you can’t hold on to the thrill
so I hope you find your will to follow through
(what we invented I am now ending)
Watching Lydia sink to the filthy concrete floor, cradling Jackson like the dirt and the blood and the slick sweat don’t mean anything, like there’s nothing that can stop her from sharing those last few breaths with him – it does something to Stiles. Does something to his ribs, maybe, makes them brittle and sharp, curling in a little tighter and pinching his lungs, his heart.
Later he’ll feel a little selfish about it; Lydia and Jackson are playing out their Satine and Christian horror story and Gerard’s mostly-dead, completely-disgusting body is gone, Peter’s apparently risen from the dead and Derek’s got this look on his face like he’s finally realizing he lost whatever tentative control he had. All Stiles cares about is that whatever fleeting chance he might have thought he had with Lydia has quite literally been given the kiss of death. The stubborn streak that dominates the majority of his personality wants to refuse, but Jackson's not so dead after all, and he's looking at Lydia like she hung the moon and personally arranged the stars around it, and Stiles thinks this might be what the captain of the Titanic felt like when his unsinkable ship was well and truly sunk.
His departure is exponentially less dramatic than his arrival. There are shifty-eyed looks from Isaac and Scott is pointedly avoiding Derek's clearly betrayed expression. Allison's trigger-happy fingers are laced through Scott's, and Peter’s got a whole, fully functioning body again, and it all clearly screams that Stiles has missed a ton, has missed at least three major plot twists before crashing through the wall, and he could not give less of a fuck. He shuffles his way through the motley crew of bodies, stalks passed Chris Argent (and seriously, what), slams the door on his relatively unscathed Jeep and drives away. If anyone tries to stop him - well, Stiles doesn't have werewolf superhearing, and he makes a point of driving with his stereo cranked to top volume.
His bed is the best thing he's ever experienced in his entire life, and a delivery of hot-from-the-microwave Campbell's Chunky Chicken Noodle before his dad heads to work Saturday afternoon is enough to ensure Stiles doesn't have to leave the warm, safe confines of his well-worn comforter for at least another few hours. The low battery warning on his phone stopped beeping hours ago, the dull throbbing radiating from his temple and the iron-metallic taste from the split lip he keeps accidentally biting open is more than enough for him to claim illness, more than enough for him to pull the covers back over his head and ignore the bright, sunlit Saturday afternoon and the eight missed calls from Scott.
Sunday follows a similar pattern, and he doesn't go to school on Monday either, though he does begrudgingly get out of bed for more than just a trip to the bathroom. The bruise on his cheek has settled into an ugly, mottled purple thing, the blood seeping further down toward his jaw and sinking into the fleshy apple of his cheek. Stiles finds it hard enough to suffer his dad’s empathetic wince every time he sees it; he has no interest in the half a dozen lies he'll have to spread to explain it away at school. Besides, any post-victory fame he might've been granted would undoubtedly be overshadowed by Jackson's death, or maybe his resurrection, and really that's just another set of lies Stiles will have to spin, and he's so tired of lying.
By Monday night, though, his father’s getting that pursed look around his mouth, the one that says they either need to move on or talk about it, and Stiles emphatically Does Not Want to talk about it. So when Tuesday morning rolls around he dutifully gets back in his Jeep and drives himself to school.
Because the universe is actually shit the very first person Stiles sees on campus is Isaac, leather clad and surprisingly short two-thirds of his usual entourage. He gives Stiles a long, uncomfortably appraising look, nods definitively, and promptly walks away without a word.
Well. Huh. Fine.
And, because things stopped making sense in his life even before he stopped giving a shit, the first person to drop down into the empty seat next to him in AP World, blink a lingering look at his bruised cheekbone, and open his mouth, is Danny Mahealani.
“So before Jackson left he said I should come find you. That you’d tell me what’s going on.”
“Um,” Stiles says back. Danny’s already giving him an exasperated, what did I do to deserve you look, like he doesn’t fully appreciate the brevity of what he’s just said to Stiles. This, of course, is probably because he doesn’t.
“Jackson…left?” Stiles starts with the easiest option. Maybe some people didn’t spend the last four days of their lives hiding in a bubble of fuck off under their makeshift blanket fortress of solitude.
“You really did check out for the last few days, didn’t you,” Danny frowns back at him. “Jackson’s like, gone gone. Something about being mistakenly pronounced dead by the paramedics and the Whittemores avoiding a scandal – the entire family’s shipped themselves off to ‘visit relatives’ on the East Coast.” He makes air quotes and everything, like it isn’t obvious enough that Danny doesn’t believe the half of it.
“What, you mean they can’t just pay it all to go away?” Stiles grumbles back.
The longsuffering look Danny gives him explains just some of how the kid’s managed to put up with Jackson and his own personal brand of douchebaggery for all these years.
“Fine,” Stiles relents. “So Jackson’s skipped town. And he told you what now?”
“That you’d explain everything,” Danny repeats. “And he put a stupidly heavy emphasis on everything, like he thought maybe I didn’t notice the monumental amounts of bullshitting going on around here lately.”
“Right, okay,” Stiles nods absentmindedly, fidgeting with the unraveling spiral binding on his notebook. “And Jackson nominated me for the job because…”
Danny shrugs. “He said of all the freaks at the circus you're the least freaky. Also if you tell me everything, full disclosure, he'll get Mr. Whittemore to tell the Sheriff that the kidnapping thing was a retaliation in a prank battle he started, and he'll get his dad to repeal the restraining order.”
Stiles exhales a long, slow breath of air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. That would be…well, it wouldn’t exactly repair his completely crumbling relationship with his dad, and it wouldn’t do much in terms of the Sheriff’s job, since he already got that back on his own, but it was something. A big something. And whether it was an olive branch from Jackson or a bargaining chip, or maybe both, it was enough for Stiles to nod a little more decisively this time.
“Fine,” he agrees. Danny looks expectant, like he’s waiting for Stiles to start talking right this very second, and Stiles rolls his eyes. “Not here,” he hisses. “Jesus Christ, you want me to explain at least ten different dead bodies, plus the inexplicable resurrection of two more, and you think I’m going to do it in the middle of our World History classroom?”
There’s a great battle of warring expressions on Danny’s face, like he’s not quite sure if he’s intrigued, disbelieving, or already seriously second guessing his decision to come anywhere within twenty feet of Stiles. He settles on something that looks vaguely interested enough while still maintaining a healthy level of suspicion.
Stiles doesn’t care. Danny can believe him or not, doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to him one way or another.
“After school,” he tells Danny. “My house.”
Danny makes a face like it’s the last place he’d like to be, but Stiles isn’t having this conversation in public. He’s still reeling from the feel of rough hands yanking him into the dark, of Scott conspiring with Gerard Argent, of Peter fucking Hale standing at Derek’s back like he’d never been a smoldering corpse buried under a pile of rotting wood. They’re having this conversation on Stiles’ terms or not at all.
He tugs his hood up over his head, because it’s hard to signal the definitive end of a conversation when you’re sitting at adjacent desks and class is about to start, and the movement triggers something in Danny. His eyes slide back over to the barely-concealed bruise spreading down the left half of Stiles’ face, and his disgruntled expression shifts to something softer, something more conciliatory.
“Okay, sure,” he agrees. “After school.”
He makes a point of not looking for her, which is why it takes Stiles until last period to figure out that Jackson isn’t the only conspicuous absence today. Lydia, as far as Stiles can remember, has never missed a math class for anything less than being bedridden at the hospital or PTSD from a fugue state, so he doesn’t blame himself for jumping to the worst possible conclusions. It’s only after he’s calmed down from the initial panic of werewolf Jackson Peter Hale Gerard Argent’s missing body does he consider the much, much worse possibility that Jackson, fresh-made werewolf who clearly anchored himself the same way Scott did with Allison, might have taken Lydia with him.
He dismisses that one almost as quickly. Lydia might love Jackson, but he thinks maybe she might love her perfect GPA more – Lydia may wind up absconding to the East Coast too, but it won’t be for another two weeks, not until after school’s out for the summer. Which means she’s here, fresh off what was undoubtedly a traumatic weekend, without Jackson.
He’s still considering it, distracted as he heads out towards his car after class, when he promptly gets waylaid by Scott.
“Dude,” Scott pouts aggressively at him, brows furrowed as he narrows his eyes at Stiles’ face. “Where the hell have you been?”
Stiles shrugs. Hiding. Ignoring Scott’s progressively more incessant texts and phone calls and, eventually, Stiles’ cell phone charger. Avoiding everything that existed outside of his bedroom. Pointedly staying away from anyone who was going to look at Stiles’ face the exact way Scott is right now.
“Seriously, I have like a million things to tell you, there’s like massive amounts of clean up to do, and we still haven’t found Gerard’s body –”
“Anytime now, Stilinski, it’s not like I had anything else to do today.”
Scott looks baffled at the sudden appearance of Danny at Stiles’ side, but Stiles does his best to play it off like he was totally in on this plan.
“Yeah yeah, keep your pants on,” Stiles rolls his eyes. He turns to interrupt Scott before whatever’s building up in Scott’s half-open mouth makes its way out. “You working tonight?”
“Until 8:00,” Scott nods, clearly about to protest. “But –”
“Cool, come over after,” Stiles cuts him off. “I’ll even feed you, if you promise not to smell like wet dog when you get there.”
The promise of food, combined with the confusion of watching Stiles walk away with Danny, of all people, seems to be enough to temporarily placate Scott. At least he doesn’t follow them, which is good enough for Stiles.
He waits until Danny’s actually climbing into the passenger seat of his Jeep to raise an eyebrow at the other teen.
“I don’t have a car,” he reminds Stiles. “And my ride’s left town. Besides, you looked like you needed the save.”
There’s really not much to argue there, so Stiles doesn’t bother. They drive in silence, and if Danny finds it strange that the most notorious loud-mouth rambler of their class doesn’t have so much as a single word of small talk to make, he doesn’t say anything.
He’s surprisingly patient, actually, quietly following Stiles into the kitchen and leaning against the counter while Stiles digs through the fridge. Stiles considers the possibility that Danny might not have expected him to agree so easily, that Stiles might not have been so willing to let him in on the secrets they’ve obviously been keeping from him. Danny’s not stupid, there’s no doubt in Stiles’ mind that Danny’s known there’s a lot Jackson wasn’t telling him for a while now.
If Scott hadn’t told him – if Derek had gotten there first, before Stiles got involved, would Stiles know? Or would he be in the same seat as Danny, helplessly watching his best friend fall further and further into something dark and dangerous, something they couldn’t do a damn thing about. Would it have been better, that way? If he didn’t know?
“I’m only going to warn you once,” he says quietly to Danny, dropping two plates of sandwiches on the kitchen table and gesturing Danny towards an empty chair. “This is one of those things that once you know, you know, and there’s no going back. You can’t unknow, or unsee, and it’s not exactly a picnic in the park.”
“Are you offering me the blue pill?” Danny asks, the corner of his mouth lifting in a halfhearted smirk.
“On a better day I’d fall a little bit in love with you for that,” Stiles tells him solemnly. He’s only half kidding. “But yeah. Exactly. Blue pill’s gonna mean a lifetime of knowing your best friend’s lying to you – to protect you, to keep you safe, but still lying. Red pill means you’re gonna spend the rest of your life lying to your family, your other friends, and yourself. A lot of lying.”
“But I’ll know the truth,” Danny counters. “About everything.”
“About why Jackson left, and why Lydia’s a wreck,” Stiles nods. “How Scott and Isaac Lahey turned into overnight lacrosse stars, and why the Argent family’s been decimated by more than half in less than a month.”
Danny processes for a minute, focusing most of his attention on the untouched sandwich in front of him. Stiles lets him think, fusses with his own sandwich, rearranging the two slices of bread until the corners are perfectly aligned.
“Does it also have anything to do with why your cousin Miguel bears a striking resemblance to Derek Hale, who you may or may not have been harboring illegally from your own dad?”
Stiles doesn’t bother holding back the laugh – it’s as devoid of actual humor as any laugh could possibly be, bitter and sharp and oh, does it ever have to do with Derek fucking Hale.
“Last chance,” he warns, leveling his gaze on Danny.
Danny looks back unflinchingly, holding Stiles’ stare before nodding firmly. “Red pill.”
Stiles sighs. “Danny,” he says slowly, “what do you know about werewolves?”
Danny takes it surprisingly well, considering a. Stiles has absolutely no physical evidence to back it up and, b. apart from sounding like a mash up of a bad teen romance novel and a eighties teen comedy, the story also includes Danny’s best friend brutally attacking and murdering an alarming number of people, including Danny himself.
There’s a lot of silence again as Stiles drives Danny home, but that’s probably reasonable. It’s a lot to take in. Besides, Stiles just talked more in an hour than he had in the last four days – he’s content with the break, with the silence.
“Listen,” there is one last thing, though, just to be sure. “It kind of goes without saying…”
“I won’t tell anyone,” Danny shakes his head vehemently. “Even if they actually believed me, I’m not stupid. Don’t worry.”
“I trust you,” Stiles shrugs. It’s a lie; he doesn’t at all. It’s nothing to do with Danny, really – Stiles has had a very rough and fast lesson in trust recently, and maybe Danny’s done nothing to lose Stiles’ trust, but he’s done nothing to earn it either.
Danny doesn’t call him on it, just issues a low goodnight as he slams the Jeep’s door shut behind him. Stiles waits until Danny’s let himself in the front door, a lesson he’d learned from his mother, and Scott’s frequent inability to remember his house key (there’s more than one reason Stiles has his own key).
And much like when you speak of the Devil, Scott’s sitting on Stiles’ front stoop when he pulls the Jeep into the driveway, chin in his hands and elbows on his knees like Scott couldn’t get into the house effortlessly on his own. It sparks a little something low and deep in the pit of Stiles’ stomach, something like hesitation or wary; it’s been years since Scott’s felt uncomfortable at the Stilinski’s.
“Deaton let me off early,” Scott offers, pushing himself upright as Stiles walks slowly up to the stoop.
“You could’ve let yourself in,” Stiles reminds him, stepping around Scott and nodding at the front door. “Or did you lose your keys again?”
“Nope. I just didn’t want to scare you.” There’s a sheepish expression on Scott’s face when Stiles turns a narrow-eyed gaze his way. “I – uh – might’ve talked to your dad. He said you’ve been a little jumpy since Friday, and I didn’t want you to freak out when you thought you were coming home to an empty house and found a werewolf there instead.”
The warning in Stiles’ gut fades almost completely, replaced by a low burn of guilt that he’d been suspicious of Scott. That was surprisingly considerate of his best friend, especially considering the way Stiles completely and undeniably would have gone batshit crazy if he thought he was facing another threat so soon.
“When’d you see Dad?” He focused his attention on unlocking the door, counting on Scott to accept the shift in subject without question.
“I ran into him on Sunday when he was on patrol,” Scott explains, shuffling in behind Stiles and locking the front door again behind him. “He asked me about what happened to you after the game, but I told him I didn’t know, that I hadn’t seen you.”
“It wasn’t completely a lie,” Stiles offers, because he knows Scott feels just as guilty about lying to their parents as he does. He hasn’t had much time yet to explore the bitter feeling of knowing that Ms. McCall was in on the secret now, that Scott didn’t have to hide things from her anymore.
“No, it wasn’t.” Scott shoulders Stiles further down the hall until they’re firmly in the brightly lit kitchen, snagging Stiles’ jaw between two carefully human fingers and tilting his injured cheek closer for Scott’s inspection.
Stiles lets him survey the damage without complaint. It was something of a werewolf thing, he’d realized. Scott, and even Derek to a degree, had an uncomfortable habit of not trusting his own assessment of his injuries, of needing to observe them for themselves. Maybe not just a werewolf thing – maybe a pack thing, because Stiles was nothing if not Scott’s pack.
“So what did happen?” Scott finally asks, releasing his light grip on Stiles’ chin with a satisfied but deeply unhappy look on his face.
“Gerard,” Stiles offers, turning away before he can see Scott’s reaction. “Apparently old age made him forget how to use pen and paper, maybe a phone, because he thought this was the best way to send a message to the pack. Well. That and stringing Erica and Boyd up with electrified wire.”
“Chris let them go. As far as I know they haven’t come back though – Isaac said they were leaving.”
There’s a long conversation ahead of them, and Stiles wants nothing more than to crawl back into his bed, recharge under the safety of his comforter and pretend that werewolves were still just an annoying-but-slightly-less-popular-than-vampires side effect of the Twilight phenomenon and maybe some really, really bad CGI in everything from Underworld to Harry Potter. He knows from experience with that particular expression on Scott’s face, though, that that’s not happening for at least another few hours, and regardless of how much Stiles is Not in the Mood, they’re going to talk now.
So they compare notes. Scott tells him about the plan he and Deaton had concocted against Gerard and how he formally declared his intent to stay separate from Derek’s pack. Stiles tells him about the Argent’s basement, Jackson’s sudden relocation, and Danny’s newfound knowledge.
They don’t talk about Allison, or Lydia. They don’t talk about Isaac, who Stiles couldn’t help but notice spent most of the school day at Scott’s right shoulder, a position Stiles knew was werewolf code for Second in Command. They don’t talk about Derek, or Peter, who neither of them have seen or heard from since they left the warehouse Friday night.
Those, Stiles suspects, are all completely separate, heavily weighted conversations that he just can’t handle right now. Scott, years and years of practice under his belt, doesn’t need to be told twice. He cleans up the plate of leftovers Stiles had dutifully provided him with, takes one last lingering look at the wrecked surface of Stiles’ face, and lets himself out the back door.
For significant lack of better option, and because really, what control does he actually have, Stiles lets the week progress much the same way as Tuesday. School is a study in avoiding other people, which Stiles never would have assumed to be as difficult as is, considering six months ago he had exactly one friend. Erica and Boyd are still missing, Jackson’s gone and Lydia hasn’t been at school yet this week, but Isaac is everywhere, and so is Scott. Danny pops up when Stiles least expects him to, like he’s not quite sure where they stand but wants to maintain open lines of communication with Stiles for when he eventually makes up his mind. Even Allison seems to be steadily hovering in his peripheral vision, always silent and withdrawn, deadly pale and looking for all the world like she’d rather be anywhere than here. That, at least, Stiles can relate to.
Scott and Allison are broken up for real these days. It takes Stiles less than half of Wednesday to figure that one out, and while he feels for the quiet heartbreak he knows his best friend is suffering, he can’t bring himself to feel all that bad about it. Not entirely for nothing, and maybe not without some provocation, but Stiles did manage to glean enough information from Gerard to learn that Allison had been the one to unflinchingly shoot down and capture Boyd and Erica, and that she was fully aware of what was happening to them, at least, if not Stiles, in the basement of her own house.
Still, they don’t talk about it until Friday, until Stiles is back in his room, hood of his oversized lacrosse sweatshirt up over his head and attention firmly devoted to blowing the shit out of things in his latest RPG effort. He ignores the first call because he doesn’t notice it, the second because he doesn’t care, but the third attempt, a text this time, is enough for Stiles to pause and reach over for his phone.
allisons leaving 4 smmer not cming bck til spt!!! :(
He’s a good enough friend (read: feels guilty enough for being a dick all week) that he finally calls Scott back, lets him ramble about their break-up, his declaration that he’d wait for her, her finding him after school to tell him she and her dad were taking a “trip.”
It’s not until much later, phone off and charging on his nightstand, laying in bed staring at the eerie outline of the snowboarder decal on the wall (that was going to have to go. Immediately.), when it occurs to him.
Jackson was gone. Allison was gone. Lydia was suffering the aftermath of one hell of a few weeks without her best friend or her boyfriend there for her.
And just like that, Stiles’ planning instinct kicks it, without him even meaning to. Because obviously, obviously, standing around doing nothing for the last God knows how many years has done absolutely nothing for him in terms of getting Lydia’s attention. The only times he’s gotten anywhere close to it lately have been when he’s stopped acting like a flailing boy with a crush and acted like they were friends. Or maybe not friends yet, but had the potential to be.
Because if there’s one thing Stiles is good at, it’s being a hell of a good friend. Scott could vouch for him – Scott should take lessons from him. Stiles is totally the kind of guy you want in your corner if you were having a shit time of it; he knows those feelings all too well, has spent way too much of his time perfecting how to deal with them. He could be there for Lydia. In fact, he’s the best person to be there for Lydia, because how many other completely human people in this town were in the know enough to be able to have unguardedly frank conversations about exactly what’s been going on. He’s perfect for that job, it was practically written for him. And if she got to know him, if Lydia really got to know Stiles…
Well. It couldn’t hurt.
He wakes up and texts Scott. Texts Scott incessantly, a steady stream of get up get up get up at minute intervals until Scott finally responds to the fourteenth, WTF IM UP!?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!? in all capitals. Stiles gives him some time to stew in it, leaving the message unanswered as he helps himself to a leisurely shower.
were stdying 4 chem final he tells Scott twenty minutes later, shoving his feet into sneakers and grabbing his backpack off his desk chair. ur gonna pass if it kills me
Scott texts him back a single k, most likely because he knows it drives Stiles absolutely batshit to waste a text on a single letter, but Stiles will take what he can get. He scribbles a quick note for his dad, just in case, and slams his way out the front door and into his Jeep.
It’s a quick stop at the coffee shop halfway between his and Lydia’s house, and he doesn’t bother feeling ashamed about the fact that he knows her favorite order, and he’s standing on her front porch, precariously gripping two cups in one hand as he knocks on the door with his free fist.
He’s surprised when Lydia herself answers, even more surprised when she’s standing there in oversized lacrosse sweatpants that could only be Jackson’s and a worn camp t-shirt with a slit cut into the collar. She doesn’t look that surprised to see him, and definitely doesn’t look like she remotely cares about her current state of dress, just stands back and gestures him inside with a careless wave of her arm.
“No, it’s cool, I’m just stopping by,” Stiles tells her, and that elicits more surprise than his initial appearance did. Lydia levels him with an impatient look, and he holds up the coffees in defense.
“I come bearing ambrosia,” he offers, switching his cup into his right hand and handing Lydia the untouched one meant for her. “And also like serious amounts of apologies.”
“What for?” Lydia accepts the paper to go cup with a substantially more serene expression, humming in approval after her first sip. She looks up expectantly when he doesn’t respond, watching him shrug with sharp brown eyes.
“I didn’t mean to yell at you like that,” Stiles admits, wincing slightly as he remembers the way he flipped on her. She’s already shaking her head, opening her mouth to respond, but he pushes on before she can speak. “No, seriously. It’s not cool to snap like that, especially given everything that was going on, and I feel really bad about it. I’m sorry.”
“It happens,” Lydia says dismissively, a weak smile flashing briefly from behind the rim of her coffee cup. “Like you said, there was a lot going on, and you’d just…” she releases the grip she still had on the doorknob to gesture loosely at Stiles’ still-bruised cheek. “Well. I’d’ve been a little on edge too.”
“Fair,” he nods conciliatorily. “Anyway, I also wanted to say that I heard about Jackson leaving. And now Allison too, after finals, and if last time didn’t make you totally adverse to ever talking to me ever again, I’m still here. If you have any questions about anything that’s been going on, or if you just want someone around who you don’t have to lie to.” Stiles grins a slightly self-deprecating grin, and Lydia returns another tentative smile back.
He makes a point not to push it – he’s there to put the idea in her head and leave before he overstays his welcome.
“That…I might take you up on that,” Lydia tells him, and it literally takes everything he has for Stiles to stop himself from a victory dance right there on the Martin’s front porch. “You could come in, if you wanted. I was memorizing conjugations for my French final, but I could easily be persuaded into something else.”
Stiles has had countless dreams about this moment, Lydia bumping her front door further open with a little nudge of her hip and gesturing again for him to come in, but it is integral to his plan that he say no. Not playing hard to get, necessarily, but the drop-everything-and-jump-on-Lydia’s-command doormat look hasn’t been working for him thus far, so it’s time to try a new tactic.
“I’m actually on my way to Scott’s,” Stiles tells her instead, offering an apologetic half-smile. “I’m going to get him a passing grade on the chem final if it means literally teaching him morse code and tapping out the answers during the test.”
Lydia laughs, and Stiles bites back a grin because he totally made Lydia Martin laugh.
“Okay,” she concedes. “That’s clearly going to take all day, so I’ll let you get to that.”
There’s something a little sour in her expression though, a little sad and maybe a little lonely, and Stiles doesn’t care if it’s just because Lydia must be craving any kind of social interaction after a week of self-imposed exile, he’ll take the bait he’s been offered.
“I was planning on going to the library tomorrow though,” he says casually, “brushing up on all the books we’ve read in English this year, maybe outlining a few of the potential essays Mrs. Donovan gave us.”
“I was going to spark notes A Separate Peace,” Lydia admits, “I missed it when I was in the hospital.”
“I’m actually pretty sure I have an entire notebook of notes on that one,” Stiles tells her truthfully. They’d talked about it extensively in class, talking circles around the overwhelming homoerotic undertone without ever actually getting there, and Stiles had filled half a spiral notebook with his own speculation on Gene and Finny’s relationship. “If you can manage to decipher my completely shit handwriting, that is.”
“Sounds like a challenge.” From her tone, it’s clearly one that Lydia accepts. “The library opens at noon on Sundays. I’ll bring the coffee?”
“Black,” Stiles responds, tilting his mostly empty cup towards her. “Don’t let them put a single packet of sugar in it unless you don’t mind hours and hours of incessant pen clicking.”
“Noted,” Lydia nods. “See you tomorrow, Stiles. Thanks for the coffee.”
He waits until he’s at a red light half a mile away to let out a large congratulatory whoop for a job seriously well, well done.
It takes Scott all of twenty seconds to notice the spring in Stiles’ step, bounding up the McCall’s front walk and bouncing on his toes as he waits for his best friend to open the door. Scott looks like he’d gone straight back to bed the second Stiles stopped texting him, and Stiles shoves the bag of pastries he’d also gotten at the coffee shop into Scott’s already waiting hands.
“Are you high?” is his first question. Stiles rolls his eyes, closing the front door behind him and elbowing his way into the kitchen while Scott digs through the pastries and shuffles along behind him.
“My dad is still the Sheriff and would still smell pot on me in thirty seconds or less,” Stiles reminds Scott, “and so would you. Although I do wonder if you can get high. We should test that theory.”
“Let’s not,” Scott mumbles through a mouthful of blueberry muffin. “So why are you grinning like Lydia just…she didn’t.”
“She didn’t,” Stiles agrees, “but we are hanging out tomorrow.”
“Hanging out,” Scott repeats flatly, and Stiles can feel the stern look his best friend has leveled at the back of his head.
“Keep your judginess away from me,” Stiles scowls, batting one hand uselessly in Scott’s direction. “Hanging out. We’re going to be friends. I have a feeling Lydia could use a few more of those right now.”
“And if, now that Jackson’s been shipped off to Cape Cod, she happens to realize you’re awesome and fall madly in love with you once she sees what a great friend you are…” Scott supplies. They’ve been friends for far too long.
“Entirely her own doing,” Stiles shrugs. “I heard it was Manhattan.”
“I hope it was Antarctica.” Scott throws himself into the chair next to Stiles, wiping his greasy fingers against his basketball shorts before reaching to tug his chemistry textbook across the table.
They make it a solid two hours before the subject of Allison comes up, and Stiles manages to steer Scott back to the topic on hand in a record-breaking ten minutes. The fifth time they revisit the subject of her leaving, four and a half hours after they started and ten minutes after Stiles started quizzing Scott on how to read the periodic table, Stiles clears his throat and fixes his gaze on a spot somewhere over Scott’s right shoulder.
“I think we should tell Derek.”
Scott’s eyes flash gold, a low growl rising unbidden from his throat. Stiles does his best to hold his ground.
“I mean it, I think he should know,” he insists. “Wouldn’t you want him to tell us if something important was happening?”
“Derek didn’t even tell us things when we were actually working with him,” Scott scoffs. “Why should we?”
“Because every time we try to keep secrets from each other we all wind up caught in a shitstorm of hell fire,” Stiles says patiently, far more patiently than he actually feels. The entire afternoon has been an exercise in patience, to be completely honest. “Also, people tend to die.”
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Scott insists, and it almost just borders on this side of a whine.
“Somehow I don’t think he’s really interested in talking to you either, these days,” Stiles shoots back. “Or do you not remember adamantly declaring yourself Not His Pack after shamelessly using him as a deadly weapon in the master plan you didn’t bother letting him in on?”
Scott has the grace to squirm slightly at that, but maintains his self-righteous look just like Stiles knew he would. Scott will go to his grave convinced he did the right thing with Gerard, and Stiles will go to his grave without ever pointing out to Scott how small it probably made everyone else, Stiles included, feel.
“Fine, you tell him then.” Scott sounds satisfied, like he’s won, like he’s certain Stiles would rather let the Argents leave and a thousand hunters take their place then voluntarily seek out and speak to Derek.
Stiles, though, now that he’s given himself the idea, is thinking more and more about what a good one it actually is. Scott’s made his intent clear – he’s his pack, omega at worst, pseudo-alpha to Stiles and occasionally Allison at best, and Derek and whoever’s left with him are on their own. Stiles hasn’t decided how he feels about that yet, whether or not he’s in support of the permanent split and of Scott being his supposed Alpha, but he’s growing increasingly more certain with each passing second that there needs to be some sort of truce between the werewolves in Beacon Hills.
And maybe, possibly, that’s where the token human comes in.
“Okay, good,” he nods, “I will.”
Scott opens his mouth to protest, and Stiles cuts him off with a question about how many electrons Potassium has.
They make it another hour before Scott’s eyes start glazing over, and even Stiles wants to cry at the thought of suffering through another chapter of notes, so they call it a day and spend a well-earned hour beating each other’s avatars senseless on Brawl. Ms. McCall comes home in time to invite Stiles for dinner, but Stiles bows out, shooting Scott a stern and significant look as he insists he has an errand to run before heading home.
He’s honestly not sure where to find Derek – now that Gerard isn’t a threat, would he have returned to the ruins of the Hale house? – but the train depot’s closer to Scott’s house, so he tries there first. He spots the Camaro a subtle two blocks away from the mostly-hidden back entrance, but the person waiting in the cleared out center of the warehouse isn’t Derek.
“No,” Stiles tells Peter flatly, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at the newly-undead older man. “Nope. Absolutely not. Get out.”
“Hello Stiles,” Peter replies calmly, smirking like he hasn’t heard a word of Stiles’ protests. “Nice to see you, Stiles. You’re looking well. Murder agrees with you, I see.”
“Get out,” Stiles repeats, stubbornly ignoring him. “I need to talk to Derek, and I’m not doing it with you here.”
“Now, it’s awfully rude to show up uninvited at someone else’s…well, as reluctant as I am to call this place a home –”
“Out,” Derek orders, stalking out of the half-shredded rail car. Stiles opens his mouth to protest when Derek tacks a sharply growled ‘Peter,’ on the end.
Peter doesn’t protest, merely holds up his hands in surrender and leaves the way Stiles came in without a word. Derek watches him go with narrowed eyes, holding up a hand when Stiles tries to speak again.
“I can still hear your heartbeat,” he says, a conversational tone that Stiles is confident Peter can hear all the way outside. “Do something useful like picking up the pizzas Isaac just ordered.”
The Alpha waits another minute or two before turning back to face Stiles, shifting the weight of his discontent until it’s pinning Stiles in place. They blink slowly at each other, Derek poorly hiding his curiosity and annoyance while Stiles tests the limits of his welcome.
“So I heard Scott’s declared himself officially out,” Stiles starts, because there’s no better strategy than to piss the angry werewolf off from the very beginning of the already potentially volatile conversation.
Derek’s upper lip curls into something like a sneer and he doesn’t bother to grace Stiles with a verbal response. It’s not physical either, at least not in the form of shoving Stiles bodily into something, so he’ll take that much as a win and keep going.
“Anyway, I think if there’s one thing we’ve all learned it’s that keeping secrets from each other, at least when it comes to secrets about people who are trying to kill us, you, and/or the general population of Beacon Hills…well things don’t really end too well for all of us. Or, I guess technically they do, but usually by some eleventh hour heroics that still leave behind a mostly unnecessary pile of dead bodies and bruised humans.”
Derek’s eyes drift to the bruise still marring Stiles’ left cheek, focused on ground zero, the pinprick of heavier marks where the blunt knuckle of Gerard’s middle finger had hit.
“You probably should have had this conversation with Scott,” Derek points out. “Maybe a few weeks ago. I don’t think it’s doing much for you now.”
“Fine,” Stiles nods. “That’s fair. Except, for the record, Scott didn’t tell me jack shit either. None of it. Not until after the fact. So you can act all betrayed and bitter and get revenge by not letting us know next time there are hunters in town until someone’s already been shot by one, and I will sit here and judge the hell out of you for being petty and childish. Or you could be an adult for ten seconds and hear me out.”
Derek looks about a hair’s breadth away from going Beta on him, which Stiles would really like to actively avoid because one, werewolves and two, he’ll get entirely too distracted by questions like where’d Derek’s considerable eyebrows go and why doesn’t he ever full on Alpha-out, and he doesn’t have time for that.
“Or you could stand there and growl,” Stiles amends, trying to sound braver than he actually feels. “I can wait, it’s cool.”
Derek reins it in just enough that his eyes are closer to their indiscernible rings of color than to the angry Alpha red, so Stiles takes a discrete breath and trucks on forward.
“I think we should agree to keep each other informed,” he says quickly, determined to get out as much of his plan as possible before Derek starts protesting. “As informed as possible, as often as possible. A regular exchange of information during peace times, constant updates when something’s going down.”
“No,” Derek declares bluntly. “No.”
“So you have trust issues,” Stiles scoffs. “Fine. In a delightful turn of events, you’re no longer the only one with that problem.”
Something in Derek’s expression twists at that, like he’s not surprised but still doesn’t like hearing Stiles admit it. He’d overanalyze that if he could muster up the will to give a shit, but Stiles is on a roll right now and way too interested in giving Derek a piece of his mind to worry about trivialities like Derek’s weird tics.
“You don’t want to trust me, that’s whatever. Apparently I’ve done nothing to earn it, so fine, do whatever makes you feel like you’re still the one in control here. But this isn’t about trust, this is about safety. The safety of your pack, and the safety of Scott’s.”
“Why should I care about the safety of Scott’s pack?” Derek sneers back, voice harsh and sharp even halfway across the room. “You’ve both made it clear you’re not my responsibility.”
He has one card left, and out of everything he’s played so far it’s the one he’s most reluctant to use. It’s skirting the edge of downright cruel, especially if one or two of Stiles’ more suspicious theories are accurate, but he’s chock full of conviction that this is a thing they need to do, and if nothing else will convince Derek, well…
“Think about how you’ll feel if something happens to Scott, or to me, because you deliberately withheld information. Can you bear the weight of another death on you conscience, Derek?”
Derek goes white. Stiles forces his sympathetic wince to stay internal – apart from just confirming that, at the very least, Derek feels responsible for more than his fair share of deaths, the look on his face is the closest to sheer horror Stiles has ever seen.
They’re quiet for a long moment. Stiles has said his piece, has said more than he wanted to, really, and it’s on Derek now. Derek gets to decide where to go from here, to take Stiles offer or leave it, and Stiles is struck with the sudden weight of the situation. This is it. If Derek says no, if Derek turns him down, he’s not sure that the two packs will ever fully repair their crumbling association enough to work together.
“I’m not working with Scott,” Derek says finally, quietly. “I’ll talk to you, that’s it.”
“I wouldn’t believe a word that came out of Peter’s mouth if it came with a notarized affidavit witnessed by you and my Dad,” Stiles responds. Negotiations. He can do negotiations.
“I don’t know where Isaac’s loyalties lie anymore. He stayed for Scott, not for me.”
“He’s, either subconsciously or intentionally, assumed the stance of Scott’s second, but at the end of the day he still talks about you like you’re his Alpha.”
“I still don’t trust you.”
It hurts more than it should. It’s not the first time Derek’s said it, and even before that Stiles had his suspicions, but it hurts all the same now as it did back in the pool. Back when Derek had outright said Stiles was only keeping him alive to save his own neck, like Stiles hadn’t stepped in to help Derek, groaning and grumbling but still unquestionably helping, half a dozen times already. It’s bitter acid on an empty stomach, the sharp throb of trying to swallow over a ragged sore throat, of breathing under broken ribs.
Stiles shoves it aside.
“Yeah,” he says. “You’ve made that abundantly clear.”
Derek looks at him like he’s waiting for Stiles’ confession of the same, but he’ll be waiting a long time for that, because Stiles doesn’t say anything. Derek is a walking lie detector, and Stiles would rather lie by omission than give Derek the satisfaction.
“The Argents are leaving town,” Stiles tells him instead, assuming the negotiation of terms has ended. “Next week. Thus far it’s just for the summer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that became more permanent later. Also, Jackson told two people before he left. Lydia, who was already halfway in the know anyway, and Danny. He –”
“I remember Danny,” Derek mutters darkly. Stiles bites back a smirk. “Should I be worried about him?”
“Danny’s a good friend,” Stiles defends, like he himself hadn’t worried about Danny’s loyalty. “He swears he won’t tell anyone. I believe him.”
He doesn’t say trust, and from the way Derek’s eyebrows shift Stiles thinks maybe he might have picked up on that. If it’s enough to concern him, though, he doesn’t let on.
“Fine,” the werewolf nods. “If you have any reason to suspect otherwise, let me know.”
“You’ll be the first,” Stiles responds cheekily. Derek glares at him. “It’s your turn now.”
“Peter’s back,” Derek says first.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Stiles hisses scathingly. “Go on, tell me more, this is such news.”
“I have no idea what his angle is, but I don’t trust him any further than I can throw him.”
“Which, werewolf strength and all, is actually probably a fair distance, so maybe you should consider a better analogy,” Stiles comments, because honestly, this is the best Derek has for him?
“Fine,” Derek snarks back, “I don’t trust him any further than you can throw him.”
“Rude,” Stiles mutters, “but admittedly more accurate. Do you have anything actually relevant to tell me?”
“There’s another pack in town,” and yeah, okay. That’s relevant. “Specifically a pack of Alphas. They kind of – they consider themselves some kind of authority amongst werewolf packs, and the way the Alpha position has changed hands twice in three months, combined with the apparent reemergence of Hales back on Hale territory…we’ve drawn their attention.”
“A pack of Alphas,” Stiles repeats breathlessly. “A whole pack of them. A pack of werewolves who are each equally as powerful as Peter was when he was mid-rampage?”
“Probably more,” Derek admits. “We don’t know much about them yet. I’ve been looking through some of the files Peter salvaged from the house, but…”
“I’ll see what I can pull up,” Stiles nods back, already considering possible combinations of Google searches that might actually turn up relevant information. He’s halfway towards turning away before he remembers the last point he’d wanted to bring up, turning back around into the searching look Derek was right in the middle of laying on him.
“Did you guys find, or move, or bury, or burn, or do anything to Gerard’s body after we left the warehouse?” he asks, filing away Derek’s scrutiny to study at a time when it doesn’t make his stomach turn over.
The alpha shakes his head, frowning. “Haven’t seen him since,” he admits, and he can tell right away it’s not the answer Stiles wanted to hear.
“The police have declared him missing,” Stiles tells him. “They’re keeping it quiet, last thing they need right now, considering he was the high school principal and all, but they’ve formally declared him missing.”
“And missing means they haven’t found a body either,” Derek guesses.
Stiles lets himself out of the train depot, leaving Derek still standing in the center with the implications of that one sinking in.
Finals suck. Not because they’re difficult; Stiles blows through them with ease, taking particular pleasure in his confidence that he got at least an A on Harris’s chem exam, but because there is entirely too much down time in between them, and down time leads to thinking time.
On the bright side, studying with Lydia is awesome. They meet up again on Tuesday so Lydia can help Stiles cram his short term memory full of math formulas, and Thursday afternoon Danny joins them as they quiz each other with 5 Steps to a 5 flash cards left over from the AP World History exam in May.
That’s not to say it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s a study in patience and self-control, two things Stiles has never had much luck with, and every time Lydia’s lips quirk in a smile directed his way, every time he earns himself a quietly appraising look, a pleasantly surprised wow, I didn’t see that coming from you in the form of an arched eyebrow, he thinks his heart might actually beat its way right out of his ribcage. It’s a small blessing none of the werewolves are anywhere near them – even Scott wouldn’t be able to keep quiet about his smug amusement at Stiles’ racing pulse.
It doesn’t help that Lydia, despite her surprisingly friendly attitude shift towards Stiles, despite the small smiles she frequently bestows on him, is surrounded by a perpetual air of quiet misery. It sits heavy on her shoulders, in the shadows under her eyes and the undertone of her voice, and Stiles doesn’t know what to do about it. They haven’t really gotten anywhere close to a place where he can call her on it, not without her breaching the topic first, and Stiles doesn’t dare disrupt the tentative status quo they’ve fallen into. It’s camaraderie more than friendship, he gets that, but it’s a start, and it’s the furthest into his plan Stiles has ever managed to get, and he’s not going to jeopardize that just because Lydia misses Jackson.
Still, as much as they suck, he doesn’t really know what to do with himself now that finals are over. His main excuse to talk to Lydia is gone, Scott seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth (and straight into the waiting arms of one Isaac Lahey), and of course now, now that the school year is over and summer looms easy and empty in front of him, now there’s no sign of a supernatural crisis. The Alpha pack hasn’t been heard from since they left their calling card on the Hale’s front door, there hasn’t been so much as a whiff of Erica and Boyd, and while Gerard’s body hasn’t been found, there hasn’t been any suspicious activity to suggest he’s still alive and wreaking havoc elsewhere either.
Stiles would know, he’s been checking. Like he said, he’s been bored.
After the fifth failed attempt at coaxing Scott into hanging out with him five days in a row (“sorry man, Isaac and I are going to see how far we can run. I think he wants to see if he can track Erica and Boyd,” because how is Stiles supposed to argue with that?), Stiles finally caves and texts Lydia.
what do normal humans do w/o a supernatural crisis for fun?
they go to parties Lydia texts him back almost immediately, and Stiles doesn’t even try to pretend like that doesn’t send a little thrill down his spine. like the one at katie chung’s house tonight.
only cool kids get invites to summer parties he reminds her, because Stiles is so not above playing the sad puppy if he thinks it’ll work. Besides, he’s not really sure what Lydia’s implying, and honestly how lame would it be for him to show up if he wasn’t supposed to.
good thing I just invited you then. danny’s DD tonight, he’ll pick you up at 8:00.
Well. That’s that then. Apparently he’s hanging out with Danny and Lydia in…eight short hours. And maybe it’s kind of the last thing he expected to happen when he texted Lydia, and he definitely didn’t expect it to be that easy, but he’s more than okay with it. Maybe it actually is this easy, ditching the overthinking and the second guessing and just kind of going for it. It’s been a while since the last time Stiles actually put any effort into making friends – there was never a point, he had Scott and that was that, and Stiles had accepted the basic laws of high school stating that the asthmatic and the spaz were lucky to have each other and that’s the best they were going to do.
Then again, the laws of high school clearly say nothing about what happens when your best friend gets bitten by a werewolf and your worst enemy gets turned into a vengeful lizard and the gorgeous popular girl finally pays attention to you because all your mutual friends are somehow now fairy tale creatures. There are no rules for that.
So huh. Maybe Stiles should experiment. He should have a friend in Derek’s pack, he thinks, because that will make this information sharing game a hell of a lot easier. Derek’s clearly out of the question, and Isaac’s already taken…it’s a shame Erica’s missing. It’s not the first time it’s crossed Stiles mind that he and Erica probably could have been pretty baller friends if she stopped power tripping for ten seconds. He’ll make an effort with her, he decides, if she comes back. Allies are good to have, and there’s no such thing as too many werewolves willing to have your back in a fight.
Satisfied with his life plans, Stiles finds mindless ways to entertain himself for the afternoon – does the food shopping his dad’s been putting off for a few days, kills some time painstakingly separating colors in his laundry instead of just dumping the whole hamper straight into the machine, takes great pleasure in cleaning out his desk and tossing all his school notes from the last year.
The sharp, staccato beep of a horn announces Danny’s arrival sooner than Stiles would have thought, which means he has no time to panic about his life choices as he shouts a goodbye at his dad and hustles out the front door. Lydia’s already in the passenger’s seat of Danny’s Mom’s Prius, window down and one arm dangling out. Danny beeps again, like he can’t plainly see Stiles on the front stoop, and he thinks maybe this might be what high school is like for people who don’t spend all their time pretending they don’t care.
“Get a move on, Stilinski, I’m hungry,” Danny complains, but there’s a good-natured grin on his face as Stiles deliberately slows his pace and leisurely opens the back door. Lydia had texted him again warning him not to eat dinner, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when Danny pulls into Mel’s Diner.
Lydia nudges him towards one of the big round corner booths, already half full of juniors and seniors Stiles recognizes but has never, ever so much as spoken to, and yet each one of them nods when Lydia shoves Stiles in next to Harley Carter and says “everyone knows Stiles, yeah?”
“Heard a couple of those Beavers caught up with you after Friday’s game, Stilinski,” one of the guys at the end of the table says, and unless he’s seriously mistaken it’s the starting quarterback of the football team. “We’ll have to give them a little taste of what that’s like next season.”
“I think Stiles already took care of that,” Lydia leans over, smirking conspiratorially at Stiles, “you’d be surprised.”
“Didn’t know you had it in you,” Anderson says approvingly. “Doesn’t mean we won’t kick their asses at Homecoming though.”
The guy two seats to Stiles’ left whoops and offers his knuckles to Anderson, who pounds back like this is a perfectly ordinary thing to do. Stiles waits until they’ve been dragged into a conversation about the football team’s starting line now that the seniors are graduating before turning to Lydia. The feigned interest and amusement on her face is so painfully obvious that Stiles doesn’t really understand how nobody else notices it.
She catches him looking and her smile turns into something a little more genuine, and there’s a sheepish tint to her expression as she offers him a minute shrug.
“Their attention span lasts for a week, tops,” she leans in close to whisper, long curls falling over Stiles’ arm as she tilts her head towards his. “They’ll only remember the interesting details, and the idea of you fighting back is much more noteworthy than you getting your ass kicked.”
It’s a firsthand look at how Lydia got here, how a sophomore with no claim to fame other than striking good looks and an athletic boyfriend wound up at the same table as the most popular members of both the graduating and rising senior classes. She knows the game and plays it flawlessly, and Stiles is once again, as he always is, floored by Lydia Martin.
They’re actually there to eat, which Stiles shouldn’t have been surprised by but actually kind of is, until Lydia notices the expression on his face when Harley, tiny enough that even Stiles could probably snap her in half, orders the chicken fingers entrée with extra fries and not the salad he would have guessed.
“We’re young and dumb, but we’re not stupid,” Lydia tells him, rolling her eyes after placing her own order for a turkey club. “Katie’s notorious for providing more than enough alcohol, and nobody wants to be That Guy who ends the party early cause they’ve got alcohol poisoning from drinking on an empty stomach.”
“You, Lydia Martin, are going to go far in life,” Stiles insists, like that’s news to anyone.
“Don’t let her act like it was all her idea,” Danny warns, cutting into Lydia’s smug expression. “Someone over here spent the better part of Jackson’s birthday party in the bathroom because she’d been too busy organizing to remember to eat dinner, and ever since then Jackson insisted on mandatory pregaming at the diner.”
Lydia looks torn between annoyance that Danny spilled the beans and fondness at Jackson’s uncharacteristic thoughtfulness. Even Stiles can begrudgingly admit that the other boy did right there. It wasn’t a secret how much Lydia cared about Jackson, even before the kanima showdown, but this is a blatant and unfair reminder of how much Jackson cared about Lydia in return.
Lydia’s starting to get that look on her face again, the one that means she remembers Jackson’s gone and isn’t coming back anytime soon, and Stiles refuses to be overshadowed by a memory. He wracks his brain for a subject change, and before he can manage it one walks straight into the diner with an emphatic chime of over-the-door bells.
“Isn’t that Derek Hale?” Harley hisses on his left, and the entire table immediately falls into silence as everyone except Stiles makes the sudden and very obvious effort of peering around the corners of the booth. Stiles doesn’t even bother; he recognized the leather (and seriously? It’s June.) and the brooding before the door had even closed all the way behind him.
“God he’s hot,” the girl across from Stiles whispers, and the two other girls at the table murmur their agreement. Danny, Stiles notices, is carefully silent despite the appreciative look on his face, and he’s pleased to think that Danny remembers Derek can definitely hear them.
“He’s a murder suspect,” Anderson grumbles, petulant displeasure obvious in his tone.
“He was exonerated,” Stiles mutters crankily, because he can still see the bitch face Derek pulled when Stiles had implied the exact same thing.
“Exactly, suspect,” one of the other girls repeats. “Besides, they declared it an animal attack, and last time I checked he didn’t have claws.”
Stiles slaps a hand over his mouth to muffle the hysterical laughter threatening to bubble over, and Lydia elbows him sharply in the ribs. Danny looks like he’s not sure if he wants to laugh or run away, but Derek hasn’t made any indication that he’s heard them. He’s got his back firmly to the group as he stands at the counter talking to one of the waitresses, and the staunch line of his shoulders is no tenser than usual.
“Mmm, he might not have claws, but bet he’s a total animal in bed,” Harley leers, and she’s literally sitting there with her chin propped up on one hand, eyes blatantly fixed on Derek’s ass.
Lydia’s pointed elbow still digging into Stiles’ ribs is the only thing that keeps him from slamming his forehead repeatedly into the Formica tabletop. Danny seems to have settled on some kind of panicky hysteria, and Lydia looks like she can’t believe how completely unsmooth either of them are.
Derek accepts a to go bag from the waitress and turns to his right, away from the door and towards their back corner table, and Stiles is pretty sure his stomach just hit the floor. The table once again goes painfully still and silent as Derek stalks right back towards them. He stops short when he’s standing next to Danny, eyes on Stiles like the rest of them aren’t even there, and Stiles can feel the weight of eight additional pairs of eyes on him all at once. Super.
“I haven’t heard from Isaac in two days,” Derek says, like there’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about walking up to Stiles in the middle of Mel’s Diner and jumping into a conversation without so much as a fancy running into you here. Jesus, and Stiles thought he was the socially awkward one at the party.
“He’s with Scott,” Stiles grumbles, and Derek makes the same disgruntled face Stiles has been holding back all week. “They said something about going hiking, tracking, something like that. If you ask me Isaac’s been watching way too many reruns of Lost on Netflix.” He tries his best to give Derek a significant look while still not raising the suspicions of the eight high schoolers still staring at him.
Derek’s eyes flash red faster than a blink, and Stiles is pretty sure everyone else is too busy gawking at him to notice, but he thinks it was Derek’s way of saying message received. Hopefully. He’s starting to drift towards the uncomfortable edge of lingering, though, and the subtle nudge from Lydia lets him know everyone else is starting to realize it too.
“I’ll let him know you’re looking for him,” Stiles tells Derek, tapping his fingers lightly against the cell phone he’d left sitting next to his water glass, “if I see him.”
Derek nods, and it’s like the movement makes him suddenly aware of their audience. He nods again at Danny and Lydia, who look equally taken aback by the acknowledgement, and then completely floors all three of them by flashing a decidedly wolfish and completely panty-dropping (and shamelessly fake, though Stiles is certain he’s the only one that notices) grin at the other half of the table.
Harley actually, audibly sighs, and from the glint in Derek’s eyes he definitely heard it. Stiles resists the urge to throw something at his retreating back.
“Bye Derek,” he mumbles under his breath, confident that Derek can hear him, “always a pleasure running into you and your flawless social skills.”
He looks up again to find all eight pairs of eyes back on him, and it’s slowly sinking in that the twenty-three year old murder suspect they’d all just been gossiping about had just had an entirely too-familiar conversation with Stiles.
“Oh look,” Stiles says weakly, gesturing to the two waiters approaching with heavily laden trays, “food.”
Somehow Stiles manages not to make a complete ass of himself, some combination of a generous amount of Bacardi and his newfound conviction to make Lydia see him as something other than a pathetic spaz, and he finds himself back at the same corner booth a week later, this time sandwiched between Danny and Lisa Alvarez, twice more the week after, and three days after that at a picnic table in Danny’s backyard, token Solo cup of warm keg beer in hand and the captain of the cheerleading squad snuggling into his hoody.
He’s not sure how he got here; he can’t even put it on Lydia, since Danny was the one to invite him over and Lydia’s clear on the other side of the backyard. Somehow he’s at a table with four cheerleaders and the non-werewolf half of the lacrosse team’s starting line, loudly debating the merits of convincing Danny to let them light up the fire pit, and he doesn’t even hate it.
The party winds down slowly, and Stiles isn’t sure if he’s supposed to leave (and if he is he’s walking, because he definitely forgot to remember that he drove himself here), but Lydia drops down next to where he’s sitting with his bare feet in Danny’s pool with a fresh beer for him, so he stays put.
He wakes up in the morning with his face pressed into Danny’s couch cushions in a way that he knows will leave marks on his cheek, the fingers of one hand dragging against carpet that seems much closer than it should be. Stiles opens his eyes and hates himself immediately; Danny’s basement is dimly lit, but ugh.
He isn’t, as he’d initially assumed, on the actual couch, but rather on the floor next to it, a makeshift bed cobbled out of the cushions normally lining the back of the couch. Lydia’s on the actual loveseat, curled up with her hair over her face and her feet tucked into the crack between the seat and the armrest, Stiles’ red hoody that she’d reclaimed from Christina draped over her legs like a blanket.
Harley Carter and Patrick Keegan, the other football player from Stiles’ first night at the diner, are on the couch adjacent to Lydia’s, and there’s two unidentifiable lumps on an air mattress that Stiles has no idea how anyone even had the wherewithal to blow up.
It’d been Danny stumbling down the stairs that woke him up, although everyone else is still out cold, so Stiles drags his sorry ass out of bed, ignores the churning protest of his beer-filled stomach (though he does give in to the oppressive and completely overwhelming need to piss now right the fuck now), and shuffles out the back door to help Danny clean.
“Do you think werewolves have to deal with hangovers?” Danny asks, holding three half-empty Solo cups as far away from his face as possible like he can’t stomach the smell. It’s the first time he’s so much as brought it up since the night Stiles dropped him off at his house.
“I’m not even sure werewolves can get drunk,” Stiles grumbles back, dumping the remnants of either beer pong or flip cup, or possibly both, and stacking the empty cups into a small tower. “Scott and I tried one night, after the first time he and Allison broke up, and he didn’t even get a buzz.”
“Right now I’m jealous,” Danny admits, “I’ll probably change my mind on that later though.”
“It depends entirely on how you look at it, I guess,” Stiles shrugs. “On the one hand, instant healing and the apparently inherited ability to pull off leather at all times. On the other, serious attitude problems and a suspicious disappearance of eyebrows.”
“Even Derek’s?” Danny snorts, snatching Stiles’ solo cup tower and tossing the lot into the garbage bag he’s been lugging around. “That’s a lot of eyebrow to lose.”
“I know,” Stiles agrees, shooting three more cups into the bag like he’s throwing a basketball. All three go wide, but Danny only rolls his eyes and scoops them up with his free hand. “You should see, it’s so weird. Every time I want to ask him where they go, except he’d totally eat my face off.”
“There are worse ways to die.”
Stiles must look scandalized, because Danny laughs and throws a cup at his head instead of into the bag.
“I mean it, I can think of worse ways to go than being ravaged by Derek Hale. At least the last thing you saw would be pure, unadulterated hotness.”
“Eating your face off,” Stiles adds pointedly. “With boar-tusk teeth and creepy red eyes.”
“But you don’t deny his sexiness,” Danny points out, holding the garbage bag open for Stiles’ second and thankfully more successful attempt at sinking a stack of cups.
“Conservative straight men wouldn’t deny Derek Hale’s sexiness,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes. “My eighty-six year old grandmother probably thinks Derek Hale’s sexy. Hell, dead people probably think Derek Hale’s sexy.”
Danny gives Stiles a long, searching look that Stiles’ alcohol-soaked brain absolutely cannot handle. He’ll analyze it later, when he’s not holding his breath as he wipes down the glass patio table on Danny’s deck, trying to ignore the way the beer stench makes his stomach churn.
Harley and Patrick step out long enough to thank Danny and tell him they’re leaving, the two girls from the air mattress that Stiles does not remember the names of quick on their heels. Lydia comes out twenty minutes later, barefoot and swimming in Stiles’ oversized hoody, but she drops herself into one of the cushioned lounge chairs by Danny’s pool and declares herself “supervising.”
It doesn’t take that much longer to make the backyard presentable though, and Stiles and Danny haul the two trash bags they’ve filled into the back of Stiles’ Jeep after he promises to drop them in the dumpster behind the coffee house he has every intention of stopping at on the way home.
Somehow Lydia needing a ride home turns into Danny wanting coffee too, which turns into all three of them back in Danny’s lounge chairs, Stiles in a borrowed pair of board shorts and Lydia in a bikini she apparently keeps in her oversized handbag for exactly this occasion (and really, Stiles can’t fault her for that, even if he could wrap his mind around Lydia in a bikini long enough to find girls weird). They’re fighting off the last remnants of their hangovers with iced coffees and sunglasses, stretching sore limbs in the early afternoon sunlight, and it strikes Stiles that he’s actually friends with Danny and Lydia.
Which is, of course, when his phone goes off with a text from Scott.
where r u
no the other danny we kno
Lydia glances over at Stiles’ derisive snort, eyes narrowing critically at the phone in his hand.
“Trouble in paradise?” she asks, watching the way Stiles sighs at Scott’s response of i dont kno ne other dannys???
“Scott has apparently noticed he hasn’t seen me in three weeks,” Stiles grumbles, and he immediately wishes it came out slightly less bitter. Lydia and Danny exchange looks, and Stiles knows without needing to ask that they’ve noticed the same thing.
“I mean, we weren’t going to bring it up,” Danny says slowly, and it makes Stiles wonder. In the past he never really would have pinned Danny and Lydia as good friends, always assumed they were friends by circumstance, both popular and pretty and connected through Jackson more than anything else. He’d assumed they were hanging out with each other lately for the same reason that they’d been hanging out with him – Danny and Lydia both recently found themselves suddenly without a best friend, and if there’s one thing he’s learned about Lydia it’s that even though she’s friendly with what seems like every single person who shows up at any given party, she doesn’t seem particularly close to any of them.
Danny and Lydia, though, they’re doing that thing where they talk over his outstretched legs without saying a word, Lydia’s eyebrows and subtle twitches of Danny’s expression speaking volumes, and he’s thinking maybe he got it wrong. It takes years of friendship to get on that level of non-verbal.
It kind of makes him wonder what he’s doing here.
“What Danny means,” Lydia says, like she’s worried Stiles’ distracted silence means he’s offended, “is that we didn’t want to point out that you and Scott kind of have a reputation for being inseparable and lately you’re not living up to that expectation?”
“Scott’s been hanging out with Isaac,” Stiles shrugs. He sends Scott a quick yea scott thats my point, and then adds, “they’re being wolfy together.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?” Lydia frowns.
since wen r u frends w/ danny?
“Should it?” Stiles frowns back. “I don’t know. I’m not a werewolf, it’s probably nice for Scott to have someone around who can keep up with him.”
i didnt realize it was a big deal
“It’s just weird,” Danny interjects. “You two are kind of like a package deal, you know? I mean, I can’t tell you how many people see you walk into a party and ask me where McCall is.”
its not I just went 2 ur house and ur dad said u stayed @ a frends house last night
and obvs it wasnt my house and wutever i guess im just surprised
“News about Allison traveled fast, I guess? Everyone’s favorite new lacrosse captain officially on the market?” Stiles raises an eyebrow, both at Danny’s comment and Scott’s two texts, and Lydia’s eye roll is visible even through her sunglasses.
“Don’t make that face,” she scolds him, “just as many girls ask me about you. Summer’s a good look on you, people are apparently noticing that you have biceps now that you’re not hiding them under three layers of flannel, sweatshirts, and jackets.”
Stiles buries the flush of pleasure that comment sparks under his annoyance at Scott. He’s tempted to text him back that nobody else seems to think he’s not good enough to hang out with Danny, but that’ll lead to a conversation that frankly will take more effort than Stiles is willing to expend right now.
“Well then you’re doing an absolutely shit job of sending them my way,” Stiles teases, simultaneously typing a quick whatever whats up, “you’re a horrible wingwoman and I think you’re fired.”
“None of them have been good enough,” Lydia says vehemently. “I like to think at least some of us have standards.”
“Says the girl in love with Jackson,” Danny ribs, and Stiles laughs because he thinks he’s actually allowed to.
“Don’t give me that bitch tone,” Lydia shoots back, “I’ve seen some of the guys you’ve sunk low enough to consider.”
isaac and i have news on erica and boyd, come over?
“Hey, that last guy was kinda hot,” Stiles defends Danny, thumb hovering indecisively over the reply button. “Though clearly a dumbass for breaking up with you.”
“Suck up,” Lydia accuses. Stiles flashes a cheeky grin her way, and Danny laughs.
“You’re just jealous cause he’d rather have me as a wingman,” he teases Lydia.
we think we kno where they r Stiles phone buzzes, like Scott’s growing impatient with his lack of a timely response. Lydia looks pointedly at it, and Stiles takes a long drag from the iced coffee that is, by now, mostly half-melted ice.
“Scott wants me to come over so he and Isaac can give me updates on their little woodsy adventures,” Stiles admits, tossing the phone to Lydia. She shoves her sunglasses up over her forehead to perch them on the crown of her head, thumbing through the conversation with an entirely unimpressed expression on her face. “Problem is I don’t really care enough to move.”
“Tell them to come here then,” Danny offers.
“Yeah,” Lydia nods, “get the update on Erica and Boyd, plus the added bonus of blowing Scott’s mind with the fact that you actually are friends with us.”
Stiles doesn’t protest, mostly because he’s totally stuck on the matter of fact way Lydia says friends with us, and Lydia takes it upon herself to answer Scott. The exchange goes back and forth for a few texts, and Stiles makes a point of not being curious about what Scott’s saying or what Lydia’s replying with, just assumes that Lydia’s smug satisfaction means Scott eventually agrees.
Scott and Isaac let themselves in through the gate thirty minutes later to find Stiles and Danny arguing good-naturedly about the upcoming Spider-man remake, Lydia on a thickly inflated raft in the pool, holding on to the ledge so she doesn’t float too far away from the conversation. When she spots Scott and Isaac, Scott frowning and Isaac looking like he’s not sure if he’s allowed to be here, she pulls herself gracefully up off the raft and out of the pool without so much as getting her fingers wet, dropping down onto the edge of Stiles’ chair and leaving hers open for the two werewolves.
“Hey guys,” Danny says warmly, like there’s nothing remotely abnormal about either of them walking into his backyard, and Stiles bites down on a smirk. Lydia nudges at his leg until he takes the hint and drags his feet up the chair, letting her lean back against his shins.
Scott stares like he’s never seen them before.
“True or false, Andrew Garfield is going to be ten times the Spider-man Toby Maguire ever was?” Danny asks, continuing the debate he and Stiles had been in the middle of.
Scott blinks like he’s not sure how to respond to any part of this situation, and Stiles could literally kiss Danny right now because he and Lydia are laying it on thick, and that’s the kind of thing you do for your friends, and that means it’s real. He’s actually friends with them, nevermind that it’s only been four weeks, really, that they’ve known each other for years and Danny and Lydia have openly barely tolerated Stiles in the past.
This is awesome.
“At the very least he’ll be ten times hotter than Toby Maguire?” Isaac offers tentatively.
Danny grins at him.
“That’s what I said,” Lydia tells them, shifting her weight so Stiles’ knees aren’t quite so blunt against her shoulder blades. It’s a lot of smooth, warm skin against his, and it’s a more than sufficient distraction from the way Scott looks like he’s swallowed a whole lemon
“A marathon and a midnight release is the only way to settle this,” Stiles suggestions, and Lydia and Danny both agree so readily that even Stiles is surprised. Awesome. “Anyway, we still have a few weeks for that. What’s up with you guys, what’d you find?”
Isaac immediately defers to Scott, and he’s still standing at Scott’s right shoulder, just behind him, like he still thinks he’s Scott’s second in command. Stiles has no doubt he is, really, except for the fact that he’s pretty sure you’re not allowed to be in two packs at once, and last he checked Isaac’s still calling Derek his Alpha.
are you allowed to be in two packs at once? he texts Derek, ignoring the way Scott suddenly seems to notice that coming all the way here meant Lydia and Danny were also going to be privy to his update.
“You might as well just say it,” he finally tells Scott. “They both know everything anyway.”
“Everything?” Scott balks, glancing at Danny, who shrugs nonchalantly in response.
“Everything,” Stiles agrees. “If Jackson was still here they’d probably be part of whichever pack he picked, so what difference does it make?”
Scott looks decidedly unhappy to hear it, but Stiles’ attention is stuck on Isaac, who looks like the option of picking a pack hadn’t occurred to him before now. Shit, Stiles so did not want to be the one to plant that idea in his head.
no. he’s going to have to pick one sooner or later.
“We found a trail,” Scott says finally. “About a week ago. Isaac had found one right after everything, but it went cold. And then we found the one again last week, and that went cold too.”
“So which part of that makes it noteworthy now?” Lydia asks, and it’s a completely valid question, but the way she says it is just so. Stiles nudges her thigh lightly with the side of his foot, and she tosses a challenging look over her shoulder at him.
“We found another trail last night,” Scott continues, a hard edge to his voice like he’s talking right over Lydia’s interruption, “only this time we’re pretty sure it was deliberate.”
“Because…” Stiles prompts, frowning. He’s already steps ahead of Scott’s story, filling in dots from the last thing they knew about Erica and Boyd leaving to go find another pack, getting captured and then released from the Argent’s basement, presumably following through on their plan to leave instead of running back to Derek. There’s only two reasons why someone would deliberately leave a trail to two missing werewolves, especially when he’s certain Scott and Isaac haven’t been subtle in their search.
“We found the cuff of the jacket Erica was wearing,” Isaac fills in, pulling the scrap of black fabric from his back pocket. “Wedged between two rocks, like it was left there on purpose.”
“So either Erica ripped it off hoping you’d find it and eventually her, or the Alpha pack has them and is trying to lure you into a trap,” Stiles continues, sighing.
Scott nods. “Yeah, I figured it was probably a trap too, but if it’s not…”
Stiles doesn’t bother asking why Scott’s so hell-bent on finding Erica and Boyd. Even if it wasn’t important to Isaac, which it clearly is, some part of Scott feels responsible for Derek’s Betas. He’s been friends with Scott long enough, they don’t need to talk about it – the guilt twisting Scott’s face as he looks at the fabric in Isaac’s hand is enough.
“What did Derek say about it?” Stiles asks, and the looks exchanged between Isaac and Scott make him want to shove them both face-first into Danny’s pool.
“We came here first,” Isaac admits. “Derek’s kind of, uh, mad at me?”
Even Danny rolls his eyes at that.
“I can’t imagine why,” Stiles mumbles. He plucks his phone off his lap and flips to Derek’s last text, sending him a quick dumb and dumber have news on E&B, should I send them your way or are you still firmly Not Speaking to Scott?
I’m already in town, are they still with you? I can come there
“So, Danny,” Stiles sighs, glancing up with the best puppy dog eyes he can muster. “How do you feel about having an alpha werewolf at your house?”
“Depends entirely on whether or not he’ll be putting on another performance,” Danny drawls lazily, and Stiles and Lydia both laugh.
yeah but we’re at danny’s, 48 northwood dr, just let yourself in the gate
fine, 20 minutes
“I can’t make any promises,” he laughs before turning back to where Scott and Isaac are still standing with matching apprehensive expressions. “You two might as well sit,” he gestures to the empty lounge chair Lydia had vacated.
“Well, since this is clearly about to turn into another party,” Lydia pushes herself upright, turning to Danny, “did we actually tap the keg last night, or do we still have some we need to finish off.”
“There should be some left, Stiles and I dragged it into the kitchen,” he nods. “Get one for me?”
Lydia nods as she gets her feet under her, picking up both hers and Stiles’ empty coffee cups. “Stiles?”
“Sure,” he shrugs, because why the hell not. Who knows, maybe Derek’ll be just a bit more sufferable with a beer or two in him.
Scott lowers himself into the lounge chair with his judgiest of bitch faces, and Stiles returns his stare with a particularly exaggerated frown. Scott’s expression says nothing more than what the fuck, and Stiles responds with a half-hearted shrug and slight jerk of his chin in Isaac’s direction. Scott glares like he can’t even believe they’re having this discussion, and Stiles rolls his eyes because honestly, Scott, it’s really not a big deal so stop acting like it is.
“You guys didn’t want, did you?” Lydia asks, returning with three Solo cups balanced between two hands like she’s had a lot of practice, frowning at Scott and Isaac like she’s only just realized how rude it was to not offer any to the two of them. “Only, I kind of assumed werewolves couldn’t get drunk.”
“Nah, you’re right,” Isaac assures her. “At least, I think you’re right.”
Scott looks at Stiles like he’s drinking straight poison when he accepts his cup from Lydia, and he knows Scott’s not opposed to indulging in a drink or two, so Stiles can’t help but throw his free hand up in exasperation and shove himself up off the lounge chair.
“Scott, can I borrow you for a minute,” he snaps, yanking his friend up by the collar without waiting for a reply. He leads Scott around to the grass on the other side of the deck, not far enough away that Isaac won’t hear but far enough to at least give them an illusion of privacy.
“What is your deal,” he hisses.
“What’s my deal?” Scott snaps back. “You’re at Danny Mahealani’s house, where you apparently spent the night after a rager, judging by the way it smells back here, drinking his leftover beer that Lydia Martin hand delivered to you, and you’re asking what my deal is?”
“Yup,” Stiles nods. “Because the only thing I got out of that was Stiles, you’re hanging out with people who aren’t me and what gives?”
Scott gapes like a fish, and the flash of warm endearment is enough of a reminder that this is Scott, and even when he’s being a jealously possessive puppy, he’s still a damn puppy.
“Stop looking at me like that,” Stiles sighs, all the fight going out of him in one fell swoop. “You knew I was studying with Lydia during finals week, and I told you about filling Danny in too.”
“Yeah but studying with Lydia and drinking day beers at Danny’s house are two totally different things,” Scott accuses, like Stiles hasn’t noticed.
“You were busy,” Stiles mutters, and it’s not an accusation, it’s really not. “I get it, I know you and Isaac are all bonding over wolfdom, and that you’re helping him look for Erica and Boyd. I get why that’s important to you, I do. But dude, you can only blow me off so many times before I take the hint and try somewhere else. I texted Lydia, and she and Danny brought me to a party, and it was fun, so the next time they asked I said yes. And here we are.”
“Troy Murphy’s party last week?” Scott hisses, and he sounds like he’s not sure if he’s annoyed or impressed. “The video of Ramirez falling down the stairs, rolling into a perfect somersault, and walking away like nothing happened? That went viral on YouTube?”
“Was actually even better in real life,” Stiles confirms, “the video cut too soon, he kept walking straight into the kitchen, puked in the sink as he walked by, and kept going back out into the backyard like business as usual.”
“Ew,” Scott’s nose is wrinkled distastefully, but Stiles knows when he’s won, and he’s almost there.
“Dude, I know it’s weird,” he admits, “but it’s kind of nice, you know? Nobody who might accidentally bite me if I piss them off, nobody shoving me into walls. Last night I spent two hours talking to a couple cheerleaders, and not once did they ask me if I was worried that Gerard Argent’s body hasn’t turned up yet, or whether or not I think Peter’s going to try to kill us all again.”
Scott’s wavering expression settles on something like guilt, and it seals the deal that Stiles has successfully smoothed this over. Score one for Stilinski.
“You’re right,” Scott concedes, “you’re totally right. And I’m totally acting like an ass, I’m sorry.”
“Damn right you are,” Stiles nods decisively, flashing a grin so Scott knows he’s kidding. “Now come on, if I lose my seat because Derek beats me to it I will shamelessly steal yours and you’ll be the awkward standing guy.”
Scott makes a face like that’s all the motivation he needs, and as they make their way back around to the pool side all three teens make quick and obvious attempts to pretend like they weren’t trying (and in Isaac’s case, probably succeeding) to listen in.
“You guys are shameless,” he tells them, dropping back into his chair and helping himself to a sip of his lukewarm beer. “And this is gross, can’t we pump it into a pitcher and stick it in the fridge or something?”
“I’ll do it,” Lydia volunteers. Danny just toasts his cup in her general direction, taking a long drag and making a face not unlike the one Stiles was still sporting.
“Ugh, you’re right,” he nods. “Still, my cousin’s swinging by to pick the keg up when he gets off work, he has to return the tap by the end of the day, so we might as well finish it while we still have it.”
“I really hope there’s some secret special way for werewolves to get drunk,” Isaac sighs, pouting at the Solo cup in Stiles’ hand. “I never did get around to it before I took the bite.”
“Stiles and I were talking about that earlier,” Danny tells him. “And I’ve come up with a theory. If it doesn’t work because of your healing whatever skills, maybe you just have to be one step up on that.”
“So what, chug a bottle of Jack and hope it lasts longer than five minutes?” Scott looks entirely repulsed by the idea, and Stiles remembers with a laugh the face Scott made the first time they’d helped themselves to a sip of the Sheriff’s whiskey.
“We’ll have to ask Derek,” Stiles suggests, “I have a feeling if there’s a loophole in werewolf healing practices, he knows it.”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know, I just feel like instant healing might make it difficult to get a tattoo in the conventional way. His body would push the ink back out just as fast as the gun pushed it in, and it would just go nowhere fast.”
Isaac and Scott both look faintly repulsed, like they’ve never considered it before and now have to wrestle with the question of how exactly Derek managed it. The options are pretty grim – Stiles knows, he’s considered them before.
He knows when Derek arrives well before the Alpha shoves open the back gate – Isaac tenses up like he’s just been caught sneaking into the girls’ locker room, and Scott’s face hardens into something that reeks of offense and irritation. It’s not remotely a surprise when Derek lets himself in then, crossing the space between them with his immense displeasure at the situation rolling off him in waves.
“Well, if it isn’t Beacon Hills’ favorite Alpha,” Stiles teases, because someone has to break the tension. “Drink?”
“I’ll have better luck inhaling the fumes from this backyard,” Derek grumbles, and Stiles is very, very careful to hold back his reaction when Derek drops heavily onto the bottom half of the chair Stiles himself is sitting in. “You’re lucky your parents aren’t wolves,” he tells Danny, raising an eyebrow at him.
“That would probably make it difficult to get away with things,” Danny agrees, making a pretty solid effort at sounding completely at ease. Stiles grins reassuringly at him.
Derek turns away with a nod, like he’s gotten the required niceties out of the way, and levels a searching look on Isaac, who shrinks away like he’s being punished, and Scott, who glares right back and shifts closer to Isaac. If this dissolves into a territorial showdown between Alpha and Wannabe-Alpha Stiles is going to lose it completely.
“Well?” Derek finally snaps, raising his eyebrows expectantly at the two Betas opposite him. Stiles hides his exasperation behind the rim of his cup, gulping down another long pull, because even lukewarm beer is better than nothing in this situation.
Scott launches into an explanation that is both ten times more aggressive and ten times more deferential than his original one to Stiles, and as interesting a contradiction as it is, Stiles doesn’t have the attention span to listen twice. He’s staring at his thigh where Danny’s shorts have ridden up a bit, trying to decide if he’s gotten any kind of tan whatsoever today, when he notices the skin he’s comparing his to is Derek’s.
Derek’s enormous bicep, in particular, because Derek is not wearing his leather jacket. Derek is, in fact, wearing nothing more than jeans, sneakers, and a shockingly white t-shirt, and it’s the least-imposing he’s ever seen the Alpha before. And suddenly that’s a million times more fascinating than his own tanning ability (because pale as he might be now, his mother was a hundred percent Italian, dammit, and he can occasionally be something other than pasty white).
He’s disrupted yet again by the arrival of Lydia, standing on the edge of the deck and glaring at Derek like he’s a particularly bothersome gnat she’d like to be rid of. Stiles has seen that look dozens of times before, most commonly when another girl made the horrendous mistake of attempting to flirt with Jackson while Lydia was around.
And now she’s glaring at Derek, like she’s pissed he’s stolen her spot on Stiles’ chair, and holy crap does that hit like a blow to the gut. Lydia is getting territorial over Stiles. Like, visibly so, visibly enough that even Derek notices. He’s staring back at her with an entirely bemused expression on his face, watching Lydia as she draws close enough to swap Stiles’ mostly empty cup for a fuller, miraculously cold one. She settles down on the end of Danny’s chaise, holding out a fresh beer for him too, and keeps her eyes on the back of Derek’s head.
“Is that everything?” he says to Scott, sitting forward like he’s suddenly itching to move, to be anywhere other than that lounge chair or this backyard. Stiles tries not to feel too giddy about it.
“Yeah?” Scott shrugs. “Mostly. We just wanted to know if you think it’s a trap or if we should follow it.”
“I’m not your Alpha,” Derek growls
“You’re Isaac’s,” Scott protests, and Stiles wonders if Scott genuinely hasn’t noticed. Of course he hasn’t, Scott’s not stupid but he’s not exactly the most in tune with other people either, and Jesus, Stiles should have brought it up sooner. Preferably before Scott gave Derek the opportunity to kill him. Christ, they were going to have a hard time hiding the bloodstains from Danny’s parents.
Maybe Derek can smell the panic from Stiles’ side of the chair, or maybe he just notices the way Stiles’ heartbeat takes off in nervous anticipation of a fight, because he twitches slightly in Stiles’ direction before exhaling slowly. The red fades from his eyes along with the rush of air, claws giving way to human fingernails, and he glances sideways at Stiles before turning back to Isaac.
“Are you sure about that?”
Nobody makes a sound as Derek stalks back out the way he came, slamming the wooden gate hard enough behind him that the entire fence wobbles.
“I’m moving to Hawaii,” Stiles sighs, lolling his head to the side to give Danny a pleading look. “Danny, tell me they don’t have werewolves in Hawaii.”
His life falls into something of a pattern after that, but for the first time in a while it’s a pattern Stiles can live with. Scott makes a point of seeing him at least once a week, sometimes with Isaac and sometimes without, and Stiles can deal with it. They’re still going out almost every day, canvasing the woods for any sign of Erica and Boyd, but other than a few more scraps of Erica’s jacket they don’t find much in the way of a lead, and even those trails run cold after a few days.
Derek, after the fiasco in Danny’s backyard, firmly reinstates his policy of only communicating with Stiles. He shows up in Stiles’ bedroom every Wednesday like clockwork, leaning against the wall by Stiles’ window just long enough to admit he’s got mostly nothing in the way of updates; Erica and Boyd still missing, Isaac still dancing the line between Scott’s and Derek’s packs, Peter still making nice like he doesn’t have some ulterior motive, the Alpha pack still lurking in the shadows without making a move. Stiles tells him mostly the same back, Isaac and Scott have nothing to report on their daily hunts, Gerard’s body hasn’t turned up and the sheriff’s department has no leads, everything seems suspiciously quiet. Derek’s rarely there for more than ten minutes, and Stiles is more than content to keep it that way.
He sees Lydia, or Danny, or Lydia and Danny, almost every day. The summer crowd seems to operate on some kind of rotation, like they’ve compared notes to see exactly whose parents would be gone on which days, making sure there’s at least two parties a week. He doesn’t bother asking where the alcohol comes from, doesn’t question how he somehow got worked into the cycle of designated drivers, and doesn’t complain when he starts getting mass texts from numbers he doesn’t recognize, invitations straight from the source instead of through Lydia or Danny.
All in all, it’s probably the best summer Stiles has had in years, really. His only complaint is the complete stalemate he’s found himself at with Lydia, stalled out solidly in the friend zone with absolutely no idea how to push forward. He’s completely certain they’re definitely friends – real friends, like Lydia and Danny, or how Lydia was with Allison, and not just the friendly way Lydia breezes from person to person in various backyards. She calls him one afternoon while she’s driving home from a trip to a mall forty five minutes from Beacon Hills, admitting when he finally asks that she didn’t really have a reason, just wanted someone to talk to on the drive home, and that seals the deal for him.
They’re friends. Awesome. Now what?
He’s distracted by the sharp rap of Derek’s knuckles against his window frame; Stiles isn’t sure how he’d finally gotten the werewolf to announce his arrival, but it was a success on his part. He gestured for Derek to let himself in, closing his laptop and twisting around in his desk chair, and watches with no small amount of surprise as Derek drops down into the chair by his bed instead of bracing against his usual patch of wall.
“What’s up?” he asks, because the disruption in their routine can only mean that something’s wrong.
Derek doesn’t say anything for a few long moments, and Stiles busies himself with trying to guess where the problem is. He’d know if there was any update on Gerard, so it’s not that, and he’s pretty sure he’d have picked up on some weird news if the Alpha pack was making a move. Isaac and Scott are still predominantly manning the wolf-hunt front, which narrows it down to only…
“Do you ever talk to Isaac?” Derek says finally. It sounds like the question takes a lot out of him, like saying it out loud to Stiles means he’s officially admitting out loud that he has a problem he can’t solve on his own, and Stiles is almost tempted to mock him for it. Almost, until he notices that somewhere under Derek’s bristly exterior gruffness is something that looks like genuine concern, and maybe even genuine hurt, and that stops Stiles in his tracks. He’s not above kicking a man when he’s down, but only in the event that it’ll somehow help Stiles. No point in doing it just for fun.
“Like, communicate verbally and without using Scott as a medium, or actually talk to him about substantial life issues?” he clarifies, because he’s still not completely a saint.
Derek glares at him.
“You know what I mean,” he growls.
“No,” Stiles shakes his head. “No, and I haven’t talked to Scott about it either. The big stalling point, if I had to guess, is that for all his posturing Scott isn’t actually an Alpha.”
“That’s one of the problems,” Derek admits. “If Isaac officially declares his allegiance to Scott it’ll affect Scott’s power. It won’t make him an Alpha, only inheriting the title from another Alpha can do that, but it’ll still give him a boost. In this case maybe even enough of a boost to take on one of the Alphas still lurking the woods here, at which point he actually would become a real Alpha with Isaac as his actual Beta.”
“I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing,” Stiles confesses. Derek raises an eyebrow and sits back slightly, like he hadn’t expected Stiles to be anything but gung-ho about Scott’s promotion, but Stiles just shakes his head.
“I do think Scott’ll make a good Alpha. It didn’t really surprise me that he turned you down, and Isaac’s little hero-worship fixation doesn’t either. I just don’t know if he’s ready for it quite yet.” Stiles sighs, scrubs a hand over his head. He has no idea why he’s telling Derek any of this, how they somehow landed in Bizarro World Confession Time instead of their usual perfunctory business-esque meeting. It’s kind of…it’s nice, though. He has Scott for supernatural talk, Lydia and Danny for normal teenage human talk, but he’s never had an outlet for problems.
“He’s sixteen,” Derek nods, like that more than summarizes everything Stiles just said. It kind of does. “He’s just a kid.”
“Hey,” Stiles argues defensively, “I’m sixteen, and I helped find and kill a murderer, got kidnapped and beat soundly by a grown man, watched a classmate die twice before miraculously coming back to life both times, and I’ve saved your sorry ass more than once. Give the kids some credit.”
Derek makes a face like he sorely wants to protest, but there’s the barest hint of a smirk that Stiles thinks means Derek’s kind of amused. Hey, he’ll take it.
“Isaac has to make a choice though,” Derek insists, shaking his head and schooling his expression into something more serious. “Sooner, rather than later. He can’t keep doing this.”
“Have you talked to him about it?” Stiles asks.
Derek looks at him like he’s an idiot.
“No, but really,” Stiles protests. “I mean, we don’t know what Isaac thinks. Maybe he thinks he has to choose.”
“He does have to choose,” Derek says flatly, like Stiles hasn’t been listening.
“I mean like, maybe he thinks that you’re making him pick between you and Scott. Not as his Alpha,” he says quickly, holding up a hand before Derek can interrupt him again, “but in general. Like if he chooses you as his Alpha he can’t be friends with Scott anymore, and he’s stalling on declaring anything one way or another because he’s trying to prolong their friendship for as long as he can.”
“I wouldn’t,” Derek frowns, and he looks kind of offended. “I wouldn’t tell Isaac who he is and isn’t allowed to be friends with, that’s not what being an Alpha is about. Scott’s good for Isaac, I’m glad he has someone to look up to.”
“Isaac looks up to you,” Stiles says carefully. He wasn’t sure until after he said it, but he’s pretty sure he hit the nail on the head considering the way Derek slumps like his whole body’s just deflated all at once. “He does, do you really not know that?”
“Maybe he did,” Derek starts to protest, and Stiles almost immediately starts shaking his head. “But I’m not exactly role model material, Stiles.”
“No,” he insists. “I know you know about Isaac’s dad and everything, but did you know Isaac had an older brother too?”
Derek shakes his head.
“He died,” Stiles says simply, because it’s not his story to tell. “A few years back. I didn’t really know Isaac, but, you know, big news, small town, you hear things. And I think maybe Isaac really needs someone who can be there for him like that. Obviously you’re not ready to be anyone’s father figure, but you’ve got older brother written all over you.”
Something twists sharp and sudden in Derek’s face, and Stiles desperately wishes he could backtrack just enough to take the end of that sentence back. It’s all over Derek’s suddenly agonized expression, and Stiles has read the incident reports on the Hale fire, he knows there were kids in the house. Of course Derek’s older brother material…he’s been one before.
“Did you…” he says quietly, because he can’t keep his fucking mouth shut sometimes.
Derek squeezes his eyes shut and nods.
“Madeline was twelve,” he whispers. “Blake was only…”
Eight. Stiles mind fills in helplessly, because now that he’s brought it up he remembers the reports he read. Both Derek’s parents, his grandmother, two aunts and an uncle, the Hale’s oldest son and youngest two children, and a baby cousin. A baby.
“I…sorry…” Stiles mumbles, “I didn’t mean to…I’m…”
“You’re right though,” Derek nods. “Isaac could use…Alex was four years older than me. He was an absolute shit half the time, beat me up just because he could, ganged up with Laura until I was an easier target than shooting fish in a barrel, and I still idolized the hell out of him.”
He glances up at Stiles, who’s thunderstruck and mortified and kind of honored beyond all belief that Derek came to him with this, talked to him about it. Any port in a storm, maybe, but still. He’s flattered, and maybe a little bit heartbroken.
Derek kind of has that effect on people.
“Talk to Isaac,” he says quietly, because he doesn’t really know where else to go from here. “Last I heard he was avoiding you because he thought you were mad at him, so at the very least clear that up. And maybe stop being such a dick to him? I get the idea of tough love and all that, but I think Isaac’s had more tough love than any one person deserves in their lifetime.”
“Yeah,” Derek nods. “Yeah, I’m gonna go do that.”
He gets up, like he means right this very second, and Stiles isn’t really about to stop him. They’re hovering in this weird kind of aftershock though, and it’s the kind of atmosphere that Stiles can’t help but shatter because he can’t handle it.
“And Derek,” he calls, waiting until the werewolf already has one leg over the edge of Stiles’ windowsill. “Middle child syndrome explains boatloads of your personality defects.”
He has to duck to narrowly avoid being nailed in the head by a book Derek scoops off the floor and hurls his way, but the tension is gone from the Alpha’s shoulders as he disappears through the window, and Stiles’ laughter follows him out.
Stiles somehow comes to the conclusion that he can kill two birds with one stone by going to Lydia with his baffling Derek experience: it’ll give him a chance to hash out the weirdness with an expert, and it might help in advancing their relationship, whatever that might be, to the next level. Maybe.
It’s a theory, and he’s a little desperate, and he’ll take it. He calls Lydia and purposely hedges when she asks what’s up, knowing it’ll pique her interest like nothing else.
“I should probably come over there,” Lydia suggests, and Stiles makes sure to stay absolutely silent as he pulls a few victory fist pumps. “Because you’re clearly lying through your teeth in an effort to get me to pay attention to you.”
“I’m not even upset,” Stiles tells her, “just proud that you’re smart enough to know. Come over, please, so I can whine to you about the enigma that is Derek fucking Hale.”
“You should have led with that,” Lydia scolds. “That’s an immediate attention-grabber, honestly Stiles, I thought I trained you better than that.”
“I was under the impression you didn’t like him,” Stiles defends himself, “thought I’d have to trick you over here some other way.”
“The opportunity to hear you bitch and gossip about someone that isn’t Scott is intriguing enough,” she insists, “and Jesus Christ Grandma the gas pedal is the tall skinny one.”
“I don’t know why it ever surprised me that you drive like a bat out of hell,” Stiles tells her conversationally, listening to the unmistakable engine rev of Lydia swerving into the shoulder to cut off whoever isn’t driving up to her standards. “You definitely present the kind of ice cool façade that will ultimately end in you snapping and killing us all.”
“Serial murder isn’t funny anymore,” Lydia grumbles back, “we’ve witnessed it firsthand.”
“On the contrary,” Stiles argues, “it has to be funny now, because the alternative is mass hysteria and Lydia, mass hysteria is not a good look on any of us.”
They bicker amiably as Lydia cuts off two more drivers, definitely commits to running a yellow that turned red long before she drove through it, and calmly asks Stiles if her official position as favorite girl of the son of the Beacon Hills Sheriff will get her exempt from speeding tickets.
“I stole a police transport van and chained up your boyfriend in the cargo bay,” Stiles reminds her, stumbling down the stairs to unlock the front door. “I think I have officially used up all my get out of jail free cards. Literally.”
“Well,” Lydia scoffs primly, sliding her phone into her pocket and brushing a perfunctory kiss on Stiles’ cheek as she breezes through the doorway. “I’ll just have to count on my sweet disposition and good looks to keep charming my way out of them.”
“I’ll see about getting you a PBA card,” Stiles promises dryly, rolling his eyes and following Lydia up the stairs. “Although something tells me you kind of enjoy the challenge.”
“Plus,” she leans back, eyes twinkling mischievously, “your dad had to hire a lot of young new deputies after the whole thing with Matt. Fresh out of the Academy and still looking particularly good in their new uniforms.”
“You’re incorrigible,” he tells her, and she laughs like it’s a compliment.
“It’s why you like me.” She’s not wrong. “So, tell me about your issues with the king of the wild things.”
Stiles gets this little flash of a picture, Derek as a kid, still the youngest because his sister hasn’t been born yet, wedged into the corner of a couch next to a little miniature version of Laura, an older woman leaning in close to show them the pages of the book she’s reading from, and oh. Stiles knows, he just knows, that Derek, before fire and fury burned everything innocent out of him, just loved Where the Wild Things Are.
His lungs do something funny, like he took a breath that didn’t have enough oxygen and now they’re seizing around nothing, and Lydia’s looking at him like she’s going to start drawing her own conclusions if he doesn’t start talking. He shakes off whatever lingering mental images his overactive imagination is providing (four-year-old Derek in an oversized Max costume on Halloween, Jesus fucking Christ) and forces himself to drop down onto the floor next to her.
“So you know how he comes over every week and we do the Beacon Hills Werewolves version of the nightly news?”
Lydia nods, and Stiles is pretty sure he’s never actually told her that before, so apparently everyone in his life is a grade A creep.
“Normally it’s like an in and out, rapidfire exchange of information, don’t let the windowsill land on your tail as you haul ass out of here kind of scenario,” he explains, because Derek’s weekly visits have given Stiles a whole new appreciation for the phrase ‘wham bam thank you ma’am.’
“And one of you broke the status quo and now it’s weird?”
“He asked for advice. He pouted, then asked for advice, told me about his family, and then left saying he was actually going to do what I suggested he should, and Lyds it was so, so weird because I have no idea where in all of hell that came from.”
Lydia’s looking at him kind of funny, some cross between amusement and irritation, and Stiles lets his imagination run away with him for a minute. Lets him imagine that she’s amused because she thinks his wayward rambling’s kind of cute, that the irritation stems from him paying so much attention to someone that isn’t her (although Derek, seriously, like he’s in any way competition for Stiles’ affections).
“It must be lonely,” she says quietly. “Living with the knowledge that everyone you’ve ever known in your life has either died or voluntarily abandoned you.”
“And the one person who hasn’t is the one you thought you, you know, killed,” Stiles adds, because living with a once beloved Uncle who went mad, killed his last remaining niece, and then burned until his throat was slit only to rise from the grave again probably wasn’t really such a picnic.
Lydia nods, and with that simple movement goes all of Stiles’ desire to overanalyze the stupid situation. Whooshes right out of him like water through an open drain, leaving him frowning sullenly at the chair Derek had been sitting in. Lydia’s right, she’s so right, he’s focused a stupid amount of energy on trying to figure out why Derek would talk to him of all people. As if Derek had anyone else in the entire world to even try with. And great, good, now there’s a low burn of guilt in his stomach.
“Did you ever think about what house you’d be sorted into?”
Every time Stiles thinks he has a handle on Lydia, who could easily give Derek a run for his money as the most multifaceted person Stiles has ever met, Lydia goes and pulls something new on him; a whole encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge on classic horror movies, a knitting habit, a well-buried secret love of all things Harry Potter. He knew this one already, learned it two weeks ago when he showed up twenty minutes early at her house and found her bawling her eyes out in front of DH Part II, but it still inspires a small thrill of interest.
“Pottermore went Ravenclaw,” he reminds her, because they’ve already confessed to their no-shame excitement over the website’s launch, almost immediately followed by crushing disappointment at its inadequacies.
“Dollars to doughnuts you’d be a four-way hatstall,” Lydia argues. Stiles rolls his head sideways where it’d been lolling back against his desk, raising an eyebrow at her. “You’re stupid brave, boy-who-runs-with-wolves, fiercely loyal to people you love, overwhelmingly curious and clever, but you’ve also definitely got a ruthlessly cunning streak. I go back and forth all the time on which house I think you’d be in.”
“I always wanted to be in Slytherin when I was younger,” he admits, because he did. “It used to make me so angry that people would just cast the net accusation of Slytherin equals future Death Eater. I wanted so badly for J.K. Rowling to have one of the students step up in the eleventh hour and save the day, or help Harry, or something, just to prove to people that not all Slytherins were evil.”
“That is exactly my point,” Lydia says smugly.
“I didn’t realize you had one.”
“Of course I did. My point is that you look at a freshly turned werewolf and still see your dopey best friend, you look at a batshit girl crying her way to insanity and still think she’s beautiful, you look at people and see people, not whatever issues they’re buried in. And Derek, whether he’s realizes that’s why he’s talking to you or not, really needs someone to look at him and see something more than a scared little boy pretending to be something he’s not and failing spectacularly at it.”
Well that’s – Stiles doesn’t even know where to start, the painfully accurate description of Derek, the fairly glowing review of his character, or the way Lydia’s assessment has sparked a warm thrill through him that settled low and hot in his ribcage.
He shifts gears, because Stiles is a professional at switching topics to take obsessive interest in, and spends the rest of the evening wondering what Lydia sees when she looks at him.
The next few Wednesday updates aren’t quite as perfunctory as they once were. Derek sticks around just a little bit longer sometimes, and they discuss more than just the bare-bones facts. He talks about some of the tracking he himself has done, searching for signs of Erica and Boyd, recounts stories of Peter’s behavior that they both analyze to shreds, speculates with Stiles on how Gerard survived and where he is now.
Derek’s appearance at Stiles’ window disrupts Stiles’ aimless internet browsing, and he watches the werewolf balance on the sill for a few seconds before shoving his way inside. It’s only once Derek’s in, sprawled ungainly across the floor with his head and shoulders propped against the wall, does Stiles realize that today is definitely not Wednesday.
And, of course, that the rusty red stains on Derek’s green t-shirt are definitely blood, and the smatter of wounds Stiles can see through what he now realizes are undoubtedly claw-induced tears in the fabric are not healing like they should.
“Jesus,” he hisses, throwing himself out of his desk chair to land on his knees next to Derek. “What the fuck?”
“Found the Alphas,” Derek pants, grinding the heels of his hands against the carpet like he’s trying (unsuccessfully) to push himself further upright. “Or, I guess, one of them found me. Told me to stop looking for Erica and Boyd, then made sure I wouldn’t forget.”
“And you suddenly believe so strongly in our information sharing circle that you came straight here rather than going home, or to, I don’t know, a doctor?” Stiles challenges. He’s frazzled with the need to do something, to tug Derek’s shirt off and clean the scrapes littering his torso, or drag him down the stairs and haul his ass to the hospital or Deaton’s.
“Your house was closest,” Derek grumbles defensively, and Stiles freezes, because he swears, just for a second, that what Derek actually meant was ‘your house was safest.’
Which is, of course, patently ridiculous, because Derek has already made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t trust Stiles worth a damn, and there’s absolutely no reason at all he would feel any safer at Stiles’ house than he would his own den.
“Yeah, well, lucky for you we have a well-stocked first aid kit here in the Stilinski household.”
Derek rolls his eyes, mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “I can’t imagine why,” and ignores the glare Stiles shoots him on his way out the bedroom door.
He texts Scott on his way to the bathroom, call off search STAT, u and isaac dont leave ur house til i give u the all clear, and then again, on his way back with oversized plastic bin Melissa McCall personally helps Stiles keep stocked, adds D attacked by alpha, told to stop looking or else.
Stiles comes back into his room to find Derek shirtless and braced against his bed, head lolling back against the mattress like it takes too much effort to hold it up on his own.
“You’re going to get blood all over my sheets,” Stiles whines, because the alternative is panic and he’s not ready to panic over Derek Hale quite yet. Derek blinks hazy eyes open and stares at him like he can’t quite muster a glare, and it’s hardly the worst Stiles has ever seen him look but it still sends a quiet note of terror through him.
“Yeah, yeah, why is it you can still threaten to rip my throat out without even opening your mouth,” Stiles complains at him, even though Derek’s face is kittens in comparison to his usual intensity.
“Practice,” Derek grumbles, and Stiles chuffs out a laugh as he drops to his knees again and opens up the first aid kit.
“Please tell me you at least got one hit in,” he gripes, studying the marks across Derek’s skin. Most of them look fairly shallow, surface wounds more than anything else, but there’s a set of four gashes trailing over his right shoulder that look like someone dug their claws in deep and dragged. Stiles doesn’t know what to do about those, doesn’t know how the Alpha-wounds-don’t-super-heal rule works when it’s two Alphas in the equation, so he starts with the shallow scrapes he can handle.
Derek growls at the first swipe of a hydrogen peroxide-soaked cotton ball against his shredded flesh, and Stiles mock-growls right back.
“Don’t be a baby,” he snaps, batting Derek’s hand away with his own before pressing down again with the cotton ball. “If your stupid werewolf healing doesn’t cure Alpha-induced injuries then whose to say it’ll work on Alpha-injury-induced infections?”
“I don’t understand the way your brain works,” Derek protests through gritted teeth. Admittedly, he probably doesn’t have much experience with cleaning injuries, seeing as they don’t usually last long enough for them to be given any proper attention, but honestly, the guy’s been shot, more than once, he should be able to handle a little medicine burn.
“Which I will continue to use to my advantage for as long as possible,” Stiles shoots back. “Dude, if you don’t stop squirming I will sit on you, and that will be extremely unpleasant for both of us so for the love of my dignity, hold still.”
Derek growls again, like the threat of Stiles touching him more than necessary is acutely unbearable, and manages to settle into some kind of hyper-tension that keeps him at least mostly still. Stiles makes quick work of the remaining scrapes, and he’s secretly pleased to see that while they’re not healing at the rapid fire rate they normally would most of the cuts seem narrower and shorter, like the shallowest edges have healed quicker than the deeper center, and it’s progress. He tapes long pieces of gauze over them anyway, because there’s no point in all that griping and flinching if Derek’s just going to go and get an infection anyway, until all that’s left are the marks trailing over his shoulder.
“Sit up,” he urges quietly, nudging Derek’s arm well below where the gashes end, and the face the werewolf makes in response makes the part of Stiles that hates seeing people in pain squirm uncomfortably. It’s obvious from the way Derek’s stomach shifts that the effort of sitting up straight puts a stupid amount of strain on the cuts that run diagonally across his abs, and Stiles suffers the grimace on Derek’s face for all of ten seconds before sighing.
“Please don’t kill me,” he begs, climbing over Derek’s thighs until he’s settled on the werewolf’s left side, away from his injured shoulder. Derek doesn’t say anything as Stiles wedges one leg behind him, nudging forward until Stiles is sitting at an angle between Derek and the side of his bed, supporting Derek’s left shoulder against his collarbone while still leaving the right free. “Seriously, please don’t.”
Derek doesn’t so much as make a sound, but he does sink back until the additional strain fades from his face, leaning heavily into Stiles. Now that he can see Derek’s back he can tell the gashes trail all the way down his ribs, like a clawed hand had grabbed over his shoulder and yanked him around while dragging down, and Stiles winces in sympathy pain.
“You’re all ridiculous,” Stiles mutters, talking to himself more than anything else, distracting himself from the low hisses of pain issuing from Derek’s mouth as he tries to clean the gashes as gently as possible. “Seriously, everything’s so stupidly aggressive and physical with you. I get that you’re all wolf instincts and all, but has nobody ever considered the idea of werewolf diplomacy? Set up a little business meeting, you and the Alpha Alpha, seconds if you absolutely insist.”
“That’s how proper packs work,” Derek breathes out, pushing the words through clenched teeth. “Pretty sure mine doesn’t count as a proper pack. Also, don’t have a second anymore.”
“Well, there’s always me in worst case scenarios,” Stiles teases, because the alternative is to think how small Derek sounded with that admittance, and he’d rather avoid that one like the plague.
“You’re Scott’s,” Derek argues.
“I’m no one’s,” Stiles disagrees. “I’m human, your loyalty rules don’t apply to me. I can favor whichever pack I want, whenever I want.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“The way Isaac’s divided loyalty had you all twisted up in knots but you haven’t even made a passing comment about mine.”
“Divided loyalty,” Derek snorts and shakes his head. The movement jars his shoulder infinitesimally, but it’s apparently enough for Derek’s fingers to close over the closest thing they can find and squeeze.
Stiles valiantly pretends not to notice Derek’s fingertips digging into his thigh.
“If you’d crawled into Scott’s window do you think he would have unquestioningly cleaned you up like this?” he challenges.
Derek’s silence speaks volumes.
Stiles lets the silence sit as he fits gauze squares over the claw marks, taping them as securely as he can manage without drifting into overkill territory. If Derek was human he would absolutely insist on going to the hospital for stitches, at least for the shoulder gashes, but Stiles knows better than to think Derek will even listen to the suggestion. He worms his way out from behind the werewolf instead, sparing a forlorn look at his definitely bloodstained sheets before straightening up and tossing the medical supplies he’d used back into the first aid box.
Derek hasn’t moved when Stiles comes back from the bathroom again, hands washed and kit back where it belongs. He’s slumped against the side of Stiles’ bed, semi-curled protectively in over himself as much as his injuries will allow, and Stiles is completely taken aback by how utterly exhausted the Alpha looks.
“If you’re going to sleep you might as well get on the mattress properly,” Stiles gripes, kicking lightly at Derek’s sneakered foot. “I’m getting a crick in my neck just from looking at you.”
“I’m not –”
“You really should,” Stiles insists. “You look like a kicked puppy. Seriously, it’s like you’re fresh off one of those god-awful Sarah McLachlan commercials, and I can’t even look at you. Besides, do you even have an actual bed somewhere? Like not a nest of blankets, but an actual bed with a mattress and a box spring and a roof over it?”
Derek musters a stronger glare than he’s managed yet tonight, and it’s still not even half as impressive as his usual, and that’s more than enough to strengthen Stiles’ resolve.
“Seriously,” he says, “Dad left twenty minutes before you got here for the night shift, and he won’t be back until tomorrow morning so there’s no chance he’ll accidentally walk in on you, and I’m supposed to pick Danny and Lydia up in half an hour, so I’ll be gone until at least like two. You’ll have the place to yourself, stop being stupid and just take the damn bed.”
Derek pulls himself up just enough to shift his weight onto the mattress, toeing off his sneakers as he drags himself most of the way onto the bed. Stiles watches him until he’s reasonably convinced Derek won’t put up any more protest on the matter before shuffling over to his closet and pulling out a shirt that doesn’t smell like sweat and Derek’s blood and hydrogen peroxide.
“You’re starting to smell like them,” Derek says quietly. Stiles glances up once he’s tugged the fresh shirt over his head, blinking expectantly until Derek elaborates. “Lydia and Danny.”
“That’s kind of weird,” Stiles points out. “Also, I’ve definitely showered since the last time I saw either of them.”
“Not like that,” Derek mutters. He’s watching Stiles pull his socks on, and Stiles can’t decide if it’s creepy or not. “If you spend enough time with someone your scents start to mingle – yours has always been more a combination of yours and Scott’s and your dad’s, since you spend almost all your time with them, even when you haven’t been around either of them in a while.”
“So like, Scott still smells like Allison, even though they’re not together anymore, because they spent so much time with each other when they were together?”
“That’s still kind of weird,” Stiles nods decisively, shoving his feet into a pair of Chucks low-tops before sliding his phone and his wallet into his pockets, “but also kind of cool. You gonna be okay here? Painkillers probably don’t work on you, right?”
Derek shakes his head, and Stiles assumes it’s to the second question, not the first.
“Okay,” he shrugs. “Seriously though, don’t just humor me and leave the second I’m gone. You really look like you could use a couple hours of good sleep.”
“Get out of here, Stiles,” Derek grumbles, but it’s muffled by sleep and the weight of the pillow where it’s mashed against the side of his face.
“Sweet dreams, Sourwolf,” Stiles says back, rolling his eyes and glancing over his shoulder. There’s a smile tugging at the visible corner of Derek’s mouth, curving along his lips and disappearing into the shadow of his jaw, and Stiles can’t help staring.
It’s nothing like the sardonic smirk Derek occasionally pulls, not the seductive distraction Stiles has seen before. It’s small and soft, quietly unassuming and so painfully genuine, and Stiles feels his breath catch in his throat and hopes to God that Derek didn’t notice the way his heart might have skipped a beat.
Oh man. Stiles is so fucked.
The wolf messed with your vision
He is sitting in your kitchen while you sleep tonight
He will eat your young, and you will act surprised