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they call kids like us vicious and carved out of stone

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“I'm pretty sure that kid's a vampire.”

Scott has a penchant for saying things like this as easily as anyone else might make a comment about how the tomato plants are looking or whether or not the clouds hovering over the mountains in the distance are going to bring rain into town. Derek couldn't even count on both hands how many times he's had theories about what people are, and it seems to be Scott's favorite way to pass the time. Making up stories in his head about normal people to try and make everything and everyone seem more interesting than they really end up being.

Because of this, Derek doesn't do much else aside from make a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat, grumbling down into his coffee mug.

Seriously,” Scott iterates, squinting down into the parking lot. Derek can't see from this angle, but he doesn't have to see to know that Scott is glaring at the new neighbor who moved in just last week. “I've got a feeling about him.”

“You had a feeling about Ms. Parker, too.”

Scott turns and gives Derek a deep frown, punctuated by a vengeful glint in his eyes. Ms. Parker had been the tenant who lived in the apartment right next to them before – Scott had been absolutely positive for the six months she lived here that she was some kind of river creature because she vanished every weekend and returned with a cooler full of what smelled like and appeared to be raw fish. Fresh raw fish, at that.

She owned a house out on the lake twenty or so miles out of town and liked to fish. Scott was sure it was deeper than that. As in, glaring at her through the window, waiting for her to reveal herself as suspect, researching The Creature from the Black Lagoon, suspicious of her. In spite of the fact that she knit them both scarves for Christmas and always collected their mail for them.

“This is different,” he says with a head nod. “This is definitely and absolutely different. This isn't just a feeling.”

It hardly ever is with Scott. Rather, it's a fucking obsession that Derek's going to have to hear about day in and day out until they catch the kid next door transforming into a bat right before their eyes and flying off towards the moon. Even then, Scott will be yapping in Derek's ear for months to come about how right he was.

“I'm telling you there's something off about that kid.”

With a huff, Derek rises from the wicker chair and leans over the railing next to where Scott is standing to get a better look for himself. As he suspected, there's their new neighbor, meandering slowly towards where his familiar blue Jeep is parked among the rest of the tenants' cars. Right – because a vicious blood-sucking creature of the night would really drive a beat up old Jeep and twirl his keys around his finger while munching at a glazed donut. “The Sheriff's kid?” Derek clarifies; even though he knows good and well who they're talking about.

“Yeah, that kid,” Scott points emphatically, and Derek slaps his hand away before Stilinski can look up and see Scott being so brazen.

When Stilinski call-me-Stiles had moved in, he had been wearing a Beacon Hills Sheriff's Department t-shirt and his father (in full regalia) was helping him heft boxes onto the elevator and into his new place. Typically, kids that have come out of police families tend to be at least a little bit trust worthy. Derek hadn't suspected him of a single thing.

He smiled, shook hands, accepted the vague offer of beers, sometime!!!, and was nice.

Of course Scott has found something to suspect of him. It'll be the third neighbor they manage to chase off in a two year span. (Scott denies it, but everyone else in the complex knows good and well that the reason Ms. Parker moved out is because Scott practically menaced her straight out of her own home – and the tenant before that...well.)

“You know when you just get a vibe -”

“I know when you get a vibe,” Derek corrects hotly, watching Stiles climb into his car, the creak of his door closing like nails on a chalkboard against Derek's ears. “I also know that never, never once, have you ever been right.”

Scott actually has the gall to turn and look at Derek with some level of shocked indignation, as though they haven't had variations of this exact conversation about six dozen times since becoming roommates two years ago. “You have absolutely no reason to think I'm wrong, other than -” every possible reason on that planet, “-the fact that you're so cynical all the time.”

Derek raises his eyebrows, to himself mostly. “I don't see how not instantaneously believing our next door neighbor is going to try to eat us in our sleep makes me the cynic in this conversation, but -”

“Fine, then,” Scott snaps. By now, the Jeep has already bumbled out of the parking lot, tail lights vanishing down the road and far, far away from this ridiculous fucking conversation. “Since you're so sure, what's the proof that you have that he's not a vampire?”

Feeling like he's the only sane person left on planet earth, Derek rolls his eyes heavenward. “First of all, there's not a mound of dust sitting where he used to be -” he gestures upwards towards the sun like behold, the light, and Scott's jaw tics, “and second of all, he's never done anything even remotely suspicious.”

Which is true. The most malicious thing Stiles does is watch television late at night and talk to himself – two things that Scott and Derek can hear crystal clear through the walls of their apartment with their werewolf ears. That being said, neither of them have ever heard Stiles muttering something like who shall I prey upon tonight or I must get my coffin ready for my slumber. The most suspect thing Derek's over heard over there is the crinkling sound of way too many snack foods.

Like he's remembering all these facts for himself, Scott turns away from Derek with a defeated (yet still slightly paranoid) expression on his face, glaring at the spot in the parking lot marked 3C for Stiles' apartment number.

“We'll see, Derek. We'll see.”

Every night when he gets off work, Derek checks the mail. Scott apparently either always forgets or just figures Derek will do it, because if Derek doesn't do it, their box overflows with Bath and Body Works coupons (???), Scott's dorky magazine subscriptions (who knew there was such a thing as Magician's Monthly? On a related note, Scott has never once successfully pulled a trick off), and overdue bills. Before Ms. Parker got chased out by Scott's insistent sniffing (literally and figuratively) around her car and cooler and life, Derek could always count on her to bring it up for them.

Now, though, the task is Derek's and Derek's alone. Scott's good for other things, like always getting the dishes done and always remembering every thing Derek asks for at the store, but he's absolute shit at picking his wet towels up off the floor after taking a shower and remembering to lock the door at night. Give and take, Derek always reminds himself.

He's standing at his box, now, in the corridor between the manager's office and the front door – his keys are still dangling from the lock, and he's staring down at an ad for the new whatever-the-hells at Bath and Body Works (which, still, ???) and thinking about a birthday present for his sister. This isn't a particularly engrossing train of thought, and even as he's standing there he's half listening to the manager shuffling around inside of his office, moving keys and filtering through manila folders – he's always half listening to his surroundings no matter where he is or what he's doing. It's part of being a werewolf.

Even though Derek could most likely count on one hand the number of times he's actually been attacked, or sneaked up on from behind, in this day and age, it's in his nature to always be alert. It's also part of why Scott is so obsessed with trying to figure out what everyone else is – while Derek has half an ear behind him at all times, Scott is just instantaneously suspicious of everything and everyone around him. Everyone's wolf reacts differently.

Point being, it's hard to sneak up on Derek. Not even another werewolf has ever managed to well and truly startle Derek – as many times as his sisters leaped out at him from behind potted plants, and as many times as Scott has planted that idiotic flying sheet ghost on a string gag inside of Derek's room, it's never gotten much more than an eye roll and a huff from Derek. Never legitimate and genuine shock.

There's a first time for everything, he guesses.

He closes his mailbox, rips the key out of the lock, finally looks up from the cheerful yellow and red leaf designs of the Fall coupon, and nearly jumps out of his fucking skin. In a big way, too. He startles into taking a step back, his eyes bulge out of his head, and he fumbles a couple of envelopes down onto the ground with light smacks.

Because Stiles is suddenly just – there. Hovering and staring at Derek with one eyebrow raised, looking like he's been waiting there for at least a little while, watching Derek examine a fucking coupon for Pumpkin Cinnamon Latte!! scented body spray for a solid twenty seconds. He smirks, gestures vaguely, and half-laughs, “you didn't strike me as the type to startle so easily.”

So easily Derek mimics in his head, watching as Stiles pulls his own keys out of his pocket and moves to the box right beside Derek and Scott's. Derek doesn't startle so fucking easily – that's the entire point. There was never any moment during that twenty second interval of Stiles standing there (most likely – Christ Derek does't even know) that Derek smelled him, or heard a heartbeat, or footsteps, or anything.

Now that he's focusing though, zeroing in on Stiles' pulse point, he can hear the steady thump-thump, as evenly as anyone else's. Any other human's. Which Stiles is.

Stiles pulls his mail out, cocks his head to the side as he examines it. Derek leaps on the opportunity to get a good long fucking look at him; he's a little pale. Sure. He's white, and he's pale, which doesn't – mean anything. Plenty of people are pale. Some people don't like to go out into the sun much.

Aside from that, he's normal. A little languid and lackadaisical, like he's just risen from sleep in spite of the fact that it's six pm, which....huh. Stiles is standing there in sweatpants and a v-neck shirt with holes in it, slippers on his feet, at six o'clock at night when Derek is just getting home from work. Which would suggest to Derek that he's gone and slept all day, and is just now waking up at night, which...

No, Derek stops himself as Stiles looks up and meets his eyes. No fucking way.

Scott is not getting inside of his head. Absolutely not. For all Derek knows, Stiles works a night shift wherever the fuck he actually works, and it's just a coincidence. An absolute fucking coincidence. He saw Stiles out and about in the daytime, in sunlight, days ago, and that's all the proof Derek needs that Stiles is not a -

Stiles smirks at him again, closes his own box with a metallic click. “Christ,” he says with another laugh, giving Derek a solid once-over with something of a mischievous expression on his face. “You look like you just saw a ghost walk by.”

Nope. No.

*

“I heard a hiss last night, Derek.”

It's at least five thirty in the morning. There's no light in Derek's room except for the glow of the street light outside his window, and the crack shining in from where Scott has pushed the door open to peak in at him.

Derek rubs at his sleep weary eyes. “Cat.”

“Have you seen a cat? Smelled a cat?”

“You just heard one.”

Scott gives him a steady glare. “I heard a hiss.”

“Stiles isn't a vampire, Scott.” Derek starts trying to get used to the way those words sound, the way they feel coming out of his mouth – he's going to be saying them a lot in the coming months, he bets.

*

Stiles is carrying a bag of trash out to the dumpsters at the same time that Derek is. He's in sweatpants again, another v-neck t-shirt with what looks like spaghetti sauce staining it in more than one place, and it's nearly seven o'clock at night. The trash bag is an average, normal size (and Derek can't believe that he's examining the exact specifications of someone's trash bags, but such is his fucking life now), and there's nothing...weird about it.

That being said, for just a split second, he imagines that there's a dead body cut up into pieces with bite marks in the neck, buried deep among the empty soda cans and granola bar wrappers. All the sniffing in the world and Derek can only make out old food wrappers an old air freshener, but the intrusive thoughts don't really leave him.

Stiles does't turn his neck to look at Derek, but he does walk slow. Derek has noticed that. Stiles always leisures his way out to his car in the parking lot, somehow walking while simultaneously looking like he's reclining by the beach somewhere. He always takes his sweet time carding through his mail, always saunters down the hallway like he has absolutely no place that he has to be, and he never runs to try and catch the elevator. On more than one occasion, Derek and Scott have been standing in the elevator together (bickering as usual), when Stiles has rounded the corner down the hall, making his way towards the doors right as they're about to slide closed.

Scott has called to him hurry and you can catch it!! about six times now, and every time Stiles just shrugs his shoulders and smirks, keeping the same give-a-fuck pace he always has.

As if he has all the fucking time in the world. Which, he would, if he were really a -

No. Absolutely not.

The original point is that Stiles is walking with one hand in his pocket, the other clutching onto his trash, about half as fast as Derek is walking, in spite of the fact that Derek is behind him. Which leaves Derek with having to awkwardly decide between slowing down or speeding up and overtaking him. He feels like pointing out that someone with legs as long as Stiles' has absolutely no fucking excuse to be walking that slow, but Derek's not about to admit he's been paying attention to something like that.

Trying to keep his eyes dead ahead (because he doesn't want Stiles to pay attention to him, while simultaneously he does want Stiles to pay attention to him but is too much of a scaredy-cat to initiate it himself), he musters the courage to speed up marginally so he can skirt past Stiles down the alley towards the dumpsters and be done with the entire thing.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on which half of Derek's brain he's choosing to pay attention to, Stiles turns his head and looks directly at Derek for the split second they wind up side by side. He curls his lips into a half smile, even that spreading across his face as noncomitally and blasé as ever. “Hey, neighbor.”

Against his will, Derek's eyes shift over to meet Stiles', and is relieved to find them so ordinary. Brown eyes, like over half of the rest of the world, not a hint of an odd fleck, or a weird yellow coloration, or – or whatever else a vampire might have in their eyes. “Hey, Stiles.”

“I feel like we always miss each other,” Stiles says, gesturing between them with a finger, that smile still in place on his face. “I've been meaning to take you up on that offer for a beer.”

Scott's voice in his head saying that was a test – vampires don't drink beer, and did you see how casually he, like, rejected us!? “Oh, yeah,” Derek nods, ignoring Scott and clutching the plastic handles on his bag a little bit more tightly. “Absolutely.”

“Truth be told,” Stiles starts as he pulls open the top for the dumpster with little effort, slapping it back against the brick wall of the alley, “I don't have very many friends left in town. They all – well.” He doesn't finish, but gets a pinched expression on his face.

Because they're all dead Derek thinks, and then immediately regrets it. He honestly feels like punching himself – and Scott, honestly – in the fucking face for this. If Scott had never said the word vampire to begin with, it would have never even occurred to Derek, but here he is now and he can't stop thinking about it.

“...anyway, part of the reason I moved was so that I could, you know. Meet new people,” he draws the world people out with some stress, as though there's some double meaning hidden there. Derek really needs to stop over analyzing every single thing he says, clearly, because there's nothing malicious or negative in Stiles' tone or body language. He dumps his trash bag in on top of the pile and then turns back to Derek expectantly.

“Well,” Derek clears his throat, his palms going sweaty. “You can – come over any time.” So, what? Scott can corner Stiles up against the wall and shine a flashlight in his eyes to check for an ethereal glow like a bat would have? Drive a stake through his heart? Wave garlic in his face and see if it has any effect?

Stiles smiles at him, two rows of perfect white teeth, and then he's reaching out to take Derek's own bag for him. Derek is opening his mouth to say something like you don't have to do that, and then – he and Stiles' fingers brush against one another.

It's just a split second. Stiles' fingers bumping right into Derek's knuckles, barely more than a feather light touch, but it's more than enough to have Derek pulling his hand away as if it's been burned. Luckily, Stiles already has his fingers coiled tight around the material of the bag and is tossing it into the dumpster, wiping his hands off on his pants afterward and throwing Derek another grin.

Derek stands there, hand still outstretched just slightly from his body where it had been holding the bag a full ten seconds earlier, before he curls his fingers tight against his palm and shoves his entire hand as deep into his pocket as he can get it, warming it back up.

Stiles' skin was just so, bizarrely and otherworldly, cold. As if he had stuck his hand deep into a glass of ice water and left it to chill for at least half an hour, until he couldn't even feel his own bones anymore.

“You better mean that,” Stiles winks at him, casual as all get out. “Because I'm totally going to take you up on that.”

Derek decides not to tell Scott about the fingers thing. The fingers thing meaning the fact that Stiles' fingers – perhaps every single inch of him (not that Derek is thinking about that, holy shit) – are Antarctically cold. Polar bears and penguins and seals, and all that. Snow cold. Mostly because Scott would have a field day, and the harassment of Stiles would only get worse, and really, Derek doesn't know why Stiles' fingers were so cold.

There are tons of reasons why a person's fingers would be that cold. Recent handling with something cold, for starters and obviously. For all Derek knows, Stiles had just been rifling around in his freezer, and that's what his garbage bag was full of – old freezer meals and things he had to throw up because of their expiration dates. Of course. That makes sense.

It makes sense. It fucking makes sense.

And Derek would be more than happy to go on thinking this way, if it weren't for the fact that Scott is just so... “You know, I finally found out where he works!” ...obsessed.

Scott practically leaps over the back of the couch and falls on his ass right next to where Derek is sitting the second he gets home from work – tie hanging off his neck, face a little flushed from the sprint he must have done to get up here and tell Derek whatever it is he's found out. He reaches into the bowl perched in Derek's lap without asking and grabs an entire handful of caramel corn, unceremoniously shoveling it into his mouth in one go.

“And you're not going to believe it.” Voice muffled by the popcorn, but Derek understands just fine.

“Unless you found out that he works as the receptionist at Dracula's Castle,” Derek starts in a monotone, his entire attention focused on the television in front of him, “I really could care less.”

“Oh, dude,” Scott gives him a look that's meant to be serious and official, but comes off more ridiculous because of the popcorn kernels stuck all over his lips. “You're never going to -”

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose, and starts counting backwards from five...four...three...two...

“...the kid works at a blood bank.”

...one. Derek releases his nose, and turns his full attention onto Scott. Scott must like whatever he sees there, because his grin grows all wide and knowing, like told ya so!, and Derek can't decide whether he wants to sigh and submit to the idea that Scott might actually be onto something, or if he wants to punch Scott directly in his crooked jawline. “A blood bank. As in -”

“As in the place where mass amounts of blood are stored on any given day. As in a free for all, like, buffet for a vampire to go to town on!” Scott leans closer to him, lowering his voice and eyeballing the wall that divides their apartment and Stiles'. “You know...if he really is a vamp, he can probably hear this conversation right now.”

Both Scott and Derek turn to stare directly at that wall, and Derek would be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little wide-eyed and freaked out at the prospect. For all he's used to werewolves listening in on him and him listening in on humans and other creatures, something about the thought of a vampire in particular listening to him gives him...the creeps.

That all goes to shit when he attunes his hearing and catches the sound of what is unmistakably Stiles crunching on potato chips and watching reruns of The Office. Ha. Right. Real malicious creature of the night over there. That was a fun fifteen fucking seconds of giving in to Scott's little fantasy land.

“Do I have to remind you,” Derek throws his hands up in the air, abruptly turning away from Stiles' wall and sending Scott jerking back in surprise, “that we've seen him in sunlight about a dozen times now? You know, the thing most vampires are allergic to?

“Not all stereotypes are true you know!” Scott raises his chin in the air like this is the argument of all arguments. “Remember how everyone thinks we can turn into actual wolves?”

“Some of us can -”

“Right. Some. Not all. Maybe some vampires can go out in the sunlight and others can't.”

Derek hates to admit this, he really does...but Scott might have a point about that. There are thousands upon thousands of myths out there about all kinds of supernatural creatures, and vampires haven't exactly ever been left off of the role call in that regard. Everyone knows that vampires exist, sure, that they're out there, but the large majority of people, human or otherwise, do not like them.

Think about it. The legend goes that a vampire has to kill people in order to survive. Nine times out of ten, if a vampire is portrayed in a movie or a television show, it's this hypersexualized creature that seduces some unsuspecting victim into their clutches before snapping sharp fangs into their neck to drain them of blood while they're still aware and cognizant, suffering through it all.

Case in point, most vampires don't exactly scream at the top of their lungs what they are, or are even very interested in letting anyone whatsoever know. While Scott and Derek don't care about hiding themselves and don't care who finds out, if Stiles were really a vampire...he most likely doesn't want anyone finding out.

“You think the Sheriff's son is out there killing and feeding off people?” Derek doesn't like the way this sounds out loud – he really doesn't like thinking about Stiles doing anything like that, mostly because it doesn't compute, at all. Stiles killing someone? His mind rejects the idea, entirely.

Scott gives him a look. Like, suddenly, Derek is the fucking nutty one. “Who said anything about killing and eating people?”

“Uh – you every time you've called him a vampire?”

Utterly aghast, Scott rears his neck back and scoffs. “You know something?” He starts, rising up from the couch and taking a few steps away, like he doesn't even want to sit next to Derek anymore, like Derek's just offended Scott so much he can't stand it. “You have some serious prejudice to work through, Derek.”

Maybe. Derek blinks back at him and doesn't bother arguing, because maybe he does. He's never met one, never even really seen one outside of their unfair characterizations in media, and it's not like there are dozens of victims being carted into the morgue with strange, inexplicable bite marks on their necks, or graves being overturned from the inside out. If Stiles were really turning Beacon Hills into his own personal bite-buffet, there'd be evidence of it. The fact that Derek instantly assumes that if there's a vampire next door, then he must be a murderer might speak to the fact that Derek just doesn't understand.

But, also - “he has a heartbeat,” he reminds Scott loftily, narrowing his eyes. “Vampires don't have heartbeats or blood circulation, you know.”

Scott taps his chin, still standing a few feet away from the couch, and then looks Derek dead in the eyes. “Have you ever really listened to it, though?”

*

Stiles always wears sunglasses every single time he goes outside during the daylight. Overcast, cloudy, bright and sunny, raining, it doesn't matter – he steps outside and glances up at the sun through the lenses of his glasses, walks across the parking lot, and gets into his car, driving off wherever it is he goes so early in the morning every day. The sunglasses on their own aren't weird. People like sunglasses, even when they don't really need them.

The sunglasses (every single fucking time without fail) paired with everything else they've found out about him...weird. Suspicious. If he really were a vampire, and if he really were, er – allergic to the sun – then a pair of sunglasses wouldn't help him out at all, but still. It's hard for Derek not to squint and cock his head to the side when he sees Stiles moseying out to his car at six am every other day.

Because Derek has been paying attention to him. A lot of attention. More than he's really wiling to admit, because it's definitely fucking creepy and weird to borderline stalk someone like Derek has been doing. It's brought him some very interesting data to file away, though. He feels like Scott, like there should be a white board up in their living room with a crude cartoonish drawing of Dracula with Stiles is that you?? written above it and a list of details they've collected right beside it.

It would go something like this -

1.) Stiles definitely and without a doubt sleeps during the day and wakes up at night. His six am wanderings are the only time he goes out, and Scott has told Derek again and again that he's back in the parking lot and heading inside his apartment at seven on the dot every. Single. Time.
2.) They have never once smelled food cooking from Stiles' place – just the crinkle of plastic wrappers and the occasional crunch of a snack.
3.) His skin is pale white and ice cold (cue the dramatic music).
4.) He works at a god damn blood bank (and probably steals all the blood, the fiend).
5.) Scott wasn't wrong about his heartbeat. Derek has been listening to it as many times as he has the chance, sometimes lying awake at night glaring at the divide between his room and Stiles' apartment, just listening. And it's there, all right. Thump-thump, thump-thump, but the thing about it is that it's steady. As in, there's never been even a second of time where his heart has sped up, or slowed down – like he never gets anxious or scared or pent up or worried or any more calm than he already is. Which just isn't possible. Either he's the most relaxed person on planet earth, or...it's not real.
6.) The fucking sunglasses.

“The data is damning,” Scott says, rubbing at his chin like he's looking at a calculus problem.

“The data is inconclusive,” Derek argues.

“I found out his real name,” Scott turns to him, dropping his pen down on the coffee table and giving Derek a very serious look. “And I can't even fucking pronounce it -”

“How did you get his real name?”

Sheepishly, as sheepish as Scott ever fucking can be, he admits, “broke into the manager's office -”

“Oh, Jesus...”

“...it's foreign. It's from abroad, dude. It might even be...Transylvanian.”

For a second, just one second, Derek has a fantasy of grabbing Scott by the back of his neck and slamming his forehead into the coffee table as hard as physically possible. He fucking deserves it for that shit, honestly. He needs to move out. That much is fucking obvious – to a place where the sink pipes don't leak, the heat never spontaneously turns itself on in the dead of Summer, and where he doesn't have Scott McCall yapping in his ear about the weird next door neighbor who allegedly pilfers quarts of blood from the fucking blood bank.

Scott is positive that they've studied Stiles enough to have an answer, but Derek sits on the fence. There's no reason, no completely airtight reason, to immediately fly into a panic over living next to a vampire, because they've got nothing but vaguely suspicious activity to go on, here.

Of course, of course, the grace period had to end. Derek could only be cynical and logical for so long, until Stiles had to come and poke holes in his resolve with the tips of his probably razor sharp fangs.

Derek is outside fairly late at night, nearing one o'clock in the morning, leaning over the balcony and listening to Scott snore through his open bedroom window. It's not even October, not yet, so it stays warm to hot during the day but cools off crisp and nice at night, smelling like dead leaves and firewood smoke somewhere off in the mountains.

He's nursing at a beer, since it's Friday night and why the fuck not, and he's pointedly trying not to think about his next door neighbor. Which is why Stiles probably chose right then to come bumbling into the parking lot in his blue Jeep, the engine roaring somewhat pitifully and the tires creaking over the speed bumps as he slides himself into his marked spot. It's only two cars away from where Derek's sits, Scott's in between them, and Derek stares.

Stiles slides out, a large paper bag in his hand. He slams his door, the sound echoing against the building in the dead-silence of the night, and starts walking as slow as ever towards the front doors.

Even if Derek hadn't been keeping such close tabs on Stiles for the past couple of weeks, he still would've sniffed around to find out what was in the bag. It's a werewolf thing; it's like he doesn't truly know the definition of privacy or personal business or things he doesn't need to know about.

But this? This is definitely something that he didn't need to fucking know about.

Two sniffs, that's all it takes, and Derek is positive.

That's blood in that bag. And a fucking lot of it, without a doubt. The metallic smell is slightly stifled by a plastic fog over the top, but it's unmistakable.

Stiles is walking inside the building at one o'clock in the morning with a paper bag filled with fucking packaged blood, casual as if it's a bag of regular groceries and holy shit. For him, that is regular groceries, because he's – he's a fucking -

Stiles abruptly, yet slowly all the same, slides his eyes to where Derek is standing on his third floor balcony. They lock eyes, because Derek can't fucking tear his eyes away, as if he's just that startled and that shocked, and for whatever reason, Derek really feels like Stiles is standing right there next to him on the balcony. He feels – a presence. Jesus Christ. Holy shit.

Right before Stiles vanishes into the double doors, his lips curve upwards into a smirk.

*

“Hey,” Stiles calls to him from his door. Derek is standing at his own, fumbling with his keys and a bag of Chinese take out in his free hand, and Stiles is sticking half of his body out the door, cocking his head to the side as he appraises Derek.

Derek drops his keys as soon as they lock eyes, and curses. For some reason, his hands have started shaking.

Stiles acts like this hasn't happened, and keeps his neighborly voice on. “Does this place do anything special for Halloween?”

Halloween? Derek picks his keys up, and looks up to meet Stiles' eyes again. Stiles smiles at him, two rows of eerily shiny white teeth, and Derek can't help but imagine them, like, maiming someone. Which maybe isn't fucking fair because Derek has teeth sharp enough in his own mouth to maim, but the main difference is, he never has before. Derek has never fucking maimed, but he's not so positive that Stiles hasn't. “Uh -”

“Is there a party?” Stiles slides out of his apartment languidly, a plastic pharmacy bag dangling from his fingers. He seems hopeful to hear the answer, practically leaning forward on the balls of his feet in anticipation. Christ, Derek thinks. A vampire obsessed with Halloween. How much more stereotypical can it possibly get?

“Not at all,” Derek says honestly. “We don't even get trick-or-treaters.” Still, Scott usually buys a value sized bag of candy and puts it in a bowl, but it all winds up in wrappers around the couch while a cheesy horror film plays and Scott snores.

Stiles visibly deflates, letting out a long breath from his mouth in disappointment. “Aw, damn. I bought decorations and all.” He glances at his door, and then slides his eyes over to Derek once again. Derek has started fishing around in his keys again, almost near desperately, because something about having Stiles' eyes directly on him, thinking about the smirk he had given Derek only the night before that neither of them are probably ever going to mention, has him on fucking edge.

It's the unknown, Derek guesses. The mystery of it all. Stiles could be a cold blooded killer, or he could just be a blood thief. Either way, it's...unsavory.

The weirdest part about it is that it's almost not. It's almost enticing. Derek has half a mind to stand back up, push open Stiles' door, and just see what's in there. A coffin, or a tombstone, or blood red walls.

“It's October first, you know.”

Derek's got his key, and is pushing it into the lock, nodding. “I've got a calendar.”

Stiles laughs, the sound tinkling. When Derek glances up at him, he nearly drops the fucking takeout.

Either because Stiles thinks it's a funny game he's playing, or because he really just has that kind of dark sense of humor, he's taping up a flat caricature of, no-fucking-joke, Dracula onto his front door. It looks like the Count from Sesame Street. It's got a doofy smile with fangs sticking out, a cape, and is waving at the observer, which in this case, would be Derek.

As soon as the tape is smoothed over, Stiles turns and looks over his shoulder, makes more meaningful eye contact with Derek. “What's yours gonna be?” He asks, raising a single eyebrow. “Fido? Lassie?”

Dog jokes. He's cracking dog jokes. Because he knows good and well that Scott and Derek are werewolves, even though they never told Stiles that, even though they've never even dropped a hint or shifted or acted oddly in front of him, or any of it – and he knows, he fucking knows, because he can tell, because he's -

Derek gets the door open, slams it behind him, and presses his back up against it.

Holy shit, he thinks, while Scott waves his personal pair of chopsticks around in the air in excitement. Holy...shit...

He buys garlic. A lot of it. He hides it in his underwear drawer (who needs Bath and Body works when he's got his own set of garlic boxers?), along with a crucifix (minus the dead guy) and a stick he fashioned into a stake with his claws. Part of him feels stupid, feels like Scott, and another part of him just feels even more stupid. The entire situation is fucking dumb. And yet.

He also doesn't tell Scott, but he starts having these fucking dreams about a bat that follows him around, no matter how many times he tries to smack it out of the air, or dodge it, or lose it somewhere in the crowd of a city, it stays. Perches on his shoulder. Watches him.

Maybe he should've told Scott.

He comes home after work, tired and irritable, and opens up his front door, to find Stiles the Vampire sitting on his living room couch, blinking serenely at him and smiling. Derek nearly slams the door and walks back out into the hallway.

For a couple of seconds, they hold their eye contact. Stiles doesn't say anything, not a fucking word, but his smile just grows bigger and bigger as the moments pass, as if he's translating something to Derek telepathically, or they're having a conversation in the dead space between them. What's being said, Derek can't fully grasp, but he has a sense that it goes something like well? What are you going to do, wolf?

Historically, as the legends go, vampires and werewolves have never gotten along. There are dozens upon dozens of explanations for this, including shit like vampires being hell-demons and werewolves being the protectors of man, or vampires and werewolves battling it out for the top tier of creatures in hell, or vampires and werewolves being like dogs and cats, or a curse, or magic, and on and on and on. Derek's never believed in any of that.

The way Stiles is looking at Derek is a challenge, make no doubt about it, but it's not...like that. It's not a carnal and primal desire to win in the sense of a species, but it's something else. Charged and heated, a dare.

Derek suddenly feels as though he has a choice to make, for whatever reason, though what the options are, he can't even fathom just yet.

“Derek!” Scott's voice cuts in, and Derek looks away from Stiles right when Stiles looks away from him as well. “I invited Stiles over finally.”

He doesn't know how adept Stiles is at reading body language, or signals, unspoken cues, but Derek can hear loud and clear what's being said between the lines, just from Scott's general demeanor and tone of voice. I invited Stiles over to see if he'll eat real human food and not bite into our necks and leave us disoriented and dizzy with no memory of what happened.

A quick flick of his eyes over to Stiles, the smirk and the challenge in his eyes, and Derek thinks Stiles is just fine at hearing what isn't being said. All the same, he just sits there, beer dangling limply from his fingers as though he's only taken a sip at most, looking like he's making himself right at home. Derek doesn't know if he's terrified or – or something else.

“And, good news, he brought -” a lamb to sacrifice? A quart of blood? A virgin? “...a pizza!”

When Stiles spreads his lips over his teeth and says, “I hope you like meat,” Derek knows then and there that Stiles is playing a game. He's figured out that Derek, at least, has figured it out, and he's loving every single second of tossing the line out again and again, waiting for Derek to latch on and do something about it.

The issue is, Derek doesn't know if it's malicious or all in good fun. With vampires, it's almost impossible to tell. He could be having a good laugh about it, all innocent, or he could be...cat and mouse. Stiles the cat, and Derek the mouse. The slaughter and the sheep.

The even bigger issue is that there's no fight or flight response, there. Derek sort of wants Stiles to push it, over and over, he wants Stiles to raise his eyebrows and smirk and dangle the worm in front of him. For whatever reason, Derek doesn't mind the mind games.

He swallows, nods his head, and says, “sure. Meat is great.”

“Cool,” he sips his beer, watches with shrewd eyes as Derek drops his keys into their usual spot on its hook, takes his jacket off, hangs that up as well. “I hardly ever get to eat meat pizza.”

Scott and Derek share eye contact, Scott's mouth practically going half unhinged, and then they both look back to Stiles expectantly – waiting for an explanation. Seeing this, Stiles straightens up a little, the slightest smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“...my ex-boyfriend was a vegetarian.”

Was. More eye contact with Scott and Derek. Scott's got this smile on his face that Derek can't even really put into words, but if he had to attempt it, he'd say it's something like the way a person smiles when there's a scream trapped behind their lips, coming out between grit teeth, eyes all huge in his head as if he's just seen a dark entity rise up out of their floor. Derek feels a little bit like screaming with his mouth closed, too.

Stiles taps his fingers on his knee, looks between Scott and Derek. He cocks his head to the side, appraising them for a moment. “We broke up.”

Even at the clarification, neither Scott nor Derek deflate back into calm. So what if they broke up, Derek thinks? For all he knows, that's vampire speak for I ate him when he tried to leave me – he doesn't fucking know. And it's not like he can very well ask – so, uh, where'd you hide the body?

“The whole vegetarian thing got to me,” Stiles continues on like he can't sense the tension in the room, ignoring the fact that Scott and Derek are both standing a good and safe ten feet away from where Stiles is sitting with no sign that they're going to approach him at any point. “Like, it's one thing if you don't eat meat, but it's another when you give everyone who does a glare like they're slaughtering an entire village right before your eyes.”

Oh, God. Slaughtering villages. Derek gets an unwelcome mental image of some feudal kingdom in the 1400's with children fleeing in terror, a few huts lit on fire, Stiles himself sinking his teeth into some woman's neck as blood drips down her shoulders and chest.

“Is that why you guys broke up?” Scott asks – his voice is weirdly high pitched, as though he's straining to not start yelling.

Stiles leans back into the couch, spreading out like an octopus claiming territory, and shrugs. “More or less.”

Derek doesn't even have the time or energy anymore to dissect that, so he doesn't. He puffs out a breath, makes a hand gesture like fucking quit it to Scott once Stiles' eyes are elsewhere for a moment, and approaches the couch. As he moves closer, Stiles folds in on himself a bit to make room for him, a small smile on his lips as Derek perches himself almost as far away from Stiles as he can manage. “So,” Derek starts, noting the way Scott vanishes a bit too quickly into the kitchen. “Your dad's the Sheriff.”

“Yeah,” Stiles nods. “Captain Incarceration, as I call him.” He laughs quietly at his own joke, rolling his eyes like he knows how fucking stupid it is, but doesn't care.

“Have you ever been arrested?” Scott's voice is muffled, and there's the distinct sound and smell of pizza being cut up into sections for consumption. “Just wondering because it'd be funny if your dad had to arrest you.”

Stiles plants his chin into his palm. “Everyone always asks that.”

Derek wonders if everyone always asks him that while lowkey truthfully wondering if the Sheriff has ever gotten Stiles out of a murder charge.

“...I've never been arrested, no,” he gives Derek a look that speaks to some level of conspiracy, like they're in on something together. “Not yet, at least.”

Derek looks away from him and stares dead ahead at the wall, curling his fingers into his palms and taking a deep breath. A part of him really wants to grab Stiles, shake him, while shouting stop fucking around!!, even knowing good and well that Stiles would probably just smirk at him and raise his eyebrows and be a little shit about it.

A piece of pizza gets dropped into his lap, and then Derek is looking up just in time to see Scott holding another slice on a paper plate out to Stiles. Who accepts with a thank you, and then drops the slice into his lap.

For a second, he just sits there, pizza going untouched even though Derek and Scott are both moving into their third or fourth bites. It becomes glaringly apparent that Stiles isn't fucking eating anything by the time that Derek is crunching on his crust and Scott is wiping the grease off his hands and picking up his empty plate like he's going to get another piece.

Then, it turns into Derek and Scott staring at Stiles expectantly, both of their mouths open. No way is he going to sit there not eating the pizza he brought, no way, no way, he'd have to know how suspicious that would look.

Sensing their eyes on him, he turns to them and looks at them each individually for seconds at a time, before glancing down at his own slice going cold. He smiles at it, as if it's just told him a funny fucking joke, and then deposits his beer down on the coffee table. With no coaster.

Then, he scoops his slice up, glances to Derek and Scott, and takes a single bite. Chews it, chews it, swallows. He has this look on his face like he's just done eighteen back flips in a row, or won an Olympic gold medal, or proven an entire room of people wrong.

Derek rises from the couch, nearly brains himself tripping over the leg of the coffee table, and announces, “I need help in the kitchen, Scott,” with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever.

Scott nods his head emphatically, backing his way into the kitchen without taking his eyes off of where Stiles is seated on the couch. “Right.”

As soon as they're both in there, hidden behind the divide between the kitchen and the living room, Derek is crowding Scott back up against the wall and saying, “he's a vampire.”

“I knew it!” Scott whisper-hisses, pointing a finger into Derek's face with conviction. “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I told you, I said!”

“Be that as it may -”

“You said, oh, whatever, Scott,” Scott's Derek impression consists mostly of a deep gravelly voice, even though Derek definitely doesn't have one, and a frown deepening his face. “...you're always wrong, you're suspicious and paranoid, blah blah -”

“You are always wrong, you are suspicious, and you are paranoid.”

“Except this time!” Scott jabs his finger into Derek's chest, and gets a proud look on his face. “I called it.”

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose, and breathes deeply through his nose. “Look. I have something to tell you, all right? I didn't tell you this at the time, because I didn't want to freak you out...”

“Oh, fucking Mother Mary,” Scott grips his fingers into Derek's shirt, voice going so low and quiet he thinks that even his werewolf hearing wouldn't be able to pick it up if they weren't standing so close together. “You saw him kill someone. Oh God. It's happening. It's happening.”

“What? No!” That's loud enough that Scott is slapping a hand over Derek's mouth, while pressing a single finger to his own lips. Once the hand is removed Derek says, in a much quieter voice, “no. I just – this isn't a big deal. But a few nights ago, I saw him coming into the building pretty late and he -” he pauses, assessing Scott's face for a moment. No matter what he says, Scott is going to flip the fuck out, so with a deep breath, he admits, “...he had a bag full of blood with him.”

Scott punches him directly in the face. Since they had been standing so close together, there's not as much force behind it as there could have been, but Scott definitely wasn't holding back. Derek staggers a few feet, hissing out a curse of pain and rubbing at his jaw.

Thus ensues what would've been shaping up to be one of their more interesting fights if it hadn't been for the fact that they both have to whisper to each other. “You hid that from me -”

“Jesus Christ -”

“You just didn't want me to be right, and now we could both wind up -”

“Is this really the time -”

“Come here – let me punch you again -”

Then, as though it's a disembodied spirit calling to them, Stiles' voice interrupts everything. “Everything okay in there?” Scott and Derek freeze – Scott grabbing onto the collar of Derek's shirt, cocking his fist, Derek with his claws out about to wrap a hand around Scott's throat.

“We're fine,” they both call out at the same time, glaring at each other. The realization that Stiles probably just heard every single word they said dawns on them both at the same time, or at least most of it, and slowly, they pull away from one another, straightening out their clothing and muttering under their breaths.

Yet, he hasn't reacted much. A quick peek from behind the divide shows Stiles sitting there picking hunks of meat off his pizza and eating them one by one, licking grease off his fingers, like nothing whatsoever has happened. If he's really a vampire -

Well. No. He is a vampire. That much is clear and evident.

All the same, he had to have heard. Derek doesn't know a whole bunch about vampires and their abilities, but they should have hearing better than the average human, right? It's part of being an apex predator.

But he just sits there. Derek narrows his eyes, before pulling his head back in to meet Scott's eyes. “What are we going to do?” Scott asks, shaking his head with wide eyes. “We don't even know – I mean – he could be, like, evil. Legitimately.”

“He didn't use a coaster,” Derek snaps, thinking about the ring that's going to be left over on his coffee table from that ridiculous beer that Stiles has barely even taken three sips out of.

“That's the mark of evil if I've ever seen it,” Scott concurs with just the slightest hint of sarcasm. “This is serious. There could be an actual murderer sitting on our couch right now, and all you can think about -”

“Okay, fuck. Okay. He could be evil.”

“What do we do!”

Derek rubs at his jaw, raising his eyes to the ceiling, and tries to think. Thus far, Stiles hasn't done a single fucking thing to suggest that he actually maims and kills people. All he's done is be creepy and odd and altogether generally unsettling, but other than that...They haven't seen him attack anyone, he hasn't threatened them, he's made no moves to bite anyone, and none of the buildings' tenants have gone mysteriously missing since he moved in.

The only thing they've got on him is that bag of blood. That feels damning, and of course it is, but the only reason Derek even instantly assumed he was going to eat it is because – well. What else would a vampire do with that much blood?

“I'm going to talk to him,” Derek says matter-of-factly, and Scott makes an abortive motion.

“Bad idea,” he says emphatically. “Bad idea. We don't know his motives -”

“A good guess has his motives at survival, Scott,” Derek rolls his sleeves up as though he's about to do hard manual labor, rubs at his forehead, and sighs. “Has he ever for five seconds given you the impression he was going to physically harm you?”

Scott deflates just slightly. “Well...no, but -”

“It's fucking pointless to not communicate with one another.” It is, a little bit. Both Scott and Derek are werewolves, and Stiles is a vampire, and all three of them know what the other is, and they aren't talking about it. It's just been this weird double entendre back and forth, and back and forth, everyone dancing around the same subject but none of them ever breaching it.

Since the world is still mostly humans, supernaturals tend to stick together. Solidarity, right? It's stupid to pretend like they don't know what's going on right in front of their eyes.

“I'm going to talk to him,” Derek says, straightening up to his full height. “It'll be very civil.”

When he comes out into the living room, Stiles is standing up and peering at their DVD collection placidly, scanning his eyes over the titles and more or less acting like he didn't just hear a single word of that.

He turns at Derek's approach, raises his eyebrows, and that just about does it. Derek grabs him by his shirt collar and slams him back against the front door, rattling it hard enough that the wall shakes just slightly. Stiles leers up at him, cocking his head to the side, like he's not even a little bit afraid of Derek – not at all. Just like always, his heartbeat remains steady and strong, no falter or uptick.

“What's the deal with you?” Derek demands, ever the eloquent opening, even though he already knows Stiles' deal, has gone through the steps to figure it out for himself, that Scott has, too.

Stiles raises his eyebrows again, shifts just slightly underneath Derek's grip like he's getting more comfortable. “You seem to be the one who has a deal; you're the one shoving me up against a wall, right now.”

Derek growls low in the back of his throat, and Stiles grins. “Fucking – just level with me. Let's not play games -”

“I thought we were having fun -”

“- you know that I know. I know you know that I smelled all that blood that night. Unless you're running a blood transfusion operation in your apartment, which I highly doubt,” like this is hilarious to him, Stiles huffs out a laugh, and Derek talks right over it, “you're – you were -”

With a sigh, Stiles rolls his eyes and thumps his head back against the wall. “I ate it, yeah.”

The information is out there. Like Stiles just told him his real name, or his hometown, or what he studied in college, he's just fucking admitted it. Derek thinks that maybe he should recoil back and away, kick Stiles out, never talk to him again, tell his building manager that Stiles is a fucking vampire and dangerous and a risk, because after all, creatures that feed on the shit that give other people life are not exactly welcome in modern society. And Derek shouldn't have one in his apartment.

But he stays there, hand fisted into Stiles' shirt, and doesn't even angle his body away from him. He just nods his head, face twisting into something crossed between resignation and something like bafflement.

“Why don't you ask what you really want to ask?” Stiles prompts, voice low but not nervous. “You want to know, so just ask.”

Derek swallows, and then braces himself. “Are you going to try and kill me?”

The reaction Stiles gives him is not the way a person should react to that question, not at all. He rolls his eyes again, but gives this tiny little smile like he was so hoping those words would come out of Derek's mouth. “I hate to let you down, but I don't really eat dog.”

It's a metaphorical microphone drop, so Stiles shoves Derek's hand off of him as easy as swatting a fly – which is unnerving because he's never, never seen a person who looks and acts like a human have the ability to overpower him like that – and starts trying to skirt out of Derek's personal space. But Derek grabs him again, right on the part of his arm not covered up by his shirt, and flinches slightly at the feel of Stiles' cold skin underneath his warm fingers.

“So you admit it,” Derek growls in a low voice. “You eat people.”

“For fuck's sake,” Stiles' eyes go back to the ceiling again, like he's talking to God. “Remind me never to make jokes with werewolves present – you guys take everything so literal.”

“Is there another way to take that?” Derek snaps, growling again. “You eat blood.”

Like he's offended, now, finally, after all this time at playing so fucking chill and cool all the time, Stiles bristles. His jaw tightens and he narrows his eyes, raising his chin in challenge. “Animal blood, you fucking asshole.”

Derek blinks at that. “I thought -”

“You thought I stole people's blood from my work, in spite of the fact that that blood is literally used to save people's lives, and drank it in my apartment. Or that I slink out every night to corner someone on the street, lure them into a back alley, just to bite their necks. Is that about the gist of what you thought?”

Bizarrely, Derek feels like a chastised little kid. His cheeks color in shame and he loosens his grip on Stiles' arm until his hand fall limply down to his own side. Stiles tries to keep their eye contact, eyes blazing, but Derek looks away.

“I've never killed anyone,” Stiles says in a low voice. And really, the thing about this that makes Derek feel the most horrible, is that it sounds like he's had to say it before. Over and over again. “I'm not like you wolves, all right? I'm not a species, I'm a thing. I get that.” Derek opens his mouth to interject because of course, of course Stiles isn't a thing, but Stiles keeps going. “But I'm not a monster.”

Derek thinks about the legend (myth, story, lie maybe) that vampires don't have souls, that they're undead leeches, that they're dragged down into Hell and then claw their way back up and out. When he looks at Stiles in front of him, that's just not what he sees. “I shouldn't have – said that. Me and Scott, we -” they've been assholes. That much is apparent, now. Then, quieter, more mumbled like it's being pulled out of him with a string, “sorry.”

Stiles straightens his shirt out, smooths his languid fingers over the fabric, and nods. “You're a dick,” he says without preamble. “If I were out there biting people, you'd be first in line, bucko.”

The threat is without a doubt lessened by bucko, so Derek just blinks at him. “I thought you said you don't eat dog.”

“Who said anything about eating you?” Stiles grins, his teeth all out on display, and Derek can't help running his eyes over them a few times, again and again, wondering what they look like when he lets his fangs come out, how long they get. “I'd just bite your throat out.”

The worst part about it is, Derek knows without even having to see any evidence or proof that Stiles could. Werewolf or not, healing or not, Stiles could fucking do it. “You don't scare me, Stiles.”

Stiles laughs, smooths his shirt out one more time before affectively shoving Derek out of the way and opening up the front door, shaking his head. “Yeah, I do. And your little friend, too. It's funny.” Right before he slams the door shut behind him, he turns and looks Derek dead in the eyes, that same smirk from before on his face. “And by the way. Garlic? A stake? Really?”

Stiles isn't evil.

He's just an asshole. Not like he didn't righteously deserve to be an asshole towards Scott and Derek and the way they acted about him, how they spoke about him and the things they said, but still. He's a fucking asshole and he knew that he was playing around with Scott and Derek and making them fifteen thousand times more freaked out by him than Stiles really deserves, all things said, and he probably thought the entire shenanigan from start to finish was hilarious.

All the same, Derek and Scott feel bad. Scott had tried to punch a Derek a second time after Stiles had left, but for entirely different reasons, that time. Really, Stiles had said from the start that all he wanted was some new friends, probably directly related to the fact that he had broken up with his boyfriend and was feeling lonely in a new place, and Scott and Derek had turned him into the boogeyman, preying on innocents and leeching his way into their lives just so he could eat them as soon as their backs were turned for a second.

Put in that perspective, it's hard to feel like anything but a dick. Derek tries blaming Scott for the start of it, but Scott shirked that responsibility off by claiming that Derek was the one who went too far. He was the one who shoved Stiles up against a wall like they were about to fight each other, and snarled in his face that he suspected Stiles fucking eats people for a living.

Since that night, Scott and Derek haven't seen Stiles much aside from the occasional glance at him from a distance – walking to or from his car, ominous paper bags and all, or taking his garbage out, or vanishing behind the doors of the elevator without trying to hold the doors open for either of them. Late at night, when Derek can't sleep, he hears Stiles moving around in his apartment, the crinkle of packages opening, the television playing on quiet (probably out of respect for the wolves' hearing, which just makes Derek feel worse.)

It's a solid week of awkward tension, and Derek doesn't think he can stand it for another second – so on his way back home from work, he stops at Stiles' door and takes a deep breath. He looks at the smiling Dracula staring at him, narrows his eyes, and knocks.

It's quiet for a second, and then he hears Stiles' leisurely footfalls padding across carpeting before the door pulls open and he's standing there.

He squints against the lights in the hallway, frowning, and when he adjusts his eyes, he gives Derek a befuddled look. He's got on his sweatpants and old t-shirt combo, no shoes or socks, and his hair is a mess.

“Sorry,” Derek opens with, curling his fingers around his keys. “I didn't mean to – uh – wake you up.” He had thought that six o'clock at night would be a good a time as any, but he forgot about Stiles' sleeping patterns.

“No big deal,” Stiles drawls, voice raspy with sleep. “I have to be at work in a couple hours anyway.”

They stand there for a second, staring at each other. Stiles taps his fingers against the side of his door, and Derek fumbles with his keys, and neither of them say anything. There could be a lot of things they could say, he guesses, but it feels like there's no really good starting point.

Finally, Stiles swings his door open all the way, gestures behind him, and says, “wanna come in?”

All the things that Derek was imagining in his head, based on movies he's seen of vampires livng in crypts and sleeping out of stone tombs with human skulls used for decorations, it couldn't have prepared him for what Stiles' apartment is actually like.

It looks just like Derek and Scott's does, the same configuration and floor plan, but Stiles has much less furniture. Much less. There's a couch and a television and some book shelves, but other than that...nothing. A quick glance into the kitchen as Stiles leads him to the couch reveals a room that looks like it's never been used once – it still vaguely smells like the cleaning supplies that the building uses when tenants move out, just a bit muted from the dust that's gathered everywhere except for around the microwave that Stiles must have brought in himself.

Right. Because Stiles probably doesn't cook much. Or at all.

He doesn't flick on a light, and there are dark black sheets hanging over the windows – that's the most stereotypical thing about the entire apartment, actually. The only thing that speaks to Stiles being what he is. It's a good thing that Derek can see in the dark either way, because his entire apartment is pitch black, and cold, as though he's never touched the heat.

“Spooky, right?” Stiles asks him. Even though he's kidding, there's definitely an undercurrent of something charged there, a hint of annoyance, like he's baiting Derek into an argument. “The home of a cold blooded killer.”

Derek rubs his forehead as Stiles plops himself onto his couch. “Look. We got off on the wrong foot -”

Stiles snorts.

“...but maybe we could. You know. Start over.”

In the dark, Stiles blinks up at him, and Derek wonders if he has even better vision than werewolves do in the dark. His eyes don't have a cat-like sheen over them or anything, but Derek can definitely see them in his skull better than he would a human in these circumstances. It's silent for a moment, Stiles looking like he's appraising Derek up and down, trying to decide if he's at all even interested anymore in making his acquaintance, and then he huffs out a sigh.

Without another word, he's reaching forward to his coffee table and grabbing a familiar looking paper bag. As soon as it's opened up, the smell of bloodbloodbloodbadwrong hits Derek directly in the nostrils and he straightens up, tightening his shoulders, making sure he doesn't react. Outside of hospitals, Derek has never smelled that much blood out in the open like that.

“I get this from the butcher,” he starts, pulling out a single packet and holding it in the palm of his hand. It looks exactly like Derek would expect it to look. “We have a deal. You can probably guess that I'm not exactly walking around with a name tag on my shirt that reads Vampiles, so – not many people know about...” he grits his teeth and brings his hands up to his mouth, making fangs out of his fingers.

So he does have fangs. Derek wonders what his shifted face looks like, or if he even has one.

“...he's one of the only people who knows about me. You know, he gives me this look when I come to pick it up,” Stiles rips open the packet, shaking his head. “I can tell he thinks that I'm going to get bored or tired or hungry, some day, and just – but whatever. I'm used to that. It's why I don't tell people, you know?”

Right before Derek's very eyes, Stiles sniffs at the blood in the packet, and a soft hiss filters out from between his teeth. Derek remembers that time that Scott swore he heard hissing from Stiles' apartment, how Derek had rolled his eyes and went back to sleep. It's definitely unsettling, Derek has to admit that.

“I get it, though. It's funny how many movies are made about how romantic the idea of being a vampire is, how glamorized we are, and then the second people actually find out I am one,” he shakes his head again, playing with a corner of his packet and huffing. “...I guess it isn't very romantic after all.”

He tilts his head back just slightly and tips the packet into his mouth. Derek has no choice but to stand there and watch, half in disbelief, as Stiles drinks pig or cow's blood out of a plastic bag like it's a juicebox to him, or something. Derek starts telling himself it's grape juice, it's fruit punch, and then immediately stops himself, because it's...not.

It's blood. Stiles needs blood to survive, and it's really not any different than buying a steak or ham or a hot dog. It's not. Different parts of the same creature.

He pulls away once the packet is drained – entirely. Not a drop is left, because Stiles dips his finger into the plastic and scoops up the last bits clinging to the sides, sucking it off his own skin. “There are people like me who do go out and kill people and act just like the movies, but I've never...met any of them.” He's quiet for a second, crunching up what's left of the packet in his hand before his voice goes soft. “I've never met another person like me, ever. Except for when -” he stops. Doesn't finish, and Derek doesn't ask.

Derek can't imagine that. Growing up, he had his family, and then his pack. Always, and all the time, he's had other wolves around him, people just like him to learn from and aspire to be like, kindred spirits in the big world dominated by humans. Even beyond that, going out in public, he always encounters at least one other wolf in his travels.

He cannot imagine what it would be like to be the only werewolf in his own world, to have no one there for him on full moons. It sounds lonely.

“Anyway,” Stiles starts, voice loud in the silence and the dark. “It's funny to me sometimes how people act like I'm going to bite their throats out at any given moment.” He smirks up at Derek and raises an eyebrow, almost like he's saying like you two idiots next door. “Other times, though, it's really not that funny.”

Derek clears his throats and speaks for the first time since Stiles started. “I've never met another vampire either, so I just – we just -”

“It's fine,” Stiles waves him off with the hand still clutching the empty blood packet. “You didn't actually wind up staking me through the heart at any point, so – no real damage done.”

“...would that have actually -”

“Nope,” Stiles says with half a laugh, shaking his head. “You can't kill me.”

Derek rolls that sentence around in his head for a moment, not comprehending. “You mean, I can't kill you with a stake.”

“I mean,” Stiles rises to a standing position, grinning. “You literally cannot kill me. Toss me out into the sun, and I'm like, cool. Stake me through the heart and it fucking hurts, but I usually just pull it out and get really fucking pissed off. Holy water bath is like any other bath. Crucifixes are just pieces of wood.”

“If I ripped your head off, though.”

Stiles laughs. He tosses his head back, his entire body shaking, and laughs, and Derek doesn't really get the joke. “If you can rip my head off, sure. I guess you could get me that way. Or, you know. Chain me up and starve me. But they don't call it immortality for shits and giggles.”

In all the time that Derek and Scott spent debating over Stiles' predilection, that word never came up before. Immortaility. They had been so focused on the blood, and the killing, and the maiming, that they never really thought about that particular aspect of the whole vampire thing, when, really, it's one of the most obvious things about his kind. It's what all the movies and romances love so much about them – eternal love, or whatever the fucking hell. That's what's so great about vampires, what stands out among the rest, according to popular opinion.

And Derek hadn't even thought about it. But now he is.

Stiles reads his facial expression right as he's tossing his garbage away, and turns back around to give him a full body look. His mouth twitches, before he smiles wide. Even in the dark, Derek can make out the blood staining his stark white teeth, and he swallows audibly. “That freaks you out,” Stiles accuses in a revelation-type voice.

Derek shakes his head. “No, it -”

“It does.” He takes a step forward, and Derek has to literally tense his body up to not take a step back. “Oh, my God. You're scared right now.”

If Stiles is as perceptive as vampires are meant to be, then there's no use in denying it.

“Out of all the things about me to get weirded out by, the fact that I can't die is what's really getting you freaked.”

“It's not about the fact that you can't die,” at least not the way a human or any other living creature would. Derek looks away from Stiles briefly, towards the thin bits of light filtering in through the black sheets on his windows, and nervously scratches at his hair. “...how old are you?”

Stiles laughs again. “Oh, okay. So you're freaked out because you think I was born in 1456 and, like, met Hitler, or something.”

Hitler wasn't the first person that came to mind in Derek's mental rotary of things and people that Stiles might have seen if he had really been alive for longer than a hundred years, but – yeah, okay. Meeting someone who met Hitler in the flesh would be something else.

“I was born in 1990, dumbass.”

“Then why -”

“I age.” He pauses, squinting off into a corner of the room. “Sorta.”

Sorta. Derek can't with that, right now. So he doesn't. He just rubs at his face, takes a step back, and mutters something like need a second to process under his breath. Stiles stands back and watches, a smile on his face, as Derek begins to pace.

“I'm never going to die of old age,” Stiles says resolutely, his eyes moving like he's watching a tennis match as Derek continues to move back and forth over the carpet, and Derek thinks that's not fucking helping. “I always figured I'd just off myself once the time came.”

Derek stops pacing. Turns and faces Stiles with an expression on his face that he can't even feel himself, or understand. Stiles stares back at him placidly, and then shrugs.

“Kind of morbid, but like...” he gestures to himself, then the room at large, as if this is somehow an answer, or an explanation. “...I don't really want to live forever.”

People literally line up in droves to see people like Stiles live forever, they fantasize about it, spend their entire lives trying to figure out a way to do it, read books about people who don't die, write books about it, songs, plays, every thing – and here's Stiles. Standing here saying he doesn't want it.

“I never wanted any of this,” he goes on, looking bashful for the first time since their conversation began. “Least of all that.”

“Why?” Derek asks.

Stiles huffs. He gets this look on his face like he's never before been asked this question, and most likely, he hasn't. He's probably never told anyone, not even his father, that he has plans of just getting it done and out of the way before he turns a hundred with the face of a 23 year old, or a 30 year old, or however the fuck that aging process even works.

“I've always thought that the main difference between kids and adults is – you know. The infinite as opposed to the finite. Like, when you're a kid, every thing feels so permanent and forever, and you can't imagine stuff ending or not being around anymore. When it happens, like -” he steps forward, reaching out like he's going to touch Derek, and then pulls away at the last second, something like shame crossing his features for reasons that Derek can't fathom. “...there was a book store when I was a kid, my favorite place, and I used to go there all the time. One day it closed down, and it absolutely blew my mind, because I didn't get how I wasn't going to be allowed to go in there and read books anymore. I thought it was a fixture, and anything else was just unthinkable. You know?

“Then I remember, when my mom died...” his eyes go listless for a second, looking away from Derek, as though he's choosing to vanish inside his own head, into a web of memories he has locked away in there. “...I was only eleven, but I think that's when I became an adult, really. That idea of nothing lasting forever was solidified there, and I couldn't really get rid of it. Kids – they don't get that. And as soon as they do get it, childhood is over.

“When I got turned, uh – when I got turned -” he stutters; most likely, it's been a long, long time since he's had to admit that he ever was turned out loud, “a couple weeks after that I fell out of a tree in my backyard, which would have, you know...killed me. Except it didn't. I remember lying there and feeling like a little kid again, because suddenly the world was all laid out before me in that same forever way that it was, back then, before all that happened, like...I could go anywhere. I could do anything. I had all the time in the world and I didn't have to worry.” He looks up, meets Derek's eyes head on. “I hate it. I was supposed to grow up, and I had plans, and all that – just gone. Everybody knows what I am is just a mockery of what a human is.”

Derek never thought of it that way. He doubts that anyone ever has, no one who's ever been mortal has ever, ever once considered that angle. People probably don't want to think about that, because then it's not so sexy and romantic anymore. It's just another way of living with its pros and cons, just like the regular way. You're born, you grow up, you die. Or, you're born, you grow up, you don't die.

Clearing his throat, Derek says the only thing he can think to say. “That's really fucked up.”

Stiles laughs, another one of his big ones, and Derek realizes that might be his coping mechanism. Shit, you have to have something to get by when you're – you know. Like he is. “It seriously is. But, I'm loving the no fear lifestyle, I guess. Crash my car, whatever. Fall off a building, who cares?”

That's the silver lining, at least. Stiles could go bungee-jumping and he wouldn't even get that fear, just a rush as he hurtles towards the ground, maybe a part of him hoping the cord does snap and he cracks his head open, just to come back to life twenty minutes later with one hell of a headache.

“I don't know. My point was that I don't really want to still be slinking around once everyone I know and care about is dead,” he shrugs. “And I'm not turning anyone else to be like me, because it – sucks. Sucks dicks. Among other things,” he winks, like he's just told the funniest joke of all time, and Derek cracks a small smile in spite of himself. Stiles rubs his arm, looks away, and then looks back at Derek, a smile on his face. “I've never really told anyone all that stuff before.”

Derek nods, because he doesn't know what to say.

“You're still a dick,” Stiles accuses, but with no real venom. “But you're a good listener, I guess.”

Derek holds his hand out, ostensibly for Stiles to shake, and Stiles eyeballs for a second, a bemused expression on his face. “Friends?”

For a moment longer, Stiles stares, making a big show out of considering it, or something. And then he latches his ice cold hand into Derek's, and shakes it firmly. “Whatever.”

*

“Has my package come?” Scott is leaning forward on the balls of his feet as Derek struggles to turn the key in the lock for their mailbox, crowding into his personal space, and in general being a fucking nuisance.

“I don't know,” Derek grits between his teeth, before finally managing to tear the stupid thing open. A whole handful of mail comes spilling out, falling all over the floor, and Derek growls under his breath. Scott just bends down and starts pawing through it, on the hunt for a package notification, sending the mail scattering even further across the ground.

He finds it, makes a sound of excitement, and then scurries off to the manager's office to grab whatever the hell it is he's ordered, leaving Derek with the mess. He rubs his forehead, before bending over to start collecting the letters and bills and – of course – Bath and Body Works ads.

As soon as he has it all collected into a manageable pile in his hand, he rises up into a standing position, and - “Hey.”

Derek jolts in surprise, looking up to find Stiles lurking there a couple of feet away, his own keys in his hand. He's dressed for the night, hair done carefully, and he has an ice cream in his hand. Derek narrows his eyes at it, and him, at the same time. “Jesus Christ,” he snaps, breathing out. “Don't do that.”

“Do what?” Stiles asks, eyes all innocent, spooning up a wad of ice cream and bringing it to his mouth. He knows good and well what.

“Scaring the shit out of me.”

“Just saying hello,” Stiles snorts, approaching his own box slowly, key already wielded in between his fingers. “Maybe you should be more aware of your surroundings.”

Right, Derek thinks. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to tell when Stiles is approaching – the kid moves so fucking quietly all the time, which...is the point, he guesses. Stiles is a predator, more or less. A cat stalking around in the dead of night.

“Got my package,” Scott interjects, clutching a giant brown box in his arms, eyes scanning over Stiles a couple of times with a familiar air of restrained suspicion. “What's up, Stiles?”

Stiles shrugs, pulling his own mail out and sorting through it. “Going to work is all.”

“At the blood bank.” There's just the faintest hint of amusement in Scott's tone.

“Yup,” Stiles nods.

“What's up with that?” Scott crowds closer, smacking Derek in the side with the end of his box. “Like...being around all that human blood all the time. Do you ever get – you know. Tempted?”

Derek is about to smack Scott upside the head for being a tactless stupid idiot, but Stiles just breathes a laugh through his nose and closes the door to his mailbox, rolling his eyes. “How often do you get tempted to chase a squirrel up a tree?”

...Sometimes, Derek admits in his own head quietly. Every now and then, he feels like chasing any number of small animals into the forest. It's – instinct. For Stiles, instinct is much, much different than that. But if Derek were dropped into a giant room filled with nothing but small animals for him to chase around, he doesn't know if he'd really be able to resist it. He can't imagine what it's like for Stiles to have to walk into a building that has gallons upon gallons blood filed away.

“Being around human blood isn't some big tax on my mental restraint,” Stiles continues on in a blasé tone of voice, like they're not discussing his primal instinct to consume human fluids. “I like the way it smells, but – not because I particularly want to eat it anymore than animal blood. With animals, it's just blood. With humans, it's deeper than that.”

Scott is staring at him with barely contained disgust, and Derek is leaning forward for some reason, interested. “What do you mean?”

Stiles meets his eyes, and smiles. “Well – animal blood is basic proteins and nutrients. It tastes good and all, but there's nothing there, you know? Substance wise. It's kind of void.”

“On that note,” Scott skirts past them towards the stairs, vanishing behind a corner, muttering under his breath about nasty.

Stiles watches him go, amused, and then turns back to Derek. “Human blood doesn't necessarily taste any better, but it's more interesting. I can smell things in it.”

Derek tries to remind himself that what they're talking about is, on all levels, taboo. If anyone overheard them, they'd probably flip out and try to stake Stiles in the eye, or something. Derek imagines Stiles grumbling in annoyance as he rips the thing out of his eye, tossing it back in the assailant's face, and smirks to himself. Even though it's not really funny? But it is? “Like what?”

“Experiences. Facts.”

Derek shouldn't ask. He really shouldn't fucking ask. But - “what do you smell in mine?”

Leaning up against the wall like he's gearing up for a nice long conversation, quickly checking the time on his phone, Stiles says, “you're a born wolf, right? And Scott was bitten.”

“You can smell that?” Jesus Christ. Derek wonders belatedly if Stiles might have an even better nose than Derek does – and Derek has a good nose. It's one of his strengths, his mother has always told him. But even he can only discern the difference between bitten and born wolves by observing them for long periods of time - really, the only bitten wolves around these days are the ones who were bitten to avoid a fatal illness - and sometimes, he's wrong.

“I can smell a lot,” Stiles says ominously, waving his fingers in the air like jazz hands, before snorting. “It's really not that deep. But I like it.”

Derek nods. “I bet that is sort of interesting. Being able to smell someone's blood and just knowing things about them.”

With a tilt of his head to the side, Stiles grins wide. If he's had any blood today, he's definitely brushed his teeth since then – Derek wonders if he has to buy special vamp-toothpaste, because there's not a single fucking stain on any of his teeth, in spite of his lifestyle. “I meant yours in specific.”

Once the bombshell is out there, Stiles is moseying towards the front doors and into the sunset to drive off to his job at the blood bank, and Derek just stands there for a second, blinking after him.

Out of all the compliments he's ever gotten, I like the way your blood smells has got to be the weirdest of all fucking time; not to mention creepy, weird, and ten different shades of gross.

Also, flattering. Derek clears his throat, ignores the blush rising on his cheeks that Stiles can probably smell even through the walls, and goes up to his apartment.

*

There's a gitchy diner on the other side of town that goes balls to the wall for every single holiday. On Christmas, they hire a Santa to wander around the restaurant taking present orders for all the kids while a singing Christmas tree screams the Jingle Bell Rock at top volume. For Thanksgiving, they put a fucking petting zoo of turkeys in the parking lot, and then casually drag one inside every day, presumably to kill and make their famous Thanksgiving sandwich out of (fried potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey all stuffed inside of a buttery toasted roll – Derek eats it once a week during November, not even caring about the fact that the friends of his food are gobbling out the window ten feet away from him.)

And for Halloween, they put up a giant inflatable pumpkin, overflowing bowls of candy at every table, and redesign the menu so everything suddenly has a ridiculous spooky name (Skelly-ton sandwiches, Witch's Brew soups, pumpkin flavored every single god damn thing). It's his sisters' favorite place on the face of the planet, and every Holiday month, he's there at least seven times with them, getting borderline attacked by a Santa or an Easter Bunny. Not that Derek minds. Cheesy shit aside, it's some of the best food in the area, and everyone knows it. Hence why even the eye-rollers like Derek all come here along with the less pessimistic.

At the moment, Laura is holding out a triangle of pumpkin chocolate chip Devil's Cake (which is just a pancake that they couldn't come up with a more clever name for) for Derek to take a bite of. The hands down worst thing about this place is that if you try to order something with a normal name (like, for example, french fries instead of fright fries) the waitresses all feign ignorance until you say the written, dumbass name of the thing. Derek had to order his Frankendog through grit teeth.

“Hey, Derek,” Cora says around a mouthful of Count Chocula shake. “Isn't that your neighbor?”

Derek turns, and of course, spots Stiles standing with his father in front of the bakery glass, pointing at a pumpkin shaped donut and leering at it like he's about to buy fifty of them. The Sheriff is in his uniform, as if this is his lunch break and he's been dragged here by force, standing with his arms crossed and frowning pointedly at the maniacally cackling witch they have flying around on a string across the entire restaurant. For a second, he just stares, mouth half open – because seeing Stiles out and about in broad daylight, sunglasses perched on top of his head, is one of the most bizarre things he's ever seen. Like seeing a teacher outside of school.

Especially since he looks so normal. He always has, Derek guesses, and always would have if Scott hadn't been so fucking paranoid to begin with, but there in his jeans and flannel shirt, buying a dozen donuts and directing his father to get a table (which he does, with a huff), he looks like a normal human, like half the people in here.

“It is,” Derek concurs.

“I thought you said he was strange,” Laura adds in, peering at him herself. “He seems fine to me.”

Derek almost laughs right in her face, because she really doesn't even know the fucking start of it – by then, Stiles has bought his donuts, and spotted Derek. Stiles freezes on sight, tilting his head to the side and squinting as if he literally cannot fucking believe that he's seeing Derek Hale sitting in a booth with a glittery pumpkin dangling over his head while the Monster Mash plays over the speakers. Derek thinks, just for a second, about leaping up and scaling over the pumpkin patch to make a break for it before the embarrassment can truly set in.

Stiles smiles, says hold on a second to his father, and starts walking over. Derek is trapped. Cornered and boxed in by his sisters and a vampire, nowhere to run. This is probably exactly how Stiles likes it, honestly.

When he approaches the table, he skirts his eyes over Laura and Cora, who stare back at him with vague interest, and then fixes them solely on Derek. “This is weird,” he opens with, cradling his donuts to his stomach.

“It's – good food,” Derek says, feeling defensive.

Stiles nods. “Sure,” and Derek can't help but think that Stiles has more than likely not even tried half of the things on this menu, not since being turned into what he is now. From what he's gathered based on observation alone, Stiles can eat some human food, likes the taste of it, but probably prefers not to eat it. He seems like he limits himself to things like donuts and ice cream and potato chips, stuff that has no real substance in the long run. “Enjoying your Frankendog?”

With a glance down at his half eaten lunch, Derek frowns. “Isn't it a little early for you to be out and about?”

This only makes Stiles grin wider, leaning forwards just slightly in Derek's direction. “This place closes early. I suffer for the atmosphere.”

“The atmosphere,” Derek repeats tonelessly, gazing around himself at the orange and purple and black nightmare that they turned this place into on October first. “You like this crap?”

“I like Halloween.” He looks briefly at Laura and Cora, who are just sitting there observing this silently – which is never a good sign. His sisters being silent means they're collecting information, filing it away, analyzing, so they can trill about it on the drive back home while Derek thinks about driving the car directly into a building to spare himself. “It's my favorite holiday.”

“Maybe me and Scott will actually get a trick-or-treater this year,” Derek taunts, raising his eyebrows. “What's your costume?”

Stiles responds to the teasing like Derek has just poked a snake – he leans in even closer, smiling from ear to ear, and says, “I don't really need one, obviously.”

In the neighborhood that Derek grew up in, a large majority of the houses on the block were at least half werewolves. The too-cool kids typically always just went as werewolves for the night, shifted into beta form and terrorizing the human kids dressed as fairies and angels and Harry Potters. He doesn't think that Stiles walking around shifted into what must be his full form would go over quite as well.

That being said, for all Derek knows, Stiles' full form is a fucking bat. He hasn't asked.

“Are these your sisters?” He asks. He probably knows good and well that they are, can probably smell it all over them, but it's a good thing he chose to go the route of ignorance so he can actually be introduced.

“Yeah. Cora and Laura,” he points to them both individually as he says their names, and Stiles doesn't reach his hand out to shake. Just nods his head at them with a friendly smile.

“Anyway,” he says, gesturing his neck in the direction of where his father has camped out – scanning the menu with a frown and munching at a fun sized Snickers bar. “I should get back. It was nice meeting you.” With that, he lazes his way over to his own booth, setting his donuts down with a final glance in Derek's direction, before settling in with his back to them.

Derek focuses in on his food, but feels his sisters' eyes boring into him like they're lasering inside of his skull. He looks up, meets their eyes, and snaps, “what?”

“Nothing,” Laura says, all innocent, while beside her Cora hides her smile behind her sandwitch.

*

Not much ever really happens in their apartment building. As far as excitement goes, the craziest thing that's ever happened is when someone left their lasagna in the oven too long and started a fire, so all the tenants had to stand outside in the parking lot in the middle of February; which wasn't so much exciting as it was annoying. Everyone glared daggers at the perpetrator for months after that, until they finally up and moved out.

But there's never any fighting, or disturbances, or someone yelling crazy in the courtyard about this that or the other thing. It's actually pretty quiet. Most of the people who live here are either college kids, post-grads, or single adults. It would surprise Derek to hear that anyone in the building would be capable of being genuinely cruel or unwelcoming to another resident without provocation, but people have always had a tendency to be...surprising.

Early October, Derek steps out on the balcony to grab a jacket he left out there to air dry over the railing after Scott spilled febreze all over it by breaking the bottle, and catches sight of Stiles out in the parking lot next to his car. That's all he notices at first – it looks like he's cleaning it, with a bucket of water and a rag he's wringing out over it. Seems like a waste of his time, honestly, seeing as how the thing is a piece of junk either way.

When he takes a second look, he realizes that, actually, that's not what's going on at all. Written on the side of Stles' car, in bright red spray paint or ink or something that stands out like neon against the dark blue of it, is a word Derek hasn't heard in a very, very long time. Not since he was a kid, and maybe even then, only in movies.

Bloodsucker.

Derek has to read it a few times over to clarify that that's actually what it fucking says, it's so startling. It's like calling a werewolf a mutt, which Derek has never, never once been called to his face. He imagines that if he ever were called that word, he'd have to actually physically fight someone. It literally is a fighting word; no one uses that word endearingly, or kindly. If someone's calling Stiles a bloodsucker, they mean it in the worst possible way.

Calling him that word would be one thing, even then. Spraypainting it on the side of his car for everyone to see? That's an attack. Plain and simple.

Out in the parking lot, Stiles is glowing underneath one of the overhead lights, and Derek approaches him warily. “Hey,” he calls out, and Stiles barely looks at him over his shoulder before going back to work, scraping and scrubbing at the word with a little too much strength behind the movements.

“Nice, huh?” Stiles hisses, literally, like an actual honest to god creature, and Derek nearly takes a step back in surprise, before holding his ground and advancing closer, instead.

Derek watches him work, scrubbing and scrubbing, without making a single lick of progress. By now, at least half the building has seen this. And everyone knows that it's Stiles' car. Stiles has literally been outed without his consent, maliciously, after all this time and all the work he puts into staying under the radar. This, right here, is exactly why he doesn't want anyone finding out.

Werewolves are abrasive, and vampires are scary, but humans can be downright cruel.

“I'm sorry about this,” Derek says quietly, because there's not much else, really, to say.

Stiles sniffles, wiping his forehead with the length of his forearm, and dips his rag back into the bucket of water, wringing it out again. “I'm used to it,” he snaps. Just from his tone, Derek can tell that he's not, not really.

“I didn't tell anyone. And Scott – he wouldn't have either. I don't know who -”

“I know that,” Stiles returns to working at the big B, in spite of the fact that nothing he's doing is even coming close to working. “The only other person in this building who knew was the manager,” rag in water, wringing it out, slaps it against the side of his car. “Because everywhere I live I'm required to -” scrub scrub, hiss, “tell the landlord what I am. Like I'm a fucking sex offender, or something.”

When Derek and Scott moved in, they never had to tell anyone they were wolves. Wolves are a dime a dozen, anyway, and there were already two others that Derek could sniff out living there at the time – he can't imagine what it'd be like if he had to announce all the time that he was a wolf, as if it was a liability, or a risk. He's half surprised they didn't make Stiles go door to door.

“You know how long it took me to find a place that would actually let me in?” Finally, he moves back and away from the car, three steps, appraising the progress he's made. The B is just barely lighter than the rest of the word, a hardly noticeable change, and Stiles stares at it, breathing deep from the exertion he was putting into trying to clean it off. Probably, he's going to have to get a new paint job.

As he stands back, a woman that lives a floor below them walks past with a handful of groceries cradled in her arms. Her eyes trace over Stiles' car, that word, and then over Stiles, before her entire body visibly flinches away from him, and her pace picks up just slightly.

Stiles watches this with angry humiliation written all over his face and in his body language, before turning back to the task at hand with renewed vigor. Bitterly, as he works his rag over the same portion of the B he's been at for at least ten minutes now, he says, “I'm gonna have to move.”

Looking up, Derek shakes his head even though Stiles isn't looking. “Why?”

“I can't stay here,” Stiles sniffles again, wiping at his nose and dropping the rag down into the bucket with a final plop, giving up entirely. “I can't – if people know – they'll...”

They wouldn't do anything, Derek thinks. This isn't the 1400's. Nobody's going to come in and drag Stiles out and burn him at the stake, no angry mob is going to form to demand his head on a silver platter. Vampires might be rare, but it's not like that. Derek is about to say as much, when Stiles clarifies his thought.

“I just want to be normal,” he throws his hands up, and for the first time, Derek gets a look at what Stiles' claws look like. They're not so different from what Derek's look like, really – sharper, more cat-like, and maybe somehow more deadly. Their purpose is without a doubt to hurt and kill, like the claws of an actual animal out in the wild. Derek long since stopped thinking of his own claws as anything more than a good way to open up cans of tuna fish. “I really thought I could pretend for a while that I was.” He gestures to his car with his arm, silently pointing out that obviously, that's all over, now. “People are going to think -”

“Who cares?” Derek interrupts, and Stiles turns to give him a look. “Seriously. Who gives a fuck?”

“Easy for you. People find out you're a werewolf and it's all, oh, wow, cool, neat. You know what people say.” He kicks over the water bucket, sends a sudsy mixture sprawling across the parking lot as though it has someplace to be, somewhere to go. “Werewolves protect people. Vampires kill people. I can't get people to think any differently.”

Derek can't argue with that. Everyone knows it's true, especially when it comes to humans; for them, the supernatural world is black and white. Either the things that walk among them want to harm them, or protect them, and there's no in-between. Where humans get to be complex, layers upon layers, everyone else has to fall into place on either end of the spectrum.

“You don't kill people.”

They lock eyes, and Stiles' expression isn't one he can recognize. It's too many emotions at once to pin down one in particular.

Derek steps closer. “You can't move just because of this,” he gestures to the car. “That's more cowardly than whoever did it to begin with.”

Stiles stares at him, and the silence drags on for long enough that Derek is about to open his mouth and demand that Stiles not move away, but luckily, Stiles spares him that embarrassment by cocking his head towards his car and saying, “you wanna see something?”

Derek hesitates, watching Stiles round the front of the car, leaving his bucket and rag behind, to climb into the driver's side of his Jeep. The door creaks as he opens it, and again when he slams it shut. When Derek is still just standing there, glancing back at the apartment and wondering if he should text Scott, Stiles honks the horn.

The inside of Stiles' car smells strongly of him, blood, and something else that he can't put his finger on. It might just be the smell of a vampire, whatever a vampire really is, and it's not a particularly bad scent. Unique.

There's an air freshener shaped like a pumpkin hanging off the rearview mirror, and Derek narrows his eyes at it. “Pumpkin spice?”

Stiles give him a confused look as he pulls out of the parking lot, but then he notices where Derek's gaze is wandering, and he smirks. “I'm that person, yes. I told you, I like Halloween.”

They drive in the opposite direction that Derek usually takes, the one that goes into the main part of town, and instead head down towards the highway, before Stiles cuts off and takes an old dirt road Derek can't say he's ever seen before, much less been on. He wonders if Stiles just doesn't care what the side of his car says anymore, or if he's deliberately taking all these back roads just so no one will have to see it. Being the Sheriff's son gives him some level of notoriety, especially in a small town, and he can't imagine that people finding out that the Sheriff's son is a blood-sucking creature of the night would go over well in the next election. When Stiles got turned into a vampire, the Sheriff and anyone else who knew or found out probably did extensive work on keeping that secret under the carpet.

“Where are we going?” Derek asks him, voice going distorted by a few bumps in the road as he talks. Stiles side-eyes him for a moment, presses harder on the gas.

“If I told you, you wouldn't want to come.”

“Oh, great.” Derek rolls his eyes and smacks his head back on his seat. “Because that's not terrifying at all.”

“You scared?” Stiles asks, voice high with amusement. “Or are you still pretending like nothing about me creeps you out.”

Derek huffs. Doesn't even fucking dignify that with an answer.Because, truthfully, he isn't sure. Whether Stiles creeps him out or not. Or if he even minds that, at all.

Stiles reads the silence (correctly or incorrectly, who fucking knows anymore), and rolls his eyes. “Relax. I'm not taking you to the edge of town to brutally murder you.”

“That's not what I -”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles snorts. “You don't have to constantly act like all of this is so normal and chill, you know? It's fucking weird, I know that. I'm fucked up.” He drums his fingers against his steering wheel, takes a deep breath. “When you meet someone like me, your life gets that way. Weird. Creepy, I guess.”

“Halloween-y,” Derek amends mildly. “It's Halloween all year around with you.”

Stiles looks like he likes the sound of that quite a bit, face breaking out into a smile. He turns away from the road for a second to give Derek an appreciate look, and nods his head. “I've never thought of it like that, actually.”

When they pull up alongside the fucking cemetery, Derek can't do much except for freeze in surprise, and then wonders why the fuck he would actually be so surprised with this turn of events. It's Stiles. It's a vampire. Everything he learned from Buffy should have prepared him for a cemetery trip at some point.

Stiles pulls his key out of the ignition, opens up the driver's side door, and lets out a long and unhappy sigh. “Come on,” he hops out and slams the door, but continues to talk even though Derek isn't following yet. “You have to see this.”

Swallowing, wondering when it was that he decided he was going to dive head first into Stiles' life and his weird and twisted world, all dark and blacked out windows, sunglasses at night, he opens up the door and gets out.

As they walk along the headstones, Derek gets that unsettling feeling he always gets whenever he even passes by a cemetery – like he shouldn't be here. He doesn't belong here. Stiles on the other hand, walks with his hands in his pockets and glares at each individual headstone without a care in the world, as if he owns the fucking place. In a way, Derek guesses he just fits right in around here.

“A werewolf and a vampire walk into a cemetery,” Stiles starts, and then laughs. “There's gotta be a joke about that somewhere.”

“I have one,” Derek says. “What do you get when you cross a vampire with a werewolf?”

Stiles gives him a look, like he cannot believe this is happening right now – like Derek having a kid's joke is the weird thing about this entire situation, and nevermind that they're walking over people's graves, Stiles in dirty old sneakers and Derek in his nice work shoes.

“A fur coat that sticks close to your neck.”

“Woooowww,” Stiles says, eyes rolling back into his head. “That is – awful. Horrible. Not good at all. Did you get that off a cereal box?”

A Count Chocula box as a matter of fact, but he doesn't admit that out loud.

Eventually, after so much walking, Stiles stops and reaches his arm out to stop Derek in his place as well. With a long finger, he points dead ahead of them, at a particular grave, and Derek squints to read the engraving.

After scanning it a total of ten times over, as if making sure that he was really seeing what he was, he takes a deep breath. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Stiles rasps, hands going back deep into his pockets. He stares at it dismally, his own name glaring back at him etched in stone – no one should ever have to know what that looks like. No one alive should know what their name looks like on a grave, but there Stiles' is, right in front of them. He reads his full name, his real one, and he cracks a quick morbid joke in his head that Scott was right that it does sound kind of Transylvanian.

“So you're – you're really -”

“Some myths are true,” Stiles offers lamely, with a laugh that rings false.

Dead. Stiles is technically dead. For some reason, this is a thought that Derek never really followed through on – when Stiles had said he had been turned, of course he should've known that that meant a vampire killed him, and he stayed dead for as long as vampires do. Then again, there are dozens of ways in lore that vampires get turned. Drinking the blood of another, taking venom, and on and on. The dying and coming back way has got to be the least savory – but apparently, that's just how it is, in reality.

“They really buried you?” Derek points to the earth underneath them. “You came out?”

“There was a funeral,” he squints up at the moon, eerily hidden behind a partial cloud, like it always looks in scary movies.

Derek tries to remember ever hearing about the Sheriff's son dying, tries to remember a funeral, or an announcement – he guesses that Stiles managed to come back right before news could spread away from immediate family and friends. “I was dead for three days. Woke up in my coffin.” Clawed his way out. Fought his way through the wood, dug upwards out of the dirt, and came spilling back onto earth just to turn around and see his own grave there, staring him in the face. Derek can't imagine. Not to mention the part where Stiles was, absolutely, murdered at some point. He actually lived through what was sure to be an unbelievably painful and traumatizing experience, only to come back out on the other side exactly like the monster who did that to him.

And, again. Derek can't imagine.

Clearing his throat and trying to get away from that train of thought, he asks a different question. “What about your heartbeat?”

Stiles turns to him, and he smiles. It feels out of place, for the situation, but then, with Stiles, he guesses it makes sense. “I've been wondering when you were going to ask me to about that. Here,” he grabs Derek's hand, presses the palm right up against where his heart is currently beating the same pattern it always is. “Listen.”

Derek does. It beats normally for a second, then two, and then – it just stops. There's no heartbeat, no sign at all that Stiles is living and breathing, and yet Stiles blinks steadily back at him like he's doing just fine without it. “It's fake,” Derek figures out for himself, leaving his hand pressed against the cold through Stiles' shirt.

“Of course it is. Duh.” He rolls his eyes, like Derek is so daft for not having figured this out sooner. “If I were walking around with a dead heart all the time, werewolves would have me figured out in seconds. And that'd be bad for business.”

It starts back up again, and Stiles pushes Derek's hand off of his chest, pushing his own back into his pockets again. That makes sense; it's a little annoying, but it's more than a little creepy to be next to someone whose heart isn't beating. It's like being human for a moment; and Derek doesn't like that, not one bit.

“Anyway, I just thought you should see that. I don't show this to many people, but I just thought – you should see it.”

Derek moves his eyes just briefly over to the side, and that's when he remembers Stiles telling him that his mother died a long time ago, because the one perched right next to Stiles' is unmistakably hers. He traces the name with his eyes, the date, the pile of roses left there for her that have since died, and Stiles catches him looking.

They both stare at it in silence for seconds, and then Stiles is clearing his throat. “I came back out,” he says. He scuffs his foot into the grass, and then quickly looks away. “She didn't.”

There's nothing Derek could possibly have to say to that, so he remains quiet.

“Look,” Stiles turns to him and looks him dead in the eyes, searching his face for a moment. “Does all of this – does that scare you? You can be honest. I'm not going to get offended.”

Stiles had his throat ripped out by a feral vampire x number of years ago, died, got buried, crawled his way back out, and now he's standing here right in front of Derek, a living dead-thing that drinks blood to survive. Derek would be insane, insane, to not be scared. Terrified, maybe, is the better word. “Yes, it does.”

Without warning, Stiles is curling his cold fingers around the back of Derek's neck. He uses them to pull Derek closer to him, to lean up just enough to press his lips against Derek's, and holds himself there for a moment. And, like this, Stiles doesn't feel so cold anymore – his lips are warm, maybe not as warm as they should be, not as warm at Derek's, but warm enough that it's nice, that Derek doesn't mind it, not one bit.

And he tastes like blood. Ashes, blood, rain.

When he pulls back, he bites his lip for a second, but keeps his fingers at the base of Derek's neck, curling them around the bit of hair that reaches down that low. “Does that scare you?”

That's something that Derek doesn't even have to think about. “Not at all.” In the silence that follows, Derek grabs onto Stiles' chin, looks him square in the eye, and asks, “can you turn into a bat?”

Stiles pulls back and laughs so hard he gets tears in his eyes.

Stiles doesn't wind up moving. He never even brought it up again after that night, as a matter of fact. Even if he had, Derek would have been more than willing to forcibly stop him from doing so, to begging him to stick around for just a little while longer. It's funny how Derek probably knew from the time that Stiles' fingers brushed up against his when they were out by the dumpster in the alley that he was more than just scared of Stiles. He was fascinated by him, he wanted to know every thing, wanted all the information laid out in front of him so he could pick and choose what to focus on at any given time.

Stiles is like that. He's this wealth of information, some of it horrifying, but none of it ever enough for Derek to pull back all the way. Because with the scary comes the interesting, and the unbelievable, and the unique, and the strange. It's always a give and a take with Stiles.

Since he didn't move, he found himself a new hobby instead - scaring the literal shit out of Scott at every possible opportunity. It went from innocently appearing right behind or next to him when Scott wasn't paying attention (which was always good for a jump and a short squeal that Scott would deny ever came out of his mouth upon teasing), all the way to dropping his fangs and lunging directly at him with eyes on his neck. For some reason, no matter how many times Stiles has threatened to do so only to stop at the last second, Scott runs for his fucking life and acts like Stiles is really going to do it.

"I don't even know if I could bite a person," Stiles said once, wiping the tears out of his eyes from laughing too hard at Scott slipping on a puddle of water in the bathroom in his haste to get away from Stiles. "I never have before - though, sometimes I get a real serious urge. I wanted to bite my boss for the longest time, just for the fun of it."

Scott snorted, rolling his eyes. "How can you be a vampire if you've never bitten anyone?"

In a rare moment of seriousness, which comes few and far between when the three of them are all together in a room, Stiles had drummed his fingers on his knee and looked away from both Derek and Scott, choosing instead to focus on a point on the opposite wall. "The first person I ever tried to bite was my own father." He shrugged, the way people do when they're not saying anything that can be boiled down to any other gesture that simple. "And that was the last, too."

Derek wonders if Stiles hates himself, sometimes, for all these things that he has no real control over - and he always feels compelled to say, again and again, that Stiles doesn't scare him. He wants to say that, if just for the novelty and the sentiment of it, to make sure that he knows.

The truth is, Stiles scares the shit out of him. Just not in the way that Stiles might scare himself.

On Halloween, Stiles shows up at Scott and Derek's apartment with a pumpkin he carved as a gift; apparently this is something he has a particular affinity for, because his looks like the fucking Mona Lisa compared to Scott's attempt at a normal Jackolantern. Scott's has lopsided eyes, and his mouth is about half as big as it should be, but he still stands back when he's finished, guts all over his hands, with a proud smile on his face. Stiles' is a cat with whiskers and the whole thing, sprinkled on the inside with cinnamon so that it smells nice instead of like a rotting thing someone sliced open.

They sit on the couch for three hours, a bowl of candy on the coffee table, waiting for someone to show up. By hour three and a half, Stiles huffs and picks up a Kit-Kat bar, unwrapping it with a frown. “This sucks worse than anything else.” He chews for a second. “I would know.”

Scott gives him the same disgruntled look he always gives Stiles every time he says something like that, and snatches up a Reese's. “If you're eating some, then so am I.”

“Here, Derek,” Stiles holds up a mini Hershey's and dangles it in front of his face. “Your favorite.”

Derek is sure he told Stiles once what his favorite candy was, weeks ago, after Stiles randomly prompted him with the question when they were out at dinner. Of course he remembered it. “What if a kid comes, and we've eaten all the candy already?”

“Then I'll give them cold pizza from the fridge.” He jiggles the chocolate in the air. “It'll be whimsical and the parents will accuse of us trying to poison their kids.”

Yeah, whimsical is definitely the word Derek would use to describe that fucking situation.

“We'll have our own Halloween right here,” Stiles forces the candy into Derek's hand and grins at him, picking another Kit-Kat up and tearing it open.

That's exactly what every single second of time spent with Stiles is like, Derek thinks as he watches him pick every single Kit-Kat out of the bowl and gathers them into his lap like his own personal stash.

Stiles, himself, is his own personal Halloween. Sort of scary, and sort of funny, but always worth it at the end of the night.