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A Thousand Fiery Suns of Angst - Just Press Play

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a thousand fiery suns of angst—just press play

"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" Stiles yells, skidding into the dining room and flinging himself into his chair at the table. "Deaton kept me late preparing for Saturday, and oh my God I think my stomach has actually started to eat itself that is how hungry I am. Oh my God, food. Food. Yes yes yes yes—"

He cuts himself off as he stuffs his entire serving of mashed potatoes—a portion approximately the size of his fist—into his mouth.

His father looks up from the paper, eyebrows raised. "Stiles. You're almost forty minutes late."

"Ah knoh," Stiles says through mashed potatoes, and swallows. "I'm really sorry. But, you know, Deaton…"

"You could have texted," his father points out.

Stiles winces. "Uh. Yeah. About that."

"Another one? Are you kidding me right now?"

Well, crap.

"Heh. Good thing we've got that insurance, right?" Stiles tries weakly.

"You can only use it twice a year, Stiles," he father grinds out, one hand on his forehead. "This would be your third."

"Crap."

His father looks up in resignation. "Is there any hope of doing some kind of home repair? Are we talking water-logged, a cracked screen, slightly melted… What?"

"Uh." Stiles grips his plate in case he has to run for it. He's still starving, and if he's going to flee for his life, he's bringing food with him. "The words 'extra crispy' might come to mind."

"Do you want to tell me how that happened?"

"Not really."

"Stiles."

"You asked," Stiles says indignantly.

His father has that look on his face. The 'if I had a TARDIS, I'd go back in time and switch my son out for a different one before we left the hospital' look. Or, you know, he would be thinking that, if he didn't have the worst taste in television ever.

"Deaton thought it would be good motivation for learning control," Stiles mumbles. "You know, with the—bracelet totem thing I'm supposed to be making. So he put an apple on top of my phone and told me to hit the apple with my whole column-of-flames thing, and… well, I hit the apple."

"And the phone," his father sighs.

"And the stool," Stiles adds. "Which isn't so much a stool anymore as it is a pile of ash. Deaton was definitely mad about that. Does that help?"

"No."

"Oh." Stiles forgoes his fork and knife and eats the chicken breast with his fingers.

He pulls the loaf of bread to within grabbing distance.

"I'll get you a new phone after work tomorrow," his father says, in a tone that makes Stiles feel simultaneously very guilty and very, very happy that he isn't going to have to make a break for it with his dinner.

"Sorry," Stiles says.

He really is. It's just that every time he sits down to start on the bracelet, Deaton's instructions of "You'll know which braids and knots feel right for you," make it impossible. He just sits there and waits for his fingers to start moving of their own accord—since that's apparently what he's supposed to do—and his fingers never do. Except to stray over to his laptop to hit the Random button again on XKCD.

"So, other than failing to roast an apple, what else did you get up to today?" his father asks tiredly, changing the subject because he is the best father in the world.

Stiles shrugs. "Nothing. School. Scott has managed to keep himself alive for another day, the cafeteria still has taco sauce instead of ketchup because they think we don't notice—we totally do—Harris still hates me, and I—oh!" Stiles perks up. "So, Deaton was telling me that there's this massive debate right now between the magical peoples of America and, you know, everywhere else, about how to classify magical creatures scientifically. You know how in our normal organization system we have domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species?"

His father blinks. "Uh. Sure."

So of course Stiles has to then launch into this history of the creation of the scientific naming system, and it's evolution over the decades, and reel off half a dozen examples of each level, before he can even get started on the magical naming system.

"Stiles," his father interrupts, fifteen minutes in. He looks pained, for some reason. "I really have to—"

"No, I haven't even gotten to the cool part! Don't you want to hear?" Stiles asks, face falling.

His father sighs and sits back in his chair. "Summarize, Stiles."

"But you really have to understand the whole scope of it in order to appreciate just how cool this is! Because, see, you'd think that this classification system would be stagnant, right? Like, that's why it was created. But then you have to consider evolutionary relationships…"

 

Scott pops a fry into his mouth, and then makes a hilariously disgusted face as he chews.

"Seriously," Stiles says, rolling his eyes from across the table. "You know it's not actually ketchup."

"But I want it to be," Scott moans, staring at the orange-red puddle on his lunch tray pitifully.

"I have no pity for you," Stiles informs him. "None. Do you see this face? This is a pity-free face right here."

Scott eats another taco-sauce-covered fry, and makes the face again. Honestly, it's no wonder they're sitting alone in the cafeteria.

"You know insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome?" Stiles asks.

"But the day they finally bring the ketchup back—" Scott levels a fry at him, dripping red-orange gloop. "—I will be the first person to enjoy it."

"If your palate hasn't been completely destroyed from years of eating that orange shit."

"Dude, you have no room to talk. I've seen you eat Cheez Whiz after scooping the mold out of it. Also, Derek Hale is coming over here."

Stiles raises an eyebrow. "And I care… why?"

"Uh, because he's a year older than us, he's somewhat cool, he's coming this way, and he's looking at you," Scott hisses.

Stiles makes a skeptical face and turns to look—only to be faced with Derek Hale making a direct line for their lunch table. There's an easy, confident bounce in his step, the sort that comes from being six feet of tanned, lean muscle wrapped in denim and leather, and when he sees that Stiles looking at him, he smiles.

"Oooookay," Stiles says under his breath, as Derek approaches.

He glances at Scott, who shrugs and eats another fry.

Stiles has never actually spoken to Derek. He knows that Derek is on the lacrosse team with Scott and, like Scott, didn't 'go bro' like most school athletes do when they join up. He also knows that Derek hangs out with his older sister Laura and a kid named Boyd, and that Derek is a Hale and a werewolf.

He actually feels kind of weird not knowing very much about him, considering that he and Deaton also go over to the Hales' a few times a month and are charged with protecting the entire pack. But the Hale children are always kept out of any discussions they have, and Stiles has to wear the protegi the whole time anyway, which is specifically designed to keep anyone from recognizing him.

There's a brief spike of terror in his heart as Stiles wonders if the Hales have somehow found out, and Derek is here to relay a message—but that's impossible. Literally two people in the world know his identity, and both of them would die before giving it up. He's fine. Derek has no idea.

Derek approaches their table and stops.

"Hi," he says.

It takes Stiles a second to calculate the probability that he's accidentally woken up in an alternate universe.

The probability is very low.

"Hey?" Stiles replies, both eyebrows raised now.

"What are you doing Saturday night?" Derek asks, and—

What.

What.

Stiles brain trips over itself and he blurts out the very first thing he thinks of, which is: "That's what you're going to open with? Not, like, 'Hi my name is…?'"

Derek raises an eyebrow. "You don't know my name?"

"Of course I know your name. That isn't the point. The point is that you can't just—" Stiles' brain catches up with his mouth. "Wait, did you just ask what I was doing on Saturday night?"

Because Stiles knows exactly where he's going to be on Saturday night, and it's at the Hale house with Deaton, because Mrs. Hale asked them to come out.

Oh, God. What if Derek does know?

Stiles remembers too late that Deaton had said that werewolves have crazy-enhanced senses that can hear heartbeats and shit, and a second later Derek's frowning at him.

"Uh," says Stiles.

Derek would probably think it was weird if Stiles started doing deep breathing exercises.

"…Why?"

Derek grins, clearly amused. "Because I want to take you out, dumbass."

"Oh, good," Stiles breathes, relief flooding him for approximately half a second. "Wait, what?"

"On a date," Derek elaborates, which, yes, Stiles got that, thank you very much. "There's a drive-in an hour away that's doing a classic horror movie marathon on Saturday. Sound cool?"

  1. That sounds fucking awesome. Of course it does. Because:
  2. This is the first time that anyone has asked Stiles out since the sixth grade, and the person asking him out is stupidly sexy and has a stupidly sexy car, and while Stiles has never exactly thought about what it would be like to kiss Derek Hale in his Camaro, he's sure as hell thinking about it now. Unfortunately:
  3. Stiles is going to be busy on Saturday night with Derek's parents.
  4. That sounds kind of dirty. Ew.
  5. Also, there is no way that Deaton or his father would ever let him date Derek because of the whole secret-identity thing.

Once again, it sucks to be Stiles.

"Yeeeeaah," Stiles says. "Um. Actually, that sounds amazing and I would love to, but… I can't. Sorry."

Scott is staring at him, slack-jawed.

"Oh," says Derek, looking disappointed. "Well, we could do something another time? Are you free Sunday afternoon?"

"No," Stiles lies.

Derek frowns.

Fuck. Werewolves can hear heartbeats. They know when people are lying.

Stiles is so fucked.

"Hey, look dude, I've got a test fifth period that I've really got to study for," Stiles says, diving for the first textbook he can find in his backpack. "Sorry. Talk about this later, okay?"

Derek looks bewildered, and more than a little annoyed.

Stiles slams the book onto the table and opens it to a random page, hunching over it and placing his finger on a line like he hasn't had to do since ever, because he was always the best reader in the class. Whatever. Derek doesn't know that. Derek's never even spoken to him before today.

"What the hell, dude?" Scott demands in a whisper, as soon as Derek leaves. "Why didn't you say yes? I thought you said you were bi?"

Stiles looks up but keeps his body hunched over the book, and when he speaks, he keeps his voice at a whisper. "Okay, Derek and I are two very different types of bisexuals. Derek has a fake ID and a distinct lack of virginity. I have lots of alone time in my bedroom. Do you see why it makes no sense for him to ask me out?"

Scott shakes his head. "No. I mean, everyone has to start somewhere, right? And it's not like you walk around with a giant V on your forehead."

Stiles gives him a look.

"Except for that one time at Rocky Horror, when you went up on stage and had a fake—"

"We agreed never to speak of that," Stiles interrupts, feeling his face heat at the very memory. "The point is, I want to go out with someone who actually likes me, not someone who heard I was bi and thought he'd take me for a test drive."

"You think he—" Scott doesn't even finish his sentence, just wrinkles his nose and looks in the general direction in which Derek had disappeared.

"Why else would he come up out of the blue and ask me out?"

Scott shrugs. "Maybe he likes you."

"Yeah, and maybe your hand being larger than your face actually does mean you have cancer."

Scott starts to lift his hand.

"Oh my god, Scott, put your hand down."

 

Stiles is waiting in a line of cars to exit the student parking lot—a business that takes ten minutes on good days and forty on bad days when no one has any meetings, rehearsals or practices to delay them—when there's a knock on his window.

Derek Hale. Of course. And he's wearing sunglasses, now.

Stiles turns down the radio and rolls down the window.

"Can I help you?" he asks, trying and failing to keep his heart rate from speeding up.

"I was wondering if I could catch a ride," Derek says.

"What, to your house?" Stiles says incredulously.

"No, to my car," Derek replies, gesturing down the line of cars. His Camaro is parked about twenty spots down, and stands no chance of backing out for at least fifteen minutes. "Miller let us out late, so I'm going to be the last person out of the parking lot anyway."

Stiles should say no.

"Please," says Derek, in a 'bored now' sort of tone.

"Oh, God—fine. Get in," Stiles says, disgusted with himself and his self control. Or lack thereof.

He tells himself that it's okay, because normally he'd be texting Scott or playing Angry Birds to entertain himself during the After School Traffic Jamapalooza, but he doesn't currently have a phone. What else is he supposed to do?

Derek climbs in, settling his backpack on the floor of the Jeep with a thump.

"So... do you creepily know what my car looks like, or did you wander around until you saw me sitting in the driver's seat?" Stiles asks.

"Everyone knows your car," Derek answers easily. "Between the obnoxious color and the fact that it's thirty years older than everyone else's, it's hard to miss."

"Hey!" Stiles protests, putting a hand on the dashboard. "There is nothing wrong with my car! The color is cool, okay? First, I can always find it in a parking lot, and second, I can call it the Blueberry. Which I do. Plus, it was free, and you really can't beat a free car."

"Your speedometer stops at ninety," Derek says.

"Which would be a problem, if I was using this to try to win drag races. Luckily, I aspire to not be killed before the age of twenty by either a car crash or my father, so I steer clear."

Heh. Steer clear.

Stiles is an artisan of words.

The car in front of Stiles moves a foot forward. A truck still stuck in its parking spot looks like it's about to make a bid to back out and place yet another car between Stiles and his freedom, which is unacceptable. Stiles lets off the brake and hurriedly closes the gap.

"So," says Stiles, "Stalky McStalkerson. What brings you to my perfectly fine and, quite frankly, fucking awesome car?"

"I wanted to finish our conversation from lunch. The one that ended in you lying to me about having a test."

"Oh. My. God. You are actually a stalker."

"No, idiot. But I know you're in gym this semester, which only has one test and it's at the end of the year, and sophomores have gym fifth period."

Stiles blinks. "Whoa. Okay. You're actually kind of not a total moron."

"High praise from King Stilinski," Derek remarks dryly.

"You have to admit, there is a definite correlation between muscle mass and IQ at this school. Except Scott. He doesn't have either, poor guy."

Derek eyes him. Maybe. It's hard to tell with the sunglasses. "You've got muscle under there."

"Dude, I struggle to pick up my backpack on a daily basis," Stiles says. "Also, way to admit you've been checking me out."

"Look," says Derek, as Stiles pulls the car up another foot. "I—I'm not actually a stalker, okay? I like you."

"Yeah. Right," says Stiles, suddenly sour. "I know how this goes, so let me just cut you off. I'm attractive enough that you'd want to have sex with me, but too awkward or weird or annoying to actually date, so you want to feed me some bullshit, take me on two dates, fuck me and dump me."

Derek blinks, looking dumbfounded.

"Yeah, I called you on it," Stiles says. "It's okay. No big. There's plenty of other fish in the sea."

"No, you—Jesus, you're an asshole," Derek says disbelievingly.

"Uh, excuse me? Which one of us was trying to trick me out of my virginity just now—"

"I'm not trying to trick you out of your—fuck, Stiles, I want to date you! I like you!"

"Excuse me for being a little skeptical, considering the fact that up until yesterday we've never spoken," Stiles shoots back.

"We had accounting together last semester," Derek protests.

Stiles pauses. "Oh. Hey. We did. But we've still never spoken!"

Derek shrugs, and Stiles notices for the first time that he looks awkward. Huh.

"You and Scott were in it," Derek all but mutters. "And I… Fuck, can't you just accept that I like you? You're smart and funny and cute. All of the normal reasons that someone would want to date you."

"No, let's go back to the part with Scott," Stiles says. "You don't, like, think that Scott and I are together and you're getting in on some kind of threesome, right?"

"What? No," Derek says, staring at Stiles incredulously. "Seriously?"

Stiles shrugs. He moves up a whole six feet in line, careful to keep the distance between his Jeep and the car in front of him.

Derek sighs. "Okay. Fuck. It's just that you—you were always Scott's partner in class, even though you knew that Polawski didn't give individual grades. And I know you helped him study for all of the tests, and you worked on him with his homework, and gave him your notes and… everything."

"Yeeeah?" says Stiles. "And? Scott's my friend."

"I've never had friends like that," Derek replies, quietly.

That throws Stiles for long enough that he actually misses a car pulling out in front of him—and it's Jackson Whittemore's fucking Porsche, of course it is—and now he's stuck behind another person.

Wonderful.

"Fuck," Stiles mutters, resisting the urge to honk his horn because (a) Jackson will probably get out of the car and kill him, and (b) Stiles' horn sounds like a duck with a head cold.

"Uh," Stiles adds, after a second, when he remembers Derek. "Not you. Jackson Whittemore. That's, uh—that sucks."

Derek looks unimpressed.

Right. Stiles is supposed to agree to date him, now that he's pestered this embarrassing, personal confession out of him.

"…not even Boyd?" he tries weakly. "Don't you two hang out?"

"Only because there's no one else," Derek says, very matter-of-fact. "Boyd would abandon me in a hot second if he got a better offer."

"But, like, never? No one?"

Derek shrugs. "I got tired of pretending to like total morons just so that I could say I had friends."

"But… you don't think I'm a moron," Stiles says slowly.

"You're a lot smarter than you muscle-IQ theory would indicate," Derek replies.

Stiles blinks.

"Wow," he says eventually. "Okay. So that was officially the most convoluted compliment I've ever received."

"You're welcome," says Derek. "Also, cute, smart, funny, etcetera. Like I said before."

"Seriously, though, I don't know what you think is under all these t-shirts."

"Muscle," Derek replies.

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Yeah, okay. Maybe a little. But if this is what you define as being muscled, then I'd hate to know what sort of adjectives you'd use to describe yourself."

"Stiles…" Derek sighs. "Look, I told you why I was interested. Give me a yes or a no."

"Pushy, pushy," Stiles complains.

"Yes or no."

"Oh, look, it's your car!" Stiles says brightly, as he moves the Jeep forward another few feet.

"Stiles."

He sighs, and tries not to slump back in his seat. "Can I get a night to think it over?"

There's a sudden, sick feeling in the pit of his stomach at war with the warm, spindly web of hope in his chest. He knows that he has to say no, but he can't say it right now. Not like this. Not now.

"Fine," Derek agrees, though he doesn't look thrilled a making the concession. "I don't know what there is to think about, though."

"You'd be surprised," Stiles says. "Now, out. Leave me to my thoughts."

Derek huffs and collects his backpack, but doesn't slam the door of the Jeep when he leaves. Stiles appreciates that. Not even Scott remembers to be gentle with his baby.

 

Stiles' father presents him with his new phone that night.

"What is that? Is that even a cell phone?" Stiles demands, staring at the veritable brick he's just been handed.

"Yes," his father replies. "It was free, in fact."

"There's no keyboard! How am I supposed to text? Can this thing even text? Where's the camera?"

His father smirks.

"Seriously, Dad," Stiles says, as he pulls out a freaking antenna. "You don't actually expect me to use this."

"Consider it motivation," his father replies, with a disgustingly smug look on his face, "to finish your totem and learn control."

"You are the worst."

"The number for reporting child abuse is on the fridge."

"Don't think I won't call it!"

"You can even use your new phone."

Stiles doesn't call. He goes up to his room and tries to make his stupid totem thing, but after an hour of braiding and knotting, and unbraiding and unknotting, he gives up. Again.

He flops onto his bed with a heavy sigh. Derek pops into his mind for probably the hundredth time since he'd kicked Derek out of his car, but he pushes the thoughts away.

The thing is, there isn't actually anything to think about. Derek is a werewolf. Stiles is secretly a witch, and he needs to stay secretly a witch, otherwise his life and the lives of everyone who knows his identity, are at risk. Stiles cannot date Derek. Even if he wanted to.

Which maybe he does.

Maybe.

Probably.

Who is he kidding, of course he wants to.

"Daaaaaad!" Stiles moans, splayed out on his bed. "My life is hard!"

There's a pause.

"How about a whamburger and some French cries to soothe the pain away?" his father calls back, probably from the living room.

Stiles rolls over to faceplant into his pillow.

 

He dreams of being tied down as his magic is peeled off of him like skin, every strip slow and white hot. There is blood running from every orifice and above him, old, hewn hands reach down to pluck more power up. When all of his magic has been stolen, he will go into shock and die. There is nothing he can do. He's an uninitiated witch and his magic isn't bound to him yet.

Deaton's best friend had died like this at age fourteen. Stiles has seen the photos and heard the story, and he's had this dream a thousand times.

Usually, the body on the ground beside him is his father, or his mother. Sometimes Deaton.

This time it's Derek. For some reason, his partially-severed head is wearing sunglasses.

 

He's neck-deep in his locker, changing out his textbook load and mentally reviewing what they're covering in his classes today and how badly he's going to be able to pay attention to each lesson, when a hand lands on his shoulder. Stiles jumps, drops the book in his hand, and simultaneously tries to raise and turn his head, which results in a painful double-slam against the wall and shelf of his locker.

"Motherfuck!" he spits, yanking his head out of his locker and whirling.

It's Derek, and he's snickering.

"You suck," Stiles tells him, scowling.

Derek's grin widens to show his teeth.

Stiles wonders what they look like when he's gone wolf. He's seen Mrs. Hale do it once, when he and Deaton had helped her track down a rogue Omega that had come through town, and it was pretty cool.

He bets it would be beyond cool on Derek. He bets it might be kinda hot, actually.

"You have AP World first, right?" Derek asks, as Stiles busies himself with retrieving his dropped textbooks.

"The fact that you know that—and that you tell me that after showing up randomly at my locker—is kind of really creepy, dude," Stiles informs him, stuffing books into my bag. "In case you were wondering. My Creep-O-Meter is definitely going off right now."

When he turns back around, zipping his backpack shut, Derek is looking unimpressed.

"Can I help you?" Stiles asks.

"AP World," Derek says, jerking his head in the direction of Stiles' class. "Let's go."

Slightly wary, and slightly excited despite himself, Stiles slams his locker closed and starts off for AP World with Derek at his side.

"Sooooo," says Stiles.

"So?" Derek replies.

"So," says Stiles, one more time, just to be obnoxious.

"Stiles."

Stiles' stomach twists a little. This is where attending the Stiles Stilinski School of Ignoring Your Problems Until They're in Your Face tends to fail him. Maybe he should consider enrolling in the Adrian Harris School of Blame Your Problems on a Hapless Innocent, instead.

"Look," he says. "Dude. You seem really cool and everything, but I can't. And I'm sorry. All right?"

"What do you mean, can't?" Derek asks, eyes narrowing.

Dammit. He totally should have practiced this last night.

"I mean that I can't," Stiles repeats. "Because… I am not interested. And I do not date people I am not interested in. Therefore, I cannot."

"You're lying," Derek says.

Fuck. Fucking werewolves and their fucking super-hearing.

"No, I'm not," Stiles lies, even as his heartbeat speeds up further.

"You were interested yesterday," Derek insists. "Your h—I know you were."

"And then I thought about it, and I decided I wasn't, all right? I'm too busy, I don't even know you, and—and you know what? It doesn't matter what the reason is. My answer is no."

They round the corner and nearly get trampled by a herd of gothic kids. Derek pulls Stiles out of the way at the last second, and brings them both to a stop at the safety of the opposite wall.

"Please," Derek says, and it's not at all like yesterday's 'bored now' please. He actually means it. "Just give me a chance. One date."

Fucking hell. Why can't a non-werewolf person be this interested in Stiles? Why can't Derek, the only person in Beacon Hills to not treat him like a sexual pariah, be a non-werewolf person? Why can't anything ever seem to work out in Stiles' favor?

"No," says Stiles.

"Is it the—the virginity thing?"

"Hey!"

"Sorry!" Derek says quickly. "Sorry, I didn't—just—"

"Oh my God!" Stiles explodes, actually flailing back with the force of it. "Do you not know how to take no for an answer? Is consent, like, a foreign concept? Because clearly you wouldn't recognize it if it was standing right in front of you, butt naked. And hey, gee, there's a thought—maybe this is why you have no friends! I said no, and you're not entitled to an explanation, you—you creepy asshole!"

And, hey, that rant had sort of gotten away from him. Especially considering the way that most of the people in the hallway have stopped to stare at them, and Derek's gone blank-faced and pale.

He definitely should have practiced this last night.

"Just leave me alone," Stiles forces out, and luckily it comes out as words and not vomit, and he turns on his heel and rushes off to AP World alone.

 

Stiles' magic had manifested a week after the death of his mother. Deaton had started training him immediately, since Stiles was shorting out all electronics within a five foot radius of his person, and one of the very first decrees Deaton had made had been that Stiles no longer had time to play after-school sports.

Two weeks later, Deaton realized exactly how much energy Stiles had when he wasn't burning it off in the school gym three days a week, and quickly produced a solution to the problem. So, while everyone else was playing basketball or running track after school, what did Stiles get to do?

Tap dance.

 

"Ow, ow, ow," Stiles mutters, hobbling off the tap mat and collapsing into the chair next to it he'd been using for lift. He pulls off his tap shoes, wiping sweat off his face with his free hand, and winces as he stretches his toes. "Can't we just take the cramp rolls out?"

"Sorry," Deaton replies, not looking even a little bit sympathetic to Stiles' toe-cramps.

Stiles makes a face and alternates between stretching his toes and massaging them vigorously.

"Five minutes, and we're starting," Deaton tells him, as he does every day after he's finished putting Stiles through his grueling tap sessions.

Stiles groans, but hobbles off to the bathroom to change clothes and splash his face with water.

Sometimes, when they work extra-hard during a tap lesson and Deaton doesn't have anything intense planned for the rest of the evening, Stiles gets a ten minute break. Today is not one of those days.

Deaton's waiting for him when he comes back with a load of supplies and a familiar book on the counter.

"What are we gonna do tonight, Brain?" Stiles asks.

Deaton raises his eyebrows. "Why don't you tell me?"

Stiles rolls his eyes, but surveys the contents of the table.

There are twelve little glass jars lined up, and a box of assorted nasty, sharp objects—nails, broken glass, needles, and sticks heavily covered in thorns. Beside that is a rack of little bottles, each containing a lock of hair and labeled with a one or two-digit number. Behind all of that is another little glass bottle containing something that looks a lot like blood. The book is titled Domestic Defense: Wards and Charms for Around the House.

"Protection charms?" Stiles finally guesses.

"Quite right," Deaton says, nodding.

"But don't those require…" Stiles makes a face. "Uh. Urine?"

Deaton smiles and hands him another water bottle.

"Right," says Stiles. "And is that blood in the little bottle? I thought blood and urine were on, like, equal levels of power in protection charms. Meaning no additive effects when put together."

"That's correct," Deaton says. "Except for one very special kind of blood."

Special kind of—

"Oh my God," says Stiles, recoiling. "Oh my God, are you seriously telling me that you have menstrual blood in a bottle?"

"We'll have to do a brief purification rite beforehand, to reform its tie to the Hale pack, but yes," Deaton confirms, unperturbed. "The effects of menstrual blood in protection charms are far superior to any other bodily fluid."

Stiles doesn't think the Harry Potter books would be half as popular if J.K. Rowling had written them about real magic.

"I don't even want to know how you get bottles of menstrual blood," Stiles says, trying very hard not to picture the ideas currently flying through his mind.

"If you'll start assembling the jars, please, I'll quiz you over your wards as you work," Deaton says. "There's a pair of protective gloves in the sink."

"Can't we just accept that I'm going to suck at wards forever?" Stiles complains, as he retrieves the gloves from the cupboard. "You said my mom wasn't great at them either. Clearly, Saderquists just aren't meant for defensive magic."

"You can do most of the basic ones, and I promise that the rest will come easily once you finish your totem," Deaton replies calmly.

"Yeah, on like, my deathbed," Stiles says bitterly. "Maybe I'm not meant to have a totem. Is that a thing? Are there witches without totems?"

"None who make it through the initiation rites. It will come to you, Stiles. There's no time limit."

"There's the time limit of my life," Stiles grouses.

Deaton lips twitch in a way that Stiles has come to know means that he's trying not to laugh. "Start filling the jars, please, and take me step-by-step through setting up a northern safety ward."

"Step one: find a witch who can actually cast wards," Stiles says.

"Stiles…"

Stiles rolls his eyes and grabs a fistful of sharp objects. "Okay, first you have to orient the ward to match the direction, imbuing the cardinal directions with the proper elements. Air is north, water is east, earth is south, and fire is west. Once you've done that, you start your rune pattern in a balanced shape. Begin with eihwaz…"

 

Stiles sits in the passenger seat of Deaton's car. Twelve jars filled with sharp, nasty things, hair, urine, and freaking menstrual blood, rattle gently in their box as the car pulls off the paved main road and onto the gravel drive that eventually leads to the Hale McMansion. Stiles grips the edges of the box. He really, really doesn't want any of the jars to break open.

Stiles fiddles with the ridiculously old and powerful golden bangle he has to wear around his wrist. It's called the protegi. It's essentially designed to protect uninitiated witches when they went out with their teachers, because not only does it make it impossible for anyone to recognize Stiles' person, but it also masks his scent and his heartbeat. The flipside, of course, is that when he's wearing it, he might as well be a Muggle for all the magic he can do.

Stiles doesn't like wearing it. But uninitiated witches are apparently like energy drinks for everyone else, unbound to their magic but still linked enough that the power-siphoning spell results in an excruciating death. So Stiles suffers through wearing the protegi every time he and Deaton go to visit the Hales.

"I think I should get Jedi robes," Stiles says as they drive through the woods. "And refer to you only as 'Master'."

Deaton doesn't reply, but Stiles sees him take in a breath. Probably for patience.

Stiles goes quiet for the rest of the drive. He's supposed to speak as little as possible during these outings, ostensibly because he's the student and he's supposed to be obedient and observing only, but also because there's no magic in the protegi to keep people from recognizing speech patterns, and Stiles' speech patterns are pretty damn distinct. In that he tends to speak. A lot.

When they finally pull up in front of the Hale house, the sun is beginning to set. Stiles carries the jars up to the front door, trailing behind Deaton, and wiling himself to be graceful for once in his life.

He manages not to trip and drop the box. Thank God.

Mrs. Hale answers the door before Deaton can even knock.

"Alan," she says warmly, stepping back to allow him in. "Thank you for coming out—and hello to your apprentice as well. Ben's in the living room, go on in."

Stiles nods as he passes her. She smiles at him, their eyes perfectly level because all of the Hales including Derek's mother are tall. They're also all beautiful—naturally beautiful, in a way that makes them look like they're humanity purified. It's sort of weird that non-humans end up looking like what actual humans spend thousands of dollars trying to achieve.

He wonders if that's an argument for werewolves being a sub-species of humanity, instead of a separate species. Hm.

"Here, let me take that," Mrs. Hale says, and before Stiles can protest she's taking the box out of his arms and leading him to the living room. Halfway there, they encounter Derek.

Stiles' heart forgets to beat. It's only after Derek completely ignores him in favor of his mother that Stiles remembers that he's wearing the protegi and Derek doesn't know who he is.

"I'm going for a run," Derek mutters to his mother, scowling. With his black jeans and his black t-shirt, he might as well have a freaking thundercloud above his head.

"All right," Mrs. Hale says, smiling despite Derek's startlingly good Johnny Raincloud impersonation. "Stay away from the roads and paths."

"I know," Derek snarls.

He storms out of the house, and slams the front door behind himself so hard that Stiles actually hears things rattle on the walls.

"Sorry about that," Mrs. Hale says with a small smirk and a raised eyebrow. "Derek's just dealing with some good old fashioned teenage heartbreak right now."

It's a good thing Stiles is no longer holding the box of jars of sharp things, piss and menstrual blood.

Derek's what?

By the time Stiles opens his mouth to reply—probably with something disastrous and awful—Mrs. Hale is already continuing on to the living room. That's probably for the best.

…Derek Hale is heartbroken over him?

Stiles is still reeling a bit when he reaches the living room. He sits on the loveseat next to Deaton—or, rather, he sinks down into it, because the Hales have the most wonderfully plush furniture ever—and nods to Mr. Hale, who's seated next to his wife on the sofa, their fingers loosely threaded together.

Mrs. Hale wears her wedding ring on the middle finger of her left hand, because she's missing her ring finger. Stiles doesn't know how it happened, only that Mrs. Hale refers to it as her 'lucky finger' and frequently shares affectionate glances with her husband when she mentions it.

"I'm not sure what you'll want to do," Mrs. Hale says to Deaton, her voice calm despite her words. "We don't have anything concrete to give you, just a general feeling of… something else. Something not right. And a strange scent in the air, sometimes."

"Can you describe the scent?" Deaton asks.

Mrs. Hale shakes her head. "Something chemical. Manmade. It would be easier to just share it."

Deaton nods. "Of course. While we're doing that, would you mind if I sent my apprentice around the house to check on the wards? I could tell driving up to the house that they've been weakened."

"Weakened?" Mr. Hale repeats, blue eyes zeroing in on Deaton with new focus. "What does that mean?"

"It means that your concerns are definitely not unfounded," Deaton replies. He shakes his head. "It could mean other witches, possibly working with hunters, or it could mean a variety of magical creatures. I'm not sure at this point"

"It's more likely to be witches, though, isn't it? Elizabeth would have noticed another creature on the territory," Mr. Hale points out.

"She should have, yes," Deaton says, his eyes flickering to Mrs. Hale.

"So what do we do against witches?" Mr. Hale asks.

Mrs. Hale squeezes her husband's hand.

If it's other witches, they could be in trouble. Deaton is excellent at defensive magic, but he only has himself and an apprentice who doesn't even have a totem completed yet. Stiles has never faced off against more than one witch, and he doesn't know how they would fare against an entire coven of witches. How much magic can a coven even generate?

But then Deaton says, "If it's witches, I wouldn't be worried. Any witch with enough power to be a threat would know of our pact, and they would know of me. And they would know that I am not friendless."

So apparently Deaton can totally take down an entire coven of witches.

Apparently this is something Deaton never bothered to mention in the three years that he's been teaching Stiles.

"Can you go and check the wards, please?" Deaton asks, turning to Stiles. "When you're finished, let me know which need attention. After that we'll set the protection charms around the house, and do a brief circle to see if we can sense any specific negative energies around the house."

"Yes," says Stiles, getting to his feet. He waits a beat, turns back to Deaton, and then gives a short bow. "…Master."

Deaton looks very close to face-palming.

 

Stiles has been checking wards for almost thirty minutes, while Deaton is inside doing his were-Vulcan mind meld with Mrs. Hale, when Derek appears from around the side of the house.

He's lost his shirt somewhere on his run.

And he's sweaty.

Jesus.

Thank God for Stiles' magical bracelet that hides his heartbeat and scent, and thank God for the long plaid flannel that is conveniently hiding his crotch right now.

"My mother says to meet them in the shed when you've finished," Derek informs him, rather sourly.

Stiles nods, and then pulls the ward back to the surface of the house so he can continue studying it. He means to find the place where he'd left off before Derek had distracted him, but before he can he's distracted again by the fact that Derek hasn't left yet.

"So your mom said that you're having love life problems," Stiles blurts out.

Derek's expression is instantly cloudy, with a chance of murder.

"Yeah, fuck off," he snarls, and he starts to stomp off.

"No—just, I'm sorry to hear that!" Stiles calls desperately, almost moving after him before remembering that he has the magical threads of the wards grasped in his hand. "I wasn't gonna make fun of you or anything! Heartbreak sucks. I am a hotel of heartbreak, man, I totally get it."

Derek looks over his shoulder, and there is now only a fifty percent chance of murder.

"Sorry," Stiles apologizes, somewhat sincere but mostly not wanting Derek to be more upset than he already is. "Okay? Change of subject now? I didn't mean to sound like I thought it was funny."

"Well, my family thinks it's real fucking hilarious," Derek mutters, turning back around. His eyes flicker between Stiles and the shimmering wards on the side of the house. "What are you doing?"

"Uh," says Stiles. "I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you that."

Derek's expression becomes pinched.

Stiles tries to come up with something else to talk about, to the person he's definitely not supposed to be talking to in the first place, and fails. But he does want to say something. He knows what it's like when someone's keeping information from him (though there's nothing like "You're a wizard, Stiles!" to take the wind out of your sails). It's pretty much the worst thing in the world.

"I'm not really supposed to be talking to you," he ends up saying.

Derek stares, slightly incredulous.

"But, um," Stiles verbally flails, "uh, we can. If you want. Or if you don't want."

"Are we having a conversation or not?" Derek asks, raising an eyebrow.

"You're the one who isn't leaving," Stiles points out.

Derek rolls his eyes. "You're the one who keeps talking."

"It's a compulsion, okay?" Stiles says defensively. "If people are present, I will talk. It's a sickness, man. If you want me to stop talking, you've gotta leave."

"Fine," Derek says, raising his hands up in the air. "I'm leaving."

"Right. And I'm stopping," Stiles agrees. "See? Compulsion is going away."

"Only you're still talking," Derek says amusedly.

"Oh my God, only because you're encouraging me!"

Derek grins, and disappears around the side of the house.

Across the yard, Stiles abruptly notices that Mr. and Mrs. Hale are walking with Deaton, and boy oh boy, Deaton does not look pleased. This is worse than I-sent-your-stool-up-in-flames trouble. Stiles might even venture to say that this is worse than I-sent-my-tap-shoe-through-your-computer-monitor trouble.

Why does it always have to suck to be Stiles?

 

Stiles gives Deaton the list of all the wards that need updating, and while Deaton goes off to fix them, Stiles gets to bury the protection charms at strategic locations around the yard. The two youngest Hale children, Cassie and Linus, are very obviously pretending to play outside in order to spy on what Stiles is doing digging around in their yard. They keep moving their game of catch so that they're strategically in view of Stiles every time he moves to plant a new jar.

Stiles is majorly tempted to let them peek for a moment and tell them the craziest story he can think of about what the jars are for—especially because Linus is literally the most adorable six-year-old Harry Potter look-alike ever, with unruly black hair and wide green eyes. If Stiles wasn't already in so much trouble, he probably would have called them over.

Deaton gives him the stink-eye as they set up their circle.

"Poor emotions make a poor circle," Stiles remarks, and then promptly regrets the existence of his vocal cords at the look Deaton gives him. "Okay. Shutting up now."

Luckily, the stink-eye goes away when, halfway through the circle they realize that the Hale McMansion is literally surrounded by the Energies of Death.

(Okay, so Deaton actually calls it 'energies that are fading', but Stiles' name is way cooler.)

"It's the trees," Deaton tells Mr. and Mrs. Hale, as they stare at one.

It's not immediately obvious, but yes, the leaves on the tree are slightly brown and withered. Stiles thinks it's slightly less obvious because all of the other trees bordering the Hale McMansion—and that is a lot of trees—look the same way, so there's no contrast to catch the eye's attention. They're all dying.

"Is it a spell?" Mr. Hale asks.

Deaton shakes his head, running a hand cautiously near the tree's bark but not actually touching. "There's no focus to the energy, nothing that's draining it. I think—" He leans in for a sniff, but then almost immediately jerks his head back.

Stiles and the Hales tense instantly.

"Alan?" Mrs. Hale asks cautiously.

Deaton raises one finger, and a second later there's a tiny flame floating above it. Stiles definitely can't do that. If Stiles tried to do that, he'd end up starting a forest fire. But Deaton can, and he takes his finger-flame and slowly, carefully, moves it toward the bark of the tree.

Two inches away from the bark, the flame goes out.

"The oxygen is gone," Deaton says, withdrawing his finger. The flame flickers back to life. "There's some sort of barrier around the tree, preventing oxygen from crossing. It's not enough to kill the trees, but it's definitely enough to make them look like this."

"But it's not a spell," Mr. Hale confirms.

Deaton and Stiles shake their heads at the same time. It can't be a spell, even Stiles knows that, because if it was there'd be an anchor and this tree has nothing. Not even the slightest trace of a rune.

"I'm not sure what it is," Deaton says. "But it doesn't seem to penetrate too far into the forest—only the trees closest to your house."

Mr. and Mrs. Hale glance at each other.

"I'll start researching it immediately," Deaton promises, letting his finger-flame die out. "And I'll contact a few of my friends as well. In the meantime, try to stay in the house—or at least within the boundaries of the protection charms—as much as possible. I've set a watch on the wards, which will let me know if they start to fail again."

Stiles would have finished off with a "Stay safe," or a "Call me if anything happens," but Deaton just gives one final nod and then leaves. Because he's already in a shitload of trouble, Stiles just nods as well and then hurries after him.

 

Deaton waits until they're back on the main road to start in on him.

"You do realize that if anyone were to discover that you're an uninitiated witch, you would be kidnapped and stripped of your magic inside of a month?" Deaton says calmly.

Stiles fidgets with the protegi. "Yeah."

"You realize that no one survives being stripped of their magic," Deaton presses, "and there are hundreds of witches out there who would kill you without a second thought for a power boost."

"I know."

"The Hales are a wonderful family, and I have no doubt that they would do their best to keep your secret safe if they ever discovered your identity, but do you really think that they would lay down their lives for you? Do you think that they would choose you over a member of their pack?"

"I—"

"That isn't how werewolves work, Stiles," Deaton says severely.

"But we protect each other," Stiles protests. "They defend us, and we defend them, that's the pact. You said your mentor died saving the Hales!"

"Every person who knows your identity is in mortal danger because you aren't strong enough to protect them," Deaton says harshly. "You are uninitiated, uneducated, and poorly controlled. And you would endanger Derek's life for the sake of a meaningless conversation? You would endanger Linus' life?"

Stiles swallows. "I think that any of the Hales would lay down their lives for us."

"But would you ask them to?" Deaton asks.

"No," Stiles says, after a pause.

The car is silent.

"It's only a year and a half until you can undergo the initiation rites," Deaton reminds him. "It isn't that long."

Stiles slumps back in his seat and gives Deaton a look. "You have clearly forgotten what it's like to be a teenager."

The corners of Deaton's mouth twitch.

"Derek asked me out, in school last Thursday," Stiles says, turning to stare at the road in front of them. "And then again on Friday. He really likes me."

"Stiles—"

"Don't worry, I said no," Stiles assures him, scowling. "I was a massive dick and embarrassed him in front of like half the school. Don't worry. I'm sure he'll never talk to me again."

Deaton doesn't say anything.

They drive past a McDonalds. Stiles' stomach grumbles as he thinks about fries dipped in M&M McFlurries, but he doesn't pester Deaton to pull over.

"I'll drop you off at home, and catch you up on anything I find when you come in tomorrow," Deaton says.

Stiles sits upright. "What? No! Dude, I'm totally helping research. Research is my game."

"I thought you had plans for tonight?" Deaton asks.

"Yeah, my plans are figuring out what the hell can suffocate trees to death," Stiles says obviously. "Duh. I can play Call of Duty anytime, this is way cooler. I'll text Scott."

"All right," Deaton says slowly, clearly steeling himself for a few more hours of Stiles than he'd originally anticipated.

Stiles pulls out his phone, and thinks privately that Deaton's expression is rather unwarranted. When he gets in the research zone, he can be silent for hours.

He just has to figure out how to text Scott on this stupid brick of a phone, and he'll be all set.

 

Monday comes, and he and Deaton are no closer to figuring out what's been encroaching on the Hale territory. It's also all over school that Derek was brutally rejected by Stiles on Friday, which makes Stiles feel like a terrible person. Derek doesn't so much as look at him when Stiles walks past his table on his way to sit with Scott.

"Dude," says Scott, as Stiles sets down his lunch tray at their usual table. "Why didn't you tell me that Der—"

"We're not talking about it," Stiles says.

"But you—"

"I turned him down, maybe a little like an asshole, and a bunch of people overheard," Stiles interrupts firmly. "That is all, that is it, that is the end of this discussion."

"But why would you turn him down?" Scott asks, eyes flicking over to Derek's table. "I'm not even into guys and I know he's hot."

"There's more to people than their looks," Stiles tells him sanctimoniously.

Scott gives him a disbelieving look.

"And… he's not that hot anyway," Stiles adds. "Look at—his ears. They stick out. Our babies would have jug ears."

"Whatever, dude," Scott says. "What was up with your texts, this weekend? I can barely read them."

He holds up his phone as evidence, a list of text messages that read:

cbntdocallofdutya2nite

                                Tomorrow night?

mazybe

not2nitecutmr

Stiles scowls. "I can't find the stupid space bar, okay? My phone is from, like, the 90's or something."

Scott smirks and makes a grabby hand. Stiles passes the phone across the table and watches as Scott figures out how to open a new text message, and then begins to try to type. Two minutes later, he passes it back in defeat.

"Maybe it was made for a language where there are no spaces?" Scott suggests, shrugging.

Stiles rolls his eyes, and is about to retort, when a gorgeous, leggy brunette suddenly plops down beside Scott and greets him.

"Hi," she says sunnily, turning to Stiles. "I'm Allison."

"Hi," says Stiles.

He looks at Scott.

"This is Allison's first day," Scott says, smiling dopily. "We have English Lit together."

Stiles' eyes narrow suspiciously. "Do you."

"Scott loaned me a pen," Allison says, nodding.

From the look on Scott's face, Stiles thinks that had Allison asked Scott would have loaned her his mother's car without a second thought.

"I see you weren't kidding about the ketchup situation," Allison remarks, staring skeptically down at the puddle of red-orange glop on Scott's lunch tray.

"Yeah, it's pretty bad," Stiles agrees. Internally, he's rolling his eyes.

Way to make stimulating conversation, Scott. Impress her with a rant about the school cafeteria's condiments.

"Has anyone made a petition about it?" Allison asks.

Stiles gives her a strange look. "I don't think anyone's ever made a petition about anything ever at BHHS."

Scott glares.

Allison blushes slightly. "Sorry—my parents are really big anti-violence activists. I've practically been raised on civil disobedience."

"That's so cool," says Scott, looking slightly dreamy.

"Ever been tear-gassed?" Stiles asks.

"Only twice," Allison says dismissively. "And we got arrested at a gun protest once, but they didn't end up charging us with anything. Just roughed us up a little and let us go."

"Cool," says Stiles, and he doesn't blame Scott for looking like his eyes are actually in danger of falling out of his head. Allison is apparently a major badass.

"Let's make a petition about the ketchup," Scott says, snapping out of his admiring daze. "Can you show me how?"

Allison smiles brightly. "I'd be happy to."

 

When Stiles arrives at Deaton's office after school, it looks like the lost library of Alexandria was discovered, felt slightly motion sick after having been yanked back into existence, and then proceeded to vomit all over the office. Which is exactly how it had looked when Stiles had left late on Sunday night.

"Any luck?"

"Yes, actually," Deaton says, looking up.

Stiles drops his backpack to the ground and rushes over. "Seriously?"

"Elizabeth Hale called this morning," Deaton says, handing over a notebook he'd been writing in. "She was hanging the laundry out back, when a gust of wind came that was so strong it blew her into a tree."

Stiles blinks. "Into a tree?"

Stiles has seen Mrs. Hale use trees as a weapons. And not small trees, either.

"Which made me realize what we must be dealing with," Deaton finishes, nodding at the notebook in Stiles' hands.

Stiles turns back a few pages of what is obviously a translation. "Sylphs?"

"Air elementals," Deaton supplies.

Stiles frowns. "Okay, which are?"

"Why don't you read over what I've translated while I take a quick break, and then you can start in on the other book that I have," Deaton says, standing up slowly, as if he's been sitting for a very long time.

"Does this mean no tap dancing today?" Stiles asks.

"It means brushing up on your Gaelic," Deaton replies.

Stiles blanches. "Wait, it's not in Latin?"

"The one I'm translating is," Deaton says pleasantly, as he passes by. "You, however, haven't studied Gaelic in months. Chop-chop."

Stiles groans.

 

It turns out that sylphs haven't actually existed in a few hundred years. They seem to be occasionally-corporeal beings who have intense control over the air in their territory, from moving it around to magically transforming harmless air molecules into more toxic, foul chemicals. It explains the scents the Hales have been smelling, the oxygen-starved trees, and the freak gust of wind that morning.

By the end of the night, Deaton's pieced together a way to summon a sylph and hold it inside of a circle.

"I'd prefer to wait until I hear back from Midge, but she only has sporadic internet access, and I'd hate to wait any longer if the sylph is escalating to actual physical attacks on the Hale family," Deaton says, looking troubled.

"It's gonna be fine," Stiles assures him. "We'll get it in the circle, try to talk to it, and if all else fails, you can pull out some badass magic shit and scare it off. Just like we did with the brownies last year. Remember?"

Deaton raises an eyebrow. "Badass magic shit?"

Stiles huffs. "You know what I mean. All of the crazy things you can do and I can't."

"I can only do those things because I've been practicing for years and because I have three very strong totems, Stiles," Deaton says. Stiles instantly recognizes the lecture. "Raw power and control over that power are equally important. The fact that you have so much of it means that it's going to be harder for you to learn to control it. But the payoff will be worth it, Stiles. I promise."

Stiles remembers vividly the sort of things his mother could do, and while he'd had no sense of it as a child, from the way Deaton speaks she'd been much more powerful than him. Deaton has never said it outright, but Stiles suspects that he's more on par with his mother than with Deaton, in terms of raw power.

But it means jack squat if he can't ever learn to harness it.

"Okay," Stiles says. "So, circle. Tomorrow night?"

Deaton nods. "I'll call the Hales and ask if that would be all right. Make sure you start purification rites tonight."

Oh, goody.

 

Stiles goes home, runs a few miles, then takes a bath with purifying salts and candles and shit. Theoretically he's also supposed to relax and clear his mind, but the main point is to purify his body, so he balances his laptop on the side of the tub and does his homework. When that's done, he Googles the Argents, wanting to know if there's pictures of their family being badass.

What he finds instead is much more illuminating.

googleaprgentrightnowomg!

                                You found the ! but not the space bar?

chckwpetabombin

sum1.namedkatea7rgent!al5lisonsmom?

                                Allison lives with her mom and dad. Maybe Kate's a cousin?

ifallisonbombsbhhsillloveher4ever

                                You really need to find the space bar on your phone.

 

Stiles doesn't see Scott until lunchtime, and he's fairly certain that Allison is going to sit with them again today, so as soon as Scott sits down with his lunch tray Stiles pounces.

"Dude," Stiles hisses, leaning in. "Did you Google her?"

Scott shrugs. "Yeah. So they have the same last name, maybe it's a coincidence."

"Yeah, and maybe it's not," Stiles says, rolling his eyes. "Did you read the article where it says that Kate Argent comes from a family known for its political activism? And don't you think it's a little weird that Allison said her family were anti-violence activists, when her cousin or aunt or whoever Kate Argent is blew up a monkey lab?"

"Come on dude, just—drop it, okay?" Scott says, looking frustrated. "I don't care. Allison's not like that. She's really nice, and I think she actually likes me."

"But she—"

"Stiles!" Scott snaps. "I don't know if this has to do with you being a total asshole to Derek last week—"

Allison appears, Scott shuts up, and Stiles pulls a long drink from his water bottle.

Derek? Is that why he's so bothered about Scott liking Allison, because he's just been cockblocked by his stupid secret magic?

"Hi," she says brightly, oblivious to the tensions from the previous conversation. Then, her eyes moving to the table, she frowns and focuses on Stiles. "Stiles, aren't you eating lunch today? Do you need to borrow some money?"

"Uh, no," Stiles says awkwardly, still slightly thrown by Scott's comment. "It's, uh, steak night."

Scott nods understandingly, and explains:

"His dad's not supposed to have steak, because of his heart, so when they have steak it's a really big deal," Scott says, repeating the lie Stiles has been feeding him for years. "Stiles skips lunch to save his appetite."

Allison nods, her face lighting up. "That's cool—my mom makes really good ribs, I totally get it. Stiles, have you signed our petition yet?"

Stiles shakes his head.

She goes for her backpack. Stiles glances at Scott and raises his eyebrows.

Scott grins dopily.

 

By the time seven o'clock rolls around and it's circle time, Stiles is starving. He's also feeling pretty clean and emptied, which is ideal for a circle like this, but he is without question making Deaton stop at McDonald's on the way back. He's going to get two Big Macs, an extra-large order of fries (which won't be curly, because the only place that sells curly fries in town is not on the way to the Hales), a large chocolate milkshake, and probably two of those little apple pie thingies because you can get two for a dollar.

Stiles' stomach growls unhappily at the thought of the delicious food, but he ignores it.

They change into robes and start the circle and it's easier, because then all of the emptiness inside of him is filled with magic instead of hunger.

A circle like this one is complicated, with multiple rings and a whole haze of wards and limitations, which means that Stiles can only help with about half of it—mostly the basic setup and a few intermediate things—before the level of control required is too fine for him to continue. Eventually, he steps to the side and mouths the steps to himself as Deaton performs them.

Stiles does get to help call the sylph to the circle, though. That's pretty cool.

"Ad orbi veni puer aurae ut caelestia donorum tuorum ordemus et laudemus! Ad orbi veni puer aurae ut caelestia donorum tuorum ordemus et laudemus!" Stiles inhales, feeling magic churning in the pit of his stomach and tingling in the tips of his fingers, like it's bubbling over and just wants to come shooting out of every pore, but he has to hold it in until the third repetition."Ad orbi veni puer aurae ut caelestia donorum tuorum ordemus et laudemus!"

The power flies out of him and directly into the circle, flooding it and ringing it and raising it up. He can feel Deaton's power pulsing through his, braiding together with Stiles' magic and strengthening it.

Deaton moves, bringing his hands up, and Stiles grasps the one closest to him and pushes his power into the bright points of Deaton's totems.

In the circle, a presence begins to disturb the waves of magic moving through it. Stiles can feel it. It puts a strain on the composition of the circle, making Deaton buckle for a second before he steels himself and holds strong against it.

Minutes after Stiles feels the presence in the circle, he begins to see thick white lines appearing in the circle, like a stratus cloud coalescing before his very eyes. A glowing stratus cloud.

"Magus," it thunders, shaking Stiles' very soul.

Jesus. Of course it speaks in Latin.

"Sylph," Deaton replies, his own voice crackling with power. "Hoc agro ascitus inrumpis."

Stiles mentally translates.

You be invadin' land that ain't yous, bro.

"Nihil ad te attinet, magus," the sylph booms.

Fuck off.

"Agmini Hale agroque suo destinatus sum, postulote," Deaton replies calmly.

Dude, this land is my street corner and the Hales are my bitches. Now beat it before I go magic gigolo on you and curse yo ass.

"Viri lupini inrumpiunt. Admonitus eram, destitutus sunt correspondere."

The werewolves trespassed. They were warned, and they didn't listen.

"Hunc agrum Hales optentus sunt jam dudum," Deaton says firmly.

The Hales have been here for like a bazillion years, dude.

"Hunc redarguo."

Liar liar pants on fire.

The conversation is really going places.

"Hales hunc agrum asciscent, et non discedent. Aut agrum novum inveni aut eis consumes in agro suo."

Look, dude, the Hales aren't leaving. You can either fuck off or learn to share.

"Hic non acceptabilis est."

I continue to be difficult and refuse both of those options.

There's a faint buzzing from somewhere.

It takes Stiles a minute to detach himself from the circle enough to realize that Deaton's phone is ringing. And since he's more of a backup battery here than anything, while Deaton is practically orchestrating the entire circle himself, Stiles takes it upon himself to pull Deaton's phone out of his pocket and check the caller.

Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth," Deaton says, when Stiles holds the phone up to his ear.

Stiles takes over as the main power source of the circle as Deaton is distracted by the phone, and he concentrates on feeding his magic through the very precise points that Deaton has set up for the circle.

"Keep everyone inside the house. There must be more than one," Deaton says next to him, in response to whatever Mrs. Hale has told him.

"Quale veneficium est?" the sylph booms, and Stiles feels it stretch, reaching out against the confines of the circle, and he only just manages to concentrate on holding him in with a surge of power.

He grits his teeth, keeping his hand steady, and holds the circle.

"It's called a cell phone, dumbass," Stiles mutters.

"I'm going to send my apprentice over to fix the wards," Deaton says to Mrs. Hale—which, what? "He won't be wearing any sort of identity protection because he'll be doing magic, so—yes. Yes. Thank you."

Deaton rolls his head away from the phone and refocuses, and Stiles practically collapses as the strain of having to maintain the circle himself is finally lifted.

"Ab agro discedes," Deaton commands, his voice infused with magic and authority, "expellam."

Fuck off, or I'm gonna boot your ass out of here.

"Non potestis nos expellere," the sylph insists. "Robus non habes."

You can't do that, we—

We?

Deaton pauses, deliberately. "…Nos?"

"Fuck," says Stiles.

The sylph tries to leave.

It feels like someone tried to vacuum the circle up—a suctioning, reversed pressure pulling to leave—but Deaton seizes control of the circle and practically breaks all of the fingers in Stiles' hand when he reaches and grabs Stiles' power, pushing it into the circle. Static crackles through the air and the sylph writhes, letting out an unearthly shriek that reminds Stiles of the Nazgûl in the Lord of the Rings movies and makes his hair stand on end.

"Estis vinctus," Deaton says. "Remanabo hic et discipule mi ibit ad Hale agroque incarcerare colerem tui."

You're trapped. You're gonna stay here and—something—talk? And my apprentice is gonna go whoop sylph ass over at the Hale McMansion right now.

"Non!" the sylph shrieks, twisting and pulsing as it struggles against the confines of the circle.

"Stiles, go," Deaton says in a low voice.

Stiles glances at the circle. "Can you—"

"Go," he says.

Stiles runs.

 

They'd constructed the circle about half a mile away from the Hale McMansion. Stiles can tell when he's getting closer because it gets harder to breathe—and not because he's out of shape. Stiles is very much in shape, thank you. It's because the oxygen is literally being sucked from the air by the sylphs.

Not all of the oxygen, but enough that by the time Stiles stops running, his lungs are burning slightly.

It's dark outside, but light spills out from Hale McMansion, allowing Stiles enough light to not trip over anything in the grass. He's literally only wearing his cotton robe from the circle and a pair of sneakers that he'd jammed his feet into before taking off, and it's kind of really cold out. He bets that it's warm inside the house.

Knowing that he'll warm up once he gets some magic flowing through him, Stiles heads over to the north side of the house. He can't fix the more intricate wards, but those aren't the most important ones. The most important wards are always the most basic ones.

He concentrates on feeling the magical threads that crisscross the house like a net, until they're almost tangible beneath his fingers, and he plucks one at random.

A wall of shimmering wards appears.

Stiles loses himself in fixing the wards, ignoring the slight burn to his lungs as he throws all of his concentration into repairing and replacing the wards that have broken down alarmingly quickly in the time it took him to get here after Mrs. Hale called to let them know that the ward alert had gone off. He makes safety wards, protection wards, tries and fails to fix a notice-me-not ward, and ramps up approximately a thousand and one strength wards.

He's just about to begin on the south wall—his final wall, because for some reason southern wards always feel a little weird to him—and it's starting to become impossible to ignore the burning in his lungs, when the sound of a window opening distracts him.

"Stiles?" a voice hisses from above, and Stiles looks up so quickly he almost gives himself whiplash.

Derek's head is sticking out of the third-floor window. He looks like he's been slapped in the face with a wet fish.

I'm naked. I'm naked under this robe, Stiles thinks stupidly.

Stupidly, because Stiles does magic and if he had a dollar for every time he'd been naked for this ritual or that spell, he probably could have paid someone to make his stupid totem for him and have done with it.

But it's Derek.

That's Derek up there, staring down at him, seeing him doing magic.

Hoo boy.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Derek demands furiously. "Go home! Why would you even—"

And then he stops.

Now he looks like he's been slapped in the face with two wet fish.

"You're Deaton's apprentice?"

Fuck a duck.

Stiles, years worth of horror stories and threats blossoming in his mind like a giant, terrible flower of doom, picks the very sensible option of running away.

The sound of air rushing followed by the almost-silent crunch of grass behind him tells Stiles that Derek has chosen the similarly-sensible option of chasing after him. This will certainly end well.

The only thing that's running through Stiles' mind as he dashes into the forest is fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Deaton is going to kill him. Someone is going to kill him, he's going to die horribly, and all because Derek fucking Hale had to go and look out the window. Hadn't Deaton told Mrs. Hale to keep everyone away from the windows? Hadn't—

Stiles trips over a fallen branch and remembers the sylphs that are out to kill the Hales tonight.

He skids to a stop into a tree, arms extended as his palms hit bark, and he whirls just as Derek comes to a halt inches from his face. Glowing blue eyes flash in the night.

"Holy Jesus," Stiles gasps, falling back against the tree. The world spins for a second—his lungs are burning fiercely now—before he pushes himself up and shoves Derek hard. "Get back inside, you fucking moron! Go, go, go, there are a group of supernatural beings trying to kill your entire family right now!"

"I heard your heartbeat," Derek practically growls, expression frustrated. "Outside the house. Why did—"

"This isn't the time!" Stiles shrieks, giving another useless push against Derek's wall-of-muscle chest.

Derek jerks back this time.

"Come on," Stiles says, grabbing Derek's wrist and striding forward. "Back to the house we go. You can sit upstairs in your room and listen to some emo music—you probably listen to emo music, don't you, fuckin' Secondhand Serenade and Death Cab for Cutie shit—and think about the fact that you've literally just ruined everything. I hope it was worth it, you colossal idiot. Jesus, I'm going to die, and—"

Stiles' rant is cut off by a massive gust of wind sending him into a tree a few feet away with a sickening crunch.

His ears ring.

Something white and glowing is coalescing before his eyes, lighting the forest and making his head throb sharply with the sudden brightness. He feels vaguely sick, and he isn't sure which is his arm and which is his leg. He bobs his head in time with the nauseous pulses that thrum inside of him.

A roar and a familiar body landing in front of him in a protective crouch snaps him back to reality.

"Stiles, run."

"Derek, no," he says, staggering onto his knees. "It's not me it—"

Derek goes flying to the side. The white shape converges on him. Light illuminates his face and he's wolfed out, brilliant blue eyes shining in the white light of the sylph.

From the way his eyes bulge and his chest starts to seize, it's clear that Derek is getting the same treatment as the trees. The sylph is going to strangle him.

"Trusa!" Stiles screams, thrusting his palm forward.

Derek and a whole storm of debris go flying through the air. The tree that had been just to the left of Derek hits the ground with a tooth-ratting crash.

The sylph jerks back.

Derek gasps and coughs on the ground, limbs jerking helplessly.

Stiles stumbles over to him, plan snapping together in his mind as he runs, and when he kneels by Derek's side he's got the protegi out already.

"Sorry, I couldn't think of anything else," he says breathlessly, and he's about to slide the ancient bangle on when there's a roar.

It's a deafening, soul-shaking roar that makes Stiles' body stiffen and the air around him tremble. Beneath him, Derek whimpers and turns his head, exposing his throat in a way that makes it very, very clear who just roared.

Mrs. Hale bursts into the clearing a second later, red-eyed, wolfed-out, and terrifying.

"Mrs. Hale!" Stiles yells as the sylph begins to descend again.

She glances over.

Stiles jams the protegi onto Derek's wrist and pulls him up off the ground, pushes his body forward, and then Mrs. Hale is there and lifting him up. Stiles' lungs burn and he feels faintly dizzy.

Above them, the sylph that had been descending halts, thrown by the disappearance of its prey. Stiles feels a flare of triumph, but it's extinguished a second later when the sylph apparently decides to attack any way and descends on them.

Stiles has no idea what to do. He thinks for a split second that he should call Deaton, but there's no time and there's no air, and furthermore, he can hear a sucking noise that he knows indicates another incoming mega-gust of wind, and there's no time.

"Flagra!" he bellows, willing fire, fire without oxygen, fire that runs on his magic and not the atmosphere, fire that is more—

A column of flame four feet wide erupts from the palm of his hand and crashes into the sylph with a brilliant explosion of blue and purple.

An unearthly shriek stabs at his ears and the ground shakes and branches rain down from the sky, knocking Stiles to the ground and forcing him to cover his head. Debris slams into his skull and back and hands, and above him there is shrieking and crashing and the sound of flames crackling, but in his next breath he can breathe.

He can breathe.

The air smells like burnt ozone.

A huge branch falls on him, knocking him senseless, and it takes him a few seconds to register the hand closing around his wrist and tugging him up.

Stiles staggers to his feet, head swimming. When he looks up, the trees are on fire.

The hand pulls him forward and Stiles follows, understanding on a very basic level that he has to run, has to get out of here if he wants to live, and that the hand will lead him to safety. It can't be too far away. God, he hopes it isn't, because he's not sure how far he can run. Everything is spinning.

Grass flashes before his eyes. He runs, stumbling, listing to one side and then the other, but the vice grip on his wrist keeps him going forward. The sounds of his own breaths make vomit rise in his throat, and he chokes slightly.

Then the house comes into view.

The house that is protected by all of the wards that Stiles just spent ages fixing.

Instead of heading for the main doors, though, Mrs. Hale pulls them to the cellar doors, releasing Stiles' wrist to yank the door up. Then they stumble down into the cold darkness of the tunnel that leads to the basement.

Stiles feels it, the moment they cross the wards. It's like a warm, protective magical envelope has closed over him, and he stops, practically collapses to the ground, and gulps in breathes of air. The floor is cold and gross, and it's still a creepy basement hallway, but God, Stiles does not care. They're inside the wards. They're safe.

"I'll be back," Mrs. Hale says. "Do not move."

"That's really not gonna be a problem," Stiles gasps, which makes him realize that there's vomit on his chin.

Ugh. Gross.

The lights flicker to life, and there's the distant sound of a door closing.

"Are you okay?" Derek asks, after a long silence that is mostly filled with Stiles' ragged breaths.

With effort, Stiles props himself up against the wall. As the adrenaline crashes, he's beginning to really feel the cold of the basement in his thin cotton robe and sneakers.

Derek's leaning against the wall opposite him, knees tucked against his chest, pale and wide-eyed. There's a gash on his temple that's bleeding sluggishly.

"Oh, I'm fine," Stiles says, not bothering to make his voice support his words. "I'm just, you know, a little bit in shock after being thrown around the woods, almost strangled, and then starting a forest fire. Oh, God. I started a forest fire. Deaton is actually going to kill me. My dad is going to kill me."

Derek says nothing and stares at him.

"I did my best, okay?" Stiles snaps, wiping at the dried vomit on his face. "There's a reason I'm still an apprentice, you know."

Derek blinks. "I didn't—"

The sound of the door opening makes him stop, and he tenses. A minute later, Mrs. Hale appears in the corridor with an armload of supplies.

"I have to get back to Deaton," Stiles says, when he notices that the supplies consist of warm clothing and a first aid kit the size of a small dresser.

"You're not going anywhere," Mrs. Hale replies evenly. "You're concussed, bleeding, shocky, and magically drained. You have no business going outside."

"But he's—"

"Alan can take care of himself," Mrs. Hale says firmly, and throws a thick blanket at him.

Stiles subsides and wraps himself in the blanket. It's lovely and warm, and he only becomes aware of the fact that he'd been shivering when the blanket traps enough of his body heat that he can stop.

Mrs. Hale throws another blanket at Derek before busying herself with the first aid kit.

"Both of you—anything broken, sprained, dislocated, or heavily bleeding?"

Stiles and Derek both shake their heads.

"Okay then," she says, tearing open a packet of antiseptic wipes. "Derek, do you want to start by telling me why the hell you thought you would disobey my orders and not only look out the window, but then proceed to leave the house?"

Derek looks down, but doesn't get to for long because then Mrs. Hale is pulling his chin up, holding his face with one hand and gently wiping at it with the cloth in the other.

"I heard Stiles' heartbeat outside," Derek mutters. "I thought—I thought he'd come over. I was going to tell him to go away."

"This is Stiles?" Mrs. Hale asks incredulously, turning to stare.

Stiles feels seriously judged. He tries not to squirm.

"Apparently," Derek mutters, glaring at Stiles like this is somehow his fault.

Mrs. Hale turns her look of judgment back to her son. "So, you thought you'd leap out the window?"

"Yeah," Derek says, looking irritated. "Mom, do we have to do this now?"

"Yes. Now, do you want to tell me how you wound up in the forest?"

"That would be my fault," Stiles offers, poking a hand out of his blanket cocoon. "I, uh, panicked and ran. Sorry."

Mrs. Hale gives him a narrow-eyed look, before apparently deeming that the truth. "All right. Derek, are you hurt anywhere else?"

Derek shakes his head. "Just bruises, and they're almost healed."

"Okay. Go upstairs, check in with your father, and take a shower. Do not tell anyone that you know who Deaton's apprentice is, do you understand?"

Derek's eyes flick to Stiles before he nods.

"We'll talk about this later," Mrs. Hale promises.

Stiles swallows. "Derek."

Derek gets to his feet and glances back at him, expression unreadable.

"I'm sorry?" Stiles tries.

"Whatever," Derek replies, walking away.

Stiles holds in the curse he wants to spit out, but only because werewolves have super-hearing and also, Mrs. Hale is now right in front of him with a new packet of antiseptic wipes. He opens his mouth to say something, but then catches the look on Mrs. Hale's face and thinks better of it.

She cleans at cuts on Stiles' face that he hadn't known were there, and then does the same for his hands. Stiles is hyper-aware of her missing finger, and feels terrible about it. He wonders if she can, like, smell that or something.

"I'm sorry," he says eventually, feeling thoroughly miserable. He's cold, everything is starting to hurt, especially his head, and for some reason he feels like he's going to burst into tears at any minute.

Mrs. Hale's face softens slightly. "I don't blame you, Stiles. Sometimes these things just happen—especially when you have someone as admittedly impulsive as my son involved."

"Oh, this is nothing on the kind of stuff I've done," Stiles tells her. "You should talk to my dad. Ask him about the time I thought I'd magic myself clean—we had to re-carpet the entire second floor."

Mrs. Hale offers him a small, tired smile, and goes back to cleaning.

 

Deaton comes to collect him a while later, looking exactly as ragged as Stiles feels, though less injured and definitely still running on adrenaline whereas Stiles had crashed about an hour ago. He stands next to Mrs. Hale and surveys Stiles with a grave expression, even though he can't fully see him because Stiles is wearing the protegi again.

"The sylphs are gone," Deaton says. His voice sounds like he chain-smoked a lifetime of cigarettes in the past four hours. "There were only two, and you apparently killed the one that I didn't have trapped in the circle."

If Stiles had had the energy, his jaw would have dropped. Instead he just blinks tiredly. "I killed it?"

"Yes," Deaton says. "Additionally, you set the forest on fire."

Stiles slumps a little more. "Sorry."

"Luckily for you, I managed to put it out," Deaton says. "After I sent the other sylph home, without killing it or burning down Beacon Hills."

"Where was home?" Stiles asks curiously.

"About six hundred years ago," Deaton replies.

It takes a second for Stiles' exhausted brain to process that.

"It… time-traveled?" Stiles asks, his eyes going belatedly wide as it sinks in. "And then you un-time-traveled it?"

Deaton is such a badass. Seriously, there is no way Stiles is every going to be that awesome.

"Yes," Deaton says shortly. "I'll explain tomorrow, if you're so curious. For now, let's get you home."

Stiles nods. He sets down the mug of tea he'd been cradling and slowly uncurls himself from his blanket burrito, wincing as every muscle in his body protests and his head swims unpleasantly, and then slowly stands. He regrets the evolution of bipedalism.

"Elizabeth told me what else happened tonight," Deaton says, as Stiles creaks over to the entrance of the family room.

Stiles grimaces and comes to a stop in front of him. "I know. I—"

"Alan," Mrs. Hale says, laying a hand on Stiles' shoulder. Her voice is just as serious. "Derek identified his heartbeat from inside the house."

Deaton goes quiet, staring over Stiles' shoulder at Mrs. Hale.

"What?" Stiles asks, looking between them.

"Nothing," Deaton says, after a pause. He seems to collect himself. "Come on, let's go. It's late."

Stiles knows that it's not nothing, but he recognizes that look. That look means his answers are going to have to come from old, dusty books instead of from Deaton's mouth, and his shoulders slump in defeat.

He thanks Mrs. Hale, who squeezes his shoulder and nods before releasing him, and then follows Deaton out of the house.

 

Stiles is fairly certain that during the drive home Deaton is considering whether or not he should cut his losses and leave Stiles to his fate, or at the very least reconsider whether or not he should continue his training. Stiles doesn't ask him to stop at McDonald's, even though he would love an ice-cold milkshake to press against his throbbing skull.

They roll to a stop in front of Stiles' house. Stiles grabs his backpack and is about to get out of the car, when a hand on his arm makes him stop.

"Stiles," Deaton says quietly, his expression unreadable in the darkness. "You did a good job tonight."

Stiles blinks, and rapidly runs over the last twenty minutes in his head. "But I—"

"You did a good job," Deaton repeats firmly, "and I'll see you tomorrow."

Stiles is too tired to argue.

 

Stiles goes inside, lets his father play mother hen for a while with a hot shower, arnica rubbed into his bruises, and a cup of hot soup, and then troops up to his bedroom to quietly die. Despite Deaton's words there's still something heavy and uncomfortable in his chest, in his belly, and it makes every breath just a little too hard. Stiles wants to claw it out with his own blunt fingernails.

He thinks that sleep is the answer. He'll pass out on his bed and when he wakes up, he'll feel lighter and clearer with the dawn. Sleep is always the solution.

But when he trudges into his bedroom, he doesn't go to his bed.

He goes to his desk.

Half-dazed, Stiles watches as his hands open his top desk drawer and withdraw the worn cords of leather that started off stiff and smelly but are now butter soft between his fingers. Then he starts to braid.

He braids and weaves, fingers pulling and twisting and threading soft leather, until finally he knows it's time to make a knot. He ties the threads together in an intricate, balanced knot that leaves the cords splayed equally, and when he pulls it tight, something inside of him locks into place.

Stiles goes to bed with two inches of his totem finished, and falls asleep before his head hits the pillow.

When he wakes up, he feels light and clear.

Derek identified his heartbeat from inside the house.

 

School the next day is a special kind of hell. His father offers to call him in sick for the day, when Stiles literally cannot get out of bed for several minutes for the pain in his back, but Stiles is insistent. Unfortunately, though, he arrives to find that Derek still isn't so much as looking at him, and that Scott is disgustingly bubbly because he and Allison have their first date on Friday.

"And I suggested Leaf, which is that really weird raw vegan place, but then she was like, 'Actually, I've really been craving a good cheeseburger'," Scott says, half-giddy, as they walk to second period. "She's, like, perfect. I think I might love her."

"Based on her desire for eating the flesh of dead animals?" Stiles asks skeptically.

"No—well, maybe—I can't stand tofu, you know that. But she's smart and funny and she cares about people so much, you know? Like, she really cares."

"Uh-huh," says Stiles. He's grinning despite himself, because Scott is actively redefining the word besotted before his eyes and has absolutely no clue that he's doing it.

"Oh, and she told me about Kate—it turns out that Kate's her aunt, and she's like the black sheep of the family or something. Everyone else is super-antiviolence and stuff. Allison's really embarrassed to be related to her. So, uh, I know you were worked up about it, but—"

Stiles waves a hand. "No worries, dude. You were totally right, I was just being a dick because of how things went with Derek."

Scott looks relieved.

"So, go on," Stiles says, gesturing. "Tell me more. What are you going to wear? What are you going to listen to in the car? On a scale of one to five, exactly how raunchy is the goodnight kiss going to be?"

Scott beams.

 

"I made two inches of my totem last night," Stiles tells Deaton happily, when he comes in after school. "You were totally right—it was like an out-of-body experience. So weird. But awesome. Definitely awesome."

Deaton raises his eyebrows, looking amused. "Congratulations."

"My dad's thrilled," Stiles says. "He's really kind of tired of buying me cell phones. I didn't mention that at this rate it's probably going to be, like, years before I actually finish it and make it functional."

"I have full confidence you'll be ready to do the initiation rites by the time you turn eighteen," Deaton replies.

"You're only saying that because I haven't destroyed any of your office equipment in the last five—no, no, six! Six days. Hah. That might actually be a record."

"You'll be fine," Deaton assures him. "Start preparing a circle so we can meditate before we begin writing our reflections. It's especially important to be detailed this time, since there is so little documentation on the sylphs."

Stiles makes a face, but goes to the cupboard to fetch the circle supplies. A meditation circle, at least, is something that he can set up in his sleep—even if he sucks at the actual meditation part.

"So," he says brightly, returning with an armload of supplies, "how come Derek can identify my heartbeat from inside the house? What does that mean?"

"It means that Derek can identify your heartbeat from inside of his house," Deaton answers.

Stiles gives him a look. "That totally wasn't what I meant."

"Meditation circle, Stiles," Deaton reminds him.

Undeterred, Stiles starts setting up the circle.

He doesn't really need Deaton to tell him. He thinks he has an inkling of what it means, and the thought gives him a pleasant sort of buzz that's going to make it very difficult to calm down and meditate in five minutes.

 

Derek evades him for two days more before Stiles finally catches him walking out to the parking lot at the end of the day. The bruises on Stiles' face have almost completely disappeared.

"Aha!" Stiles says as he jogs up from behind and plants himself firmly beside Derek on the sidewalk.

"Go away," Derek says without looking at him.

"You knew my heartbeat," Stiles persists. "You could hear it from inside your house."

"So?"

"So…" Stiles flounders for half a second, because he doesn't actually know. "Look, you get why I had to say no to you last week, right? But—I didn't actually want to. I would have said yes, dude, if it weren't for all the secrets and stuff."

Derek ignores him.

"C'mon, man," Stiles says. "I'm sorry."

"No," says Derek.

"But I had to say no, you know that!"

"Yeah, but you know what you didn't have to do? You didn't have to humiliate me in front of half the school," Derek interrupts angrily, stopping and turning on Stiles. "But you did. So, congratulations. You're a dick. I got the message."

Stiles' eyes widen. "No, I didn't—it wasn't you!"

Derek walks way. "Not interested."

"Derek! Dude, come on, I like you!" Stiles calls after him, shoulders slumped in defeat.

"You don't know a thing about me!" Derek yells back.

"I know that's from a Kelly Clarkson song, you emo-music liking dick!"

Derek keeps walking.

 

"So there's this boy," Stiles says.

His father pauses the episode of Dateline he's watching and turns to look at him, eyebrows raised. "Does this boy have a name?"

"Derek," Stiles says as he squirms around on the couch so that he's sitting cross-legged and facing his father, instead of the television.

"Okay, so, Derek. Crush or bully?"

"Uh," says Stiles. "Neither? He sort of has a crush on me."

Stiles is just a little bit offended by the Look of Skepticism that his father has to wrestle off his face.

"Anyway," he says loudly, glaring pointedly to let his father know that the Look of Skepticism had not, in fact, escaped his attention, "he's also sort of Derek Hale, werewolf extraordinaire."

Understanding eclipses his father's face. "I see. Does this have anything to do with why you came home Tuesday night, looking like you lost a fight with a lawnmower?"

"Yeah—well, no. Sort of?"

Luckily, his father is well-versed in Stilese and listens patiently as Stiles fumbles through an explanation of the last week, starting with his disastrous, panicked refusal to go out with Derek, and ending with their conversation in the parking lot today. By the time Stiles finishes, his father has a rather speculative look on his face.

"So... yeah," Stiles says, flapping his hands. "That's the story."

"Okay," his father says slowly, after a pause. "So, you do like him?"

"Kinda. I mean, I didn't wake up this morning to find my heart lifted on the golden wings of love and soaring towards a radiant sun of perfect joy named Derek. But, you know, he seems cool."

"Well, if you want him to go out with you, I probably wouldn't open with that," his father advises dryly.

Stiles makes a face. "But, he's right. I was a di—er, a jerk. I'm kind of not very nice, Dad. Plus there's the whole magic thing. It would kind of suck if I got kidnapped and killed for my magic just because someone was like 'Hey, that kid Derek dates tends to visit Deaton's office a lot, that's mighty suspicious'."

"Yes, that might suck," his father agrees, looking vaguely exasperated, before he grows serious. "But, Stiles, you know that there is nothing more important than your own safety."

Stiles slumps back against the arm of the couch.

"Yeah, I know," he says glumly.

His father gives him a look. "No, I mean—you know that. You've always been a pragmatic kid. It takes a lot of strength and maturity to say to no to your first date when you're sixteen and the other guy 'seems cool.'"

Stiles doesn't know why his father puts that in air quotes. Frankly, he doesn't know where his father got the idea that it was okay for people older than twenty to use air quotes at all.

"So..." he says slowly, raising his eyebrows. "What?"

"So, I'm saying that I think you should talk to Deaton," his father says. "I'm sure you'll be able to convince him to help you do this as safely as possible. And if Derek cares about you at all, he'll be willing to take extra steps to keep you safe."

Stiles blinks. "Wait, you're telling me I can go out with him? That's, like, a thing that you are totally okay with?"

His father makes a face. "I wouldn't say I'm totally okay with it. Also, step one for all of this should be apologizing to Derek for saying—what was it?"

"He wouldn't know consent if it stood in front of him, butt naked," Stiles mumbles. "Also, a creepy asshole. Who has no friends."

"Yes. And don't be half-assed about it, either," his father says pointedly. "Show him you mean it."

A rather rousing rendition of That's How You Know from that one Disney movie pops into his head.

"Great," Stiles mutters.

"It'll work out," his father says, reaching over to pat him on knee. "The Hales are good, level-headed people, and I'm sure Derek takes after his parents."

Stiles makes a face. "Actually, he's kind of an angsty little shit."

"Language."

"He's an angsty little poop. Even his notebooks are black. It's sort of cute."

"Uh-huh," says his father. "And while we're still on the subject, does this Derek have a license plate number?"

"A lic—" Stiles sits up straight in horror. "Oh my God, Dad, you are not going to pull him over and interrogate him or threaten him or—or menacingly clean your gun in front of him. Just, go back to watching your show, okay, and I'll worry about Derek."

"If you insist," his father says pleasantly.

"I insist," Stiles says.

 

Stiles plots.

 

"I'm probably going to get suspended sometime in the next few days," Stiles tells his father, backpack slung over his shoulder and a piece of toast in one hand. "Just fair warning."

His father's head whips around. "What?"

"Don't worry!" Stiles yells, turning and heading for the door. "It's in the name of love!"

 

"I got your back, bro," Scott says immediately.

Allison frowns, pulls Scott's head to her mouth and whispers something in his ear.

Scott grins and nods.

"Actually," he says, upon his release. There's a terrible gleam in his eye. "So, I'll help. But you've gotta put in a word about our ketchup petition in return. Deal?"

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Deal."

 

Stiles opens his mouth.

"Go away," Laura Hale says, opening her locker door and effectively cutting herself off from Stiles.

Stiles gamely moves to her other side. "I need your help."

"You broke my brother's heart in front of half the school," Laura replies. "No."

"Yeah, okay, it wasn't half the school," Stiles says, annoyed. "It was in the hallway, and there were only like fifty people there. And I have the right to say no to him, you know."

Laura raises her eyebrows at him. "You didn't have to be a total asshole about it."

"Yeah okay, fair," Stiles admits, because it was. "But, look, I just want the chance to apologize to him."

"And you're going to do that how?" Laura asks.

Stiles tells her.

Laura looks delighted, and asks if she can photograph it for the student newspaper.

Stiles says yes, as long as she makes sure to include a mention for Allison and Scott's petition.

 

"I can't believe you're going to do this," Scott says, as Stiles kicks the pile of clothing under the door of the bathroom stall.

"Yeah, and you're not even the one doing it," Stiles mutters. He wraps the towel around his waist and unlocks the stall. "Oh, God. Okay."

"You don't actually have to do this," Scott says. "You could just, like, soap his car with lots of 'I'm sorry's. Or, you know, do something really wild and talk to him. Like normal people do."

Hah. If only Scott knew.

"I'm doing this," Stiles says stubbornly. "I need to—to give him an opportunity to get even. Plus, I'm proving a theory."

Scott frowns. "What theo—"

But Scott's phone buzzes, cutting him off.

"It's Allison," he tells Stiles, after checking it. "She says Derek's in the cafeteria, and she's got the lunch crew distracted with the petition."

"Good," Stiles says. He's only shaking a little. "Good, that's good."

"Hug for good luck?" Scott asks.

Stiles nods.

The embrace is hard and fast. Scott slaps him on the back.

"Good luck," he says, clutching Stiles' clothing to his chest. "I'll see you on the other side."

Stiles watches him leave, heart hammering in his chest. He really doesn't like the idea of a public rejection, even if it is what he deserves—but if this works, it might just earn him Derek's forgiveness, and maybe even a second chance.

He counts to sixty slowly, to make sure that Scott will have enough to get to the locker room with his clothes. He makes use of the meditative breathing techniques Deaton's taught him as he's forcing himself to count out sixty slow, metered Mississippis. When he opens his eyes at the end of it he feels slightly calmer.

"Showtime," Stiles says to himself, and heads for the door in naught but a towel and his sneakers.

He doesn't run in the hallways. Running would attract the attention of teachers, and that's the last thing that Stiles wants. He walks quickly, though, because it's cold and he really just needs to go and get this over with.

The din coming from the cafeteria makes his heart ratchet up another few hundred beats per minute.

It occurs to him that Derek can probably hear his heartbeat right now.

Stiles stops, closes his eyes, inhales and exhales—

worth it, worth it, worth it

—and charges in.

Only a few people notice at first.

Then Stiles jumps on the table across from where Derek is sitting with Laura, throws his towel to the ground, and completely naked save for the sneakers on his feet, yells, "Hey Beacon Hills High!"

It's dead silent.

Cell phones start coming out immediately, videotaping and snapping pictures. Someone wolf-whistles, which confirms Stiles' theory that he's actually pretty attractive, and the school photographer is snapping away from a strategic corner, no doubt thanks to Laura. Stiles forces himself to ignore all of it and focuses on Derek, who is staring up at him in disbelief.

Stiles is glad that, unlike last time, he'd actually practiced a little the night before.

"Some of you who have nothing better to do than gossip about other peoples' love lives probably remember that last Friday Derek asked me to go on a date with him, and I turned him down. Like a dick."

There is definite whispering and some giggling going on right now.

"No one cares about your stupid love life, Stilinski!" Jackson Whittemore, douchebag extraordinaire, yells.

His girlfriend smacks him on the back of the head, which warms Stiles' heart a little.

"I'm here to apologize," Stiles continues, staring right at Derek, whose expression has not changed. "I'm sorry, Derek. I was an asshole and you didn't deserve that. I really do like you. I think you're funny and ballsy and classic horror movies at the drive-in sounds like literal perfection. And you're not a creep. You are kind of an asshole, though. In a good way. Well, in a me-way. Like, we're both assholes, and that's good. I think."

Derek quirks an eyebrow.

"Anyway," Stiles says, taking heart in Derek's response. "I'm really sorry. I was a douchebag, which isn't okay, because this school already has a resident douchebag." He shoots a meaningful look at Jackson, who flips him off. Stiles grins and turns back to Derek. "And I told you that you wouldn't recognize consent if it stood in front of you butt naked, so… here I am. Consenting."

To your public rejection.

Stiles can't actually bring himself to say that part out loud.

But just as he's steeling himself for Derek to let him have it—because Stiles was a raging douchebag and he absolutely deserves it—when Derek does the completely thing and rolls his eyes.

"Seriously?" he asks, eyes flicking up and down over Stiles. "Get down, you're going to get in trouble."

Stiles frowns. "But… don't you want…"

"No, you idiot. Though it's nice to see that I was right about your muscle-IQ theory."

"Wha—no!" Stiles says, jumping down. "No, okay, there is seriously no muscle here, and you can see it all right now. That was like half the point of this."

"Proving me wrong?"

"Proving that you were wrong about me being wrong," Stiles says.

Derek looks exasperated. "Go put clothes on, Stiles."

Stiles feels a surge of tentative hope. "…Does this mean that I'm fo—"

"Stilinski!"

Stiles jumps about a mile in the air as Harris' voice echoes across the cafeteria. He whips around and sees Harris storming into the lunch room, looking murderous.

"Gotta run!" Stiles yelps, bolting for the doors opposite Harris. "Call me, let me know!"

Only as he's running out does he remember.

"Oh, yeah! And you should all sign Scott McCall's petition to get some motherfucking ketchup back in this school!" he calls over his shoulder.

He thinks he hears people cheering. He's a little too busy running for his life to check.

 

The conversation opens like this:

"So, I said 'apologize', and you somehow got 'streak in the cafeteria' out of it. Want to explain that to me?"

Since he's suspended for two days and today is Friday, Stiles is grounded for the entirety of his impromptu four-day weekend. His father takes his phone, iPod, computer, and Xbox away, and forbids Stiles from going anywhere except to Deaton's. Visitors are not welcome.

The conversation ends like this:

"So, all that aside... did it work?"

Stiles fidgets and shrugs. "Dunno. I hope so."

His father hugs him, then hands him a canister of Pledge and tells him to get started on the dusting. And no, he may not have his iPod back so he can "just listen to some music" while he cleans.

 

On Saturday night, Stiles is halfway through A Clash of Kings when there's a noise like a dead bird has flown into his window, followed by a loud crash.

Instantly on alert, Stiles jumps off the bed and swipes a vial of yew ash off of his dresser, then creeps over to the window.

Someone is getting to their feet on the ground, amidst the scattered shards of the Stilinski family clay fire pit. Someone in a leather jacket and jeans, with suspiciously familiar gelled hair.

Stiles throws the window and screen open.

"Derek?" he demands, staring down at him.

"What the fuck is wrong with your window?" Derek growls, glaring up at him from the ground.

"It's—protected. Mountain ash. Dude, did you try to jump up here? Were you going to climb in my window? Oh my God, Edward Cullen much?"

"I heard you were grounded. Excuse me for trying to keep you out of trouble," Derek says, scowling.

"Yeah, and now I've got to explain how our fire pit got smashed. What'd you do, fall on it?"

"Can't you just… fix it?" Derek asks, waving a hand at the shards.

"With what, superglue? Yeah, I'm sure that'll hold up real well next time we get a bonfire going," Stiles says, rolling his eyes

"No, dumbass, with your magic," Derek snaps.

"I'm not Harry Potter, dude. Go around the side, I'll let you in."

He pulls his head back in without bothering to check if Derek follows his directions. He shuts the screen and the window, deposits the vial of yew ash back on his dresser, and then does a quick change of clothes so that he's wearing actual pants. Then he pounds down the stairs to let Derek in.

"Couldn't you hear that my dad wasn't home?" Stiles asks, as he lets him in.

Derek shrugs, wiping his shoes on the mat before coming up the stairs and into the kitchen. Stiles gets a look at his shirt, which is black but also has white text that reads #sixseasonsandamovie. It sort of surprises him. He'd thought Derek would be an ironic Supernatural fan, or an actual fan of some really terrible sitcom like Two and Half Men.

"Sorry about the fire pit," Derek mutters.

Stiles shakes his head. "Whatever. I'll tell him it was in the name of love. Of course, that was the explanation I gave him for my two-day suspension, and that clearly didn't get me very far, so—"

"Love?" Derek asks skeptically. "Seriously?"

"Hey, it sounds better than 'in the name of like', doesn't it?" Stiles challenges.

"You're such an idiot."

Unwarranted, Stiles' heart speeds up, and he stops walking in the middle of the kitchen.

He bites his lip.

"You came all the way here to tell me that?" he asks, trying not to let his nerves into his voice even though he knows Derek knows. "After I got naked for you and everything?"

"No, I came here to—" Derek cuts himself off, looking frustrated.

Stiles waits.

When nothing is forthcoming, he raises his eyebrows. "Use your words, Derek."

Derek doesn't use his words.

Derek lunges forward and captures Stiles' mouth in a kiss.

Stiles jerks back instinctively, but as soon as his brain catches up with his body, he is full systems go for this kissing business. He's kissing Derek Hale. In the kitchen. Yes, yes he is. He's not sure where his arms are supposed to go, or if he's supposed to maybe stand a little closer, and maybe he shouldn't be pushing back quite so hard—

"Relax," Derek growls, and then he pulls Stiles close and introduces him to the art of French kissing.

Stiles relaxes.

Actually, Stiles goes pretty much boneless in Derek's arms as their mouths connect and his brain shuts off. This is fantastic. He wants more, and marionette strings pull him closer to Derek to kiss back, touch, find skin, find something to hold onto that's even better than the last. His dick is hardening against his jeans—he should have stayed in his fucking gym shorts—and Stiles wants that to touch, too. Everything should be touching. Everything needs to be touching.

Then Derek pulls back, and Stiles reflexively gasps for air he didn't know he was missing.

"So, I'm forgiven, then?" he asks breathlessly.

"Yes, dumbass."

"Are we dating, too, or do I need to get naked in front of the entire school for round two?"

"We're dating," Derek confirms.

"Good," says Stiles. "I really didn't want to have to do that again."

"I know—I could hear your heartbeat the entire time," Derek says, smirking. "I think you were less panicked when we almost died in the woods the other night."

"Fuck off. Not all of us can be Greek statues reincarnated," Stiles complains, knocking his forehead into Derek's.

"I didn't see anything to be ashamed of," Derek says in a low voice, eyes flashing electric blue.

Stiles shivers involuntarily. "Yeah, well, I do some running. And Deaton makes me tap dance. Tap dancers have fantastic legs."

"And asses," Derek adds.

"And asses," Stiles agrees.

Then there's a hand squeezing said ass and Stiles is jumping a mile in the air, knocking one of his hands painfully against the counter.

"Ow! Fuck, sorry," he says quickly, feeling a blush come over his face. "Sorry, I just—that was unexpected."

Derek smiles, showing teeth.

"Shut up," Stiles mutters, pressing his back against the counter. "You… know that this is my first, right? Like, my first everything?"

Derek's smirk goes soft. "I know."

"Good," Stiles says, setting his jaw. "And don't forget that I can conjure up a column of flames the size of a couch, in case you were thinking of… laughing. Or something."

"I wasn't," Derek promises.

"Good," Stiles says again. He hesitates. "Can I… Can I just ask—um. You said, in the car that day, that you thought I was a good friend and I—can I just ask why me?"

Derek grins at him and takes a step forward, closing the gap between them. "You're cute."

"Shut the fuck up, I am sexy!" Stiles says indignantly, pushing off the counter a flail of his arms. "I am—hot! And badass! I'm like a spell-slinging, underage James Bond!"

"Does that make me Pussy Galore?" Derek asks, eyebrows raised.

"You can be her twin brother, Dick Galore. You probably already own a pair of leather pants," Stiles says, to the shiftiest face in Shiftyville. "Oh my God, you totally do."

"Next Saturday," Derek says, glaring at him. "They're have a part two of classic horror movies at that drive-in. Do you want to go?"

"Only if you wear your leather pants."

Derek growls, eyes flashing blue.

Stiles lifts a hand and waggles his fingers.

Five minutes later, the spice rack, and all of the spices it held, has been reduced to a smelly, smoking pile of cinders, and Derek's hand is stuck in the toaster he'd grabbed to brace himself, having accidentally super-strengthed it into a non-removable glove. Stiles is laughing hysterically.

"This is what you get for using violence," Stiles says, through peels of laughter, using the kitchen counter to hold himself up. "Oh my God, oh my God, you're like a reject X-Man."

"I am Appliance-o," Derek says gravely, trying and failing to pull the toaster apart.

"Oh, no!" Stiles cries. "I'm toast!"

Derek grins.

"No, no, no, wait," Stiles says, inspiration striking, "your superpower should be giving toasts."

Derek lets out a bark of laughter, and gives the toaster a vicious yank.

"If you pull the toaster apart with your bare hands, I'll upgrade you to He-Man," Stiles offers, some of his laughter dying down as Derek continues to fail at freeing his hand.

"Nobody likes He-Man," Derek grunts. "Get over here and magic me free."

"Dude, I have like raw power and pretty much nothing else. Unless you want me to burn your hand off, we're going to have to do this non-magically," Stiles says. He pauses, mostly calm, and takes a look at Derek's toaster-hand. "Do you want to try butter?"

"I don't think that would help," Derek says.

"Do you... want to ask your mom for help?" Stiles asks. "She's stronger than you, right? Since she's the Alpha?"

Derek's head whips up. "We are not going to my mother about this."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Then what do you suggest?"

Derek gives the toaster one last go, before he blows out a breath and slumps. "Do you have hedge clippers?"

 

Derek leaves the house with a destroyed toaster, spice rack, fire pit, and a pair of hedge clippers in his wake. On the bright side, though, he also leaves without any appliances attached to his limbs.

 

The following morning, Stiles is awoken by his father.

"Mmprgh," says Stiles, peeking out from under the sheets long enough to see that it's freaking 7:00 a.m. and also cold, then huddling back under. "Too early."

"Stiles. You have to get up."

"Dad."

"Stiles, I'm serious."

"Oh my God, am I grounded from sleeping, too?"

"No," his father says patiently, "but Deaton called, and he wants you in the office immediately."

Ugh.

Magic sucks.

"Did he say why?" Stiles asks, not coming out from his blanket cocoon.

"No, he didn't," his father says. "You'll just have to drive over and find out. Come on, up."

Stiles groans. "I hate everything."

"Did you stay up late?"

"There was a battle, Dad. I couldn't just go to bed."

His father sighs. "Do I need to ground you from reading as well?"

"What—no!" Stiles yells, shooting out of bed. "No, you can't. That's just cruel. At least let me finish A Clash of Kings first!"

"You can keep your book," his father says, looking amused and smug in a way that means nothing good for Stiles, "if you can explain the kitchen to me."

Frick on a stick.

"Well," says Stiles, "the kitchen is a room or area of a house devoted to the preparation of food. The word 'kitchen' is actually—"

"Stiles."

"It was... brownies?" Stiles tries. "Like the ones from last year?"

His father continues to look unimpressed.

Stiles sighs. "Okay. So I... might have tried to cook myself dinner with magic? Maybe? You know, since I got like part of my totem done and everything. I wanted to see if my control had gotten better."

His father sighs.

Score.

"Do not," his father says heavily, "do that again. You're sixteen years old, Stiles, I expect you to know better."

"Sorry," Stiles mumbles.

"Not as sorry as you're going to be when I hand you the bill," his father says. He casts a glance at the clock. "Now up. Go to Deaton's."

Stiles is so sticking Derek with half of that bill.

 

Stiles had been worried that the sylphs had somehow returned, or that some new terrible threat had come into Beacon Hills like an Omega or an evil coven or something, but what he finds waiting for him at Deaton's is much, much worse.

"Mrs. Hale," says Stiles, his heart sinking. "Uh. Hi?"

"Stiles," she replies, calmly standing behind the operating table.

Stiles glances at Deaton, and notices on the table behind him there are two flasks of clear liquid on the table, as well as several sticks of sandalwood incense, two pouches of herbs, and a thick leather-bound journal. In other words, all of the things Deaton had suggested to keep Stiles' and Derek's relationship as safe as possible.

"Mrs. Hale came here to talk to you about Derek," Deaton says. "As, judging by the look on your face, you seem to have figured out."

Oh, God.

Stiles swallows and tries to look less panicked.

"Derek came home late last night, smelling very strongly of you," Mrs. Hale says, eyebrows raised expectantly.

"Oh," says Stiles, as he feels his face flush. "Uh. Yeah, he came over. I apologized to him on Friday, and—"

"Yes, I heard," Mrs. Hale interrupts, looking amused.

"Yeah. Uh, so, he came over say that we were okay. And he asked me on a date. And, uh, I said yes."

"Despite the fact that you're putting Derek in immeasurable danger by doing so?" Mrs. Hale asks.

"It's not immeasurable," Stiles protests. "Yeah, it's dangerous, but there's a bunch of things that we can do to make it less dangerous, and I'm totally going to do all of them. Like, dating is important and I really like Derek, but—you know. I'd rather us be alive. Priorities, man. Also, dating a werewolf isn't exactly a basket of roses either, you know, especially as a human. We're prime targets for hunters, enemy packs, Omegas... "

Mrs. Hale glances at Deaton, face still completely unreadable.

Stiles abruptly remembers that Mr. Hale is human.

Oops.

"Plus, I'm sure you've told Derek all about the fact that I'm a walking death trap, and he's not stupid," Stiles adds, because his default reaction to saying the wrong thing is to say more things. "He knows what he's getting into."

At that, Mrs. Hale actually rolls her eyes. "He thinks he does."

"Yeah, well, I know what I'm getting into, even if he doesn't," Stiles says stubbornly.

"Do you?" Mrs. Hale asks, her eyes seeking out his.

"I will do everything I can to protect him," Stiles tells her. "And so will Deaton, and so will my dad. Who's the Sheriff, by the way."

"How much does your father know about the situation?" Mrs. Hale asks.

"Everything," Stiles says honestly.

"And what does he think?"

"He's..." Stiles pauses. "He's not thrilled. But he trusts me to be as safe as possible, and he wants me to be happy." He winces. "That sounds trite. But he does. My mopes are kind of legendary."

Mrs. Hale looks at him, her face still impassive.

Stiles tries not to fidget. He fails miserably.

Finally, Mrs. Hale turns to Deaton and says, "I see what you mean," in a tone of voice that is so frustrating it almost makes Stiles flail on the spot.

He must twitch or something, though, because a tiny smirk appears on Mrs. Hale's face for a second. It's gone by the time she turns back to face him.

"I'll allow this," she says, "but I'll be keeping an eye on it. It might seem easy to be pragmatic now, but I've got two teenagers and both of them completely lose their heads when they're in love."

Stiles knows that she can hear his heart pounding, but he barely cares.

He knows also that there is a huge grin on his face, and he cares about that even less.

His eyes flick to Deaton, who gives him a nod. They've already talked about this. In addition to Deaton keeping a very close eye on them, Deaton will be stepping up Stiles' training with a focus on offensive magic—which is Deaton's weak point, but Stiles' strength. Stiles is sort of excited to finally work on the things that he's good at for once.

"Thank you," he says, returning his gaze to Mrs. Hale.

"You're welcome," she says, bestowing a small smile on him.

 

When Stiles wakes up on Wednesday morning, his father is already gone but there's his brick of a cell phone and a note on the counter that reads keep your clothes on at school today, please.

Thanks for the advice, Dad.

Amidst the texts and missed calls from Scott (apparently his date with Allison had gone swimmingly), there's a text from an unknown number.

                                Hey, it's Derek, got your number from Scott.

Right. They're on the lacrosse team together.

justg6tmyphonebackj.sorrynospaces.foneiss7tupid

As he's getting in his car to drive to school, Derek texts back:

                                Yeah, Scott warned me you were too dumb to find the spacebar.

ifucanfiditillgiveu100d6ollars

                                Was that supposed to be readable?

fuck.you

 

When Derek pulls up on Saturday night in his Camaro, Stiles is still drawing runes with oil on his forehead. When he finally finishes and steps out the front door, he can feel the slightest tingle of magic running up and down his skin, keeping him nondescript and forgettable.

"All oiled up for me?" he asks as he slides into the car.

"You know it," Derek says. "You're late."

"A wizard is never late, Derek Hale," Stiles says staunchly. "Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

Derek stares at him blankly.

"Oh my God, are you serious?" Stiles demands. "Kill the engine and forget the drive-in, we have far more pressing matters to attend to. How can you not have seen Lord of the Rings?"

"We can watch it some other time," Derek says, rolling his eyes. "Put your seatbelt on."

Stiles gives him a suspicious look as he clicks his seatbelt into place. "They're showing The Wolf Man tonight at the drive-in, aren't they? That's why you want to go."

Derek looks as shifty as the gearshift he's got his hand on.

(Artisan of words. Seriously. Stiles is going to win a Pulitzer one day just for existing.)

"I knew it—I knew you were an ironic fan of werewolf shit!" Stiles says gleefully. "Oh my God, did you see the last Twilight movie? Did you see it in theaters?"

"It was a bootleg, and it was for Cassie," Derek says, as they pull out of the driveway.

"Uh-huh," says Stiles, grinning. "And is 'Cassie' Team Edward, or Team Jacob?"

"Team Edward."

Stiles is about to tell Derek that actually, he and Scott had went to the midnight premier slightly drunk and it had been the funniest movie he'd seen in years, when he notes the little pouch of herbs hanging from the rearview mirror. He flicks it, making it swing back and forth.

Derek wrinkles his nose and leans away. "Don't do that, dumbass. You're spreading the smell."

Stiles smirks, and pulls his iPod out of his pocket. "So I made a playlist for you. Sadly, I didn't know to include songs from the Twilight soundtracks. They'll have to go on the next one."

Derek gives him a skeptical look.

"Don't worry, you'll like it," Stiles promises as he unplugs Derek's iPod from the auxiliary cable and switches it out for his own. The playlist is titled 'a thousand fiery suns of angst'. He spent more time cackling over it than he did actually making it.

Two seconds later, The Smiths are blaring from the speakers.

"I hate you," says Derek.

"I know I'm unloveable, you don't have to tell me," Stiles says. "Stop at that gas station so we can get Slurpees."

 

a thousand fiery suns of angst

Unloveable – The Smiths
Mr. Know It All – Kelly Clarkson
Adam's Song – blink-182
Soul Meets Body – Death Cab for Cutie
Boston – Augustana
Welcome to My Life – Simple Plan
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
I'm Not Okay – My Chemical Romance
You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
Pin Your Wings – Copeland
Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
Breathe (2AM) – Ana Nalick
Why – Secondhand Serenade
The Leaving Song – AFI
Lonely Day – System of a Down
Hurt – Nine Inch Nails
Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional
Mad World – Gary Jules
Ohio is for Lovers – Hawthorn Heights
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.