Sometimes Stiles feels a little bit guilty about considering such a massacre to be the best thing that’s happened to him in the last five years. Okay, he doesn’t really. He knows he should feel guilty about it, because some psycho teenager going on a rampage through a precinct and killing the majority of the night shift is actually the kind of tragedy that Stiles has nightmares about happening at his dad’s department in Lakeport.
But it’s not his dad’s department, not anymore, because when Matt Dahler decimated the Beacon Hills Police Department he also shot the sheriff (but he did not shoot the deputy) (but actually, he didn’t shoot any of the deputies, which is bullet point number one on Stiles’ List of Reasons Why Matt Dahler Definitely Had an Accomplice, Dad These Things Are Important). Anyway, Matt Dahler shot the Beacon Hills Sheriff, and the surviving members of the force had elected to remain on active duty to try and make up for their losses, which meant they needed to import a new acting sheriff until the next election.
So yes, Stiles knows he should feel so, so guilty about being grateful for what happened, but he really doesn’t. How can he? His dad’s been promoted, which means a raise, and more forgiving hours, and less of a chance of him getting brutally slaughtered on the job. His dad’s been made Acting Sheriff of Beacon Hills, and Beacon Hills is an hour drive from their house in Lakeport, and that means they get to move. Move out of the house his mother died in, move out of the town that still levels lingering sympathetic stares on the Stilinskis, so recently marked by their own, much smaller (but no less devastating) massacre. Move out of the high school Stiles barely exists in, ghosting through the halls and interacting with his peers only long enough to satisfy the participation requirements that keep his grades perfect.
But that’s all over, because they’re leaving, moving, off to Beacon Hills, where there’s a Sheriff badge and a new house and a new school.
And where there’s werewolves.
Oh yeah, Stiles is so ready for this.
This surprises exactly no one, even Stiles, but he was still kind of hoping that his excitement about actually relocating to a new town would outweigh the ongoing irritation of packing, transporting boxes, and last but oh god not at all least, unpacking.
He tries to rationalize it as being super productive months ahead of schedule. Stiles had systematically done a massive spring cleaning of his old room when he unpacked, dragging garbage bags full of childhood crap to dumpsters and Salvation Army drop boxes, and now that he’s culled the mass chaos down to the minimum it’ll make packing for college in two years just that much easier.
He uses this mindset to force himself through the first six hours of unpacking his new room, the bribe of pizza to help unpack the kitchen, the after-dinner burst of energy to tackle another few boxes in his room again. It’s a little too close to midnight when Stiles finally tells himself he’s been plenty productive today, and he’s totally within his right to dig out his running sneakers and further investigate the woodsy trail that skirts the border of their backyard.
Which, really, is an epically bad idea. It’s almost midnight, and the way the trail loops comfortingly close to the perimeter of his and his neighbors’ yards is deceptive – Stiles is going deeper and deeper into the woods with every footfall, and it’s so, so dark that if the moon wasn’t nearly-full he’d probably be stumbling blind.
Also, if the moon wasn’t nearly fully he probably wouldn’t notice the definitive silhouette of someone else out there, twenty yards ahead, back flat against a tree trunk like maybe Stiles won’t notice. It’d be impossible for him not to notice, even if he wasn’t running straight towards it, because there’s no way to miss the way two flat, golden eyes glow through the darkness at him.
“Um, hello?” Stiles calls, slowing to a cautious jog as he draws up closer, only ten yards away now. It’s a guy, he’s pretty sure. “Are you –”
Five yards away, and then Stiles sees it. The shaft of an arrow jutting up out of the meaty part of the guy’s shoulder, embedded deeply enough to keep him pinned to the tree.
“Shit man, fuck,” Stiles spits, careening to a stop so suddenly he nearly loses his balance. His arms pinwheel madly for a second as he attempts to regain control, and he hears something that sounds suspiciously like a slightly hysterical giggle from the guy impaled on a tree.
“You’re aware you have an arrow through your arm, right?” Stiles snaps back defensively, reflexively. He winces almost immediately, shaking his head. “No wait, that’s horrible, I –”
“I can’t get it out.”
The guy sounds…off. He’s in pain, for sure, but not nearly as much pain as he should be in, given the circumstances. And his voice is rough, thick, like he’s talking through a ragged sore throat and around a tongue too big for his mouth, and even though the whole situation is creepy as fuck and Stiles should really, really get the hell out of Dodge…he takes a few cautious steps closer.
And there it is. The yellow-gold eyes are separated by a thick, ridged nose that seems like an extension of a heavily ribbed forehead, framed on the sides by furry sideburns and on the bottom by a mouthful of fangs. It’s not pretty, and it’s not at all what Stiles ever imagined, curled up next to his mother hearing her paint pictures full of howling wolves and silver moonlight, but there’s no denying it.
“I thought werewolves were supposed to be super strong. And like, healing powers or something.”
The guy’s golden eyes bulge slightly, jaw dropping a little as he looks at Stiles’ perfectly crafted innocent nonchalance.
“I’m not – there’s no such –” the werewolf splutters. As if that’s fooling anyone.
“You are, there are,” Stiles scoffs, because he’s pretty sure he’s right and he’s also pretty sure they don’t have time for this. “Do you want my help or not?”
He sounds frustrated, conflicted, a heavy weight on a single letter. Stiles thinks there’s probably some kind of great internal upheaval between human and animal instincts right now – the human side of this man wants to say yes, but the animal instinct would never accept help from a potential threat.
“I’m not a hunter,” Stiles tells him. He raises both hands to shoulder height, palms out, and slouches slightly in an effort to make a less imposing figure. “I promise. My name’s Stiles, I’m a junior in high school. My dad and I just moved here this week. He’s the new sheriff, and I’m nothing if not a cop’s son, which means I can’t in good conscience leave you out here on your own.”
There’s silence for a long moment, and Stiles lets it sit. He means it wholeheartedly, and if it takes a few minutes of thinking about it for the guy to believe him, that’s okay.
“Scott,” the werewolf says finally, breaking the quiet stretching between them. “Okay.”
“Hey Scott,” Stiles says gently. He’s taking a few more steps forward, carefully keeping both his hands visible, until he and Scott are only a few feet apart. “How can I help?”
“I can’t touch the arrow shaft,” Scott grits out. “Wolfsbane. And I don’t have…” he gestures helplessly at his shirtless torso.
“Anything to use as oven mitts,” Stiles nods. He closes the final step between them, close enough now that he can reach out and put one hand gingerly on Scott’s uninjured shoulder. “Okay, we can work with that. I don’t think I can pull it out on my own though. If I get a good, solid grip you think you can help me pull?”
Scott just nods. He looks younger than Stiles had originally guessed, now that Stiles is closer. More like Stiles’ age, which sends another pang of sympathy through him, because that means he’s just a kid, and werewolf or not no kid deserves to be pinned to a tree by a freaking arrow through his body.
Stiles squeezes his shoulder lightly, just once, before switching his hand to the other side, wrapping his fingers around the arrow shaft as gently as possible. Scott winces anyway, grits his teeth when Stiles brings his free hand up to hold Scott’s shoulder back against the tree trunk, but he still dutifully twists his own fingers around Stiles’ wrist.
“On three,” Stiles tells him. Scott nods again. “One, two, three.”
Scott doesn’t make a sound as they slowly, painstakingly pull the arrow back through his body. It’s like trying to drag through tar, through sticky-thick molasses, and Stiles has never been more impressed in his life with the literal grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it Scott’s managing.
It pulls clean with a forceful tug that, if Scott didn’t still have a firm hold on Stiles’ wrist, would have thrown Stiles back on his ass in a heartbeat. Scott doesn’t let him fall, though he does immediately hunch away from the tree, curling in on himself until he’s nearly doubled over.
The hole in his shoulder isn’t healing.
“But actually, I thought you guys had super healing,” Stiles says, and even though the wording is flippant he can’t hide the concern in his tone. He’s contemplating tossing the arrow as far as he can into the woods, like just the proximity of the kryptonite is affecting Scott, but Scott shakes his head before he even starts moving.
“Save that,” he groans at Stiles. “We might need it. Do you have a phone?”
Stiles shakes his head regretfully, because even he can acknowledge that that’s possibly his dumbest move of the night. It’s one thing to go out on a run, alone, at midnight, in the woods, in a strange neighborhood, but to not bring his cell phone with him? He was totally asking for trouble there, and now it’s coming back to bite him in the ass.
Scott moans a little, fingers coming up to scrabble uselessly against his bloody shoulder, and Stiles makes another game time decision.
“My house is only like, maybe half a mile back down this trail,” he tells Scott, crouching down to get closer to the other boy’s eye level and gesturing back the way he came. “If you can make it that far I’m pretty sure the land line’s hooked up, and even if it’s not we can grab my phone, call 911.”
Scott shakes his head, but the way he’s gingerly straightening upright makes Stiles think it’s maybe not the house he’s saying no to.
“Not 911,” he insists. “Vet.”
Stiles snorts derisively, despite how kind of not funny this situation is.
“A vet,” he snickers. “There are so many jokes, so little time. Dude.”
“He knows things,” Scott protests, shooting Stiles a look that is simultaneously withering and not all that heated. “He can help.”
Stiles just shakes his head, smirking. Scott seems fairly steady on his feet, even if he is listing to the side slightly and definitely, shamelessly favoring his right shoulder. They make good time, walking in oddly companionable silence, and they’re at the back fence of the house Stiles vaguely hopes is his own before too long.
“My dad’s asleep,” Stiles warns Scott, taking extra care to twist the knob on the kitchen door, slowly ease the door open.
“I can hear him,” Scott nods, tapping his ear lightly. “I’ll know if he wakes up.”
“That’s either cool or creepy,” Stiles mumbles back, keeping his voice low. “I’m leaning towards cool.”
Scott grins at him. Somewhere along the way he lost all but the edges of his wolfy features – his eyes are still a little flashy, he still has claws instead of fingernails, but for the most part he looks like any other kid Stiles will be going to school with in a few weeks.
The kitchen phone echoes a dull dial tone at them when Stiles lifts it experimentally from the receiver. Scott’s still moving slowly, still winces at the stretch of skin across his wound when he goes to take the phone from Stiles, but the bleeding has stopped and that’s nothing if not progress. Stiles deposits the wrecked arrow on the countertop anyway, turns away to give Scott the illusion of privacy as he busies himself with scrubbing his hands clean and digging out paper plates and leftover pizza.
The conversation Scott has with his vet leaves Scott sounding disappointed and resigned. Stiles focuses his attention on the soft ticking of the toaster oven, trying to anticipate the ding of the timer before it can wake his dad while still giving the pizza slice as much time as possible to heat up, and by the time he hears the telltale click of the phone being hung up he’s got a decently re-heated slice of pizza ready to hand off to Scott.
“Thanks,” Scott says gratefully, accepting the plate with his good hand and dropping it onto the table where he’s sitting.
“What’s the word from the good doc?” Stiles asks, sliding his own slice onto the toaster tray.
Scott’s already got a solid mouthful of cheesy pizza by the time Stiles turns back to look at him, and he doesn’t bother swallowing before he tries to talk.
“Nothing,” he mumbles around the slice. “The wolfsbane slowed down the healing, but it wasn’t strong enough to actually poison me so I just have to let it heal on its own.”
“Dude, you have a gaping hole in your arm,” Stiles points out bluntly, nodding over to Scott’s shoulder like maybe he didn’t notice. Except, maybe he didn’t, because now that Stiles is looking at it…well, it doesn’t look better, but it looks less gruesome than it did twenty minutes ago.
“It’s healing,” Scott grumbles. “Just slowly.”
Stiles is torn between how fucking cool that is and his slightly neurotic belief that all wounds should be duly treated as quickly as possible. There’s dirt and sweat and blood all over Scott’s skin, caked into the jagged edges around the wound.
“Can we at least like, clean it or something?” he offers, trying not to sound too petulant about it.
The toaster dings before Scott can answer, because Stiles totally forgot to watch the timer. He glances instinctively up at the ceiling, like he can see through to his dad’s new bedroom, but Scott’s shaking his head on the other side of the kitchen.
“He’s still asleep,” he mutters, nodding in the direction of the Sheriff’s bedroom. “Don’t worry. And I don’t think I can get an infection anyway, so what’s the point?”
“You look like an extra in a horror film,” Stiles offers shortly. “Although I guess it could be rugged and badass, if you rock it just right.”
Scott grins at him.
“You’re fun,” he announces, nodding definitively. “You said you were a junior?”
“Or I will be, in a few weeks,” Stiles nods. “I guess at Beacon Hills High School now.”
“Cool,” Scott’s grin widens. “Yeah, me too. That’s awesome man, welcome. Where are you from, anyway?”
“Lakeport.” Stiles isn’t actually hungry, the pizza more of a reflexive urge than anything else. Scott’s looking at it like it’s a particularly tempting bunny though, and Stiles only rolls his eyes a little bit as he holds it out to the other teen. “Like, about an hour east?”
“Oh yeah, we play them in lacrosse.” Scott accepts the second slice with a grin on his face like Stiles just proposed. “That’s cool. Bummer to move so late into high school though.”
“Nah,” Stiles shrugs. He doesn’t know how to say I hated that town, that school, and everyone in it and would move to the moon if it meant I’d never have to set foot there ever again, so he doesn’t bother.
Scott seems to hear it anyway. He actually pauses mid-bite, leveling Stiles with a lingering, contemplative look, before nodding carefully and tearing a hunk out of his pizza.
“Fair enough,” he says easily. “Besides, Lakeport isn’t half as cool as Beacon Hills.”
“Obviously,” Stiles rolls his eyes. “Pretty sure Lakeport doesn’t have werewolves.”
Scott finishes chewing before he shoots another look Stiles’ direction, and it’s just as calculating as the last one.
“So, how’d you know then?”
Don’t be afraid of the dark, pup. Maybe there are monsters out there, but there’s good things too, beautiful things, and they’ll always be there to protect you.
“Stories,” Stiles tells him softly. “My mom used to tell me all kinds of stories about them. It took me a while to figure out they weren’t just stories. Besides,” he shrugs, “mountain lions? In Beacon Hills? Really?”
Scott grins bashfully, shaking his head.
“It’s kind of like Buffy,” he chuckles. “Town on top of the freaking Hellmouth and people still don’t seem to realize there’s more vampires than actual people living there.”
“Point,” Stiles concedes. He smiles tentatively back, which only makes Scott’s grin grow wider. He’s interrupted from whatever response he was planning, though, cocking his head to the side not unlike a dog.
“My ride’s here,” he announces instead. He pushes himself up off the chair he’d been perched on, stretching across the kitchen to dump the empty plates into the garbage can by the wall.
Stiles follows Scott to the front door, flipping the locks and tugging it open as silently as possible, leaning one shoulder against the frame as Scott pauses on the front stoop, turns back around to give Stiles one more searching look.
“Thanks,” Scott tells him, genuine sincerity oozing from his every feature. “I mean it. Not a lot of people would have done what you did.”
“Anytime,” Stiles mumbled shyly, not particularly used to such earnestness directed toward him. “If you ever need help…”
“Yeah,” Scott nods. “Definitely, yeah.”
There’s a car idling at the curb – sleek, black, the kind of car that makes you simultaneously think overcompensating…but I’d probably fuck him anyway. The windows are closed and tinted enough that Stiles can’t see inside, but that doesn’t seem to stop Scott. He rolls his eyes and mumbles something under his breath before giving Stiles the long-suffering expression of dealing with useless authority figures that all teenagers have mastered.
“Try not to get shot on your way home,” Stiles calls after him, quietly enough that the neighbors won’t hear. Scott, with his apparently amplified werewolf hearing, turns back just long enough to toss another grin over his shoulder at Stiles before he ducks down and disappears into the car.
Stiles stands in the doorway watching until the Camaro swings around the corner and out of sight, letting himself bask in the warm feeling in his stomach that something life changing just happened.
Stiles wakes up the next morning to a friend request from Scott McCall and an invitation for an afternoon of Black Ops, and they go from there. It’s stupidly easy the way Stiles, who can’t remember the last time he actually tried to make a friend, and Scott fall together, and by the time school starts up three weeks later they’ve struck up a pretty solid bro-ship.
Scott instructs Stiles to meet him by his locker before first period so they can compare schedules, and while they’re disappointed they’re not particularly surprised when they don’t have any overlapping classes. He still painstakingly pours over Stiles’ classes, mumbling comments about teachers and people Stiles might encounter.
“Lydia will definitely be in these,” he tells Stiles, pointing to the three APs Stiles has that afternoon. “She probably won’t give you the time of day, to be honest, because that’s Lydia. She’s pack though, kind of, so she definitely knows about you. Don’t be weirded out if you catch her staring.”
“I’m very used to the ignoring part,” Stiles shrugs. “Besides, isn’t she the one with the scaly boyfriend?”
Part of their bonding over the last few weeks has included Scott filling Stiles in on what’s really been happening in Beacon Hills these last few months. He seems overwhelmingly relieved to be able to talk about it – to open the front door before Stiles even knocks, to boldly say he can literally smell the leftover lasagna in the fridge can we please take a food break, Stiles? Stiles gets the impression that Scott, for all that there are definitely other werewolves in the town, doesn’t get to talk about it much and is grateful for the opportunity to do so. Stiles isn’t used to people being grateful for his presence – he definitely doesn’t hate it.
“Yeah, so you don’t really want to touch that with a ten foot pole anyway,” Scott agrees. “And you have lunch…huh, fourth. Hang on, lemme find out of anyone else has that.”
He fumbles for his cell phone with his free hand, and Stiles takes the break to look around the crowded hallway they’re loitering in. There’s been a few guys in letterman jackets throwing bro-nods-of-acknowledgment at “McCall,” a few girls doing double takes at Stiles after smiling slyly at Scott, but for the most part they go unnoticed.
“Okay, so Isaac has lunch with you, and I think Jackson might too. Don’t even bother with Jackson, but Isaac might be cool,” Scott bumps his shoulder against Stiles’, grinning at him. “He was like, super quiet for a long time, then a raging douche for a little while, and now he’s somewhere in the middle, so it’s hard to tell with him.”
“You guys are friends though, right?” Stiles frowns at him. He still working on figuring out what’s going on with the relationships Scott’s been filling him in on – from what he can tell half of these people barely acknowledged each other’s existence before they shared a mutual strain of lycanthropy.
“Yeah, I guess. More than I am with any of the others, anyway, but –”
The ringing bell cuts him off, signaling the five minute warning before first period starts, and Scott’s grin turns apologetic.
“Crap, I gotta go, it’s gonna take the whole five minutes to get to gym.” He hoists his backpack up onto his shoulder, slams his locker behind him. “Remember where you’re going?”
Stiles nods, taking his schedule back from Scott. Scott had given him directions to his first period Physics class, and while Stiles wasn’t exactly confident he wasn’t completely convinced he was going to get shamelessly lost, so that’s a start.
He makes it there without a problem though, and true to Scott’s word there’s no horrifying, teen-rom-com-esque introduction scene with Stiles standing in front of the class and reciting Ten Fun Facts About Me. He slumps into a seat somewhere in the neutral middle of the class, offers the teacher an easy cop out of “Stiles is fine” when he gets to Stilinski on the attendance sheet and his eyes bug out of his head, and that’s about it.
Nobody really pays him any attention, and Stiles is totally okay with that. He’s busy studying his classmates, listening closely to the roll call, trying to spot any of the names Scott’s mentioned over the last few weeks.
There’s an Allison Argent in his Physics class, and despite the fact that Scott has never once mentioned her all the alarm bells are ringing in Stiles’ head. He’s read all the newspaper articles, followed the whole story from Laura Hale’s murder to the mysterious disappearance of Principal Gerard Argent, he knows who she is. Knows she’s involved.
She’s quiet. Keeps to herself, doesn’t speak to anyone. She does look twice at Stiles though, like she’s noticed him noticing her, and while she doesn’t ignore his careful nod of acknowledgment when she catches his eye she doesn’t return it either.
There’s a blonde girl who sniffs twice and zeroes in on him barely a second after she steps foot inside Stiles’ third period Economics class, a black guy who sits pointedly in the seat behind Stiles but doesn’t say a word to him in seventh period. Lydia Martin, as promised, is in AP Calc, AP English Lang, and AP US History with him, and also as promised doesn’t even look at him, though she definitely perks to attention when the teacher calls his name for attendance.
By the end of the day Stiles is pretty sure he’s identified the pack members that Scott’s mentioned, and even the one he didn’t, and despite the fact that most of them made a point of not acknowledging him it was pretty damn obvious they all recognized him.
The only real interaction was at lunch. Stiles had no qualms about sitting by himself for lunch – he let the cafeteria fill naturally, didn’t try to fight anyone for pre-established territory or anything, and settled down at the empty end of a table against the far wall.
He’s two bites into an unidentifiable slices-of-meat-on-a-bun sandwich when he’s startled by the sound of another tray clattering onto the table across from his, a tall, lanky boy with messy hair folding down into the empty chair.
“Stiles, right?” he says quietly.
“Yup,” Stiles nods. “Isaac?”
Isaac nods back, scoops up a forkful of what might actually be instant mac and cheese, and doesn’t say another word for the rest of the period.
All in all, Stiles is okay with it. He’s on their radar, they’re on his radar, Scott’s “checking in” with texts that blow up his pocket between every period, and while there’s nothing particularly exciting about it it’s still the best first day of school Stiles has had since fifth grade.
Stiles swings the kitchen door wide and Isaac doesn’t hesitate to duck under Stiles’ outstretched arm and hustle inside. He’s barefoot, and the rip in his sleeve is caked with blood even though the skin underneath looks unscathed, and there’s something frantic in his eyes that freeze Stiles’ questions on his tongue.
“Come on, bro,” he says instead, slamming the door shut and sliding all three locks home. “Upstairs.”
He ushers Isaac through a painfully brief and awkward introduction to his dad that mostly consists of Stiles mumbling “heydadthisisIsaacwe’regoingtostudyforAPUSHtogetherseeyoulater,” and the sheriff blinking after them. Isaac follows him without complaint, allows himself to be hustled up the stairs and into Stiles’ bedroom.
“Okay,” Stiles blows out a breath, frowns at the tentative way Isaac’s still standing in the middle of his room. “Sit, dude. Anywhere, it doesn’t matter. Sorry if the place smells like Scott, he’s here a lot.”
“It’s okay,” Isaac mumbles. He perches on the very edge of Stiles’ desk chair, tense and rigid as a board, and fingers the dirty cuffs of his ruined shirt.
“Here,” Stiles offers, stumbling over to his dresser and yanking drawers open. He fishes out a reasonably clean-looking shirt that he never wears, one of those long sleeve cotton shirts with the Lakeport 10K Turkey Run logo on the front and obligatory sponsorship logos on the back. Isaac accepts it gingerly but wastes no time in tugging off his old, bloodstained tee.
Isaac’s blushing when he finally shoves his head through the collar of the shirt, the frantic look fading into something more sheepish now that he’s safely behind several locked doors. They’re barely, barely friends – they’ve been working their way towards a few mumbled comments back and forth during lunch, the bare bones of a conversation, and have spent a few overlapping afternoons at Scott’s together, but if Isaac wasn’t a werewolf, and if Scott wasn’t Stiles’ best friend (because he is. That’s a thing. And yes, Stiles is man enough to admit it still kind of leaves a warm, fuzzy feeling in his ribcage.) Stiles would have a hell of a lot of questions right now.
Okay fine, he still has a hell of a lot of questions. But at least he let Isaac in the door first.
“Sorry,” Isaac says finally, and he really does sound guilty. “I know it’s really weird showing up here like this.”
“It’s cool,” Stiles shrugs, like he’s not burning with questions. “I just mean, well. You know.”
“I’m barefoot and bloody and showing up unannounced at your back door at eleven at night?” Isaac guesses grimly. He’s not looking at Stiles, fixated now on picking at the torn sleeve on the shirt still in his lap.
Stiles doesn’t know that much about Isaac beyond Scott’s general summary of he was like, super quiet for a long time, then a raging douche for a little while, and now he’s somewhere in the middle. He’s got the kind of dry, wry humor Stiles appreciates and most of their lunchtime interactions include mumbled judgment of the dramatic happenings of the day in the cafeteria. He opens up a bit more around Scott, though he seems to be constantly looking to Scott like Isaac needs to follow his friend’s lead, and that alone is enough for Stiles to know Isaac showing up here alone is probably a Big Thing.
“You’re welcome here, dude,” Stiles tells him. He thinks Isaac is the kind of person that needs to be told these things, even if they seem obvious and unspoken. “I mean, anytime.”
“Thanks,” Isaac nods, finally glancing up just enough to flick his gaze over to where Stiles is sitting on the bed. “That’s…thanks.”
Stiles shrugs, says nothing. He’s dying to ask, dying, but he doesn’t want to push and he’s not going to if he can help it. He isn’t above letting silence do the work for him though; he lets the pair of them stew in it for a few long, quiet moments before Isaac looks over at him again.
“I should probably call someone,” Isaac says. “I was patrolling with Jackson and we got separated, and I didn’t really want to draw attention to us by calling out for him and I knew you lived nearby and I figured…”
“What is it with you guys and not having your phones on you?” Stiles grumbles, rolling his eyes as he shoves his fingers into his pocket, fishing around for a good grip on his cell.
“Don’t have one,” Isaac tells him.
Stiles pauses, looks up long enough to blink owlishly at him. Isaac looks somewhere between sheepish and defensive.
“My foster parents say it isn’t necessary,” he supplies. “Derek offered to buy me one, add me to his plan, but…” he trails off again, shrugging. “Dunno, it’s kind of nice not being tied down like that.”
“Until you’re on a late night jaunt through the woods and get separated from Jackass,” Stiles points out, tossing his phone over. The throw’s probably too wide, but Isaac reaches out and snatches it out of the air easily, lips quirking in a pantomime of a smile when he meets Stiles’ eye.
“That’s what Derek said,” he admits. “And what he’s going to say again now when I call him.”
Stiles just nods. He’s moving forward delicately here. Scott talks about the pack, and Stiles himself has gathered plenty of intel (because even if they don’t talk to him they’re still there, and Stiles pays enough attention to know that Jackson is a jackass and Lydia is secretly brilliant and Erica uses stilettos and push up bras as a shield instead of a weapon and Boyd will always, always sit behind Stiles even if Stiles changes his seat), but they never talk about the alpha. He knows it’s Derek Hale, knows the sketchy skeleton of the Hale family’s immediate history and a few hazy details Scott’s filled in, but for the most part Scott avoids talking about Derek almost as much as he avoids talking about Allison Argent, and Stiles is so, so curious.
Isaac doesn’t offer up any more commentary on Derek though – goes instead straight for the phone call. Isaac’s responses are pointed and concise with extremely short pauses between each one, like Derek’s only asking the bare minimum in as few words as possible. “Jackson and I got separated.” “Yeah, it was them.” “Only one, I think.” “No, I’m fine.” “At Stiles’ house.” “Yeah, it’s fine.” “No.” “No.” “I know, Derek.” He sounds, and looks, like a kid pushing the boundaries of a conversation with an older brother, knowing full well the conversation could snap from easy and docile to an all out brawl at the slightest provocation.
Stiles doesn’t particularly like it.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll call Scott. I have to go back to the Gallagher’s tonight anyway. Yeah. Yeah. Later.”
Isaac hangs up with a muted kind of finality before lobbing the phone back to Stiles in a soft underhand throw. Stiles still doesn’t quite manage to catch it, but at least it lands on the soft surface of his bed.
“Derek sounds like a charmer,” Stiles says drily, because he’s never been good at keeping his judgment to himself.
Isaac smirks. “You should try talking to him face to face,” he suggests. “He could be telling you with complete sincerity that you’re the prettiest girl in the room, but his face is so grr and his eyebrows are so,” he curls both index fingers into angry little hooks and holds them up over his own eyebrows, “you know.”
Stiles laughs. He’d tried to look Derek up, endless curiosity satiated only by extensive research, but other than a seven year old yearbook photo of him pitching that looks like it was taken from behind the dugout Stiles’ research came up dry.
“I’m going to remember that,” he tells Isaac, pointing at his face, “and have the horrible misfortune of someday running into this mysterious Alpha out in town somewhere and laugh in his growly face, and it’ll be your fault.”
Isaac smiles at him, and while it’s not one of Scott’s full-blown, freely-given puppy dog grins it still kind of feels like the tentative beginning of an actual, real friendship.
“You didn’t want to call Scott?” Stiles asks, reminded. He’d been twisting his phone between his fingers since Isaac threw it back, but it hadn’t even occurred to him that Isaac was supposed to make a second call.
“Nah,” Isaac shook his head, blond curls falling in disarray over his forehead. “His mom’s working tonight, so it’s not like he has a car to come pick me up with. I just didn’t want to give Derek an excuse for another lecture on why I need a cell phone. I’ll walk, it’s not that far.”
“I can drive you,” Stiles offers, because he knows his dad would readily let his son take the Jeep out at midnight rather than let a seventeen year old walk home alone this late at night. “Don’t worry about it.”
“You don’t –”
“No, seriously,” Stiles insists.
Isaac nods, fingers curling and uncurling around the shirt in his lap, but neither of them actually make a move to stand up.
“Wanna shoot zombies for a little while first?” Stiles asks finally, nodding over at the pile of Xbox controllers and wires bundled under his desk. That had been his original goal for the evening, mindless zombie slaying right after he fixed himself a late-night snack, and foster parents that didn’t believe in cell phones probably didn’t care too much about owning video game consoles.
Isaac’s smile is wide and bright, an actual grin now, and it changes his whole face. Stiles can’t help but smile back.
Stiles sees it coming, sees her coming, long legs strutting down the aisle towards his seat, but it’s still a bit of a shock when Erica Reyes perches herself lightly on his desk, creamy white thighs and tantalizingly short mini skirt landing square on top of his Economics notebook.
“Stilinski,” she coos, as if this isn’t the first time she’s said boo to him in almost six weeks of class. “How’s your day?”
“Getting stranger with every passing minute,” Stiles says back, pushing his chair back as far as he can in hopes of not being directly eyelevel with her frankly fantastic rack. “Can I help you?”
“I decided it’s not fair,” Erica announces, pouting her painted red lips at him. “Scotty gets to play with you, Isaac gets to play with you. How come I’m missing out on all the fun?”
“And you’re really, really missing out,” Stiles agrees, tilting his chin up to look her in the eye. “We have so much fun together.”
“I wanna have fun,” she purrs. She leans forward, bracing one hand on the edge of the desk closest to Stiles’ lap, until he can’t help the eyeful he’s being offered on a silver platter. “Can’t I have fun with you too, Stiles?”
Stiles leans forward too, and up, pressing in until they’re just shy of really violating each other’s personal space, and smirks. Erica grins back delightedly, and for all its predatory gleam there’s a glimmer of genuine enjoyment in her big brown eyes.
“Sure,” he nods. “Isaac’s coming over tonight. Bring your boyfriend.”
And just like that she switches gears, shifts her features until her smile really is nothing more than just satisfaction, hops up off Stiles’ desk and reaches up to scratch her fingers through Stiles’ already disheveled hair.
“Cool. See you later!”
Three periods later Stiles waits until Boyd’s comfortably settled in the desk behind his before he turns, braces one elbow on the other boy’s desk.
“Heard you’re coming over later,” he says cheerfully. It’s the first time Stiles has spoken to Boyd, because today is a day of firsts apparently, but just like with Erica earlier Boyd doesn’t so much as blink in surprise.
“Whatever you do, don’t cave to Isaac’s demands for a Black Ops rematch,” Boyd responds, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Erica’ll just wipe the floor with him again.”
“Noted,” Stiles agrees, smirking.
Obviously, they play Black Ops. And obviously, Erica leaves Isaac (and Boyd) in the dust.
Stiles kicks her ass though, and has more fun throwing smack talk back and forth than he’s ever had in his life, and the standing Tuesday night tournaments quickly become his favorite night of the week.
Cross country practice ran super late today, and Stiles had stayed after for what was supposed to be a quick conversation with the coach, so he didn’t expect anyone to be left in the parking lot when he finally shuffled out of the locker room forty-five minutes later than he should have. Even Scott had left, catching a ride with Jackson Whittemore of all people, so Stiles really, really didn’t expect the willowy figure leaning up against his Jeep’s bumper.
Which is totally, totally why he jumps and shrieks like a little girl when Allison Argent clears her throat when Stiles is only five feet away.
“Holy shit!” he cries, hand jumping up to clutch his heart like the little old lady he secretly is. Allison almost looks amused, which is already more emotion than Stiles is used to seeing from her. “Jesus, you scared the crap out of me.”
“Sorry,” Allison says quietly, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Nah,” Stiles waves his hand dismissively. “What’s up, Allison?”
She doesn’t ask how, or why, Stiles knows her name. Doesn’t seem surprised that he isn’t surprised by her appearance (startled, yes. Surprised, no.). Stiles likes that; he appreciates people that don’t bother playing games.
“I –” she falters quickly, fumbles with the strap of the purse slung across her torso. “You know, nevermind. This was – I know you’re really good friends with Scott –”
“I’m really good at multitasking,” Stiles interrupts, flashing her a small smile. He’s starting to get why Allison looks so stoic in class all the time – when she actually allows emotion to leak into her features it’s a heart-wrenching, gut-punching kind of misery that makes Stiles ache in empathy. “I can definitely be Scott’s friend and yours at the same time.”
Allison…well she doesn’t smile, but it’s like the barest hint of an expression that looks like it could be a smile. She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and tries again.
“I just,” she exhales, “just really want to talk to someone who isn’t my dad, you know? Someone who knows enough that I don’t have to watch what I say, but wasn’t raised by hunters or bit by a werewolf or dating a guy who used to be a lizard monster or…”
She trails off, flicks her brown eyes up to look at him.
For all that he knows about Allison, painstakingly putting together pieces of newspaper articles, observations from class, things Scott and Isaac pointedly don’t say, Stiles has no idea what Allison knows about him. Doesn’t know if he can say I know what it’s like to have the ground fall out from under your feet like that. I know what it’s like to look up and realize you hate every single person in the room with you because none of them can come close to touching the hole in your heart.
So instead he just nods, because lately Stiles seems to be picking up strays like a big-hearted cat lady.
“Do you like peanut butter?” he asks. Allison blinks up and him, like she’s not sure if it’s a trick question. He smiles again. “It’s just, I’ve been craving it all day, so I was thinking about going home and throwing together a batch of peanut butter white chocolate chip cookies.”
“I love white chocolate,” Allison says quietly, tentatively.
“Awesome,” Stiles announces, clapping his hands together before gesturing dramatically around to the passenger side door. “Come on, let’s go. I know she looks like she’s one bad pothole away from falling to pieces, but I promise this baby’ll get us home safe.”
It takes three tries to start the Jeep, but Allison doesn’t seem bothered. She even lets out a breathy, wispy little giggle when Stiles whoops triumphantly at the catch of the engine, and that’s more than enough of a win for now.
Stiles stands there, one hand still on the doorknob, one shielding his eyes from the harsh sun glare. It’s too damn early for this, too cold for him to be standing in his open doorway wearing nothing but the boxers he slept in, too weird for him to be hallucinating Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore standing on his front stoop.
“Here,” Lydia says firmly. She gives Jackson a good, hard shove that sends him careening forward, werewolf strength be damned, and crashing directly into the arm Stiles instinctively raised toward him.
“Uh. What?” Stiles tries again. He’s got an armful of Jackson now, who looks miserable and horrifically put out but hasn’t made any effort to move away, and Lydia looks unbearably smug.
“He’s broken, and Scott says you’re the Werewolf Whisperer and Isaac sings your praises and Allison says you make the best cookies she’s ever eaten. Fix him,” Lydia instructs, tossing her long curls primly over one shoulder.
“Right,” Stiles says dumbly, for lack of a better response. He’s still got an arm around Jackson’s waist while Jackson himself seems to be trying to pull some kind of twisty move that keeps his whole body away from Stiles but still allows him to bury his nose against Stiles’ shoulder. “Uh, I guess you wanna come in?”
He steps back as much as Jackson will let him, pulling the door open wider, and Lydia pushes her way inside and beelines towards the kitchen like she knows exactly where it is.
“Okay,” Stiles nods. “I’ll just, uh, go put some pants on?”
Stiles draws the line at letting Jackson follow him up the stairs.
And just like that it becomes a thing. Well. Not in a way that is entirely noticeable on the outside. Scott and Stiles are still going strong and Stiles and Isaac talk a lot more at their lunch table now, but Jackson doesn’t bring his entourage over to sit with them, Erica doesn’t switch to a closer seat in Economics. Lydia and Allison don’t even look at Stiles (probably for different reasons. Definitely for different reasons. Definitely because Allison is still avoiding public social interaction and Lydia is still pretending Stiles doesn’t exist).
But take them out of school and suddenly they know each other. Suddenly they’re friends. Stiles doesn’t remember the last time he was home alone for an entire afternoon, the Sheriff starts taking votes on what’s for dinner, there’s a designated area on Stiles’ dresser for the miscellaneous paraphernalia the pack members leave lying around the Stilinski’s home. And no, they don’t suddenly become a pack right away, the way Stiles’ mother’s stories had once described, because Allison still isn’t ready and Isaac grows quiet and small when Lydia or Jackson come around and Erica still lashes out sometimes. But they’re something, maybe, and it’s awesome.
So Stiles has gotten used to having the pack around, underfoot like a bunch of overgrown children. They’re in his house, in his room, sitting at the kitchen table or sprawled over the Stilinski’s couch chatting with his dad. They’ve established the basic ground rules of 1. You must let Stiles know if you’re going to sneak in through his window, and you must get a response confirming he got the message before you try breaking in, and; 2. If you don’t let him know in advance, you have to use the front door or the kitchen door.
But still, rules are meant to be broken. Scott lets himself in through Stiles’ window so often that Stiles put a welcome mat under the sill, and Isaac (who is unquestionably his father’s favorite and could easily, shamelessly get away with walking through the kitchen door at any time, day or night) takes great pleasure in using the welcome mat Stiles so thoughtfully provided (“it says wipe your paws, Stiles, who am I to ignore it?”).
So he’s not completely, entirely startled when he elbows his bedroom door open and finds a body collapsed on the floor.
“Dude,” he hisses, slamming the door shut behind him and flipping the light on. The difference is instantaneous, now that he can see for real and not just a silhouette in the dim light from the hallway. The window’s still wide open, blinds tangled like whoever it is hadn’t even bothered to move them out of the way, just crashed right through them.
And whoever it is, because even though he’s face down on the floor Stiles can tell it’s not any of the pack members he knows. None of them have that inky dark hair, none of them fill out the shoulders on a leather jacket like that.
“Derek Hale,” Stiles murmurs, dropping to his knees next to the alpha’s ribs, fisting his hands in the excess fabric of one of the leather sleeves. “Clearly you know how to make an entrance.”
He yanks hard, rolling Derek over until he’s mostly flat on his back, one arm sprawled across Stiles’ lap, and the lurking trepidation that had been lingering in Stiles’ gut since he opened the door exploded.
Derek’s torso is wrecked, shirt filthy and shredded to the point where it’s nearly indistinguishable from the destroyed skin underneath, both liberally coated with blood and dirt and grime. His face, which Stiles can tell even now is probably a sight to behold on a good day, is littered with bruises and scrapes, a long slash of claws down his jaw, teeth marks on his cheek. He looks like he’d been mauled, and not in the fun way.
“Shit shit shit,” Stiles rambles, scrambling to get his fingers into his pocket and find his phone. “Jesus fuck, don’t you guys have a vet on speed dial, I am definitely not qualified to keep up with this level of violence,” he whines, punching buttons as fast as he can to pull up Scott’s number. “Goddammit.”
“Stiles?” Scott sounds breathless, almost on the edge of panic. “Dude, now’s not really –”
“Your Alpha’s bleeding out on my bedroom floor,” Stiles cuts in, glaring down at Derek’s prone form. “Like, badly. Now might not be the best time buddy, but you better make it a good time.”
“Oh god you found him,” Scott breathes. “Guys, Derek’s at Stiles’.”
There’s noise in the background, reactions and questions that, if Stiles was a werewolf, he’d probably be able to make more sense of. They sound relieved though, which Stiles doesn’t get.
“Scott, did you miss the part where he’s bleeding out on my bedroom floor?” Stiles yells into the phone, even though he knows he doesn’t need to raise his voice for them to hear him.
“Dude, he’s a werewolf, it’ll heal,” Scott brushes him off.
“He’s unconscious. Still bleeding. He looks like he went through a meat grinder. And it’s definitely not healing fast enough to compensate for the blood loss,” Stiles snarls.
The other end of the phone gets abruptly, suddenly silent.
“We’re on the way,” Scott says finally, all relief stripped from his tone.
“Just come straight through the window,” Stiles offers.
“Lydia’s coming with, we need to use the door.”
“Fine, front door’ll be unlocked. Anything I should do…” Stiles trails off, looking helplessly down at Derek.
“Anything you can think of that might stop the bleeding,” Scott says firmly. It’s times like these Stiles can tell Scott holds real authority in the pack, if not as an alpha then most assuredly as his second. The goofy, playful Scott disappears, leaves room for a calm, quiet leader.
He drops his phone without hanging up, trusts Scott’ll do it himself, and shoves upright. It’s a small miracle that his dad’s working tonight, pulling a double to cover the night shift of one of the deputies whose wife just had a baby – it leaves Stiles free to sprint down the stairs and flip open the locks on the front door before bursting into the downstairs bathroom and yanking the first aid kit from under the sink.
Back upstairs Derek hasn’t moved, sprawled in the heap he’d landed in when Stiles flipped him over. He doesn’t react to Stiles manhandling him around (as best he can, talk about being heavy as all hell) to pull the leather jacket off, doesn’t so much as flinch at the feel of cold metal against his skin as Stiles cuts clean through the wrecked remains of his shirt.
Scott and whoever else he’s bringing must have been close, or maybe they just flew, because Stiles is barely finished wiping a damp towel over the bloody remains of Derek’s stomach when he hears the front door crashing open and the pounding of feet thundering up the stairs.
Scott, Isaac, and Lydia burst into his room all at once, and it’s a testament to the lifestyle they apparently lead that not one of them flinches at the sight of Derek spread across the floor, Stiles leaning over him with bloodstains up to his elbows. Isaac falls to his knees by his Alpha’s head, worming one hand gently under his skull to cup the back of his neck, Lydia immediately whips out her cell phone, and Scott crowds over Stiles’ shoulder.
“What happened?” Scott asks, still using his calm, authoritative voice.
“I have no idea,” Stiles tells him hoarsely, swiping up the last bit of blood on Derek’s hip. Though the wounds are still stretched raw and open across his body they seem to have stopped bleeding. “I came upstairs and found him here. Looking at that,” he points to his still-distressed window sill, “I’m guessing he barely made it here before just keeling over and passing out.”
Stiles watches the black lines creeping up Isaac’s forearm, leeching Derek’s pain through his veins. It’s not the first time he’s seen Isaac do it but it never ceases to fascinate him, steal his attention.
It seems to be working too. Derek lets out a low moan, shifting his head side to side in Isaac’s lap, and the room goes quiet again. Even Lydia seems to be holding her breath, shushing whoever’s on the other end of her phone call.
“Derek?” Scott says gently, crouching down next to Stiles. Derek moans again in response, but this time he also manages to blink his eyes halfway open, just enough for Stiles to see a glimmer of red between his lashes.
“Sc’tt,” he slurs out, twisting his neck to try and find Scott. Stiles leans back, out of the way, and Scott presses forward over him, one hand braced on Stiles’ leg.
“Yeah, right here,” Scott tells Derek. “What happened.”
“Ethan,” Derek breathes. Each inhale sounds wet, labored – Stiles broke his ribs once, two summers ago, and one patch of bruising on Derek’s side looks suspiciously familiar like that.
Lydia starts talking again, turning away and mumbling so low into her phone that Stiles can barely hear her. Neither of the other two seem to react, not to Derek’s shaky announcement or Stiles’ questioning look. This is the first he’s hearing of anyone named Ethan, and he’s totally not imagining the way Isaac is suddenly avoiding his gaze.
“Did he use anything unusual on you?” Lydia raises her voice, twisting back over her shoulder to look down at Derek. He shifts his head just enough to communicate a non-verbal no, and Lydia nods back. “Just teeth and claws then,” she says into her phone, turning back away from them again.
“Who won?” Scott asks carefully, ignoring the pointed looking from Isaac.
Derek somehow manages to look offended even through his injuries, letting a low growl slip from his lips as the red glare in his eyes flashes a little brighter.
“Me,” he grunts, and Scott’s usually bright grin twists into a grim, tense, but no less victorious smile.
“Good,” he says firmly.
“Two down,” Isaac adds, glancing over at Lydia. “Only three left.”
“Deaton says there’s nothing we can really do,” Lydia announces, sliding her phone back into her coat pocket and drawing closer again. She peels her plum purple coat from her shoulders and drapes it over Stiles’ desk chair before she settles down on the carpet next to Isaac. “They’ll take longer than normal to heal, because they were inflicted by an alpha, but since Derek’s an alpha too it won’t kill him. We can wrap them up, at least, so they don’t get any worse, but there’s not much else for it. He should be healed up by tomorrow morning.”
“Okay,” Scott exhales. “Derek?”
They turn back down to look at him, but Derek’s out cold again, even with Isaac’s hand still on his neck. Stiles rolls his eyes, because he’d be willing to bet Derek only forced himself semi-conscious to pass that message along, and apparently stubbornness is a family trait with this pack.
“Down for the count,” Stiles mumbles, pointing out the obvious. “Whatever, makes it easier for us to patch him up.”
“You don’t have to…” Scott starts to say, leaning back again and finally dropping his ass down to the stretch of carpet next to Stiles. “We can bring him home.”
“You want to move him?” Stiles protests, shaking his head firmly. “No way, man. He’s barely just stopped bleeding, if you move him now who’s to say it’s not all just going to open up again? No, I’ve got plenty of bandages and shit here, and my dad won’t be back until the morning. Wrap him up, put him in my bed, and let him sleep it off.”
Isaac and Scott exchanges long looks, the kind you know are hiding a heavy mess of silent conversation, but it’s Lydia who finally opens her mouth.
“Stiles is right,” she says. “Besides, Derek’s the one who brought himself here, he should be perfectly fine with spending the night.”
No one seems to have a counter argument to that, so they don’t even bother to try. They make quick work and a hell of a mess with Stiles’ first aid kit, and before too long Isaac and Scott are lifting Derek carefully and carrying him over to Stiles’ bed.
“Make sure you don’t use hot water on that,” Lydia tells him, nodding down to the large bloodstain where Derek had been laying. Stiles frowns at it as he shoves Derek’s ruined shirt into the trash bag full of bloody cotton swabs, gauze bandage wrappers, and the ruined towel.
“Hazards of being friends with werewolves,” he says finally, shrugging. “You learn all sorts of ways to get rid of bloodstains.” He ties the bag off before handing it over to Isaac to be dumped in the trash bin on their way out. “I’ll figure out something, don’t worry.”
Scott looks at him like he wants to say more, wants to say anything, but Stiles just shakes his head at him.
“Seriously, don’t worry about it,” he says. “Unless, of course, you were about to tell me why it is you guys keep showing up at my house looking like the runty little nerds that just escaped the big bad bullies.”
Nobody says anything. Isaac makes a point of looking down at his sneakers, Lydia looks him dead on with the most ice cold expression she can manage, Scott squirms at Stiles’ side.
“We –” Scott says finally, scrubbing one hand through the hair on the back of his head. “You’re better off not knowing. Safer.”
“I’ve been really, really good about not asking,” Stiles reminds him, ignoring the way Lydia raises an eyebrow in silent disagreement. “But don’t think I don’t know something’s going on. You guys come here like this is your way of escaping, for a little while, and I’m cool with that. I’m glad you have that, happy to be the one to provide it, but don’t think that means I won’t figure it out eventually.”
“We just want to keep you safe,” Isaac says softly, glancing up with the imploring look that usually works wonders on Stiles’ conviction.
“I hang out with werewolves,” Stiles points out. “I’m already straddling the line between best bodyguards in the world and one wrong move away from getting my throat torn out.”
“Just trust us,” Scott insists, dropping his hand onto Stiles’ shoulder and squeezing. “We’re taking care of it.”
It’s not over, not by a long shot, but Stiles knows when to let a conversation drop. He ushers the three of them out, promises to text them at the first sign of improvement from Derek, and takes an extra minute to double check the locks on both the front and the kitchen doors.
“Your pack underestimates my detective skills,” he tells Derek’s unconscious body when he’s back upstairs, hunched over in his desk chair typing how to remove blood from carpet into the Google search bar. “Just watch me figure this out.”
Derek, predictably, says nothing back.
Stiles wakes up in the morning to an awkward twinge in his lower back from falling asleep slumped over in his desk chair and an empty room.
It’s three weeks before Stiles hears his bedroom window sliding up, without the customary knock the betas always afford him, and looks up catch sight of Derek Hale’s spiky black mess of hair pushing through the open window.
“At least your puppies knock first,” Stiles snorts, pointedly looking back down at his Economics textbook the second he recognizes Derek’s profile. “Here I thought their alpha raised them to be well-mannered.”
“There’s a sign,” Derek responds stiffly.
Stiles, whose curiosity outweighs even his hardest of grudges (and lets face it, his resentment of Derek for leaving without so much as a passing acknowledgment that he’d been there is fairly low on Stiles’ list of major grievances in life), abandons his chilly façade of nonchalance in a heartbeat. He jumps right up and all but pushes Derek out of the way in his effort to get to the window, and sure enough when he leans outside there’s a laminated strip of cardstock duct taped to the vinyl siding.
DON’T FORGET TO KNOCK Stiles gets cranky when we scare him
He laughs openly and loudly, twisting his upper body around to shimmy his cell phone out of his pocket and snap a good picture of the sign, and already has a half-sent mass text consisting of the picture and a row each of HAHAHAs and less-than-threes by the time he pulls himself back into his room.
Derek’s standing exactly where Stiles left him wearing the slightly outraged expression of someone who isn’t often kept waiting.
“So you just elected to ignore their advice, then?”
“I didn’t scare you,” Derek points out, the kind of evasive answer Stiles himself is intimately familiar with offering.
“Semantics,” Stiles scoffs back. He only then realizes that neither of them have moved much – Stiles still braced against his window sill, Derek square on the welcome mat where he landed when he’d climbed inside – which means there’s barely half a foot of space between him and an alpha werewolf he’s only kind of met once before.
“Right,” Stiles clears his throat, ducking around Derek to perch himself on the edge of his dresser instead, solidly halfway across the room. “You know, I expected you to be more…growly.”
Predictably, he actually does get a growl in response to that, a properly wolfy one that comes from low in the back of Derek’s throat, and Stiles would be more impressed if it wasn’t Scott’s primary intimidation tactic during Mario Kart (and hadn’t stopped working on Stiles two months ago).
“Yeah, whatever,” Stiles waves one hand dismissively. It’s safe enough, here with a good five feet of carpet and the corner of his mattress between them. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re here, in my bedroom, on my welcome mat."
Derek directs his glare at the welcome mat in question for a second. The desire to light the thing on fire with the force of his laser-eyes alone is written all over his face, and the heat behind it doesn’t change even when his focus shifts back to Stiles. He looks like he’s bracing himself for something particularly unpleasant.
“Lydia and Scott say you’re especially good at doing research,” Derek says slowly, evenly, tone so carefully neutral it’s almost mechanical. “And I’ve run out of other options.”
Stiles jaw drops.
Derek reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a scrap of crumpled loose-leaf paper. Stiles isn’t close enough to reach out and take it from him, but even from here he can see the single shape scratched across the page, all sharp lines and harsh turns spanning out in three directions.
Derek shoves his hands back in his pockets. “I need to know anything you can come up with about that symbol. Anything. No matter how irrelevant or inaccurate or unlikely it seems.”
“What makes you think I’m going to do anything for you?” Stiles challenges. It’s a weak play at best, and Derek doesn’t have to do anything more than turn his gaze down to the stretch of carpet Stiles hadn’t been entirely successful in cleaning the blood stain out of.
There’s a lot Stiles has to say in response to that, a dozen questions that include the phrases why, how, and what the fuck, another dozen expletives about Derek’s audacity.
Somehow, what comes outside instead is, “does it have anything to do with why you’re all getting your asses kicked regularly?”
Derek’s eyes narrow, the neutral expression he’d been so carefully maintaining cracking around the edges. There’s the distant sound of warning bells ringing in Stiles’ head, some semblance of his self-preservation instinct finally kicking in, but he pays it little attention. He’s been ignoring his friends’ injuries for weeks and weeks now, since the very first night, and if this is a chance to get answers he’s willing to push it.
“Are you going to tell me about all of that, then?”
Derek’s eyes flash, just a split second of red, and Stiles knows immediately that was the wrong choice.
“No,” Derek snaps, voice gone cold with harsh authority. “No. It’s none of your business.”
“None of my –” Stiles gapes at him. Derek had come here to ask him for help, again. If nothing else Derek already made it Stiles’ business. “But it’s affecting the pack!”
“Exactly,” Derek sneers back. “And you’re not part of it.”
“You have no place in my pack.” Derek stresses each word slowly, tauntingly, deliberate pauses that hammer every syllable home.
That cuts the ground right out from under Stiles. He’d been very good about keeping that line drawn in his head – the betas and Lydia and even Allison were a pack, Stiles knew that, and he knew there was a subtle but huge difference between being friends with the pack and actually being pack. But to hear Derek say it, to have a man he barely knows just throw that right in his face…it made Stiles feel small. And superfluous. And like he was back in Lakeport, alone, and nothing of the last three months meant a damn thing.
And that just makes him angry.
“Your pack,” Stiles echoes, shoving himself upright off his dresser to square off against Derek. He’s surprised that he hadn’t noticed before that they’re almost the same height, that Stiles might even be the taller one, but he forces himself to tamper down his reaction and just squares his shoulders to look as broad as he can manage.
“You’re losing your pack,” he hisses. “They’re miserable, and they’re here all the time when they’re upset, when they’re hurt, when they don’t feel like they can go home anymore and they don’t feel much like they can go to their alpha either. You know it’s true, you can smell them. They haven’t just been here recently, they’ve been here long enough that their scents are starting to mingle with the general scent of a home – they’ve all but moved in. So tell me, what the hell do you actually do for them that gives you the right to call them yours?”
Derek moves so quickly Stiles hardly sees it: one minute he’s still standing in front of the windowsill, the next he has Stiles flat against his own bedroom door, fingers fisted in the loose material of Stiles’ hoody.
“I keep them alive,” Derek growls, pressing so close to hiss the words into Stiles’ face that Stiles can feel the heat of them against his lips.
He bares his own teeth in response, a habit he’s picked up from the betas, and forces himself to keep what little ground he has left.
“Oh yeah, you’re doing a great job of that,” Stiles scoffs. “My dad thinks I befriended an abused kids support group. They’ve never not bruised and bloody and barely just healing, how exactly is that you keeping them alive?”
Derek’s responding snarl is nonverbal, reinforced by the extra press of Derek’s entire body weight shoving Stiles further into the door. Stiles digs his shoulder blades back and plants the balls of his shoulders hard against the wood, determined to hold his ground.
The room is so still, silent save aggravated inhales and exhales and the thud of Stiles’ heartbeat in his own ears, that the sound of his dad’s bedroom door swinging open is audible even to Stiles’ human ears. Derek’s grip on his sweatshirt disappears in a single heartbeat, the heat of his body pressed against the length of Stiles’ gone just as quickly.
“Stiles?” his dad calls through the closed bedroom door, thumping lightly against the wood. “It’s late, you’re supposed to be in bed.”
Stiles closes his eyes, wills his own pulse to calm, forces his breathing into a steady rhythm with a careful count to three.
“I’m going right now,” he promises. “Just finishing up an episode of Buffy.”
By the time he opens his eyes again Derek is gone. The only sign that he was ever even there is the lone piece of crumpled loose-leaf in the middle of Stiles’ bedroom floor, late-night shadows hitting the sketch at just the right angle to pump an extra shot of fear-based adrenaline through Stiles’ system.
Stiles didn’t know what to expect from the rest of the pack upon arriving at school the next morning – didn’t know if Derek would have time to even speak to the rest of them or if maybe he didn’t even need to, if they just instinctively knew now that Stiles had all but been declared Out.
What he definitely hadn’t even considered was Scott, Isaac, and Jackson huddled in front of his locker, all wearing the painfully contrite expressions of the recently scolded.
“Hi,” Isaac says tentatively. He holds out a coffee cup Stiles hadn’t originally noticed, stamped with the familiar logo of a gourmet café downtown, and Stiles doesn’t have to be a werewolf to smell his favorite blend.
“Well that answers the question of whether or not you’ve all heard from your charming Alpha,” Stiles sighs, though he doesn’t hesitate to accept the proffered coffee.
“Derek’s a dick,” Scott blurts out instantly. “Seriously, don’t actually listen to anything he has to say, half of it’s posturing alpha bullshit and the other half is wrong.”
“And how can he say you’re not pack after he showed up injured and expecting you to take care of him?” Isaac cuts in enthusiastically. “Talk about contradicting yourself.”
“Guys,” Stiles says fondly.
“But seriously though, Stiles, Derek’s an asshole. And just because he’s the alpha doesn’t mean his word is law.”
“And he’s really, really bad at saying thank you so getting help from people always makes him prickly and cranky and that’s probably why he –”
“– Was his usually raging asshole self –”
“Guys,” Stiles tries again. He glances over at Jackson, who still hasn’t said a word, and Jackson rolls his eyes heavily.
“Don’t look at me,” he grumbles, “I’m only here because Isaac needed a ride to the coffee shop.”
Stiles doesn’t bother calling him out on the obvious lie, just shifts his attention back to the finally silent Isaac and Scott.
“You guys are ridiculous,” he tells them, but he can’t help the small quirk of his lips. “I got that Derek’s an ass. That was pretty obvious like, six seconds into talking to him.”
“We just wanted to make sure you didn’t think he spoke for us,” Scott mumbles, still looking earnest. “Because he doesn’t.”
“I know he doesn’t,” Stiles assures them. “We’ve been friends for months without Derek’s involvement, I don’t need his permission now.”
Isaac and Jackson look satisfied, but something still doesn’t sit right in Scott’s expression. Stiles knows better than to push him at the wrong moment though, and standing here in front of two of Scott’s packmates doesn’t seem like the right one.
“Does that mean we’re still on for tomorrow night?” Isaac asks nervously, fingers of one hand twisting absently through the wave of curls across his forehead.
“Oh, now I get this,” Stiles laughs, tilting his coffee towards Isaac. “You’re just using me for my pizza.”
They’d been planning a pack night for that Saturday, the kind of make-your-own-pizzas, cookies-galore, trashy-movies-that-will-eventually-deteriorate-into-a-massive-pile-up-sleepover that most of them had been denied for a large part of their adolescent experience. It was also, as far as Stiles knew, the first time in months the whole pack, betas and humans (even Allison, which Stiles still considered a huge accomplishment), would all be together.
“Lydia’s been baking,” Jackson interjects finally. Stiles is pretty sure they’ve all been looking forward to it a little more than is strictly normal, even those of them that pretended to be above such things. “Lydia never bakes, but she’s been looking up recipes and sending me all over town for organic special ingredients and made really good oatmeal cookies last night. She’ll kill you if you cancel.”
“Who said anything about cancelling?” Stiles rolls his eyes. “Of course we’re still on. Your dumb alpha can shove it.”
From there it’s pretty easy to nudge Isaac and Jackson gently off to their classes (to nudge Isaac gently off to class; Jackson gets shoved off with a forceful but unheated GTFO). Scott lingers though, like Stiles thought he might, and waits until the other two betas are out of hearing range before opening his mouth again.
“You’re my best friend, you know that right?”
It’s not like Stiles had thought otherwise – he and Scott had become pretty inseparable since that first night in the woods, and even with the gradual inclusion of the other members of the pack into their social network there was still always this core, solid center of Scott and Stiles. It was the kind of friendship that felt like it was years and years old already, one of those timeless, effortless kinds, so yeah, Stiles had been pretty comfortable in assuming that he was Scott’s best friend just as much as Scott was his.
“I’ve never had a best friend before,” he says quietly.
“Me either,” Scott admits. “But you definitely are. You have my back no matter how many times I show up at your house with no good explanation, you didn’t even bat an eye at the fact that I’ve recently converted to mythical creaturedom, you accepted my pack like they’re your own. You take care of us and you look out for us and you’re my best friend.”
“You’re mine too man,” Stiles tells him. He’s not sure what Scott is trying to emphasize here, and he can tell from Scott’s expression that he realizes it’s not coming across.
“No,” Scott shakes his head. “I mean yes, of course I am. But I mean no, you’re not getting it. Derek told you you’re not pack, and you agreed with us that he was a rude asshole but you didn’t say anything about disagreeing with him.”
“Scott,” Stiles sighs. “It’s cool, I’m not offended –”
“You should be,” Scott cuts him off. “Because you are pack. You are. I know it, Isaac knows it, Jackson knows it, Boyd and Erica know it. Even Lydia and Allison know it. You’re so much pack that Derek’s idea of dragging his near-fatally-wounded ass to safety was to go to your house even though he’d never met you.”
And Stiles really doesn’t know what to say. That’s probably the single nicest thing anyone’s ever said to him.
Scott, bless him, seems to know that.
“I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page,” he says firmly, nudging his shoulder lightly against Stiles’. “See you at practice.”
Stiles watches him go wordlessly, tries to distract himself by finally taking a sip of Isaac’s apology bribe coffee. It’s gone cold by now, but it’s still the best thing Stiles has ever tasted.
After the display that morning he’s not surprised when Erica slips up next to him in the hallway and practically rubs herself all over him, when Boyd lays a hand on his shoulder before class starts and squeezes lightly. Lydia makes some veiled threat about cookies that falls even flatter than Jackson’s feigned indifference, and Allison joins him and Isaac for lunch.
Actually, that last one is kind of a surprise, because he didn’t even know Allison had fourth period lunch. She doesn’t say much, talks quietly to Stiles and says even less to an endearingly understanding Isaac, but it’s still pretty nice.
The point is that it’s pretty obvious everyone’s gone out of their way to interact with Stiles today, reinforcing Scott and Isaac’s early-morning insistence that they did not agree with Derek, and he’s grateful for it. There’s still a nagging feeling in his gut though, something unsettled and wrong, which drives him to seek Isaac out as they’re pouring out of the locker room after cross country practice.
“Hey, I want to talk to Derek.”
Isaac looks at him like he’s crazy, or maybe like he’s hoping he didn’t hear Stiles correctly.
“What? Why?” he asks, frowning aggressively. Stiles can see Scott thirty yards away, blatantly cocking his head towards them and not even making an effort to hide his eavesdropping. Stiles sticks his tongue out at him.
“I want to apologize. I was out of line, and I don’t like the idea of causing friction in the pack or whatever, especially between the alpha and his betas, and I’d like the chance to talk to him about it before we’ve had long enough to let it really fester.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Isaac says nervously, scraping his teeth across his bottom lip. Stiles is fairly certain it’s Isaac’s fear of confrontation more than his fear of Derek that’s prompting him to say that, but he nods his agreement anyway.
“I know. I also don’t think it’s a good idea for me to approach an unfriendly werewolf on his own territory without me being invited. So I was thinking maybe you could call him and let him know that I wanted to talk to him, and why, and tell him I’ll be home for the rest of the evening and if he’s willing to talk about it he’s welcome and if he’s not then he doesn’t have to show up.”
Isaac still looks skeptical about it, but he promises to call Derek and Stiles trusts his promise.
He keeps his window open all night, even for the hour when Boyd and Jackson show up with tightly sealed containers of cookies and strict instructions from Lydia not to so much as touch the lids. He’s maybe a little bit disappointed but he’s not all that surprised when Derek never shows up.
Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night is going surprisingly well.
It’s the first time Stiles has had the entire pack (minus Derek, but he’s never even thought to count him before last week) at his house at the same time, and he’d secretly had some reservations about it. There’s tension in odd places still – Isaac’s still quiet around Jackson, though he’s better with Lydia now, Erica and Allison stay as far away from each other as possible while still being in the same room. Scott and Allison, too, have that awkward friction between them of failing miserably at remaining platonic with someone you’re in love with, though bless them both for trying. Jackson, apparently without conscious thought, doesn’t give Boyd the time of day, hasn’t noticed Isaac’s routine attempts to blend into the wall around him, and seems to forget sometimes that he’s no longer in a position to push Scott around.
So it’s a little awkward. A little tense. There’re moments here and there when Stiles will suck nervously on his teeth, worry at the skin around his thumbnail, glance compulsively in Scott’s direction to see if it’s anything to be concerned about. But for the most part it’s good.
He’s watching Isaac and Allison standing at his flour-covered kitchen counter, Isaac working overtime to get a laugh from Allison by suggesting increasingly ridiculous toppings for their pie (he’s not that successful, though he does get a shy but still somewhat brilliant smile), when Scott drops down in the chair next to Stiles’ elbow.
“See what I mean?”
Stiles doesn’t need Scott to elaborate; he knows Scott’s referring to yesterday’s insistence that Stiles was just as much a member of this pack as the rest of them were.
And here, in the face of Isaac working another, slightly easier smile out of Allison again, the sight of Lydia trying to talk Boyd into a slice of her homemade Hawaiian pie, the sound of Erica teaching Jackson the true meaning of getting your ass kicked by a girl, Xbox edition. Well. Stiles can hear a little voice in his head, the one that sounds like his mother, whispering you did this. You brought them together like this, filed down the rough edges and filled them in. You did this.
It’s hard to deny the truth behind Scott’s declaration, here with the evidence laid out before him.
“Admittedly, you might have a point,” Stiles concedes, downplaying as much as he can.
Scott rolls his eyes like he knows exactly how much effort Stiles is putting into sounding nonchalant, leans over to snatch a slice of sausage off Stiles’ own pie in retribution.
“Admit it,” Scott goads around his bite, “you love us.”
“He loves me most!” Erica calls from the living room.
“I baked you cookies,” Lydia butts in pointedly, narrowing her eyes at Stiles as she shifts her attention away from a grateful-looking Boyd.
“Yeah, but you also like pineapple on your pizza,” Stiles reminds her. “I’m going to have to rethink our whole friendship.”
Lydia sniffs delicately, sticking her nose exaggeratedly high in the air as she ignores Boyd’s triumphant look, but the way she settles into the chair on Stiles’ other side and hooks one of her ankles over where his is propped against the table rung softens the sting of the affront.
“I think Boyd’s my favorite,” Stiles muses. “He’s the only one consistently nice to me.”
Boyd, looking up from where he’d just beaten Isaac and Allison out for rights to the pizza stone and the oven, nods appreciatively at Stiles.
“Liar,” Scott whines, poking Stiles ribs sharply.
“Liaaar!” Erica agrees, sing-song voice carrying.
“I’m not a witch, I’m your wife,” Stiles and Lydia mumble simultaneously. They blink at each other, pleased surprise evident on both their faces, and miss the arrival of Erica in the kitchen.
“Hands off my favorite movie,” she tells them, sliding under Boyd’s outstretched arm and leaning back against him. “And you’re still a liar. I still think I’m your favorite.”
“Based on what?” Stiles challenges, grinning at her.
“I’m the prettiest,” Erica scoffs dismissively, like that’s that.
“That’s like saying which of these reds is the reddest red, the apple, the fire truck, or the stop sign,” Stiles argues, gesturing around the room full of models masquerading as high school juniors. “You’re all supernaturally hot, even Lydia and Allison.”
Lydia preens next to him, as if no one’s ever called her attractive before, and Allison shoots him a small smile over her shoulder. Erica still looks playfully insulted though, and Stiles would be concerned if he and Erica hadn’t had an extensively long heart to heart about body image and personal beauty with a healthy amount of mutual confidence boosting less than a week ago.
“Besides,” he adds teasingly, “I hate to break it to you but if there was really a competition for Hottest Hottie in the Hale Pack, the obvious winner isn’t even in this room right now.”
“Nope, I’m right here,” Jackson says from the doorway, striking an admittedly impressive figure posed against the wooden frame.
“He’s talking about Derek,” Lydia rolls her eyes, “not you pretty-boy.”
“Derek’s an asshole,” Scott whines plaintively, giving Stiles his best et tu, Brute? puppy face.
“Some people wear asshole really, really well,” Stiles counters. “Unlike Jackson.”
Everyone laughs. Even Allison giggles, and Stiles doesn’t miss the way Jackson’s eyes flicker towards her before he rolls his eyes and accepts the abuse from his packmates. Lydia strikes back with something Stiles is starting to recognize as their version of foreplay, Isaac’s tentative attempt at defending Jackson earns him a grateful look from Jackson and banter from Erica in response, and Stiles can feel the last bit of tension in the air dissipating under the sounds of the playful back and forth as the pack waits for Boyd’s, and then Isaac’s and Allison’s pizzas to finish.
Stiles and Lydia’s twin moment in the kitchen and Erica’s insistence that she knows every single line by heart prompts The Princess Bride as their first movie choice: an argument about What Qualifies for the Five Best Kisses of All Time (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Captain America, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Deathly Hallows Part II are all considered) and a rousing refusal to let Lydia put on The Notebook begrudgingly inspires Tangled. (Lydia and Allison combine forces; Jackson’s still too whipped to deny Lydia anything, Stiles and Scott both lack the willpower to refuse anything that will make Allison happy). Isaac quietly admits he hasn’t seen a Disney movie since The Lion King, and suddenly six hours and four movies later Stiles is looking around a crowded living room full of tangled limbs and piled bodies in various stages of sleep, and the warmth of belonging and pack and family runs through Stiles’ veins until he can’t help but believe it.
The third time Derek shows up he doesn’t make it as far as the window. Isaac’s lounging across Stiles’ bed working on his Statistics homework when he sits up so suddenly, so sharply, that Stiles almost falls out of his desk chair.
“Dude!” he whines accusingly, frowning at Isaac. Isaac ignores him, head cocked toward the window for a few agonizing seconds of Stiles trying to refrain from dog jokes, before he finally shifts his confused gaze to Stiles.
“I thought you and Derek were going out of your way to pretend neither of you exists after last time,” Isaac whispers.
“We are,” Stiles shrugs. He doesn’t bother keeping his voice down – if there’s someone outside they’ll probably hear the whisper just as well as his normal speaking voice. He and Scott tested it one afternoon and when Scott really focused he was able to hear Stiles whispering from fifty yards behind the property line.
“Then why’s he outside?”
That makes Stiles sit up too, glancing over towards his cracked-open window like he can actually see through the blinds and into the dark backyard below. It’s only been a week since the last time Derek was here, and if Stiles had a single shred of self-respect he wouldn’t have done a single second of the research Derek had been looking for, not after everything he said.
He doesn’t. Have a single shred of self-respect, that is. Stiles had pulled an all-nighter the very next night and devoted almost fourteen hours until he’d decided he’d exhausted even his best search efforts (and then spent another four more two days later, just in case).
“He can come up,” Stiles shrugs, aiming for blasé.
Isaac gives him a look that clearly says what kind of drugs are you on.
“He left,” he answers. “Said he’d come back later. Which…” Isaac glances pointedly at Stiles’ bedside alarm clock, the bright flashing 10:47 PM lighting up the surface.
“Please, you know I won’t be asleep before two,” Stiles scoffs, waving a dismissive hand. Isaac only raises an eyebrow, patiently quiet in that way of his that always gets Stiles to babble out whatever it is Isaac wants to know. This time is no different.
“Okay so the reason he was even here the last time was because he was asking me to do some research for him,” Stiles blurts out, because he usually lasts about ten seconds. “So I guess he’s back here looking for the results of that research or something, I don’t know we got side-tracked from the whole planning effort.”
“And you did it? Even after he was a raging asshole to you?”
“Listen,” Stiles defends himself, “don’t think I don’t notice that you guys are in the middle of some deep shit right now. We’ve talked about this, I will figure it out. But in the mean time, if your alpha shows up in my room asking for something that I think might even a little bit help you guys get out of this alive, I’ll do it. Whatever it is.”
Isaac’s face falls into something that is made up of too many different expressions for Stiles to pin just one down, but when he opens his mouth he just sounds quietly sad.
“I think keeping you in the dark is stupid,” he tells Stiles. “The others think they’re protecting you by not telling you. Like we didn’t spend all of last semester learning exactly what a good idea secrets are.”
Stiles has learned a lot about what he missed last semester, about Lydia slowly losing her mind in the dark and Jackson being desperately alone, about secret relationships that almost cost Scott his life and secret plans that almost cost Derek his pack.
He thinks if they’re keeping whatever this is a secret they must have a really good reason. Either that or a death wish.
“It’ll come out eventually,” he offers, placating, because he’s not going to put Isaac in the position of betraying a direct order from his alpha, not again.
“I know,” Isaac agrees, “I’m just worried about where we’ll be when it does.”
Stiles doesn’t have a response to that, and Isaac doesn’t seem to expect one. He lets the silence fall back between them again, turning his attention back to his Stats homework and leaves Stiles to his Reddit lurking. The comfortable, easy lull of the evening is gone though, snapped clear through by the unexpected arrival of Derek, and it’s not too long before Isaac’s shoving his things into his backpack.
He doesn’t bother closing the window on his way out, and Stiles isn’t surprised when Derek’s stepping over the sill mere minutes later.
“You know,” Stiles says coolly, breaking over a minute of mutually ignoring the other in silence, “that was a limited, one-time-offer on the apology, not a standing invitation to let yourself into my room whenever you like.”
“I’m not here for an apology,” Derek grumbles back. He’s not looking at Stiles, eyes back on the bloodstained carpet again like they’re drawn there against his will.
“Good,” Stiles insists, “because you won’t be getting one. So do us both a favor and don’t let the window close on your tail as you slink back out the way you came.”
Derek exhales harshly, almost a growl, but it’s more aggressive posturing than anything else. It’s a sound Erica makes often, Jackson too, and has the odd effect of relaxing a knot of tension in Stiles’ stomach.
Stiles pivots his chair until he’s facing Derek head-on, plants his feet on the floor, crosses his arms over his chest, and waits.
“I need –” Derek grits out finally, and whether it’s the effort of asking for help or the knowledge of how painfully wrong he is it seems to be costing him quite a bit. “Did you look…”
Stiles only raises an eyebrow. He’s petty enough to let Derek force it all out, to not make things easy for him. Derek, for his part, seems determined to do so. He lets out another harsh huff of breath, presses his lips together, and tries again.
“I know I don’t deserve your help, but is there a chance you looked into the triskele anyway?”
And Stiles, because he’s nothing if not an occasional asshole, lets Derek stew in uncomfortable purgatory for several long, drawn out seconds before slowly nodding.
Derek exhales like he’d been holding his breath waiting for Stiles’ answer, and Stiles watches his shoulders. They’re so taut with tension, so rigid with the strain of whatever Derek’s carrying, that they barely even move when Derek breathes.
“You definitely didn’t deserve it,” Stiles agrees archly, looking Derek right in the eye. “But I won’t put the rest of our pack in danger just because you’re an asshole.”
Derek bristles, hackles he doesn’t have still almost noticeably raised at the inclusive way Stiles brings in the pack, and Stiles jumps on the opportunity to flash a mocking smirk right back.
“Still hurts, then? The way your pack outright defied you, went out of their way to ignore their alpha and make it clear that, in their eyes, I was pack?”
He’s playing with fire and he knows it, the look on Derek’s face tells him so, but the self-preservation instinct Stiles can occasionally rely on doesn’t seem to be kicking in. There’s still residual anger from his last interaction with Derek, from the burn of his diplomatic attempts at reconciliation getting pointedly snubbed, and…there’s a certain thrill. The stupid kind of adrenaline rush, the one you get from playing chicken with a car or sitting with your legs dangling off the edge of a water tower, hanging in the precarious balance between safety and disaster.
Stiles is challenging a creature that literally thrives on the instinct to shut down challengers with swift and certain violence, and watching Derek’s barely bridled control is beautiful.
“They have no idea what actually makes someone pack,” Derek snarls, hissing the words through teeth just this side of inhumanly sharp. “They can call you pack until their tongues fall out, it doesn’t make it real.”
“Then what are you doing here, again, Alpha Hale?” Stiles braces his hands on the arm of the chair and pushes himself up to his feet to stand in front of Derek again. He’s barefoot, in sweatpants and a long-sleeve henley, shockingly exposed against the armor of Derek’s leather jacket and steel muscle and stubble and sneer.
It makes his heart beat a little bit faster.
Derek closes his eyes and inhales sharply through his nose, the kind of deep, steadying breath therapists teach to instill a moment of calm, a careful pause to attempt to regroup yourself.
When he opens his eyes again his whole face has changed, and not in the wolfish snout and snarling fangs kind of way. He looks exhausted suddenly, the kind of bone-deep weariness that hangs bags under your eyes and hollows your cheekbones into a brittle gauntness. It’s a look Stiles has seen before, that gutted, defeated expression swathed in stubble and stubborn unwillingness to admit to anyone else you’ve lost all hope.
Stiles is not a nurturing person. He’s loyal to a fault, and protects the precious few he loves with all the fierceness he can muster, but he has no motherly streak that naturally inclines him towards reaching out to the damned and broken. He takes care of himself, and he takes care of his own in what small ways he can, and he’s normally content with that being enough.
But this, he thinks, this is what makes being pack real. Pack is your own, and this pack is his own, and right now the best way for him to take care of his own is to do what he can for Derek.
And maybe Derek isn’t his alpha, not yet, but this might just be the way it starts.
“Look.” Stiles takes a deep breath, exhales slowly. “I found some stuff, but I haven’t really organized it all yet. Just…sit for like five, ten minutes. I’ll put it together for you.”
It’s an hour before Stiles thinks to look up, to pull himself out of the bullet-point summary he’s compiling and remember that he’s not alone.
Derek’s fallen asleep in a position that looks hideously uncomfortable, booted feet still planted on the floor, hips twisting his torso so the upper quarter of his body is on its side. He’s still wearing his heavy leather jacket, bunched between the shoulder he seems to be supporting most of his weight on and Stiles’ mattress, and his neck is tilted at an angle that lets him press the bridge of his nose into a pillow without entirely exposing his throat.
By now Stiles has come to understand enough about werewolves to know that his room smells as much like home as Derek’s pack can. The betas, the other humans, they spend enough time here that their scents have blended into the fabric of his sheets, the seams of his clothing. He thinks maybe for Derek, more than anyone else, there’s a measure of comfort in that that fills the holes whatever’s hunting them has slowly been leaving.
He’s done a lot of research, both on the triskele Derek brought him and on werewolves in general – he’s got several theories on what’s out there, what’s after them, and none of them are anything less than terrifying.
So he hits print on the end of his word doc of notes, bustles around his room until the pages are finished printing, and stacks it all in a neat pile on the welcome mat. Then he says a quick prayer to not have a stomach full of claws in a minute and carefully, cautiously nudges Derek awake.
“Shoes and leather jackets are not allowed in my bed,” Stiles tells him quietly. Derek hasn’t moved except to blink blearily at him, like he’s not entirely awake, and Stiles takes advantage of that.
“I mean it,” he continues, tugging at the lapel of Derek’s jacket. “Take this shit off if you’re going to sleep here.”
He leaves the room without waiting for a response, takes his time in the bathroom slowly brushing his teeth and contemplating his non-existent facial hair, and holds his breath for reasons he’s not entirely sure about when he opens the door to his room again.
Derek’s sock-covered feet are all the way on the bed now, empty boots on the floor with his jacket draped over them, and it looks like it makes all the difference in the world. If he’s not already asleep again then he’s doing a good job of pretending, but either way Stiles has had almost enough of tempting fate tonight.
“Last time you got a courtesy get-the-bed-to-yourself card cause you were injured,” Stiles mumbles, climbing into the free space on the other half of his mattress. “But this is my bed, so pretend we said no homo or whatever helps you sleep better and if you freak out in the morning I’ll get Scott to come break your face.”
There’s no response and no freak out in the morning. There’s no Derek in the morning either, but Stiles didn’t really expect there to be anyway, so he’s not all that disappointed about it this time.
Derek comes back three times in as many weeks. He never makes the mistake of coming by when there’s another pack member around, although Stiles isn’t stupid enough to think they can’t smell their alpha’s scent on his bed, and he never mentions the research Stiles did. He never mentions anything, actually – they seem to have regressed to a non-verbal relationship that consists of Derek appearing soundlessly at his window, Stiles gesturing wordlessly at his empty bed, and Derek being gone by the time Stiles wakes up in the morning.
It’s not nothing. Stiles knows it’s not nothing, isn’t stupid enough to not notice something happening, but he has no idea what. He also has no idea who to ask, how to bring it up, what questions to ask to get the right answers.
He doesn’t think much of it when the doorbell rings and he hears his dad greet Allison, direct her upstairs to his room. He’s three episodes into season two of Castle when Allison slips the door open, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the way she climbs up on the bed next to him and correctly identifies the killer ten minutes into the episode.
Until the credits roll and she shakes her head as he reaches for his laptop to start the next episode.
“What’s up?” Stiles frowns at her, twisting his neck to try and get a good look at her face where it’s propped against the ball of his shoulder. Allison moves back obligingly, leaning into the pillows instead of him, but shakes her head.
“Talk to me about Derek,” she suggests quietly, blowing everything ordinary and calm about the evening right out of the water with five soft words.
“Uh,” Stiles blanks, blinking at her. “I…”
Don’t even know where to start. He’s completely aware of Allison’s history with Derek, the full circle from meeting him to trying to kill him. He knows about Kate, he knows about Victoria, he knows about Gerard. He knows that whatever Allison’s been doing on her own to work through the lingering issues she has with the other members of the pack haven’t in any way included Derek.
He knows Allison would have been the last person he ever would have even considered talking to about him. Hell, his dad would have been higher up on the list.
“Everyone’s been trying to figure out how to bring it up,” she shrugs, smiling slightly at his obvious shock. “I thought I’d be the best because the betas can’t be objective about their alpha, even when they want to be.”
“Can you be objective about him?”
He doesn’t mean it offensively, and from the way Allison’s expression doesn’t change Stiles is confident she understood that. She just looks thoughtful still, like she wants to make sure her answer seems well-considered.
“I’ve noticed Derek never throws the first punch,” she says after a moment. “My aunt killed his family, he ended our truce. My mom tried to kill Scott, he fought her off. Peter killed Derek’s pack, Derek made a new one.” She exhales slowly, closes her eyes. There’s the wet sheen of tears dampening her eyelashes that Stiles doesn’t know the first thing about handling, but Allison only takes another breath and opens her eyes again.
“The Argent family motto is we hunt those who hunt us. Derek follows that mantra better than most of my family ever did – I may not like him, and I might not ever like him, but I can respect him enough to be objective about whatever you might have to say.”
Stiles nods. Allison has a habit of pulling the rug out from under him in the oddest of ways and at the oddest of moments – he should be used to this by now.
“I don’t really know what I’m supposed to say about him,” Stiles admits. “I mean. Obviously the rest of them can smell the fact that he’s been back here again since that first time.”
Allison nods her agreement.
“I don’t really know why. Or what he’s doing here. He just shows up sometimes, and I don’t turn him away.”
“Are you okay with him being here?”
Stiles has a lot of feelings about Derek’s continued presence in his room and in his life. A lot of conflicting feelings, mostly. He doesn’t really understand it, and he doesn’t know what it means, and he doesn’t know what it says about him, or Derek, or pack, or anything. But it’s nice, sometimes, having another person in his bed. Nice when he wakes up cold out of a dream of flat-lining heart monitors and brittle fingers falling limp in his grip to the comforting weight of a warm, strong, alive body next to his.
“Yeah,” he says slowly, nodding. “Yeah, I am. I like doing what I can for this pack, and he wouldn’t keep coming here if it wasn’t doing something for him.”
“Does it bother you that you don’t know what that something is?”
“Not really?” Stiles sighs, perfectly aware it comes out as much more of a question than a statement. “I mean yeah, okay, it drives the insatiably curious half of me up the fucking wall, but not in the like…I have a problem with it kind of way?”
“That makes sense,” Allison agrees. Stiles snorts.
“No it doesn’t,” he laughs.
“Not really,” Allison admits, smiling slightly. “We don’t really have to talk about it. I’m not trying to force you to talk about it. I just want…”
“Me to know I can?” Stiles grins at her, leaning in to nudge his shoulder against hers. “Yeah, I know.”
“Good.” Allison sounds business-like and firm, nodding definitively. “Okay. Wanna watch the next episode? There’s this bit character that looks like an even hotter version of Derek.”
“Even hotter?” Stiles scoffs. “Yeah right. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
(hotter is debatable, but Allison failed to mention Julliard violin-playing musical protégé, which they both definitely agree is a super plus)
Stiles doesn’t see Erica all that often in school, usually only in their Economics class and if she seeks him out in the halls, so his initial surprise at sitting her perched on a picnic table by the parking lot distracts him. It’s not until he’s been staring for a few seconds that he notices her usual leather-jacket-tight-skirt combo has been replaced by a soft-looking zip-up and jeans, and even a few seconds more before he notices her left arm cradled against her chest in a makeshift sling.
“What the hell happened to you?” he sighs, hurrying the last few steps over to Erica’s picnic table. Boyd’s sitting on the bench next to her legs, one arm curled around her hips, and now that Stiles is looking closely he doesn’t look all that great either. His cheek is definitely swollen, and the make up caked heavily over Erica’s face doesn’t fully cover the black bruise under her right eye, and seriously, what the hell?
“Noth–” Boyd starts to say. Stiles levels him with a glare so withering that even sturdy, unflappable Boyd falls silent, snapping his mouth shut on the lie.
“We’re fine,” Erica tries, voice uncharacteristically reassuring. “Stiles, we’re fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” Stiles argues, glancing pointedly down at her arm. The fingers she curls around the cuff of the sling move with awkward, stilted motions, like she’s still working on regaining full use of her whole arm, and that is so not fine.
“It’s not a big deal,” she insists. “It’s not. It’ll be all healed up by tomorrow, if Boyd and I didn’t have this stupid Pre-Calc test next period I would’ve just stayed home and nobody would have even noticed.”
“Okay, but you’d still be hurt,” Stiles points out. “Seriously, you guys are supposed to have all this magical werewolf healing juju, I’ve seen it. What the hell is doing this…to…”
He trails off slowly, staring fixatedly at a mark on the side of Boyd’s neck. It’s a long, ragged cut dragging over the curve of his collarbone and down into the collar of his shirt, and it looks not unlike some of the smaller injuries Derek had had the first night he came to Stiles’ house.
And then he hears Lydia’s voice, half-distracted as she listens to Dr. Deaton on the other end of the phone line, telling him, Scott, and Isaac that “they’ll take longer than normal to heal, because they were inflicted by an alpha.”
“Did Derek do this to you?” Stiles snarls, eyes snapping up to meet Erica’s. She looks genuinely shocked by the accusation, and it’s reflected in Boyd’s confused expression, but that doesn’t stop Stiles.
“Wounds inflicted by an alpha take longer to heal,” he reminds them. “Lydia told me that. What is this, Derek’s idea of tough love training?”
He’s furious. It’s not an emotion he’s particularly familiar with – fury is an emotion that requires a passionate kind of interest and Stiles hovers more around the apathetic end of the feelings spectrum, but there it is. He’s furious at the very thought that Derek could possibly be doing this to his betas, that Derek could be pushing them so hard against whatever’s threatening them that he’s leaving lasting injuries on them.
“No, Stiles, it’s not –”
The bell rings before Erica can finish, which is fine by him. He and Derek are going to have words next time Stiles sees him, and none of Erica’s defenses are going to change that. They’ve been lying to him for months now about who-knows-what and Stiles is going to get some answers.
He doesn’t bring it up for the rest of the day. Erica and Boyd are both missing from their classes later in the day and Isaac’s not in lunch, and Stiles knows better than to try and get anything out of Lydia or Allison during class.
So he waits until he’s home, sitting in his room mindlessly stumbling through pages of I Waste So Much Time. He’s fairly confident he’ll see Derek tonight, if not because it’s been a few days since he’s slept here then definitely because Erica or Boyd have probably told him about this morning, so he waits.
The thud of a boot landing on the roof above his window has him slamming his laptop closed – by the time Derek’s sliding up the window and slipping inside Stiles is on his feet and ready for him.
“You,” he growls, “better start talking. Now.”
Erica definitely talked to him. Derek doesn’t seem remotely surprised by Stiles’ unusually aggressive greeting; on the contrary, he seems to have been expecting it. He’s already got his defensive game face on, sneering right back at Stiles, and doesn’t bother taking another step further into the room.
“I can’t believe you think I’d hurt my pack,” Derek snarls at him. “You think I’d do that to Erica, that I –”
“Oh please,” Stiles rolls his eyes. “Don’t give me that fake bullshit. You kick their asses training all the time, I know you do, they’ve told me. It’s really not a stretch to imagine you pushing it a step too far.”
“They practice fighting each other,” Derek snaps back. “I haven’t – I wouldn’t –”
“Bullshit!” Stiles yells. The anger he’s left simmering just under the surface comes flooding back to him, boiling over just enough to keep him going. “If they hurt each other they heal instantly. It takes an alpha to inflict lasting damage on a werewolf, and let’s be honest, how many alphas are there in Beacon Hills?”
Silence. Derek’s angry expression slips for just a second, like his defenses were momentarily disarmed by Stiles, and the wide-eyed look under it screams guilty as fuck.
But not about hurting his pack.
“Derek,” Stiles breathes, a harsh, sharp inhale-exhale in a desperate attempt to control the rapid-fire thoughts suddenly racing to connect together. “Derek, how many alphas are there in Beacon Hills?”
Derek’s starting to look trapped, and Stiles already knows a trapped, cornered Derek gets too defensive to answer his questions.
“How many alphas are there in Beacon Hills? Is there another one? Is there another pack? Is that what’s been after you guys, why you’ve all been fighting? Derek.”
“Stay out of it, Stiles,” Derek snarls. He’s got a hand already on the still-open window behind him, Stiles knows he can’t move fast enough to stop Derek from leaving all his questions unanswered. “Stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. Stay out of this.”
He’s gone before Stiles can demand he explain what this is.
Over a week goes by without a single Derek sighting. Every single one of the betas has sworn up down left and right to him that Derek has never hurt them unnecessarily (the unnecessarily almost sets Stiles off all over again until Erica starts talking about the full moon and jump starting the healing process), but they all get apologetic and silent the second he goes near the subject of another pack. Isaac gets the closest to cracking, silently nodding when Stiles goes off on another rant about how if Derek’s not responsible it has to be another alpha, that’s the best explanation. Scott appears just in time to stop Isaac from actually saying anything helpful though, shooting his friend an unusually stern look.
So it’s not like Stiles gives up, or drops the subject, he just learns how and when to pick his battles. And clearly the rest of the pack is united in keeping him in the dark on this one.
Fine. He can wait for Derek to crack first. Stiles is strangely confident that Derek will be back, sooner or later, and he’s no stranger to the waiting game.
They’re two and a half weeks into complete radio silence when Stiles sits up on his bed, reaching over to pause the episode of Criminal Minds streaming on his laptop, and finally hears his bedroom window sliding open. Isaac and Scott left half an hour ago and none of the rest of them would come over this late without texting him first.
Beside, Derek’s the only one who still refuses to knock.
He’s sitting completely upright by the time Derek’s inside, and he uses the time Derek spends sliding the window closed to compose himself. Steady breathing, straight face, absolute silence – he’ll wait as long as it takes for Derek to break.
“Yes, there’s another pack in town. Trying to take our territory.”
Stiles hardly has to wait. Derek sounds gruff, aggressive, not unlike how he has every time he and Stiles have argued so far, but there’s something different about it this time. Something quietly conciliatory, as if his showing up here and voluntarily answering Stiles’ two week old questions is his kind of olive branch.
“They’ve been here since last spring,” he continues. “We’ve taken out three of the five of them – the night Erica got her arm broken was the third one.”
“And the night you came here,” Stiles guesses, because he’s really, really bad at staying quiet when he’s right. “The first time. You said it was…can a pack have more than one alpha?”
Derek just looks at him. It’s not an answer, not really, but it’s enough of one.
“As far as we know, they don’t know about you yet,” he says finally. “And the rest of the pack is desperate to keep it that way, so do not fuck this up. You need to stay out of this.”
The thing is, Derek’s still using his gruff angry voice, his alpha voice, and he’s still looking aggressive and stern and all serious eyebrows. But somehow this feels like an apology. This is Derek’s backwards, awkward way of apologizing for past douchebaggery, maybe even for going AWOL for the last two and a half weeks.
And Stiles is okay with that.
(It probably doesn’t hurt that standing in the dim light of Stiles’ over-the-bed reading lamp and looking just a little too wild to be somewhere as domestic as Stiles’ bedroom, Derek Hale is a particular brand of attractive.
That particular brand is something along the lines of somebody call 911, shawty fire burning on the dance floor without the horribly insensitive part about saying Derek was hot like burning.)
“What do you think of Criminal Minds?”
If Derek is surprised by the abrupt subject change he doesn’t show it. It takes him barely a heartbeat to recover, just a moment of him slowly pressing his lips together before opening his mouth again.
“I like Morgan,” he shrugs. “He’s a good detective.”
“Of course you do,” Stiles sighs, shaking his head. “You’re both attractive, gruff manly men named Derek who put up this front like you’re assholes but are really super secret marshmallows.”
Derek heaves a sigh heavy enough to knock down a small shack (wolf jokes. three little pigs references. Stiles will bust out them all, now that he’s pretty sure Derek won’t murder him) and rolls his eyes with a sassy little twist of his jaw.
“Yeah, yeah, Big Bad, I’m onto you,” Stiles teases. He pats the bed next to him with one hand, using the other to close out the current episode and switch tabs to the next one already queued up. “Come on. If you solve the case before I do I’ll promise to stay out of your territory war.”
Derek successfully identifies four unsubs in a row – Stiles, in the name of forging tentatively good terms that extend beyond silent midnight sleepovers, doesn’t even accuse him of having already seen the episodes.
They fall asleep halfway through an episode about two brothers hunting people instead of animals. And even though they spent most of the night sitting silently and with a firm buffer of no man’s land on the mattress between them, Stiles can’t shake the feeling that something, somewhere over the course of the night, changed.
He’s right, too. After that night something was different. Easier. Their self-imposed silent agreement grew markedly less silent – they didn’t turn into gossipy schoolgirls overnight, and they’d probably never have that easy back and forth that Stiles and Scott had right away, but they’d talk sometimes. Stiles would bounce homework ideas off him (and was consistently and pleasantly surprised when Derek would actually shoot back with a well-informed response), Derek would tell him what training exercises he did with the pack that day.
They kept watching Criminal Minds. Sometimes Stiles would be waiting for him (he never really knew when Derek was coming, but sometimes he just had a feeling. There were definitely some nights Stiles was wrong and Derek never showed, but somehow Derek had still never managed to take him by surprise), two Snapples and an unopen bag of Tostitos waiting, the next three episodes already buffering before Derek even slides the window up.
Some things, realistically, would probably never really change though. Derek, after coming as close as he did to spilling the beans apology-style that one night, has stonewalled Stiles’ every effort to get any more information about the invading pack. He and Stiles argue about it some nights – never as bad as the first time, never enough for Derek to storm out, for Stiles to tell him to leave – Stiles lies awake cranky and angry and pointedly staring at the ceiling like he doesn’t notice Derek’s frustrated eyes drilling holes into the side of his head.
He doesn’t even dare bring up the subject of what, exactly, Derek’s doing sleeping in his bed two or three nights a week.
That one’s actually not as hard though. Not that Stiles isn’t desperately curious about it, or wouldn’t jump on the opportunity the second Derek gave a hint that he might be open to talking about it, but…he was pretty content with the status quo. He didn’t bother questioning his easy friendship with Scott, the brotherly camaraderie he and Isaac coexisted in, the obvious comfort and security the rest of his pack found at his house. None of that made any more sense to him than Derek’s regular appearance did but he never bothered arguing it, so why worry about Derek’s reasons when what they had was just fine?
Stiles is on his knees on the edge of the mattress, left hand braced on the floor as he stretches as far as he can, fingers scrambling for the closet bit of his computer charger. He’s this close, if he can just scooch his hand a little further out, maybe if he braces one knee against the curved side of the mattress…
His bedroom door swings open, and Stiles has just enough time to catch a brief flash of black on black on black before crashing face-first into the ground in an undignified heap.
“Ow,” he whines, voice muffled by his carpet. It’s mostly his pride that hurts – his feet are still up on the bed, knees relatively unscathed, so other than a nice amount of rug burn on his left arm and the way his nose smarts from hitting the floor at a funny angle, he’ll live.
Besides, the fingers of his right hand are curled around the end of his charger’s cable, so hey. Small victories.
“I can’t believe you’ve managed to survive this long in life,” Derek says dryly.
Stiles squirms his arm out from under his ribs, uses his momentum and a hard shove of his feet against his bed to flip himself over. Derek’s leaning against the doorframe, watching with poorly disguised amusement as Stiles settles nonchalantly on the floor, flat on his back with his knees hooked over the top of his mattress.
“I can’t believe you used the door,” Stiles shoots back once he’s comfortable. “I can’t believe you even know how to use doors.”
“You left the kitchen door unlocked,” Derek replies, and it sounds all kinds of judge-y and chastising. “What if I’d been someone else?”
“There’s a baseball bat under my bed and a pack full of werewolves on speed dial on my phone,” Stiles scoffs, waving one hand dismissively.
“And there’s a pack of werewolves going after members of my pack,” Derek argues, shoving off the doorframe and crossing the room to drop down onto Stiles’ bed. Stiles’ feet bounce lightly off the mattress when Derek settles his weight into it, and if Derek notices that Stiles lets his calf land a little more to the left than it had been a minute before, just enough so that his ankle and foot rest lightly against Derek’s hip, he doesn’t show it.
It’s just…Derek said my pack. Derek’s getting cranky because Stiles left the door unlocked while there’s another pack threatening Derek’s pack. So maybe it’s not exactly an engraved invitation of membership into the elite inner circle, and it’s totally not like Stiles even needed the confirmation…but okay, it’s really nice the way it shoots warm little fuzzies all through his chest.
“Fine,” he rolls his eyes, because no way will he actually let Derek know that. “I’m sorry I didn’t lock the door, Dad, I’ll remember to do better in the future.”
Derek flicks one finger against the meat of Stiles’ calf. “I mean it,” he says sternly. “Stop tempting fate. It’s bad enough you leave your window unlocked.”
“I’m not locking the window,” Stiles sighs. It’s an argument they’ve had twice already, Derek’s complaints that Stiles’ laziness is going to get him killed. “How else would you get your weekly Stiles fix?”
“By getting you to get up off your lazy ass for ten seconds to walk across the room and open the window,” Derek gripes back.
It’s not an argument either of them is going to win, not any time soon. Derek puts half-assed effort into it at best, which Stiles suspects is because Derek secretly likes having ready access to Stiles’ bedroom, that he doesn’t really want Stiles to lock his window even if it is safer. He’s pretty sure they just argue about it for the sake of arguing now, because when they’re snapping back and forth at each other they don’t have to admit that they’ve slowly been getting less and less snippy and more and more fond of each other.
Because you know, god forbid Derek Hale actually get along with someone.
“Aw, so you really do need a weekly Stiles fix,” he grins, nudging Derek’s hip with his foot. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you ignoring that part.”
Derek glowers at him, but it’s all show and no heat. Stiles just beams, the kind of shit-eating grin he reserves specifically for when he’s going out of his way to be a pain in the ass, and Derek rolls his eyes.
“Come on,” he grumbles. “You fell asleep during the first half of a two part episode, I’ve been waiting three days to see the second half.”
There’s another burst of warm fuzzies at that, something about Derek admitting he waited for Stiles because Criminal Minds is something they do together, and Stiles covers the way his heart’s melting just a bit by swinging his legs down off the bed and scrambling to get himself upright again.
“You say that like it’s my fault,” he complains, bending down again to gather up his computer charger and his laptop. “Like I wasn’t the one who stayed up until two the night before helping Isaac finish his King Lear essay.”
“Not my fault you’re such a nerd that they all try to get you to do their homework for them,” Derek teases. He kicks his boot off and drags himself backwards up the length of the mattress next to where Stiles is propping himself up against his half of the pile of pillows.
“What an insult,” Stiles smirks, settling his laptop into the space between their legs and pulling up the Chrome window with both halves of the two-parter already loaded. “Gee Stiles, you’re too smart. What a dweeb. Also, jacket.”
Derek makes a muffled noise of complaint next to him, and Stiles doesn’t have to look to know he’d probably just finished getting good and comfortable. It’s not his fault Derek consistently fails to take his leather jacket off before he gets settled.
“I will never understand how you forget to take it off,” Stiles grumbles, leaning out of the way as Derek shrugs out of the sleeves.
“Comfortable,” Stiles scoffs back. “There’s a big difference between comfortable-yet-stylish clothing options and laying-in-bed-watching-TV-til-you-pass-out comfortable, Hale, and leather falls into the first category.”
“Maybe I like leather,” Derek challenges. It’s innocent – there’s nothing even the slightest bit devious about the way Derek says it, not even the barest hint of lasciviousness in his tone or his voice or his mannerisms – but suddenly Stiles is struck with a lengthy list of different types of leather products Derek could be into. He drags himself forcibly away from some of the kinkier images that pop into his head (not that the tame is much better – Derek could be flipping through plain square swatches of leather sample and Stiles would probably still find a way to be turned on by it), forces himself to choke back the panicky laughter threatening to escape him.
“What,” Derek says flatly, glancing over out of the corner of his eye. Stiles’ shoulders are shaking under his suppressed laughter, and somehow when Derek had settled back from dropping his jacket on the floor he’d landed with his bicep against one of Stiles’ pillows.
“Just picturing you,” Stiles forces out quickly, scrambling a lie together as quickly as possible, “being forced to sleep on a bed with leather sheets and leather blankets and leather pillows and still stubbornly insisting you’re comfortable.”
Well. That was a little…really, Stiles, that was the best you could come up with? You were picturing Derek in an all leather bed? Not to mention that all it takes is a second to actually conjure the image, Derek sprawled across a mattress covered in butter-soft leather, smooth skin warm against the cold material, and oh Christ.
Derek doesn’t say anything for a long minute, and Stiles pretends it’s because he’s invested in the scene between Morgan and Reid playing out on screen right now. He’s personally too busy trying to regain control of his heartbeat to focus on the interaction between his two favorites, slowly trying to inch away from Derek with each exhale.
It’s another minute before Derek finally reaches over, holding his phone out with the screen tilted towards Stiles. It’s opened to a lengthy blog article advertising the pros of “elegant and comfortable” fitted leather bed sheets, satin-lined pillow cases, and a discussion of leather throw blankets versus leather duvet covers. There’s testimony from satisfied customers describing the “luxurious feel” and “supple texture,” and a picture that fit seamlessly into the mental image Stiles is already struggling with.
“Oh my god,” he chokes out, shoving Derek’s hand away from his face. “I hate you.”
Derek smirks at him, and while it’s not really a smile it is his version of a shit-eating grin, and the only thing Stiles really hates about him is that he doesn’t hate anything about him at all. He shoves harder at Derek’s arm anyway, jostling their shoulders together for good measure, and Derek puts up just enough resistance that Stiles really has to work for it.
When the dust settles (Derek’s phone safely back in his pocket, both of them sneering faces at each other), they wind up having to rewind the last five minutes of the episode. Derek leans forward to do it, batting away Stiles’ half-assed, useless effort to reach his laptop, and when he falls back again he lands with his shoulder overlapping Stiles’, effectively pinning Stiles’ upper arm between Derek’s arm and his pillows and therefore rendering any further retaliation useless.
“Jerk,” Stiles grumbles, swatting ineffectively at Derek’s ribs.
“Brat,” Derek shoots back mildly, shifting his arm enough that even more of Stiles is covered.
And if they stay like that for the rest of the episode, and the one after that, well…whatever. It’s not like they’ve actively avoided tactility before tonight, really, or like the searing heat of Derek pressed down the length of his side is doing ominous things to the regularity of Stiles’ heartbeat.
And if Stiles wakes up feeling colder than usual, alone in bed the next morning? Well. It’s winter. Sometimes cold happens.
They’re having another pack night, this time at Lydia’s house. Ever since she learned that her wolfsbane punch at her last birthday party had even affected Scott she’d been working on developing a less potent mix, one that might mimic the affect of the alcohol without the hallucinogenic side effects. Jackson’s apparently been the guinea pig up until now, probably because he’d been particularly vocal about how painful the Homecoming Dance was when he was sober, but Lydia’s finally found a formula she wanted to test on a broader scale.
It seems to be working – from where Stiles’ is sitting it looks like everyone is pleasantly buzzed, working their way to a comfortable drunk. Isaac and Allison are huddled over the coffee table, Allison’s shoulders relaxed and her voice light as she tries to teach Isaac to bounce a quarter into a shot glass. Lydia’s got her butt on Jackson’s lap and her feet in Boyd’s, giggling with Erica about something that, based on the looks on both their boyfriends’ faces, Stiles emphatically does not want to know. Scott’s sprawled out on the floor next to him, legs overlapping with Isaac’s under the table and head on Stiles’ thigh.
It’s nice. It’s all loose and easy and everything’s a little bit floaty, like letting yourself sink to the bottom of the pool and sitting wrapped in the comfortable weight of the water. Stiles feels warm and content, his body buzzing in a different way than usual, more pleasant, less out of his control. He laughs at something Scott mumbles, ruffles his fingers through his best friend’s dark hair, and grins dopily up at Lydia when she coos and whips out Instagram.
But still. Something’s missing.
He doesn’t have time to figure out what it is, though. Not now, at least. Isaac’s triumphant cheer at finally sinking his quarter in Allison’s glass catches Lydia’s attention, and as adamant as she is about not wanting to play Quarters she seems to be latching onto the drinking game idea pretty quickly.
They settle on Kings, because it’s 85% luck and circumstance instead of dexterous skill (Stiles is more than okay with this – he’s mean with a ping pong ball and a Solo cup pyramid, but pretty much any other aggressively interactive drinking game is lost on him), and Jackson unearths a deck of playing cards from an end table near the couch.
The game, shocking no one, turns ruthless pretty quickly. Well. As ruthless as Kings can get, technically, but still. The standard is set on the third turn in when Isaac pulls a four and the couch collective scramble so fast to get their hands on the floor that Lydia winds up knocking Jackson clear off the end.
“Guys,” Stiles laughs, shaking his head at them. Lydia doesn’t even look remotely apologetic, which isn’t new, but Jackson looking completely unruffled is. “It’s a game.”
“And there can only be one winner,” Lydia replies archly.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no winner in Kings,” Scott argues. “I thought the game just ended when the cards ran out.”
“And that, McCall, is why you’re a loser,” Jackson teases. There’s no heat in it, even something of a friendly smirk on his face, and Scott only rolls his eyes good-naturedly in response.
“Fine,” he sighs, “bring it on, Whittemore. Show me what you got.”
And really, Stiles should have known that was that. His pack was already a mess of highly competitive attention seekers with a ruthless edge that could cut glass, no need to go ahead and issue a drunken challenge to them.
Erica and Boyd nearly break a lamp trying to pin each other’s arms down before either of them can raise a hand when Lydia pulls a seven. A jack from Allison leads to a five minute argument about whether Muesli actually counts as cereal that ends only when Allison proposes a redo of the entire round with a new category. The first king, and Isaac’s subsequent rule that you can’t touch your face, has Stiles going through an entire, full cup of punch before the game play even made it one full rotation back to Isaac again.
Jackson pulled the first ten, prompting the first argument over the rules as they hashed out how many fingers would be played for Never Have I Ever. They settled on five, because three was too easy and ten took too long, and Jackson low balled one straight at Scott and Isaac right from the get go.
“Never have I ever been designated benchwarmer,” he smirks, waving his cup towards them as they both lowered a finger.
“Never have I ever driven a Porsche,” Allison says back sweetly, nodding pointedly at Jackson’s hand as he begrudgingly curled his thumb into his palm.
“Never have I ever gotten demoted to co-captain,” Isaac adds instantly, grinning at the unimpressed glare Jackson shoots him.
“Never have I ever had a personalized license plate with my name on it,” Scott cackles.
Normally Stiles would be all for the streamlined attack at Jackson – the increasingly irritated scowl on his face every time he has to put another finger down is nothing if not hysterical – but frankly, it’s no fun. Besides, what’s the point in knocking down the same pin over and over again if you could bowl a strike instead?
“Never have I ever kissed anyone in this room,” Stiles announces smugly.
There’s a frustrated groan rolling through the room as Erica, Boyd, Lydia, Jackson, Allison, and Scott all put one finger down. Only Isaac doesn’t move, waggling all five fingers teasingly at Stiles.
“Nice try,” he laughs, grinning.
“Oh yeah?” Stiles shoots back. He braces the hand holding his drink against the floor and launches himself across Scott’s lap, grabbing Isaac’s jaw just in time to plant a loud, smacking kiss right on Isaac’s lips. It’s all dramatic noise and affect and very little actual kiss, but it’s still enough to send everyone else into hysterics as Isaac shoves Stiles’ face forcibly away, making a show of wiping aggressively at his own mouth with his free hand.
“That was gross,” Isaac whines, chugging down a gulp of punch like he’s trying to wash a bad taste out of his mouth. His eyes are bright under his curls though, the corners of his lips turned up from the grin he’s trying hard to reign in.
“I just didn’t want you to feel left out,” Stiles teases. “Besides, now no one can use that one against you.”
Isaac just rolls his eyes and reaches over Scott to shove playfully at Stiles’ shoulder, but it does the job. The rough tension of ganging up on Jackson is broken, and Erica’s statement is broad enough that Lydia, Scott, and Stiles all put a finger down. Jackson still loses, hard not to when he’s only got one finger up while everyone else still has three or four, but it’s funnier now, less aggressive.
It doesn’t hurt that the statement he loses on is Allison’s genuinely innocent “never have I ever ‘practiced’ by kissing my best friend.”
The tension might be broken, but the competitiveness certainly isn’t. Jackson makes a big show of magnanimously taking a generous sip of his drink, immediately calls Stiles out for scratching his nose, and is the first one to slap his hand to the ground when Allison flips over another four.
But still, it’s fun. The aggression is tempered with the still easy buzz of alcohol and laced with the open, raucous laughter when they start to skirt the edges of ridiculous. There’s a category round of different sex positions that makes three full rotations around the circle before Scott blanks out on one, a rhyme that turns into a quasi rap that leaves Stiles and Erica cackling, and another king rule of “no names,” that sparks a slew of makeshift, borderline offensive (mostly just funny) spur of the moment nicknames for the whole pack.
Questions is Stiles’ favorite though, so when Boyd flips a queen he puts his game face on and doesn’t hesitate in looking up to meet Boyd’s eyes. They volley questions back and forth around the group, Boyd to Stiles to Jackson to Isaac to Erica to Scott, until Lydia and Stiles find themselves in a hot potato battle, blurting out rapid fire questions back and forth to each other, ignoring everyone else in favor of tripping up the other.
“How much do you weigh?” he throws at her, gunning for indignation to slow her down.
She doesn’t even blink.
“How many times a day do you jerk off?”
“Is that dress last season?”
“Can you quote an entire scene from Mean Girls?”
“Do you identify with Regina George?”
“Have you ever felt personally victimized by me?”
“Would you mind if I hit you with a bus?”
“When Derek sleeps over do you two fuck?”
Stiles falls back on his butt with a dull thump against the carpet, jaw dropping open. Lydia’s eyes are wide, hovering somewhere between triumph and regret, and everyone else is looking at him like they’re waiting for his cue.
Stiles just bursts out laughing.
“Holy shit,” he breathes, choking the words out through giggles as he curls his arms over his stomach. “Oh my god, Lyds, I’m not even upset I lost.”
“As if you ever had a chance of winning,” she sniffs delicately. The rest of them are laughing now too, still somewhat tentative but definitely not nearly as nervous as they’d been a moment before. It makes him laugh even harder, really, because honestly.
“Seriously though, no,” he says finally, only after taking his justly deserved sip of punch. “As if.”
Erica rolls her eyes at him, ignoring the look Boyd tries to give her, and takes her own sip she earned from being paired up as Stiles’ date when he’d pulled an eight two rounds ago.
“Pretty sure if Derek was getting laid on the regular he wouldn’t be such a tight ass,” she quips. “Or at the very least be able to dislodge that stick rammed up there.”
“Can we not talk about Derek’s ass,” Jackson grumbles.
“But it’s such a nice ass,” Lydia sighs, exchanging knowing grins with Erica.
Ordinarily Stiles would be the first one to chime in his agreement there (what, he’s spent enough time watching that ass climb out his window to appreciate its worth), but he’s let the conversation slip away from him. Lydia’s question hadn’t really bothered him, nothing about breaking the de facto rule to ignore Derek and Stiles’ whatever thing or her alluding to anything happening between them really phased him, but it did get him thinking.
Because that was it. That’s what was missing tonight, here in the Martin’s living room with all his favorite people, curled up on a rug with his best friends, taking a moment to ignore the supernatural and the weird and the wild and worry about being seventeen and stupid. Derek was missing, was keeping this night from really, truly feeling like a moment with his pack, and now that Stiles finally noticed it his absence was gaping.
The game continues (nobody wins, Erica flips the final card over to reveal a very anticlimactic three). Jackson starts rattling off a list of other card games they can play, most of which go right over Stiles’ head. He’s content to just let Jackson deal, answering with a suit, a color, or “higher/lower” when prompted, drinking when told.
It’s just that he’s distracted now. Distracted by the lack of Derek, distracted by how much it bothers him, that Derek’s not there. Derek should be there, should be bonding with his pack, should be teaching Lydia how to find the loopholes in werewolf-enhanced metabolism and healing, should be showing them drinking games he learned from his older siblings’ friends and his time on the east coast.
But what’s really distracting Stiles is how much he wants Derek there for him. Personally. He wants Derek sitting next to him on the floor, rolling his eyes at Scott’s dopey grin and flicking Stiles’ ear when he makes a dog joke. He wants Derek sprawled in the oversized arm chair behind Stiles’, knees spread with his legs bracketing Stiles when Stiles leans back against the chair.
When they go to sleep they don’t pair off – nobody wants to have any kind of sex in a house full of friends with advanced hearing, and everyone knows part of the fun of sleepovers is all piling into the same room together. They shove Lydia’s basement furniture together like puzzle pieces, using the L-shaped couch, two enormous ottomans, and a chaise lounge to make a makeshift bed large enough for eight of them. But still, there’s an obvious grouping together – Jackson curls protectively around Lydia, who always insists on having him at her back and Boyd in front of her. Erica drapes herself diagonally, head and shoulders on Boyd’s broad chest, legs tangled with Isaac’s.
Isaac, Allison, Scott, and Stiles sleep in a delicately careful arrangement of limbs designed entirely around pretending that Allison and Scott won’t end up wrapped together by the end of the night. Normally Stiles doesn’t mind it – he likes the comfortable tangle of warm bodies around him, of not being sure if it’s Erica’s toes or Isaac’s buried under his shin, of Scott’s head on the other half of his pillow and Allison’s face pressed into his bicep.
Tonight, though, hanging on the frayed edges of the gaping hole where Derek should be, it just pisses Stiles off. Pisses him off and makes him want, because for the first time he’s drunk enough to admit to himself that he doesn’t just want Derek laying in the other half of his bed, carefully spaced out next to him. He wants Derek here with him right now, pressed against his back with an arm over Stiles’ hips and a leg between Stiles’ thighs. He wants to use Derek’s enormous bicep as a pillow, to be able to turn his face into the bare skin and smell leather and crisp leaves and laundry detergent. He wants Allison to feel safe with her back against Derek’s back and Scott against her front, and to wake up at the crack of dawn with a mouthful of Isaac’s curls because Isaac’s got his face in the crook of Derek’s elbow, curled into his alpha in his sleep.
He wants to feel Derek’s disgruntled huff against the skin of his neck when Stiles fails to stifle a fond laugh, wants the warning scrape of teeth against the shell of his ear when Derek complains that it’s too early, Stiles, go back to sleep. He wants to sink further back into the warmth of Derek’s chest and agree to another few hours of pretending the sun’s not up yet.
He wants to wake up later to the sleepy, lazy mess of his hungover best friends, his family, his pack, and have Derek still be there next to him.
Stiles squirms his way out of their nest of blankets and pillows carefully, worming his way out from under Scott’s arm and shoving the blanket he’d been using under Allison’s foot to replace the calf he moved away. Once he’s upright he counts to five, waiting to see if anybody noticed him move, before creeping as quietly as possible across the basement and skirting the very edges of the carpeted stairs as he climbs back up to the kitchen.
And promptly almost falls ass backwards down the whole damn flight of them when he catches sight of dull red eyes reflecting back at him from the other side of the French patio doors.
“Jesus holy shit fuck fuck,” Stiles hisses, fingers scrambling against the doorframe leading to the basement stairs. There’s a light switch next to his hand, one of which Stiles hopes to god works the patio lights, and sure enough the far left one flips an overhead porch light that throws Derek into sharp relief.
“Oh my god,” Stiles mumbles, throwing the lock open and opening the back door just wide enough to slip outside before closing it behind him. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“What are you doing out here?” Derek grumbles back. He’s got his arms crossed over his chest in a way that’s more defensive than anything else, hands curled around his ribs instead of fisted against his biceps, and he’s damp all over from the rain Stiles hadn’t realized was still falling. Stiles wants to reach out and touch him, to run his hand across Derek’s wet, tense shoulders and coax him inside.
He shoves his hands into his hoody pockets instead, leveling his most unimpressed look on Derek. Stiles is still kind of drunk though, hair mussed from his pillow and eyes dulled by the late hour, so he’s not sure it has any effect whatsoever.
“What am I doing out here?” he repeats, frowning. “Getting my drunk ass a glass of water after failing to out-drink a pack of werewolves. What’s your excuse?”
Derek looks shifty, fixing his eyes on a point somewhere to Stiles’ left.
“I was making rounds,” he says gruffly. “I knew you were all here, I just wanted to check before heading home.”
“Check…that we were safe?” Stiles guesses quietly.
Derek doesn’t look at him.
Realistically, Stiles has no idea how much danger they’re actually in. He’s very aware that the pack is still regularly getting hurt, though they are working harder to hide it from him, and he’s definitely aware that Derek’s in way over his head. He still doesn’t know anything though, not nearly enough to gauge the situation, so he doesn’t know if Derek’s appearance here is genuine, justified concern for his pack’s safety or if it’s something else.
He gets this momentarily little flash of Derek, sitting outside the Martin’s house knowing his whole pack’s inside, together and happy and alive, and knowing that they don’t even realize he’s there. That they’re so dissociated from their alpha that they don’t miss him, don’t want him inside with them.
Stiles really, really hopes Derek really was just doing a patrol through the neighborhood.
“We’re good,” he tells him. “Everyone’s inside, in the basement. They’re all asleep. Or at least, they were five minutes ago.”
“Good,” Derek nods. “What about you?”
He turns, and in the light his eyes aren’t red anymore, just slightly breathtaking as they catch Stiles’ stare. It’s the first time Stiles has ever seen Derek outside of his bedroom, he’s just realized, and something about this just looks all wrong. He’s always thought seeing Derek outside would be something – that Derek outdoors would be in his element. Maybe Derek in the woods is, or Derek in an open warehouse, in the industrial zone downtown, down the length of a dark country road. Here in the Lydia’s backyard, face cut in sharp angles and shadows from the unforgiving porch light, hair gone flat from the rain, he just looks tired and small.
“Do you want to come in?” Stiles blurts out instead of answering Derek’s question. Derek blinks at him, like he’s not sure what Stiles is really asking, and Stiles just shrugs.
“I just…I mean, it’s raining. And December. And you’re soaked, and it’s late, and considering you’re in the backyard and not out front I’m pretty sure you ran here instead of driving, so…” he trails off awkwardly, fingering the cuffs of his sweatshirt.
“I still have a few more stops to make,” Derek shakes his head. Stiles frowns at that – he’s hazy and not entirely one hundred percent right now, but he’s reasonably sure Derek had just told him he was stopping here on his way back home. “Besides, my loft’s not that far from here.”
“Oh, yeah,” Stiles nods. He doesn’t call Derek on the lie, no matter how badly he wants to. “I should let you go do that then.”
Derek’s still looking at him though, something unidentifiably in his searching expression. He looks like maybe he’s trying to understand Stiles, like Stiles is the enigma here.
“Yeah,” Derek nods finally. He drops his arms back down to his sides, gestures towards the Martins’ back door. Stiles has no doubt Derek’s going to stand here and watch him until he’s safely back inside, door locked behind him, no matter what Stiles says.
“Okay,” Stiles nods back. He doesn’t turn to look when he’s reaching for the door handle, fumbles for it behind him. Not until Derek’s eyes flick over his shoulder, anyway, and fix on something in the kitchen behind him. It’s Lydia, sitting on the island counter in the middle of the room with an expectant look on her face, and Stiles nods again before turning back to Derek.
“Get home safe,” he says quietly. He doesn’t wait for Derek’s response, turns his back to him and slips through the door again. By the time he turns around to lock it and drag the lace curtains in front of the doorway Derek is gone, nothing more than a blur of black slipping through the back gate.
Lydia’s still watching him when he turns around again, perched on the countertop with her arms around her legs and her chin on her knees, and Stiles doesn’t bother hiding anything from her. He crosses the kitchen and slumps down next to her, bracing his forearms against the counter and dropping his forehead down against the outside of her knee. She frees one arm from between them and reaches her fingers up into his hair, threading softly through the dark strands.
“Everything okay?” she asks quietly. Stiles shakes his head against her knee, careful not to dislodge her hand.
“Is it because of what I said earlier?”
“No,” he promises. “Not really. I mean, you didn’t bring up anything I hadn’t already thought about.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
“No,” Stiles says again. He wants to sober up enough that he can go back to lying to himself, wants to drink enough that he blacks tonight out and earns a one way ticket back to denial. He knows better than to think either of those are options though, and goddammit why can’t he ever be one of those obnoxious shit teenagers with a delusional understanding of reality?
“You wanna go upstairs and lay in my bed make fun of whatever stupid late night movie is on Lifetime until we both pass out?”
Stiles lifts his head up, considering. Yeah, actually, weirdly enough that sounds exactly like what he wants to do right now. Lydia seems to know it too; she doesn’t wait for his response before hopping down off the counter, nudging him along with her as she makes her way out of the kitchen.
Stiles waits until they’re both curled up under her duvet and in the middle of a commercial break twenty minutes into one of their Lifetime Original Murder Mystery Empowering Things movies to bring up the only question he actually wants to talk about.
“Have you ever been to Derek’s loft?”
“Once,” Lydia nods sleepily. “It’s downtown, by the water.”
“How far would you say it is from here?”
“By car? Half an hour,” she shrugs. “For a werewolf on foot maybe an hour? I think Jackson’s run it before.”
An hour. Not that that’s a surprise, really, Stiles had been perfectly aware that Derek was lying to him. But still, he’d opted to run home in the dark and the rain and the cold for an hour rather than stay at Lydia’s house with the rest of the pack.
“I’m sure he made it home fine,” Lydia adds quietly, trying to read into Stiles’ silence.
“Yeah,” he agrees, curling the edge of the comforter up over his shoulder and tucking it under his chin. “Of course he did.”
It’s been a few days since he’s heard from Derek, so it doesn't really surprise him when his window slides open Tuesday night, late enough for the cover of darkness but still reasonably early. Stiles, ever incapable of focusing his attention on one single thing at a time, is lounging on his bed with a book on his stomach, his laptop on his thighs, and a phone in his hand.
"Werewolf business or personal pleasure?" he quips, not looking up from where he's composing a text to Lydia. Derek doesn't answer, which really actually is an answer in his own weirdly non-verbal way.
"Pick a book," Stiles waves a hand at the bookshelf against the far wall, "we're having quiet reading time."
Derek doesn't need to be told twice. Stiles hears the quiet thuds of his shoes being kicked off under the windowsill, the creak of his desk chair as Derek tosses his jacket over the back of it. A minute later he climbs over Stiles' feet, seemingly undisturbed by the way Stiles has taken over the side of the bed that's usually unofficially Derek's.
He settles with his back to Stiles, on his side, with his head propped up on one arm and a book in his free hand.
Time passes easily between them. A steady playlist of soft indie rock streaming from Stiles' computer and the occasional buzz of an incoming text are the only interruptions to the companionable quiet, and Stiles finds himself drifting. Not sleeping, he's still steadily pushing through The Maze Runner, but lulled into that calm place where the words flow effortlessly over him. Derek's a solid wall of warmth against his side, steady and stable and safe, and the pillow under his head is cool and soft.
It's nice. Easy. Comfortable. Comfortable, like pack, like family. He likes this, sitting here with Derek, peaceful and calm and a little bit less alone.
When Derek rolls over two hours later, tossing his finished book on Stiles' stomach and wearing the most petulant frown Stiles had ever imagined a twenty-five year old werewolf capable of, Stiles just grins at him, slow and lazy and amused.
"There's four more where that came from," he offers, pointing towards the shelf where the The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian sit. "More in a new series too, but that one's not finished yet so I actively suggest you save yourself the heartache."
"This book is for twelve year olds," Derek protests, glaring at The Lightning Thief like he hadn't just devoured it in under two hours.
"I was ten when the first one came out," Stiles points out, because true, and also because you don't need to be a teenager to enjoy teen lit. "Besides, they kind of work like the Harry Potter books, the writing gets...well okay, not more sophisticated but...less sophomoric as Percy gets older. He's sixteen in the last book."
"I'm over being surrounded by sixteen-year-olds," Derek grumbles, even as he scoops the paperback off Stiles' stomach and gets up to re-shelve it. His fingers linger over the tan binding of The Sea of Monsters.
"That was sooo last year," Stiles agrees, smirking. "Thank god everyone’s super mature adults now."
"Adults," Derek repeats flatly, settling back down onto the mattress with the new book in hand. "The world weeps at the idea of you being an adult."
"Rude," Stiles gripes good-naturedly. "Just for that I'm going to make sure Erica finds out you spent the night lounging on my bed reading Percy Jackson after you specifically told her she couldn’t come over.”
Derek gives him his flat, Derek Hale is tired of your bullshit face...which had entirely lost its power about ten seconds after Stiles noticed the striking resemblance between that face and that grumpy cat meme. Stiles only grins at him, cheeky and smug and too content to care about anything else, before pointedly returning to his own book.
This time when Derek opens The Sea of Monsters he stays facing Stiles, propping the book against Stiles' side. Stiles can feel fingertips brushing his ribs with every page turn, the warm exhale of Derek's breath against his shoulder, and it's still just really, really nice.
It isn't until Stiles blinks his eyes open to the sight of Derek's face much closer than he'd expected does he realize they'd both fallen asleep. Stiles must have shifted onto his side, towards Derek - they were face to face, The Sea of Monsters pressed against Stiles' stomach and bookmarked by Derek's thumb, the laptop on an angle on the mattress, bracketed between Derek's and Stiles' thighs.
"Hey," he mumbles, reaching out to nudge Derek lightly. "Wake up."
Derek ignores him. Stiles knows he's being ignored, that Derek's not still asleep, because the asshole snuggles down further into the mattress, wedging his face deeper into the space between his arm and the blanket.
"Come on," Stiles prods, shifting back enough that he can work his own arm out from under him and gather up their abandoned books, closing them together to bookmark each other's pages. "Derek, just get up for like ten seconds."
"No," Derek grumbles.
Stiles reaches down for his laptop and lowers it carefully to the floor before he begins kicking at the blankets, squirming around until he can get his legs under them.
"Nobody wants to sleep in jeans," Stiles insists, because frankly he’s comfortable as hell and he’s kind of toying with the idea of ‘accidentally’ rolling over in the middle of the night and pushing into Derek’s space. "Take them off, get under the covers, I'll let you sleep. Promise."
Derek moves slowly. Sooo slowly. Stiles silently hopes there’s never a supernatural crisis that requires waking Derek up for immediate action, because Stiles is pretty sure they'd all die. He shimmies out of his jeans without lifting the upper half of his body off the mattress, all wriggling hips and strong thighs that Stiles pointedly does not look at, and tosses the jeans over Stiles and down onto the floor.
"Was that really so awful?" Stiles teases, tugging the blankets up the rest of the way, enough to cover them both.
"Yes," Derek complains, hitching the sheets up over his shoulder, "now shut up."
"Yeah yeah," Stiles bitches back, "goodnight to you too."
Derek's already out cold.
Stiles wakes up and doesn’t even need to open his eyes to know something is wrong. There’s a pounding in his head and dirt on his face and an ache in his wrists.
Which are chained up stretched high over his head so, yeah, something is definitely w-r-o-n-g wrong.
He keeps his eyes closed as he tries to catalogue everything he feels first. It’s a surprisingly difficult task with the way his brain is throbbing in his skull, pressure from an origin point on his temple pressing too sharply into his head. There was a – something, he’s not sure what – but he remembers stepping out the garage door to bring the garbage out, and then he remembers an explosion off the side of his face and then nothing.
But okay. Stiles’ arms, for a start, are stretched taut over his head, shoulders framing his ears, wrists wrapped in cold metal handcuffs snapped tight around his skin. He’s hanging from something – the chain holding the cuffs together, it feels like – and whoever strung him up did it at just the right height for him to be uncomfortable. When he stands at his absolute fullest height, legs and arms straight, spine a long line, shoulders hunched, he can just barely brace most of his weight against the floor on the balls of his feet.
He’s not alone.
That awareness creeps in slowly. He’s straining to hear any kind of identifiable noise – traffic from the interstate maybe, running water, aircraft, anything – and what he hears instead is slow, calm breathing, the light tap of fingernails against a hard surface, the telltale squeal of leather rubbing against leather.
He forces himself to breathe again, to count each inhale…1…2…3…exhale…1…2…3… until his heartbeat has returned to something that feels relatively normal. Stiles isn’t stupid enough to think whoever’s in the room with him is human, meaning they probably already know that he’s 1. awake and 2. aware that he’s not alone, but he doesn’t care. Fake it til you make it’s been a motto he’s lived by for years already, he’s not about to abandon that now just because of a little kidnap.
So when he opens his eyes he doesn’t waste any time looking frantically around – he goes straight for where he thinks he’ll find the werewolf holding him captive.
She’s sitting cross-legged in a chair at the center of the room, elbows on her knees as she focuses on cleaning grit out from under the claws on her left hand. It’s a stupidly dramatic intimidation tactic that’s been used in more movies and TV shows than Stiles could count – Stiles genuinely hopes that she really is cleaning her nails, killing time waiting for him to wake up.
Because frankly, he’d expected more out of this pack that had been running his ragged these last few months.
“He’s awake,” she says finally. She’s still not looking at him, dark hair hanging down over her face as she works at a particularly stubborn spot under her pinky nail, and she doesn’t raise her voice higher than a regular conversational tone.
So there’s a second werewolf nearby, then. One that this one defers to, at least enough that she’s being forced into baby-sitting duty while the other one left the room. Stiles takes advantage of her feigned disinterest to search his memory for anything Derek or the others have mentioned, in passing or otherwise, about the invading pack. Only three left, Isaac had said once, the night Derek first showed up in Stiles’ bedroom. And then later, after Stiles had accused Derek of hurting Erica, he’d said they’d taken out the third of the five.
There are only two of them. Okay. This one, the woman in the room with him, and whoever she’s waiting for.
Almost on cue the door opens at the far end of the wall, the contrast between the dimly lit room Stiles is in and the bright lights in the outer room enough that he can only see a silhouette. It’s a man, that much he thinks he’s sure on, and as he steps into the room with precise, confident steps Stiles can slowly start to see more. There’s the cut of a collar against his throat and the unnaturally smooth shape of shoulders that suggest a suit, a shadow across his face that might be glasses. Heels click against the concrete with each footfall – not the sharp snap of stilettos but the heavy thunk of boots or thick-souled dress shoes.
He stops next to the woman’s chair, drops a hand on her shoulder, and doesn’t look at Stiles.
“Stiles,” he says calmly. His voice is soft and honey smooth, tempered with an accent that is definitely not native to Beacon Hills. “How are you feeling?”
“Like some bitch hit me in the head with a brick and then strung me from the ceiling,” he bites out. He’s not one for patience at the best of times – if these two are going to hurt him they’re going to hurt him, whether or not he sasses them won’t change that.
“Manners,” the man scolds mildly, a soft tsk for emphasis. “It’s becoming something of a faux pas these days, calling a woman a bitch.”
“Oh no, I’m not really one for degrading women,” Stiles agrees. He bares his teeth at them in a smirk he’s learned from Derek. “No, I literally meant a female dog.”
The woman growls at him, flashing canines decidedly too long to be human and eyes that glow a hot, angry red.
Alpha, then. She’s an alpha. And the man – he’s definitely wearing glasses, tinted so Stiles can’t see his eyes, but he’s certain that the woman is deferring to him, now more than ever as she stills and reins herself in again when he tightens his grip on her shoulder.
Which means he’s an alpha too. They’re both alphas, the whole pack of them had been alphas. Stiles’ pack has been fighting off a pack of five fucking alpha werewolves for months now, and all he can think is that even now he can’t help but be gut-burstingly proud of them for lasting this long.
“I see Hale’s been remiss in teaching you to respect your superiors,” the male alpha says coolly.
Stiles can’t shrug, strung up the way he is and hanging from his hands, so he settles for a blasé little twist of his mouth.
“Maybe he has,” he scoffs. “He’s never really mentioned you before though, so I can’t say I know for certain that you really are all that superior.”
The words are barely out of his mouth when there’s a crack snapping through the empty room, and it’s only when Stiles’ head slams into his arm does he realize it’s because he just got slapped.
No, not even. He just got kicked, the female alpha standing in front of him with her bare feet on the floor and her arms folded lightly across her chest, and he can feel light scratches across his cheek where her toe claws scraped his skin. Ew.
“Kali,” the man admonishes. He’s British, Stiles thinks. The accent sounds vaguely British, either like he left there a long, long time ago or has just recently marathoned the entirety of Doctor Who. “Stiles is our guest, and we haven’t even introduced ourselves. This is Kali,” he says magnanimously, gesturing to the female alpha, “and my name is Deucalion.”
“And it’s just the two of you,” Stiles continues, cracking his jaw slightly as he drags his head back around to face the two alphas. “Derek’s pack killed the other three.”
“Derek’s pack?” Deucalion arches an eyebrow, high enough that Stiles can see it over the frame of his glasses.
“Uh…the Hale pack?” Stiles guesses. “The pack that has an actual logical hierarchy and more than two remaining members? The not-yours pack?”
“Do you not,” Deucalion replies, stepping preemptively in front of Kali, “consider the pack as your own? Being the alpha’s mate, and all?”
“I’m sorry, being the what?” Stiles blurts out. He’s completely lost the edge of attitude he was trying to maintain, too busy being flabbergasted by what Deucalion just said. Stiles being whose what?
“I told you he wasn’t,” Kali butts in, sneering at him from behind Deucalion’s shoulder. “Hale’s all brawn, little brains, and a lousy alpha, but he’s not actually stupid enough to take on a sixteen year old human kid as his mate.”
“Hey,” Stiles snaps, offended, “I’m like less than six months away from eighteen, thank you very much. And lets be honest, Derek could do a lot worse than me.”
This, he has to admit, wasn’t anything like what he would have imagined getting kidnapped by two alpha werewolves would be like.
“He may not be the alpha’s mate in the traditional way,” Deucalion counters. He sounds considering, and in a weird way not unlike Stiles’ dad when he’s working his way through evidence in a case, and that freaks Stiles out a lot more than toe claws on a short tempered lady alpha. “At least, not yet. He’s something though, Kali, even you can admit that.”
“Yeah, human,” Stiles snipes. “And underage. And the sheriff’s son, which makes the whole kidnapping thing kind of a mistake on your part.”
“Your father won’t notice you’re gone until the morning,” Kali snarls at him. “Just think about how much fun we could have until then.”
“Unfortunately,” Deucalion says mildly, “you’re more use to us alive than dead.”
And there it is. There’s the moment when his façade of rationality becomes downright terrifying, because villains like Kali wear their crazy on their faces for the world to see, but villains like Deucalion are intelligent enough to know how to hide it and isn’t that horrifying.
“More use?” Stiles splutters. For the first time he tries to shuffle back, sneakers scrabbling across the ground as he pushes back into the wall behind him. “Use as what?”
Deucalion grins at him, smarmy and sharp at the same time, and it’s like ice down Stiles’ spine. Really, he really should have seen this coming, even before Kali wound up to deliver yet another blow across his face, snapping his head back into the wall behind him for a double assault that knocks him out cold.
The next time he comes to the room is dark and his head is throbbing. He’s slumped forward as much as the chain his arms are still hanging from will allow, chin against his chest, shoulders aching. It takes him a little longer to pull himself together this time, a little bit more to push through the foggy haze of hurts hurts everything hurts why why why.
It’s a few minutes of blinking slowly into the darkness, trying and failing to find any bit of light to adjust to, before he realizes his ears aren’t ringing from his lingering head wound. No, his ears are ringing from noise. A whole fuckton of noise, frankly, the full macabre orchestra of screams and roars, of metal clanging against metal, sneering shouts that sound suspiciously like bad action movie smack-talk.
Stiles isn’t sure how long it goes on. He thinks he might be fading in and out of consciousness for a while there; he has no way to mark the passing of time, not really, but there’s long moments when he’s not consciously aware of anything only to be startled back to the here and now by the crash of a body against an outer wall, the roar and answering snarl of his pack challenging the alphas.
But it’s the sound of gunfire that truly snaps him awake, that has his head jerking upright as he scrambles to get his legs underneath him, trying to wedge his fingers into the cuffs to alleviate some of the pressure on his wrists. There’s five resounding cracks one after another, followed almost immediately by an ear-splitting explosion that shakes the very foundations of the room Stiles is still in…
and then nothing. Silence.
“Der-ek,” he chokes out. His voice comes out thin and quiet, he can’t even try to muster the false bravado he’d been filled with earlier. There’s still nothing from the other room, not a shout or a roar or a thud or even the smoldering remains of whatever had exploded, and Stiles tries desperately not to consider what that might mean.
“Der –” he tries again, a little more desperate this time. His pack is smart. His pack is brilliant and brave and they came after him, and there were only two alphas and eight of them, and they’ve survived all this time against a relentless threat from another pack, and they’re fine.
The door flies open with a resounding crash, splashing harsh, too-bright light into the previously pitch-black room. Stiles shies away from it, pressing his face into his bicep, but he’d gotten enough of a glimpse of the silhouette in the doorway that he’s not afraid of the fast, heavy footsteps drawing closer.
He’d recognize that ridiculous reverse ducktail shit anywhere.
“D’rek,” he slurs again, gingerly lifting his head from his arm and blinking into the lit room. Derek’s only a step away by the time Stiles regains meager control over his vision, and he doesn’t stop there. There’s no space between them a second later; Derek’s hands drop to Stiles’ thighs, hoisting him up and wrapping them around Derek’s waist, and Stiles can’t help but sob with the relief of not dangling his entire body weight from his wrists anymore.
“Stiles,” Derek keeps saying, over and over, broken and frantic. “Stiles, Jesus.”
“’M okay,” he mumbles, a poor man’s attempt at reassurance.
Derek keeps one arm under Stiles’ ass, holding him firmly against that brick wall of a torso, and raises his other up to gingerly lift the handcuffs binding Stiles’ wrists up and over the lip of the heavy metal hook.
Stiles falls forward instantly, his still-cuffed arms dropping around Derek’s neck in an effort to brace himself against broad shoulders. Derek’s free hand slides into his hair, down his spine, up and over his aching shoulder, and Stiles buries his face in his alpha’s neck and tries to remember how to breathe.
“Stiles,” Derek is still whispering hoarsely, pressing the word into Stiles’ battered skin.
“Okay,” Stiles breathes back, exhaling over Derek’s bloody neck. “I’m okay, I’m okay.”
He uses the elbows still on Derek’s shoulders to push himself upright, just far enough to look Derek in the eye. His vision’s shoddy at best, head still pounding in an ominous kind of way, but even from here he can tell that Derek looks wrecked.
“Stiles,” Derek breathes out, one last time. They’re close enough that Stiles feels the weight of his name against his own lips, feels the shiver of fear and longing and loss ripping through Derek on the exhale. He feels the stroke of Derek’s hand against the base of his throbbing skull, cradling his head delicately, and finally the harsh, desperate drag of Derek’s lips against his own. It leaves him lightheaded, already racing pulse shooting off like a jackrabbit, and desperately wishing he could pull himself together enough to do anything more.
“Yeah,” he sighs quietly, breaking away to sag back down to drop his forehead on Derek’s shoulder. “Yeah, Derek. Yes.”
He’s unconscious again before he hears Derek’s response.
The steady beep of a heart monitor shouldn’t be comforting, the sterile scent of antiseptic and bleached sheets and plastic shouldn’t be so familiar, but Stiles has never been so grateful to wake up in a hospital before.
His dad doesn’t look like he much shares the sentiment.
“Daaad,” Stiles drawls, attempting a reassuring smile that definitely misses the mark. It feels more like a grimace, which is really much more suited to the flat unimpressed stare the sheriff’s wearing. It’s the long-suffering expression of a parent who just can’t imagine what he must have done in a past life to wind up with a kid like this, but at least it’s tempered with the familiar fond exasperation usually directed toward Stiles.
He means to laugh, or play dumb or stupid or innocent or something. A shaky, slightly scandalized laugh and a breathless exhale of “who told you!?” somehow squeaks out instead.
“Your mother,” Sheriff Stilinski sighs, and it’s such an unexpected answer that Stiles waits for the punch line, or thinks maybe that’s supposed to be the punch line.
His dad looks deadly serious though, and the uncomfortable tug of an IV tube under the skin of his hand when he goes to card his fingers through his hair reminds Stiles that they’re not exactly in a jokey kind of situation here. He takes a moment to be distracted by the state of his wrists, the heavy bruising and red chaffing, before blinking back up at his dad again.
“Mom wasn’t –” she couldn’t have been. Cancer couldn’t have killed a werewolf, wouldn’t have killed a werewolf, and his mother would never, ever have been a hunter.
“She was human,” he agrees. “Born into a large pack from the East Coast. They were…a bit more strict about the tradition, and when she left the pack for a human, an outsider, they told her not to bother coming back.”
Stiles’ head reels from more than just the lingering concussion this time. His mom. It makes a lot of sense, really – explains the stories, the way she was spot on with every single piece of lore she ever told him. Maybe it even explains the way something in Stiles feels the pack in his bones, like running with wolves is coded in his very DNA.
He doesn’t ask the obvious. Accepting the bite as an attempted cure had to have occurred to his parents, and his mom was nothing if not gloriously stubborn if she felt she had a good reason. He’s not going to put his dad in the position of explaining that to him.
“You’ve known the whole time, then,” he accuses instead. “Since before you even took the job?”
His dad nods.
“It’s why I took it,” he admits. “I thought maybe having law enforcement around with some background knowledge about the supernatural might be helpful. And I can’t say I was all that surprised when you started bringing home strays, you always did have a knack for getting right in the thick of things.”
“Bunch of puppies,” Stiles grumbles. “Don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same.”
“Mom definitely would have,” his dad smiles.
“She would have rounded up that whole pack, dumbass alpha included, before school even started,” Stiles snorts. “Derek wouldn’t have known what hit him.”
“Oh, something would’ve hit Derek, all right,” his dad agrees.
Stiles blinks at the sudden detour into defensive. “He saved my life.”
“Trust me, it’s all anyone can talk about. Derek Hale, bursting through the ER doors like an action star in this summer’s blockbuster, bloody and filthy and wrecked and carrying you like the damsel you are. Ask the nurses about it, they’ll give you a much more vivid description,” his dad gripes back, looking decidedly unimpressed by the whole thing. “They might even show you the video, I wouldn’t be surprised if the security footage made it onto YouTube somewhere.”
“Derek’s quite a sight to behold,” Stiles smirks, because he’s only too familiar with the tizzy the hospital staff must be in. “Can’t blame them for appreciating the opportunity.”
“And exactly how much beholding are you doing?” his dad shoots back wryly.
Stiles has a flash of blood-slick fingers scraping through his hair, harsh breath exhaled across his dry lips, and fights to keep his face void of the lovesick expression he’s been starting to notice on himself the last few weeks.
“I don’t even know what you’re trying to imply with that,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes (and promptly regretting that. Immediately. Ow.). “Have you ever even seen Derek around the house?”
“He hasn’t left this hospital since he brought you here. None of them have, actually. They’re causing something of a scene, camped out in the middle of the waiting room looking like a bunch of extras in a slasher flick.”
“Bless them,” Stiles says fondly, “subtlety’s a lost art on them.”
“Stiles…” his dad warns. Stiles sighs.
“Come on, Dad,” he whines back. “I’m pack, clearly the adoption papers have gone through, it’s all legal, the wolf cub strays I took in have flipped the cards and now I’m the local pack’s pet. It’s all fluffy and lovely and nice when I’m not getting my skull bashed in, so obviously Alpha Sourwolf over there is just keeping an eye on the runt of the litter.”
“I’d consider that whole statement a sign of brain damage, but I’m sure it made sense in your head.” His dad shakes his head with the kind of fond exasperation Stiles is intimately familiar with and straightens up out of the chair he’d been sitting in. “I’m going to go let the doctor know you’re awake.”
He steps forward and bends down to Stiles’ level, pressing a rare kiss to an unbruised section of his son’s temple and gently ruffling Stiles’ hair.
“You’re a good kid,” his dad says quietly. “I’ll kill you if you ever do that to me ever again, but you’re a damn good kid.”
“They’re saying they want to keep you overnight, but you can go home in the morning as long as everything looks okay,” Scott tells him. He’s got his head tilted toward the door not unlike an oversized dog, even though Stiles is pretty sure it doesn’t actually help Scott hear any better. “You have a concussion, obviously, and you’re dehydrated and lost some blood and obviously got the shit beat out of you, but it sounds like they just want to pump you up with some IV supplements and you’ll be good.”
“Oh good,” Stiles grumbles, “then I can go home and be in stiff, sore agony for weeks without even the benefit of the good drugs to help me out.”
“We’re better than drugs,” Scott reminds him, tapping his fingers against the skin of Stiles’ forearm where Scott’s been slowly draining the pain from him since the second he scrambled into the room.
“Point,” Stiles concedes. “But that’s only good for as long as you guys are around and willing to touch me.”
“Please,” Scott scoffs, rolls his eyes in a way that Stiles is 85% sure Scott picked up from him. “As if anyone’s going to let you be alone for more than five minutes until you’re fully healed.”
Scott has a point there too. The pack had appeared in his doorway seconds after his dad left the room, clearly not even bothering to pretend like they hadn’t been eavesdropping, and the entire lot of them had crowded around his bed like the IV lines and the guard rails were the only things stopping them from piling right on top of him and his narrow mattress.
Stiles had let them all touch him, sworn up down left and right that he was going to be fine, and then demanded that every single one of them go home, shower, change clothes, and eat something before they even considered setting foot back in this hospital room. It’d taken some persuasion on, shockingly, Jackson’s part, and Stiles was entirely certain he could expect Isaac back here within the hour, but most of them were apparently doing as told.
Except Scott. Stubborn, loyal, wonderful Scott, who’d waited until everyone else left before insisting that he could shower just fine in Stiles’ en suite, cajoled his mom into bringing him a spare change of clothes from his lacrosse bag in her car, and promptly planted himself at the foot of Stiles’ bed.
And, of course, Derek. Because Derek was glaringly, obviously, conspicuously missing, despite his dad’s insistence that Derek hadn’t left the waiting room since Stiles was admitted, and everyone just got shifty-eyed and awkward when Stiles had started to ask.
“How long before Isaac gets here, do you think?” Stiles sighs. It’d been twenty minutes since Stiles had kicked them all out, and Isaac’s foster parents only lived ten minutes from the hospital.
“He said he’s getting changed and then getting in the car,” Scott admits sheepishly, holding up the phone in his free hand. “So I’d say about another ten, maybe fifteen minutes?”
Stiles rolls his eyes and pretends he doesn’t notice the surge of affection filling his chest.
“Remind him that my instructions included food,” he says instead. “And maybe also that I haven’t eaten anything but hospital food in like three years.”
“You were missing for four hours tops,” Scott argues, even though he’s already dutifully typing out a new text. “It hasn’t even been a full twenty-four hours since we had Little Vincent’s.”
“It felt like years,” Stiles insists. “Years. Besides, how do you even know, you don’t know how much time passed between when they took me and when someone noticed.”
“Yeah, I do,” Scott nods, tossing his phone onto Stiles’ lap. There’s a mass text from Derek open on the screen, SOS AT STILES’ HOUSE NOW, sent to the entire pack at 9:37 PM. He’d passed the vaguely-accurate grandfather clock in the hallway on his way to bring the garbage out, it had been a little after 9:30 when he stepped outside and got knocked out by Kali.
“I was with him when he sent that text,” Scott continues. “Dude, he was mid-sentence and all of a sudden like bugged out. He knew right away that something was wrong, like he could feel it or something, and then we got to your house and we could smell Kali and there was a triskele carved into your garage door and, well…”
They’re skirting dangerously close to weird territory here. Stiles is torn between insatiable curiosity and the unspoken agreement that they Do Not Acknowledge this ongoing thing between him and Derek. Scott’s starting to look vaguely trapped, like he’s only just realized where he’s leading Stiles’ train of thought, and Stiles can’t bring himself to put that on his best friend.
“I told you months ago man, hanging out with werewolves is like having the best bodyguards in the world,” Stiles reminds him. He leans back into his pillows as he does, gently tugging his arm free of Scott’s hold in the process. He’s starting to feel both loose and stuffed full of cotton all at once, and while it’s nice to not hurt anymore it’s not an entirely pleasant feeling. Scott lets him go without protest, leans forward only long enough to scoop up his phone again before settling back against the guard rail by Stiles’ leg.
“Isaac says he’ll bring you a sausage, egg, and cheese from Hilary’s if you don’t put up a fight about him coming back,” he reads off the phone screen.
“That’s my kind of bribery,” Stiles agrees. “Make him bring one for you too and it’s a deal. And he better be getting one for himself.”
“Yes Mom,” Scott grins, catches Stiles’ ankle when Stiles tries to kick his hip.
Stiles can’t help but grin back, and his second attempt at a kick is really more of a light nudge of his sock-covered toes against Scott’s side.
“Hey,” he says quietly, “thanks for coming to save my sorry ass.”
Scott squeezes his fingers where they’re still wrapped around Stiles’ ankle, gives him another, smaller smile.
“Yeah,” he shrugs. “That’s what pack’s for.”
As promised, Stiles is released just before noon after a lengthy lecture from a combination of his doctor, his dad, and Ms. McCall that involves taking it easy, not overexerting himself, and a scolding reminder that french fries and frozen fast food are not a food group that will help him heal any faster (that one comes from Ms. McCall, and Stiles spends the entire lecture making Significant Eyebrows at his dad).
Also as promised, Stiles gets home and finds Lydia sitting at his desk, systematically downvoting everything he’s ever posted on Reddit.
“It’s definitely a Thursday,” he points out in lieu of a greeting, not letting her presence stop him from heading straight towards his favorite pair of oversized Lakeport Track and Field sweats still sitting in a crumpled heap at the foot of his bed. “Which means you’re definitely supposed to be in…APUSH right now.”
“We agreed out of everyone I’m the one who could most afford to miss a day of class,” she shrugs. “And you’re on twenty-four hour watch.”
“I’m not suicidal,” he complains grumpily, shamelessly dropping trou and kicking away the slightly-too-small jeans his dad had brought to the hospital. “I’m not going to slit my wrists in a fit of PTSD the second one of you leaves me alone.”
“No, but Derek might,” Lydia agrees. She finally turns to look at him as he’s pulling the elastic waistband up over his hips, and Stiles can only hope the flatly unimpressed look on her face is a result of Derek’s behavior and not Stiles’ shirtless back.
“Well then he should be here instead of you,” and oh, yeah, there’s that bitterness he’s been holding back all morning. Stiles was wondering when that was going to show up.
Lydia only tuts impatiently at him, and again it’s unclear if it’s over his grievance or his pathetic attempts at lifting his arms enough to pull a clean shirt over his head. She’s out of his desk chair and across the room before he can ask, batting his old school Something Corporate shirt from his hands and digging through his drawers like she knows exactly where everything is (he wouldn’t be surprised). She straightens up with his softest flannel button-down clutched between her fingers, and Stiles entirely deserves the scathing look she gives him for not having thought of that himself.
“Sometimes the fact that you outrank me is genuinely horrifying,” she sighs, helping him ease the shirt over his still-aching shoulders.
“They haven’t released class ranks yet,” he reminds her. It’s a willful kind of ignorance, or a feigned confusion, something like that, because thanks to Deucalion he knows damn well what Lydia’s talking about and from the look on her face she knows he does.
“You two are unbelievable.” The gentleness of her hands nudging him back towards his bed completely belie the harshness in her tone. “You’re going to make him say it, because you’ll never believe it until you hear it from him himself, and he’s never going to say it because he’s never going to believe you actually want it.”
“I’d like to remind you I’ve suffered recent head trauma,” he argues, happily falling onto his bed and leaving more than enough room for Lydia to settle down next to him. “You have to be nice and forgiving and not vague and confusing.”
She levels him with one of her most scathing, I-see-through-your-sad-bullshit stares, but she still gathers up his laptop and climbs onto the bed with him, and Stiles accepts the subject drop as the once in a lifetime gift he knows it is.
They marathon Survivor: Caramoan (Stiles likes the challenges, Lydia likes the manipulation, they both like the shameless backstabbing). Jackson joins them halfway through the fourth episode, Boyd shows up just in time for the merge. Lydia, for what she swears is the first and last time ever, makes them all tomato and avocado grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, and Stiles falls asleep thinking that even though none of the bodies curled around his are really the one he wants, it’s still really, really nice to know he’s not alone.
Stiles wakes up to a mostly dark room, a pile of blonde curls on his chest and an obvious lack of Lydia, Boyd, or Jackson. Erica’s eyes are reflecting amber in the dim glow from her cell phone, flashing up at him when he starts threading two fingers through one of her messy curls, and she flicks her gaze pointedly between her phone and him.
He finds his own phone wedged under his shoulder, two new texts and a low battery warning on his screen. The first is a message from Lydia saying she’ll be back a little bit after school tomorrow that Stiles couldn’t care less about the second he sees the one from Erica.
Derek’s on the roof.
how long has he been there? He texts her back, squinting at the time stamp. The text was from forty-five minutes ago, presumably when Erica got there, but that doesn’t really mean anything.
Boyd and Jackson both said he was there the whole time they were here she texts back quickly. She’s already typing out a second message before Stiles can even start to respond, he doesn’t have to wait long before she adds so I’d guess he’s been here since you got home.
Stiles makes a face up at his ceiling, baring his teeth and snarling soundlessly at the dumbass werewolf no doubt sitting right above him. There’s no doubt in his mind that, if Derek’s there now, he’s been there the whole time.
wanna leave so I can make him come inside?
Erica doesn’t bother answering. She flounces up out of bed like it’s not 4:30 in the morning, blows him a kiss, and leaves the window as wide open as it’ll go when she does her typically ostentatious back-flip out into his backyard.
“Showoff,” Stiles grumbles good-naturedly.
Erica texts him a kissy emoji in response.
“I know you’re up there,” Stiles says quietly, once enough time has passed that Erica should be out of hearing distance. “I know you’ve been up there.”
There’s no response to that, but he hadn’t really expected it to be that easy. Derek’s nothing if not a frustrating tangle of layers, if he’s insisting on playing this game he’s definitely going to be stubborn about it.
Fine, Stiles can bring out the big guns if he has to.
“Okay,” he says agreeably, shoving blankets away and scooting to the edge of his bed, planting both feet on the floor. “We can do this one of two ways. You can come down here, or I can come up there. Odds are probably not in my favor on that one, but hey, I survived getting kidnapped by a pair of murderous alphas, I’m sure falling from my second-floor gutter probably won’t – hey.”
Derek swung through the window wearing his most unimpressed expression, like that’ll work. Please. Stiles has spent the day with Lydia.
“Was that really so hard?”
“You should be sleeping,” Derek grumbles. It sounds about as childish as he looks, all petulant and stubborn and stupid.
“I should be sleeping,” Stiles agrees. “Preferably with you. In my bed. Where you –”
He cuts himself off before he can say belong – he hadn’t really meant to say any of that, hadn’t at all planned on going straight there. Derek winces slightly, like Stiles’ frustration hurts, but he doesn’t move from where he’s still standing in front of the window.
“Stiles, I don’t…” he lets out a sharp huff of air, glaring at the floor by Stiles’ feet.
“Scott told me he was with you,” Stiles tries. This wasn’t really the direction he’d been planning on going either, but he’s pretty sure any tentative plans he might have made should really just go right out the window. “That you knew, right away, that something had happened to me.”
Derek closes his eyes, scrubs a hand down his face. Stiles can see the moment he gives in (as if he hadn’t lost the battle the second he stepped foot inside Stiles’ room); his whole body droops, shoulders and chest and hips, and when he scrubs his hand back up to push through his hair he just looks tired.
“It was an instinct,” he admits, nodding slightly. “Just a…feeling. I don’t know, it happens sometimes with the betas but never with any of the humans before.”
“Do you think it’s because of my mom?”
Derek shrugs, and the fact that he doesn’t even look slightly confused just completely confirms that the entire pack had been listening in to Stiles’ conversation with his dad. It makes him wonder exactly how long Derek stuck around for, if he’d really left the hospital when the rest of them say he did or if he just left the waiting room and found somewhere else to lurk obsessively.
“You don’t,” Stiles guesses, squinting up at Derek to try and better read his expression. “You have a theory, but it’s not that.”
“I think it’s a pack thing.”
“Right,” Stiles nods, “except Lydia and Allison are pack and you just said you’ve never felt any kind of alpha-y instinct with them.”
“Lydia and Allison are –” Derek blows out a breath, presses his lips together, and tries again. “Lydia and Allison are pack in the way that the collective pack considers them to be and so they are. They started out as a package deal with Jackson and Scott which meant there was no getting rid of them, until they eventually started to really be pack.”
“But they’re not your pack,” Stiles continues, following the dots he thinks Derek’s trying to connect. “Not really. You’ve never really bonded with them the way you’d need to, not enough to forge that kind of connection anyway.”
Derek just nods. Really, Stiles shouldn’t go the last step. Shouldn’t, maybe, but he needs to. They’ve been dancing around this for too long, pretending there’s nothing to address here, but the invading pack is gone and hopefully the threat’s backed off for at least a little while and there’s no time like the present.
“But you did with me.”
Derek nods again.
“Derek…” Stiles says softly. For all that he wants to talk about it he doesn’t really know where to start. Getting Derek to stop standing stiff and uncomfortable on the other side of the room, jacket wrapped around his chest, fingers curled up into his cuffs, that sounds like an okay place to try.
He doesn’t need to elaborate. Derek heaves another impressive sigh before finally shrugging his jacket off his shoulders, reaching down to untie the laces on his boots. He leaves both in a pile next to Stiles’ desk before moving closer to the bed.
Stiles doesn’t say anything when Derek seats himself on the far corner of the foot of his mattress, putting as much distance between them as possible. He’s not sure who the distance is meant for, him or Derek, but he’s willing to fight his battles one by one and not all at once. All he does is pull his legs back up onto the bed, turning and scooting back until his shoulders are propped against the headboard and he can look straight at Derek.
“What made you come here that first night?”
“Instinct. I don’t know,” Derek shrugs. It sounds honest, slightly frustrated with his lack of understanding instead of petulant, so Stiles keeps his mouth shut and waits.
“I didn’t know where I was until I woke up the next morning,” Derek finally adds. He’s got his hands balled up into fists against his knees, staring at his knuckles instead of looking anywhere near Stiles. “Everything hurt, and I knew I had to get somewhere safe, and my family’s house isn’t safe anymore and I didn’t know if my loft was either, and I just…”
Instinct. The Stilinski’s house had already become something of a safe haven for the rest of Derek’s pack, whether it was a feeling or an overheard conversation or some base animal instinct, some subconscious part of him could have picked up on that.
“Okay,” Stiles concedes. “So then why’d you keep coming back? Obviously it wasn’t for my charming personality and sparkling wit.”
Derek huffs out a laugh, shaking his head slightly.
“Not quite,” he agrees. “But I’ve met worse.”
“I mean, you did bite Jackson,” Stiles reminds him, lips quirking in a tentative smile.
“We all make mistakes,” Derek grumbles. “But. My loft is…spartan, I guess. And the pack doesn’t come over there unless there’s something they need. The train depot we were using for training is a public space. And my family’s house is mostly in ruins, and the Argents used it as a base last spring, so.”
And doesn’t that just break Stiles’ heart into a million pathetic pieces. He’d suspected, maybe, kind of figured it had something to do with his house in the beginning. New as it was for the Stilinskis, this place was a home. He and his dad lived here, and more and more often as the fall flew by the rest of the pack started living here too. It might not have been Derek’s home, and it might not have housed anyone that Derek actually liked, but it was safe and warm and comfortable and smelled like pack and felt like family, and of course Derek was drawn to that even if he didn’t want to be.
“Why’d you let me?”
Stiles lifts his head in surprise, glancing over to where Derek still isn’t looking at him. The question doesn’t necessarily throw him, more the fact that Derek was actually willing to ask.
“I could tell you needed it,” he shrugs after a long moment. His fingers are fumbling with the bandages over his wrists, nails catching under the curling edges of the adhesive strips holding the gauze down. “Plus I felt…I don’t know, it felt wrong to be bonding with the rest of your pack and not make any effort with their alpha.”
“You called me your alpha earlier,” Derek admits. “In the car, on the way to the hospital. I don’t think you were really actually coherent, but you still…”
“You are,” Stiles exhales. “You are my alpha.”
Derek doesn’t say anything to that. He closes his eyes, flexes his fingers a bit against his thighs, but doesn’t say a word.
“Deucalion said –”
“I know what Deucalion said,” Derek cuts in. “He was wrong.”
“Okay,” Stiles nods, “but.”
“You’re sixteen,” Derek growls. It’s the closest to actually sounding annoyed he’s gotten so far, but there’s never been an issue Stiles has been more willing to push in his entire life.
“I’m not saying we should get married,” Stiles shoots back. “And I’m seventeen. In fact, I’m only four and a half months away from my eighteenth birthday, so technically I’m closer to eighteen than I am to seventeen.”
Derek actually frowns at that, glancing over not quite at Stiles but somewhere around his knees, and Stiles sighs.
“I got held back a year,” he elaborates. “In elementary school, before they diagnosed the ADHD. I’m seventeen. And I’m not trying to talk you into a nice little go-round of statutory rape here, dumbass. Not against your will, anyway. I’m just saying maybe you need me. Maybe I kind of need you too. And maybe the pack needs both of us.”
Realistically, Stiles didn’t expect Derek to have anything to say to that. At least not right away. So the silence that stretches between them doesn’t necessarily surprise him, or even bother him all that much. The distance, though. The distance is starting to. The way Derek is holding himself so far away, so separate, when they both know that what they really need is closeness and reassurance, Stiles anchoring himself to something safe, Derek proving to himself that they survived intact.
“You know, I’m not going to jump you the second you get too close,” he finally snaps.
Derek actually startles a little bit at that, looks up at Stiles for a split second before determinedly redirecting his stare back down at the expanse of bed between them.
“I mean,” Stiles tries again, aiming for a little more calm this time, “you’re practically hanging off the edge of the bed. You look like you haven’t sle…you haven’t slept at all, have you?”
Of course he hasn’t. Of course Derek hasn’t slept, of course he’d sat up in a quiet panic the entire time Stiles was in the hospital, perched himself on the roof outside Stiles’ bedroom. He’s probably been wide awake the entire time, even though twenty-four hours ago he was in a throw down final boss battle and killed two alpha werewolves. Stiles should consider it lucky that Derek even managed to shower, because at least he’s not getting other people’s blood all over Stiles’ sheets.
Derek kind of shrugs. It’s meant to look indifferent, Stiles thinks, but misses the mark somewhat. Or maybe it’s just him, finally wrapping his head around the fact that whether or not Derek has all the answers, some of the answers, or none of the answers doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he’s here, sitting on Stiles’ bed at the end of a hellish day, looking up the mattress in a way that almost looks like longing.
“Just…come here,” Stiles says quietly.
Derek looks up for real at that. Looks up and looks at him, finally, hazel eyes wide but steady as they hold Stiles’ gaze. He’s searching for something, for answers that Stiles isn’t sure about the questions for but is content to let him look.
“We don’t have to figure everything out now,” he continues softly. “The other pack’s gone, we have time. You deserve comfy pajamas and a good night of sleep in a warm bed, and if that’s your own bed in your loft by yourself then fine, that’s okay, but I don’t think it is. So either leave, and go home, or come here.”
When Derek stands up, pushing himself fully upright off the bed and stepping into the middle of the room, Stiles is pretty sure he can actually feel his heart drop into the pit of his stomach. He’s determined to keep looking, to make it as awkward as possible, to not give Derek the easy out of having a clean escape.
So when Derek’s hands go to his jeans, flipping open buttons and shoving the tight denim down his thighs, Stiles practically chokes on his own tongue.
Because holy god, there’s something downright obscene about the way Derek bends at the waist, lifting his feet off the floor to tug his jeans free, hook a finger into the heal of each sock and pull those off too. Stiles has seen hundreds of guys changing before, in locker rooms before gym, on buses on the way to meets, but never like this. Never backlit by moonlight in an otherwise silent room, shamelessly aware of his audience and still not hesitating for a second to reach up and peel the burgundy shirt up over his head.
Stiles stares as Derek drops the pile of clothing on top of his abandoned boots before turning back to the bed, nudging Stiles’ shoulder lightly until Stiles takes the hint and shuffles across to his side of the bed. He lowers himself gingerly back until he’s laying flat again, sore shoulders against his softest pillow, and Derek wastes no time in sliding in next to him.
“Okay?” Derek asks quietly.
Stiles glances over at him. They’re both flat on their backs on separate halves of the bed, just like they always are, and no. No, it’s not okay. Because yes, he’d meant what he’d said about Derek deserving a good, comfortable night of sleep, but he’s pretty sure he deserves one too. He’s pretty sure he deserves, even if it’s just this once, to get what he wants out of this.
“Not quite,” he whispers back. He rolls over before Derek can ask, ignoring the protest in his arms as he curls his body into the side of Derek’s, torso propped against Derek’s chest and one arm low over his stomach. Derek feels like he’s holding his breath, tense under Stiles’ weight, and Stiles can already feel the slow creep of guilt curling in his stomach.
“I’m a cuddler,” he mumbles. “And sleeping with you in my bed all the time and not being able to cuddle is torture. But if it really bothers you, I can –” he starts to pull back, twisting back over away from Derek, when Derek’s arm falls gingerly across his shoulder blades, his hand curled at the nape of Stiles’ neck.
“No,” Derek says quickly. “This is – this is good. Stay.”
Derek exhales slowly, and Stiles can feel the tension seeping out of him, feel the way the body beneath his slowly begins to relax into the mattress. He lets himself relax too, dropping his head back down into the crook where Derek’s arm meets his shoulder. Derek’s head turns toward his, jaw brushing against Stiles’ messy tufts of hair, and for a second Stiles swears he feels the dry press of lips against his forehead.
They come in stages. It starts with just Derek, who was still there when Stiles woke up this morning and hasn’t left since. He’s propped up against the headboard with Stiles’ back against his chest, chin on Stiles’ head and legs tangled together as they alternate between lazy naps and another half a dozen episodes of Criminal Minds.
Isaac and Erica show up first, and if they have even the slightest reaction to actually witnessing Derek’s presence in Stiles’ bed, they don’t show it. Isaac flops down next to Stiles, flinging an arm over Stiles’ thigh and pillowing his head on his stomach, and it takes Erica maybe twenty minutes of sitting against the headboard next to Derek before she’s sunk down enough to prop her head up on his shoulder.
Allison and Lydia appear after their French Honor Society meeting and waste no time, Allison wedging herself into the space between Stiles’ and Isaac’s legs, Lydia propping herself up against Erica’s calves. Boyd and Jackson both have practice, swimming for Jackson and wrestling for Boyd, and Lydia steals all thunder from their arrival barely seconds after she relinquishes her spot to Boyd and switches over to Derek’s other side with Jackson when she smugly points out a familiar face in the next episode right before her sister walks into the scene.
Scott shows up after his shift at Deaton’s with two overflowing bags of Chinese food, eyes the space left on the bed with the calculating expression of someone deciding where to aim his canon ball for the best splash effect, and it’s only then that Stiles’ realizes.
This is his pack. This is it, all of them. He has them all here, crammed into a bed that should never be able to fit nine people, dribbling soy sauce on his comforter and fortune cookie dust in his sheets. His foot’s gone numb from the weird angle his ankle’s at under Allison’s butt, he’s genuinely not sure if it’s Jackson’s hand or Lydia’s curled around his hip, he’s probably going to overheat from werewolves and their stupid hot bodies.
Derek’s hand brushes lightly across his forehead, smoothing his hair back off of his face, and Stiles holds out a piece of sweet and sour pork in silent appreciation.
“Gross,” Scott grumbles, watching Derek take the bite straight off of Stiles’ fork.
“Does this mean we have to start calling him Mom?” Isaac adds, wrinkling his nose at Scott.
“Stilinski’s not exactly what you’d call a nurturing mother figure,” Erica argues, reaching two fingers into Stiles’ carton and sticking her tongue out when he attempts to whack her fingers away with his utensils.
“Doesn’t stop you from calling this Mom’s House behind his back,” Scott points out, squirming around like he’s about to go for a piece of sweet and sour pork too.
“I hate all of you,” Stiles whines, clutching his take out carton closer to his chest. “I need new friends.”
“Liar,” Derek mumbles fondly, deftly dodging Stiles’ protective fork maneuvers and stealing another piece of pork.
“You love us,” Lydia adds smugly, offering him a conciliatory bite of her own chicken and broccoli.
And well, really, there’s no point in denying that. Because he really, really does.
I don't even know anymore. come hang out with me on tumblr, I'll be there monday nights with a bottle of wine and a box of tissues (and, well, every other day of the week too).