Derek is in line at the ampm behind two cops when he hears one of them say, “Balls, I miss Stilinski already,” and the other one grunts in agreement.
For a second Derek thinks they mean Stiles—and where the fuck did he go for them to miss him and what do they care about the boy, anyway? Derek has never smelled either of them on Stiles, they have no claim on him—but, he realizes quickly, of course they mean the sheriff.
“What happened to him?” Derek says, even though he makes an effort not to talk to law enforcement, especially in his standard tone of voice.
“Crying shame,” says the balder, fatter of the two.
“That bastard Whit—”
“He’s taken a leave, that’s all,” baldy cuts in again. Derek’s not sure if he thinks his partner’s over sharing or if he’s trying to convince himself it’s true.
“Nothing to worry about,” says the other one, taking his change from the cashier and pushing his partner toward the door. “You have a nice day, now.”
As he empties his basket on the counter—eight cans of ravioli, two bags of Doritos, orange juice, and a bag of frozen peas. Not exactly the ideal dinner for the pack, but it’ll fuel them for kanima hunting tonight well enough—Derek considers. The sheriff might be sick. The sheriff might be considering other employment.
Or the sheriff was forced to take leave.
It’s not hard to figure out what happened. When a small town is being attacked by things no one believes exist, someone tangible has to be blamed. The sheriff is collateral damage. That does not sit well with Derek. The sheriff is a good man, Derek has known that since he led the fire investigation six years ago. “Good” is not a word Derek uses lightly.
And the sheriff has raised a good son. Stiles doesn’t deserve the guilt he’s going to pile on himself for this, even if keeping Jackson in that transport van was the stupidest idea Derek ever heard.
He pays for dinner and checks the time. Two hours until the rave. He doesn’t have time to work out how, but he’ll help Stiles fix this. He’ll make it right.
Derek’s halfway to Deaton’s with Scott in a fireman’s carry over his shoulders when he feels it—the pain, like a whimper, but Derek is too far away to actually hear him—
Fuck fuck fuck fuck, he did not prepare for Scott to be half-dead tonight, too. He figured he’d have plenty of time to take care of Boyd, but fuck he doesn’t even know where the bullet had landed. Boyd might have been shot in the shoulder, the poison scant hours from his heart from the start. Derek has his phone out and a message started to Stiles before he even thinks about texting him.
It’s not unusual. Derek writes about a dozen text messages to Stiles a day, the same way he used to text Laura. He never sends them. But now Boyd is barely conscious. Isaac and Erica have might have their own mess to deal with… It has to be Stiles.
Boyd is all he’s written and that’s enough so he sends it off
The reply, This is Stiles, comes almost immediately.
Find him, he writes, or tries to, as he watches the road, bring him to Deaton.
His phone rings. When Derek picks up, and puts the phone on speaker, Stiles is already talking.
“Where are you? Where’s Boyd? Where’s Scott—is he okay? Are you okay? Is Boyd okay? Where am I supposed to find him, Derek?”
“He was shot with a wolfsbane bullet.”
“Scott?” Stiles yelps.
Scott moans a little at the sound of his name and squeezes Derek’s shirt in his fist. That’s good.
“Boyd. Scott was—” No, not enough time to explain. “Scott’s hurt, too, but he’s going to be fine. I’m taking him to Deaton and I need you to find Boyd and bring him there, too. Deaton will have every variety of wolfsbane—we can try them all until we find the one that works.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier if we had the bullet?”
“Well, yes, Stiles, but how exactly—”
“I’ll get it,” Stiles says so firmly that Derek has no doubt that he will.
“Do not approach the Argents. They won’t see you as a human kid, they won’t—”
“You just take care of Scott, Derek. I’ll get the bullet. Isaac and Erica will find Boyd. Where should they start?”
“I told him to go home. He had a car.”
“They’ll start there. I’ll talk to you soon.”
Stiles hangs up on him.
He can feel it, less than thirty minutes later, when Boyd’s body starts to heal, and the pack just wilts, losing all their adrenaline, and they all settle in to sleep—except for Stiles who soon sends him a message: We’re all good over here. Called Scott’s mom. He’s in the clear with her if not dead. Tell me he’s not dead.
Not dead,Derek replies, relaxing a little in the uncomfortable chair in the operating room. He leans his head back against the wall and sends another message: Go to sleep.
Stiles doesn’t listen to him. Derek feels the slight buzz he’s come to associate with Adderall and the narrowing focus of Stiles’s mind. It’s Friday. Does he really have to do homework tonight? That’s the only reason Derek’s noticed him taking extra dosages. He’s ready to tell him again to go to sleep, but Stiles texts him first.
There can’t be that many properties differentiating different types of wolfsbane. And if one variety of wolfsbane can’t counteract any other type of wolfsbane, then it has to be the differences that make it work. What if we extracted all of uncommon elements and put them together? One stop cure. Right? Maybe.
Or maybe not homework.
Derek starts to reply when another message comes in. But maybe it’s about the magic. I don’t really get magic. Yet. Maybe they each have an individual magic. Maybe we could combine them, too. The magics. Has anyone ever tried?
Not that I know of, Derek writes. Most packs lay low, don’t encounter a lot of hunters.
Regretting all those years of wishing I was special now. I’m going to try and make a cure-all. Would be useful. For this pack, anyway.
Useful? The way things were going, that was an understatement.
Derek has no idea how Stiles ever thought he wasn’t special.
“Are you a grownup?” Scott asks him later that night. He’s still lying on the operating table at the clinic, his sweatshirt off and pillowed underneath his head. Deaton said Scott was probably fine to go home, but Derek doesn’t like the word “probably” and decided to wait until Scott could walk on his own.
Derek doesn’t know how to respond to his question.
“I’m twenty-two,” he says eventually.
“Do you feel like a grownup?”
Derek doesn’t know how to explain it. After his parents died he felt impossibly old and impossibly young at once. Like the world was on his shoulders but he had no muscle for it, no idea how to balance it, never mind keep it in orbit. Thank god for Laura. She held the world steady for him, grabbed it with both hands and made it spin when he couldn’t do it himself.
Now Derek is alpha, but that’s not the same thing as being grownup.
You can be a grownup by yourself, or so Derek understands it. You can’t be alpha without a pack. An alpha wolf is his pack. It’s not a question of if he’ll support them, if he’ll protect them, if he’ll teach them and learn from them and give everything… that’s why he’s here. That’s instinct. And even if it wasn’t, that was his mother. That was his sister. That was what they gave him and it would be an insult to their legacy—to his legacy, to the legacy of the Hale pack—to do anything else. He’s failed them in many ways, but he is a strong alpha.
“I don’t know what grownup supposed to feel like, but—I know what I’m doing.”
Scott laughs. “No, you don’t.”
Derek growls. He does know what he’s doing—considering how little they can know about the kanima, he’s doing fine. Scott laughs again. He reaches his out as if to give Derek a pat, but he’s too weak and far away to connect. Derek squeezes his hand and puts it back at Scott’s side.
“I know you’re with me,” Scott says. “I know that.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“The Argents… there are so many of them and they’re so experienced, I just… sometimes I wish we had a grownup.”
Scott runs his fingers over the edge of the steel table beneath him, thinking of his boss, the veterinarian, a man Derek’s sure he never thought he’d be able to depend on, confide in, a man who stepped up after Scott’s father left, after all of his mother’s family left her alone to raise him.
“We almost told Stiles’s dad.”
Derek sits up straight.
“Don’t be mad! We didn’t do it. And even if we had, he—he’s great. He would be a great dad.”
What Scott meant to say is that the sheriff would be a great grownup to have on their side, but he doesn’t notice his slip, and Derek doesn’t want to correct him.
They don’t need a “grownup” to battle the Argents or the kanima or anything else that’s coming. But the sheriff? That’s something else.
The sheriff is already pack.
When Stiles gets home with a bag of fresh fit Subway sandwiches, the very last thing he expects to see his mother. The next to last thing is his dad directing a porno. The next after that is what’s in front of him: Derek, Isaac, Erica, and Boyd sitting on his living room couch, across from Dad in the recliner, but there they all are. The fact that Scott is there, too, brings it up a little higher on his Likely list, but barely.
He feels the plastic bag drop out of his half-numb fingertips and drop on the floor.
“Stiles,” Dad says. “Your—friends—say they’d like to tell me something.”
“If you want to!” Scott says. “If you still want to, we can.”
“Uh—you all—don’t mind—telling him?”
“You trust him—” Isaac starts.
“—so we trust him,” Boyd continues.
They trust me, Stiles thinks, amazed. That means they trust him.
“He’s your Alfred,” Erica says with a gorgeous quirk of a smile.
“Whatever you want, man,” Scott says. “Your choice.”
“No,” Stiles says.
Derek hasn’t said anything, hasn’t taken his eyes of Stiles.
“No, it’s not my choice. It’s not my secret. It if were up to me I would have told him a long time ago.”
Derek turns his gaze to Stiles’s dad and decides the best way to start this little coming out party is to go wolf right there.
What the hell, Derek?
After a lot of explanation, all of the werewolves talking over each other while Stiles sits quietly for probably the longest time in his entire life and watches his dad’s reaction, Dad’s first question isn’t about Jackson or unscrupulous werewolf hunters or what exactly this supernatural mess has to do with his unexceptional son, no. He asks, “So—Isaac, you’ve been staying with Derek since your dad was killed?”
Isaac jumps. “I—uh? Yeah.”
Stiles really hopes that Derek knows to lie and say anywhere other than the old subway station downtown. Or his half-demolished family home. Anywhere else. Stiles doesn’t really want to lie to his dad now that he doesn’t have to, but he especially doesn’t want him to think the head of Stiles’s werewolf pack is a crazy vagabond keeping a sixteen-year-old homeless.
“We’re at the Super 8 near Target right now,” Derek says. “I haven’t been in town very long, so—”
“It’s been three months since I arrested you,” Dad says, narrowing his eyes. “And if you can afford a motel room, you can afford an apartment.”
Shit, can he, though? Despite the Camaro, Stiles has never seen Derek spend money on anything. His diet might consist entirely of woodland animals. He kept the shirt he borrowed from Stiles last month and the bloodstained one he needed to replace is still in his wardrobe rotation. Not that Stiles pays that much attention to Derek’s clothes, or his body—he doesn’t look at him much at all, not really. Why would he? He doesn’t!
“Or they could live here!”
Wait, did Stiles say that?
It really seems like he did.
“What?” Dad says.
Stiles has no idea, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an argument. “We’ve got the guest room—and the basement!”
“Dude!” Scott says, wincing. “The basement?”
And, okay, no, Stiles hadn’t been thinking about Derek’s whole family burning to death in a basement when the offer fell out of his mouth, but Derek doesn’t look any angrier than he always does and he’s never shied away from the fire, from his family’s murders.
“The basement,” Stiles says firmly.
“Our basement is an damp concrete box, Stiles,” Dad says.
“We’ll, you’ve been meaning to finish it, haven’t you? You’ve been talking about it since before Mom got sick. Derek could help!”
“He could, huh?” Dad looks at Derek.
Derek doesn’t say anything. Stiles opens his mouth to say something—to backtrack or dig himself farther in this hole, he’s not sure which—when Derek finally says, “My Dad and I built our front porch when I was in middle school and I took some construction jobs the past few years. I—could—help.”
“And sleep where in the meantime?”
Stiles jumps back in. “I’ve got—! Uh… I’ve got a trundle. He can sleep in my room. For now. Or Isaac could.”
Dad takes a deep breath. “Okay. Okay, you guarantee me walls and a floor down there by new years, plus two hundred a month, and you’ve both got room and board here.”
“Board?” Stiles says.
Dad claps him on the shoulder.
“Board provided by my generous son. We’re being healthy.”
Isaac is staring at Derek. In fact, everyone is looking at Derek, except for Dad and Derek himself who are both staring at Stiles like, really? You really want to do this? Playing chicken with him.
Well, he’s not swerving first. In fact, he’s insulted by the analogy of a head-on collision, even if he did just come up with it himself. This is going to work out great.
“Everybody hungry as I am? There’s veggie lasagna in the freezer I can heat up for dinner. And then I’ll take my Jeep to help you guys get your—stuff—” Derek must have some stuff, right? Isaac must, at least. “—at the Super 8.”
Or underground somewhere, whatever.
As he follows Derek into the Super 8 parking lot and parks next to the tiny swimming pool, Stiles figures he might actually be living there. And, as he watches Derek close out a bill of over four thousand dollars, he figures Derek might not be too poor to buy a new shirt.
“I need a couple days to find a place,” Derek says quietly, while the front desk clerk is in the back trying to hunt down more printer ink, “but you don’t need to open your home to us, Stiles.”
“I know I don’t have to.”
“Why would you want to?”
“Why would you want to tell my dad about—everything?”
Derek doesn’t respond. Stiles phone jingles and his hand moves to check his text messages even has he despises the interruption because Derek probably wasn’t going to say anything, but maybe! Maybe he was. It’s from Scott: That was crazy but awesome, it says and then ten seconds later: Guess we’re starting to trust each other :) :)
Stiles laughs and shows it to Derek.
“Yeah,” Derek says, smiling just a little.
“Or maybe I just want to keep an eye on you,” Stiles says.
Derek’s gaze tracks up Stiles and then holds on Stiles’s mouth. “I know the feeling.”
“Hey,” Isaac calls. Stiles jumps and turns to see him sticking his head into the main office, “you think your dad would be down with a sleepover? Boyd and Erica want to stay.” Isaac’s phone vibrates and he looks down. “And Scott. Okay?”
It occurs to Stiles that werewolves have easily sneaked into his house and hidden from his dad numerous times before and they really don’t need his dad’s permission to do it this time—but Isaac wants it. Isaac doesn’t want to lie to him. And he doesn’t have to. Stiles doesn’t have to lie to his dad about anything except the normal stuff, like sex and drugs. Werewolves in the bedroom and it’s okay.
So he says, “Sure,” totally confident.
“Really?” Derek says.
“I think you all made it pretty clear what he was getting into. You buy the umbrella, you get the whole patio set.”
“Yeah.” Isaac grins and ducks back outside.
The front desk clerk comes back out, brandishing an ink cartridge, and bends underneath the desk to load it into the printer.
“You’re the umbrella,” Stiles says.
Derek comes back with, “You’re the seat cushions,” without missing a beat.
“All of them?”
Derek nods, totally straight-faced. He moves to cross his arms over his chest and his fingers brush against Stiles’s as he goes. Stiles shivers.
That night they all sit in front of the TV with beef jerky and sour candy and a marathon of America’s Next Top Model on Oxygen. Stiles sits in between Scott and Derek on the couch and Boyd, Isaac, and Erica sit in front of them, their legs stretched out out underneath the coffee table.
“This is the best season,” Boyd says.
“How can you choose just one?” Erica says.
“I was never really allowed to watch TV,” Isaac says. He leans his head on Boyd’s shoulder and Erica takes his hand in between both of hers in her lap.
“Ooh,” Erica says, “You’re setting the bar really high with this.”
“Yeah, don’t get your hopes up,” Boyd says. “It’s all downhill from here.”
“Derek and I watch Downton Abbey sometimes.”
“You what?” Stiles says, turning his whole body toward Derek.
Derek glares. “We were living in one room! If he turns it on—”
“Do you think Lady Edith will actually run off with that driver?”
“Sybil,” Derek corrects him and then starts to glower.
Asking Derek and Isaac to move in was the best idea he’s ever had.
For a while Dad sits with them with a few folders open on his lap, asking Derek questions about werewolves and the class of 2006, who were juniors during Derek’s sophomore year, his last year at Beacon Hills High before he and Laura left town after the fire.
“You want to invite Allison over?” Stiles asks Scott after about twenty minutes of Scott on repeat: checking his phone, finding no new messages, spinning his phone over the armrest of the couch a few times, and checking his phone again.
“No!” Scott says. “I mean, yeah, I mean—I have. She’s busy.”
“You could invite Lydia,” Scott says. “She’d love this.”
“Bet she’s busy, too,” Stiles says.
Plus having Lydia and Derek in the same room right now might actually make him explode. If he had to choose one… well, Derek is already here. He wants to be here. And Lydia has never looked at him the way Derek looked at him an hour ago. Derek has never looked at him that way before, either—frankly, Stiles had wondered if anyone would ever look at him that way—ever—so maybe there really was a chance that Lydia would actually notice him the way he had been thinking about since he was eight-years-old and she rattled off the entire 15 x 15 times table during recess like it was nothing—and that was crazy because Stiles had pretty much given up on that chance when he was about nine—but Jesus, Derek smells good.
Around midnight, when Tyra’s still going strong and Erica’s opening up another packet of worms, Derek sits up, stretches, and says, “Where am I sleeping?”
“I call guest room,” Isaac says, sticking up his hand. Boyd and Erica stick their hands up, too and then Erica reaches back to squeeze Scott’s knee and it’s weirdly not sexual at all. It’s like cats tongue cleaning each others’ faces—or like something dogs do, but Stiles never had dogs. Until now. Apparently now he has five.
“You guys want a blowup mattress or—”
“No,” Boyd says.
“Or a sleeping bag or—”
“No,” Isaac says, smiling up at him and Stiles really can’t help running a hand through his curls and kind of scratching at his head.
“Okay.” Stiles stands up. “Come on, we’ll make up my trundle—”
Derek glares at him.
“Where I will be sleeping for the foreseeable future.”
Derek grabs his bag and they go upstairs. First Stiles shows him the bathroom. Derek pulls a toothbrush out of his bag and then grabs the toothpaste and Stiles’s toothbrush off the counter and hands it to him.
“What—okay,” he says and then there he is brushing his teeth with Derek Hale side-by-side at the bathroom sink.
Derek is thorough. Stiles does two extra rounds across his mouth and then he has to stop. He flosses as much as he ever has patience for—flossing is the worst—and Derek’s still going.
“What about your canines?” Stiles says as he pours some mouthwash into the cap.
“Your—” Stiles makes a growly face. “Your canines get like twice as long. Do you ever brush the tops?”
He shoots back the mouthwash.
“Not on the first date,” Derek says with a tiny smile and Stiles chokes, coughing up blue liquid all over the sink.
And this might be a little pathetic, but the way Derek laughs at that, this whole-body shaking belly laugh? Stiles doesn’t even care what a spaz he is or how much the alcohol is burning his nose.
Stiles leads Derek into his room and Derek turns off the light and shuts the door behind him. “We actually need sheets and stuff for the—” Stiles starts, turning around, but Derek’s right there and he pushes Stiles backwards on to the bed.
“Take off your pants,” Derek says.
Well, this is fast. This is very fast. Does Stiles really want to lose his virginity like—?
Stiles thoughts stop dead as Derek takes off his shirt and starts on his own pants and seeing all that smooth, pale skin and the hard cut of his muscles, Stiles really doesn’t want to reveal what’s underneath his own shirt, but yeah, his penis can get into this.
Stiles unbuckles his belt, tugs his fly open, and kicks his pants down his legs. He’s lying there in his T-shirt and boxers and tube socks and, God, he hates that in porn, so he toes those off and looks back at Derek, a little out of breath.
“You comfortable?” Derek says.
He feels like he’s going to throw up, actually, but he nods anyway.
Derek lies down on the bed and pulls Stiles up so they’re pretty well lined up, tucks Stiles underneath his arm, and—closes his eyes.
“Are you sleeping?” Stiles says after a few moments.
“So are you,” Derek says. “You don’t sleep enough. You know I can feel it when you’re awake.”
“Whenever I’m awake?” Derek grunts. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“I thought we were—”
“Not tonight,” Derek says.
That is not not ever. That is very specifically not not ever. That is actually—completely awesome? This might make him a lame sixteen-year-old virgin—a particularly lame one—but he really doesn’t want his first time to be right now, either. It’s been a banner night already without tacking that on. Stiles grins and presses his head under Derek’s chin and falls asleep more easily than he has in a long time.
The next morning Stiles wakes up to bright sunlight streaming over the bed—he’ll have to train Derek to close the curtains before he manhandles Stiles into sleeping—the smell of coffee, pancakes, and bacon, and a knocking at the door. Stiles sits up just as his dad comes into the room, Derek’s hand sliding from his shoulder down into his lap.
“Now dressed like that? It’s a different story.”
It takes Stiles a second to figure out what the hell his dad is referring to, but he gets there, and okay, first of all, Stiles is sure—okay, he’s not sure if it’s the exact same shirt he wore the night his dad caught him at a gay club crime scene investigation, but it definitely came out of the same three-pack. Second of all, oh my God, his dad is in his room and looking at him in bed with Derek Hale.
“Dad! This is not—this is not—” Except it is, maybe. It will be. But he still doesn’t want his dad to think he invited two werewolves into their house just so he could shack up with his boyfriend. “This isn’t why—”
“You think I don’t know that? It all comes back to Scott with you, a kid whose scraped knees I have put a band-aid on more times than I have yours. But it doesn’t have only be about only one thing.”
“Yeah,” he says, smiling. Because it’s not just about Scott anymore and it’s not just about Derek, either. His dad is so entirely awesome.
“Might be time for us to have that conversation, though—after breakfast. Your friends have put out quite a spread. Come and get it!”
Stiles is starving. He hasn’t had bacon in months. Wait—where did they get bacon? “The bacon is not for you!” he calls after his dad.
Derek sits up and squeezes his arms around Stiles from behind, nosing around Stiles’s neck and pressing kisses down his left shoulder. “Can I have the bacon?” he says, his voice low and gravelly with sleep.
“Depends. How’s your heart?”
“I think it’s good,” Derek says in such a way that Stiles is sure he hasn’t been to a doctor since before his mother died. Well, he’s got Stiles to nag him about it now.
But maybe he can let everyone slide this morning.
“Then we better get down there before Scott eats it all.”