"Stiles," John begins as he opens his son's bedroom door without thinking, mind still on the list of things he needs to get done, "did you remember to pick up-?"
And that's the moment that he realises that Stiles isn't alone. Nothing is happening in that sense - thank God - but nothing is actually happening at all, Stiles and Derek Hale (Derek. Hale) both frozen still, hunched over Stiles' laptop. They've obviously both been looking at something and John hopes, prays to a God that honestly doesn't get much of a look-in these days, that he hasn't caught them looking at anything that will scar any of them for life.
Fortunately, one step forward proves that it isn't and though the pictures on the search engine results page - John knows how to use the internet, despite what Stiles seems to think - are gruesome, they're gruesome gruesome, not I just caught my son and a man eight years his senior looking at gay porn on the internet together gruesome.
He needs to do some thinking about the fact that pictures of some kind of flesh-rending beast with an apparent fondness for blood is less worrying than gay porn.
"Derek Hale," John says, finally breaking the frankly uncomfortable silence filling the room.
Derek and Stiles move minutely, sharing a look before Derek stands up straight, turning to face him. "Sheriff."
"You weren't here when I got home," he says with certainty. "And I would've noticed you sneaking in downstairs. Did you..." Even he can't believe he's about to ask this, but there's no other alternative he can think up. "Did you actually climb through the window?"
"Yes," Derek replies immediately, and the sound of Stiles' palm hitting his own forehead is audible.
Okay, then. Derek Hale had apparently entered the Stilinski house by climbing through his son's window. John has tried to brace himself for the possibility of Stiles liking boys instead of - or as well as - girls, but whatever this actually is, he really hadn't factored in such an age difference. Or that he would've once arrested the guy in question for murder or personally lead the manhunt for him when he went on the run.
Of course this is the person Stiles has hidden in his bedroom. He shouldn't even be surprised.
There's really only one thing to do. "Derek," he announces, "you're going to wait downstairs." Divide and conquer still usually works wonders.
He steps back out of the room as if to make room for Derek to pass, when really he's giving them the illusion of privacy. It's a technique he's used more than once, although usually on a suspected criminal - not so much on his own son. Stiles immediately starts quietly rebuking Derek about his 'supposedly awesome hearing which is, in fact, utterly useless'. Derek says nothing at all, simply reaching for his leather jacket which John has only just realised is resting on Stiles' bed. Something about it, the fact that the jacket is just sitting there and Derek is able to pick it up so comfortably, like it's something he's done a hundred times before...
It makes the certainty about what he's been suspecting settle even further into his gut.
"Okay," Stiles begins as soon as they're alone, before Derek's footsteps have even started making their way down the stairs, "I know what this looks like - I can tell by your face what you think it looks like - but it's really, really not, okay? I told you before that I knew him better than you thought, right? But I figured you wouldn't approve - and ha, I was so proven right because of that look on your face right now - and sometimes we, uh, help each other out." His eyes widen, as he thinks over what he just said. "In a totally, absolutely, non-sexual way. Uh, does it help any if I say that Scott knows him, too? So, it's not just like it's Me and Derek all the time. Not that it's all the time, either, it's just some of the time, only every other week really-"
And Stiles may be a talker, but he's not that much of a talker. Stiles is also absolutely one of the worst liars John has ever known - it's a quality he appreciates in a son, truly - and while he hasn't appreciated any of the crappy lies his son has fed him in the past, at least right now he knows that Stiles absolutely believes everything he's saying. Unfortunately for Stiles, John knows a thing or two about observation, and the only other person who has ever made Stiles babble that much or bring that rising flush to his skin is one Lydia Martin.
Stiles doesn't even know.
John feels like slapping his own palm to his forehead.
Abandoning Stiles in his bedroom without saying a word so Stiles will deliberately agonise over exactly what his punishment will be, John finds Derek standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. John tries to tell himself that he doesn't respect Derek for staying when he could've made a quick escape, and sadly doesn't get very far.
He puts on what Stiles calls his 'I mean business' face and tries not to remember that Stiles calls it his 'I mean business' face. "Stiles said you help each other."
Derek seems to think about it, then nods. "Yeah. That's true."
John also tries to tell himself that he doesn't appreciate the honesty. "But...Stiles, really?" John knows that his son is intelligent. Creative in certain ways of thinking, when he can focus enough. He also knows that Stiles can drive just about anybody crazy, eventually, and Derek really doesn't seem the type who'd want to put up with it. "Out of everyone in the entire town...Stiles is the one you let help you?"
Derek doesn't seem surprised by this line of questioning but his reply, when it comes, is definitely a surprise to John. "He was the only one who would."
He looks shocked after he says it, like he hadn't meant to and his face - far from expressive at the best of times - somehow closes up even more.
And God, throwing Derek out and threatening him with the badge and the gun would be so much easier if he wasn't aware of Derek's past, if John hadn't been standing there when then-Sheriff Rogers had placed a hand on a young Derek's shoulder, trying to give him comfort when his entire world had fallen apart.
Alissa always said he had a soft heart.
"Next time," John finds himself grinding out, "use the door."
John does his research. He knows that Derek has an apartment that he rarely sleeps in and has no visitors to. He's occasionally seen around town with Stiles or Scott; sometimes some of the other kids from their class at school. He has no friends his own age and John knows a lot about trauma and PTSD and wonders if Derek technically does have friends his own age.
Thanks to Phyllis at the store, he knows that Derek buys a lot of TV dinners. Although he's far from convinced that Derek actually owns a TV.
He gets home one night, quietly closing the door behind him, and can immediately hear what sounds like arguing coming from upstairs. He starts up the stairs but as he climbs he realises it's not arguing, not really. Frankly, it reminds him far too much of the 'discussions' he and Alissa used to have.
"-such a baby, oh my God, how are you such a baby?"
"Stiles," Derek spits out, "you try taking a claw from one of those things and see how you do."
Okay, maybe it's not too much like the discussions he and Alissa used to have.
Stiles keeps complaining, and John may have been reduced to standing silently outside his son's bedroom door. He's pretty sure Alissa wouldn't be proud of him right now, but then Alissa had never had to deal with an apparently injured Derek Hale hiding in her son's bedroom.
"This never would've happened if you didn't keep trying to be all stupidly heroic," Stiles informs Derek crossly, "Mr 'Ooo, I'm the Alpha, Watch Me Roar and Dive in Front of Killing Machines Just For Kicks'."
"You mean I shouldn't have protected you? Again?" Derek counters, and it's that that finally makes John open the door.
Derek's shirt is off, which makes John's eyebrows climb to interesting new heights, but one look at the jagged wound running down his side makes them twitch back a little lower. They're still pretty high, though.
Stiles' bed is a mess. They're both sprawled across it, along with Derek's shirt, jacket, and the remnants of enough First Aid supplies to fill an entire pharmacy. Right now, Stiles appears to be in the middle of applying antiseptic to the angry looking wound.
Or he would be, if his hand hadn't frozen on Derek's side as he stares at John in horror.
"We came in through the front door!" he suddenly announces, far too loudly, like that's the thing John is actually focused on right now. Derek winces and John is sure he has a great many reasons to.
"What the hell happened?" he finally manages to ask, and receives some bullshit story about a wild animal - John hadn't believed mountain lion then and he doesn't believe it now, even though he has no idea what is actually going on - and when he suggests they should've gone straight to the hospital instead, Derek looks away.
"I can't...don't like hospitals."
Stiles nods extremely enthusiastically. "Derek has a...family physician he usually goes to. But he's kind of...busy. So I said I'd help out."
John's brain is lodged somewhere around the fact that it's Stiles sharing this information with him rather than Derek. He does, at least, manage to say, "Well, obviously. With your vast experience in medical matters. Did either one of you think to see if Melissa was available?"
They both kind of stare at each other dumbly. Shaking his head, John turns to leave the room and find the phone. As he goes, they start speaking in hushed whispers.
"Seriously," Stiles says quietly. "You didn't hear him? Again?"
"Kind of distracted by the agonising pain," Derek points out and the last thing John hears is Stiles huffing out a loud breath, like that's any excuse whatsoever, and then speaking again.
"You always have to focus on that part, don't you?"
John isn't an idiot and neither is Melissa. When she is able to come over a few hours later, she keeps her eyes shuttered and her head turned away from him as much as possible.
She clearly doesn't want to lie to him even by omission but, for whatever reason, she has to.
The job - and Stiles - keep him busy, but whenever there's time and Stiles isn't around, he tries to figure it out. He'd ask his son but it feels like at this point, Stiles couldn't give a straight answer if he tried. It's disappointing in the sense that he should be disappointed in Stiles more, but he's beginning to realise that something's going on that's bigger than all of them. It's not just about Derek being accused of murder, of animal attacks and his uncle going missing. It's not just about that crazy night at the precinct that took the lives of five excellent men and women. Something's happening that's connecting them all, and for once in his life John can't see the pattern.
One pattern, at least, stays remarkably fixed. He comes home from work one day and when he goes to check on Stiles, he finds him - and Derek - laying on Stiles' bed together, watching a DVD on Stiles' laptop, propped up on something at the end of the bed.
There's no inappropriate touching, as far as John can see, although they sure as hell are pressed right up against each other. For once, at least, neither one of them appears to be surprised that he's there. Stiles angles his head to nod at him, before murmuring something quietly to Derek. Derek doesn't say anything. He doesn't look at Stiles or John; doesn't do anything at all but keep his gaze fixed firmly on the computer.
Once Stiles is off the bed, he gives John a significant look which is probably meant to mean 'come with me so we can talk', but really looks more like 'my eyes won't stop twitching'.
In the kitchen, John waits. In the kitchen, Stiles sighs, closes his eyes and rubs his hands over his head. Finally, lowering his hands and opening his eyes, he opens his mouth as if to say something but then pauses, looking up towards the ceiling. Instead, he pulls the shopping list notepad and a pen out of the drawer, scrawling down,
Anniversary of fire.
He underlines it several times for emphasis, as if John wouldn't understand what importance today must hold for Derek. Stiles' eyes are wide and anxious, like he's worried John is about to disapprove.
He thinks of Derek laying alone upstairs. That's all it takes. "You go back up. I'll order pizza."
"You're the best, Dad," Stiles says immediately, throwing his arms around John enthusiastically, before disappearing upstairs in a mass of flailing limbs. "Order salad for you!" he yells down shortly after, and John sighs the sigh of the long-suffering.
Hours later, after pizza has been consumed and John has unwound with some truly awful reality TV - Stiles always mocks him for it but sometimes John catches him getting sucked in, too - he creaks his way upstairs to take a much-needed shower. Reaching Stiles' room, he pauses by the open door. The laptop screen is now black and though they're both still on the bed, Stiles' position has changed, eyes closed in sleep, one half of his body sprawled across Derek's. Derek's eyes are closed, too, although his forehead is creased in concentration.
Shaking his head at the pizza boxes and napkins strewn across the floor, John quietly bends to collect them all up. He's giving the room one last check, hand hovering over the light switch, when he sees that Derek is staring at him. For once it seems he isn't - or can't - hide his emotions, and he looks wary and hopeful all at the same time. Mostly, he looks like he thinks he should be saying something, but has no idea how to even start.
John does them both a favour and turns out the light.
John is exhausted. The kind of bone-deep exhaustion that only comes from endless hours of stress and worry.
He's making soup because it's quick and easy and Stiles will kill him if he finds out that he's barely been eating. Stiles will still moan about the soup, of course, declaring that it contains far too much salt, but it's better than burying himself in the bottle of scotch hiding at the back of the cupboard to his right.
The microwave dings and he hears the front door open.
John has been waiting for this. He left the door unlocked deliberately and already has two bowls out on the side. After he carefully carries them upstairs, he's unsurprised to see Derek sitting on the edge of Stiles' bed, looking down at him. Stiles is sleeping, the way he has been since John brought him home from the hospital an hour ago.
"I won't wake him," Derek says quietly, like he's expecting John to tell him to leave.
"I know," John says honestly, and then he honest-to-God hears Derek sniff. Derek's head turns towards him, narrowing his eyes at the bowls of soup suspiciously. Before long John is perched on the computer chair, bowl of soup and spoon in hand. Derek's sits on the desk, like he can't bring himself to eat it, the same way he hadn't been able to bring himself to visit Stiles in the hospital. "I'm ready," John tells him because Stiles has been hurt now, and there are dark circles under Derek's eyes that speak to how much of a game changer this is.
"You might want to put your soup down," Derek tells him intently, so intently that John believes him. He's just fumbled his bowl down onto the desk when Derek's face...changes.
He doesn't feel particularly intelligent about it once the shock wears off - it'd been so obvious - but to be fair, most sane people wouldn't have immediately leapt to werewolves (later on, when he discovers that Stiles figured it out even before Scott, he's not in the least bit surprised).
Derek is there for every day of Stiles' recovery afterward. He's there when Stiles liberates himself from his bedroom, defeating the evil stairs and setting up camp on the sofa, instead. He's there when Stiles takes his first steps outside - it's just the yard, but it's still outside - and watching Derek's face as he watches Stiles' face turn up towards the sun makes another piece of the anger simmering inside split off and splinter away.
It's been hard, not blaming Derek. It's so much easier to be angry at a person than a situation but every now and then Stiles will unwittingly do or say something that makes Derek's expression change, reminds John of Ben Rogers placing his hand on Derek's shoulder, of Derek looking so utterly lost and out of his depth.
Derek is still there when John goes back to work. Is there when John comes home from work. Takes Stiles to his PT. Is there when John has questions, needs answers. There's no threat around anymore, apparently, and it's late one night when the two of them are sitting in the kitchen and he asks Derek if the bite would heal Stiles. Derek's hand tightens on his glass of juice so much that it cracks, and he says that he doesn't know in a tone of voice that shows he's thought about it many times himself.
Stiles has long made it clear that he never wants to be a werewolf.
Derek's clothes start ending up in their laundry and it's not long before he has his own mug (Stiles ordered it online; orange with blue text across it that reads 'Miguel'. John still doesn't get the joke, but it delights Stiles and always makes Derek roll his eyes). He does most of the grocery shopping and some nights, he sits on the sofa next to John as he watches reality TV. Stiles is always pressed tightly against his other side and Derek's forehead is always furrowed deeply like he has no idea what the hell he's watching or how he even got there.
John has no idea how it happened, either. How they got from one step to the next, to the next.
But Stiles keeps smiling, and that's all that really matters.
It's the yelling that wakes him up.
He really doesn't appreciate it at - he checks the alarm clock, ugh - 5:32 in the morning, but at least it's not the kind of thing that happens often. Or at all before this.
Stumbling blearily out of bed, he yanks his robe on and starts picking up distinct words.
"-sick and tired of you treating me like I'm going to break, like you're going to hurt me-"
"But you did!" Derek's raised voice interrupts, making John pause, because he's certainly never heard him do that before. "You did break and I did hurt you!"
A few frozen moments later Stiles says something else but John can't hear what it is and by the time he actually makes it to Stiles' room, he's not really surprised to see that they're kissing.
He got over the gay thing a while ago - kind of stupid not to, what with werewolves existing - and he may have only really got over the Derek Hale thing recently, but he's been expecting this for a while. And while he's certainly not a voyeur - especially when it comes to his son - he at least has a few seconds of satisfaction that Stiles is almost back to normal, whatever normal is for him, that he can go toe-to-toe with Derek physically and emotionally.
And then Stiles starts moaning and John gets the hell out of there.
He's back not long after because he has to make sure - Alissa would've killed him if he hadn't - lobbing the box of condoms he furtively bought a few months ago into the room, before closing the door behind him.
Once back in the relative safety of his own room, John locates his ear plugs - also bought a few months ago - and puts them into place, mentally trying to persuade himself that he'll absolutely be able to sleep until his alarm goes off in just under an hour.
When John finally sees Stiles again that evening, his limp has absolutely nothing to do with his injuries and everything to do with what he's obviously spent the day doing.
John pretends not to see and asks Derek to get him a beer out of the fridge.