Derek’s been waiting for Stiles’ retribution (or acknowledgement) for the beard burn incident for months. He knows it’s coming, knows it, but so far there’s been radio silence from Stiles on the whole matter. He didn’t really mean to do it, is the thing, really isn’t even sure why he did it (okay, maybe the deepest part of him knows, but he’s refusing to acknowledge the thoughts lurking that far down) – and Stiles has pretty much acted like it never happened, except that sometimes Derek catches him staring, his eyes narrowed like he’s plotting something. So when he gets a text from Stiles asking him to meet him at the preserve, he’s hesitant. The first text is followed up by two more, telling him it’s an emergency and then demanding he get his werewolf ass in motion. It makes him more nervous, not because he thinks there’s a real emergency, but because he’s afraid revenge is imminent. He changes quickly out of the sweats he’d been lounging around in, then grabs his keys and carefully opens the loft door, standing back from where it slides away from the wall and checking the hallway – he wouldn’t put it past Stiles to engage in some old-school pranks, and he doesn’t feel like having anything drop on his head, and he definitely doesn’t feel like slipping and falling onto his ass today. When nothing happens, he heads out, closing the door behind him and jogging down the stairs. He stops again before leaving the building, but the parking lot is similarly empty of any threat. He can feel some of the tension leave him and he slides into the Camaro, peeling out of the lot. He thinks he catches a flash of color out of the corner of his eye as he turns, but when he looks more closely, the parking lot is as empty as it was when he started to pull out.
The drive to the preserve is short and uneventful; the parking lot Stiles asked him to meet at is just an extra mile in from the main lot. He parks next to the jeep, glancing around and unable to spot Stiles. He’s about to go looking when the man in question comes stumbling out of the trees, tripping on air, arms flailing as he tries to regain his balance. He catches sight of Derek as he rights himself.
“You’re here!” The exclamation sounds almost victorious, and Derek feels the wariness edging back in as Stiles seems to glance nervously around the parking lot, eyes tightening when he catches sight of the Camaro parked next to the jeep. “And you drove…” whatever excitement had been in his voice before is gone now, his tone nearly flat. Derek can feel his head twist slightly to the right, jaw tensing.
“You said it was an emergency.” His voice is low, a dangerous tint to his words. He can’t seem to stop it, Stiles always draws his irritation out faster than any of the rest of the pack. His eyes widen as he speaks, eyebrows climbing up his face and arms crossing over his chest while he waits for some sort of explanation for why the hell he’s here.
“RIGHT! Right. An emergency. I did. I said that. AND IT WAS! I mean, it was but it isn’t now. So um…” Stiles trails off and Derek flicks his eyes skyward, a silent plea for strength. When Stiles doesn’t bother to finish his thought Derek huffs out an annoyed sigh and turns back towards the car.
“Obviously you don’t need me here, I’m going home. Next time don’t waste my time Stiles.”
“WAIT!” Derek freezes, glancing over his shoulder and making a hurry up gesture with his hand when Stiles doesn’t follow up with anything. “I…uh….need a ride? To the grocery store?” If it were possible, Derek’s eyebrows would’ve climbed a little higher at the weird sort-of questions, but since his face was only so long, they mostly looked like caterpillars trying to inch along as they scrunched up and then smoothed out again.
“Stiles, your jeep is literally right next to my car.” He glanced at it to illustrate the point he was making.
“It’s broken?” Another not-question and Derek was starting to wonder Stiles was doing it on purpose – because questions were an excellent way to lie without a werewolf catching it. He was about to call Stiles on it when the other man looked at him again, expression going soft, muttering out a gentle “please.” He sighed, annoyed at himself for giving in when he knew it was probably a trap, before gesturing to the passenger side of the Camaro and unlocking the car. He watched as Stiles fist-pumped when he thought Derek wasn’t looking, the feeling that this was going to go badly for him intensifying. When they make it out of the preserve, Derek starts to head to the right, back in the direction of the loft, but Stiles puts his hand on his arm and points the other way. He feels the muscles in his jaw tick but he acquiesces, despite there being a perfectly good grocery store a block away from his home, and heads towards the one on the other side of town. Stiles babbles the entire way there, rambling about classes and teachers and other students he’s forced to spend time with, nothing important really, but Derek can feel himself relaxing as Stiles catches him up on the first semester of college. The pack is back for winter break, and although he’s seen them all here and there (none of them bothered to go far for school except Lydia, who had a plan and the supernatural world could be damned if it was going to knock her off her path), this break is the first time everyone was back at the same time. They have a dinner planned for the next night at Melissa’s house, Scott might be the alpha, but Melissa was definitely the mama bear to everyone. It was good – the pack was finally like a big family. They all also planned to do Christmas Eve together at the loft, since most of them would be with whatever family they had on the actual day. So Derek let Stiles’ voice wash over him, a slow feeling of contentment building within, right up until he pulled into the store’s parking lot and shut off the car. Suddenly, Stiles quit speaking, his heart starting to hammer in his chest, despite the calm façade he was showing to Derek. It made him tense again, but a surreptitious glance showed no danger lurking in the parking lot. He got out of the car, senses straining for any sounds that would indicate what was wrong, but the walk into the store was completely uneventful. He grabbed a basket, pushing it at Stiles when he seemed at a loss for what he was doing.
“What do you need?”
“Um…uh…shit. I can’t remember. Let’s just run up and down the aisles and I’ll see if that sparks anything.” Derek grit his teeth, seeing his plan to spend a nice quiet day at the loft unravel.
“Fine. Let’s go.” He grabbed the end of the cart, dragging it – and Stiles, who was holding onto the push bar at the correct end – along behind him. He didn’t mind helping out the pack, he didn’t. But this directionless shopping trip, following right after the non-emergency emergency, was grating on his nerves. He knew some of it was the time of year. He was glad to have a family again, but the holidays always reminded him of the family he’d lost. It was a fine line he walked, wanting to be around them but also not. Plus Stiles. Stiles, who was like an itch under his skin at the best of times. Maybe this was the revenge he’d been waiting for, a slow descent into insanity because he kept bracing for some bigger form of retribution. It took nearly an hour for Stiles to decide what he needed, the cart not even half full. It would’ve been quicker if Stiles hadn’t stopped every five minutes to check his phone, tapping out quick texts before smiling nervously and shoving his phone back into his pocket. As they reached the last aisle, Derek could hear Stiles’ heart start to pound again, caught the faint tang of salt as nerves beaded sweat against Stiles’ skin. It didn’t get any better as they checked out, and Derek was careful to scan the parking lot again when they left the store. He popped the trunk of the car, unloading the bags quickly, batting Stiles out of the way when he tried to help, sure that with his nerves up he’d probably just drop the bags and then Derek would have to go chasing canned goods through the lane. He slammed the trunk and slid into the car, Stiles doing the same on the passenger side. He backed out carefully, turning out of the parking lot and towards the loft, irritation ratcheting up another notch as Stiles drummed his fingers along the doorframe.
“Stiles!” He felt only the slightest bit guilty when Stiles jumped in his seat, head turning to look at Derek. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Wrong?” It was nearly a squeak, and Derek heard the steering wheel creek as his grip tightened on it. Thank god they were back to the loft, he wasn’t sure his car could survive this much annoyance. He got out, slamming the door behind him and grabbing bags out of the trunk. “Why would anything be wrong? Obviously nothing’s wrong, you’re seeing things that aren’t there. Paranoiawolf. That’s what we should call you. Seriously though, we need a good nickname for you, because I’m getting really tired of the ones we have and none of them are as funny as they should be by the time you’ve heard them five times also you should let me grab some of those bags, I think I forgot something and I need to check and if I did we might need to run back to the store…” Stiles was an expert at filling silence, but the rambling was getting out of hand. To make matters worse, he kept grabbing the bags Derek was pulling out and sticking them back in the trunk, halfheartedly rifling through them and repeating it all when Derek tried to grab a different bag. Derek was pretty sure he was going to crack his teeth with how hard his jaw was grinding before he finally just hip-checked Stiles out of the way, swiftly grabbing all the bags and pushing the trunk closed with an elbow before stalking towards the building’s front door. “No but seriously Derek, I need to check the bags because I think I forgot something for the Christmas Eve dinner and I need to make sure I have it. Derek wait! DEREK STOP!” He studiously ignored Stiles, tired of whatever this was already, and quickened his pace. “GOD DAMN IT DEREK, I WILL DROP TO MY KNEES IN THIS PARKING LOT AND BLOW YOU IF YOU’LL JUST STOP FUCKING WALKING!” Shock rippled up his spine, arms dropping and bags of groceries tumbling to the asphalt, cans rolling out.
“What did you just say.” It’s not a question, it should be, but it isn’t. His voice is flat, he’s not really sure that he heard what he thinks he heard. He turns around to face Stiles, mouth slightly open and eyes narrowing. For his part, Stiles seems completely shocked too. His face is crimson, mouth gaping open and closed like a fish, before he tries to explain or divert or…something.
“I…um…shit…um…fuck…I didn’t mean it, my mouth just, without my permission, I just. I didn’t mean it.” Stiles’ voice falls as he finishes up, a strange sour tang wafting off his body, chest heaving like he’d run a marathon, and for all that, Derek still doesn’t miss the uptick in his heart at the last words.
“Lie.” He doesn’t know what compels him to call Stiles on it. Can see the defiance spark in Stiles’ face when he does. He swallows, starting to move towards Stiles to…he’s not sure what he’s going to do. It doesn’t matter anyhow. He manages two short steps before a noise from behind and above has him startling. He spins around just in time to see a banner drape over the loft’s balcony, the faces of his packmates peeking over the edge of the wall.
“SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” He can feel his own face scrunching in confusion, turns back to ask Stiles what’s going on, and is stopped short when he sees Peter step out from the edge of the parking lot, close enough that his werewolf hearing most definitely caught everything that had happened between him and Stiles.
“Yes, nephew, surprise!” He laughs at the expression on Derek’s face, eyes flicking between Stiles’ still red cheeks and the groceries scattered all over the parking lot, before sauntering past them and into the building. Derek barely has time to think well, fuck before Stiles is dodging past him and scrambling into the building as well.