Stiles has been a beta-tester for Vendetta for three days, and he’s slept maybe five hours in the past thirty-six.
It’s only when Scott comes over and knocks him over the head with a paperweight that Stiles finally gets some rest. Of course, he read once that being knocked unconscious doesn’t actually count as rest, but Stiles wakes up five minutes later, only to have Scott growl at him, so he turns onto his side and sleeps for the first time in too long.
“By the way,” Scott tells him later, “I told your friend that I made you go to sleep, so he’s cool with it.”
Stiles is shouting instructions into the microphone on his headset to Ithuriel as their avatars run into the Cave of Uriel.
The cool thing about Vendetta is that Stiles can program how he wants his voice to sound like on the other end, meaning that no matter how awesome and how much ass Ithuriel can kick, he still has no clue that what Stiles sounds like. Ithuriel knows this, and Stiles is sure that it’s no coincidence that Ithuriel through the headset sounds just like Daniel Radcliffe.
Just like how Stiles sounds just like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.
“What the hell is that?” Ithuriel says incredulously as the two of them quickly slash their way through the orcs blocking the path.
“What? What?” Stiles yelps as he quickly switches his weapon from the broadsword to dual blades. The orcs are decimated, but he’s still on edge, just like he always is when he and Ithuriel finish killing off all the monsters in the area. Vendetta hasn’t shown that annoying habit of having monsters respawn almost immediately after, but Stiles is still wary.
He can almost hear Ithuriel roll his eyes. “Up on the wall. There’s some sort of weird writing. Looks like Elvish.”
“You can read Elvish?” Stiles says gleefully.
“The Elvish in this game, yeah,” comes the reply. “They released a tutorial on the basics of in-game Elvish. It’s pretty easy to catch up on. I’ll send you the link when I get a chance.”
“Dude, I’m pretty sure I love you.” Stiles says emotionally, “Look, man. I know you can’t see me, but there are like, tears. Running down my face. Just overflowing with love for you.”
There are no tears running down Stiles’s face, but hey man, he and Ithuriel may have the best bromance that ever existed because Ithuriel knows freaking Elvish.
“Stop lying.” Ithuriel’s tone is light, as if he’s on the verge of laughing.
“No man, stop running away from our love.” Stiles insists. “You know this. We are like, bros. Soul-bros.”
“Mmm.” Ithuriel is definitely laughing now.
Stiles can’t really hear it clearly but he’s pretty sure that Ithuriel’s laughing.
“No, stop mocking our love!” Stiles wails in mock-heartbreak. He grins at his computer screen. “Come on Uriel. Tell me what’s on the wall.”
“Ith-uriel.” Ithuriel emphasizes the first syllable of his username and Stiles rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “As in, Archangel Ithuriel.”
“Yeah, I know.” Stiles does know; he’s got files and files upon all the supernatural lore that he can get, thanks to Scott’s furry problem and Derek’s never-ending demand for the pack to go on random hunts for supernatural creatures.
Although Derek never comes around when Stiles is playing Vendetta. It’s nice to know that Derek can be considerate enough to let Stiles hang out with the one friend he has that has no clue about the supernatural. Stiles isn’t sure if playing Vendetta with Ithuriel even counts as hanging out, but…
“We’re friends, right?”
“I used to have actual friends and not just lackeys and family and you.” Ithuriel groans from his side of the game. “But,” he hesitates, “Yeah. We are friends.”
Stiles is quiet for a moment. So it’s not just him that feels connected to Ithuriel. He feels happy, giddy in a way that he hasn’t felt since he met Lydia for the first time.
“Rolandis.” Ithuriel calls, snapping Stiles out of his stupor. Stiles can hear Ithuriel groan. “This is ridiculous. I’m calling you Roland.”
“But that’s an old man name!” Stiles protests before he remembers freaking Genim. “No, actually, it’s not that bad. Roland’s cool. You can call me Roland.”
“That’s not actually your name?” Ithuriel sounds surprised and Stiles resists the urge to roll his eyes.
“Yes. It is. Just like how Ithuriel’s totally yours.” Stiles says sarcastically.
“Ithuriel Jenkins.” Ithuriel says seriously.
Stiles almost falls off his chair. “Wait, seriously?”
This time, Ithuriel’s not even bothering to hide his laughter. “I speak sarcasm too, you know.”
“Shut up.” Stiles growls, “Now, what’s on the wall?”
“It’s a riddle. If the Oracle of Delphi can see anything and everything despite being blind and the Helm of Darkness hides Hades from view, then…”
Sometimes on the way to the Hale house that the pack fixed up for Derek and Isaac to live in (and the rest of the pack whenever they fucking felt like sleeping there), Stiles sings Ithuriel’s praises at Scott.
“So, this game has a character named Ithuriel…?” Scott says slowly.
Stiles blinks at him. Then, “Dude! No. Ithuriel’s not an NPC, okay, he’s an actual dude and he’s awesome! He knows how to speak Faerie! He’s teaching me!”
“…I thought fairies were—”
Stiles cuts Scott off with a wave of his right hand. “No, just…just no, Scott. I love you, but you are not the man for this.”
“And I suppose Ithuriel is?” Scott asks.
“Yes,” Stiles says with the most seriousness he can inject in his voice. “We are bros.”
The thing about Stiles is that he rarely finds MMORPGs that he connects with on a deep level that speaks out to his very soul.
So mostly, he just plays the lower-quality ones where his character kills monsters and levels up and then the monsters respawn and Stiles just repeats the whole process again until his character breaks records.
It’s kind of a letdown when Stiles looks at the advertisement outside the video game store for a new game that a company’s beta-testing and it doesn’t look that great. Sure, the art’s great and the screenshots look amazing, but the description sounds like a run-of-the mill game. It doesn’t sound much different than the other games that Stiles has played before, so he shrugs and walks to the Jeep.
Before the pack meeting (which is really just Derek updating them on how the truce with Allison’s family is going and then watching a couple of movies) begins, Stiles is detailing his latest venture into the mines for ore so that he can buy a new whip for Ithuriel’s birthday next week—
“TMI!” Scott shouts, jumping up and covering his ears with his hands. “I DON’T NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU AND YOUR BOYFRIEND DO.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Stiles says at the same time that Derek walks into the room and Erica perks up with interest.
“Stiles has a boyfriend?” Erica asks, and for some reason, her eyes dart from Derek’s face to Stiles’s.
Derek looks murderous, but then again, he usually looks murderous, so Stiles ignores that and answers Erica, “No, I don’t.”
Erica seems to deflate a little, her lower lip jutting out in disappointment. She leans a little closer to Isaac, who wraps an arm around her waist.
No one’s quite sure of what’s going on between them. Allison and Lydia thinks that they’re adorable, while Scott blithely believes that they have a sibling bond. Stiles and Jackson never fail to point out to Scott that if Isaac and Erica were siblings, they would probably break a ton of laws. Scott never gets it.
Later, when Stiles is driving Scott home, he asks, “Why would you call Ithuriel my boyfriend? We’ve never even met before.”
“Wait, really?” Scott does what he does best, adorably confused. “I thought you at least met him. I mean, there’s this…way that you light up whenever you talk about him.”
“I…what?” Stiles gapes.
“It reminds me of when you liked Lydia, only you seem to like him a lot more than you ever liked Lydia,” Scott shrugs, but then he smiles. “It’s kind of nice when you talk about him. You smell all in love and stuff.”
“I smell like I’m in love.” Stiles repeats incredulously. “What does that even smell like?”
Scott struggles to explain, but the best he can come up with is, “Home. Like when you hug someone you haven’t seen in a long time and you feel like you’re home. You know?”
Stiles thinks about it.
He hasn’t had that feeling for a long time. After his mom died, he only got that feeling when his dad came home after a late night, when Scott stopped mooning over Allison long enough to be the guy that Stiles met when they were five and bonded over legos, and when Erica snuggles next to Stiles and they talk comics because Erica and Stiles are bros and—
Stiles resolutely does not think about holding Derek above water for two hours.
“I think I have relationship troubles,” Stiles says one day when he and Ithuriel are mining in the Southern Caverns.
“You think?” Ithuriel sounds like he’s grinning again.
Stiles flails around a little as he says, “Well, we’re not dating but like, I maybe kind of like him and he pushes me against walls sometimes and he’s always on the edge of like, maybe flirting and—”
“Pushing you against walls sounds promising.” Ithuriel says dryly.
“To give me death threats.” Stiles stresses. “And I’m not even sure if he’s bi.”
“Okay, death threats is still a maybe.” Ithuriel says and Stiles wants to ask in what world is death threats a fucking maybe? “And why aren’t you sure if he’s bi?”
“Well, he can’t be gay.” Stiles says, thinking of Kate Argent. “He was in relationships with girls before so…”
“You’re hoping for bi?” Ithuriel snorts. “Roland, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that sexuality is fluid, okay. I mean, for this dude, it could be set, like, maybe he isn’t into guys, but don’t just sit there and pine for him. I mean, I like whatever I like.”
“Mm.” Stiles hums in agreement. “But it doesn’t mean he likes me.”
“…No,” Ithuriel says after a long, excruciating silence. “But aside from your annoying tendency to talk about how werewolves suck while we’re battling freaking orcs—which, by the way, we need to have a talk about why you rambling in Jack Sparrow’s voice is not a good idea; you should really change your voice—but anyway, I don’t see why he wouldn’t if he was into both guys and girls.”
Stiles grins, but Ithuriel continues.
“Unless you’re not his type.”
“You just said sexuality is fluid!” Stiles complains.
“I did,” Ithuriel says, “But if he’s just not attracted to you, there’s really nothing to be done.”
Ithuriel continues, “Now, seriously, we’re going to have that talk about why you need to change your headset voice now…”
Derek gives Stiles the strangest look when he walks into the pack meeting one day.
Stiles doesn’t know how to interpret the look. It’s like Derek knows something that Stiles doesn’t know, but it’s not smug or satisfied. It’s…curious would be the word to describe it.
Curious and something else.
Stiles thinks he might have imagined it though, because he blinks hard and Derek’s eyes are blue that they usually are.
Stiles is in the forest area, slashing at goblins and trolls when he sees someone’s username at the upper-right hand corner of his screen.
He carefully inches his avatar towards that side of the screen and is amazed when he sees the username moving and the screams of dying trolls.
DUDE, Stiles types into the chatbox that’s located at the bottom right hand corner of the screen where all the tools are. There’s an option to talk via headset as well, but that’s only for team members.
DUDE YOU ARE TOTALLY AWESOME. BEEN PLAYING LONG?
Do you have to type everything in caps?
No, but dude, we should totally team up and kick ass together.
Why are you so sure that I’m a dude?
Stiles blinks. Now that he thinks about it, Ithuriel is a pretty girly name. Well, it’s not girly as in, girly, but like, most dudes don’t really use names of archangels as their usernames, so Stiles says so.
I’m not like most guys, but I am a guy.
Despite that it should not be easy to sense sarcasm over the internet, something about this guy has Stiles totally sensing the inflection on the ‘I am a guy’ part.
Yeah, no, I totally get that. Like, Ithuriel’s a pretty cool name. I mean, my best friend’s girlfriend likes things like that and angel names and stuff but there’s no reason that dudes can’t like the name Ithuriel.
It’s better than Rolandis.
Oh. Okay. So we’re going to play THAT game, are we?
Are you like this is real life too?
What, charming and colorful?
I was going to say annoying.
Oh come on! I’m totally awesome and colorful.
So what do you say? Team up and kick ass? :D
Ithuriel doesn’t reply for a long time, but finally, Yeah. Sure.
Stiles pumps his fist in the air and shouts in victory.
It’s Derek’s birthday and the pack is having a surprise party for him. It’s not like Derek’s actually surprised, because hello, Alpha, but all the same, it’s nice that he at least pretended to be shocked.
So there’s pizza and cake and presents and around seven, Stiles is about to take Scott home when the girls demand that everyone present give Derek a kiss before leaving.
Derek’s entirely too amused (and touched, but Stiles knows that he’s never going to admit that) to actually put up much of a fight when Erica and Lydia pucker up and kisses him on the cheek. Scott’s next, and Allison follows before they move off to the side to smile at the next victim—er, lucky person.
Boyd and Jackson are more apprehensive about it, (because Derek still scares them sometimes) so instead, Lydia and Erica let them get away with blowing a kiss to Derek. But when Danny’s lips linger a little too long on Derek’s, Jackson marches up to Derek and kisses him in the exact same place where Danny’s lips had touched Derek’s cheek. Boyd shrugs and decides to just man up and kiss Derek on the other cheek.
Isaac walks up to Derek but stops just short of kissing Derek. Instead, he turns his baby blue to the girls and pouts, “Do I have to? He’s like my dad, except, you know, not a douche.”
Derek snorts and tugs Isaac forward to press a kiss against his curls. “This counts as a kiss.”
“Awesome,” Isaac beams before hugging Derek awkwardly. At least, it looks awkward to Stiles because he’s never seen Derek hug anybody.
So the only one left is Stiles and he steps forward nervously because Derek maybe scares the fuck out of him and he’s not a werewolf so he really doesn’t like to piss off Derek because apparently, he’s Derek’s human punching bag, or at least, the guy that Derek likes to shove up against walls and deliver death threats to and he’s rambling again mentally.
Derek’s not that much taller than Stiles, but he has to tilt his head upwards to kiss—
Lydia shoves him forward.
Derek turns his head at the last second before Stiles’s lips collide with his cheek while his arms come up to steady Stiles and somehow, Stiles ends up kissing Derek on the mouth as his hands are gripping Derek’s leather jacket tightly.
Stiles’s thought process goes something like this:
This is really nice; Derek’s actually a really good kisser. Wait. We’re kissing. On the mouth. Lip to lip contact. Oh gosh. What should I do? This is not good. Well, the kiss is really good. Is that tongue? Oh, that’s tongue. Okay. This is fun. WAIT NO THIS IS DEREK HALE AND I MAY HAVE A CRUSH ON HIM MAYBE BUT NO. Just move your head back, Stilinski. Nope. Those are Derek’s arms around your waist. I’m not a girl, Derek. Okay, the arms are moving, okay annnnnnnnnddddd…
Stiles pulls away and Derek makes a movement that seems like he’s about to chase after his lips but then he stops and their arms drop away from one another like hot potatoes.
Everyone’s staring at them; Scott is gaping and his eyes are wide. Allison’s hand is clamped over her mouth and Stiles can’t tell if it’s in shock or secret fangirl glee. Lydia and Erica are, of course, smiling way too wide to be innocent and Lydia’s gripping the sleeve of Erica’s leather jacket as they exchange looks.
“Um,” Stiles squeaks. He clears his throat. “Scott, we should, uh, go. ‘Cause. Your mom and stuff…”
Stiles practically runs away and he can feel a tingle move up his spine, like Derek’s stare is really Derek trying to read his mind.
Stiles thinks he might have heard Derek wrong.
“What?” Derek snarls, and Stiles has never been so afraid now that Derek has finally learned how to phrase his questions as questions.
“Uh,” Stiles doesn’t say anything because he could have sworn that he heard Derek mutter, It’s like going through the Caverns of Lannister for the first time with no magical defense.
But there’s no way, right?
Derek Hale doesn’t play Vendetta.
Vendetta’s still not out yet, so Derek would have to be beta-testing it just like Stiles is, just like Ithuriel is. And Stiles isn’t deep in denial yet; he knows that he’s not cool. Most of the one hundred people that are beta-testing Vendetta aren’t that cool either, even though the people that Stiles encounters on lower-level MMORPGs are way, way lamer than the people he sees running around Vendetta.
And Ithuriel is probably the only cool person that’s beta-testing Vendetta, even if Stiles doesn’t know what he looks like in real life, or even what he sounds like.
But Stiles is incredibly biased, and Ithuriel is pretty much his only friend on Vendetta that likes werewolves and thinks Stiles rambled on too much, and shares the same birthday—wait.
HOLD THE FUCK UP.
“Stiles.” Derek growls to get his attention. “If you have something to say—”
Stiles almost falls off of his chair. He’s been doing that a lot recently. His mind is a whirl of thoughts and conflicting emotions and how could he have been so stupid, like it wasn’t obvious enough that Derek is his best online friend.
“Nothing!” Stiles squawks. “I just really have to go now because I have something to do but like, don’t worry about it. I just gotta go calm the fuck down because I can’t stop thinking right now and I can’t believe I didn’t realize sooner. I am the biggest idiot in the world and you can all get along without me for one pack meeting, can’t you?”
Stiles doesn’t wait for an answer because he runs out the door and into his Jeep.
No one stops him.
Stiles is sitting with the fey child, trying to entertain her while Allison is rummaging around the Hale house for some crayons for the kid to color with. They’re playing patty cake when Allison returns and Maerai is chattering away to Stiles in Faerie as she draws the three of them.
“You gotta teach me how to speak Faerie one day,” Allison says, smiling as she threads her fingers through Maerai’s dark green hair. “She’s so cute.”
“She says that she’s equivalent to a human six year old.” Stiles says to Allison before saying something to Maerai, who responds. “And in human years, she’s existed about three-hundred and eleven.”
Allison blinks and mouths ‘Wow’ silently.
“You speak Faerie.”
Stiles and Allison just all but falls off the edge of the porch. They turn to see Derek standing behind Maerai, because duh. That is the entire basis of their lives. Actual Creeper Derek Hale.
“How.” Derek asks, except, Stiles really thinks that Derek should learn how to use inflections correctly so it doesn’t just sound like Derek’s walking around demanding information from people.
Allison shrugs. “Scott says that Stiles’s online boyfriend taught him.”
“Friend.” Stiles yelps. “We’re just friends!”
“Really?” Allison wiggles her eyebrows at Stiles, and it’s as if she’s forgotten that Derek’s there. “Because Scott says that you smell in love whenever you talk about him, just like how you smell in love whenever—”
For the record, Stiles totally doesn’t know what she was going to say before he pushed her off the porch.
“Ithuriel?” Stiles croaks into the headset. “I…”
“Yeah?” Ithuriel responds. “You sound weird—”
Stiles takes a deep breath. “You remember how on your birthday, you told me about how you kissed the guy you liked?”
“Yes?” Ithuriel answers, confused.
“I need you…” Stiles takes another deep breath, trying to keep his breathing slow and steady. “I need you to tell me his name.”
“Please.” Stiles says quietly.
It’s a long, long silence, the most uncomfortable that they’ve had between them, but then, Ithuriel finally speaks. Only, he doesn’t sound like Daniel Radcliffe anymore.
“Stiles.” Derek says.
“I don’t know,” Ithuriel is saying. “I mean, clearly Raziel has some unresolved issues with Apollo.”
“Okay, while that’s not wrong, I’m not entirely sure that’s right either,” Stiles argues, “Because what kind of unresolved issues would an angel have with the Greek Sun God?”
“You have to stop thinking about why it wouldn’t work.” Ithuriel counters, “If you think about why it would, then everything is so much easier to figure out.”
Stiles snorts. That sounds like something Derek would say. He thinks about how Derek had fed Lydia and Jackson the Kanima poison, how Derek had turned Erica and Isaac and Boyd, how Derek wouldn’t just give up on Scott and in the end…it did figure out.
Derek had a pack again.
Stiles, Scott, Isaac, Erica, Jackson, Allison, Boyd, Danny, and Lydia were his pack now.
So maybe there was some truth to that philosophy.
“You there?” Ithuriel asks, snapping Stiles out of his thoughts.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, “I’m here. I was just…thinking.”
“Hope you’re not hurting too much,” Ithuriel sounds like he might be smiling.
“Shut up,” Stile says, but he’s grinning wide and bright.
“No, shut up Derek, we totally need to raise our magic stats before we go to the Forest of Pan.” Stiles argues, the screen of his laptop showing his inventory as he clicks down the list to check for the weapons with the most magical stats.
From his own laptop beside Stiles, Derek snorts. “Don’t be stupid; at most, we need to raise poison defense.”
“That’s what you said when we went into the Caverns of Lannister and I said we needed more magical defense, but no, you said we just needed strong attack stats.” Stiles turns away from the screen to shove at Derek’s shoulder.
“Okay, that was entirely different.” Derek says in his defense, his eyes flickering red.
“How the hell was that different?” Stiles shoots back, a triumphant grin on his face when Derek hesitates before answering.
“…This is a forest?” His boyfriend offers weakly.
Stiles laughs, “Pathetic.”
“Shut up.” Derek says, leaning in closer to Stiles. “We only need posion defense.”
Stiles closes the distance between their lips, just like Derek knew he would. They kiss for a moment; tongues are involved, and it’s awesome.
But eventually, Stiles pulls away and places his hands on Derek’s shoulders to keep him from chasing his lips. “No, come on.”
“Stiles.” Derek growls.
“If we save and then raise magical stats tomorrow before we go into the Forest of Pan, we can totally continue,” Stiles offers with a grin.
“…Fine.” Derek says grudgingly, his hormones having won out over his stubbornness. It’s kind of amazing actually, because Stiles has never had a serious boyfriend before, but now that he does, he totally wears the metaphorical pants of their relationship.
So Stiles goes back over to his own chair (because hey, how did he end up on Derek’s lap?) and saves the game. He logs out and then shuts down his laptop. Derek has done the same, and when Stiles is done, Derek pulls him onto his lap again so they can make out.