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“I have a casserole for you,” says Scott.

Stiles triple-takes. “You what?”

Scott just brandishes the large rectangular dish like it’s made of solid gold. “Casserole?” he repeats, and then just waits patiently for Stiles to stop staring at him like he’s lost his mind.

Stiles, once he realizes that Scott has no intention of explaining himself, makes things a little easier for him. “If you’re waiting for me to stop staring at you like you’ve lost your mind, we’re gonna be here a really long time.”

“Whatever. I’m coming in.” And Scott just goes shouldering past him towards the kitchen like he owns the place. Stiles makes a face, but drags the door shut and follows.

“Is this some weird extra-credit thing? Oh my god, does Mr. Harris want you to poison me since he can’t actually fail me? Did Coach suddenly decide there needs to be a hazing ritual for co-captaining? Because if Jackson is taking casseroles to Greenberg, someone should alert the paparazzi.” Fuck, and that just makes him think of Matt in all his creepy, kanima-controlling glory. “Or, uh, maybe I should text Greenberg and tell him to find a safe underground location with plenty of water and TP.”

But Scott just calmly sets his casserole dish on the counter and smooths down the foil that’s sticking up at one of the corners. “Cooking is a really important skill and you suck at it, okay?”

“Are you possessed?” Stiles demands.

“It’s got chicken in it.”

“So…what? Are you trying to provide for me now?”

Scott looks uncomfortable. “Derek’s teaching his pack how to handle things and take care of themselves, okay? And since I’m not with Allison anymore…I mean, you were right, you know? I’ve still got you.”

It takes Stiles a minute to parse that. “So you’re giving me casseroles.”

Now Scott looks more uncomfortable than ever. Possibly constipated. “Uh. Yeah?”

“That’s really nice of you. But, um, I don’t need any mysterious baked goods. Especially from the guy who used to eat paste.”

“What the hell, that was in first grade and you were the one who dared me.”

Stiles legitimately does not remember this. “Wait, really? Why would I do that?”

“Look.” Scott is actually staring him down over a casserole dish. “It was really hard to get this over here on my bike. I’m not taking it back. I didn’t get any super werewolf abilities that let me move casseroles from point A to point B more efficiently.”

“Okay, the word casserole has officially lost all meaning.”

“You can’t even taste the spinach,” Scott says plaintively. “And you and your dad can’t live on curly fries forever, you know that, right?”

“Dude, I know your mom is a nurse and everything, but this is madness.”

Scott just grins at him like an idiot.

Inevitably, they end up watching The 300.

When his dad gets home, Stiles dishes out the casserole and it actually isn’t horrible.

He only punches Scott once when he catches him preening, and it fucking hurts because Scott’s a fucking werewolf and apparently made of nothing but muscle and stupid grins and maybe daisies or something.

But whatever.

 

---

 

This continues at intervals over the next couple of weeks. Scott brings banana-nut muffins, white-bean gnocchi, a chicken-broccoli soufflé that remains remarkably intact even though he bitches about the bike ride over to Stiles’s place like it was a death march.

Amazingly, none of it sucks. Stiles can’t even rib Scott for looking proud of himself anymore, not when he’s too busy stuffing his face and stoically returning dishes.

“I’m starting to think you’re trying to fatten me up,” he says once, while they’re dicking around on the lacrosse field, and Scott just gives him a very eloquent once-over.

He knows he’s dropped some baby fat this year, but it’s a trade-off. Having a bunch of freaking werewolves running around plus having a bunch of your friends in mortal peril on a semi-regular basis does a number on your nerves, apparently, and Stiles has never been a stress eater. Or a stress exerciser, which he didn’t even know was a thing until he and Scott went by the Hale house that one time and Derek was doing one-armed pushups in the charred remains of his living room.

Who even does that?

Scott had just struck up a conversation like it was nothing. Like this was also a semi-regular thing. Stiles still isn’t sure what the hell is going on with that.

“Hey, how long do you think it would take for me to get a six-pack?” he asks, and Scott just lobs the ball past his shoulder and rolls his eyes.

“I’m serious,” Stiles says. “Why is this funny? I’m starting to feel like everyone in this town has more abs than me. Derek has, like, two six-packs. Who even needs that many abs?”

“Why are you even counting?”

“He ends up shirtless a lot when he’s around me,” Stiles says indignantly. “It’s just a thing that happens. Maybe he likes making me feel inadequate.”

Scott gets a weird look on his face then, the kind he gets when his weird-ass wolf senses let him hear or see something beyond the abilities of mere mortals. “Derek doesn’t think you’re inadequate.”

Stiles takes advantage of the moment to score a goal.

 

---

 

It’s the pie that does it.

Stiles has a thing for lemon meringue pie and it’s the only time Scott’s brought over anything that could legitimately be called junk food. He’s supposed to be helping Scott master the fragile art of not failing the fuck out of chemistry, but Scott is evil and Stiles is easily distracted by pie.

Revoltingly distracted, really, since he ends up pulling the old fake-stretch-and-yawn move and dropping an arm around Scott’s shoulder.

Scott snorts. “Can I help you?”

Stiles just pats him vaguely. “Guess we should make out now, huh? Since you’ve been feeding me all this time. And…pie. Doesn’t giving someone pie have some kind of underlying meaning?”

“I dunno, man. This is kind of sudden. And I’m pretty sure it just means pie is delicious.”

This is why Scott can’t be trusted to fend for himself. He’s just so boring for a guy who’s swimming in supernatural jeopardy.

Stiles slumps a little in his seat. “Think about it. What other options do we have right now? Allison’s being a grownup and sorting out her feelings and Lydia would rather be with Jackson the weredouche than anyone else. Not that there’s anything wrong with a strong, independent-minded young woman exercising some autonomy after being used as a vessel for raising the dead or anything, I mean. I’m just saying.”

“If he’s a weredouche, doesn’t that mean he only turns into a douche when it’s a full moon?”

“Point. Shut up.”

When Scott catches his chin in one hand, Stiles isn’t expecting it at all.

It’s not even that Scott’s using that wolfy Iron Man grip of his—he’s totally polite about it, Stiles could easily jerk his head away and laugh this off—it’s just that Scott’s never actually taken him seriously before. And, in the years they’ve known each other, Stiles has offered to make out with Scott a lot. As in, dating back to when they were young enough to screech about cooties at the idea of kissing anyone.

Fuck. Maybe Scott can smell the pheromones coming off him or something. Maybe shit just got real.

“Seriously?” says Scott.

Stiles makes a face as best he can while Scott’s still holding him in place. “Hey, what the hell, it’s not like I’m busy trying to save your ass from the barren wasteland your high school career is in severe danger of—”

And that’s when Scott kisses him.

And it’s just plain odd.

Okay, it’s not like he’s drawing from reams of experience here, or even pamphlets of experience. Unless you count the time he was poking around the hospital waiting room and wound up reading an informational booklet on prostate massage, which hardly counts because it’s not like guys are throwing themselves at him begging for prostate massages, and which is totally irrelevant here because one time Stiles did a report on prostate cancer and Scott’s response had been, “oh, I think my great-aunt died of that.”

So yeah, the point is that Stiles doesn’t have much to go on here other than the stuff he’s learned from porn and curiosity, but he knows enough to realize that kissing Scott might be warm and wet and lemon-tasting but it’s also kind of like kissing a puppy or something. Not quite how he imagined his first time with a guy would go.

Scott, when he finishes planting one on him, looks sort of like he’s swallowed an actual lemon. Forget the pie.

Huh,” Stiles proclaims. His mouth feels weird, like it’s too big for his face or something. “Okay, that was cool. Would have been better if it wasn’t you, but.”

It’s uncanny just how much Scott actually resembles a kicked puppy sometimes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It wasn’t weird because you’re a guy, it was weird because you’re you. No offense. And uh, keep using whatever lip stuff you’re using. ” Stiles flits a hand up to his mouth. “You have, like, really soft lips.”

“Oh.” Scott seems to settle back into himself. “Cool. Well, now we’ve got actual confirmation you’re not my type at all, so.”

Something about the way he says all gets Stiles’s hackles up. “I didn’t turn you even a little bit not-straight?”

Scott’s stupid-soft mouth scrunches up. “You think you’re that good? When was the last time you kissed anyone?”

“The back of my hand could tell stories that would make your hair curl,” Stiles says solemnly.

Scott actually reaches up and pats at his hair.

“Okay, curl more, you hobbit. Whatever. So, covalent bonds?”

“I should probably tell you I’m not the one who’s been making you all that food,” Scott blurts out.

On the list of things Stiles was expecting to hear, this was probably somewhere south of “sure, I’ll totally make out with you.”

He stares. “What, you’ve been plagiarizing? With food?”

“That’s not how plagiarism works,” Scott mumbles. “I’ve just been…delivering.”

“Yeah, I don’t really have the patience for semantics right now. Who is it?”

“Someone who’s kind of stunted when it comes to human interaction and maybe feels like he needs to make amends for treating you like dirt?”

“That’s kind of a long list,” Stiles complains. Then he blinks. Slaps a hand to the desk so hard his palm stings. “Hold on. Hold. On. Are you seriously saying—?”

Scott suddenly becomes engrossed in the homework they’ve both been ignoring for the past hour.

“I’m gonna kill him,” Stiles says calmly. “And you suck, by the way.”

 

---

 

There are times when Stiles really, deeply wishes he drove something just a little more menacing than a Jeep. But he goes Jeeping up to the Hale house as menacingly as he can, scowls as menacingly as he can when he stumbles over a tree root that clearly just sprouted out of nowhere to fuck with him, and gapes in a possibly-menacing manner when Derek fucking Hale strolls onto the porch dressed like the poster boy for black leather sex appeal and staring at him like he’s grown a few extra noses.

In addition to apologizing, another thing Derek does really, really badly is starting conversations. Stiles has noticed this. If Derek wants to have a chat, he can’t just email or knock on the front door or just say what’s on his mind. Derek stares and glowers and manhandles until someone else ends up demanding to know what the hell has him all worked up, that someone frequently being Stiles.

“I just,” Stiles announces, stepping daintily over the tree root of doom, “really awkwardly made out with my best friend because of you.”

Impressively, Derek’s brows dip a little lower.

“And is there a reason you’ve got Scott playing busboy or are you just using me as a guinea pig before you audition for Iron Chef? Because I’ve gotta say, that gnocchi could really take you places.”

He waits for a minute. Amazingly, Derek doesn’t teleport over and turn him into a human hood ornament. Derek actually looks a little amused, which would be kind of incredible if Stiles weren’t stuck feeling like the butt of the joke. “I’m serious. What the hell is going on?”

“Peter’s been telling me to lighten up.”

Oh.” Stiles actually throws his hands in the air. “That’s good. Your undead murderous uncle’s been giving you tips on how to act normal? Yeah, that’s really refreshing. Carry on, man, because this is completely awesome and not at all indicative of extreme social ineptitude.”

“If you’d shut up for a minute, I could explain,” Derek mutters, doing something with his jaw that makes his cheekbones look positively lethal.

Stiles crosses his arms and waits.

And waits.

“You’re not pack,” Derek says finally.

Stiles is ready to fall at his feet and praise him for his mastery of stating the obvious, but he holds back. If he didn’t know better, he’d say Derek was actually fumbling for words.

“You’re not one of us. But you’ve been. Doing a lot of things.”

This is several times more awkward than getting firsthand evidence regarding the effectiveness of Scott’s lip balm. Stiles narrows his eyes at a clump of bushes. “How are you cooking, you don’t even have electricity.”

“Do you actually think I live here?”

Stiles blinks.

“You do.” Derek is grinning at him, dazzling and unfamiliar. “You think I sit in the dark and brood all the time.”

Stiles is not going to be humbled by any number of perfect werewolf teeth. “That’s pretty much one thousand percent accurate, yeah, since you do brood all the time. And you know? You could’ve just said this to my face from the start. ‘Hey Stiles, sorry for being a jerk and threatening to kill you multiple times and almost making you cut off my arm and stretching out all your shirts—'”

“Should I have given you a Macy’s gift card instead of that soufflé?”

Now Derek is making jokes or something—really bad, annoying jokes—and still half-smiling at him with too many of those blinding teeth. This is just weird.

“This,” Stiles says flatly, “is just weird.”

Derek walks back into the house without another word and Stiles drives home, perturbed.

 

---

 

At lunch, where he most definitely is not eating some of the pasta salad Scott brought over the other day, Stiles most definitely does not start chatting with Scott, Scott who he’s ignoring for being a manipulative turncoat with stupid hair and stupid lip balm.

He doesn’t talk to him for a whole five minutes, almost, and then he runs out of pasta salad and Scott turns those poor-me eyes on him, and fine, maybe Stiles doesn’t need to ignore him after all.

“Did you know Derek doesn’t actually live in his old house?”

Scott laughs like a hyena before he realizes Stiles is being serious. “Uh, yeah. Stiles, the place has no roof.”

Stiles sulks.

“You didn’t know that? Dude, just because he’s traumatized from losing his whole family and turns vulnerable high school kids into werewolves in his spare time doesn’t mean he’s a total nutjob.”

“Really?” Stiles is ready to argue this claim all day.

“Well,” Scott amends, “he can cook? If he was a total nutjob he’d be running around gnawing people in half or chewing crop circles into the ground. I mean, I was at his apartment when he tried to show Boyd how to make an omelet and the smoke alarm went off for like three hours. There wasn’t even any bloodshed.”

“He showed…what?”

“Something about an alpha needing to teach survival skills to his betas. I thought it’d be a little more badass than that, but it kind of makes sense, you know? You need to be able to fend for yourself.”

“By making omelets.”

“Boyd lives on protein bars and Gatorade. It’s a step up. And it’s not like Isaac and Erica are swimming in support networks, okay?”

Fortunately, the bell rings before Stiles sticks his foot in his mouth.

The rest of the day sucks. He has to watch Jackson and Lydia making goo-goo eyes in math, Harris rips into him for not paying attention in chem, and then at practice Greenberg nosedives into the bench and almost takes him out, which is somehow his fault for being there to begin with.

He goes home, makes some Hamburger Helper for when his dad gets back, texts Scott and tells him in no uncertain terms to stop with the busboy routine, then falls asleep in front of his PS3.

When he wakes up, Derek Hale is chilling in his desk chair like he’s got every right to be there.

Funny how this isn’t even a surprise anymore. Stiles flinches out of habit anyway. “God, what is it now? Girl Scout cookie sales aren’t for another few months.”

“I’m here for the bowl the pasta salad was in. Scott brought it over and you never gave it back.”

For some reason, that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. “Get out,” Stiles says.

Derek looks nonplussed. “I said, I need—”

“And I said you need to leave. As in now.”

Stiles gets to his feet, lightheaded from sleep and frustration. “You can’t just waltz in here whenever you want, okay? I don’t know what’s going on, but I just want things to be vaguely normal for a little while before something happens and the shit hits the fan again, do you get that? But that’s not gonna happen, is it? Every time you have Scott give me a damn casserole, that’s just another little reminder.”

It’s the first time he’s actually said this, not just out loud, but to himself. It doesn’t matter how far they’ve come, how many hunters or alphas or giant rage lizards they’ve dodged, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean the biggest problems in their lives are suddenly going to be midterms and lacrosse again. There’s no going back now, and that’s a harder pill to swallow than anything in Stiles’s admittedly impressive history of pill-swallowing.

Stiles sits heavily back down on the edge of his bed and waits for the blackness to fade from his vision.

And Derek…is still there, lit up like a glamour shot in the glow from Stiles’s desk lamp. “Hey. Stiles. Breathe.”

As tempting as it is to do the exact opposite of anything Derek says, Stiles breathes.

“Scott’s lucky to have you.” Derek is still talking, like now is really the time for it. “But you need to look out for yourself, too. Being part of a pack means no one’s ever going it alone.”

“Not sure I can deal with you getting all Obi-Wan Kenobi on me. You’re more of a Greedo, on a good day.” Stiles lifts his face out of his hands, and that’s when he notices the neatly covered plate sitting on his desk. “Okay. What’s that?”

“Lamb chops, Italian style.” Derek’s nostrils flare. “It smells like a food court in here. Do you ever eat anything that doesn’t come out of a box?”

“Don’t knock Hamburger Helper,” Stiles says darkly. “And I don’t get why you’re still here.”

“Keep up your strength, Stiles. You’ll need it.” Derek lays a hand on his shoulder, easily the most non-threatening way he’s ever touched him before. For a werewolf, he has immaculately clean fingernails.

Stiles blinks and he’s gone, like the whole weird-ass conversation was just a figment of his imagination, which it had damn well better not be since the last thing he needs is Derek Hale manifesting as his conscience.

The lamb chops, he has to grudgingly admit, are delicious.