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Next Thursday

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Okay, so here’s the simple part: Jackson’s a werewolf now. It’s actually not that simple, it’s actually kind of fucked, especially when Derek and Peter (Peter, and that’s a whole new level of fucked) try to explain it. Because Derek is shit with words and Peter apparently came back from the dead with a new lease on snark or something, and Stiles kind of likes him, which makes the whole thing where Peter has a history of being straight up psychotic a bit conflicting. But that’s about five miles down the road from the actual point, which is as follows: Jackson is a werewolf. And all that stuff Stiles tried to tell Lydia that night about a person’s death not being about them, about repercussions and shit, about all the other people--that applies here, too. Jackson being a werewolf isn’t just about Jackson. Stiles of all people should know that, given everything that happened when Scott became a werewolf. Scott certainly wasn’t the only person whose life got a supernatural makeover, even if Stiles’ didn’t come complete with, you know, fangs and glowing eyes.

Which it didn’t. He’s not bitter or anything; Stiles is happy as is, factory default. But it’s worth noting: Stiles got the werewolf version of ‘My Grandparents Went to Key West and All I Got Was This Crappy T-Shirt.’ Only with threats to his life instead of a t-shirt, and without anyone going to the Key West. Not that--Stiles’ life could use more pie.

So, given how everything went with Scott, Stiles really shouldn’t be surprised when Lydia Martin shows up on his porch, sitting there with her hands folded in her lap when Stiles gets back from Scott’s on some generic Thursday night.

“Stiles,” she says, and Stiles finds himself sort of involuntarily scratching the back of his neck and opening his mouth like a fish. “I think we should go for coffee.”

Circumstances transpire to get the both of them into the Jeep and then two towns over at some coffee shop Lydia insists upon, and Stiles isn’t even sure how it happens, but suddenly they both have hot chocolates with extra whip and Lydia is saying, “We need to lay down some ground rules.”

“Ground rules,” Stiles repeats, and Lydia smiles encouragingly at him, like he’s a particularly slow turtle.

“One,” she says, holding up a finger. “I’m not going to date you. Even if we become best friends. Just: no.”

“You know how to let a boy down easy,” Stiles says, which is a lie.

“Which brings us to two,” Lydia continues. “I’m not going to get drunk and make out with you. Or let you touch my breasts. And three: I won’t acknowledge you at school unless I need you to tell Allison something.”

“So how it normally is, then,” Stiles says. 

“Exactly how it normally is,” Lydia says, sipping her hot chocolate and delicately licking the whipped cream from her upper lip. “Nothing changes.”

“What are we doing?” Stiles asks, because he’s still a bit unclear on that point. He hadn’t really expected this to be a date, and although he had a distant fantasy that involved Lydia coming crying into his arms because Jackson was a douche, well, she isn’t crying. Even though Jackson is still, and ever will be, a douche.

“I want to talk about Jackson,” Lydia says. “And werewolves.”

“And you couldn’t ask Allison because--?” Stiles asks, because even though he kind of wants to jump all over the fact that Lydia Martin is talking to him, he also wants to crack the case of why he just spent eight dollars on two hot chocolates.

“Have you tried to talk to Allison about Scott lately?” Lydia says, shaking her head. “No thank you.”

Stiles has not tried to talk to Allison about Scott lately, but he kind of imagines the lady has a point.

“Okay,” he says. “But I don’t know any of the sex stuff.”

Lydia raises one perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

“What am I supposed to tell you?” he asks. “They can smell things. On you. It’s creepy. And they can hear your heartbeat, which is also creepy. And there’s the super strength, super senses, super speed thing. And Derek, who’s creepy and kind of a pain in the ass. I think that about covers it.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says. She’s pursing her lips, which is a bad sign if ever there was one. “Peter, he--I know things, but I don’t know things.”

Stiles looks at her, and Lydia sighs.

“I want to know everything,” she says, so Stiles tells her, because at this point there’s no reason not to. Lydia listens, and asks careful, relevant questions, and continues to be pretty much perfect. Stiles is aware she’s doing this for Jackson, who probably doesn’t deserve it but maybe deserves it a little, because being the kanima--well, saying that couldn’t have been fun would be an understatement.

By the time Stiles is done they’ve both finished their hot chocolates and the barista is starting to give them dirty looks.

“I think we should leave,” Stiles says.

“Ignore him,” Lydia says, waving a hand.

“I don’t really have anything else to tell you,” Stiles says. He feels a little sheepish about that, actually, like now that he has Lydia’s full and undivided attention he should take advantage of it, but he’s not entirely sure what to say to her. They have a connection. It’s not really founded on talking.

Stiles is kind of seeing the flaw inherent in that logic.

“I think we should bring Danny next time,” Lydia says brightly.

“Does Danny even know?” Stiles asks. “Anything?” Danny still occasionally looks at Scott and Stiles strangely, but everyone does that. Stiles actually hasn’t seen much of Danny lately, but he’s in the jazz band this year, so presumably he’s practicing guitar or whatever. Or bass. Stiles is pretty sure Danny plays bass.

“He should,” Lydia says, and Stiles--tends to agree, actually.

“Shouldn’t Jackson be the one to tell him, though?”

“Well if Jackson doesn’t, I will,” Lydia says, like that’s taken care. “Come on, give me a ride home.”

Stiles does, fiddling with the radio until Lydia slaps his hand away and puts it on some top forty station.

“I like to hear the ends of songs,” she says when Stiles reaches to change it.

“I like to hear songs that don’t make my ears bleed,” Stiles mutters.

“Oh, don’t be a snob, Stiles,” Lydia says. She must have werewolf hearing. Or just--very good ears. They are well shaped. “What do you listen to, like, Vampire Weekend?”

“I’m offended that you would say that,” Stiles says. “Or think that. Vampires, seriously. And even without the name, I’m pretty sure Vampire Weekend went out years ago. I’m pretty sure some other band is cool now.”

“Some other band,” Lydia repeats flatly, and Stiles is kind of relieved to get to her house and send her on her way before he starts into a weird monologue about, like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers and the new wave of populist folk rock or whatever. He doesn’t even like those bands especially, he just spends some time on Pitchfork.

“See you next Thursday!” she says as she slides out of the Jeep. Then she waves. It is a wave Stiles would characterize as jaunty, like this is somehow a normal thing for them to do. Apparently Lydia is going to make it a normal thing to do by sheer force of will. If anyone could Stiles figures it’s her--after all, she regained her popularity by sheer force of will, too.

Over the course of the next week the Alpha Pack kidnaps Allison, Scott rescues her, she still won’t talk to him because she says she could’ve escaped on her own, and things are generally pretty stupid, especially as they relate to anyone’s relationship with anyone else. Stiles wishes Allison would take Scott back just because he’s sick of Scott showing up at his house to mope and watch Transformers movies, and, honestly, Stiles hadn’t really expected to want Scott and Allison to reconcile this badly, but with Scott alternately going on death missions and wanting to watch Michael Bay movies--well, things have been worse, but they’ve also been a whole lot better.

Stiles finds a note from Lydia in his locker on Thursday that tells him to be at the coffee shop two towns over at seven under threat of something vague but terrible happening. He gets there late because Scott--well, because of Scott--and when he arrives Danny and Lydia already have their drinks and have claimed the semi-circle of purple armchairs by the shop’s fake fireplace.

“Hey,” Stiles says, plopping down with his hot chocolate. “Sorry I’m late. Scott emergency, but now Isaac’s with him so it’s all good.”

“Stiles,” Danny says, looking at Lydia. “Stilinski was your third? Are you two secretly dating? Because Jackson--”

“What?” Stiles squawks a little. “No dating. It’s one of the ground rules.”

“Good, he knows them,” Lydia says. “Yes, Stiles is our third, Danny.”

“Dating--why would you even--” Stiles continues, in what he thinks is a good imitation of someone who’s been wrongfully accused.

“Because you’ve had a crush on Lydia forever,” Danny says, raising an eyebrow like he’s daring Stiles to disagree. Which Stiles really can’t.

“I didn’t realize it was common knowledge,” Stiles says.

“It was,” Danny replies.

“I guess I should be embarrassed now,” Stiles says. “But, you know--so, Danny, who told you about our furry friends?”

“Jackson,” Lydia says. “But I made him.”

“Does Derek know?” Stiles asks. “Derek’s Miguel.”

“Miguel,” Danny repeats.

“My cousin,” Stiles says. “Not actually my cousin, as it turns out.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Danny says. “Not much in the way of family resemblance.”

“We could be related,” Stiles protests, and Danny just gives Stiles a pointed look that seems to encompass Stiles’ general lack of--Hale. Maybe because Stiles actually has chest hair whereas Derek’s is freakily absent, and there has to be some weird genetic thing happening, there, considering how much hair is on Derek’s face.

“Derek doesn’t need to know,” Lydia says. “Jackson’s not in his pack.”

“Jackson’s not--” Stiles starts. “Of course he’s not. I can’t believe Derek hasn’t started sending the unattached werewolves of Beacon Hills flowers and chocolates yet.” Stiles rubs his temples. “This is going to be a disaster, if it isn’t already.”

“What’s a disaster?” Danny asks, looking at Stiles curiously.

“We have, like, four werewolf packs in a two horse town,” Stiles says. “I’m going to wake up one morning and find the public library and the grocery store razed to the ground.”

“And we’ll pick up the pieces,” Lydia says, smiling hard and glossy.

Danny looks between the pair of them.

“I think I missed some things,” he says.

“Yeah, probably,” Stiles says.

So they tell him.

It’s weird because Danny doesn’t like Stiles. It doesn’t bother Stiles, really--he’s an acquired taste, like a fine wine or old cheese (and old cheese, to Stiles’ admittedly crap palate, mostly tastes like feet). Lots of people don’t like him, and Danny’s always been nice about it, because nice is what Danny is. Danny, unlike Stiles, is universally likeable. They’re opposites that way.

But because of that, it’s weird to have Danny listening to Stiles like Stiles is saying something worth hearing. In most situations Danny’s the one who’s more--just more. Stiles has never allowed anyone to belittle him without his consent, but he has no illusions about the social hierarchy of his particular high school, either. And here he is, having coffee with Lydia Martin and Danny Mahealani, and it’s surreal. Not on par with a Dali painting, not even on par with Scott being a werewolf, just ordinary high school surreal. Like ‘Breakfast Club’ or something, only instead of every stereotype ever it’s popular kid, popular kid, and Stiles.

At some point Lydia swipes Danny’s cup and takes a sip, then frowns.

“Danny,” she says. “What is this?”

“Decaf?” Danny says, raising an eyebrow. “What? I hate chocolate. Lyds, you know this.”

“Did you seriously just call her Lyds?” Stiles asks. “Is this, like, a secret thing for people more popular than I am? Can I call you Lyds now?”

“Ground rule,” Lydia says, tapping the table and frowning at Danny. “No one calls me Lyds.”

“Ground rule,” Danny counters. “I don’t eat chocolate.”

“At least get something with calories,” Lydia says. “You didn’t even put anything in that. We didn’t drive for thirty minutes so you could drink black coffee. Black decaf coffee. Next time get a Danish.”

“Next time,” Stiles repeats.

“Standing appointment,” Lydia says. “I’ll text you if something comes up.”

“What is this even?” Stiles asks.

“Next week we need to figure out what to do about Allison,” Lydia says. “If she starts talking to Scott again maybe we can invite her. Until then--”

“Until then what?” Stiles asks.

“Until then I’ll just visit her at her house, and we’ll paint each other’s nails and talk about how Scott McCall is actually kind of strange looking,” Lydia shrugs. “Come on, Danny, I need a ride home.”

“He is not,” Stiles says. “Danny, back me up.”

“Just because I’m gay,” Danny says, holding up his hands. “McCall is not my type.”

“I feel like you say that about a lot of people,” Stiles says. “But, come on, objectively, Scott is not bad looking. I’d bone him if it wouldn’t feel like incest.”

“You mean you’d bone him if you weren’t straight,” Danny says, which is a weird thing for Danny to say.

“Uh, no,” Stiles says. “I’m pretty sure the fact that Scott is like my brother matters more in this context than my sexual orientation, which--it’s not like I’m Kinsey zero or anything. Anyway--” Stiles lifts a hand and waves. “Later, gators.”

Lydia pulls a face, apparently at being called a gator, and slides into the passenger side of Danny’s hatchback. Danny stands there for a moment, looking at Stiles, and Stiles waves kind of pointedly at him, raising his eyebrows because Danny is being strange, and Stiles’ standards for strange now accounts for werewolves.

Danny gets in the car.

Danny gets a Danish next Thursday, and it sits on its brown-rimmed white plate on the table, getting cold, while Lydia and Stiles are discussing which pack Jackson should join and Danny’s watching them like he’s not entirely sure why he’s here.

“Jackson doesn’t really have a choice, does he?” Stiles asks. “Derek’s his Alpha.”

“I don’t trust Peter Hale,” Lydia says, so tightly that Stiles has to look at Danny to make sure they heard the same thing. Danny’s eyebrows are high on his forehead, so Stiles figures they did.

“I don’t either, dude is creepy,” Stiles says, but Lydia still looks like she’s biting the inside of her cheek.

“He wanted to give me the bite, you know,” Stiles says, not to Lydia or Danny in particular, more to the Danish on the white plate.

“He’s not anyone I want anywhere near me,” Lydia says, and Danny’s eyes flit between Lydia and Stiles.

“What happened?” Danny asks. His face has gone soft and a little sad, and Stiles remembers that Danny has sisters, younger ones, and Danny and Lydia are Jackson’s closest friends, which means it makes sense that they’d be close to each other. He feels like he’s intruding, just a bit, like he’s the one who shouldn’t be here, one of these things is not like the others in more ways than social strata.

“I. Um--” Stiles says. “I can go. To the bathroom.”

“No,” Lydia says, suddenly.

Lydia tells them.

It’s worse than having Peter Hale threaten to turn you into a werewolf, actually, and it’s worse than just what happened with Peter Hale on the lacrosse field after winter formal, because the things Lydia remembers are worse than the things she doesn’t. Stiles doesn’t really know what to say, at the end of it. Danny’s arm has found it’s way across Lydia’s shoulders, but Danny himself is silent, which means Stiles needs to say something, because if he just pulls Lydia into a hug that would be weird.

“So Jackson probably shouldn’t join Derek’s pack,” is what he settles on. “Unless maybe Peter dies on a more permanent basis.”

Danny and Lydia stare at him.

“Here,” Stiles says, pushing the plate across the table towards Lydia. “Eat Danny’s Danish.”

Danny looks sort of offended.

“Whatever, dude, you’re obviously not,” Stiles says.

It gets easier, after that, maybe just because everything makes a bit more sense. Stiles hadn’t realized how thoroughly both Lydia and Jackson had been screwed in this whole supernatural battlefield thing, because while Stiles’s been bruised quite a bit he’s never felt like his agency was anything but his own, and his control of his head--well, he can’t completely control his own head, but no one else has been doing it, either.

But it makes sense, after that, that Lydia would want Stiles around just because he’s another human, and Stiles might not know much but she and Jackson don’t know jack, and it makes sense that Danny would be there so that the things that happened to Lydia can’t happen to him.

So they talk, about werewolves, but also about school and lacrosse and their parents, and it’s weird and it’s not.

Derek shows up one Thursday, striding into the coffee shop and straight to their table (and at some point they acquired a regular table).

“I know what you’re doing,” he glowers, and Stiles feels like the whipped cream on his hot chocolate is being judged. There’s colored sugar on it.

“What’s some hot chocolate between friends?” Stiles asks. “And--” Stiles glances over. “Soup, for Danny.”

Danny had still not found anything at the coffee shop to eat. He was systematically eating or not eating through their entire menu, and Stiles would be worried about possible eating disorders if it wasn’t for the fact that he had seen Danny’s lunches, at school, and suspected Danny might just be the most weirdly picky eater ever.

Derek stalks out.

“I can’t believe he drove twenty minutes for that,” Lydia says.

“He is scary hot,” Danny says, looking after him somewhat wistfully.

“I worry about your taste in men,” Stiles says. “Seriously, dude. Scott--”

“Please don’t pimp your straight friend to me,” Danny says, holding up a hand. “Please. Stop.”

“I’m not--” Stiles starts, then stops himself short. “Okay, I kind of was. Sorry. I’ll stop. Though I do wish Scott would date someone, just so he’ll stop moping about Allison. Seriously, we’ve watched Transformers so many times I’m amazed the DVD still works. And that’s just the third one. And the third one is awful.”

“We know, Stilinski,” Danny says.

“Allison is on the agenda,” Lydia says. “I’m working on it. But--”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “The werewolves have kind of done a number. But at least Scott’s not in Derek’s pack.”

“Still a werewolf,” Lydia says softly, and Stiles can’t say much to that.

Lydia’s phone beeps, and then something happens via text and Jackson winds up picking Lydia up about twenty minutes later.

“Stiles,” he says to Stiles, before giving Danny a slap on the back and a fist bump and escorting Lydia out.

“Are they--leaving for a date?” Stiles asks Danny uncertainly. Danny shrugs. “You haven’t finished your soup.”

“Yeah, not the best,” Danny says, looking at it like it might eat him.

“Want me to?” Stiles asks, and Danny pushes it across the table to him before Stiles finishes his question. Without Lydia there, Stiles doesn’t know what he and Danny talk about. If it were lacrosse season, maybe they could talk about Finstock, but it’s--not.

“Good soup,” Stiles says around a mouthful of it.

They sit there in silence. Stiles keeps eating.

“In the parking lot the other day,” Danny says suddenly. “You said you weren’t Kinsey zero.”

“Er,” Stiles says. He had said that, because it’s true, but he’d also said that because they were in the parking lot, and conversations you have in parking lots aren’t real conversations.

“So are you bi or something?” Danny asks. He seems so casual about it, and Stiles knows--Danny is casual about it, but for a while it had felt like he was the only out person in the school, and while he isn’t, anymore, Stiles has never really seen Danny hanging out with the others. Not that--Danny doesn’t really hang out with Stiles, either, except for right now. Besides, he seems casual about it but he’s also not making eye contact. Stiles puts the spoon back in his soup.

“Yeah, I guess,” Stiles says. “Theoretically. That’s why--I guess I’m in the closet.”

“Theoretically,” Danny repeats.

“I mean,” Stiles says, looking at the soup and picking up his spoon, swirling it around in the cooling liquid. “I’ve been hung up on Lydia for so long. And I know I’m attracted to all sorts of stuff, in that I can--you know. So definitely not zero. But I haven’t done anything.”

“So you’re also only theoretically straight,” Danny points out. Which is fair, but mean.

“Yeah, but I was hung up on Lydia for approximately a million years,” Stiles says. “Which feels sort of different from getting off to two guys doing it on xtube.”

Danny looks like he’s going to say something, but then he shakes his head and just says, “Okay.”

“I figure I’ll come out eventually, eventually, I’d just like to do it without porn as my only evidence,” Stiles says. “Not least because Dad will totally want to talk about it, and we try to pretend that he still has a childlock on my internet, even though I totally got around that when I was like eight.”

“Yeah, me too,” Danny says. “Though I don’t think I started watching porn when I was eight.” Danny raises an eyebrow, but it has the cadence of a joke, so Stiles is just glad that went okay, that was okay, because he didn’t really think Danny was going to be a dick about it, but this still makes Danny the first person outside Scott he’s talked about this with and it--it could’ve gone a lot of ways, is all.

“You finishing that soup?” Danny asks.

“Kind of cold,” Stiles says. “I might get a to-go and see if I can get my dad to eat it, it tastes healthy.”

“You do realize if your dad eats it three people will have tried to finish that bowl of soup?” Danny says, and Stiles stares at it, like maybe its potential germiness will become clear upon further inspection, when the germs rise up and stage a revolt.

“So are you saying that’s not a good idea?” Stiles asks.

“Bit weird, dude,” Danny says with a shrug.

Stiles looks at him, then picks up the spoon and finishes the soup.

“It’s not like this soup is bad,” Stiles says.

“No, it’s not,” Danny agrees.

“It’s just not especially good,” Stiles continues. “How far through the menu are you?”

“About a third,” Danny says. “I’m starting to think this place just isn’t very good.”

“Their hot chocolate is,” Stiles says. “Seriously, I can’t believe you don’t like chocolate. That’s like not liking extremely likable shit--like you.”

“Did you just compare me to chocolate?” Danny asks, his forehead wrinkling. “Which I don’t like?”

“Sorry,” Stiles says. “I sort of blanked on things that are universally liked, and you’re likable. Everyone likes you. Like chocolate. Except you don’t like chocolate, so--have I unearthed some hidden self esteem problems?”

“No,” Danny says flatly. Stiles feels like his humor might be floundering, here, and this is about as close to having material as he gets.

“They should fire Morrell and hire me instead,” Stiles says. “I’ve unearthed your hidden self esteem problems and helped you address your aversion to delicious things, in one fell swoop.”

“I don’t think you have,” Danny says, and Stiles shrugs.

“Worth a try,” he replies. “Speaking of Morrell--did you have to go talk to her about Matt? Because I had to go talk to her, and I don’t even like the dude.”

“Whereas I had a crush on him,” Danny supplies, grinning wryly. “And was once again sabotaged by my own poor taste.”

“Yeah, that,” Stiles says, mostly to keep this conversation going, now that it has a little momentum. “Definitely poor taste. And, seriously, you could do way better.”

“You know that for a fact, Stilinski?” Danny asks, propping his head up on his hands.

“No?” Stiles says uncertainly. “But come on, you’ve got to be able to do better than Matt. Dude was a stalker. And crazy. And not even that hot.”

“Oh, he was hot,” Danny says.

“Maybe compared to me,” Stiles says. “Not compared to you. Though I’m not debating the relative hotness of a dead guy.”

“Me neither,” Danny says, but he sounds more thoughtful than the comment merits, like maybe necrophilia does it for him, or maybe his mind’s still stuck on something else. Stiles kind of doubts that, but werewolves, necrophiliacs--he figures he can take anything in stride, now.

They leave a little after that. It occurs to Stiles sometime around three a.m. that night that they might’ve been flirting, with the bit about whether Stiles thought Danny could do better and--Stiles isn’t sure what to do with that, so he decides it must’ve been an accident and goes to sleep.

The thing is, Stiles can’t get the maybe flirting out of his head. Because Danny could definitely do better than Stiles, but Stiles could definitely do worse. And, well--Stiles knows Danny has mostly dated older guys. He had kind of figured Danny had a thing for older guys, but Danny also had a thing for Matt. And it makes sense, if Danny mostly meets guys at the Jungle, and most of the people who go there aren’t in high school, and are therefore older, and Danny doesn’t actually have a lot of dating options. Not in Beacon Hills. Stiles imagines he’d have tons of options in college, because Danny is hot and smart and nice and plays bass and Stiles isn’t sure what more people want, but here and now, there aren’t actually a lot of options.

So Stiles figures if they were flirting, it was sort of by default, because Danny hadn’t seemed especially interested--he still talked to Stiles like he wasn’t sure how he ended up in this situation, sitting across the table from Stiles--just because Danny could, now. Because it’s not like Stiles is going to punch Danny in the face. Not that anyone would’ve expected Stiles to do that, anyway, especially given the number of times Stiles had asked Danny if he was attractive to gay guys, but--now Stiles can be, like, flirting practice for when Danny gets to college or whatever and can suddenly play the field of people who don’t hang out at the Jungle.

That explanation feels a bit flimsy, but it’s explanation enough for Stiles to shunt the matter to the back of his brain, especially when the Alpha Pack tries to kidnap Allison again that week, because they have problems, and Scott spends a lot of time asking Stiles if he thinks it’s all right for Scott to rescue her this time, which is not a question Stiles even knows how to deal with. He tells Scott as much, and Scott moans and puts his head in his hands and talks about how much he loves her. Stiles pats him gingerly on the shoulder.

They end up rescuing Allison. They bring Lydia, so then if Allison’s annoyed she can, like, pretend Lydia rescued her or something. That works well, because Lydia ends up doing most of the work anyway.

With a pipe bomb.

“Why didn’t I get invited to build the pipe bomb?” Danny asks next Thursday when they tell him about it.

“Um,” Stiles says. “Remember when I asked you for help with computer stuff and had to bribe you with Derek’s naked chest?”

“I didn’t know what was going on then,” Danny says. “I want to help.”

“Can you make a pipe bomb?” Stiles asks.

“No,” Danny says, taking a bite of his grilled cheese. “But I could learn. And I have other skills.”

“Other skills,” Stiles repeats slowly. His cheeks may go a bit pinker than he’d like.

“With computers, Stilinski,” Danny says, raising his eyebrows. “I think your mind went to a weird place, there, and here I was thinking you were an innocent.”

“I’m a teenage guy, Danny, I don’t think we’re innocent on any planet,” Stiles says. “Including Vulcan.”

Lydia looks between Danny and Stiles and shakes her head.

“Okay, this is cute,” she says. “But since Stiles has invoked Star Trek, I think it’s safe to say we need to change the topic. Allison seems to be coming around on Scott.”

“It was the pipe bomb, wasn’t it?” Stiles says, choosing to ignore whatever it is Lydia’s calling ‘cute.’ “Because that was awesome.”

“I made that,” Lydia sniffs. “So if it were, she should start dating me.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says. “So ask her to Homecoming. Actually--should Scott ask her to Homecoming? Would she go, do you think?”

“Homecoming,” Lydia repeats, like she’s only just remembered that Homecoming is fast approaching, despite the signs that have been plastered to lockers school-wide in the last week. “I need to start my campaign for Homecoming court.”

“I’m pretty sure no one campaigns for Homecoming court,” Stiles says, and Lydia stares at him.

“That’s what you think,” she says. “Campaigning for Homecoming court is very delicate. It’s like primaries for Prom court.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, to be agreeable. “I’m sure it is. Have you ever considered politics?”

“Of course she has,” Danny says.

“But I prefer math,” Lydia says. “And I kind of figure I’ll be able to take the math world by storm.”

“And lip gloss,” Danny finishes, and it sounds like a conversation they’ve had before. Lydia smiles at him.

“How’s the grilled cheese?” Stiles asks Danny.

“Better than the soup,” Danny says, then holds it out across the table. “Want a bite?”

Lydia’s watching them.

Stiles leans forward and takes a bite, then sits back and pinches off the string of cheese connecting his lips to the sandwich and stuffs it in his mouth.

“Hard to go wrong with cheese,” he agrees. “Want some of my hot chocolate?”

“Still don’t like chocolate,” Danny says, at the same time as Lydia says, “Ground rule.”

“I’m trying to help Danny with his self esteem issues,” Stiles tells Lydia.

“Danny has chocolate related self esteem issues?” Lydia asks. “You know what, I don’t want to know.”

“Probably not,” Danny agrees, but he’s grinning at Stiles, and there’s just the hint of a dimple, so Stiles will count it as a win. Most of the smiles Stiles has gotten from Danny in the past have been of the tight lipped, ‘go away’ variety, and this is--nice. A pleasant change of pace. Not flirting.

At three a.m. that morning Stiles decides it might have been flirting and promptly buries his face in his pillow. Danny will not become the next Lydia Martin. Stiles refuses to let that happen. It wasn’t good with Lydia, and it won’t be good with Danny, because they’re almost friends now, which means Danny would be nice about it, and that would be worse. And besides, Danny’s just flirting with Stiles because he’s there.

And then Danny’s car breaks down, or the catalytic converter goes out or something.

And here Stiles thought Toyotas were supposed to be reliable. Good thing he has a Jeep.

Danny and Stiles have gym together this year. Stiles has started trying to avoid him in the locker room, because while Stiles is normally completely comfortable with locker room shit, it’s weirder when you actually want to see someone else’s chest, and also touch it and maybe lick it. If Stiles starts staring at Danny in the locker room like his brain’s going to fall out of his mouth, like that one time he saw Lydia’s breasts (which he still feels kind of weird about) people will talk. And Stiles and Danny have a good thing going, here, where Danny kind of tolerates Stiles and Stiles doesn’t try to lick him, and Stiles doesn’t want to mess that up.

So Stiles changes in his corner and stares at his locker and doesn’t talk to Danny, and then Danny comes and finds him.

Stiles is half dressed. He puts his shirt on his head.

“Um,” Danny says while Stiles is trying to find the way out of his shirt and pretend there isn’t a weird ostrich defense mechanism happening here.

“Sorry!” Stiles says, pulling the shirt further over his head and flailing, and then someone else is tugging at the hem of his shirt and--oh. Danny is standing very close. And not wearing a shirt, actually.

Danny’s apparently unaware of this, because he gets right to talking.

“Hey, I need a ride tonight,” he says. “My car’s in the shop.”

“I thought Toyotas were supposed to be reliable,” Stiles says. “What about Lydia?”

“Lydia’s getting a ride with Jackson, but--” Danny trails off, and Stiles nods. He remembers when Allison and Scott were together, even if they aren’t right now. He understands.

“Yeah, I get it,” Stiles says. “You live by Jackson, right?”

“Yeah,” Danny says. “Same cul-de-sac, blue house.”

“See you tonight,” Stiles says.

His eyes are intractably drawn to Danny’s ass as he leaves.

Stiles is pretty sure he’s more than theoretically bi, at least.

“I always thought this was a cool car,” Danny says when he clambers into the Jeep, and Stiles is pretty sure this is what love feels like, because Danny has always thought this was a cool car. Stiles blinks a couple times to regain his bearings.

“Well, now you get the full experience,” Stiles says, waving a hand around. “Pretty much like a car.”

“Yeah, well, I have a Yaris, so,” Danny says. “At least this has personality--” He gestures towards the radio. “Can I?”

“Yeah, yep, works like a radio,” Stiles says. “There are CDs, too, but they’re mostly burned CDs I didn’t label, so that whole endeavor’s a bit of a crapshoot.”

Danny fiddles with the radio and puts it on the college station. Of course he does. Stiles doesn’t know how he went this long without realizing that Danny Mahealani is stupidly perfect, but here he is, and Stiles really wishes Danny had told him whether Stiles was attractive to gay guys before Stiles decided Danny was perfect. Stiles can’t ask now, because if Danny says no (and maybe also if he says yes) Stiles’ll do something embarrassing, and because Danny is not the next Lydia. Stiles refuses. Hopeless crushes are not his thing anymore, he is a strong and independent seventeen-year-old.

“Are you going to the Homecoming dance?” Danny asks.

“Probably,” Stiles says. “To support Scott. Even if he asks Allison, he’ll need someone to make sure he doesn’t explode with happiness before he gets to dance with her to bad music in the gym. Because, you know, that’s a very important rite of passage and I wouldn’t want Scott to miss out.”

“Indeed,” Danny says.

“Gonna skip the football game, though,” Stiles says.

The lacrosse team and the football team have an almost nonexistent rivalry, and the football team also sucks. Danny nods judiciously.

They get to the coffee shop before Jackson arrives with Lydia and settle in at their usual table, discussing the relative merits of Linux.

“God, how’d you get so popular?” Stiles says. “You are secretly a gigantic nerd.”

“I’m like chocolate,” Danny says with a sly grin. “Everyone likes me.”

“And I’m like--durian,” Stiles says. “Or Turkish delight. I’m pretty sure Edmund Pevensie is the only person in the world who likes Turkish delight, and he’s not a real person.”

“Durian’s the king of fruits,” Danny says, and then stops, like he realized what he just said. Stiles dissolves into completely helpless laughter.

“Sorry,” he says, gasping. “I just--that you even know that it’s called that. And--”

Stiles has another fit, then straightens up in his chair. People are looking at him. It happens.

“And I think Turkish people like Turkish delight,” Danny says.

“Yeah, it probably delights them,” Stiles says. “That was a kneeslapper, right there, wasn’t it?”

“No,” Danny says. “No it wasn’t.”

But he’s grinning. Danny grins a lot, lately. Stiles likes it, because of reasons that have to do with dimples and Danny’s jaw.

“Sorry I’m late,” Lydia says, dropping into her seat. “Why are you two so smiley?”

“I’m the king of the fruits,” Stiles deadpans.

“Okay, don’t tell me,” Lydia says. “But Jackson and I were talking on the drive over, and we think maybe he should join Derek’s pack. As a mole.”

“Derek won’t notice?” Stiles asks.

“Why would he?” Lydia inspects her nails. “It’s Derek.”

“Sure,” Stiles says. “Okay. And Jackson. This sounds like a terrible idea, let’s do it.”

“Have some faith in Jackson,” Danny says, so mildly Stiles can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or not.

“Yeah, no,” Stiles says. “Speaking of, is he waiting for you out in the car? You could’ve gotten a ride with me and Danny.”

“No,” Lydia says, though Stiles doesn’t know what to. “Danny, how’s the macadamia nut cookie?”

“Eh,” Danny says. “White chocolate.”

“Give it to Stiles,” Lydia commands, and Stiles says, “What am I, your garbage disposal?” but eats it anyway.

Danny’s mostly quiet on the drive back to Beacon Hills, and Stiles doesn’t mind because he’s mostly tired and he likes this radio station. He makes occasional absurd comments because he finds shutting up difficult, and Danny responds with nods or easy rejoinders, but mostly they listen to music and watch streetlights slide past.

“Thanks for the ride,” Danny says when they pull up to his house, but he sits in the car for a moment without getting out.

“No problem,” Stiles says, because it really isn’t. “We could probably all carpool to stop global warming or whatever. It’s what Al Gore would want. Except I think Lydia thinks I’m too uncool to be seen with you guys or whatever.”

“I’ll pick you up next week, then,” Danny says. “To stop global warming.”

And, god, Stiles wishes he had a better read on Danny, because that could be Danny wanting to spend more time with him, right? Because the global warming thing was weak, but maybe Danny is really concerned about the environment or something. He could be, Stiles doesn’t know. He just knows Danny likes lacrosse and jazz band and doesn’t like ninety percent of all foods.

On the drive back to Stiles’ house, the Jeep smells like Danny’s aftershave.

Scott notices when Stiles gives him a ride to school in the morning.

“Armani?” he says, looking at Stiles and sniffing the air.

“I gave Danny a ride last night,” Stiles says.

Scott’s quiet for a bit.

“Okay,” he says.

“It’s not a big deal,” Stiles says, probably because he’s trying to convince himself.

“Okay,” Scott agrees, because Scott’s agreeable like that. “Think I should ask Allison to Homecoming?”

“It’s worth a try,” Stiles says. “I mean, that sounds kind of fatalistic, but I really do think that. Because, you know, love and shit.”

“Yeah,” Scott says, determination writ across his face. Stiles feels like maybe he gave decent advice for once in his life and maybe he should take it and ask Danny to Homecoming, except for the part where thinking about asking Danny to Homecoming kind of makes Stiles want to go bury himself in a hole. Danny goes clubbing at the Jungle. And he came to the winter formal and all, but he--Stiles can’t imagine just asking Danny to the dance. And buying him a corsage. And taking pictures with him by the stairs. And awkwardly slow dancing to some crappy song. It is really difficult to imagine, but Stiles lays it out in his head anyway, and--he did this with Lydia. He needs to stop. Stiles can’t even dance that well. Besides, it’s not like he’s in love with Danny, he just--whatever.

Despite that, Stiles spends most of the week feeling stupidly eager for Thursday, when Danny’s going to pick him up in his stupid Yaris and they’re going to have an awkward twenty minute car ride two towns over, and it’s going to be great. He gets a little flutter in his stomach whenever he thinks about it, and this is starting to look like Lydia all over again, except with the added pitfall of actually spending time with Danny. Stiles refuses to fall prey to hope. He’s avoided werewolves this long, it seems like hope shouldn’t be that much harder to evade.

Okay, he totally knows that’s a lie.

That’s the week Derek and his betas drive the Alpha Pack out of town, somewhat inexplicably.

“Seriously, how did they do it?” Stiles asks Danny when Danny picks him up. “Did Jackson tell you?”

“Jackson said there was an awesome battle,” Danny says.

“Wow, helpful,” Stiles says. “It’s almost like he’s been taking storytelling lessons from Scott.”

“What do you think comes next?” Danny asks.

“Probably a shitstorm,” Stiles says. “I kind of figure there’s always the possibility of a shitstorm.”

“I guess I’m lucky no one’s come after me yet,” Danny says, scoffing a bit.

“Lucky’s a word for it,” Stiles says agreeably. “Seriously, they get everyone. Everything with Lydia--”

“Yeah,” Danny says. “In retrospect, it’s kind of weird that this town is even able to pass for normal.”

“Been saying that for years, dude,” Stiles says, then pauses. “Not really.”

“Not that you and Scott weren’t extremely suspicious,” Danny adds. “Maybe it’s more remarkable that you two were ever able to pass for normal.”

“I’m not a werewolf,” Stiles says. “So totally normal, here.”

“Keep thinking that,” Danny says, and Stiles doesn’t have a comeback for that but he does have an idea, because maybe Danny’s too normal for this gambit, but he said he could learn. And even if it didn’t work out for Stiles--they could probably use a witch.

“Hey, you really want to get more involved?” Stiles asks. “You should talk to Deaton.”

“The vet?” Danny asks.

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

“We just got a postcard from him, my cat needs his shots,” Danny says.

“Bring in your cat for its shots, then,” Stiles says. “And ask Deaton about werewolves. He probably already knows who you are.”

His shots,” Danny corrects, kind of prissily. Apparently he’s attached to his cat.

“Does he hate Jackson now?” Stiles asks. “Does he try to bite his face?”

“Actually, yes,” Danny says, pulling into the coffee shop parking lot. “But he didn’t like him before, either.”

Jackson’s Porsche is in the parking lot already, and Stiles kind of wants to go talk to him about Danny’s cat, just because it would probably be hilarious, but he follows Danny inside instead, because Danny’s ass, and also staying in the parking lot to harass Jackson that would look weird.

“You’re late,” Lydia says when they sit down. Danny has purchased, absurdly, a breakfast burrito that’s roughly the size of his head.

“Burrito took awhile,” Stiles says.

“I saw when you got here,” Lydia says. “You were late then.”

“You’re just saying that because we’re later than you,” Danny says. He’s already taking the burrito apart with his fork like it’s an archaeological dig.

“Scott’s going to ask Allison to Homecoming,” Stiles says, because Lydia’s pursing her lips like she’s going to launch into some sort of diatribe about the value of her time. “Has Jackson moled anything useful?”

“Jackson has not,” Lydia says. “Through no fault of his own. Derek’s pack isn’t doing anything.”

“Peter?” Stiles asks.

“Jackson hasn’t seen him lately,” Lydia says. “I guess he went to San Francisco?”

“Is he still in the pack?” Stiles says. “Derek’s sending him on business on his own?”

“Jackson doesn’t think Derek likes it, but Peter’s still in the pack,” Lydia says with a shrug.

“Huh,” Stiles says, turning that over.

“Maybe we should get Jackson in here,” Danny says, but surprisingly it’s Lydia who shakes her head.

“Ground rule,” she says, tapping the table. “No werewolves.”

“Did you ever actually say that?” Stiles asks, and Lydia shrugs.

“It was implied.”

“Well,” Danny says. “If he could get something--credit card numbers, cell phone--maybe we could trace it.”

“You mean you could trace it,” Lydia corrects. Danny looks unabashed.

“Ask Jackson,” Danny says. “Or I will, whatever. Stiles is the only one of us who Jackson won’t talk to.”

“Jackson does talk to me,” Stiles says.

“Not really,” Danny says, and Lydia nods.

“I guess that explains why you guys put up with him,” Stiles says. “That’s always been a bit opaque to me.”

Lydia and Danny share a glance.

“Okay guys, no secrets,” Stiles says. “Ground rule. I haven’t made one.”

“No secrets is a terrible ground rule,” Lydia says. “Everyone has secrets.”

“No secret faces,” Stiles says.

“It wasn’t--” Lydia says. “Jackson just doesn’t like you. You do realize that?”

“Oh, I’m shocked,” Stiles says. “This is shocking. You mean he’s not just a gigantic douche to everyone?”

“You mean Scott’s not always sweet but extremely dumb?” Lydia asks.

“Okay, point taken,” Stiles says. “Kind of. I feel like sweet but dumb is easier to tolerate than Jackson’s history of general douchebaggery.”

“Jackson is--Jackson,” Danny says. “He has his good points.”

“Are his good points secret?” Stiles asks.

“Some of them,” Lydia says slyly, and Stiles is over this, this is over, but that face and Jackson still kind of makes him want to go home and vomit while crying.

“You know Jackson’s the reason no one’s ever been an asshole to me in the locker room, don’t you?” Danny asks. “Since middle school.”

“Uh,” Stiles says. “Maybe some of us just aren’t assholes.”

“But some people are,” Danny says. “And Jackson’s a bigger one.”

“That was a strong defense, until it hinged on Jackson being the king of the assholes,” Stiles says. “Is Jackson outside listening to this?”

“Probably,” Lydia says. “Either that or he’s listening to his iPod.”

“I think Scott might actually be winning the least creepy werewolf contest right now,” Stiles says. “Just by default, since everyone else has abdicated.”

“Allison thinks he’s been hanging out on her roof,” Lydia says.

“I told him to stop doing that,” Stiles mutters.

Danny’s finished most of the eggs in his burrito, but has inexplicably failed to eat any of the tortilla.

“Do you have something against tortillas?” Stiles asks, looking at it. “They made you that special. They aren’t supposed to be serving breakfast anymore.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says. “You aren’t his mother.”

“I don’t like tortillas, they taste like paste,” Danny says.

“They don’t taste like paste if you eat them with other things,” Stiles says. “It’s a tortilla, it’s an extremely inoffensive food.”

“Okay,” Lydia says. “We’ve obviously exhausted our conversational topics. I’m going home.”

Danny finds Stiles in the locker room again that week, which at least suggests that Stiles wasn’t gawking completely obviously the last time, or not obviously enough to scare Danny off. But.

“So I took Kino to the vet,” Danny says, sitting down on the skinny wood bench between the lockers. Stiles is still changing. Maybe if he doesn’t look at Danny he can pretend he isn’t changing, or Danny isn’t here. Danny has a wad of clothes in his arms, and apparently they’re changing together today, like locker room bros, which is--not a relationship Stiles wants to have with Danny, unless it involves bj’s in the showers. Which it should.

“And?” Stiles asks.

“He said he’d give me lessons,” Danny says.

“Cool,” Stiles says, because it is, because he kind of expected this when he told Danny to talk to Deaton, and if Danny wants to, he should. Just because--

“He said he was going to teach you,” Danny says, cutting into Stiles’ thoughts.

“Yep,” Stiles says. He’s staring at his gym locker. It smells awful. He should probably bring his gym clothes home for a wash, but he doesn’t especially want to.

“And you aren’t going to explain why you changed your mind.”

“You’re asking?” Stiles says.

“I’m asking,” Danny says, and he sounds so patient, and everyone else has trickled out of the locker room and while it still smells like teenage boy and Axe it’s kind of peaceful. So maybe that’s a good explanation for why Stiles turns around and sits down next to Danny on the uncomfortable locker room bench. He’s going to tell Danny this. He doesn’t know why, but he’s going to tell Danny this. He stares at the lockers in front of his face. They’re good lockers. Decent, rectangular lockers.

“I don’t even really know,” Stiles says after a moment. “And, look, this shouldn’t impact your decision. But--I told you Peter wanted to bite me, right? And I said no. And later I did something with mountain ash and it was awesome. But I don’t--” Stiles shrugs, grasping for words. “I want to be human, I guess.”

“So you don’t want to use the tools at your disposal?” Danny asks, carefully.

“Yes,” Stiles says. “No. Not really. My dad--” Stiles shakes his head. “It just seemed really important at the time.”

It’s the best he has to offer, and it’s not much.

Danny gives Stiles a look, and Stiles can practically see the wheels turning in his head. He knew Danny was smart, but it’s weird to watch it happen, to have what feels like a complete brain directed at Stiles, sharp and assessing, like he’s trying to take Stiles apart. It makes Stiles want to flinch away, but instead he just sits there and takes it, takes Danny in. Stiles idly classifies Danny’s eyes, which are dark and slightly downturned at the corners, as kind, and calm, and with the brunt of that directed at Stiles--Stiles hasn’t seen this from Danny, not directed at him. When Stiles swallows his throat burns down to his stomach, and he wants to get up, push away, leave, because there’s a hint of pity here and Stiles has never liked anything less than pity. But Danny--Stiles doesn’t know how it happens, but Danny has him pinned, and there’s a subtle shift from uncomfortable towards comforting, instead, and Stiles can’t look away.

Until, suddenly, he can. Stiles isn’t sure how long they sat there like that--and were they really looking into one another’s eyes?--but Danny nods, just once, and says, “Okay,” and gets up off the bench.

“We have to get to class,” Danny says, like Stiles forgot.

Stiles totally forgot. He doesn’t know what happened, or for how long, doesn’t even know what that was except for kind of foreign and uncomfortable, but for a few interminable moments it was just Stiles and Danny on a bench in the locker room, and Stiles doesn’t know what happened, but something definitely did.

Danny’s up and leaving, and Stiles is the one who says, “Let’s skip.”

Danny turns around, grins lopsided so just one dimple emerges.

“Sure,” he says.

Stiles definitely doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. He kind of wishes he did.

They wind up in Stiles’ Jeep, and they wind up at the coffeeshop, because the waitress at Stiles’ favorite diner knows his dad, and because it somehow makes sense, even if it also doesn’t make sense, because Lydia was the one who found this place and Lydia’s not here, and also Danny hates everything on their menu.

Danny gets a coffee, black. Stiles gets a mocha, because he figures it’s the middle of the day, caffeine is okay, he wants to be alert for this.

“There’s a park a little south of here,” Stiles says. “Uh--”

“Oh yeah,” Danny says. “I take my sisters there, sometimes.”

“We could go,” Stiles says. He’s looking at the ground. He knows he should make eye contact, but he’s looking at the ground instead. “If it wouldn’t make you feel like you’re babysitting.”

When Stiles glances up Danny is grinning at him.

“Sure,” he says. “Let’s get to-go cups.”

They do, and Stiles drives them down to the park. It’s a little one, with a playground and a network of trails running through the woods nearby. There’s just a bit of a cool edge to the fall air, and steam rises off their cups. Stiles almost wishes he brought a jacket.

It’s only once they’re walking that Stiles realizes how completely he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s still not sure what he is to Danny, because they aren’t quite friends but they aren’t quite not, either, and as a result they exist in a weird limbo where Stiles doesn’t really know what to say or do. He looks at Danny. One of them should say something, probably. Stiles wonders if this is a date, and if it is that means he accidentally asked Danny out and now he’s ruining it by not knowing what to say. Danny doesn’t seem to mind, seems happy sip his coffee and skip class, but Stiles feels like they need--something.

“So you think you’re going to do the witch thing, then?” Stiles asks.

“Yeah,” Danny says, too easy by half. “Maybe next time you guys build a pipe bomb you’ll invite me if I have magic powers.”

“Don’t get hung up on that,” Stiles says. “I just felt bad because I couldn’t bribe you with Derek’s chest that time, and apparently Scott’s not good enough for you.”

“Your need to sell me on Scott McCall’s attractiveness is getting disturbing,” Danny says.

“If I told you I found Jackson unattractive--” Stiles starts.

“I’d say good for you,” Danny says curtly. “Besides, Jackson’s invested enough in his own attractiveness for both of us.”

The trail leads down a gully towards a stream, and Stiles follows the path and then cuts off of it to hop rocks across the stream.

“If you fall in and get soaked, I’m not giving you my dry clothes,” Danny says from behind him.

“Shut up, I’m coordinated,” Stiles says. “I am on the lacrosse team, even if I’m not the all important goalie.”

“Sure, Stiles,” Danny says, but he’s following Stiles across the stream and Stiles can hear a laugh in his voice. It’s a long time since anything Stiles has done has felt so stupidly normal--they’re in the woods, they aren’t looking for a body, Stiles wasn’t thinking about looking for a body except that he is, now, but at least he’s only thinking about how he’s not doing it. Stiles keeps walking, up the bank and towards a copse of trees, and then he sits down in the dry leaves, mostly because he can. Danny settles in beside him, leaning his back against an aspen.

“So we’re done?” Danny asks. “Good walk, Stilinski.”

“I wouldn’t have invited you to cut school with me if I knew it was just going to be constant criticism,” Stiles says. “If I wanted that, I could’ve gone to class.”

“Don’t give me that,” Danny says placidly.

“I’ve brought you here today,” Stiles says. “Because I feel compelled to tell you how weird life with werewolves becomes.”

“I think I already worked that one out,” Danny says. “Considering Jackson apparently paralyzed me that one time.”

“Yeah,” Stiles rubs his head. “I don’t know. This was just seeming really normal, and I guess--but we came out here after having a conversation about you becoming a witch, didn’t we?”

“I imagine it’s about as normal as you make it,” Danny says. And Danny is so--Danny, still. Even now.

Stiles leans back against a tree, too. The bark is smooth against the back of his neck, and he looks up at the branches above him, the spare leaves. He wants to ask Danny what they’re doing.

“It’s quiet, here,” he says instead.

“And there you went and ruined it,” Danny replies without malice.

“Yeah,” Stiles shifts to his feet and brushes himself off. “Come on, you criticized me for not walking far enough, let’s go.”

Stiles chatters as they walk, and Danny responds, and they sort of get a conversation going on, even though it’s at least partially sustained by Stiles spurting out complete nonsense and Danny tolerating it or whatever. Stiles is okay with this, actually. He’s surprised how comfortable it is, once he gets his head away from the date/not date dichotomy. Now he’s just--hanging out with Danny. Which is weird by itself, but Stiles is pretty sure that Danny is okay with it, that Stiles asked if Danny wanted to skip school with him and Danny said yes, so whatever this is, it’s okay. It’s okay, it’s normal, Stiles manages to restrain himself from asking Danny if they’re friends, now. Yet.

“See you Thursday,” Danny says when they get back to school, sliding out of the car and tugging his tattered backpack behind him.

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

On Thursday Danny tells Stiles to pick him up from Deaton’s instead of at his house. When he gets there, Stiles waves at Scott as Danny slides into the Jeep.

“How was it?” Stiles asks.

“Good,” Danny says, turning to look out the window.

“Good,” Stiles echoes.

The Jeep is stiflingly silent for between five and ten minutes, or maybe just thirty seconds, before Stiles says, “You can tell me stuff. I--it’s not weird. For me. Unless it’s weird for you. So if you want. Or we could listen to the radio.”

Stiles reaches for the dial to the radio when Danny doesn’t say something, and then Danny starts talking, instead, explaining what Deaton is teaching him--just mountain ash, so far, but it’s a start.

“And runes,” he adds. “We’re doing runes, it’s interesting.”

Stiles nods.

“You’d be good at it,” Danny says, weirdly, because Danny has no way to know that. Stiles isn’t actually good with languages.

“Yeah, I’m sure, that explains why I almost failed French,” Stiles says, and he can see Danny shrug in the corner of his eyes. “I don’t--I think it’s good you’re doing this,” Stiles finishes, awkwardly. He doesn’t mean for it to be awkward, but maybe he shouldn’t be surprised when it is. “I just didn’t want to. But--it’s nothing against you.”

Danny hums a little, puts his hand on Stiles’ on the gearshift. Stiles doesn’t know what to do with that, with the quick swipe of Danny’s calluses against the back of his hand, but then they’re at the coffeeshop and Danny pulls his hand away as Stiles downshifts to park.

“Allison’s going with Scott to Homecoming,” Stiles tells Lydia and Danny once everyone’s sitting down.

“Allison told me,” Lydia says. “Does that mean you’re going alone?”

“Stag,” Stiles corrects, because ‘stag’ sounds better than the alternative. “Unless you want to go with me, Lydia.”

Something weird happens when Stiles says that--Danny flinches, a little, and Lydia glances at Danny before looking back towards Stiles.

“I was joking,” he says. “That was a joke.”

Lydia nudges Danny with her elbow. Stiles looks at Danny.

“Danny’s not going with anyone,” Lydia says, giving Danny a significant look.

“We could go alone together,” Stiles says. Lydia coughs. Stiles can’t read Danny’s expression, his expression is unreadable, but there are definitely no dimples.

“Okay,” he says, but it doesn’t sound okay and Stiles--maybe Danny feels like they’ve trapped him, somehow. Lydia was kind of pushing.

“You don’t have to,” he says quickly. “I mean, I don’t want to throw off your game.”

“Yeah,” Danny snorts a little. “Game.”

“Whatever, you totally have game, and I mean, I’m not going to, like--I have no game, so I could understand how that might get in the way of yours,” Stiles says.

Lydia sighs loudly.

“No,” Danny says. “We can go together. I’d like that.”

Stiles’ heart flips out of his chest, Stiles is fairly certain it’s lying beating on the floor, and this isn’t even a thing, they’re just going as friends or whatever, but suddenly it’s very important that Stiles find something to wear. What a disaster. He would’ve rather had Danny’s weird, unhappy ‘okay’ than something that sounds like he might actually want to go with Stiles, together-together.

But Danny said he’d like that.

But the last dance Stiles went to he went to with Lydia, and that was--not. It just wasn’t anything. Going to dances with people doesn’t magically do anything.

And Stiles has got to stop comparing Danny to Lydia.

“Okay,” Stiles says. He’s not sure how much time has passed. Probably too much. “What color are you going to wear?”

Lydia smirks. Danny looks uncomfortable.

“I mean, it’s not--” Stiles starts. “I don’t know what I’m saying. Sorry.”

“What color are you wearing?” Lydia asks, and Stiles frowns.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know what I’m wearing, don’t ask me.”

Lydia looks thoughtful. Danny looks like he wants to change the subject.

“How’s your Homecoming court campaign going?” Stiles asks, in a desperate bid for a conversation topic that has to do with neither him nor Danny. Lydia purses her lips like she knows what he’s trying to do, but she segues smoothly into something that Stiles is content to listen to without participating in. Stiles wants to make eye contact with Danny, roll his eyes or something. He also wants to never make eye contact with Danny again. It’s kind of a conflict of interests, that.

Stiles probably shouldn’t surprised to get a call from Lydia telling him, curtly, that they’re going shopping for Homecoming together.

“What about Allison?” Stiles asks balefully.

“She’s coming too,” Lydia says.

Stiles tries to pretend that he’s not going to have to sit around in dressing rooms and carry piles of dresses, but that’s pretty obviously what’s going to happen.

“You realize this makes no sense,” Stiles says when they’re at the mall. “You should’ve invited Danny.”

“Because he’s gay?” Lydia asks, arching an eyebrow.

“No,” Stiles says. “Or yes. Because he’s not me.”

“Danny can dress himself,” Lydia says, thrusting a shirt at Stiles.

“I’ll have you know, I’ve been dressing myself--” Stiles starts to count on his fingers up from third grade, but he’s not even sure it’s worth the trouble.

“Danny can dress himself well,” Lydia says. She’s thoughtfully eyeing something shiny, and Stiles can’t tell whether it’s for him or her, but he desperately hopes it’s not for him.

“You didn’t dress me for that dance we actually went to together,” Stiles says, looking at his feet and scuffing them a little and trying to pretend that hadn’t been one of the highlights of his life up to that point.

Lydia gives Stiles a flinty look.

“No one should have to dress their own date,” she says. “Which is why Danny isn’t here.”

Stiles trips on his own feet and takes back everything good he ever said about Lydia Martin. He hates her.

“He’s not!” he says. “We’re not!”

Lydia pats him on the shoulder.

“I’m just trying to help you,” she says, and handing Stiles another shirt. Stiles suspects he’s sulking, but he can’t really be bothered to care.

“I know what you’re doing,” he says. “And it’s weird.”

“What’s that, then?” Lydia asks.

“Trying to set me and Danny up,” Stiles says. “Has this been your plan since the beginning?”

“No,” Lydia says, idly flipping through another rack of clothes.

“I really think we have enough clothes,” Stiles says.

Lydia hums, though it’s difficult to tell what that means.

“It’s not going to work, you know,” Stiles says. “Danny doesn’t like me.”

Lydia stops, turns around, and pats Stiles on the cheek.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” she says. “I know you’re very torn up over me, but there are other fish in the sea.”

Stiles decides it’s best not to engage at this point. Lydia obviously has the high ground. Or better artillery. Or something.

“Where’s Allison?” he asks.

“Coming,” Lydia says brightly. “We’ll need your opinion, of course, when we’re picking things out. Dressing room, now.”

Lydia claims a chair outside the dressing room door and hands Stiles a pile of clothes.

“Put it all on,” she says with a sharp smile. “Quick. We have a few to get through.”

Stiles does not like shopping. He does not like shopping with Lydia Martin. He does not like shopping in boxes, with foxes, and so on and so forth. The nice thing about having a single father was that the two of them usually just go to some arbitrary store, grab a pile of shirts in more or less the right size, and wear them until they fall apart or Stiles outgrows them, whichever happens second.

Shopping with Lydia is not like that.

When Stiles comes out of the dressing room, Lydia taps her chin and swirls her finger, indicating that he should turn around.

“I think I got your pant size wrong,” she says. “Come on.”

“I think these fit,” Stiles says, looking down at himself. “They’re long enough.”

“They’re long enough,” Lydia echoes mockingly. “I’ll be right back.”

That’s pretty much how it goes. Lydia gives Stiles a series of--clothes--and whenever he comes at out of the dressing room she looks at him, taps her chin, and sends him back in.

“I really don’t think this is necessary,” he says around the time ‘they’re not vests, they’re waistcoats’ start getting involved.

“Consider it a gift, from me to you,” Lydia says mildly. She’s picking through a pile of the clothes Stiles has already tried on and sorting them into piles according to some mysterious algorithm (and, knowing Lydia, there probably is an actual algorithm involved). “Clothes that fit.”

“I already have clothes that fit,” Stiles mutters, and Lydia hands him a newly reduced pile.

“You’re buying these,” she says.

“Aw, Lydia, not a vest,” Stiles says, rifling through the pile.

“You’re right,” Lydia says. “It’s not a vest, it’s a waistcoat.”

“I loved you,” Stiles says.

“No you didn’t,” Lydia says, patting him on the back. “But it’s sweet that you think so.”

Stiles lets it slide, because she’s probably right.

“Has Jackson said, is Peter back yet?” he asks after he’s paid for the clothes, because Peter not being around is almost creepier than Peter being around.

“No,” Lydia says, smiling wanly.

“We’ll get him,” Stiles says, bumping her in the shoulder, and Lydia grants him a small grin.

“My pretty?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “And his little dog, too.”

They meet Allison out front and get pretzels before looking at dresses, and after about an hour of that Stiles ends up muttering, “I can’t be your gay best friend if I’m bi,” and effectively coming out to them to the most anticlimactic reception possible.

“Honey,” Lydia says. “You can’t be our gay best friend because you’re terrible at it. Here, take this dress and put it back.”

“I liked that one,” Stiles says. It was shiny.

“Exactly,” Lydia replies.

Allison comes and sits next to Stiles a little after that. She has a satiny green dress draped across her lap, and she runs her hands across the fabric before speaking.

“I suck at this too,” she says.

Stiles is tempted to make a dead mom crack, but it’s pretty much always too soon for those.

“You know, when I was shopping for winter formal Peter showed up?” Allison asks.

“He’s a creep,” Stiles says automatically. Allison gives him a strange look, and Stiles shrugs.

“But, you know, we have a support group for that,” he adds. “Thursdays. Danny and I can give you a ride.”

“You and Danny, huh?” Allison asks, and the way she says it makes it sound like it means more than it does.

“It’s a carpool,” Stiles says. “To stop global warming.”

“Uh-huh,” Allison says wryly. Stiles had kind of missed Allison, and now he wonders why that was. Fairly certain it had to do with Scott and Transformers, and not Allison and her smirky little grin.

“Fine,” Stiles says. “Drive yourself. Don’t save the planet.”

“Lydia already invited me to give her a ride,” Allison says, and then Lydia comes out in another dress.

“That one looks nice,” Allison says,

“Your--um--” Stiles says.

“My breasts, Stiles?” Lydia asks, overly loud. The bored looking girl working in the dressing room glances over at them.

“Yes,” Stiles says. He sounds sheepish. Or feels sheepish. Or a combination thereof.

Lydia nods and goes back into the changing room. Allison looks at Stiles and shakes her head.

“I take it back,” she says. “You’re worse at this than I am.”

“I didn’t ask for this!” Stiles says.

“What did she make you buy?” Allison asks, looking down into Stiles’ bag.

“A vest,” Stiles says. “Seriously.”

“And that’s all you’re going to wear?” Allison says, raising her eyebrows.

“I’m beginning to rethink my positive opinion of you,” Stiles says. Allison laughs and it’s actually good to hear. Stiles hasn’t really been spending time with her, but it’s still been awhile since he heard her laugh, since he’d seen her do anything but walk around school in dark clothes, hunched in on herself like she didn’t want anyone to so much as look at her.

They’re quiet, for a bit, and then Stiles says, “Hey, I’m glad you’re going to Homecoming with Scott.”

“Yeah,” Allison says. “I guess I am, too.”

And that’s how Allison joins them.

At least she has the decency to get a hot chocolate. Stiles says as much, staring at Danny’s small bowl of macaroni and cheese.

“This is pretty good, actually,” Danny says, and then he holds out a forkful to Stiles. Stiles is fairly certain he sees Lydia roll her eyes at Allison, but he takes the bite anyway. Danny’s watching him.

“I’m pretty sure the only things you like are cheese and coffee,” Stiles says around a mouthful of macaroni.

“Probably true,” Danny replies. “I like pizza.”

“Cheese,” Stiles says, nodding. “That’s in the cheese food group.”

“Okay,” Lydia says. “Back on topic, you two.”

“What was the topic?” Stiles asks.

“Peter’s back,” Lydia says, leaning forward.

“Of course he is,” Stiles says. “Peter likes school dances.”

It’s supposed to be a joke, but it doesn’t really work as one because it’s too close to the truth. Allison winces, Lydia flinches, Danny looks uncertain and uncomfortable.

“So,” Stiles says, as casually as possible. “I thought that would be funnier than it actually was.”

“Mmm,” Lydia hums.

“Should’ve stuck with cheese as a conversation topic,” Stiles says, earning himself a smile from Danny, just a little quirk of lips that Stiles is far too quick to capture and catalogue.

God. If Stiles weren’t himself, he doesn’t know what he’d do with himself. He’s avoided discussing Homecoming with Danny at all, because he likes pretending they’re going together, properly, and if they talk about it Danny might say something about how they aren’t. Maybe Danny’s going to go to the Jungle, after, and make out with some guy against a wall behind the building, stroke some stranger’s face with his calloused hand. Maybe, after, they’ll do the kind of things Stiles has only ever seen in porn.

They’re talking about Peter Hale, though, and Stiles really shouldn’t be imagining Danny’s hands on his face or anywhere else. It makes plotting difficult, and Stiles is pretty sure Lydia can tell, even without werewolf senses.

“Scott and Jackson will keep an eye out,” Stiles says, to get his mind out of wherever it’s gone. The gutter, probably. “In case Peter tries anything. Even Derek’s betas wouldn’t just let him.”

“Do you trust them, though?” Lydia asks. “Do you trust a werewolf fight to solve anything? Peter’s cleverer than they are.”

“So the plan’s a pipe bomb, is it?” Stiles asks.

Lydia shrugs, and props her head up on her hands.

“If it comes to that,” she says. “But we have Allison, now that we aren’t rescuing her.”

“Do we really think Peter’s going to try anything?” Danny asks.

“He could,” Lydia says. “Though it’s hard to plan without knowing, or without knowing what.”

“Danny can bring mountain ash,” Stiles provides, and Danny looks at Stiles for a moment before he nods.

“I might be able to do a ward,” he says. “I’ll talk to Deaton.”

On the drive home that night Danny and Stiles mostly talk about jazz band, because Danny says they have a concert coming up and it’s something to talk about. The Beacon Hills High Jazz Band is actually good, in kind of cool in a way where it really shouldn’t be, by all rights, which is maybe a way to describe Danny as well. Beside Stiles, Danny mimics playing bass, tripping his fingers over imaginary chords and humming a few bars.

“When’s the concert again?” Stiles asks. “If air guitar of this caliber is what I can expect--”

“Next Tuesday,” Danny shrugs. “You should come, if you want.”

It’s not an invitation, exactly, but Stiles--Stiles will take what he can get.

“I should,” Stiles says. “I mean, I don’t know jack about jazz, but. Maybe Lydia and Allison can come, too, and it’ll be an outing.”

“Sort of like when we skipped class?” Danny asks, and Stiles wants to say that no, that was a date, but no one paid for anyone’s drink at the coffee shop, and no one really dated anyone, so.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, as he gets out of the car. Then, more quietly, as Danny drives off: “Sort of.”

So Tuesday is the concert, and Thursday they’ll skip coffee because Friday--Friday is the Homecoming dance. Over the weekend Stiles puts on the clothes Lydia made him buy, grey slacks and grey waistcoat-not-vest and dark red shirt and Stiles is going to need to iron this or something. He feels stupid for wearing it and also for trying it on right now, especially when Scott vaults through his window.

“I thought you were supposed to do that to Allison,” Stiles says.

“Um,” Scott says. “Hi dude. What are you wearing?”

Stiles sits down on the bed.

“Remember when I told you Lydia took me shopping?” he says.

“Oh,” Scott draws out the syllable for a few seconds, realization dawning on his face. “Looking good.”

There are finger guns involved.

“Shut up,” Stiles says.

“No, seriously, you should’ve invited me,” Scott says. “I was just going to wear whatever my mom tells me to.”

“You couldn’t come, because Allison did, and that’s against Lydia’s rules or something,” Stiles says.

“So, you going to wear that while we watch Transformers?” Scott asks.

“You’re dating Allison again,” Stiles says, but Scott’s already rifling through Stiles DVDs.

“I sort of like it now,” Scott says.

“I think it Stockholm syndromed you,” Stiles says, flopping back on the bed because he probably is going to need to iron everything he’s wearing, anyway.

“So you’re going with Danny, huh?” Scott says, looking back at Stiles. Stiles stares back at him, because Scott knows Stiles is going with Danny, and it sounds like Scott is fishing for information.

“Yes,” Stiles says slowly. “But it’s not--”

Scott grins.

“It’s not,” Scott repeats, and his grin has gone totally shit eating. “You know, Jackson told me the other day that if my best friend fucked his best friend he would never talk to me again.”

“And that’s a punishment?” Stiles asks.

“That’s what I said!” Scott says. “So, anyway, you think you’re going to get Jackson to stop talking to me?”

“What if it’s the other way around?” Stiles says. “If Jackson’s best friend--”

“Stop please,” Scott says. “You know I’m totally okay with all of this, but if we are having an actual conversation about the dynamics of you and Danny--you know--I may need a little time.”

“You were the one--” Stiles starts, and Scott shakes his head and puts the DVD in the player.

“Nope,” he says. “I know I was, but--nope.”

Stiles leans back against a pillow.

“I’m kind of gone,” he says, mostly to the ceiling. “I’m kind of--I don’t even know.”

“You’re going to Homecoming together!” Scott says. “This is great.”

“It probably doesn’t mean anything,” Stiles says. “It’s like if I was going with you.”

“But you don’t want to--”

“Nah,” Stiles says, propping himself up. “Incest, dude.”

“You should go for it,” Scott says, flipping through the DVD menu. He’s going to make them watch it with commentary. “You should woo him.”

“I should woo him,” Stiles repeats, skeptical.

“Clothes like that--” Scott says, grinning. “I’d let you woo me.”

Stiles throws a pillow at him. Scott starts the movie.

Lydia and Allison both bail on the jazz band concert at the end of the school day on Tuesday, and Stiles probably shouldn’t be surprised.

“Oh,” Allison says when she and Lydia are bailing. “We bought these flowers. Say they’re from you.”

“Scott talked to you, didn’t he,” Stiles says, looking balefully at the--God, there’s hibiscus in the bouquet.

“Woo him, Stiles,” Allison says, turning on her heel. “I need to go look at bows, and the only good archery store is in the next county.”

“But it’s open other days of the week, isn’t it?” Stiles calls after her.

Stiles puts the flowers in the passenger seat of the Jeep and just looks at them. He can’t very well bring them to the concert. If he waits until after to give them to Danny his family will be there, at the very least, and it’ll be awkward.

At the very least.

Danny’s car is in the parking lot, and if Stiles can catch him there, before he goes home, Stiles figures--Stiles doesn’t know what he figures, but he goes home himself and puts the flowers in water, and tries not to think about them.

“There are flowers on the table,” Stiles’ father says when he gets home from work.

“A-plus observation, dad,” Stiles says. “No wonder you’re the Sheriff.”

“This is an interrogation tactic,” he says, mildly. “I was giving you an opportunity to explain.”

“Allison gave them to me,” Stiles says, and he’s doing a terrible job of making eye contact. “To give to Danny. After the jazz band concert tonight.”

“Danny Mahealani?”

“Danny and I are--” Stiles pauses. “Uh. Kind of going to Homecoming together. And I’m bisexual.”

“That explains the new outfit, then,” Stiles’ dad says calmly.

“So you’re not?” Stiles says. “That’s all I get? You told me I wasn’t gay!”

“I told you you weren’t gay dressed like that,” his dad says, and Stiles gapes at him. “Should I go to this concert with you?”

“No,” Stiles says. “I mean, it’s just a school concert. At school.” For good measure he adds, “Most of my clothes are still the same.”

“Good thing, too, because you have no money,” Stiles’ dad says. “What’s for dinner?”

“You realize this has been an extremely anticlimactic coming out experience for me, right?” Stiles asks.

“What did you think I was going to do?” he asks. “I love you, I’m hungry.”

“Fine,” Stiles says. “We’re having spaghetti. Whole wheat.”

“Just a second,” his dad says, and catches Stiles and pulls him into a hug. “Even if you’re making me eat whole wheat spaghetti.”

“It’s not that different,” Stiles says into his father’s chest.

“Just so you know,” Stiles says before he leaves the house. “I’m not even sure Danny likes me. Uh. So don’t, you know, pull him over and interrogate him or anything.”

“For liking you or not liking you?” his dad asks. “Because these both sound like problems.”

“I take back the hug,” Stiles says. “And the spaghetti.”

“Have fun,” his dad calls after him. He’s disturbingly chipper about this. It sort of reminds Stiles of when he gets excited about Stiles getting play time in lacrosse and Stiles--is torn between feeling bad, that he doesn’t do more normal things that make his father grin with a weird sort of pride, and wanting to go back into the house and tell his dad that this isn’t going to happen, probably, that Stiles doesn’t get boyfriends or girlfriends like he doesn’t get off the bench in lacrosse games, so his father really shouldn’t get his hopes up.

The concert is--good, Stiles supposes. He realizes he doesn’t really know that much about jazz. But he sits off to the side in the back of the auditorium, and from there he can see Danny, on the stage, look for his family and wave to them, and then he can see Danny keep looking, and Stiles lifts a hand to wave to him. He sees it, when Danny sees him, and for just a moment Danny’s face lights up. Just for a moment, but it’s there--a grin, dimples.

It’s not much, but it’s enough. Because Lydia and Allison aren’t with him, so it’s just Stiles, and--

And then Jackson sits down next to him.

“Hey,” Jackson says. Stiles doesn’t entirely know how to reply to that.

“So,” Jackson says. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Danny lately.”

For Jackson, this is a relatively non-confrontational statement, which Stiles counts as a plus.

“I’m not trying to steal your best friend,” Stiles says, before remembering his recent conversation with Scott.

“I’m not worried about that, Stilinski,” Jackson says. “Just try to keep it in your pants when I’m around. Why do you smell like hibiscus?”

They’re halfway through the concert before Stiles realizes that that’s as close as he’ll probably ever come to getting Jackson’s blessing, and he really, really doesn’t know when everyone except Danny decided to support their nonexistent relationship.

He tries to shift his focus to how hot Danny is, playing the bass and totally pulling off a bow tie, until Jackson elbows him and says, pointedly, “I can smell you.”

“So go sit somewhere else,” Stiles mutters, but talking to Jackson is kind of a boner killer all around.

After everything’s over and the standing ovation has been sufficiently ovated or whatever, Stiles goes out to the parking lot and sits in the Jeep, looking at the flowers on the seat next to him. He parked next to Danny’s car, and he pulls his seat back and kicks his feet up on the steering wheel while he waits. He figures it’ll be a little bit, but.

“Mmm,” comes a voice from the backseat. “Where were you, Stiles? That was quite the wait.”

Stiles can’t honestly say that he doesn’t nearly piss himself.

“Time to go!” Peter Hale says brightly, slinking into the front seat and picking up the bundle of flowers. “Though these are nice flowers. Pity, really.”

Peter opens the door and tips the bouquet out onto the pavement, and something inside Stiles deflates. This is--this is happening.

“What the hell,” Stiles says, as slowly as he can, which is not especially slowly. He has wolfsbane in his glovebox, just a little, as a precaution, but Peter is sitting in front of his glovebox, so there goes that plan.

“I’m kidnapping you,” Peter says, claws extending. He reaches over and puts his left hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “Care to put the key in the ignition, Stiles?”

“Why,” Stiles demands as he starts the car. “You can’t bite me, Peter.”

“No,” Peter says pleasantly. “But I think you have a friend who will want to save you, and I think Allison’s been kidnapped enough, don’t you?”

“So you’re using me to get Scott to join Derek’s pack,” Stiles says.

“Aren’t you a clever one?” Peter asks, grinning toothily. “But no, I’m using you to get Scott to join my pack. He was my beta first, after all. Turn left.”

They’re driving into the woods, towards the old Hale house. It couldn’t be more obvious.

“So Derek doesn’t know you’re doing this,” Stiles says, because he figures you’re supposed to keep the villain talking.

“Well, I certainly hope not,” Peter says.

It’s not going to work. Stiles believes that somewhere deep in his gut, but at this point he’s mostly worried about what will happen to him before Peter’s plan fails to work.

“You want me to call Scott, then?” Stiles asks as they get closer to the woods.

“No,” Peter says. “He’ll show up eventually.”

“Into the cellar with you, then,” Peter says when they get to the house. His hand’s still hot against the nape of Stiles’ neck, and he guides Stiles along and pushes him down the stairs.

“I never understood why this house even has a basement,” Stiles mutters. “We live in California.”

Peter smiles at him, still with too many teeth, and then he pushes Stiles further and cuffs him to the wall.

“And now,” he says. “We wait.”

“Could you just knock me out or something?” Stiles asks.

“Stiles,” Peter reprimands. “You really are no fun at all. I was thinking we could have a chat.”

“I really don’t think we have anything to talk about,” Stiles says. He should probably keep Peter talking, though, because Stiles can get out of cuffs. Sometimes. He used to practice with his Dad’s cuffs at home, and Peter’s only cuffed one of Stiles’ hands, the right one, which means that if Stiles can get his hand in his pocket without Peter noticing--Stiles may not have been able to get his wolfsbane, but he does carry bobby pins, and they certainly aren’t for his hair. Although he has, on occasion, given one to Allison.

“Derek says you’re part of a human pack,” Peter says as Stiles fidgets with his pocket.

“It’s not a pack, it’s a group,” Stiles says. Derek would think it was a pack. “A support group for people who have been used and abused by werewolves.”

“Lydia,” Peter says, almost worshipfully. “Of course. She would. She is quite something, isn’t she?”

“Please stop talking about her,” Stiles says. He’s gritting his teeth, just a little, and it’s not just from trying to get the bobby pin into shape single-handed.

“Do you have anything you want to ask me?” Peter says. “We could have a pleasant chat, while we wait.”

“What were you doing in San Francisco, then?” Stiles asks, and Peter looks at him, too quickly and too sharply. Stiles probably should’ve played that card a little closer to his chest, but at least if Peter’s looking at Stiles’ face he’s not looking at his hands.

“Business,” Peter says sharply. “I’m sure you wouldn’t understand.”

“Okay,” Stiles says. “Good talk. We’re really getting to know each other. This is certainly a two-way street of a conversation.”

Peter scowls, and then he goes up the stairs, presumably to wait for Scott. Stiles looks across the room at the wall, fiddles with the bobby pin a little more and pushes it into the keyhole on the cuffs. He wonders if Peter can hear this. It seems like he should be able to. It’s worth a try, anyway--even if Peter catches him, maybe it’ll make him less of a smug asshole if Stiles breaks his cuffs.

Peter dumped Danny’s flowers out in the parking lot, which doesn’t seem exactly like covering his tracks, and even though Stiles has thought through the ways in which flowers dumped out in the parking lot could be interpreted, he doesn’t think Danny’s the sort to go through the ways in which it might be an insult, so maybe, hopefully, he’ll realize something is wrong. Not that--Danny can’t come, not unless Deaton gives him something.

Jackson actually shows up first. Stiles hears the vicious purr of his Porsche, hears rather than sees him confront Peter.

“Where’s Stilinski, asshole?” Jackson asks. “I smelled you on those flowers.”

“I’m waiting for Scott,” Peter says, almost peacefully.

“I could take you,” Jackson says, and he sounds stiff and angry. “Lydia told me--”

“Lydia again,” Peter says. “You all are quite concerned about her.”

Jackson snarls.

“Don’t disrespect your elders,” Peter says, and then, conversationally: “Did she tell you everything?”

The handcuffs click open. Stiles pulls his hand free and tries to decide whether he should, whether he can, go upstairs and join Peter and Jackson for their werewolf rumble or whatever’s going to happen. He figures there’s a chance he might surprise Peter, though it’s a slim. He hopes Jackson will do something stupid. This is Jackson, after all.

The next car pulls up when Stiles is on the steps. The next car is not Scott, because Scott doesn’t have a car. When Stiles gets upstairs Peter has his back to him, and Jackson’s turning around towards the driveway, and Stiles--Stiles--he doesn’t have anything to hit Peter over the head.

He jumps on Peter’s back, instead, and realizes that was a terrible idea exactly when Peter starts to shift. Stiles shouts. Jackson turns back around, towards Stiles and Peter. Danny is rushing up the steps.

Stiles is still on Peter’s back, and underneath him Peter is writhing, and Jackson shifts, too, and Danny--Stiles can’t tell what Danny’s doing. Peter throws Stiles off his back, and Stiles lands on his own back on the hardwood floor, hits his head, rolls over on his side.

It hurts.

The floor hurts. There’s snarling off to the side, and Stiles doesn’t roll over to see what’s happening until Danny rolls him over.

“Aren’t you--” Stiles says. “Shouldn’t you be doing something?”

“I think Jackson has it covered,” Danny says, softly.

“He can’t possibly,” Stiles mutters. “He’s Jackson.”

“Are you okay?” Danny asks.

Stiles doesn’t know.

“I don’t know,” he groans. “It hurts. Look out for werewolves.”

Danny is running his hand across Stiles’ hair, holding him against his ribs. Stiles winces.

“Werewolves,” he says again, because Danny shouldn’t be looking at Stiles, he should be watching the werewolves, because werewolves don’t exhibit much concern for collateral damage. Stiles can hear the snarling in the background, snarling and hissing and fleshy thuds.

“Scott?” Stiles asks when Danny doesn’t move.

“I called him,” Danny says. “Are you okay?”

And then, behind Danny, there’s a hiss and a snarl and something else, something unidentifiable, and Stiles flails, trying to pull himself up so he can see. He thinks he broke a rib. It hurts like he imagines breaking a rib would hurt.

He can’t see much, but from what he can see--from what he can see Jackson killed Peter. There’s blood. There is a lot of blood. Peter’s not moving. Jackson--is.

“Shit,” Danny says.

Jackson gasps, and when he shifts back, slowly, he looks small.

Scott comes loping up the steps, Allison at his heels. Isaac is behind them, and behind him are Derek, Erica, Boyd. Stiles--Stiles doesn’t know.

“Hello,” Stiles says.

There’s too much happening--Stiles can see something on Derek’s face crack, and he knows he shouldn’t be surprised. Scott is staring at Stiles, Scott is sitting next to Danny saying, “Are you okay?”

“I think I broke a rib,” Stiles says, kind of abstractly. He looks up at the ceiling.

“He--” Jackson says. “Lydia.”

Derek snarls and goes to Peter’s body, which is prone and twisted on the floor, misshapen, half human and half not. His betas go to him, gather around, and Stiles doesn’t know what to make of it. They had to know. They had to know that Peter wasn’t--he should say something. He should tell Derek that Peter wanted his own pack, was going to. He wants to say that this shouldn’t be a surprise, that Peter died once before. But Scott is talking.

“We need to take him to my house,” Scott says. “My mom--”

Danny nods, and tucks Stiles’ head into his shoulder, and picks Stiles up.

Stiles probably should feel embarrassed about this. Danny’s not even a werewolf.

“I’ll call his Dad,” Scott says.

“Take my car,” Stiles mutters into Danny’s shoulder, which is warm and soft and pleasant smelling. “The keys are in it--it’s bigger.”

Scott and Danny are gentle as they slide Stiles into the backseat of the Jeep, and then Danny gets in to drive him and Stiles lets himself sleep.

When Stiles wakes up he’s in the hospital, and his father is there.

“Melissa says there’s something you need to tell me,” he says.

Stiles looks at him, at the lines on his face. Stiles wonders how many lines would be there, if Stiles wasn’t.

“It can wait,” his father says. “But you need to tell me.” And then, before Stiles slips off again: “You know I love you.”

Stiles knows. He sleeps more, longer. When he wakes up, he finds out that he did break ribs. A few of them, actually. Scott’s mom says he’ll be fine.

“Werewolves,” he says to his dad when he wakes up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t--” he doesn’t know where to go from there. He’s sorry he lied, but he didn’t know what else to do, and his apology feels like a flimsy thing.

“I’m sorry too, kid,” his dad says, and then Stiles tells him the rest, watches something in his father’s eyes break a little. Melissa McCall comes in when they’re quiet, puts a hand on Stiles’ father’s back and one on Stiles’ shoulder.

Stiles goes home.

Lydia comes to visit, hair tucked neatly behind her ears.

“Jackson defended your honor,” Stiles tells her.

“Like I needed him to,” she says, but she sounds kind of fond.

“You should’ve given him a pipe bomb,” Stiles says. “To defend your honor with.”

Lydia smiles at him.

“Danny’s here,” she says.

That turns out to be--true.

“Hey,” Stiles says when Danny comes in. “Thanks.”

“Thank you,” Danny says. “For the flowers.”

Stiles--Stiles really doesn’t know what to do with that.

“You’re welcome,” he says, because he was taught to be polite, once.

They’re quiet for a little bit. Stiles might be falling back asleep. Stiles also has three broken ribs.

“I have three broken ribs,” Stiles says, by way of conversation.

“We heard,” Danny says.

Stiles goes back to sleep.

He’s back in school on Thursday, and he’s technically not participating in gym because his ribs still hurt like hell, but he still has to sit there while everyone else does gym, and Stiles is trying to escape the locker room when he’s cornered by a shirtless Danny.

“We’re still on for tomorrow, right?” Danny asks.

“Yes?” Stiles says. “I mean--yes, definitely, of course. Uh. Do you want to go to dinner first?”

Allison and Scott are going to dinner first, so Stiles kind of figures it’s something people do. Danny looks surprised, and shirtless, and Stiles really needs to get out of the locker room before he does something stupid, or stupider. Danny is staring at him. Stiles is trying to maintain eye contact and also not look at Danny’s nipples.

“Yeah,” Danny says, finally.

“Great!” Stiles says, too loud. “I’ll pick you up at six. Uh. I need to go. To class.”

The next class doesn’t start for a good ten minutes, so Stiles is relieved when Danny just says ‘okay’ and goes back to his locker. Stiles goes to wait for Jackson, and ask him where he should take Danny for dinner.

“I don’t know, Stilinski,” Jackson says, slamming his locker shut and walking away. “Just don’t ask Lydia and I to double with you.”

Stiles follows him, dodging the other kids in the hallway.

“Look, Jackson, I know you’re an asshole, I’m just asking for advice here,” Stiles says.

“I saved your life, I don’t owe you anything,” Jackson says.

“Peter wasn’t going to kill me,” Stiles mutters.

“Whatever,” Jackson mutters. “I saved your ass, I’m letting you date my best friend, I am not giving you advice.”

“What’s his favorite restaurant, at least?” Stiles asks. “I’ll leave.”

“He likes sushi,” Jackson says.

Of course he does. Of course Danny, who eats approximately zero foods, likes raw fish. Stiles has never even had sushi, and he figures he might like it because he likes most things, but he still thinks there’s some irony, there.

“Okay,” Stiles calls after Jackson as he leaves. “Thanks.”

Jackson flips him the bird, because Jackson is a classy asshole. Stiles thinks they’re starting to be friends, except not at all.

Stiles goes and finds the best reviewed sushi place in the area on Yelp, and then he calls and makes a reservation.

Six o’clock on Friday finds Stiles outside Danny’s house, wearing freshly ironed clothes and resisting the urge to check himself in the mirror, but just barely. He goes up the walk to Danny’s house and knocks on the front door, and then he’s caught be his elbow by Danny and pulled away.

“Before my mom sees you,” Danny says. “Or my sisters. I tried to text you--really, really you don’t want to do this.”

“Do what?” Stiles asks as Danny catches his hand and pulls him towards the car.

“Pictures,” Danny says, turning back towards Stiles. “And they’ll--” he stops, pauses, swallows. “You look good.”

“So do you,” Stiles says, because it’s true, because Danny never doesn’t look good, but he looks especially nice right now. “Uh, thanks, though. Lydia, you know.”

“Daniel!” a woman calls from the front of the house, who Stiles can only assume is Danny’s mother. “Pictures!”

Danny groans, but he tightens his grip on Stiles’ hand and leads him back towards the house.

“Thanks for distracting me,” he mutters.

“Sorry?” Stiles says, because he’s feeling a bit off kilter. “Daniel.”

“Shut up, like Stiles is your real name,” Danny counters, which is--a point. One point to Danny.

“Nope, it’s not,” Stiles says, and then they’re in Danny’s house and Danny’s mother says, “Oh, aren’t you two handsome.”

And then three girls come stampeding down the stairs, and two of them are twins. There is also a cat, big and striped. Presumably the cat that recently got his shots.

“Hello,” says Stiles.

One of the twins giggles, and the girl who isn’t a twin--the one who’s older, nearly to high school if she isn’t already, gives Stiles a dry, assessing glance, then turns to Danny.

“He’s alright,” she says.

“I’m right here,” Stiles says, but she’s already going back upstairs. The two littler girls--Stiles is somewhat better with small children than he is with teenagers, so he ducks to talk to them. Their names are Joyce and Beth, and they’re wizards. Stiles looks up at Danny, who looks only slightly sheepish.

“Pictures,” Danny’s mother says, and arranges them by the stairs.

“You’ll have to send some to my dad,” Stiles tells her, and she smiles and says, “But of course!”

Stiles is distracted, after that, by Danny’s arm snaking around his waist and Danny’s hand firm on his hip. They’re about even in height, but standing together like this--Stiles feels like he fits, weirdly. He stands still for a photograph, and then another and another, for the first time in a long time, until Danny sighs and says, “Mom, we have to go.”

“Have fun!” she says brightly.

“Your mom is nice,” Stiles says when they’re in the car. “And your sisters.”

“Yeah,” Danny says, and Stiles is wondering if he’s remembering that Stiles’ mom is dead, which happens sometimes in situations like this. It’s impossible to tell. “Where are we going?”

“Sushi?” Stiles asks. “Jackson said you liked sushi, so I found a place on Yelp--I’ve never had sushi, so you’ll have to tell me what to get it. Or if Jackson was lying to me and you don’t like sushi, the alternative is pizza. Your call, really.”

“Sushi’s good,” Danny says. “If you think you can handle it.”

“Are you kidding?” Stiles asks. “Of course I can handle it.”

It turns out Stiles kind of can’t. He mostly sticks to California rolls (“Because we’re in California, this is totally legitimate, right?”) and things Danny orders for him without fish in them, and he is also only somewhat competent at navigating with chopsticks. But it makes Danny laugh and, at one point, reach across the table to feed him, which Stiles is--surprisingly okay with.

He’s surprisingly okay with everything, actually, because Stiles isn’t sure if they’re on a date, and they might very well be, but that doesn’t send him into paroxysms of terror like he kind of expected it to. Mostly he’s just having a conversation with Danny, and they talk about music and werewolves and World of Warcraft, and if they are on a date it’s pretty much like not being on a date, and if they aren’t on a date--that’s also surprisingly like not being on a date.

But Stiles kind of hopes they are, which maybe explains why he says, “No, I can pay,” when the bill comes.

“I ate most of the expensive stuff, though,” Danny says.

“I invited you, though,” Stiles says, and he’s still got his hand on Danny’s, on top of the bill, and Danny looks at him and then shrugs and says, “Alright, I’ll pay next time.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, then he looks up at Danny, and, because Stiles’ self control has lasted this long, it suddenly disintegrates. “Are we dating?”

Danny blinks at Stiles, slow and liquid, and he looks uncomfortable.

“Couldn’t we be?” Danny asks, discomfort shifting towards anger and Stiles--Stiles has very nearly fucked this up.

“No!” Stiles says, and Danny’s face falls a little, and gets a little angrier, and Stiles suspects he’s going to call Jackson and Jackson’s going to come be the king of the assholes at him. “I mean--yes. I don’t know. I didn’t know!”

“Stiles,” Danny says. “What are you trying to say.”

Stiles lifts a hand and rubs his head.

“I want us to be,” he says. “I just--”

“Stiles, you asked me out to dinner,” Danny says. “And I said yes.”

“But we’re going to Homecoming as friends,” Stiles says. “Or something, I don’t even know. Weren’t we?”

“We were,” Danny says carefully. “But then you asked me to dinner. And insisted on paying.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “Because I want to date you.”

Danny looks at him, blinks, and starts to grin.

“Okay,” he says. “You know you’re awful at this?”

“Yes,” Stiles says. “But you’re kind of the hottest boy in school, and I’m kind of a gigantic spaz.”

“The hottest boy in school?” Danny asks, raising his eyebrows. “Don’t even, Stilinski. This isn’t a John Hughes movie.”

“Nah,” Stiles says. “There are werewolves.”

“Besides,” Danny says, leaning forwards. “You aren’t so bad yourself.”

It gives Stiles pause, makes him want to lean forward further, into Danny’s silky voice and this smile he hasn’t seen before, a little toothier, with an edge of something that’s not entirely friendlier.

“So I am attractive to gay guys,” Stiles says, leaning across the table himself and propping his head in his hands, staring at Danny now because he can. “You know, I’d been wondering.”

“Yeah,” Danny says. “Kind of hated you for that, you know?”

“I just wanted to know!” Stiles says.

Danny reaches across the table and tweaks Stiles’ lower lip with his thumb. Stiles isn’t entirely sure what to do with that, isn’t sure what to do with Danny’s large, dark eyes.

“Mouth like that, can’t keep it shut, what do you think?” Danny says, and Stiles mouth slips open. Danny pushes it closed.

“Danny,” Stiles says, and then Stiles licks Danny’s thumb, because he kind of doesn’t know what else to do. He’s not entirely sure how flirting works. He’s pretty sure licking someone’s thumb isn’t sexy, but Danny’s putting on the moves and overwhelming him here.

Danny’s breath flutters in, so maybe Stiles’ moves aren’t too bad.

“Uh,” Stiles says. “If I pay now, can we go make out in the car?”

It seems like where this is going.

“I’ll go get our coats,” Danny says.

Their hands are wrapped together as soon as they’re out of the restaurant, and Stiles can’t put on his coat but he’s too warm to bother, and when they get to the Jeep Danny follows Stiles around to the driver’s side.

“Um,” Stiles says, reaching forward to unlock the car. Danny gently takes him by the shoulders and turns him around.

“Stilinski,” Danny says conversationally. “How do you feel about making out against the car?”

“Pretty good, actually,” Stiles says, and he reaches up for the collar of Danny’s shirt and pulls him in, and Danny gets his hands on either side of Stiles’ face and proceeds to rewrite everything Stiles ever knew about his mouth.

Stiles has kissed before, at a game of spin the bottle he played with he other kids when they snuck away from day camp in middle school, so he totally knows how to kiss, inasmuch as he knows it involves mouths.

Danny does not kiss like a middle school student playing spin the bottle, though.

Probably for the best.

Danny starts out careful, but that doesn’t last very long, and it lasts even less long when Stiles figures out he can bite at Danny’s lower lip and make him melt.

Danny hums a little when they pull apart, studying Stiles.

“You’re a quick study,” he says after a moment.

“You don’t know, I could have loads of experience,” Stiles says, and Danny just grins, a little smugly, maybe, and says, “Oh, I know.”

And then Stiles pulls him in again to prove a point, a point Stiles thinks he kind of proves because Danny makes a low keening noise and pulls Stiles closer before saying, “I think there’s a dance.”

“I don’t really like dances,” Stiles says.

“I think our werewolf friends will come looking for us if we don’t show up,” Danny says.

“Werewolf friends,” Stiles repeats, laughing a little to himself, and he’s not sure if it’s endorphins or whatever, or just Danny, who is--here. “They do worry, don’t they? Okay, let’s go, you convinced me.”

Danny darts in and presses a kiss to the corner of Stiles’ mouth.

“Are you sure you don’t need more convincing?” he asks.

“Stop being smooth,” Stiles mutters. “You don’t need to be smooth with me, I think I’m pretty easy.”

Danny grins, kind of fondly, and slips around to the other side of the car, climbs in so they can drive back to the high school. His hair is a disaster. Did Stiles do that? Stiles is pretty sure he did that.

“You know, with the buzz cut you can’t even tell that I’ve been debauched,” Stiles says.

“Debauched,” Danny repeats. “I debauched you?”

“Did you not?” Stiles asks.

“Is this going to be like the conversation about whether we’re dating?” Danny asks.

“Not unless you make a face like you’re going to sic Jackson on me or something,” Stiles says.

“I made that face?” Danny asks, mock offended, and Stiles is surprised again by how easy this is, that now they’re dating. He slides his hand off the gearshift and puts it on Danny’s thigh, and Danny lets him.

When they get to the school Danny grabs Stiles and kisses him again, with one hand on the small of Stiles’ back like he’s going to bend him over backwards.

“There,” he says. “Now they can tell.”

Stiles puts a hand to his mouth, though it feels more or less the same.

“Uh,” he says. “Thanks, I guess. I mean, I’m glad you aren’t trying to pretend this isn’t a thing.”

Danny just grins at him, and Stiles finds himself reaching forward to fix Danny’s tie.

“Okay,” Stiles says. “Okay. Let’s go.”

They go, into the dimly lit school gymnasium, and the crappy decorations, and the watery punch. They go, and Lydia takes one look at them and smiles like her face is going to break, real and wide and pleased, and Jackson looks mostly uncomfortable but offers Danny a fistbump, anyway, which makes Stiles feels weirdly vindicated as a conquest, and Scott just tosses an arm across Stiles’ shoulders and asks if he can dance with Stiles’ boyfriend, and Stiles shrugs and asks Allison if she’s okay with that. Erica and Boyd and Isaac are there, too, on the fringes and looking uncomfortable, but Scott’s in their pack so he pulls them in, grinning goofily and talking about nothing in particular, or possibly a Transformers movie. Stiles is surprised by how okay it is, all of it, and when he reaches out across the space between them he finds Danny’s hand already there, waiting for his, and that’s better than okay, really.