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On Building an IKEA Den for an Alpha Werewolf.

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Stiles stands outside the grated door that leads up into the apartment building and presses the buzzer for number five for the third time. "Derek!" he calls out at the dusty window above him, dragging the two syllables out. "I know you're up there!"

The intercom crackles to life on the wall, and Derek's rough voice comes through, broken and static-y. "No you don't."

"Let me in," Stiles calls.

It's a long moment before the door in front of him comes unlocked, but as soon as it does, Stiles pushes it inwards and enters the stairwell. The apartment building isn't the nicest, but it's not the worst either -- three stories, twelve small units, a sort of… 'built in the 70's' feel to the whole thing. The brown carpet on the stairs smells a little bit like damp.

Derek's door swings open before Stiles reaches the first floor.

"You're not supposed to know I live here," Derek says. Stiles grins when he sees him -- the werewolf is wearing grey pyjama pants and no shirt or shoes, and his hair is sticking out at angles like he just climbed out of bed.

"Wow," Stiles comments, stepping past him and into the small apartment. "Look at you. Look at this!" For most people, the unit wouldn't warrant a 'wow', but it's not the burnt out remnants of the Hale house, or an abandoned subway station, or (for a brief period last year that none of them really talk about) a sewer.

"Look at you," Derek replies, in a voice that would be growlier if he didn't still sound half asleep. "In my home. Where I don't want you."

"It's really nice!" Stiles says. "I'm loving the… emptiness."

With an eye-roll, Derek flops down on the fold out sofa, the only piece of furniture in the room. It's in bed-mode right now, quilt and pillows strewn messily across it. "It's been three days," he says. "I thought Isaac could keep a secret longer than three days."

"And see what three days has done!" Stiles replies cheerfully, moving into the kitchen and pulling open cupboards at random, finding them all empty. "You're already wearing jim-jammies and sleeping past noon like a real boy!"

"What are you doing here?"

"House-warming," Stiles replies, moving back into the centre of the room and looking around, finding little else to explore. "I was going to bring something, but I wasn't sure what you needed. Well, now I know. Everything!"

"I have intentions," Derek says hesitantly.

"Well that's good," Stiles says. "Glad we cleared that up."

"It's been three days!" Derek grouses. "I just moved in. I had intentions, and plans, and none of you lot were going to find out where I lived until I at least owned a security alarm and a fridge."

Stiles laughs and sits down next to him on the thin mattress. "Chill, dude. It's just me. See how this is a singular house-warming, not a house-warming party? I'll even help. I've got all afternoon off. We can IKEA it up."

"Thanks," Derek says, in that surly way he gets when he's accepting assistance -- like it's a personal slight against him. "Helping me pick out bookshelves isn't why you're here though."

It's been a weird couple of years, Stiles has to admit, when it comes to this… relationship they have. Not him and Derek (although that is part of it), but the whole, well, pack, for lack of a better word. For months, many months, Derek had operated under the assumption that as Alpha, everyone would fall in line and join his pack eventually. But it hadn't quite worked out that way. Scott was very much a lone wolf when it came to wolf-y business, and Jackson simply couldn't abide the thought of submitting to anyone. Erica and Boyd had flittered around non-committally for a long time -- 'pack' for them was essentially one another, and everything else was simply window dressing. Isaac was the only one who really accepted Derek as his Alpha, but he was living with Scott now, all but taken under the McCall family wing.

It's not like they weren't all close, either personally or by degrees, and didn't all work together more often than not. It's simply that they weren't what Derek had expected and strained for.

And Stiles kinda sympathized with the guy, even if he thought that Derek's leadership qualities left more than a little to be desired. And so, in probably the weirdest part of their pack-come-loose-group-of-people-who-knew-each-other dynamic, he and Derek had become friends. Sort of. Sometimes. Enough that Stiles felt like it was a bit of a dick move for Derek to move into an actual house (well, no-bedroom apartment) and not even let him know.

"I'm here because I haven't seen you in, like, weeks," Stiles says, truthfully, and Derek snorts.

"So?"

"Wanted to check in. Make sure you hadn't gone back to living in the pipes."

"Four days," Derek says. "Four days, and people were trying to kill me."

"Believe me, dude, I don't even have werewolf senses, but you reeked for far, far longer than four days."

Derek scowls, and leans over the edge of the bed, pulling a ratty suitcase from under it that he's apparently keeping his clothes in. It's unzipped, bits of black fabric and leather spilling out over the edges, and he feels around inside for a t-shirt and jeans. "I'm going to have a shower," he says.

"Some host you are," replies Stiles as Derek gets up, and jumps further back on the sofa bed in response, sprawling out. "I'll just see what's on t.v. then -- oh wait, no, you don't have a t.v. I'll read a book. Oh wait, no--"

"Just sit there, I'll be two minutes," Derek says. "Then I'll take you for breakfast."

"You do realise it's nearly one-thirty, right?"

Derek is down the little nook that counts for a hall, and pulling open the door that leads to the bathroom. "Fine, lunch," he calls, and shuts the door behind him. A moment later Stiles hears the shower start up.

Stiles grins up the ceiling. Whoever lived here last was a smoker, he notes, judging by the yellowish stains on the white plaster. He's not sure how it happened, really, but once upon a time Derek probably would have thrown him against something for showing up unannounced and harassing his way into his house. Now he's buying him lunch. Progress.

*

"Anyway," Stiles says around a mouthful of chilli fries, "Isaac is going with Danny, which is like, a super sweet surprise and everything, but it doesn't even leave me with like, a friends-date, and Lydia just gave me a pat on the head when I asked her, which was neither sweet nor a surprise at all, obviously. Of course she's going with Jackson. They're going to be King and Queen and everything, set in stone. But you can't blame a guy for trying, right?"

Derek just shakes his head. "Stop trying," he says, skewering a mouthful of pancakes and bacon on his fork, and soaking the two in maple syrup before taking a bite.

"Oh, hey, Derek. Romantic advice giving Derek? Guess what? No. That's what."

"There must be other girls at school, right?"

Stiles actually thinks for a moment, with a confused look on his face. "I mean, yeah, I guess there must be."

"Ask one of them."

Stiles fiddles with his fork, toying with a piece of lettuce on his side plate. "Don't wanna. Lydia's the only girl for me, you know?"

"I can't believe I'm having this conversation," Derek says, his shoulders all hunched over as he sips at his black coffee and glares at Stiles. "I don't care who you take to senior prom. It doesn't matter, okay? It's one night, and then it's over. Just go by yourself."

Stiles makes a horrified face. "God no. I'm enough of an outcast at school as it is."

"Fine," Derek says, seeming to realise the only way he's getting out of this conversation is by playing it through to the end. "Lydia the only girl for you? Go with a guy."

"How--" Stiles doesn't really look affronted, but he looks enormously confused. "How did you know I...?"

"Smell it," Derek says with a shrug, dropping a couple of strawberries from his fruit salad onto his pancakes and stacking them up on his fork with syrup.

"My, what a handy gaydar you have, grandma."

"It's not a big deal."

Stiles is twitching kinda uncontrollably now, expressions filtering between uncomfortable grins and nervous grimaces constantly. "I… no, no it's not. But, I mean, I haven't… No one-- I haven't even told Scott. It's just, I don't care if people find out. I wouldn't, I mean. But it's never come up. Because... It's just Lydia, still. I mean, even if I look at a guy sometimes, and occasionally change my you-porn settings. They're not Lydia, you know?"

Derek shivers internally. He's actually going to do this. "They could be," he says, and reaches out to put his hand on Stiles' shoulder comfortingly.

Stiles cracks up laughing.

"What?"

"Your face!" he says, between giggles. "Don't ever try to be a good friend ever again. You don't wear open minded and accepting well."

Derek huffs. "Are we done here?"

"Yeah, okay, fine," Stiles grins around the straw to his fruit juice. "Maybe I will just go stag, anyway."

Derek sponges up as much maple syrup as he can with his last forkful of pancake before pushing the plate aside, and draining his coffee. "You're getting this right?" he says to Stiles as he signals for the bill.

"Hey! You said you were taking me to breakfast."

"Yeah, and here we are," Derek says, gesturing around. "Get out your wallet."

*

"BJURSTA..." Stiles reads aloud, copying down the name of the item onto the list they're making. Behind him, Derek frowns.

"Do I really need a table?"

"Yes," Stiles groans. "We can't do this with everything, Derek. You need a table. You need at least two chairs--"

"One chair."

"-- Two chairs, a fridge, a saucepan set, kitchen knives, cutlery, spatulas, a dish-rack, plates, bowls, glasses, mugs and a chopping board. Those are non negotiable. And that's just the kitchen. You need a dresser. You need a bookshelf. You need a shower mat."

"I don't need mugs and glasses," Derek replies, and Stiles throws his hands up in frustration and all but screams. A few of the passing customers stop and glance at them, smirking.

"Okay," Stiles says, taking deep in-and-out breaths. "Okay, we'll have this argument when we get to the dining section, alright?"

"Awww," a passerby says, then recoils when Derek turns to growl at them, his eyes flashing red. Stiles grabs Derek's wrist, and pulls him away.

"We're agreed on this table though?" he says, snapping his fingers in front of Derek's face and pointing. Derek nods sullenly. Stiles brightens. "Good!" he says and grins. "This is actually quite fun."

Pocketing their item list and pen, Stiles leads the way onwards towards the chairs.

"I could go with you," Derek says, a moment later, while Stiles is jumping around, sitting in various seats and wriggling to test their comfort.

"Huh?" he says, flinching away from the price tag on one of the dining sets and looking questioningly at Derek.

"Prom."

Stiles just stares at him for a minute, processing. "I…huh. What?"

"You're allowed to take people from out of school, right?"

"Yeah," Stiles replies, "I mean, people are going with dates from other schools and stuff, or, I guess, their boyfriends and girlfriends who are in college now, I think. So, yeah, I suppose so."

Derek shrugs. "And you wanted to go with Isaac as a, uh, friends."

"Oh," Stiles says, a blank expression passing over his face for a split second. Then he grins. "And we're friends, aren't we? I mean, most of the time."

"Some of the time," Derek agrees. He's standing a little awkwardly grimacing at himself, and Stiles can't help but sort of duck forward a bit and reach out to semi-hug/tap Derek on the shoulder with the inside of his arm. Then jump away immediately, as if expecting to get his head ripped off.

"Thanks, man," he says.

"When is it?" Derek asks.

"Next Saturday," Stiles says. "You can pick me up. We should go in your car, not my jeep. This might actually be a chance to get some street cred. Oh yes, we'll show up in your beautiful black serial killer car, and I get to walk into prom with a gorgeous older guy. This is perfect."

"'Gorgeous'," Derek says with a smirk. Stiles punches him in the arm, very, very lightly.

"You know, if you took your glasses off and let your hair hang down."

"One more thing," Derek says, and Stiles instinctively takes a jump a few feet back. Derek laughs. "No, come here, seriously," he says, and Stiles shakes his head frantically, still walking backwards.

"I don't trust you when you say that," he says, as Derek stalks closer to him, a rare smile on his face.

"Just come here," Derek says, pouncing forward and grabbing Stiles by the collar of his hoodie as he frantically tries to escape. He lifts him upwards so that only his toes touch the ground and his arms flail wildly, a look of terror on his face. "I was only going to say," he says, "that you should tell Scott. And the others." He lowers Stiles back down. "About… what we talked about earlier. They won't care."

Stiles shakes his shoulder, readjusting his hoodie with a glare. "You're really scary, you know that? Even when you're trying to be nice. It's like, 'here Stiles, lets talk about sexual identity! I'll stalk towards you like a creeper and look like I'm going to throw you at the bedroom display'." He slaps a hand across his mouth. "That came out wrong."

Derek shakes his head, still smirking a bit. Then he points at a chair. "That one's fine," he says, and Stiles curses and fishes around in his pocket for their scrap of paper.

*

On Monday, the next day, Jackson sits opposite Stiles in the cafeteria and grins at him in that disarming way he has that means shit is about to go down.

"If you ask my girlfriend to go to prom with you one more time, Stilinski, I will end you. Creatively."

Beside him, Scott slams his hands on the table and snarls threateningly at Jackson, who bares his teeth in return. Stiles puts a hand on his friend’s shoulder, pushing him back down into his seat. "Okay, can you guys at least pretend not be werewolves at school?"

Jackson's eyes are still flashing blue, but he turns to look calmly at Stiles. "You're right. We'll need plausible deniability when people find your mauled carcass out behind the bleachers."

Stiles just shrugs. "Jackson, I know what you're capable of. Tone down the threats a little to something realistic if you want me to actually be scared of you. Anyway, I have a date for prom, and it's not Lydia."

Both Jackson and Scott do a double-take. "Really?" they say in unison, and Jackson adds a sceptical, "As if."

Stiles grins, spreading his hands. Jackson narrows his eyes.

"Who is it?"

"You'll see," Stiles says.

"I don't believe you," Jackson replies, standing up. "So I'm just going to say this. Between now and Saturday, don't go near Lydia at all, or I'm going to smash in the headlights of your car. Realistic enough for you?"

He turns his back and stalks away, and Scott immediately turns to Stiles, face delighted.

"You weren't lying!" he says, and Stiles scowls.

"You could sound less surprised, you know."

"Sorry man," Scott says, shrugging. "It's just, you've refused to ask anyone but Lydia this whole time, and I was starting to think you'd just stay home and play MMORPGs instead of coming."

Stiles sighs. "It's not actually a date. He's just going with me as a friend."

"Isaac?"

Stiles makes a squirmy motion with his hands. "Uh, Derek, actually."

"Really?" Scott says, pulling a face. "Him?"

"I thought you didn't mind him so much these days?"

"Eh. He lived in a sewer not that long ago."

Stiles lifts a finger up defensively. "He's not living in a sewer now." He doesn't add that Derek's actually moved into a proper apartment, since he still doesn't seem to want visitors. And Stiles is going to respect that. For at least a week. "Look, everyone is paired off, okay? You and Allison. Jackson and Lydia. Boyd and Erica. Isaac and Danny, apparently."

Scott grins. "I know, how sweet is that?"

"Yeah, it's lovely. I'm real happy for them. But you know who doesn't get a convenient match in this little quasi-pack of ours? Stiles. And Derek, actually."

"Are you saying you want to go gay for Derek because it makes everything neat?" Scott asks, confused.

"No. I told you, we're going to prom as friends!" Stiles sighs. "But it can get frustrating, okay? And, also, while we're on the 'go gay', thing. I am, actually. Not gay. But attracted to men? Yeah. Maybe mostly attracted to men. Maybe it's just men and strawberry blonde geniuses."

Scott looks surprised, but he just smiles. "I didn't know, man. But that's cool."

"No, it's not cool," Stiles whines. "Because it doesn't make any difference! I still don't get matched up, I still don't get people looking at me that way."

"Yeah, you do," Scott says. "Erica used to have a crush on you."

"Well, she never told me. And no one else tells me either, and I can't sense sex-pheromone reactions with my nose like you guys. I'm flying blind."

"Pretty much everyone is," Scott says, reasonably. "I mean, yeah, werewolves have an advantage or two. But Stiles, most people aren't werewolves and manage anyway.”

Stiles just lowers his head to the cafeteria table and groans. “I just wanted to go to prom with someone who likes me, and would have sex with me. I just want to have sex.” He heaves out a dry sob. “It’s been eighteen sexless years and I want it to be over.”

Scott pats him on the shoulder.

*

Derek glares at the windowsill. “Why is there a cactus?” he asks.

“Because it’s prickly,” Stiles says, throwing himself back on the sofa bed, which is currently folded up. “Like you. I picked it up on the way over here from school. It’s a house-warming cactus.”

“Well that’s great,” Derek says. “You said you were going to get me something I need.”

“That’s why we’re going grocery shopping this evening.”

Derek side eyes him, still facing the cactus and cocking his head, as if sniffing it. “We?”

“You’ll never do it yourself,” Stiles says reasonably. He sweeps his arm around the room, which is now not completely empty. “But well done putting the furniture together.”

“The table is lopsided,” Derek says. “The… diagram wasn’t--”

“Just don’t play marbles on it, dude.”

Derek turns around at looks at Stiles front on. He’s got a constipated frown on his face, which Stiles knows is different to the surly frown, because it means he doesn’t quite know how to react to something. Constipated frowns mean he can’t just throw anger at it and hope it goes away. “Alright, lets go then,” he says, grabbing his car keys off the coffee table (coffee table!).

Stiles stands up. “Is this okay, Derek?” he asks. “Me helping you settle in?”

Derek just stares for a long moment. “It’s fine,” he says gruffly.

“If I’m doing something wrong--”

“You’re not.” Derek just holds a hand up to quiet Stiles. “C’mon, lets go. Supermarket.”

*

When they’re in the car, Stiles says, “I did what you said. I told Scott. It was all cool.”

Derek’s lips twitch. “Told you it would be.”

“I don’t know why I never...” Stiles laughs loudly. It’s kinda like having a weight lifted off his chest. “I chat to drag queens on facebook pretty much every night, I don’t know why I never just told people. No one cares that I’m bisexual. Why would they? I’m going to change my facebook info.” He pulls out his phone, opening up the app. Derek glances at the screen, shaking his head with amusement.

“Stiles,” he says, then pauses, clearing his throat. Stiles looks up.

“Hm?”

“You picked out pretty much all the furniture in my house.”

“You chose the chair,” Stiles reminds him.

Derek shrugs, turning the car into the parking lot in the basement of the supermarket complex. “Yeah, one chair.” Derek parks the car and turns off the engine, twisting in his seat to look at Stiles. “And now we’re going to go into the supermarket, and I’m going to push the cart, and you’re going to choose all the stuff we’re buying for me.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, probably.”

“And it’s all going to go in my house and I’m going to be surrounded by these things you picked out and put in my space, every day.”

“Is that a problem?” Stiles asks, suddenly nervous. Derek’s eyebrows pull together in a way that reads like he hates the world.

“No,” he says, then sighs and opens the driver’s side door. “That’s the problem.”

*

They end up with eight canvas bags (Stiles had insisted) of shopping in the trunk of the car, and when they return to the apartment, Derek carries up six with ease and Stiles takes the lightest two.

“I can unpack from here,” Derek says, when they dump them all on the small floor space in the kitchen. “If you want to go home.”

“I was actually hoping I could stay for dinner?” Stiles asks, already reaching into the first bag and starting to sort all the goods into piles based on where in the cupboards they should live.

Derek actually starts to say, “But there’s nothing--” then cuts himself off, looking terrified. “Oh. Shit.”

“Ha! Never get rid of me now,” Stiles cackles, throwing a bag of pasta towards the werewolf and pointing to one of the upper cupboards.

“I can’t cook,” Derek says.

“That’s okay,” Stiles replies. “I can.”

Derek gets that constipated frown again, and buries himself in the groceries, taking Stiles’ directions on where to pack things away. They’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of pass, point, disagree, argue, snatch, throw, and eventually concede on a location for where everything should live, when Derek pauses, cocks his head and says, “Your phone’s ringing.”

Stiles swears and rushes over to his backpack, fishing around inside while Derek finishes sorting out the shop. “It’s Lydia,” he says, answering. Derek shoots him an unreadable look, packet of dish-washing scourers in hand.

“Heeeey, Lydia,” Stiles says, giving Derek a thumbs up and a wink. Derek’s frown comes back in full force. “Rethink my offer?”

Even through the phone and from the other side of the (admittedly small) room, Derek can hear Lydia clearly.

“Jackson tells me you think you’ve got a date for prom, Stiles,” she says. “I want to know who it is.”

“Jealous?”

Her snort comes through loud and clear, and Derek can’t help but smirk to himself a little. Stiles sees him and mouths, Not cool man.

“I need to call them to do dress fittings, we’re all getting matching ones.”

“Uh, since when?” Stiles asks. “And who’s ‘we’?”

The eye-roll isn’t audible, but Derek imagines it clearly. “Since forever? I have a day planner. And Me, Allison, Erica, and whoever the hell your date is. Duh. We’re getting group photos. They have to look nice.”

Stiles throws himself into Derek’s dining chair and sprawls out, one arm hanging over the backrest. “But what if the guys don’t wear matching suits?”

“Well, you’re all wearing black,” Lydia says, “obviously. So that won’t be an issue.”

“Lydia,” Stiles says, his voice serious and dire, “my tux is lime green. I’ve already bought it.”

Derek has to turn away to bury a bag of potatoes in the cupboard and hide his grin at Lydia’s scandalised gasp.

“No, it’s not,” she says.

“Well, okay, it’s actually more of a pastel green. Deposit is down and everything,” Stiles replies, and looks over at Derek with a wide grin.

Really? Derek mouths. Stiles shakes his head.

“Well you have to un-deposit it, then,” says Lydia. “Because you’re wearing black, and we’re getting photos done against the light blue wall in the drama department. If you absolutely have to, you can wear charcoal grey or obsidian.”

“What are you going to do about the wolves?”

“Sunglasses,” Lydia says, sounding put out. “It’s going to look so tacky, but it’s that or contact lenses, and we just can’t get Scott to wear them. He can’t put them in. And it’s better to have everyone wearing shades than just one guy.”

“You’ve thought about this,” Stiles comments.

“Uh huh, which is why I need your date’s number.”

“Do you have Derek’s number?”

There’s a pause. “Yes.”

“Well you’re good to go then!” Stiles says cheerfully. “I don’t think he’s going to want to wear a dress though.”

Another pause. “Jackson was right,” says Lydia. “You’re so full of shit.” Then she hangs up.

“Love you too,” Stiles says to the phone, and throws it back to land on his school bag. He looks over at Derek. “Maybe I should rent a pastel green tux.”

The kitchen is now completely packed away, but finally stocked -- there’s spices in the spice rack, and fruit in the recently acquired fruit bowl. Derek steps away from the area and sits on his sofa bed. “You mess with her,” he observes. “To get attention.”

Stiles shrugs. “She’s fun to mess with.”

“Hm,” Derek says, watching Stiles walk over to the kitchen and pull out a large saucepan from one of the bottom shelves. “What are you making?”

“Risotto good with you?” Stiles reaches into the dark basket under the counter and grabs an onion, then picks a knife from the block and peels it in one smooth movement.

“Fine,” Derek replies and watches, entranced, as Stiles starts chopping until the onion is just a pile of fine, even pieces. Then he grabs a few cloves of garlic and neutralises them as well. Derek hasn’t seen Stiles like this -- he’s not flailing around or getting distracted, he’s just working on the vegetables as if it comes completely naturally to him. He grabs a stick of celery from the vegetable cooler, and starts to chat while he chops it up finely.

“So what do you do,” he asks, “if you don’t cook? Do you just eat out? Or is it a wolf thing? Hunting deer and rabbit and tearing them apart with your bare teeth?” He drops some butter into the saucepan, letting it melt down before adding the vegetables and dropping the lid on, turning down the heat on the stove.

“Sometimes,” Derek says. “I eat what’s around, I guess.”

“Remind me to never leave you alone with my goldfish.” Stiles starts chopping a large field mushroom, then pours out a cup of aborio rice, leaving it next to the stove. “Where’d you put the chicken stock?” he asks.

“Second highest shelf. Left,” Derek answers. Stiles takes the carton down, then takes the lid off the onions, dropping the mushrooms in by the handful, then pulls a wooden spoon out of the drawer and stirs. After adding some salt and seasoning, he pours in the rice and generous amounts of stock.

“You’re really calm,” Derek observes, and it comes out sounding more accusatory than he intended. Stiles just laughs though.

“Social conditioning,” he says. “I mean, I was diagnosed with ADHD young, kinda when it was trendy. They gave mom and dad this pamphlet about ‘Ways of Managing An Attention Deficit Child’ or something, and it was all about establishing routines, you know, and providing incentives. One of the suggested things was cooking, so mom always got me to help her make dinner. And then I kept on after… I guess it worked, anyway. It helps if I make myself cook slow things, like this,” he gestures at the risotto. “You can’t leave it unattended.”

Derek isn’t sure what to say, so he doesn't say anything. It doesn't matter. It’s Stiles, so he just keeps talking.

“I don’t bake though, baking is a bad plan. The timer doesn’t work on our stove at home, so I put a cake in the oven and then pull out a pile of ash several hours later when I remember it exists. Roast veggies also don’t really work. But stove top stuff, I’m good at.” He turns around to lean against the kitchen counter and look at Derek, still stirring slowly with one hand. “Why are you looking at me funny?”

Derek blinks -- hadn’t even realised he was staring. “You...” he says, and cuts himself off shaking his head.

“Seriously, what? Is it the puffy eyes? That’s just the onions, dude. Or do I look pretty when I cry? Because that’s just creepy.”

“No,” Derek says. “It’s nothing.”

“Ah, no, I know your ‘something’ face,” Stiles says, but doesn’t push the issue.

*

Later on, the saucepan is soaking in the sudsy sink, the two empty bowls stacked on the counter next to it. Stiles finishes cling-wrapping the bowl of leftovers, and glances at his watch.

“Shit, I better get home,” he says, and Derek just huffs from the sofa, which is now unfolded into a bed again.

“Thanks,” he says, stretching out on his back atop the covers. “You know, for...”

“Being your wife?” Stiles jokes, checking his school bag and glancing around for his shoes. “Or is there like, a werewolf equivalent? Mommy wolf.”

“Yes,” Derek says, then adds after a moment. “Alpha werewolves have female mates.”

Stiles laughs. “Yeah, I’m remembering back to my wikipedia nights when Scott first got turned. I guess I am kinda raising all your cubs, you slacker. I’m not even kidding, Scott forgot how to read analogue clocks the other day. I had to re-learn him.”

Derek laughs from the bed as Stiles stands idly next to the front door, back-pack over one shoulder. “Go home,” he says. “What are you waiting for?”

“Can I come over again tomorrow?” Stiles asks, and Derek twists his neck to look at him, frowning.

“No,” he says. ‘I’m going out in the afternoon.” Stiles face falls, and Derek frowns harder. “You can on Wednesday, though.”

Stiles pulls the door open. “Alright,” he says. “Bye. See you then. On Wednesday.”

“Just get lost,” Derek says, but teasingly, and Stiles grins and dashes out into the stairwell, kicking the door closed behind him.

*

Erica corners Stiles in Chem class the next day, hedging him in on the two person station before Scott gets to class. She doesn’t say anything initially, just unpacks her books and stationary calmly, then turns to look at him.

“I was saving that seat,” Stiles says, somewhat lamely.

“Yeah, well, we have things to talk about,” says Erica with a smile. “Lydia thinks you’re going to prom with Derek.”

“Why does everyone keep phrasing that as if they think I’m making it up?”

“Because we all think you’re making it up,” Erica replies, rolling her eyes. “But on the off chance--”

“We’re just going as friends,” Stiles says. “I’m friends with Derek. Everyone knows I’m friends with Derek. It’s not like it’s totally unbelievable.”

“--On the off chance you’re actually telling the truth, you’re going to tell me where he is, because I’ve been looking everywhere for him, even that disgusting sewer. I can’t even track his scent. He’s deliberately hiding himself away, and I want to know where my fucking alpha is. And, also, F.Y.I., you’re not friends with Derek. No one is friends with Derek.”

“See, people always say that, but it’s totally not true. I mean, he’s not an outgoing guy, sure, but he’s deeply starved for human contact, and--”

Erica snarls. “Do you know where he is, or not?”

“Yes!” Stiles throws his hands up defensively. “But he’s not ready yet!”

She freezes. “Excuse me?”

“He needs just a bit more time, I think. He’s…unfinished. It’s just detailing now, I swear. I’ll hang curtains on his face, then he’ll be open to the world.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Yeah, okay, that didn’t exactly make sense,” Stiles concedes. “Just trust me, okay? He’s fine, he’s around. Is there something you need from him? I can talk to him.”

“I just want to know where he is,” Erica huffs. “It’s a pack thing. And you’re a human. It’s not fair that you apparently rank higher than me.”

“It’s not a rank thing,” Stiles says, but then cuts himself off. What does he know? Maybe it is. Maybe that ‘Mommy Wolf’ joke wasn’t so far off the mark.

“Well,” Erica says, scowling, as Mr. Harris walks into class and starts to set up the lesson. “Tell him I’m looking for him.”

*

Derek actually picks Stiles up from school on Wednesday, the black Camero pulling up outside the front steps just as he walks outside. Stiles looks around and curses himself for staying behind to finish some work in the library. He’s one of the last people leaving the school, and everyone in the pack has already left.

“Erica wants to know where you are, by the way,” he says, opening the passenger door and climbing in. “And none of them actually believe you’re coming to prom.”

Derek pulls out into the road, and glances at Stiles. “That’s surprising?”

“Well, no,” Stiles replies, “but you know. It’d be kinda nice if you could send out a PSA that I’m not a delusional fool.”

“I couldn’t in good conscience,” Derek replies, and Stiles knows his dry tones well enough now to tell when he’s making a joke.

“Ha-ha,” Stiles says. “Hey, I was actually planning to go to Pottery Barn before coming over this afternoon.”

Derek looks at him sceptically. “Have you considered interior design as a career path?” he says, but slips into the next lane and takes the turn that leads them towards the decorating store.

“I swear this is the last of it,” Stiles says. “We just need some finishing touches, and then you’ll have a fully inhabitable room. Of course, we’ll have to work on getting the actual necessities, like a T.V. and computer, eventually, but I guess those things can wait.” Derek’s laugh is a little hysterical, and Stiles looks at him, shocked. “What is it?”

“You keep saying ‘we’!” Derek says, sounding really, really unsettled. There’s even a slight tremor in his voice. “And I keep letting you.”

Stiles mouths wordlessly, trying to think of something to say. Eventually he settles on, “But... you said it was okay.”

“It shouldn’t be!” Derek groans. “I wasn’t supposed to-- I didn’t think--”

They’re driving past a shopping mall, pretty close to Pottery Barn, but Derek suddenly takes a sharp turn and swerves into the parking lot, stopping in the first empty park and shutting off the engine. Stiles stares across at him, but he’s just glaring out the window, taking sharp breaths through his nose. After a few seconds of that he shakes his head as if he’s trying to dislodge something, then seems to snap.

“Out,” he growls, stepping out into the car park. Stiles unbuckles his seat belt but doesn’t move, just watches in confusion as Derek comes around the car and wrenches open his door, grabbing Stiles by the wrist and pulling him out of the car. Stiles half runs, half falls as he flails after Derek, who’s storming towards the mall, hand still tight around Stiles’ wrist.

“What the hell are you doing?” he shouts, balancing himself and jogging a little bit to keep step with the werewolf.

“Keep up,” Derek says, but lets go of Stiles magnanimously, clenching his hands back at his sides. Stiles thinks he sees claws for a brief moment, and recoils a little bit, slowing his steps so he’s a couple of feet behind Derek.

“Pottery Barn is that way,” he says, pointing further down the highway.

“We’ll get to it,” snarls Derek as he reaches the automatic doors and breezes inside. Stiles looks around in confusion.

“Where are we going?” he asks. “Macy’s?

“No.”

“Yeah, didn’t think so.” Stiles trails after Derek, who’s slowed down a little now, looking around for what he’s trying to find. He actually sniffs the air, then steps onto an escalator, and they head downstairs.

Derek,” Stiles whines, but Derek just speeds up again, crossing over to a small stall in the center of the walkway that cuts...

Oh.

Cuts keys.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, what on earth are you doing?”

“Wait here,” Derek says, putting a hand out to Stiles’ chest and then stepping forward, pulling his house keys from his pocket and talking to the elderly woman behind the counter. He hands over some cash, and in return gets a paper ticket and a wary look. He walks back over to where Stiles is standing, dumbstruck.

“I’m sorry,” Derek says sourly. “I should. Explain.”

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says, crossing his arms. “Yeah you should. You should explain in detail. Possibly with the aid of a flowchart.”

“Um, the mates of Alpha wolves. When they, uh, rear cubs. They build a den.”

“Oh,” Stiles says thoughtfully, then: “Oh! Is that what you think I--”

Derek scowls. “My wolf instincts. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore them.”

“And the key cutting?” Stiles asks, glancing at the stall over Derek’s shoulder. He shrugs.

“Sometimes I don’t want to ignore them.”

Stiles can feel his heart pounding in his chest, and knows intellectually that Derek can hear how hard and fast it’s beating, but he still tries to look unaffected. “So what you’re saying is...?”

Derek gives him a glare for making him actually articulate his feelings. “My wolf,” he growls, “thinks you are my mate. You’re making our den, you’re caring for our cubs -- more than I can, at least -- and, even things like cooking for me, you are providing, you are carving a space for yourself.”

“Derek,” Stiles says, the corner of his lip twitching up, “If you don’t want to go to Pottery Barn, that’s fine. You can just say that.”

This isn’t a joke, Stiles,” Derek snarls.

“I know,” Stiles replies, stepping forward til he’s just about looking up at Derek. “But-- I mean, it’s okay, isn’t it? I can stop, if you like.”

Derek is sullenly silent for a moment, then says, “I don’t want you to stop.”

“Good, because I don’t want to stop either,” Stiles grins. “How long have we got before the key’s ready? Time enough for Pottery Barn, you think?”

“Yeah,” Derek says, and gently places his hand on Stiles’ lower back as they walk back out of the shopping complex, as if in apology for dragging him in before.