He didn't notice, at first. He'd get home from school, from practice, from wherever, and there'd be a piece of chocolate on the corner of his desk.
It wasn't that weird, honestly. Or inexplicable. He stashed chocolate sometimes. Got things out and forgot about them. His entire room was a testament to that fact. He cleaned his room regularly, but there always ended up being something on his dresser, and there was usually a pile of papers on his floor (his go-to for homework that had gone missing). The number of things that came and went from his desk was just... It just happened. It was kind of like the tide.
So, chocolate? Not that strange. Hershey's kisses, mini krackel bars, Kit Kats, even the odd square of Dove dark chocolate. It made sense.
The glass jar filled entirely with different kinds of red M&Ms...did not.
Scott eyed the jar dubiously when Stiles held it out. "Uh... Thanks?"
"It isn't a gift, Scott." Stiles rolled his eyes, shaking the jar. "What does it smell like?"
"...chocolate and peanuts?" Scott sighed but he took the jar, unscrewing the lid to get a better whiff. "And sugar. The lid's metal. Glass doesn't really smell?"
"Anything else?" Stiles pressed. "Anything, like, suspicious or wrong?"
"Nope." Scott shrugged and stole one of the plain M&Ms, popping it into his mouth. Stiles got a grip on the jar and pulled it away while Scott was distracted by his thieving ways. "Hey!"
Stiles glared at Scott and reattached the lid before shoving the jar in his underwear drawer. Bros they might be, but there were places he knew Scott would not go. Not even for chocolate. "If it isn't drugged or supernatural, it's mine."
"Who would drug chocolate?" Scott's face screwed up in confusion. It was like nobody had ever explained to him why he shouldn't take candy from strangers. And seriously, what kid listened to that if they didn't know why? Stiles certainly wouldn't have.
It was actually kind of embarrassing that after the whole Gerard disaster, and the kanima fiasco, and the nightmare that was the kappa thing, Scott apparently still didn't understand the concept of subterfuge.
Stiles didn't really understand how the whole Gerard thing had happened, if that was actually the case. Maybe Scott was just selectively dumb about malicious trickery.
Specifically when it meant he would get candy.
"I don't know, Scott," Stiles tried, hoping that his expression was conveying an appropriate level of disappointment and incredulity. "Maybe somebody who wants to drug a chocoholic. Which, you know, isn't exactly me since I'm more of an equal opportunity candy eater, but--"
"Well, why would someone want to drug you?"
Stiles tried counting to ten.
He got to three.
"Really, Scott? Really?"
He decided to keep the rest of the M&Ms to himself. They were his and they were delicious and knowing that somebody had gone to that much trouble only made them taste better, even if it was starting to look like he might have a stalker.
That should bother him more than it did. But werewolves.
Scott caught him in the hall just before lunch with a hand on his shoulder and whispered, "Dude. Do you think it's fairies?"
"The candy," Scott clarified, his eyebrows scrunching down in the middle like... Well, like Derek, sort of. Only less hot-serial-killer and more...Scott. "That could be, like, a food offering, right?" Scott rocked a little bit as Tasha not-so-subtly shoulder checked him, but Scott didn't seem to notice. Stiles gave her a smile that even felt awkward and embarrassed. He started pulling Scott more toward the side of the hall, while his friend continued on, oblivious. "Isn't that a thing with fairies?"
Stiles fought the urge to rub a hand down his face. Then realized there was no reason to, and did it. "Yeah, that's a thing with the fair folk, Scott. But it's humans leaving offerings for them, not the other way around."
"Oh," Scott deflated. "Are you sure?"
He opened his mouth to reply before he realized that no. No he was not.
Dammit. He had actual homework to do.
This time when he got home, it was another jar. Tiny in comparison to the last one, with a broad base and a narrower mouth. It kind of looked like a shorter, fatter cousin of a nail-polish bottle.
Opening it was a mistake.
"So, this doesn't really seem like a werewolf thing. But it is a weird thing, and I thought you might, maybe, know something about it?" Stiles rubbed his hand over the back of his head, and tried not to deflate too much under Dr. Deaton's indulgent smirk.
"Well, there doesn't seem to be anything abnormal about the ink," he said, setting the jar down on the counter. "Not that I can tell offhand, anyway."
Offhand. Hah hah. Stiles tried not to glower too obviously and shoved his hands back into his hoodie pockets until they distorted the entire front of it. He'd tried washing the ink off, but it stuck like the stuff they put in the fire alarms.
In his defense, there had totally been a fire when he'd discovered that.
"Was this the first time something was left in your room, or..?"
Damn Deaton for being so patient and soothing anyway. Stiles sighed. "No. I...don't really know when it started? I mean, looking back, I'm pretty sure I just didn't notice. I leave stuff out all the time. But today there was a bottle of red ink, really, really red ink, on my desk, and yesterday it was a jar of M&Ms. Which might not sound too weird, but it was just the red M&Ms. So someone, like, picked through and gave me just the red ones. I think. Do you think you can buy just a single color of M&Ms? That'd be--"
Deaton didn't really sigh so much as his eyes heavily suggested that he'd like to.
"Uh, right. Anyway. But before that, it was single pieces of candy. Individually wrapped, nothing too weird. Totally something I could have left out myself. But now that I'm thinking about it, those were all red too. So..."
Stiles waited a moment, then sort of spasmed with expectation. "In-- What does that even mean?"
Deaton smiled and pushed the ink jar toward Stiles. "It means you were wrong. This is a werewolf thing."
"I would advise you to keep anything red you're left, until you understand what's going on," Deaton continued. "When you do, you can come back to me if you still need help."
"So, like, keep and not use? Am I making some sort of pact or agreement if I use it?" Stiles really hoped not. "'Cause I've kind of already eaten most of the candy."
"No, you can use it if you want. Just don't throw the gifts out or share them."
"Uh... Wait. What if. What if I had a candy thief? Who may or may not work here, and may or may not have already--"
Deaton smiled placidly. "I'd suggest avoiding that happening again in the future, and forgetting it ever happened."
Right. Because that wasn't going to end terribly.
It took four days for the red to wear off enough that he no longer looked like he'd just murdered someone. That meant three days of really pointed staring and awkward questions and stupid jokes, because he couldn't pull off wearing gloves to school. So that was fun.
And it wasn't like stuff stopped showing up. His 'werewolf-thing' left him with a red candleholder. At least, that's what he thought it was. Some sort of flower thing with a cup sort of thing in the middle, at any rate. It was shiny, almost metallic, but it was light and felt like plastic.
Was it even safe to light a candle in something plastic? Stiles wouldn't really know.
Honestly, he'd have preferred more candy. But at least the candle holder didn't, like, attack him and leave weird scratches or anything else he'd have to explain. The broken sharpie explanation was already only working because he'd bought a damn red sharpie to use as a prop.
Then it was socks. Which...okay? Not candy, but at least practical, he guessed. They were warm, though, and they came up to his knees. They were kind of violently red, but it's not like that many people actually saw his socks anyway.
He did toss them in the washing machine on their own, though. According to the label still wrapped around them, they were Pre-Rinsed! To prevent staining!, but that just reminded him not to trust it.
Friday brought him the world's tiniest campfire ring. A circle of red stones on the corner of his desk, running from dusky and dull around to dark and brilliant. And since it was a circle, jumping abruptly back to dusky and dull. But that was beside the point.
Really though. It was rocks.
He had a probably-werewolf maybe-stalker. Stiles kind of expected more from them than rocks.
Which, really, he should have known better. Even thinking that was just asking for it.
It was becoming habit for Stiles to squint suspiciously at the corner of his desk when he woke up. Nothing had appeared overnight yet but he was fully prepared for a level-up in creepiness.
That meant that when he came back into his room Saturday morning after showering, finding the world's tiniest urn on the corner of his desk was, in fact, a little alarming.
"My stalker is definitely a werewolf," Stiles muttered to himself, once he'd finished his flail-and-yell routine. It wasn't like he took long showers. He barely had any hair.
Groaning, Stiles turned back to open the door and called out, "Fine. I'm fine. Just...tripped."
The silence he got in response was totally judging him.
Stiles closed the door again and frowned at the intruder. It wasn't actually an urn, it was just a bowl with a lid. He just associated rounded lidded containers with urns. Or cookie jars. And...wow, that was a disturbing cross-association.
Shaking his head, Stiles sat at his desk and poked the bowl dubiously. It wasn't red. It was black. Black, and matte, and kind of ribbed along the outside. Or grooved. Grooved was a better word, with less condom associations. So yeah. Grooved.
He picked up the lid and nearly dropped it again, swearing under his breath and fumbling to keep it up and not knocking the ash all over his floor.
Crap. It really was the world's tiniest urn.
Once he had a grip on the lid again, Stiles glared at the bowl. The bowl itself looked entirely black except for a faint ring of red around the contents, but that was just because it was filled to the brim with a black, shimmery powder. The inside of the lid was entirely the same shockingly intense red, so he figured the color went all the way down.
And he was pretty sure that was a bowl full of mountain ash.
So...right. Deaton again.
Deaton was judging him for bringing the socks. Stiles could tell. "I wasn't sure if they might be important, okay?"
"Well, they are an item of clothing." Deaton shrugged and placed them back on the exam table with the other...gifts? Offerings? Objects of stalkerly affection?
Still. The way Deaton had said 'item of clothing'... Stiles could feel his face twisting up. "That...sounds kind of suggestive. In a bad-wrong sort of way."
"Hmm." Deaton shrugged again, smiling as he turned to bypass the candleholder even faster than Stiles had, tapping on the lid of the bowl instead. "Well. You're right about the mountain ash. This mixture is quite potent. Have you given any thought to the stones?"
And what even. Deaton hadn't even opened the bowl. "Uh. Not...really?" Stiles frowned down at the rocks. He'd laid them out in as close to their original configuration as he thought he could replicate. "I figured it was just, y'know, a red thing. And rocks at least are cheap."
That actually got a smile from Deaton, which...wasn't actually reassuring. "Red jasper," he said, sliding out one of the muddier rocks. "And this is actually a piece of brick, broken off and worn down. Granite. Cherry amber." Deaton lined the rocks up as he named them, only touching them with a fingertip as he slid them into place. "Bloodstone," was mostly green, with vivid reddish blotches. "Agate," was layers of red and orange mixing together with a shiny ribbon of black at the edges.
"And if I'm not mistaken..." Deaton slid the two translucent, faceted stones out last. "Garnet and ruby."
Stiles choked. "Ruby?"
"Not as cheap as you were expecting?" Deaton grinned. The jerk.
"Uh. Yeah. So, what. Is there some sort of meaning to this, or..." Stiles sighed as he took in how Deaton's smile was changing. "Yeah, okay, I'll go look it up. It's not like I have an essay due tomorrow, or anything."
As it turned out, researching rocks was a reasonably interesting way to break up his essay time. The metamorphic process was amazing.
Absolutely unrelated to the information he needed, or his essay, but still really cool.
Red jasper apparently meant stability, courage, and protection. In particular, protection against 'hazards of the night' according to some sources. Some really, really dubious sources, but he worked with what he had.
Brick was...a manmade thing. Stone. Thing. There wasn't a lot of information on what brick meant. Brick was just...brick. Red brick, though, brought up associations with universities. And it was a building material. That was the best he could do.
Granite was a bit of a bitch, because it was also a building material. The sources he had for granite made him wince even more than the others, but what he came up with was protection (again) and discretion. Which, whatever. One site also said it 'works well on skepticism.' And really. Skepticism wasn't exactly something he had problems with.
Discretion? Maybe. But not skepticism.
Amber gave him protection (he was sensing a theme), luck, love, courage (again), and power. And, really, if it actually helped with any of that, why wasn't the whole world wearing it?
There was just a lot on amber. Some sources said it heightened creativity, others said it clarified thoughts. It was called warming and, heh, stimulating. It apparently purified, which meant some people associated it with sobriety and healing.
Really, trying to get any sort coherent meaning out of amber was...not going to happen.
Bloodstone was, unsurprisingly, associated with blood. Lots of notes on circulation and being used to stop bleeding. Which, yeah, would be useful to him more often than he'd like. Still. He'd put more trust in a band-aid or some nice old fashioned gauze, thanks.
It was also associated with justice, though. And, no longer surprisingly, protection.
Stiles was starting to wonder if there were any rocks that weren't associated with protection. Maybe rocks were just naturally protective. Protecting. Something.
When he looked up agate, the very first page he clicked claimed that agate was 'THE stone everyone should have for protection.' It supposedly drew strength, and protected from stress, energy drain and bad dreams.
It seemed like every single website said the same thing about agate, though. All of the same things. And...yeah. Okay. Maybe he should get more of that. It probably couldn't hurt.
Garnet. Uh. Garnet didn't seem to say anything about protection. Love, devotion, and (alarmingly) stamina though...
He moved on.
(One source had said something about encouraging constancy in friendships, though. That was something he could use.)
Ruby. Protection, protection from bad dreams, blah blah blah. Stone of passion and love, yeah, he was kind of expecting that this time. Whatever.
Jesus fuck. What the hell?!?
So maybe he took the jasper and the agate with him to hang out with Scott the next day, since it was one of their rare terror-and-Allison free days. So what?
It was nice, having them there in his pocket. It gave him something smooth to play with, when he needed something to do with his hands.
When he got home, he opened his door and peered inside, rather than just barging in as usual. (It was his room and he'd barge if he wanted to!) The flash of red waiting on his desk was no longer surprising or unexpected in the least. But the important thing?
That was totally another piece of clothing.
It wasn't subtle, either. Well. Hardly anything had been subtle, except maybe the initial candies. But in comparison to the vibrantly red socks, this was not subtle. This was the same shade of red, and took up about as much space as twenty pairs of socks. It was neatly folded up and everything.
Stiles closed the door right away and called Scott. "Hey! Yeah. I need you to come smell something."
Glass might not hold much of a scent, but he knew for a fact that fabric did.
It had taken a while to figure out how to do his laundry in ways that would make Scott's nose stop scrunching up in a really unfortunate way.
When he explained the situation, Scott just looked confused. "Why do you want me to smell something on your desk?"
Whatever. He'd taken two of the sandwiches Stiles made while waiting for him. He was committed now. "Because I didn't put it there. And I'd like to know who did."
"Your room doesn't smell any different, Stiles," Scott shrugged, flopping back on the bed. "It just smells like..."
"Dude, stop right there. I know what that nose scrunch means and don't even go there, okay?" Stiles glowered at his best friend and kicked his trash can into the closet before shutting the door. "And don't pretend like you weren't just as..."
Scott grimaced and covered his ears. "No. Not going there."
Stiles nodded, satisfied, then pointed at the bundle of red fabric on his desk. "You're not here to smell my room anyway. What about that? I haven't touched it, so."
"Yeah, yeah," Scott sighed and pushed himself up. Stiles immediately took his spot and watched as Scott poked at the fabric bundle, eventually pushing it off the desk and leaning down to sniff at what had been inside, before.
And wow, that was not a happy face. "What?"
"It smells like Derek."
He jumped up off the bed and grabbed the fabric, picking it up and shaking it out to see what it was. Two sleeves, a zipper and a hood stared back at him. They stared. It stared. The red hoodie was staring at him.
Scott gave him a vaguely spooked out look and fled the scene. Fat lot of help he was.
Apparently Derek was buying him clothes. And protection-slash-sex stones.
Yeah. He still had no idea what was going on.
He tried leaving a note. Now that he knew who it was, maybe he could get Derek to actually explain something.
Yeah. Because that had worked so well in the past.
Is the red an alpha thing?
Stiles hoped that was at least a weird enough question that it'd get a response.
He even used the damn red sharpie, because hey. Why not?
There was no way Derek was getting away with pretending he hadn't seen it, either. Stiles left it right on the corner he'd started specifically leaving clear for this whatever-the-hell-was-going-on.
"Thank you, Derek," Stiles muttered, frowning down at the stark black letters that had been scrawled over his own note. "That explains so much."
He scrunched the note up and tossed it at where the trash can should have been. And had been, before Scott. Underneath the note was something red, which was only surprising because it was actually wrapped. Ineptly wrapped in an eye-searingly-red holographic paper, but wrapped.
So the mystery of whether or not Derek had any taste outside of leather jackets was solved, at least.
Stiles picked at the tape holding the flaps of paper down, because even with as sloppy a wrapping job as this, he was vaguely worried the paper might have some significance. It was red, right? Totally fair worry.
The package was suspiciously book shaped and turned out to be, in fact, a book. A beat up, splotchy brown book. It kind of looked like a journal. No title or anything, at least. Just a gold-embossed quill and inkwell.
If Derek brought him a quill, so Stiles could use the ink that had so festively decorated his hands for nearly a week and was, in fact, still a pinkish stain? They were going to have words.
Over the phone. From a safe distance. But words.
When he opened the book, though, the first actual page was titled 'The Creation of Mountain Ash'.
He took ten seconds to skim the writing to verify what he actually had in his hands, then flipped back to the nameplate. Unlike the neat printing inside, the scrawl on the nameplate was barely legible.
Worse, a full minute of squinting made him think the name was Meg Smith. Because that wouldn't turn up about eighty million false leads.
There was nothing in the back either, so he returned to the text.
Three pages into the listing of properties of mountain ash and the materials required for making it, the journal talked about mixing other substances in prior to burning, what their effects were, how long they lasted.
He hit page twenty before the journal moved on from mountain ash and started talking about holly.
And maybe he got a little wrapped up and was only pulled out of the book by his dad calling his name downstairs. Which is when he realized a) his dad was home, b) it was actually dark out, and c) his neck and shoulders were cursing his name to the bowels of hell.
"Yeah, Dad. Sorry. Down in a minute." Stiles rolled his neck out and grimaced at his as-of-yet-untouched school bag. "Great," he muttered to himself, setting the book aside and stretching as he meandered downstairs.
He'd figure something out.
The note he left the next morning was a much simpler Thanks, because while Stiles recognized that he wasn't always the best at manners, there were some things he knew demanded specific responses.
It wasn't until he was pulling his hoodie on at the door that he realized there was something wrong. Namely, that his hoodie was soft and fluffy. He stared down at himself and...yup! Too red, too new looking, pockets and zipper edged in grey, just like the hood-strings.
He hesitated a moment before pulling it the rest of the way on anyway. Deaton had said it was okay if he used them, and...
It was just really comfy, okay? Even if it did feel kind of weirdly like he was wearing a hug, when he zipped it up. Which was weird. His arms and shoulders had decent room, so why didn't his stomach?
The third time he noticed someone giving him a second look in the hall, then having some sort of face spasm when they recognized him (or failed to), he had a feeling he knew why the hoodie was trying to snuggle his torso into submission.
His stones were still in his jeans, one in each pocket. Having something familiar to fiddle with helped.
Stiles barely got his door half open before he was shutting it again. "Oh my god."
He left his bag by the door and wandered downstairs to make something to eat. Because that? That was totally a hallucination brought on by low blood sugar. Absolutely.
It was still there.
Stiles shoved the last of his sandwich into his mouth and chewed slowly, letting himself take in the changes from the relative safety of his doorway.
A small box in the same over-the-top red wrapping paper in the usual spot on his desk. More folded up red fabric, this time on the bed. And...the ceiling.
There was stuff hanging from his ceiling.
The window above his computer had a prism and four red figures in it, all dangling at different heights. A diamond, a tear drop, and what he thought was a hummingbird and a dragon.
Then that pattern just kind of...continued. All across his ceiling, in singles and little clusters. Birds, flowers, hearts, geometric shapes. The stuff in the window all glowed like glass, but the rest of it looked like 'anything goes, so long as it's red' was the only real rule.
It was kind of intense. And...really, really out of place in the kind of really obvious blue thing his room normally had going on. Which was still there, just...now with added vibrant red.
And don't think he didn't notice that the window without any awkwardly placed furniture in front of it was left unobstructed.
Stiles sighed and looked at his room for another moment before snapping a photo with his phone and closing the door.
Back to Deaton.
"No, Stiles. Your life is not in danger."
Stiles would have blown his bangs out of his face, if he'd had any bangs. Deaton's patient aura of mystery and smug really didn't get any easier with exposure. "He just felt the need to kamikaze redecorate my life?"
Deaton raised an eyebrow and eyed his hoodie and, okay, fine, so he was still wearing the Derek-hoodie. He hadn't actually gone inside his room, had he.
"I thought you'd already noticed that."
"Yeah, well, there's a difference between buying a guy some clothes and making his room look like Valentine's Day threw up on..."
Dr. Vague was nodding, even as Stiles felt the blood draining from his face.
Oh, hell no.
His room was exactly as he'd left it, when he got back. Perfectly normal blue room if you just ignored the red disco-ball effect from all the hanging stuff.
Stepping inside didn't help. Neither did shutting the door, though at least then he knew his father wouldn't wander by while he was staring in shock from the doorway.
Stiles slumped down at his desk and stared at the box. It wasn't big, just...offensively red. It couldn't really help that, though. Not when this was apparently the only wrapping paper Derek had. (Which, really, it wasn't surprising he didn't have a wrapping paper selection. What was surprising was the impression that he had voluntarily chosen this one.)
The box, when he finally managed to make himself open it, had a necklace inside. It wasn't particularly girly. An flat oval of what looked like red jasper with a tree carved in it, on a black cord.
The fabric on his bed was...sheets. Really, really soft sheets. They were the right size for his bed, and there were two full sets of them, with a few pillow cases to match.
He wasn't sure if that was actually as suggestive as it felt or not. Mostly because he had almost no basis for comparison to speak of.
The next morning, he left the hoodie and the socks neatly draped over the back of his chair. The sheets went on the seat of the chair, because they would have tipped everything over otherwise. On top of the sheets, Stiles arranged the jar from the M&M event (now holding the rocks), the candle holder and the pendant.
The aerial graffiti he left where it was, because no.
He would have left the mountain ash and the book out, but he was kind of terrified Derek would think he was returning the stuff and would take them away. It would have been idiotic to try and actually hide them from Derek, though, so they were just shoved onto his shelf next to Gertrude-the-skull for safe keeping.
And maybe he spent a little time glaring at his room and kicking his laundry out of sight. That was allowed when he knew he was going to have guests.
Nevermind the fact that he'd never bothered before.
He scrapped three notes (and finally rescued his trash can from the closet) before he settled on something simple and basic, written with what he was already thinking of as his Derek-sharpie, even though Derek hadn't anything to do with it. Directly, at least.
What does this mean?!?
Then he went to school and tried not to notice that he felt a bit naked without the jasper and agate in his pockets.
Stiles knew he was going to regret certain life choices as soon as he walked back into his room, after school. He knew this because while everything was, thankfully, still where he'd left it? There was a new gift.
A little red picnic cooler.
Stiles wasn't sure he wanted to know what kind of gift needed a cooler. Unless the cooler was the gift? But that would have been kind of a come-down from just the sheets, let alone everything else. And there had been a very definite pattern of escalation so far.
Everything obvious was exactly where he'd left them, but he had to check. The ash and the journal were still safely in place, and Stiles gave Gertrude a respectful pat of gratitude to delay his next horrible life choice.
Just like last time, Derek had answered in black ink over Stiles' red, and left it on top of the new gift. Unlike last time, this was not legible. This note was a series of scribbles and angry lines and vague impressions of what might have once been letters, beneath them.
So, hey. At least Stiles wasn't the only one having problems. That had to count for something, right?
That left the cooler.
Stiles squinted at it, took a deep breath, then lifted the lid carefully.
"OH MY GOD!"
He slammed the lid back down and clenched his eyes shut, giving himself a few moments to breathe.
"Okay. Yeah. Wow. Creepy. But. Fuck." Stiles took another deep breath and looked down at the angry lines Derek had left him. "Okay. Well."
He sighed, feeling the pressure in his chest ease as his pulse returned to normal. "At least it's not a cat."
Stiles made a sandwich to give himself time to decide if he was really doing what he'd decided he was doing. Which was a) a huge mark of restraint on his part and b) an indicator that he was becoming worryingly dependent on sandwiches as a coping mechanism.
But, no. If he was doing this at all, he didn't think there was any point in being subtle or half-assed.
The Hale house was quiet and about as cheerful as a horror movie, as usual. And, as usual, that didn't really mean anything.
Stiles got about ten feet from the jeep before he opened his mouth to call out for Derek, then sighed and turned around.
Derek smirked at him. Stiles glared. "You are such a jerk sometimes."
Shrugging, Derek nodded to the cooler. "Are you returning that?"
"No! It's mine." That got him the full on serial-killer intensity of Derek's stare. It made him want to fidget with the handle on the cooler. With the grey ties on his hoodie. With the stones in his pockets. With the cord around his neck. "I want to know what the bird means."
That got him an exasperated eye-roll, but not much in the way of words or understanding.
Stiles sighed and set the cooler down. "Okay, want me to tell you what the bird means?'
"Sure, Stiles," Derek held onto the words, drawing them out mockingly. "Tell me what the bird means."
Awesome. Stiles rocked back on his heels and made his voice as casual as possible. "The first meanings I found for cardinals were sexuality and passion."
Derek's face tightened, his eyes going wider and his body tensing. "Uh."
"There was also a lot about vibrancy and brilliance," Stiles continued, watching as Derek's hands twisted themselves into fists. "Also self-reflection and friendliness, which is actually really fucking funny, since male cardinals will attack their own reflections for--"
"They're just hard to catch!" Derek burst out, nearly growling. He was staring resolutely at the base of a tree, as though he could murder it with his eyes. "It's...a display of skill."
Stiles nodded. "And, I'm assuming, red. And not all that common around here so...go you, I guess. Okay. So!" he clapped, looking expectant, "The rocks?"
And they were back to growly, surly, sourwolf face. It wasn't even pointed in his direction. Rude. "What about them?"
Stiles sighed. This was really how they were going to do this? Really? "Okay, so my sources suggested that the two shiny ones were probably garnet and ruby. Garnet is pretty much all about beauty and sex." He had Derek's attention again. His wide eyed, panicked attention. "Rubies have a pretty obvious connection to love, but there's apparently also protective and, oh yeah! A fertility stone. Which. I just don't know if that's applicable here, Derek."
If Derek weren't a werewolf, he'd be worried the guy was going to have a stroke. "That's not. No."
Derek threw his hands up. "It's traditional to give brick and jasper."
Protection against night hazards, his brain reminded him. But. "Why the brick? I couldn't find any real meanings tied to that."
And that was a familiar look. That was the non-threatening version of you're such an idiot. "You can build with brick."
Stiles rolled his eyes. "Yeah, no shit. But..." The implication finally hit him, and his breath caught. "Wait. So that's...you want to build something?" Derek nodded. "With me?" And that was not a squeak, no matter what Derek's smirk said as he nodded again.
"Right. So." Stiles ran a hand over his head, then gestured down to the cooler. "I really don't know what to do with a dead bird. Is there some way I can give it back without, uh, saying no, or anything? And how do I say yes, exactly?"
Derek was suddenly right in his space, his head ducked as he ran his nose along Stiles' jaw. "Yes," he said, his hands coming up to catch Stiles at the hips before he fell over because, hello, wolf suddenly in face. "And that's fine."
"Okay, uh, good," Stiles swallowed and nodded a little. "Now that I haven't freaked out over the whole werewolf courtship thing, do you think we could do it the human way?"
"Movie, dinner, coffee, something. Pick your stereotypical date of choice, Derek."
He felt the smile against his throat. "Hiking."