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There were three things of which Stiles was completely sure. One: when he was over-thinking, his inner monologue started to sound suspiciously like Bella Swan. Two: despite the inevitable confidence building it achieves (and the first-day-jitters it was meant to relieve), standing in front of the bathroom mirror at six am, wearing nothing but a stethoscope and boxer-briefs while practising all the ways one can sexily say Dr. Genim Stilinski (which was kind of useless, because that first name will never be sexy) is not an adequate use of one's time. Three: four years of pre-med, four years of medical school and the kind of student loans his father laughed out loud upon seeing (which he will be paying back until he has his own son to laugh at) had taught him one thing.

He didn't know shit.

It's not like he expected to just walk in here knowing everything (that was that douche Jackson's department), but the sheer volume level of the place once he'd pushed open the doors of Sacred Heart kind of made him want to shout 'nope', turn tail and run. It's his first day, so there's bound to be some nerves, but he hadn't quite expected this. More than anything, he's a little worried about how Scott's been doing - the guy never really did adjust to change well - but it seems that despite being Epic Bros all through high school, pre-med and indeed med school, texting throughout your first shift ever is probably frowned upon. It's still just a little difficult to believe that Scott will be trusted to cut people open when Stiles can remember that time he super glued his foot to, well, his other foot.

It'd just be nice to know he wasn't the only one who wanted to curl into the foetal position and wail, okay? He spares a thought for Lydia. She's the strawberry-blonde goddess who he met yesterday at orientation, but he's pretty sure she's healing the sick with the power of her beauty and looks of disapproval alone.

"What the hell is a 'Stiles', anyway? I don't sleep with other doctors at the same stage of training. I prefer my relationships to be mutually beneficial, and you just don't have anything I need. Plus, it's clear I intimidate you. Wait, am I being Punk'd?"

(Afterwards, she proceeded to tell him if he continued to hit on her, she'd use him as early practice for a urology rotation and see how many sharp things she could stick somewhere which should only be treated with kindness.)

Granted, it had been a pleasant surprise to find out that, for once, the odds were stacked a little more in his favor and she'd be donning medical blue scrubs instead of surgical green. She's the only person who seems to have him matched in sheer volume and speed of thought process, but he can't exactly figure out if he's attracted to her or just terrified of her - and he refuses to wonder how much therapy that should warrant. It's still a win that he'll be getting to spend time with her when Scott usually seems to luck out on those kinds of scenarios.

But still, there's no sign of either of them. Not that he's really looking.

Deep breaths.

He wants to ask the nurse who paged him within the first five minutes (Yay! Paged!) if there was some kind of epidemic that hadn't made it to the news yet - though, granted, he'd been listening to Taylor Swift at full volume and singing along in the jeep on the way here, so he didn't catch the hourly update - but she's already been talking for a full minute and he's pretty sure she just said something about looking where he's going.

Yep, that's gonna bruise.

"Rule number one of your first day, Bambi. The nurses know more than you do."

"Wow, thanks-"

"Nurse Argent, but I'm probably more likely to answer if you call me Allison," she smiles - there's no malice in it, but he's already mentally labelling her She Who Is Not To Be Pissed Off.

"Do I have to name you after a Disney character now, too?" he asks, massaging his nose. He's not sure if it's broken and he's trying not to have a mini freak-out that he's a doctor and he should know but Allison's swatting his hand away to give him a tissue and raising her eyebrow.

"Not unless you never want to see a chart or get labs back on time," she warns, rounding the desk at the nurses' station again and it actually sounds more like she's offering him a puppy. "Make no mistake. We run your world now. Isn't that right, Vern?"

There's a large, muscled man in nursing scrubs sitting with his feet either side of a portable television, behind her. It looks like it's playing The Young and the Restless, but Stiles can't be sure.

"Mm-hmm," the guy says, not tearing his eyes away. Allison flicks her curly black locks back proudly and gives a nod.

"That's Nurse Boyd," she introduces, and her eyes brighten up a little in mirth. "Just 'Nurse Boyd' to you."

"Okay, no nicknames, got it."

She's walking again, pulling the gurney along in front of Stiles and he's not sure if the Bambi nickname has to do with how his legs have decided to turn to jello, giving him a baby deer-type quality, or the oh-crap-I'm-about-to-get-run-over look on his face, but he tries to keep up. She flits around the room they stop at, checking the other IVs and monitors while Stiles kind of just stands there bleeding from the nose and tries not to ask if he can hold her hand or something.

"We're waiting for Dr. Hale," she says, pulling back the dressing on the old man's foot. Before he can open his mouth to ask what the Chief of Medicine would be doing mingling with the commoners, a figure appears at the door which he's pretty sure should be accompanied by a booming rendition of The Imperial March and a heavy, black rain cloud above his head.

Which is disturbing, because he's got the kind of face which belongs on Grey's Anatomy with some cutesy nickname, but holy fuck the expression on it could be used as a laxative. It's a scowl. An honest-to-god scowl and Stiles is pretty sure those could only be pulled off by cartoon villains and cats on the Internet, but there it is. McScowly's got it nailed.

It's not the same guy he met yesterday - that Dr. Hale had been older, pretty charming and approachable - but there's got to be some family tie in there somewhere, what with the whole depressingly-perfect-jaw-lines-and-intense-eyes thing.

"Seriously?" the guy says, well, more grunts incredulously, "He does this every day. Is it so hard to stay alive until my shift's done?" McScowly flips through Old Man's chart. "Or at least until I've checked the stats on the-" he stops and glances over the top of the clipboard at Stiles. "Can I help you?"

Oh, right. There was a reason his brain was running through tall-dark-and-handsome-and-holy-chest-definition as a mantra. He was staring.

"Me? No- I was... I'm your...Hello." Stiles starts to wave, before thinking better of it and shoving the offending hand down with his other hand.

McScowly gives Allison a look which seems to say 'are you kidding me?' and 'make it go away' all at once and she snorts out a laugh.

"This is Doc-," she starts, but he shuts the chart and tucks it under his arm with a roll of the eyes.

"Yeah, they all have names. It's adorable. Happy for them, really," he says, brows rising in mock earnest before he turns to Stiles again. "New kid, IV. Now."

Stiles startles and fumbles around a bit, willing himself to recall the one thing he should be able to do on his first day as an intern but the whole presense of the guy is throwing off his confidence.

"Are you trying to get to know each other? He's not going to be offended that you didn't buy him dinner first," Hale says from beside the monitors, and Stiles tries not to glare, he really tries. "In fact, he can't hold a fork, so it's kind of a moot point. Christ, come on..."

"Should you really be talking like that in front of him?" Stiles spits out, because apparently he has a death wish. Hale gives him a look that's somewhere between 'now you die' and 'what is happening I don't get it' and raises a single brow. It's the most frightening thing he's seen all year.


"Stiles," he supplies meekly, and Hale's head jerks back.

"That's not a name."

"Um, yeah it is," Stiles nods defensively. "It's my name."

"That's not a name."

"Wha-" Stiles starts, outraged. "It could be some super-important...religious...symbolic name for all you know."

"Is it?"

"Well, no..."

"Because it's not a name," he finishes, and despite the bland expression on his face, there's a slight note of triumph in there. "Anyway," he squints at Stiles' ID, "'Stilinski'... God, even worse... This man is a vegetable. A potato. He's on another plane of consciousness. He's not going to care what I say about him, or how I say it, now can you please replace his damn IV so I can get back to lunch?"

Stiles glares, but does it - out of sheer frustration - and promptly stands upright, staring Hale down. He can't remember the last time someone got his hackles up so effortlessly - and he met that dick, Jackson, at orientation yesterday. Hale leans across the bed slightly to get a look at the IV, gives a satisfied little, hmph in thought, and leaves the room.

 "And he's just so smug, y'know? God. I hope I never end up so jaded like that."

It's been an eighteen hour shift, Stiles forgets how many of these he's had, also what his bed in the apartment he shares with Scott is like, and young Dr. Hale has done little to quash Stiles' initial impressions of him (that he's an asshole). Stiles is aware he's been talking about the guy a lot, but come on. Last night he actually clicked his fingers at him and told him to have his little panic attack some time later, preferably at home where it's not Hale's problem. Guy obviously forgot it's like to be an intern. And so what if Stiles drifts off into his own head sometimes? It's not like it's ever when he's doing something life-threateningly important.


"Scott?" he asks, waving his hand in front of his best friend's face, but it's a lost cause. Allison's chewing on a pen as she does something on the computer in front of her and Scott is gone.

"Dude, I can introduce you properly, you know," he sighs, and Scott looks at him in panic. It's starting to feel slightly creepy how Scott insists on hanging back from the desk and just looking at her when she's not aware of it.

"No! No it's okay. I'm... working up to it. It's fine."

Stiles is about to call him out on that, when Jackson saunters up, all biceps and swagger and leans over the desk. "Careful," he says to Allison, nodding at the pen. "You'll ruin your appetite."

"For what?" Allison says, scrunching up her nose and tearing her eyes away from the computer. Whatever Jackson's response is, it can't be pretty - because her face pales and she looks at him with a clench to her jaw. Stiles can feel Scott stiffening beside him, ready to jump in and rescue the damsel in distress, but Stiles keeps a hold on his elbow.

"Wait a second," he whispers, jerking his chin thoughtfully to the train-wreck in front of them. Stiles has seen this many times; been involved in this very scenario many, many times. It's the strike-out. "Dude, let her handle this. He's crashing and burning."

Sure enough, Allison gives a sweet smile and motions for Jackson to come closer. When he does, she hooks a finger in his scrub top, yanks, and he crashes onto the desk. Allison takes advantage of the proximity and whispers something into his ear, letting go of his top, and Jackson backs up warily. When he finally turns, Allison scoffs and throws her pen after him. It's beautiful.

Stiles snickers softly as Jackson walks past, offering a high-five (because all six times he's met Jackson over the past week has ended in a high-five) but he just gets a slightly-dazed wave-off in response.

"That. Was. Awesome," Stiles remarks, turning to Scott, who has now graduated from staring to loving-gaze.

"I think I'm in love," he breathes, finally taking a step towards the nurses' station. He stops to turn slightly, diving his hand into a protesting Stiles' pocket and fishing out his prize, before he continues onwards to the desk. "Pen?" he asks, holding it out to her, and Allison startles slightly, like she hadn't seen him approach.

There's a small crinkle to her brow when she looks from the pen to Scott, and Stiles is mentally willing puppy face puppy face puppy face over and over in his head - because no girl has been able to resist that since Scott got into med school.

"...Thanks?" she says, taking the pen out of his hand. Scott practically preens.

"No problem, Allison," he says, turning to walk off.

"Wait, how do you know my-" she starts, only to give a weary smile and a shake of her head as she watches Stiles pull him into a headlock. "...Never mind, Scott."

Scott flashes her a smile over his shoulder before turning it back onto Stiles. "You've been talking me up to her?" he asks quietly, eyes fond.

"I'm your wing-man, Scotty Mac. I never miss an opportunity for layage."

"You're the best."

 It's amazing how life sort of settles into a routine without you really noticing it, and how a job that once made you feel like you were teetering on the top of a dip on a roller-coaster can become second nature.

How you can do everything fucking right but receive no recognition for it, but then again, he didn't expect much. Sometimes it looks like Dr. Hale would have an aneurysm if he cracked a genuine smile and Stiles fantasizes about giving him a hug - that's it, he swears - just to see his reaction, but he also kind of values his trachea where it is and in tact.

It's unfathomable how you can kind-of-sort-of- get used to the fact that people trust your best friend to be there around sharp objects when they're being cut open, even though he still refers to a cracked chest cavity as 'gnarly'.

Dr. Hale still refuses to call Stiles by his first name, even though they've ended up working together most, and doesn't think switching shifts to accommodate for a midnight screening of the new Ironman movie is a 'legitimate enough reason, just because you have the mentality of a twelve-year-old doesn't mean I should be your enabler, Stilinski'.

There's also a lot of poorly-hidden, self-satisfied smirks, which Stiles thinks are even more obnoxious on someone who looks like that.

He has to help treat three cars full of people who got into a fender-bender at the intersection on the way home from the movie theatre that night, most of whom are nursing limited edition cups, laser arm-cuffs and masks.

Which is just fucking unfair.

The movie's so good people are crashing their cars, and Scott's going to be vibrating with the need to tell him all about it when he gets home tomorrow morning.

Stiles hates his life and Hale even more.

Okay, so, even if he manages to get on an amazing case with a private patient who happens to have the coolest roboti- sorry, prosthetic hand he's ever seen (it's like, Nina-Sharp-from-Fringe cool; a once in a lifetime patient unless he goes into that field), but still, Stiles refuses to be happy.

It doesn't mean anything if he can't stop grinning and keeps catching Hale giving him sidelong looks of contentment as he gets the patient's history. Like he's calculated the whole thing and he likes seeing a plan come together.

The dude's back from climbing the fucking Andes and was girlfriend-bullied to get his foot checked out for fear that his childhood osteosarcoma has returned, and Stiles is given free reign to order tests and cultures as much as he likes because hello... private. But there's no way anyone here's doing the lowly intern any favors just because it's a super-cool case.

Hale's still a dick who should have let him go to the movie.

 Conversely, Chief Peter Hale is like the cool uncle Stiles never had; is nothing like his sarcastic, dry-witted nephew; and rounds with him are an exercise in adrenaline responses and a quest for praise. He moves around the ward with a practised pace, interns like ducklings following each move and hanging on every word. The need to impress is almost tangible.

Lydia is there, up front and centre, and Stiles can feel himself gravitating to her side, as always, like he hasn't got a choice. Everyone else seems to cower in the face of her confidence. He wonders if they have the sense of self-preservation his dad maintained he'd been born without. Certainly Lahey seems to want to get as far away as possible, hands trembling where he's meticulously clicking his pen and darting his eyes around the room as if waiting to be attacked.

Lydia smells like coconut.

"...patient is uraemic. Dr. Stilinski?"

Crap. What the fuck did he just ask me?

He can feel the press of her body all down the left side of his, her breath teasing the short hairs around his ear and something in Stiles' brain short-circuits. That's settled - Lydia Martin is the devil.

Chief Hale is looking at him expectantly, but all Stiles can do is gape, smacking his dry lips together as he raises his brows, willing the answer to come to him miraculously. After an eternity of silence, Hale's eyes narrow with a smirk, and he poses the question to the group.

"Infection?" Lydia says, all naive innocence and feminine wiles.

The smirk pulls into a full grin, and - oh god, why does that smile make me uncomfortable? - as Hale says, "Beauty and brains. Aren't you just a gift."

Instead of the predicted outrage at being objectified, Lydia preens and Stiles glares and wonders why he didn't listen to her when she warned that she'd crush him if he got in her way. The look she gives him as she sashays ahead to the next bed seems to convey the same thing.


"How come Mr. Lewis was discharged?"

There's an uncomfortable look passed between Boyd and Allison, and Stiles holds his hands out wider as he waits for a response. He'd just gone to check in with the guy at the end of his shift, only to find the room empty.

"He didn't have the insurance to cover the treatment you ordered," Allison says apologetically, cocking her head to the side and making it really hard for Stiles to stay mad at everyone.

"But... he'll be back in here by Christmas. All we did was - essentially - a patch-up. Who the hell would do that to a father of four?" he says, a crinkle furrowing his brow as the gravity of the situation riles him up. They'd consulted on this guy together, Hale even telling Stiles that he could choose the direction for treatment on this one (once he'd signed off on it, obviously).

Because Stiles had shown good judgement.

Because he can be trusted on this. Now the patient is gone, and Stiles is feeling stung.

"Did Dr. Hale do this? I kinda like to be bought Italian food before I'm screwed. Thought we were in agreement about-" he starts, but a door slams back against the wall where it's been kicked, and a cart goes flying halfway across the room before a nurse manages to stop it.

Hale stalks past, all eyebrows and intensity, his jaw set so stiffly it looks like he could crack teeth. If he'd ever felt that someone had earned his mental nickname for them, McScowly is it - but the cutesy reference feels wrong when it looks like they're going to lose someone who should, by rights, have another forty years ahead of him.

Stiles opens his mouth to broach the subject, but is greeted instead by a searing gaze which refuses to land on his own and a shake of the head.

Stiles presses his mouth together, licks his lips and just watches him go.

"Think he'd be that upset if this was his decision, man?" Boyd says with sympathy, and Stiles can only quirk his mouth in reply.

 Being on-call is a special kind of hell. It's drunks and addicts and scum-bags who think it's okay to knock their wives around and say she walked into a door. There are worried parents of toddlers and college students needing stitches after a game of beer pong gone awry. It gets to the point where, even when his beeper isn't screaming and vibrating, he imagines it is, and he tries not to hate Scott too much when he salutes him on his way out the door. His way home.

He's slumped against the outer wall of Mr Lewis' room - who, since being back has crashed twice already tonight - and just lets his breath leave him. It's times like this - and on nights like these - that Stiles wishes more than ever that he had a quiet brain. Somewhere to fold into when the din of everything else threatens to crack his resolve, but Stiles has never been the quiet type and, in all honesty, he probably wouldn't last two minutes of he didn't have some tangent to latch on to.

There's a warm hand squeezing his shoulder, and when he looks up, he doesn't recognize the guy in the janitor's jumpsuit staring at him intently.

"Alright, now," he says, chewing furiously, kneading Stiles' shoulder like he's in the corner of a ring about to take on Tyson. "I don't want them to gain another yard. You blitz... all... night..."

"Isn't that-" Stiles interjects, but the guy talks over him.

"If they cross the line of scrimmage, I'm gonna take every last one of you out! You make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans!"

The guy raises both fists in the air and walks around the hallway in triumph, jaw still grinding even as he turns back, fixes a glare on Stiles and points, nodding his head.

"How the hell is the speech from Remember The Titans supposed to help me?" he snaps incredulously, voice sounding as irritable and tired as he feels. "Stick to mopping up puke, dude. I don't need your crappy recycled sports stuff." The guy stops, drops his hands in offense, and just stares. Stiles' head jerks back as if slapped, eyes widening. "Or.. uh... go team?"

The Janitor barks out a harsh, forced laugh, but stops the moment Stiles tries to smile. It's really unnerving. Without another word, he backs up, gesturing to his own eyes with pointer and middle finger, before turning his hand on Stiles, and before he can say anything, he's grabbed his mop and gone.

Stiles pronounced his first patient on-call, and he thinks he should feel some sense of relief or triumph when he later finds out that Lahey pronounced three his very first night, but there isn't any of that. All that time spent learning how to preserve life, and there's precious little to prepare you for when medicine fails. Words don't offer much to the grieving families, so they aren't much help to Stiles either, and The Janitor's speech didn't help at all.

 For all that living in the same apartment means, sometimes Stiles feels like Scott's in another country. Their schedules collide, it feels like Allison practically has him on a leash (even though talking to her would hardly lead you to believe she ever sees him at all) and sleep is like a precious commodity reserved for kings and really cute puppies. Stiles still isn't sure who's been feeding their pet gecko, Jackson (ha), but minor details are pushed to the bottom on his list of Very Important Information in light of the fact that he and Scott can't get home for the Holidays and are having Christmas together. As bros. It's a miracle.

Stiles thinks he may cry a little.

The simple fact is, he misses Scott like a limb, and he knows all about branching out and fresh starts and all that stuff - but it feels like enough has changed this year already, and it's his first Christmas without Dad ever (not that Dad's crying over his cocktails in Hawaii where he's gone for his late-late honeymoon, or anything)and he's not quite ready to lease out Scott's position at his right hand.

Even if the dude does keep coming home and telling him how squelchy intestines are, or what noise a kidney makes if you drop it. Or if he actually seems to revel in the endless high-fives Douchey Whittemore doles out. Scott's still fourteen at heart.

It's made even better by the fact that Dr. Hale's sister's in town for the holidays, and try as he might to be a sarcastic, egotistical ass regardless of her presence, we all revert to the person we once were when around someone from our past. For him, it's petulant little brother.

She's a lawyer, and gorgeous, and Hale threatens Jackson with some kind of medieval torture for staring at her too long, but the only person she seems interested to know is Stiles.

"Twenty-five?" she hums, stirring her fruit salad. "Practically a baby. How come you're still so young?" She keeps flicking gaze to her brother who is doing a fantastic impression of someone masticating broken glass and wasps.

Stiles shrugs. "I skipped a grade in high school, graduated early," he informs, and Laura studies him. "Good thing, too - otherwise I wouldn't have met Scott and dragged his ass through college." Stiles gives a proud little grin and Hale's shaking his head into his lasagne.

"So you're like... brilliant," she says, leaning back and propping an elbow on Dr. Hale's - 'Derek's' - chair. She lets out a breath and gives him an assessing look, but there's a warm curiosity in it. "Of course you are."

Hale clears his throat and stabs a fork in Stiles' direction, resolutely avoiding his sister's smirk. "You can go hang out with Allison and her puppy if you want, Stilinski," he says, jerking his chin behind Stiles and raising both brows, but Laura has a hand on his arm before he can move, and the Janitor's twisting the head off a broom right beside Scott's table, staring straight back at him menacingly. "Don't let Cruella keep you."

"Cruella?" Laura snorts. "Please, if anyone here's preying on innocent little creatures here, it's you. I haven't even got around to sizing up this year's crop because they're so afraid of Big Bad Dr. Hale." She turns back to Stiles. "Did he do the whole humiliation-and-stress-pressure-test with you yet? Make you feel like shit and then demand you do some bullshit procedure while he watches?"

Stiles presses his lips together and plays with his soda straw, while Laura points and chastises her brother for being so predictable.

"Jeez, Dr. Hale, I feel kind of used," Stiles says. "What about when you complimented my sutures? I bet you say that to all the boys." The look he gets in return would strip paint, and Laura's actually covering her grin with her hand

"Laura, for fuck sake," Hale grunts, and she gets up, laughing, to empty her tray.

"Don't worry, Stiles, you passed with flying colors," she calls over her shoulder, still stifling what could only be described as a cackle.

There's a stretch of silence then, without her, and Stiles wonders how long he has to stay before it's not obvious he's just leaving because she did.

"So, your sister's fun..."

"She's Satan. That movie Bedazzled was based on her."

Stiles snorts loudly and takes a drink. "Dude, you do not want me picturing your sister in a red catsuit, I don't care if you are my boss.." he jibes to Hale's scowl. "Still. It's good that she's here for the Holidays. Did I tell you I'm spending mine with Scott? It's gonna be Bro-mas. Beer before noon, pants optional, and everything in sandwich form."

Hale's eyes flick over Stiles' shoulder at something, and he gives a tight-lipped nod. "Sounds fun, Stiles, not that I asked," he says, all bravado now that his big sister's split, and Stiles rolls his eyes.

"Wow, Dr. Hale. Touching moment here between colleagues. Remind me to get it printed on a mug."

Hale's still distracted and Stiles can't help but try figure out what that look on his face means before he speaks again.

"Just..." there's a sigh, and then Hale's looking back at him earnestly. "I get that you guys are close, and that this year is shit because you moved and are working and the whole 'change' thing, but... don't pin your happiness all on one person, okay? Especially if they're not pinning theirs back on you."

After that, he gets up and leaves, and Stiles later wonders if Hale had seen it coming when Scott made Stiles put on a tie and invited Allison over at ten am Christmas morning, thus ruining and pre-emptively nixing Bro-mas before it could even begin.

 If there's one thing that Stiles had learned early on, it's that his smile is kryptonite for old ladies. When Scott isn't around - and Lahey's huddled in some supply closet crying - he spends his free time with the geriatric patients playing Scrabble or sitting through endless photos of grand-kids or driving trips across country. Over the months, he's become somewhat of a permanent fixture, and some of his very favorites even get to call him by his real first name.

It's not like they get out much to spread around what the 'G' on his ID card stands for.

"Dammit, Etta. You know if this was Strip Checkers you'd be pointing at my pasty white butt and laughing right about now.."

The old woman winks one of her heavily-mascara-ed eyes and gives him a lingering look.

"It's still not too late for that, dear," she says, and Stiles swallows down an uncomfortable blush. (For every grandma who wants to pet his head and bake him snickerdoodles, there's always another who's rediscovered her libido and decided fresh young doctor-meat is what her diet has been lacking). "You look just like my Alfred before he shipped out," she muses.

"Well, Alfred was one sexy sailor," Stiles replies, winking, before spotting a disapproving flash of red through the blinds. "We're gonna have to pick this up later, though. Don't you go cheating on me. I'll know."

"No point if we're not playing the fun version," she purrs back, and Stiles' laugh sounds like a chihuahua giving birth.

"What's your angle?" Lydia asks, after she's yanked him out of Mrs Flynn's room and away from woeful-board-game-defeat-slash-semi-senile-sexual-aggression. He resolutely tells himself that there's no shame in being savagely beaten by an octogenarian. Lydia's looking at him calculatingly, like his answer is of some great mystical importance she can't quite figure out.

"Angle?" he says, keeping his chest to her, and the pair of boobs spray-painted into the back of his scrub top by The Janitor in the elevator that morning out of her view.

(Apparently not appreciating fantastic sports movies earned him drawn-on breasts. C-cup, if he were to guess.)

"With the grandmas," she clarifies. "Tell me there's a reason you've been spending more time here than the Angel of Death. Inheritance scam?"

Stiles frowns. "Wow," he says, "I thought your cold, dead heart was just part of your aloof charm, but there must have been something seriously bad that happened to make you assume the worst in everyone." The realization is dawning that, far from the rest of the world disappointing Lydia Martin, she reserves disappointment for the rest of the world. Her lips quirk on one side as she studies him, and he sighs. "I like being around them, okay? It was just me and my dad growing up. My Grams was a big part of my life. Do you see hordes of grand-kids beating the doors down to visit?"

She looks sceptical, and he fidgets slightly, scratching at the hairs at the back of his neck.

"Okay.. well I also," he starts, and notices her eyes narrowing. "I lost a patient last night. Guy we probably could've saved before it got bad, if he had the right insurance, but the Powers That Be kept throwing up roadblocks so we'd pawn him off somewhere else. He had four kids. I...couldn't-" he confesses, wondering why he feels the need to tell her of all people. "I'm just... trying to put some good back into the world, I guess."

Her face seems to soften momentarily with - what looks like - shame, but Lydia Martin is chastised by no man - or at least has the pride to never show it. She shrugs and gives a small, thoughtful smile. "Hmph," she mutters, more to herself than anyone in the moderately busy hallway; as if a point's been proven, or she lost a bet, and Stiles wonders why people always seem to say that around him now.

He frowns back at her, folding his arms. "What's this all about, Lydia?" he asks, but she just shakes her head, stepping closer.

"Stiles?" she says, "It's a good thing I warned you off me in the first place. Guy like you, it'd be a crying shame to eat you alive." She trails a thumb down his cheek fondly before she turns away. "You're still buying me platonic, obligation-free lunch though."

"I am?" he frowns, because though she's beautiful and he kind of feels like he needs permission to look at her, there seems to be very little in the friendship for him. She's hardly warmth and light and he can't imagine calling her up at 3am because he's drunk and heartbroken.

"Yep. 'Cause I just realized that I pathetically have yet to make any friends in this city, and you're the most tolerable person here," she calls back, not turning. All he can do is gesture after her, his hands willing the words of confusion that aren't being spoken. "Don't worry. I'm not going to try to fuck you," she adds, and Stiles can't help but feel like he's just been pushed out of the way of a high-speed, oncoming train.

 "I'm sure it's not really like that," Allison says, like the eternal peace-keeper that she is. For someone who makes such thinly-veiled threats, she spends a lot of time diffusing other people's anger.

"It's exactly like that," Lydia retorts, "Back me up, Isaac."

Lahey looks stricken, but then again he usually does. "Well, kind of... look, I'm just happy when he isn't threatening to stab me in the eye with my own clavicle."

Stiles lets out a chuckle at that, and three pairs of eyes turn to look, as Lydia huffs out an impatient sigh.

"See?" she says, gesturing to him, "Here he is. Let me guess, you just saved a baby single-handedly on the roof's helipad."

"We don't have a helipad," Stiles frowns, and there's a dangerous hand being rested on Lydia's hip. "What's going on?"

"I was just telling these guys how it must pay to be teacher's pet," she says primly, and Stiles face scrunches up. "Come on, don't tell me you haven't noticed that your Hale's go-to-guy?"

"In fairness," Isaac interrupts, "I think that has something to do with the fact that he doesn't flirt with his uncle..."

Stiles gapes and Lydia fumes.

"Excuse me?"

"Well," Isaac says, not so brave anymore. "He might have mentioned the fact that 'mean girls in high school' rarely learn how to do things the hard way."

Lydia's jaw drops and she appears to growl menacingly.

"So he thinks I'm coasting by on my looks? she says, eyes on the floor and voice tense."

Isaac holds out his hands.

"Look, Lyds, he doesn't know you - I mean, you've barely worked together since you've been here and even then you've butted heads," Stiles says, and Lydia's gaze is drawn up to his eyes again.

He wants to say that he's nothing special, that he has no idea why Hale would appear to favor him over the others - especially since he's unsure of what the hell he's supposed to be doing half the time. He doesn't say it though, because though he's admitted defeat a hundred times in his head, he thinks everyone else has seen too much already.

She seems to shake it off pretty quickly, and reaches out to pat Stiles on the jaw fondly.

"You're right, Stiles," she says, smirking, "I guess doesn't help that my flirting would be lost on him either...not his type." And with that, she saunters off, Stiles is left frowning, much to the entertainment of Allison, Boyd and Isaac. He just reaches up to scratch at his cheek.

"What-" he starts, but Allison holds up both hands and backs away.

"Oh no. If you can't figure it out yourself, I'm not getting involved," she says.

Isaac is next, inflicting those damn Baby-St-Bernard eyes on him as he moves away, which leaves Boyd, who doesn't actively acknowledge Stiles' presence, but mutters something about 'Give me strength' quietly to his computer screen and carries on texting his grandmother.

Stiles is left to frown and make his way back to the jeep, whose paint job has been sold for ad-space supporting the local sports teams. Stiles isn't spending too much time trying to solve that mystery, but the lack of confusion is a comfort.

 "Now, I know you didn't just page me twice to ask about Mrs Faison's antibiotics," Hale announces as he enters the break room. Stiles pauses with half a sandwich to his mouth and stares back guiltily.

"I, uh..."

"Because you know this is standard stuff, right? Stuff we prescribe to children, and there's no history of allergy on her chart, no reason to hesitate here. Or do you just enjoy my particular brand of dry wit, Stilinski?"

He's right, and Stiles knows it, but the feeling of failure at announcing someone's time of death is still fresh in his mind.

"I wanted to be sure is all."

Hale's eyes narrow as he takes a seat. "See, that's what's funny. Seven months ago, you were about the only intern who wasn't being a pain in my ass during the precious hours of the day where I get to spend quality time with my cable reception and a large Meat Lover's in my underwear."

Stiles drops the sandwich and sighs, obliquely surprised at how little that mental image disgusts him. In fact, it-

NopeNot even thinking of going there...

"Yeah, you're right. Guess I was just-" he starts, but peers at Hale before deciding that this is not the guy he wants to show weakness in front of. "Never mind, I'll handle it."

There's a beat of silence before Hale lets out a breath and leans forward in the chair. He clasps his hands in front of him, and his eyes are soft; some strange mixture of green-blue-brown that stands out even under the artificial lighting.

"Stiles, look," he says. "If you're going to make it through this, you have to start trusting your own judgement. Losing people is shit, okay? Sometimes what we do is a daily kick in the fucking balls. But the minute you take that home with you, and let it start to eat you, that's the minute you're done."

He seems to be picking his words carefully, which Stiles has never seen before. It's... disconcerting.

"It wasn't a failure in knowledge that lost Lewis - it was the fucking system, and I know it sounds like a bullshit excuse - and it is, it really is when someone had to sit down his seven-year-old and explain where her daddy's gone - but it's just how we have to justify it in our heads."

He chews on his bottom lip for a beat and Stiles watches, needing this, needing something that will make it seem like he's not crazy to still even give a shit about it all.

"So make yourself feel better. Lie to yourself - whatever. Just stop second guessing the easy stuff. After that, as you learn, the rest kind of... falls into place."

Stiles stares somewhat dumbly, surprised at the show of humility from the guy who walks around like the place owes him a favor. Like nothing gets under his skin and Stiles had wondered how.

"Okay," he croaks back, setting his hands on the table.

"Good," he beams, and it looks like a shark. "Now, if the next time you page me, someone isn't fucking dying, I'll make sure someone is. Understand?"

There he is.

"Sure. Understood," Stiles replies, rolling his eyes.

So maybe Stiles had been hoping that he'd find someone that he could look up to. Aspire to be like.

It probably isn't this guy.