Scott is such a sucker for a sad face, which, don’t get Stiles wrong, is one of the things that makes Scott McCall one of the best people in the world, but his capacity for detecting a sob story is only enhanced by his ability to smell feelings. Stiles is so far past surprised when Scott brings strays home, he’s mildly perturbed when there isn’t a stranger sitting at their kitchen table.
He shoulders his way through their apartment door with a box of terrariums to “grade” (like, his students are all going to do well unless someone really missed the point and filled their jar with beans or buttons or something) but the place where he usually drops his classwork is occupied by another box.
“Do you need help?” a sweet, feminine voice asks.
“Nope, all good,” he says cheerily and balances it on the small square of kitchen table that isn’t covered with craft supplies. He holds a hand cautiously under it, but it doesn’t tip or shift, so he turns away to kick his shoes off.
The box falls as soon as he takes his eyes off it. Something breaks. He hopes, in the name of all things holy, that it isn’t Parker’s terrarium – the kid spent ten minutes crying today because Stiles had to take it away to grade.
Scott, the woman, and Stiles stare at it for a moment.
Stiles waves a hand and drops into their garage sale armchair, avoiding the stain out of habit. “Ah, I’ll get it later.”
He turns to the woman sitting on the futon. Her short hair is dark and curling out on the ends, brushing her shoulders when she settles back, clutching Stiles’ Troy and Abed mug. She smiles at him, but it’s too polite to be genuine.
“I’m Tara.” She holds out her hand in the universally acknowledged sign for introductory shaking, so Stiles levers himself out of the chair.
“Oh, er, Stiles,” he says and trips over his shoes when he goes to shake her hand. “Scott’s incredibly clumsy roommate.”
He raises an eyebrow at Scott, who guiltily gestures towards his hot chocolate and then the kitchen. They communicate via eyebrow raises and eye twitches, a special language honed through many long classes, and, when they were younger, church services. Stiles crinkles his nose and slides his eyes to the left to communication who is she? Scott sighs.
“She was at the Brew when I stopped by to see Allison. Her date never showed up, and it was her first since her fiancée died and I don’t want her to be sad so I thought we could cheer her up.” Scott pulls his wide eyes out like Stiles needs to be convinced, like Stiles doesn’t fold like an origami crane anytime Scott wants something. Last week, it was Gareth of the Lost Scholarship and before that, Danielle and the Dead Dog, and on and on, a parade of people Scott has taken in, listened to, made feel special with his earnest face, and sent back into the world with lighter hearts. Stiles has pretty much accepted that his apartment is a swinging door for lost souls. At least Tara seems more normal than Taylor My-Girl-Left-Me-Because-Of-Penis-Reasons Banstra. A giant gouge graces the yellow wall, right above the end table, where he chucked a Lysol can at Scott.
“Oh, your dad dropped that off.” Scott points at the offending box, the one hoarding the spot his terrariums should have taken. He ambles over to it, because curiosity is kind of his thing, his defining thing. It’s old with a think film of dust coating it and that unpleasant attic smell, of things left too long without human interaction, without anything to stir the air around them. On the side, in faded sharpie, is scrawled “living room.”
On top, a note in his dad’s unmistakable cop scribble, on the back of a blank parking ticket no less, reads:
Hey kiddo –
This is that last box you wanted to look through before I threw it out. Remember when you were going to pick it up two weeks ago? Got tired of looking at it. You can thank me by cleaning out the gutters.
“Oh,” he grunts, enlightened. At Scott’s inquisitive look, he adds, “It’s that last box of my mom’s stuff.”
Scott says something, then Tara, but Stiles doesn’t hear it, focusing on prying the lid open. A puff of dust blows up into his face when the flap slips free and he coughs, waving a hand in front of him to clear it. He braces himself for the pain, the wave of nostalgia and fondness and hurt, that he associates with memories when he sees her favorite quilt on top, one made by his grandma, covered with kittens playing with balls of yarn. It’s tacky, but the sentimental value makes it irreplaceable.
He picks up, examines, and sets down a few other things – a bracelet, a stack of letters between her and her friend Ruth in Georgia, a bag of old cosmetics – but the bottom is covered in tightly wound balls of yarn. A leather case, when he opens it, reveals a variety of wooden crochet hooks and yarn needles. He trails his fingers across a skein of periwinkle blue wool before he tosses everything back in and closes the top.
Scott looks at him with a twist to his lips he knows means “are you okay?” and surprisingly, he is.
The box sits at the foot of his bed and he mostly forgets about it in the crush of prepping for Holiday Lessons that involve Hands On Crafts and therefore Lots of Mess And Glitter, all capitals intended. Sometimes, he’ll see it and an idea wriggles in the back of his mind like a tadpole, but it isn’t fully formed yet. Worrying at it won’t help the process along, so he ignores it. If it’s good, it’ll make itself known.
It isn’t until he gets to the Christmas part of his lesson plans, one Thursday night, that he starts thinking about gifts and it slams into him. He has yarn. His mother’s yarn, lots of it, and hooks.
He can totally teach himself to crochet. Stiles is good at learning! (He doesn’t think of that time he tried to work his way through the family cookbook. There might still be a little of that attempt crusted to the bottom of his dad’s oven.)
Stiles makes a list, because that’s what he does, he tackles things in steps and Christmas is no different.
Obviously, his dad goes on top. Then Scott. Allison. Danny, even if he isn’t technically pack. Lydia. And if he does Lydia, he has to do Jackson too. Ugh. Erica, Isaac, and Boyd, and by default, Derek. So that’s… ten scarves. Ten.
That’s a lot of scarves.
It’s September 6th which gives him just over 100 days. 10 scarves. 100 days. He can do it.
Friday, after he’s done teaching and Scott is closing at the clinic, Stiles locks himself in his room, marathons the first season of Psych, and teaches himself to crochet from an 80s magazine from the school library.
It’s, well, about as complex as it looks.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he says and throws the yarn off his bed when his fingers refuse to contort like the yellowed pictures. Then it dawns on him that he has the internet, more specifically Youtube, and four tutorials later, he can make a slip knot and chain.
Stiles discovers that although the hooks are nice, the yarn… is not. It would have been! Just, a few years ago. A little stiff, musty, and coarse, not the type of yarn that would make a fabric anyone would want around a neck. Beacon Hills doesn’t have a large crafting population, forcing Stiles to go to Wal-Mart.
Perplexing is the descriptor that comes to mind when Stiles stands in front of their yarn display, running his fingers on the seam of his jeans. It seems predominately comprised of Red Heart, which, when he touches it, feels a lot like the lovechild of straw and burlap, which doesn’t fit in with his personal philosophy of scarves. On the other end of the spectrum, while soft, is a brand in all pastels that appears to be marketed to babies. And in the middle, there’s neon… fuzz.
“Hey!” he calls to a blue-shirted employee. She looks vaguely familiar, like maybe they went to high school together. “Do you know anything about yarn?”
She raises a brow, as if to say, “are you serious?” and stomps away with her inventory scanner held aloft like a gun. Stiles sighs and turns back to the yarn.
“Are you causing trouble?”
“What?” Stiles yelps, whirling. “No!”
He’s confronted by the impish eyes of an older woman, her face sagging but with a sweetness to her rounded cheeks. Her foundation is two shades too dark for her papery skin, making an abrupt line at the top of her neck, and she smells like old makeup, fresh but sharp. Her t-shirt reads “what happens at grandma’s, stays at grandma’s.” Her blue-tinted curls tight around the crown of her head, she laughs and asks, “Need help?”
Stiles likes her instantly.
“Yes,” he says desperately.
With Eleanor’s help, he picks out yarn in varying colors, textures, and worsted weights. He leaves with close to thirty skeins and her phone number.
“Text me if you have problems!” she calls, waving after him. He catches sight of a tattoo on the underside of her arm.
Back at the apartment, he cues up Psych and burrows his feet into his blankets. He learns how to slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet. His fingers are too long and keep getting in the way, he drops the yarn, or the loops glide right off the hook, but by the big reveal at the end of episode one, Stiles has a workable knowledge of crochet basics.
The first scarf ends up nice enough to give to his dad. He single crochets the whole thing in forest green. Toward the middle, he drops a few stitches so it dips in before he realizes and evens it out. If anyone asks, it’s a scalloped edge. The weave is too tight, though, so the scarf is stiff, and when he ties it around his neck, it doesn’t lay right. But it’s good enough and made with all the right intentions, guaranteed make his dad happy-sad in the way that most things relating to his mom do.
Boyd (and Danny)
Stiles tries to make Scott’s next, he does, but the striped pattern he picks out requires some fancy maneuvering at the end of each row and he’s still trying to figure out how to even change colors. So he sets it aside and picks up a ribbed pattern he chose for Boyd.
He uses a thick, soft yarn in deep blue that bulks up quickly. The half-double crochet stitch falls just between the single and the double, so he picks it up rapidly. It takes some maneuvering to get the ribbing as he has to work the hook into a different part of the stitch, just under the V, but the solid look and feel scream Boyd to him. Dependable, steady, with streaks of aggressiveness and competitiveness run throughout him, just like the ribbed scarf. Stiles finishes at the same time he finishes season two of Psych. He runs sore fingers across the ribbing and files away some good condom jokes for later.
It goes so well, he makes a second one in orange for Danny. Even if Danny will never wear it.
Pack politics is an infinitely interesting topic and so complex that Stiles has flowcharts and essays and diagrams dedicated to it. The thing is, they can’t all be best friends, or even friends of equal value, because that’s just not the way people work, even if those people go furry and homicidal during certain lunar phases. For instance, Stiles naturally falls in with Scott and Allison, Erica by choice and Isaac by circumstance. Jackson and Danny maintain their jock-ship, as tight as they were when they were ten, and while they tolerate Stiles (read: Danny) and regard each other with mutual disdain (read: Jackson), Stiles has never felt a particular need to pursue a friendship with them. Age hasn’t changed that. Erica, Boyd, and Derek have an incomprehensible BFF threesome going on, but any combination of Erica, Lydia, or Jackson ends in tears.
Basically, interpersonal relations are a capricious, elusive nebula of uncertainly. It’s fascinating.
But going out to eat together? Stiles thinks it’s probably easier to coordinate a UN peace summit.
“Wanna check out that new Italian place?” Stiles asks Scott even as he bolts out a message to Lydia. They’re mindlessly watching Cake Boss and Stiles is caught in a limbo where he’s hungry, but he doesn’t want to cook, and he also doesn’t want to watch anymore TLC.
“Why do you always arrange this stuff?”
[From Lydia Martin, 18:34]
I’m in. 7?
[To Lydia Martin, 18:34]
Allison works until 7:45
[To Allison Argent, 18:35]
Bruschetta after work?
“Oh, Scott,” Stiles says, not looking away from his phone. “Getting dinner with the pack involves a complex textual relay system, at the center of which sits yours truly. It requires in-depth knowledge of work schedules, moods, interpersonal relations, food likes, dislikes, and allergies – and it all happens at the speed of light.”
[From Catwoman Reyes, 18:37]
i’m in for supper can someone pick me up
[To Lydia Martin, 18:37]
If I get Isaac, can you pick up Erica?
[To Vernon Boyd, 18:37]
[From Lydia Martin, 18:38]
Don’t text Isaac, he’s with Boyd. He & Erica are fighting
Stiles sighs. Their relationship is a constant struggle between Erica’s sexuality (specifically within the public sphere) and Boyd’s alternating aggressiveness and passiveness.
[From Allison Argent, 18:40]
[To Allison Argent, 18:40]
Awesome! Would you pick up Erica on your way over?
[From Vernon Boyd, 18:41]
thanks but i’ll just eat in tonight
[From Lydia Martin, 18:42]
Jackson can get her on his way from the office
[To Lydia Martin, 18:42]
Allison’s got it
Because Erica and Jackson? Can be an explosive combination.
[From Allison Argent, 18:42]
[To Catwoman Reyes, 18:43]
Allison’ll pick you up around 7:50
[To The Grumpiest Hale, 18:45]
Dinner at Capri’s at 8 – meet us there?
Stiles finally sits back against the couch with a satisfied smile. “We’ll leave here at 7:45. Wanna split some stuffed mushrooms?” he asks Scott.
Stiles spends hours trying to find the perfect scarf for Lydia. God forbid it looks homemade, although he’s definitely seen her wear things that look crochet-y. Still, he needs something that screams Lydia Martin. He scrolls through pattern after pattern until they all kind of look the same, bookmarks a truly horrible pommed one for shits and giggles, and finally settles on a cascade scarf because the shape of it reminds him stupidly of her hair. (Stiles is twenty-four and he still hasn’t figured out how not to love her. Most of the time, it’s platonic and he values her friendship far more than his stupid old crush. But that doesn’t change that fact that Lydia Martin is an incredible woman and he’s still drawn to her like a sailor to a siren.)
“Yo. I’ll be in my room, kay?” he tells Scott as he scoops up his laptop.
Scott jams the pause button and tilts backward to meet his eyes. “But you were supposed to help me beat Puppet Ganon!” He gestures to the TV with the GameCube controller, where he’s just stopped in front of Hyrule Castle. He swings his socked feet in emphasis.
“I dunno man, that one’s tough. You’re on your own. I believe in you! Believe in the me that believes in you!” he calls over his shoulder.
Ignoring Scott’s protests, he grabs a beer from the fridge on his way through the kitchen, twisting the cap off with the hem of his shirt. He cues up the third season of Psych and sets to work.
Ch 170. No problem, Stiles is a chaining master. He loses count, backtracks, and pauses in the middle of the opening credits so he doesn’t get distracted again. Sc along to end. Again, no problem.
He finishes up the row just as Shawn does his big reveal, gyrating in a way that reminds Stiles of the last time Isaac tried to dance. He pauses so he can check the next set of instructions.
The rest of the pattern is in Enochian, for all his beginner eyes can tell. His previous scarves hadn’t been more than crochet a row, turn, and repeat until desired size. And this has vocabulary and abbreviations he hasn’t seen before.
“Man,” Stiles whines at the pattern. Well, he’s not a Google master for nothing, but when he switches from the .PDF to Chrome, nothing happens because the signal bar is all greyed out, indicating a lack of internet connection. He tries searching a couple times, but their Wolf-Den of Iniquity wi-fi network is nowhere to be found.
“Scott!” he yells. “Did you remember to pay the Mediacom bill?”
There’s a crash from the living room, the sound of Scott falling backward from his chair, and a feeble, “Maybe?”
“Son of a bitch,” he says with feeling.
Stiles lumbers out of his bed and sneaks his way through the apartment to the front door, pausing to watch Scott comically try to piece their saucer chair back together, and slips outside. It’s nice, warm with a hint of cool breeze, and he makes a note to open his room window as he rummages through his pocket for his phone.
He could make this call inside. It’s not like Scott uses super-hearing all the time or makes a habit of grossly invading Stiles’ privacy. It’s just – Scott is the actual worst at keeping secrets and is a five-year-old the week before Christmas when it comes to presents. A single birthday hasn’t passed since they were little tykes where Scott has kept his gift to Stiles a secret more than a few hours after he bought it.
He thumbs through his contacts and leans against a tree, trying to look casual and not suspicious to the mother carting two kids in a wagon down the sidewalk. He gets to the E’s and hesitates, thumb hovering over the call icon next to Eleanor’s name.
Her scarf turns out beautifully. This is mostly due to Eleanor’s graphic coaching over the phone, insults and curses ringing in his ear. Crocheting is hard with a phone propped on his shoulder, but he gets the hang of the triple crochet stitch and the pattern of stitches necessary for the cascade effect. He loves the way it turns out – delicate purple yarn, twisted with a silver embroidery thread at Eleanor’s recommendation.
By the time he hangs Lydia’s present with the other three, Stiles discovers Crocheter’s Elbow, although calling it crocheter’s elbow is unfair, since his fingers, palm, wrist, forearm, and shoulder all hurt in addition to his elbow.
“What’s up with Stiles?” Allison asks, looking from the carrots she’s chopping with scary efficiency to the closed bedroom door. Muffled TV noises and the occasional Stiles sound (exclamations, grunts, bangs, crashes, etc, though not all at once) filter through the thin wood.
Scott bumps against the soup pot in his haste to face Allison and burns a bright mark into his arm for his trouble. It fades fast enough, Allison's eyes glued to the process, even as Scott turns his most concerned face to her.
"I don't know!" he says. "He won't talk to me!"
Allison leans over and places a kiss to the worry furrowed into his brow. "I'm sure it's nothing."
"But he spends so much time in his room. We don't play video games anymore and when he isn't working on school stuff at the table, he locks himself in there. Sometimes he cooks," Scott says in a scandalized whisper. Stiles doesn’t cook, because the extent of Stiles’ cooking abilities ends at ramen noodles. Scott casts another worried glance to the closed door. "And I didn't mean to, but the other day, I was trying to listen for you at the door and I accidentally heard him on the phone and it was just someone yelling at him!"
After the ordeal that was Lydia's scarf, Stiles needs something easier. So he decides to work on Jackson’s present. While they get along these days, mostly, Jackson will always be a sanctimonious asshole and that will always be something that Stiles doesn't like. He keeps his opinions on Jackson and Lydia’s on-again-off-again Ross and Rachel relationship to himself, even if he thinks Lydia deserves someone to dote on her. But he digresses.
Jackson has enough scarves as it is, which he knows because he’s never seen Jackson wear the same one twice. And to be honest, Stiles is getting a little bored of them. So he makes a pair of gloves. Fingerless, so Jackson can work on his iPhone without taking them off. The pattern is listed as intermediate but with Eleanor’s help, he modifies it into something that doesn’t look like an alien language. He does them in deep charcoal to match Jackson's favorite coat.
Sometimes Stiles thinks he's an awesome friend. This is one of those times.
“You come to McDonalds?” Stiles says through a mouthful of chicken. He’s bolting it down as fast as he can while his kids are in Music because Scott took the rest of the leftover chicken salad to the office this morning, not realizing Stiles had staked mental claim to it.
Derek shrugs his shoulders. The leather creaks when it stretches because he’s, incomprehensibly, added more muscle. “I saw your jeep.”
“Okay.” He punctuates his sentence with a bundle of fries. “How’s your day?”
“Scott’s worried,” he says, then grimaces.
Stiles glances at his watch and he has never been so glad to be running late. “Sorry big guy, I need to get to class for the young-uns. Talk to you later?”
He lobs his trash into a can, watches it rebound and hit a small child in the face. The mother whips around, eyes searching for the culprit, and Stiles isn’t proud of the way he points to Derek before he leaves.
Stiles doesn’t miss the suspicious looks Scott gives him, lingering over him whenever he announces he’s “going to his room.” He doesn’t try to come up with an excuse anymore, knows no one is buying them, so why the pretense? And thank god for Allison, who seems to be the only one who doesn’t think he’s plotting world domination.
Silly them - Lydia definitely has the market cornered on that one.
With all this affection for Allison in mind, he knows exactly what to make for her. She and Danny love to drag Stiles out shopping. They’re both the perfect combination of scary-sweet that Stiles ends up doing whatever they want with little complaint, like carrying bags and fetching smoothies from Orange Julius. He knows way more about their clothing preference than he knows about his own, which falls between “comfortable” and “can get ruined by small children.”
Allison’s style is one part badass chick chic, one part hipster, and one part sweetheart with a special addiction to scarves. He often sees her fingering these delicate mesh fabrics. If Stiles thinks about, it’s really a metaphor for Allison herself: feminine, but dangerous; fragile, but all the more strong for it. There isn’t much to hide behind, just as Allison is with herself; transparent with the good and the bad, the happy and the hurt.
Stiles calls Eleanor, who adorns his favorite contacts list through sheer number of calls alone.
“Dammnit, Stiles, just text me,” Eleanor says and hangs up. He snorts at the blinking “call ended” message.
[To Eleanor the Saucy, 11:41]
Good day to you too
[From Eleanor the Saucy, 11:41]
i’m entertaining what do you want
[To Eleanor the Saucy, 11:42]
How do you double triple crochet?
He relaxes back against his pillows, fingers idly winding in and out of the eggplant purple yarn. When the phone pings again, he reaches lazily for it, knocking the yarn ball off the bed on accident. It rolls to a stop near his door. He can practically see Eleanor’s smirk when he reads,
[From Eleanor the Saucy, 11:47]
still learning grasshopper - yarn over 3x, into the stitch, y.o. & draw it thru, y.o. thru 2 loops 4x
Another text comes in while he’s composing a response.
[From Eleanor the Saucy, 11:48]
i have a gentleman caller leave me alone
And isn’t that just depressing, because his senior citizen friend is getting more action than he is.
"Oh man," Stiles complains before his keys are even out of the lock. "Today sucked. One of the kids puked on me!" His propensity for layers had come in handy, most of the vomit splashing on his plaid shirt, but a little had stained the plain tee he wore under it and he’d taught with that uncomfortable wet spot all day. It was comical, really, when a pale-faced Parker had asked to use the restroom and his face had scrunched up and mouth opened wide at the end of his question, spewing puke in slow motion spurts all over him.
"I can smell it." Stiles squints, and sure enough, Isaac is sprawled on their futon, feet propped on Stiles’ favorite pillow. He and Scott are playing Mario Kart, paused because of his interruption.
Stiles makes a face. "Not much I could do about it. I'm going to shower."
He drops his stuff on the table and stalks off to his room, already shucking his shirt. Scott catches up as he pulls a clean towel from the top of the hall closet.
"Hey. I gotta ask you a favor..."
"Can Isaac stay here for a bit? You know, camp out on the futon? Boyd and Erica kicked him out today."
“Why, did they get tired of having him underfoot constantly?” Scott frowns at him, which immediately makes him feel like a shitty person. Stiles resists the urge to run a hand through his hair, a habit he’s been trying to break since his students pointed out he looked like a mad scientist when he did it. He exhales sharply through his nose. "Yeah, sure man. Whatever he needs."
Scott purses his lips, indecision splashed all over his face, but claps a hand to Stiles’ shoulder and heads back to the living room.
Stiles promises himself to act with grace and aplomb. But then he gets shampoo in his eye and it isn’t the best omen for an upcoming harmonious cohabitation.
Stiles isn’t proud of it, but he skips the monthly full-moon check-in to work on Christmas presents. In his defense, it’s been years since they’ve had a major problem. Minor ones, sure, like the one moon when Isaac was wooing the secretary from Main Street Dental and left freshly killed bunnies on her stoop, but there haven’t been pants-shitting close calls with death for so long that Stiles isn’t necessary anymore. They’ll probably get more done without him throwing paper balls at Jackson anyway.
He takes advantage of Scott’s absence by stripping down to his boxers as soon as Allison’s car pulls away. Allison’s predictable and will want to have sex at her apartment after the meeting, so he figures he has a good four or five hours of Stiles time and stretches out on the couch with Love Actually on the big-screen TV. It’s an entirely different experience, crocheting in the living room. It feels less illicit, less like a dirty secret when he does it out in the open, but he is easily twice as suspicious and hoards the yarn against him like dragon treasure.
It turns out to be a good thing, because the sound of someone tripping up their front step gives him enough time to shove his bundle under Scott’s sweatpants. Which are on the floor. He doesn’t want to know, he decides, as he kicks it under the futon.
The doorknob rattles - Stiles resolves for the umpteenth time to tighten the screws on it - before it swings open a crack. Erica's curls come first, then the rest of her head.
"Stiles?" she asks, then sniffles. She isn't crying but there's a tremor to her chin and her eyes are bright.
"Erica?" he says, jumping to his feet. Concern instantly shoots through him, before he realizes he’s almost naked and gropes behind him for a blanket to cover himself. "Is something wrong? Why aren't you at the meeting?"
Erica takes that as an invitation, slipping the rest of the way into the apartment. She's smaller, drawing in on herself in a way Stiles doesn't see often, and the illusion is only complemented by a sweater, one of Boyd’s, too big for her and a pair of drawstring pants that billow around her legs.
"Didn't feel like going," she shrugs. She kicks off her flats and pulls a hat, Derek's Yankee’s beanie, tighter around her ears. Her eyes flick over to the TV and her lips curl up at the schmoopy love scene.
Stiles isn't sure what to do. It isn't often - or ever - that obviously upset girls take over his couch and judge his movie choice while he stands around in his boxers. Erica has absolutely been upset before, but usually Boyd or Allison are there to mitigate it, or Isaac takes her out to maul things and they come back murderously happy. Stiles is not the go to for comfort in their rag-tag band of merry wolves, nor has he ever really sought comfort from them before. Therapy and his own self-awareness tells him that bottling his emotions inside is maladaptive and will result in late adulthood intimacy issues, but it works for him.
All it boils down to is that he's a little lost. But he knows what he wants to do when he's upset.
"Wanna get drunk?"
Erica side eyes him. "Think you can handle that, Stilinski?"
He grins at her, all teeth and gums. "Fuck yeah, Reyes."
Fun fact about werewolves: they can get drunk, but it takes a monumental amount of alcohol, a truly boggling amount. Repeated experiments with Scott during their college days – there is one whole week that is just a blank spot in Stiles' memory – have this down to a science.
Wearing the blanket like a cape, a corner dragging behind him, he pulls open the cupboard above their refrigerator and brings down a bottle of Everclear and a bottle of tequila. For good measure, he texts Scott don’t come back tonight bro, even though Allison's apartment is closer to Derek's place and he was probably staying there anyway.
He gathers two glasses, takes a detour into his room to get dressed, and returns to the living room with his haul. Erica has shucked her oversized sweater and managed to work her way into one of Stiles' "I Appreciate My Teacher!" Beacon Hills Elementary shirts. It stretches across her boobs in a very appealing way. The cat quilt she has draped across her legs and feet, remote held loosely in one hand and the TV off.
Stiles uncaps the two bottles and pours a full glass of a concoction that is half Everclear, half tequila. The scent evokes some unpleasant memories for Stiles (oh god, the puke, so much puke) so he pushes it over to Erica.
"Drink," he says. She raises an eyebrow at him. "It tastes like three day old ass, but it does the trick."
"I've had worse," she drawls, voice full of dark secrets, and chugs half the glass without shuddering.
"Jesus fuck," he breathes. He’s impressed. His throat burns like a tunnel of fire just imagining it.
Erica has two more glasses of the mix before she curls around Stiles, nosing into the juncture below his ear. He absently strokes the top of her head, working the beanie up and off so he can get to her scalp.
"If you want to talk about it..."
He lets the silence stretch, but it's not really a silence, full of the rustle of his fingers through the soft strands on the crown of her head, the whir of their fridge, their neighbor's TV set to the evening news. Eventually, she sits up and pulls away from him. Erica's attention is focused on their collage of goofy pictures by the coat rack when she finally speaks.
"It's stupid," she says.
"Probably," he replies but a little laugh puffs out of her anyway, so he calls it a win.
"How can you simultaneously be really good and suck at this too?"
"I dunno, man, there's a reason I don't usually do this. Isn't Allison better for this kind of stuff?"
Erica flops against the back of the couch and pulls her legs into her chest. "Yeah. She doesn’t say stupid shit like you."
"Real cool, Reyes." Stiles pours her another glass, which she takes but just holds between her thighs, not drinking.
"It is stupid. I just... I don't like to feel like I'm forgotten.” She runs her fingers along the rim of the glass, tracing designs into the side. “But between Allison, who everyone loves because she's so sweet and cute but then she can be totally badass and then like Lydia, who is just Lydia, I feel like everyone forgets I'm a girl too."
"No one forgets you're a girl," Stiles offers, thinking of her many and varied corsets.
"Not like that, dumbass." She whacks half-heartedly at his arm. "I mean, like a girl with feelings."
Stiles narrows his eyes at her. “Are you menstruating?”
She gapes at him, eyes flashing yellow, and snarls, “Fuck you. My uterus doesn’t dictate me.”
“Oh god, sorry, sorry, sorry,” he flails, holding up his hands in surrender. “I told you I’m not good at this!”
Erica frowns at him, but she’s normal again, looking at him with her chin up and eyes tightened to slits. “Who calls it menstruating anyway?”
Stiles lets the tension drain from him, settling back into the cushions and looping an arm across her shoulders. For a moment, Stiles thinks she’s going to push it off, but she burrows into his armpit.
"My birthday is next week."
And insert asshole feelings here, because between the frantic hunt to finish Christmas scarves and ducking increasingly invasive questions as to his distance and secrecy, he completely forgot about her birthday. She doesn't seem to notice his sudden tension, just sighs heavily and takes a long drag from her glass.
"Like, Lydia always has some huge blowout, Jackson too. And Isaac always drags us out somewhere to do something stupid." Isaac turned twenty-four last week and he'd forced them all to go to Chuck E. Cheese. Derek lurked in the corner by the ball pit until security kicked him out for menacing the children. And while it had been well-meaning, Scott broke the skee-ball machine. Isaac loved it, but then again, Isaac loves mayhem and chaos.
"We've never really done anything for my birthday and no one's mentioned it or asked about plans. I am totally PMSing right now too, otherwise it wouldn't get me down so much..." she trails off. "I hate being a stupid girl."
"You're not stupid," Stiles says automatically. "And you were right before, just because your hormones are wacky doesn't invalidate your other feelings."
They lapse into another silence and Erica finishes off her third drink.
"So, you have a way stronger constitution than Scott apparently," Stiles points out. "I'm going to get more alcohol."
"I don't want to fight with Isaac," she says and Stiles catalogues this part of the evening gleefully. Pack drama is fun when it doesn't involve him. "But okay, there are only so many times he can knock on the door when Boyd's about to go down on me, and then he looks like a kicked puppy when I get mad and throw shit."
A little glassy-eyed, Erica's words mush together but she doesn’t slur. "We just need space but now he won't talk to meeee," she whines.
"So you guys are getting serious?"
Erica does the unthinkable - she blushes. "Yeah," she says shyly. She pulls the blanket tightly around her until her eyes are barely visible over the fringe. "Yeah," she repeats.
Stiles grins at her. "That's awesome."
She pokes him with her foot but misses and squishes it into the cushion. "What about you though?"
He waves his hand. "I'm married to twenty snot nosed kids. I can't add in a girlfriend."
Erica gets a weird look on her face when he says girlfriend. "Yeah, well, Allison thinks Scott's going to propose soon," she says instead.
"Nope," Stiles replies confidently. He knows for a fact that Scott’s waiting until he has enough saved to by the practice from Deaton, something about being in a position of power and Chris Argent and traditional gender roles and providing. Stiles tuned him out.
Erica flaps her hand. "My point is that you're not getting any and everyone else is." She starts to tick the list off on her fingers. "Me and Boyd, Allison and Scott, Lydia and Jackson-"
“Sometimes,” he cuts in. The state of their relationship is always in flux.
And maybe it's true that the rest of the pack is pairing off, has been for a while. All these high school romances, solidified by tragedy and terror and horrible experiences and whether that's a good foundation to build a relationship on or not is anyone's guess. Stiles the Perpetually Single Male Teacher isn’t qualified to make that call.
"Shouldn't you get someone too? Someone in the pack?"
Stiles rolls his eyes. "Isaac doesn't have anyone in the pack.”
"I'm saying that you deserve someone. Someone who gets this whole werewolf thing and what you've been through, someone who's also lost people and understands what that's like, who gets the whole guilty and emotionally repressed thing."
He squints at her. "Are you trying to set me up with Isaac? I don't want to go out with Isaac."
Erica frowns. "Are you stupid?"
"Oh my god, I give up!" she says, sounding like him. She pokes him in the tender spot between his ribs. The tips of her ears are pink. Stiles is trying really hard not to be distracted by her breasts, but the t-shirt keeps working tighter and tighter around them and they look like they're going to burst through at any moment, like Alien but with boobs.
"I should’ve locked you down in high school," he says. "You're hotter than Pompeii."
She giggles. "It wouldn't have worked out."
"Hey! I'm a catch! For now, though, Dr. Stilinski recommends you take two doses of gin and then violently murder zombies with him on the Xbox until you feel better." He hands her the controller. "Doctors orders."
Stiles masterminds the idea. He wishes he could stake more claim in the execution, but he also knows better than to try and do it himself.
He mentions it to Lydia; she takes care of the rest.
It's worth it, though, when next week Erica slinks into her apartment after a long day at the Crisis Center, drops her purse at the front door, and reels back in surprise when everyone shouts “Happy birthday!” at her.
Later, she wraps herself around Stiles indecently and whispers "thank you" in his ear, then runs away when Derek glares at her.
Everyone has a fabulous time. Allison tips back six Jagerbombs and gets white girl wasted like Stiles has never seen. She and Lydia make out to a shitty Nicki Minaj song, pulling back to grin at each other every few seconds, lip gloss smeared around their mouths.
"Why doesn't this bother you?" he asks Scott.
Scott snorts. "Dude, she'll get all weird and guilty about it later and the make-up sex will be epic!" He high-fives Boyd.
Stiles groans into his hands. "For the love of god, please do it at her apartment and not ours."
With Isaac underfoot constantly, leaving his wet towels draped on the sink and clipping his toenails on the floor, Stiles doesn’t feel too inclined to make him a scarf. While patrolling Ravelry for a pattern for Erica, he happens across a plain one with curly fringe on the ends that inexplicably reminds him of Isaac. Maybe it’s the fringe, boingy like Isaac’s curls between haircuts, or maybe the twist of it, sometimes sweet, sometimes destructive, poetic like Isaac himself, a study in contradictions.
He starts the scarf during his lunch breaks at work and once during naptime, until Skye got curious (the kid never slept, seriously, did he not know how valuable naptime was?) and then he has to show all his students what crochet is and how yarn is made and if it’s a girl or boy thing and why he wants to do it and and and - the questions endless until he distracts them with glitter, so he never makes that mistake again. He does, however, power through the fourth season of Psych and a tin of Boy Scout popcorn over the weekend to finish it. It’s an easy scarf done in a handsome soft blue. The curly fringe looks less silly when it’s all put together and he texts a picture to Eleanor.
Except the problem with Isaac camping out on their couch, currently unemployed, is that he is one nosy motherfucker.
Stiles complains about this, at length, over margaritas with Eleanor.
“Do you know how hard it is to make presents with him sniffing around everywhere? When I got home from school a few days ago, he was just looming in my room. It’s like he knows! He’s a great big loomer who knows!”
Stiles doesn’t hold his tequila well. Eleanor does. Stiles wonders what it says about his life that he’s getting drunk with an elderly woman.
(In his defense, the only thing elderly about Eleanor is her age.)
Eleanor downs the last of her limearita in an impressive gulp, her sagging chin bobbing with the movement. She slams the plastic glass on the table like a frat boy and a beer can and signals to the waiter to bring over another. “Okay kiddo,” she rasps, “you can come.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the thought,” Stiles says, “but you’re going to have to be a little more specific.”
“My Stitch-N-Bitch group. We meet once a week, work on our crafting projects, and bitch about life. Text me after Thanksgiving and I’ll give you the details.”
Stiles doesn’t want to admit that it kind of sounds amazing, because Stiles is a twenty-four year old elementary school teacher who also runs with werewolves and collects comic books, and that might add an extra dimension of insane to his life that he doesn’t want to look too closely at.
“Yeah, sure,” he says, nonchalantly, but he doesn’t think he pulls it off. The ability to make friends is still new to him - most of his current friends, he Stockholm Syndrome-d into liking him. And most of the time, he isn’t sure they like him. Case in point: Danny. Derek. Boyd. Isaac. Jackson. Lydia.
He’s going to stop himself before he gets depressed.
“Also,” Eleanor says when they pull up outside his apartment building in Eleanor’s Buick. Stiles’ jeep will have to be retrieved from the restaurant tomorrow. “On pain of death and dismemberment, you can’t tell anyone about our group.”
Stiles gapes at her. “And just how would I explain it?”
“That’s what I thought. Now shoo.”
If the alcohol wasn’t doing such a good job of muddling him, he might wonder why he attracts a certain type of person.
Stiles stumbles out of the car. Tires screech as it careens around the corner, before he even makes it to the sidewalk. The concrete is unsteady and undulates in front of him, but he is not going to resort to crawling like after Allison’s 21st, a story that gets brought up every time he so much as sips a beer. He’s pleasant drunk, though, the kind where things are floaty and his limbs don’t quite move like he expects, but the surprise of it is fun. His zigzag gait is a dead giveaway to anyone observing from their windows - he’s looking at apartment six - but the cold feels good, the air feels good, his life just feels good. So Judge-y McHypocrite Pants of #6 can just stuff it.
He makes it to the door but his keys won’t fit in the lock. It’s strange, because his keys fit in the lock every other day. Except today. The chill is getting to him, making his movements jerky, and then he wonders if there’s some rule against making a scarf for himself. He’s just decided that he doesn’t want to make himself a scarf, because scarves suck right now when the door swings open.
Arms swing out in an aborted attempt to keep his balance, but after a moment of confusing swirls, his world rights again, which is just lovely because he’s on his ass looking up at Derek.
“Derek!” he says, happy.
He rolls his eyes. “You smell like tacos, tequila… and stale perfume?”
Stiles crosses his arms but almost falls over without them braced against the porch. He decides laying down is the best way to deal with this. “We have had so many conversations about how you are not supposed to smell me that there are literally no more ways to phrase how wrong and creepy it is.”
Suddenly, Derek’s frowning face is in his vision and two strong hands slip under his arms, ghosting along his armpits. He squirms at the sensation but they tighten around him. Derek tugs him up and his head spins in disorienting and possibly nauseating ways until everything is right side up again and he’s on his feet. He points Stiles towards the living room, where Danny and Boyd are watching a football game. Well, the game is on the TV. They’re really watching him. Oops. Being drunk in front of people who can’t get drunk is especially mortifying.
“I got you on your feet. Think you can do the rest yourself?”
“Por supuesto!” Stiles chirps. Derek blinks sassily. Only Derek Hale can blink so sassily, it’s a proven, researchable fact. “That means of course, in Spanish, because I was just eating Mexican margaritas. Drinking. Drinking mar-ga-rit-as. Whatever, anyway, the answer is yes because I am, in fact, not five.”
Despite that, Derek keeps a hand on his shoulder and pushes him gently in the direction of his room. Stiles stops in the kitchen and downs half of their Brita Filter in preventative hope. Derek is still lurking, though, so he offers him the filter as well.
“No, Stiles, I don’t want to drink directly from your water purifier. And we’re going to talk about this in the morning.”
Stiles jerks, guilty. “Nope, nothing to talk about. No Alpha-y intervention needed.”
He just raises an eyebrow and points to his room. “Sleep.”
He scrunches his nose and sticks out his tongue at him, but faceplants onto his bed anyway, tequila-flavored drool soaking into his pillows.
Apparently hungover crocheting is a thing, a good thing even, because the repetitive motions don’t require a lot of thought anymore and distract him from the marching band practicing in his skull. He braves Scott’s scarf again, but now, with a few months under his belt and a feisty mentor, the pattern is ridiculously easy. Which brings back memories of last night and Stiles oscillates between proud of himself for his progress and ashamed for getting out-drunk by a grandmother. He gets his chain row done, then two more in alternating yellow and orange (because his best friend is like sunshine, okay?) when there's a knock at his door.
He shoves the scarf and two skeins under his blanket as quickly as he can and stabs himself with the hook in the process.
"Yeah-yes?" he calls.
Derek steps in, and then it slams into Stiles: Derek promised they were going to talk today.
Derek doesn't say anything, though, and he's still in his leather jacket. Stiles wonders if he stayed the night.
"Did you sleep here?" he asks, because he can and he wants to dodge the subject. Derek’s arms cross in a way that means business, though he smirks and shoots an appraising glance at Stiles' hands still shoved under the blanket. He whips them out, flushing a little.
"What? No, no Stiles love here!" he says.
"We need to talk."
Stiles laughs weakly. "Are you breaking up with me? It's not you, it's me? You've just got a lot going on in your life?"
Derek rolls his eyes. "Be serious, Stiles."
"Okay," Stiles says pointedly. "But I'm not going to have a serious conversation when you're looming in the doorway."
"Scott's worried," Derek says. He doesn't sit, but he does click the door closed behind him. "So's Erica. Isaac is convinced you're a terrorist in disguise. Even Allison thinks you're acting weird."
"I'm not acting weird!" Stiles protests. "I am weird, therefore, the word is normal; I am acting normal."
"You missed our last meeting. We hardly ever see you."
"I've been busy! Give me a break."
Derek sighs heavily. This conversation is a struggle, that's obvious. He's a little allergic to feelings, not unlike Stiles, so it must be bad if the rest of the group has strong-armed him into an intervention.
Stiles has less than a month left before Christmas! These scarves, they're about more than just a present. He'd maybe been trying to find and preserve a piece of his mom in them at first, but failing that, he's found and preserved a piece of each important person in his life. The scarves reflect them, as much as they're crafted by him. More than that, there are little pieces of Stiles in there too, to preserve this friendship they all have. No one knows better than him how quickly things change and if he can leave behind something that memorializes this period of their lives, not ideal, but so precious, then who can fault him?
For long months following the kanima incident, they fractured apart. Stiles saw Scott, Scott saw Allison from afar, Isaac saw Scott from afar, Boyd and Erica saw each other almost exclusively, and Derek saw no one. It took Scott to man up, with his newfound priorities and sense of responsibility, to get them all together again. And maybe it’s childish, but now that they have it, Stiles wants to hold on to their crazy, imperfect, frustrating family with all of his might.
Derek bringss a palm to his forehead and presses against his temples, drawing Stiles back to their conversation. "Fine. We can give you space, if you need space. But any of us will talk if you need to talk."
"Wow," Stiles says, though he doesn't mean to and he doesn't mean to sound like an asshole but he kind of does anyway, "that's actually... really well done of you. Kudos on not fucking this conversation up."
Derek frowns and leaves.
Stiles feels a little shitty after Derek leaves. He feels even shittier when he asks Scott for a ride over to the restaurant and Scott tells him Derek picked up his jeep last night.
So he's officially the worst.
Boyd brings him coffee one afternoon, between classes and an all-school meeting. Stiles sorts and repackages glitter at one of the kids’ tables, Boyd hysterically folded up on the small chair next to him. Boyd makes his classroom look like an elf room. It’s delightful.
“You should start dating,” Boyd says, which startles Stiles so much he spills green glitter all over both of them.
“Did Erica put you up to this?” Stiles futilely tries to wipe his hands off, only succeeding in smearing it everywhere.
Boyd gives him an unamused look. “No. But there are people you may not have considered that would be good for you, good for the pack-”
“Why does everyone think I should bone Isaac?” he laments, rolling his eyes. Boyd sighs, like Stiles is the idiot, and smacks him lightly on the head. He lifts an arm in farewell as he ambles out of the room.
“What did I do?” Stiles asks his sparkling hands.
He texts Eleanor the first weekend of December.
Stiles is avoiding the apartment and the guilt that comes with it, everyone following him with their eyes like Stiles ceremonially murdered and pissed on the figurative family pet in front of everyone. Scott permanently makes Bambi eyes at him, which is really not what he wants when he makes his morning oatmeal. Isaac gives him the silent treatment.
(There's probably something Stiles could do to mitigate everything. He doesn't, though.)
He texts Eleanor because he needs a safe place to work on scarves without feeling like a pet killer.
[From Eleanor the Saucy, 9:53]
[From Eleanor the Saucy, 9:53]
fair warning my grandson is here
He gets her address and packs a bag with all his crochet gear. There are explosions from the living room, which means Scott, Allison, and Isaac are either playing video games or watching action movies, so he tries his best to slink quietly out the front door.
"Dammit," he mutters into his steering wheel when he’s safely ensconced in his car. Scott and Isaac can maybe hear it.
Eleanor lives in a one story next to the trailer park. The yard is small, but kept up, and there are little touches that belay her personality, like the ironic Christmas decorations.
"Damn am I glad to see you," he says, playing with the zipper of his jacket, when the door swings open.
At first, it appears as if no one is there. But he follows the empty space down to see - Parker. Parker, his student. Parker, the worst student he's ever had. Parker of the Copious Amounts of Vomit.
"That's a bad word," Parker says, little face furrowed into disappointment. "Mr. Stiles, what are you doing here?"
"Hi Parker!" he says, bright and fake. His smile is strained. "Is your grandma here?"
Parker doesn't turn his suspicious eyes away from Stiles when he shouts, "Gramma! Mr. Stiles is here!"
"Let him in!" echoes from inside.
He takes his shoes off at the door and shrugs his coat off, laying it across an end table when he doesn't see a coat rack. He hears Parker’s socked feet thudding away from him on the hard floors, and when he faces the hall, he’s alone so he follows low voices into the kitchen.
"Er, hi," he says.
Eleanor waggles her eyebrows at him. "Parker tells me you said a bad word," she says, as if she doesn't have the most colorful language Stiles has heard, and he grew up around cops.
"Sorry." He feels awkward hovering in the doorway, but Parker is shooting daggers at him and Eleanor hasn't offered him a chair.
"What brings you to mi casa?"
"Oh, snoopy friends trying to find their Christmas presents, you know..." he says lightly.
Eleanor isn't fooled. "Well, my daughter is just getting ready to pick this squirt up and then I'm off to the Stitch-N-Bitch. You've already been approved for entry - wanna come?"
Stiles spits out, “yes!”, maybe a little too quickly when Parker startles at the outburst and spends the rest of the time glaring at him.
"They rent it out to groups," Eleanor explains when they squeal into the parking lot of the old Grace United Methodist building. Stiles is clutching the oh shit bar as tightly as he can. "We're the only ones who use the basement, though. They built that new church on the east side of town."
The lot is filled with a smattering of cars. Out of habit (and also because he fancies himself a Shawn Spencer after catching up on Psych), Stiles notes their make and model. With the exception of Eleanor’s Buick, they’re all new, including a 2013 Mustang in canary yellow.
They take a rickety elevator down. Eleanor has to close and lock an old-school gate before it will move.
The basement... isn't what he expects. It's carpeted and there aren't any bodies hanging from the ceiling, which is a legitimate concern in Beacon Hills! Instead, it's not unlike a community room with plush but worn couches and armchairs circled around a table. Festive cookies and what smells like cider are arranged in the center.
There are only two women there. One, a woman he'd guess is in her forties, no wedding ring but lots of big jewelry, greets Eleanor warmly. The other doesn't look a day over eighteen. Her hair is cropped close to her head and her ears are gauged. When she licks her lips, Stiles catches sight of a tongue ring.
"This is Amy," Eleanor says, pointing to the kinder-looking woman. "And that's Aleesha."
"I'm, uh, Stiles," he says.
"Hi Stiles!" When Amy smiles, it's all teeth. "Sit down, make yourself comfortable! Everyone else should join us shortly."
He chooses an armchair a respectable distance from Aleesha to avoid the awkward strangers squished on a couch routine. In the background, Amy and Eleanor discuss someone else – he dismisses it as irrelevant. Aleesha doesn't seem to want to speak, so he pulls Scott's scarf out of his makeshift crochet bag - his old Lacrosse bag, actually, which he hopes doesn't imbue Scott's scarf with sweaty feet smell.
Aleesha pauses over her own work and looks at him. She raises a pierced eyebrow. "Don't hit on me, don't ask about my life.”
"Umm," Stiles responds.
She rummages through her bag and emerges with a jar. “And here are some pickles," she says, deadpan.
"Amy runs her own canning business! Her pickles are amazing!" Amy adds, sitting across from Stiles, which seems to contradict part two of Aleesha's Guide to Friendship, but Stiles can roll with that.
"Cool." He tucks them into his own bag. Eleanor settles next to Amy just as three more people burst in, talking loudly.
Stiles finishes Scott's scarf while everyone talks around him. The flow of conversation is stilted, and he doesn't feel like he has much to offer except for the anecdote about Eleanor's grandson projectile vomiting on him during class but he doesn't feel pressured to do more than concentrate on the stitches coming together under his fingers. And yeah, it's nice to not have nosy werewolves breathing down his neck.
Before he leaves, Amy catches him and presses a plate of cookies in his hands. "You look too skinny," she explains and Stiles can't believe she's real, never had anyone outside of his holidays-only grandma do things like this. "And we meet here every Wednesday and Saturday so be sure to come back!"
Stiles thinks he will.
“Where’d you get the pickles?” Scott asks through a mouthful of ham-Cheeto-and-pickle sandwich.
“Nowhere,” Stiles squeaks.
He actually gets Erica's scarf pattern from Aleesha, who is making one in all black. Stiles goes for a dark red color, though, something he thinks will complement Erica’s female-empowerment, leather-heavy wardrobe. The pattern, though, is tricky and keeps coming out lopsided. Which is why he really appreciates his new friends – Amy patiently shows him how to make a shell, then, when he still struggles, Aleesha yells at him until he gets it.
(He learns better under pressure. Sue him.)
"Fuck yeah!" he crows, after he's done it successfully three times. It even looks like the pictures. "Who's got magic fingers? Stiles has magic fingers!"
Eleanor cackles. Even Aleesha hides a smile behind her blanket.
Erica's scarf pieces together nicely, all sweet curves and hidden spaces, complexity and simplicity wrapped up in a visually appealing exterior. He's extremely proud to add it to the growing stack in his closet.
But that means there's only one left to do.
His phone rings while he's whipping through the traffic on 3rd Street after school. The Cops theme song trills merrily from his pocket, which sends him into a mild panic and he fumbles with his phone while trying not to ram into a traffic cone, until manages to get the phone to his face with no casualties on either end.
"Did you join a cult?" his dad asks.
"Wha-what?" Stiles splutters. "I reiterate: what?"
He can hear his dad's longsuffering sigh as if he's in person, a sound he became very familiar with throughout his colorful high school career. "I know we don't talk much but you would tell me if I joined a cult, right?"
Stiles laughs nervously. "Of course, dad! Not that there’s a cult. Don’t be a burnt Thanksgiving turkey!”
“I’ve heard some interesting rumors lately.”
“There are no rumors,” he says, placating, pulse threading through his ears, “and if there are, they’re Scott’s fault.”
If his dad's eyebrows narrowing could make a sound, it would strike fear into Stiles' heart. It can't, but Stiles knows it's happening. "Is Scott involved in this too?"
"No way!" He wants to add 'gotta go, traffic!' and abandon ship faster than the Titantic, but he knows from experience that delaying the inevitable will only make the conversation worse. "There's definitely nothing to be involved in, and if there was, it's definitely not dangerous?"
"Stiles..." his dad says.
"Just... be careful, okay? I work with Eleanor Edgington's son-in-law and he thinks there's something weird with that group."
Stiles could cry, he's so relieved. The werewolf conversation needs to happen, it does, and the guilt surrounding that subject could fill an ocean, but now that all the supernatural shit in Beacon Hills is at manageable levels, there isn't any reason for his dad to know. Call him selfish, but he wants to keep his dad as far away as possible from the Buffy circus his life sometimes is. Manageable now does not equate to manageable in the future.
"Oh my god, Dad, it's fine. They're like the sweetest people, ever."
"What exactly are you doing with them, again?" his dad asks pointedly.
"Whoops, going through a tunnel, losing connection-"
He hangs up, heart pounding.
"Fuuuuuuuuuuuck," Stiles wails when he slouches through the door at almost 10 p.m. "Do you know who created parent teacher conferences? SATAN. Satan did. Or maybe Satan's younger brother with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove."
Scott wordlessly hands Stiles a beer. He downs it in one smooth gulp, enjoying the refreshing carbonation and the fact that it isn't related to kids, teaching, parents, or his job. Having PTCs for lower elementary students is cruel and unusual punishment. So is dealing with helicopter parents asking him questions about their child’s developmental health. What’s he supposed to say? “Your kid still eats paste, but doesn’t exhibit serial killer tendencies?” Stiles hands the empty bottle to Scott and turns to find Derek staring at him from the kitchen table.
"Hey?" he asks. There are two textbooks open in front of him, a notebook, fifty million pencils, and a huge ground plan. "Finals?"
Derek nods. He's only two semesters away from his master's degree in architecture. This isn't the first time Stiles has come back to him studying in their apartment - the man lives with Jackson. Stiles wouldn't blame him for permanently taking up residence in their apartment.
“Oh, be careful, I made snowglobes yesterday and spilled glitter everywhere. It was like the aftermath of a fairy war or something. Unless your prof likes a little pizazz, in which case, you can thank me later.” Stiles wiggles his fingers to get them loose from the deathtrap that are his gloves, these slim black fancy ones he got from his dad last Christmas. He isn’t a vain person, but he does like the way they add maturity to his long fingers, even if he usually opts for his Captain America mittens. Derek makes a strangled noise and when Stiles raises an eyebrow at him, colors and buries himself in the ground plan.
“You okay, grumpy pants?” Stiles asks. “Forget how to breathe?”
There’s a snort from the couch, which distracts him from Derek’s mutter of, “Or something like that.”
"Get me a beer?" Isaac asks. There's a chorus of "me too” and Stiles turns back to the living room, taking in what his befuddled mind missed the first time - that it's full of werewolves. Isaac is still crashing on their couch, Allison already practically lives with them as it is, though that is a blessing when it comes to their nutrition. Erica comes to hang out with Isaac now that they've patched things and brings Boyd. He and Scott's apartment is just a wayward home for distressed werewolves.
This is more normal than it should be.
"Why are you all here?" Stiles complains. "Was I not the one who suggested we pool our resources and buy a huge house? But no, why listen to the genius? Who said, it'll look too weird? That we needed to keep up appearances for the community’s sake? Hmm?" He points accusingly at the three lounging on the couch. "All of you! The all of you that are hoarding all the chairs, eating all the snacks, and using all the toilet paper!"
"Pssh," Erica says from her perch on the edge of the futon. "You love us. Now bring us beer."
Stiles stages a mutiny and sits on the floor at Derek's feet. "No!" he says just as his phone pings.
It's a text from Aleesha. The customers at her shop are nuts and her dry wit and silly anecdotes make him chuckle.
[From Aleesha, 22:01]
dude w/ baby just yelled @ me becuz I scared his kid. think he’s in denial abt the scare factor of his gross beard. possible wildlife, will report findings
Still laughing, he shoots back a story from tonight of the parent who grilled him about his daughter's chances of getting into an Ivy League school.
When he looks up from his phone, turning the screen off automatically, everyone is watching him.
"What?" he asks and wipes at his face, just in case the donut he scarfed on his way back left frosting in its wake.
"Who was that?" Scott asks. "Like, everyone you know is here?"
"No one!" Stiles says. "And hey! I know people! I know lots of people!" He feels Derek's feet tense against his back, and whoa, that's weird, not just because Derek in socks is still unbelievable, but also, who has tense feet? The glances are freaking him out, though, and he still needs to pick out a scarf for Derek (it's both as hard and much harder than he expected, because imagining any scarf around Derek's neck is impossible and clashes with his leather jackets) so he excuses himself. Even after he closes his bedroom door behind him, he feels like they're still glaring accusingly at him.
Stiles seriously considers picking the ugliest pattern possible for Derek because he’s an asshole like that, but finds himself leaning towards something Derek might actually wear. He’ll admit it to himself, the thought of seeing his pack wearing something he made warms him faster than Amy’s hot chocolate.
Instead, the girls help him find the perfect one (and oh my god, what is his life now that he has a group of people he calls the girls?) and Stiles is going to ignore the fact it’s called the Love Scarf because it’s cheesy and also untrue.
“You know, this pattern helps you catch what you don’t have,” Eleanor says, but there’s a lecherous lilt to her tone.
Something about the scarf intrinsically reminds him of Derek, but he can’t quite put a finger on why. Maybe it speaks to the way he carries so much darkness. Maybe the dizzying pattern reminds him of the way Derek is one part dry wit, one part sass, one part false bravado, and a whole lot of unresolved pain. Perhaps the interplay of red, gray, and black parallels his concept of Derek – intricate, dark but with brightness peeking through, and everything – good, bad, and neutral – tightly woven together into one whole.
But because Stiles is still Stiles, he adds poms to the end of each side.
Christmas Eve’s Eve
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” Allison warbles as she brings a plate of cookies to the coffee table. “Courtesy of Melissa,” she explains, because while Allison is a fantastic cook and the only reason Scott and Stiles don’t live on ramen noodles and PB&J sandwiches, a baker she is not.
“Oh my god, can we stop? It’s not even technically Christmas,” Erica says grumpily.
Scott and Stiles exchange mischievous glances, and chorus, “Werewolf balls, werewolf balls, skimming through the snow! Oh what fun it is to freeze your ass off in the woods!”
Stiles at least has the excuse of Adult Eggnog; Scott is secretly an enabler.
Boyd lobs a paper snowflake at them. “Hey! One of my students made that!” Their Christmas present was a snowflake from each of them, their names scrawled in blocky letters on the backs. He’d spent yesterday sticky tak-ing them to the ceiling and walls. Most of them are on the floor now.
“We have lyrics for every occasion,” Scott offers innocently.
“I’ll give you something for every occasion,” Derek threatens, but the effect is lost in the way his legs are spread out, clad in sweatpants rather than the usual painted-on denim, rubbing his belly. He’d been responsible for devouring almost an entire ham by himself; forget food baby, he was nursing a food toddler.
“Okay, weird mating rituals aside,” Lydia says, twirling a curl around her finger threateningly, “there are presents to open.”
Erica jams a Santa hat onto Boyd's head and declares him King of the Presents; he good-naturedly relinquishes his spot on the futon - Jackson spends no time at all before stealing it - and gathers up armfuls of presents to parcel out.
The sheer amount of people in the pack means everyone ends up with a mountain in front of them. Stiles, because he's a little shit, has all of his presents in a sack under the futon to hand out later. He wants everyone to open them at the same time.
"Ready, set, go!" Allison says and wrapping paper flies like feathers during a pillow fight. The one year they tried the ‘go around in a circle and open one present at a time deal,’ Lydia almost murdered everyone.
Lydia loves presents.
Stiles opens Lydia and Jackson's first because it's on top and can't stifle his laughter when he sees what it is. Mirth like this builds on itself, until Stiles is gasping and crying into his lap, great heaving hiccups of breath sweeping into his lungs when he can. Because their present? Is a scarf.
Scott bumps against his elbow. "You'll get it later," Stiles gasps in response, still fighting down peals of laughter.
"Did you not get us anything?" Isaac demands, when the living room is a mess of torn paper and everyone is fiddling with presents, exploring and opening and talking over each other.
"Fear not, young ones," Stiles says. He gets to his feet with flourish, arms swept out as if to proclaim good news. He loves giving presents and these presents are awesome, if he does say so himself. "Uncle Stiles doth not forgeteth!"
"Someone stop him before he really gets going," Danny mutters to Jackson.
Stiles pretends he doesn't hear for reasons of good news and great joy.
Each present is wrapped in silly paper handpicked by his class, with names in blocky sharpie on the front. He tosses them around the circle, ending with Derek who squishes his disdainfully.
Stiles waves his arms. "Go on, open them!"
With great pride, Stiles watches each of his creations uncovered and the looks of confusion, disbelief, and awe on each face.
Allison looks up first. "This is beautiful, Stiles, thank you."
Lydia runs her fingers up and down hers, examining it from every angle. "There's no tag and I don't recognize the brand. Did you make these, Stiles?" she demands.
"Yessiree!" he says, and cringes because that’s a word he's never said before in his life. It's possible he's more nervous about his homemade gifts than he thought. However, the reaction is not what he expects, this palpable sense of relief that seems to sweep the room. Even Jackson looks less pinched.
Danny interrupts the strange tension by standing. "Sorry, all, I have to catch my flight. Merry Christmas!" He stoops to kiss Lydia on the cheek, shakes Jackson's hand, and looks at Stiles. "I'm never wearing it, but thanks for the sentiment."
Danny's departure doesn't break the palpable strain of the room, though, so Stiles says, "What, not your color?" looking from Scott, to the overflowing futon, to Derek and Boyd at the kitchen table.
Scott cuffs him on the head. His voice is a little thick when he says, "You've been acting weird for months. Is this what you've been working on?"
"Yeah," he replies slowly. "Since September."
"You're a dumbass," Lydia says bluntly.
"What?" he squawks.
"Yeah, you're a dumbass," Erica says and it's a cold day in hell when the two of them agree.
"And all those times you were gone?" Scott asks.
Stiles still doesn't get it. "I joined a crochet group since you guys were snooping." He would find the whole collective gawping more amusing, if he could figure out why.
"What they're trying to say," Derek breaks in, which is strange enough, because he tends to stay quiet when they're all gathered together like this, "is that we thought you were trying to get away from us."
"Oh," Stiles says. Then, when it all snaps together, "Ooooh. Fuck."
If he gets a little choked up, no one can blame him. (It's the eggnog, okay.) To cover, he crows, "Oh my god, you guys love me! Admit it, I grew on you like mold on cheese!"
It's a nice moment, at least, until Jackson speaks. "Only you could cause months of misery and drama trying to do something nice, Stilinski. Only you."
Which is true enough.
The group disperses soon enough after that, full to bursting with Christmas food, laden with presents, and merry with cheer. Or, in Derek's case, a little less frowny than usual.
If only that was the end of it.
Stiles spends Christmas day alone. As the sheriff, his dad ends up working, can't really afford to take the holiday off, but it isn't any different from other Christmas’, even when his mom was alive.
Allison invites him over for dinner with the Argents for the fourth time. For some reason, this doesn't appeal to him.
"Are you sure?" she asks again. "The holidays are hard when you don't have anyone."
"I'm not going out with Isaac," Stiles says grumpily.
The first hint he gets that something is weird is when Boyd texts him. All it says is hope you had a happy xmas! It's very unlike Boyd in that Boyd doesn't text him unless Stiles initiates it, but it's also very early, so Stiles rolls over with every intention of going back to sleep.
The second hint that weirdness is afoot comes two seconds later when he sees Derek and Scott standing at the foot of his bed, staring at him.
After he gets over the mini heart attack at the sight of Grumpy and Earnest, Stiles is not amused. "OH MY GOD," he shouts, still clutching at his chest through his thin sleep shirt. "Have we regressed? Jesus, get out of my room!"
Scott whines at him, but leaves with a pronounced slump in his shoulders, like he's sad that Stiles is sending him away after watching him sleep. Derek doesn't move eyes creepily intent on the way Stiles’ shirt is bunched around his stomach, tracing the dusting of hair just visible above his boxers, then flicking to the outline of his nipples. Stiles feels a flush rising in his cheeks and ears.
"Derek!" he says pointedly and Derek's frown deepens, but he slouches to the door, throwing one last look back at Stiles before he disappears around the frame.
Stiles puts a hand to his forehead, squeezes, and says, “Not cool!” knowing the other two are probably listening.
When he emerges, dressed but still on edge, Scott stands at the stove, flipping pancakes. It’s the only breakfast food Scott does well, and coincidentally, also Stiles' favorite.
"I was thinking we could chill and play some CoD today," Scott says when Stiles inches through the kitchen, pressed close to the cabinets as if Scott is going to jump him.
"Weren't you going after Christmas shopping with Allison?" he asks suspiciously.
Scott shrugs. "Haven't spent a lot of time with you lately, thought it'd be cool to hang."
"Okay," Stiles says, elongating the vowels.
Derek's in his usual spot at the kitchen table (and can he just acknowledge how weird it is that Derek has a spot at his kitchen table? Try telling that to sixteen year old Stiles) but Stiles isn't ready to address another round of Werewolf Shenanigans just yet, so he takes the coffee cup Derek shoves at him as a peace offering and props his laptop open. He scrolls through Facebook disinterestedly, skims headlines on BBC and HuffPo, and sips at Scott’s terrible coffee.
When he looks up from his laptop, Derek has moved over two chairs so he's sitting next to Stiles.
Between werewolves and seven-year-olds, there isn’t enough coffee in the world to deal with the shit Stiles puts up with.
He goes with the avoidance route and checks his email.
There's an email from Lydia with the subject Spain is awesome! She and Jackson are enjoying a two-week vacation in Barcelona with Jackson's parents, which to Stiles, doesn't sound like much of a vacation. She details the shopping and the mathematical precision of the angles in La Sagrada Familia and a tag at the end that just says and Jackson's acting like there's something up his butt.
Stiles laughs and types out a quick response that says glad you're having fun, Jackson always has something up his butt.
"Breakfast's up!" Scott calls from the kitchen, so Stiles closes his laptop and sets it off to the side. When he gets up, Derek follows him into the kitchen and the three of them bring loaded plates back to the table.
Breakfast passes in silence, the only notable things being Derek pressed up against him as close as their chairs will allow and the way Scott spends the whole meal glaring at Derek and smiling at Stiles.
Stiles spends his Christmas break the same way any self-respecting teacher does - on the couch with a backlog of grading and movies. To be fair, his grading is a lot easier than upper level teachers, but still. He doesn’t really leave the apartment except to get coffee with Eleanor (and by extension, Parker) and one memorable trip to the grocery store for snacks.
That’s when he runs into Derek.
He runs into Derek a lot, it seems.
“You’re wearing my scarf!” Stiles says.
“Well, yeah, you made it for me. You’re wearing my Yankees hat?” Derek says, far more urgently than the situation calls for, like there’s something Stiles isn’t getting but it’s imperative that he does.
“Oh, is it?” He tugs it closer around his ears. “It was under our coffee table. You want it back?”
“No, you keep it,” Derek responds, eyes intent on Stiles.
“Sweet,” Stiles says and throws the thumbs-up, like he never grew up at all. Even after eight years, he has no idea how to deal with Derek.
With Lydia gone, no one makes specific plans but they all end up at Boyd and Erica’s for New Years Eve. They have the biggest TV; it makes sense. Since it’s impromptu, it isn’t extravagant by any means, but after the craziness of the holidays and the stress of making ten scarves by hand, holy shit, how the hell did Stiles ever do that?, a low-key shindig to bring in the new year is exactly what he needs.
Erica curls up against him on the arm of the recliner, displacing Scott from his place hovering around Stiles. He doesn’t know if the sudden neediness of the pack is related to his perceived rejection of them, but he’s hoping it goes away soon. Either that, or it’s going to be an awkward conversation with Deaton about catching Scott folding Stiles’ freshly laundered underwear.
Bros never touch each other’s underwear.
Erica isn’t wearing any makeup and she’s back in Stiles’ shirt and a pair of leggings. She even has Stiles’ scarf looped around her neck, conservative dress, especially for someone whose whole wardrobe is pretty much leather and corsets.
Since he’s an idiot, he asks her. “You look different. Not bad different! I swear! I’m not saying you’re ugly, you’re beautiful no matter what you wear! And there isn’t anything wrong with what you usually wear!” Open mouth, insert colossal foot. “But you’re usually more dressed up?”
Erica laughs, a light, free sort of laugh, not her usual mean-spirited chuckle. “I guess I’ve finally figured out that I don’t need to compete so much with everyone else?”
She pats him on the head before pushing herself up and going over to Boyd, wrapping around him like a blonde starfish. Scott immediately takes her vacated position.
Stiles looks at him sternly. “Are you sure dude? Allison is giving you the stink eye.” His best teacher face does nothing to Scott, who just pulls Stiles close to him and wedges him into his armpit.
“Ehh, it’s okay,” Scott replies, shrugging, but if he adds more, it’s lost by Derek grabbing his wrist and hauling him up.
“What?” he asks, trying not to trip over his feet but Derek is dragging him full-tilt ahead towards the kitchen, his fingers bright bursts against his wrist. Derek stops suddenly and Stiles stumbles into his back, which is not dissimilar to running into a brick wall.
“It’s almost midnight,” Derek says.
“Okay?” Stiles tries to tamp down the spike of his heartbeat and the accompanying thrill.
Derek smirks. “You know what midnight means.”
“Okay?” he repeats. His brain short circuits a little bit, like a skipping DVD. In the other room, he can hear the countdown start. Derek lost his leather jacket earlier in the evening, leaving him in only a plain white t-shirt that barely contains his rippling muscles. It is entirely too intimidating.
Instead of answering, he leans into Stiles’ personal space. The pack doesn’t have much of a concept of personal space but there’s something very intimate in Derek’s motion that has Stiles warring between leaning closer and pulling away; the indecision has him frozen in spot when everyone shouts “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” from the other room.
Stiles and Derek don’t join in the chorus, because Derek’s mouth closes gently over Stiles’. The years have given Stiles a few extra inches of height over the Alpha, but for all that Derek tilts his head up, Stiles feels like the one consumed by the soft press of stubble and chapped lips. A hand steadies itself against his cheek, though Derek doesn’t grasp, just nips lightly at his bottom lip and steps back.
His hand lingers on Stiles’ cheek, strokes lightly along the bone, and Derek says roughly, “Happy New Year, Stiles.”
Through no one’s fault, Lydia’s second email from Spain ends up in Stiles’ spambox. Whether through a technical glitch, or the fact that magic has a funny sense of self-preservation, it isn’t discovered until February; had it been delivered, it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.
If you did this on purpose, so help me god, I am going to murder you so hard you’ll come back to life just so I can murder you again because Jackson is INSUFFERABLE. If I wanted someone to dote on me all the time and treat me like I was going to break, I’d date McCall. You better have a way to fix this!!!
Unfortunately, Stiles is as good at checking his spam as he is at calling his dad, which is to say, not very, unless he’s looking for something.
The ping of his phone draws him up from his post holiday stupor. It’s another text from Boyd. This one just says happy new year! never mind they spent the evening together.
Erica has also texted him a blurry, too bright picture of Derek kissing him. He deletes it after a long minute of staring at it.
Can Stiles just quit life?
Unfortunately, Stiles can’t quit life because classes start back up on the 4th. 4 a.m. comes way too soon, his alarm startling him from sleep and almost sending him pitching onto the floor, but he literally cannot deal with Scott making him another meal so he needs to be out of the apartment long before his friend stirs.
School is rough for everyone. He extends show and tell by an extra ten minutes just so he has more time to shotgun coffee at his desk. Everyone is squirrely, and he’s almost positive Parker is trying to start a mutiny at his table by convincing everyone Stiles is a bad influence on his grandma and he seriously doesn’t have it in him to deal with this today.
When the lunch bell rings and he has successfully escorted the little monsters to the lunch room, he almost cries in relief. And then he wants to cry in lament because he forgot his lunch in the fridge at home. He slumps over his desk in defeat.
A knock on the door startles him from his impromptu nap, flailing arms knocking a jar of pencils off his desk.
“I meant to do that,” he says lamely.
Penny Wabash, one of the young sixth grade teachers, laughs and smooths a hand down her pencil skirt. He drops to the floor and wearily starts to pick the scattered art supplies, then tries not to gape in surprise when she follows suit. Her general image of sweet but strictly professional, shoulder length hair straightened every day, makeup always natural and not overdone, doesn’t lend itself to crawling around on the floor, but Stiles is glad for the help. “Rough day?” she asks.
He nods. “So what brings you to my part of the floor?” he asks, motioning to the checkered tile.
Penny chuckles. “Next week we start the mentor reading program, remember? And our classes are paired together.”
“Shit!” Stiles says. “I mean, of course, I didn’t forget.”
Stiles captures the last wayward pencil from the base of the filing cabinet. They both stand and she hands over her handful seriously. “Mr. Stilinski, in exchange for these pencils, would you like to get lunch and discuss our lesson plans?”
“Well, since you asked so nicely,” he responds, smiling genuinely.
They meet outside the side door, out of sight of the playground. Penny wears a fitted purple peacoat and a satchel slung over her shoulder, which makes Stiles feel bad since all he has is a crumpled piece of paper in his pocket. They zip over to the Brew, a scant two blocks from the school, and Stiles mourns that Allison isn’t working today and he can’t get a free coffee. He makes idle small talk about teaching, letting Penny lapse into silence, where she seems more comfortable. Stiles is thankful, not for the first time, that he doesn’t work at Beacon Hills High School. The teachers here knew him during his cute years rather than his awkward formative teenage years and in no universe does he ever want to work with Finstock.
“We’re on dinosaurs right now, so if you have a similar theme, we could tie it into classroom discussion,” Stiles offers through a mouthful of Tuscan Turkey Panini.
The conversation doesn’t get much farther, because suddenly there’s something looming next to him. That particular aftershave is familiar to him in the way it tickles his nostrils, not pleasant but not unpleasant either. He doesn’t need to look over to know Derek is sliding into the seat next to him, scooting closer until there isn’t an inch between them.
Stiles wonders when he lost control of his life. Probably about the time Derek started plastering himself to Stiles like a barnacle.
“There’s a person,” Penny says politely, blinking. “Um, sitting next to you.”
“Yes,” Stiles says measuredly. “It sometimes happens.”
It doesn’t, but there’s no need to alarm her.
It's the first time he's seen Derek since New Years and Stiles tries to remind his traitorous body that it doesn’t like Derek in that way. It doesn’t listen, judging by the way he wants to lean closer to Derek, soak up the solid line of his body heat, though there isn't any distance between them to breech and something deep in him thrills at it.
It's not like shit doesn't happen between pack members, they're a bunch of aggressive, attractive hormone monsters. A little making out here and there is to be expected. There's even that one time he made out with Allison and Scott at the same time - at least, that's what the pictures tell him. It was during the blackout week of Testing The Alcohol Limits of the Werewolf, and the only reason it didn’t ruin their friendship is because no one remembers it. But the kiss with Derek is different, not just because Stiles can remember it.
The kiss with Derek is different because it was with Derek, which sounds silly and redundant, but doesn't make it less true. He's honestly never thought of Derek that way. Objectively, he recognizes that he is one fine slab of man meat, but he has been surrounded by men like Jackson and Boyd for years. Add Erica and her titanic tits and Allison’s mile-long legs into the mix and he's developed an immunity to attractiveness.
It was either that, or get dick chafe from jerking off constantly.
Stiles has never thought of Derek that way, but yet, one minute of swapping spit and now he can't stop thinking about it.
The table has been in awkward silence long enough; he clears his throat. "Well, don't get me wrong, this has been very fun, the funnest, seriously, but we should head back to school."
Penny nods. Her smile is strained, but he awards her points for trying. She shrugs her coat on and zips off, not even making a show of waiting for Stiles.
"What the hell, dude! What are you doing?"
Derek glances from Stiles to his legs and back again. "Sitting," he says.
"Oh my god," Stiles groans into his hands.
He texts Erica during naptime.
[To Catwoman Reyes, 13:26]
Can I hide out at your apartment tonight?
He thumbs through Fruit Ninja while he waits for her response, keeping half an eye on the kid with her finger in her nose.
[From Catwoman Reyes, 13:30]
sure thing batman
He picks up a pack of PBR on his way over, ends up hiding behind a dog toy display to avoid a parent he knows, but pulls up in front of Erica’s building just after four.
Erica greets him at the door with a hug and a piece of pie.
"Nope," Stiles says and escapes.
He ends up at his dad's house. His brain reeling, Stiles lets his thoughts percolate while he roots through the fridge and pantry to clean out any junk food. His dad's much lazier about hiding it now that he's moved out, so Stiles takes it upon himself to eat the bag of Cheetos. The sacrifices he makes for family, really, he deserves a best son medal.
By that point, he's come to the inevitable conclusion: he'll have to research because something is not right. To the internet! Cue montage.
At the end of a frustrating couple of hours, Stiles' search history reads like someone who is losing his mind.
Displaying results for: personality altering drugs
Displaying results for: personality magic
Displaying results for: magic spells to change people
Displaying results for: werewolf personality change
Displaying results for: my werewolf friends are acting weird
Displaying results for: is there something in the beacon hills water
Displaying results for: werewolf is suddenly nice
Displaying results for: i was kissed by a werewolf what does it mean?
Displaying results for: why is everyone acting weird
Displaying results for: why isn't the internet more helpful
Displaying results for: oh mY GOD SCOTT WON'T STOP TEXTING ME ID ON'T NEED TO KNOW YOURE POooping!
Displaying results for: dslkajf439urewfdjp ac34iqer fwdcl!fsad dfsa
"Fuckin' motherfuck," he grumbles at his laptop screen.
With everything happening, Stiles considers building a barricade in front of his door to dissuade any werewolves from untoward activities, but anything he constructs short of using mountain ash would be as effective as bug spray during a swarm of locusts so he decides to save himself the effort come bedtime.
In the morning, he wishes he would have sucked it up, stuffed down his post-dinner lassitude, and made the trip over to Deaton's to get mountain ash because sprawled across Derek's rippling man-muscle? Not how he was planning to wake up.
Derek plays unaware at his physique unless it gets him something, but his new bulk hasn't registered with him yet, otherwise he would have invested in some new shirts, ones that didn’t stretch so thin Stiles thought he could count his individual muscles just from chest-to-chest contact. The pre-apartment days, when Derek was still bunking with Isaac and letting him do the grocery shopping, they both softened up a little. (Isaac has poor impulse control and a love of junk food, it was bound to happen, what with they way they ate.) Living with Jackson must have reignited his love of working out until his muscles had muscles, some sort of competitive Alpha drive, Stiles thinks, because Jackson works out like it's his job. From the feel of it, Derek's gained back his lost bulk plus more.
The short of it is that Stiles is incredibly distracted by how all of it feels against his body, gravity pushing them together in all the right places.
"Derek," he says, trying to get leverage to pull away, but Derek's heavy arm has them locked together. For just an arm, it weighs a fuck-ton. "Dumbass!"
Derek snuffles against his neck, pushing his wild mop of hair into Stiles' face. While it smells nice, it doesn't taste nice because it tastes like Derek's hair gel, not a flavor particularly sought after by Stiles.
"It's time to smell the coffee and wake the hell up, sunshine, because you just hit whole new levels on the what the fuck scale!" Stiles wriggles against him with murderous intent to prove a point. "Oh my god, just let me go!"
Derek noses against the cleft of his chin, cold and soft at the same time, muttering groggily, "'m sleeping."
Stiles has had it.
"No, no you are not sleeping. Because this is my bed and this is my person you are using as a giant teddy bear, with, might I stress to the extremes of all extremes, is without my express permission." He keeps squirming, hoping at some point it will be annoying enough to free him from Derek's death grip, but instead - he... encounters a different situation. A different situation in Derek's pants.
"Oh my god," Stiles groans, staccato and mortified.
A rustling of blankets draws his attention away from a situation he is frankly not equipped to deal with, not now, not ever. "Guys," comes Scott's plaintive voice from the vicinity of Stiles' floor, "I'm trying to sleep."
"Is Scott on my floor," Stiles asks in a way that isn't quite a question. A muffled yawn that ends with the snap of Scott’s jaw confirms it. "You know what, I give up. Sleep wherever you want with no regard to Stiles' comfort levels or anything!" He pauses to let his words sink in, but neither man acknowledges them. "Oh my god, do you not realize how weird you're acting?"
"Ugh," Scott complains from the floor. "If you're going to talk, I'm going to my room."
Stiles tries to flail, but the effect is minimized because of his position trapped against Derek. "Yes, good, do that." He pokes Derek's armpit, the only bit he can reach. "Why don't you follow his example?"
The sun choses this moment to free itself from a cloud, sending a ray right across Stiles' pillows through the open curtain. Derek grumbles into Stiles' neck again, nuzzles, and lets him go to roll away from the light.
"God. Finally," Stiles says under his breath.
His first act of freedom is to try to push Derek off the bed, but Derek is like pure muscle, as established by his earlier up close and personal acquaintanceship. It just ends up with Derek's palm in his face, pushing him away.
"Why do you think this is okay? I did not ever need to know what your morning breath smelled like," Stiles says obnoxiously. He digs a finger in Derek's side.
Derek rolls over suddenly, taking most of the blankets with him until he's wrapped up like a burrito, but it puts him face to face with Stiles. He swats Stiles' finger down, his forehead set in a deep frown. "You're the one that climbed on top of me. Like a leech."
Stiles gapes open-mouthed. "Why were you in my bed in the first place?"
Derek rolls his eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be the smart one? I was tired."
"Yes," Stiles says slowly. "But normally when you are tired, you do not sleep in my bed. Normally you sleep in your bed."
A smirk curls across Derek's lips, patronizing, like he thinks Stiles' annoyance and upset is cute or something. It makes his palms itch to work their way around his throat, anything to wipe it away, and -- no, nononono, he is not imagining kissing as an alternative, absolutely not.
"I hate you."
"I'm crying inside, really," Derek says.
It strikes Stiles, how close they are right now, tangled up in sheets with morning light making their features hazy, nose to nose, knee to knee, feet dangling off the end of the bed, like lovers.
"There are so many things wrong with this whole thing," Stiles says. "Not even Google could help me."
"We could cuddle more," Derek says, deadpan, and Stiles can’t figure out if it’s a joke or not.
"You got hard last time!" he protests. Which is not what he wanted to say. None of those words in any combination were ones he wanted to say.
Derek grins, a shark-toothed, predatory one. "You were moving, what did you expect?" he says, as if Stiles is at fault for his morning wood. Morning wood, Stiles would like to point out, that happened with his best friend in the room. Boners should never be involved in any situation that also involve Scott, it's, like, bro-code. Maybe. Possibly. It might have been in the after-eighteen clause, because they broke that one like crazy during puberty.
Stiles frowns. His brain is racing, has been for days, cataloguing strange behavior. He remembers Lydia's note about Jackson, and now that he thinks about it, the rest of the pack is off too, Erica, Scott, Derek especially, even Boyd. It happens, especially with lunar-related mood fluctuations, but this is different. Allison's gone more, but that's easily related to Scott blowing her off. Isaac has been sweeter too, he thinks, and there haven't been any towels on the floor. So, it's just the werewolves, then, which doesn't bode well.
"You really don't feel any different?" Stiles asks.
"I feel annoyed, because I was sleeping and now I'm not," Derek says pointedly. He's snug in the blankets, heavy-lidded and ready to drop off again. Stiles has more questions, though.
"You seriously don't see how your behavior has changed massively in the past week?
Derek blinks sleepily. "No. You're the one acting weird, Stiles."
"Okay, okay, okay, let's just review the events of the past few days then. One, you creep into my room and watch me sleep. Two, you follow me places and practically sit on my lap all the time. Three, you k-kiss me and four, you crawl into my bed and," he waves vaguely in the direction of Derek's crotch, "things happen, yet none of this strikes you as out of the norm?"
"No." Derek leans over and presses his lips gently to Stiles' forehead, then burrows into the pillow fort he apparently built during the night.
"Right," he says, climbing over Derek.
The relief he feels at seeing the Buick in Eleanor’s driveway is not unlike the relief he felt at getting rid of Peter, both times. Stiles barely made it out of the kitchen this morning without Scott shoving burnt scrambled eggs down his throat. Derek had even followed him out to the jeep in just a pair of shorts and made motions like he was going to sleepily climb in the front seat before Stiles rocketed away.
Eleanor opens the door in just a robe, which would be weird if he didn’t already know so much about her octogenarian sex life.
“Can I hide out here? The world has fucking lost it.” He keeps glancing around, like Scott or Derek are hiding in bushes and around corners, ready to jump out and snuggle him to death. It’s a real possibility.
"I don't think it's the world," Eleanor says but opens her door anyway. She hobbles to the kitchen, Stiles hot on her heels and swirling with theories, confusion, and adrenaline.
"Tea? Pickles?" she offers, pointing to the spread on the table. A partially finished afghan sits next to her chair.
"No," Stiles says, giving into the urge to rake a hand through his hair. "That's a weird combination."
"So's teaching and crochet, but you don't see me casting aspersions," Eleanor snaps, but it's more playful than anything. Stiles drops heavily into a wooden chair, shifting when it groans under his weight. Eleanor picks up her yarn again and Stiles loses himself in the dance of her fingers, far swifter than her age would imply. Crochet is a lot like dancing, each stitch, just like each step, is hard won, but then she hits her stride and the pattern emerges. It's like a trance, flowing easily and faster, and Stiles lets his brain whirr in the background to the same beat as her fingers.
She gets three rows done before she breaks the silence. "So, what's wrong? Your mouth's been closed too long for this to be normal."
With a sigh, he launches into the abbreviated and heavily edited story of his friends' descent into madness. "I don't know what's up," he admits, and he doesn't know how to get across to her the seriousness of the situation, the likelihood of something supernatural being involved, because not everyone's life is like his. "But it started after Christmas and hasn't changed yet."
Eleanor sets her project aside, daintily picks up her tea cup and sips from it with an affected manner they both know is a lie – he's seen her shotgun tequila before – and then folds her wrinkled knuckles against the table.
Her entire demeanor changes, darker, grittier, and old in a way that has nothing to do with age. Stiles feels an itch at the back of his neck, like the skin on his body is tightening, but he doesn’t take his eyes off Eleanor. “Young man,” she says, slowly, seriously, “you did not tell me you were a witch and that is a grave oversight.”
Stiles doesn’t bother to refute the claim, false as it is, because any perceived advantage is better than what he has right now. The only ‘magic’ Stiles has managed before is prepackaged items given to him by Deaton, of the already imbued, just add belief variety.
Eleanor doesn’t need to know that.
Stiles is whip smart and the connection has been there the whole time, all little pieces snapping into place. He tenses and his words are measured as he says, "So. You're a witch." At her nod, he continues, "Amy and Aleesha too? The whole group, I'm guessing. Only I could accidentally join a coven masquerading as a Stitch-N-Bitch."
Eleanor's eyes rake over him appraisingly, as if he's just tipped his hand and it wasn't what she expected. "Hit it on the head. You're a smart one, Stilinski."
He crosses his arms in front of his chest and leans back, false bravado covering his fear. “So why the spells? We didn’t even know about your coven. Did you think you could use me to get to the pack?”
She barks out a laugh. "Don't be an idiot. We don't fuck around with wolves, boy."
"Someone did. And it's not like there's an abundance of other witches in Beacon Hills," Stiles points out.
"You don't know," Eleanor says. The entire mood of the conversation changes, relaxed suddenly, and she leans back in her chair. She doesn't bother to hide her delight, lets it play out in the upward curve in the apples of her cheeks, the slight bob of her chin. She's back to the Eleanor he recognizes. “This is just too good.”
“I don’t know what?” he asks sharply.
She tsks and slides the jar of pickles toward him. “Go consult your guide, get your answers. Take some pickles.”
Stiles stands, the chair scraping across the linoleum loudly. "This has been fun," he says cautiously, sarcastically, "but I'm still going to leave."
The doorway is only a few feet away, so he backs toward it. Eleanor doesn't move but to blink, amusement written all over her face. He hits the hall and makes a break for the door, not running, but not walking. He just gets his hand on the doorknob when Eleanor calls out, "Oh, and Stiles? It's your turn to bring snacks next week."
Stiles deserves some motherfucking answers.
Kanye West thrumming, Stiles drives dangerously to the vet's office, jaw aching from the tight clench of his teeth. When he cranks the steering wheel into the parking lot, he ends up horizontal across three parking spaces.
"Stiles!" Scott says happily, but Stiles blows past him to the back, where he can hear Deaton's tuneless whistle.
He imagines he looks like a crazy person when he slams the door open and it bounces against the wall. The vet doesn't seem perturbed, though, just rinses down a very unhappy kitten in the sink.
"Mr. Stilinski," Deaton says neutrally. "What can I do for you?"
"We have a problem. A morally ambiguous witch problem," he sighs, ignoring Scott bumping into him from behind like Lydia’s dog does for attention. Not that Scott is an animal. Well, maybe when Mario Kart is involved.
He explains the entire story as he knows it, beginning with Christmas and ending with his encounter with Eleanor, while Scott reluctantly rinses dog kennels, casting longing looks at them through the window.
Deaton looks unruffled. His constant inner peace is exactly why Stiles always thinks of him as a last resort, especially when all Stiles wants to do is scream and rip a few things apart. "I don't believe they cast a spell on the pack. This particular coven is well-established and have coexisted here for decades. It seems unlikely they would chose to break the status quo now."
"It's the only thing that makes sense," Stiles points out tiredly.
"Think," Deaton urges him in his too-soft voice. "Was there anything strange about them?"
"Not really," Stiles says after a long minute. His fingers beat a quick tattoo on the tabletop, leg jiggling. He needs a drink. "I mean, there were copious amounts of yarn, cookies, and pickles, but they're just a bunch of nice people."
Deaton raises a brow. "Pickles?"
"Yeah, really good ones."
"Hmm," Deaton murmurs, walking over to his bookshelf. He runs a finger across titles until he lands on a red bound book. It comes off the shelf with a puff of dust and Deaton rifles through it, but doesn't elaborate or explain. Stiles scrunches his eyes closed, fighting off a headache. Par for the course.
"Pickles are generally made with mustard seed," Deaton says.
"If I wanted a pickle recipe, I'd look one up," Stiles replies, irritated.
Deaton shakes his head minutely in a way Stiles has come to know as disappointed. "Mustard seed increases mental acuity," he explains. "Coupled with your unique abilities, I believe we've found the answer to our problem."
"That's about as clear as the gulf coast post-BP," Stiles says.
"Your magic," he says pointedly, as if that explains everything.
"I'm not magic. That is a well established fact."
Deaton sits down again, this time in the chair next to him. "Stiles, I've told you many times that you have a spark."
"Yeah, no, you never told me what that meant? So I always assumed it was a mystical way to say thanks for helping, at least you tried to have a useful skill." He gestures and hopes it conveys his acceptance of that fact.
"It means you're a particularly strong magical conduit. With an affinity for stitch witchery, it seems. Add in the mustard seed to boost your power, almost certainly from a witch's garden for increased potency, and the mystery is solved."
"So," Stiles says measuredly, "what you're saying is that I made magical scarves. By accident."
"Essentially, yes. You're usually so intuitive, I'm surprised you didn't figure it out yourself."
Stiles huffs out a noise that's a cross between a laugh and a dry sob. "I'm sorry, did you hear the words you just said? Why would I ever think that was a possibility?"
"But werewolves are?" Deaton asks, like that explains everything. And it kind of does.
The only solution, of course, is to burn the scarves.
A light dusting of snow coats the ground, barely enough to even color the grass white, but it adds a certain irony to the mood.
"I'm so glad this supernatural shit only happens like once a year," Erica complains, feeding her scarf into the flames, but the manic glee in her eyes gives her away. Destruction is like wolf-nip for her.
Stiles tries not to mourn the scarf as it sputters and bursts into flame.
"So how exactly did this work?" Scott asks, coming to a stop next to him. He bumps his shoulder against Stiles, as if to say, 'we're cool, bro.'
"Deaton explained it to me," Stiles says quietly. "It had to do with what I was thinking about when I made each one. You know, subtly weaving in my wishes and desires or some shit like that. Like, I subconsciously wished that Erica wouldn't have to hide behind her looks and so she started dressing and acting with real confidence. Or something." He scuffs his tennis shoe against the ground, displacing some gravel.
Scott gives him a sad, perceptive smile. They'll always be best friends, always, but at some point Allison usurped Stiles' role of most important person. And it's okay, but Stiles can't change that he secretly wishes Scott had more time for him. It’s a moot point; he'd take things as they are any day over his fucked up subconscious.
Everyone's having fun, though, and Stiles tries to force the cheerfulness, but mostly he feels empty, like a drained water skin.
"Dude," Scott says suddenly and a blinding shit-eating grin overtakes his face. "Does that mean you secretly want to bone Derek?"
On the other side of the bonfire, Derek chokes.
If Stiles goes bright red, he's blaming it on the cold air. "Oh my god, no. Deaton said I couldn't create things that didn't already exist, just enhance or influence them.”
That still doesn't mean there aren't questionable intentions on both sides.
Scott bumps into him playfully again. “Well, I already knew Derek had this whole yearning from afar thing, but I didn’t know you did too.”
When he gathers up the courage to look back, Derek's gone.
He distracts himself by watching Boyd and Isaac perform amazing feats of werewolf acrobatics around Allison. (Her face isn't quite so stormy when she looks at Scott and she isn't listening to Paramore anymore, so things will be back to normal on that front soon.) All in all, it's a lighthearted evening. When the sun starts to dip down, they pull in tighter to the fire, warming their hands against it.
Erica ceremonially lays the final scarf, the one he made his dad, on the fire. It sparks and spits, the synthetic fabric catching easily and belching grey-black smoke into the air.
"Oh, what a merry fire we have," Stiles grumbles, "no matter that it smells like my burnt dreams."
Derek comes to stand next to him. Stiles is far more aware of him than he ever has been, in the way his body fits into Stiles' space. The wolves ghost into the trees, here then gone like a breeze, but Allison waves before she follows them, stealthy but still audible through the underbrush.
An arm, the weight of it familiar, tentatively snakes around his waist. Derek's hand burns sparks into his hip, the lightest of touches that hesitantly becomes something with pressure, with heat, with desperation and want and need and tentative hope. They don't use words, because neither of them are good at using their words, understand with a child's foolishness how little they mean. Derek lets his simple touch speak volumes; Stiles answers by leaning into it, incremental centimeters that give Derek time to pull away. He doesn't.
Stiles squints down at him, eyes burning from a sudden burst of smoke. "When did you grow up?"
Derek shrugs. "It had to happen sometime."
They stand there, until the hot coals trace bright pricks of light against the night and his feet ache from inactivity, until his restless shuffling has Derek pulling him away and into the Camaro, something fragile and cutflower unfurling between them.