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How To Be a Normal Person

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“We’re pretty sure there’s something wrong with Scott’s TA,” Stiles says, when Derek picks up the phone.

“Hello to you too,” Derek says. “I’m doing fine, thanks for asking.”

“I haven’t talked to you in three months, and yet, I know exactly how you’re doing,” Stiles says. “You’re annoying and you’re grumpy about it.”

Derek hangs up on him for form’s sake. He doesn’t have to take this shit.

“Okay, truce,” Stiles says immediately when he calls back. “Seriously, I’m pretty sure there’s something fucked up about Scott’s TA.”

“Why isn’t Scott calling me?”

“Because Scott doesn’t kn--” and Derek can hear Stiles stop and rethink that one, “Uhhhh, he’s delegated. He’s a delegator.”

“Uh-huh,” Derek says. “I’m not beating up Scott’s TA because he got a bad grade in school.” He sneers the last part. He’s standing in the middle of a gas station, making faces at a rack of Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs. The attendant is giving him suspicious looks. Derek tries to school his face back into something non-threatening and unworthy of pressing panic buttons.

“Oh come on,” Stiles wheedles. “You live for beating people up.”

“I’ve turned over a new leaf,” Derek says. He pauses a minute, pays for his junk food and then walks back out into the sunshine. Stiles is laughing obnoxiously in his ear. “You don’t know, you haven’t seen me in three months.”

“Oh come on,” Stiles dismisses him. “You’re never going to be a shining example of having it together.”

Derek’s back goes rigid and he tenses up. “What does that mean?” he says, losing the easy humor. He forgot this part, how Stiles’s barbs can hurt, sometimes.

“Nothing,” Stiles says, hastily, and a little guilty. “Look, if you don’t want to help us, then don’t. I’ll find someone else to help me.”

When Derek doesn’t say anything else, Stiles hangs up. Derek wants to call him back, wants to agree to come over there, get sucked into their Scott ‘n Stiles show again, but Stiles always manages to knock him off balance, to stick in his craw. Derek hates it. This time Scott and Stiles can get someone else; or better yet, figure it out themselves.

When Isaac comes home, Derek’s still sulking, curled up on the ripped up couch they had lugged home from the Salvation Army.

“S’up,” he says cheerfully, and when Derek doesn’t answer, turns away peaceably. Derek watches as he tosses his hoodie on one of the jagged bricks sticking out of the wall, before disappearing up the stairs to his room.

Jesus. Derek really does have to get it together. He literally has never thought about the hole in the wall, had never been concerned by it in the slightest, but now it seems to symbolize everything Stiles was talking about. He jerks to his feet and walks over, peers through it and sees trash and random debris Isaac must have been kicking aside there all along.

Hell no, he thinks, abruptly and angrily. Living in his head, not paying attention to the fact that he was living like a squatter, it had been fine up until now. He had been okay with it, but it was done. He was goddamn adult.

In the morning he goes to the hardware store and asks the guy what he needs to buy to mend a wall.

The job he does is pretty shoddy. There’s dust, cement, and sweat all over him, and in a five foot radius around the wall. Everything is possibly more messy than when he started, but the wall, the wall is now solid brick. He presses a finger against it, tests the soundness and is pleased by it.

When Isaac gets home, he sees it first thing. “Nice,” he says, and holds his fist out to bump against Derek’s.

“Yeah,” Derek says, smug and satisfied. "Now go clean your room." Isaac looked shocked, and more than a little appalled at the thought; Derek bared his teeth, snapped Now, and was ferociously pleased when Isaac leaped to obey. Take that, Stiles.

The next morning, he still feels momentum, still wants to be doing something, but there was only the one hole. He prowls the loft a bit, looks for things that could be improved with plaster and insulation, but he gets bored quickly. He should probably replace some of their furniture; they had gotten it from driveways and thrift shops, and it fucking looks like it too. But he hates furniture stores, hates facing people whose jobs rely their having a cheerful demeanor, hates the fakeness of it.

He goes to the library. Contrary to what Stiles likes to pretend, he does in fact know how to work the internet. Then he sits down with every intention of Googling furniture online, putting everything on his credit card and scheduling delivery for when only Isaac is home.

Instead he sits for a moment, looking at the empty search box, fingers on the home row the way his mother taught him. He thinks about that, and about the hole in the wall he’d lived with for so long, and the way Isaac had grinned at him last night when he’d finally gotten around to plugging the refrigerator in.

He finds himself typing in, “how to be a normal person.” There’s strange results at first, weird message board posts, and sad, pathetic people on Yahoo! Answers. Derek skims past those, and eventually ends up on an article designed for recovering alcoholics who want to reintegrate themselves back into normal life. “Step one,” the instructions tell him. “Get a plant. If you can care for the plant, make it blossom and grow for two years, then you’re ready for step two.”

He’s not an alcoholic, and two years seems like a long damn time to devote to a plant, but the idea of working towards a goal appeals to him. He prints out the article, pays the unnecessarily judgemental librarian the twenty cents for the paper and goes to Home Depot to look at plants.

He imagines that whoever wrote the article had a flower in mind. Something big and pretty but Derek shies away from that whole section for reasons that have too much to do with the color of wolfsbane when it grows. Instead, he buys an aloe plant. It’s a small little thing, lopsided in the pot, and he’s not even sure what it’s going to look like when it grows past the little seedling it is now, but he buys it. Maybe Stiles could use in his spells and magic stuff, or maybe, Christ, he doesn’t really know you get aloe vera from a fucking leaf, but he does know how red Stiles’s nose gets in the summer. He wedges it carefully on the floor of the backseat of the Camaro, builds it a little protective barricade with his jacket to keep it from falling and takes the corners really carefully the whole way home.

There’s radio silence for a couple weeks, but Stiles doesn’t give up bothering him, as Derek kind of knew he wasn’t going to. He rolls his eyes when Stiles leans on the buzzer, waits an obnoxiously long time before buzzing Stiles up, just to get some of his own back. “You’re an asshole,” Stiles says, slamming the door open.

Derek smiles with all his teeth. “You’re free to not be here.”

“I still need to talk to you about--” Stiles starts and then looks past Derek. “You fixed the wall,” he says, amusement coloring his voice.

Derek shrugs, folding his arms over his chest. “What does it matter?”

“Where am I supposed to hang my coat?” Stiles asks.

“At your own house,” Derek says, folding his arms over his chest. Stiles snorts, but for the rest of the fight, his eyes keep sliding over, gazing at the half-assed patching job Derek had done.

Derek tells Isaac to get a coatrack, after that. Isaac, because he’s an asshole himself, gets one intended for a little girl, a big pink and purple monstrosity with rhinestones. It makes Isaac laugh every time he looks at it. Isaac doesn’t really laugh much normally, uses the loft to eat and sleep and gets the hell out. But he stops, looks at it and laughs his ass off. Derek doesn’t get the joke, but he lets it stay.

“Your plant is dying,” Stiles informs him, the next time he bulldozes his way into Derek’s home. This time, it’s for a new reason, some question Stiles supposedly has, but Derek suspects it’s a sneaky way to transition into the old argument about Scott’s stupid TA.

“It is not,” he says, tensing.

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says, touching a brown leaf. “Have you even watered it?”

“Yes,” Derek says. “The day I brought it home.”

“The day you...Ohhh-kay,” Stiles drawls out, and then turns, like he’s done.

“No, wait,” Derek grits out. “What were you going to say?”

Stiles stares at him. “You have to water plants every day,” he says, finally. “That’s the point of plants. Also, sunshine.”

Derek looks around. There’s only one window in the loft, and it faces another building. He could take it outside with him, he supposes, carry it down the stairs, and wait around for awhile.

“How much sunshine?” he asks, trying to keep his voice level.

“Do I look like a fucking gardener?” Stiles says, backing away. “I don’t know. Why do you care anyway? Is it a magical plant?”

“No,” Derek says. “It’s an aloe plant.”

Stiles looks at him like he’s crazy, but Derek’s used to that, and just walks him out.

The next morning, early, he hears the Jeep pull up, idle, and then speed away. Curiosity overtakes him, and he goes downstairs to try to figure out what Stiles had been doing. He sees it immediately, a book wedged in his mailbox slot. He pulls it out, smoothening out the cover to find “Gardening for Dummies,” with several handwritten marks underlining dummies. He looks off towards the end of the road where Stiles’s Jeep had long disappeared, and goes back inside.

It turns out, indirect sunlight is just fine. He starts a watering schedule, hangs it on the wall. His plant comes back to life, slowly but surely. The book says he should talk to it, or sing, but he feels too stupid, can’t do it even when he knows there’s no chance of anyone walking in.

He buys it a radio, plays it NPR. It seems to like that.

Isaac doesn’t comment on any of this. All he says is, “Stiles is around a lot lately.”

“He wants me to do something for him,” Derek says, and it’s the truth, except that Stiles doesn’t actually spend a lot of time trying to convince him of anything. He mostly sits around, bickering, or calls Derek and insults him. He still hasn’t brought Derek any proof that the TA, whose name is apparently Martin, is actually evil. Last night he came by with a slightly stale box of donuts, and spent the night putting his feet all over everything and insulting Derek’s taste in everything from snacks to household cleaning products.

In the end, though, Derek gives in, and agrees to help them.

“I don’t understand why my blood is necessary,” he says, leaning against a tree, out by the old house. Stiles is kneeling next to him, one hand firmly wrapped around his forearm, above the cut, holding him in place. The other is positioning the bowl under him, catching the slowly falling drops of blood.

“It’s your territory,” Stiles says absently. “The spell will identify potential threats to you.”

“I don’t think I’d have enough blood for that,” Derek says, and closes his eyes. He’d say he doesn’t enjoy Stiles’s hands on him, but he’s working on not lying to himself. It’s one of the other tips in the Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself article.

“Aww,” Stiles says, “Come on. You’re not nearly the hot mess you used to be.”

Derek’s saved from answering by reaching whatever amount of blood Stiles needed him to donate, and Stiles deftly applies a Hello Kitty band-aid to his arm before crouching over a crude map of Beacon Hills he and Scott had sketched out on the back of a Denny’s menu. The map lights up, indicating a blob and some squiggles that Stiles swears indicates the elementary school.

It’s not the TA. Derek doesn’t know how, and isn’t sure he wants to know, but Mrs. McGillicuddy's kindergarten classroom was infested by pixies. Derek hates pixies.

“So that was awesome,” Stiles says, following him out to his car. He came with Scott, Derek knows. He has no idea why Stiles is leaving with him, but he lets it alone, lets Stiles change the radio station and turn up the heat in the car. He stops for burgers, buys Stiles his stupid chicken nuggets and curly fries, and they carry the greasy bags upstairs, spreading everything out on the battered island in the kitchen.

“Your plant looks better,” Stiles says, mouth full of food.

“Yeah,” he says stealing a fry with ease. “Thanks for the book.”

Stiles flushes a little, looks away. “It was cheap. Are you going to tell me what’s so important about it any time soon?”

“No,” Derek says, decisive. “It’s none of your business.”

Stiles rolls his eyes at him. “Everything that’s none of my business ends up coming back to kill me later,” he says, slapping Derek’s hand when it reaches for another fry.

“I can only hope,” he deadpans, and sneaks another fry from Stiles’s pile.

The plant doesn’t murder anyone, gets green and healthy, and Derek gets in the habit of saying hello to it in the mornings, after Isaac is long gone. The town gets quiet for a bit, no one brings up Martin the TA for at least a month.

Then Scott comes over, barges in with Isaac and Stiles at his heels, shouting up and down that he knows Martin isn’t right, swears up and down that he blinked and Scott saw something.

It’s all dumb and vague, and makes absolutely no sense, but Scott doesn’t ask Derek for things. Ever. Derek would have placed bets that Scott would resist asking for shelter in a tornado. So he bares his arm without a protest, lets Stiles decorate the map, and follows them all out to the “hot zone.”

It’s quiet, deserted in the woods, and Derek has a beautiful, fleeting fantasy that maybe he’d get to go home, pop open a beer and sit quietly in his living room. Then there’s a noise, and everyone crouches down, finally about to have it out with Scott’s supervillain teacher.

Instead a banshee shows up. Derek would rather fight almost anything before banshees. They’re barely even real monsters, but they have voices like dog whistles. He could never get into the habit of tuning Laura’s shitty music out on road trips, nevermind murderous blood covered fairy things that are running at him and screaming.

“Derek,” Stiles yells from behind him and Derek whirls around. Stiles throws him a big red pair of headphones, and they’re plugged into a battered old iPod. Derek slips them on, is immediately immersed in music, something vaguely familiar that he’s heard pouring out of Stiles’s Jeep before. He relaxes a bit, and kicks the stupid banshee’s ass, banishing her back to whatever hellhole she came from.

He gives Stiles his headphones back, but keeps the iPod. Whatever; he knows if Stiles actually wanted it back, he’d throw a bigger fit about it.

Spring finally blows in, and suddenly all anyone can talk about is finals. Derek handles about a week of Isaac making disorganized lists and asking him incomprehensible questions about physics before he gives up, deems the plant successful enough and skips to step two of The Article. He goes to Deaton’s office, barges right in before he can change his mind.

Scott and Stiles are there, talking quietly with Deaton, but everyone looks up at him when he enters.

“I want to adopt something,” he announces belligerently.

Stiles falls off the stool he’s sitting on. “You what?” he shrieks. Even Scott is staring at him, and Derek flushes.

“Okay,” Deaton says, measured and calm. “You can go look through the kennel. Everything adoptable is tagged.”

Derek starts away instantly, wanting to get away from their faces, but of course Stiles is hot on his heels.

“Are you looking for a snake?” Stiles demands. “Or like, a pitbull you could train up as your attack dog?”

“Pitbulls used to be babysitters for children,” Derek says.

Stiles swerves into bags of food. “I know that,” he says. “Why do you know that?”

Derek shrugs and stops outside the cage of a tall, proud looking German Shepherd. The dog looks back at him, and then instantly cowers, crowding into the corner of the cell.

“You could probably train him to like you,” Stiles says doubtfully.

The idea doesn’t appeal to Derek. He’s had enough of working for affection he’s never going to win. He moves on.

Every dog down the line hates him, or is terrified of him. He’d forgotten this about strange dogs. They had a mutt around when he’d been young, but she was old and calm, unfazed by anything they had done to or around her. He wishes he could call his mom, ask her how she had done it, get her advice.

There’s one cage left, and at first Derek thinks it’s empty, but something moves. It’s small and grey, like a rat wearing a mop. Derek starts to shy away when it barks.

“Wait,” Stiles says, grabbing his upper arm. Derek stops, and realizes what Stiles has already seen. The dog isn’t barking to raise an alarm, or out of fear. She’s barking joyfully, and her tail is wagging like it’s going to fly sheer off her butt in her yearning for Derek to get in range of her.

He steps forward and unlocks the cage, slipping in before she can get out. The dog, Trixie, the sign says, throws herself against Derek’s shins and he can’t stop himself, he picks her up, holds her against his chest. She licks his face, his neck, and burrows closer, yipping with contentment.

“Derek Hale has a purse dog,” Stiles says faintly. “Why are you so weird?

“I’m not weird,” Derek mutters, and carries his dog out to talk to Deaton.

Trixie is pretty weird. Deaton tells him he’s free to change her name, but she already looks up when he says it, and it suits her. Derek takes her home, sets her down in the loft. He expects her to run off and explore but she stays by him, winding around his ankles, yapping happily whenever he pauses long enough for her to sit on his feet. The only thing she’s interested in long enough to leave him is the plant which she barks at, raising a paw out to swat at it.

“Hey,” he says warningly. She blinks at him. “Don’t.” His voice is severe, harsh, and he swears he can see her face just crumble in abject sorrow. “Oh for Christ’s sake,” he mutters and leans down to pick her up again. “This plant was here before you,” he tells her. “It’s got seniority in our pack, all right?” Trixie licks his chin, so he figures they’re on the same page, and feeds her some of the kibble he bought from Deaton.

Trixie sleeps on his neck for half the night, chews up his favorite boot for the rest of it. Step two is considerably more challenging than step one.

“Hey,” Stiles says, when he shows up again, another night. He’s got a box of frozen burritos balanced on a stack of books. “I need you to do your silent, broody routine tonight, all right? I’ve got so much work to do, and I need to think.”

“Is this a thing we do now?” Derek says, letting him in. “Do you pay rent too?”

“I’ll share a burrito,” Stiles bargains, and Derek doesn’t have any legitimate objections, so he microwaves both burritos, puts them on his new navy plates from Target. They have gold accents around the edges.

Stiles is already buried in a book, one hand absently scratching a blissed-out Trixie behind the ear. “Thanks,” he says, distracted.

“Don’t mention it,” Derek says gruffly, and takes an armchair near them, slouches into it and picks up his own book. There’s nothing but the quiet rustle of pages for a long time, comfortable and undisturbed before Trixie moves, bounds up Derek’s leg and paws at his chest.

“All right, all right,” Derek says, dumping her off so he can stand. “I got you.”

Stiles surfaces, blinking owlishly. “What?” he says, slow and confused.

“I’m going to take Trixie for a walk,” Derek says, shaking a leash. Trixie is doing hysterically joyful circles around him, throwing her little body in the air with delight. “You can stay.”

“No,” Stiles says, cracking his neck. “I’ll come with you guys. I don’t know if I can handle any more anyway.”

Trixie weighs maybe ten, twelve pounds or so, but when she leaps down the stairs, it feels like he’s restraining a Saint Bernard.

Stiles trails them, still rubbing his eyes and blinking. “It’s like she’s never been outside before.”

“She’s like that about everything,” Derek says, opening the door to let her explode into the cool night. “You should have seen her face when I opened the window to the fire escape.”

Stiles laughs and shakes his head.

It’s a quiet night. The stars seem brighter than they have been lately, and they move at a snail’s pace, considering how Trixie feels the need to sniff every plant, animal and mineral they pass. When she finds something she especially is interested in, she yaps until Derek acknowledges her, bends down to examine it too.

“You’re good with her,” Stiles says, after Derek deems a chewed up stuffed rabbit fully catalogued.

“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” Derek says, and he can’t help but to let it come out bitter and annoyed. He forgets sometimes, that none of them ever knew him when he was different, when he stayed up all night with his old dog, keeping watch after he accidentally fed her chocolate. Or how he and Laura had presided over a funeral for their baby sister’s pet fish after she had forgotten to feed it for a week. No one he knows now knew him then. Normally he finds that a comforting, strangely freeing thought, that he doesn’t have to be nice or good or anything at all to these people. But now, walking in the cool breeze with Stiles at his side, he wants to say, “Of course I’m good with animals. My dad used to tease me about being soft for everything with a heartbeat. That’s part of me too, just as much as the asshole who shoved you into a wall is.” But he doesn’t, he can’t say all that. Just clenches his jaw and walks a little faster.

Stiles doesn’t even seem to notice. “How could I not be?” he says, lengthening his strides. “You’re literally the strangest, most surprising person I know. Last week, I went looking for a water glass, and found a bottle of buffalo sauce in your cabinet.”

“So?” Derek says, confused.

“So A, didn’t know they let you just buy buffalo sauce, thought you’d have to go through culinary school to be able to handle that shit. Or like, at least have it be a controlled substance you have to show ID for. Do stoners everywhere know you can just make wings at home, whenever? Jesus Christ, the restaurant business would collapse.”

“You’re deranged,” Derek says, but he lets his strides match up with Stiles again.

“B,” Stiles continues. “Didn’t know you cooked, assumed you roasted raw rabbit on a stick over a campfire.” Derek scowls, but Stiles just knocks into him and continues. “Next time I won’t be surprised though. I’ll open the cabinet, see truffle oil, and close it again, unsurprised. Won’t even blink.”

It’s not the same as having a history, having an encyclopedia of facts picked up over years, but the idea of Stiles wanting to acquire that kind of knowledge about him soothes him nonetheless.

When even Trixie seems tired out, they head back towards the loft. At the door, Derek leans down and scoops his dog into his arms, and carries her grateful, squirming body up the stairs and into the loft.

When he sets her down and turns, Stiles is standing in the middle of the room, toying with his bag. “I guess I should get going,” he says, reluctantly.

“I guess,” Derek says, holding his arms awkwardly still against his side. He doesn’t really want Stiles to go, doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants

“Fuck this,” Stiles says abruptly, and Derek can’t do anything except watch as Stiles stalks forward, dropping his coat, bag and keys as he goes along. It’s both the most shocking and least surprising thing ever when Stiles blurs down on him, cupping his jaw and sliding their mouths together in a warm, messy kiss.

Derek’s surprised into stillness for a moment, just lets Stiles kiss him, but then his brain kicks in and he’s in, all in. Stiles makes a happy pleased noise when Derek hooks a hand around his waist and hauls him in closer.

They migrate slow and stumbling to the bed . Derek lets Stiles push him down, steadies him when Stiles slides a knee over him, stretches out on top of Derek’s body. Then they’re kissing again, frantic in the best ways.

Trixie barks, eventually, making them both jump. “Go away,” Derek tells her, and she does nothing of the sort.

“Lock her out of the room,” Stiles says, biting Derek’s earlobe.

“Isn’t that mean?” Derek says, hesitantly. Stiles leans up, sheds his t-shirt, and drops it to the floor. Derek takes a minute to stare at him, the expanse of shoulder and the dark line of hair from the center of his chest down to the top of his pants. “Let me up,” he says, and leaves Stiles laughing in the corner of the couch as he shuts Trixie away in the bathroom.

When he gets back, Stiles tugs him back down. “You should fuck me,” he says, bright and unabashed. Derek colors immediately.

“That’s,” he starts, shakes his head, tries to pull away.

“Hey, hey,” Stiles says, slides a hand along Derek’s jaw. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want.” He rolls his hips against Derek’s, makes his breath catch. “I’ve just spent a lot of time thinking about it.”

“Yeah?” Derek says, hoarse and breathless.

“Yeah,” Stiles says and does it again, drags his hips against him. “Thought about getting you inside, getting you right where I want you, right--” and Derek groans, cuts him off. He can’t stop picturing it now, wants it bad. But he hasn’t--that’s not--he doesn’t know how.

Stiles looks at him for a second, evaluating. “We don’t have to do anything,” he says again, “but maybe you want to watch me take something, maybe you’ll change your mind.”

Derek doesn’t say anything at all, mind too blown to respond. Stiles stands up, levers himself off Derek’s chest and disappears from sight for a minute and returns with his backpack. He bends, rifling through it, and Derek admires the line of his back, the curves of his ass.

“I made a stop today,” Stiles says, conversationally. “There’s a new store by campus, over on Jefferson St., maybe you’ve seen it.” Derek knows exactly what he’s talking about. The only store that opened over there lately is an adult sex shop. Sure enough, Stiles pulls out a small, unassuming vibrator and a bottle of lube. “I wasn’t able to stop at home to drop it off after class,” Stiles continues, putting batteries in the vibe, his long fingers sure and steady. “But I had to buy it, knew I had to reward myself for a long night of studying somehow.” Derek swallows, his mouth dry as a desert as Stiles rolls a condom down on the toy.

Stiles gets back onto the bed, settles next to Derek, stretching out. He rips the foil cap from the bottle of lube, and pours a little on his fingers. Bending his knee back, he reaches down, fumbles to get the angle right and presses a finger against his hole.

Derek shifts down immediately, watching intently. He’s only ever been--but no, he’s not going to think about her, not now. Not when Stiles is arching, putting on a show for him, making himself slick and wet.

“Stiles,” he croaks, placing his fingers on Stiles’s knee. He doesn’t have anything else, doesn’t know what to say, and everything in his world seems like it’s reorienting around Stiles. He’s so hard, and he feels like his skin’s on fire.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, breathy. “Hand me the vibe, dude.”

Derek grasps for it without looking, unwilling to blink for even a second. He hands it to Stiles, and Stiles grins at him, happy and flushed.

“Thought about you when I bought it,” he says, pressing it against himself. “Ah--yeah,” as he slips it in. “I didn’t know we’d end up here, but I thought about lying back in my bed, using it on myself, fantasizing about you.”

“How long?” Derek says, urgent. He reaches forward, tentative, lays his hand against Stiles’s inner thigh.

Stiles twists the toy, shifts his hips, and laughs. “Since I met you,” he says, eyes shining like new pennies and Derek can’t stop, can’t help himself, moves his hand a little more and flicks it on.

Stiles doesn’t disappoint with the reaction. His back arches like a bow, and the noise he makes is high-pitched and greedy, like it’s been pulled out of his chest.

Derek’s not unsure anymore, can’t stand any minute he’s not touching Stiles, and with a hand on his shoulders, rolls him to his stomach. Stiles quickly brings his knees up towards his chest.

He’s only got eyes for the disappearing end of the toy now, and knocks Stiles’s hand away, grasping the base firmly. It’s cool and smooth to the touch, and he gives it a twist, pulls it out a little bit, then shoves it back in.

“Fuck,” Stiles breathes, burying his face in his arms. “God, it’s so good, Derek.”

“Yeah?” Derek says. “Good like you imagined?”

“Imagined it was you,” Stiles retorted. “But this will do,” and he groans again as Derek holds the toy at an angle, moving it in gentle thrusts.

“You still want me right now?” Derek says, pressing his erection against the back of Stiles’s thigh. “You don’t just want it like this?”

“Want you,” Stiles says, muffled, strung out. “Come on.”

Derek leaves the vibrator in while he slicks himself up, one-handed. He probably uses too much, between the lube and the pre-come he's leaking from the rock-hard head of his dick, he's practically dripping. He doesn't think Stiles will mind. He gives the toy a final thrust and slides it out, replacing it with his cock.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Stiles is chanting, and Derek folds himself against Stiles’s back. His knees are pressed up against Stiles’s calves, his arms bracketing Stiles’s shoulders. Like this, he can only roll his hips, thrusting shallowly, slowly. He has to though, has to press himself against Stiles everywhere, soak Stiles up through his skin.

“Come on,” Stiles begs, sobbing under him, and Derek reaches around, wraps his fingers around Stiles, and works him to the rhythm of his hips. When he feels his orgasm building, it’s like a landslide, like something inevitable and unstoppable crashing into him from far away, and Stiles hollers as they come together, collapsing against the sheets.

“I have made a lot of purchases I am proud of,” Stiles says, a shaky minute later, before Derek has even twitched towards moving off him. “But I’m pretty sure that one was my finest moment.”

“I liked it,” Derek agrees, mouth moving against the nape of Stiles’s neck. “I wanna know what else you have in that bag.”

Stiles shoves him off, snickering. “All in good time, my friend.” Derek lets Stiles move him, falls backwards til his head hits the pillow and Stiles gets up, grabs a dirty shirt and wipes them both down before Derek tugs hims back down for another minute of lazy kisses.

“Okay,” Stiles says, leveraging himself upright. “Not to do a total walk of shame and make both of us feel like tramps, but I gotta go home.”

“Yeah?” Derek says, sitting up too. He doesn’t know the protocol here, doesn’t know if this is just a Stiles thing, maybe Stiles just hooks up now. Maybe it’s clingy to tug Stiles back down, convince him to sleep over with a few more kisses, slide his hands down Stiles’s body.

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Don’t get weird, I’m coming back, I just--I got my dad to agree to go running tomorrow morning.”

Derek’s surprised into a laugh. “You’re going to go running with your dad?”

“Don’t act like it wasn’t the achievement of the century,” Stiles retorts. “It took champion level cajoling, pestering and straight up bribery, and what kind of example am I going to make if I skip the first run?”

“You could sleep here and I’ll wake you up in time,” Derek offers, stretching under the sheets.

Stiles stands up from tying his sneakers and fixes Derek with a withering look. “Please, try and look me in the face and tell me we’d get any sleep if I got back in that bed.”

“I can keep my hands to myself,” Derek lies, pointlessly.

“Well, buddy,” Stiles says, buttoning his shirt. “I definitely cannot. You’d have to bind my wrists to the headboard with steel chains and I’d still be fighting to get my hands on you.” And with that, he’s gone, the door swinging behind him, leaving Derek alone, dry-mouthed and squirming at the visual.

Stiles texts him after lunch the next day, tells him to meet him for dinner at this weird fried food stand on the outskirts of town. It has a big patio to sit on, and a nice view, so it should be popular but the owners are strange. Derek doesn’t think they’re supernatural strange, but the man who took his order the one time Derek ate there seemed aggrieved that Derek wanted a Dr. Pepper. He hadn’t gone back.

“OK,” he texts back. “See you then.”

Their maybe-a-date doesn’t happen. At two, Stiles calls, the buzz of his phone wakes him from a light doze, stretched out in a sunbeam with his plant at his head and Trixie curled up at the bend of his knee.

“Scott’s missing,” Stiles says, with no preamble. Derek sits up, the tension in Stiles’s voice bleeding into Derek’s spine.

“How do you know?”

“Because he didn’t make it to our eleven o’clock class,” Stiles says grimly, and Derek hears the sound of the Jeep’s door opening and slamming shut.

“He probably overslept,” Derek tries, and Stiles scoffs.

“Allison’s in that class,” Stiles reminds him, and oh right. That’s the freshman req they’re all in, the one class Scott, Stiles, Isaac, Allison and Lydia all share. There isn’t a chance Scott would miss it. From what he’s heard, Scott doesn’t sit with Allison, but instead, three rows behind and two to the left, and stares at her the whole time.

“Fuck,” he says.

Stiles makes a noise of agreement. “I’m on my way to your place,” he says. “We have to try that spell again.”

“It doesn’t work, Stiles,” Derek says. “It’s too broad; it shows us whatever threat is closest, not which one is most crucial.”

“It’ll work now,” Stiles says, and his voice is serious with determination. He hangs up and there’s about fifteen minutes where Derek’s left to pace, making Trixie whine in distress before Stiles finally bursts in, a tornado of energy. it’s all Derek can do to keep up with him.

Stiles is right, the map works this time. “I focused on the bastard,” Stiles says, grimly working out where the glowing is coming from. He blinks, cocking his head.

“What?” Derek says, irritated, scanning the map that still makes no sense to him. It doesn’t relate to Beacon Hills in any way he recognizes.

“He’s at campus,” Stiles says. “In his office, I think.”

“So you’re overreacting,” Derek says, a little relieved. “This dude is probably just an asshole, and Scott’s out doing something.”

Stiles shrugs, stands up. “You haven’t met this dude,” he says, dumping Derek’s excess blood down the sink. “Don’t come if you don’t want.”

Derek rolls his eyes and grabs his keys, follows Stiles to the door. “If I beat this guy up over a participation grade,” he warns, but can’t think of a consequence he’d follow through with.

“I’ll rim you if you do,” Stiles says, and disappears down the stairs.

“Jesus Christ,” Derek says, and picks up Trixie, tucks her under his arm, and locks the door with a shaking hand.

“Why are you bringing the dog?” Stiles says, when Derek gets to the Jeep.

“I’m not letting her out of the car. She just doesn’t like being alone in the loft,” Derek mutters, and puts her in the back. Trixie yips as if to agree with him, and Stiles huffs but starts the car.

Campus is quiet when they get there, students milling quietly around, everyone lost in thoughts of finals and going home.

Stiles leads him into a dark, depressing little building, past offices packed with desks, haggard and smelly grad students shuffling papers sadly. Stiles turns right, and then left, navigating a labyrinth of dank hallways until Derek’s not sure he’d be able to find his way out unassisted.

He stops before a closed door, with a little handwritten sign that says MARTIN MITCHELL. Stiles knocks, three sharp raps.

“Office hours are over,” a voice calls. Stiles tries the handle, finds it locked. Derek leans over and twists it off, pushing the door open.

Scott is dangling from a hook on the ceiling. He’s gagged and bound, his eyes wide open and pleading at them. A bespectacled, pointy little man sits at a desk facing him. He looks up when they barge in. “Rude,” he says, setting his correcting pen down.

Stiles and Scott were right. There is something awful about Martin the TA. He looks normal, nerdy, at first glance but that’s just a skin he’s wearing. There’s something under the surface, something cold and menacing, barely restrained behind the hipster frames sitting crookedly on his nose.

“You’re a demon,” Derek realizes, stepping into the room, pushing Stiles behind him. Stiles squawks and shoves him back, refusing to be shielded.

“Yes,” Martin says calmly, watching them.

“Okay,” Stiles says. “I’m gonna need my friend back.”

Martin picks up his pen again, marks a large F on the page in front of him, and says, “He may go when I’m done with him.”

“That’s not gonna work for me,” Stiles says. “Derek, fight him.” Derek scowls, wants to smack him upside the head but tables it, considering the circumstances. He wolfs out instead, readying his claws and fangs.

Martin stands then, slams his palms down on the heavy wooden desk. “Do you think I am frightened of either of you? I am older than your country, than your founders’ countries, older than your kings and queens, older than your entire puny race,” Martin hisses, his tongue flicking out, forked like a snake. “I have seen entire planets swallowed by black stars, I have seen horrors that would strike you dead where you stand and yet, yet your peers continually think I would not notice that they bought their papers online?” He tilts his head to the left, cracking his neck before stepping forward, towards Stiles and Derek. “Your friend will remain here until he has paid for comparing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to his pathetic romantic mishaps.”

“Hey,” Stiles protests. “It’s a better metaphor for Scott and Allison than you would think!”

“Every year I give freshmen a chance to change, to be better, to evolve,” Martin spits, ignoring him, “and every year they prove themselves hideous scum, yet again.” He shakes his head, throws a hand up and Scott howls behind the gag, body twisting with pain.

Derek snarls, steps forward to get Martin’s attention back on him, but Martin just lifts his hand and hits him too. “Do you think I won’t notice if you change the size of your periods to sixteen point?” he howls in outrage. “I knew Voltaire.”

“Then why are you teaching Freshman English?” Stiles cries out, but they never get the answer to that question. There’s a blur of grey launching through the air, and Martin stumbles back as Trixie sinks her teeth into his upper thigh. He roars, swats her off, but it’s enough of a distraction that Derek has a chance to recover. He stands up, shakes himself off, and dives at him. The taste of his flesh is awful as Derek rips into him, but he harries the demon anyway. Trixie howls with ferocious delight and joins him, mauling Martin's spindly ankle.

He sees Stiles out of the corner of his eye hurrying to Scott, loosening the ropes, and within a minute, Scott is at his back. Between the three of them, they get him pinned long enough for Stiles to shakingly manage a banishment spell, sending the asshole back to hell.

Stiles stands over his grade book, finds his own name. “He wasn’t all bad,” he says brightly. “I was totally getting an A.”

“Whoa,” Scott says, and vaults over the couch. “What about me?”

They look down the roster and find the line where Scott’s name should be. Instead, there is a burn mark, in the perfect outline of Scott’s name, like the letters just combusted on their own.

“The next time we tell you someone’s evil,” Stiles tells Derek, “you better not doubt us for a second.”

“Yeah,” Scott says, staring down at the gradebook, crestfallen.

“You two are idiots,” Derek says. He leans over the book, writes Scott’s name in at the bottom, and scrawls a B.

“You couldn’t at least make it an A?” Scott says.

“I try to make my forgeries believable,” Derek says flatly. He picks Trixie up, tucks her firmly under his arm. “I”m going home. Come on, Stiles.”

“Wait, where we going?” Stiles asks, stumbling after him.

“You made me some promises in exchange for this,” Derek says, and doesn’t turn to look at him, even as his neck flushes red.

“Oh right,” Stiles says, hot on his heels. “Bye, Scott!”

Derek takes Stiles home, and Stiles pays up, eats Derek out until Derek is sobbing, shoving into it and away from it in equal measures. They fuck desperately, holding on to each other in that way you do when the adrenaline is still working its way out of your system.

When Derek wakes up the next morning, Stiles is gone.

There’s a stick figure drawn in shaving cream on the bathroom mirror of a running man and Derek grins. He showers, dresses, waters the plan and lays down food for Trixie. "Morning," he tells the plant, and switches on the radio. Whistling, he ties up the trash, takes it out of the bin and carries it down the stairs and to the curb. He kind of gets a kick out of living somewhere with trash pick-up.

When he heads back inside, he notices a slip of paper sticking out of his mailbox. It's not time for bills, normally the only mail he gets. He has no idea who on earth would be sending him anything, and the envelope is so long, and white.

It's a summons for jury duty.

Last month, he had gone to the DMV and switched his license back to California. It had been a big moment for him, committing to staying here, to not going back to New York City. It felt like putting down roots.

He had forgotten about this stuff, the stuff that comes with it. Laura had gotten jury duty once, in New York. She had laughed, shredded the forms. "Fuck the justice system," she had said, contemptuous. “They weren’t there for us." Laura had been so angry at everyone, anyone; back then they both were.

He tries to bring back that anger now, the fury that kept him separate from the world for so long, but it's gone. His anger isn't anchoring him anymore, and he's breathing heavy all of a sudden, panicked. Who the fuck was he fooling with this? Him, sitting in judgement of someone else?

No. He can’t. He tried with the plant and the damn dog, and goddamn Stiles but it’s all just a front. He can’t do this.

He goes back to the ruins of his family’s house. He never should have moved from here. His mattress in the corner of what used to be the dining room was fine. Let Isaac keep the loft, let Stiles take Trixie. He’s done pretending.

“Hey asshole,” Stiles calls, some time later. Derek raises his head, shocked to see the sun has almost set, and Stiles and Trixie are backlit by the gold.

“Go away,” he says, but Stiles doesn’t listen to him, never has.

“What are you doing?” Stiles says, letting Trixie off her leash. She leaps forward, shoves herself between Derek’s knees, and licks his face. Stiles settles next to him, back against the wall.

“I’m a mess,” Derek tells him, reluctant.

“So am I,” Stiles says promptly. “Today I didn’t feel like doing dishes so I ate cereal out of an empty water bottle.” He nudges at Derek. “What brought this on?”

Derek hesitates. With Stiles sitting next to him, it seems pretty dumb. “I got jury duty,” he admits, showing Stiles the paper. “I panicked about judging someone.” He hunches, curling his shoulders.

“Are you kidding me,” Stiles says. “You're a walking lie detector. You're a lawyer's worst nightmare.”

"Not if everyone's lying," Derek says, and his stomach clenches. "Not if everyone's telling the truth, and you have to decide who is more to blame."

There's a moment of silence, and Derek looks sideways, checks to see if Stiles is laughing.

He's not. He's thinking. “It’s not about blaming someone,” he says slowly. “I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but I also think you’re overthinking this.” The tip of his Converse presses lightly on Derek’s boot. “You’re going to show up, sit in a hot, smelly room with a bunch of other cranky people, and probably get sent home at lunch.”

It sounds normal, Derek thinks, scratching behind Trixie’s ears. Laura would have hated it.

“Or,” Stiles says, drawing out the word, “you get lucky and get to listen to someone argue about why they weren’t really being drunk and disorderly when they peed in that cop car before flipping it.”

Stiles shrugs when Derek glances at him out of the corner of his eye. “I’ve been to college, I’ve heard stuff.”

Derek makes a face at Trixie. He’s heard stuff too, secondhand from his pack. He hadn’t even graduated high school before he and Laura left, never mind gone to college. He has a pamphlet somewhere, that he’s been carrying around since New York, about getting a GED.

Stiles nudges Derek reassuringly, bringing Derek’s attention back to him. “It’s not like you’re missing out, you live with a wolfpack,” he says, and his hand travels down to rest on Derek’s. “Besides, Beacon Hills doesn’t see a ton of wayward urinators. Your case would probably be even more boring. But hey, if not, then you and your eleven new frenemies get to reminisce about your own hijinks in a different hot, smelly room. And at the end of the day, you all go home and complain to your spouses about people who are criminally stupid, and also actual criminals.”

He squeezes Derek’s hand. “It’s a thing you gotta do. Like paying your taxes and voting.”

Derek is staring at him, silent.

Stiles cringes. “You don’t pay taxes or vote, do you.”

Derek lifts his shoulder in a fraction of a shrug. He doesn’t want to remind Stiles of this but, “I lived in a train car.”

Stiles lets go of him to put his face in his hands, snickering. "Right," he says, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth. "Alternatively, we'll put a pink onesie on Trixie. We’ll tell the judge it would be neglect to make you leave your daughter, try to get you dismissed from the jury on account of insanity.”

Derek smacks his shoulder and Stiles laughs, hoists himself to his feet. “It’s your own fault. Last year, it would have been much easier to convince people that you were unbalanced. Now, get up. Trixie hates this place and so do I. Let’s go home."

Derek holds the jury summons out for a second, traces his address on the front of the paper. He’ll have to fill out the form, and get a stamp. “Some day you should write me a letter,” he says, impulsive, “and send it in the mail.”

“Sure,” Stiles says, not batting an eye. “I have the perfect Lisa Frank stationery.” He holds a hand out to Derek, lets Derek pull himself up. “I’ll send you letters and postcards every day. All your neighbors will think you’ve got a super weird pen-pal who’s way too into you.”

“Yeah?” Derek says, closing the door behind them. He stoops, puts the leash back on Trixie, tucks Stiles’s hand into his own. “Let ‘em.”