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Lydia was perfect and smart and completely un-shattered when her and Jackson broke up. He was moving out of the states, to a prestige London school that would really train him for lacrosse. Of course, the day after he left, Lydia marched into the school as if nothing was wrong. Which meant that every boy under the sun believed it, prompting a mass gaggle of them to be at her locker, swarming her table, and trying to get a date with her.

It all died down after about two months of frigidity on her side, and unanswered wants on their side. There was maybe one to two guys at a time at any place to greet her, or leave her a note of admiration. Stiles was always one of them.

Derek Hale, the other. He wasn’t as forward as Stiles, would nod his greeting when they happened to be waiting in the same place. He left notes for her, whether in her locker or on her car, and then would wander off. Stiles would wait until she got there, watch her read the note with pursed lips and then crumple it up. Then, and only then, did he start talking.

“Hey, Lydia, is that a new lipstick shade? I think it looks wonderful with your complexion, you know most people say pale people should wear darker shades for contrast, but I’m definitely a fan of the more subtle tones on you.”

“Hey, I noticed how you totally handed it to Harris in class today. I can’t believe he would suggest that you may not know the difference in photosynthetic plants, after all you’re like the top of the class.”

“Lydia, hey, I was wondering if you had the history notes? You’re always such a good note-taker and I really wasn’t paying attention in class and -- oh those shoes look really good with your dress, perfect color matching.”

“Hey, Lydia, do you watch the animal channel? Last night they were showing some reruns of last years puppy bowl and I thought that you might like it, do you like puppies? Or are you more of a cat person? They have a kitty halftime show if that’s what you like.”

She would always grace him with one to two word answers, before finishing up her task and moving on. He was lucky when it came to lunchtime, being close friends with Scott and Allison meaning he had an actual seat at her table. Sometimes, one of them would shoo him, or she wouldn’t be present at lunch, but he had an advantage over Derek here.

Especially since Derek had so many advantages that Stiles did not. He looked like he was shaped by the gods, with defined muscles and olive skin, and never overspoke and drove a beautiful car and had very popular sisters.

Stiles would necessarily say that one or the other was getting considerably closer to her. And he was fairly certain that’s why they hadn’t gone for each other’s throat, being the only contenders really left. Stiles never took the notes down when Derek put them up, and Derek never shoved Stiles away or bullied him in any sense. Even though him and his friends looked like they could break him in half.

Except Isaac, Isaac was nice.

And their peace treaty worked, even if it was never written down. But then that all went away for winter break, a whole two weeks where Stiles would have to hang around the lovey-dovey couple that his friend existed in just to see Lydia. They came back to school, and suddenly the flyers were everywhere. Prom.

All that mattered now was who was taking Lydia. Derek would wait by her locker, or at her car, with Stiles, never speaking and shoulders tense, to hand his note. Stiles would make an effort to find her if she was missing for lunch. Derek started trying to talk to Scott, probably to get close to him and score him a natural seat at their table. Scott later confirmed that Derek was being very friendly.

Lydia’s birthday was mid-February, a week and a half after Valentine’s day. Stiles would sometimes joke, while moving quickly to keep up with her, that that must be why she looks like a Cupid angel. It was the week of Valentine’s day that Derek brought the rose.

It was a beautiful rose, don’t get it wrong. It was white at the base and then slowly became a deep red at the petals, veins of red getting thicker until the tip. But Derek had never brought anything like that before, and didn’t bother to tell Stiles so he didn’t have anything to give Lydia. While the peace treaty, in Stiles’ mind, had been very tense leading up to this day, it was officially void.

When she came to her locker, she slowed in front of Derek. He smiled, a slow, sweet, confident thing, stepping forward. “I wanted you to have something I thought was unique as you.” His voice came out slightly deep, already at the end point of puberty.

“Thank you,” She said, taking the rose in between two fingers. “However, if you wanted something unique, I would have suggested a non-cliched flower, instead of a rose.” Lydia opened her locker, balancing her books on her hip perfectly as she kept the flower safe, and put them inside.

Stiles watched her sway away, her beautiful legs moving confidently and her head held as high as a queen’s. On one hand, he wanted to laugh, because Derek’s plan had failed. But on the other hand, she had never said that many words to him before, so had it really? He turned back to Derek, who appeared to be gathering his book bag off the floor.

“What was that, dude?” Stiles exclaimed.

“What was what?” He asked, straightening. He cocked an eyebrow in Stiles’ direction, mouth in a carefully unhappy line.

Stiles threw his hands up. “Making me look bad! You should have told me that you were getting her something.”

Derek moved his head in a curious position. “Why would I do that?” He stepped forward, just shy of being too close. “The point is to make you look bad; it’s not like I want her to like you.”

He walked off then, following after Lydia. Stiles stood for a minute, watching him go, before jumping back into action. He yelled at Derek’s back, “Oh, it is on! Truce over, you’re going down!”
--
The next day, Stiles showed up with a statistics book titled “Naked Statistics”, knowing that it would be more thoughtful that whatever Derek decided to get her. He had to drive two hours away, to a mall on the cusp of another, much larger, town. It was supposed to be a lax book about statistics in theory. He was certain she would appreciate him noticing how smart she was.

Derek held a bag in his hand, black and white with the word Sephora on it. Make-up. Stiles snorts, rolling his eyes. Derek shoots him a look, not even seeing what Stiles has, because Stiles has it stashed away, because Stiles knows how to do a surprise.

“Do you really think she wants make-up?” Stiles said, even though there was a small part of him that was slightly worried that yes, Lydia did want make-up.

Derek’s hands closed slightly tighter around his bag. “It’s not about the make-up.” He grits out.

“Oh, then tell me what’s it about? What else is Sephora selling?”

He doesn’t grace him with a response, just settles his weight on his other foot. Stiles’ fights the urge to tell him about what he got her, and what it meant, and how it would be so much better than shitty make-up. He leans against the locker close to Lydia’s, waiting for her to come striding over. She was wearing a green dress today, one that reminded him of the dress he first saw her in, back in third grade.

Stiles was certain it was love the second she flounced onto the playground.

He holds in his snicker when Lydia gets close, watching her strike up and eyebrow with hesitant eyes at Derek. He takes an eager step forward, even though she doesn’t slow for him. “I noticed that you used to use a more honey-tone highlighter. I think it matched your skin well, and I thought that you may not have had time to run out and grab more, with beating everyone’s ass at finals last semester.”

And, oh. Stiles is momentarily surprised by how good he thinks that gift is. Derek must have had some brain cells to rub together because it was perceptive of him to also notice that she changed her make-up around the same time the teachers started to double up their workload.

She looks at the bag he offers, throwing her hair back. “I stopped using it because it was irritating my skin. Perhaps ask if you’re going to try to buy me something that I’d be wearing.” Lydia doesn’t even take the bag.

Stiles grins a loopy grin, all but falling over in his haste to get his book bag off his shoulders and the book in his hand. She does pause for him, but it’s probably because his gawky limbs stopping her from getting into her locker. With the book finally free, he opted to drop his bag and extend his hand.

“I thought you might find this interesting.” He said, rather pleased with himself.

Lydia reached up one perfectly-manicured hand and took the book, looking at the cover. She sighed softly. “I’ve already read it. It is quite interesting, but one of the more rudimentary books on statistics.” She moved to give it back to him, and Stiles deflated like a balloon.

She paused momentarily, hand still suspended in the air. “Perhaps, you could read it and we could talk about it.” Lydia shrugged delicately. “If you have anything interesting to say about it.”

Stiles stood there shocked, open-mouthed and frozen while she gathered her things. It wasn’t until she had said, “Goodbye, boys.” that he snapped back, shouting that he would finish it quickly.

He counted the day as a win to himself.
--
The next day, Stiles brought in a small, knitted stoat. It had a white coat, with black jewels for eyes. It was tiny and beautiful and he was certain she would find it pretty enough. He also thought the animal to be a good metaphor.

Stiles had learned how to knit with his mother, so the gift was very close to him. She always created beautiful blankets for him when she would knit, or scarves or little toy dolls. He remembered vividly when she got sick how he tried his hardest to finish a blanket for her before she passed. He failed, and had subsequently tossed the hobby for a few years. Stiles only picked it back up because instead of making him upset anymore, it caused him to feel close to his mother again.

He carried it carefully to stand near her pretty, red car, hoping that she would put it in her passenger seat and treat it with care. Unfortunately, Derek also waited there. Stiles peered over at him, noticing he held nothing. His face was mainly impassive, but it twinged in annoyance.

It was Wednesday, Lydia’s party -- which Stiles was only invited to because of Allison -- was on Saturday. Stiles held out hope that he could finish Naked Statistics by then and talk to her about it, next to her pool.

Derek glared as Stiles took up shop on the other side of the car, leaning against the hood. He folded his arms across his chest, leather jacked forgone for a Henley. Stiles noted his toned muscles, sometimes tightening underneath the cotton, and felt mildly scared and appreciative of his workout routine.

“Why did you get her a weasel?” He asked, voice barely holding in the disgust.

Stiles scoffed at him. “It’s a stoat.” He said scathingly. He takes back the compliment to Derek’s body, if he’s brain is really that dense. “Much better than a weasel.”

“Could’ve fooled me, the knitting is too poorly done to see the difference.” Derek says defensively. “Did you know that they can’t have more than one male in their territory?” He asks, sounding awfully like Stiles.

“Of course.” Stiles replied, smiling broadly. While he was surprised that Derek knew the behavior of the animal, it did make him nervous that he couldn’t see the difference in knitting style. What if Lydia thought it was a ferret of some sort?

She had to pass him to get to her car, but she seemed to be interested in what he was holding. It made Stiles feel marginally less guilty for holding up her day. “What’s that?” She asked cautiously.

“It’s a stoat.” Stiles repeated, this time with no menace in his voice. “They’re like ferrets, but much tougher in my opinion. They’re also one of the only rodents that travel alone, making them extremely independent, which reminded me of you.”

Lydia plucked it from his hand, settling it gently to stroke down the pattern. Something inside Stiles preened at how she considered it. “You know, they’re also connected heavily to ancient witchcraft in Ireland. Namely, a secondary appearance for a banshee.” His brain quickly analyzed what she said and he stumbled over his words in apology. She smiled up at him, the kind of smile she would give Jackson while he talked about lacrosse.

“Thank you, Stiles.” She said, voice soft. He felt his insides melt, dopey grin stretching his face at her calling him by name.

Stiles couldn’t help a glance over in Derek’s direction, to see if he saw how badly he was losing, but he was eyeing the stoat in her hand. He looked especially contemplative, an unhappy set to his mouth.

She stepped away while his attention wasn’t focused, walking towards her driver door, towards Derek. Stiles almost left, just because he had accomplished what he wanted -- to give her something she enjoyed. But he stayed, mostly to see what Derek would give her.

This time, he pulled out a book. Stiles almost interjected that he guessed Derek was taking a page from his book, hah! He stopped himself because Derek had shown him the courtesy enough to not say anything while Lydia was speaking to him.

Lydia eyed the cover when he handed it over, not saying anything. Perhaps he thought his strong and silent facade were more likely to win him honors towards Lydia, when his brain couldn’t keep par with hers. She scanned the front, ghost of a smile remaining from Stiles still on her lips. She looked up from it, to Derek’s face, before thanking him as well.

“My family has a lot of mythology, from various places around the world. They like to travel often.” He returned her praise with a warm smile. “If you would ever like to look at some other editions, you’re always welcome over at the sanctuary.”

Stiles suddenly scowled, twisting his face towards Derek in a truly unattractive way. He had forgotten that Derek lived on an animal rescue sanctuary, the kind for all abused animals. It just made him seem so much better, made Stiles feel bad for recalling the truce, almost.

That was, until Lydia perked up and responded. “That actually sounds great. I’ve been meaning to talk to Laura about the admissions process to Berkeley -- I heard that’s where she applied? -- and I would love to. Do you think I could come over tomorrow?”

The smug grin that broke out on his face seemed unholy to Stiles, who suddenly felt thirty times smaller and so, so much worse for having stood and listened in. “Of course, you can follow me after school in your car, or come by later in the day.” Derek chuckled slightly, the sound like warm honey. “You probably know where it is.”

Lydia nodded, side-stepping him carefully. Once in her car, she rolled her window down slightly, just enough to let them both hear her speak. “I do find it interesting how connected both of your gifts were.”

And then she pulled out of her spot, gliding smoothly out of the parking lot. “What was your book about?” Stiles found his mouth asking without his permission.

Derek glanced over to him, apparently in too much of a good mood to shoot back something foul. “It was about the Goddesses of celtic witchcraft.”

Stiles raised an eyebrow at him. “Where did you get that from? Also, is it real stories of the Irish?”

“Well, yes, I wouldn’t pawn off some half-baked idea book from a foreigner to her.” His hand went up to rub his face and Stiles wondered if he was already getting stubble.

He laughed slightly. “Lydia would be able to tell if you did.”

“You’re probably right.” Derek chuckled. “My uncle went to Ireland to learn more about selkies, and picked up a few books along the way.”

“That’s...pretty cool.” Stiles stuck to nodding, unsure of the conversation. It felt strange to interact with Derek in a non-competitive sense.

Derek shrugged. “He gave me one of them, and Laura and Cora others. It’s nice and all, and was an interesting read, but wasn’t really in my field of enjoyment.” He paused. “I prefer reading tales about the lusion.”

“Lusion?” Stiles before his brain caught up. “Oh, like a werewolf.”

He looked at Stiles, appreciative glimmer in his eye. Stiles caught himself warm under the silent praise, confused as to why it would make him happy. “Yes, like a werewolf. Do you have a favorite folklore?”

Stiles considered it for a minute, feeling like he was going to be late on starting dinner. “I like the yako -- or generally, everything in that subfield.”

Derek’s eyebrows furrowed in, obviously trying to figure out what type of creature Stiles was referring to, and where it came from. “Yako?” He said, cautiously.

Waving his hand dismissively, Stiles replied, “Yeah, yako or nogitsune. Like a mischievous kitsune, or a tricky fox. It’s folklore from Japan, a belief that foxes were incredibly intelligent creatures that held magic and --”

“I know what the nogitsune is.” Derek interrupted him. “I’ve just never heard someone refer to that as a yako. It must be a less common name, which why someone would use I have no idea. I wouldn’t doubt that Lydia finds you rather trying.”

What? Stiles blinked at him, fury flaring in him quickly. He imagines punching that perfect jawline, most likely breaking his hand in the process. He stomps closer, just a few feet, before crossing his arms. “Well, at least I can keep up with her.” He says nastily, watching Derek’s calm face melt away.

Stiles marches off before Derek can realize what he said and beat him to a pulp. He drives home angrily, not realizing he had cried a little until he parked and wiped his face. He shook his head, knocking it down to him accusing Stiles of being too much for Lydia and that getting to him.

That night, while complaining on the phone to Scott, he got the best bro advice he needed. “Well, since he’s trying to one-up you so bad, why don’t you let him?”

“Dude, how is that going to help me?” Stiles literally saw nothing good coming from it.

“I mean, let him think that you’ve given up -- you said that Lydia’s going over to his place right?” Scott argued. “Let him think you think that you’ve lost, and then he’ll stop trying to out-do you. Then, at her party, you can give her something huge. And she’ll be so blown away, and he’ll look like an idiot because he wouldn’t have tried as hard.”

Stiles thought about it for a second, nibbling on his pen at his desk. “Hm. That could work. But I don’t want Lydia to think that I’ve given up on her.”

“Then keep giving her gifts, but small things. Things that are thoughtful, but tiny?” Scott suggested. “That’s what I did with Allison when I thought she was going to try and date that Matt guy. I gave her small gifts so she knew I was into her but she didn’t feel like I was pressuring her. He gave her all these outlandish gifts, including his really expensive camera.”

Laughing, Stiles responded. “That’s right -- and wasn’t there like, a hundred pictures Allison hadn’t agreed to of herself on it?”

“Yeah. She was pretty much done with giving him a chance after that.”

“And then it was all smooth sailing in Lovesville.” Stiles rattled off, not wanting another account of how Scott and Allison found each other. “But Lydia actually likes the big and the bold.”

“Yeah, but imagine if you put all your efforts into one huge, amazing gift.” He argued. “That’s gotta be easier and better than a bunch of kinda great gifts.”

“Okay but what would I get her?”

“I don’t know, why not ask Allison?” Stiles controlled his urge to roll his eyes at Scott’s go-to answer.

So, about a half and hour later, and a conversation around firearms their dads owned, Stiles finally asked. “So, what do you think Lydia wants for her birthday?”

“Is this about that insane gift war you’re in with Derek?” Allison asked, laughing.

Stiles groaned. “Did she tell you about it?”

“No, it’s what the whole school’s been talking about for a week. There’s a rumor it’s for prom.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Stiles cried. “And yes, the end game is for prom. So will you help me?”

“Well, Lydia likes a lot of things, especially pretty and thoughtful things.” Allison hummed into the phone, not responding for a bit.

“Oh!” She finally gasped. “What about a kitten?”

Chapter Text

Derek continued on for the next two days, looking mighty happier on Thursday. Stiles did his best not to sneer at him, or stoop to anything that could be considered crude. He wasn’t above letting him know that she only wanted him for his books, however.

He scoffed right at Stiles. “At least she wants something from me. What does she want from you?”

And well, that stung. Stiles created a small origami bird, black with white feather details drawn on, the night before -- after several hours of youtube tutorials. He was proud of how it turned out, mostly giving her the gift to show that he could put time into something.

Derek held a bag, waiting by her locker, but this one held no logo. Stiles eyed it suspiciously, being careful not to say anything. He was on a roll that Stiles did not want to be caught under. “What’s up with all the animals you keep giving her?”

“Don’t you think they’re pretty?” Stiles responded to the question with a question.

Scowling, Derek answered. “Animals are much more pretty when they’re animated. And don’t try and divert my question by asking me something different. My uncle Peter does the same thing and I can’t stand it.”

Stiles smirked. “It sounds like your uncle is a smart man. I think we would get along.”

“Yeah, two egos too big for the body they live in.” He whispered harshly. “Sounds like a real party.”

“At least he’d probably be more fun than you.” Stiles shot back. “Ever heard of emotionally constipated?”

“Ever heard of annoying?”

“Well, at least I’m not full of shit.” Stiles was beginning to see red. He saw Lydia round the corner, and in his anger, walked straight up to her and dumped the bird into her shocked palm.

“Have a good day,” He told her tartly before stalking off.

He made sure to spend an extra few minutes behind class to ensure he wouldn’t walk outside and see Lydia getting ready to follow Derek to his house -- or worse, ride with Derek to his house. Scott waited outside his classroom, asking if Stiles would mind staying for a bit and practicing lacrosse with him? Oh, and also, afterwards driving Scott to Allison’s?

“Yeah, sure.” Stiles said absently.

“Really, man?” Scott said gratefully. “Thanks!” He shoved his gym bag into Stiles’ chest, causing him to stumble back and blink owlishly at the affronting carrier.

“What’s this for?”

Scott stopped his brisk turn away, looking stuck in an awkward freezeframe. “We’re going to practice lacrosse? Weren’t you listening to me?”

He considered lying for a moment, before realizing what a horrific idea that was. “No, I’m sorry, dude. What did you say? And I can’t do any lacrosse practice today -- I didn’t bring any of my gear.”

“Oh, that’s fine, I guess.” Scott looked like a wounded puppy, hopeful and fearful. “Would you still mind taking me to Allison’s around six? My bike is in the shop.”

“That’s fine. We can go home and play Zelda before I take you?”

And just like that, Scott is cool again. He chats about something Allison’s mom told her while they drive home. She’s apparently planning on taking Allison down to Brazil for two weeks during the summer and Allison is fairly certain that if he makes a good impression, he could go too.

Stiles says all the right things, how fun Brazil could be, how he didn’t think anyone could hate Scott, how a couple’s vacation will be just what they need. He’s a little rubbed raw by how Derek called him annoying, but he tries to brush it off. I mean, how could a guy with no social skills really judge someone who ran their mouth too much?

“That’s fair, I guess, but why are you talking about Derek?” Scott’s response to his inward monologue almost has him driving off the road. Good thing they’re right next to his driveway.

“Was I speaking out loud again?” Stiles asked sheepishly, looking for a topic change.

Scott laughed. “Yeah, you were. You were saying that Derek can’t call you annoying when he doesn’t even talk.”

He fidgets in his seat. “Yes, but, no, like he is really calm and collected and that’s cool but it also makes him a stick in the mud. But what if Lydia would prefer some stick in the mud rather than me?” Stiles swallows, rationalizing that his general hurt over Derek’s statement must have been because of the possibility of Lydia agreeing with him. “Do you think she finds me annoying?”

“Yes?” Scott at least had the decency to appear abashed. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing though -- Allison definitely sees me as a sap.”

“But that’s cute!” Stiles complained. Loudly.

“And Lydia might think your personality is cute.” He shrugged, moving to grab his book bag out of the back seat. “Why else wouldn’t she have stopped you from trying to get with her after all these years?”

While he made a valid point, it didn’t stop Stiles for sulking for a good forty-five minutes. It was only when Scott offhandedly mentioned that the wild kittens from the vet were vaccinated and old enough to be taken into a good home, with a meaningful look to Stiles, is when he really earned his bro-card back.
--
The next day rolled around and Stiles got a book on the discussion and parody of Jane Eyre. It was a gift that he pulled from his ass, more of something he was planning on giving her after they had read it in one of their classes and it was considered normal to. He didn’t even know if she had already read it.

Derek glared at him from across the lunchroom, as he brandished his gift for Lydia. He wasn’t planning on staying for last period, namely ditching to fill out some paperwork at the vet’s clinic. Stiles hoped that his dad was working late and thus wouldn’t notice him having a kitten stowed in their house for like, one night.

He thought he could escape by the teeth of his skin, but no dice. He was in the home stretch of getting out of the hell-hole that is school when he felt someone slam his body to the closest locker. Stiles’ natural instinct was to close his eyes, okay. He didn’t like to face is problems, would like to pretend the inevitable didn’t exist for him.

When he finally managed to crack his eyes open a little, there stood Derek Hale, fist in his shirt. He was working his jaw like he was chewing something tough, bone strong in Stiles’ opinion. “I think this is the first time that you’d ever gotten physical with me.” He said with a nervous laugh.

“What did you give Lydia?” He demanded.

Stiles blinked, leaning his head back. “Why do you want to know?” He attempted to appear nonchalant.

“Because I saw it was a book.” Derek responded forcefully. It seemed then that his ability to communicate through verbal means was exhausted, as he looked away. The hand in his shirt didn’t loosen though.

“I would love to stay around and chat -- trust me, being thrust up against a locker by a demigod is nice and all. Even when said demi-god is my rival and also completely incompetent in the social world. But. But, I have somewhere to be. So, so, sorry for cutting this short.” Stiles attempted to wiggle out his grasp.

It was a futile effort, but an effort all the same. He huffed, frustrated. Deaton was closing shop at 4:30 today, letting Scott come in to check on any extra things. But he needed an actual vet’s signature, and he wasn’t going to get it in time for Lydia’s birthday. “Okay, yes! It was a book, it was a parody on Jane Eyre, with some analysis thrown in to keep her interested in it. Why?”

“Oh, that’s fine.” His grip loosened significantly, but he didn’t put space between their bodies. “I got her a play-by-play book on The Doll’s House.”

Stiles tilted his head back and laughed. “What made you think I would accidently get the same gift as you? There’s thousands upon thousands of books out and about.”

Derek shifted uncomfortably, readjusting his hold on Stiles. “Well, it is a good book for Lydia.”

“Except for her love interest knows she’s smart as all get out.” Stiles murmured.

“It’s not hard to see -- if people were looking for it.”

Stiles fixed him with a look, his body loosening automatically during the conversation despite the physical closeness. “And why would someone look for that in someone that has never seemed that way before?”

He sighed. “People can be notoriously good at hiding things when they want to.” Derek’s eyes softened marginally, and Stiles found himself scanning his face. What was he talking about?

Abruptly, Derek released Stiles. “Sorry for keeping you.” Back to stoic around him, Stiles sees.

He shrugged his close back into a more fitting position, cricking his neck to make it appear as if he wasn’t disturbed that Derek could hold him so easily. “It’s fine -- but, next time, calling my name will work fine. Okay?”

“Will it?”

Stiles laughed a slight bit. “Fair enough.” He was never one to cut conversation short, but he shouldered up his backpack, and without so much as a goodbye, strolled away. He was pretty damn proud of himself for that.
--
Sitting on his floor that night, giving the furball some wet food, he couldn’t shake the idea that Derek wasn’t exactly happy. He seemed upset, and distant, and relieved when Stiles talked to him, but not happy. Shouldn’t he be?

Stiles heard from Allison that Lydia had made plans to go back to the Hale sanctuary/home the next week, to read some more. Derek was getting precious time with her, time to see her -- possibly -- take off her mask. He was getting to talk to her without being considered the worst creep ever.

So why did he seem so upset when talking to Stiles?

Shaking off his thoughts, he put the little furball in a box with a blanket. It had huge, pale blue eye and a white body. There was only a few inches of black, one right above her mouth, overlapping her nose and one that made it look like she had stuck her paw in an inch of ink. She meowed at him when he put her down, blinking forlornly up at him.

Stiles’ heart nearly broke, and almost scooped her up and deposited her into his bed. But Deaton had been firm, that he should only be as kind as he had to so that way she wouldn’t resent Lydia for taking her away from him.

He headed to bed.
--
The next day was a wreck of nerves for Stiles. He suddenly realized how bad a living animal could be for a present. What if Lydia didn’t like animals? What if she was allergic to cats? Would she want to take care of it?

Would she think he was just giving her the gift of responsibility? What would he do if she told him to take it back? How would he take care of the thing?

In a fit of nervous energy, he called up Danny -- who was the closest to Lydia, sanz Allison. He didn’t call Allison, because she would be insistent on, “Who couldn’t love a kitten?”

At least Danny would be reasonable. He answered on the third ring, just when Stiles started to truly worried he wasn’t going to. “I figure you have a good reason to call me, Stiles?”

He started spluttering over the phone, having to get Danny’s number from Allison. “How did you know it was me?”

“How did you know it was me?” Danny countered, but that wasn’t a fair point. Stiles had got his number almost a year ago, back when he was almost going to give up Lydia. Her and Jackson had seemed to be progressing great -- and Stiles, Stiles didn’t want to be alone forever.

And Danny had such nice skin, and a great smile. It didn’t hurt that he also was as smart as a whip.

“Okay, whatever.” Stiles muttered. “I have a question.”

“I figured.” The words were kinda harsh, but he said them in such a warm tone that Stiles barely felt like he was bothering Danny.

“Do you think Lydia likes animals?”

Danny paused for a moment, letting Stiles’ heart skyrocket as he looked at the kitten on his kitchen floor, ducking between chair legs. “I think so? I know she would love to have something to take care of -- she loves projects.” He chuckled into the receiver.

“I think she would love to have something to love.” Stiles agreed easily.

“Her first love will always be to her books, but yeah. Something along those lines.”

“You mean, right after Jackson.” Stiles joked, but also wanted Danny to confirm that she was one hundred percent done with Jackson.

“Nah, I don’t believe anyone will take up more space in her heart than her books.” Danny said, sounding like he was in on a grand joke. “I’ll see you at the party I figure?”

“Yeah,” he responded, absently. He wondered how he was going to package the little one. “I’ll see you there.”

She was a hard one to chase around the slippery floor in his socks, barely managing to catch her before slamming into the countertops. She was easily excited and playful, and Stiles loved her enough for both him and Lydia. However, Lydia would definitely be able to discipline her better than Stiles ever could.

He settled on putting her in a big box, huge in fact. He wanted her to have plenty of space to not freak out in. The holes on the sides were big enough for her to get oxygen, but not big enough to be noticeable. Unless someone was looking for them.

The party started at nine, and Stiles pulled up at nine fifteen. The idea of being the first one there excited him but, more importantly, scared him shitless. So he arrived fifteen minutes late, just to see a good hundred people already present.

He could have let himself in, he knew Lydia kept her house open during these types of parties. Instead, he rang the doorbell, hoping she would come and grab it. Luck be on his side, she did. She was wearing a black number, skin-tight enough for Stiles to feel his palms get sweaty but covering enough that he didn’t pop an unfortunate one.

Lydia’s eyes widen almost comically at the size of his present, smile frozen on her face. Stiles ducked from around it, glee written on every inch of him. He sat it down right there in the doorway, it almost reaching her knees -- while she was in high heels. “Hello, Stiles.” She said, her voice slightly tight.

“Hi, Lydia.” He rubbed the back of his head. “I was wondering if you would do me the favor of opening my gift, just real quick?”

He had only put the lid on the box in his car, but he was already getting paranoid that the little furball was suffocating. Lydia looked at him for only a moment more, before moving one delicate shoulder up to indicate that she would.

She took the lid off, and was immediately attacked by two tiny paws. Her bracelet dangled down, giving the kitten something to play with. Stiles couldn’t help but hear the tiny, delighted gasp that escaped her mouth. She picked up the kitten the best she could, it chewing on her silver bracelet.

“Thank you,” She said softly. He watched her eyes melt into something beautiful, something genuine and he felt his heart tug some type of awful. Stiles was certain this was love, and had certainly never seen that look on her face when she looked at Jackson.

Then his world came crashing down. “She’s just as beautiful as the puppy Derek got me.”

“Derek got you a puppy?” Stiles found himself asking.

Lydia nodded happily. “She’s a little mutt, with pretty blonde hair and the softest paws. I’m sure they’ll get along wonderfully.”

He forced himself to swallow, smile and nod. “I’m sure too.”

The kitten curled closer to her chest, pushing the bracelet up her wrist. “I’m going to go put her up in my room, like the puppy. It’s the only safe place in the house -- I keep it locked. Will you put the box in the living room on your way out back?”

“Can do,” he said, giving her a mock salute.

She watched him with amusement. “Oh, and if you want to, you can always come find me to talk to me about Naked Statistics.”

It made him feel better, and he walked a little more upright while heading towards the outside. He saw Derek Hale in the kitchen, talking to some guy, propped up on the counter with a beer. Stiles watched him carefully, doing his best to avoid contact. He would hate to ruin his good mood on talking to him.

Outside, he grabbed a drink from the punchbowl, noting the slightly rough taste. Stiles carefully sipped it, doing his best not to be so tipsy he would be an endangerment to anyone while he was getting home.

Nevertheless, he did have a good thrum of energy in his veins when he spotted Lydia near the pool. She was talking with a few senior girls, smiling as she nodded along. Stiles would bet that she was asking about college, which the girls would probably thank him from saving them from. He walked over, most of the girls wandering off before he made his way around the pool.

“Hey, Lydia.” He smiled at her, watching her watch the water in the pool.

She looked up at him, a slight smile on her features. “Hi, Stiles.”

“Were you talking to them about college?” He asked, just as a way to get a conversation rolling.

“Yeah, I think it’s best to know all my options.”

“Anywhere would be stupid not to take you.” Stiles took a deep breath of chlorine in. While a few people had opted to swim, and other were jumping in on a drunken dare, the pool was mostly empty. “Besides, we still have a good year before you can do anything about it.”

“That’s if you don’t want to be preemptive.” She waved her hand, taking a small sip from her Sprite. Apparently she had opted to not drink the infused punch. “Early bird gets the worm and all that.”

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Stiles responded. “Fair enough. Do you know what you want to do?”

“I would love to do something about mythology, maybe be a transcriber. It would be amazing to travel around the world and learn what creatures people think -- and used to think -- that walked around.” Her voice took on a passionate note. “But I’ll probably do something safer, something with biology or medicine or engineering.”

“I think you could do a double major.” He was confident even as he said it. “Maybe do a language major and then one of the more “safe” options. Then you could go anywhere they speak that language and do your job and get to enjoy learning about folklore.”

“You really think so?” She asked softly, stepping slightly closer. Stiles felt his heartbeat into overdrive, ready to say that he thinks she’s capable of literally anything -- and fucking mean it, mind you -- when someone tugs his arm, hard.

“What the hell,” he cries, his punch sloshing on his feet. Turning he sees Derek, who looks agitated, no, who looks pissed. “Let go of me.”

“I need to talk to you.” He hissed, not even realizing that Lydia was standing right there and that he was making a complete ass of himself.

“We can talk later. I’m in the middle of something.” Stiles insisted, tugging hard. “So let me go.”

With a huff of disgust, and a look to match Hades in Hercules, Derek pushed him with the brute force of his hold on his arm. Stiles stumbled back, hoping that he could keep from hitting Lydia. He was almost certain that she was watching this altercation, analyzing it and enjoying it.

He smacked into a body after one missed side-step and then it was gone. A wet splash was heard, and Stiles turned in horror. Even Derek seemed frozen.

Lydia was coming up for air, her dress, hair, and makeup ruined. Her face was that of complete shock, and Stiles was certain he was going to die. Apologies were spilling from his lips as he tried to offer help. She ignored his hand a dragged herself out with her own sheer force. Derek looked as terrified as he felt.

They followed her quickly as her wet heels carried her back into the house. Everyone else seemed to be having too much of a great time to notice the birthday girl looking like a wet dog. Stiles and Derek shot each other a look, scurrying after her and glaring at anyone who dared to stare. She got up to her room, pulling a key from a necklace, before either of them tried to speak again.

“Lydia, I'm really --”

“I swear I didn't mean --”

“Leave me alone,” she cried, whirling around. Before Derek or Stiles could so much as breathe, she was yelling. “I didn't ask for both of you to follow me around, I didn't ask for you two to obsess over me. I can't take it anymore! I don't want a relationship! I've never wanted it! I don't want sex! I don't want anything from you two besides those precious babies inside and for you to leave me alone!”

She pushed her way inside her room, slamming the door behind her. Stiles took a few steps back in shock, bumping his back into Derek's chest. “This is your fault,” Stiles says, sour. He turns to see Derek looking at him through a veil of panic.

“That wasn't supposed to happen!” He said through short breaths. “Now what am I going to do? What am I going to say to Laura?”

Stiles typically felt for people going through a panic, but this was really and truly because Derek couldn't control his temper. “Well, it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't have pushed me.”

“I was trying to get your attention.” He claims, stepping back to glare at Stiles.

“You could have used your words instead of being a caveman and using your hands.”

“I'll show you using my hands, you annoying piece of shit.”

And truly, Stiles should have saw it coming. It wasn't really a surprise. Still, he didn't move to block the punch before the blackout.

It was going to make something ugly of a bruise.

Chapter Text

Stiles did what he thought was best -- he began to avoid Lydia. His cheekbone throbbed painfully on Monday, as he made his way out of his Jeep. A couple of people stopped and stared, probably having heard the story of him getting decked. Or maybe they heard from Derek how Lydia hated him.

No, Derek wouldn’t have told anyone else because then he would also be admitting that Lydia said she didn’t want to see him.

He stuck close to Scott’s side for the day, keeping his head ducked and avoiding the two people he had, up until recently, been spending a majority of his time around. Once, while interchanging classes, he spotted Lydia, his compliment already on his tongue. She spotted him, eyes widening slightly, before looking dutifully away. His compliment died in his throat.

Derek didn’t appear to be around anywhere, either. Lunch rolled around, and with Stiles sucking it up to sit at his table, he couldn’t help but glance over. He wasn’t really sure when Derek left the party, mainly because he didn’t wake up until he was in his car, Scott driving him home.

They didn’t talk about it, thankfully. No jokes about how Stiles couldn’t take a punch.

The leather-clad students all sat over at their table, Erica joking away at Boyd. Nothing seemed amiss over there, except that there was one gone. Stiles tried to put it out of his mind, knowing that he would be better for it.

His last class he had with Scott, but Isaac and Erica were also in attendance. Stiles, for a brief second of terror, wondered if they would hurt him for Derek. He always seemed like the leader.

It was also the only excuse he had for when Isaac brushed past him and he flinched like he had been electrocuted. Isaac turned, frowning before he saw the huge mess that was Stiles face and looked utterly horrified. Erica gave him a wide berth going in, just seeing how he responded to a simple touch.

And Stiles couldn’t help but feel bad for making Isaac think he was scared of him. He wasn’t scared by Isaac -- no, Isaac was the nice one. He was scared by the much meaner, much more muscular edition of their little pack.

He almost managed to make it the day without anything going amiss, and he was starting to look forward to going home and putting ice on his face as he let the mass of students carry him out into the parking lot. He said bye to Scott quickly, glad that he got his bike back so Stiles didn’t have to play chauffeur.

Walking towards his Jeep felt like the end stretch to freedom, until he saw a particular face stationed next to it. “Oh, hell no.” He swore, mindless that Derek could theoretically mess up his shit again.

He didn’t look particularly happy to be there either, tense shoulders and arms crossed. “Look, I’m not here to hurt you.”

“Say that to my face.”

 

Derek at least had the decency to wince. “That was my fault. I got very upset because things weren’t working and took it out on you.”

“Yeah, you did.” Stiles snorted. “Which isn’t something normal people do. They don’t go around making others their punching bags for their mistakes.” He saw Derek open his mouth for a rebuttal, and he held up his hand. “No, it was your mistake. If you had let me talk to Lydia, or approached like a normal human, or waited until I walked away, or didn’t shove me backwards then I wouldn’t have hit her. She wouldn’t have fell into a pool and realize what a jackass you are -- and, apparently, what a jackass I am -- and maybe still want to date you.”

“Lydia doesn’t want to date me not because I’m a jackass.” Derek huffed. “Can I just explain?”

Stiles crossed his arms. “Sorry, but I’ve got to be headed home. So unless it’s short, then no.”

He ground his teeth together, “Then I call shotgun.”

“What?” Stiles squawked. He watched as Derek wrenched open the passenger seat, and scolded himself for never bothering with locking doors.

He grumbled as he climbed into the driver’s side. “Oh, well I’m not taking you home after you ride with me.”

“That’s fine. I meant to go running this weekend anyway.”

Stiles watched him with disbelief, as he settled into the passenger seat. He looked just as comfortable as he ever did. He threw his Jeep into reverse, being strangely monosyllabic when he finally spoke. “Talk.”

“I was upset at you at the party not because you had a very similar gift for Lydia that I did, or that you were around her when I wasn’t but how you were talking to her.”

Stiles slammed hard on his brakes at the first stoplight, having gone out the back way of the school. “I wasn’t being mean. And hey, I’m allowed to flirt. Just because you like her as well doesn’t mean that you’re the only one allowed to go after her.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Derek growled. “I meant that no one should be flirting with her.”

“What?”

“She’s aseuxal, Stiles.” Derek said, completely serious. “She’s not interested in relationships either, it seems like.”

“What?” Stiles repeated. “What do you mean she’s asexual?”

“I mean, she told my Friday afternoon when I gave her her gift at her car. She told me that she meant to tell while over at my place, because she felt like it was fair to give me something in return for all that I was trying to give her.”

“I think that may be the most I’ve heard you say.” Stiles responded, running mostly on confused shock. “Also, why didn’t you tell me that she was? So I could stop making a fool of myself and making her probably feel uncomfortable.”

“That’s what I was trying to do.” Derek shoots back, frustrated.

“Why did you get her the puppy then?”

“That was a joke.” He looked out the window as the car ghosted along. They were a street away from Stiles’ house. “She told me, ‘the only living thing I’ll ever love will be an animal.’”

Stiles frowned. “But that’s not how asexuality works, is it? She doesn’t just stop loving people.”

“I think she meant more as that’s the only thing she’ll live with, and spend her days with. Instead of a relationship.”

They pulled into his driveway. “So, like aromantic too?” Stiles was trying to let the information settle.

“Or maybe she’s tired of two idiots following after her.”

Stiles grimaced, feeling slightly bad. He wanted to make up for what he did. “Why didn’t she tell me?”

Derek ran a hand over his face. “I was supposed to -- and she probably figured you got her a kitten as a joke like I got her a puppy. She asked me that if I saw you, to tell you.”

Turning to look at him, Stiles had to really reign him into not start yelling. “Then why didn’t you tell me when I was in the kitchen? You looked dead at me!”

“I was busy.” His gaze shifted away, face flushing a shade of red. Stiles wondered what would have kept him so busy in the kitchen. “Anyway,” He began again, straightening his shoulders. “I wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t quite catch that.” Stiles goaded.

“I’m trying to apologize.”

“You’re trying to what?”

Derek released a long exhale of air. “Stiles.”

“Present.” Stiles grinned momentarily, enjoying the rise he was getting. Then he remembered, with a sharp pang from his moving cheekbone, the subject matter at hand. “I do wish I had a way to apologize to Lydia.”

“Just apologize to her?” He suggested.

“No, are you crazy?” He looked at him like Derek was. “She made it very clear that she didn’t want us to talk to her.”

“I talked to her today.”

Stiles felt a panic on the edge of his fingertips. “How did it go?”

“Fine.” he shrugged. “She told me that she named the dog Hedda, and that things got very out of hand at the party.”

“You’re telling me.” Stiles muttered.

“Just try and apologize.” Derek urged. “No gifts, no under-hands to try and get with her, just say sorry.”

He went to open the passenger door, apparently ready to leave the conversation. Right before he swung it close, to leave Stiles alone with his thoughts, he ducked his head back in. “Oh, and I invited Scott over to practice lacrosse with Isaac, Boyd and me on Wednesday. You should come.”

Stiles sucked in air, ready to say something about that, but Derek was loping off before he could find any words.
--
Wednesday rolled around, and sadly enough, Stiles drove behind Scott to Derek’s. What was even more sad, however, was the fact that he had yet to speak to Lydia. She sat with them in the lunchroom on Tuesday, and his courage deflated like a balloon. He scooped up his things and hurried towards the exit.

He felt eyes on him the entire way, and did his best to ignore the corner that was dominated by Derek Hale and gang.

Wednesday he didn’t even go to the lunch room. There was just too much he wanted to say, didn’t know how to say, and was scared that she wouldn’t take it as genuine. He hid in the library, nervous energy crawling all over his skin.

He’d argue up and down that that’s why he chose to go to Derek’s place, a chance to hang out with other people and use that energy for something. But now that Stiles was here, it felt like he was being used -- as a punching bag.

For the third, or maybe fourth time, Boyd plowed through him like he was nothing. Isaac trotted over, after a hasty time-out called by Scott, to lift him up. “Are you okay?”

Stiles tried to shake himself out. “Yeah, I’m fine.” It was three against one -- Isaac, Stiles and Scott against Boyd and Derek. And despite the larger number, they were losing. Bad. He was failry certain it was because Scott and Stiles were both bench warmers for the team and thus didn’t even make up one person with Isaac.

They increased the field size, saying that the extra length made it okay for there not to be goalies. A large portion of Stiles whined at that, feeling as if he could be a good blocker. The group was playing on a field that usually was a place for them to walk the few horses that the sanctuary owned.

He stretched up, feeling a swell of a bruise on his ribs. Wincing, a sharp pang went through his face. It was starting to get a slightly less dark shade of blue around the edges, but still hurt with direct pressure or moving.

Isaac hit him on the shoulder once and then moved over to Boyd. He was probably scolding him for hurting such a fragile bag of bones in a lacrosse jersey. He moved to grab his stick from the ground, straightening out as he saw Derek come towards him.

“I’m okay.” He said, noticing how guilty Derek looked whenever he so much glanced Stiles’ way.

“Perhaps it would be better for you to not try the head-on approach anymore.” Derek suggested. “You’re fast enough, but you don’t have any bulk to stop someone. Why don’t you try a side attack, or dragging someone down from behind?”

“Because that means I’d have to catch up with them.”

“It also means that you won’t get steam-rolled.” He said, with a smirk on his face.

Stiles found himself laughing, the idea of Boyd being a literally steamroller in a jersey for some reason hilarious to him. He nodded, a grin on his face, before they began again. Stiles attempted Derek’s tip, most of the time hitting the ground after getting a slight grip on Boyd or Derek’s shirt.

It was only near the end, when Isaac, Scott and him had definitely lost that it worked out for him. Derek had managed to intercept a toss from Scott to Isaac and was gunning it back towards Boyd. Isaac was quick on him, and Boyd -- instead of taking the ball -- slammed into Isaac to toss him onto the ground.

Derek kept running, which meant that Stiles, who was trying to catch Boyd, was slightly in front of him. The overwhelming urge to try and do what Boyd did flooded him, but instead he ran until he was slightly behind Derek and then did a quick turn around.

Stiles was aware if he didn’t take his shot soon, that Derek would have outrun him. He didn’t reach for the shirt, instead jumping to embrace the man around the middle. He felt his arms wrap around the torso, tucking his head as close as he could get it before dropping his weight.

Derek stumbled, and Stiles shifted to push him, causing him to collapse under Stiles. He landed with his head on Derek’s chest, hands sprawled in the dirt around him. The ball rolled out of his net, away from the two. Stiles scrambled up, staring at Derek. Derek looked back, impressed as Stiles tilted his head back and whooped in joy. “I did it!” he said breathless. “I managed to…”

And then Boyd slammed right into him, stumbling and falling right on top of both. Stiles, now mostly blind with his head pressed against Derek, felt an extra weight added after Boyd and grunted. It seemed like it was dog pile time and he got an unfortunate position at the bottom. It only took a few seconds before he started squealing, “Get off! Get off -- I can’t breathe!”

The weight rolled away slowly, until it was just him on Derek. He pushed himself off reluctantly, everyone laying in the grass. Scott was nearby, running his hand through the sweaty mop of hair that he owned. It gave him some small satisfaction to know that Scott got what he wanted out of this game.

Isaac rolled, getting onto his knees and twisting to fix his back. “Do you know if you’re staying for dinner?”

Scott groaned. “No, I’ve got to get over to Allison’s after grabbing a shower. Her family wants to take me to a shooting range.”

Wincing, Stiles joked, “Is this a helpful threat for when you get out of line?” It earned him a chuckle from his right, Derek.

“Nah, they want to make sure that I can protect myself while in Brazil -- if I do get to go with Allison.”

“Well, what about you, Stiles?” Isaac said, switching subjects.

“What about me?” His brain was running on empty, okay?

Derek turned slightly, close enough that he didn’t actually need to move. “Do you want to stay for dinner?” He asked, softly.

His father was running a double tonight, probably not to be home until around four or five in the morning. And he didn’t really feel like take-out. And it would be nice to eat with others for once. “Do you want me to?”

“You should. Erica’s coming over, and Mrs. Hale makes a really, really good lasagna.” Isaac chipped.

Stiles shrugged, like it was nothing to him either way. “Sure, if you’re cool with it.” He wondered idly if Derek was doing this in some roundabout make-up apology. Sitting on the thought, he waited until everyone was on their feet and hustling towards the house before he gently grabbed onto Derek’s arm.

“Hey,” Stiles said, quiet and with meaning behind it. “You don’t have to invite me over, or to eat, or anything as a way to say sorry for this.” He waved his hand in front of his face, hoping to convey his message with the blue bruise.

“I know.” Derek responded. Stiles still kept his hand on his arm, hoping that he would -- for once in his life -- elaborate. “You’re not so bad when you’re not talking.”

Stiles opened his mouth to let him know that he would talk as much as he damn well pleased to, when Derek flashed a grin in his direction. A honest to god, full of teeth, grin. It lit up his face, crinkling up in his eyes and stretching his cheeks. He was joking and it was doing something strange to Stiles’ heart.

“Yeah, whatever.” He shoved Derek gently, not even hard enough to sway him. “You love my mouth.” Foot in mouth. Foot in mouth alert, why did he say that? With his face heating up like it was in the seventh circle of hell, he starting walking forward, heedless of Derek’s response. The house neared, like a lighthouse of safety for him to interact and forget his literal death.

Walking in was a swirl of people, Boyd and Isaac folding in perfectly. Stiles nearly bumped four children just on his way into the actual kitchen from the backdoor. Cora was watching them unenthused on the porch, and had told him just to walk in and someone would find him a place to sit.

So he did, and holy shit, he wasn’t even certain that tables were made for families this big anymore. There were three or four more kids in here, as well as seven to eight adults, some sporting a baby and a handful of teenagers. Erica, Boyd and Isaac lingered near the door with two other teens. Stiles cautiously picked his way over there, trying to avoid eye contact with the adults who appeared to be doing nothing.

He was also trying his best to avoid the adults doing something, hoping not to smash into one of them. One was scurrying in and out with different dishes, while another was carrying what appeared to be an actual cart of silverware. There were two men at the stove, while a woman and a man handled the sink. Near the fridge, at the far end of the kitchen, was a woman who was holding a baby and talking with the rest of them.

“Is it usually this crowded?” He asked, after getting close enough to the others. He pressed himself flat to the wall, hoping that he wasn’t intruding on anyone else’s need of space.

One of the other teens laughed, a rich sound. He had dark hair, like Derek’s but a lighter skin tone and dark eyes. “The family’s really big.”

“And, unlike us, most of them are actually Hales.” Erica leaned in close, a secretive grin plastered on her face.

“I am a Hale.” Isaac said, shoving her slightly to get closer to Stiles. “I hope they don’t scare you off. I promise it’s great once you get used to it.”

“I would bet so.” He murmured, watching as the two at the sink laughed. “It’s been my dad and I for a really long time, so I have no idea what a family dinner this size entails.”

“No one typically bleeds.” A voice from behind the teens said. Boyd ghosted away from where he was standing, and Isaac jumped, pulling Erica away too. Stiles remained plastered to the wall. Walking through the entryway was an older man who held a superior air, a casual outfit that looked shy of being too revealing of his physique.

Stiles bit out a nervous laugh, wondering why the other teens had such an aversion to him. He did move like he was some type of predator, with an age old grace that probably came from him either being the oldest or the youngest child. Maybe the smartest. “That’s good...I guess?”

He glanced at Stiles, a sharp blue to look at. “Depends on how you view a fun time.” He shrugged, before continuing. “My name is Peter, I’m almost all of the one’s your age uncle. Which one brought you?”

“Derek.” Stiles said, sounding more sure that he really was. He wanted to be positive Derek wanted him here, and actually brought him, instead of pity inviting him.

“Interesting.” He said, giving Stiles a once-over with slightly more interest. “I’ll have to let Talia know that her son brought home a beaten-up stray again.”

Isaac flinched at that, and even Erica looked upset. He didn’t understand, passing a glance to both of them. The other teen cleared his throat. “Thanks for that, Uncle Peter. But we really don’t want to listen to a geezer.”

For a brief second, the facade of calm slipped off Peter’s face. He scowled angrily before managing to smooth his features out and walk away. “Man, what is his deal?” Stiles asked.

“Got a screw loose or something.” Erica said. “Hey, why don’t we see if Mille needs some help?”

“That’s just your excuse for getting a good seat at the table.” The girl near Boyd accused. Stiles hadn’t even noticed her after first glance, how unassuming she was. She had plain features, brown hair and eyes, with the only notable Hale quality that Stiles could distinguish being her high cheekbones.

“I’m sorry, but who are you?” He asked, before his brain caught up with him, horrified. He just acted like they were the odd ones out here.

They both chuckled though, so all must not be lost. “I’m Jason, and this is my sister Sam.” He gestured between them, and Stiles could only begin to pick up the similarities. They both had dark hair and high cheekbones, and maybe when she smiled he could see if it looked like his. “Our mom is the woman over there with the baby, her name is Josephine.”

“We’re only in here to make sure we can do the things she needs to do. Like, carry dishes and stuff to the main table. Neither of us really want to hold Xavier so we offered to do her piece.”

“Do teenagers not usually help with the meal?” Stiles responded to what she said, seeing as it was more important and easier to find a response to than what Jason said.

“We help afterwards.” Isaac chimed in. “Clearing the table and cleaning up the dishes and putting away the leftovers.”

“It’s a whole operation,” Jason explained. As they spoke, Stiles watched the door swing open to reveal Derek with an older woman that bore striking resemblance to him. Her eyes did a quick sweep of the room -- probably to ensure that everyone was on task and didn’t need help -- before landing in their little corner near the door.

“That’s Aunt Talia, she’s Derek’s mom.” Sam explained.

“Also super scary.” Erica supplied, before shifting so that she wasn’t in Talia’s way to say hello to Stiles. Stiles threw a mental thank you of sarcasm Erica’s way.

She greeted him warmly, enveloping him in a hug. It made him think of her as capable, reminding him slightly of his mother. He didn’t know if she would be able to handle such a heavy crowd though. “You must be Stiles.”

“It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for inviting me to dinner.” Stiles was so uncertain how to act around her, this being the first time that he had been invited over anywhere with parents involved since Scott’s but they’ve been friends since they were like, seven.

“Oh, that was all on Derek.” He almost took it as a jab, but the kindness in her eyes didn’t tighten and she didn’t seem to mean it in any negative way.

“Yeah.” was all he could supply.

“Will you tell me what happened to your face?” She wasn’t one to hedge around anything. Stiles knew it was going to be asked at some point, how every adult had a passing glance of worry towards his features.

He shrugged. “I was invited to a birthday party and things got out of hand and some friends got a little rough.” Stiles had already decided that he wasn’t going to rat Derek out to his family, repaying one good deed with another.

“I see.” Talia said carefully. She didn’t look like she fully believed him. “Well, hopefully those friends have apologized. And if they didn’t, you’re always welcome back here to make new ones.”

Her laugh was a throaty one, as if she had told some private joke. “Lord knows we have a lot of kids.”

Stiles grinned up at her, expression unsure. He didn’t know if it was an all inclusive joke or if it was just for those that knew what having a lot of kids felt like. Erica saved him from having to respond, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “You should do game night with us!”

“What?”