Senior year is pretty peaceful.
After the fiasco with the Alpha pack, Scott nearly getting his head ripped off, and their parents learning monsters go bump in the night, life gets back to normal. Or rather what passes for normal. Stiles tries not to jinx it, tries to focus on the fresh smell of a new school year—mostly locker-room sweat and floor-wax—hoping that things will be different now. Be better.
For starters, he’s probably going to make first line, all that running for his life really strengthening his stamina.
Secondly, and more importantly, his best friends are finally happy.
Everyone agrees less crazy is better, and even if 2/5ths of his posse are creatures of the night, it doesn’t mean they always have to act like it. They can do normal stuff, be regular teens.
And that’s how Fridays become “date night.” It’s all Allison’s idea and is what Stiles likes to call disaster waiting to happen.
There’s drive-in movie popcorn fights and bowling alley bets that Jackson always wins.
Scott gets them bowling league shirts, they’re the “Arrooooo’s.” Stiles doesn’t blame him for trying, but Lydia takes one look at them and scoffs, saying onomatopoeia makes for a terrible mascot.
The couple thing doesn’t get to him, honest, he likes hanging out, it beats homework or listening to his house settle ‘round his ears. He tries really really hard not to think about the fact that it still hurts when he’s near Lydia, how her eyes brighten when she looks at Jackson, or how they’re both so in love it’s sickening. But it doesn’t bother him, nope, he’s cool, cool as a cucumber, see how cool he can be?
Erica, Boyd, and Isaac drift in and out on Fridays, all bright wolf grins and quick reflexes. They usually stay on nights after a full moon, everyone still getting their bearings, taming wolfie bloodlust and finding their inner yoga instructor.
Stiles appreciates the attempts at ordinary, feeling hopeful for the first time in years.
Lydia’s arm is looped around Jackson’s, her smile breathtaking. “Said he was tired of being left out of Jackson’s Super Secret Friday Club and we wanted to play teams tonight, so win-win,” she replies. If Stiles didn’t know any better, he swears Jackson’s eye twitches halfway through the words.
He’s pretty sure Danny has better things to do with his Friday nights than be stuck as Stiles’ bowling buddy, but he’s not complaining. Danny’s nothing if not perfect at all things sports and even though Scott sometimes takes pity on poor ol’human Stiles, it’d be nice to win fair and square for once.
Danny waves when he comes over, Jackson greeting him with a pat on the back.
“So, what, no night clubs calling your name tonight?” Stiles asks, hoping it’s lighthearted because he can count on one hand the times he’s been alone with these three. It doesn’t help that his inner monologue is bragging to his sixth-grade self about being an official cool kid now.
“They’re all suspiciously closed, something about monster attacks,” Danny replies. Jackson’s smile falters. Stiles swallows painfully, familiar skip in his heartbeat screaming not again.
“Kidding, guys. Jeez,” Danny says, looking between them, shaking his head like they’re little lost puppies. “You guys need to lighten up. Isn’t that what Friday nights are about? Hanging out and being stupid. I mean-having fun.” Danny’s laugh is soft and Stiles relaxes, lets go of the trigger-hair panic to smile back.
“You, you’re funny,” he replies, wagging a finger.
“You don’t know the half of it. Now, what’s our team name, partner?” Danny asks, clapping his shoulder good-naturedly, steering them toward the lane monitor.
“I’m fond of animal names myself.”
Lydia’s small sigh of relief isn’t lost on Stiles.
The lovebirds head out pretty quick, bickering and googly-eyed, with Stiles being left behind as usual to throw things away and give Mark the Shoetender five bucks for making sure Stiles got his favorite pair.
“Hey, you don’t gotta wait, it’s cool,” Stiles says. Danny shakes his head.
“I don’t mind.”
Danny walks with him outside and Stiles fights the urge to fidget his awkwardness away.
“Tonight was fun,” Danny says when they reach Stiles’ car door.
“Friday nights usually are. I mean, when my dad’s not busting us for underage drinking.” Not for the first time, Stiles wishes he could think before speaking because wow, could he sound less cool?
Danny laughs, Stiles bets it’s mostly placating, and then Danny hugs him. Like a half-bro hug cause they’re standing funny and seriously, what the hell?
“Maybe next time Team Ostrich will win, yea?”
At lunch Monday, Scott’s busy pretending to be a part of the table, head banging rhythmically as he bemoans his failing grades. Stiles pats his back soothingly.
“There, there buddy, one test is nothing. You’ve beaten Alphas, that’s life experience right there.”
“My mom’s gonna be so pissed,” Scott mumbles with another thud.
When Lydia flounces over, he’s expecting her smirk. Most of his days were now filled with such looks, Lydia one-upping him at research and Latin skills. Of course she’d aced the exam, with Stiles getting a “C” for off-topic rambling.
Stiles waves to Danny who’s on his way out—opposite lunch times—and Lydia honestly cackles. This is when Stiles realizes something is up.
Stiles gets fidgety super fast because she's new and he doesn't know how to deal with new anymore, too many nights steeped in blood for him to want to talk about shoes or video games or anything.
“Guys, Tina.” Allison motions between the group and Tina. “Tina, you know my boyfriend Scott, that’s Lydia, Jackson, and Stiles.”
Tina waves, blush creeping across her cheekbones. “Nice to meet you, I’ve heard good things.”
While waiting for the next game, Allison takes Stiles’ usual spot next to Scott, leaving Tina wedged between her and Stiles.
She fiddles with a loose hem on her vest, phonebooth-blue nails catching his eye, and Stiles realizes he’s completely lost his ability to speak normal.
“You’re being quiet,” Allison says, giving Stiles a pointed look.
“Gotta get my head in the game,” Stiles mocks.
Tina looks up from her nervous trance. “You guys play laser tag a lot?”
“Once a month usually, we have a long standing rivalry against…each other.” He nods at Jackson. “Mr. Big Bad Jock thinks he can beat me but I’ve got a secret weapon.”
He pulls out a packet of purple powder. Allison’s eyes go wide and she snatches it away before Stiles suddenly realizes how bad this could look.
“It’s itching powder,” he fumbles. Tina raises a brow, obviously not buying it.
“We take our games seriously,” Allison covers, pouch disappearing into a pocket. Her disappointment is palpable.
They talk around him, reminding Stiles why he doesn’t have other friends, freakin’ werewolf cheaters on the tip of his tongue every two seconds since he knows he can't say it.
Team Squirrel comes in second, but it’s a hollow victory since Scott calls out, claiming allergies with every sneeze. Meanwhile, Stiles’ wolfsbane smoke bomb is “mysteriously” missing.
“It wasn’t my idea,” Scott starts.
“I didn’t know.”
“I told them not to.”
“Girls are scary insistent,” Scott finishes with slumped shoulders.
“Look, I don’t mind having to cheat, I just like cheating on my own terms,” Stiles says once Scott’s done flailing at him.
Scott’s eyebrows knit together, confusion scrawled across his face.
“You didn’t have to take the fall man, you could’ve made Jackson do it.”
“Yea, he wouldn’t know what hit him, that was the whole point.” Stiles was proud of his smoke bomb design, knowing they’d be handy against rival packs.
“Wait, Stiles, what are you talking about?” Scott’s voice rises with suspicion.
“Your ‘allergies,’” Stiles says, totally doing the air-quotes.
“Oh thank god, I thought you were talking about being set up,” Scott says in a rush and—wait, what?
Lydia looks at him like he’s slow, Jackson ignores him, and Allison seems two-seconds away from calling him honey.
“You really don’t pay attention, do you?” Lydia asks, eating a grape with superhuman perfection and Stiles is freakin’ done.
“You guys suck. You are all horrible cupids.”
Boyd’s full-bodied laugh in response isn’t surprising.
What is surprising is Derek's amused chuckle, his eyebrows making leaps and bounds to the tune of each exhale.
"Shut it wolfie," Stiles grumbles, feeling contrary. He mopes and when Erica compliments the smoke bomb tactic, Stiles’ reply is sulky to his own ears.
Scott oh-so-casually drags Isaac along, saying “Isaac, you’re coming too.” Stiles doesn’t even try to hide his eyeroll.
Scott holds his hands up. “It’s not like that, we have a project due and I want to actually spend time with my girlfriend this weekend. I promise.”
“Uh huh,” Stiles grumbles back.
Isaac looks put-upon 70% of the time, but seems to find perverse joy in "accidentally" playing footsie with Stiles the entire meal. The only highlight occurs when Isaac catches Scott’s foot instead, Scott thinks it’s Allison’s, and embarrassing hilarity ensues.
Stiles takes pictures, stealing most of Allison's fries in retaliation.
Packsmeet gets crowded, everyone paired off penguin-style and really, Stiles hates his life sometimes.
Lydia mostly pities his non-relationship status, commenting offhandedly on various girls and guys. It cuts Stiles more than he thought it would. He’s over her, honest, but she still holds a place in his heart, pulse rattling with every sideways glance his way.
He declines the next couple Fridays on principle—totally not moping Scott, thank you—and then the next Friday’s put on hold because there's a freakin' ghoul in town.
The beastly menagerie says they like to steal faces, literally, and can only be trapped by the “wood of their ancestors.” Deaton all too readily supplies them with mountain ash, cautioning that ghouls can only scent werewolves, so they’d have to work in teams.
Of course this means he’s stuck with Derek while Stiles’ super special skill of 'being human' finally comes in handy.
“If it eats your face, I am running the other way cause even if I’m the other white meat, I’m pretty sure it’ll still find me damn tasty,” Stiles quips, closing the circle. Derek visibly flinches when the last of the powder hits the ground.
“I know you don’t trust my weak human arms, but sharp objects aren’t too hard to figure out.” Stiles says, lifting the sword Deaton had given him with few answers as to why a vet would own such a beauty. “And I have Deaton’s dog whistle! So don’t worry, your wolfie backup will be here in seconds.”
Derek doesn’t hide a rumble of displeasure.
Stiles ignores it, tapping his toes with the sword point, fighting the urge to parry invisible enemies because he still has a shred of dignity left.
“I still think this is a bad plan,” Derek mutters.
“Look I don’t like it either, but you said these things are fast. Like freaky fast? Well not for nothing, but I’d rather lure it into a trap then hope to push it in one.”
“Stop moving then, the ghoul senses motion,” Derek counters roughly. Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Why don’t you move to attract it.”
“It already thinks I smell like dinner.”
“Oh, that’s comforting. Speaking of dinner, I’m starving.”
“That’s why you always eat before an ambush, didn’t you get the pack handout?” Derek mocks. Before Stiles can respond, there’s a whoosh of air and a loud thud behind him.
“Behind you!” Derek calls out, and yea, thanks, already figured that out buddy. Before he can react, boney hands grip his shoulders and spin him around.
Quite suddenly, he’s face to face with the stuff of nightmares. Mottled grey skin hangs in flaps from sharp cheekbones, its cracked yellow teeth jut out from a grimacing lower lip. Its sunken eyes are pitch black and Stiles feels his soul curl away in abject horror.
Sticky green fluid oozes down its arms, dripping smoking trails onto the forest floor. The ghoul pulls him in close, a lovers embrace, foul breath smelling of pitch and decay. It spits on his face and Stiles knows he’s a goner.
Death by ghoul, awesome.
“Stiles you idiot!” Derek calls out and Stiles has to fight his instincts, tugging the creature harder against him, its skin sloughing off beneath his fingers. They both fall, Stiles ending up sprawled halfway into the circle.
He blinks once as his jaw locks, his freakin’ windpipe stuttering to a halt.
And then, just as quick, he’s free. Opening his eyes to silhouettes of wavering pine, all he hears is Derek’s voice.
“Give me your hand.” Stiles obeys without thinking, Derek pulling him up to give him a once-over before nodding in approval. “You’ll be fine. The…secretions are only toxic while it’s alive.” He wrinkles his nose at the horrible mess covering Stiles.
“Well that went about as well as I expected.” Stiles coughs, fighting the urge to claw at his throat, the taste of death still thick on his tongue.
They make it out of the woods without incident and miraculously Stiles finds a clean shirt in his backseat. By now Stiles is literally starving, and there's no way he's making a detour to drop Derek off at his Boxcar of Despair before getting some food, no matter how hard Derek tries to act all creature of the night to intimidate him into it.
Stiles doesn't question Derek when he pays, considering it reparations for a ruined shirt and three years off his lifespan. They grab a corner booth in the Beacon Burger, the only place open this late, and Stiles devours his food.
When he looks up, Derek is grinning at him. "What?" he asks around a mouthful, the word coming out a muffled "hrugh." Derek waves his hand mid-fry bite and calls him uncouth.
"I resent that," Stiles responds, swallowing. "I am totally couth. I even have a monocle and tophat." Derek huffs exasperatedly, but there's a real smile tugging at his lips. It freaks Stiles out, like watching a lion pet a deer.
It almost feels like a normal Friday, minus the almost dying. And if Derek freakin' Hale can smile like he means it, then something must be going right in the universe.
"It was nice not getting killed tonight," Stiles says, knowing he should say thanks. The word only rings in his head, too many ways for emotion to bleed into each syllable if he says it out loud.
Derek pauses. "Yeah, try to keep that not dying to a minimum. Can't always be there to watch your scrawny ass."
"Hey, I saved the day, you owe me like, three life debts by now wolfboy."
"You’re keeping track?" Derek asks with a quirked brow.
"A dying werewolf’s kinda hard to forget," Stiles replies without thinking and okay, he’s steering into territory he really doesn't want to think about, let alone talk about.
Derek looks at him like he's trying to put a Stiles-shaped puzzle together except the pieces are all wrong.
"Yeah, guess not,” he finally says, voice gruff and then he’s out of the car and gone.
"You're welcome!" Stiles calls to Derek’s retreating figure, but it's Boyd who gives him a salute of thanks, his golden eyes catching in the headlights.