or whatever you want to call it. You two have your own issues to work out. If you want to know how she's doing, ask her."

Jackson just walked away. Stiles just shook his head, but when he felt his phone vibrate and subtly checked the message from Dad, he grinned.

*

"Betty!" Stiles cried out, squeezing his body through the gap appearing as the gate slid open, sprinting across the cement.

The jeep wasn't far away, so within a few moments Stiles was with her, attempting to hug the hood. "I missed you, baby."

Stopping next to the jeep, Dad eyed him skeptically. "I don't know what's more disturbing - that, or how familiar you seem to be with the impound lot."

That was a statement best avoided, so Stiles did just that, moving down the length of Betty's body as he rubbed a hand along the roof. "Would you still love me if I told you I was in love with Betty?"

"Of course I would," he replied without hesitation. "I'd have you committed, but I'd still love you."

Making a 'haha, that's funny only really not' face, Stiles unlocked the car with the keys Dad had already handed back to him and slid with familiar ease into the driver's seat.

Sighing in satisfaction, he wiggled around for extra comfort. Betty held a lot of good memories inside her. Like that time he'd had a dying Derek in her for, like, six hours. Or that time Derek smacked his head against the steering wheel. Or that time Peter Hale held him hostage and forced him to drive to that parking lot, or all of those countless, endless drives when Scott wouldn't stop talking about Allison.

Why the hell did he have a car again?

"Well, go on," Dad encouraged. "Don't let me stop you. I know you're dying to take her for a spin."

That was the reason.

Stiles knew it was a cliché about how good it felt driving along with the squeaky windows down, blasting out tinny, low-powered music, wind blowing through what little hair he had...but it was all true. When he first got the car it didn't take him long to realise it was just the escape he'd been looking for. Everything had seemed slightly less horrible with the windows down and the volume up. Certainly a much better way to spend time then just laying in his room, staring at the ceiling, waiting to hear footsteps that would never come. He could almost forget, for a little while.

Taking Dad's advice, Stiles grinned at him and started the engine. By the time he was out on the road, he was happily bopping along to the crappy-sounding speakers that were all his. It was true what they said - you didn't know what you had until it was gone. Another cliché, but whatever. He really had missed this; hadn't realised how much until now. He drove around aimlessly for a while, until he realised he'd been driving for an hour, and - crap. Gas prices were brutal. He couldn't afford to keep doing that.

Remembering he had plans anyway, Stiles decided to try driving over to Derek's in his own car. It wasn't quite the experience driving Jackson's porsche at high speeds over bumpy terrain had been, but being a half-decent off-roader, Betty was definitely a more comfortable ride.

He wasn't expecting some kind of parade when he did pull up and park next to the Hale house, but he was expecting some kind of reaction.

Nada.

"Hey," he greeted Lydia after climbing onto the porch, "have my wildest dreams come true and I'm finally invisible - wacky hijinks alert! - or is everyone just ignoring me?" He nodded towards the clearing where so far, no one had acknowledged his existence.

"Derek told us you were on your way here five minutes ago," she explained dryly. "We got bored waiting and decided to save the Stiles Fan Club Annual Meeting until tomorrow."

He squinted at her. She smiled innocently.

The unexpected sound of footsteps behind him made Stiles turn to see Allison walking out of the house. "Allison! Hey! The gang's all here!" He went to clap her on the shoulder, dithered over it for a moment, then went ahead and did it anyway. "How'd you get away from your folks?"

"I just told them that if they wanted to stop me from seeing Scott, they'd have to chain me up like one of the creatures they hunt," and seriously, that girl had a set on her. "Besides," she continued, "I think they felt better about the idea when they saw I was taking this with me." She raised his right hand and it was only then that Stiles realised what she was carrying.

A few minutes later the three of them were picking their way through the forest, heading away from the clearing. Allison was talking animatedly, often turning to walk backwards as she spoke. "So I know neither one of us has super-human strength or speed, but I figure that's no reason we can't contribute in a fight."

Stiles raised his hand. "Uh...how about natural born clumsiness?"

Conceding his point, she grinned at him. "At the very least, we should know how to protect or defend ourselves. The way things have been going in Beacon Hills lately, you never know what could happen, and I know that I can't rely on Scott to protect me. I wouldn't want to, either."

Lydia nodded slowly, appreciatively. "You are my rock star right now."

"Why thank you," Allison laughed, grinning brightly. "Come on, I'll show you what I know. Who wants to go first?"

Lydia took to shooting arrows the same way she took to everything - brilliantly.

Stiles also took to shooting arrows the same way he took to everything - very, very badly. Most of his time wasn't spent aiming and firing, no, instead he spent what felt like endless hours searching through the surrounding brush for the bolts that had gone off-course. Which was all of them.

It didn't matter how much advice Allison gave him, or how he held his fingers, or his stance, or the angle of his elbow - Stiles just wasn't meant to use a bow and arrow. It was that obvious.

"Let's face it," he sighed later, handing over the last bolt which had somehow lodged itself underneath a dead tree, "some of us are not born to shoot pointy sticks at the bad guys."

That didn't stop Allison from looking cheerful. "But you are born knowing how to use every form of technology, right?" It was clearly rhetorical and Stiles couldn't help but watch curiously as Allison pulled something out of her inside jacket pocket, slapping it down into his open hand.

Ohhhhhh. A tazer! Awesome! "It's so shiny!" he exclaimed, immediately shifting his hold on it so he was gripping it in his palm. It felt surprisingly comfortable to hold.

Allison and Lydia both made noises, darting out of the way.

Well, that was heartening. "Hey, give me a little credit, okay? I may be a klutz, but even I'm not gonna accidentally taze someone." Testing the weight of it in his hand, he looked back up at Allison. "Where'd you get this thing, anyway?" Stiles knew the Argents had, like, an entire gun store's worth of firearms in their garage, but he wasn't so sure than even Allison would just take one.

She grew still and silent, focusing on the ground. "It used to be my aunt's."

Awkward. Stiles and Lydia shared 'what the heck do we say to that?' expression, before Lydia stepped up to the plate. "You want to talk about it?"

"Not much to talk about," Allison replied, face determined as she looked back up. "She's responsible for the deaths of eight people, some of them children. That's all I need to know about her anymore." Moving on deliberately, she glanced up at the sky. "It's getting dark. We should go."

Stiles wasn't about to argue with her.

By the time they trudged back to the house, the guys were fully dressed and waiting quietly by the porch. Scott had obviously been eavesdropping because when Allison walked up to him, he immediately pulled her into a hug.

Everyone tried not to look at them, but it was Derek who broke the silence. He still had the bags under his eyes, making Stiles stare at him without being obvious about it - or at least trying to. "How'd it go?"

Stiles was happy to join in. "I sucked - which, come on, we all expected. Allison'll be taking part in the next Olympics. And Lydia now has a new way to terrify people."

"There are never too many ways," she pointed out, which for Lydia was undoubtedly true.

"You guys?" Stiles asked.

"Progress," Derek admitted, which from him was high praise. "Isaac's auditory control is impressive. Scott's doing well at isolating specific scents. Soon we'll have to take them somewhere crowded and give them a real test."

"Looking forward to it," Scott smiled, seeming happier than he had in weeks. As far as Stiles knew, Scott and Derek still hadn't had any kind of talk about what'd happened with Peter, but focusing on and improving his abilities had put a metaphorical skip in his step that had been missing for a while now.

By now the silences weren't very uncomfortable and after a few moments of this one, Derek spoke again. "Full moon tomorrow," he reminded, not that anybody needed it. "Werewolves only tomorrow night." It was disappointing - and yet totally understandable.

Everyone murmured their agreement, sharing goodbyes with each other. Scott and Allison headed off, arms around each other but - interestingly - Lydia pulled Derek to one side, asking to speak to him about something. Stiles was planning on blatantly eavesdropping except, as he discovered when he moved one step to the right and Isaac was suddently standing right next to him, someone wanted to speak to him, too.

"Uh. Hi!" He'd be lying if he said that, since the evening that Isaac had tried to turn him into filet de Stiles, he hadn't been avoiding him as much as possible. Despite the fact that his best friend was a werewolf. Despite the fact that Derek was one, too. He should've known better, but because he didn't know Isaac as well, he was wary around him. "What can I do you for?" He'd also be lying if he said he wasn't trying to peer over Isaac's shoulder to see what the heck Derek and Lydia were talking about.

"I never apologised," Isaac began, which made Stiles immediately snap his gaze back to Isaac's face. "That first night, when I..." he let out a heavy breath.

It would be an understatement to say he hadn't been expecting this. "Don't worry about it, man. Scott tried to do a lot worse."

The reassurrance didn't seem to help. "I never want to be the guy that deliberately takes his anger out on people in the way that hurts the most," he blurted out, sounding disturbingly like he was speaking from experience. "And...werewolf or not, that's who I was that night."

Stiles didn't really know what he was talking about, but he was more than willing to take the apology - and was starting to feel bad about avoiding Isaac in the first place. "O...kay. But like I said, Isaac - don't worry about it. Really. You were still adjusting. Cut yourself a little slack."

Isaac didn't seem to be listening, however, muttering to himself. "Still haven't apologised to Derek..."

To Derek? Maybe...it was a disrespecting the Alpha thing? "He's probably forgotten all about it already."

Isaac gave Stiles a disbelieving look. "I tried to attack the Alpha's mate, Stiles. He may not have said anything about it yet, but that's not something he's just going to forget."

It took Stiles' brain a disturbingly long time to put it all together - and once it did, he was reduced to monosyllables. No mean feat. "What?"

"It's...hard to explain to someone who isn't werewolf, but let's just say when you're freshly turned your thinking capacity's not at its greatest. It's all instinct. I wanted to hurt Derek physically," he said matter-of-factly, "he was stronger than me, so I couldn't. So I went for the next thing that would hurt him."

Hurting Stiles? Isaac thought Stiles was Derek's mate?

"No!" he found himself hissing enthusiastically, hands gesturing frantically between himself and Derek standing off in the distance. "We are not mates! I'm not his mate! He's not my mate! There is no mating going on!" he finished with a particularly dramatic flourish.

"Well, I know that technically you haven't, uh...mated, but I just figured you guys were waiting until you turned 18-"

"Oh my God," Stiles slapped a hand over his face. How did this keep happening to him, seriously? He fixed Isaac with a very serious expression. "Let me make it very clear: me and Derek? Not big yes-yes. Big no-no. Very big no-no. Okay!"

Seeming genuinely surprised, Isaac stared back at him. "Are you sur-?"

"Oh my God, of course I'm sure! Trust me, Isaac," he contined intently, "I would know if I was dating...or mating...I cannot believe I just said that...with Derek. And it is not. Happening." He gestured emphatically.

When Isaac finally started nodding his agreement, he spoke awkwardly, glancing over towards Derek - who thankfully was still deep in conversation with Lydia and hadn't seemed to notice anything. "Sorry. I guess...well, Scott is definitely better at the scenting stuff. I obviously just got...confused. You read into things a lot differently as a werewolf. Uh," he hesitated, "could you not mention this to-?"

"Thought never crossed my mind," Stiles assured him. Because seriously, what kind of masochist did Isaac think he was?

*

"Isaac thought you and Derek were mates?"

"I know, right?" Stiles exclaimed, throwing himself down onto his bed.

There was a disturbing pause before Scott's voice came through the phone again. "Uh..."

Stiles' eyes snapped wide open. "I know that uh. That is not a good uh. What does that uh mean?"

Scott hesitated again. "Just that...I can...kindofseewhyhethoughtthat?"

Stiles sat straight up, throwing his legs off the side of the bed. "Tell me - with emphasis and in great detail - exactly what you mean."

"Well, it was Allison who brought it up originally..."

"Oh my God!" Allison, too?

"And then when I started really paying attention..."

"Oh my God..."

"And my scenting has been getting so much better..."

"Oh my God."

"And it didn't take much to figure out who the, uh, arousal," Scott was blushing, no doubt about it - but so was Stiles. "Who the arousal was for," he forced out, eventually.

This was pretty much the worst way this conversation could possibly have gone. Rather than Stiles getting his own chance to share the news, Scott had simply sniffed the gayness out of him. "This is probably a conversation we should've had in person."

"Stiles, I don't care. You have to know I don't care about that at all, right?"

Closing his eyes, Stiles nodded to himself. "Yeah." He cleared his throat, eager to move on. "I still say the 'mate' business is a leap, though. I mean, just because I think Derek isn't vomit-inducing to look at, doesn't mean-"

"Uh," Scott interrupted.

Oh, man. "With the uh again, seriously?" He shook his head. The sooner they got this over with, the better. Then he could go to bed and forget this entire conversation ever happened. "Okay, just get on with it. Tell me what I'm missing."

"Sorry, I-" Scott stop-started. "I thought I...although I guess I wasn't really-"

"Scott." Seriously, Stiles was dying here. A tortured man could only go through so much.

Scott finally put him out of his misery. "The, uh...arousal." Scott was plainly never going to be able to say that word without hesitating first. "It wasn't...just you. It's from...both of you." He paused. "To each other."

...Stiles was pretty sure the expression on his face was going to stay there for the next fifty years.

TBC

Chapter Text

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"What, that you and Derek had the hots for each other?" Scott asked, like it wasn't the weirdest rhetorical question he'd ever produced. "I figured that you knew and didn't want to do anything about it, or...that you were in the closet." How in the hell had Scott of all people become so savvy about this kind of thing without Stiles noticing? "Either way," Scott continued, "so not my business. I figured you'd bring it up when you were ready."

Stiles just kept sitting there, clinging onto the phone. There was so much about this call to process and he literally didn't know where to start. "I need some Tylenol," he muttered, bringing his free hand up to rub soothingly at his forehead.

"You want me to come over?" Scott offered and Stiles was almost tempted but when he glanced at the clock it was past 9 already.

"No. No," he insisted. "Thanks, man, but..." Stiles knew the truth of it. "I guess this is something I need to work out on my own, anyway. I do need to ask something, though." Something that been quietly festering at the back of his mind since Scott's confession. Something that he was pretty damn sure he already knew the answer to.

But he needed to.

"Sure."

There really wasn't a subtle way of asking, so... "Can Derek smell it on me, too?" he rushed on, before he lost his nerve.

Scott remained suspiciously silent for a disturbingly long time. Until finally... "Yeah."

Wonderful. "And he'll know that it's...aimed in his general direction?"

"...yeah. But it's not like it's one-sided, right?" Scott quickly assured him. "I mean, there's no reason to feel weird about him knowing you're attracted to him if he's attracted to you, too, right?"

"You'd think," Stiles muttered, newly anxious and suddenly jittery, like he was about to come out of his skin. "I gotta go, Scott. Thanks for...thanks." If Scott made any kind of response Stiles didn't hear it, because he ended the call the moment after he finished speaking, flopping back down onto the bed.

Derek was attracted to him. It was a surprise and yet...not hugely surprising. Stiles had been trying to convince himself for so long that the very idea was an impossibility, when really...hadn't he known all along? Stiles was the only one that Derek tossed around like a rag doll, and while to most regular people it'd probably just look like a really unhealthy relationship, it was the werewolf equivalent of pulling pigtails.

Had Derek just been flirting really badly with him this entire time?

The chance of flirting aside, the biggest dilemma was that Derek had known, for at least a while now, that they were attracted to each other. And hadn't done anything about it.

This lead Stiles' mind to a number of theories:

1. Derek fed off guilt like it was raw meat and was determined to flagellate himself, deny himself anything he wanted and live a lonely, brooding existence (this seemed most likely).
2. Derek thought Stiles was too young (also rated very highly).
3. Derek had relationship issues due to the way Kate had completely screwed him over and utterly destroyed his trust (okay, so there were a lot of totally valid and understandable reasons for Derek to avoid any kind of relationship with Stiles whatsoever).
4. Derek thought that, despite the attraction, it wasn't worth pursuing anything. Even if that anything was just sex.

Sex.

Sex.

Stiles could be having sex. With Derek.

He'd given the gay thing a lot of thought, of course, but that'd mostly be focused on the emotional aspects of it. What it meant about him as a person, his expectations on life and the way he viewed himself. There hadn't been quite so much thought about the actual gay sex - which hadn't really been an issue before, because it wasn't as if Stiles had been expecting to have any kind of sex at any time in the near future. But now that he knew that Derek was attracted to him his brain couldn't stay away from the idea.

Plus: teenage boy.

Stiles was a reasonably smart guy who was awesome with computers - he knew what guy-on-guy sex entailed. And the thought of doing any of that stuff with Derek was...not at all unpleasant. In fact, it was the complete, utter and absolute opposite of unpleasant.

Absolute Derek.

Derek thought he was hot; this kind of shit only happened in fairytales. Maybe he really was the princess that needed rescuing. If it meant he got to have sex with Derek, he'd totally deal with the aspersions to his character.

*

After a night that contained two hours of exhausted sleep, Stiles was doing a damn fine impression of sleep-walking along a corridor. Chemistry was just a few doors down when Lydia popped up next to him. She didn't even say hello, just launched into an immediate diatribe about the state of the organising committee for the next school dance and that how being attacked by a werewolf and forced to stay in the hospital for over a week wasn't a valid reason to let somebody else take charge.

"...especially someone with a vastly inferior understanding of spatial awareness," she shook her head knowingly, "I don't care what she says - there is no way she'll get that number of tables into the gym. The dancing area will be compromised and people will leave early. It's like she doesn't have a single brain cell."

Spying salvation from this very much one-sided conversation in the form of the door to Chemistry, Stiles grunted.

"What's with you, anyway?" she demanded, turning to confront him and making him pause his shuffle along the corridor in the process. "You're all...quiet. Amazing as this may seem, it's actually more irritating than the many, many times when you cannot shut up."

"Tired," he yawned, proving his point.

"Hmm." Lydia regarded him. "Busy night?"

"When do I ever have plans at night?" he asked. "Well, other than..." Stiles made werewolf fangs with fingers at either side of his mouth. "Business."

Lydia didn't seem impressed. In fact, she seemed focused on something else entirely. "You know, don't think I haven't noticed the bags under Derek's eyes lately-"

If he'd been nearer to the wall, he would've bashed his head against it. "Don't even start. Yeah, he's hot. No, nothing's going on."

She smiled for the first time since popping up next to him in the corridor. "But you're admitting it at last! This is progress. How does the closet look from the outside?"

He glared at her. "A lot more attractive than you do."

Folding her arms across her chest, Lydia smiled smugly. "I'd make a joke about wood right now, but it'd be beneath me."

"Speaking of Derek," Stiles began, because this conversation had got much too far away from him, far too quickly, "what's with you and him?"

Tilting her head to one side in confusion, Lydia frowned at him. "Me and Derek? There is no me and Derek. Sure, he looks good without a shirt on, but the only guy he has a hard-on for lately is...a guy, so I don't really see the point-"

Closing his eyes briefly, Stiles cut her off. "Last night. When Scott and Allison left. I was talking to Isaac? You and Derek were discussing something? Very, very intently?"

Confusion covered her features, until realisation set in. There was a split-second when she might have looked surprised, but it was gone so quickly Stiles might have imagined the entire thing. "Oh! I was just asking that, seeing as we're all so worried about what..." she lowered her voice "...Jackson might do, if anything was being done pro-actively to stop him from hurting anyone. Learning to defend ourselves is all well and good, but it doesn't stop Jackson attacking other people."

Leaning in, Stiles nodded his understanding. "And?"

"He said he'd been taking care of it personally."

Well, that told him exactly nothing. "And?"

"And, what?" Lydia shrugged. "He didn't give details. In case you hadn't noticed, he's even less communicative than Jackson is."

Now Stiles was just curious. As they finally made their way into class and their respective seats, he tried to figure out exactly what that meant...until the moment he realised Jackon had just walked straight up to Lydia. And was about to talk to her. Voluntarily.

Lydia looked as surprised as Stiles felt, though it didn't take long for her to start covering it.

Jackson's opener wasn't too bad. "I know we haven't spoken for a while."

Of course, Lydia knew exactly how to trample on his ego. "That would be because you dumped me. Remember that?" she asked smartly, gracing him with an unpleasant smile.

Scratching awkwardly at the side of his neck, Jackson made a face. "Yeah, I...of course. I just wanted to know...how you were doing. You know. After everything."

Disbelieving, Lydia shook her head and turned away from him. "Leave me alone. Right now."

Hesitating, Jackson stared down at her for a few moments. His hand moved slightly, and it almost looked like he was going to reach out to touch her arm. Ultimately he must've decided against it. Hand forming into a fist, Jackson turned and silently walked away.

Lydia kept her head down for a long time, but when she finally lifted it back up again Stiles caught her eye, nodding at her meaningfully. You okay?

Shrugging, she put her head back down.

Two seconds later Scott and Allison tumbled into the room, grinning widely at each other, skin flushed a suspicious red.

Gross.

Turning his back on his disgusting best friends, Stiles tried to figure out what the heck was going on with Jackson. Generally in a bad mood even before becoming a giant lizard, he'd been even worse - until the last few days, where his personality had been downright sunny in comparison. He actually seemed to be caring about people - or Lydia, at least. He was listening to advice from Danny. He asked Lydia how she doing, publically, like he didn't care that the entire class would be witness to the fact that he actually had human emotions.

What would make his mood swing so wildly? It was almost like with werewolves, where they were cranky as hell on the day of the full moon but-

"Oh," he said quietly to himself, even as his hand frantically dug into his pocket. "Oh, oh!" he exclaimed because dude, this might actually be true. And yeah, he was vaguely aware of everyone staring at him as he apparently had a mental breakdown, but he didn't care as he unlocked his phone and launched the app that showed the different phases of the moon (the ultimate app for a werewolf's best friend, definite five star rating). Scrolling back a couple of weeks, Stiles looked at the data, did a mental calculation - then whooped out loud.

"Mr Stilinski," and crap, Mr Harris had arrived. "You are well aware of the school's policy on having phones out in class. Detention. Tonight." He held his hand out expectantly.

Stiles should've just handed it over, should've done what he knew was the right thing, but he was so excited and geeking out and- "But, I just, I need to..." he gestured vaguely in Lydia, Scott and Allison's direction, like that would explain the whole hey, I have a workable theory on that killer lizard in town and need to tell my friends, thing.

"Oh, refusing to hand it over?" Harris asked snottily and dude, Stiles hadn't said that at all. "Maybe you need to spend the entire day in in-school suspension."

Groaning, Stiles smacked his head down on the desk.

*

By the time he was let out of detention (and had his phone back in his hot little hands), everyone else had long since gone. Guiltily shoving the detention slip into his bag, Stiles threw the bag into the back of the jeep and slammed the door shut, gunning the engine. He knew Derek had said only werewolves tonight, but it was still daylight - would be for a couple of hours, yet - and this was important.

He skirted the limit the entire way to Derek's, spending far too much time staring at the speedometer that he should've spent making sure he wasn't actually going to hit anybody. By the time he hit the forest traffic wasn't an issue, so he just concentrated on not turning the jeep over.

Braking harder than he should have on a surface made out of mud and leaves, Stiles was out of the car door almost before the jeep had completely stopped. "Der-ACK!" Because he was on the ground suddenly, Derek's entire weight on top of him, a freakishly strong hand clamped tight around Stiles' throat.

Personal space was apparently a foreign concept to Derek as he leant his face in even closer, nose brushing against Stiles'. "I said no. Humans." He wasn't wolfed-out, but his eyes were that vibrant red that was so disturbing.

Also hot.

Stiles opened his mouth to speak, but all that emerged was a high-pitched squeak.

Or possibly a squeal. It may have been a squeal.

"You're lucky I already have Isaac chained up. His first full moon." Releasing the grip, Derek instead brought his hand up to drag a finger down the side of Stiles' face. Was Derek...sniffing him? Were it not for the threat of physical violence, that would've created an instant boner, something Stiles hadn't previously known about himself. "No idea how well he'll cope," Derek drawled, sitting back, drawing the finger down along Stiles' chest.

Woah, there!

"It's important," Stiles gasped out.

Derek studied him silently, head tipping to one side. "Your heart's pounding," he murmured contemplatively, "but not much harder than usual."

This was the time to have that talk? Seriously? "Derek, I'm just going to remind you that it's the full moon, okay? And that as much as we argue with each other, and you randomly throw me into whatever's most convenient and most painful, you don't actually want to hurt me."

It took a few seconds, but his words seemed to sink in. Shaking his head, red fading from his eyes, Derek glanced down at himself like he was surprised at what he was doing. Mere moments later he was at least ten feet away, arching his neck to one side and keeping his back to Stiles.

Shakily getting to his feet, Stiles absently patted himself down, making sure everything was still there. Okay. Good to go. "I think it's the moon," he started, because the sooner he moved on from this trauma, the better. "I think it's controlling Jackson the way it controls you. Only...slightly different."

Despite the aggression clouding his mind Derek was clearly intrigued by the idea, turning quickly. "How?"

"I checked the date of the attack in the garage," Stiles told Derek, walking towards him, eager to share. "It was the new moon. And Jackson was up for Anti-Social Asshole of the Year. But there have been no attacks since, not even a hint of one. And the closer we've gotten to the full moon - the furthest point from the new moon - the more like a regular guy he's become. As in, the type of guy who would actually care if he hit a fluffy bunny with his really expensive car, rather than complaining about the damage to the bodywork. Maybe it's like you guys, you know?" he enthused. "Only instead of the full moon turning him into a psychopath, it's the new moon."

Derek took it all in, before regarding Stiles critically. "I've never heard of it happening before."

"I'd never heard of werewolves actually existing before," Stiles pointed out, "anything is possible. If the moon can affect werewolves, why not lizards? Maybe it's some...freak genetic mutation. Maybe there's something in his family's past. Either way, it's worth checking out. And as there's only been the one attack so far, and only on the new moon, maybe it's only new moon's we have to worry about. Maybe that's the one day he can't rein it in."

There. That was it. Stiles' not-bad-if-he-said-so-himself theory on what was happening with Jackson. It seemed pretty solid. Unless... "Unless there have been any other...incidents that you've been keeping to yourself. Lydia told me," he added, off Derek's confused expression, "about you 'taking care of things personally'?"

Understanding then, Derek shook his head. "No. I haven't seen anything. I haven't even seen him shift."

And Stiles' brain suddenly made another connection. Derek taking care of things personally. The bags under his eyes. Commenting on not seeing Jackson shift. Pointing a wagging finger at Derek, Stiles opened his mouth. "You're watching him! Every night!"

Derek looked at him like this wasn't even news. "I told you I had responsibilities."

"Yeah, and that was all! You couldn't have just said, 'gee, Stiles, I'm keeping an eye on Jackson every night to make sure he doesn't lizard-out and eat someone'? No, you had to be all cryptic and mysterious!"

"Does it really matter?" Derek snapped. "What's important is that we know he isn't hurting anyone."

"Yes, but your health is also important," Stiles argued. "Do you have any idea what sleep deprivation does to the body?"

"I'm sure you're about to tell me-"

"Fatigue," Stiles began listing, counting off points on his fingers, "clumsiness, weight loss - or gain. Not to mention-"

"You absolutely need to stay off the internet."

"-the effect it has on your cognitive functions. What if you have to go up against him when you're impaired?"

"I'm a werewolf," Derek insisted, "I don't need as much sleep as you do."

"How about any?" Stiles stomped up to Derek and prodded him in the chest. "Just how many hours are you getting a night? Hmm?"

Closing his eyes, nostrils flaring (was he sniffing again?), Derek slowly and carefully tilted his head from side to side. When he opened his eyes, they were red again.

Staring down at his own finger in surprise, Stiles folded it away. Realising just how close he was to Derek chest, he stumbled back.

Derek clenched both hands into fists. "I...appreciate your concern. And I appreciate the information you've brought me. Now go. Away. Before I do something we both regret."

Part of Stiles wanted to find out exactly what that something was.

The saner part finally made him spin around and make a break for the jeep.

TBC

Chapter Text

Stiles avoided Derek's place for the next three days.

The others called him on it, but he brushed them off with excuses about helping his dad out with something that none of them believed.

What did he really bring to their training sessions, anyway? Derek, Scott and Isaac were all werewolves, Allison was a kick-ass archer and Lydia was smarter than all of them put together.

Stiles was just the comic relief. Which wasn't a bad thing per se, but he certainly wasn't essential to the group. How was being funny going to stop Jackson? Crippling him with helpless laughter seemed unlikely, especially as Jackson had no sense of humour to speak of in the first place.

It didn't take Dad long to notice that something was wrong. As with most of these confrontations, Stiles was cornered over breakfast.

"So," Dad placed his coffee mug on the counter.

Recognising that tone of voice, Stiles tried to find his reflection in his bowl of cereal.

The Froot Loops were not forthcoming.

"Argument with Scott? You two are always joined at the hip, but you've been suspiciously alone these past few days." Stiles wasn't entirely sure how Dad knew this - he and Dad usually only saw each other in the mornings, with occasional glimpses at night. But then he was sheriff of all of Beacon Hills. He probably had spies everywhere.

"Sure," Stiles admittedly quietly, because it was easier than discussing what was really going on. Hey, Dad? You know that mysterious older guy that I have the hots for? Well, it turns out he has the hots for me, too, and a couple of nights ago he totally freaked me out.

Did I mention he's a werewolf?

No. Better to stick to the Scott defense.

"You know what Scott's like. Always thinking about Allison to the exclusion of everything else."

Dad nodded thoughtfully, wrapping a large hand around his coffee mug. "One of the things I appreciate most about having you for a son," he took a purposeful sip of coffee before placing it back on the counter, "is that you couldn't lie if your life depended on it." Shoulders slumping, Stiles closed his eyes.

Dad didn't leave it there. "You really didn't think I'd notice the sudden lack of a messages about going to Derek's place?"

"No, but a man can hope," Stiles sighed. He should've know better than to try and sneak anything past his dad.

"Did something...happen?" Dad's voice was an interesting mix between 'I'll listen to anything you want to tell me even if it makes me uncomfortable' and 'if he did anything you didn't want, I'm legally allowed to carry a gun at all times'.

The disturbing thing was that the problem may have been the second one.

Maybe.

Kind of.

Stiles had thought he'd dealt with the whole 'liking guys that way means touching guys that way' thing - the idea of doing any kind of sex-type-thing had certainly been pleasant enough. But when Derek had been all up-close and personal a few days ago...

The reality was different. For all that Derek was a hot guy, he was also a hot werewolf guy. Stiles had had just a glimpse the other day, but the idea of Derek being anything like that when they got...close...

Stiles had always found Derek's aggression towards him hot, even if he hadn't been able or willing to admit it to himself at the time. Pushing him against doors, trees or anything within reach; grabbing him and yanking him where he wanted him to go...it'd always sent Stiles' pulse racing, and not just because of the adrenaline. But the other night had been the most overtly sexual moment between them so far. They'd barely touched (other than Derek, you know, sitting on him) but when Derek's face had been close to his, his finger running down Stiles' face, chest, and he could see it, could see how hard Derek was holding himself back in a way that a regular guy would never have to...

It needed some adjusting to. Stiles couldn't help but wonder how Allison dealt with this side of Scott, and then immediately wished that he hadn't. Gross.

In any case, as satisying as it would be when he was so frigging conflicted, he didn't actually want Dad to shoot Derek.

Tasering him, on the other hand? Totally acceptable.

"There's just some stuff I need to work out," he said, deliberately cryptic.

"Taking some personal time to think over an issue is usually the best course of action," Dad said agreeably, before moving on with a change of tone, "on the other hand, some of the best things in my life never would've happened if I hadn't just gone with my instincts."

"Like?"

"Meeting your mother for one," Dad replied, gaze settling off into the distance. "She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen - inside and out. And Christ, she had a mouth on her." Smiling as he spoke, Dad lowered his head briefly. "Never once hesitating in sharing her many, many opinions on a variety of subjects. I'd just stare at her all day, with what I expect was a stupid grin on my face. And she'd let me. And then one day she was in the middle of a rant about the new parking lot charges and I didn't even think, I just...asked her on a date."

Making a fond smile himself, Stiles spoke quietly. "And then she said thank God, because she'd been waiting for you to do that for three months."

"She was old-fashioned about the strangest things," Dad agreed, finally meeting Stiles' gaze.

Stiles had heard the story at least a dozen times before.

This was the first time since Mom had died.

And it made him braver, somehow. "I'm dealing, uh." He stopped, scratching at the side of his neck. "With what it would mean. You know, being with...being with a guy." It wasn't 100% the truth, but as near to it as he could get without having a much stranger conversation. And this conversation was already pretty damn strange.

Dad looked as awkward as Stiles felt, squinting strangely. "Being with as in...?"

"Being with," Stiles emphasised, because seriously, how was that not obvious?

"I see," Dad straightened up, glancing around the entire kitchen before focusing back on Stiles. "Does that mean you think...it's a possibility?" He looked like he really didn't want the details.

"Yeah," Stiles nodded, addressing his, by now, extremely soggy cereal. "Definitely a possibility."

And that was how he came out to his dad.

It was...pretty much the whole big admission. He definitely liked guys, or at least one guy who was more than a few years older than he was. That same guy liked him back. He was thinking about the possibility of eventually - far, far into the future - having sex with that guy (assuming they could both get over their huge amounts of issues and messed-up pasts).

"You know what I think?" Dad asked eventually.

"What?" Stiles clanked his spoon against the side of the bowl, watching the milk sway from side to side.

"Your mom would be so damn proud of you. I know I am."

It felt like a moment frozen in time, neither one of them exactly sure what to do next. Stiles was pretty sure a hug was in their near future, but just as he finally lifted his head and let his spoon clang down in the bowl, the doorbell rang.

Cursing - something he tried not to do in front of Stiles - Dad immediately started walking towards the front of the house. "I'll be right back."

"S'okay," Stiles quietly assured him, quickly wiping a shaking hand across his face. He was shaky but awesome at the same time, and he sat there quietly grinning to himself until he recognised the voice coming from the front of the house. Frowning, Stiles pushed his stool back from the counter, padding across the floor on sock-clad feet until he could peer into the hallway.

Yup. Definitely Mr Argent.

Mr Argent, looking all friendly with Dad (when the hell did that happen?), clapping him on the shoulder and smiling openly with those scary, scary teeth.

Dad, being awesome, was busy making excuses. "Really sorry, Chris, but we're in the middle of-"

"It's okay, Dad," Stiles interrupted, unfortunately turning their attention on him, but he couldn't not know. "I'm sure it's important. I'll go put my sneakers on."

Of course, the moment he was out of sight, Stiles pressed himself up against the wall, listening in.

"I know it's a little unorthodox coming to your home," Mr Argent began, "and I probably shouldn't be wasting your personal time, but I just...I can't help but worry."

"About what?" Dad asked, concerned.

"All the strange things that've happened in Beacon Hills over the last year - that awful attack at the garage a few weeks ago. Do we know anything else?"

"The investigation is still on-going," Dad replied, giving nothing away. Stiles did a mental fist-pump.

"Of course," Mr Argent replied magnanimously, and ugh, Stiles wanted to hit him right in his creepy face. "With the way things have been lately, I can barely let Allison out of the house. You know teenagers at the best of times - always hanging around with people you're convinced are a bad influence." And that was a dig at Scott. Or Derek. Or Stiles. In fact, pretty much any of them.

"Allison seems to have a pretty good head on her shoulders," Dad argued.

"She's a smart girl," Mr Argent agreed, "but you know teenagers, always thinking they're right and we're too old to know anything. They forget we were ever their age."

"That I can definitely agree with," and hey, was Dad making fun of him?

"Glad to hear it," Mr Argent said warmly. "Some of the other parents and I have been talking about setting up some kind of Neighbourhood Watch service - we even have someone who can train us to look for signs of...wild animals. That's been our main issue, after all."

Oh. No. He. Did. Not.

That ass was threatening Scott and Derek through Stiles. He had to know that Stiles would be listening to every single word, eager to relay it back to the others.

Meanwhile, Dad didn't have a clue.

Annoyingly, Mr Argent just kept talking. "It's at times like these that people need to help each other. Work together." And Stiles wasn't an idiot, okay? He didn't need to be hit in the face with it.

Most of the time.

As Dad made very gracious comments but reminded Mr Argent that it would take a lot more work that he probably expected, Stiles angrily found his sneakers and shoved his feet into them. If he didn't leave now, he was bound to end up saying something he'd probably regret. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he kept his head down and headed for the front door. "School," was all he muttered darkly, picking his way around them just as they were shaking hands.

"Oh, perfect timing," Mr Argent said pleasantly. "I'm headed that way myself. I'll give you a ride."

Stiles froze, door half-open. "Thanks," he said through gritted teeth, "but I have my own car." The door slammed behind him.

He was still in a foul mood by the time he got to school, not helped by the fact that mere moments after he arrived, he was confronted by The Three Stooges.

"That's it," Lydia told him outside the front of the school, "we're staging an intervention."

Stiles shook his head. "I'm so not in the mood for this."

"Well, get in the mood," she instructed, hands on her hips. "You're not talking about what the hell happened, Derek's not talking about what the hell happened..."

"Something's got to give," Allison agreed.

"Every day I try to talk to you," Scott chimed in, "and every day you shut me down."

"Maybe because it's none of your business?" He turned away, heading for the main school building. They were right behind him.

"It's...weird you not being there every night, okay?" Scott told him. "Part of the team is missing."

"You're kind of indispensable." Allison encouraged. "Derek did tell us about your Jackson theory. The new moon? Who else would've thought of that?"

"Lydia would've got there eventually," he muttered, taking the steps up to the school.

"Derek thought your theory was brilliant," Scott said.

"Now I know you're lying to me," Stiles yanked the door open, knowing it was a lie for many reasons, not least because Scott never used the word 'brilliant'.

"Well, his actual response was to grunt and admit it 'wasn't bad'," Lydia admitted, "but you know Derek. That's practically a ringing endorsement."

"Stiles," Scott added, "whatever Derek did, I'm sure we can fix it."

Having reached his limit, Stiles swung round and held his arms up. "Just back off! Okay?" All three of them stood frozen before him, faces stuck in various states of surprise. "Stop questioning me and pressuring me and talking about Derek, period! Okay?" Mostly because Stiles was starting to feel guilty when Derek really hadn't done anything wrong, and it was just Stiles needing time to work through his own shit.

This time when he walked off, they didn't follow.

*

When he got home that evening, Dad was suspiciously present. Stiles eyed his back as Dad prepared dinner in the kitchen, wondering if there was a way to phrase 'Did you arrange to be home tonight just because I told you I liked guys this morning?' without having it sound anything like that whatsoever.

Deciding not to face it, Stiles retreated to his bedroom and hooked his shiny new headphones up to the computer. A few minutes later, he was relaxing back on the computer chair, legs up on the far corner of the desk, staring at the phone he'd left next to the keyboard. Indecisively picking it up, putting it back down, picking it up, putting it back down, Stiles eventually growled at himself and started composing a new message. There was no way he could risk putting anyone else in potential danger just because he was too chickenshit.

mr argent came 2 house 2day. creepy and scary as always. made it v clear he wants 2 work 2gther with u on lizard thing or will make trouble. stay alert.

There. Message sent and feeling better about doing the right thing, Stiles deliberately let the tension go from his shoulders, placing his phone back on the desk. Closing his eyes, he lost himself in the music.

A few minutes later, he was happily air drumming with his fingers, when he caught movement from the corner of his eye. Turning his head, he saw Dad standing in the doorway to his room, giving him a knowing look. Chagrined, Stiles tugged the headphones out of his ears.

"Headphones," Dad muttered, "should've known."

"Known what?" Stiles asked, casting the headphones to one side.

"You missed the doorbell," he paused, then, before continuing ominously, "you have a visitor."

Licking his lips, Stiles knew exactly who it was. His left leg jerked, like it had a mind of his own and suddenly the chair was flipping to one side and he was face down on the carpet and there were bruises.

Dad hadn't even moved to help him, no doubt used to his son being a huge klutz.

Rolling over onto his back, Stiles worried his bottom lip. Did he want to see him? Did he not want to see him? Why the hell had he come here? "Oh."

"You want me to tell him to go?"

And honestly: best dad ever.

But...it might be important. Stiles had just sent that text, and minutes later... "No. I'll speak to him." Manfully straightening himself and standing up, he ran a hand down the front of his shirt. Stupidly nervous, he forced himself to leave the room as Dad stepped aside, and took the stairs slowly and carefully, not trusting his feet. Derek's outline could be seen through the opaque window on the front door. Forcing himself not to hesitate, Stiles grasped the door handle firmly, tugging the door open and stepping straight out onto the porch. The door clicked shut behind him.

Derek was...Derek. Stupidly gorgeous in the brightness cast by the porch light, with no idea how to have an actual conversation.

"Did he threaten you?"

Stiles blinked, surprised. The text message. Right. "No."

Nodding like this was a good thing, Derek spoke again. "What did he say?"

Folding his arms in front of him, Stiles conveyed everything he could remember about Chris Argent's visit that morning. Derek listened silently, nodding tightly whenever he deemed it appropriate.

"...and then I walked out of the house," he finished a few minutes later.

"And you definitely got the impression he wanted us to work with him?"

"I'm telling you, he was giving off huge 'do my bidding' vibes, like he'd make life really difficult for you if you didn't. So," he shrugged, curious despite himself, "what're you gonna do?"

"Power in numbers could be a good thing," Derek said, "but given who his family is, I don't know if I can justify..." He trailed off, looking to one side. Shaking his head as if to clear it, he focused back on Stiles. "Does it even matter to you?"

That was absurd. "What are you talking about?"

"It's not like you come to the house anymore. You're the one who's apparently decided he's not part of the pack."

That was just...waaaaaaait a minute. "Pack?"

Derek creased his forehead. "What?"

"You said pack. Not part of the pack."

Derek just stared at him. "I said group," he insisted.

"Nuh uh," Stiles disagreed, feeling his mouth start to twitch, "I know what I heard."

"Of the two of us, who has the better hearing?"

"It's nothing to do with hearing. You're the one who had a little Freudian Slip-up, not me."

"You are...I..." Exasperated, Derek spun away, jogging down the few steps from the porch. He made it most of the way down the path before pausing. Muttering something, he turned back to face Stiles. "Thank you for the information," he enunciated tightly.

Smiling for real now, Stiles waved him off. "You travel safe now, you hear?"

Muttering again, Derek made it as far as the gate this time before turning back with a growl, stomping all the way back to the house. Stiles watched him approach, doing a bad job of hiding his amusement. He loved seeing Derek get worked up like this.

Stopping just in front of him, Derek reached into an inside jacket pocket. When his hand came back out, a pair of headphones came with it.

A pair of headphones. Stiles' headphones. Stiles' missing headphones.

"Found these at the house," Derek said tersely, shoving them into Stiles' hand that had somehow held itself out of its own volition. "Probably fell out of your bag or-"

Staring down at the headphones in disbelief, Stiles shook his head. "You're lying," he interrupted with certainty, fingers slowly closing around the headphones. Raising his head, he looked Derek in the eye. "You're lying to me."

For once, Derek's normally unscrutable face looked pretty damn scrutable. "I don't know-"

"I know," Stiles told him, shoving the headphones into the pocket of his jeans, "exactly when these went missing - the day I bumped into you at the grocery store. Literally bumped into you. I thought I'd just dropped them, but you took them. Why?"

Derek looked very much like he was strongly in favour of getting the heck out of there, but eventually elected on the truth. "Because you're an idiot."

Well, he did ask for it. Derek really knew how to woo a guy.

"You're the kind of idiot who listens to music as he's doing the grocery shopping, inconsiderate of other shoppers and unable to hear when someone's right next to him," he explained, obviously annoyed but looking strangely vulnerable and concerned at the same time. "The same kind of idiot who'd no doubt still have them in when he's outside in a dark parking lot, despite knowing better than most exactly what kind of people could be lurking out-"

Something in Stiles' brain clicked into place. Why had he ever been worried, even for one second, about Derek hurting him in the first place? "You're right," he agreed, hand reaching out to grab the front of Derek's jacket, tugging him closer, eyes dropping to focus on Derek's mouth, "I am an idiot."

And then he kissed him.

TBC

Chapter Text

It didn't last long - a matter of seconds. Derek didn't even kiss him back.

Stiles wasn't worried.

Derek was no doubt as emotionally constipated about kissing as he was about everything else. And the point of the kiss hadn't actually been to get Derek to kiss him back (although Stiles would absolutely not be complaining if that was the case), it was to show Derek that he knew and he was ready and more than willing to see if this could go anywhere. Actions speaking louder than words and all that jazz.

Of course, Stiles still had plenty of words to give.

"This'll sound dumb now," he began, watching Derek who was...well, his expression was as close to stunned as Stiles had ever seen it. He mentally filed the image away for those times when Derek was being particularly growly or annoying. "But I thought you were going to hurt me. Not deliberately," he quickly added, "but I thought you might, and...it really was dumb because all you've ever done is try to protect me. Not to mention, you were born a werewolf - you've been this way your entire life. And if Scott can control it with Allison, after being a werewolf for barely six months, then you sure as hell can. Which is not to say you won't screw up because, let's face it, we both will. I talk way too much - case in point right here, actually - and you don't talk enough. Uh, ditto," he added with a nervous, excited grin. "We'll probably screw this up horribly. But...we might not. And I think we'd be pretty awesome." He was getting more nervous as he went on, because Derek still wasn't saying anything at all and by now his face had slipped back into its usual impassitivity. Stiles over-compensated by babbling even more. "And, you know, the beautiful thing about a mix of our personalities is that when you want to say something but can't due to your huge variety of emotional issues..." and yeah, that wasn't insulting at all. Well done, Stiles. "I can talk - at length, quite obviously - about what I think you want to say, and you can give some kind of signal to let me know if I'm right or not. A single word," he suggested, "a tilt of your head. Sign language. A wolf signal. Which is like the bat signal, only with a wolf's hea-"

Finally, finally moving (thank God), Derek stepped forward, pressing a hand against Stiles' chest, pushing him back against the door. Skin breaking out into goosebumps, Stiles tilted his head back to keep his eyes on Derek's. The mask Derek usually wore was gone again, his face an unexpected mass of conflicting emotions.

The babbling stopped, Stiles' mind calming immediately. He knew exactly what to say. "I know what I'm letting myself in for," he said quietly, definitively, holding Derek's gaze with ease. "I know you."

Lowering his own gaze, Derek looked down at where his hand was still pressed against Stiles' chest. His eyebrows flickered and his eyes narrowed, like he was surprised it was there at all, but he didn't pull it away. His eyes were still fixed on his hand when he finally responded verbally. "The only other person who ever knew me..." he began, and was that tone of voice mocking him? This was Derek, so probably. "The only other person who ever knew me - or claimed to - destroyed my entire life."

And yes, that was absolutely a fair point. "But it's not like with her, is it?" Stiles prompted, because somehow he knew this was true, too. "Ultimately, you didn't know her at all because she lied about everything she was. But you know me. Mostly because I fling my emotions and opinions at anyone who happens to be passing by, true, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid point. I'm always being told that I couldn't lie if my life depended on it - what you see is what you get, I'm an open book and any other cliches that you deem appropriate. Isn't it time that you..?" he hesitated. "You wanted to start living again, right? I mean, redecorating the house. Letting all us young un's hang around, training us, having actual human interaction again. That didn't come from nowhere."

Finally (disappointingly) removing his hand, Derek shrugged awkwardly. It was actually kind of adorable. "I've been," he glanced off to one side, "trying..."

It was extremely hard not smile at his reaction. Somehow, Stiles held the grin back. "Do or do not," he instructed, "there is no try."

Derek immediately turned his head back to look at Stiles. "Are you actually quoting Star Wars at me?"

Now the grin did come out. "Are you actually telling me you've seen Star Wars?"

"What?" Derek asked him, definitely mocking now. "You thought I spent my entire childhood living in the woods? We lived in a house. With a television. We were wolves, but we were human, too. Some of us weren't wolves at all."

Stiles remembered Chris Argent saying that at some point. "It doesn't pass down to everyone?" Was it like eye colour? Dominant or recessive genes? Stiles wondered if there were any werewolves working in some kind of scientific field that'd tried researching the reasons behind it.

"Most, but not everyone," Derek explained.

Stiles nodded absently. "I bet that made for some awkward family times during the full moon."

A vague smile turned Derek's mouth up. "Mom always said-"

And just like that, he stopped. For all he'd managed to open up in these past few moments, the mention of his mother was clearly a step too far. Turning to one side, Derek kept his head angled away from Stiles. "I should go."

Oh, hell, no. They were not doing that one-step-forward-two-steps-back thing. Blindly reaching out towards him, Stiles gripped onto the sleeve of Derek's jacket, tugging him back around. Forcing down his nerves, he made himself once again hold Derek's gaze. "I think we have some unfinished business," he said bravely.

Derek obviously knew what he meant, immediately staring at Stiles' mouth. "I'm not going to kiss you just because you asked for it."

"Sure you are," Stiles argued, absolutely certain. "You're going to kiss me because I'm asking you to. Because I want to kiss you. Because you want to kiss me. And because I'll keep talking until you do - something you know that I'm more than capable of, so really, for the sake of your sanity you should probably-"

"Just stop. Talking," Derek hissed, right in Stiles' face and than his hands were on Stiles' shoulders and his mouth was on Stiles' mouth and-

Life was good.

Stiles didn't have a whole lot of experience when it came to kissing. He didn't have a whole lot of experience, period.

Even if he had, he was pretty sure that no amount of experience with someone his age - girl or boy - would've quite prepared him for the reality of kissing Derek. He'd thought about it, imagined it, plenty of times lately, but it was - not surprisingly - a lot more visceral that he expected. Derek was all heat and firm edges, stubble scraping across Stiles' face (he hadn't thought about the stubble. Why hadn't he thought about the stubble?). The kiss itself was good, if a little awkward - probably down to Stiles' inexperience - and maybe all first kisses were awkward. After a while, though, Stiles was beginning to learn how this worked, what he should be doing with his mouth and then there was tongue and Stiles stopped thinking, couldn't think, just slid his arms up around Derek's neck and enjoyed.

A low growl rumbled through Derek's chest and Stiles shivered in response, the kiss turning hotter, wetter, dirtier. He had a door pressed into his back and Derek pressed against his front and being penned in like that just made everything hotter. Derek's hand slid its way beneath his shirt and for some reason that alone - Derek's hand sliding across the bare skin on Stiles' side - took everything up another notch. Gasping between kisses, Stiles clung on and he'd definitely never felt anything like that before, the sudden jolt of desire so strong that he suddenly understood why people got arrested for public indecency. Sometimes, you just couldn't help yourself.

He felt like the kiss was spinning out of control, in a good way, terrifying and exhilirating at the same time. And he was shaking, shaking, only he realised it wasn't him, it was Derek, a shaky hand grabbing a fistful of Stiles' shirt and just yanking and-

Derek was gone.

Stiles wanted to yell out a whole dictionary's worth of complaints.

No fair!

But...

Come back here!

What are you doing?

Panting, blinking at the empty space suddenly in front of him, Stiles tried to catch his breath as he let the arms that should've still been touching Derek fall to his sides. Derek himself was at the far end of the porch, turned away, partially hunched over, back moving as he tried to catch his own breath. Frowning, Stiles carefully walked over to him, a hand reaching out to touch Derek's back. "Are you-?"

"Don't," Derek ordered, and when he turned his head Stiles caught a glimpse of his face. The wolf had come out.

Suspicions confirmed and knowing that he needed to prove to himself - and Derek - that he'd gotten over this, Stiles urged Derek to turn around. "Come on."

"Stiles..."

"It's okay, hot stuff," Stiles assured him, convincing him to turn slowly, "I'm not gonna make you all hot and bothered. Much as I'd like to." When Derek was finally facing him, Stiles calmly took in his features. Everything was there - the red eyes, the teeth, the forehead. Even the extra hair at the sides of the face (for some reason, that was the part Stiles always found strangest about the whole 'werewolf face' thing. Why, of all things, extra hair?). Reaching out a hand, he forced it to stay steady as he gently pressed three fingers to the raised forehead. Derek looked concerned, but didn't stop him, instead trying to follow what Stiles was doing with his eyes (which ended up making him look totally hilarious - a cross-eyed werewolf - but now was not the time to mention it).

Studying the distorted features curiously, Stiles let his fingers travel down the length of Derek's face, down over his nose and as he watched, the distortions vanished before his very eyes and underneath his fingers. It was amazing to watch, and he spoke quietly as he pulled his hand away. "Does it hurt?"

Staring at him in...surprise? Confusion? Either way, Derek shook his head. "You get used to it."

They stood there in silence for a while, neither one of them apparently sure what to say. Naturally, Stiles broke the silence. "So, uh. That was one hell of a kiss." One that would be fuelling his jerk-off fantasies for a very long time.

"Yeah," Derek agreed quietly, and, in Stiles' honest opinion, he didn't look particularly thrilled about it. He could've been offended, but figured it was most likely that Derek would find life a lot simpler not getting involved with the crazy Stilinski kid, but their chemistry was so damn good he couldn't help himself.

Yup. Totally how Stiles was choosing to see it.

Clearing his throat, Derek spoke again. "You're going to stop avoiding me." It wasn't a question.

"Yes," Stiles replied happily.

"You're coming to training tomorrow."

"Yes," Stiles replied happily.

"And you're going to keep your mouth shut."

"Not for a second," Stiles replied just as happily, laughing at Derek's outraged expression. "Oh, come on. There's no point! At least for the rest of the group. I mean, I won't just go blurting this all out, but they know me. They'll know something's up within seconds of seeing me. Plus," he reminded, pointing at himself, "can't lie worth a crap."

Sighing, Derek pinched the bridge of his nose. "That is true."

"Exactly," Stiles agreed, "we'll deal with any issues that may come up as they...come up." He gestured vaguely. "It's not like it's gonna do the rest of the group any harm to know that their Alpha has actual feelings."

Letting his hand drop, Derek shrugged. "Usually just the opposite," he said quietly, almost to himself.

"What is?"

Blinking, Derek shook his head at himself. "Wolves in general, but especially Alphas, are viewed as being stronger, more worthy if they have a..." he paused as if realising what he was saying, then continued lamely with, "...a Stiles."

Stiles grinned at him. "You are totally avoiding saying something. Don't even try to deny it," he said when Derek went to open his mouth. "You are the only werewolf lucky enough to have a Stiles, so they couldn't all have had one."

Staring heaven-ward as if to say, Dear God, please save me from annoying Stiles's, Derek made a face. "Mate, okay?" he spat out. "If they have a mate."

Dude, awesome. "Is that what I am?" he asked excitedly. "Am I your mate?" He wasn't quite sure why this was so awesome, but it totally, totally was.

"Well," Derek continued angrily, "a mate is someone who supports you, cares for you, and challenges you to better yourself. What do you think?" Clearly finding all this mushy stuff far too much, Derek didn't even push past Stiles, instead leaping over the fencing around the porch, landing on the lawn and quietly stalking away.

Stiles stared at him, smile fixed in place. Rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, he murmured quietly, "I think I have a tick in all three boxes."

Stiles had no memory of going back into the house, talking to dad, or going upstairs - though they all must have happened, because when he emerged from his kiss-memory-related delirium, thirty minutes had passed and he was laying on his bed, hands behind his head, grinning up at the ceiling.

Dad was standing over him.

He grinned. "Hi, Dad!"

Looking embarrassed that Stiles was so happy (although that probably had more to do with the reasons behind the happiness, rather than the happiness itself), Dad was nonetheless determined to fulfill his fatherly duties. "So, really? You're still going with the 'we only talked' story?"

It's possible Stiles had muttered that as he climbed up the stairs. There was really no way of knowing. "Um...yes?" he asked hopefully.

"Uh huh," Dad said, clearly disbelieving. "Dinner'll be ready in five. And, oh," he said in a way that was not casual at all, "you've got a nasty case of stubble rash coming up already," he gestured to Stiles' face, making Stiles tug his arms out from behind his head and slap both hands onto either side of his face. "Might want to get some cream on that. Oh, and at some point? We're going to have to talk about the fact that he's six years older than you." With a particularly evil smirk, Dad walked smugly out of the room.

Crap.

There was nothing he could do about the age thing at the moment so instead he stumbled off the bed, bolted for the bathroom, flicked on the light and stationed himself in front of the mirror. There was definitely some redness, although it was nowhere near as bad as Dad had implied - luckily, Stiles had seen Derek with a lot more stubble than what he'd been wearing today. It was, however, totally obvious he'd been macking on another guy. And kind of sore, now that he thought about it.

What the hell did you even put on stubble rash, anyway?

Deciding to ask Google for help, he returned to his room and when he approached the computer he realised a chat message had popped up. From the time stamp it'd only been there a few minutes.

ScottyScott: what did u do 2 derek???

Frowning, Stiles sat and typed a reponse.

StilesTheAwesome: ???

It didn't take long to get a reply.

ScottyScott: he got a message and ran off
when he came back he was all happy
totally freaked us out so we left
that may have had more to do with the fact that his hair was a mess like
SOMEONE HAD BEEN RUNNING THEIR HANDS THROUGH IT

Chuckling at Scott's Caps Lock of indignance, Stiles responded.

StilesTheAwesome: welcome to my world.
by the way? get used to it

ScottyScott: ...
really?
congrats i guess
took long enough
lydia will want all the details

StilesTheAwesome: lydia's getting exactly squat
i, meanwhile, get to squat on derek

ScottyScott: OMG YOU DID NOT JUST GO THERE
I HATE YOU
HATE YOU
HATE YOU
YOU'RE DISGUSTING

ScottyScott has logged off

Laughing to himself, Stiles stood up when he heard Dad calling up that dinner was ready. For now, he had to get through what was bound to be an awkward meal with Dad, and then he'd research treatments for stubble rash, and then he'd attempt his homework, and then he'd see if he was going to be able to get any sleep at all.

But right now, life was really, really good.

Later that night, as he was trying to sleep but not really getting anywhere, his phone beeped on the bedside table. Reaching for it, he opened the message.

And smiled.

P.S. i still h8 u. but i'm happy 4 u.

TBC

Chapter Text

The next day at school was a lot brighter, and it had nothing to do with the weather.

Humming to himself as he hopped out of the jeep, Stiles locked Betty up and strolled along the sidewalk. Spotting Scott, Allison and Lydia at the top of the steps, he smiled and waved. "Hi, guys!" Scott and Allison smiled in response, waving back, although Scott was looking at him a little strangely. Lydia rolled her eyes.

Turning up the sidewalk, he took the steps two at a time, helping himself along by bracing his weight against the railing.

"Someone's happy," Allison remarked with a pleased grin.

"Happy?" he asked rhetorically, because he knew it was obvious and he absolutely didn't care. "I am awesome, thank you very much."

"It's sickening," Lydia told him, "but it's better than you moping around everywhere like a kicked puppy."

"Shouldn't that be wolf-cub?" he asked, leading the way into school.

"Ugh, the jokes are back," Lydia remarked. "He must be feeling better."

"I didn't think there was any doubt about that," Allison replied, addressing Stiles as they walked along. "We're really happy for you, you know. All of us."

"Definitely," Scott chimed in, placing a hand on Stiles' shoulder, "and I'll continue being really happy for you just as long as you never do what you did to me last night ever again. Like, ever," he emphasised.

"Sounds fair," Stiles said companionably. "Just remember, the next time you and Allison deem it appropriate to make out in front of me...I'm ready and willing to take revenge."

Scott's face was a potent mix of terror and disgust. "Noted."

Once they were seated in Home Room, it didn't take long for Lydia to lean in close. "So..."

He immediately knew where this was going, digging through his bag to find out where his pen had gone. "No way."

"Not even a little?"

"Not even a second of it," he swore, because as much as he liked to talk and usually over-shared, this was something between him and Derek. Something that was just theirs.

"Come on, I have to live vicariously through someone," she cajoled. "God knows I don't want to live through those two," she hooked a thumb over her shoulder to where Allison and Scott were sitting, grinning stupidly at each other, Scott facing the back of the room so they could hold hands under the desk. "They probably compose love sonnets the entire time they're doing it."

Despite himself, Stiles snorted out a laugh. "Sorry. It'll have to live on in your imagination."

"Well, it's not like that's a hardship," she shrugged and...dude, did that mean she'd been thinking about what he and Derek would be like together? Or did that mean she had an awesome imagination and could picture anything at all?

"Details are useful, though," she continued, as Stiles finally located his favourite pen and brought his head all the way back up, "especially...are you wearing make-up?" And yes, she'd definitely said that much too loud, as everyone seated around them were now staring at Stiles.

For once, Stiles wasn't even embarrassed, because the reason he was wearing make-up at all was due to the fact that, last night, he'd made out with Derek Hale. Even the odd look he'd gotten from Mr Wickersham when he'd made that brief stop at the drug store this morning hadn't bothered him.

"His stubble's like a wire brush," he admitted quietly, because although it was awesome, he wasn't quite ready for the entire school body to know about his newly-realised gayness. "Didn't look too bad last night, but when I got up this morning, it'd really flared up." And it wasn't like he had anyone at home who could help him with this kind of thing.

Lydia didn't judge, which made a nice change. Instead she started rummaging through her bag. "Liquid foundation?" she asked, head still bowed.

"Uh, yeah."

"And knowing guys, you bought the cheapest one possible." He couldn't deny the truth, figuring one kind of liquid foundation had to be as good as any other. Lydia didn't even wait for the inevitable agreement; just kept talking. "One, always tell your guy to shave before you hook up. Two, if you have a surprise hook up, you can always turn to your gal-pals for help." Producing a tube of something that was obviously make-up, she passed it over to him discreetly. "This is the good shit. When we get out of here, we'll cover it properly. And you should pick up some aloe vera. You probably just have sensitive skin."

"Google told me the same thing," he murmured, examining the tube.

"Considering your inexperience with make-up," Lydia eyed him critically, suddenly grabbing his chin with one hand, tilting it from side to side, "you've done a pretty good job. By the time I'm finished with you," she slapped her fingers against the side of his face, "no one will be able to tell."

*

"Are you wearing make-up?" Isaac asked the moment he saw him.

Stopping mid-stride, Stiles tipped his head back in resignation, quickly following it up with a glare in Lydia's general direction. She shrugged innocently.

That explained the odd looks Scott had been giving him all morning. It was probably a werewolf thing, as no one else had seemed to notice.

"You're late," Stiles responded instead, walking up to the desk and dumping his bag on top of it.

Isaac nodded. "Had a meeting with the Principal. And my dad."

That kind of news never sounded good. "...everything okay?"

"Actually, yeah. My school work has improved so much in the last couple of weeks that they wanted to discuss the possibility of putting my name forward for the Gifted and Talented Program. Of course, that's dependent on me keeping up this level of work."

Huh. So, maybe this werewolf thing affected different people in different ways. Scott had initially crashed and burned academically. Isaac was flying high, instead. He guessed it made a kind of sense - different people reacted to the same situation differently. Stiles would've been thrilled at the news. Isaac sounded...less than thrilled. "That's a good thing, right?"

"Sure," Isaac said bitterly, throwing himself down into a chair. "I'm the son my father always wanted. He couldn't have been more supportive, encouraging or proud." There was clearly something that Stiles was missing. Fortunately, Isaac made it clear to him just a few moments later. "He knows about me," he said quietly, and Stiles opened his mouth in surprise, "what I am. And suddenly he does anything I want - because he's scared of me. I thought it would fix things, you know? Stop him from...well," he said mirthlessly, "it did stop. But him being scared of me doesn't feel any better than me being scared of him."

Aaaand...what the hell could a guy say to that? "I'm sorry, man. That sucks." It was the only thing that came to mind so it was what he ended up saying, but it really didn't feel like enough. He tried desperately to think of an upside and one finally popped into his brain. "At least we've got the gang, huh?"

Sitting up, Isaac produced a half-smile. "Yeah. It's helped. And does the fact that you're actually talking to anyone today mean that you'll be there tonight, too?"

Clearing his throat awkwardly, Stiles nodded. "Uh...yeah. Sorry about that. Had to work through some...stuff."

"Derek stuff," Isaac said knowingly, "and no, the others didn't tell me." Taking in Stiles' surprised expression, he tapped the side of his nose with a finger. "Specially enhanced nose, remember? When he got back from your place last night, your scent was all over him."

Ah. Well, that did make sense. His scent would be all over Derek because he'd been all over Derek. "Right."

"So, er," Isaac began, "when I thought before than you and he were..."

Yeah, that'd been an awkward conversation. "Mates. Yeah. I was telling the truth - nothing had happened. Even though we both kind of wanted it to. And now..."

"Something has happened," Isaac finished.

"Yeah."

"Good," Isaac nodded decisively. "Derek seems...lonely."

"We're the only thing he has," Stiles agreed. They shared a glum look that was interrupted when Coach Finstock strode into the room, a stack of papers in his hands. Everyone quickly slid behind their desks.

"Today, Economists," Finstock declared as he started passing papers around, "a Pop Quiz." Groans echoed around the room. Stiles and Isaac made faces of displeasure at each other. "Oh, don't give me that," Finstock rebuked, "I tell you every lesson what reading you need to do. If you don't do it, it's your own - McCall, take your hand off Miss Argent's leg, this is not Biology - good. It's your own fault," he finished, standing at the front of the room. "No talking, test starts now."

Clicking his pen into action, Stiles put his head down and got to work.

*

After school let out, the five of them clambered into Betty. They'd done this a few times since she'd been released from evidence, depending on their schedules. Stiles was the only one who had access to his own car at all times, the others reduced to borrowing their parents' whenever it was available. As usual, Lydia called shot-gun without ever having to say a word, and the other three were crammed into the back. The four of them were talking about school, complaining about the Pop Quiz, and anything else that came to mind.

Stiles, meanwhile, was well aware that in about ten minutes, he'd be seeing Derek again for the first time since they'd kissed.

Was that a normal reaction? He'd been trying to limit how much he'd thought about last night throughout the day, knowing it would make the hours drag by. Now that he knew he'd be seeing him in just a few minutes, however, he couldn't seem to focus on anything else. Which, given the fact he was supposed to concentrating on driving a car, didn't bode well.

Okay. Okay, he could distract himself, because there was something he needed to tell Allison anyway. He'd been deliberately holding on to this piece of information all day, figuring there was no point in letting Allison worry about it at school when there was nothing she could do about it.

"Uh, so, I have some news," he volunteered when there was a brief lull in conversation.

"You and Derek getting it on last night is hardly news, Stiles," Lydia told him.

"Not that," he rolled his eyes, "it's, uh...actually, it's about Allison's dad."

"What about my dad?" Allison asked and, sensing movement, Stiles glanced in the rear view to see Allison looking at him.

"He came to my house yesterday morning - under the guise of supporting the local community by wanting to set up a Neighbourhood Watch group - when in fact he wanted to let me know that he wanted in on our plans to stop the lizard before it hurts anyone..." here came the fun part "...or he'd make life very difficult for anyone of the werewolf persuasion. Using that very same Neighbourhood Watch group. That's actually the reason I contacted Derek last night."

"What?" she replied, clearly infuriated.

"Hey, don't kill the messenger," Stiles pleaded, only joking a little. "Derek's thinking it over, deciding what to do. But...I dunno. Maybe you should speak to your dad."

"Oh, believe me," she said darkly, eyes narrowing in the rear view mirror, "I intend to."

Scott quietly talked to Allison for the rest of the drive, and by the time they arrived at Derek's house she seemed a lot calmer and more like her regular self. As they all climbed out of the jeep, Stiles took a few steps forward, looking - maybe a little too eagerly - for any sign of...

And there was Derek, walking out of the house.

Stiles was vaguely aware that any sound of conversation behind him had stopped, that the others were likely staring at him and Derek as Derek crossed the distance between them, walking towards Stiles.

He didn't care.

Derek eventually came to a stop a few feet away from him. As always, he looked like the physical manifestation of perfection and, seriously, Stiles was allowed to have this?

"Hey," Derek greeted, staring at him.

"Hey," Stiles greeted in return, staring right back.

"Oh, for goodness sake," Lydia said from somewhere behind him, like they were annoying or stupid - or more than likely, both. "So, the lone wolf and the hyperactive teenager like each other. Big deal. Nobody cares. Will you two just kiss already so we can move on?"

Derek went very, very still. Stiles' stomach dropped as he stared at him and - well, of course. His mouth started talking. "I remember you thinking it was a big deal this morning when you wanted details."

"Because it's entertaining," she retorted, "watching you two stumble around like no one else has ever been where you are."

Sometimes, even Stiles forgot how mean Lydia could be. But then this was relationship crap, and God knew her parents' relationship was messed up and her relationship with Jackson was messed up and...yeah. He and Derek weren't the only one's with issues.

Derek, apparently, decided that not addressing the issue at all was the right move.

"Come on," he told Scott and Isaac, "let's get started."

As the guys headed further into the clearing with Derek, Allison grabbed Stiles' forearm. "Come on," she encouraged, "I'll show you what we've been up to."

Stiles would be lying if he didn't admit that he was a least a little disappointed by the lack of Derek kissing, but then Derek had never seemed like the type of guy who was PDA-y. Giving one last glance to the group of men behind them, he stopped cold when he saw what was happening. He'd seen Derek shirtless a ridiculous amount of times by now, but after last night and knowing that he was allowed to look - even touch, if he wanted - well...it made the experience entirely different.

It was like watching something out of a porno as Derek slowly grabbed the hem of his shirt, tugging it up, raising his arms up over his head, pulling the shirt up with them, exposing what looked like miles and miles of warm skin-

A hand suddenly pressing underneath his chin made his mouth snap shut. Surprised, he tore his gaze away from Derek to realise Lydia was standing right next to him, her fingers still under his chin. "Yes, he's gorgeous. Don't drool; it's unbecoming. You should at least play a little hard to get." At least she wasn't making fun of him. Actually, she was totally making fun of him, but at least it wasn't in the same way she had earlier. This was probably her way of apologising.

"I played hard to get already," he complained, "can't I be done with that part?"

"No. It worked swimmingly, didn't it? Guys love that stuff. That's how I kept you hooked for all these years, isn't it?"

Officially. Evil.

Stiles saw no upside to this plan whatsoever, but ended up letting himself be dragged away anyway. A few minutes of walking brought them to their destination - a clearing smaller than the one outside Derek's house, but in the middle of the clearing several home-made dummies had been set up. "Target practice?"

"Specific target practice," Allison corrected, and when Stiles looked closely he could see all the puncture marks on or near the arms and shoulders. "If it does come down to a confrontation with Jackson, we don't want to kill him."

"So you're focusing on injuring him," he nodded.

"As much as we can," she sighed. "It'd be better with a live target, as it's far more likely Jackson will be moving rather than conveniently standing in one place, but we couldn't let Derek take that risk."

Hey, now. What? "Derek volunteered?"

Pausing for a moment, as if realising that maybe she shouldn't have said that in front of the guy Derek was kind of dating, she paused. "He does heal fast," she blurted out, "but we told him we wouldn't do it anyway. Okay?"

Stiles was saved from thinking up a response - he didn't even know what to think, so this was a good thing - when his phone rang. Tugging it free from a front jean pocket, he frowned at the Caller ID and answered the call. "Scott?"

"Dude," Scott hissed, "get up to the house right now."

And then he was gone.

Utterly confused, Stiles gestured towards the direction of the house with the hand still gripping onto the phone. "Umm. Something's up."

It became clear what that something was as soon as they could see what was happening in the clearning. Derek and Isaac were training as normal, fighting, except Derek was losing. Badly. His back and chest were covered in scratches and as they watched, an obvious move that even Stiles saw coming knocked Derek flat on his ass.

Scott rushed over to them. "You have to do something," he urged quietly.

Stiles frowned at him in confusion. "Me?"

"Dude, his concentration is shot." Derek made a pained sound in the background. "I don't think he even heard me make the call."

"What do you expect me to do about it?"

"Oh my God, for someone usually so smart, you're suddenly so dense," Lydia told him. "What's the only thing that's changed lately? The one thing that could possibly be distracting him?"

Ohhhhhhhhhhh.

The idea made him feel...well, stupidly proud of himself, if he were honest. But he knew that couldn't be all there was to it.

"But if we're going to take Jackson on next week," she continued, "we cannot afford to have Derek not knowing which way is up. So," she pointed at him, "you take him in that house and you sex him up or do whatever it is you have to do until he has a brain again."

They were all staring at him.

"Can I just remind you guys that he," he gestured towards Derek and Isaac, "is probably still not sleeping at night because he's keeping an eye on Jackson - despite my awesome new moon theory - because he has a guilt complex the size of the Texas? And it's not his crazy-horniness for me - which, trust me, I totally understand - that's interfering." Hearing a moan of pain, Stiles turned his head to see Derek sprawling across the ground, falling into a messy somersault.

When he concentrated he could hear that Isaac was talking and probably had been for some time. "Derek, come on, it's time we stopped, all right?" Derek said nothing, charging at him and Isaac simply stepped out of the way. "I'm not kidding, I don't think we should be doing this anymore." Derek growled at him, bracing his feet against the ground for another charge.

Something definitely needed to be done, though. The others agreed, because they were still staring at him like he was an idiot.

"Look," Allison said quietly, "if it's anything like with Scott, you're the only one who can get through to him right now."

She was probably right, but Derek was all...feral...wound tight and angry about being beaten, and he knew that Derek wouldn't hurt him, he did, but it was harder to accept when Derek was all aggressive and sleep-deprived and covered in scratches.

They were still staring at him.

"Fine!" he exclaimed. Closing his eyes, Stiles let out a deep breath. And spoke. "Derek."

Spinning around, Derek took a step towards Stiles instinctively, face still enraged.

The face? Not helping. But...that had totally worked. That was something.

Stiles held his gaze. "Come with me."

It took everything in him not to turn back, but he forced himself not to as he approached the house and climbed the stairs. When he heard Derek's footsteps on the steps mere moments after his, he swallowed again but merely walked further into the house, flicking on the light in the living room, finally turning to face Derek.

Who stopped walking, like, one foot away from him. At least he didn't look like he was about to rip anyone's throat out anymore. Maybe ready to give someone a slight pummelling, but even that was an improvement.

Stiles opened his mouth to say something, anything - he didn't even know what - but Derek beat him to it.

"You shouldn't interrupt practice."

Stiles' mouth snapped shut. And then opened again. If they were going to point out the obvious, Stiles was fully on-board. "Well, you need more sleep. Or, any."

Angrily making a face, Derek stepped away. "Are we still on this?"

And - okay. Now Stiles was starting to get pissed. "Are we still on this?" he mimicked, disbelieving. "By 'this' I presume you mean the fact that your hairy ass is getting kicked out there," he pointed vigorously towards the front of the house, "and if you don't get your head out of said hairy ass there'll be nothing of it left for Jackson to rip apart next week!" He hadn't even known that all that fear and anger had been lurking inside him, but now that it had an outlet, it didn't want to stop.

"I can handle it," Derek insisted and ugh, if Jackson didn't kill him next him, Stiles sure as hell would.

"Sure you can," Stiles snarked, "that's why Isaac was out there using your chest as a pinata."

"I'm the Alpha," he explained, flexing his neck (and seriously, what was this, Bodybuilder Hour?), "I have to-"

"Not do everything by yourself," Stiles interrupted. "You are the Alpha," he agreed, stepping closer, resting his hands on Derek's forearms as he looked up at him, "you're the leader. And a leader knows how to delegate. Let Isaac and Scott take turns watching Jackson."

"Do you honestly expect Scott not to get distracted by Allison?"

...okay, so that may have a been a good point. "Isaac and I will take turns, then-"

"No," Derek yanked his arms away, "there is no way I'm letting you-"

"What?" Stiles demanded. "Be useful? Helpful? That's sweet, Big Guy, and it's nice to know you care, but sometimes I'm going to have to do things that-"

"I ran into your dad today," Derek interrupted, which seemed utterly random and was absolutely not the way Stiles had seen this conversation going.

He stared helplessly. "My dad?"

"And when I say ran into," he explained, "I mean he pulled me over because he claimed he saw a busted tail light - which there wasn't. He then proceeded to grill me on my history of traffic violations."

Aww, man. It was no wonder Derek had been distracted. With the sleep deprivation, concerns about Jackson and dealing with the hot young thing that was his new boyfriend, being on the local sheriff's shit list for ravaging his only son was the last thing he needed to face.

Stiles tried to focus on anything but the fact that his dad had followed through on his promise that the age difference would have to be 'talked about'. Apparently 'talked about' meant 'trying to scare off your new boyfriend'. "You have a history of traffic violations?"

"Not a one. Your dad, apparently, just wanted to make really sure."

Rubbing a hand over his face, Stiles shrugged awkwardly in apology. "I'm...sorry? Did he do anything else?"

"He strongly suggested," Derek began, wearing an expression very much along the lines of how it this even my life?, "that we needed to 'talk'."

Stiles was beginning to understand why Derek was looking that way. "Ah."

But Derek wasn't done. "He 'invited' me over tomorrow night. For 'drinks'." At any other time, Derek using finger quotes would've been the funniest thing Stiles had ever seen. "So, excuse me," he continued, "if I don't want to be responsible for putting his only son at risk."

Yeah...they still needed to talk about that. But one thing at a time. "He's just freaking out about the age thing." And...Dad inviting Derek over for drinks? Sure, it was probably drinks with a side of shotguns, but what alternate universe was he suddenly living in?

"He should be. You should be," Derek told him.

That he hadn't expected. "I...didn't think it mattered to you."

"I knew you were attracted to me and I never did anything about it. That didn't give you a clue?"

"Not a mind-reader," Stiles pointed out. "There are any number of reasons why you might think this is a bad idea."

"You're 17 years old," Derek said, "believe me, that has very much been on my mind this entire time. Even if it didn't matter to me, it should matter to you."

Uh, Derek was hot, and Stiles knew what he was doing. "Why? Okay, so maybe I've bypassed the wading pool and gone straight to the deep end, but I can handle it. I know you, remember?" If he'd been able to deal with rage-y, animalistic Derek outside, he could deal with anything.

Derek looked at him significantly. "Maybe you don't."

Realisation settled in. Not that it hadn't crossed Stiles' mind before, not that they hadn't touched on it before, but this was age differences and Kate and Derek and them. And issues larger than the freaking Empire State Building. "You're no Kate Argent."

Smirking darkly, Derek angled his head to the left. "What makes you think I'm not just like her?"

Oh, please, like Stiles was going to fall for that. "Because you're trying to scare me off right now. For my own good." Derek's smirk faltered. "I know exactly what you're doing. Kate's problem - apart from being a wackadoodle - is that she didn't care about anyone but herself, or achieving her goals. You care about people too much. You've wrapped yourself up in this, like...blanket of guilt, and it's pretty comfortable by now; you're used to it. But it's getting old. Starting to itch a bit. And you start to think...maybe it's time for something different. But old habits die hard, so sometimes you panic, cling on to it tighter, and can you see where I'm headed with this metaphor? And please, God, say yes, because I don't know where the hell else I can take this thing."

Chuckling ruefully, Derek lowered his head on a soft smile. "Thought you said you weren't a mind-reader," he said quietly.

Totally. Adorable.

Forcing himself not to say anything, to give Derek some time, Stiles pursed his lips together.

"We take things slowly," Derek said eventually, and Stiles produced a small fist-bump because that was a much better response than 'actually, this was a bad idea and I'm bailing on this relationship before it even starts'.

"I can do that," Stiles said eagerly, relieved, "slow I can do."

Derek studied him. "And are you ever going explain why you're wearing make-up?"

Definitely a wolf thing. "Yep," Stiles replied agreeably, happily, "and it's all your fault."

The very idea seemed to utterly confuse Derek. "How is you wearing make-up my fault?"

"Do you have any idea what your stubble's like?" And this was good, this was good, this was them. This was so much better than Derek trying to push him away. "If you ever get the chance to kiss yourself someday, you should totally go for it just so you know the pain and inconvenience I've had to endure. Also: from now on, you're shaving before I come over so I don't have to resort to these measures to cover up the way you've...." he searched for the right word, "...the way you've marked me!"

Inhaling suddenly, nostrils flaring, Derek's eyes flashed red - and Stiles knew he'd chosen the wrong word.

Or from the way Derek was looking at him, the way his hand came up to push Stiles backwards until his body hit the wall, it was a very, very right word.

Aware of Derek's proximity, and his eyes, and his general half-nakedness, Stiles licked his lips. "Don't think you can distract me like this," he blurted out. "We still need to talk about you getting some sleep. And me needing to do dangerous stuff sometimes - because, hello, you don't let me do anything. And my Dad. And..." Derek leaned in close. So. Unfair. Who could defend themselves against a hot, shirtless Derek? "...you should put a shirt on. You should absolutely put a shirt on."

Derek just stared at his lips, leaning in even more. "Why?"

Stiles stared at his face, then his chest. Then his face, and then his chest again. "...actually, I can't think of a good reason right-umph."

Kissing shirtless Derek turned out to be even better than kissing clothed Derek.

Who knew?

TBC

Chapter Text

The next morning it was time for another confrontation in the Stilinski household.

Only this time, it wasn't Stiles being cornered. No, this time he was the one doing the cornering.

Dad hadn't been in when Stiles had got home last night, which wasn't unusual but still felt oddly convenient given the circumstances - like Dad didn't want to be there so Stiles couldn't bitch at him about the totally embarrassing stuff he did to Derek.

This morning there was no escaping it and, judging from the face he made when Stiles walked into the kitchen, Dad knew it.

Stiles saw no point in holding back. "Seriously, Dad? A broken tail light? Traffic violations? Drinks?" For some reason, it was the last one he was most indignant about.

Guilt, coupled with determination, stretched across Dad's face. "Look, this is all part of the Dad Deal," he tried to explain, "you'll understand yourself if you have kids some day. I get to do this."

"What, act like I can't look out for myself?" he questioned, more than a little frustrated at this becoming a recurring theme. Before he'd left the Hale house last night, he'd at least managed to persuade Derek that his choices were his own and if said choices sometimes led to something dangerous, so be it.

Either that, or Derek had just been telling him what he wanted to hear. Which on one hand seemed totally plausible, but on the other didn't sound like Derek at all. How often had he said something just because he knew Stiles wanted to hear it?

"You and Derek are as bad as each other," he complained and, at Dad's curious look, quickly explained. "He keeps trying to be all...overprotective and demanding, like I can't think for myself."

"Well, at least that's one thing we agree on," Dad replied, although he looked disturbed at the thought of agreeing with the man who'd recently been giving his son's tongue a work-out.

"That I can't think for myself?" he asked, outraged. "That wacky Stiles Stilinksi should be some battery operated, remote controlled-"

"Stop overreacting," Dad said bluntly, surprising Stiles into silence. "And it's not that you can't think for yourself," he continued, "but that sometimes - just like everybody else, myself and Derek included - you need somebody who's looking out for your best interests."

"I am looking out for my own best interests," he argued, annoyed, because why didn't they get this? "I understand-"

"What I understand," Dad interrupted in that He Shall Be Listened To voice that he hadn't used in, ooo, at least a month, "is that you're romantically involved with a man six years your senior, who's been arrested and become the focus of a manhunt, who's been accused of murder more than once-"

"He was totally exonerated!" Sure, murder accusations seemed shady and all, but that totally shouldn't count.

"In the eyes of the law," Dad agreed, "and I know better than to judge an innocent man. But are you ready for everyone else to?"

"I...wait, what?" His frustration deflated, at least a little, as confusion moved in.

"Are you ready for the looks you'll get? For the things they'll say about you - or Derek? Or the two of you together?" If he were honest, Stiles hadn't given it much thought of all - definitely not in terms of the entire town. "What they'll say about me for letting my underage son start a relationship with a 23 year old man with that kind of history?" Ohhh, now that was hitting below the belt. Dad had been elected Sheriff, and if people didn't like what his son was doing or didn't agree with the way Dad was dealing with it...that could have serious implications.

Stiles' brain didn't know what to do with itself, stuck in a moment of shock that he hadn't considered this. "Well, it's...none of their business," he spat out.

"People will make it their business," Dad pointed out, then fixed him with a look. "You should know that better than anyone." Because...yes, okay, Dad totally had a point. Stiles couldn't stay out of anyone else's business to save his life. He always wanted to know what was going on.

"Well," he tried to brush it off, "natural curiousity is one of my best features..."

"If you say so," Dad remarked, which Stiles found totally unnecessary and vaguely insulting. "But as Sheriff of Beacon Hills, I can tell you one thing - as much as I love this town and it's people, there's nothing they love more than gossip. And you'll be the newest target of water cooler crowd. And more importantly - those people who think it's up to them to show you everything you're doing wrong in life. And vote your dad into the job that pays for our house, food, your clothes, and the gas for your car."

And...well...man, why did Dad have to be so smart all the time? These logical, well thought-out points he kept making were getting really annoying. Slowly pulling out a stool from the counter, Stiles eased himself down into it thoughtfully. "I...didn't think..." Dad had been so awesome, so accepting about everything that Stiles had had no idea this had even been on his mind.

"This isn't about me, or what could happen to me - if he's right for you, I'll back you up 100%." Dad needed one hell of a Father's Day gift next time around. "I don't care about the guy thing," Dad told him, quite openly and totally without awkwardness - they'd definitely both been doing some growing over the past few weeks. "But I had to make sure you knew that before I could bring up any other concerns, because I didn't want you thinking, even for a second-"

"It's okay, Dad," he said quietly, sharing a soft smile. "I know."

"Good," Dad nodded, clearly relieved. "And while I have some entirely justified concerns about the age difference and what it means in terms of what he expects from you in regards to..." He gestured awkwardly and, okay, there was still some growing to be done.

"Slooooowly," Stiles assured him, eager to move far away from this subject as quickly as humanly possible, "we'll be taking things very slowly. Derek's idea and I'm...actually fine with that." For all that he enjoyed the hell out of his make-out sessions with Derek (seriously, there were not enough superlatives in the world to do them justice. New superlatives needed to be invented by Rhode Scholars. And Lydia. Maybe Lydia), he knew he wasn't ready to jump straight in the sack.

But...being in bed with Derek.

Being naked in bed with Derek.

Coughing, he shifted on his stool because even if his mind wasn't ready his body totally was and thank God Dad was standing right there to stop anything...developing...further.

"Well," Dad nodded decisively, if with embarrassment. "Good. Something else we agree on."

"See?" Stiles joked awkwardly, because talking about hot guy-on-guy action with his dad was definitely something he'd never planned for. "I don't know what you're worried about. You'll probably get on better with Derek than I do."

"Let's not go that far," he said dryly. There were a few moments of not-completely-awkward silence as they looked at each other, only glancing away occasionally before forcing themselves to look back. "In any case," Dad said eventually, "my main concern has always been for you. That you're ready and understand what being in a relationship with him means - not just with Derek, but what it could mean to anyone who finds out about the two of you."

Biting his lip, Stiles nodded. "I get it." Dad had given him a lot to think about.

"Good. So...has he accepted the invitation I so kindly extended to him?" He moved on quickly, obviously wanting to lighten the mood. He also quirked his mouth up, making fun of himself.

Stiles' own lips twitched. Amazingly enough... "Yeah." Stiles was man enough to admit that Derek had completely surprised him, because the image of Derek Hale turning up to meet the parent of his much younger kind-of-boyfriend, knowing he'd undergo some kind of interrogation...well, it was a difficult fit. Even with what Stiles knew of the guy. "He told me that you were my last living relative. That he wouldn't disrespect you - or me - by not turning up." Of course, then he'd pushed Stiles back against the wall and kissed him like a dying man searching for water buried really, really deep, like in an underground aquifer or something and the metaphor might have sucked, but seriously - his tongue and his shoulders and his everything. Stiles couldn't be blamed for not being able to think up anything more creative.

Stiles decided not to mention that part.

Which was apparently the right choice, because Dad actually puffed his chest out, slowly nodding his approval - whether he was aware he was doing it or not. "Breakfast?"

And they were done, apparently.

*

After Derek had told him he'd be coming over for 'drinks', Stiles had thought the school day building up to it would drag - and Stiles' attention span was not the greatest at the best of times. Dad had given him so damn much to think about, however, that it flew by in snatches of images: Scott juggling fruit cups to impress Allison (more interesting was the fact that it actually worked), Lydia starting a petition about the state of the girl's toilets, Finstock literally dancing with glee at Isaac's skills with a lacrosse stick, Jackson's return to general annoyance and dickishness and then, finally:

"You've been quiet all day," Scott said while Allison and Lydia talked about something on the grass, the rest of the school body milling around them as they made their way home. "Everything okay?"

Stiles thought about what Dad had said, his concerns about news and opinions spreading before Stiles was ready for them. And he nearly didn't say anything.

But this was Scott.

"Derek's coming over tonight. To meet my dad."

Scott made the best faces, and at least that made Stiles grin.

"Oh! Dude, that's..." he shrugged. "That's gotta be weird, right?"

Considering their previous meetings had all been arrest sites or police stations... "You could say that," Stiles agreed. "Although I'm less worried about how I'll handle it and more worried for Derek. How he'll handle it. I get the feeling he hasn't done this 'meet the parents' stuff a lot. If at all." And it was with a guy, a much younger guy at that, and that guy's dad was the sheriff...yeah. If Stiles was Derek, he'd be running for the nearest bear trap right about now.

"He faced down the Alpha," Scott encouraged, trying to cheer him up, "I'm pretty sure he can handle your dad."

Snorting, Stiles shrugged. "He had back-up."

"And he's got back-up this time, too, right?" Scott pointed out. "You'll be there."

Stiles paused, feeling a little better. Sometimes, Scott was surprisingly wise and insightful. "But if you think it's going badly," he continued, "just make sure you've hidden your dad's shotgun."

...and then he went right back to being Scott.

"Thanks, thanks. That's useful." Meaning: really not.

Stiles finally started getting nervous once he got home. Dad arrived an hour after he did - apparently someone at the station owed him big time, the reason he'd been able to be home more lately - and Stiles couldn't sit in one place. He got out mugs in case anyone wanted coffee, glasses in case anyone wanted a cold drink, whiskey glasses in case anyone wanted whiskey, and bowls in case anyone wanted snacks. He had quite the collection of dishes on the side and was rummaging through the pantry for something edible that didn't need cooking when the doorbell sounded.

The box of dried pasta he'd been holding thudded to the floor as he bolted out of the kitchen. "I'll get it!" For some reason it was really, really important that Stiles was the one who answered the door. Dad didn't say anything - the same way he hadn't said anything the whole time, just letting Stiles work out his anxiety in the kitchen - quietly moving into the living room.

Pausing for a moment, Stiles wiped his hands over the front of his jeans and pulled open the door.

And stared. Wildly.

"Is that a shirt? And tie?"

"Well done," Derek remarked moodily - or at least he tried to. Most of the effect was lost given that he looked pretty wide-eyed himself, like he didn't have the faintest idea what he was even doing there and holy crap, he was wearing a shirt and tie. "You can recognise different types of clothing."

Shaking his head, Stiles grabbed a forearm and dragged Derek inside, closing the door behind him. "What are you wearing?" he hissed, more than aware that Dad was probably listening in.

"Clothes, Stiles," Derek snapped quietly.

"But you're normally all..." Stiles gestured towards him, "...gloomy, depressing, dark colours, black leather...ohhh!" Yeah, okay, so the shock stopped his brain figuring it out for a while. Go figure. Derek was trying to impress his dad (in a minute, Stiles was going to have to pinch himself. Multiple times). "Good plan. Excellent plan. Very good plan. Absolutely."

"Your approval means so much to me," Derek said sarcastically and Stiles couldn't help it, the tie had gone a little off-centre and he had to fiddle with it. Derek frowned down at Stiles' hands, immediately trying to bat them away. "What are you-?"

"It's crooked. Lemme fix it."

"I can fix it myself," Derek argued, his own hands moving to grab Stiles'.

Stiles wasn't giving up, the two of them tussling over the tie. "Oh my God, would you let someone help you just once?"

"How about you realise that it's not always bad, having to do things by yoursel-"

The sound of a throat clearing made them turn their heads, staring at where Dad was standing in the doorway to the living room. Immediately letting go, they both let their hands fall away.

"When you two are finished whispering by the door," Dad said, and Stiles was pretty sure that comment made him and Derek wince, "you're welcome to actually come into the living room. In your own time," he added and really, that was just unnecessary.

After Dad walked away, Derek straighted his back, putting on his 'this means business' face. Stiles couldn't help himself, tweaking the tie one last time before bolting for the living room.

"Stiles."

Dad, at least, hadn't completely foregone pleasantries as Derek stepped into the living room.

"Drink, Derek?" he offered. "We have coffee, beer..."

"Water's fine," Derek said. Then after a pause, added, "Sir."

Stiles finally pinched himself three times in quick succession.

Nope. This was definitely still happening.

Dad almost looked...amused, but was probably trying to keep it hidden behind his bad-ass, scary dad mask. After he left the room, Stiles waited until he was out of sight before giving Derek the big thumbs up for his drink selection. In having a glass of water he was accepting Dad's hospitality, but by avoiding alcohol he wasn't reminding Dad that Stiles couldn't drink. "Have a seat," Stiles said at normal volume, but when Derek shrugged and went to do so Stiles flailed and hissed, "Dad's chair, Dad's chair, over there," pointing in the general vicinity of the sofa.

The glare Derek gave him was completely unjustified. He was just trying to help.

By the time Dad came back in, Stiles and Derek were sitting on opposite ends of the sofa, as far away from each other as possible. Stiles had planted an enormous fake grin on his face. Derek just looked like a wounded animal.

"Thank you," he said graciously anyway, accepting the glass Dad held out to him. He took a perfunctory sip, before carefully placing the glass on the coffee table in front of him.

Grunting, Dad lowered himself down into his chair, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his legs, hands clasping together as he studied Derek. Pursing his lips together as he watched the stare-off, it was all Stiles could do not to make some stupid remark to break the silence. He was just on the verge of blurting something else, when Dad moved again, sitting back in his chair.

He was still looking at Derek. "You don't have a lot of experience at doing this, do you?"

Derek just stared back, still kind of wide-eyed. "Doing what?"

"You know," Dad gestured, "meeting the parents."

Understanding now, Derek scratched at the side of his forehead with a thumb, nodding. "No. First time, actually." Stiles' head snapped around to stare at him. He'd suspected, sure, but it was always nice hearing it from the man in question.

Making a contemplative noise, Dad nodded. "And what's your relationship history?"

"Dad." He was being brutal, going straight for the gut.

Derek, however, didn't back down. "Brief."

"Brief as in...?"

"One other person. Before Stiles," and hoooooly crap, was that for real? Given everything he'd been through, avoiding any kind of romantic relationship was totally understandable and it made Stiles even more determined not to screw this up, as much for Derek's sake as his own. But did no other relationships include...no sex? Research was needed. "It ended badly," Derek added quietly, head lowering as he pre-empted what was bound to be dad's next question. "Very badly."

Understatement of the freaking millennium. Feeling his hand beginning to slide across the sofa towards Derek, Stiles pulled it back.

Dad just nodded again. "And why my son?"

Lifting his head again, Derek turned to look at Stiles with an exasperated expression. "Because he never shuts up. And won't stop helping. And won't leave me alone." It was ridiculous and perfect and he kind of wanted to pounce on Derek right about now.

"So the reason you're with my son," Dad said, not sounding entirely pleased, it had to be said, "is that he's persistent?" Okay, so when he put it that way, it didn't sound very flattering.

"And loud," Derek added eagerly, facing Dad, just digging his own grave now. "And open-hearted," he continued, gaze dropping again. "Stupidly so. Fearless. Stupidly so with that, too," he nodded to himself, looking back up at dad.

Stiles couldn't have asked for a better response, hopefully watching Dad watch Derek, body still wanting to fly across the sofa to Derek, because talking about feelings. With Dad. Who owned a gun.

The doorbell rang, suddenly, surprising all of them.

He couldn't help himself. "Saved by the bell. Literally."

Derek and Dad both gave him an unimpressed look and then Dad was excusing himself, standing up and leaving the room.

Perfect.

The moment Dad was gone, Stiles scrabbled across the sofa until he was practically in Derek's lap, causing Derek to make a huge double-take. "Oh my God, bestmaybe-boyfriendever," Stiles whispered.

Derek just arched an eyebrow at him, although at least he didn't shove him away. "If you're going to be like this all the time, we're going nowhere fast."

"You love it," Stiles taunted, because he'd been seeing through the grumpy faces for a while now. He knew better. "In fact-"

Derek turned his head towards the front of the house suddenly, expression flattening out in that way that showed he was using his werewolf hearing.

If Stiles hadn't been so focused on the awesome maybe-boyfriend portion of the evening, he might have noticed it, too. "What? What's wrong?"

Turning back to face him, Derek's expression darkened. "The door. It's Allison's father."

Chris Argent. Closing his eyes, Stiles sat back.

Crap.

TBC

Chapter Text

If he concentrated hard enough, Stiles could just about hear what was being said at the front door. Luckily, he had an all-werewolf maybe-boyfriend to save him the effort, as Derek quietly shared everything he could hear. Not so luckily, he was murmuring the words right into Stiles' ear, which meant proximity and heat and seemingly having no idea whatsoever of just how distracting he was.

Mr Argent was at the door. Priorities. He forced himself to focus on what Derek was saying.

"Chris is surprised to see your dad here-"

A likely story. "His patrol car's right on the drive."

"He was planning on leaving a message with you."

"No doubt another, 'convince your werewolf best friend and werewolf maybe-boyfriend to work with me or there will be doooom' threat." He waggled his fingers around, because words like 'doom' deserved that kind of attention to detail.

Derek tilted his head. "You dad's trying to get him to leave. Quickly."

That made sense. Dad was well aware that Chris Argent's sister had been involved in the arson that wiped out Derek's family. Having Derek see Chris right now would be more than a little awkward. "Good," Stiles announced confidently and then Derek was standing up, forcing Stiles to move over as he stepped towards the hallway. Wonderful. "Or you could confront Mr Argent right in front of Dad," Stiles muttered as he hopped up, rushing after him. "I'm sure that won't cause any problems at all."

Stiles stumbled into the hallway to see Derek and Mr Argent staring at each other; Derek in the hallway, Mr Argent still outside on the porch. Dad stood frozen between them, holding the door open.

Mr Argent looked genuinely surprised to see Derek. "I didn't expect to see you here." He glanced at Dad, then, as if to infer that he didn't expect Derek to be there with Stiles and Stiles' dad.

"I'm just full of surprises," Derek remarked, which totally wasn't helping matters.

"Derek," Dad said, sounding embarrassed and uncertain, which was definitely a turn-around from the way the evening had been going so far, "I was just asking Chris if he could-"

"Leave?" Derek asked, and the bitter smile on his face was just ugly. "We're all adults here," he shrugged the worst casual shrug in the history of everything ever, before ending a sentence in the worst way in the history of everything ever by nodding towarsds Stiles and saying, "well, almost." Even Dad winced. "I'm sure I can cope with hearing anything that Mr Argent needs to say to you, Sheriff."

Yeah, this was fun. Right before his eyes, Derek had morphed into a complete and total bastard. It was like he was shooting himself in the foot on purpose and couldn't stop (or in his case, maybe he was shooting himself in the paw). And now the evening was going just about as badly as Stiles had feared it might.

"No, no," Mr Argent insisted, "it's nothing that can't wait-"

"But it must be important for you to come all the way to the sheriff's house," Derek pointed out, voice deceptively warm.

"It was on my way," he said, and then followed it up with an intense look. "I wouldn't have come if I'd known you were here." Either Mr Argent was a graduate from the Lydia Martin School of Acting, or he was telling the truth. "Given what my sister...did, I imagine that my face is one of the last things you want to see."

Hands forming into fists - the sight frankly weird in his non-standard shirt-tie combo - Derek's claws didn't come out. From the aggression pouring off him, however, they might as well have. "It's on the list," he agreed darkly. "A little word of advice? Any...message of conciliation," he was obviously choosing his words carefully given that Dad was standing right there, although they still weren't chosen carefully enough for Stiles' stress levels, "should come directly to me. Man-to-man. One-on-one. Not...conveyed through anyone else." He stared him down meaningfully.

Dad just looked lost. Stiles didn't blame him and wondered what the hell he'd have to say later if he ended up needing to explain any of this. Stiles really was a crappy liar. The only reason he'd got away with any at all in front of Dad at werewolf-related crime scenes, was...well, in all honesty, he didn't think he'd gotten away with any of them. Dad had known he'd been lying, but he also hadn't called him on most of it yet.

Part of him couldn't help but wonder how much longer that would last. And how much longer he could avoid telling Dad the truth about the werewolves and hunters that were quietly battling over Beacon Hills in the most epic season of 'Survivor' yet.

"Noted," Mr Argent replied, again sounding like he meant it.

Without a word, Derek turned away and stalked back into the living room. Stiles and his Dad just stared at each other, victims of a metaphorical two-car pile-up that neither one of them had been able to prevent.

They shared a shrug and at exactly the same moment, Dad stepped out on the porch to speak to Chris, while Stiles bolted after Derek.

"What was that?" he demanded as quietly as possible - which, given the circumstances, wasn't very quiet at all. "Is that the first time you've seen him since-?"

"Yes."

Okay. Okay. This was the first time that Derek and Mr Argent had seen each other since Kate had been killed, and the truth about her role in the Hale house arson had come out publically (of course, it was also the first time they'd seen each other since Derek had become Alpha, but that was a whole other hairy ball of wax). That explained why Derek was standing two inches away from the wall, deliberately keeping his back to Stiles. It was a defense mechanism he was getting used to.

This had obviously been an unexpectedly emotional meeting for both men, but even so, Stiles couldn't help but feel a little proud of himself for holding back his complaint that Derek had deliberately brought up the obvious age difference, i.e., the very thing they'd been trying to avoid all night.

So, it turned out he was more selfish than he'd previously realised. He was a work in progress - he'd work on it.

"Don't know if you did yourself any favours just now," he said eventually and it wasn't a rebuke or a complaint - just an observation.

It was safe to say that Derek absolutely didn't take the comment in the spirit it was intended.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Derek snapped, finally turning to face him, "did my rudeness to the people who burnt my family to death offend you?"

Stiles made a mental note to self: avoid discussion of the fire. Derek got tetchy. Understandably tetchy, but tetchy just the same. But, now that they were already talking about it... "I know I can't even begin to understand what you went through...but you know Chris Argent had nothing to do with what his sister did, right?"

"So you're expecting me to magically 'let it go'?" There were the finger quotes again. "You know the kind of man he is. What he thinks should happen to me."

Stiles wasn't so sure about that, despite Mr Argent's epic creepiness. "What I do know...is that I was there when he found out what his sister had done. I was there because I was the one who told him." Not one of Stiles' favourite memories, being harressed and interrogated at the hospital, but maybe it'd come in useful now.

Jerking his head back in surprise, Derek frowned. "I didn't know that."

"Well, now you do," Stiles pointed out, "and I also know that the first thing he did was run off to confront his sister. To stop her from hurting anyone else. You're blaming a man for something his sister did. It'd be no different than someone blaming you for all the really - totally, deliriously - psycho things Peter did." He looked Derek in the eye. "Right?"

Opening his mouth in frustration, Derek then...closed it again. And glared.

Ha! "See? Us Stilinski men are pros at making excellent points that you can't escape the truth of. My dad's just as annoying, trust me."

The humour had yet to break through Derek's defenses. "I don't like it," he muttered, "and I still don't like him."

"No one's saying you have to," Stiles promised, "just don't...rip his throat out or kill him violently or anything."

Derek still didn't respond to the humour - which, maybe, just a little, was based in the truth. "He's still not innocent," Derek insisted, "he still lives his life in a way that's totally unnecessary. And if he has a problem he needs to bring it to me, not here, not keep coming where you are, he shouldn't be putting you in the middle, putting you at risk."

Eyes softening as Derek became agitated again, Stiles went with his instincts, reaching a hand up and tugging Derek's head down against his shoulder.

Derek's entire body stiffened. "What...are you...doing?"

Stiles thought that was pretty obvious as he ran a hand down Derek's back. "It's called a hug." But when he thought about it...how long it'd been since most of Derek's family had died...he might not have had a hug for a very, very long time. Yikes. That needed to be fixed as often as possible. "Consider me your handy Stilinski hug dispenser."

Derek hadn't moved, still crouched down awkwardly. "Hug dispenser?"

"Like a Pez dispenser," he said agreeably, "only with hugs instead of Pez. And you don't even have to pull my head up to force a hug out. Anytime you want one, just hug me. I'll always hug back."

"I see."

"The beautiful thing about hugs is that they don't cost a thing," he rambled on, hoping it'd loosen Derek up if he didn't make a big deal about it. "Although, maybe I should start charging. God knows the world needs more hugs. I bet all of Jackson's issues would be solved if he'd just let someone pull him into a big old bear hug. I bet that'd work," he suggested as the thought came to mind, "hugging him into submission. The lizard'd come in, we'd all tackle him onto the floor and share a huge group hug. He'd lose his scales, wildflowers would spring up everywhere, pixie dust would fly though the air..." His mind scrabbled for something else to stay, because he was pretty sure he was starting to feel a single hand pressing lightly against his back.

And then Dad walked in. Stiles blinked and Derek was practically in the kitchen.

If Dad had noticed anything he didn't mention it, instead addressing Derek directly. "Look, Derek, I don't claim to know what that was all about, but he just came to tell me that he didn't want to follow through with an idea he'd had." Stiles' eyes widened as he turned to look at Derek, who glanced over at him in understanding. The Neighbourhood Watch thingy! He'd bet dollars to donuts that Allison was responsible for this somehow. If anyone could go toe-to-toe with Chris Argent over an issue, Allison was more than up to the task.

"But under the circumstances," Dad continued, "I can understand if you want to leave. Being reminded of, well..." his voice dropped off as he cleared his throat. "I'm sure it's not easy. And it wouldn't affect my opinion of you," he quickly added, "if you were worried about that." He paused. "Which you seem to be."

And that didn't sound like a bad thing.

Derek hesitated, looking from Stiles, to Dad, and back to Stiles again. It was obvious he didn't want to risk offending Stiles' dad, but when Stiles gave him an encouraging nod - do what you have to do, don't worry about anything else - Derek nodded to himself, and spoke. "I...yeah. I think I need to. Go," he added, looking at Dad. "Uh. Sorry?"

Shaking his head even as he crossed the room, Dad extended a hand to Derek. "It's certainly been an unusual evening for me."

Eyeing Dad's hand, Derek only paused for a few moments before taking it with his own hand, shaking firmly. "Yeah. Me too." That was putting it mildly. As far as Stiles was concerned, this night was going to live on in infamy. This was the kind of night you told your grandchildren about decades later.

Wow, and he was so not going there.

Releasing his grip, Dad studied Derek for a while. "You obviously care about my son. And he cares about you. So...let's see how this goes."

Wait. Wait. Had Dad just...given his blessing? Or whatever the totally not creepy 'I own my child' version of giving your blessing was?

Derek didn't have time to respond with anything, because Dad smiled at Stiles. "Stiles? Want to see our guest out?"

He sure as heck wasn't about to push his luck by saying anything other than yes. "Uh, sure!" Moving next to Derek, he poked him in the side, ushering him towards the front door. Derek made a face but ultimately let himself be ushered until they were out on the porch and Stiles was closing the door behind them.

They stared at each other.

"Did that actually happen?"

"I think so," Derek replied slowly. "Although..."

"No," Stiles interrupted, wagging a finger, because, just...no. "No although. No although. Although never leads anywhere good."

He thought that might be an end to it...but then Derek spoke again.

"It just seemed too easy."

"Gah!" Grabbing his head and throwing his hands up in the air, Stiles followed it up by slapping Derek's chest with the back of his hand. "It's like you're determined to give us bad luck."

"I'm just saying..."

Didn't Derek know how this worked yet? "No! No just saying, either! Just saying, bad," he emphasised, waving his hands though the air horizontally.

"Come on, Stiles. He came back and suddenly he wasn't trying to scare me off anymore. You can't tell me you didn't notice."

Sighing heavily, he spoke gloomily. "No. No, I can't say I didn't notice." Why couldn't life just be the way it appeared sometimes, with no ulterior motives? "I'll see if I can find out what's going on."

Nodding, Derek leaned in to...

Kiss him. On the...

Head?

He had not gone through the kind of night he'd just had just to end up with that kind of kiss. Reaching out with the fingers of one hand he grabbed Derek's tie, winding it around that same hand (ties were useful. He'd have to convince Derek to wear them more often). "I don't think so," he informed Derek, pulling his head down.

"Your Dad's watching," Derek breathed against his lips.

"Don't care," he said against Derek's, and then there was no talking and just kissing and Stiles was very, very happy. Sadly, he couldn't stay happy for as long as he wanted to, because before long Derek was extricating himself and backing away.

"Make sure you come to the house tomorrow night," he told Stiles, walking backwards along the path "the group was supposed to do something today, but..." he shrugged.

"Have to give in to the demands of your maybe-boyfriend's dad, right?"

Pausing in place, Derek fixed him with a knowing look. "You know that I've noticed you doing that all night, right?"

He hadn't known, not for sure, but it wasn't a big surprise. "Never claimed to be subtle."

"How about, for now," Derek suggested, "we just go with...," he gestured towards himself, "I'm Derek."

Well, that was boring. "And I'm Stiles?" he asked. "It's not gonna win any points for originality."

"Luckily for us, it's not a competition," Derek told him, starting to walk backwards again. "Go in. Speak to your dad."

Stiles could give instructions just as well as any Alpha. "Get some sleep. Tell Isaac to watch Jackson tonight."

"We'll see."

"I'll see tomorrow, when I ask Isaac if he watched Jackson. And just remember how annoying I can be when I'm not even trying. Imagine how bad it is when I'm actually putting effort into it." If that wasn't a threat, Stiles didn't know what was.

Stopping only because his butt had hit the fence, Derek shook his head, smiling in a way that Stiles would've described on anyone else as fond.

"You know," Stiles said, making Derek look up, small smile still in place, "at some point, one of us is going to have to look away." This should've been worrying. They'd already turned into one of those cutesy couples who were determined not to end a conversation first.

"I'll take one for the team," Derek joked and then turned and - leapt. Over the fence. For no good reason.

Taking a step after him, Stiles shook his head. "You like doing that crap just because you can!" Derek didn't respond, just climbed into his car and drove away. When it was long gone, Stiles found Dad into the living room not-watching the shopping channel.

"Yep," Stiles said, throwing himself down onto the sofa, "that's just what we need. A potato that slices itself." But, actually...that would be pretty cool. How did that even work?

Dad flicked the channel and - yeah. Right. Questions to ask. "Uh, so. What just happened?"

"Well, I think Lucy's got amnesia from a brain tumour," Dad answered, gesturing towards the television.

"No," Stiles explained, "I meant before. With Derek. Not that I don't appreciate the fact that you didn't, you know, castrate him or anything, but one minute you were all bad-ass dad and the next you were...welcoming father figure. What gives?"

Sighing, Dad flicked off the TV and finally looked over at him. "Chris arriving, it..." he shrugged. "It reminded me of everything Derek's been through."

Yeah, that just made him feel icky. "So you...feel sorry for him?"

"No, no," Dad shook his head, then paused. "Well, I do feel sorry for him - of course I do. But that's not the reason I..." He sighed again. "He was younger than you when he got...thrust into this new role that he wasn't ready for. So much responsibility suddenly on his shoulders. Since the age of 16 he probably hasn't been able to do things the way regular teenagers do. Relationships. Love. Life. He may be technically older than you," Dad explained, "but in a lot of ways, he's...just a kid."

It was one of those moments where Stiles genuinely didn't know what to say. All he knew was that he felt distinctly emotional and before he even knew what he was doing, he was kneeling down by Dad's chair, throwing his arms around him. "Thanks," he told the fabric brushing against his skin, because he knew what this took, the risks Dad was taking himself and it was amazing.

And then he ran for his bedroom, where he could deal with these emotions without an audience.

"Just remember," Dad called out after him, making Stiles pause on the stairs, "the first time either one of you buys condoms, I'll hear about it." Wincing, Stiles closed his eyes even as Dad continued the torment. "Speaking of which, I had a very interesting conversation with Mr Wickersham at the drug store today..."

TBC

Chapter Text

There were three things that happened to Stiles when he arrived at school the next day.

First, Isaac walked straight up to him and said, "I've been instructed to tell you that I took over Jackson duty last night."

Surprised and more than a little amused that Derek would actually go to the trouble of telling Isaac to pass on the message, he nonetheless studied Isaac critically. "And is that the actual truth? Or is he using his super werewolf Alpha powers to make you say anything he wants?"

"For a start," Isaac told him, "it doesn't work that way."

"It doesn't?" he asked, disappointed. "There are no super werewolf Alpha powers?" He'd been imagining that Derek could make Isaac do anything he wanted - a theory that most people would've probably found disturbing but that Stiles just found cool.

And hot.

He was a bad, bad man.

"Not with that kind of thing. On a baser level, when I've shifted, it's different. Of course, he's the Alpha anyway, so I'm basically going to do anything he asks just out of respect. And it is instinct to do whatever he wants you to do," he finally admitted.

Interesting, informative - and ill-advised. "You're not selling me on this 'you speaking the truth' theory."

Smiling faintly, Isaac shook his head. "Trust me, it was most boring nine hours of my life. I wouldn't lie about it. I don't know how Derek does it every night." He was fuelled by the power of guilt and epic broodiness, that was how.

That was the moment the second thing happened to him, as Scott and Allison ran up to them, Lydia trailing some distance behind.

"So?" Allison asked eagerly. "How did it go?"

It took his brain a few seconds to translate and understand the question, and then he was turning to whack Scott on the arm.

"Ow!"

"What the hell, Scott? You told her?"

Rubbing at his arm, Scott looked utterly confused. "But...it's Allison." As explanations went, it pretty much sucked. The Allison Defense had stopped being cute a long - long, long, long - time ago.

"Fair enough," Stiles replied not-so-sweetly, "but as with the PDAs, this goes both ways. If you get to tell Allison secret bro-code stuff, then I get to tell Derek." Not that Derek would even want to know any of Scott's secret fears or issues, but it was the principle of the thing.

"Uh," Scott replied glumly, clearly not pleased with this state of affairs. "I guess. I mean, it's only fair, right?" He was trying to sound like a good friend, but was so obviously disturbed by the concept that he was failing miserably.

Good. This tit-for-tat thing was turning out to be incredibly useful for those times when he wanted Scott to shut up.

Not that Stiles would ever do that. He was only ever a good friend and totally above manipulating anyone to get what he wanted.

Absolutely.

"So," Allison repeated, "how did it go?"

"How did what go?" Lydia asked as she finally drew up next to them, then seemed to remember something she shouldn't have known in the first place. "Oh - Derek meeting your dad, right? Probably went better than their previous meetings, considering no arrest warrant was needed this time."

Scott had to be kidding him. "Seriously! Scott!"

"It wasn't me!" Scott insisted, immediately defending himself. "I swear, I only told Allison!" Stiles knew better than to assume Allison was an innocent little girl who knew nothing about kicking anyone's ass. That didn't stop him from fixing her with his well practised 'I will kill you!' look (imagined in a crappy attempt at a foreign accent and everything). This particular time, however, she did look innocent - and he soon found out why.

Lydia shrugged. "Isaac told me."

Say what now? Stiles knew that Isaac was a werewolf and all, and even more importantly, a werewolf that Derek made himself. But even so... "Derek didn't tell you...?" he questioned, half-certain. He couldn't picture Derek happily telling anyone, not even one of his own Betas, that he was off to meet his maybe-boyfriend's dad (and he didn't care what Derek said. He was still going with maybe-boyfriend in his head).

"Didn't have to," Isaac explained. "He was all...silent and surly."

Stiles gestured for more, eager for an explanation. "And this is different from his normal behaviour how?"

"Well, I also didn't need to be a werewolf to be able to smell the fear and anxiety rolling off him. And when I caught him changing into a shirt and tie-"

"Shirt and tie?" Scott asked, making a face.

"Shirt and tie?" Lydia asked, unimpressed for entirely different reasons.

"Shirt and tie!" Allison exclaimed, clapping her hands together once.

"Oh my God, yes!" Stiles waved his arms about in general, because they were all idiots. "Derek wore a shirt and tie! Are you happy?"

"Not really," Scott admitted with a shrug.

"That depends," Lydia began, "was it a clip-on? Because if it was? He loses points for tackiness."

"Of course I'm happy," Allison smiled, before confessing, "I didn't think he owned anything other than black t-shirts."

"I hate all of you!" Stiles declared because this was his life and they didn't need to pick apart and analyse every single part of it. All three of them looked varying degrees of offended, until Isaac - being Isaac and, therefore, not insane and therefore actually the best of them - continued on as if there'd been no interruption.

"Anyway, when I caught him changing into a shirt and tie, it was pretty obvious what was going on."

Stiles took the pause that followed immediately after to get the conversation the hell away from his life. He absolutely wanted to talk about it - sometimes. When he was in charge of the conversation and not being stampeeded by his friends, AKA the peanut gallery (in fact, they weren't even the peanut gallery. They were the pine nut gallery). "Before anyone asks for a third time," he began, "it went fine. Dad and Derek got along fine," slight exaggeration, but ultimately the truth, "and the whole evening went fine - until your dad showed up," he finished, fixing Allison with a glare. She blanched, visibly. "Anything you need to tell us?"

"Oh!" she said, notably surprised. "Oh, I was going to tell you guys later..."

"Tell us what?" Scott asked, clearly having no idea what she was referring to.

"Well, after Stiles told us about Dad's first visit to his house, he suggested I talk to him. I did," she said matter-of-factly.

"Detail," Stiles encouraged, "more detail!"

Allison didn't disappoint. "I made it very clear I wasn't happy with him," she explained, although Stiles wouldn't have minded hearing specific details on exactly how that'd gone down, "that half the town already thinks we're crazy by association because of what Aunt Kate did. And that making threats to Derek through Stiles - when Stiles has never been anything but a friend or an ally, helping us take down Peter while Dad was out cold on the floor," ha, yeah, she was officially Kick Ass, "would only turn me more against him. He then asked what I suggested."

Lydia spoke, voice curious. "And what did you suggest?"

Apparently needing to take a moment, she looked nervously at each of them one-by-one. Stiles' brain was way past this cannot be good when she spoke again.

"That he come to the house tonight. Derek's house. To talk."

The sound of collective outrage resounded along the front of the school. Stiles was the loudest.

"Are you insane?" he questioned, for once actually believing it might be true. "You were going to spring your dad on Derek by surprise? And not expect him to get his lungs ripped out?"

"No," she said calmly, "I was planning on telling you at lunch. And you were going to break it to him." He had to give her credit for her honesty, if nothing else. "Look, I had to do something," she rushed on, explaining, "he knows about Isaac, okay? He knows there's another werewolf and he hasn't done anything, hasn't told anyone else, hasn't confronted Derek about it. He just wants to talk, but said that every time he's gone there during the day, Derek either hasn't been there or has been hiding from him - probably the latter," Allison concluded, and okay - Stiles had not known about that. Someone had been keeping hot werewolfy secrets. "Stiles," she told him, holding his gaze, "you know we stand a much better chance of taking Jackson down with the help of a hunter who has decades worth of experience. Even if that hunter is my dad."

She stared at him kind of desperately, like this meant a lot to her personally, and...maybe it did. For all her confusion towards her family in general - and her dad specifically, these days - she wanted this to work, for all of them to work together as a team, for whatever reason. Family unity? Wanting to trust in her father again? Proving that werewolves could be trusted, that they weren't all killers like Peter Hale?

And it wasn't like Stiles himself thought it was a bad idea - in theory. He'd been trying to make the same point to Derek himself, that not all Argents were like Kate Argent and shouldn't be treated the same way. He just knew how difficult it was for Derek to get past his many, various and totally understandable trust issues with the Argent family.

But then...

Allison.

Derek had trusted Allison; had even accepted her into the group. As far as Stiles knew, he'd never questioned her presence there, had never told Scott to try and keep her away (which...hilarious mental image. He'd love to see Scott even try and keep Allison away from something she wanted to do). He'd apparently never blamed Allison for what her aunt had done, and she'd personally shot him with a bow and arrow. Twice.

Maybe Derek was more forgiving than even he himself realised.

And Allison was staring at him with wide, pleading eyes, so hopeful and optimistic and...

Hell. "I'll talk to him."

"Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou," she chanted, throwing her arms around him and even jiggling up and down on the spot, which was more than a little weird when she was hugging him.

"O-kay," he said awkwardly, extricating himself quickly and very carefully not looking anywhere near Scott.

And that was when the third thing happened to him that morning - the third thing technically happening to Scott as Jackson suddenly appeared, confronting him.

"McCall," he grunted angrily, "tell The Great Alpha to stop avoiding me, grow a pair, and tell me why the hell I'm not turning."

The five of them stood there, wide-eyed, sharing not-in-any-way-suspicious looks.

"You're...not...changing?" Stiles asked.

"Don't act like you don't know," Jackson snapped. "We all know that if it'd worked, I'd be granted an open invitation to your little playgroup. Not that I'd want to join," he added hastily.

By now, Scott just looked surprised. "Playgroup?"

"The five of you," Jackson gestured towards each of them, somehow managing to make it look dismissive, "don't think I haven't noticed the way you cluster together every day, whispering to each other like girls at a slumber party. Like you're all BFFs and Derek finally got a pack of his very own."

"Careful, Jackson," Lydia told him, and Stiles just knew a verbal smackdown was incoming, "your jealousy is showing." Not her best effort, but still effective as Jackon literally turned red.

"Don't be ridiculous," he insisted, "and just give him the damn message. It's been over a month now. I'm stronger and I'm faster, but no matter what I do I can't change. Getting angry doesn't work. Even on the full moon nothing happened."

"Well then, congratulations, man!" Stiles said with as much fake enthusiasm as he could muster. "Consider yourself lucky. You got all the benefits of being a werewolf and none of the downsides. The many, many downsides," he added. Then paused. "Many."

"I want it all," he growled, doing a pretty damn fine werewolf impression for a guy who was actually a lizard, before stomping away.

They all stared after him, watching him go.

"Someone didn't get to put on their princess panties this morning," Stiles remarked.

"Less than a week to the new moon," Isaac pointed out.

Right.

The bell sounded, surprising all of them into moving towards the building. Stiles knew that text message wasn't the best way to break the news to Derek, but he also knew that Derek should know ASAP. And he might be able to get away with sending a text message during school - an actual phone call was a complete no-no.

As soon as they got into Home Room, Stiles dumped his bag on his desk, unzipping it and making it look like he was searching for something when it was really a cover for phone usage.

don't panic.

He got a reply in less than a minute, at which point he thought his bag searching was probably causing him undue attention.

Not that it stopped him.

That's the kind of stupid message that makes people panic

Stiles was totally feeling the love and about to compose a reply when another message flashed up.

Are you hurt?

Yeah. Definitely best maybe-boyfriend ever. When he wasn't being the worst.

no. allison told her dad to come to your house tonight. to talk. TOTALLY NOT MY IDEA. !!!!!

He felt it was very important to make that clear.

Roll call was being taken, then, so Stiles stuffed his phone into his pocket and shoved his bag to the floor. When they finally escaped from the room, he checked the phone and found no new messages. Derek was probably being broody and pouty about the whole situation, so Stiles said exactly that.

stop being broody and pouty. he knows about isaac and hasn't told anyone or done anything.

When there was still no reply fifteen minutes into class, he sent another message under the guise of locating a dropped pencil.

we might need his help, derek. man up. or werewolf up. don't make me pester you on the phone all day. YOU KNOW I WILL.

Two minutes later, he finally got a response.

Make sure he's alone and unarmed and knows he has one chance. Also, I'll just block your number

Stiles grinned, immediately hiding it when he realised he might have an audience. Miss Lewis wasn't looking anywhere at him, so he sent another reply.

What if I want to send sexy pics? :( :( :( I have a pose picked out and everything.

The next reply, when it came, legimately nearly made him drop his phone.

Posing doesn't make anyone sexy. It's something given naturally, just like it's been given to you.

He started talking the moment they got out class.

"Derek thinks I'm sexy!"

They all looked at him like he was an idiot and 1) he was used to it and 2) he didn't care. Derek thought he was sexy.

"Yeah, we..." Scott frowned at him strangely, "...kind of figured that out, Stiles. Even when we really didn't want to."

And, sure, that comment was fair enough given that he and Derek were dating or doing whatever the hell it was they were doing. And objectively, sure, he knew that Derek liked him and seemed to enjoy their make-out sessions just as much as Stiles had (their last real session in Derek's place had involved his first, Hi, there, Derek woody! moment, which had totally freaked him out and totally turned him on at the same time), but being classified as sexy was just...

Stiles had thought that he'd won Derek over just with the force of his awesomeness and hilarious personality. He honestly hadn't given much thought to the fact that it also had something to do with the way he looked (not that he thought that Derek thought he was ugly or anything, but...). Then again, sexy was such a subjective term. Stiles still found certain cartoon characters sexy - most notably Betty Boop. But away from TV, Stiles had always been drawn to people who were strong, intelligent, emotionally unavailable and totally able to dissect him verbally - or literally.

Yeah, Stiles definitely had a type.

It didn't hurt that both Lydia and Derek were hot like burning.

It was just weird thinking of anyone thinking of him as being sexy. He'd been 'Stiles' for so long, the dorky kid who was best buds with the asthma kid, who also had an obvious hard-on for the Captain of the Lacrosse team's girl. Most of the time he'd hadn't even been treated with contempt or pity - he wasn't even that important. He was inconsequential.

And it was time for another revelation: Scott getting bitten might have been the best thing that'd ever happened to him. Not because he'd met Derek (although: definite bonus), but because for the first time in years, he felt useful. Like he had something to contribute. He could admit that that's what doing all those chores around the house had been about - obviously because he wanted to make things easier on dad, when he knew he wasn't always the son he should be (lack of impulse control could be a real bitch). But mainly because he wanted to be needed and...

Man, he had no idea he was so damn co-dependent. The amount of time he spent around Scott really should've given him a clue.

These last six months, though, since Scott had been bitten...despite all the terrible things that'd happened, all the horror and terror they'd had to deal with because of Peter Hale...he was now the happiest he'd been since before Mom had died.

"Hey," Scott said, drawing his attention again, "you look really happy. If I'd known being called sexy would've had that much of an effect, I would've told you you were sexy months ago." His eyes crinkled and Stiles didn't even try to stop himself, throwing an arm around Scott's shoulder.

He eyed him teasingly. "You know, Scott, if you ever decided you liked guys..."

"No," Scott replied firmly, grinning, because he knew Stiles so damn well, "I would not have a three-way with you and Derek."

"Spoilsport!"

TBC

Chapter Text

When Stiles pulled up outside the Hale house, the whole gang was with him - sans Allison, who was meeting up with her dad and bringing him there personally, in an effort to reduce the prospect of his inevitable arrival causing Derek to wolf-out and maim him in some truly disgusting way.

Derek himself seemed just as cheerful as usual, not greeting anyone and immediately ordering them to get down to business. 'Business', apparently, meant all of them following Derek into the middle of the clearing, where they sat in a circle. Confused, Stiles was about to crack a joke about launching into campfire songs when Derek produced a large sheet of paper (from where, Stiles had no freaking clue). Once it was spread flat on the ground they all peered down at it and, while Derek clearly didn't have an artistic flair, it was also clearly a map of the Hale house and the area immediately surrounding it - including the trees.

"To reduce the risk of any bystanders being injured - or accidentally stumbling across the fight - the plan is to lure Jackson here." Stiles nodded his agreement. It made sense, although he'd love to know exactly how they were planning on luring Lizard Jackson anywhere.

"For the record," Lydia spoke next, "Jackson confronted us today. He knows - or, more accurately, believes - he isn't changing. He acknowledges that he's faster and stronger, but thinks that's all he's gained."

Derek nodded slowly, absorbing this information. "What about other abilities, like enhanced hearing or sense of smell?"

"He didn't mention it and hasn't shown any sign of being able to utilise either to any significant degree. Which makes sense," she explained. "In the reptile family, lizards can hear much better than snakes, for example, but it's still nothing close to the range that wolves can hear. And that's probably a fraction of what werewolves can hear." Yeah, Lydia's research was definitely paying off.

"Maybe it's some kind of...fugue state," Isaac suggested, "the fact that he can't remember. When I turn fully, it's difficult controlling what I want to do, but I do remember everything. Maybe the fact that he hurt someone, tried to kill them..." he shrugged, then looked pensive. "Trust me. The brain's capable of blocking out all kinds of terrible things."

"Is that why he can't change whenever he wants?" Stiles asked, because that'd been on his mind for a while now. "Shouldn't he be able to get all Lizard Happy whenever the mood strikes?"

"He'd have difficulty controlling it at first, just like anyone who's been recently turned," Derek replied, "but you're right. He's a shifter. He shouldn't need to wait for a new moon - or any night of the month - to be able to change. Maybe the fact that he can't remember his first change is...inhibiting that ability?" He voiced it as a question, shrugging himself, and his face said exactly what Stiles was thinking: I wish this wasn't all theory and guess-work.

But they had nothing else to work on and they couldn't sit back and do nothing. If Jackson did turn again and this time actually managed to kill someone...Stiles knew that they'd all feel responsible and would probably never be able to forgive themselves for sitting on their asses. Derek already had enough guilt issues to fill a large-text version of War and Peace - that might just finish him off.

Scott must've felt just as frustrated as Stiles did by the lack of actual information, because he spoke next. "I wish we just actually knew something about it!"

"It's called a kanima," Chris Argent's voice suddenly said, making the humans in the group gasp and look around (at this point, that was just him and Lydia. This probably should've worried him more). The wolves in the group didn't react in any way whatsoever, which meant several things: being the Alpha and the wolf with the strongest abilities, Derek had to have known first. However, at whatever point Scott and Isaac had both noticed, they hadn't said anything or given any indication that they knew Mr Argent and Allison were approaching. Which probably meant they were respecting and even mimicking Derek's choice to pretend he wasn't aware of anyone walking up to them.

All without talking or - as far as Stiles had been able to tell - without looking at each other whatsoever.

Mind. Blown.

He'd have to talk to Scott later, see if Stiles' theory was correct, if Scott'd even realised why he'd done what he'd done, or if it'd all been unconscious and if this meant - willingly or not on Scott's behalf - Derek was now Scott's Alpha.

He had a feeling the answer to that was a big, fat yes.

But on to more important things.

"What the hell's a kanima?" Stiles demanded as he got to his feet, maybe a little more aggressively than usual because his heart was still doing the tango against his rib cage.

"That thing that Jackson's turning into," Mr Argent said casually, and this time there was a reaction from everybody. Mr Argent just looked disappointed in them, a surprisingly ballsy move for a man in his position. "I figured out Isaac was a werewolf," he pointed out, "you really think I couldn't figure out that Jackson was the kanima? Besides," he continued, finally glancing towards Derek, "you stay down-wind of a werewolf and you can follow them almost anywhere. Including the house they've been visiting every single night."

Aaaaaand...admitting that he'd been following Derek around most nights wasn't just ballsy - that was just stupid. Did everybody around here have a death wish?

Allison, apparently, agreed. "Dad, you're not helping," she hissed. "Just tell them what you found."

That drew Stiles' eye to the book Mr Argent was holding his right hand. It looked old but well-cared for in that way that books really weren't, anymore. As they watched, Mr Argent opened the book up to a specific page where there was a drawing in like...ye oldey-fashioned penmanship, of something that looked suspiciously like Lizard Jackson. The writing on the other page - also in ye oldey-fashioned penmanship - was most definitely not English. His fingers were immediately itching to touch it, even as his brain was offering up options. He suspected it was Latin, although he had a very, very limited knowledge of Latin, mostly based on his exposure to fantasy-based television shows, movies, games and comics. And as everybody knew, they were always totally authentic and never made anything up.

"The kanima is a creature of vengeance," Mr Argent said, addressing the group, "and like the werewolf, it's controlled by the moon. Unlike the wolf, it's-"

"Controlled by the new moon!" Stiles interrupted, excited, and Mr Argent may have looked more startled than Stiles had ever seen him (and that was an incredibly satisfying thing to do to Mr Creepy McCreeperson), but he nodded his silent agreement. "Yes!" Stiles jumped to his feet, ecstatic, pumping his hands up into the air. "I. Am. Awesome!" He froze like that, eyes scrunched shut in utter glee, before realising the total silence surrounding him. Cracking his eyes open, he lowered his head to see everyone staring at him like he'd just done a full on Tom Cruise-on-the-sofa. Philistines. "Come on," he encouraged, letting his arms drop so he could gesticulate with them instead (gesticulate was officially the best word ever. He might have to use it all the time, now. Gesticulate. Gesticulate. Gesticulate). "I figured all of that out without a handy-dandy ye oldey book. What is that, anyway?" he gestured towards it.

Mr Argent looked legitimately scared of whatever it was that Stiles might do next. Which was also very satisfying. "It's a beastiary," and okay: cool.

"A book on beastiality?" Scott asked, horrified and really, they should've just whacked him around the head with the book.

"A beastiary," Stiles corrected, and ohhhh, he wanted to touch it, imagine what it could tell him about werewolves? "It's like an...encyclopedia of mystical creatures. And don't judge," he added, "may I remind you you're one half of a human-werewolf sandwich?" And then he remembered that the other half of that human-werewolf sandwich's dad was standing right there, so... "Not that anyone's being squished together to make a yummy filling. Uh..." Man, why did he even get up in the morning?

"Stiles."

Finally, Derek had spoken for the first time since Mr Argent had arrived. Stiles counted it as a win, even if Derek had only spoken to imply that Stiles needed to shut the hell up. "Shutting up now," he agreed, throwing himself back down to the ground.

Derek spoke again and though he wasn't looking at anyone in particular, it was obviously addressed to Mr Argent. "What guarantees can you give us?"

Although Derek still wasn't looking at him, Mr Argent stared at Derek's bowed head intently. "That, to the best of my knowledge, I've never killed an innocent. That I never intend to. That I've been lied to about many things. That, unlike my sister," he paused, probably deliberately, "I follow The Code. Yes, I'll probably keep a closer eye on you than you'd like, but that's because I've seen what being a werewolf can do to people-"

"Can," Derek interrupted, finally lifting his head and finally, finally, meeting Mr Argent's gaze, "what it can do, to someone who doesn't have anyone else. To an Omega. Not to someone who has something to hold on to. Or to someone who has a pack."

And - really? Stiles was genuinely the only one to give Derek a look after a statement like that? They were a pack now?. As an idea it wasn't as surprising as it could've been, given Derek's own slip-up about it a while back. Even so, the thought of actually being part of a pack - werewolves - took some adjusting to.

"And that's what this is?" Mr Argent asked, sounding genuinely curious. "A pack?"

Derek stood up and the rest of them followed suit, like it was instinct, like they didn't even need to think - including Stiles - and holy shit, this didn't need adjusting to at all. He'd been right about Scott earlier but Derek wasn't just Scott's Alpha - he was their Alpha. And it was absolutely frigging ridiculous as goosebumps sprung up over Stiles' body, as Allison stepped away from her dad to join them and all six of them faced him and Derek just said,

"Yes."

And it really was ridiculous because he'd known but somehow hadn't really been aware and he had no idea how that made any sense, and the thrill that ran through the entire group (pack) at Derek's pronouncement was shared by each of them, resulting in a set of stupid grins. Except for Derek, of course, who was staring Mr Argent down, looking grumpy and surly as always while his entire pack (pack!) spazzed out around him.

Mr Argent wisely stayed focused only on Derek. "Including the humans?"

Derek didn't even hesitate. "We'd be nothing without them."

Derek was so getting some sweet, sweet loving for this later on.

After a few long moments, Mr Argent nodded once. "What's your plan?"

And so they told him. Or, more specifically, Derek finally manned-up and realised that having this particular Argent on their side might not kick them completely in the ass. For the most part, Mr Argent listened silently, but he had been at this much longer than any of them, and sometimes he had suggestions or amendments to the plan. Derek took it about as well as Derek could - with a fair amount of glowering - but it was obvious that even he could see the benefits of Mr Argent's experience. Even if said experience had come from years of chasing down Derek's own kind.

Finally, it seemed they had everything covered - except for how they were planning on getting Jackson to the house in the first place.

"Someone has to be bait," Derek declared as Mr Argent nodded his agreement and dude - definitely in an alternate reality.

"If he's out for revenge - which is what a kanima does," Mr Argent chimed in, "we have to make sure he's not going to go after anyone else he feels he's been wronged by."

"So what you're basically saying is," Lydia said, "somebody has to deliberately make him angry in some way. Something big. Can I volunteer?" She sounded like she was teasing, but Stiles was getting the impression that she really wasn't.

And ultimately, to Stiles, the answer was obvious. "It has to be me."

Derek's head whipped around in his direction. "Why?"

"Think about it," he replied, even as his mind was racing through the different reasons, "Jackson already has a long history of wanting to or actually kicking my ass. To anyone not in the know, anything I do to him will just look like...revenge, like I've finally had enough of putting up with his crap."

"Sounds familiar," Lydia remarked.

"And not that I'm not awesome," he continued, "but I'm the only one who doesn't have awesome werewolfy powers. Or awesome gun-fighting powers," he gestured towards Mr Argent. "Or awesome Legolas-type powers." He nodded towards Allison and Lydia. "I have to be the bait, distracting him, while the rest of you who do have awesome powers take him down." He could feel everybody's eyes on him, but the only one that mattered was Derek. Derek, who was staring at him, jaw clenching, nostrils flaring, and there might even have been an actual vein throbbing visibly on the side of his neck.

Or maybe Stiles was projecting.

"Fine," Derek ground out eventually and Stiles wanted to do a whole 'nother victory dance because sometimes even Stiles had to be the one deliberately putting himself in harms way. And it wasn't like he was looking forward to the idea (at all, actually), but it was the best shot of this working. "But you'll have your taser on you at all times-"

"Duh, not an idiot," Stiles rebuked, because, hello? Being the target of a human-sized paralysing lizard? Stiles was going to be Taser Central. He'd have one jammed into every pocket available, and even some that weren't.

"Debatable," Derek shot back, which hey, but then he soothed it by adding, "but you're hardly the only one. Allison," he changed topics immediately, "take Lydia and your dad to the firing range. See if he can give you some pointers."

"Firing...range?" Mr Argent asked, sounding worried and confused, which was just delightful as he was lead away by the girls.

"Isaac and Scott; play tag. Isaac, you're it." It might've sounded like a kids' game and it was one of the training activities they enjoyed the most, but it'd quickly and effectively upped their tracking skills. Nodding, the two of them ran off.

Derek finally faced him again. "And Stiles..."

"Actually," Stiles told him, "what I want to do is talk." And by talk he meant 'climb you like a tree the moment we're alone in the house'.

Which is exactly what he did.

"Stiles," Derek complained, although his body - and his mouth - didn't seem to be complaining at all, as he pushed Stiles up against a wall. "This is so not the time." Even as he told Stiles this, his hand was pressing against Stiles ass, pushing their groins together and this was so totally the right time. Absolutely, definitely, the right time.

"We're going up against a six-foot paralysing lizard in less than a week," Stiles got out between gasps and kisses, "if this isn't the time, then when the hell is?"

"Good point," Derek agreed, like he'd been holding back in the first place at all, deepening the next kiss.

Humming happily, arms hooked over Derek's shoulders, Stiles pressed their forehead together. "You're good," he found himself murmuring, "so, so good." Derek just let him ramble, occasionally interrupting with a soft kiss. "I mean, it seemed incredibly brave - albeit stupid - not to turn around and confront the killer werewolf hunter who was sneaking up on you - but you were making a statement, right? And," mmm, another kiss, "you didn't argue when I volunteered to be bait." Derek's grip on either side of Stiles' torso tightened briefly, almost painfully. "And I know you hate it," Stiles continued quietly, "just the way I would if our positions were reversed. But you knew it was what I wanted, so you backed me up. And that was just..." Hot wasn't even a strong enough word and Derek seemed to understand because he shuddered against him, making Stiles groan as he tipped his head back. "And, and," he gasped, and he didn't know how it was even possible to get turned on by this, but every indicator pointed to the fact that he was, "you slept last night. You let Isaac take over and I can see the difference in you already, after just one night and I'm part of your pack," and hooooly shit Derek was now sucking on his neck and Stiles was about to get his first hickey and not just from anyone - from a werewolf. He thought about telling Derek to stop, for all of 0.0001 seconds, but by now he and make-up were already well-acquainted.

He shuddered into it, instead, words gone as Derek rocked against him and oh, there was Derek dick. Erect Derek dick, no less, and it was rubbing against his and he'd never felt anything like it. The build-up inside, absolutely, but never this fast, never this intense and...and...

Derek stopped.

Panting, leaning back against the wall, Stiles could only stare - which actually wasn't helping matters much, what with Derek heaving for breath himself, looking gorgeous and flushed and like he wanted nothing more than to literally rip Stiles' clothes off and have his wicked (wicked, wicked) way with him.

"Wha?" Stiles forced out.

"You...stopped kissing," Derek explained between breaths.

And yeah, when the blood supply had somewhat returned to his brain, Stiles knew it was true. "I, uh. Pretty sure I was about to experience what most teenage guys have experienced at least once in their life." Which was a vaguely embarrassing admission, but hey - he'd been that close to coming because of Derek Hale. So, y'know. Good sides and bad sides. "Didn't want an audience afterward," he explained, nodding to the front of the house.

Swallowing, Derek nodded his understanding.

They stared at each other some more. Stiles licked his lips. Derek then stared at his mouth.

"I'm...gonna leave now," Stiles announced, already on the move.

"That's a very good idea," Derek announced, voice unusually low and...needy.

Yeah, he needed to get the hell out of there right now and literally ran for the door. Outside in the clearing, he bent at the waist in an attempt to get his breath - and equilibrium - back. Man, this thing between him and Derek could still take him by surprise.

"Stiles?"

Speaking of surprises, Stiles let rip with a yell as he stumbled around to see Mr Argent. "Does nobody ever announce their presence anymore? Seriously!" He was surrounded by creepers.

"Sorry," Mr Argent apologised, flashing those too-big teeth in his first smile since he'd arrived. "Just wanted to check you're okay."

"Fine," Stiles insisted quickly, because at least Mr Argent hadn't arrived thirty seconds earlier to see just how very, very fine he was. As it was, there was no way anyone - especially a hunter, a specialist in noticing things - could have failed to notice the signs of exactly what Stiles had been doing less than a minute ago. It was probably much too late and much too obvious to try and cover the probably extremely obvious hickey. Stiles tried anyway, folding his arms across his chest and totally casually letting one hand come up to his neck, palm facing outward as his fingers spasmed seemingly of their own accord.

Mr Argent just seemed amused, so either he just thought Stiles was wacko - admittedly, there was a lot of evidence to base this theory on - or he'd known already. Which...why? How long? And why hadn't he said anything?

"Is it okay if I speak to Derek?" Mr Argent asked instead, gesturing towards the house.

Yeah. Not a good idea right now. "You should probably give him some time," Stiles explained. "He's doing...werewolf...stuff. Y'know."

Mr Argent just kept looking at him, still seeming amused. "I see."

They stood there in mutual silence for a while, before Stiles thought of something to say. Something quite important, actually. "So, uh, can I ask you something?"

"Of course," Mr Argent said magnanimously, like he lived only to help people.

Maybe that was closer to the truth than Stiles had realised before - but that still didn't stop him being Creepy McCreeperson. "Why are you helping us?"

Taking the question in, Mr Argent smiled softly. "God knows I don't like it, and I don't trust a werewolf as far as I can throw one." An excellent start there, really. Stiles was totally convinced. "But...past events have shown that sometimes...we've been wrong. And whether I like it or not, my daughter's a part of your pack. She's made it clear that if I force her to choose, she won't choose me." His smile turned sad as he shrugged at Stiles. "It's a simple as that."

Hearing footsteps, Stiles turned to see Derek stepping out onto the porch.

Yeah. Sometimes it was just as simple as that.

TBC

Chapter Text

Over the next few days, Stiles' life developed a new routine. He kept going to Derek's place every night, and he still met up with the others every night. Only now, Chris Argent was giving him training.

Or at least, was attempting to.

The day following his first visit, Mr Argent had turned up again, volunteering his services in self-defense training as an extra level of protection for the humans in the pack. Derek had hesitated for a fraction of a second, before his gaze slid over to Stiles and he said yes.

It quickly became evident that Stiles was as un-coordinated in the art of self-defense as he was in every other aspect of his life. He actually hit Mr Argent in the face - twice - purely by accident, because his arms had a life all their own. Instead of going all creepy, bad-ass hunter on him, Mr Argent actually laughed (laughed!) after the second hit, speaking ruefully as he rubbed a hand over his nose.

"Stiles, I think it's safe to say that you'll be our greatest asset out on a hunt."

Stunned, Stiles pulled his head back. "It is?" He was totally messing with him, right?

"I'm serious," Mr Argent grinned, "the enemy will never be able to guess what you're going to do next, because even you don't know what you're going to do next." And, well, technically that was a back-handed compliment and Stiles generally only approved of those when he was the one dishing them out, but Mr Argent did also kind of sound like it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"Always keep them guessing," Stiles shrugged.

It was a little strange getting to know Mr Argent as someone other than 'Allison's dad' and 'creepy hunter guy'. Some aspects of his personality seemed entirely devoid of creepiness altogether, and he obviously cared about his wife a lot. More than once, he'd overheard Allison and her dad talking about whether to 'tell her'. Stiles didn't know much about Victoria Argent personally, although he did know that she knew about werewolves, it being the family business and all. As far as he knew, she'd never been directly involved in any of the werewolf hunting that'd happened around Beacon Hills. Maybe she was the ideas guy, like Stiles. Uh, girl. Woman. Whatever. Maybe she was the ideas woman, and her husband actually went out and did the hunting. And training, which he was now giving Stiles, and Stiles really had to remember that this was a good thing.

So, although Stiles didn't pick it up as fast as Allison and Lydia, he learned how to throw a punch without hurting himself, how to block or avoid a punch in most situations, and how to take a punch so it did less damage. Of course, they were going up against a venomous lizard so Stiles really didn't know how much punching would be going on, but the way his life had been going these past six months it seemed kind of stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity. Plus, it made Derek crazy happy - by which he meant, every now and then he'd catch Derek watching him practise and Derek would nod his approval stoically. Of course, then Stiles would predictably get distracted and someone would usually end up on the ground (this was usually Stiles, but one particularly epic night it'd been Mr Argent. After the first few times, Stiles suspected Derek was totally doing it on purpose in the hopes that Chris would end up on his ass again).

When he wasn't training, he and Lydia would go through the beastiary because - of course - it was in Ancient Latin and - of course - Lydia could read Ancient Latin. What information on the kanima that could be found was thin on the ground. Mr Argent had already given them most of it, but they discovered that reports of the kanima were so rare that most hunters believed they'd never existed at all, and their 'history' was purely based in mythology. As far as they could tell, there hadn't been any kind of kanima sighting in over a thousand years. Most disturbing of all was the confirmation that - just like werewolves on a full moon - the kanima was at the height of its strength on the night of the new moon. There was nothing that could be done about it, however. Suddenly kidnapping Jackson while he was human would gain them far too much attention, and on the off-chance that Derek had been wrong, and that somehow Jackson wasn't the kanima...they couldn't take the chance of getting the wrong person.

As much fun as it had been, however, becoming at least a partial bad-ass, and greedily running eager fingers over the pages of the beastiary (under Mr Argent's watchful - very, very watchful - gaze), Stiles' absolute favourite part of his new routine happened later in the evening. After the others left - usually offered a ride by Mr Argent - Stiles and Derek would go into the house together, close the door (that had an actual working lock now and everything), and go to town. By which he meant, 'try to suck each other's faces off in a way that might have sounded gross but totally, totally wasn't'.

After the first night when Mr Argent has visited - and Stiles nearly had a very messy, if very happy, problem in his pants - Derek had suggested that, for now, hands stayed above waists. And Stiles had to admit, there was something to be said for just enjoying the art of making out (with some groping - he was a virgin, not a monk), especially when you could kiss the way that Derek Hale kissed. It didn't have to be some desperate race to the finish - although sometimes, it still got away from them despite the best of both their intentions, and Derek would suddenly be flat against the wall on the far side of the room and Stiles would stare down miserably at the boner tenting his pants.

On this particular night - the night before the new moon - they were making out on Derek's sofa. Stiles had made the argument for the move to the sofa a few days ago, because as much as he had a surprising - to him, anyway...and, okay, so it wasn't really much of a surprise at all. As much as he had a kink for the Alpha dominance thing, getting down and dirty on the sofa was so much more comfortable than being pressed up against the wall - especially with the bruises he'd been sporting over the past couple of days from the self-defense lessons.

Stiles was straddling Derek's lap, eyes closed and head tilted back as Derek nuzzled his neck, when he felt fingers grasp the hem of his shirt, pulling it up. Surprised, he pulled his head back and met Derek's gaze, who was looking at him questioningly.

Duh.

It was the first time he and Derek had been shirtless together - or at all, in Stiles' case - and while not that long ago he might have felt self-conscious comparing his body to Derek's (ridiculous perfection of that kind should only ever exist in CGI'd movies), he knew now that Derek wanted him, that Derek found him sexy, and he must have done something very, very right in a past life to be on the receiving end of the expression of want playing across Derek's face as he brought a hand up to Stiles' chest, placing the hand firmly against it.

"Hurt," was all he said and Stiles frowned, looking down and noticing the faint bruise placed just above Derek's hand. Sometimes when they were making out, Derek got all weird and non-verbal like this. Stiles had figured it was the wolf part of him; that he'd reached a certain point where he was running more on instinct than anything else. Either that, or Stiles' sex-type skills were just so awesome that he'd reduced Derek to a mono-syllabic idiot.

He was totally willing to run with that theory, too.

As with all the weird crap that kept turning up in his life, Stiles had just learned to roll with it. "Can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs," he explained, but now Derek just looked even more confused and Stiles realised that metaphors were probably beyond the grasp of what Instincty Derek was able to understand. "I have to know how to defend myself," Stiles tried again, "sometimes that means getting hurt." Derek still didn't look like he liked what was being said, but when Stiles just rolled his eyes and told him to kiss him, Derek understood what that meant well enough.

It wasn't long until Derek was his regular self, kissing open-mouthed and dirty before trailing kisses across Stiles' face, down along his neck and onto his shoulder. He started mouthing the bare flesh on Stiles' shoulder and how was this even a thing, seriously? But it absolutely was as Stiles' burgeoning erection was suddenly at full mast, his toes scrunched up inside his sneakers and he started humping against Derek kind-of shamelessly.

Okay. So there was no 'kind-of' about it.

"Note to self," Derek remarked with dark amusement, pulling away only to slide his tongue all the way back along Stiles' neck to his face, his breath hot and heavy against Stiles' skin as Stiles shuddered, "shoulders are an erogenous zone. Stiles likes it."

"Stiles would like it even more if you'd shut the hell up," he shot back, grabbing Derek's hair and tugging him back in for another kiss. There may have been a huff of laughter but they were kissing again, and Stiles still had the shameless grinding going on. And, yes, for all there was something to be said for just enjoying making out, there was also something - lots and lots of somethings - to be said for kind-of bumping uglies with a totally hot guy who thought you were totally hot until you totally lost your mind.

And...they were alone. And...Stiles was ready to lose his mind.

It seemed ridiculous that only a month had passed since the attack in the garage, that it'd barely been a month since they'd started training. That it'd been less than a month since his Big, Gay Understanding. That the idea of being with a guy physically had freaked him out so much that he'd angsted over it for days, when now he...

God, he was so ready.

Knowing that Derek would probably still try to slow things down - being an annoyingly honorable man of his word and everything - Stiles felt determination settle over his body, shoulders straightening. Immediately noticing the difference, Derek pulled away, studying Stiles' face with a frown, head tilting to one side. Renewing his grip on Derek's hair, effectively holding him in place, Stiles found the confidence from somewhere to look Derek straight in the eye and hold that gaze as he rolled his hips.

Deliberately.

Staring back, Derek dropped both hands to rest against Stiles' thighs. He licked his lips.

Still holding his gaze, Stiles moved again. Derek's hands tightened painfully over Stiles' legs.

Stiles moved again, his gaze never wavering. I dare you.

And then whatever control Derek had left must've just snapped because their mouths were crashing together, Derek's hands gripping Stiles' hips tightly, which - more bruises - but it really didn't matter because Stiles was grinding down and Derek was pushing up to meet him and then Stiles went and ruined his totally awesome seduction technique (it'd worked and everything!) by coming in, like, two seconds.

Not that this really mattered, because he was still twitching - and possibly drooling mindlessly - when Derek arched and came underneath him, causing new sparks of pleasure all over his body and he'd done that. He'd done that to Derek.

"Ohmygod," he finally managed to force out of his suddenly weirdly heavy head, "best orgasm ever." Everything kind of went sideways then, and when his brain began working again an indeterminate amount of time later, Stiles was spread out across the sofa and Derek was on top of him.

...snuffling him.

Stiles didn't even know if snuffling was technically a word but that's what Derek was doing with absolutely no concept of personal space, constantly running his nose across Stiles' face and neck, sniffing almost continuously; even occasionally letting out a huff of breath when he seemed happy about something.

Stiles didn't know how he knew when Derek was happy mid-sniff. He just knew.

Now, while the snuffling was unexpected, it wasn't the weirdest thing that'd ever happened to him (although - pretty high up there). He could adjust to it, which might have had something to do with the fact that the guy doing the snuffling was sex on a six-foot-stick. A six-foot-stick that he'd just had sex with.

Stiles opened his mouth. "Is this a wolf thing?"

Grunting, Derek pulled his head back.

Stiles kind of wished he hadn't. "I'm fine with it, by the way. Just curious. I mean, it's not like you've got a knot or anything," because Stiles had done his research but then he realised Derek had frozen above him and, "holy crap, you do have a knot! Uh, and that's fine. I guess? We'll just have to use a lot more lube than I'd anticipated." And he'd been worried about it before, because all their dicks-through-jeans action had proved that Derek was generously endowed as it was. Throw a knot into the mix and now he was legitimately scared-

"Relax, Stiles," Derek instructed, and apparently even having sex with Stiles wouldn't stop Derek from giving him that you're such an idiot look. "A knot, seriously?"

"You're a wolf," he shrugged. "It seemed a perfectly valid conclusion."

"Werewolf," Derek corrected, "as in, half-human."

"Yeah, but how do I know which half is human?" Stiles used the hand that wasn't been squashed to poke Derek in the chest. "You already have the eyes, the teeth and the claws. How do I know you don't have the knot, too?"

"Because I just don't, Stiles! Trust me, I would know."

Well...right. Of course. Derek knew his own body better than anyone. Stiles just might have been...panicking. A little.

Something must have occurred to Derek then, because when he spoke again, it was in the form of a question. "Would you want me to? I mean, if I could."

And that was a seriously loaded question. "Um. Well. That doesn't make sense, right? Because it's for like...insemination and stuff, yeah?" Derek nodded silently. "And I'm...so not a girl. And I wouldn't want to get pregnant, anyway. I'm far too young to be having babies! Or cubs!" And, yeah. Definitely panicking. Maybe he hadn't been as ready as he'd thought. Maybe if it'd been with a regular guy, who he didn't need to discuss the possibility of knotting with. People always said sex was messy and complicated, and that was before you factored werewolves into the equation.

Making a shushing noise, Derek brought both hands up to carefully grasp either side of Stiles' face. "I'm sorry. We shouldn't have-"

"Don't. You. Dare," Stiles ground out angrily, meeting Derek's gaze. "This was as much my choice as it was yours. If it was a mistake, it was mine and no one else's." Derek still looked all...concerned and like he thought he might be an Evil Child Molester. Shaking his head at him, Stiles tugged him closer. "It was awesome," he said quietly, the memory of it making him smile stupidly, "and amazing. And seriously, orgasms are so much better when you're not alone."

That, at least, made a faint smile appear on Derek's face.

"Just...lie with me for a while?" Stiles asked, and Derek seemed only too happy to oblige. They shifted positions - and ugh, cleaning up the state of his pants was going to be so much fun when he got home - until they were crowded together on their sides, facing each other, arms drooping over each other wherever comfortable.

They just kind of looked at each other for a while - somewhat dorkily, Stiles thought - and when Derek eventually closed his eyes, so trusting, Stiles felt some of the background panic receeding. How could something like this ever be wrong?

At some point he dozed off himself. When he slowly blinked his eyes open again, Derek was staring at him intently.

"Promise me you'll be careful tomorrow."

Surprised and, admittedly, more than a little heart-fluttery at Derek's request, Stiles ran a finger down Derek's chest. Just because he could. "I'll have a whole pack and a hunter to protect me. I'll be fine." Right now, warm and so close to Derek, he wasn't nervous about that at all.

"I meant at school."

Ah. Tomorrow being the night of the new moon, Plan Piss-Off Jackson was to take place as close to the new moon as possible to make sure it was fresh in Jackson's mind - i.e., tomorrow at school. "Well, the rest of the pack will still be around," he pointed out, "and like you won't be lurking around every corner, making sure Jackson doesn't go all ninja on my ass." He knew better. "I should probably find this affinity for your Edward Cullen-style behaviour worrying, but in the end I suppose it just proves we're perfect for each other. You're creepy and lurky and - for whatever reason - I find that hot. Go figure."

"Those movies," Derek muttered, "are a total misrepresentation of what being a werewolf is actually like."

And...and...this was fantastic. "You've seen Twilight?" Derek's expression suddenly shuttered, like he'd revealed something he'd never, ever meant to. "You? Derek Hale? Has seen Twilight? And what are you talking about, 'misrepresentation'? You're shirtless all the time!"

"It was for research purposes. And I'm not shirtless in shorts."

Oh, like that made it any better. "Sure it was for research purposes."

"It actually was," Derek insisted, "but fine. Believe whatever you want to believe."

Oh God, now he was pouting. "Fine. Explain it to me." Derek said nothing. Stiles jiggled next to him. "Come on, I'm willing to listen and not mock - for at least thirty seconds."

It seemed like it was physically painful, but Derek eventually produced a response. "Everything about werewolves needs to be...studied."

Interesting. "Why?"

"To see if..." he paused, and suddenly Stiles understood. To see if there was anyone else. To see if there was anything truthful, anything that might suggest that someone actually knew what they were talking about.

To see if there was anyone else.

"When's the last time you saw a werewolf who wasn't a part of your pack? Or part of your family?"

Derek was silent for a while before replying, "Not since before the fire."

Now, Stiles was no expert, but that seemed like a particularly long time. He tried to imagine if their positions were reversed, if the world were populated by werewolves and the world at large had no idea that humans actually existed. While on the one hand, cool, on the other more serious hand...epic loneliness.

"Lucky for you," Stiles reminded, snuggling in close, "you have your own pack now." Derek would never have to alone again.

"Yeah," Derek admittedly quietly, mouth resting against the side of Stiles' head, "I do."

TBC

Chapter Text

Really, there were a lot of things he should've been worried about. Today, he was going to deliberately antagonise a six-foot lizard into attempting to paralyse and subsequently kill him. Even worse, if he screwed this up, not only would he actually get paralysed and literally die, then Jackson would be free to move on and kill someone else, and all of their training and planning would've been for nothing. Then there was also their uneasy alliance with Chris Argent to think about, or the fact that Dad knew about Derek - although, not everything about Derek, but one day he might find out the whole truth and that was going to be one hell of an interesting conversation...

But he'd had sex last night.

He'd freaked out initially, sure, but he dared any human not to freak out just a little at the idea of being knotted by a werewolf (one day he was going to print his memoirs, just so the rest of the human race could be graced with the knowledge of how very, very awesome he was for putting up with so much shit). But he'd gotten over it. It might have been the conversation as he left Derek's, where Derek had seemed to be at the point of making sure Stiles got home safely no matter what Stiles had to say about the matter. Stiles had let rip, confronting him about his possessive werewolf bullshit which was hot and all, but totally not practical given their current situation. Derek needed to get a decent night's rest - he and Isaac were still taking turns to watch Jackson - to make sure their biggest weapon, the Alpha, was as ready as he could be for the showdown. Stiles was perfectly capable of driving home by himself.

Derek hadn't said anything else, just thrown him up against Betty and kissed the smart-ass right out of him. Stiles had eventually climbed into the jeep on shaky legs, but he'd climbed into the jeep alone.

Or it might have been the drive home, where he'd spent the entire journey smiling goofily to himself (and hey, it wasn't like there were any witnesses, so if no one else actually knew he was smiling goofily it was like it never happened at all). Remembering all the details of the hot, hot sex, of course - but also the conversation afterward, and Derek complaining about Twilight, and the surprisingly touching snuffling. Seriously, the snuffling (also, he'd checked. Totally a word).

Or it might have been the fact that he literally woke up with a grin on his face. Which probably meant he'd been smiling while he was sleeping. Which probably would've looked majorly demented if anyone else had been there, but again: no witnesses. So never happened.

The problem now, as he studied his face in the bathroom mirror, was that he couldn't stop grinning.

He tried everything. Thinking about Mrs Wilkinson trying to set him up with Katie again. How terrified he'd been that night they'd been trapped in the school with Peter Hale. Scott and Allison getting it on. He even tried mimicking Derek, drawing his eyebrows down, setting his face so it looked stern and broody - but that just made him grin even more, because Derek.

This was ridiculous. He was like one step away from that day he stumbled in on Scott writing Mrs Allison McCall on a sheet of paper, before it'd been hastily scrunched up and thrown to one side. Stiles was pretty sure there'd been heart doodles on it, too, but they were bros. He said nothing.

Just kept the information safely locked away in his brain for future blackmail use.

Ultimately deciding the best thing he could do was just to act as normally as possible - in his case, this meant not acting normal at all - he thundered down the stairs and threw himself onto his usual stool in the kitchen. Dad had already placed everything he'd need for breakfast on the counter for him. "Thanks!" he said or rather, yelled, much louder than was necessary. Thinking fast, he tried to hide his smile behind the box of cereal as he poured the contents into a bowl.

Dad eyed him suspiciously, like he had Heat Seeking Ex-Virgin Detection Radar (that was totally a thing). He was the sheriff, so this was entirely possible. "Sleep well?"

Stiles froze before remembering that, in most households, this was not a suspicious question. It was, in fact, entirely normal conversation. "Sure," he said as blankly as possible. "You?"

"Fine."

Pouring the milk, Stiles kept his head down. "Good. That's good."

Stiles ate his breakfast, but he honestly wouldn't have been able to tell anyone what cereal he'd eaten. He'd been so focused on Dad's movements, on anything that might've come out of his mouth, that all he could remember was 'cereal mush'.

On the upside, his smile was gone.

When he finished, all he wanted to do was push the bowl and spoon away and run out of the house. Instead of that, however, he put both away in the dishwasher, returned the milk to the fridge and put the cereal back in the cupboard.

This, apparently, was the final clue.

"You had sex."

Wincing, knowing there was no way of avoiding it, he slowly swivelled round to face his dad. "Technically...it depends what you define sex as?" Stiles wasn't dumb. He knew any type of sex was sex, but this was one of their routines when he didn't want to face something. He'd ask for a definition, Dad would supply him with one and then tell him to shut up and go away.

"Oh, I'm not going anywhere near that," was all Dad said this time, pacing back and forth, anxiously running a hand over his face. "I..." he stopped pacing, addressing Stiles intently. "You were...safe, right? I don't want the details, just...tell me that much."

No amount of awkwardness had ever prepared him for this moment. "No! I mean yes! I mean," he flapped his hands around, "we didn't have to be because it wasn't...uh...you know..." Dad didn't want details, and Stiles sure as hell didn't want to give him any in the first place, but what else could he do? "No part of anyone was...in anyone else. Except tongues," his brain helpfully provided and then realised how that sounded, "in mouths! Tongues were only in mouths! Oh my God, I need an emergency cut-off switch for my mouth."

Dad didn't even crack a joke about truer words never being spoken. He just stood there looking grey and ashen. "Stiles..."

He studied his dad hopefully. "I should...go to school?" When the silent nod came, Stiles ran out of the house, school bag in one hand and sneakers in the other.

It wasn't any better at school. Stiles had hoped (hoped, dreamed, imagined...) that having an extremely thorough shower and wearing completely different clothes would've hidden all clues to anyone who didn't work for the police. Alas: werewolves.

It was Isaac who saw him first. "Ah," was all he said, looking Stiles up and down, "well, that makes sense." Which could've been worse, if he were honest.

And then it did get worse.

"What makes sense?" Scott asked, walking up with the rest of the group and then, "Dude!" He pointed at Stiles in horror. "You did Derek!"

Yeah, so much for that little secret.

Lydia, at least, was awesome - when she wasn't busy being evil. "'Did', McCall, really? How is it you were having sex before Stiles was? Or anyone, for that matter?"

"I remember my first time," Allison said way-too-dreamily for a girl who could kick butt the way she could.

"Me too," Scott replied just as dreamily and, what? He suddenly wasn't horrified because of the yummy memories of sex with Allison? Yuck. "Best night of my life."

Suddenly snapping out of her reverie, Allison stared guiltily at Scott. "Uh, right. Me too."

Stiles stared at her, newly-enlightened. Scott, being Scott (and Stiles loved him, he really did, but Scott was Scott) took a little longer to catch on.

"Wait a minute," he began, expression turning horrified again. "Was I not your...first?" The last word came out as more a squeak than anything else and then Allison was grabbing Scott's arm and dragging him off somewhere.

The remaining three just looked at each other.

Lydia didn't let the silence go on for long, and as they started walking into school she was the first one to speak. "So, was it everything you always dreamed of?" she teased. "Did you bare your souls to each other? Declare your undying love?"

Stiles was beginning to realise that Lydia's view of sex was pretty twisted - but when your primary sexual relationship was with Jackson Whittemore, he could see how that'd happened. And though while it hadn't been quite the great romance Lydia was envisioning and making fun of, it had been pretty special. "You know what?" he announced, coming to a stop. "I refuse to be ashamed of this. It wasn't perfect but yeah, it did mean something. And I got to have sex. Hot, hot sex, with a hot, hot guy and-heeeey, Danny," and there was Danny, frozen in place next to them, clearly having overheard everything. "Yep, gay all the way now," he found himself explaining, "or bi at least. Maybe you could give me some pointers-aaaand, you're walking away. Maybe not."

Isaac and Lydia were just staring at him.

Okay, so maybe he wasn't totally over the embarrassment of having an actual sex life.

Yet.

*

By the end of the school day, Stiles was about to ready to bash his own head into a locker - Jackson could save himself the trouble. Scott still wasn't talking to Allison, which was exactly the kind of group cohesion they needed literally hours before Stiles put his life on the line. Stiles had finally started getting nervous about deliberately screwing Jackson over (memories of the sex you'd recently been having, apparently, only gave you a false sense of bravery for so long), and if Derek really was lurking on-site somewhere, keeping an eye on him, he was doing a damn good job of it because Stiles hadn't seen him all day.

Not that he'd been keeping an eye out, or anything, randomly spinning around whenever he thought he saw something from the corner of his eye.

Now was the time, however. He'd left it until the end of the school obstensibly so Jackson's anger towards him manifested as close to the new moon as possible. In actuality, he'd left it until the end of the school day so he could get the hell away as fast as possible, without having to explain to anyone why he was leaving before the end of the day. He was already going to be in enough shit with Dad as it was.

Leaning back against Jackson's porsche as casually as possible - i.e., not at all - he waited until most of the school body had poured out through the doors, ensuring plenty of witnesses and proof that it was him doing the deed. Isaac and Lydia nodded at him, where they were hanging out far more casually a few cars down. Stiles nodded back, thankful for the back-up and then, steeling himself - this was for a greater cause - he got to work.

It didn't take long for people to notice. There were more than a few gasps, even a few laughs and mumurs of support - followed by a few demands to know what the hell he thought he was doing. No one came near him, though - which Lydia and Isaac probably had something to do with - so he kept his back to them. He got as far as DOUCH when he finally heard Jackson's voice.

"Stilinski!" Swallowing hard, Stiles lowered his hand and pasted on a smug grin as he stood, turning to face an enraged Jackson. Jogging to a stop in front of him, Jackson looked truly boggled, like he couldn't believe anyone would've ever dared to do such a thing. "What're you...?" He shook his head, anger taking over his features. "Keying my car? Do you have any idea," he shoved Stiles back against the car in question, hard. Ow. "Any idea at all, how much that's going to cost to fix? Are you trying to get yourself killed?" He loomed over Stiles ominously, the muscles in his forearms flexing as his hands turned into fists.

"Yep. That's it exactly," Stiles shot back, forcing himself to keep up the act. "Death by jock."

Grunting, Jackson pulled his right fist back and...the training actually worked. Stiles could see it coming. He'd practised it enough that he didn't even have to think, sliding and jerking out of the way just at the last second, making Jackson miss him completely, punching the roof of his car instead. Howling in pain, Jackson snatched his hand back to cradle it, when he realised that of the crowd surrounding them, every single person was laughing at him.

He actually turned red.

Realising that, for once in his life, he'd actually done something too well, Stiles got the hell out of there. He wasn't an idiot - he'd left Betty running for a quick getaway. Unfortunately, he still was kind of an idiot, because he hadn't remembered that everyone else would be trying to leave the parking lot at the same time. Seeing Jackson getting closer and closer in the side mirror - who was slowed down by Isaac 'accidentally' getting into his path - he had no other choice. Pressingly loudly on the horn he gunned the engine, forcing Betty up onto the curb and onto the grass. "Out of the way!" he yelled, still honking the horn, students scattering in front of the jeep and this was so nothing like playing a video game whatsoever. The guys who made those games needed to try this crap for real, because it was nothing like how terrifying it was in real life.

Finally, he clunked down onto the road, swerving in front of the oncoming traffic. He received more than a few angry horns himself, but then he swerved into the lane that'd take him to Derek's house and Jackson faded into the distance.

*

Derek was right behind him - literally, right behind him - when he stumbled out of the jeep.

"Are you okay?"

Stiles didn't care if it was needy - he needed a hug, throwing his arms around Derek. "You think seventeen is too young to start taking heart medication?"

Chucking quietly, Derek squeezed him back tightly before stepping back. "I saw what you did. Can't see how Jackson wouldn't come for you tonight."

Well. Good. That was exactly what they wanted. Right? "Go me," he said without enthusiasm. "Turns out I'm an awesome monster lurer. Lurerer. Whatever the word is."

Derek just looked at him...yeah, this time, it was definitely with fondness. "Clearly. It's worked before." He stared at Stiles meaningfully.

And...he did not. Just. Say. That. Fixing Derek with what he felt were pretty ridiculously huge eyes, he ultimately decided not to make a big deal out of it. "That's where I was going wrong all these years. I should've avoided guys and girls entirely, and just tried my hand at monsters all along."

That amount of emotional honesty had clearly been far too much for Derek, who grunted, full-on caveman style, but his eyes softened as he leant in and Stiles wasn't about to say no. After an afternoon like the one he'd just had, he deserved this.

By the time they came up for air, they were holding on to each other tightly. Stiles revelled in the closeness of it and, yes, it was probably mushy, but he couldn't help it. "Kept thinking about last night," he said quietly, "all day."

Derek rubbed the side of his head against Stiles' and made a happy-sounding noise. Stiles was totally taking that as a 'me too', whether it was or not.

Loosening his hold - somewhat disappointingly - Derek turned his head to the right. "The others are coming."

He was right, of course. Within a few minutes the rest of the group were there. Stiles thanked Isaac for his help and Lydia immediately congratulated Stiles on a job well done, telling him that it'd truly been a work of art to behold. Stiles appreciated the sentiment, but knew that she just had Jackson issues coming out of her - very lovely - behind.

Amazingly, it seemed that Chris Argent himself had brokered some kind of peace deal between Scott and Allison. Although Stiles caught a glimpse of the technique he'd probably used when they got into an argument again, and he stumbled across Chris yelling at them to get over their petty squabbling, that people's lives were on the line, and they really were acting like the immature children he thought they were sometimes, etc etc.

They got over it pretty quickly. At least for tonight.

The rest of the time the group were going over the plan, checking the time, testing equipment, checking the time, checking supplies, checking the...okay, so Stiles may have been the only one quite so obsessively checking the time. Reasons, okay?

"Hey," Derek said, walking over to him from where he'd been speaking to Chris and Lydia about something - quite intently, Stiles thought. He touched Stiles' upper arm. "You should get going soon."

"I know," Stiles replied, just as his phone beeped. "Need to get there before dark." Pulling out his phone, he frowned sadly at the message from Dad. Jackson's CAR? Get your ass home ASAP. Sighing, he pocketed the phone without replying. "Sometimes it sucks being the good guys."

"Sometimes," Derek acknowledged, but then he was leaning in and nudging Stiles gently with his elbow, "but there are advantages." And he was giving Stiles one of those meaningful looks again.

And when did that happen? When had Stiles become the gloomy, broody one and Derek had become the hopeful, optimistic one? Stiles opened his mouth to say something about the sacrifices they made being totally worth it - but he never got the chance. In a matter of nano-seconds Derek's whole stance changed, face forming into a frown, body turning to the left. Stiles was immediately curious about what was going on, and when he heard murmuring, glanced behind to see Scott and Isaac standing in the same stance Derek had taken. He had a feeling they hadn't noticed anything at all, but were simply reacting to the Alpha.

This could not be good.

Seemingly searching for something in the distance, Derek must've found it because he started yelling.

"Everyone in the house! Now!" Turning back briefly, Derek planted a hand on Stiles' chest, shoving him in the direction of the house. "Run!" He turned back to face whatever the threat was and-

Stiles heard it first.

Stiles knew about physics. Knew about the speed of light vs the speed of sound. He knew that light travelled faster and that you pretty much always saw something before you heard it.

But he still heard it first. Heard the crack of a gun being fired, the sound echoing through the forest. Heard the sound of birds flying frantically away. Heard the sound Derek made as he hit the ground, Lydia's voice as she screamed at him to get inside. Heard the sound of twigs snapping, of leaves crunching underfoot.

But he didn't see anything, anything at all, until Victoria Argent stepped out into the clearing, gun in hand.

And then he didn't even think. He just moved. Ran.

Straight towards her.

TBC

Chapter Text

Rage, utter uncontrollable rage flooded his body. He didn't question it. Didn't try to explain it. He just let it fuel him, power his need for revenge because hunters and wolfsbane and Derek. He needed to rip her apart, tear her open, make her scream, and though outwardly nothing was happening to his body, he could feel the claws growing out of his fingers, feel the ache in his face as his teeth shifted, grew, feel the way his movements were tighter, more controlled, his body lithe in a way it had never been. His senses were enhanced, too, and as he ran towards her - and it was easy, so easy, like it was no effort at all - she didn't stop moving forward but he could see her swallow, hear how her heart pounded faster and good, she was scared of him.

He grinned. She should be.

But then something was grabbing, yanking, pulling him back. He fought against it but they were faster, stronger. Something flashed through his mind - a memory - and he was dropping his weight, twisting on a pressure point, and whoever was holding him was gone. He heard a noise behind him but she was nearly there, she'd nearly reached Derek's body and he flung himself forward, falling onto all fours, daring her to come a single step closer. She was going to die-

"Stiles."

Consciousness rushed back in at the sound of Derek's rasping voice.

Gasping, shocked, Stiles fell back on his ass. Lifting a shaking hand, he saw that there was no sign of claws - and nor would there ever be. He could still feel the adrenalin flooding his system, heart pounding faster than it ever had before. What the fuck was that? Panting, still clueless about what was going on, he couldn't miss the fact that Mrs Argent was now standing right in front of him. And she still had a gun full of wolfsbane-laced bullets and clearly had a lot more first-hand experience being a hunter than Stiles had thought. Shoving himself back, he knelt over Derek protectively.

"How quaint," she remarked, looking down at him with something like pity, "he took a human for a mate."

"Victoria." And Mr Argent was right there - maybe he'd been the one who'd pulled Stiles back - grabbing the gun but not taking it, instead shoving her back. "Our priority has to be the kanima."

"How about our priority being communication?" she shot back and Stiles could've cared less about Argent family drama, even as Allison came running across the clearing, yelling at her mom.

Stiles finally got a good look at Derek and seriously wished he hadn't. Blood was pooling around the obvious bullet hole in his chest, and his breathing sounded more like gurgling than anything else.

His hands were still shaking.

"Out," Derek grunted, body twisting on the floor. "Get it..."

Is this what it meant? Being a mate? The need to avenge? The twisted, yanking feeling inside that said if they died, you'd die too?

He wasn't ready for this. He wasn't ready for this at all. If he'd known, he would've avoided Derek at all costs.

But it was done, now. There was no escaping it.

Stiles straightened his back. "I need a knife." The three-way argument behind him continued, unabated, like Derek wasn't bleeding out on the ground outside the same house his entire family had burned to death in. "I said," Stiles repeated, getting to his feet and facing the Argents, "I need a knife."

That stopped all of them, including Victoria. Hesitating for a moment, Chris shot her a cautious look before his hand reached into something around his waist, pulling out a knife and carefully placing the handle in Stiles' open palm. Examining it for a moment - it looked like it'd do the job - Stiles lowered himself back down to the ground. "Scott," he instructed, "help me hold him down. Isaac?" Pulling Derek's bloodied, ruined shirt away from his chest, Stiles sliced through the material easily. "If she tries to shoot him again, rip her throat out."

There were sounds of outrage behind him, but he didn't care. He understood, now, what it meant. Being part of a pack. And even - as ridiculous as it sounded, and it did sound ridiculous - being a mate.

It was everything.

Scott was there, suddenly, holding Derek's shoulders down. Stiles could hear Isaac behind him now, growling at the Argents to stay back, more than willing to follow thought on Stiles' threat. He couldn't trust either one of them at the moment, as he pressed the tip of the blade against the edge of the bullet hole in Derek's chest. Derek would heal. "This'll hurt."

"Do it," Derek gasped and Stiles pressed in with strong, confident hands. Derek screamed as the knife dug into his flesh, body arching up from the ground.

"Don't move," Stiles ordered, both him and Scott pushing Derek back down. It seemed to take far, far longer than it should have and Derek still moved far, far more than he should have and at some point Stiles vaguely noticed that Allison was next to him, holding Derek's legs down.

And then it was done. Body collapsing fully onto the ground, Derek's last scream echoed through the silence of the forest. He lay there, eyes closed - hopefully unconscious - still struggling for breath. His chest was a jagged mess of flesh that Stiles couldn't tear his gaze away from. "Water. We need water."

Following Derek's - slight - renovation, the house had a very limited water supply, but very limited was better than nothing. It wasn't long before someone was handing him a water-soaked cloth and Stiles dropped the bullet, leaning forward to carefully scrub at Derek's skin. He soon saw that, already, Derek was beginning to heal, the smaller damage knitting itself back together. He swallowed, still staring. "There's no infection, right?"

"No," Scott said from somewhere nearby, "I...can't smell the wolfsbane in him anymore. I don't think the bullet was in long enough."

Good. Good. The bullet had been so close to Derek's heart. If the wolfsbane had spread, even a little...

Shoulders relaxing, Stiles let himself fall back, sitting on the ground. He stared down at his hands, one still holding the knife, the other holding the stained cloth - both covered in blood.

"Stiles?" And that was Lydia right next to him, hands on his shoulders. "Put the knife down." Now that it was over, now that there was nothing else to do, he dumbly followed her instructions. "We're gonna get you cleaned up, okay?" She got to her feet, encouraging Stiles to move with her.

But...Derek. Stiles stared down at him. "I can't..."

"Don't worry. They'll make sure nothing happens to him."

Turning, Stiles finally realised that the rest of the pack - Allison included - were standing between Derek and Mrs Argent. Mr Argent stood off to one side, looking jumpy as hell.

The pack. Yes. Derek was their Alpha. They'd always protect him.

The state of the water supply in the house being what it was, Lydia guided him towards the nearest stream. It was a good few minutes walk and Stiles walked as quickly as possible, spending the entire time itching to get back to Derek. When they finally reached the stream he fell to his knees, immediately scooping water over both hands, rubbing at the skin as the water turned red, and there was blood crusted underneath his nails and it wouldn't come out, why wouldn't it come-

"Shhh," and Lydia was kneeling down next to him in her perfect dress on the muddy ground, wrapping an arm around him. Stiles realised he'd been saying something, although he had no idea what, and he just let himself sag against her. She held him up.

"I hate this," he said eventually, eyes squeezed tight. "Is this what it means, being with a...wolf? This," he brought both hands to his chest, fingers digging in through his shirt, "feeling. Being their...mate? Shit, that still sounds cheesy. That will never not sound cheesy," he shook his head, almost producing a smile at the ridiculousness of it. "It's too much," Stiles admitted, blinking back the burning in his eyes.

"But it wasn't," Lydia told him bluntly, surprising him. "What I saw you do back there, Stiles? Even I'm willing to admit that it was amazing. You stayed calm, knew exactly what to do - and you helped him. Now, admittedly," she continued, "I haven't had a lot of luck in this area myself, so I'm hardly an expert. But this 'mate' thing," even she made a face at it, "seems a lot like...what humans feel, too. A lot more dramatic, admittedly, but..."

He knew where she was heading. Love? He was in love with Derek?

...actually, yeah. He kind of was.

"Oh my God," he complained, hands now moving up to cover his face, "I'm in love with a werewolf. I'm stuck in the middle of a teen-existential-crisis-with-werewolves movie and I'm the heroine."

"At least you're badass. And it's hero," Lydia corrected, "no gender stereotyping, please."

Stiles was half-way through standing up when he froze. "I was badass?"

Lydia pulled herself up next to him. "Given the extenuating circumstances," she began, "I am willing to admit once - and this one time only - that I was actually a little scared of you. Now, let's move," she urged, because even that much emotion was more than Lydia Martin liked to show, "the night's not over."

She was right, too. As they trudged back to the house, Stiles knew that despite what'd happened to Derek, they couldn't abandon the plan. Everything suggested that Jackson would turn again tonight. They couldn't let one injured werewolf stop them.

Even if that one werewolf was the Alpha.

It was time to compartmentalise, even though Stiles had no idea how he was meant to compartmentalise the realisation that he was a werewolf's mate.

His life, seriously.

Of course, as they approached the house, he was greeted with the joyous sound of the Argents still arguing with each other - which, though extremely annoying, was a distraction. Derek was sitting up now, albeit being supported by Isaac, and Stiles rushed over to him. "Hey, how're you feeling?" he asked quickly, eyes travelling over Derek's body like he hadn't just seen him five minutes ago. The wounds had healed up even more, although he still wasn't fit to go out in public without a shirt. "And that's probably a stupid question what with getting shot and having a knife stuck in your chest but-"

"Better," Derek interrupted, even smiling a little, because he obviously knew that the best way to get Stiles to shut up was to just make him. Thank God for freaky werewolf healing powers. "Gonna have to think up a creative way to thank you." Which sounded promising, but then Derek winced vividly. "When I'm not recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest," he added, then glanced over at the Argents, who were still arguing dramatically. Stiles had just blocked them out at this point. Derek gestured towards him. "Help me up."

Between the two of them, Stiles and Isaac got Derek to his feet and even just being up-right seemed to make Derek better, stronger. After wavering on his feet for a few moments - Stiles kept his hands palm-out, hovering in the air in case Derek needed the support - Derek tilted his head to one side, stepping towards the Argents.

"-but the kanima is the only one actually trying to kill anyone," Mr Argent was saying.

"But the wolf already has killed someone," Mrs Argent argued, gesturing towards Isaac. "Whatever there was of that boy is gone-"

"Actually...not," Isaac interrupted, stepping forward next to Derek. "I'm stronger and faster," he agreed, "and even a little smarter, too. But I'm still the kid whose dad used to take him to the park every day. Still the kid whose dad turned to drink when my mom left. Still the kid that Dad would take his frustration out on. It doesn't going away. What it's like, being human. None of it does." Mrs Argent didn't say anything. Her face didn't show anything, either, but that might have had something to do with the fact that her face always looked like it'd been permanently botoxed.

"Both of you need to get your priorities straight," Derek told them, and Stiles couldn't agree more because, right now? They were giving Scott and Allison a run for their money. So much for Mr Argent's speech on maturity. "Tonight we think the kanima - who is actually trying to kill people, by the way - is going to strike again. So either you can stand here debating which monster should die first - me, or it - or you can help us take it down." Apparently having no sense of self-preservation whatsoever, he leaned right in to Mrs Argent's personal space. Her grip on her gun tightened noticeably. "I don't expect you to change the habits of a life-time in one day. Quite honestly, I don't expect that you'll ever like me, or any of my kind. But the fact that I haven't ripped your throat out for what you tried to do to me should give you a hint that I'm not what you think I am. And Stiles has spent a long time trying to convince me that not all Argents are willing to kill innocents and children. Prove him right. For today, at least."

After a long, few, tense-filled moments, her grip relaxed. "I won't turn my back on you," she told him, holding his gaze.

"Wise move," Derek snapped back, before glancing up at the sky. "Dusk is coming. We need to move."

He headed back towards the house, definitely slower than usual. Stiles was right on his not-literal tail, because there were questions that needed answering.

"Uh, Derek?" he asked as they brooded along. "I completely understand that we have to try and take down Jackson so he doesn't hurt anyone else. And things are already tense enough due to the fact that we're going into battle with two people, one of whom might want to kill you and one of whom actually does want to kill you, but - beggars can't be choosers and also can't control the cycles of the moon and all that, but..." Derek finally stopped, turning to look at him. And Stiles asked. "You're not exactly fighting fit, and you were our big weapon. Do we have a back-up plan?"

Letting out a heavy breath, Derek turned to look at...Lydia? "We may have to go with Plan B."

*

"That's Plan B? I hate Plan B! Plan B's the worst plan I've ever heard!" No one seemed to be listening to him, doing a last minute weapons' check, so Stiles continued his rant. "Stopping Jackson with the power of love? What a deus ex machina!"

"Hey," Scott said happily, "I know what that means!"

"Hooray for Freshman English, Scott, because that's what's important right now? Really?" Scott frowned at him unhappily. Stiles just spun away because ugh. "And - seriously? Love? Why not just pump in a few power ballads and get a romantic montage going on while we're at it?"

"There is actually some logic behind it," Allison told him, making him turn to face her. She was fiddling with her bow. "When Scott's angry, I'm the only one who can get through to him. And there's some...history of the same being true for you and Derek." Well. Yes. Okay. But Stiles was actually trying not to think about him and Derek and the power of love at the moment. That needed to wait for a night when they weren't fighting Jackson's scaly ass. "Why not for Jackson and Lydia?"

Okay, so there was some logic. Jackson, despite being a freaky giant lizard, had a lot in common with the wolves of the pack. It might work, but then again... "I really don't like the idea of Lydia putting herself in the middle of all this. She already got hurt once. I mean, look at everything Peter did to-"

"Lydia is capable making her own choices," her voice said from behind, startling Stiles into spinning around and feeling vaguely guilty. "And she wants to do this." She held his gaze, eyes firm. "I need to do this."

Stiles knew better than to get in the way of anybody's sense of empowerment - especially Lydia's. But Lydia getting hurt wasn't his only concern. "Uh, no offense, Lydia, because God knows there's enough to fall in love with when it comes to you, but..." He asked the awkward question. "What if he doesn't feel that way anymore?"

"Then we're forced to do it the hard way," Lydia retorted, bending her arm into position, aiming her bow and arrow at something in the distance. "And I get a lizard-skin rug."

Stiles shuddered. She was seriously scary, sometimes.

Derek came striding out of the house in a fresh shirt, catching everyone's attention. "It's time," he said, holding one of two short-wave radios out to Stiles. "Before it gets any darker."

He sighed. The babbling and bantering had helped him forget, for a little while. "Time to be a badass again," he joked quietly, taking the radio, feeling the weight of it in his hand.

Mr Argent walked up to them, taking the second radio from Derek. "You ready for this, kid?"

He might not have felt like it now, but less than an hour ago he'd literally dug a bullet out of a werewolf's chest. He was pretty sure he could handle this. "Just don't lose sight of him," he reminded, turning towards the jeep. He could see - sense - the others watching apprehensively. He saw Mr Argent give his wife a look that might've said I love you or Don't do anything stupid. It was kind of hard to tell. At least Allison was staying behind to keep an eye on her.

When he reached the jeep, he turned and faced Derek. He knew Derek wouldn't do it, but hey - facing death together, realising you were in love - he was totally allowed to pull Derek in for a kiss. So he did. He knew they had an audience but honestly, today was a day when he just didn't care. "Sorry if I ruined your badass Alpha reputation."

Derek didn't seem to mind. "We're stronger with a mate, remember?"

That made Stiles sound awesome, which Stiles was totally down with. "Ah, so I'm only doing good things for you right now."

"Something like that," Derek agreed mysteriously.

Stepping back, Stiles couldn't help but notice Victoria Argent watching them closely. He glared at her. "Don't trust her," he urged Derek, focusing back on his face, "not for a second."

"I won't."

Good. "And when this is over, we seriously need to have a talk about what the hell happened to me after you got shot." Because that was all kinds of messed up. "If this kind of thing is going to keep happening, I need to know about it."

"Noted," Derek nodded, although he looked kind of as confused as Stiles felt about the whole thing.

The sound of an engine leaping into life made them both turn to look at Chris Argent's car. That was the signal. Stiles turned to one side, opening the door of the jeep. "Be careful."

"You too," Derek said quietly, stepping back.

Once Stiles was in the car, he forced himself not to look at Derek because Derek was staring at him with those eyes that could say anything from You're an idiot to Shut up. Right now he was pretty sure they were saying Don't get hurt. Which kind of made him want to stay.

He buckled his seat belt, started the engine and put his foot down on the gas. He didn't look back.

Not once.

TBC

Chapter Text

Being bait was not particularly exciting. In fact, it was actually kind of boring.

Which was not to say that Stiles was relaxed, because that was light years away from the truth. He was bait for a giant lizard that had already paralysed him once and tried to kill someone else right in front of him. Relaxed was absolutely not an option right now. Stiles had spent most of his time since parking checking and re-checking what he could see from the rear-view and wing mirrors - which was ridiculous, because he knew Jackson was nowhere even near him yet. Knowledge did not stop the paranoia.

But...he was alone. With no one to talk to - in any way at all, because they were maintaining as much radio and phone silence as possible, in case Jackson was somehow sensitive to it. There may have been paranoia underpinning that, as well, but better safe than sorry.

He was parked a little further down from his house than usual, knowing that Dad wouldn't be able to see him should he look out the window. Given the message that he'd received from Dad earlier, Stiles had figured that - unfortunately, as this had not been part of the plan - Dad would be at home, and the cruiser currently parked on the front drive proved this theory true. Stiles would just have to hope that he'd parked close enough that the kanima, whenever it came for him (and it was coming for him, why the hell had he agreed to this?), it'd still notice and recognise the car, even if isn't wasn't parked right in front of the house.

Failing that, he'd have to leave the relative safety of the jeep - Stiles had already decided, a long time ago, that the roof wouldn't hold up to the kanima's claws - and perform some kind of frantic mating-call/summoning dance/flailing like an idiot/whatever the-hell-would-get-the-kanima-over-to-him move, before diving back into the jeep and taking off.

Stiles was not looking forward to the idea of doing that. At all.

Mr Argent providing them with the beastiary, at least, had finally given them some concrete-ish information, if you could call information concrete-ish when it was a thousand years out of date. It seemed Lydia's assumption had been right - the lizard's sense of sight and smell were not even close to that of a werewolf's, and as they were a beast of vengeance, they hunted where and what they knew. Jackson knew Stiles. Jackson knew where Stiles lived. Jackson was pissed at Stiles. Theoretically, he should come to Stiles' home tonight.

There were still too many theoreticals. But that was why Chris Argent was staking out Jackson's house right now, keeping a quiet hunter's eye on his every move.

As if aware that Stiles had just been thinking about him, the radio crackled to life, Mr Argent's voice spilling from it. "Can confirm that Jackson is the kanima." And...that was that, then. There was no doubt, whatsoever, and it made Stiles kind of...sad. If it went wrong tonight, they'd end up killing Jackson. Or Jackson would end up killing one - or some, or all - of them. It'd be a shitty result any way you looked at it.

But maybe. Maybe. Maybe they'd actually get a happy ending. And then the thought of a happy ending made him think of Derek and the way Stiles had flipped out when he'd been shot and no, no, no. Now was literally not the time. He needed to focus.

Focus. Jackson was the kanima.

Stiles couldn't help but wonder exactly what Mr Argent had seen to convince him; imagined sitting there in his place, staring through binoculars into Jackson's room, watching as the transformation took place (what did that even look like? A werewolf transformation was freaky enough. A lizard transformation might just scar his psyche for life).

The radio crackled again. "He's leaving the house. Seems to be headed your way. Get ready, Stiles."

Okay. Okay, then. This was it. Shifting in his seat, licking his lips, Stiles glued his eyes to the rear view. He and Jackson didn't live that far apart - despite Jackson living in a much nicer area - and when he arrived, he'd be coming from that direction. And given how quick the lizard had seemed to move in the garage, Stiles doubted it'd take long for him to arrive. The fingers of one hand tapped against the edge of the steering wheel as he tried to keep calm, the fingers on the other hand wrapped around the ignition key. He stayed that way, frozen in position save for the finger-tapping, for what felt like hours.

And then he saw movement. His fingers stopped tapping.

"He's on your street," Chris' voice told him, "it's faster than we thought."

Perfect. Swallowing slowly, Stiles inched closer to the mirror. There was definitely something there, but it was dark and it wasn't moving, it wasn't even looking in his direction-and there was a tail. Swishing through the air.

Definitely a tail.

Stiles started the engine and it was enough - thank God, it was enough - as the creature's head whipped around, the kanima releasing a weird hiss/howl type thing that Stiles could hear even with the windows up. And...yeah. Now it was definitely moving. Right towards the jeep.

At least he hadn't had to do a funky-weird-mating-dance-type-thing. And that was exactly the type of thing he needed to be focusing on right before he was paralysed to death. Idiot.

Shifting the gear into drive, Stiles got the hell out of there.

The concern - one of many, many - was driving fast enough to make it a good chase, but not driving fast enough to lose Jackson. This turned out not to be an issue, because Jackson was plenty fast enough, his disturbingly energetic lizard form frequently turning up in the rear view. Stiles screeched around a corner before picking up the radio in his lap. "He's in pursuit - of me, I'd like to point out. He's in pursuit of me." This was the point, he knew this, but it bore repeating. Dropping the radio, he concentrated on driving. The route had been chosen specifically to avoid main streets, keeping the kanima away from areas that were more likely to be populated this time of night. There wasn't much they could do about the odd passer-by - or reports of a giant lizard barrelling down the street - but, as they'd hoped, the kanima was solely focused on Stiles because they weren't a threat and Stiles was its prey and it hadn't caught him yet (something else the beastiary had told them, oh, joy). It paid no attention to anyone it passed - who pretty much all ran screaming, anyway. It was a sentiment Stiles truly understood. Hopefully, after tonight, it wouldn't be an issue anymore, and any giant lizard stories could disappear into the ongoing mystery that was Beacon Hills.

How he reached the forest without crashing into anything given the amount of time he spent checking the mirrors, Stiles would never know - but he did reach the forest without killing himself, or anyone else. As he turned off to the left, the ground changing beneath the wheels of the car, he felt slightly more secure. From here, Isaac would be tracking them as well as Chris, and within a matter of minutes he'd be at the house, where everyone else was waiting.

For him.

With renewed determination, Stiles drove Betty through the forest faster than he ever had. The route was long familiar and had been carefully cleared of anything that might've slowed him down at high speeds. Betty flew forward, throwing mud and dead bark up in her wake and Stiles hoped that all of it was flying straight into the kanima's annoying scaly face. It was harder to get a glimpse of the kanima here, where it was darker, his headlamps being the only source of light, and he had to concentrate even more on the driving. All he knew was that nothing had jumped onto the jeep, which could only be a good thing.

Finally, finally, the clearing appeared ahead of him. Hitting the brakes, Betty skid to a less-than-perfect halt and Stiles didn't wait for anything, he fumbled with his seat belt, opened the door and ran for the house. The car was still running, the radio hit the ground and Stiles did not care. It didn't feel like anything was breathing down his neck but Stiles didn't take any chances as he thundered up the steps, through that open door and-holy shit something was grabbing him and yanking him and he was going to die and-

It was Derek. Derek, holding him back against the wall, his hand over Stiles' mouth. Asshole.

Body relaxing into a slump, Stiles allowed himself a few frantic breaths before giving a slight nod. Understanding the message, Derek removed his hand and Stiles silently stepped away. In the darkness, his eyes began to adjust and he could make out another form next to them - Lydia, he realised, when he got closer. They nodded at each other, too, and for once he was willing to bet they were both wearing the same what the fuck are we doing? expression. They stayed there, in silence, listening carefully. The only sound he could hear was Betty's engine ticking over, until-

Until she wasn't, anymore, the forest descending into silence.

Stiles didn't know what was more disturbing - the sudden silence, or the knowledge that the kanima was smart enough to kill his engine.

Yeah. It was definitely the latter.

Grabbing Lydia's arm, Derek nodded at her. Nodding back, she took a deep breath, put her game face on - it was pretty amazing to watch - and stepped out into the doorway. Stiles moved instinctively to go after her but Derek held him back - and he knew, he knew that the kanima seeing him would screw everything up, that his need to attack his prey would more than likely put Lydia at risk, but he couldn't help it. Instead, Derek thrust Stiles face first against the wall and for once it had nothing to do with restrained werewolf passion - there'd been a small hole made, through the wall of the house, and from there Stiles could see almost anything.

The kanima was on all fours in the clearing, hissing at Lydia, its tail whipping viciously behind it.

Lydia didn't falter, stepping down towards it. Stiles' entire body twitched, forcing Derek to hold him in place. This was such a bad idea.

"I remember most of it," Lydia said, almost casually, and she seriously needed an Oscar after this, "the night Peter Hale attacked me." The kanima hissed again and while Lydia stopped walking, she didn't stop talking. "I know you were there. I know you helped me." As Stiles watched, the kanima's tail began to slow its twitching, lowering to the ground. He didn't want to get his hopes up, but this might actually be...working? "And not just because I was told. But I remember you being there. Carrying me. Hearing your voice screaming for help...for me," she finished, voice wavering. She sounded near tears. "For all the bullshit you've given me - that we've given each other," she acknowledged, "I know that you loved me. It was just never your priority," Lydia finished. "And I can't judge you for that, because I was exactly the same way. Stop this," she pleaded, stepping down towards him again, as the scales across the kanima's body seemed to shift. "Don't let this thing control you. This isn't who you are, Jackson. You're not a killer. Let us help you. Protect you. Train you. Become part of our pack." And then, because she had balls the size of Manhattan, she reached out a hand and stroked the side of his head. "I missed you."

The scales shifted more, until it was almost Jackson's face staring up at her, one side still covered in scales, but...definitely Jackson's face. "Lydia?" he asked, voice shaking with emotion, like he wasn't really sure what was going on.

And that was the moment it all went to hell.

Jackson jerked forward, grunting, a hand/claw/whatever the hell it was reaching up to his shoulder, pulling out a tranquiliser dart. Stiles didn't need to think twice about who'd fired the shot and at this point it didn't even matter - it was much too late. Turning back to face Lydia, Jackson's face shifted again until it was nothing but the lizard, pushing her onto her back. Cursing, Derek was already moving, wolfing out as he ran out of the house, growling. The kanima hissed up at him and then it jerked again, suffering another hit. That distracted it from Lydia at least, as it spun around to face its attacker - Victoria Argent.

Stiles wanted to get out there, help, as Scott and Isaac ran out of the woods to join the fight, doing their best to avoid its claws and its tail - and clearly, two tranquiliser darts had done nothing to slow it down whatsoever. But despite the fact that they were now onto Plan C - attack it with everything we've got and hope something works - he was still, technically, the kanima's prey. He couldn't take the chance that his appearance would make the situation even worse. Still, should the worst come to worst, he might be able to provide a yummy distraction that might buy the rest of them the time they needed. He'd give them a little more time, see how the fight was going and then...he'd see. He'd see.

Feeling the need to do something vaguely useful, he pulled a taser out and made sure it was ready, holding it securely in his right hand. The feeling of a weapon in his hand gave him some sense of satisfaction, at least, and he peered through the hole again. They were all involved, now, Chris having emerged, joining his wife with a tranquiliser gun. Allison was firing arrows from where she was secured on the branch of a tree, her unobstructed view giving her everything she needed. The kanima already had several arrows in him and as Stiles watched another arrow embedded itself in his arm. He was crippled but not out, unfortunately, as with one massive whip of his tail, he knocked everyone around him over. More accurately: they went flying. There were various grunts and sounds of pain as they hit the ground and though the arrows had slowed him down, it hadn't stopped the kanima at all as it scurried towards Mrs Argent, hissing and swiping its claws across her neck.

"Victoria!" Chris yelled, making the kanima spin towards him and this was bad, this was so, so bad and he was just resolving to go out there when...

Where the hell was Derek? And Lydia?

Refocusing his attention back on the front of the house, he saw Derek and Lydia talking to each other. Talking? Right now? They were arguing emphatically about something and then...

Everything fell apart.

Everything fell apart as Derek grabbed Lydia forcefully, yanking her towards him, putting his claws up to her neck. What the fuck?

Lydia screamed. Lydia screamed and everyone - the pack, Chris Argent, the kanima - turned towards her. Stiles stared dumbly down at the taser in his hand. Just stared at it.

"Derek," Scott's voice demanded, "what are you doing?"

"What I have to," he growled back. "You want her to live, Jackson?" The kanima hissed at him aggressively. Lydia whimpered, not in fear, but in pain, like Derek was doing something to hurt her. Stiles' grip on the taser tightened. "Change back!" Derek demanded. "Change back now!" And there was the Alpha roar, terrible and unforgiving and as it had reduced Isaac to a whimpering mess, it'd obviously worked on Jackson.

Stiles started walking as he heard voices, bodies moving, instructions to take Jackson down. As he stumbled out of the house he winced against the glare from the headlamps of the jeep, eyes adjusting blurrily as he saw Jackson on the ground, Scott and Isaac holding him down, more tranquiliser darts dotting his back. Chris was kneeling over Victoria, who apparently wasn't dead - sadly - only paralysed. Movement in the distance caught his eye, and he saw Allison carefully making her way down from the tree, jogging over to join her parents.

"We got him," Stiles found himself saying, standing over Jackson. Scott and Isaac were still practically sitting on him, although it clearly wasn't necessary. Jackson was out cold, in fully human form.

"We got him," Derek agreed, stepping next to him. Lydia joined them and she looked...fine. She had cuts, claw marks on her neck, but they weren't deep and she didn't seem emotionally distraught or anything. She only seemed concerned about Jackson.

Stiles wasn't an idiot. He knew about plans. That secrets needed to be kept sometimes. That Lydia was a phenomenal actress and that she'd never seriously been in danger.

But he also knew, now, what it meant to be a mate.

It meant everything.

"Good," he said, "at least someone got their happy ending."

Turning, lifting his right arm, Stiles pointed the taser straight at Derek.

And fired.

TBC

Chapter Text

No one followed him home. That might have had something to do with the fact that he told them not to as he walked away, Derek's body still twitching on the ground.

The jeep was in perfect working order - or at least, as much as it ever was. Evidently, the kanima had killed the engine by actually turning the ignition key. And that was...the most bizarre thing in a whole day of bizarreness. On the drive home he distracted himself with the logistics of it. How did that even work? The kanima kind of had fingers but it had claws, too. He couldn't see how all of that could fit around the key as it sat in the ignition. Yeah, it pretty much made no sense at all, but that described his whole life at the moment.

Nothing made sense.

Parking at the front of the house in his normal spot, Stiles felt exhaustion slipping over every part of his body. He knew Dad would be waiting for him inside and all he wanted to do was collapse into bed and forget about everything. But nothing made sense, and you didn't always get what you wanted. He'd taken this responsibility on when he'd volunteered to be the target - regretting it in oh so many ways now, but at least they'd stopped Jackson. At least something had gone right tonight.

He didn't even need to get the key in the lock before the door was being yanked open, Dad in full-rant mode.

"Where the hell have you-" And the words died in Dad's throat as he looked at Stiles and saw...

Stiles didn't know what. The slump of his shoulders. The expression on his face (and honestly, he had no idea whatsoever what expression he had on his face. He didn't think there was an expression suitable for this kind of day). The exhaustion ground into every inch of his body.

And Dad's face morphed into concern. "Stiles?"

Stiles focused on a point somewhere over Dad's shoulder. "I know I screwed up. I know I have to be punished for what I did to Jackson's car. I know we need to talk. But..." he took a shaky breath, "...can I please just go to bed?" He could hear it in his voice, the edge of desperation, like he was too close to something he didn't want to face. Dad must've heard it, too, because after a few moments of silence he stood back and opened the door. Squeezing his eyes shut gratefully, Stiles stepped inside.

It felt like every move he made was made underwater. Slowly climbing the stairs. Awkwardly tugging his clothes off. Collapsing into bed, dragging the covers across his body. He closed his eyes, curling his body up, burrowing under the covers, when he felt the bed dip next to him. Stiles waited anxiously for whatever it was Dad was going to say. In the end, it was only three words.

"Is it Derek?"

And of course it was Derek. Everything was Derek. Nothing was Derek. And how could he ever, ever, explain it to anyone else?

Stiles didn't say anything, just kept his body burrowed underneath the covers. Eventually, Dad sighed heavily, and Stiles thought he could feel a hand resting against his back.

"Of all the moments I miss your mom," Dad said quietly, "these are the times I miss her the most."

Stiles thought Dad was doing a great job, but he couldn't have agreed more.

*

Stiles woke from a night full of vivid dreams of jagged flesh and running through the forest. It was safe to say he wasn't feeling his most rested.

Breakfast was a mostly silent affair. Eventually, although it looked like he didn't enjoy saying it, Dad told him he was grounded. He was to come home straight from school. He wasn't to have any friends over. His car was to be used only for essentials.

It was just what Stiles wanted.

Unsurprisingly, Jackson wasn't at school - but Lydia wasn't there, either. When Scott and Allison ran up to him outside Home Room, he immediately diverted their questions away from how he was doing and why the hell he'd done what he'd done, onto safer ground.

"He's recovering from his injuries," Scott explained eventually, still casting a cautious look towards Allison, like he wasn't sure he was doing the right thing. At least the two of them seemed to be doing better.

Good for them.

"Although we don't think that'll take long," Allison added with an awkward smile. "He seems to have-"

"The same funky-werewolf-healing powers?" Stiles finished. "Only in his case, it's funky-lizard-healing powers. Hey, you think if we hacked off a limb, it'd grow back?" And he was trying, he was trying so hard, but chopping off limbs only made him think of Derek grabbing him and ordering him to cut off his arm, and crap, everything really was about Derek. "Um, so how's he doing? Does he know what he is, now?"

"You should call Derek," Allison finally said, decisively. "Jackson and Lydia are both there while the situation's...dealt with. If you want details," she said candidly, "you should call him."

Yeah, like that was gonna happen. And like she wasn't being really, really obvious.

Of course, neither one of them gave up that easily. Throughout the day, whenever he shared a class with one or both of them, they'd sidle up to him, all innocent-like...well, okay, Allison would at least try to be subtle. Scott would just stride right up to him and say, "Dude, you need to speak to Derek."

Issac was his saviour. At lunch, when Stiles was forced to move away from the Spanish Inquisition, Isaac came and sat next to him. He didn't say anything, he just sat there, devouring his cheeseburger like it was a freshly-caught kill, the dripping ketchup eerily reminiscent of blood. It said a lot about his life that he preferred this company to Scott and Allison at the moment.

And when he got home, Dad was waiting for him for the talk he'd put off the night before.

Bowing to the inevitable, Stiles let his bag thud to the floor, his body dropping onto the sofa.

"Is it Derek?" Dad asked again and, just like always when it came to these kinds of moments, Dad looked like he didn't want to know but was determined to find out all the same. "I can't help but notice that the day after the two of you were...intimate...you did a number on Jackson's car. Did Derek...do something?" And he had to give Dad credit - his voice wasn't accusing, he wasn't demanding to know if Derek had given him the Bad Touch; he was worried it was something more emotional. Maybe he could pretend that they'd had an argument or something, which wasn't a million miles from the truth even if it'd been totally one-sided and armed with a taser.

"Derek. Yeah, it was Derek," he nodded, staring at the floor. "Argument, you know. Big one."

The silence was resounding and when Stiles finally looked up, Dad was staring at him. Seriously disappointed.

"Is there ever gonna be a point," Dad began sadly, "where you're gonna stop lying to me?"

And of course this would happen now and of course Dad would have had enough now and what the heck was he supposed to say? Well, gee, Dad, I realised that not only am I in love with a werewolf, but I'm his mate, too! And last night the secret family of werewolf hunters tried to kill him and he nearly died, right in front of me, only I saved his life by cutting into his chest and digging out the bullet. Also? I went completely fucking psychotic due to what I assume is some kind of werewolf-mate-bond thing and if Chris Argent hadn't stopped me? I'm pretty sure I would've literally torn his wife's throat out with my fingernails and the thought of that doesn't disturb me anywhere near the amount it should do. Then there's the fact I was bait for a killer lizard - Jackson's a lizard, did I mention that? - who ended up kicking everyone's ass, and then I had to watch the man I love threatening to kill the woman I used to love, and he cut into her throat and I know it was an act, I know it was but he should've trusted me and this was all in one day. One day. And I completely overreacted and tasered him which was the worst thing I ever could've done because Kate and electricity and I'm screwing up, I know I'm screwing up but I don't know how to stop-

And then Dad's arms were around him, hugging him and Stiles gasped, clinging on as he realised that his eyes were stinging. Closing his eyes, he buried his head against Dad's neck. "I want to tell you," he said, voice thick with emotion, "but there's so much and I don't know how." Because so much, so much of it wasn't his to tell. He couldn't out anyone as a werewolf without their permission; the knowledge was literally life changing and was kept secret for good reason. Even more important, telling Dad the truth might put him at risk.

"Then just one thing," Dad encouraged, pleaded, pulling back, his own eyes looking suspiciously moist. "If all of it - whatever it is - is too much, then start small. Just tell me one thing."

And there was only one thing, really, that he could tell. One thing that wasn't mixed in with werewolves, lizards and hunters, oh my. And it probably wouldn't even make sense to Dad; he'd probably misinterpret what Stiles was saying but he felt like it might...help.

So he said it.

"I just need more time."

*

Stiles was willing to admit that he was a little disappointed that he was missing out on Jackson's metamorphosis into a real, live boy. It felt like it'd been their goal for so long, to stop Jackson - preferably without killing him - and then have Derek help him, train him, show him how he could control the literal monster within. But he'd made his choice - regardless of being grounded, he'd decided himself to stay away from Derek's house - and had to live with it. Even if he was really, really curious and Allison was still being really, really evil, taunting him about how progress was going without technically telling him anything at all.

She was definitely an Argent.

So, a few days later, when Jackson and Lydia made their appearance back at school - together - he couldn't help but be curious. And curious, in his case, meant sneakily following them everywhere around school. Or, at least he thought he was being sneaky, as he found out when Jackson lost whatever patience he had and spun around to confront him.

"Stilinski," he growled, still sounding much the same, "stop hiding behind the locker."

Stiles slipped out, acting like he hadn't been there in the first place. "Hey, Jackson. Lydia." He nodded at both of them apprehensively. "How're...things?"

Jackson didn't seem to have changed much. "Do you mean, am I about to remember how incredibly annoying you are, lose it, and paralyse you just for kicks?"

Of course. Of course Jackson would be smug about being a lizard. "Yes, actually. Exactly that."

"Not today," Jackson said with a cryptic smile that should've been worrying, but he knew that Derek never would've let him back to school if he didn't have control over the kanima.

When Jackson turned away and started walking off, Stiles hurried over to Lydia. She had a bright, patterned scarf artfully arranged around her neck. He couldn't tear his eyes away from it. "So, how are things? Really?"

"He's Jackson," she said, like it explained everything - and in Jackson's case it pretty much did. "It's been...challenging," Lydia acknowledged, "the hardest part was getting him to acknowledge what was happening to him, forcing him to remember what he'd done the night of the first new moon. That he even needed help at all." She sighed. "But the worst of it's under control. We think. Another month before we find out, I guess."

That would be the only true test, he supposed. "And you've been...helping him?" There was no way it could go unnoticed that they'd both returned to school at the same day, and that were in each other's presence - willingly. The school gossip mill would no doubt go into overdrive.

"Purely in a friend capacity," she insisted, but Stiles had the distinct impression that a silent for now was hovering at the end of that sentence. "But enough about me. We need to talk about you."

Crap. "Me?"

"And Derek."

He made a face. "I just need some time, okay?"

"Whatever you're freaking out about - and I acknowledge, there seems to be a lot for you to freak out about - you need to get over it. He's brooding even more than usual."

Stiles tried to picture that and, despite his best efforts, it made him smile. "I didn't think that was possible."

"Exactly," she pointed out, "he's brooding so much, his face has somehow broken the laws of physics. Plus, it's really irritating. Whenever he takes a break from training Jackson, he just sits there looking sorry for himself. At least before he was just...brooding. Now it's like he's brooding with intent. And God forbid anyone tries to talk to him about it."

Stiles could imagine that going down as well as a lead balloon. And thinking of Derek sitting there feeling sorry for himself, even more broody than usual, was not making Stiles' heart give a stupid clench or anything. Not at all.

"Stiles," she tried again, quietly, one hand lifting to touch the scarf around her neck. Stiles didn't think she was even aware she was doing it. "It was my idea. You know that, right? It was my idea weeks ago. I was the one who suggested it - it was part of my back-up plan. Always." Stiles frowned, remembering the times he'd seen Derek and Lydia talking quietly to each other. "Not that I'm above letting someone else take the blame for something I did," she told him, "but in this case...if you're going to be angry at someone, be angry at the person who deserves it."

And that was the kicker - he was. And right now, it wasn't Derek or Lydia.

"I just need more time," he repeated, and Lydia sighed.

Scott and Allison hadn't given up, either. It was relatively easy to avoid them at school - either they were in lesson or, if they weren't, Isaac usually had his back. He wasn't quite sure why Isaac had his back, but at this point he wasn't about to question his good fortune.

That didn't keep them away from his house. Fortunately, the doors had locks on them. Stiles sat on the floor in the hallway, leaning against it as Scott pounded on the door from the other side.

"Come on, man!" Scott pleaded. "It's all weird and...quiet without you."

"That's touching, really," Stiles called back, playing with a slinky he'd found at the back of his closet, "being remembered as the loud one of the group. But I'm not allowed to see you even if I wanted to." Which was extremely convenient and that might not have been the...nicest way he could've phrased it, but seriously, they needed to buy a clue already.

Scott finally stopped knocking on the door and when he spoke again, Stiles realised he was at the same level Stiles was. He was probably sitting the same way Stiles was, on the other side of the door. "It's not just...it's all of us, you know?" Scott's voice was a little hard to hear now, and Stiles stopped fiddling with the slinky to concentrate. "Since we started acting like a...pack...things have been better for all of us. I don't know if you noticed, but my grades have started going up." No, Stiles definitely hadn't noticed that, but he'd been a little distracted what with the falling in love with a werewolf thing. He and Allison were now soul-siblings or something. "We've all been happier - and I know you have been. Man, Stiles, I haven't seen you this happy since..."

Scott didn't need to say it. They both knew.

"We miss you," Allison's voice told him, and she'd mostly been quiet until now, letting Scott do the heavy lifting. "We all do. Especially Derek."

Stiles closed his eyes. "Allison-"

"You think I don't understand?" she asked rhetorically. "How scary - how terrifying it is? Being tied to someone so completely?"

The slinky thudded to the floor. Stiles stared at where it lay. "I just need more time."

Things took an extremely bizarre turn a week later when Jackson turned up at his house. He obviously knew by now that keying his car had been part of the plan, having dropped the charges, but still. Stiles was so surprised, he actually opened the door.

And sure, while he knew Derek wouldn't have let him out if he was dangerous, this was still the first time they'd been alone together since that whole hey-I-want-to-paralyse-and-kill-you thing. "Am I still your prey?" Stiles had definite reasons to be paranoid. "Are you gonna eat me?"

Jackson just eyed him dismissively. "You don't have enough flavour for my palette."

That was just rude. "Hey, I have plenty of flavour! Tons of creatures of the night are just waiting to eat me up-oh my God, I'm actually asking to be eaten." He stepped outside, pulling the door shut behind him. "My life is so weird." Jackson looked like he thought Stiles was weird. "What can I do you for? Or did you actually come all this way to bash my head into my own door instead of one at school?"

As anticipated, Jackson showed no sign of apology. Instead, he said something majorly confusing. "Okay, so we're gonna do this, and then pretend it never happened, okay?"

What? "Do what?"

Jackson looked like he really didn't want to say it, but forced himself to anyway. "Derek."

Aww, man. "You too?" Of all the people he was worried about bringing up Derek, Jackson hadn't even been on his radar. "Seriously?"

"Believe me, I'm no happier about this than you are. The last thing I ever want to do is get involved in your...love life." He looked queasy. Stiles utterly believed every word Jackson was saying right now. "But something has to be done."

The others were his friends. The others were already in the pack. The others, generally, wanted whatever would maintain the status quo. Jackson, at least, was a blunt instrument with the truth. "Why?"

"Look, I wasn't even there for your 'great romance', okay?" He made it sound like a one-night hook-up in a dirty bathroom - and about as appealling. "But the Alpha - the Alpha - is pining. I mean, he's howling at the moon and everything - over you, Stiles. You of all people. It's pathetic! You have to make him stop."

Pressing his lips together to avoid producing a smile - he was a bad, bad man, who should not be pleased that his freaking mate was miserable without him (especially when Stiles was the same way, alone in the house again, desperately missing the pack and Derek and everything) - Stiles reached back for the door. "I just need more time."

Then there were the dreams. At the beginning they'd mostly been about digging the bullet out of Derek's chest, but were now almost always about running through the forest. It didn't take long to realise they weren't actually dreams, especially when the person running through the forest always ended up outside Stiles' house, looking up at his window.

Every time, Stiles would wake up. And every time, when he looked out the window, no one was there.

And then one day at lunch, Isaac broke their mutual vow of silence.

"You should ask him," he said around today's choice of meal - another cheeseburger. It was pretty much always what he ate for lunch.

Stiles froze mid-fiddle with the cap of his water bottle. Isaac wasn't even looking at him, but he didn't need to ask who he was talking about. He shifted in the hard, plastic chair, so lovingly provided by the cheapest school furniture provider Beacon Hills could find. "Ask him what?"

"Why he turned me."

Stiles just stared at him, trying to process. "So you could...deal with your dad, right? And to help defend against Jackson. He needed to start building a pack."

Isaac snorted, finally looking at him over the top of his burger. "Yeah. That's it exactly."

Isaac clearly hadn't had his back the whole time because Isaac was evil. Stiles was now burning with curiousity - and suspicion, but mostly curiousity - and that night, as he groped through his school bag, Stiles became a lost cause entirely. He was searching for his phone which had dropped in there somehow, and trying to locate it through touch alone just wasn't working. Frustrated, he started yanking everything out. Grabbing what felt like paper, Stiles pulled free a scrunched-up piece of A4. Frowning, confused about the contents, he pulled it open.

And it was Derek.

The photocopy of the picture of Derek at school, head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut in laughter. The kid - the man - who liked Pop Tarts and root beer, made fun of Twilight, hit Stiles around the head with groceries, knew Star Wars well enough to recognise quotes (Derek was a closet geek), couldn't verbalise an emotion to save his life, made tough - sometimes stupid - decisions and a million other important things that'd somehow made Stiles fall in love with him.

And yet, still, Stiles had never seen Derek laugh the way he was laughing in the photograph.

That was something he still needed to fix.

Stiles found his phone, eventually. Got the fuck over himself. Sent a message. Left the house.

I'm done needing time.

TBC

Chapter Text

When Stiles pulled up by the house, the rest of the pack weren't there. Which made sense - assuming they'd been there in the first place, which seemed likely, Derek probably would've sent them away after receiving Stiles' text. No need for audience for this.

As for Derek himself, he was currently sitting at the top of the steps to the porch, dressed in jeans and a wifebeater. And really, this was hard enough as it was. Derek looking as edible as he did was not helping matters at all. Taking a fortifying breath, Stiles opened the door and stepped out of the jeep.

Derek knew he was there, had known he was coming ever since he'd sent the text, had no doubt heard the car turning into the forest. And he didn't look at Stiles. He didn't turn his head towards Stiles at all until Stiles reached the ground at the bottom of the steps, staring up at him. It was then, and only then, that Derek looked at him.

His expression was as inscrutable as it'd been the first time they met. But Stiles had resolved to get the hell over himself.

So he did.

"As you know," he began, and he may have been speaking too quickly, but at least it was coming out, "I'm a big believer in avoiding a problem until it goes away." Derek said nothing, so Stiles kept talking. Talking, at least, was something he could do well. "But this problem isn't going away. And I...kind of don't want it to." That was putting it mildly. He straightened up, meeting Derek's gaze. "I owe you, like, a million apologies. A billion. Maybe you could...push me into a tree a few dozen times? You haven't done that for a while. You probably miss it." Finally, finally, there was a flicker of something - a smile. It was momentary, but it was there. It was something he could work with. "I never - never - should've done that to you. With the, uh, taser." He scratched at the side of his neck awkwardly. "For so many reasons. But most importantly because of what she did to you, and I...I knew what she did to you and I did exactly the same thing-" His planned spiel about regretting that bonehead move for the rest of his life was stopped, then, by the fact that Derek was moving and suddenly there, grabbing Stiles' upper arms, looming down at him.

"You are nothing like her, do you understand me?" Derek asked, although it sounded more like a demand, and it felt like it was taking everything in Derek's power not to actually shake Stiles senseless. "Nothing."

"But I am!" he yelled back, shoving Derek away, who actually let him. "I didn't kill anyone - and not planning on it, by the way - but I didn't care. I didn't care about you, how you felt, how it would affect you - all I cared about was me. Just like her." He'd spent endless hours alone in the house trying not to think about it but unable to think about anything else. How was he supposed to apologise for such a big screw up?

"You, are not a psychopath," Derek told him, eyes glittering. "It wasn't the happiest moment of my life," he conceded, "and clearly we need to deal with it. But you're allowed to mess up, Stiles."

But that was...way too easy. Derek clearly didn't understand. "But that was just the start."

Derek frowned at him. "Start of what?"

It wasn't his only screw up. Not by a long shot. "I lied, before." Derek's frown grew deeper, etching into his forehead. "I let you think...no, told you that I was ready. That I knew what I was getting myself into. And it couldn't be further from the truth. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for," he rushed on, so he couldn't stop himself, "I had no idea about mate bonds or that I'd actually fall in love with you; that any of it would be so intense. Most kids my age are worrying about grades or being popular. I figured, since I'd already had a few months of dealing with Scott's new werewolfy lifestyle that I could handle it, but - I clearly couldn't, right? Or I wouldn't have flipped out the way I did." And Derek looked - like he'd had something painful shoved somewhere very private. Rewinding the speech in his head, Stiles caught up with what Derek was reacting to. "Ah, yeah." This was awkward. "Totally in love with you, by the way." He cleared his throat as he felt his face heat up, glancing away from Derek. "Which I don't want you to feel you need to...take into consideration or anything, but I guess it is something you should know. Anyway-"

"Stiles." Derek was stepping into his space again, staring intently. "It's just as much my fault as it is yours."

That he hadn't been expecting. And not what he'd entirely been hoping for, if he were honest. "What's your fault, now?"

"Well, for a start - how can I expect you to know anything about the bond between a werewolf and their mate when I didn't tell you anything about it in the first place? Or the fact that it even existed?"

Well...okay. Okay, that was definitely a good point. "Why didn't you tell me about it?"

Making a face that seemed more the 16 year-old boy than the 23 year-old man, Derek stood at an awkward angle. "You're young," he said eventually. "And it's...unusual between a werewolf and a human, although not unheard of. I figured it might not be an issue at all," he admitted, "or that we'd have more time before it became an issue." His lifted his eyebrows ruefully. "Caught us both by surprise, I guess." No kidding. "I suppose because I'd never experienced the bond before either, I thought we didn't have to worry about-"

"You've never had one before, either?" Stiles couldn't help interrupt because - hello! Interesting information, there. "A...bond?" Seriously, there had to be a better way of saying this stuff.

"No," Derek said quickly, like he just wanted to get it over with. "There was only Kate before and...that wasn't like this." He glanced off to one side. "That was nothing like this."

That totally had to be a good thing. Had to be. "So, um, what does the bond do exactly?"

"Brings you closer to your mate," Derek replied, still not looking at him. "Brings the pack closer."

"Dreams?" Stiles found himself asking, which finally made Derek look at him. Well, it was more like he was trying to stare deeply into the depths of his soul or whatever - and mostly came across as creepy - but he was definitely looking at him.

He nodded. "When you've been bonded long enough, you can sense your mate's presence. Even their emotions."

Holy shit. "You're right," Stiles told him, "you did screw up. Seriously, Derek, this is big; this is kind the crap I need to know-"

"I said that, didn't I?" Derek cut him off angrily, and no. No way.

"Hey, Broody Face, don't get angry at me because you screwed up-"

"Look, I was trying to make you feel better by telling you something-"

"Well, you're doing a half-assed job of it."

"Tell me something I don't know," Derek snapped. "I'm bad at this, I've always been bad at this, and you drive me crazy sometimes but make me want to keep trying anyway. Go figure!" He spun away, then, and in his traditional Derek defense mechanism, stood a few feet away, keeping his back to Stiles.

Realising he was actually witnessing a full-on Derek queen-out - and a quick glance at the moon and a mental calculation showed that yes, the full moon was only a couple of days away, and that explained so much - Stiles slowly stepped towards him. "Actually," he said, because Derek did piss him off sometimes, but he was aware how conflicted Derek had been about trying any kind of relationship again after Kate, "I've been...surprised at how well you have been doing. And that totally wasn't meant to sound like an insult," he added, cringing a little. "But honestly," he said quickly, "most of the time it's not even that obvious that your past was...your past, you know?"

Derek was still angled away from him but eventually, his head turned to one side. "That talking thing you do. All the time," he admitted with a grunt. "Makes it easier."

Smiling slightly at the admission, Stiles took a chance, stepping around Derek and turning until he was looking up at him. "So! Was there something else you were trying to tell me?"

There was still a glare but eventually it lessened. Somewhat. Derek sighed. "It might not have come to your attention, but a werewolf's emotions are-"

"Freaking all over the place?" Stiles finished. "Trust me, I noticed."

Derek only looked vaguely offended. "The bond can just...develop, over time. If two people are meant to be mates, the bond will always fully develop eventually." Stiles wisely decided not to comment on this 'meant to be' crap. For now. His eyes may have bugged out, but hopefully Derek would just think he was taking a great interest in the conversation. Meant to be? "But sometimes," Derek continued, "there's a unifying - often traumatic - event that...kick-starts it."

Now Stiles didn't care at all that his eyes were bugging out. Ohhhh! "You got shot. Right in front of me."

"Right," Derek agreed with a nod. "I'm assuming the bond kind of...took over. You suddenly had access to a mate's intense feelings and emotions, with no idea how to control it. A werewolf would've already been trained, or had years of practise of reigning in most of their emotions. But, I think," he shrugged, "for a human..."

Stiles stared at him, open-mouthed, as it all slotted into place. What Derek had been trying to tell him. "You think that's why I tasered you."

"Obviously, you were genuinely angry at me," Derek nodded, "but as much as we...butt heads-"

"Want to wring each other's necks," Stiles corrected.

Derek didn't argue with him; just kept talking. "It's not something you would've done normally."

No. It wasn't. The entire time he'd stayed away from Derek, he'd wrestled with the reasons behind tasering him, eventually presuming that knowing Derek had lied to him, kept something from him and deliberately hurt Lydia had been the straw that'd broken the camel's back. That too many things had happened in the space of a couple of hours, and he just couldn't deal, freaking out in the process.

But.

That was his life, all the time now. Ever since Scott had been bitten, his entire life was a great big terrifying ball of stress. And sometimes he wasn't sure about what he was doing or sometimes he was genuinely scared for his life - but he thrived on it. That stress. That fear. It gave him purpose.

"That's not an excuse," he said, "for what I did to you."

"No," Derek agreed, "but it is an explanation. Cut yourself some slack. It's bound to take some time to get used to. And..." He stopped, emotion flickering across his face. "If it is...too much. And you're not ready, like you said. I'd understand." Derek stared at him meaningfully. It was a real habit he'd developed.

And there he was, giving Stiles an out. Being a martyr. Stiles thought back on what he'd said when he'd arrived, what Derek had probably thought Stiles was trying to say. Not being ready at the time didn't mean giving up now. "It's a big deal. It's probably gonna take me a while to get used to it, but...something tells me you can't just walk away from your mate."

Tipping his head to one side with a knowing look, Derek shrugged lightly. "Not exactly. But there are ways to...distance yourself. If needed."

"Yeah, I don't think that's going to be an option." Because if it made him feel anything like the last week and a half, miserable and confused and so, so alone - like part of him had been taken away and buried somewhere where he'd never be able to reach it, but he could feel the loss of it every single day - that just wasn't going to happen. Stiles moved, sliding into Derek's personal space, wrapping his arms around his torso and seeing the relief reflected in the lack of wrinkles around Derek's eyes. He felt a hell of a lot better than he had when he'd first arrived and Derek had given him a hell of a lot to think about, too. Not to mention the enormous list of things they needed to talk out (starting with not keeping secrets from your mate, no matter how sucky a liar they may be and it's kind of essential to your plan that the killer lizard doesn't realise what's really going on).

But there was something else he still wanted to know. Had to know. Isaac was the worst, seriously.

"So, I have a question," he began, perfectly innocently, and it was hardly his fault that Derek - who'd been beginning to look surprisingly relaxed - suddenly tensed, frowning at him suspiciously.

"What's the question?"

Honestly, some people were just looking for trouble where none existed.

Stiles may have been one of them. "Why did you give Isaac the bite?"

Derek. Big, brave, broody Derek...pulled away. "We covered this." He stepped back further. "Jackson had started hurting people. I needed to start building a pack."

And Stiles knew that Isaac had totally, totally been on to something. "But that was fast work, right? I mean, I got paralysed, Tony got hurt," ha, see? He was totally capable of using Tony's name, just like everyone else. "You surprised Jackson. The police and everyone got involved, you were with them for a while giving your statement. I got taken to the hospital. And then you must've immediately decided..." Wait a minute. Stiles had been taken to hospital. "Derek...did you make a new werewolf just because I got hurt?"

Derek didn't even deny it. Derek didn't seem capable doing much at all, stuck somewhere around, "I-..."

That pretty much answered that question. And might have made Stiles flail internally. "Man, I didn't think admitting you care about me would be this traumatising considering the fact we've already decided we're mates and everything. Still, that's...cool," he nodded his head a few times, processing. "And should probably actually worry me, but - Edward Cullen, finding it hot, we covered this already." The more he thought about it, the more he realised just how twisted it was. "I mean, I knew you liked me earlier than I'd thought due to the whole headphones thing, but..." Yeah, really. Derek was seriously unbelievable, which shouldn't have been a surprise. "You actually can't do anything the way other people do, can you? Not that I'm complaining. But most people buy flowers. You know, chocolates. Gift baskets." He flapped his arms about - gesticulating. "You made me a werewolf!"

"Look," Derek finally said gruffly, "it's not like it was my only reason-"

"Oh my God, you are so stupid and ridiculous," Stiles told him, and kissed him.

TBC

Chapter Text

Stiles grinned as he watched Scott and Jackson chase each other in the ongoing - and neverending, he suspected - attempt to prove which was faster - werewolf or lizard. Speed-wise they seemed pretty evenly matched, at least as far as Stiles was concerned, and whoever was chasing the 'prey' always caught them in the end. It was also pretty homoerotic, what with the grabbing and the shirtlessness, but Stiles wisely kept his mouth shut lest it spoil his show.

School let out for summer a week ago, and the extra time together had made them even closer. Stiles would've thought that spending that much time with the same group of people would've created more conflicts, not less, with people needing personal space and all that jazz. But no, it didn't work that way in pack-land. The more time together, the better, apparently. Derek had told him that the presence of an Alpha and a mate had a stabilising effect on the rest of the pack. Basically, if they were happy, everyone else was happy.

Which was no pressure at all, but he already knew he thrived on pressure, so this was just another aspect of his crazy life.

He and Derek had already had several long conversations, which still mostly consisted of Stiles talking and Derek generally being silent, but Derek had started to verbalise what he was thinking at least a little more. Stiles had been forced to admit - as much as he didn't want to - that keeping him in the dark about the plan to 'threaten' Lydia's life was the right thing to do. He really couldn't lie to save his life - not through lack of trying - and if he'd somehow given anything away to Jackson, it would've been game over. That definitely didn't mean he was happy about it in any way, shape or form and he may have threatened Derek with a serious lack of sex if he kept Stiles in the dark again.

A threat that lasted all of five minutes.

Literally. Five minutes. Derek looked really good with his shirt off. (Stiles was beginning to realise that Derek was using it as a bargaining tactic, and ultimately found that he didn't care. Shirtless Derek).

Derek had also told him everything he knew about the bond between a werewolf and their mate. (Stiles had taken to calling it 'our magical love connection', because if it had to have a cheesy name, he was giving it his own cheesy name, damn it. Plus, Derek winced every time he said it). Which turned out to be...not much more. It turned out that Derek had told Stiles pretty much all he knew about the bond on the day Stiles had finally come to see him - which explained all of the maybes and probablies, when Stiles thought about it afterward. Derek knew a little about it, along with what he'd learned from observing his parents, but he hadn't had the full-on magical love connection talk from them before they died. Which meant he was almost as much in the dark about this stuff as Stiles was.

Which explained a lot.

(He did say - quietly, one day, when no one else was around - that Scott and Allison hadn't bonded properly yet and that it could've been anything from their relative youth to the fact that, in werewolf terms, Scott was still newly turned and therefore just a cub. Stiles kind of agreed - they'd been in plenty of life-threatening situations, and he'd never once seen Allison flip out the way he had. But he also knew they loved each other desperately - often nauseatingly - and he was sure it would come in time).

So, they were just doing the best they could - the best they knew how. Derek had started training Stiles, as well as the actual wolves-slash-lizards, in the different techniques he used to keep his emotions under control. Especially around certain cycles of the moon, or when someone he cared about was hurt. Stiles was sure the techniques were useful, but it was strangely cool yet weird at the same time, being the only non-wolf getting the training. He didn't want the bite - although he knew without a doubt that Derek would give it to him if he ever asked - but most of the time lately his emotions felt on a pretty even keel. It was definitely only around Derek being threatened that they flared so amazingly out of control, and lately that hadn't happened.

But then, this was Beacon Hills. It was bound to happen again sooner or later.

And, truthfully, that wasn't the only time the emotions were a little overwhelming - but he didn't talk about that with anyone, not even Scott. The way Derek would hold him afterwards, talking to him softly as they both shook, Derek's voice and hands and everything assuring him that he knew exactly what Stiles was going through.

Feeling a nudge of contentment inside his brain - that was something else that'd started happening in random bursts lately - Stiles grinned and turned to face Derek who was walking out of the house, looking pretty pleased with life in general. This meant to the world at large that he was frowning less than usual, but Stiles knew the truth of it. And he was grateful for it, too, because Derek had been distracted the last couple of days and none of Stiles' most expert finagling (blow jobs) had gotten what was bothering Derek out of him.

"Got something to show you," Derek greeted, communicative as always, gesturing into the house. Following his gaze, Stiles got to his feet, leaving Lydia and Allison to enjoy the view in his sted. He was pretty sure they didn't even notice him leaving.

Stiles was looking forward to whatever the something was. In the week since school had broken up, they'd all started pitching in around the house, and it was slowly transforming into something habitable. Jackson liked to complain - often and loudly - about slave labour, but he was fooling nobody. Already, he was becoming less of a dick, which was usually most obvious in his interactions with Lydia, but sometimes he was even not-rude to Stiles (he couldn't say polite. Stiles didn't think he could ever call Jackson polite but for now, not-rude did the job). And he was always the first one to start work on the house in the morning, often to Derek's chagrin.

"Is it the tiling in the kitchen?" Stiles asked eagerly, jogging into the house after Derek. "Did you finally decide-oh!" He was pushed up against the wall, just like the good ol' days, and Stiles realised the only thing Derek wanted him to see was in his pants. Grinning into the kiss, Stiles playfully shoved at Derek's chest. "You could've just said."

"But luring my prey in is always much more fun," Derek grinned and yeah, this was new, too. The playfulness when they were alone together. Stiles had quickly learned that sex wasn't just about unrestrained passion and orgasms - although there was no doubt they were totally awesome, too - but it was also about fun and laughter, and things like discovering Derek's sides were ticklish if you touched them in just the right way. In fact...

Derek tensed, eyes narrowing. "Don't you dare."

It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. An engraved invitation, just inviting Stiles to tickle him. So Stiles did.

Making choked off sounds, Derek dodged Stiles' hands as much as possible until eventually Stiles ended up being tossed down onto the sofa, gasping with laughter as Derek straddled him, holding his arms down at the wrists. They grinned at each other, panting, and it was pretty much a given that they'd start yanking off clothes. Three seconds later, they did.

"You'd love it, wouldn't you?" Derek growled, tugging off Stiles' shirt and throwing it across the room. "If I made you come, right here, with the rest of the pack outside."

And it may have made him dirty, bad and wrong, but he would love it, and he couldn't believe that such a short time ago he'd been embarrassed by anyone even knowing he had a sex life, never mind someone being right outside while he indulged in said sex life. Stiles just figured it had something to do with their magical love connection being unveiled and fortunately - for everyone, really, as Stiles started working on Derek's belt - the pack had adapted to this change in their relationship pretty quickly.

Someone knocked on the side of the house. Loudly. They froze.

"So are you guys going, or what?" Isaac's voice reminded. "Because Scott just finished the last can of soda. Or do I need to get the hose and spray you apart?"

"Oh my God, don't give them ideas!" Scott yelled out and it was that, more than anything else, that made Stiles laugh and Derek start climbing off of him.

"Not ready for kids, huh?" Derek teased as he found Stiles' shirt and handed it back to him.

"An argument could be made that we have five already." Rolling his eyes, Stiles tugged his shirt back on and nudged Derek with an elbow as he walked past. "Get your keys. We'll probably need both cars."

*

Stiles pushed the shopping cart along, the front left wheel squeaking annoyingly. Well, it didn't bother him personally, but from the way Derek tensed up each time it squeaked, werewolves definitely found it annoying.

Stiles may have started pushing the cart a little faster. Just because.

Coming to a stop in the produce aisle - causing Derek to drop his shoulders in relief - Stiles started groping different fruit and vegetables, testing their freshness. He was in the middle of explaining how to test everything for ripeness - it seemed likely that Derek didn't possess this kind of knowledge, having no knowledge of anything practical, ever - when he realised the man in question had vanished and he was talking to himself.

"Rude," he muttered, still talking to himself - a frequent past time, by now - giving the bananas a good fondle.

Okay, so that was more freudian than even he liked. Their joint sexual repertoire had grown larger, but neither one of them had been with a guy before and they'd been holding off on certain thresholds. For the time being.

Derek found him again in the soft drinks aisle, as Stiles tried to squeeze 36 cans of diet soda beneath the mountain of food he'd already collected, realising he should've thought this through more. New werewolves - when you actually thought about their developmental needs unlike, say, Derek - required a lot of feeding and maintenance. Stiles had convinced Derek that as there was no school over the summer and they were likely going to be at the house all day, every day, he needed to provide them with enough sustenance to keep their little werewolfy - and lizardy - hearts healthy and happy. The only reason Derek wasn't being eaten out of house and home was the fact that he was loaded due to being the last living relative of the Hale family.

Stiles couldn't bring himself to think of it as a good thing, but it was useful all the same.

Choosing to balance the root beer on the corners of the shopping cart, Stiles turned just as Derek was dumping a huge bag of pasta into the cart.

Wait a minute. "Uh. What's that?"

Derek made a face that suggested even Stiles couldn't be that dumb. "Pasta. What's that?" He nodded towards the soda.

So now they were both asking questions they already knew the answers to. "Uh, root beer?"

"It's diet." He sounded genuinely offended.

"And yet, it's still root beer."

"Stiles-"

"I'm just saying, despite its name, it doesn't actually contain any vegetables. And..." An idea came to mind. Reaching into his back pocket, Stiles yanked out the piece of paper there, holding it up victoriously. "Diet root beer is on the list. But pasta isn't!" He waved it around for emphasis.

"Not the list again." Derek closed his eyes, a hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "We talked about this last time." He dropped the hand and opened his eyes, sounding as if he thought this'd all been settled.

And there was Derek's problem. He should've known better. "No. You talked. I listened. And silently disagreed with everything you said."

"So I'm supposed to be able to read your mind, now? You never normally have a problem sharing your opinion - in great detail, using far more words than necessary."

It was safe to say that Derek didn't enjoy grocery shopping. It'd quickly become evident that, before, Derek had survived on the bare minimum, getting in and out of the store as quickly as possible. But he was the Alpha now, with a pack of his own, and with great power came great responsibility.

Derek probably wouldn't appreciate the Spider-Man reference right now.

"They're still growing, changing," Stiles said, really quite reasonably. "They need a lot of food, and to keep them healthy we need to make sure it's a lot of healthy food. Hence, the list." He lifted it back up. "We need to stick to the list, and not get sucked in by any yummy goodies we see. Believe me, I know it's hard." He thought of how often he'd given into temptation at the video store.

Derek eyed the basket. Then he eyed Stiles. "And there's a bag of curly fries in the cart because...?"

Blinking, Stiles shifted on the spot. "Um. Those are for me?" He'd been caught, there was no two ways around it.

Derek nodded smugly. "And the pasta's for me."

That was a huge bag of pasta for one guy. Sure, Stiles knew werewolves could have large appetites, but he'd rarely seen Derek eat anything in front of him. "But-"

"Stiles!" Derek had apparently had enough. "I'm paying. If I want pasta, I'm going to get pasta."

Stiles gave in and held up his hands, not willing to get into a full-on blow-out in the middle of the grocery store. "Fine. But don't blame me when it clogs up your insides and stops you from 'going' at all." He grabbed the shopping cart to quickly spin it away for a dramatic exit, but it was so laiden down with shopping that it turned into a six-point-turn-with-grunting exit. So much for that.

Finally taking pity on him, Derek grabbed the handle of the cart away from him and suddenly it was sailing down the aisle like it was freaking floating or something. Stiles rushed to catch up with him. "I'm just gonna remind you that you have, like, a million muscle groups that I don't. And enhanced strength, which is a totally unfair advanta-oof!" Derek had stopped right in front of him, stock still. Prising himself away from Derek's back - and he had to be honest, he enjoyed spending time in that location - Stiles figured Derek had seen something, but when he saw Derek's face...nope. He just seemed to be staring off at something in the distance.

Stiles inched closer. "Derek?"

Clearly struggling with something, Derek eventually decided to share, turning his grumpy-ass face towards Stiles to say, "It's...it would've been...my mom's birthday tomorrow."

He felt like he'd had the breath knocked out of him. Oh. Oh. This explained the dramatic shift in mood from the house to the store, despite Derek's general dislike of shopping. Maybe the sexy-fun times at the house had even been a deliberate distraction.

Dealing with this should've been something Stiles was good at, having been through exactly the same terrible thing, but for now all he seemed to be able to do was stare back at Derek helplessly.

"And every year, we had pasta. With this spicy sauce that she loved. Laura and I tried to keep the tradition going, after...." His voice dwindled off and Stiles couldn't help but wonder, in the months that he'd known him, how many birthdays and anniversaries Derek had had to deal with alone. It explained a lot about his general demeanor. "And now there's no Laura, either." The cart gave a groan of protest and Stiles glanced down to see that Derek's grip on the cart was so tight, he was literally crushing the handle.

Stiles' hand shot out without thinking, covering Derek's. Blinking, surprised, Derek stared down at their hands. When he realised exactly what he was doing, he loosened his grip.

When he spoke again, he kept his head down. "After Laura died, I figured there was no point." Which was a little surprising, because that sounded exactly like the kind of self-flagellation Derek was into. "But now...I want to. With the pack." He finally lifted his head again, and he looked shockingly vulnerable when he met Stiles' gaze. "With you."

And now Stiles knew exactly what to do.

They weren't exactly public with their relationship - although Stiles' 18th birthday was rapidly approaching, something they were both well aware of - but Dad had made it clear, especially since they'd worked things out, that they didn't need to go into hiding on his account. Nonetheless, Stiles wasn't about to start frenching Derek in the middle of the grocery store - as much fun as that'd be. But he could do this. He could do this much.

Shifting his hand, he started wiggling his fingers around the edges of Derek's palm. Quickly catching on, Derek turned his hand over and Stiles smiled softly, threading their fingers together. His free hand shoved the list back into his pocket and he forgot all about it. "Let's get the ingredients for that sauce."

Producing his own soft smile in return, Derek squeezed Stiles' hand in silent gratitude, and then they both looked forward to start walking again and-

Whoa. Creepy.

Victoria Argent was standing several feet away, staring at them.

Derek stiffened next to him and Stiles felt his own hackles rising, narrowing his eyes as he glared at her. If she even looked at Derek the wrong way...

But then he actually paid attention to what she was looking at. Sure, she was looking at them - but more speficially, she was staring at their joined hands, still resting on top of the shopping cart. And that made Stiles think all kinds of things, like how long she'd been lurking around and how much she'd seen and heard. If that night in the forest had proven one thing, it was that Victoria Argent was as skilled as any hunter, and knew how to hide from a werewolf. Derek hadn't seen her coming until the very last minute.

The mutual stare-off continued for some time, Mrs Argent still mostly staring at their hands. Stiles didn't even think of pulling away, instead holding Derek's hand tighter. Derek squeezed back reassurringly.

Eventually, her face unreadable as always, she looked them both in the eye, one at a time. "There's a family dinner tonight," was all she said, "remind Allison to be there by seven." And then, as if giving them no further thought - and honestly, Stiles wasn't even offended by that, he was downright down with not being the subject of Victoria Argent's thoughts - she turned and wheeled her shopping cart away.

Blinking, Stiles let the tension drop out of his body. "Wow. I think she just agreed not to kill you."

"Until the next time I'm forced to do something she doesn't like," Derek suggested and there was the hopeless pessimist Stiles had come to know and love. "Doesn't mean she's suddenly not a threat."

Well, yes, that was true. Allison kept them frequently updated on the progress, or lack thereof, of convincing her mom that she really didn't want to kill the guy who,

a) was an Alpha
b) had a whole pack at his command (when Scott wasn't being distracted by shiny things - or Allison)
c) hadn't retaliated after she shot him
d) her only daughter would never forgive her for killing
e) had only ever killed one guy, a guy that happened to be a psycho, mass-murdering werewolf that the Argents had kinda been responsible for in the first place, and that they hadn't been able to take down themselves so really, he'd done them all a huge favour and,
f) whose not-so-maybe boyfriend would totally go ninja on her ass.

F may have only been in Stiles' head, but he knew the truth. He knew what the biggest threat was.

As well as Allison, Chris Argent seemed to be maybe-possibly-kind of be on their side, too. Or at the very least he wasn't actively looking to kill them, and had been convincing his wife to leave Derek well enough alone. Stiles had never been a fan of Chris Argent - what with the whole plotting to kill his best friend and throwing Stiles up against the wall in the hospital and intimidating him thing - but the truth of what Kate had done had clearly shaken the man and what he believed in.

"You could move somewhere new?" he suggested. "Some place they don't know?" Stiles pictured them taking over an abandoned warehouse, sharing secret knocks, codewords and assignations in the middle of the night.

...wow. He'd totally never realised how dirty 'assignations' could sound before.

"Probably a wise move," Derek conceded, "but I've been hiding since I was 16. I'm not doing it anymore."

Stiles couldn't really blame him - and for Derek, at least, this was probably a good thing. "Well...okay, then. We'll just keep doing what we've been doing." Which meant the traps set up around the perimeter of the house. Derek had devised - okay, so it was mostly Lydia - the simple but effective design that made a certain noise when activated. The weight of most animals wouldn't set it off, although that generally wasn't an issue due to most animals being smart enough to stay the hell away from a house full of werewolves. "And now, sauce!"

As segue's went, it wasn't his greatest.

"So, hey," Stiles continued as they finally started moving again, hands eventually drifting away from each other but bodies staying close, "do you think Jackson and Lydia are ever gonna figure themselves out? Are those crazy kids ever gonna get back together?" He waggled his eyebrows and, okay, maybe it was just because he knew it'd make that I'm-trying-not-to-smile-but-can't-help-myself-because-my-boyfriend's-so-awesome smile appear on Derek's face.

Yeah. That one he was wearing right now.

"I'm the last person you should ask about romance," Derek pointed out.

Shrugging, Stiles leaned against him. "I dunno. You seem to be doing pretty good to me." And this seemed like a good time to mention it, what with the talking of romance and Derek seeming pretty happy right now. "Did I mention that Dad invited you over next Wednesday?" There'd been a second visit to Casa Stilinski already, the experience only slightly less awkward than the first one for all involved. They'd at least moved on to snacks and this time, Dad wanted an actual meal.

And yes, now Derek was smiling at him dryly. "For Inquisition: The Sequel?"

Derek made a funny! Stiles was so proud, and just had to join in. "This Time It's Pork Chops!" And yes, now Stiles was pretty damn sure he was wearing his own I-can't-help-myself-because-my-boyfriend's-so-awesome smile. And yes, they were apparently one of those annoying couples who made jokes together and smiled sickeningly at each other and held hands while they did the grocery shopping.

But Stiles had been putting up with Scott and Allison for months - months - now.

The world could deal with it.

~FINIS