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Every Step You Take

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They’re left waiting until dusk.

When the sun starts to set, the forest suddenly has a creepy vibe that raises the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck.

“Do you guys feel that?” he asks, looking around. Walt is crumpled in the center of the circle of iron, right where he fell after Derek punched him once they were sure they got the last bit of useful information out of him, which wasn’t much. Everyone else is standing just within the circle, which is their only line of defense against the biggest unknown of the night: witchcraft.

Scott nods. “It feels like a storm is coming.”

“Magic,” Derek confirms.

Allison rubs the back of her neck. “It’s spooky.”

Erica snaps her head to the right, sniffing. “Five plus Isaac and Boyd.”

Allison notches an arrow in her crossbow. Stiles tries to look confident, despite the fact that he brought diddly-squat to a big old supernatural fight. Maybe he should pick up a rock or stick or something.

“Remember the plan,” Derek says, voice calm and quiet. He’s actually a good leader when the shit is about to go down, Stiles notices, and wonders if he could somehow translate his abilities to peacetime efforts. Then Stiles realizes that he’s making plans to help Derek better lead his pack, like they mean something to each other, and hates himself a little.

Derek whips his head around, staring at something off to the left of them. He holds out a warning finger, and Stiles watches as Scott and Erica change into their game faces, stances turning more predatory as they all wait for the attack.

He’s been given strict instructions to stick close to Derek so that the spell doesn’t kick in. Stiles has painfully vivid memories of just how incapacitating the spell is, and he knows that Derek stands no chance of winning against the coven and his turned wolves if he’s brought low by Stiles screwing up. It’s a major responsibility, even though it feels like just standing around.

The awful tension in the air keeps rising, and Stiles worries that the witches might actually manage to spell them. The iron chain lies unseen under half an inch of dirt and leaves, but Stiles isn’t completely convinced that it’ll be effective. He remembers how intense the magic felt when Thea tried to control Derek, and it’s hard to imagine that it can be contained by something as simple as iron.

There’s a low growling coming from the forest to the left of them, and Stiles would put money on there being another werewolf to the right. The hair on the back of his neck is now crawling, and Stiles keeps trying to brush off things that aren’t there, it feels so real. It’s getting harder to breathe, with the air so thick with a strange current, and Stiles tries his best to remain calm.

“Now?” rasps Scott through a mouthful of sharp, wicked teeth.

“Let them come to us,” Allison instructs. She looks around the circle. “Remember, keep close. We have the advantage.”

“Who’s taking who?” Erica asks, looking from side to side.

“I’ll take Boyd,” Derek says. “You and Scott, focus on Isaac.”

He doesn’t give a command to Allison. Stiles thinks it’s probably as close to diplomatic he can get for dealing with an Argent.

There are a few more long moments of the mystical energy coming to a boiling point, and the wolves all seem to be feeling it even worse than Stiles is. Derek finally stretches his arms and shifts, cracking his neck from side to side, and he looks straight into the woods and roars out a chilling, terrible howl.

The sound resonates through the trees, sending the few birds that have remained through the magical atmospheric disturbance flying, and it feels like it pulsates right into Stiles’ very skin and settles with a rattle deep in his bones. The scabbed-over scratches on his arm throb, and Stiles takes an unconscious half-step closer to Derek.

It inexplicably makes him feel safer, the same way he always felt as a kid when his dad arrived home from patrol.

There is a moment of perfect stillness after Derek’s howl finishes echoing through the woods, where the magic in the air seems to lessen and the goosebumps on Stiles’ arms fade completely away, and not a single creature stirs in the woods. All Stiles can hear is his own heart pounding in his chest, and the way that his friends are breathing heavily around him, tensed and ready for battle.

And then there’s an answering howl from the forest, though by the way that Derek’s shoulders tense, Stiles can tell that the message that’s being sent isn’t friendly. It’s a challenge, instead of the cry of submission that an Alpha should receive from one of his betas. It raises the hackles of the wolves around Stiles, though it doesn’t do anything to Stiles himself.

Derek roars, this time making no pretense at it being anything less than a battle cry, and Erica and Scott both drop to their knees, eyes glowing wild and claws scratching into the earth as they reposition themselves, awaiting Isaac and Boyd’s charge.

Quick as lightning, Boyd emerges from the foliage. He vaults over a fallen log and then, dropping to all fours, springs at Derek.

In theory, sticking close to Derek seemed simple enough. Stand behind him a few feet and let him work his werewolf kung fu until all the bad guys were taken out.

In practice… Stiles uses up his entire reservoir of badassery on just staying upright rather than dropping to the ground and scampering away like a terrified crab.

It feels like the entire clearing has exploded with action, even though Isaac is still lurking in the forest. There are snarls from all sides and when Boyd crashes into Derek, they go tumbling into the dirt. Stiles takes a few steps to the left and the right, doing his best to avoid contact with the sharp claw-tipped blows that go wild, all while keeping close enough that Derek retains his advantage.

Erica moves in once to claw a deep gouge on Boyd’s ankle as he attacks Derek, which slows him down momentarily. Allison fires off an arrow which embeds deep in Boyd’s abdomen, but he seems to not even feel it.

Stiles realizes suddenly that Boyd hasn’t spoken since he burst into the clearing. Granted, no one else has exactly been reciting soliliques, but mixed in with the grunts and snarls have been single-word commands and curses and “Over here!”s.

Boyd, though… He’s only grunted and growled and, once, when the arrow hit him, let out a startled yelp like an injured dog.

Stiles stares at him. His eyes are glowing a fierce yellow, and his wolfed-out face is ferocious, but there’s… there’s no human intelligence behind it.

Even his fighting seems to be pure instinct, with no clear battle plan. He’s obviously going to lose; the only reason he’s still alive is that Derek is fighting to incapacitate, not kill, and has instructed Scott and Erica to keep out of it as much as possible, keeping their eyes constantly scanning the forest for both Isaac and the witches.

“He’s feral,” Stiles says, unwilling to look away from Boyd now that he’s realized exactly how dangerous he is. “They took the spell too far. They took away his will, and with it, what kept him human.”

He knows Derek hears him even through the battle-lust because his shoulders suddenly stiffen and his entire stance changes. He charges at Boyd, taking the offense for the first time, and pins him, jerking one of Boyd’s arms behind him and managing to push his face into the dirt, putting a knee in the small of his back and leaning in. He sinks his teeth into the back of Boyd’s neck, deep enough that bright red blood trickles down his skin.

Boyd stills, and Stiles realizes that Derek’s switched tactics. He’s letting his wolf-side dominate, and Stiles thinks he’s possibly humiliating Boyd into submission. Stiles is pretty sure, from his internet research and comparison to Scott and Derek’s behavior, that werewolves have a slightly different set of conduct than actual wolves have.

Boyd is still straining up against Derek, but he’s not lashing around as much, and Stiles notices that while the gash Erica contributed is mostly healed, all the other cuts are still vivid and bleeding. Derek, on the other hand, is mottled with fading bruises, and the few cuts seem to be already scabbing up.

Derek is still Boyd’s Alpha, then. Despite the shift in control, the physiological response to an Alpha is still the same, and Boyd’s unwilling submission means that somewhere deep inside, he’s still there. Still part of the pack.

Something comes crashing out of the woods, and Stiles drops to the ground just as he realizes that it’s Isaac. An arrow catches Isaac in the throat, and Scott slams into him before he has a chance to jerk it out. Scott’s at a disadvantage, Stiles knows, since any injury he inflicts is going to heal quickly, rather than human-slow like Derek’s blows. Stiles fervently wishes that everyone hadn’t resoundly agreed that he wasn’t allowed any sort of projectile weapon earlier, for fear that he would hit one of them instead of a bad guy. It’s frustrating, not being able to do anything to help his friends.

He checks back on Derek and Boyd. Derek is talking quietly into Boyd’s ear, leaning in close. He’s speaking too softly for Stiles to hear, but their position is strangely intimate. Stiles thinks he should be jealous, but somehow, it doesn’t bother him. He wonders why, briefly, then realizes it’s because Boyd is part of Derek’s pack, and Derek should be close to them. They’re his family, and abruptly, Stiles realizes exactly why Derek’s so desperate to bring Boyd back to himself.

Derek loves his pack. That’s why he’s willing to go as far as he is to keep them safe. They’re the only family he has, and Stiles of all people should understand the need to form a family.

Stiles is pulled from his thoughts when to his right, Erica suddenly leaps into the fray, helping Scott with Isaac. Stiles has to admire the fact that she’s probably the most vicious fighter of the three. Scott’s got the most experience, and it shows in his level of control, but Isaac is working on pure instinct, his face monstrous. Stiles bites his lip, hoping that Scott makes it through okay.

Allison sidles up to Stiles, and says, “I can’t fire any more without risking Scott or Erica. It’s too fast.”

Abruptly, Stiles looks around. “Can you feel that?”

“What?” Allison asks.

“Exactly,” Stiles replies. “The magic.”

Allison’s jaw drops. “Oh, shit. The witches have stopped trying their spell.”

Stiles glances around. “I’m guessing it didn’t work?”

Allison looks doubtful. Erica slides past them, then vaults herself back towards Isaac. The struggle is taking longer than it should; Scott’s never had any trouble taking Isaac down before.

Derek seems to have finally given up on talking sense into Boyd, and knocks him out with a single, sharp blow. Boyd’s laying just a few feet from Walt, and Stiles stares at the unconscious witch for a minute as something clicks into place for him.

“They should have rescued Walt already,” Stiles hisses, grabbing Allison’s arm. “They wouldn’t have sent feral wolves right at someone they were going to rescue.”

“They’ve abandoned him,” Allison says, staring at him. “What—“

Derek pushes past them into the fight. With his strength added to Scott and Erica’s efforts, it only takes a few more seconds to take Isaac out, leaving him on his back in the dirt, head lolling to one side. Derek doesn’t bother trying to talk him back into his senses, Stiles notices. That must mean the coven’s control is too great.

There’s a low thrumming, and Stiles looks around. It sounds like a generator, but there’s nothing like that out this deep in the woods.

Then he realizes that it’s the buildup of the spell abruptly returning. “It’s happening.”

“Down,” Derek says, and they all drop to the ground. Derek is close enough to touch, and it takes all of Stiles’ willpower to not reach out and grab his hand.

He can see Scott crawling to get closer to Allison, just as the thrumming reaches its zenith.

The spell shatters through the air. It feels like the kind of thunder that rattles your bones and windowpanes alike, Stiles thinks, and protecting himself with his arms, ducking his head down and praying that none of the trees surrounding them fall.

Limbs crack and he can feel the wind whirling around, but nothing else happens. After a minute, Stiles lifts his head, and the circle is unscathed.

Derek slowly climbs to his feet, and yells into the forest, “You’re going to have to bring more than that!”

It’s terrible, insofar as action hero lines go, but Stiles feels a deep, bubbling well of affection for Derek nonetheless.

Stiles pushes himself up off the ground, and looks around. Outside the circle, there are a bunch of downed limbs, but nothing fell inside it.

He thinks the chain actually managed to work.

He has a scant moment to appreciate the triumph before he realizes why the wolves are all three tense and staring off to the right. There’s something shuffling in the brush, and then a lone figure appears, stepping between two low-hanging branches.

“Rookwood,” Derek says, nodding.

“Hale,” the woman who can only be Alma Rookwood replies. She’s middle-aged and lovely, with an aura of power crackling around her that even someone as completely human as Stiles can feel.

“I found something of yours,” Derek says, motioning towards Walt.

“And two other little somethings of mine, too,” Rookwood says, motioning towards Isaac and Boyd.

Derek’s smile is as sharp as his claws. “You’re pushing it too far, witch.”

“Oh, sweetie,” she smiles, “I haven’t begun to push. You killed my daughter. Desecrated her corpse. I’m going to rip away everything you love and leave you begging for death.”

“Didn’t really do your research on that one, did you?” Allison mutters, and Stiles chokes back a hysterical giggle.

“Release my wolves,” Derek replies with a snarl, “or I’ll rip you apart.”

“What fun would that be?” There’s something deeply unsettling about Rookwood’s eyes. Stiles is reminded of Kate Argent, bizarrely enough, and worries suddenly that Derek might see the similarities too.

“Lots,” Erica offers with a sharp-fanged smile.

Derek has his arms crossed across his chest. He looks dangerous, and Erica and Scott move to either side of him, both with their game faces still on. Stiles stands just behind them, close enough to keep the spell from triggering, and exchanges a look with Allison.

He knows she’s smart enough to tell exactly how unhinged this witch is, just for choosing to go after an entire pack of wolves, but she also understands how powerful the witches actually are. It’s a terrible, insidious type of power, and Stiles worries that they don’t stand a chance of breaking it.

“When are they coming?” he asks her quietly.

“Soon,” she replies. “We need to wrap this up.”

Stiles definitely doesn’t want to be caught out here when the hunters arrive. It’s the chanciest part of the plan – breaking the coven’s strength is going to be difficult, and right now it’s looking even harder than they anticipated, and knowing the hunters are on their way to take out the same coven…

It gives them a chance they wouldn’t have otherwise, knowing that backup – unlikely as it may be, especially since the hunters don’t know that they’ve been lined up as a second line of defense in case the werewolves fail – is on its way, and it means that if they time this right, they can take a chance that otherwise would be impossibly risky.

But that doesn’t mean that Stiles wants to actually still be here when the hunters show up.

“Your blood is mine,” Rookwood was saying, and Stiles has seen enough superhero cartoons to know when a truly epic villain rant is about to be thrown his way.

But there’s one thing he’s learned from his many years of geekery, and that is the fact that villains love to talk about their motivations. His experiences with Peter didn’t diffuse this notion, so he calls out, “Why did you try to take over the pack?”

Rookwood pauses. “Because they killed my daughter.”

“No,” Derek says, “I killed your daughter because she was trying to control me. Why was she doing that? It never made sense.”

“You were supposed to be a beta,” Rookwood says, narrowing her eyes at him.

Derek narrows his eyes at her. “It’s my territory. Mine. I wouldn’t send someone else out to investigate an unknown trespasser.”

“You’re not much like your sister at all, are you?” Rookwood says abruptly.

Derek stiffens, looking like he might burst through their only line of protection and lash out at the witch immediately. Stiles actually reaches out to touch Derek’s back reassuringly, trying to ground him and remind him why they were staying inside.

The Alpha couldn’t fall. Allison’s crossbow wouldn’t do much to stop him, were he turned against them, and Stiles for one didn’t want to face him down.

Derek meant too much to him. He couldn’t… he just couldn’t stand the thought of Derek having his control ripped away and turned into a monster.

Stiles can feel how rigid the muscles in Derek’s back are through his shirt, and he splays his fingers out, stopping just short of anything that could be construed as petting. Derek takes a few sharp, deep breaths, and then says in an unwavering voice, “I don’t see how you would know.”

“Sweet Laura was too trusting,” Rookwood says, stepping closer to where Stiles knows the chain is buried. She holds a hand out, like she’s feeling the range of the circle, and says, “Unlike you, it seems. She used to stop by our store. Lonely thing, she was. I was under the impression she didn’t have any family left.”

“You seem to have paid close attention to her,” Derek says. His voice is steady and even to someone who knows him as well as Stiles does, he seems calm. The tenseness in his back belies his outward calm, though, and Stiles risks stroking his back, trying to unwind him.

It seems to help. Derek loosens his stance a little, and Stiles pulls his hand back slowly, not wanting to draw the witch’s attention.

“Werewolves are easy to spot,” Rookwood says, “especially you born ones. None of you are quite human enough. And when Laura died… well. I saw an opening.”

“An opening.” Derek’s no longer calm; there’s a dangerous lilt to it. Beside Stiles, Allison tightens her grip on her crossbow.

Erica takes a half-step forward, clearly wanting to act on the threat in her alpha’s voice.

“The Hales have held this town for far too long, pup,” Rookwood says. “With Laura gone… well, I was under the impression that her brother was just a kid, staying as far away from here as possible. Bad memories, I suppose.”

Scott growls.

Derek holds out a hand, stopping Scott from taking a step forward. Stiles thinks that there’s some sort of werewolf thing happening, with the way that Erica and Scott are reacting to digs at Derek, and he hopes that Derek isn’t losing control of himself.

“You had to know another Alpha would take her place,” Derek says.

“She never formed a pack,” Rookwood says. “I assumed… well. Your little pack did come as a surprise to me, though not a threat. Where did you find such terrible wolves at?”

Erica lets out a snarl, crouching like she’s about to spring at the witch. Stiles tenses, thinking that maybe he can grab onto her belt or something if she tries to attack. He’s painfully aware that the thin iron chain is all that’s protecting them from the coven’s formidable magic.

“Not as easy to control as you hoped, are we?” Derek says, surprising Stiles. He’d expected an angry snarl, and instead, Derek seems to have centered himself again.

Stiles wonders why. He looks around.

At first he doesn’t see it, but then he realizes that the other four witches have surrounded the circle. They’re still in the underbrush, mostly hidden behind branches and foliage, and they’re…

They’re just watching. Stiles can’t sense any more magical disturbances, and though, granted, he’s not an expert, so far the magic hasn’t exactly been the most subtle weapon on earth.

They’re watching, but they aren’t acting. Beside him, Allison notices that he’s not looking at Rookwood anymore, and he can tell when she spots the rest of the coven.

Her brow furrows. She looks at Stiles, and he shrugs.

Rookwood starts in on a rant about how the werewolves have been in control of these lands for too long, and her voice has the shrill, demented edge of someone who has lost base with all reality. Stiles stares back into the woods, and one of the witches moves closer to the edge of the clearing.

The expression on her face is pure horror.

Just like that, Stiles knows that the witches hadn’t realized that their leader had slipped into insanity.

“So that’s why you sent your daughter to take over a wolf,” he says loudly, hoping that they’d already heard enough of Rookwood’s rantings to understand how far gone she was. “You fired the first shot. We acted in self defense.”

“He wasn’t supposed to be an Alpha,” Rookwood cries, her voice cracked and ragged now. She raises her hands, and Stiles can feel power building between them. Too much power for one person, he thinks.

The coven’s magic. He looks back at the other witches, and they’re no longer trying to conceal themselves. They’ve stepped into the clearing, advancing on Rookwood slowly.

“And you killed that girl,” Stiles says, sensing the tipping point is near. The other witches stop, turning to look at him. “The nice witch who tried to warn us against you, when we went to the magic store. She disappeared right after that.” He turns to the rest of the coven. “We had nothing to do with that.”

“You told us they attacked without provocation,” one of the witches says to Rookwood.

“They did,” she shrieks. “They killed my girl!”

“Your girl tried to control a werewolf alone,” another witch says. “That’s forbidden for a reason.”

Rookwood spreads her hands out. The magic she’s building seems to have manifested itself; there’s a bright, glowing light there now, one that Stiles can’t look at without seeing spots dance across his vision.

“I regret that she died,” Derek says quietly, turning from Rookwood for the first time since she emerged from the forest. “But I was given no choice. And none of my pack have harmed any of yours, no matter what that says.” He throws a disgusted look at Rookwood.

The oldest of the four witches, a woman Stiles faintly recalls seeing at the magic store, looks him in the eye. “Do you speak the truth, boy? By the moon?”

“By the moon,” Derek says solemnly. Erica and Scott still have their attention trained on Rookwood, though Allison is wavering between all the witches, with her crossbow gripped tightly.

“And our brother?” another of the witches ask, motioning towards Walt.

“Just knocked out a little,” Stiles offers. “Nothing unfortunate happened to him at all.”

Allison’s phone buzzes, and she looks, vaguely panicked, around. “We don’t have much time.”

Stiles is pretty sure that the hunters aren’t going to work on a no harm-no foul system.

“We formally apologize for grievances we’ve caused your pack,” one of the witches begins, and then suddenly drops to her knees, clutching her head.

Rookwood laughs, loud and mad, as she releases the magic that’s built up in her hands. Stiles drops to the ground, Derek beside him and Allison crouched nearby, her crossbow aimed at Rookwood.

There’s a strange sense of tension, as though the invisible barrier of the circle is wavering, and then, suddenly, there’s chaos as the barrier falls.

It’s like the entire world is crashing down around them, and Stiles instinctively reaches out and grips Derek’s hand, holding on as tight as he can as the magic fills the air to the point that Stiles can’t even breathe.

And then, abruptly, it’s gone.

Stiles looks up cautiously, and Rookwood is clearly gearing up for a second wave. She’s chanting quietly to herself, stepping forward over what used to be the iron chain, but now all that remains is a charred circle.

The other witches are scrambling to their feet, looking dazed as they try to come up with a spell to counteract whatever Rookwood is about to do. It’s clearly deadly; the other witches look panicked.

And then Allison pulls herself to her feet. Stiles sits up slowly as Derek lets go of his hand. And as Derek climbs to his feet…

There’s a strange whistling sound, and then suddenly the shaft of an arrow is sticking out of Rookwood’s throat.

For a second Stiles remembers vividly what her daughter looked like as she died, blood gushing from her throat. The boneless way that Rookwood’s body slumps, blood bubbling out around the bolt, is eerily familiar.

There’s a quiet moment of shock.

The witches, clearly still recovering from the shock of the magic attack, collectively gather around Rookwood’s body and stare, dazed.

Derek steps closer, and motions for Erica and Scott to come with him. Stiles puts his hand on Allison’s arm, but she shakes it off, still staring at the bolt in Rookwood’s neck.

“Your leader is dead,” Derek says, voice cutting through the silence like a scythe. “Did that break your coven’s hold on my wolves?”

“Any spells that were done with the coven’s collective magic are broken,” one of the witches says, turning pale as she realizes the ramification this has on her group. “Your wolves are your own again.”

“Then I’ll do you the favor of warning you,” Derek says. “Hunters are coming, and they want you dead. Run.”

“But… Alma…” One of them says, staring at the body.

Stiles get the impression that witches as a whole experience a lot less death and terror than werewolves and their associates.

“Run,” Derek snarls, and the witches, with several regretful looks, gather up Walt and flee.

Allison finally lowers her crossbow, hand visibly shaking and gestures towards the still-unconscious werewolves. “Get them out of here. The hunters are almost here.”

Stiles doesn’t even remember to check whether the spell on him and Derek has been broken as he helps Derek, Scott and Erica haul Boyd and Isaac away from the circle.


It’s not until they end up in separate vehicles going back to town – Stiles in his jeep, Boyd filling up the backseat and Scott beside him, while Derek and Erica take Isaac in the Camaro – that Stiles realizes that he’s not in soul-crushing pain, and thus, breaking the coven’s power actually did break the spell.

It seems too simple, somehow. Too neat. He realizes that he never really expected it to work, and that he’d been somehow… hoping it wouldn’t.

It’s weird to not be with Derek, given how they spent the last three days in constant proximity. He keeps glancing over at the passenger seat and it’s bizarre that it’s Scott sitting there, instead of Derek, who should be glowering about nothing in particular. He misses Derek.

“So,” Scott says. “You and Derek.”

Stiles pretends like it doesn’t startle him as much as it does. “No longer magically enforced buddies!”

“I was talking more about the whole… situation between you two,” Scott says. “The way you are totally in love with him and all.”

Stiles can’t hide his startlement this time. “What? That’s… What? Scott, that is crazy talk.”

Scott gives him a look. “Uh-huh.”

“Nonsense,” Stiles repeats.

Scott leans over and sniffs Stiles’ neck, getting all up in there and snuffling against his skin, which, “Hey! Inappropriate! The hell, dude!”

“You’re carrying Derek’s scent,” Scott says triumphantly, pulling back.

“Again, I’ve been magically tied to the dude for days! It’s not like we could properly maintain personal space bubbles,” Stiles sputters out.

“That’s not what I meant,” Scott says. “You don’t smell like him because you’ve been living with him 24/7. You’re carrying his scent.”

Stiles has no fucking clue what the difference between those is, and tells Scott so.

“It’s like…” Scott waves a hand around carelessly. “How me and Allison carry each other’s scents, but me and you don’t. There has to be… heightened emotion and contact to transfer this kind of scent.”

“When the hell did you become a scent-expert?” Stiles asks, trying to ignore the fact that apparently to every single freaking werewolf, he and Derek smelled like they were dating. It gave him a strange, twisty feeling deep inside, like it should be something good but instead it was just… depressing.

“Derek’s lessons,” Scott admits.

“Normally, I would be delighted that you’re using someone’s own knowledge against them,” Stiles says, “but mostly I’m just annoyed.”

“Why are you trying to keep it secret, anyway?” Scott asks. “I think it’s cute that you’re dating Derek. It’s very… Xander and Cordelia.”

“We aren’t dating,” Stiles chokes out.

“Your neck says otherwise,” Scott points out, tapping his nose.

Stiles steers with his elbow for a moment so he can jerk up the sleeve to his shirt. The healing scratch marks on his arm are vivid even in the dark car. “What do you see?”

“He… marked you?” Scott sounds confused.

“This is why the spell connected us,” Stiles says. “He was grabbing my arm when the witch cursed us, and somehow it ended up on the two of us instead of the two of them. He marked me, and there was a magic spell holding us together, and all of a sudden there’s something going on between us? That doesn’t sound the slightest bit suspicious to you?”

Scott stares at the scratch marks with new understanding. “You don’t think it’s real.”

“No,” Stiles says. “It wasn’t. We both think that.”

“Oh,” Scott says. He sounds disappointed. “But… you two just have this…”

“Again, since when?” Stiles says bitterly. “It was just a cruel twist of magic, Scott. Nothing real.”

They drove the rest of the way to Derek’s in silence.


“So has anyone noticed that when we all get together, group murder ensues?” Stiles asks as he helps Scott pull Boyd out of the Jeep. He really feels that focusing on murder is preferable to anyone talking about his and Derek’s… whatever.

“We’re getting pretty good at it!” Scott says optimistically.

“Yeah, maybe we can put it on our resumes one day,” Stiles says.

“At least we didn’t have to bury this one,” Scott offers as Derek’s Camaro pulls up. “That part’s gross.”

“Hell yeah it is,” Erica agrees, climbing out of the passenger seat. “Why’d we ditch Allison with a fresh corpse, anyhow?”

“She’s using it to prove herself to her parents,” Scott says. “Maybe they’ll ease up on her then.”

Stiles stops, letting Boyd’s feet thump to the ground. Scott continues to drag him, not even noticing that Stiles isn’t helping anymore. “Did you come up with that on your own? That’s actually a decent bit of manipulation.”

Scott awkwardly balances Boyd on one arm in order to flip Stiles off. “It was Allison’s idea. She figures that since her family was hunting the coven anyway, saying that she decided to go out and try to help them would win some brownie points.” Scott smiles goofily. “Prom’s coming up.”

“Allison’s parents would ease up on her because she killed someone?” Erica says blankly. “And I thought my mom was a fucked-up parent.”

“Because she killed a monster,” Stiles clarifies. He catches Derek’s eye, and immediately looks elsewhere. Like the floor. Man, concrete is interesting. Way more interesting than Derek’s strangely sad look.

Scott gets Boyd arranged somewhat comfortably on an old couch, and Erica sets Isaac up nearby, and then that’s it. The adventure’s over. They all stand around awkwardly for a moment, and Stiles totally catches Erica and Scott clearly giving each other “Let’s leave them alone,” looks, so he grabs Scott’s hand and says, “It’s been real,” and fucking flees towards his Jeep.

Scott hisses, “Stiles, seriously dude,” but Stiles isn’t interested in making small talk or whatever. He has to leave here before he actually looks at Derek, or, god forbid, has to talk to him.

He can’t handle that. Not when he’s already feeling strange and adrift, like the spell breaking did more than just cut the leash between them.


Scott doesn’t push the topic on the drive home, just talks aimlessly about the homework they have in Econ, and how Scott covered for Stiles during his missed lacrosse practice even though he had to deal with Coach Finstock congratulating him on being such a thoughtful boyfriend to Stiles. Scott keeps checking his phone for news from Allison, and Stiles keeps his eyes firmly on the road, hands at ten and two, and basically does everything in his power to focus on anything but what just happened.

He drops Scott off, getting a promise to let him know if Allison’s okay, and Stiles drives home numbly.

It’s stupid, he knows. They’ve been working nonstop for days to break the curse, and now it’s broken. Stiles should be dancing around his room, fist-pumping and freaking howling at the moon in celebration.

Instead he just trudges upstairs and flops on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He glances over. There’s still an indention in the other pillow where Derek slept. He tries to ignore it, too, but it just sits there, dominating the room, until Stiles rolls over and punches it.

Then he leans in and presses his face against the pillow, breathing in deep. It smells like Derek, faint and musky.

Stiles lays there like that for a while, breathing in with his eyes closed, trying to push everything out of his head. He knows that when he wakes up in the morning, these last, terrible remnants of the spell will be gone, and he’ll laugh at himself for being a sentimental wreck over smelling Derek Hale on his pillow. He might even tell Scott, to make Scott feel better about his Allison problem. Apparently everyone can succumb to lovesick puppydom.

Stiles heaves a sigh and rolls out of bed, pulling all the bedding off his bed and hauling it to the washing machine before he can change his mind about it. He can’t roll around in Derek’s scent like a creepy loser. He just can’t. Tomorrow, everything will be better. These last dying whimpers of the spell will be just a memory, and Stiles can get on with his life.

His dad raises an eyebrow when he passes him on the way back to the room. “Suddenly into housekeeping?”

Stiles says, “There were Doritos crumbs in them. They kept stabbing me.”

“Of course,” his dad says.

Stiles thinks about going back up to his room, but all that lies that way are uncomfortable memories and his own feelings, so he flops down on the couch. “Find any leads on that girl?”

“The first one’s safe, at least. Her mother called in earlier tonight,” his dad says. “Says the girl came home after all.”

“That’s good!” Stiles practically yelps. He thinks again of Rookwood’s face when she talked about her daughter’s corpse, and feels a strange stab of guilt. The woman had been nuts, but she’d obviously loved her daughter. And apparently her determination to get revenge herself after discovering her daughter’s murder had made her cover it up. One less thing to worry about.

“Yeah,” his dad says, and then shakes his head. “It didn’t feel right, but there’s nothing really we can do now. Girl’s no longer a missing person.”

“Happy ending,” Stiles replies unenthusiastically. “In a way. Though that has to at least be a good mark for your station. Better than another unsolved murder, right?”

“Always looking to the bright side, that’s my boy,” his dad says, giving him a light punch on the arm.

Stiles grins at his dad. “Hey, us Stilinskis gotta stick together.” He pauses for effect. “No matter how much I sometimes think you secretly wanted a Boy Named Sue situation to happen between us. No other explanation for that name you saddled me with.”

“Son, this world is rough,” his dad says, straight-faced, “and if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough.”

Stiles rolls his eyes, grinning, and snags the remote control out of his dad’s hand. “How’s that for gravel in my gut?”

His dad laughs. Stiles flips through the channels, ending up on one of the endless reruns of a reality show about terrible jobs, and they sit in comfortable silence, watching truckers risk an icy death in order to get supplies to isolated towns.

After a while, his dad clears his throat and says, “Stiles.”

It’s his serious face. Stiles hastily gulps down the mouthful of corn chips he’d just shoved in his mouth and says in an equally serious voice, “Dad.”

“I just…” His dad runs a hand through his short hair. “Are you happy?”

“Am I… what? Yes?” Stiles replies.

“It’s just, you’ve been a little… off… these past few days,” his dad continues. “And… Is it a girl? You know you can talk to me about anything. Did that Lydia girl hurt you?”

“Lydia? No,” Stiles says, before realizing that he’s totally admitting that he has problems with someone.

“Oh?” his dad asks, looking interested.

“Ugh,” Stiles says, hiding his face in his hands. “Why does everyone just look at me and automatically know everything?”

“Because your face is basically a giant billboard advertising your thoughts,” his dad says immediately. “Always has been. Your mom and me always knew the second you’d done something wrong, just by the look on your face.”

His expression saddens, the way it always does when Stiles’ mom comes up, and Stiles leans over and rests his head on his dad’s shoulder in a way he hasn’t in a while. It’s strangely comforting, pretending to be a kid again, and has the added bonus of him not having to see his dad’s expression when he talks. “It’s nothing, really. Just… how do you know when you really feel something for someone?”

“That’s not something you can really define,” his dad says slowly. “I mean, it’s not like there’s a switch that’s thrown in your head, and suddenly, you have real feelings. It’s something that builds.”

“What if it is sudden?” Stiles asks. “Like… what if you’ve known someone for a while, and you definitely had no romantic feelings for them. More fear than anything, really,” he adds thoughtfully. “And then… it’s suddenly different? Do you trust that?”

“That depends,” his dad says. “Do you trust them?”

Stiles nods. He trusts Derek with his life.

“And most importantly,” his dad continues, “do you trust yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s really the only way to be sure of your feelings,” his dad says. “It’s to put enough trust in what you’re feeling, and your interpretation of those feelings, to see if it’s something you want to act on.”

Stiles sighs. “I don’t know.”

“That’s because you’re a teenager,” his dad says wisely. “Though, just putting it out there… It doesn’t really matter how old you are. Knowing if what you feel is real… that’s a tough one for us all.”

“How did you know?” Stiles asks quietly. “With Mom?”

His dad is quiet for a long minute. Stiles wants to backtrack, make some joke and give him an out. The wound from his mother’s death is still too raw.

“I woke up one morning,” his dad says quietly, “and she was the first thing I thought about. It wasn’t anything special, we didn’t have a date that day or anything. I just woke up thinking about how much she would like it if I brought her a cinnamon roll before she had to get to her nine o’clock class. And that was it. I just… knew that she was the one.”

It isn’t the answer Stiles was expecting. “You just knew?”

“I just knew.” His dad nods. They sit quietly for a few minutes, then he says, “So you’re sure it’s not Lydia? I can see why she’d scare you.”

Stiles shakes his head. “No, he’s definitely not Lydia.”

“Well, if you figure it out,” his dad says after a beat, “be sure to bring him over for dinner.”

“I’ll let you know,” Stiles says. He tries to picture Derek at the dinner table with him and his dad, and strangely, it doesn’t feel that bizarre. Like it’s something that could actually happen.

They watch the rest of the episode in comfortable silence.


After his bedding finally finishes its go-around in the dryer, Stiles bids his dad goodnight and goes back to his room. He makes the bed, punching the pillows a few good times to eliminate any remaining soppy feelings he might have about face indentions, and goes about his nightly routine quickly, hoping that he’s exhausted enough to fall into a dreamless sleep.

He’s not.

Adrenaline must still be pumping through his veins, because once Stiles lays down, he just stares up at the ceiling. After a few minutes of trying to distract himself every time he thought about Derek, he grabs his phone and checks his messages.

Nothing from Derek. He considers sending a good nite! but halfway through pecking it out, decides it’s a terrible, needy idea and discards the text. He wonders if Isaac and Boyd are okay, but when he checks the time it’s almost two am, and he doesn’t want Derek to think he’s laying awake thinking about his pack. Even though that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Instead he checks in with Scott, who replies saying that Allison is okay and that they’ll talk about it tomorrow at school.

Stiles sighs and buries his head under his pillow. Maybe if he just hides for long enough, he’ll forget who Derek Hale is. That would solve most of his problems.

Because the more he thinks about it, now that he’s alone, there’s no way that the… relationship… that he’d thought at the time might be developing really had. Even if Stiles pretended like the magic had no effect on their respective feelings, Derek had been a wreck. First he’d had control over his body taken away from him – and for a shapeshifter, Stiles was pretty sure that control was the absolute most important thing to have over yourself – and then he’d killed a girl, when he was trying his hardest to be a different kind of Alpha from Peter.

And then, the whole making out thing. When Stiles pieces together the timeline in his head, that had happened right around the time that Boyd had been taken over by the witches. And if bringing wolves into the fold intensified an Alpha’s power, it had to mean that removing one destabilized it.

None of it had been real. Stiles has to admit that to himself. Derek was… Derek, and there was no way that out of everyone in the world, he’d chose Stiles.

It was just… impossible.

Stils stares into the darkness of the room, feeling adrift and alone. The warm, clenchy feeling that thinking of Derek had been giving him slowly transformed into something terrible and painful. It was like… like he’d never be the same again. He’d never just be Stiles again, because there was this gaping hole inside him, where he’d been used by the magic and circumstance.

Derek had been right. They hadn’t actually been developing feelings for each other, and as the spell’s effect faded to nothingness, Stiles was left empty and alone.

Eventually, sleep claims him, and his dreams are uncomfortable and dark.


Stiles wakes up groping at the other side of the bed, like he’s trying to find something that’s missing.

He blearily stares at the sheets as if an answer will come to him, and then realizes that his alarm clock is what woke up him. “Oh, crap!” he yelps when he sees what time it is.

He trips across the hall to the shower, hops in and out as quickly as humanly possible, and dries off and dresses in the first assortment of clothes that he jerks out of his closet.

It’s only when he slides into the Jeep that he’s clear-headed enough to remember the previous night’s misadventure. He tries to laugh at how melodramatic he’d been laying in bed, but mostly just decides to make Scott an apology heartbreak mixtape, because if Scott had felt anything like that when he had troubles with Allison, then Stiles is a douche for making fun of him.

He pulls up at school and takes a deep breath. He can do this.

He heads inside, but someone is suddenly beside him, grabbing his arm and tugging him away from the entrance of the school. He’s not even sure why he’s surprised that it’s Erica, given the aggressive way she waylaid him.

He stumbles along after her as she keeps a vice grip on his wrist until they reach a secluded nook to the side of the school that is normally used by smokers. Erica puts her hands on her hips and says, “Okay, what the hell did you do?”

“Nothing so far today?” Stiles answers uncertainly.

Erica whacks him lightly upside the head.

“Dammit, woman,” Stiles yelps. “What was that about?”

“My Alpha is moping,” she says, eyes flashing.

“Your Alpha exists in a constant state of mope,” Stiles tells her tersely. Derek is the last thing he wants to talk about right now. Derek’s well-being is absolutely not any of Stiles’ concern, and if the thought of him moping makes Stiles want to mope, well. That’s what friends are for. Sympathetic moping.

“You two are morons,” Erica says, waving her arms around crazily. Stiles is pretty fascinated; the contrast between Erica’s hot-girl makeover and her flailing body language is pretty fantastic.

“Derek is fine,” Stiles says reassuringly. “He’s been through a lot worse than a little bitty spell hangover.”

Erica gives him the ole crazy-eye. “Yes. Because that’s what it is.”

“It is,” Stiles says. “I mean, look at me! Totally bounced back from all the stupid magic-induced things that shouldn’t have happened.” He bounces a few times to prove exactly how bounced-back he is.

“And I thought talking to Derek was like having a conversation with a brick wall,” Erica sighs. “You deserve each other.” She shoves a piece of paper at him.

“What’s this?” Stiles asks. He turns it over.

“Doctor’s excuse for yesterday. Derek said you didn’t need an unexcused absence,” Erica says. “I had a whole stash of them from before. I just scribbled your name in.”

Stiles blinks. “That’s very…. thoughtful.”

“Yeah,” Erica says. “Almost like someone cares or something, right? But nope. Just a magic spell.”

She turns to walk away, and Stiles calls, “Are Isaac and Boyd okay?”

She half-turns and says, “They’re… recovering. But yeah. I think they’ll be okay.”

“Good,” Stiles says. He stares at the note in his hands. “Um. Thanks. And tell Derek…”

“I’m a wolf, not an owl,” Erica interrupts. “Tell him your own damn self.”


By the time Stiles actually gets inside the building, he feels like he’s been through the ringer. He gets a few blissful moments of normalcy getting his absence dealt with, and then heads to his locker with whole minutes to spare before his first class.

Then Scott and Allison surround him.

“Hey,” he says casually, like they didn’t kidnap a man and kill a lady the night before. He’s getting good at that. “What’s shaking? Wait, aren’t you two supposed to be all… not together at school?”

“It’ll be fine,” Allison says. “I earned myself some credit last night.”

“Your family was happy with your shiny new death count?”

“Very,” Allison says. “Turns out that Rookwood had tricked her coven into killing a hunter a few years ago. She’s been on the hit list ever since.”

“Do you have like, a serial killer wall?” Scott asks. “All the people the hunters want dead? Because if it earns us brownie points, we could start to assassinate bad guys.”

“You could be love vigilantes!” Stiles says enthusiastically. “That’s not weird or creepy or morally dubious at all!”

“Speaking of which…” Allison says slyly. “How did things work out with Derek?”

“Oh my god,” Stiles bursts out. “Does no one care about anything but Derek? What happened to the good ole days when Derek was a complete non-entity in our lives?”

He got two identical, smarmy grins in reply. Stiles hates everyone.

“Hate,” he says, pointing to each of them. “Hate, hate, hate.”

Allison pinches his cheek, and Stiles flips her off before marching off to class.

“Hey,” Jackson says as he passes him on the way to his seat. “Did—“

“Why is everyone such an asshole?” Stiles interrupts with, and grumpily sits down at his desk.

“Because I’m being the asshole here,” Jackson mutters. “I was just trying to see if my totally dangerous spying expedition did in fact save your asses.”

“Yeah, yeah, the info was useful,” Stiles says. “Good job.”

Then he stares crankily at the blackboard.

“What’s his problem?” he hears Jackson say, and that’s just where Stiles is in his life right now. He’s at the point where he’s considered a dickbag by Jackson Whittemore. He sighs and sinks lower in his chair.

He shares his next class with Scott, and when he slides down next to him, Scott looks at him seriously. “Listen…”

“If this has anything to do with Derek…” Stiles begins.

“I just wanted to high five you,” Scott admits. “You popped your cherry! Finally! I thought you said you were going to have a parade when that happened.”

Stiles scowls. “See, everyone keeps making assumptions.”

“You and Derek definitely did it,” Scott says. “The nose, it does not lie.”

“Your nose wasn’t there,” Stiles says, trying and failing to not sound epically grumpy. “I remain untouched. Pure as the driven snow. Technically.”

“I’m not saying I’m asking for details, because I want to be able to look Derek in the eye,” Scott says. “I mean, if he’s doing his dickish Alpha thing and I’m trying to defy him, I don’t want to be thinking about the dirty things he’s done to my best friend. But… you’re wrong.”

“I think I have a pretty good handle on who has and hasn’t touched my dick,” Stiles points out.

“And I think you’re deliberately focusing on technicalities because you don’t want to deal with the fact that you want Derek,” Scott replies smugly.

“I regret ever watching daytime TV with you,” Stiles sighs. “I’m just saying there’s no cause for a parade.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “I think you’re both being ridiculous. I mean, if it’d been the spell, you wouldn’t still be all gooey over him today.”

“I’m not,” Stiles says.

“You just lied,” Scott says. “A fact I didn’t even need my keen senses to tell.”

“You are so wrong. You are like a monument built to wrongness,” Stiles grumbles.

Scott leans out of his desk to pull Stiles in for a quick hug, and Stiles appreciates it, even though it’s awkward as hell with the arm of the desk between them. The hug actually makes him feel a little better.

Then he wonders if anyone’s given Derek the hug he so desperately needs, and ugh, Stiles can’t even stand listening to his own internal monologue anymore, if it’s always going to veer back to Derek and his pout and how someone needs to be near him to tease him out of grimness.

Then Coach Finstock realizes that they’re not paying the slightest bit of attention to their worksheets and sends Scott to an empty seat across the room. Stiles actually kind of enjoys sitting by himself and focusing his attention – as much as possible -- on his work. And on the way his pen clicks. And on re-tying his shoe when he notices that the laces are uneven.

It’s startlingly, wonderfully mundane, and Stiles begins to think that maybe he can do this. He can forget about Derek and everything will be fine. For fuck’s sake, he’s fought monsters! Forgetting a few twisty feelings in his gut should be no big deal.

So he goes through the rest of his classes pretending like everything’s okay. And if he pretends hard enough, it kind of is okay. After all, the spell hasn’t even been gone twenty-four hours. And he’s still got the marks on his arm, so that all could rationally explain why he’s feeling like he is.

He somehow convinces Scott and Allison to drop the whole Derek thing. Maybe he does it by sticking his fingers in his ears and saying, “La la la la,” when they bring him up, but whatever. It’s successful.

There aren’t any monsters to battle, and he’s pretty sure that Scott and Allison want rid of him so they can hook up after school while Allison is still in her family’s good graces and can weasel away from them for a few hours. So Stiles drives around aimlessly for a bit, and then ends up at home, doing the pile of schoolwork that got shoved to the side over the course of the last few days’ misadventures.

He spends the night in a restless sleep, and when he wakes up in the morning, he almost feels like Stiles again.

He can’t quite remember his dreams, though he has the uncomfortable feeling who they were about.

He dresses for the day, touching the marks on his arm lightly before pulling on a long-sleeved plaid shirt. They’re no longer even tender, and the scab is flaking at the edges, and Stiles thinks – maybe. Maybe when this goes away, things will be completely normal.

The first thing Stiles sees when he walks up to his locker is werewolves.

Isaac is lounging against the bank of lockers like he thinks he’s Sid Vicious, and Boyd is standing a few feet away, arms crossed and looking vaguely uncomfortable.

“Hey, boy-wolves,” Stiles says, debating whether he should sidle up between them like it’s normal and get his Econ book, or if he should just stand here like it’s a showdown. The warning bell rings and answers the question for him, and he squishes himself in between them to open his locker.

“Stiles,” Boyd says.

“Erica told us what you did,” Isaac says. “With Derek.”

“What? I didn’t do anything!” Stiles yelps. Seriously, was nothing sacred? “Lies and falsifications!”

“To save us?” Boyd asks, looking amused. “She seemed to think you played a key role.”

“What? Oh,” Stiles says, cheeks reddening. “I mostly stood there, to be honest. Allison’s the one who really saved you.”

“You kept our Alpha from being a witch puppet like we were,” Boyd says. “If you hadn’t…”

“It was bad enough being taken over for a day,” Isaac says. “If Derek had been… we’d have been screwed. No escape for us.”

Boyd offers his fist to bump, and Stiles manages without looking too awkward. “No problem.”

They leave him after that, both going their separate ways, and Stiles blinks a few times. He’s never actually been thanked by werewolves before. Especially since his role in their rescue really had been a minimal one. It was kind of nice, though.

“You seem better today,” Scott says when Stiles slides in beside him in their first shared class of the day.

“I have a new lease on life,” Stiles informs him. “I am no longer under any hocus pocus. I’m a free man, Scottie. A free bird, and I’m gonna fly.”

Scott gives him a skeptical look, which Stiles pretends for their friendship’s sake that he doesn’t see.

The rest of the morning goes smoothly, and mostly werewolf-free, which is nice. Stiles likes when things are nice. It’s all very… nice.

At lunch, he settles in at his usual table. Scott hasn’t arrived yet – Stiles is pretty sure that he’s found someplace out of the range of the cameras to meet up with Allison, and Stiles isn’t even hating on that. He has a shiny new understanding about Scott’s feelings and really, he’s proud of him for finding a way around the Argents’ collective crazy.

Lydia settles her tray across from him and sits primly in the seat, straightening her silverware.

“Hi,” Stiles offers, because it’s still weird to him that Lydia would consider sitting down at a table that included him. He glances around. “Having a nice day?”

“Other than the fact that everyone keeps me out of their adventures?” Lydia says sweetly. “Still?”

“To be fair, it wasn’t an exciting adventure,” Stiles replies. “One tiny battle!”

Lydia pins him with a glare that has him squirming in his seat. “That is so not the point, Poindexter.”

“I thought it might help a little,” Stiles mumbles.

“Not really, no,” Lydia says, and takes a bite of her lunch, tossing her hair. It’s a move that always makes Stiles’ heart go pitter-patter, but… today it does nothing.

He’s also been talking to her normally, with no unfortunate tongue-tangles.

Stiles stares at Lydia like he’s never seen her before. “Dammit.”

Lydia freezes, French fry halfway to her mouth. “What?”

“I’m not in love with you,” Stiles says. It’s a strange feeling; he’s been in love with Lydia since he stopped thinking girls were icky. Pretty much Lydia is why he stopped thinking girls were icky. And now…

She’s as gorgeous as ever, and Stiles still basically thinks she’s perfect. But his heart isn’t hammering like crazy and he’s got full control of his mouth and hands, which normally both flail like they’ve been possessed by a particularly awkward spirit whenever she’s around.

Stiles is pretty sure that he could hold a full conversation with Lydia now and only embarrass himself in the normal ways.

“Want me to bake you a cake?” Lydia asks, managing to look both disdainful and vaguely concerned at the same time.

Stiles sighs and thumps his head down on the cafeteria table. “No. It just means that I should probably re-evaluate some emotions, but I don’t wanna.”

“Very mature of you,” Lydia tells him.

“You just don’t know how troubling this is,” Stiles says, even though he doesn’t actually feel all that troubled. Mostly, he just feels disappointed, because having a crush on Lydia has been the one constant in his life and now…

Now that’s been replaced by something far scarier.


The dreams get worse.


By Friday, Stiles feels as though he’s really gotten a handle on this whole pretending-everything’s-fine deal. He’s no longer being a douchebag to people. He’s calmly going about his day and not checking his phone to see if Derek has miraculously broken the silence treaty. He’s basically a functional human being.

Mostly, anyhow.

He manages the whole day at school without Scott or Allison or anyone saying the name Derek to him, though granted, that’s mostly accomplished by Stiles turning on his heel and suddenly remembering he needs something from his locker every time someone begins to say a word that starts with a D. Turns out there are a lot more D-words than Stiles would have figured made their way into everyday conversation.

He’s not entirely surprised, though, when Scott declares that they need to have a boy’s night and drags him to his Jeep after school.

“I’m not that bad off,” Stiles lies valiantly, and wrenches open the door to his Jeep before realizing that Erica is already lounging in the driver’s seat, tapping her fingernails on the wheel.

“You, out,” Stiles tells her firmly.

“Get in, loser,” she says, beaming at him, because ugh, of course Erica is that girl.

“You wish you were a Regina,” Stiles mutters, but just goes with it anyhow because Scott shoves him into the back, and unfortunately, Scott has werewolf strength and Stiles does not.

Erica and Scott argue over the radio on the entire drive, which means that Stiles can sit in the backseat and glare daggers at the backs of their stupid heads. And then he realizes where they’re at.

“Hey!” Stiles protests. “Why are we here?”

“Because,” Erica says, “Me and Scott had a discussion, and we decided that you two are too dumb to manage something like this on your own.”

Scott nods.

“Manage what?” Stiles says, horrible suspicion dawning about their intentions. “This isn’t some sort of bizarre set-up, is it? Oh god. You’ve been watching sitcom reruns, haven’t you? Please don’t lock me in a closet with a werewolf.”

“You two just need to talk,” Erica says. “Seriously. This avoiding each other crap can’t work forever.”

“Sure it can,” Stiles says. “Pretty sure that’s how most people handle things. Avoiding it forever.”

“Lucky for you, I’m too good of a friend to let that happen,” Scott says, and when Stiles refuses to leave the Jeep, physically pulls him out.

“Since when?” Stiles says. “This is…this is kidnapping! I know the law, and this is definitely taking me without my consent…”

“Shut up and go inside,” Erica says, prodding him with the pointy toe of her shoe. “Scoot your boots.”

“This is not okay,” Stiles tells them sternly as he enters Derek’s warehouse.

Apparently Derek has his super-hearing turned off or something, because he looks startled when he comes out of the train and sees Stiles standing awkwardly in the doorway, struggling against Erica and Scott’s stupid, stupid werewolf strength.

“Hello?” Derek asks, looking at all three of them like they’re the most annoying intruders in the history of mankind.

“Hi, buddy!” Scott says brightly. “We thought that hey, we were in the neighborhood, maybe we should have a visit. Just some pack buddies. Visiting.”

“Are you making fun of me?” Stiles hisses to him as he watches Derek’s face carefully. Somehow he kind of forgot the presence that Derek has, because in his mind he kind of faded to this big jumble of feelings and now he’s standing there with this befuddled expression on his stupidly perfect face and Stiles hates everyone for putting him in this room. He was doing so good and now the stupid swoopy pit of feelings is back.

He stares hard at his shoes, because then he can’t see Derek’s face. The look of befuddlement had faded into something that Stiles couldn’t put a name to, but he was pretty sure that it wasn’t good. Disappointment, maybe.

Stiles doesn’t want Derek to be disappointed by his arrival. Stiles is pretty sure that’s the worst reaction imaginable.

So he stares at the dirty laces of his sneakers and wonders if he should maybe wash them at some point, or if they just give his shoes character, and Derek doesn’t say anything at all.

Erica pushes Stiles’ shoulder and he takes a step forward, but still keeps his eyes firmly on his shoes. And the dirt on the floor. And the pattern that he makes when he scuffs his shoe against the dirt on the floor. It’s all very fascinating.

“Oh my god,” Erica sighs. “What the hell is wrong with you two?”

“Nothing,” Derek says at the same time Stiles spits out an, “I’m fine!”

“Maybe if we give them some privacy?” Scott asks Erica in a loud whisper.

“Maybe,” she says skeptically. “You two. Talk it out. We’re not saying you have to kiss and make up, but you’re being dumb and just…” She waves a hand around. “Talk.”

With that, Scott and Erica step outside, leaving Stiles alone with Derek, the traitors.

Stiles tries his hardest to pretend like still staring at his shoes is a valid social move, but even he can’t convince himself of that. So he looks up, and Derek…

Derek is staring at his shoes, hands shoved deep into his pockets.

Stiles can’t help it. He snorts.

Derek jerks his head up. “What?”

“It’s just… It’s a really interesting floor, isn’t it?” Stiles offers, waving his hand around.

“No,” Derek replies. He stares at Stiles, like he hasn’t seen him in years.

Stiles scuffs his foot along the floor again, drawing a frowny face. “I… How have you been?”

“Fine,” Derek says. “You?”

“Oh, just peachy,” Stiles replies. “Doing my thang, you know how it goes.”

Derek looks as though he does not, in fact, know how it goes. Derek kind of looks like he’s about to bolt. Stiles isn’t sure why. The only weird thing happening is the fact that Stiles is here, and…

Does Derek hate him that much? He knows things got weird and awkward and Stiles left in a hurry after the witch died and all, but… Surely Derek’s not mad at him. Stiles takes a deep breath. “So um. The spell’s gone! That’s awesome. I mean, that’s what we wanted, and it’s awesome. That it’s gone.”

“It’s great,” Derek says flatly.

“And um,” Stiles says. “I think we’re cool? We’re cool, right?”

Derek doesn’t answer. He just stands there looking at Stiles like that’s an acceptable thing to do. Stiles realizes abruptly that he’s kind of freaking out. He takes a deep breath, but that just reminds him that his stomach feels like it’s got an army of butterflies doing some sort of particularly aggressive flying formations in there.

Stiles has to say something. Derek is just standing there looking like his world is crashing down around him. “I… That is to say, I don’t think that… the spell is happening anymore. And I…”

Stiles kind of wishes he could just punch himself in the face, because that would be smoother than what is coming out of his mouth.

“You?” Derek asks.

“I like being your friend,” Stiles says. He immediately wants the floor to swallow him whole, because did he just say that? Did he just tell Derek Hale, who he has been having increasingly hot dreams about over the past few nights, who gives him the kind of fluttery, breathless feelings that he thought up until this point were just shit that people made up, who, most importantly, he spent several days figuring out was one hell of an awesome dude and that Stiles really, really wants him in his life…

Did he just tell him they were friends?

He kind of wants to hit his head against a concrete column, especially when Derek gets this kicked puppy look and says, “Yeah. It’s nice.”

He awkwardly tries to remember what normal humans did with their hands and feet and mouths when they were standing there with their heart feeling like it’d just been smashed with a hammer with no one to blame but themselves. Stiles is a moron. He’s a moron and he can’t figure out how his mouth works and he thinks he could probably save this, if he just managed to say the right thing…

But nothing comes out.

Then he hears the door slide open and Erica saying loudly, “Jesus Christ, we’ve got to fix this.”

“Erica, we said we’d give them a whole ten minutes…” Scott hisses, chasing after her, and then suddenly Erica is standing right between them.

“It clearly wasn’t just the spell, you know,” she says firmly.

“It was.” Derek’s voice brooks no argument.

“Oh?” Erica asks, voice saccharine.

“Don’t,” Scott says, grabbing her arm, but she wrenches it away, and then suddenly she’s sashaying towards Stiles.

Stiles stands there, dumbfounded, as Erica wraps her arms loosely around his neck, looks back at Derek with pouty lips and says, “Then you won’t mind this.”

Then she’s kissing Stiles.

He flails his arms. Erica feels nice pressed up against him – really nice, if he’s completely honest – but there’s something wrong about it. Her lips are soft, and she’s really going at it, kissing him aggressively in a way that is actually kind of hot…

But it’s not Derek.

He realizes that he can in fact pull back, but as he’s pulling back, so is Erica. Rather, Erica is being pulled back by Derek, who looks as though he’s just been punched in the face. Repeatedly.

“That was mean,” Scott says from his vantage point of not in the middle of this mess. Stiles hates him just a little.

“What the hell, Erica?” Derek glowers at her.

“Don’t care, do you?” Erica sing-songs.

“I...” Derek looks around, like he’ll find the words he’s looking for if he just searches hard enough.

And Stiles realizes that punched-in-the-face expression was because he saw Stiles being kissed by someone else. Someone who wasn’t Derek.

Which means Derek likes him. He likes Stiles, and it has nothing to do with the spell at all.

“Oh my god, you’re such a goober,” Stiles crows. “A great big jealous goober!”

Whatever Derek was expecting, it obviously wasn’t this. “What?”

“You!” Stiles says, pointing. He can see Scott shaking his head frantically behind Derek, trying to get Stiles to take a different approach, but Stiles can’t stop himself. “You don’t want anyone else to kiss me! You like me! I can’t believe you didn’t--”

His words are suddenly lost in Derek’s mouth, as Derek grabs hold of his shirt front, shoves him against one of the concrete pillars, and kisses him like there’s no tomorrow.

Stiles settles his hands on Derek’s hips, feeling the roughness of his jeans under Stiles’ fingertips, and underneath that, the heat of Derek’s hard-muscled hips. He presses up into the kiss, grateful for the concrete pillar supporting him as his knees go weak. Derek’s kiss is even more aggressive than Erica’s, like he’s marking his territory with every press of his lips and sweep of his tongue.

It’s ridiculously hot, and it takes every ounce of Stiles’ willpower to not grind himself up against Derek as he tightens his grip on Derek’s hips.

It’s only when Derek mouths his way down Stiles’ neck that Stiles remembers that Erica and Scott are in the room. He opens his eyes to see Erica grinning at him and giving him a thumbs up while Scott is edging towards the door and looking extremely uncomfortable. Maybe Stiles isn’t doing as good a job as he thinks at not grinding his hips up against Derek’s.

Stiles opens his mouth to suggest…who the hell knows what, that they go hang out in another room for a bit, since he’s definitely not asking Derek to stop anytime soon, but what comes out is a breathy little moan as Derek sucks on the skin just below his ear.

Scott lets out a strangled noise of his own, which is when Derek apparently remembers they’re not alone.

“Can you give us a minute?” he asks after he pulls away from Stiles’ neck, his voice gone hoarse. Stiles clutches at his hips; he’s not letting go anytime soon. There are some things Scott definitely doesn’t need to see, Stiles thinks.

“Fine, fine,” Erica says, sauntering over to Scott, who is scrambling towards the door. “Holler if you need us!”

Stiles decides that it’s worth letting go of Derek for long enough to flip her off.

When the door clangs shut behind them, Stiles expects Derek to resume the making out, but instead Derek leans in and takes in a deep breath through his nose. He finally releases his grip on Stiles’ shirt, which is now crumpled from where Derek has twisted the fabric, and runs his hands down Stiles’ side as he presses his nose into the crook of Stiles’ neck.

“They’re right,” he says, sounding startled.

“Who’s right about what?” Stiles asks.

“My pack,” Derek clarifies. “They said you carry my scent.”

Stiles is never trusting another werewolf apology ever again. “Sorry?”

“No,” Derek says, voice gone low. “Never apologize about that.” He takes another deep breath, obviously taking in the scent. “It’s perfect.”

“Awesome,” Stiles says. He leans in to kiss Derek, because that’s something he can do now. This kiss is softer, more searching. Stiles thinks he could probably kiss Derek like this for the rest of his life and die happy.

And then Derek pulls back, looking at Stiles with eyes that are just a little too bright. “What I said before…”

“There were a lot of befores,” Stiles says, when it’s obvious Derek has trailed off and isn’t sure how to continue.

“I don’t want to take advantage of you,” Derek says quietly, reaching out and tracing the lines of the claw marks on Stiles’ arm through his shirt. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You aren’t,” Stiles says. “Okay. This is hard, but I’m just going to come out and say it, and… yeah. I’m saying it. I really, really like you. And you’ve become really important to me. And it wasn’t just some fucking curse or werewolf bullshit that did it. It was you.”

Derek looks as though he can’t believe what Stiles is saying. Like… like it doesn’t make sense that Stiles could feel that way. He takes a deep breath, and says, “I tried really hard to believe that this whole thing was just… magic. Something out of my control, something that you couldn’t possibly feel too.” He reaches out and takes Stiles’ hand, stroking Stiles’ knuckles with his thumb as he talks. He has an intense, bright look on his face that sends tingles through Stiles’ entire body. “It wasn’t fair of me to blame what I was feeling on everything else, just because I was scared.”

Stiles pulls their joined hands up between them, and presses a kiss on them and grins. “I think we’re both morons.”

“Probably,” Derek agrees, grinning back at him. The sight is rare enough, even after all their time together, that Stiles just stands there goofily smiling back at him.

“So this is real,” Stiles says.

Derek nods. “Yes.”

“Good.” Stiles understands now why Scott always has such goofy grins on his face. He’s having to fight really hard to keep his face away from The Joker territory. “Because I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been super miserable these past few days, not being with you.”

“My pack defied me and dragged you to me,” Derek says dryly. “If that says anything about the kind of mood I’ve been in.”

“Mr. Cranky Pants, huh,” Stiles says. “You know, you can just take them off…”

Stiles then jumps like fourteen feet as Isaac yells, “Seriously, dudes, we all have super hearing here.”

Derek looks down, biting his lip like he’s holding in a big grin. Stiles bangs his head back against the pillar and sighs.

“Come on,” Derek says. “We should talk.”

There’s a low rumble on the word talk that clearly means a lot more than that, and Stiles practically trips over his own feet stumbling after him.

Derek leads them to his Camaro, and Stiles hops in without a second thought. He figures Scott can probably be trusted to take the Jeep home.

Erica and Scott are hanging out near the door. Stiles totally hates how smug their expressions are, but not enough to interrupt his Derek-time to yell at them.

He pretends he can’t hear them calling, “Toodles!” and “Be safe!” as he and Derek drive off.


They end up parked out by the woods.

The sun has just set, and Derek of course knows every private spot the woods have to offer. Stiles fidgets with the buttons on the dash because, seriously, after his Jeep, Derek’s car is like the freaking Batmobile, and Stiles has certain fantasies he kind of wants to enact.

“You… you weren’t just feeling the effects of the spell,” Derek says hesitantly after a few minutes of Stiles going to town on his stereo.

“Definitely not,” Stiles says, “mostly proven by the fact that I freaking pined for you once we were apart and the spell was broken.”

Derek rubs a hand on the back of his neck, like he’s bashful or something, which is so monumentally dumb that Stiles has to call him out on it. “Dude, don’t even pretend like you don’t know how much I want you. You’ve got a supernatural sniffer and I know you know how to use it.”

“I was… I was hoping that it was the connection. If not the spell, then…” Derek reaches out and touches Stiles’ arm.

“Hoping?” That has to be the wrong word. Stiles feels his stomach plummet like he’s in a free fall. He’s kind of put himself all out there and Derek was hoping it wasn’t true.

Derek looks at him. “I’ve never been good with relationships. You should know that. You know all about the Kate thing.”

“That was like a million years ago though,” Stiles says, even though he knows perfectly well that your heart holds onto things longer than it should.

“Yeah,” Derek says. “And since then I’ve mostly avoided… entanglements… with people who know what I am.”

It’s the bleakest thing he’s heard Derek say. Stiles tries to keep his face steady, but he knows Derek can tell what he’s feeling. “Derek. That’s just… You can’t be with someone who doesn’t know who you are. And I know who you are, and I’m fine with it. More than fine, really. I think you’re great. Super. Marrrvelous.” He rolls the r’s just to make Derek smile.

It’s a shy smile, like he’s not sure if he’s allowed to or not. Stiles brushes his hand on Derek’s cheek, amazed because that’s something he can do now, and Derek tilts his head along with it, like a puppy getting his scruff rubbed.

“I’m okay with who you are, too,” Derek says, still with that smile, and Stiles laughs.

“Glad to hear it.”

And then something occurs to him, and he doesn’t want to break this quiet happiness between them, but…

He pulls off the long-sleeved over shirt he’s wearing. The claw marks are still visible, for all that they’re mostly healed. “About this…”

Derek traces them gently with his thumb, and Stiles shivers. “I think I know why this did what it did.”

“What did it do?” Stiles doesn’t want to admit it, but there’s a tiny, dark part of him that’s insisting that all of this is too good to be true and that somehow, some way, it all goes back to these marks.

“When I clawed Jackson,” Derek says, and Stiles bites his lip to keep from trying to ask him to stick to relevant topics, “I was intimidating him. And that connection manifested badly, with Jackson getting the worst parts of me.”

“He seemed pretty freaked,” Stiles agrees.

“But when I reached out for you…” Derek cuts his eyes up at Stiles, and looks at him in a way no one’s ever looked at Stiles before. It’s like he’s the only person on earth with the power to save Derek, and it gives him a strange pang in his chest. “All I could think was that I had to hold on to you. That if I just didn’t let go… if I didn’t let go, then I could protect you, somehow. That you were the most important thing right then.”

Stiles lets out a shaky laugh. “There were more important things…”

“Not to me,” Derek says. “I wanted to save you, and thought that you could save me. And you did.”

“All I did was kick some dirt around,” Stiles mutters. He can’t look away from Derek, from the brightness of his eyes, and the pang in his chest feels like it’s expanding, taking him over.

“You saved me,” Derek says. “You keep saving me, and you’re just… you’re just human, but you throw yourself out there anyway, and I don’t know where I’d be without you.”

“I think you’re underselling yourself a bit here,” Stiles manages. He’s leaning forward, and Derek reaches out and rests his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “But what does this have to do with…” he waves his arm.

“Intent,” Derek says. “My intent wasn’t to bind us together, but somehow the spell the witch cast twisted it into that. My intention was to keep you safe, and that’s what this did.”

“By…” Stiles trails off. Derek is so close, with this look like he’s baring his soul.

“By letting you in,” Derek replies. “I think… you’ve seemed to understand me. I know I don’t… I’m not the best at communicating, but you’ve understood me anyway.”

“So it just… gave me insight into you,” Stiles says. It makes a weird kind of sense, the way that everything about Derek has been markedly less mysterious lately. “Except for how I was pretty sure I was the only one who was smitten.”

Derek leans in, pressing his forehead against Stiles, and says quietly, “Definitely not.”

“No?” Stiles shifts a little to get more comfortable, and he can feel Derek’s breath on his lips. “Example?”

“That first morning,” Derek says quietly. “When you were in my shower, moaning like you had no idea what you were doing to me.”

“I was pretty sure that you wanted to kill me,” Stiles says. The feeling in his chest has expanded and feels like it’s filling up his entire body, and it’s taking everything he has not to lean forward that final inch to kiss Derek.

“No,” Derek says. He grins like a total asshole, and yeah, Stiles is going to kiss him. “Just devour you.”

“That’s terrible,” Stiles manages to get out before pressing his mouth against Derek’s. The car isn’t designed for making out, especially with someone as bulky as Derek, but Stiles is one hundred percent willing to put in an effort anyway.

Because Derek feels amazing, his hand threading through Stiles’ hair, ruffling it up as much as possible, and his mouth, god, his mouth feels perfect. Stiles grabs onto the front of his leather jacket, the zipper biting into Stiles’ palm, and pulls, wanting to feel as much of Derek as possible.

When the kiss breaks off, Stiles manages to say, “Can we have a no bad wolf puns during makeouts rule?”

“That depends,” Derek says. He’s staring at Stiles’ mouth, and Stiles self-consciously flicks his tongue out to wet his lips. That doesn’t seem to help Derek any. “Do you think you could really manage it?”

“Better than you, buddy,” Stiles says. He’s still got a death grip on Derek’s jacket, he realizes, and lets it loose reluctantly. The Camaro’s bucket seats mean that even though Stiles is half-turned, the console is in the way, and Derek flicks his eyes to the backseat, pulling off his jacket.

Stiles eyes it dubiously – it’s ridiculously tiny – but somehow they fit. Somehow meaning that Stiles is wedged in underneath Derek, which… insofar as things go, it’s a really nice place to be. Stiles is pretty sure it’s the best place he’s ever been, actually. And then Derek pulls of his shirt, too, and Stiles is free to touch him and… yeah. This is awesome.

Derek seems determined to kiss Stiles until he can’t breathe, and Stiles pretty much only wants to return the favor. His dick is pulsing, hard and ready, and Stiles is so turned on that he can’t even think. He bucks up against Derek and can feel him straining uncomfortably hard against his own jeans.

“Here,” Stiles manages, and reaches down and fumbles at the button on Derek’s jeans. It’s a lot more complicated than he would have guessed, especially with most of his brain focused on the way that Derek is pressing wet, hot kisses against the most sensitive part of his neck. When he finally gets the button undone, he lets out a little cheer, and Derek grins down at him.

He isn’t entirely sure what he should do next, so he just plunges his hand into Derek’s open jeans, into his underwear. He wraps his hand tightly around Derek’s dick, and Derek groans, deep and low into Stiles’ ear. He shifts a little, tugging his jeans and underwear down enough that his dick springs free.

The angle is weird – different from when he gets himself off – but Derek chants low, murmuring encouragement to him as Stiles jerks him off. The backseat is tight, even with the front seats shoved forward, and Derek looms over him, bracing himself on one side while he pushes up against Stiles’ hand eagerly.

Derek stiffens, grunting as Stiles changes the pace up, and then comes with a groan, collapsing on top of Stiles.

Stiles manages to pull his arm out from under Derek’s body, and lets him enjoy the aftermath for a good five, six seconds before whining into his ear, “Oh god, you weigh a ton.”

“Mmm,” Derek says lazily. Stiles wipes his hand off on Derek’s back, just because.

“First off, my turn, you big orgasm hog,” Stiles says, “and secondly, you are squishing me like a bug.”

Derek sighs and Stiles is forced to reach up and pull his hair, which… just makes Derek look at him with wide, blown pupils and give him a predatory grin. It’s stupidly hot and the only thing keeping Stiles from rutting up against him like a bitch in heat is the fact that Derek is too fucking heavy to move.

But then Derek pulls himself up, somehow positioning himself in the cramped space, and tugs Stiles’ pants down over his hips. Then he lowers himself back down, bracing himself up with one hand.

“I just need—“ Derek manages, and then he’s mouthing wetly at Stiles’ neck. He’s pushing a hand down into Stiles’ pants, wrapping it loosely around Stiles’ dick. Then he squeezes, hand solid and tight around Stiles.

Stiles thinks wildly that he can’t say that he’s untouched anymore, and then Derek is jerking him off, slow and steady, occasionally dipping his hand down to cup Stiles’ balls, and Stiles can’t even begin to hold back the steady stream of Oh gods and desperate groans and Derek, Dereks.

He comes embarrassingly quickly, letting out a stuttering moan. Derek wipes the come off on the sleeve of Stiles’ abandoned overshirt, and then leans down to kiss Stiles again, bare skin pressing together where their pants are undone and Stiles’ shirt has rucked up.

And then there’s a rapping on the window.

Derek breaks the kiss abruptly, and Stiles stares in horror at his dad standing outside the car, looking just as shocked to see Stiles as Stiles is to see him.

“Oh, holy god,” Stiles says, burying his face against Derek’s chest, hoping that it’s too dark for his dad to see much of what’s going on. Slim hope, really, given that he’s holding a freaking flashlight.

“Sir,” Derek says. He looks like a deer in the headlights, which would be funny to Stiles at any other point in his life, but right now he’s too busy quietly dying of mortification. His pants are still down below his hips, and Derek’s half-naked, and yeah. He’s pretty sure that his dad has a good idea of what just went down here. Especially given that Derek is still on top of him.

He’s never going to be able to look his dad in the eye again. Ever. The Stilinskis have officially entered the Anti-Eye Contact Era.

“This is a no-parking zone.” His dad’s voice is slightly strangled. “Hello, son.”

“Dad,” Stiles acknowledges. His voice sounds considerably more strangled than his dad’s did. “Erm. Nice night, isn’t it?”

Derek makes a move to get off Stiles, but Stiles holds on tight to his arm as a reminder that no, that is not preferable when everyone’s dicks are still out on display.

“It’s night, yes,” his dad says. “I wouldn’t apply the word nice to it right now. Mr. Hale?”

Derek blinks a few times in the Sheriff’s direction. “Yes?”

“Would you call it a nice night?”

“Don’t answer,” hisses Stiles.

Derek takes a deep breath and says with considerably more pretense at calm than either Stilinski has managed thus far, “It was, yes.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles moans, attempting his best to hide under Derek so that his dad can’t see his face.

When he peeks out, his dad is staring tactfully in the other direction and announces, “Does this have anything to do with our conversation the other night?”

“A bit,” Stiles admits. Derek pulls himself up enough to get his jeans in order, and Stiles is considerably more awkward getting his own business back under wraps.

“And your conclusion?” His dad doesn’t sound angry, at least. More… worried. Worried that Stiles hasn’t figured out whether what he’s feeling is real or not.

“It’s real,” Stiles says quietly, staring at Derek. “Definitely real.”

Derek runs a hand through his hair, looking oddly bashful, and grins at Stiles. “Me, too,” he murmurs, and willingly climbs out of the car to face the Sheriff.