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Salutations or Something

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“Dude, I’m fine. Fine as a fiddle, or whatever that saying is,” Stiles idly clicked through the wikipedia article on Ovid’s Metamorphoses he’d gotten to through a series of link jumps. He couldn’t even remember what he’d originally searched for, he checked the clock, three hours earlier.

Scott made a disbelieving noise, which, over the phone, sounded suspiciously like a wheeze. “Uh, pretty sure that’s fit as a fiddle, Stiles. And since I had to correct you on that clearly you’re not fine.” He sounded incredibly smug about the whole thing. Stiles rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I know you haven’t left the building in days, except for work.”

How did he?

“Charlie sold me out, huh?” Stiles said. He wasn’t surprised, his flatmate was kind of a dick like that.

“Stiles,” Scott sounded serious. So serious Stiles actually took his hand away from the mouse and leaned back in his chair, focusing on the weird water stain that had slowly been spreading on his ceiling since he’d moved into the place after college. “Stiles, seriously, you have to get out of there once in awhile. You should, uh, you should take up yoga!” That level of enthusiasm could only have one source.

“Allison’s suggestion?” Stiles guessed, leaning forward and clicking on another link and grimaced at the picture of a statue of two naked kids sucking on a big dog’s teats. The internet was weird.

“It’s actually pretty cool. You can get crazy flexible, which comes in really handy when-”

“SCOTT!” Stiles was well-versed in the Scott/Allison love connection, he did not need any more nightmare fuel to add to the inappropriate bonfire of things-he-never-wanted-to-know-about-his-best-friend.

Case in point, any sexy times Scott was involved in. The dreamy sighs Stiles had suffered through for an entire semester of their senior year of high school before Scott finally had the balls to talk to Allison were, in hindsight, infinitely preferable to hearing the gory details of what they got up to between the sheets. Which Scott was more than eager to discuss, regardless of Stiles’ quite vocal opinion on the matter.

"Scott, buddy, I'm not going to do yoga just so I can get laid." Stiles typed in yoga and picked a type at random.

“So it’s true, you’re still single,” Scott said in commiseration.

Stiles bit back the first few comments that came to mind, then sighed, “Dude, if I was seeing someone, anyone, don’t you think I’d tell you?”

“But you haven’t been on a date since-“

“Since that time we don’t talk about,” Stiles said quickly, “yes, yes, I know, okay. I am very much aware of how pathetically alone I seem to everyone else around me, but I’m happy-ish, so let’s just stop talking about my utter lack of prospects and get back to this whole yoga thing, all right?” He didn’t really see what the fuss was about, but a few of the videos he pulled up featured some seriously gorgeous people, so Stiles was willing to hear Scott out, especially if he dropped the whole forever alone thing.

         

Turned out, Scott had a lot to say about yoga, and it wasn’t just about his new-found ability to touch his toes, or Allison’s ability to do the splits, which, ew, too much information, but otherwise his friend was a fount of probably-not-very-objective information.

“So you really like this stuff, huh?” Stiles said, watching as two fit women bent and flexed together while a soothing male voice narrated the scene. Kinda different from his normal porn, but it was still nice to watch.

“Yeah, I do, we do. Hey, there’s a studio not far from your apartment, you should take a class!”

Stiles couldn’t stop the smirk, “And just how long have you been planning this intervention, dude? Did Allison put you up to it?” He wouldn’t put it past her, she had a cunning streak a mile wide. It was more than a little disconcerting when she directed her efforts at him.

“Uh, maybe? But that doesn’t matter, anyway! Your dad is worried about you, Stiles. Like, seriously worried. He keeps going over to my mom’s house and talking to her.”

That got Stiles’ attention. “My dad and your mom are spending time together, alone? And you think they’re talking about me?”

“Allison and I are doing great, and you know your dad isn’t happy about you living in Chicago. What else would they be talking about?" Scott said, sounding like he meant every word.

Of course he did. Stiles rubbed a hand down his face and sighed. “Scott, bro, I love you, but you’d better talk to Allison about that one, cause I’m not even going there. I'll talk to you later.”

“Later, Stiles, and remember to look into that yoga place!”

He dropped his phone into the clutter overtaking his desk and flung himself out of the chair onto his mussed bed. The last thing he wanted to think about was his dad’s relationship with Melissa McCall, but of course that was the one thing that kept going through his mind.

Ugh.



The thing was, Stiles knew he was going to go insane if he kept on with his current routine. Work was fine, sometimes exhilarating, even, but by the time he got home it was too dark and, increasingly, too cold to go for a run outside, which meant he had to go down to the lowest level of the apartment building, where the super kept a treadmill in what was optimistically labeled a “workout room.”

It was, in fact, an awkward corner of the slightly dank basement where the floor was too uneven for storage closets. In addition to the treadmill, which was situated on a slight incline that created a steady burn in Stiles’ calves when he ran, there was also a mismatched set of weights, a rusty pull-up bar bolted to the concrete wall, and a cracked mirror propped on the ground beside it. Stiles avoided the rest of the equipment and just used the ancient-looking machine, which actually worked surprisingly well, while he tried not to watch his reflection bob up and down through the spider-webbed pattern of the mirror.

The creepy factor of the workout facilities alone was enough to wear on even the most grounded person, but the fact that Stiles really didn’t leave the building for anything other than work was, he admitted to himself, not his healthiest lifestyle choice. It wasn’t that he was particularly scared of Chicago, even if it was the first time he’d lived alone in a city that wasn’t strictly a college town, it was that he didn’t know where to start. Everyone he worked with seemed to have their lives together, with family and friends and hobbies that kept them occupied. Stiles had none of that. Except of course for Scott and his online gaming, which, again, did not deter him from staying inside all the time.

He needed an actual hobby outside of work where he would interact with actual people who did not live with him or talk to him through the internet or his phone.

Like yoga? His stupid mind supplied in an annoyingly accurate imitation of Scott’s voice.

Stiles sighed as he finished his cool-down, wiping sweat from his face as he made his way to the rickety service elevator.

Like yoga.

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Charlie wasn't a bad person, per-se, he was just. Charlie. He had a different kind of moral code, one that others sometimes took issue with. But in all honesty, Stiles didn't care what his roomm-

Flatmate, Stiles, roommate makes us sound like fags, not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm queer for a price, as I've told you before. Speaking of, do you have any lonely friends from work, well, lonelier than you? Ah, just teasing, mate.

-his flatmate got up to, as long as everyone involved was consenting, and of an age to consent. And as long as he didn't bring his work home with him. Stiles was very much not eager to explain to his dad why he had been living with a prostitute-

Oy, I'm a male escort, ya wanker.

-for the past six or so months. Knowingly living with one. But the thing was, Charlie paid his half of the rent and utilities on time, if in cash, and he hadn't yet done anything to break his part of the lease, so in the grand scheme of things Stiles had really lucked out.

Except for the random strangers in various stages of unkemptness that came and went at unreasonable hours, stinking of cigarettes and alcohol, and who would disappear into his flatmate's room for the day or night without remark. But everyone had their quirks. Sometimes it just seemed as if Charlie had more than his fair share, but that could have been because Stiles was kind of used to living on his own, or with people who shared his interests, like videogames and comics and not sleeping with half of the population of Chicago, but to each their own.

Charlie wasn’t all about the nightlife, previous illustrations aside. Take Charlie's bicycle, for example. It was probably his most prized possession, at least from what Stiles had seen, and it took up most of their entryway whenever Charlie was home. He also did all of the repairs on it himself. He claimed to have found it abandoned in an alley when he'd first arrived in Chicago, the city he'd chosen for his foray into America. Stiles thought Charlie had picked the Windy City because of old mob movies, but hadn't ever gotten confirmation to that effect. But the bike had been his first real object acquired in the States, and he'd held onto it ever since, nursing it back to life again and again despite many unfortunate accidents that had thus far left Charlie mostly undamaged, but Stiles was mystified as to how he'd fixed both it’s broken axle and the snapped handlebars with what he had on hand, unless there was some welding equipment tucked away in his room. Stiles honestly wouldn’t know, he never ever ventured down that hallway of their shared apartment. He already knew enough about his flatmate without having more things he’d have to lie to his dad about.

 

Scott wasn’t lying when he said the yoga place was just a few blocks away from the apartment. Stiles walked past it one morning on his way for a celebratory cup of coffee from a local chain that didn’t burn their beans. He was celebrating the fact that he had gotten up before noon, taken a shower, and actually left his dwelling on a Saturday. Also, he wanted to scope out the place where he could potentially spend some of his many hours of free time. It looked like any of the other storefronts on the old street. Brick, quaint, pretty non-descript, really. A part of Stiles had already decided he liked it.

Of course.

So, when he was finished gulping down the slightly over-priced, scorching-hot coffee, he dropped his cup in a trash can, made his way back to the studio, took a deep breath, and walked inside.

 

A chime tingled delicately as the door closed behind him. Stiles was immediately struck by how calming the interior was. The walls were painted a warm yellow, soft-looking fabric hung over the wide front window, the floor was well-worn wood and the counter that took up half the space was occupied by a gorgeous brunette.

“I’m here to do yoga, or is it perform yoga? Accomplish yoga? Hey, can yoga be used as a verb? I’m here to yoga? Like tango, or boogie, or get-down. I guess yoga isn’t like dancing, though, unless you’re into super slow dancing with yourself.” The woman didn’t seem to think his stream of consciousness drabble was very entertaining, if the look she was giving him was anything to go by. “And I’m done,” Stiles finished quietly.

While wishing for the ground to swallow him wasn’t a new sensation, there was something about being in the softly lit room with the soothing sound of the artificial waterfall in one corner and the gentle swaying of the ferns flanking the window that made him feel like a sinner in church. Not that he had that great a grasp on what it felt like to be in a church, other than the memorable time Melissa had dragged him and his father along with her and Scott to an Easter service when he was ten. Stiles’ first taste of wine and his subsequent frenzy when faced with the egg hunt ended with him climbing onto the roof of the building, insisting he’d seen an egg up there. From what the doctors could figure out at the hospital, after they’d x-rayed and tended to his broken arm, was that the combination of alcohol and his ADHD medication had probably made him hallucinate. He’d let Scott choose the color of his cast, an eye-wrenching neon green, which was still tucked away somewhere in the attic at his dad’s house.

So, yeah, Stiles was keenly aware of what mortification felt like as his cheeks began to flush a hot red. The green-eyed woman behind the counter gave him a slow once-over, switching Stiles’ awareness to the fact that he was wearing his favorite battered converse, loose jeans, a graphic t-shirt, plaid shirt, hoodie, and slightly ratty bomber jacket Scott had insisted he buy from a thrift store when they were seniors in high school the weekend before they had planned to camp in the woods. They’d never ended up going, partially because of the sudden cold snap and partially because Allison had distracted Scott with an offer to go bowling, instead, but Stiles had kept the ugly leather thing ever since. In short, he looked like he may have spent a night or two on the streets and probably wasn’t the type of clientele that usually frequented the place.

She, on the other hand, was stunningly out of Stiles’ league, even if he was one to go for the I-could-break-you-without-trying type of person. Which he didn’t.

Anymore.

“I take it you’ve never tried this before,” she said, a dark brow quirking as she smirked at him.

“What, drop my dignity when I open my mouth? Oh, no, I’m practically an expert at that.” He said, stuffing his hands into the cold pockets of his jacket, fingers picking at the holes in the lining.

That actually earned him a real smile instead of the smirk, so he was chalking it up as a win. His shoulders relaxed slightly.

“I’m Laura,” she said, extending her hand over the polished wood. He took it and was surprised by how warm and firm her grip was, though she probably had excellent circulation because of her job, so he really shouldn’t be that shocked by it.

“Stiles,” he replied. She didn’t even give him a weird look when he said his name, which made him like her even more. He grinned. He thought maybe the whole yoga thing wasn’t going to be as bad as he thought.

 

It was worse.

Sort of.

First of all, Laura insisted he join the beginners class on basic poses, which was understandable since he was, in fact, a beginner. But the actual class, held on Monday and Wednesday nights, was full of old ladies who were more likely to watch him in his form-fitting cotton gear Laura had insisted he buy, than their instructor, Erica.

Secondly, Erica scared him as much as Laura had initially, only she kept scaring him.

Every. Single. Class.

Laura had grown on him, even if she was still a bit intimidating and very obviously had opinions about his apparent inability to dress himself properly. But Erica kept doing things like offering him steaming cups of weird-smelling teas, insisting it would help him with his balance and posture and virility. Which, if done during a romcom, would be a quirky gesture, but in real life just came across as creepy and invasive. Help with his virility? Really? Who said stuff like that?

Erica did.

Intense Erica with her piercing brown eyes and her toned body and her cleavage that seemed to permanently show out of the top of her tight v-neck tank top. Not that Stiles was looking at her cleavage because he absolutely was not. Nope. He refused to have impure thoughts about his yoga instructor while wearing pants that honestly did very little to hide parts of his anatomy he’d rather not overshare with the class. Especially in a class of ladies who paid as much attention to his ass as they did to Erica’s instructions. Popping a boner was simply not an option given the circumstances.

So, beginners yoga was a bit stressful at times, what with all the staring, and Erica’s weird innuendoes, but after the first month he actually began to enjoy it. An entire month of doing things outside of his apartment twice a week. He thought Charlie was going to burst with pride.

It was strange.

Stiles also started running in the basement every night he wasn’t in class, if only to keep out of the apartment as much as possible before Charlie left to go consort with other nightowls, or whatever it was he got up to when less extroverted people were playing MMORGs and sleeping. Things were starting to get a bit better.

Chapter Text

One evening Stiles stumbled back to his building after a particularly rigorous session, something he hadn’t even considered a possibility when Scott had harassed him into joining in the first place. No one had warned him about how much he would sweat and tremble when he was just trying not to collapse doing the downward dog stance. All he wanted was to shower away the ache in his shoulders and sprawl on his bed for a rousing game of Portal before he passed out for the night, but of course Charlie waylaid him as he passed the living room.

Charlie was fine most of the time. He was British, he was boisterous, and he was a practitioner of the world’s oldest profession. But not in the apartment, he had assured Stiles when they first met. He only brought non-paying one-night-stands to the apartment. It was strangely reassuring, though Stiles didn’t particularly know why.

The thing he wasn’t so fond of was Charlie’s ability to suddenly appear out of nowhere and suck Stiles into a conversational vortex that often left him dazed and feeling slightly uncomfortable in his own skin for one reason or another. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know about the inner workings of the elite underground of highly paid male escorts, but it sometimes felt like maybe Charlie was subtly trying to convince him to give it a shot. That would always be a gigantic no, in Stiles’ book.

While he was not at all a virgin, and hadn’t been since his memorable freshman year in college, he was too much of a romantic at heart to bed hop. He didn’t castigate people who did, but it just wasn’t how he was wired. It was something he didn’t think his flatmate would ever be able to wrap his head around, and that was fine, too, most of the time.

So when Charlie leapt over the couch like a neurotic cat, Stiles mentally resigned himself to another awkward discussion of the risks and benefits of various prophylactics along with their many varied uses, or something along those lines of things he’d never thought he’d be forced to know. He loved to research, and would probably have found out most of the information in his own time, but Charlie’s lectures were quite thoroughly detailed. With lots of personal anecdotes. So there was that.

Stiles sighed.

 

It was a Monday. Not only was it a Monday, it was the Monday of Mondays. Stiles wanted to drop his head to the shiny conference room table and groan at the accounting nightmare they’d been sorting through at the otherwise tidy-looking medical billing office, but he was a professional, so he picked up one of the dry generic muffins from the middle from the sad cornucopia in front of him and bit into it instead of voicing his feelings. Stiles immediately discovered what he thought were chocolate chips were actually raisins and he couldn’t keep the put-out grunt to himself.

“I know,” Andrews said without looking up from the spreadsheet on his laptop. He was taking the lead on their current assignment and wasn’t doing too bad a job of it. “Trust me, I know.” He’d been working for Youngblood & West for going on ten years, so Stiles was inclined to believe him. It was probably also why he seemed to stay away from the baked goods offered.

At least there was coffee. Stiles filled one of the styrofoam cups and after one cautious sip, dumped in an unhealthy amount of sweetener to balance out the awful aftertaste. He felt kinda bad about drinking coffee at all, since Laura always gave him the side-eye when he came to the studio after indulging in a cup from the shop down the street, but that train of thought inevitably confused him because he didn’t rationally know why he should care about what Laura thought in the first place. Except for the fact that he hated disappointing her, and by extension, Erica. Not because he was scared of them, though Erica still freaked him out sometimes, but because he didn’t want to disappoint them, which was even more confusing. So Stiles took a few grimacing sips of the sugary tar and pushed the raisin monstrosity back toward its peers, then settled into the familiar rhythm of crunching numbers.

He missed his beginners class that night, the first time he hadn’t been able to make one of them since joining. Andrews had him stay behind while the other three auditors left, and the two of them blew through the remaining aspects of the account in order to get their report finished by the next day. In the end, Stiles took a cab home at three in the morning and slept for four hours before he had to get up and go back to work to report on their findings. Andrews was praised, Stiles’ assistance was acknowledged, and he was immediately assigned to a massive account with half a dozen others and he spent the rest of the day in a meeting about their division of labor.

Stiles was zoned out on the train that evening, three stops from home, when his phone buzzed. He suppressed a groan and debated with himself for a minute before caving and looking at the message.

Come to the studio asap, it read.

The number was an unfamiliar but local, so he deduced it was either Laura or Erica who had sent it. None of the ladies in his beginners class had his number, although not from lack of trying.

I don’t have class tonight, Stiles text back.

It was Tuesday. It took him a full minute to remember what day it was, even as he stared at his phone’s start screen, which clearly said it. It was terribly confusing because his classes were on Mondays and Wednesdays.

He was exhausted and twitchy and knew he probably needed to get in a good run before he’d be able to fall asleep. Plus, he’d missed his weekly call with his dad because of delinquents in Beacon Hills tagging the back of the library or something, so he wanted to check in with the good ol’ sheriff to see if he was actually adding tofu to his diet like Stiles had insisted.

You missed and need to catch up. See you in ten.

Stiles pouted at his phone and shuffled to the doors as his stop came up. He’d just have time to go home and grab his bag since apparently he wasn’t in charge of his life anymore. He continued to grumble all the way from the station to his building, but he knew he’d go to the studio, regardless. The ancient elevator pinged at his floor and he refused to acknowledge the parallel between what Laura/Erica were doing and the draconian deal he’d forced on his dad.

He didn’t even bother to change. Stiles just switched out his wool coat for the battered leather, grabbed his bag and water bottle and made it out the door before Charlie could catch him in some conversational quicksand as he’d been known to do, especially when Stiles was particularly rushed for time. Exactly ten minutes after the ultimatum he jogged through the door to Laura’s studio and nearly ran into a massive wall of leather.

“Woah!” he yelped, backpedaling until he struck the wall beside the door, hand on his heart. “Dude, sorry about that, didn’t know someone would be lurking right inside.” It was a dude, Stiles realized, a very handsome, very scowly man with rumbled black hair and a bitchface to rival Jackson’s. He was wearing a sleek leather jacket and dark jeans with black boots. Everything about him screamed leave-me-alone-or-else.

The dude scowled some more and turned back to the front desk where Laura was watching the exchange with a smirk.

“Stiles, to what do we owe the pleasure? You’re not scheduled for a class tonight. Did you miss us? Are you ready to commit to coming more days a week?” Her head was cradled in one hand, elbow on the polished wood.

Stiles rolled his eyes, “Very funny. You or your minion text me with a ten minute deadline, so here I am,” he checked the clock on his phone, “ten minutes later. Sorry I missed yesterday, I know it must have been hard for you both without me there to help focus Mrs. Landry’s frankly lecherous attention, but I didn’t even get home until o-bleary-eye-hundred this morning, so it’s not like I skipped on purpose.”

Scowly turned back to him and huffed out a breath as his eyes raked over Stiles, taking in the battered jacket zipped up to his chin, his mud-splattered dress pants and shoes. “That doesn’t sound like very responsible behavior for an adult.” His voice wasn’t quite as sinister as his appearance would suggest. If Stiles had been in a more accommodating mood he would perhaps even think it was oddly soothing.

As it turned out, he was not feeling particularly charitable, so he waved a dismissive hand at the other man. “Whatever, dude, I already got the we don’t serve your kind look from Laura when I first walked in here, I don’t need it from you, too. And you know what,” he knew he should probably stop but he was tired and jittery and needed to meditate or something and the muscled douche was in his way, “I am a responsible adult with an actual job that does not involve turning tricks or selling illicit substances. I’ve had four hours of sleep in the past two days, so I’m just going to lock myself in a room upstairs and get my yoga on so I can sleep for twelve hours before I have to go do it all again. So, good evening, sir. Laura, nice to see you and your plotting, as always.”

His dramatic tromp upstairs was in no way impeded by Laura’s unmuffled chortling and the man’s grunt for her to shut up. Erica immediately met him in the corridor and dragged him into one of the smaller rooms.

“That was amazing, just so you know,” she said with a wicked grin. “You two are going to be an amazing pair, I can already tell! Oh my god, this was the best idea ever, Laura’s a genius.”

Stiles let her unzip and take off his jacket and was halfway out of his shirt when his brain caught up with what was going on.

“Wait, what? Why are you stripping me, this is probably considered unprofessional behavior or something, right? Should I be shouting for help right now?”

It didn’t stop her from taking off his work shirts with a grimace and thrusting his workout tank-top at him. “Hurry up, you’re going to be late if you keep dawdling.”

“I am not,” he stopped to kick off his shoes and socks, “I am not dawdling, I just have no clue what the hell is going on right now. Is there a make-up class tonight or something? Okay, I can totally take my pants off without assistance, thank you very much.” He did just that, twisting his hips away from Erica’s grabby hands and unbuckling his belt with a stern look over his shoulder at his completely unrepentant instructor. “Do we need to have the bad-touch talk?” He asked, shimmying out of his trousers and into his yoga pants before she could ogle him too much. At least she wasn’t as bad as Mrs. Evans, who had a tendency to pinch his butt when it was within reach. She was one of the reasons his mat was up front by Erica. Because no one would harass him under her hawkish watch. He had the feeling some of them actually tipped her for it, so they’d have a good view of him, but he’d yet to find any supporting evidence.

“You’re very cute,” she allowed with a familiar smirk, “but you are definitely not my type. We’ve got someone else in mind for you.” Her look turned predatory and before he could get a word in she had him out the door, down the hall, and into the room on that floor where larger classes were held.

Stiles stumbled as Erica released him and he held back a groan at the sight of what could only be a couples class. He’d read about them in the pamphlet when he’d first joined and had immediately dismissed it as something he’d never do. Ever. Partially because he didn’t have anyone to attend them with, but mostly due to the fact that while it looked cool in theory, there was no way Stiles was going to be all up in another person’s business like that in public without embarrassing himself in any number of utterly humiliating ways.

But of course Laura and Erica were evil conspirators who had plotted against him and apparently the scowly guy from downstairs. Not even needing Laura’s pointing finger to direct him to the empty part of the man’s mat, Stiles collapsed in front of his sudden partner with a sigh.

“I’m Stiles and I’m sorry,” he said. Because he was and it was bullshit false pretenses that had brought him there, but then again the guy was frowning and flicking his hazel-eyes from Stiles to Laura and back as if puzzling out what he was doing there. Stiles held up his hands, “I had nothing to do with this. I was ambushed.”

“Derek,” the guy said.

That was it. Nothing else.

Stiles squinted at him for a second, but there was no other information forthcoming.

“Let’s talk to our partners about why we’re here,” Laura said in an epic save from the awkward silence he had going on with dark and broody Derek. Stiles had to crane his neck around a bit to see her and Erica from where he was sitting on the mat.

The other couples began to talk in soft voices as he turned back to the angry Adonis he’d been paired with. Freaking Laura. Everyone else was with their actual partner or friend, mostly female couples in their twenties and thirties, though there were a few opposite sex pairs and a set of older lady friends. Stiles and Derek were the only male pair and probably the only ones who didn’t actually know anything about each other.

“My mother insisted I take a class from my sister,” Derek said curtly. “Laura chose this one.” His face told Stiles he’d much rather punch him than have that conversation, but Laura was right there over Stiles’ shoulder, which probably had something to do with the sudden bout of honesty. That, and there was a high likelihood she was glaring at Derek. Her glare was frightening, Stiles knew, and he couldn’t imagine it getting any less terrifying after repeated exposure.

“That’s cool, that you listen to your mom,” Stiles said. “I sometimes wonder if I’d listen to mine. If she were alive, I mean. She’s not. Alive, that is.” Derek looked startled by the confession, but Stiles was on a roll. “I mean, of course if she was, like, suddenly alive I’d do whatever she said. Whether she was zombified or not. But if she hadn’t ever been, you know, not alive, I wonder if I’d be good and actually listen to what she told me. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t since I’m here and my dad practically begged me not to take the job in Chicago, but the only other option at the time was Oklahoma, which, no thanks to that. So, yeah, I don’t really have a good track record when it comes to parental listening skills. Good for you, though, doing what your mom tells you, that’s commendable behavior. Also on having a sister, that must be fun sometimes when she’s not coercing you into touching strangers.”

For a long moment it looked like Stiles had managed to short-circuit Derek’s brain, but the stunned expression vanished beneath furrowed brows and a scowl. He grunted and glanced over Stiles’ shoulder, probably at his sister. “You didn’t answer the question,” he said, eyes flitting back to Stiles. Derek had some seriously intense hazel eyes.

“Uh, oh, why I’m here? Yeah. Uh,” Stiles rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. Hello nervous gesture, which Derek was definitely analyzing. “My flatmate was kind of on my case about my utter lack of a social life, so a friend back in California overshared a bit about how he liked to do yoga with his wife, which, I really didn’t need to hear about. I mean, Scott’s like a brother to me. Actually, he might really become my step-brother, legally speaking, if what he was telling me about my dad and his mom is anything to go by. In which case, yikes, though I’m happy for my dad, especially since he still wears his wedding ring and it’s been, like, fourteen years since my mom died. But anyway, no one should hear that kind of stuff about their almost-brother, you know? The yoga sexytime stuff. Not that I’m here to engage in sexytimes, this is a purely about getting me out of the apartment so my flatmate will get off my back. Not literally, though. I don’t actually give my flatmate piggyback rides or anything; that would be weird.”

“What’s what you find weird?” Derek asked mildly, and Stiles could swear he heard Erica chuckle behind him, but he was too chickenshit to check. Laura was probably looking at him like he was an idiot, which was kind of how Derek was looking at him. He could see the family resemblance.

Awesome.

The class, surprisingly, didn’t get any worse, so Stiles counted that as a tentative win. A win composed of sitting within very close proximity to an extremely attractive and built man who had a perpetual scowl on his face. For the most part they just practiced different poses and looked at each other’s form. They were supposed to offer encouragement, but Stiles figured the less he said, the better it would go for him, so he kept his mouth shut and his breathing even. Derek seemed to agree with that approach. It definitely minimized the awkward, but he started to develop a tension headache from keeping his commentary to himself.

That night, after scarfing down a bowl of bag-steamed broccoli for dinner, Stiles managed eight blissful hours of sleep. When he woke up the next morning he grinned to himself, lazily finding shapes in the water stain on the ceiling as he remembered the calm power of his yoga partner. Stiles threw an arm over his face and nudged it sleepily, allowing himself to recall the almost inhuman perfection of Derek’s obscenely toned body under his tank top and shorts. Stiles assured himself that as long as he only thought about it in the privacy of his bed, he’d be safe from Laura and Erica’s knowing glances.

He heard the front door slam closed and a pair of too-loud voices shushing each other as they giggled and thudded down the opposite hall to Charlie’s room. Stiles scrubbed his palms across his face with a sigh. Reminding himself that as long as he didn’t see money exchange hands, he was willing to overlook his flatmate’s choice in profession. For the time being. Also, it wasn’t as if he ever really brought home clients. Probably.

Good mood slightly tempered by the reminder of the prostitute down the hall, Stiles went about his daily routine and was out the door in time for the morning rush. He met the new team across town outside an imposing glass and steel building that screamed corporate headquarters. It was, though Stiles wasn’t sure what, exactly, Argent Unlimited was the headquarters for. He would find out over the days or weeks ahead, that much was certain.

Chapter Text

Stiles spent Wednesday night’s beginners yoga class dodging his handsy classmates and trying to focus on his breathing and balance while Erica kept giving him disturbing shit-eating grins. By the end he was feeling more high-strung than when he’d started and increasingly paranoid about his personal space. That was in no way helped by Erica dragging him down the hall and into the side room that shared a wall with the women’s bathroom. People rarely used it because of the near constant sound of gurgling water that echoed in the small space.

“Do you love the new class or what?” She asked, clearly aiming for conspiratorially, but ending up sounding too forceful and creepy.

“I’m gonna have to go with or what,” Stiles replied because he felt like being snarky and he honestly didn't know how to feel about the class after just one session.

Erica shoved him hard enough that it took him a few stumbled steps to maintain his balance.

“Ow, hey! Careful with the merchandise, I’m tender after all that old lady groping that just happened. Can you believe Mrs. Cotter?”

“I know, right! It looked like she was trying to give you a physical.”

Stiles felt his face flush even as he grinned, “Well she was a nurse in the war, apparently, but I never knew nurses to be so handsy with a healthy specimen like myself. I think the girl-power thing you and Laura have going on is rubbing off on the clientele in disturbing ways. Hey, why did you drag me in here, are you going to try to strip me again because that was kind of weird yesterday and you’re attractive and all, but I’ve kinda sworn off people who can very obviously break me in half.”

Erica gave him an assessing look, then shrugged. “Like I said before, you’re cute, but not for me.”

Stiles nodded, he could deal with that. That was dealable. Dealorific.

Or whatever.

“But,” she continued, “I think you should stick with the couples class. Derek seems to like you and he can’t attend without a partner, so you should do it.”

He considered the proposal, taking the Derek liked him part with a grain of salt the size of a salt lick, then thought of something that seemed almost too ridiculous to be possible. “This isn’t some bizarre attempt to hook me up with Derek is it?” He had his suspicions about Laura and Erica’s motives.

Erica scoffed, “Don’t be a dumbass, Stiles. Well? Are you going to stick with it? Laura’s even willing to waive the fee if you go Tuesdays and Thursdays in addition to the beginners classes you’re already in.”

It was a bit of a commitment and would bring his yoga-ing up to four nights a week, but it wasn’t as if his social calendar was bursting with must-attend events other than the occasional dungeon raid or weekly call with his dad. Also, free was good, not to mention Derek was some prime eye candy. Plus, it got him out of the apartment and socialized, which was really for the best, he was willing to admit, if only to himself.

She must have seen his answer in his expression because she wrapped him in a quick, tight hug, and laughed in his ear.

“I knew it! You’re such a sucker,” she said and released him to run out door with a cackle. “I’m going to tell Laura you’re in and then you won’t be able to back out without her giving you a judgey face!”

Stiles groaned good-naturedly, “No! I hate her judgey face! Please, anything to avoid that!”

And that was how Stiles ended up going to yoga four times a week.

 

Work was work was work. Though the Argent Unlimited account was actually quite engaging, once they’d figured out what specific aspects of the company they needed to focus on. Stiles was given an entire branch of their operations, of which there were many. It was kind of like an octopus, there were so many arms and branches and divisions. Or maybe a tree, with twigs and leaves coming off of every branch. All of which would make it extremely easy for them to hide any illegal activities from Youngblood and West, but then again Stiles always enjoyed a challenge.

And their tea selection was amazing.

Erica and Laura would be proud of him, he thought, not that he was going to tell them that they’d finally broken him of the coffee habit he’d been nursing since his junior year of high school, at least not until he was finished with the Argents. That was a kind of sisterly coddling and embarrassment he could definitely live without. At least until his verbal diarrhea caught up with him and he inevitably blurted it out during some normal conversation not even tangentially related to tea or coffee. Because Stiles was nothing if not aware of his more obnoxious tendencies.

So the Argents knew their loose leaf teas. And they even had individual infusers, the good kind that didn’t leak little flecks of crap into the water as it was steeping. They also had fresh baked goods delivered every morning from a local bakery, like clockwork. There was a nice spread of healthy snacks throughout the day, as well, and a few reasonably priced cafes nearby for when they left to grab lunch.

It was certainly a nice change of pace from their previous accounts. Actually, it was the nicest job Stiles had been assigned to since he’d started working at the beginning of summer. They had a very swanky conference room as their base of operations with a lightning fast connection to the company’s servers and nearly unlimited access to everything they could possibly want to poke into. It was a lot better than some of the more reticent places Stiles had been assigned, who didn't even want them to leave their equipment there overnight, which was such a pain in the ass to haul across the city every day. The turds. But not the Argents, they were very accommodating to every single one of their requests. Barge, one of the senior auditors, told him it was probably the nicest assignment he’d ever see, period, if he didn’t keep his nose clean.

Whatever the hell that meant.

It sounded like something an ornery old man would say, which, hey, that shoe kind of fit perfectly. Kurt Barge was not among his best buddies on the team. Stiles thought it might be because he was from California, or maybe Barge just didn’t like people who were too young to remember when microwaves were invented. Or color tvs. Either way, Stiles had just nodded good naturedly and moved onto the task at hand, which was just starting to get fun.

Regardless of the old timer’s opinion on the matter, Stiles was good at what he did and what he did was crunch numbers, look for patterns, and pretty much obsess over the absolutely meticulous records the Argents kept. His goal was to match what they claimed with what was actually going on in the physical numbers, and to look for discrepancies that could spell some serious fraud. All in all, it was kind of like frolicking around candyland to him.

 

The second couples class was a bit more awkward than the first, mostly because it actually involved Derek and Stiles touching each other. The introduction went a bit smoother, though. Laura asked them to share with their partner what their favorite book from childhood had been. Stiles, aware of his capacity to babble, magnanimously allowed Derek to go first.

His dark brows furrowed at Stiles for a long moment before he huffed out a breath and looked down at the purple mat they shared. “I always liked fairy tales. My parents have a book of old legends with hand-drawn illustrations we used to read together before bed. We read it to my little cousins, now.”

Stiles let that sink in, trying to imagine a little Derek sitting with his probably gorgeous parents and older sister, his impossible-colored eyes wide as they told him about children lost in the woods and monsters and magic. It made for a fascinating picture.

“That’s an awesome answer,” Stiles confessed with a grin. He could be mistaken, but for an instant it looked like Derek’s lips quirked in an almost-smile before settling back into his normal broody expression. “As for me, hm, that’s a tough one. Well, my mom was a children’s librarian, so our house was always full of the classics and award winners, but I really loved it when she’d curl up with me on the couch and we’d read comic books together. That’s how I learned to read, actually. We were halfway through an issue of Spider-Man when she had to go out of town for a conference and my dad was dead tired after working a double, so I huddled under my covers with a flashlight and forced my way through the rest of the comic book, sounding out all the words so I could figure out what the villain was saying in his dastardly monologue as he slowly lowered Spider-Man into a vat of acid or lava or something equally bubbly and deadly-looking.

“The suspense was killing me, but I made it through that issue and two more before my dad woke up and realized I should probably be asleep since it was the early hours of the morning and I had to go on a field trip that day. I ended up falling asleep on the bus on the way to the nature preserve we went to and the teacher accidentally left me there for half the morning before he realized I was missing. They brought in search dogs and the town’s entire police force to look for me in the woods, and when the ruckus woke me I stumbled off the bus and I’m pretty sure my dad almost killed my teacher right then and there. He was put on academic probation for a week and when my mom found out about the whole thing she laughed so hard she cried. So, yeah, favorite book from childhood, I’m going with comic books.”

Derek just looked at him in response, but he wasn’t glaring, so that was good. Laura encouraged the couples to bring their conversations to a close shortly after and they began working with the poses they’d practiced during the last class. Only this time they practiced them together. As in touching each other.

Mostly it was sitting across from each other with their palms or feet pressing together, getting a sense of each partner’s range of motion. Derek was surprisingly flexible despite his dense musculature. Stiles was flexible, too, thanks in part to his month of biweekly classes, though he had some tightness in his legs that Laura assured him they’d work on over the course of their sessions. Stiles was pretty sure he didn’t just imagine the dangerous gleam in her eyes when she said that, but when he mentioned it to Derek the other man just shrugged as if he was so totally used to his sister’s frightening nature it no longer even registered to him. Which was in itself kind of scary.

“You’re really good at the breathing,” Stiles told Derek during one of their water breaks.

Derek eyed him as he took a healthy chug of water, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Thanks?”

Stiles shrugged, “Just putting that out there. I used to have panic attacks after my mom died and one of the ways my dad calmed me down was to have me listen to him breath. So, I’m kind of an expert on identifying soothing deep-breathing techniques when I hear them.”

Derek was looking at him with that same fish-out-of-water expression he’d had when Stiles first mentioned his mom’s death, but it could also be because he didn’t know how to take a compliment or make small-talk. But before Stiles could investigate further, Erica invited everyone to return to their mats, so he took a quick swig of water and followed Derek through the maze of bodies back to their spot where they proceeded to touch each other some more.

Chapter Text

Charlie kind of vanished for a few days after that, which wasn’t entirely uncommon, but his bike was in the entryway the entire time, which was. He pretty much didn’t go anywhere without that thing. Stiles dismissed the apparent strangeness and actually spent some time cleaning the common areas of the apartment-

    Flat, Stiles, it’s called a flat.

-apartment while he was still motivated to do so. He wasn’t a particularly filthy person by nature, in fact he had been described as fastidious by a previous flatmate, but that could have also been because they’d also shared a bed and Stiles ended up not being their favorite person in the world after nearly a year of them being together romantically. But whatever, so Stiles liked to tidy up sometimes, and typically keep his shit contained to his personal areas, especially his desk. Whatever, it made actually cleaning not that big of a deal. Or it wouldn’t have been if Charlie had the same kind of internal motivator as Stiles.

The kitchen was relatively fine, minus some takeout in the fridge that looked like it was about to develop sentience, but their bathroom had kind of devolved into a universal precautions hazard. He was glad he’d bought cleaning gloves at one point, but couldn’t even think of why he’d purchased them in the first place. Whatever, he had them and he used them, with vinegar and baking soda, a trick his mom had taught him, to at least sterilize some of the more questionable stains. He made a mental note to type up a few bathroom etiquette rules, so he wouldn’t have to scrub that kind of thing off the wall again. It was gross.

But Stiles was on a roll, so he tackled the living room after that, which mainly involved dusting the random pieces of furniture the place had come with, or what Charlie had dragged in from off the street. It wasn’t actually easy to tell the two apart, once Stiles got started, which was its own special kind of scary. He did know which ones Charlie used, though, because there were always books and dvds shoved in, on, or around them like little mini horder troves. They didn’t even have a dvd player in that room, just a clunky tv his flatmate had liberated from somewhere. The media was kind of telling, though. They were mostly seasons of crime shows and police serials, real life dramas and mystery novels. It kind of looked like what he’d expect his dad to be into, but Sheriff Stilinski was way more interested in fishing shows and sports than figuring out another person’s crime for them a quarter of the way into the show.

Still, it looked like Stiles’ mob theory wasn’t all that far from the truth. He only hoped Charlie’s fascination with crime and punishment was strictly academic, his choice in career aside. That would probably come back to bite him in the ass. Well, not literally. Well, maybe literally. Whatever, that was up to Charlie, wasn’t it?



During the third couples class, the question was about their favorite activity to do during the summer. Since it was late fall, Stiles found that to be kind of a tease, but he nodded for Derek to answer first.

He rolled his shoulders and, after glancing at Laura, looked at Stiles with a bit of a shrug. “My parents have a lake house up north. I like to go there and spend time with my family there whenever I can.”

Stiles brought up his mental map of the midwest and cocked his head to the side as he considered where up north could be. “Are we talking Canada, up north, or somewhere closer? I know Minnesota is supposed to be the land of lakes, or something. That’s north of here right? Well, northwest. Or do you mean lake as in Lake Michigan?”

Derek snorted, the first real, undeniable sign of amusement Stiles had seen from him.

It was stupidly endearing.

“Wisconsin, and no, it’s a much smaller lake in the middle of nowhere. Your turn.”

“Right, favorite summer thing. Well, since moving here I’ll have to go with running around outside, especially through the parks nearby, though what was up with that summer we just had? It felt like I was baking away like in California. That was some serious heat. So, yeah, I run to set a good example for my dad, to coerce him into exercising.”

“Coerce?” One of Derek’s eyebrows cocked in way that made him look quite sassy.

Stiles shrugged, “Hey, I work with what I have, and coercement is a valuable weapon in my arsenal.”

“Let’s hope that’s your only weapon,” he thought he heard Derek mutter, but when he asked him to repeat himself Derek just shook his head and said it was nothing.

Weird.

After that they touched some more and did a lot of mirrored poses. It was slightly less weird.



The Argent Unlimited account started to get even more interesting when Stiles began to notice a very slight discrepancy in the numbers related to one of their manufacturing facilities up north. It wasn’t anything substantial, and was probably just a result of human error, but it made Stiles positively giddy. That kind of human error could also be the first signs of some deep-seeded issues, things like the company hiding funds or other illegal activities he was actually there to sniff out.

He got out his numbers notebook and began jotting down the pieces that didn’t quite fit. It was a thing he did so he’d have something to keep himself occupied on the train or bus ride home. Though of course there wasn’t anything in his notes that would in any way get him in trouble. He just wrote down random lines of numbers that made sense to him and him alone.

It was probably nothing, but he liked to be thorough. Plus, it was actually kind of fun.



The fourth couples class was even better. And worse.

The question that night was about childhood nicknames. Stiles laughed and shook his head. “Okay, I have to go first with this one. I’ll tell you a secret that’s really not a secret; Stiles is my childhood nickname. Hardly anyone I knew could pronounce my real name when i was a kid, so one day I just declared myself Stiles and I’ve gone by it ever since. What about you?”

Derek was looking at Stiles. Like he was assessing him. It kind of seemed like his default after the broody glare he’d previously been known for. “You’re not going to tell me your real name, are you?

“Do you speak Russian?”

“No.”

“Then you probably couldn’t pronounce it, anyway. I was named after my mom’s dad, and let’s just say he can keep it. Now stop avoiding the question. What was your childhood nickname? If you don’t tell me you know I’ll just go ask Laura.” Stiles gave him a wicked grin and watched as Derek’s eyes seemed to involuntarily jump to where his sister was sitting. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. So?”

Derek rolled his eyes, “My sister and our cousins still insist on calling me a number of random things, their favorite being Ginger Bear.”

And what?

“Ginger. Bear. Ginger Bear? What the hell does that mean?” Stiles asked as he grinned. It was definitely not a reflection of Derek’s actual physical appearance. Well, the bear part might be, he was pretty stacked, but he definitely wasn’t a redhead.

Derek had a slightly mulish expression on his face, similiar to how Scott would look at him when Stiles was being particularly assholish. “Tell me your real name and I might consider answering.”

But then there were warm hands on Stiles’ shoulders and Laura’s girlish laughter in his ear. She and Erica were so creepily similar sometimes. “Oh, Der-Bear, why not just show him sometime?”

That didn’t seem to amuse Derek in the slightest, and if Stiles didn’t know better he would have thought the hazel of his eyes flashed blue for an instant. “That’s not funny, Laura,” he said through clenched teeth and she laughed her way back to her and Erica’s mat to begin their class.

So, that was the better part, even if it ended a bit strangely. The worse part was the actual yoga-ing. Well, it started off normally enough. They did some standard poses to warm up, mirrored each other for a few more, but then the touching got to be involved. Not just, press against your partner’s palms and try to match your breathing. No. No it was more, now climb onto your partner’s back like a monkey and feel their energy radiating and meshing with yours.

Or something.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly like that, but it still made Stiles have a slight internal freakout. Derek was planted with his palms down, his back a perfect line up to where his firm ass was sticking in the air, and his strong legs were straight right down to where his feet were completely flat on the floor. How he managed that was beyond Stiles. There was no way his own legs were that flexible.

Downward dog, his inner Erica reminded him.

So Derek was doing the downward dog, which was still a stupid name for a yoga pose, and Stiles was supposed to back on up to him, all yoga-like, and plant his feet against the small of Derek’s back. Like that was totally normal and acceptable to do to someone. All the while his palms were to be on the mat on either side of Derek’s head, relying on his arms and Derek to support his weight.

What even.

He really really hated Erica and Laura for roping him into the whole couples thing. Plus, Derek was wearing these new pants his sister had probably forced him to buy like she’d forced Stiles, and they were doing all kinds of amazing things for Derek’s ass. Like. Just. Amazing things.

The entire world was unfair and Stiles was going to faceplant onto the back of Derek’s head and then he’d get a bloody nose and ruin everything and he just needed to focus and breath in time with Derek before he freaked himself into a panic attack.

Somehow, he wasn’t even sure how, Stiles managed to do his part without the world exploding around him. It was actually kind of cool, feeling the heat of Derek’s body against his toes through the thin fabric of his shirt, the way his own arms trembled slightly before he convinced himself he could take the portion of his weight he was supporting while Derek’s insane muscles took the rest. It was over quickly enough and Stiles even managed his version of the dismount with something approaching, but not quite reaching, grace.

Next Derek sat on the back of Stiles’ calves as he reached back and they clasped forearms, his torso suspended from the ground and curved backward like he was the figurehead of a pirate ship. He’d always wondered what that would be like and he was happy to have his answer. It was weird and slightly uncomfortable, but still kind of fun. Actually, after his initial freak out, the poses they did together were all kind of fun. Derek didn’t really seem to mind all the touching, either.

Huh.

It got a little weird again when the two of them were waiting outside the single bathroom, designated the Men's, for Malcolm to finish changing. Stiles was floating in his post-yoga haze, an easy kind of relaxation that had his thoughts scattered, but in a good way. It was like he was centered, but without any kind of focus. He breathed out a happy kind of sigh.

"Where did you get that scar on your side?" Derek asked pretty much out of left field.

Or maybe not since he knew his tank top had lifted up several times during their session. There had been quite a few inverted poses.

"Whale riding," Stiles said reflexively. He found it was a lot easier to laugh off the marks with a joke than to get into his storied past of not-so-happy times.

Derek did not seem to agree. "Stiles," he said in his no-nonsense tone. A tone he'd heard Derek use a few times on Laura, but she'd always ignored it. Stiles wanted to ignore it, too, so when the bathroom door opened he darted inside and gave Malcolm a helpful push to help him on his way.

"I'll tell you when you tell me about Ginger Bear," he said with a fake smile, and closed the door before Derek could reply.

Super smooth.

Derek was gone by the time Stiles was finished changing, but his bag was still hanging up, so Stiles knew he was around somewhere. They didn't run into each other as he left, though, which was nice but also kind of a let-down. He liked bantering with Derek, and the way he looked in those new pants, and the way he could raise one strong eyebrow, and...

Fuck.

And Stiles definitely had a crush on his yoga partner. Because of course he did.

Chapter Text

The next night, he walked in the door to the apartment and nearly into his flatmate. Charlie swore loudly and flung himself backward, smacking into the entry wall and rattling the mirror he’d insisted be hung there. The look of horror on his face would have made Stiles laugh in any other circumstance, but there was something a bit too real about the expression for him to take it lightly.

“Dude, are you okay? I haven’t seen you around for a bit.” He said, toeing off his running shoes and reflexively kicking them under Charlie’s road bike. Only the bike wasn’t there. Stiles stared at the empty space, glanced around the wall into the living room, then back to his flatmate.

“Hey, is your bike in the shop or something? I thought you said you could do all the repairs yourself?” He tried to put a teasing edge to his voice, but he was too tired from running and the overall hectic week to put much effort into it. Besides, Charlie still looked a little green. “Woah, man, maybe you should take up yoga, or something, you’re looking kind of stressed out.”

At that Charlie seemed to pull himself together, righted himself and smoothed his rumpled button down. “No worries, mate. I’m going out, don’t wait up.” He winked and edged around Stiles with a very wide and very fake smile.

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure? Also, it’s fucking frigid out right now. I had to wear my coat down to the basement just now and I’m pretty sure I still got frostbite on the ride down. You at least need a jacket, I don’t care if you hail from the land of eternal winter, the wind outside will freeze your nuts off.”

Charlie seemed to gain back some of his swagger because his grin became lopsided. “Stiley, you know England isn’t the land of eternal winter, don’t be an idiot. And just for that, you’re donating your coat to the cause. Come on, give it here.”

Glad to see his flatmate back to his normal douchey self, Stiles shrugged out of the leather jacket and handed it over, but kept a grip on the collar when Charlie reached for it.

“Conditions; no smoking in, on, or around this. I wear it to yoga and the last thing I need is for Laura to harass me about the smell.” Charlie smirked at that, but Stiles continued, “And I forgot what my other condition was, but just put it on the chair in the livingroom when you get in tomorrow morning.”

“Cheers,” Charlie said, hefting it over his shoulder and exiting with a wave.

Stiles noticed that he didn’t answer the questions about his bike.



The jacket was flung over a chair in the livingroom when he woke up the next day, looking just as worn as usual, but none the worse for wear. Stiles danced to the kitchen, avoiding the squeaky floorboards when he could, and fixed himself a bland breakfast of oatmeal and honey, sending a quick text to Laura telling her he was going to use an empty room for some individual work that morning. After he cleaned up and had a quick shower, he slipped on the jacket and his messenger bag and made it to the studio in record time.

Laura was lounging against the front counter reading a paperback, one long finger twirling a strand of dark hair that escaped from her messy bun. Her eyes snapped up as he walked in, nostrils flaring.

“Are you bleeding?” she said, incredulously. The book dropped onto the desk with a thud.

Stiles glanced behind him and back at her. “Me? What? No, I’m not bleeding. Am I bleeding?” He wiped under his nose, but there wasn’t anything there. A quick pat down of his body yielded no wounds. “Dude, don’t scare me like that. Why would you think I was bleeding?”

Laura shrugged, picking up her book but not reading it. "Maybe because I've seen you try to cross the street while juggling hot coffee and your phone."

“Harsh, but in my defense it was pretty windy that day. You have a class this morning, right?"

She grinned, "Oh, yes, it's full of impressionable older women who would just love to have you join them, I'm sure. We talk about how our bodies change as we age, hot flashes, different poses that aid in digestion. You'd love it, I'm sure."

"Wow, super tempting offer, but I'm going to have to pass forever on that. Seriously, it's bad enough in the beginners class, I thought I was going to have to file a restraining order against some of them on Wednesday. Hey, can I go up?” He gestured to the staircase behind her and Laura cocked an eyebrow in a very Derek-like manner. Sometimes the family resemblance was eerie.

“I don’t know, can you? Without tripping on the stairs this time?”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Great, way to jinx me, Laura. I’m going to use the green room.”

“Sage,” she corrected, turning back to her novel.

He shook his head and carefully made his way up the worn stairs, just to prove her wrong. Stiles made it to the second to last step before he caught the top of the stair with his shoe and slammed his shin down hard.

Stiles swore under his breath, ignored Laura’s laughter from below, and made his way down the corridor to the Men’s room. He changed into his yoga clothes and left his bag and jacket there, but took out his notebook and a pen.

The green-

Sage.

-room was Stiles’ favorite. It was smaller than the others, meant for couples or individuals who wanted to work on their form independently. He used it as a kind of meditation chamber slash place to try out hard poses without being judged for failing. The color reminded him of his mom’s old craft room back home, where she’d sewn curtains and quilts while he’d sat on the floor playing with the scrap fabric. Sometimes she’d let him have a needle and thread and he’d sew his own weird creations. He still had a few tucked away in a battered shoebox at the back of his sock drawer.

An hour later he was balanced on his head and forearms, hands laced together and gripping the back of his skull, toes pressed against the wall with his notebook propped up so he could read the cascade of numbers. There was something about his latest findings that nagged at him. Something about the overall feel of it was too perfect, too organized in the midst of the normal corporate chaos. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something as he looked at the slightly off numbers. A scoff sounded from the doorway and Stiles grinned around the pen in his mouth.

“Finally working on your balance, or are you just trying to get as much blood to your head as possible so you can actually focus on something?”

Stiles spat out the pen, “Nice of you to join me, Derek. Aren’t you a little early for our biweekly date? Like, several days early? Or did you hear I was in and you couldn’t bring yourself to stay away?”

Really, mouth, really?

Derek’s bare feet padded over the wooden floor, then the man lowered himself to sit cross-legged beside him, his back resting against the wall so they could see each other. He was wearing his new yoga outfit of soft grey pants and tight black tank top. Stiles glanced up at his face and nearly fell over. It looked like Derek was checking him out, but-

“Why the notebook? Keeping a diary of our encounters?” Derek’s wit was as dry as ever.

Stiles scoffed and moved his shoulders in an attempt at a shrug. “What can I say, your silent glaring really does it for me. That’s why I write it in code, you see? Don’t want to give away all of your brooding secrets.”

Derek snorted and took the notebook, carefully flipping forward and back a few pages. “These are mostly numbers, though I see you have some kind of key at the top. To track what you’re recording?” He studied the page for a moment, then down at Stiles. “Financial records?”

“You’re good,” Stiles couldn’t help but grin. Derek looked more relaxed from that angle, though it could just be the increased bloodflow to Stiles’ brain making him think bizarre things. Like that Derek would, in any reality, check him out.

Insanity.

“Do you smoke?” Derek asked, once again paging through the book, but with the careful air of someone trying too hard to appear casual. Stiles had that look down pat. It was practically his signature move aside from his classic dignity drop.

“Nope,” he said, flexing his toes so they bounced a bit against the wall. His glutes were starting to tremble a bit. “In an effort to extend my dad’s life to its fullest, I’ve decided to lead by example. So, no smoking, no drugs, no excessive drinking, no whoring it up with prostitutes, no fatty foods; you know, the usual suspects.” He wobbled for a second before stabilizing. “Hey, why would you think I smoke, anyway? Do I look like a smoker? I mean, I know I am a prime specimen of nerdy manliness, don’t get me wrong, but wouldn’t I strike you as more of an intravenous drug user or a prescription pill popper? I’ve got the gaunt lankiness going for me, which is an unintended consequence of the low red meat, high quantities of exercise portion of the tyrannical health regime I’ve imposed upon my dad.”

Derek stared at him before raising his eyebrows and looking back at the book. “Your jacket smelled like smoke, and some of those other forbidden things,” he said with a smirk, “That’s why I asked. Not because you,” he flicked one hand, encompassing Stiles with a gesture.

“Look a bit homeless? No worries, I get that kind of thing a lot, especially when I’m in casual clothes. Hell, even when I’m wearing a suit people sometimes think I’m a rent boy.”

“A rent-” Derek seemed to choke on the word and Stiles grinned.

“Pretty sure that would be violating the agreement I have with my dad when it comes to high risk behaviors, regardless of what my flatmate keeps telling me about the pay.”

Derek’s eyebrows furrowed until they almost touched. “You live with someone who is a prostitute, and who is pressuring you to become one as well?” His voice was dark and eerily calm. Stiles knew that tone.

“What’s wrong, officer, going to arrest him?” Stiles smirked as the other man eyes widened, then narrowed. “Dude, chill out,” he forestalled whatever Derek was about to say. “My dad’s a sheriff, I practically grew up at the station, of course I figured out you’re a cop. What’s wrong, was that supposed to be a secret or something? Wait, are you undercover? Is Laura even your real sister? Am I your mark?”

“Where did you get those scars, Stiles?” Derek asked, flicking his hand to indicate the puckered lines across Stiles’ ribs and chest, exposed because of course his shirt had, at some point, fallen around his armpits.

Stiles sighed and rolled away from the wall to sit, letting his brain stabilize for a second before he turned and smirked at Derek. “Dude, we have a deal, remember? You tell me about Ginger Bear, I tell you about my epic bout of kangaroo wrestling.”

“What happened to whale riding?”

He shrugged, “What happened to not interrogating people? I don’t know, but I’ll let you get away with it this time, seeing that it’s a pretty important part of your job, right?”

Derek didn’t look too happy about that, but he reluctantly nodded. “And the notebook,” he said, giving it a wave.

Stiles shrugged again, “It’s just something I do when I’m working for a client.”

“You look too young to be a lawyer, or to be out of high school, really,” he said, but there was definitely a hint of a smile in all his sass.

“Har har, I’m actually twenty three. I can buy my own alcohol and everything.”

“But not too much.”

He grinned, “But not too much, as per the previously mentioned agreement-”

“-tyrannical heath regime-”

“-Jesus your recall is astonishing. You must be a pretty good cop with a verbal memory like that.”

He looked slightly uncomfortable at the compliment, but didn’t deny it or his choice in occupation.

“And to answer your unasked question, no, I’m not a lawyer. It’s worse than that, actually, I’m an auditor.”

Derek shook his head and handed back the notebook, “Well, that’s unfortunate, I’m not sure I can continue to associate with someone in that line of work. I have a reputation to uphold, and all.”

“Would it be better if I quit and followed in Charlie’s footsteps?” Stiles asked like an idiot because sometimes he really just had to keep bringing up sensitive topics in a conversation that seemed to otherwise be headed toward possibly intriguing territory.

“I’m assuming Charlie is your prostitute friend? Why, would you like for me to handcuff you?”

“As long as you don’t charge me with anything.” And that had to be some of the weirdest flirting Stiles had ever done in his life, and he’d once learned pick-up lines in Klingon to impress a guy.

Derek finally broke down and smiled, which made Stiles’ heart do a funny little flutter. Was it weird that Derek actually looked at his chest right after it happened? Probably not, he was likely just remembering the scars and trying to come up with a logical explanation for them and Stiles’ reluctance to talk about it. Because there was no possible way that Derek was actually flirting with him.

Right?

“Are you free tomorrow night?” Derek asked and if Stiles wasn’t completely convinced he was awake he would have tried to pinch himself.

After a second of stunned silence he finally managed to scoop his brain off the floor and formulate a coherent answer. “Tomorrow? That would be Sunday. Sunday night, let’s see, man since this whole yoga thing started my schedule has been surprisingly full, but wait. Sorry, Sundays my dad and I watch football together.”

“Your father who lives in California?”

Derek did have seriously good recall. Also, he was a listener.

“The one and only. We have standing phone date on Sundays, but to make sure things don’t get too emotional or touchy feely we pretty much just end up watching a game together on speakerphone and yell about whatever’s happening. During the commercials we catch-up and bond and and what-not. But yes to doing something with you in the future. If the offer is still valid.”

“I’ll let you know,” he said, but he was smiling and Stiles’ poor heart couldn’t handle that much handsome as Derek stood up with the grace of a freaking jungle cat and walked out of the room.

What the hell was that?



He spent the rest of Saturday playing video games and failing not to overanalyze Derek’s proposal. Was it a date? Had he seriously asked Stiles on a date? Was that what had happened? A Sunday date? Okay, so that was a bit weird, but he’d take what he could get, which had been a fat lot of nothing for the past long while. Way over the six months he’d been living in Chicago. Actually, it had been nearly a year since the incident that had ended his previous relationship and why had Derek asked him on a date? That made no sense. Okay, so clearly Derek was into guys. Unless he wasn’t and it wasn’t actually a date.

Woah.

Stiles paused the game and practiced some of his deep breathing exercises for a minute until he was certain he wasn’t going to start screeching or hyperventilating. When that was sorted out he dove for his phone and pressed the second number in his favorites.

“Stiles?”

“Allison, I think someone just asked me on a date, but I’m not sure and I am kinda freaking out right now.”

“Stiles, what time is it there, it’s like eleven o’clock, here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry if my near mental breakdown is cutting into your Saturday night, but I seriously need some help right now.”

He could hear Scott’s sleepy voice mumble his name, then go silent. “Stiles, sweetie, you know I love you, but this probably isn’t something to freak out about. It’s been a year since-”

“-Since the incident, yes. Yes it has, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to jump right back into things.” Because he wasn’t sure if he was ready to date again. Ever.

“But you said you weren’t sure if they asked you out, right? What makes you think that?” Allison had her counselor voice on. She was really good at the whole soothing aspect of situations like that, which was one of the prime reasons Stiles had called her instead of Scott. Also, he knew she’d answer her phone.

“Well, he-”

“He? Did you just say he? Scott, Stiles has a crush on a guy!”

“That’s super mature, Allison, just so you know. Anyway, as I was saying,” he said loudly to be heard over her giggles and Scott’s unhelpful porn music noises, “he asked if I wanted to hang out or something tomorrow.”

Hang out or something? Those were his words?” She did not sound impressed.

Stiles scrubbed a hand over his face, “No, I don’t know. Wait, let me think. Scott, you’re seriously an asshole, cut it out. Okay, he asked if I was free tomorrow. Those were his exact words, more or less.”

“And just how did you meet this mystery fellow?”

Fellow, Allison, really? What is this, an Austen novel? And for your information I met him at yoga class, are you two happy with yourselves? If he turns out to be a crazy killer man I’m going to write you both out of my will, just you wait.”

“Can’t be worse than your-” Scott started to say, but then grunted like he was in pain. Allison was such a sweetheart, sometimes.

“What Scott means is that we’re glad you’ve found someone you’re interested in and that we’re seriously happy for you. And yes, that does kind of sound like a date to me. Why, what did you tell him?”

Stiles mussed his hair and pouted, of course he blew off the first dating opportunity he’d had in ages. “I told him no, that I had a football phone date with my dad. Because I do. I asked him for a raincheck, I guess.”

“Stiles,” Allison whined, which he thought was a little much given the situation. “You know your dad would gladly postpone your weekly call so you could go on a date, right? I’m sure Melissa would be happy to keep him busy.” There was an undeniable grin in her voice and Stiles shuddered.

“Holy shit, Allison, you are actually the devil when you’re not giving me great advice. I’m going to hang up now and pretend that last sentence never came out of your filthy mouth and I’ll see you guys online tomorrow.”

After a chorus of good-natured swearing and farewells, Stiles hung up and flung himself face first on his bed for a bout of dramatic flailing until he finally got himself under control and rolled over to contemplate the situation.

First point; he liked Derek, even though he was clearly a broody cop type.

Second point; Derek wasn’t completely repelled by him, even though Stiles talked way more than he probably should. Not only that, but Derek actually listened to him, which maybe related to the first point, but was still a bit of a revelation. Most people learned how to tune Stiles out pretty early on, or developed a kind of pathological hatred toward him, see Jackson and also the ex.

Third point; for some reason, Derek had shown up to the studio that morning, not for a class because the only class on Saturday mornings was for older ladies, but perhaps for the sole purpose of seeing Stiles? Maybe? And then had asked him on a date? Perhaps?

So why was he even freaking out about the whole Derek thing?

Uh, maybe because Sitles had to touch his ridiculously muscular body on a regular basis and if he allowed his feelings and impure thoughts to get involved then that could only end up in some pretty awkward situations. And if things didn’t go well then they’d be stuck with a different kind of awkward. Either way, Stiles was sure to bring the discomfort because apparently that’s what he did in relationships.

And woah, he had to back up the crazy train there because his thing with Derek was in no way a relationship. It was a partnership. Right? A yoga partnership.

Not a relationship.

Stiles was screwed. He inch-wormed his way up the bed and buried his head under his pillow with a pathetic-sounding groan. He was very much into his yoga partner, who maybe wanted to date him, and he’d already shot him down. He wondered what his dad would say to all that. Knowing the sheriff, he’d probably have some choice words for Stiles, but he’d be happy for him regardless of his utter stupidity.

“Guess I’ll find out tomorrow,” he muttered to himself as he fell asleep with the light on.

Chapter Text

“Stiles, how is life treating you? Anything new happen this week?” His dad sounded positively cheerful, it was kind of bizarre. Not that Sheriff Stilinski was a morose kind of a guy, but the amount of pep in his voice was definitely suspicious.

“Was it Scott or Allison who told you?” Stiles asked, cuing up the west coast game on his computer. He seriously should have suspected that one of his so-called best friends would sell him out like that.

His dad laughed, “Well, since you asked it was neither. Melissa told me you had a date, but cancelled it to spend time with me instead?” It was definitely a question, one that Stiles hadn’t actually wanted to answer.

He groaned, “I don’t even know for sure if it was a date or not, okay, and yes, I told him I had a standing obligation and we might do something another time if we’re both still interested. Happy? I used my manners and everything.”

“Stiles, you know I’m happy as long as you’re happy, and if you want to go on a date with this gentleman, then of course I’ll do anything I can to encourage you. But I know how things ended with Cassandra-”

“-ugh, what have I said about using that name-”

“-and I think it’s healthy for you to play the field a bit.”

Play the field, Dad, really?”

“So why don’t you tell me more about your yoga buddy? Sounds like a bit of a tofu-eater, to me.”

Stiles smiled sweetly, to make sure his tone matched, “But Father dearest, you’re a tofu-eater too, right? That was part of our deal, wasn’t it?”

His dad sighed dramatically, Stiles definitely came by that honestly, “Yes, my darling son, I have been eating tofu. Melissa makes a pretty good stir fry with it, actually. I’ll have her send you the recipe. And we’re on for Christmas. You’re not going to get out of it this year.”

“Agreed,” he said, idly watching as the team they weren’t rooting for scored a field goal. “But I’m not aware of Derek’s eating habits, so I don’t know if he’s a tofu-eater. He’s built like a brick shithouse, though.”

“Language,” his dad said half-heartedly, more out of reflex than any real desire to curb Stiles’ swearing. “Derek, huh? That’s a nice, strong name.”

“Yeah, it means people ruler, not that it really matters what his name is, right? I mean, my name is supposed to mean big fame, but you don’t see me on tv or anything.”

“At least you’re not infamous. There were a few years back when you were in high school that had me worried.”

“Hey, I’m an upstanding citizen, Dad. You raised me right, I even pay my taxes and contribute to society and everything.”

The sheriff scoffed, “Well, then, I guess I can go to bed easy at night, knowing my son isn’t out committing crimes.”

“Like Derek would let me,” Stiles said without thinking.

There was a beat of silence before his dad asked, with ultra-sheriff calmness, “Stiles, what did you mean by that? Do I need to come over there? I told you before that if you need me there I will be on the next flight.”

Stiles took a second to wave his arms around in a silent angry question to himself before he got his idiocy under control and breathed out a groan. “No, Dad, no I’m fine. I just said that because Derek’s a cop and he’s my yoga partner for the couples class his sister Laura roped us both into taking together.”

His dad laughed, loud and hard, until Stiles felt the urge to roll his eyes.

“Okay, okay, I get that is is hilarious to everyone else, but Derek and I are taking this thing super slow. So slowly in fact that Derek might not even be aware that there is a thing to take.”

“But the boy asked you out, didn’t he?”

Stiles dragged a hand over the back of his hair and half-shrugged at his computer screen, which showed that their team was losing quite spectacularly. “Yeah, sort of, but I’m not even a hundred percent sure he’s into guys.”

“So ask him.”

He made a face at the phone, “Dad, I can’t just ask him, that would be weird.”

The sheriff sighed, “Stiles. Son. I love you, but you’re a bit of an idiot sometimes.”

“Hey!”

“So I’m going to give you my advice. Ask the nice young man if he wants to go on a date with you. The worst that can happen, and don’t even try to interrupt with some nonsense worst case scenario like I know you want to-”

He was right, Stiles was totally prepared to jump in with some epic terrible-ness.

“-is that he says no. That’s it. But, if at any time you don’t feel safe around him you call someone; the police, your yoga friend Erica, anyone who you think can help you out. Okay?”

“Yes, sir,” Stiles said more out of reflex than agreement. The agreement would likely come in time, like it usually did, but always with reluctance because he was stubborn.

“Now let’s watch this game. Gah, look at that. Do you think they even know where the ball is? What was that? That wasn’t an interception!”

Stiles fell into the easy rhythm of bantering about football with his dad while his Derek troubles slowly faded into the background, at least until they saw each other again.




Monday was a little strange. Work started with a company-wide e-mail sent from the Youngblood of Youngblood and West, stating that due to an ongoing legal investigation, several senior auditors were being suspended from work. Auditors including Kurt Barge, who hadn't shown up to Argent Unlimited that morning. Stiles sipped his tea, a pleasant black tea with a hint of cinnamon, and shrugged when another person on the team asked him what he thought. He thought that Chicago was living up to its reputation as a not-so-upstanding city, but knew better than to say that outloud.

The rest of the day was spent number-chasing and covering for Barge, who had been assigned a significant chunk of the Argent operations. Stiles was saddled with a piece that tangentially related to what he'd already been working on and the entries into his notebook grew exponentially the longer he collected and compared the data. The more he looked the less things were adding up. But until he gathered enough evidence, there was no way he could take it to their lead, Lee. She was strictly by-the-books, and did not respond well to speculation. Or at least Stiles had gathered from seeing her shut down several others who had approached her with too little information.

So he kept his head down, his eyes open, and filled line after line of his numbers notebook.



Rush hour on the trains that night was so bad he barely had time to trade out his jackets, snatch his bag, and race to the studio for class. As it was he walked in halfway through the breathing techniques they always started with. Erica raised her eyebrows, but otherwise didn't comment on his tardiness, and he set up his mat in front of hers, trying not to be creeped out by all the pairs of eyes staring at him as he took a deep, cleansing breath.

That class was better than the previous one, though he was still accidentally groped a couple of times when they did some of the broader-reaching stances. Erica just shook her head and grinned when he made a do-something face at her and he did his best to stay as close as he could without interrupting with what she was trying to teach.

Afterward, he stayed behind while the others filed out, some obviously reluctant to go before him.

"So," he said when the door finally closed, "I think Derek asked me out. Are you happy? Wasn't this all part of your plan?"

But instead of the elation he expected to see, Erica looked slightly confused. "Derek asked you out? Like on a date?"

"Why does everyone keep saying that like I'm a leper or something. Yes! Probably. He probably asked me out on a date. You see, the thing is I'm not really sure, even less so given your reaction just now. Why? Is he straight? Is he married? What's the deal, I have to know."

Erica slowly rolled up her mat, a considering look on her face. "You know, Laura would be better at answering that than I would."

"Oh, no," Stiles said, waving his hands to keep her from advancing. "No, no, we're not getting her involved in this until we have to. I just wanted your opinion since you seem to know Derek, at least more than I do."

"I should hope I know him, I live with him," she said.

And what?

Stiles was very aware that his expression of confoundment was probably stupid-looking, but he was honestly too flabbergasted to formulate any kind of response until his brain came back online. "What?" he eloquently blurted out. "You guys live together? How did you not tell me this before? This is pretty substantial information. What the hell, Erica?"

She shrugged, "I guess it never came up. And it's not like it's just Derek and me, Laura lives there, too, along with Boyd and Isaac."

There was a group of them living together? What, did they have a house or something? In Chicago. Right.

"Who are Boyd and Isaac?" Stiles asked, feeling a bit lost with all the new information.

Erica sighed, "They work with Derek-"

"-so they're cops, too?"

That seemed to shake her a bit. "Derek told you he was a cop? When did that happen?"

"I came by to play around a bit on Saturday and he showed up out of the blue. And no, he didn't tell me. I guessed it."

"You just guessed that he was a cop?" There was some definite skepticism in her voice.

Stiles didn't see what the big deal was. "Pft, I can guess things.” When that didn’t seem to impress her he flailed his arms out and relented, “Okay, yeah, my dad's a sheriff, I'm used to cops. I can pretty much pick them out anywhere. It used to be a game we'd play when we went to watch baseball games. Spot the undercover officer. That was fun. Makes flying interesting, too, I always know if there's an air marshall onboard."

"Boy you must be fun at parties."

"You have no idea!" Stiles said, baring his teeth in a wide grin to let her know how unfunny she was. “But that’s unrelated to the fact that Derek may or may not have asked me out. So. Spill.”

Erica’s eyes narrowed as her gaze swept him from head to foot. “Are you bleeding?”

“Oh, my god. What is with you and Laura? I know how to cross the street! That was one time, it was a windy day, will you two ever let it go?”

Now she looked baffled, but then the door opened and Laura leaned casually against the frame. “So my little brother asked you out, huh?”

How on earth?

“He told you?” That didn’t seem like a very Derek thing to do. At all. “I know I didn’t; I just told Erica like a minute ago, and I’m pretty sure you don’t have my dad or best friends’ phone numbers. Are you a psychic? Did you have a vision?”

Laura rolled her eyes and pushed off the door frame. “So when’s your date?”

Stiles made a face and shrugged. “It was supposed to be last night, but I had a thing with my dad, so I suggested we get together another time. That was probably a pretty stupid thing to do though, right? I mean, do you think he’d still want to go out with me? Oh god, I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation with you two. This is the worst idea.”

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Laura asked, out of the blue. Like he hadn’t just asked her for some pretty important details about her extremely attractive brother and basically question his sanity in the same breath.

“This seems like a trick question to me, but okay, I’ll play. I was planning on skyping with my friends back home while they carve up a turkey with my dad and I eat a lunchable or something alone in my apartment. Why?”

“You’re coming to our house,” Erica said, the plotting plotter who plotted.

Also, what?

“What? Why? Are you going to poison me? Is this a trap? A set-up? I asked Derek if he was undercover and didn’t get much of an answer from him. Is this related? Should I be wearing kevlar?”

Laura wrapped an arm around Stiles’ shoulders and walked them out of the room. She was even stronger than she looked. “Now, Stiles, do we look like the type who would be capable of such cunning and malicious acts?”

“Yes.” Because he could practically smell their plotting. It was like patchouli and meddling mixed with a hint of deception. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but the whole Derek thing had well and truly thrown him off-guard. It kind of felt like they were lionesses circling their kill, and he was very unfortunately the wounded gazelle in that scenario. “But,” he continued because he could be magnanimous on occasion, “I don’t want to impose on your Thanksgiving. So, if Derek asks me to go I’ll say yes, otherwise I have a date with my webcam that night. And that sounded a bit perverted out loud. Still. That’s what I’ve decided.”

“How assertive of you,” Erica commented, stepping around to adjust the way his tank top strap lay on his shoulder.

“Now I feel like this is turning into an interrogation. Are you going to question me about my intentions with Derek because this seems a little early on for that kind of a thing.”

Laura smiled, and for some reason her teeth looked a little sharper than they should. “Oh, Stiles, we know you’d never do anything to hurt my little brother, right?”

Stiles had to swallow in order to produce enough saliva to speak. Laura’s quiet threatening voice was scary. “Oh, no. No hurting going on over here. Nothing to worry about on my end.”

“Good,” she said in a peppy falsetto, and pushed him into the Men’s room.

Scary.

Also, Thanksgiving was that Thursday.

Chapter Text

The meltdown occurred at work the next day. Not Stiles’ meltdown, though he suspected there was one in the works given how his workload suddenly tripled. It turned out that Lee was also a senior auditor under review, so Andrews was brought in to oversee them, instead, but he wasn’t up to speed on the account so the rest of them had to divide Lee’s work until he could take over some of it. The meltdown itself involved the rest of the auditors losing their collective shit when they saw how much work they all had to do before the end of the year. With an account so big they had a little over a month to finish, but it was nearly Thanksgiving, then Christmas and Chanukah and Kwanzaa and whatever else was going on that would inevitably cut into their hours of processing.

It was Stan who cracked, really. Which, if Stiles had been a betting man, he would not have put his money on slightly-overweight Stan and his penchant for humming Beatles songs under his breath as he worked. He would probably have chosen himself, in all honesty, but that was just because he was the newest member of the team and he had an unfortunate tendency to fold under pressure.

Sometimes.

It had happened.

Anyway, Stan’s little moment was mostly quiet, but involved a lot of tears, especially considering he was a grown man in his thirties with a mortgage and a wife and maybe a kid or two. The rest of the team let him cry it out, awkwardly ignoring the little hiccuped sobs as they tried to work past the pain he was obviously feeling.

“I just,” he said at one point, the first sign of true lucidity he’d shown since the crying jag had started, “I just don’t understand how they could do this to us? I mean, this account, this account will make or break all of us. Why would they get caught embezzling before we were even halfway through this?”

And what? Embezzling? That hadn’t been on Stiles’ radar. Granted, his radar was pretty much just himself at the moment. He hadn’t quite made a ton of friends at Youngblood and West, more like temporary work buddies, depending on what assignments they were on at the time. And while Derek might be a listener, Stiles definitely was not, especially when it came to the boring personal lives of his coworkers. And maybe that’s why he’d never had a lot of friends. Huh. The only person on the Argent team he’d worked with previously was Andrews, and he was too swamped catching up to chit-chat.

But the embezzlement made a certain kind of sense. The seniors would have been able to figure out where all of the backdoors were on the various accounts they were working on, and had probably worked on in the past. Plus, Chicago kind of had a reputation for shady dealings with people in power, and who had more power than the people who helped decide whether or not a company was doing their due diligence with the IRS?

Which also meant that if their clients got wind of their auditing team changing part of the way through the job they might get suspicious. And once they found out why the team had changed they would be furious.

It was like his thoughts had summoned her because the next moment Katherine-

-call me Kate-

-Argent swiped her security card at the door and walked into their conference room, looking very wickedly attractive and in-charge. Stiles had seen her picture in their briefing packet, plus he’d done a little research of his own and knew she was the co-owner of the company with her father, Gerard Argent. Not married, enjoyed hiking and other outdoor activities, and wore a pantsuit like nobody’s business.

She swept her curly light brown hair over her shoulder and fixed Stan with what was probably supposed to be a smile, but her red lipstick made it look just a touch evil. Which was not a thought he should be having about the woman who had helped hire him to dig into all of her company's business, but the red heels also kind of screamed danger, so he was sticking to his assessment.

Stan, on the other hand, was instantly entranced, and stopped mid-snuffle to stare at her with a kind of gaping fish-out-of-water expression. Stiles sincerely hoped he never looked that idiotic, but knew his luck was not that good.

“What seems to be the trouble?” She asked, resting her toned ass against the table in a move that clearly showed off her assets without looking planned. Stiles was aware of that move, since it had been used against him often enough in the past. He was immune. Though she was really fit. He could see it in her arms even through the tasteful suit jacket.

Stan, bless him, finally managed to sort of pull himself together enough to answer. Stiles was trying to send him a telepathic command not to screw things up for the rest of them even as he opened his mouth. What came out was not at all what Stiles was expecting.

“Isabel and I are going to marriage counseling,” he said instead of pretty much anything logical at all, though arguably Stiles wasn’t exactly a relationship specialist.

Apparently that hadn’t been what Kate was expecting either because she just kind of narrowed her brown eyes at him as if trying to see if he was lying to her. Which wouldn’t do at all. If she found out their company was having problems of a legal sort, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for the Argents to fire Youngblood and West, and Stiles knew his neck was closest to the chopping block if they started downsizing from losing one of their biggest clients.

“You should try yoga,” Stiles said. Just. Blurted it out in front of Andrews and the other auditors and Kate Argent. Just. Yeah.

Really smooth Stiles.

Stan was staring at him, and so was everyone else, so he forced what he hoped was a convincing up-beat smile and continued, “I mean, yeah, couples yoga. It does wonders for marriages and partnerships and friendships. What? You mean you haven’t heard of it? It’s all the rage-” overselling it “-at least it’s worked for me.” He petered off, kind of wishing for the ground-swallowing thing to happen at that very moment in time. Because they were all just staring at him.

Luanne, of all people, gave a soft exhale. “You’re seeing someone?” she asked, as if that were a bad thing, or something at mattered at all in any context. She was attractive, sure, but hadn’t given him the time of day since he’d started working. And it looked like she was the jealous type, so that was gigantic red flag painted with the word NO in capital letters.

“Well,” Stiles said, waving a hand. He very much did not want to get into the Derek situation with even more people than were already involved. “That’s beside the point, but I think it’s good that Stan opened up about his problems. We should all be more open, right? Well, I don’t know about all of you but I feel better, already. Maybe we should get back to work?”

“I don’t know,” Kate said, moving her leg to show off the dagger-like heels she was wearing and how toned her calf through the fabric of her slate gray pants. Stiles had tried on heels once and had almost broken his ankle trying to dance at the club in them. “I think you could all use a bit of a break, don’t you, what was your name?”

Stiles, she meant him. Why was she talking to him? Why had he talked? Why couldn’t they just ignore the last half hour of awkward and get back to work?

“Uh, I’m Stiles,” he said slowly enough to make him sound stupid even in his own ears.

“Stiles,” she smiled, all teeth. It reminded him of Laura, but it was a different kind of creepy. Like, a crawling feeling under his skin kind of creepy instead of an oh, shit, she could probably break me in half, kind of creepy. Both were unsettling, but Kate’s style was a bit more so, for whatever reason. “Why don’t you all come with me?”

The rest of the auditors stood when she did, including Stiles because he was apparently a sheep like the rest, and they left their things and followed her out of their sanctum and further into the corporate headquarters of Argent Unlimited.

For a tour.



He was glad he’d had the foresight to pack his yoga gear in his messenger bag because even taking a taxi he barely made it to the studio in time for the couples class. He literally ran into Derek outside the bathroom and the other man had to grab his biceps to keep them from smacking into each other like they were cartoon characters, but minus the awesome sound effects.

“Woah, sorry dude, was kind of in a rush there, obviously,” Stiles said, but Derek didn’t seem to be listening to him. Instead, he was sniffing? “Uh, I gotta change so smell ya later?”

“You should let me know if you’re going to be late,” Derek non-sequitured.

Stiles moved back a step, into the bathroom, but he held the door open. “Okay, but I don’t have your number, so that’s probably going to have to happen before the me calling and or texting you with my whereabouts thing can occur. I really feel like I should be calling you officer when you use that tone of voice, though. Is that weird?”

Derek rolled his eyes, the sass-master, and turned away, “Just hurry up, Stiles.”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

Both Erica and Laura gave him the side-eye when he walked in and plunked down across from Derek on their purple mat. Why the mat was purple, Stiles could only guess. He greatly suspected Erica’s involvement.

“Phew, what a day, did I miss the question?” Stiles said, glancing at the other couples and seeing them deep in discussion.

“Favorite animal,” Derek said, then, a beat later, “Yours?”

Stiles took a second to consider, then smiled, “Okay, yes, a quokka. That is my favorite animal.”

“A small Australian marsupial. Really.”

He grinned in response. “Color me impressed, Derek, hardly anyone knows what that is. What, did you memorize the encyclopedia when you were a kid? I’m seriously blown away by this revelation right now.”

Derek shrugged and glanced away. His whole demeanor was closed off, like when they’d first met. Something was up, but Stiles had no clue what was wrong besides him almost being late.

“Okay, you? Wait, let me guess. Lion? Meerkat? Warthog? Hyena?”

“Are you going to recite every animal from The Lion King?”

Stiles shrugged, “Only if I have enough time. Why, did I say your favorite, already?”

“No.”

“Am I at least on the right continent?”

Laura interrupted Derek’s answer, which seemed to be a no, and they warmed up in silence. Their mirror poses were entertaining, at least to Stiles, since he chose to mirror not only Derek’s movements, but his slightly constipated facial expression as well. Stiles was the only one amused by that particular show of maturity, well, besides Laura, who he caught grinning a couple of times out of the corner of his eye.

“You’re quiet today,” Stiles said during one of their water breaks.

Derek shrugged in response, “I’m always quiet.”

That didn’t seem to be entirely true, but if he wanted to play the enigmatic officer, he was perfect for the role.

“Okay, suit yourself, I’ll just be here in silence, waiting. In case you want to have a conversation.”

Derek didn’t want to have a conversation, it turned out, so they spent the rest of the class quietly following Laura and Erica’s soothingly spoken instructions and touching each other in weird ways. At one point Stiles was kneeling on Derek’s back, feeling only the slightest trembling from the other man as he took all of Stiles’ weight, and really felt like making a joke, but he didn’t. Because Derek didn’t seem to be in the mood. Even though jokes were specifically invented to lift broody moods. He congratulated himself on his show of restraint.

 

A little while later they were waiting outside the bathroom again for Malcolm to finish changing. The guy moved like a freaking jackrabbit after class and always beat them there. Every single time. He wasn’t very flexible, though, so Stiles took that as a slight conciliation.

“Um, was there something you wanted to ask me?” he said, hoping to end the Thanksgiving mystery sooner rather than later, especially since it was only two days away.

Derek seemed to gather himself, which he thought was a bit much since it was really just a dinner with friends, then looked Stiles in the eye and asked him, “Who is your client right now? Where are you working?”

Derek was on a roll, asking completely random questions that night and generally confusing Stiles.

“Uh, pretty sure I can’t talk about that. There was a whole confidentiality waiver and everything. Why? Idle curiosity? Need help laundering money? Ha, just kidding about that last one, though rumor has it there have been some shady dealings going around with some of the senior auditors, lately. Hey, what kind of a cop are you, anyway? Homicide? Forensics? If I guess will you tell me?”

“That’s not your concern,” Derek said in his broody voice.

“Well then it appears we are at an impasse. Want to talk sports, instead? I’m good for at least a few minutes, hours really, of stats talk. What’s your flavor? Baseball? Football? Something more European? Rugby, perhaps?”

“My number is programed into your phone. Use it in the future to let me know if you’re going to be late. And I’d prefer if you didn’t come here smelling like gunpowder, it’s distracting.”

“Wait, you can smell that?” Stiles asked, but Derek was already stalking away. And also, he hadn’t done any kind of target practice since the last time he’d seen his dad, and he certainly hadn’t been wearing a work shirt and slacks at the time. Also, also, when had Derek had the time to program his number into Stiles’ phone?

Weird.

 

Charlie was waiting for him in the living room when he got home. Which was pretty much exactly the opposite of what he wanted at that moment in time. What he would have prefered was an empty apartment so he could take a shower in peace and maybe have some quality alone time to help release some of the tension pooling in his muscles. Not even the yoga had helped that, thanks to Derek’s general reticence that evening.

His flatmate looked a bit worn around the edges. His nails were a wreck from biting them, his hair had a greasy kind of sheen to it, and he didn’t smell the greatest, either.

“Charlie? You okay, dude?” Stiles asked, toeing off his shoes and deliberately not looking at the empty space where his bike should be.

“You didn’t come back after work,” Charlie said instead of answering. There seemed to be a lot of that going around.

“Nope,” Stiles said as he shrugged out of his work coat, “No I did not. Had to rush to class after work. Why, did you need something from the store?”

That wasn’t a very common occurrence, the requesting of items while the other guy was out, but it had happened a few times since they’d started living together. But after the second time Stiles had bought condoms for the other man he’d put an embargo on those. Because it was weird. And also it kind of made him sad.

Charlie shook his head, though. “No, no, just wondering where you were, you know.”

No, Stiles didn’t know.

He said as much and his flatmate laughed it off, like him worrying about Stiles was a completely ordinary thing.

Which it very certainly was not.

They chatted a bit more after that, Charlie’s Thanksgiving plans were nothing out of the ordinary for him, mainly spending quality time with lonely ladies and gentlemen in the privacy of their deluxe rented rooms in one or another fancy hotel. Stiles politely turned down the gracious invitation to join him.

He’d much rather eat lunchables and skype with his dad, which was probably what was going to happen since Derek was being was being weird. Stiles waved as Charlie moved to leave, and he noticed there was something strange with the way he moved, like he was sore or nursing his ribs or something. But, other than sexing up a lot of people, Charlie wasn’t that physical of a guy. He was kind of lanky, but didn’t really have any muscle definition to speak of. He was also covered in fine, curly hair that matched the pale blonde on his head. Stiles really couldn’t see the physical appeal of the hairy guy, but to each their own.

“Hey, you alright man? You look a bit sore.”

Charlie waved him off and Stiles did not imagine the flinch of pain the movement caused. “Naw, I’m fine, just took a bit of a spill is all.”

“Is that where your bike is because I haven’t seen it in a few days, since you got back from wherever it was you disappeared to.”

His flatmate’s face blanched and one hand moved to his ribs on his left side like he was protecting them from something. “I’m done with the bike, mate. Took one too many hits, besides this weather is terrible for riding. I’ll be back in a few days, don’t look for me.” And he slipped on a ratty jacket and out the door. Just like that.

“What the fuck is going on? Am I in the Twilight Zone, or something?” Stiles muttered, shuffling to his bedroom. He was too worked up about everything that was going on to masturbate, thanks guys, so he did the next best thing, he played some old school Mario.

Chapter Text

The next morning a disgusting wintery mix was falling from the sky in a deluge of frigid terribleness that automatically put Stiles in a grumpy mood. He angrily ate his oatmeal and trudged to the train station, swearing at his wet pant legs and the sky and weather and himself for moving to the upper midwest when he was used to dry hot summers and mild winters.

Thankfully, Andrews was still in charge when Stiles got to Argent Unlimited, which was a big plus in his book. He seemed to be up to speed and the general workload was once again divided enough that no one burst into tears. It was also nice that the other auditors had begun to include Stiles in their gossip circle after the mini field trip with Ms. Argent-

    -Kate-

-the previous day. Even Luanne had warmed up to him a little, but her smile was a bit pinched when she spoke to him and that was a touch unsettling.

When he got up to brew his second cup of tea, black with a hint of some kind of delicious pumpkin spice, Luanne was there at his shoulder, looming without trying to look like she was interested in speaking to him. But she obviously wanted interested in the tea, so, as he suspected she would, Luanne finally cracked.

“What is this about couples yoga?” she asked in a manner that was probably an attempt at flirtatious, but she was about as good at that as she was at being subtle, which was not at all. Also, she sounded kind of bitchy about the whole thing, which ruined the overall effect she was obviously going for.

Stiles, having not had the best morning and whose socks were still damp, did his best impression of Laura’s toothy grin. “Oh, it really is something else. You should try it, sometime.”

Her attempt to bat her eyes at him, and really, who batted their eyes, anymore, looked more like she had a facial tic than any kind of tried and true seduction technique. “I might give it a shot if I had the right partner. You look pretty strong, do you think you could lift me?”

Never comment on a woman’s age or weight, his dad’s voice ordered him.

He breathed out a half-laugh, “I really wouldn’t know, my partner is the one who does all the heavy lifting. You should see his arms, they’re insane.” Which was a gamble. He was gambling that Luanne would take the new information and accept the things he was inferring, and that she wouldn’t take that as an excuse to make his life utterly miserable. It really could go either way.

Thankfully, the smirk she’d been wearing only twitched a tiny bit before she suddenly smiled big and bright and honestly. It made her artificially tanned face light up and she grabbed his forearm with both of her manicured hands. “He? Did you say he? You have to tell me everything. He can lift you? He must be ripped!”

“I know, right?” Stiles said, finding her enthusiasm catching. They spent the rest of the time it took for the tea to steep gossiping about men, which was certainly not how Stiles had expected his morning to turn out, but it was a nice change of pace.

Kate stopped by around noon, followed by men and women in uniforms pushing silver carts nearly overflowing with food. And not just cold cuts and half-frozen buns, either, they were hot hordourves Stiles only barely recognized from fancy cooking shows on tv, piles of steaming pasta and soups, and cornucopias of fresh fruits.

It was a little much.

But it was also delicious-looking.

Stiles got in line behind the rest of his team, noting how Parson Manning, Par-Man, in Stiles’ head, couldn’t keep his eyes off of Luanne’s low hemline, when someone stepped up alongside him. It was Kate and she was standing awfully close.

“Stiles,” she said, smelling like woah, possibly gunpowder. Maybe that was what Derek had been talking about. He was temporarily distracted by the fact that Derek might be a super smeller before he realized she’d addressed him.

“Uh, hi Ms. Argent.”

“Kate,” she and his subconscious said at the same time.

“Yeah, hello, nice meal you’ve got for us. This is uncommonly generous.”

“But not suspiciously, so, I hope,” she said.

It hadn’t been until she mentioned it, but Stiles just gave a chuckle and willed her to leave him alone. “Oh, no, of course not. We’re not allowed to be taken out for meals and we can’t accept gifts, but you’re definitely welcome to feed us.”

“Do you like fancy meals?” she asked, following at his elbow as he dished up a bit of whatever was in front of him. He couldn’t quite concentrate with her hovering so closely.

“Uh, sure.”

“What about holiday meals? It doesn’t sound like you’re from around here, do you have any family nearby?”

It was getting awkward. Luanne was watching him from the table with a hawkish kind of expression that told him he would lose his new gossip buddy forever if he didn’t get Kate off his case, and Luanne’s companionship meant more to him than the creeping comings-on of a woman at least a decade older than him, though she wore it well.

“Uh, nope, no family. I’m actually going to my partner’s place for Thanksgiving, thanks for asking.”

Her mouth tightened just a fraction at that, then smoothed out in a smile. “Partner? How nice for you. Black Friday shopping?”

“Oh, no, none of that for me. We’re all off,” he said, gesturing to the rest of the group who were all failing to appear casual as they eavesdropped, “so I’ll just be staying around my apartment. You know, the usual. Well, it was nice to chat, but I have to ask Luanne something about the numbers I just ran. And thanks again for the meal, it’s awesome.”

Kate was very clearly not used to being dismissed, but she granted them another sweeping smile and left the room with the catering staff following after her without a word.

“You’re having Thanksgiving dinner with your partner?” Luanne said before he could attempt to steer the topic in any other direction.

He bit into one of the unidentified quiche-looking items on the plate, it was, in fact, quiche. After chewing and swallowing and dabbing his mouth with his napkin, he nodded. “Why, yes, I was invited by one of his roommates. Wait, flatmates definitely sounds better. I was invited by one of his flatmates.”

That sucked away some of her enthusiasm. “But he didn’t invite you?”

Stiles ate the other half of the quiche and shook his head. “No, not exactly, why?”

“Does he know you’re going to be there?”

“Uh, maybe?”

“What are you bringing?”

“I don’t-”

“Stiles, this is tomorrow night. What are you going to wear? How are you going to get there?”

She was starting to remind him of Lydia, which was scary and also kind of awesome. Once he’d gotten over his ridiculous decade-long crush on her, he’d been able to see just how cunningly amazing she was without falling over himself trying to worship or coddle her. Luanne was like that, though probably not as wickedly smart, seeing that she was in her current occupation instead of on track to take over the mathematical world.  Also, no one could top the strawberry blonde goddess in the looks department, at least no other female. Lydia set that bar pretty high.

“I don’t know how to answer any of those questions and I think I need help?” he admitted, and let himself be dragged into a one-sided conversation about exactly what he was to do to prepare for the next evening. That was, if Derek actually invited him to go.

It was a big if, given how he’d responded to Stiles the previous night at yoga. Plus, they weren’t going to see each other that night, or the next if Derek didn’t somehow bring himself to invite Stiles. So, it looked like he’d just lied to all of his coworkers and the Vice President of the company he was helping audit.

Thanks, Derek.

   

 

He spent the rest of the afternoon in companionable silence with the team, idly humming along with Stan when he broke out into a whispered version of Yellow Submarine. Even Andrews seemed to relax a bit, and by the end of the day Stiles had another page filled in his notebook, and a zen-like attitude about life.

Until he walked out the door and into what was surely the beginnings of a blizzard. Or at least an ice storm. That was a thing, right? Whatever, it was starting to resemble Hoth and that wasn’t cool.

No, it was cold.

Stiles told himself to shut up and made his way to the nearest train station, which was a bit of a trek. He was halfway there when a sleek black sports car pulled up alongside the curb and the passenger window rolled down, to reveal Derek, sometimes yoga partner and perpetually grumpy cop.

“This isn’t the least bit suspect,” Stiles said as cheerfully as he could with cold wet whatever sliding down the back of his neck.

Derek looked like he wanted to roll his eyes, but was too perturbed to do so. “Get in, Stiles.”

“You do remember that my dad’s a sheriff, right?” he said as he awkwardly tromped over the sludge next to the curb and wrestled open the door. “He’s going to be seriously pissed if I get myself kidnapped by a police officer. Oh, and he wants to know if you eat tofu.”

There was a weird look on his face as he took Stiles’ bag from him and put it in the back seat. “You talked to your father about me?”

“Derek, honestly, what else am I going to talk to him about? It’s either work, which I’m not allowed to go into specifics about, or the only other thing going on in my life.”

“Me?” he said with raw skepticism.

“Yoga, which yes, includes you. So wait, why are you here?”

Derek pulled smoothly away from the curb and cranked the heat. “Your class is cancelled tonight,” he said, like that was what Stiles had been worried about.

“Okay,” he started, when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He dug it out with half-numb hands and saw a message from Erica, saying what Derek had just told him. “Creepy timing, but yeah, I now have evidence to support your claim. That only makes this situation thirty percent less creepy.”

“And I eat tofu if that’s in whatever Isaac cooks.”

“Is Isaac your boyfriend?”

Derek scoffed and glanced at him before looking back at the slushy road, “No, Isaac isn’t my boyfriend, he’s Boyd and Erica’s boyfriend. Sometimes Laura’s, too, but she’s more into women than men.”

“So she and Erica?”

“Isn’t that a better question for them to answer? This is my sister we’re talking about, there are some things I’d like to be left in the dark about.”

Stiles held up his hands for a second, then put them back in front of the air vents. “Hey, just curious. I haven’t known too many polyamorous people. Wait, is that how they define themselves? I don’t want to put an incorrect label on things if that’s not what they like to be called.”

Derek shrugged, “I just call them annoying, but polyamory works, too.”

“Annoying because-” Stiles tapered off.

“Because they fuck like rabbits in nearly every room of the house and it’s annoying when I have to hear, see, and smell that all the time.”

“So you’re not a bigot?”

The sassy look was back, and it brought the eyebrows as backup. “No, Stiles, I’m not a bigot.”

Which Stiles had suspected, but it was nice to know for sure. He waited an entire block before he couldn’t contain himself anymore.    “Do I smell like gunpowder again?” he blurted out. It had been bothering him and he didn’t really want to keep thinking about Erica naked and surrounded by manflesh and womanflesh. At least not with Derek in the same car. Or ever. Thinking about either Erica or Laura like that was kind of awkward, really. They were more like his sisters than viable sexual candidates and he suddenly got where Derek was coming from.

He glanced over at Stiles and nodded, “Yes, you do. Do you want to tell me why?”

It wasn’t like he had anything to hide, so he shrugged and snuggled down a bit in the warm leather seat. He glanced at the center console and noticed his seat warmer was on, but that Derek’s wasn’t.

Huh.

“It’s this woman at work. I noticed it today after you were so weird about it yesterday. She was kind of all up in my business and I could smell it on her, which is strange, right? I mean, she was wearing business clothes both times. Who goes shooting in a pant suit and heels?”

Derek’s bare fingers tightened around the steering wheel. “Will you tell me who it is?” he asked through clenched teeth.

Stiles considered it, but that would definitely break his confidentiality agreement he’d signed, and he was too new to the field to risk screwing up, now. Plus, Derek was a cop, so there was no way that would end well. “Nope. Well, it’s possible you can deduce it, yourself, given that you apparently knew where to pick me up, which is nowhere near Youngblood and West’s office. Unless you’re going to tell me this was just a chance encounter.” He hoped the skepticism in his voice informed Derek that that particular excuse wouldn’t fly.

“It wasn’t chance,” Derek admitted, and pulled down an alley to park under an awning behind a building Stiles didn’t recognize. He actually hadn’t been paying attention the entire time they’d been driving, which was kind of unusual for him, but then again the conversation with Derek had been anything but boring. “I was in the area and figured you’d need a lift back to near where you live. You walk to the studio, don’t you?” He waved a hand dismissively at the back of the building in front of them and Stiles realized it was made from the same kind of brick as Hale Yoga.

“Yeah, I live a block or so away. Thanks, even if you didn’t tell me why you knew where I’d be. I really do appreciate this.” Stiles moved to open the door when Derek’s hand reached out and grabbed the handle to stop him. He froze with his hand hovering above Derek’s.

“Come have dinner with us tomorrow night,” he said, quietly and if Stiles hadn’t known better he’d think vulnerably.

“Dinner tomorrow?”

“Thanksgiving.”

Stiles could have just said yes, which he very much wanted to, but he didn’t honestly know if Derek wanted him to, so he asked him.

That seemed to confuse Derek, who stared at Stiles for a long moment before his brows quirked up. “Why wouldn’t I want you to?”

Oh, I don’t know, a thousand reasons starting and ending with how annoying most people find me upon repeat exposure, Stiles didn’t say. What he did say was, “No reason, I suppose, but my answer is yes. I’d be happy to come over. What should I bring, and please don’t say nothing, but also don’t say anything too complicated because there’s just a tiny grocery store between here and my place and it closes in twenty minutes.”

The smile that earned him made his face flush with a hint of heat and his heart thud a bit harder in his chest. And then for some reason Derek chuckled softly. “I don’t know, Stiles, snack stuff? We have all the rest planned out, or at least Isaac and Erica do. Everyone likes to hang out and eat whatever’s around while we wait for the meal to be prepared. Come by the studio around three and someone will pick you up. Good night.”

Derek leaned back across him and opened the door. He was wearing a leather jacket again and it felt warm as it brushed against Stiles’ thigh.

“Good night, Derek. I’ll see you tomorrow, with snacks.”

Stiles took his bag from the other man and managed to extricate himself from the car kind of gracefully, which was a huge improvement over what would have happened before he’d started taking yoga.

“Go through the back,” Derek said, nodding to the iron-barred door in front of them. Stiles nodded and closed the passenger side door and shuffled out of the way so Derek could back up and drive away.

   

 

Erica was waiting just inside, bouncing on her toes and clasping her hands. “Did he ask you?” She practically screeched at him and he clutched his bag to his chest in what he hoped looked like a dramatic gesture of shock. She laughed and shoved his shoulder forcefully, though it was probably meant to be playful.

“Yes, yes, he asked and yes, before you interrupt I am coming to your shindig tomorrow. Which means I can’t stay and chat because I have to go to the store before it closes.”

But her expression had changed somewhere along the way and it could have just been how the light in what looked to be a storage room was reflecting off her eyes but they seemed to flash a yellowish gold for a second, which was strange because her eyes were really an earthy brown. “Do you have a gun?” she suddenly asked, all playfulness gone and replaced by what sounded a bit like suspicion.

“Is this the gunpowder thing again because I told Derek I think it’s from a woman at work. I definitely smelled it on her, today. And to answer your question, no, my father may be a sheriff, but there was no way in hell he’d let me have my own gun. Now, is that it, is the inquisition finished or are you going to bring out the pear of anguish?”

Erica made a confused face and shook her head, “No, no pears. We don’t need fruit for tomorrow, either. Snacks, that’s what you can bring. Get something chocolatey.”

“Chocolate snacks, check,” Stiles said, following her through the hallway and up to the front of the building. Laura wasn’t at the desk, not that he expected her to be, and he waved farewell to Erica before heading out into the blustery cold.

 

   

Scott was waiting for him online when he sat down at his desk, delicately cradling the nearly overflowing bowl of microwaved ramen. Once he was certain he wasn’t going to spill all over himself, Stiles clicked the accept button and Scott’s face popped up on his screen.

“Dude, we haven’t talked in days what’s going on?” he said in a rush.

Stiles grinned around a mouthful of noodles and made an ah-huh noise.

“Gross,” Scott said, but he was smiling, too. He’d always been one for poop jokes and fart humor. “But seriously, what’s happening? You score a date with that guy, yet? Is he nice to you? Please don’t tell me if you’re having sex with him though.”

He swallowed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, pointing a finger at Scott’s scrunched nose. “Oh, that’s some fucking pot-kettle shit right there, Scotty. I owe you like years of overshares after what I had to go through in high school and even into college. I know more about Allison’s birthmarks than I do my own, so if I want to go into explicit detail about the things that I get up to between the sheets with my partner of choice, then you’re damn well going to listen.”

Scott whined in response and sat back in his chair, “But you never talked about stuff like that when you were with Cassa-shit, sorry, man. I didn’t mean to bring up the evil ex.”

“Yeah ya did, but it’s okay, it’s been a year, plenty of time for me to get over it, right?” But his words sounded hollow, even to his own ears.

“You know you can talk to me about it if you want, right? I mean I kind of feel like we never really talked when you two were dating, like you weren’t allowed to?”

Stiles had no clue how the conversation had derailed so spectacularly, but it had been  a year, and he really hadn’t talked about it with anyone. He was about to, his mouth was open and the words were building up inside of him, but then he just couldn’t. There was so much pain there, in the memory of her cold touch, of her sticky lipgloss, and the dry texture of her long hair. Too many things to say, and no where near enough words to express his simultaneous relief and anguish over their breakup. Instead, he forced a smile and pointed his chopsticks at Scott.

“Change of subject. Derek and I are not dating, but he’s definitely hot and he invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with him and his sister and a few of their friends that live with them, so I’m bailing on you guys and you’re going to be happy for me instead of pulling that kicked puppy face.”

Scott’s kicked puppy face was almost complete before he pouted at the last minute and ruined the effect. “Fine, but Allison and I were going to share some awesome news with you guys tomorrow night and now I don’t know if she just wants me to tell you now or if she wants to wait. It’s kind of a big deal and-”

“She’s pregnant?” Stiles said, drawing the only logical conclusion. Both she and Scott had stable jobs, so it wasn’t like they were going to up and move out of their cute two-bedroom home in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Beacon Hills. Besides that, they really weren’t all that adventurous, so Stiles didn’t think they’d go to Spain or get a bobcat or anything else out of the ordinary.

His friend was staring at him, wide eyed and mouth hanging open. “Dude,” he said, “how did you know that? Did Allison already tell you? Did my mom?”

Scott would just continue to get more hysterical, his voice getting higher and higher pitched as the questions continued, but Stiles forestalled with with a smile. “Naw, man, it’s just that I figured it was the simplest explanation. Remember who raised me?”

“The master of logic, himself,” Scott said with a broad smile. They had spent a large portion of their childhood under Sheriff Stilinski’s tutelage, learning the fine art of observation and analysis, even though neither of them were that great at applying the vast troves of knowledge his dad had imparted on them. Stiles was too much of an attention-deficit spaz and Scott’s asthma had made it hard for him to keep up when they were walking the beat or blazing a trail through the preserve.

It took Stiles’ brain a minute to catch up with the revelation he’d so casually guessed, but then he was bouncing in his seat, flailing his hands and cackling like a maniac. “I’m going to be an uncle!”

“You’re going to be an uncle!”

Stiles’ eyes were wide as he stared at his friend, “Holy shit, you’re going to be a dad, Scott!”

“I’m going to be a-oh my god, Stiles, I’m going to be a dad.” His face blanched and if Stiles had been there he would have slapped the horrified look of his best friend’s face.

“Dude, Scott! Calm down, everything’s going to be fine, don’t freak out about this. You’re going to be an amazing dad, just like Allison’s going to be an amazing mom. You’re going to have a freaking adorable kid, who, in turn, will have the best uncle to ever uncle. Woah, that sounded weird-”

Scott’s smile was back.

“-and I’ll see you guys this Christmas so we can get you guys organized and paint the baby room and whatever. Oh, by the way, sorry if me bailing on you makes tomorrow weird. It’s you two and my dad, right?”

“And my mom and Allison’s dad.”

Stiles made a face, Chris Argent wasn’t his biggest fan and wait.

“Woah, woah, woah. Does Allison happen to have any family here in Chicago? Any other Argents?”

Scott tilted his head to the side and seemed to think about it for a minute before he shrugged. “I don’t know, not that she’s mentioned. The only thing I’ve heard is that her dad and grandfather had a falling out when she was in high school, around the time her mom died, so he moved her out here and started up his shooting range.”

“Yeah, I remember that place, my dad took me there sometimes when I’d come visit during college. Okay, that’s cool.”

“Why do you ask?”

Stiles shrugged and shoveled some tepid noodles into his mouth and immediately regretted it. The oily sheen on them was not entirely appetizing, but he chewed, anyway. “No reason,” he said around the food, relishing in Scott’s disgusted face and hoping he changed the subject.

He did.

They gossiped a bit about the goings-on of the town and what different classmates were up to after having graduated from college or trade school or having been kicked out of their parent’s houses. It was nice, a refreshing way to spend the evening and he couldn’t help the relieved feeling of warmth in his chest as he thought about how awesome his best friend could be when they actually had the time to chat about random nonsense.

 

 

Running helped alleviate the lingering tension even more, though the ride down was cold enough to make him want to squeal and dance away the chill. There was no one in the basement, which was par for the course. The only other time he’d been down there with another person was when the super had first shown him the workout equipment and they’d struck their deal about the freight elevator usage. Which reminded Stiles that his bi-monthly delivery of baked goods was coming due.

He got in an easy three miles before he called it quits, wiping the cold sweat from his face and neck with a hand and making sure he remembered his bag. He’d learned not to go anywhere without it, since it held his water bottle in addition to his notebook and there was no telling when he’d need either. The water for obvious reasons, but when he was moving, mind drifting, he was often struck with revelations about how the various cascading columns of numbers related to each other. He’d figured out several previous discrepancies that way. No revelations came to him that night, though, which was fine. He was a bit distracted, anyway, thinking about being an uncle and how precious Scott and Allison’s kid was bound to be.

 

 

His mind wandered as he got back to the apartment and took a quick scalding shower to cleanse himself of the day’s grime and his work-out sweat. He got ready for bed, congratulating himself on making it there before midnight, a rare enough event, let alone when he didn’t have to work the next day. Though the thought of spending time with his Chicago friends, that was a special kind of motivation all in itself.

But he had the place to himself that night, with no one hooking up down the hall or making fake sex noises just to be obnoxious and it had been a few days since he’d had any quality time with himself. So Stiles lay in bed awake, a soft expression on his face as his hand worked a slow rhythm over his half-hard cock. He paused to reach onto his nightstand to squeeze a bit of lotion onto his palm to ease the way, being careful to warm it up first because his apartment was not the most insolated and he didn’t relish getting frostbite on that particular appendage. After letting his thoughts drift for a few more minutes, idly stroking himself, he finally allowed his mind to settle on the awesome power of Derek’s toned body.

The abs he’d only caught a glimpse of, rippling and toned. His strong back, hot and firm under Stiles’ hands and feet and knees. His unbelievable arms, veiny and covered in soft hair and so beautifully muscular. The curve of his lips and the definition of his jawline, his expressive eyebrows and intense hazel eyes.

A gasp escaped him as he switched hands, hard length already lubed enough for his other hand to slip over it while he reached around and began to tease his hole. Stiles bit back a moan as he writhed under the sheets and blanket, his boxers wet with precome and lotion as he slipped one finger, then another inside. For one deliciously hot moment he imagined it was Derek’s hand stroking him, Derek’s hard cock inside, and he came with a soft, keening cry.

The post-orgasm haze only lasted for a few short minutes before his brain kicked back online. What he’d done, masturbate to his yoga partner’s incredible physique, was not in any way helpful, seeing that he was supposed to interact with Derek for the entire afternoon the following day. Without getting hard. Or embarrassing himself too much.

In-fucking-possible.

Stiles groaned in an entirely different way than before and shuffled to the bathroom to take another shower and maybe drown himself.

Chapter Text

Even with Luanne’s advice from the previous day, it took him nearly an hour to choose an outfit. By the end of it he was so fed up with himself and his wardrobe that he just picked out his favorite graphic tee, a plaid shirt to go over it, a hoodie to go over that, threw on some jeans and called it a day. He set his leather jacket on a chair in the living room, even though it was frigid outside and he should probably wear his actual coat, instead, and paced around the apartment.

But then he looked at the clock, noticed it was only ten o’clock, and he forced himself to have some oatmeal to tide him over until dinner. When that failed to keep him entertained for longer than a few minutes he stomped back to his room and went on a mini panic-induced cleaning spree. Well, tidying spree. He sorted through and put away all the random knick knacks and books that had slowly made their way onto his desk in a jumbled mess of clutter. Once they were gone, though, the space looked massive and very much unlike his normal organized chaos. Stiles was tempted to put a few things back when his computer pinged with Scott's incoming video chat request.

"Dude, you know I have plans today, right?" Stiles said as he moved across the room to futz with his books. On the shelf they were organized by genre and within that, by his favorites. A few had the Beacon Hills Public Library stamp across the pages from when he’d stolen them as a kid, after his mom had died. He tended to go back and read those the most.

"Aw, getting ready for your date?” Scott said teasingly from across the room, “Wait, you're wearing that?"

Stiles looked down at himself, then back at his friend. "Uh, there's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing, Scott. I happen to look quite fetching."

Scott scratched the back of his head in his are you sure about that gesture. "But isn't this like your first date?"

It was, but Stiles wasn't going to admit it, or how freaked out he was feeling about the whole thing. So instead, he puffed out a breath and waved a hand, "What? No, of course not. Who has their first date on Thanksgiving? That's like the lamest thing I've ever heard! It’s a casual hang-out with friends, is all.”

“Are you sure, Stiles because it kind of sounds like a date and are you stress cleaning?”

Stiles whirled to face his friend and tossed the dirty clothes in his hand near the laundry basket. “What? No, well maybe. Okay, yes. Yes, I am stress cleaning, are you happy? Can’t we talk about something else, dude, I’m trying to take my mind off of the not-date I’m going on this afternoon and you’re not really helping. Hey, why are you even up this early, anyway”

Scott fiddled around with something on his desk, out of Stiles’ line of sight and when he eventually looked up there was a serious look on his face. “Stiles, there’s something that’s been bothering me about Derek.”

“That’s what got you up so early? You were worrying about me?” Which was weird because Scott had never been much of a worrier, well, unless Stiles had gotten one or both of them in trouble, or if he was planning to do something particularly stupid. Or that time with the ex, he supposed. Actually, Scott was kind of a worrier.

Huh.

“Doesn’t matter,” Scott said, “but you told your dad Derek was a cop, right?”

“Right,” like that even mattered.

“And you were home early yesterday.”

“And?”

“And why? Weren’t you supposed to have yoga class? Your beginners class.”

Stiles failed to see how any of it mattered, but Scott actually looked pretty concerned, so he sat down at his desk and put his chin in his hands, so close that his face looked huge in his corner of the screen. “Well, you see, since I live in the midwest it gets shitty snowy here, sometimes, so Erica cancelled our class.”

“And you got home in record time? Wait, when did Derek even invite you to dinner? I talked to you like, right when you got home, and you’re not allowed to have your phone on when you’re working.”

Scott’s suspicion was getting suspicious.

“Uh, I was walking to the train station from the client’s office and he pulled up and offered me a ride. He asked me on the way to my place. Well, when he parked at the yoga studio where he dropped me off without even slipping me a roofie or anything. What can I say, guy’s a gentleman.”

The flippancy did not seem to amuse Scott in the slightest. “Stiles, don’t you think that’s a little weird, that he knew where you’d be. Unless, hey, aren’t your clients supposed to be kept confidential? Did you tell him where you were working?”

“Contrary to popular belief, I am not, in fact, an idiot. No, of course I didn’t tell him where I’d be. And yes, I’ll admit it’s a bit odd that he just happened to be driving on the same street as me when I got off work yesterday, but maybe it’s just some crazy random happenstance. Those can happen, right?”

“And what about you being paired with him for your couples class? Was that random, too?” Scott looked entirely too smug for someone hurling out accusations willy nilly.

Stiles ran both hands through his hair, idly watching how mussed it got in his corner of the screen before fixing the camera with his best impression of Derek’s sassy look. “Dude, Scott, I already asked Erica if she and Laura were trying to set me up with Derek and she said no. This is not a thing, even if I maybe want it to be one. This is a, a pity dinner. They know I’m from California, that I don’t have any other friends here, and they’re taking pity on me by inviting me to tag along. There, happy? I think you might have just sucked all of the fun out of the entire day, thanks.”

Scott looked a bit stricken by the end and if Stiles hadn’t known better he’d have thought his best friend’s lower lip had wobbled a bit before he buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry, I just, Allison got up like an hour ago with morning sickness and I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe Derek was like Cassandra, and I’m sorry I keep bringing her up but we were seriously terrified for you last year when you two took off and no one could find you and I don’t want that to happen again.”

And so the truth came out.

Stiles heaved a gigantic internal sigh. He was surprised, actually, that Scott had made it almost exactly one year before he finally broke down and brought up Cassandra’s craziness. But, even if Scott wanted to talk about it, Stiles did not. Ever. So he focused on the other part of the rant and tried to make his face look sympathetic.

“Allison’s not feeling good? I hear orange juice is good for that. Tastes the same going down as coming up, at least that’s what my mom used to say when she was sick. Not that this isn’t a completely normal kind of sick, so don’t worry, it’s just a hormone thing, right?”

Scott nodded, “That’s what the books say.”

He couldn’t hold back his smile, “Books? As in plural? Allison’s having you read parenting books already? Hey, how far along is she, anyway?”

Six weeks, apparently. Which got Scott talking about things other than Stiles’ past and potential future relationships and they spent a long time reminiscing about their childhood, and then Scott spent a few minutes with his inhaler recovering from the memory some of the more spectacularly stupid things they’d done together.

“My kid’s not jumping off a roof, ever,” he declared, pointing an accusatory finger at Stiles.

“Hey, what? I seem to remember it being you who insisted we play superheroes, and you’re the one who begged my mom to make us capes.”

“Capes which your dad confiscated after you broke your arm trying to fly.”

“Whatever, it was cool, I even let you pick out the cast color, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about.”

“Still,” Scott said, all stubborn and adorably stern, “No roofs. If you so much as mention roofs in my child’s hearing I will do bad things to you?”

Bad things? Really, Scott? That’s your big threat?”

Scott had a look on his face that said the next thing out of his mouth would not only be amusing to Stiles, but would be as dead serious as his friend ever got. “If you mention roofs, or exploring creeks before they can swim, or going into the woods alone I will go to your dad’s house and personally pee on every single one of your comic books.”

As far as threats went, that one was actually pretty impressive. Stiles held up his hands and nodded, “Wow, man, didn’t know you had that in you. Okay, okay, no mentioning some of the dumb stuff we got up to until your kid is old enough to call me on my bullshit, got it. Have any other threats for your best friend before you go out and buy some orange juice for your wife?”

The fight deflated from Scott and his goofy grin was back, “Naw, dude, just have a good time, I guess. Try to call us at some point, after about seven your time so we can all say hi. Oh, shit, gotta go turn on the oven. Later!”

The connection ended before Stiles could get in a word and he breathed out a laugh as he closed the program.

“Whatever, dude,” he muttered and decided to do some laundry while he had the time. He figured he might as well get it over with while Charlie was gone. That way none of his clothes would be accidentally commandeered by random one night stands. Not even his one night stands, not that he had any. And maybe, just maybe, Stiles really needed to get laid.

 

 

Erica was parked out front in the sleek black car when Stiles got to the studio. She had a smirk on her red lips as he slipped into the passenger seat.

“You better have some chocolate in there,” she said, nodding at his messenger bag as he buckled his seatbelt.

“Well, the lady demanded chocolate, so chocolate is what the lady gets,” Stiles said, grabbing onto the door as she peeled away from the curb and onto the sort of cleared streets. It was still a bit too slushy and slick for him to be entirely comfortable with the speed she was going.

Of course she noticed his discomfort and patted him roughly on the knee, “Oh, don’t worry so much, Stiles, I’ve got this.”

“You’re going to have something and I’m thinking it’s going to look a lot like a reckless driving citation.”

“You wanna see reckless, you should see Derek drive the back roads to his parent’s place.”

“Nope, no speeding tickets or getting wrapped around a tree for me, thanks,” Stiles said tightly as they soared through a yellow light.

Erica wasn’t even looking where she was going, she was eying him with a smirk. “So that’s what you decided to wear on your first date with Derek?”

“Oh my god watch the road and this is not a date! Thanksgiving dinner cannot be considered a date. That’s got to be a rule, somewhere.”

“Is that in the same rule book that states it’s acceptable to wear plaid if you’re not Scottish or a lumberjack?”

“Har har har, that’s a great one,” Stiles said, but it was kind of funny. “Am I going to have to put up with the this is a date ribbing from Laura as well because I already got it from my friend and I need to know if I should brainstorm some more witty comebacks.”

Erica’s smirk got noticeably sharper, which was a weird thing to have happen, but it did. “Oh, so even one of your friends thinks you have a thing for Derek?”

Which Stiles could answer several different ways, most of which would inevitably reduce him to a pathetic babbling pile of bullshit denial, so he went in another direction. “My best friend, thank you very much, whose wife just happens to be pregnant with my future niece or nephew.”

Thankfully distracted, Erica gushed about the news and Stiles squee-d along with her as they drove through the slushy Chicago streets, talking about babies and parenting and other non-date-related topics.

They were in a nice established neighborhood when Stiles looked up. It had been about fifteen minutes and he could barely recognize where they were. It was some tucked away old community like one of dozens that seemed to just sprout up around the city. She pulled up beside one of the houses, a brick and stone number, and parked behind two other vehicles, a small hybrid and a black SUV.

“You guys really cover the gamut in your vehicle choices, don’t you?” Stiles said as they got out and trudged after her to the back door. There were three black leather jackets hanging up inside and he couldn’t help but smile at them. Apparently Derek and his buddies were in a gang or something. He hung his ratty jacket up beside theirs and what was probably Laura’s tasteful peacoat, and then noticed Erica hadn’t been wearing anything other than a soft-looking sweater.

“Woah, weren’t you cold outside in just that?” he asked, untying his slush-covered boots as she slipped out of her heels.

Heels? Seriously?

Stiles had barely managed not to slip and fall on his ass in snow boots when he’d walked to the studio, he couldn’t imagine trying that in something without any kind of traction to speak of, well, except for the wicked spike. So maybe her choice wasn’t entirely illogical.

“I tend to run hot,” she said, flicking her blonde hair over a shoulder and strutting into the house, which smelled absolutely amazing and was warm and homey even though he’d literally just seen the front of it and the back entrance.

Laura appeared as he moved to follow and gave him and his bag an appraising look. “Nice of you to join us, Stiles,” she said with a conspiratory smirk. “Didn’t know if you were going to make it or not.”

“What can I say, I’m a busy guy,” he lied.

She seemed to know he was bending the truth a bit because both of her eyebrows rose and she nodded, “Oh, I’m sure. Come on, let me show you around. Boyd and Derek are helping Isaac in the kitchen until he gets fed up and kicks them out. So, they’ll be free any minute, now.”

The place was bigger than he’d first thought, with a huge living room featuring plush furniture and wooden floors and a large flat screen centered above the lit fireplace. The dining room and kitchen were off of that space, Laura waved at the doors as they passed and trekked up the stairs to the second floor, which had three bedrooms; hers, Erica’s, and one that Boyd and Isaac shared. There was another flight of stairs leading to Derek’s room, but she didn’t seem to think her tour guide duties included helping him explore that much.

All of the floors were wooden, glowing gently in the soft light of the hallway’s sconces. The walls were mostly neutrals, though from what he could see through the cracked door he thought Erica’s bedroom had some kind of dark purple paint. The bathroom they passed on that floor was bigger than average with a separate tub and shower and two sinks. Even though it was clear four people shared it, there weren’t an overabundance of products littering the countertop, just a single tube of toothpaste and four toothbrushes. It looked like only a few things were in the shower as well. Either they had all agreed on the same kind of shampoo, or there was another bathroom around there.

Derek caught up with them as they reached the first floor again, he was wearing a pale blue henley, rolled up to reveal his muscular forearms, and tight dark jeans. He looked amazing.

Of course.

“Hey, Derek, I just got the tour-”

“Just the first and second floors,” Laura said as she patted him on the shoulder and disappeared into what he remembered was the dining room.

“-apparently of just the first and second floors, minus the kitchen, obviously. So. Hi.”

Derek was just, kind of watching him. It was a tiny bit unsettling. Finally he said “Hello, Stiles. Did Erica’s driving freak you out?”

“Oh my god, did you do that on purpose? I thought we were going to die a couple of times, but somehow we made it here in one piece. If that was all a plot to throw me off my game I can assure you it has worked.”

“You have game?” Derek looked kind of pleased with himself, it was equal parts adorable and annoying.

“I have a range of hidden attributes and talents, thank you very much. Now, I was told to bring chocolatey snacks, so where should I put them. He dug out the two gallon sized ziplock bags from his messenger bag and held them out. They were two different trail mixes he’d thrown together with what he could find from the mini-mart grocery store that was between the yoga studio and his apartment.

Derek took them, shifting the bags a bit to see what was inside, then tilted his head, “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the others.”

They entered the epicenter of yummy food smells and it was not really what Stiles had been expecting at all. The place was pretty much immaculate, no heaps of potato skins covering the counter or opened cans of green beans waiting to be poured into a casserole dish. There were just a couple of dishes in the sink, presided over by a dark skinned guy even more ripped than Derek-

“Boyd,” his host indicated with a nod.

-and then a pale guy with curly hair and a look of utter concentration on his face as he finished laying the complicated lattice work on top of a pie on the table off to one side of the room-

“Isaac,” Derek said.

Stiles said his hellos, but both guys seemed pretty into what they were doing, only giving him cursory greetings as they worked away. There wasn’t really any other food to be seen, though the oven was obviously on. The only other evidence of food prep Stiles could see was the bag of trash propped against one wall, clearly ready to be taken out. Derek grabbed two bowls from one of the higher cabinets and Stiles did not look at the play of muscles visible under his tight shirt, and took them back to the living room where Erica was waiting on one of the couches with a devilish look on her face.

“So, Stiles, tell us more about yourself,” she said with a smirk.

Derek rolled his eyes as he handed her one of the bowls and the trail mix with more chocolate pieces in it, but he made no attempt to steer the conversation.

Gee, thanks Derek.

Chapter Text

 

It wasn’t that Stiles didn’t enjoy talking about himself, he could pretty much go on for hours when the mood struck, but he was curious about the whole dynamic going on between Derek and Laura and Erica and the other two guys. Besides the sibling thing, and all the fornicating that was apparently going on.

So when Erica’s intensive questions about his childhood finally started to peter off, he jumped in with an inquiry of his own. “How do you all know each other?” he said and waved a hand in a gesture that encompassed the room.

Derek nodded to Laura, who was standing behind Erica’s chair and she nodded, clearly willing to field the question. “Well, Derek and I are obviously siblings, I’m two years older than him. We met Boyd when we were kids. He was in the system and our parents fostered him for a few years before the adoption went through.”

“Did he take your last name?”

“Boyd is his last name,” Erica said as she popped another piece of trail mix into her mouth.

“What about you?” Stiles said to her.

Erica shrugged. “I met them at an alternative medicine get-away Talia, their mom, sponsored. They’re big into conservation and the environment and stuff. So I went and she thought she could help me with my epilepsy. That was back when I was in high school. My parents figured it was worth a shot and I’ve been an honorary Hale ever since.”

“Where do your parents live?”

“Cincinnati,” Erica said propping her feet up and rattling the bowl a bit to see what else she could pick out. “They have two other kids, though, so it’s not like they really miss me. Besides, Talia and Rollin are way cooler than anyone in my family.”

“You’re better, now?” Stiles asked. He’d never seen any kind of medical alert bracelet or necklace on her, so he hadn’t suspected she had a condition so serious.

“Cured,” she said, clearly bored with the conversation. “And before you ask about Isaac, he doesn’t like for us to talk about him. Though I will tell you he’s been living with the Hales almost as long as I have.”

“Why move to Chicago?” Stiles asked, looking at Derek.

His arms were flung across the top of the couch, one hand close enough to almost touch Stiles. “Boyd, Isaac, and I thought we could make a difference here, so did Laura and Erica, in their own way.”

“Excuse you, but helping the find ladies of Chicago find their inner balance and power is a laudable profession, baby brother.”

“Two years, Laura, two.” Derek said as if it were an old argument.

That was all kind of cool, actually. Stiles didn’t have any siblings, barring Scott, so he was a bit envious of people who had such an extensive and supportive family network.

“You don’t have siblings, except your friend Scott, right?” Derek said because he was apparently a mind reader in his spare time.

“Nope, just my best buddy, who is going to be a father, which makes me an almost uncle.”

“Oh, babies are fun,” Laura said, then got a kind of wicked expression on her face as she turned to look at Stiles. “What do you think about kids? Do you want them?”

That was a delicate topic of conversation in mixed company, but he didn’t want to lie, so he shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. For now I’m happy just being the cool uncle, but I maybe in the future I’ll have more of an opinion about kids of my own.”

“Stop harassing him, Laura,” Derek said, concentrating on the tv.

“I know I didn’t just hear my baby brother try to boss me around, did I Derek Hale?”

Wait, what?

“Hale? Wait, is Hale your last name?”

Laura laughed and leaned forward to rabbit punched him in the shoulder, which hurt. A lot, but when he flailed a kick in her general direction in retaliation she dodged it with a laugh. “Of course that’s our last name, Stiles, what did you think it was?”

He threw up his arms and shook his head, “I don’t know! I didn’t think about it. I just figured the Hale in Hale Yoga was like, hale and hearty, that kind of hale. Free from disease and whatnot.”

“Well,” Laura said, “we are that.” She climbed over the couch she was on to perch on the back of Erica’s chair.

“See, it was a logical intuitive leap, don’t patronize me.”

“What about your last name?” Erica asked, digging around the trail mix for more chocolate pieces. Even though he put in twice as many as could be considered healthy, he couldn’t see any left.

“Stilinski,” he said.

“Which is where you got your nickname from,” Derek said with the satisfaction born of someone who had finally worked out a problem they’d been struggling to solve.

“That’s right,” he said. It was surprising how many people didn’t realize that, even when he told them that Stiles was a nickname.

“The nickname you gave yourself?” Laura asked from where she was sat on the back of Erica’s chair, idly fussing with the blonde's hair.

Stiles glanced from her to Derek, who was watching the game, and back. “Do you guys talk about everything, or just stuff relating to me?”

“Just you,” Erica and Laura said in unison, then started laughing and Stiles couldn’t be too mad because they looked so relaxed and happy and even Derek had a kind of a smirk on his face.

Plus, the house smelled absolutely amazing, like when he was a kid and his mom would go all out cooking a huge elaborate meal for him and his dad and sometimes Melissa and Scott, too. When Henry was working. Then, after he’d left and Stiles’ mom had died he’d put himself in charge of cooking with varying degrees of success. One of his favorite Thanksgivings was actually when they’d all ended up ordering take-out because he’d undercooked the turkey and burned the rest of the food, which was a weird thing to have happen. He suspected Scott’s involvement, but had never been able to prove anything. It was bittersweet being surrounded by people who were each other’s family on a day when he really wanted to be around his own.

Stiles’ phone buzzed in his bag and he dug it out with a frown. He was supposed to call Scott, not the other way around. But instead of an unflattering picture of his friend, it was his dad’s image showing up on the screen. It was one of Stiles’ favorites of him, taken with him wearing his uniform, arms crossed over his chest and a very judgmental look on his face. Stiles had just done something stupid, like that he was going to join the circus or move to Chicago or something and the sheriff had not been amused. It made Stiles laugh nearly every time he saw it.

Except for that time, apparently.

“Sorry, gotta take this,” he said and Derek waved toward the dining room door.

He answered as he pushed inside, temporarily distracted by the very tastefully decorated room and primly set table. It looked like they were going to eat on actual china with cloth napkins and everything, kind of like real adults. That was not something he was accustomed to.

“Stiles? Stiles!” his dad said and he pressed the phone to his ear.

“What? Yeah, hey Dad, wasn’t I supposed to call you guys in a few hours? What’s up? Is something wrong? Is Allison okay?”

“What are you talking about, we’re fine. It’s you I’m worried about.”

He made a face and collapsed onto one of the chairs. That line of discussion was not in any way unexpected coming from the sheriff, and given the day of the year, but it was still unwelcome.

“Dad, I’m fine. Didn’t Scott tell you where I am?”

“Not the street address.”

“Oh my god, Dad, will you please dial it back about twenty notches, I’m fine. Why are you doing this right now, anyway? And please don’t say it’s because of the thing we agreed you weren’t going to bring up, anymore.”

“I looked up this Derek Hale in the system-”

“Woah, we’re stopping this crazy train right now. Did you and Scott attend the suspicion academy together or something? Whatever, I don’t care. Dad, I love you, but the next thing out of your mouth better not be some bizarre accusation about my yoga partner. And how did you know his last name was Hale? I just found that out like ten minutes ago.”

“You said he and Laura are siblings and she’s the owner of Hale Yoga, remember? Stiles, their name is on the sign.”

“Seriously? You, too? I thought it was hale like, you know what, it doesn’t matter. Now, are you going to stop acting like a lunatic, or do I have to call you back when Melissa’s around?”

“Melissa’s right here,” his dad said smugly, “she was worried, too.”

Stiles dragged his free hand through his hair and sighed. “Fine, just get it over with, what did you want to tell me?”

“Did you know Derek investigates white collar crimes?”

“Did you know he can also bend over with his knees locked and place his palms flat on the floor?”

“When did you meet him?” the sheriff asked, ignoring Stiles’ very interesting Derek factoid. The dude was crazy flexible.

“I don’t know Dad, it was on a Tuesday.” He recognized his dad’s tone of voice and the only way out of the conversation was to just truck along through it until the sheriff got what he wanted.

“Anything else happen that day?”

Stiles leaned back in the chair and stared at the high ceiling. “I don’t know, it was like at the beginning of the month or something.”

Vyacheslav.”

And Stiles should probably start taking the conversation a bit more seriously if his dad was rolling out his real name. “Okay, fine, let me think about it a second, no need to get namesy on me. You know I hate it when you call me that. Let’s see, I had just finished with an account and was reassigned. I missed my beginners class the previous night to finish up and Erica text me with a bullshit excuse to come in to the studio. I got there and I was paired with Derek. Does that answer your question?”

“You were assigned a new account the same day you met Derek Hale?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re still working for that client? It’s been a few weeks, I didn’t think it normally took so long.”

Stiles stood up and paced around the room, checking out the glass case along one wall that held the rest of china. “Well, this company’s bigger than what I’ve worked on in the past. We have until the end of the year to finish up.”

“And the fact that Derek Hale is a police officer specializing in white collar crimes doesn’t alarm you at all?”

“I don’t know, Dad, should it? It’s not like I’m breaking any laws, okay? Good job, you raised a responsible adult, now can I get back to socializing or do you want to interrogate Derek, too?”

“Sure, put him on the phone.”

He couldn’t help it, he let out a laugh and shook his head. “Uh, no, that’s not going to happen.”

“Stiles, as your father it’s my responsibility to make sure you’re safe. After what happened last year-”

“I am literally surrounded by people right now, Dad. I am in their home, about to enjoy their food, I seriously doubt any of them are plotting to murder me.”

“Did you think that girl you were dating was going to try to kill you?”

Stiles clenched his jaw and closed his eyes for a second to collect himself, “Why, no, father, not until she took out the knife and started stabbing me with it, but unless the Hales and their friends are in the habit of committing group homicide, I think I’m pretty safe. And I honestly can’t believe both you and Scott made it a year without forcing me to talk about Cassandra, so thanks for your restraint, but this is the last conversation we are ever having about her. She’s in jail, she’s not getting out, and I’m fine.”

“You were in the hospital for weeks.”

“And yet I still managed to graduate on time! How about that? Now, if we’re done taking that horrible trip down memory lane I am in someone else’s house having a conversation with not-them, which you always taught me was rude, so I’m going to hang up and I’ll call you back later so I can wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.”

“I still want to talk to this Derek fellow.”

Fellow? really? Are you and Allison on the same 18th century lending-library list or something? And as for that, I don’t know if he wants to talk to you. Oh, he does eat tofu, by the way, and it looks like he could bench press my old Jeep, so keep that in mind.”

“Don’t make me abuse my privileges and look up his phone number myself, Stiles,” his dad threatened and while he was one of the most un-corrupt people Stiles had ever known, he was using his don’t test me voice.

Stiles was not about to test him. “Sure thing, Pops,” he grumbled and pushed out the door into the living room. All five of them were there, standing by the couches and conversing in hushed voices. They glanced up when he entered and he forced a smile.

“Looks like it’s your lucky day, Derek, the senior Stilinski wants to have a word with you,” he put the phone close to his mouth, “Although I have no idea why.” He handed the phone over and patted him on the shoulder, “You and my dad have a blast, now.”

Derek took the phone without comment and headed to the dining room.

There was an awkward beat of silence as Stiles approached the rest of them, so he did what came naturally to him and kept talking. “Isaac, right?” he said to the tall, lanky guy with curly light brown hair. “I’ve heard wonderful things about your cooking,” Stiles reached out and they shook hands.

“Hello, Stiles,” he said, but he seemed more focused on the dining room door, they all did, actually.

Stiles glanced back at it and then at them, “Yeah, sorry about my dad, he gets a little weird around the holidays.” And it kind of seemed like everyone was avoiding looking at him a bit, but not really. He was suddenly ready for Derek to come back into the room.

Laura snapped out of the weirdness first, and gestured to the couch he and Derek had recently vacated. “Come on, we’ll watch the game. Isaac, don’t you and Boyd have something you need to do?” Her eyebrows said that was exactly what needed to happen and the two vanished back into the kitchen after a brief, awkward shuffle.

So, they had to do more food stuff?

She turned to Stiles as he took the cushion beside her. “What are your normal Thanksgiving traditions? You just graduated from college, right? Did you live far from your father when you were in school?”

That was a tame enough topic, barring the previous year’s events. “I lived a few hours south, actually, so I’d go up when I could, especially around the holidays. I had this ancient jeep I’d drive around, but there was no way it would make across the country, so the poor girl’s retired, now. Hey, Derek mentioned something about Wisconsin, do you have family up there?”

“The Hales live there,” Erica said, having given up on the trail mix and abandoned the bowl on the coffee table beside where the other one sat. “We go up and visit when we can.”

“At the lake house?” And it suddenly struck Stiles that the Hales must be pretty wealthy to afford a regular house in Wisconsin, a lake house, another home in Chicago, and the Hale Yoga location.

Laura shrugged, “Wherever people want to meet. Sometimes the lake house, sometimes our parent’s house. Everyone either lives there or here.”

So family was extremely important to them.

Huh.

“Extended family?” he asked, taking the bowl Erica hadn’t abandoned and putting it on the couch between him and Laura. They both picked through it as she answered.

“Our mom’s brother Peter and his wife and two kids live at the house with our parents. Our grandparents died when we were younger, and our dad doesn’t have any family.”

For some reason he kind of expected there to be more of them, but they seemed pretty close, regardless.

“That’s cool, so are all of them into conservation?”

The answer was cut off by Derek’s return. He looked slightly ruffled, but nowhere near as bad as some of the perps Sheriff Stilinski had put through the verbal wringer.

“It’s good to see you’re still standing,” Stiles said as he took the phone. He bent to put it in his bag, but it wasn’t where he’d left it. “Hey, have you seen my-”

“We hung it up by the back door,” Erica said, jumping up and snatching Stiles’ phone from his hand. “I’ll go put this away, don’t get up.”

She was gone before he could reply and he just kind of looked between Derek and Laura, both of whom were suddenly fixated on the tv, which was showing a commercial, so he wasn’t sure what was so fascinating about that.

“Okay,” he said to no one.

The Hales and their friends were kind of weird.

Chapter Text

Isaac called them to eat shortly after and they filed into the dining room, which in the short time Stiles had been absent, had transformed into a gorgeous display of all of the best Thanksgiving had to offer.

So, yes, apparently the two of them had been doing food stuff.

Boyd came through the door leading to the kitchen with a giant turkey on a huge platter. Derek helped him set it at the head of the table and Laura grinned widely as she stood in front of it with an alarmingly large knife in her hand. Stiles made sure to position himself as far from her as he could get without sitting at the foot of the table, which was apparently Derek's seat. So Stiles sat with Derek on his left and Erica on his right, Boyd across from him and Isaac between him and Laura, who was still standing and grinning around at everyone.

"Well, I guess we can each say something we're thankful for. I'll start since I'm the oldest and the head of our little household."

That was kind of unexpected, but nice to hear. Laura seemed entirely capable of running the place.

"I am thankful for my wonderful family, both biological and chosen," she said, switching the knife to her other hand and raising a glass of red wine.

Stiles had never had wine with a holiday meal before. His dad was more of a hard liquor guy when he drank, which was rarely, and after experimenting with different concoctions in college Stiles had decided he was a rum and coke drinker when he chose to indulge. But he could do wine, too. Everyone raised their glasses and drank to her little toast. Erica was next, though she didn't stand.

"I'm thankful for Talia's cure and that I now have such an amazing life because of it."

They drank to that.

Stiles wasn't a hundred percent sure of the protocol, so he stayed seated, too and tried to think of something that didn't make him sound crazy. "Uh, I'm thankful for my family, which may be small, but it's growing, and for the opportunity to spend such a, an important day with good people."

Eh, that worked.

Derek inclined his head to Stiles as he sipped his wine. For his turn he said, "Family, duty, honor," which Stiles knew was totally a quote from some pretty awesome fantasy books, but no one else seemed to recognize the reference as they nodded at his apparently sage wisdom. Stiles gave him a covert raised-eyebrow look when he happened to glance over and it kind of seemed like Derek was blushing, but that could have been the wine. Stiles got kind of blotchy when he drank, sometimes, and figured it happened to other people, too.

Boyd said, "Family," and Isaac said, "I second Stiles; good people."

By the end of that their glasses were mostly empty and Erica was only too happy to refill all of them, which necessitated opening another bottle while Laura carved the turkey in precise, practiced movements.

Stiles was pretty glad he was already mildly buzzed from the alcohol so he didn't get totally freaked out and do something crazy like run out of the room screaming. It had taken him months after he'd recovered from Cassandra's attack to be able to even look at a knife block, let alone to be in a room with someone actually using one. Having an Erica buffer between him and the object in question helped, as did Derek's presence at his side, and he was not going to overanalyze that particular feeling, at least not when they were in the same room together.

Isaac waited until Laura was finished before he served her a portion of the meat and passed along the plate of what she'd cut up down the table to Derek. Stiles wasn't exactly sure what was happening, but Derek gave him a portion of white meat, then served himself, passed it to Boyd, who took some then sent it to Erica, and at last back to Isaac, who put some on his own plate. That was the only food serving weirdness, though, because everything else was passed clockwise and they fell onto it like ravenous beasts.

The conversation was mostly comprised of light topics they could all contribute to, though Boyd and Isaac proved to both be quieter types. No one talked about work and everything was surprisingly peaceful until Stiles couldn't keep his curiosity at bay any longer.

"So, Derek, what did my dad say to you?"

Derek stopped mid-chew, eyes slightly wider than usual as he glanced across the table at first Laura, and then him. After a beat his jaw began to work, and he swallowed, then patted his mouth with a napkin before he cleared his throat.

"He was curious about what I do and how we met."

"Are you serious? I already told him that. Well, he looked you up, apparently, which was how he knew you're into white collar crimes."

All noise ceased, except for the sound of Stiles' fork on his plate and he glanced around at some of the best poker faces he'd seen in ages. They were almost as good at hiding things as the doctors who had told him, at age seven, that his mother might get better. The liars.

"What? It's not like I asked him to, he's a sheriff, he gets bored and tends to be a bit overprotective of me. Anyway," the conversation had derailed almost before it had begun, "he already knew all of that, so what did you tell him?"

Derek finally seemed to get with the program and regain a bit of his standard sassiness, "I told him the truth, Stiles, that my mother and sister conspired against me to take a class and that Erica set us up as partners."

"Nice, glad our stories check out. He gets pretty intense when witness testimony isn't corroborated."

"Does that happen to you a lot?" Derek asked, sounding quite a bit like Sheriff Stilinski when was feeling particularly suspicious of Stiles' behavior.

"Not for a while, but he gets paranoid."

"And why is that?"

"I feel like we're getting off topic, don't you think, Boyd?” he said in an attempt to draw someone else into the conversation. Boyd stared at him and took a large bite of macaroni and cheese with an intentional air. Whatever, he could deal with it. “Kind of sounds like Derek doesn’t want to share what the good ol' sheriff of Beacon Hills had to say."

"Beacon Hills?" Laura interrupted. "As in Beacon Hills, California?"

"The one and only, why? Do you mean you've actually heard of it before? Did it have to do with the mudslides? Because that was actually Beverly Hills-"

She was shaking her head, though, "No, no, it's just that our family owns property there. We have a house near the forest, or something."

"Near the preserve? Oh my god, you mean the old Hale house? You're those Hales? Your family is legendary, they practically founded the town and made sure a lot of the land was protected, which it still is. Wow, that's pretty amazing. But no one's lived there in years, at least not since I've been alive."

"No, we've been in the midwest since we were little kids," Laura said, glancing up at Derek, then down at her plate. “Our parents liked the atmosphere here better.”

“That’s cool, but you guys still own that place? I went by a few times with Dr. Deaton, he’s a friend of your family, I think. He’s a veterinarian and Scott’s boss, and goes to the house to check on it every few weeks.”

“You’ve been to our house in Beacon Hills?” Derek said with a skeptical tone.

“Yep, it’s gigantic.” It was, and gorgeous and a bit dusty, but most of the furniture was covered in sheets like in an old movie. Deaton hadn’t let him poke around much, though.

“I know,” Derek said, a strange kind of almost-smile on his lips, which vanished as he went back to studying his food. “We moved away when I was five.”

Which would have been around the time Stiles was born? Maybe?

“How old are you?”

If he’d been told on Sunday that his week would include asking Derek Hale how old he was while eating Thanksgiving dinner at his table with his sort-of siblings, Stiles would have probably scoffed. But there he was, doing just that while sipping wine and acting like a real adult. It was almost as amusing as it was alarming. And it kind of made him want to curl up in bed while wearing his batman underwear and watching cartoons.

“How old do you think he is?” Erica jumped in, then smiled sweetly around a mouthful of mashed potatoes, the brat.

“Uh, is that a trick question?”

“Do be rude, Erica, and no, it’s not a trick. I’m twenty eight.”

So, yes, five years older than Stiles.

“And you?” Laura said over the edge of her wine glass.

Stiles smirked, “Good one, but you already know my age because you copied my ID when I started yoga classes. I believe you said something about making sure I wasn’t a runaway.”

“I haven’t seen your ID,” Derek said, leaning back and crossing his arms. Beside him Boyd shook his head with a bit of a resigned look on his face.

“And you’re not going to,” Stiles said cheerfully. “While I have an understanding with the DMV in Beacon Hills, the same can not be said for the good people in Chicago, which means my entire awful name is typed on there and I’d rather not play the how the hell do you even pronounce that game.”

“Would you rather play truth or dare?”

“Erica.” Both Isaac and Derek said at the same time which Boyd and Laura looked like that was pretty much par for the course.

She shrugged, “Fine, fine, but to answer your question he’s twenty three and his name is pretty much impossible to pronounce. Laura and I tried for like, twenty minutes, and I’m pretty sure were were nowhere close to getting it right.”

“Gee, thanks, Erica,” Stiles said as he reached for another yeast roll. He made a mental note to ask Isaac for some of his recipes and a timeline for getting everything hot and on the table at the same time. “And yes, I am twenty three. Not that it should come as that much of a shock since I graduated from college in May and most graduates are between twenty two and twenty four. Also, that was a nice distraction, but what else did my dad say?”

Derek tilted his head slightly, “It seems like you’re fishing for something. Maybe it would be easier if you asked about whatever is clearly on your mind and I’ll tell you yes or no.”

And of course he’d be too clever for Stiles to get a straight answer out of him.

“Oh, that’s not going to happen, there are at least a hundred embarrassing or threatening things he could have said to you, so I’ll just ask Melissa, later.”

“That’s Scott’s mother?” Derek asked, folding his napkin and placing it on the table next to his mostly full wine glass. He hadn’t touched it after the toasts were over with.

Stiles nodded, noticing with a sense of satisfaction that his own glass was almost as full. The last thing he wanted to do was act like a drunk fool in front of Derek and the rest. “Yeah, she’s the one who is not so covertly dating my dad.”

“She sounded nice, but he made sure he was alone when we spoke,” Derek said smugly.

The asshole.

“Fine, I guess it couldn’t be that bad if you haven’t kicked me out of here, yet. Speaking of, how and when am I getting home? Not that I’m eager to leave or anything, it’s just that wasn’t covered in the someone will pick you up at three conversation we had yesterday.”

Isaac and Boyd stood up and began to clear the table, taking impossible armloads of plates back to the kitchen. The guys must have been waiters at some point because that was just crazy. Laura stood and grabbed the back of Erica’s neck when she tried to leave out of the other door.

“No, you don’t, the guys cooked, the two of us are putting everything away and cleaning,” she said as she dragged the other woman into the kitchen.

Derek watched it all with a quiet air of amusement before he glanced at Stiles. “Don’t worry about it, we’ll make sure you get home safely.”

Which he hadn’t actually been worried about, but okay.

Stiles stood with his host and followed him back into the living room.

"So the truth comes out, you're a closet nerd," Stiles said as he collapsed onto the couch beside Derek. "I would have guessed you'd be more into wrestlers or something, but I can roll with what you gave me."

Derek was doing his best impression of ignoring Stiles, his head was tilted back and his eyes were closed, but he wasn't buying it.

“But what I want to know is House Tully, really? I would have pictured you as more of a Stark, honestly.”

He visibly roused at that and fixed Stiles with a raised-eyebrow classic. “But winter’s already here, that would be ridiculous to keep saying given the weather, lately.”

Stiles grinned widely and nodded, “That is true.”

“What about you, I don’t think any of the houses have a quokka as their sigil.”

He laughed and noticed that Derek seemed oddly relaxed lounging there beside him, though that could have been in part because of the inevitable post-dinner nap-taking that normally occurred on Thanksgiving.

“Well,” Stiles said, “I’m certainly not a Greyjoy since I definitely can sew-”

“Your wit astounds me.”

“-and I get woozy when I see blood, so none of that Targaryen nonsense.”

"That rules out House Bolton, then."

"Ugh, definitely." Flaying people was not okay with him.

“Are you a lion of Lannister, then?”

Hear Me Roar? Eh, that’s a bit lame.”

“House Arryn?”

“Now I feel like you’re interrogating me. As High as Honor? Is this you asking me if I dabble in illicit substances because I’m pretty sure we’ve had this line of discussion before and I came out of it clean.”

Derek turned to face Stiles, the hard line of his neck looking warm and smooth in the light of the fire. “You can’t honestly tell me you’ve read those books and haven’t chosen a house.”

He was absolutely correct, Stiles had definitely chosen a house. “Fine, I’m a Tyrell, if you have to know.”

Growing Strong,” Derek said, turning back to study the flames with a contemplative crease on his forehead.

They sat like that for long minutes, ignoring the tv and watching as the fire burned and crackled, casting orange light across them and the otherwise empty room.

“You’re certain you’re not a Baratheon or a Martell?” Derek asked after a while.

Stiles’ mind had already drifted to other things so it took him a second to reconnect. “Ours is the Fury? Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken? Naw, I’m more of a lover than a fighter.”

“That must have been hard in school.”

He shrugged, “When your dad is an authority figure in town kids tend not to bully you too much. Well, mostly. There are always assholes, though, right?”

Derek nodded silently. “When did you know you were bi?”

And that came out of nowhere. Stiles stared at him, trying to figure out how Derek had figured it out, but as far as he knew he’d never given any real indication of his sexual preferences, unless Erica had told him about Stiles’ probably not very subtle crush, but he’d said bi and not gay.

And Stiles was confused.

“Uh, pretty much since I was twelve, actually. My mom always knew it, of course, and she wrote me a letter right before she died, and left it for me for when I got older. I was really confused and angry and my dad just left it on my bed one day when I was at school. When I saw it was from her I couldn’t bring myself to open it for days, but then I finally did and she wrote that no matter who I loved, that as long as they loved me, too it didn’t matter what their sex or gender was. So, I calmed down and did some research and figured out a label for what I’d been feeling and that’s how I knew I was bisexual. What about you?”

The question was a gamble, as was Derek’s choice as to whether or not he’d answer, but the other man just shrugged. “Our parents have always been very open about things like sex and sexuality. They told me choosing a partner was about mutual feelings, not appearance, so I suppose I’m considered bi as well.”

Which was kind of a big deal, not that it guaranteed they’d start banging or if Derek even saw Stiles in that way, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

The bedroom? Stiles’ vulgar mind supplied in a voice that sounded like Scott when he was waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Just. No.

Well, yes to the bedroom, but no to Scott in any way, shape, or form involved in that discussion. Besides, Derek had yet to show any real indication that he was interested in Stiles in that way, so he was just going to have to either cool it or put himself out there and that sounded like an awful idea.

He wasn’t sure how his mind had gotten so side-tracked, but before he could continue the conversation Erica popped into the room with a suspiciously big grin and what looked like Stiles’ phone in her hand.

“Yes,” she said to the screen, “he’s right here. He and Derek were having a private discussion by firelight.”

“Oh, really?” Stiles could hear an amused Scott say from the speakers and he was up like a shot, half-leaping over Derek to get to her.

“Erica you’re the devil,” he whispered as he snatched the phone from her. Sure enough, Scott’s face was on the screen, looking smug. “Hey, man,” Stiles said, “I was about to call you, well, I would have once I remembered.”

“Everyone’s here and they want to say hi, wait, don’t go anywhere, they want to meet your friends, too.” Scott was definitely rocking the smugness. It wasn’t a good look on him.

Stiles suppressed a groan and waved for Erica to get closer so Scott could see her. “This is Erica, obviously, who you better not have told any embarrassing things about me to or I’ll seriously make your life miserable, dude.”

“Oh, what a threat,” Scott mocked and Stiles was going to have to come up with some kind of retaliation because he was being unnecessarily dickish.

“Whatever, pass the phone around, hurry up. Hi, Dad, Melissa, Allison, Chris.”

“Let me see Derek,” his dad ordered, taking possession of Scott’s phone and Stiles made an unimpressed face at the phone’s camera before he walked back over and slouched on the couch next to him.

“Dad, this is Derek. Derek, this is my father, who you had the unparalleled pleasure of speaking to earlier.”

“Sheriff,” “Derek,” they said, and after a second of staring at each other, they both nodded as if satisfied with what they saw. Melissa and Allison practically wrestled each other for the phone after that, until their faces were pressed against each other, grinning.

“Before you say anything please keep in mind the phones are equipped with both microphones and speakers, so we’ll all be able to hear you,” Stiles jumped in. He could clearly see things ending in disaster.

“Don’t be silly, Stiles,” Allison said clearly still staring at Derek, who was starting to look a bit wary.

“Okay, that’s enough, do you guys have anything else to say or can we end this madness?”

“We want to speak to you privately,” Chris said from off screen. Stiles glanced at Derek and shrugged. “Dining room okay?”

But he shook his head and nodded up, “No, you can use my room on the top floor.”

Which wasn’t what he was expecting at all, but he didn’t have time to really think about it.

Erica pouted as Stiles passed her, but after a look from Derek she took a seat on the couch instead of following him and listening at the door or anything like that. It kind of seemed like she wanted to. She was kind of nosy like that.

Chapter Text

The room, what he saw of it before he focused back on the screen, was huge and had the biggest bed Stiles had ever seen taking up a large portion of it. There was a fireplace centered on one wall and he could see a full bathroom through one of the open doors. It was tidy and a bit bare, but screamed Derek in various shades of dark blue.

“We’re concerned about you, Stiles. The last thing we want is for history to repeat itself,” his dad said with a stern expression. It was his don’t even test me face.

Stiles opted to ignore it that time because things were starting to get a little out of hand.

“Oh my god, Dad, you seriously couldn’t even go more than a few hours without bringing her up when I asked that you never talk about Cassandra ever again? What the hell?”

“Stiles, Chris here had made some pretty serious accusations about the Hale family. He claims his mother was murdered by them around the time you were born. Both the Argents and the Hales lived here, back then.”

“Yeah, Derek’s family owns the old Hale house, I know.” Stiles said, but what his dad was telling him made no sense at all. “Why the hell would they kill someone? What does that have to do with me? Wouldn’t it have been Derek and Laura’s parents, anyway? Unless you think a five and seven year old are diabolical enough to go out and commit murder together.”

His dad was silent, his expression telling Stiles everything he needed to know about the situation.

“Okay, hold on,” he said, sitting down on the edge of Derek’s surprisingly plush bed. “No offense to Mr. Argent, but this allegedly happened over twenty years ago. If there was any proof of murder, shouldn’t someone have gone to the police long before now? And you know what else, why are you even bringing it up right now, anyway? I’m in their house. You, a law enforcement officer, know where I am and who I'm with. Besides, they just fed me a fantastic meal. I seriously doubt any of them are going to try to cut my heart out of my chest and eat it so they can become one with me and ascend to the next ethereal plane. That was Cassandra’s endgame, by the way, and no one threatened to do that to me, not even when Laura had a gigantic knife out and was carving up the turkey. If it was going to happen they would have done it already."

"Stiles, we don't know what their plan is," Chris said and that was it.

“No, no, you know what? I’m done with this. Whatever is going on, just stop it. Please. I haven’t made a single friend in Chicago in the six months I’ve been living here until I started up this yoga thing. Well, besides Charlie, but he doesn't really count. And yes, I know Scott and Allison suggested I take yoga, so thanks for that, but I’m not going to let things that happened in the past and are completely unrelated affect me, now. They've moved on. I’ve moved on. It’s all history. Mr. Argent, Allison, I'm sorry for your loss, but none of that has to do with me or, as far as I'm concerned, with the Hales. Besides, I feel pretty safe with them."

“Stiles, I changed your bandages myself,” Melissa said with her mom-voice. But the thing was, Stiles had a mom and she was dead. He would have buried his face in his hands in frustration if they weren’t already occupied in holding his phone and not throwing it across the room.

"And I'm thankful for that, Melissa, but it's not like they're a bunch of crazed cannibals, right? Mr. Argent? If what you're implying is true, they were little kids when the crime took place."

"My mother's face and body were shredded," he said, face an unreadable mask as Scott panned the phone's camera over to him.

For fuck's sake.

"Shredded." Stiles asked in a flat tone. What kid would shred a human being? How would they have even done it?

"It looked like a wild animal attack, but they all up and moved the next day."

Okay, so the only thing they were really guilty of was suspicious timing. Stiles said as much and Chris' expression became pinched.

"We know it was them," he said.

We? Whatever. It didn't matter. What mattered was that they all were acting completely irrational and Stiles was tired of being overprotected.

"Look, I'm glad you all care about me, but you're going to have to trust that I'm making the right decisions for myself. The Hales and Erica and even Boyd and Isaac are my friends. They've been nothing but kind to me since the day we met and I'm not going to throw that away because two of them may or may not have committed a crime twenty plus years ago."

"Stiles," his dad said, taking over the phone on the other end, "I'm proud of you, son, but I want you to be careful. There's something fishy going on with that family, and I don't want you caught up in it."

"I hear ya, Dad," Stiles said with a deliberate nod. "Well, this has been an unexpectedly heavy conversation, so I'm going to go lounge around with my friends and digest my dinner. Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and I'll talk to Scott tomorrow."

After a chorus of goodbyes, some of which, Allison's in particular, were more reluctant than others, he hung up the phone and tossed it onto the bed beside him.

"What the fuck?" he muttered, palms pressing against his eyes. Either his dad was drinking Chris Argent's crazy Kool-Aid, or there was actually something behind the story that Derek and Laura had murdered someone when they were kids.

By tearing them to shreds?

What?

There was a knock at the door and he looked up with a sigh. "It's open," he said, feeling slightly weird about inviting someone into a room that wasn't his. No, it was Derek's and the man himself stepped in with a frown.

"Everything okay?" he asked, though he clearly knew the answer was no judging by his expression and the way he was looking at Stiles like he either about to shatter or spontaneously combust at any moment.

The assessment was not far from the truth.

"Well, I'm pretty sure my entire family has gone insane, but other than that everything's peachy."

Derek nodded and came to sit beside him, leaning forward to rest his forearms on his thighs. "Holidays will do that to people," he said with a significant look at Stiles that flicked down to his chest and then away.

"Oh my god, did my dad seriously tell you about that?" he blurted out. Because his day couldn't possibly get any worse; his ex had to ruin everything from prison like the ruiner she was.

Derek shook his head, "No, but I've seen knife marks like that on victims before. It looks like someone was trying to cut your heart out, Stiles."

Of course he had because Derek was a cop.

"Well, she tried and didn't quite succeed, but today's the first anniversary of that memorable evening, so I think that's why everyone is freaking out about nothing."

The furrow of Derek's forehead showed his extreme displeasure, "Stiles, being attacked and almost killed isn't nothing."

"It's been a year, Derek, and I'm fine."

"You keep saying that," he said softly, looking away.

Stiles huffed out another sigh and fell back against the bed to stare at the wooden beams that crossed the white ceiling. "Maybe because it's true, and maybe because people keep asking me and I have to repeat myself a hundred times. Cassandra is in prison. I'm here. I've recovered. There's no permanent damage besides the scars and I'm getting really sick of talking about it."

"Okay."

Seriously?

"Seriously, that's it? Just okay."

"Yes, okay, we won't talk about it anymore."

Stiles propped himself up on his elbows and studied Derek's profile, waiting for the catch. But nothing happened. Finally, the other man turned his stubbled cheek to face Stiles.

"Don't worry about it, Stiles," he said. His expression was oddly gentle and it kind of felt like they were having a moment until Erica burst into the room with a broad grin.

"Come on, assholes, Talia's calling!"

"Talia?” Stiles said, “That's your mom, right?"

Stiles took Derek's proffered hand and let himself be helped to his feet. It never ceased to amaze him just how soft Derek's hands were. Warm and callous-free. He made a mental note to ask what lotion he used. Exfoliator? Whatever.

"Yes, she's my mother and the matriarch of our family. She'll want to meet you."

"So you talked to your mom about me?" Stiles grinned.

Derek signed good-naturedly and led the way out the door and down the stairs to the second floor. "Yes, Stiles, I told my mother about you. What else was I supposed to do when she asked about how the yoga was going? But," he paused and turned to face Stiles outside of Laura's room, "just don't lie to her about anything, okay? She gets a bit intense when people lie."

Which wasn't cryptic at all.

Stiles shrugged, "Whatever you say, man."

The others were already crowded around the large monitor sitting on Laura's natural wooden desk. Laura and Erica somehow using the same chair while Boyd and Isaac sat pressed hip to shoulder on a sturdy trunk beside them. He could see their faces in the bottom corner of the computer screen while a pretty middle-aged woman took up most of it. Stiles could definitely tell she was related to Derek and Laura, they had the same dark hair and light eyes, and a kind of intensity he'd not really seen in many other people.

Derek put his hand on Stiles's shoulder and guided him to stand in the space behind Boyd and Isaac.

“Mother,” he said with a significant look at the camera, “this is Stiles Stilinski. Stiles, this is our mother, Talia.”

“Why hello, Stiles. I’ve heard so much about you. Did my son say Stilinski? Are you, by chance, related to Anya Stilinski?” Talia said with an inquisitive kind of smile.

He probably should have suspected that she’d known his mother, since they’d lived in the same small town, but it was still a shock. “Yes, hi. She was my mom, but she died a while back.”

“We were friends, I was so sorry to hear of her passing.”

To which Stiles would usually reply yeah me, too, and then the other person would awkwardly change the subject, but for some reason Talia’s sincerity made him just nod in thanks, mind working.

“How did you know my mom? I mean, I get the Beacon Hills connection, but I don’t remember her talking about you.” Not even when the Hale house would inevitably come up during Stiles’ stream of consciousness dinner table babble when he was younger.

Talia’s smile was as charming as either of her children’s and she idly ran her fingers across her chin and jaw, tapping thoughtfully. “Anya and I met when I began using the library’s conference room as the meeting place for my conservation work.”

Stiles hadn’t noticed before, but he suddenly realized that neither Laura nor her mother wore makeup, and that kind of blew his mind a bit. They were both gorgeous enough without it, with thick dark lashes and beautiful smooth skin lightly dusted with freckles, but given the times it was kind of rare to see a woman go bare-faced. And while Erica wore her dramatic eyeshadow and lipstick well, Stiles was inclined to be attracted to a more natural type of beauty. Derek shared his mother and sister’s looks and woah, he had to stop thinking about that while he was basically in the same room as the three of them.

Talia was asking Isaac about what he’d made for dinner and it was the most he’d spoken, and the most animated he’d been the entire afternoon. Behind him, Stiles could feel the heat of Derek’s body as he reached over and put a hand on Isaac’s shoulder in a brotherly kind of show of affection.

“The food was delicious,” Derek said when there was a pause. “We’re grateful Isaac is such a wonderful cook and is willing to share his talent with us.”

The smile on Talia’s face was indulgent and proud as she glanced between all of them. “I must say that we miss your cooking as well, Isaac, but there will be time enough for that in a few weeks. Oh, one moment, children,” she said and disappeared from view. Behind where she had been sitting were dark bookcases filled with leatherbound copies of things which Stiles couldn’t quite make out the titles of. A second later she reappeared with a man at her side who had Derek’s strong jaw and brow line.

“Dad!” Laura said with a grin and a wiggle where she sat. Perched beside her on the arm of the chair, Erica gave a little wave and a smile of her own while Boyd and Isaac both nodded in greeting. Behind him, Derek said “Father,” in a pleased tone and Stiles felt just a touch awkward.

“Hello everyone,” Mr. Hale said in a voice slightly deeper than Derek’s. His light blue eyes seemed to track over all of them before he settled on Stiles. “And who is your guest?”

Laura and Erica began talking at once, which was mostly unintelligible and Talia smiled at them fondly before she put up a hand to stop them. They quieted at once and nudged each other with impish smiles.

“Why don’t we have Derek introduce his friend,” she suggested with what kind of looked like a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Stiles could feel Derek shift from foot to foot, his chest brushing against Stiles’ back. “Father, this is Stiles Stilinski, he’s from Beacon Hills, Stiles, this is my father Rollin.”

“He’s Anya’s son,” Talia interjected.

“Oh, yes, we are sorry for your loss, though it appears you’re doing well for yourself despite that sorrowful event. Talia tells me you’re an auditor.”

Stiles nodded and smiled, aware that he was to focal point of everyone’s attention and getting a little uncomfortable about it. “Yeah, yes, I am. I’ve been in Chicago about six months working for Youngblood and West.” Not many people outside of the corporate world knew about that particular accounting firm, but Rollin was nodding his head in recognition.

“Ah, yes, we’ve worked with them to improve their recycling efforts. They’re now eighty percent paper free.”

That was awesome, and confusing.

“I don’t think Derek’s mentioned what you do,” he said, glancing back at where Derek was kind of hovering over his shoulder so closely he could feel the other man’s warm breath on his cheek. And did Derek just sniff him?

Stiles turned back to face the screen and caught Talia and Rollin sharing a significant look. He wasn’t quite sure what that was about, but then Rollin nodded.

“Well, Stiles, I’m an attorney specializing in environmental policy. Talia and I work with corporations to help eliminate waste and reduce their impact on the environment. We go about it different ways, she works with the employees and I work with the employers to maximize the outcome on both ends.”

That made sense. “Your family is the one who set up the Beacon Hills Preserve,” he remembered from a fifth grade science class.

Rollin smiled, his chin and cheeks lightly dusted with stubble like his son’s, though his was beginning to gray. “The Hales are Talia’s family, actually. When we married I happily took her surname.”

Stiles had heard about that kind of thing online, but hadn’t ever met a guy who’d done it, before. That was kind of cool, actually, and reinforced the whole matriarch concept the Hales seemed to be rocking. “Well, Rollin, it’s awesome that you’re working to better the planet, and I’m really glad we’ve gone electronic because sorting through a million papers is not my idea of a good time.”

Talia and her husband smiled at him and then turned their attention to Boyd, who actually seemed to smile a bit as he spoke about training for a triathlon he wanted to compete in the following spring.

“We know you’ll do well,” Talia said, “but you must always be mindful of your limitations and the limitations of others.” She gave him a kind of look that said she was trying to convey her meaning telepathically instead of verbally, which was weird, but Boyd seemed to get it because he ducked his head in a nod.

“Of course, Talia,” he said.

Okay, then.

Erica was next, who talked about how much fun she was having teaching the classes, and then Laura, who said about the same thing. Derek was last and he stiffened behind Stiles when his parent’s attention focused on him.

“Anything new you’d like to share with us, Derek?” Talia said, the glint back in her pale gray-green eyes.

When Stiles looked back at him he could tell there was something amiss because his jaw was clenched and his smile looked forced. “No, mother, there’s nothing I’d like to share.”

Talia laughed, apparently delighted and she nodded her head. “Okay, okay, I understand. Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Stiles, and children, I hope you are all behaving yourselves.” That seemed to be directed to Derek. “I look forward to hearing from you all individually next Saturday.”

There was a chorus of “Yes, mother,” and “Yes, Talia,” before they disconnected.

“Well,” Stiles said as Derek moved them back so Isaac and Boyd could put the trunk they’d been sitting on where it belonged at the foot of Laura’s bed, “that was pretty fun.”

Derek breathed out a laugh. “You had fun speaking our parents?”

“Well it was no high stakes card game, but it was entertaining enough. What? Don’t look at me like that, If you must know I don’t even gamble. Besides, I have a terrible poker face.”

“You don’t say,” Derek said, apparently mollified as he escorted Stiles out of the room and back down to the living room where the fire was burning low.

Derek pushed him playfully and he sat on the couch with a huff of laughter, “Hey, no fair using your muscles against me.”

But Derek ignored him and bent down to add another log to the flames, giving Stiles an exceptional view of his toned spine through the thin fabric of his shirt.

“You’re honestly not cold wearing just that?” he heard himself say.

“Would you rather I join you in impersonating red riding hood?” Derek asked, standing up and brushing his hands together to rid them of the detris. One of his eyebrows was quirked and Stiles couldn’t help but smile.

“Har har, that’s hysterical. Wait, I think I just realized something,” he said and Derek froze.

“Oh, really?” he said, but it sounded a bit forced.

Stiles raised both of his eyebrows, pretty much since he couldn’t just lift one of them. “Yes, I think I figured what your favorite animal is.”

The tension in Derek’s arms and shoulders seemed to melt as he walked around the coffee table and dropped onto the couch cushion beside Stiles. The weight made him slide a bit until their sides were touching. Derek’s body was a line of heat beside his and he barely suppressed the happy sigh that wanted to escape because of it.

“Mmhm, I saw something on your dresser upstairs and that added to the reference you just made makes me think your favorite animal is a wolf.”

The couch shook a bit and when Stiles glanced over at him he could hardly believe what was happening. Derek was laughing, silently, but his shoulders were twitching and he had a hand clasped over his mouth, there were laugh lines around his eyes and his breathing was coming out in little hitches.

“Oh my god, did I just break you?” Stiles said, but the laughter was infectious and adorable, so he couldn’t keep from joining in, albeit a bit more loudly. “Holy crap, I think I did,” he said between giggling spasms.

Derek shook his head, though, and wiped the tears from his eyes, “No, you didn’t break me, it’s just,” he paused with a happy-sounding sigh and turned his head to look at Stiles. “To clarify, no, wolves are not my favorite animals. If you must know, I like ravens.”

“White ravens?” Stiles asked with a smile.

He got an eye-roll in response and Derek nudged his shoulder. “Why? So I can recieve messages from my lady mother and liege lord about the kingdom’s unrest?”

“I don’t know, the kingdom seems to be pretty peaceful to me.”

“That does sound like something a Tyrell would say,” Derek said, shaking his head with a smile.

Stiles bumped shoulders with him, though Derek hardly moved from it, the guy was made of marble. “Hey, don’t bash the flower, we happen to enjoy our drama-free gardens.”

“Except for their involvement in King’s Landing.”

“I feel like this metaphor is getting away from us, or have we switched gears and are just talking about the books, now?”

Derek chuckled and studied his hands where they sat in his lap. “You astonish me, sometimes,” he said quietly, a smile in his voice.

And was that a good thing?

He asked and Derek leaned his head back with a sigh, his throat a series of toned lines and ridges reflecting the warm light. “I don’t know, Stiles,” he said, closing his eyes.

Stiles followed his lead after a moment and closed his eyes as well. His stomach was full, he was warm, and Derek’s safe presence was at his side. Despite the strange conversations with his family, the day had turned out alright.

Chapter Text

Stiles slowly became aware of hushed whispers and a kind of rumbling coming from under his cheek, but he was so comfortable he didn’t really feel like investigating it. At least not until the rumbling - growling? - stopped and his head was jostled a little bit.

“Stiles,” Derek’s voice said close to his ear, “Stiles, wake up.”

And that was just weird because normally in his dreams people didn’t talk, and they definitely didn’t call him by name. Also, he’d never dreamed about Derek before. Fantasized about him? Sure. Dreamed about him? No. At least not yet.

He turned his head against the firm warmth it was resting on and tried to bury his face against it to make the noises stop when he heard Erica cooing on his other side.

“Aw, look how cute he is, Derek,” she said.

And suddenly things began to make sense. Stiles had fallen asleep and had somehow ended up using Derek as a pillow, which was quite mortifying enough without Erica’s commentary.

“Fuc’off,” he muttered against what was undoubtedly the soft fabric of Derek’s shirt. It smelled like a heady mixture of freshly turned earth and spring rain. Or it could be he’d just woken up pressed against another human being and his brain was temporarily scrambled.

She laughed and Stiles could feel Derek move, though he didn’t shove Stiles off of him, and then there was a kind of a thunk that he recognized as the sound of someone being pegged with a pillow, followed by a feminine grunt.

“Go help them in the kitchen, Erica,” Derek said quietly, and there wasn’t any argument so she must have done as she was told. “You going back to sleep, or do you want some pie?”

“Well, if it’s for pie I might make an effort,” Stiles said, sitting up and stretching to try to cover up his embarrassment. His limbs were sleep-heavy and he had to blink a few times for his eyes to adjust to the fire, which was the only light source in the room. From what he could see by the edges of the curtains it was dark outside, as well. He glanced around and noticed that they were, once again, alone in the room. Derek was sitting where he had been earlier, though his legs were splayed out in front of him and he had a kind of soft air about him like he’d been enjoying the nap, too.

    “How long were we out?” Stiles said around a yawn.

    Derek yawned in response and rolled his shoulders in a move that accentuated the muscles across his chest. “Few hours, I think,” he said as he twisted his wrist to look at his watch. “Yeah, it’s past eight. Pie?”

    Stiles was all about some pie, especially since Isaac didn’t seem to know how to fail when it came to cooking.

    He stood up and offered a hand to Derek, who looked at it for a second before taking it and hauling himself to his feet. For a guy so big, he wasn’t too terribly heavy. At least he hadn’t pulled Stiles down on his way up. Or maybe he just had some really powerful thighs, which wasn’t what Stiles was going to focus on as they made their way into the dining room, which was softly lit with dimmed overhead lights. There were four pies on the table, a pumpkin, the elegant apple creation he’d seen Isaac working on, and two others with delicate lattice work on top.

Everyone else was seated, and their quiet conversations ceased when they he and Derek walked in.

“About time,” Laura said with a smirk, “thought you two would never wake up, but don’t worry, I took some pictures of your cuddling for posterity.”

“I want copies,” Stiles said and moved around to sit at his seat. He refused to let Laura cramp his post-nap buzz.

Across from him Boyd seemed to be shaking his head, but he looked as amused as Stiles had seen him, so that was nice.

Also, it took him awhile to wake up.

“Coffee?” Isaac asked, motioning to the steaming pot set in the middle.

Stiles shook his head as he yawned again, “No, I’m good. That stuff puts me to sleep when I drink it too late at night. Interacts with my ADHD or something. Made pulling all-nighters in college an exercise in frustration.”

“That explains a lot,” Erica said as she helped herself to a cup.

Stiles took a sip from the water glass in front of him and scrunched his nose at her in what he hoped came across as a displeased expression.

“Can we cut the pies, now?” Boyd said, looking at Laura. She nodded and took a knife to the one in front of her. Erica, Boyd and Isaac handled the others while Stiles tried to ignore all of the blades in the room and avoid freaking out all the while attempting not to draw attention to himself. Under the table he felt Derek’s knee bump against his and when he looked up the other man was watching him.

“Favorite season?” Derek asked out of the blue.

Stiles had to think about it for a second, “I guess that depends on where I’m living. I like Beacon Hills in the winter, but fall around here is gorgeous. Summer down where I went to school.”

“You don’t like spring?” Isaac asked as he placed a small piece of his pie, cherry, on a plate and held it for Boyd to add what looked like peach. The plate gained both apple and pumpkin, courtesy of Erica and Laura, before it set in front of the latter.

Stiles shrugged, watching as the same was done for another plate. “I have mild hay fever, so it actually kind of sucks sometimes. That and the bugs.”

“You ever go camping?” Boyd asked, handing him the second plate.

“Nope, never had a chance. My dad has always worked a lot and once Scott’s dad ran off the two of us never really had anyone to show us how with both our parents busy trying to support us. We could have probably figured it out, but it’s for the best that we didn’t try it.”

Another plate was making the rounds.

“We should take you,” Erica said, glancing between Derek and Laura like it was up to them whether or not that suggestion was acceptable.

Laura nodded for Derek to take the full plate and glanced from Erica to Stiles. “We’ll see what happens when it’s warmer out. Unfortunately for Stiles, spring is great for camping.” She was smiling, though, so that was good? Maybe?

The serving randomness continued. With Boyd, then Isaac, and then Erica receiving their plates of pie. As soon as Laura started eating the rest of them followed. He thought it all might have to do with the matriarch thing, but he wasn’t sure.

Whatever, the pies were amazing.

 

After pie they sat around the living room and watched what Boyd claimed was a traditional Thanksgiving movie.

Grumpy Old Men? Are you guys serious?”

Derek folded his arms across his chest and side-eyed Stiles. “It’s not like there are very many movies based on this holiday, Stiles,” he said somewhat grumpily.

He could see why Derek liked the movie.

“I beg to differ, what about Addams Family Values? There was a whole skit in it dedicated to this glorious day.”

“A skit that ended up with the camp counselors being turned on a spit over a bonfire,” Derek said with a snort.

Stiles kind of loved that Derek got that reference, but Grumpy Old Men? Really?

“What about A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? Come on, that one’s like a super classic.”

Laura shook her head where she was lounged sideways across the sofa chair, “No Charlie Brown movies. The Great Pumpkin made Derek cry when we were kids and there’s been a household ban on them ever since.”

He had to bite his lips to keep from laughing as he looked over at Derek’s pouty face. “Shut up, Laura,” the man said, but there wasn’t much heat behind it.

Holy shit he was adorable.

“What about Die Hard? No wait, that’s Christmas. Huh, guess you’re right, this is kind of a lame holiday for movies.”

The conversation died down after that and Stiles half-watched the movie while his mind wandered. It inevitably went through the day’s events, starting with Scott’s paranoia and transitioning to his father’s fears and Chris Argent’s bizarre accusations. Sure, Derek and his family were a bit unconventional, but stalkers? Murderers? That was a bit too fantastical for him to take seriously.

Stiles huffed out a breath, watching as Derek’s hand seemed to twitch at the sound. He hadn’t done anything but be nice to Stiles. It wasn’t like he’d been tracking his whereabouts or monitoring him or anything crazy like that.

Right?

His hand drifted over his pocket to feel the familiar hard case of his phone bulging under the cloth, but that line of thought was a kind of paranoid delusion he was not going to indulge in. Besides, it wasn’t like he was starring in some high-stakes adrenaline-filled movie or anything. His life was actually pretty tame.

 

Once the movie ended everyone looked a bit dazed. Isaac was the first up and he went to the window with a jaw-cracking yawn. Flicking back the curtain he gave a low whistle. “It’s nasty out, guys. I don’t think anyone should be driving in this.”

Boyd joined him and nodded in agreement. “The SUV might make it, but I don’t want to have to move the camaro until we shovel the driveway.”

“Looks like you’re spending the night, Stiles,” Erica said, poking him with her foot from where she lounged on the other sofa chair.

Laura rolled to face them, “If that’s okay with you. We don’t mind, there’s plenty of room, here.”

“Oh, yeah, and the heat doesn’t work very well at night,” Erica said with a yawn, “so we usually all crash in Derek’s bed when it’s cold out like this.”

“Yeah, heat rises and all that,” Stiles said, distracted by the fact that apparently Derek and his sister and their pseudo-siblings liked to snuggle up together. He was torn as to whether that fact was adorable or super creepy. He decided to make a final judgement based on what they wore to bed that night and holy shit Stiles was going to have slumber party with five other adult humans and wasn’t starring in a porno while doing so.

That was, if Derek was comfortable with it. He’d been quiet since the whole guess we’re snowed in conversation had started. Stiles turned to him and was startled to see that Derek was watching him.

“Are you going to paint my nails and read my horoscope?” he asked when it became clear the other man wasn’t going to initiate the conversation. “I’m a virgo, by the way.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Derek said even as he smiled. “Boyd, can you douse the fire? I'm taking Stiles upstairs to get settled.”

“Don’t take too long,” Erica said, bouncing her foot against her chair as she winked at Stiles.

Which was totally uncalled for, in his opinion.

The walk upstairs was strangely charged. He could see the tension in Derek’s movements, so different from how his muscles normally flowed so easily. At the top floor his host paused and seemed to gather himself before he turned to face Stiles.

“You can grab something to wear in the top middle drawer,” he gestured to the dresser. “I’m going to start the fire.”

Stiles did as he was told and picked out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt that looked like they might not swallow him whole.

“Bathroom,” Derek said, nodding to the half-open door. “There’s an extra toothbrush in a package under the sink.”

Which Stiles wasn’t going to read into.

“Erica’s too lazy to go downstairs to get her own, sometimes, so I like to keep spares up here.”

He grinned and nodded, “Okay, that’s hilarious, can I use that against her?”

Derek shrugged as he struck a long match and used it to patiently light the kindling. “You’d be doing so at your own risk, but if you’re that much of a daredevil go for it.”

“I did mention the not-gambling thing, didn’t I?” Stiles said as he backed up to the bathroom door.

Derek looked over at him with a smile, tiny flames casting erratic shadows across his face. “Go get changed, Stiles.”

“Aye aye, captain,” he said with a mock salute.

There was a spare toothbrush under the sink. It was pink and Stiles couldn’t help silently giggling as he used it. By the time he’d changed into Derek’s baggy clothes and emerged from the bathroom with his own folded his up in a neat little pile under his arm, everyone else was already in Derek’s room. Laura and Erica were showing Boyd and Isaac one of the more advanced couples yoga moves, where Laura was laying flat on the floor holding Erica up with just her arms, as the other woman held onto her wrists, her legs curled back so that her feet almost touched her head.

“Show offs,” Stiles said with a smile as he put his clothes on the dresser beside the little carved wolf figurine he’d noticed earlier. He looked up at Derek, who was watching him, and gave the wolf a significant look.

Derek, predictably, rolled his eyes and gestured to the bed, then skirted around Stiles to grab something to wear out of the dresser and disappeared into the bathroom.

Boyd and Isaac were watching the women with appreciative, though not creepy, smiles on their faces.

“You guys ever try the yoga stuff?” Stiles asked as he sat on the side of the bed closest to the fireplace. He was both pleased and secretly kind of bummed to see everyone wearing pretty standard sleeping attire, though Erica’s shorts and tank top combo was a bit questionable given how cold the place was probably going to get, even with the shared body heat and the fireplace.

Isaac shook his head, “No, that’s not for us. We prefer martial arts, Derek does, too, but yoga’s good for him. It helps him calm down.”

Derek needed help calming down? Not in Stiles’ experience, but he supposed they knew the guy better than he did. Still, it was kind of funny.

“Okay, then,” Stiles said and fell silent as he watched the women transition to a form where Laura’s feet were pressed against Erica’s hips as she arched with her legs and arms back like she was in freefall.

“Want to try it?” Derek said from right beside him and he jumped.

“Jesus, dude, you move like a cat,” Stiles replied. “And not when I’m wearing this, it barely stays on when I’m not moving, let alone when I’m suspended in the air.”

“Another time, then?” he asked, his face half in shadow from the fire, which had become the only light source at some point.

Stiles raised his eyebrows at the oddly playful Derek in front of him, but before they could banter some more there was a crash followed by a pair of giggles and when Stiles stood up to look all he could really make out was a tangle of limbs and a contrast of dark and blonde hair.

“Maybe we should work on that one, some more,” Laura said as she stumbled to her feet with Isaac’s help. Boyd bodily picked up Erica and threw her onto the bed. She was laughing too hard to answer immediately.

“So this is a standard nighttime routine for you guys?” Stiles said as the others piled onto the gigantic bed as well, until just he and Derek were left.

Derek shrugged, “Pretty much.” He pulled back the covers and slid in beside Boyd, who moved over a bit to make room.

Which left Stiles a spot on the outside, between Derek and the fireplace. He would have suggested that he could take the couch, or even one of their beds downstairs, but Derek was watching him and it kind of felt like they were playing a game of chicken, so he sucked it up and slipped into the space provided, settling back against the pillow.

“Watch out, Stiles,” Laura mock-whispered from the other side of the bed, “Derek’s kind of an aggressive cuddler. That’s why we put Boyd next to him, so he doesn’t try to smother us in our sleep.” She broke off into giggles, which Erica joined in on until he could feel the bed shaking from it.

He glanced at where Derek was staring at the ceiling with an unreadable, though kind of pissy, expression.

“Hey, no worries, dude, I’m a bit of flailer, myself. Fair warning. If it gets too intense I won't blame you for kicking me out. Wouldn't be the first time," he yawned and snuggled down a bit, pulling the blanket tighter around himself to keep out the chilled air that not even the fire was helping to warm.

“Great,” Derek said, but he didn’t look quite as mad, so Stiles closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

 

Not only was Derek a cuddler, he was like a freaking koala. Stiles woke up in the darkness, with only the red embers of the fire casting any light and it felt like he was about to drown in his own sweat. Both his arms and legs were secured by Derek's strong limbs, trapping him against the other man's slowly rising chest.

He attempted to untangle himself, but there was a kind of growl behind him and he realized it was Derek's sleeping protest at his movements. He compromised by doing what he could to push the blanket off of them so he didn't die of heat exhaustion in the night. Actually, once the blanket was gone, the warmth of Derek's body felt amazing against his sweat dampened skin. He breathed out a happy sigh and drifted back to sleep.

 

To be awoken by something smacking into his thigh and then he was rolling onto his stomach with a heavy weight pressing down on him. It took Stiles several long seconds to realize it was Derek and that whatever had hit him was stumbling to the bathroom in the dark, mumbling under her breath about wine and coffee.

Erica, then.

She didn't even bother to turn on the light or close the door as she peed, but Stiles was only half aware of what was going on as Derek's firm body stretched across his back. Erica washed her hands after she flushed, and walked heavily over the the fireplace to throw another log on it and blow until the thing caught.

When she looked back he was still watching her and she blinked a few times. For a second it kind of looked like her eyes were glowing yellow, but then they went back to normal.

"Need help with that thing?" she whispered, but he shook his head. It wasn't like Derek was actually going to crush him in his sleep, and the human blanket made him feel pretty warm and secure.

"Thanks for the fire," he mumbled and she nodded sleepily, crawling back over him and Derek and Boyd to wherever her spot was.

 

It was a bit lighter in the room the next time he woke up. He was sprawled over Derek, face tucked against his neck and limbs curled around him to sap some of his body heat. The blanket was gone and his skin felt a bit chilled in the early morning calm.

Except for what sounded like whimpering coming from the other side of Boyd's massive frame. Stiles tried to lift his head to check it out, but then Derek's hand was on the back of his neck, holding him still.

"It's Isaac," Derek whispered, his eyes still closed and his breathing even. And if he hadn't spoken Stiles would have thought he was still asleep, but since he wasn't the whole cuddling thing could quite possibly get awkward. Though for some reason Derek didn't really seem to care as his thumb soothed a steady rhythm against the back of Stiles' neck and that was really quite relaxing, actually.

The whimpering stopped as the swish of fabric started, like someone was moving kind of quickly, then there were low, soft voices saying things he couldn't quite catch. After that it seemed to settle down.

"Used to have nightmares," he said softly against Derek's clavicle.

The hand tightened briefly. "Your mom?" He asked quietly.

Stiles shook his head, "No, my dad. Never knew if he was going to come home."

Derek's other arm unburied itself and wrapped firmly around Stiles' waist. "Go to sleep, Stiles," he whispered.

Chapter Text

Movement woke him and when he finally pried open his eyes he was met with a very shirtless Derek doing what seemed to be a million perfect push-ups on the floor beside the bed. The fire had burnt out and it kind of looked like he could see the other man's breath in the cold air. The blanket was tucked up around Stiles' neck and when he moved his hand to feel the space beside him it was still warm.

He tried not to think about Derek delicately crawling over him and making sure to tuck him in afterward, but it was really hard not to.

The guy flowed from push-ups to sit-ups, which was just insane. Stiles couldn't manage that level of grace in yoga class after he'd been up for most of the day, let alone right after he'd first regained consciousness.

"Want to join me?" Derek said, not even breathing hard as he continued to showcase his insanely toned core. He glanced at Stiles with a little half-smirk and that's when he discovered Derek's fatal flaw.

"Oh my god, you're a morning person," Stiles accused.

Derek smiled in reply and did a move where he balanced on his butt with his arms and legs extended straight out before he bent in half and touched his toes. The guy was a machine.

"Are you one of those terminator robot guys?" Stiles asked. "Because I gotta say, if this is you trying to blend in and act human it's not working."

That made Derek pause and he sat forward, resting his arms on his bent knees. "You don't think I'm human." He said flatly.

Stiles huffed and wiggled down so only his face was exposed to the cold air. "Dude, you're clearly superhuman, we get it, you're making my abs hurt just watching you. Not that I'm ungrateful, since you're the one who has to support my ass during yoga, but do you seriously enjoy waking up like this?"

Derek shrugged and started working on his obliques, which reminded Stiles of one of those 80s exercise videos his mom used to work out to when he was little. He could barely keep himself from giggling as he imagined Derek wearing a leotard and legwarmers.

“You should see what the others do to wake up," Derek grunted between sets.

Stiles shook his head. “Dude, if it’s a sex thing I can guarantee it is too early for me to even try thinking about that.”

“It’s not a sex thing, Stiles,” he said with some exasperation. He switched sides and started curling that way.

“Well then, what do they do?” He turned to look at the rest of them, but the bed was empty. “Huh, guess you guys are all early risers.”

“It’s seven o’clock,” Derek said, like that was super late in the day or something.

Stiles turned back to him, careful to make sure his cocoon was intact. “Seven? Are you serious? I could sleep until noon when I don’t work and wake up feeling fantastic about myself and my life choices. Well, that would mean I’d probably have stayed up until two or three that morning, but still, seven o’clock? Sure, that’s sleeping in late on a normal day, but this is a holiday, man.”

“You’ll miss the show,” Derek warned.

Actually, the show he was getting was pretty freaking amazing. He didn’t really see how that could be improved. But there was a part of him that was too curious to resist such a setup.

With some hesitance he asked, “What show?”

That seemed to be what Derek was waiting for because he gracefully stood up, still magnificently shirtless and motioned for Stiles to follow him.

“Come on, it’s worth it, I promise.”

It usually took a lot more to get Stiles out of bed so early on what he was counting as a weekend, but it was Derek, and he was kind of sweaty and shirtless and beckoning him and Stiles had terrible impulse control, sometimes. Especially when beautiful people were involved. Beautiful people named Derek Hale who was a secret cuddler and liked to work out shirtless in the morning.

Ugh.

“Fine,” he grumbled, wincing as he threw back the covers and exposed his limbs to the chilled air. “Holy hell, Derek, it’s like the arctic in here.”

“You know, if you did some push-ups with me you’d be warm in a few minutes.”

“Very funny, now are you going to let me see this magical event or am I going to crawl back under the blankets and sleep for another few hours.”

Derek wrapped a slightly damp arm around him and walked them toward the stairs, pretty much giving him no choice but to go with it. Not that he was protesting all the much, Derek was warm. And did he mention shirtless?



It turned out the show was in the basement, which was cold and dry and had a large open area where Isaac and Boyd appeared to be trying to kill each other with their bare hands. Erica and Laura sat against one of the walls, which was scarred concrete like the floors. They were in their pajamas with their hair still tousled from sleep.

“Here,” Derek said, handing Stiles his red hoodie.

How on earth?

“How did you sneak that out of the room? I was right next to you the whole time,” he said as he pulled it on and zipped it up.

Derek raised an eyebrow and motioned for Stiles to sit along the opposite wall on a pile of mats that looked pretty beaten up. Whatever, it was something to sit on that wasn’t cold concrete, so he didn’t really care that the stuffing was poking out and tickling his bare feet. He glanced around and it looked like there was a short hallway off to his left and maybe a metal door, but he wasn’t really sure.

“Again,” Laura called out and the two men stopped grappling. They stepped back a few paces and began circling each other. “This time I want to see Isaac take out Boyd’s legs without his head hitting the ground.”

“Don’t lose your temper, Isaac,” Derek said from where he stood beside his sister, arms folded over his bare chest as he watched the two men stare each other down.

Isaac moved first, faking to the right, then trying to tackle his left side, but Boyd anticipated it and dodged. They danced around a bit more, before Isaac managed to sidle up to the bigger man and sweep one of his legs behind him. Boyd grabbed onto Isaac’s shirt and they fell heavily to the floor with a hard smack.

Laura was at their side in an instant, blocking Stiles’ view as she crouched down. “I told you not to hit his head on the floor, Isaac,” she said, but there was a certain kind of pride in her voice. “But that was a pretty sweet move.”

Isaac was beaming as he stood up, then helped Boyd to his feet. “Sorry, Boyd.”

The other man didn’t seemed at all worse for wear, he wasn’t even touching the back of his head, which must have hurt if it had struck the ground with as much force as Stiles thought it had.

“Isaac and Erica, you’re up. No blood,” Laura warned as she and Boyd moved back to stand by Derek.

Erica won the match after a short scuffle when she pinned Isaac down with a hand to his throat.

“So, this is basically fight club,” Stiles said from where he was sitting with his knees drawn up inside his sweatshirt, “You guys wake up in the morning by beating each other in your basement. This is really eye-opening, I’m seeing you all in a new light.”

"Don't get too comfortable, you're next," Derek said as he and Laura stepped into the center.

Fantastic.

Stiles didn't even bother protesting, all too aware that Derek was kind of a stubborn ass sometimes, especially when he believed he was in the right. Stiles could relate to that particular personality trait.

The siblings were both barefoot, their steps rolling as they sized each other up. Derek was only a little taller than his sister, but had a lot more bulk than she did.

Not that it mattered.

One moment they were circling and the next he was being thrown halfway to the wall. He rolled when he hit the floor and came out of it leaping at her, but in that split second Laura had already moved and used Derek's momentary confusion to get the drop on him. She jumped onto his back with an arm across his throat, but he contorted and ducked and them she was the one flying. Somehow, impossibly, Laura managed to land on her feet and twisted to meet Derek's instantaneous follow-up attack. It went on like that for minutes before they were both rolling on the floor, hands wrapped around each other's throats as their legs tried to wrap around each other.

"Draw," Boyd called, and they let go with gasps.

So, while the normal litany of brutal exercises didn't make Derek pant for breath, apparently getting into a knock down, drag out brawl with his sister did.

Which was good to know.

Also, the swirly tattoo between Derek's shoulder blades was hot.

"That was insane," Stiles said as the siblings helped each other to their feet with content looks on their faces.

Derek motioned him forward, "Come on, Stiles, I said you're next."

Yeah. Right. Not after what he’d just seen, he’d be crushed.

He shook his head with a smile. "Oh, hell no, that's not gonna happen. Remember the lover not a fighter thing? Yeah, that's me. Also, it’s pretty clear that any of you could quite easily kill me. Shouldn't I begin by sparring with someone at my skill level? Like a third grader or something?"

"We'll start easy," Derek said rolling his shoulders in a way that did unfairly amazing things to his glistening torso.

Reluctantly, Stiles untucked his legs and stood up to shuffled across the cold floor to where the other man was standing.

"If this ends in tears none of you can hold it against me," he said as Derek looked him up and down, like he wasn't already completely aware of Stiles' body and it's many limitations after hauling his ass around during their weeks of doing yoga together.

"I'll hold it against you," Erica said, but then there was a smack and she hissed Laura's name.

Derek nodded and put his hands on his hips, which kind of made him look like superman. Only shirtless. And slightly hairier. Not that Stiles had a problem with that, he was really digging the look, actually.

"I'm going to grab you,” he said, “and you're going to try to get away."

Stiles knew how the exercise was going to end. Awkwardly. For him and everyone else in the room.

But of course he nodded, anyway, because it was Derek.

"Fine, let's get this over with,” he said, squaring his feet like his dad had taught him.

Derek approached and reached, a bit lazily, to grab onto Stiles’ hoodie, which was actually perfect.

When Stiles was a kid, after his mom died, his dad kind of went safety crazy for a few years, making sure he and Scott knew how to get out of the trunk of a car, could identify anyone carrying a concealed weapon, and then there was the pretty handy self-defense stuff.

So when Derek did what most people would do when attacking Stiles, which was grab onto the shoulder of his loose sweatshirt, Stiles reacted like he’d been taught. He lowered his center of gravity, flung his arms straight up and twisted away out of the hold and the hoodie; but Derek had grabbed onto one of the sleeves as well, which also worked because then Stiles, who had a grip on it as well, stepped so he was sort of behind Derek, and the red fabric got tangled in the other man’s hands and with a precise kick to the back of his leg he went to his knees with Stiles’ arm and the hoodie wrapped firmly around his throat.

“So,” Stiles said, his face right next to Derek’s head, “this is pretty much as awkward as I’d thought it would be.” His back was freezing cold and he realized the borrowed shirt had gotten lost inside the sweatshirt when Derek had grabbed it and Stiles had shimmied out of both of them. He was definitely shirtless in Derek’s frigid basement after some impromptu self defense practice. That was his life, apparently.

Derek tapped Stiles’ hand to indicate he was giving up and Stiles backed away with his arms crossed over his chest, though of course everyone else could still see the vivid white scars etched across his skin like angry talon marks, made even more noticeable as he blushed with embarrassment. He had kind of been hoping to avoid that, the whole business of the hideous display, but his life didn’t really work out the way he wanted most of the time; so there he was, showing off his knife wounds and the absolute center of attention.

He bounced a little on his toes, which were going numb from the cold, and tried to avoid looking at the others who were still standing along the wall. “Jesus, it’s fucking frosty down here. Hurry up, dude, give me back my hoodie, or does fight club initiation involve some kind of hazing rituals, too?”

No one was really doing anything other than kind of staring at him, so Stiles took matters into his own hands and grabbed the fabric and gave it a tug.

“Come on, give it up. I know my sense of style is unparalleled, but you can’t confiscate my hoodie when I’m on the verge of freezing to death.”

Derek snapped out of whatever funk he’d been in twisted to stand in front of him with narrowed eyes. “Have you done that before?” he asked as he pulled the shirt from inside the sweatshirt and slipped it over his own head, which was bullshit because Stiles was fucking cold and wouldn’t have minded the extra layer.

He snatched the red hoodie from Derek’s hands and wrestled it on. “What? Outsmart you? Naw, I think that’s happened before. Right? It has to have at some point, I mean we’ve known each other for almost a month, haven’t we?”

“Stiles,” Derek said, ignoring his sister and their friends as they conversed quietly behind him.

“Seriously? I was raised by a single father law enforcement officer for most of my childhood, of course he taught me basic self defense. We practiced a lot with hoodies because I tend to wear them pretty often. There ya go, mystery solved. Pretty sure you can even keep your badass card. I promise not to tell my friends I beat you at early morning fight club.” He bounced again and shivered.

Derek rolled his eyes and nodded to the stairs, “Come on, if you’re that cold we can light a fire.”

“Music to my ears, man,” Stiles said as he quickly followed, eager to stand on something that didn’t feel like ice against his feet.



While Derek lit the fire in the living room, Stiles wandered around jumping from rug to rug on the wooden floor. There weren't any family pictures on the walls, or anything that really screamed Derek or Laura, but there were a couple pretty paintings of forest scenes he admired.

"Who did this?" he asked, glancing back at where Derek was standing by the crackling logs in the fireplace.

Derek dusted off his hands and walked around to join him. "That was painted by our mother's mother. She was the matriarch of the family when we were kids, before we moved here."

"So, in Beacon Hills?"

"Yes."

One word answers were not good coming from Derek. That usually meant he was either hiding something, or feeling something. Or both.

"Do you remember it there?" Stiles was genuinely curious. He'd never met someone who knew about his hometown and wasn't currently living there.

Derek shrugged and glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, "I remember the woods. We owned a lot of land and would go running around there whenever we wanted. I was going to begin kindergarten that fall, but we moved before I could start. Laura had just finished first grade."

"Ever go to the library?"

He shook his head, "No, my parents were pretty protective of us, we mostly stayed around the house or the woods. They didn't really take us into town that often, except for when Laura went to school."

Which might explain why he hadn’t really heard about the Hale children when he was growing up. Or, really, any of the Hales. Stiles thought that was kind of weird, that everything he’d learned from the family had come from school or random snippets of gossip and not his mother, who clearly knew them, or even his father, who should have, too.

“Did your grandmother come with you to Wisconsin?” Stiles asked, looking into the depths of the painting’s detailed forest. It kind of looked like there was something there, a slightly darker shape that didn’t quite blend in.

Derek shifted beside him. “No,” he said quietly, “she and my grandfather didn’t come back with us.”

Stiles looked over at him and was a bit shocked to see the quiet sadness in his expression. He put his hand on Derek’s shoulder and squeezed. “Sorry I brought it up, man, it’s just that even though we both lived in Beacon Hills, I don’t really know anything about your family.”

“My grandparents were killed, so we left.”

What.

He certainly hadn’t heard about that particular tidbit before. Murder? Wait.

“Was anyone charged?”

Derek shook his head. "No, we didn't want to involve the police. The two of them are buried in our family's plot on the property."

Because that was normal? Not involving the police in a double homicide and then digging a hole out back was somehow typical for the Hales? Stiles was pretty confused.

"But you're a cop," he pointed out.

"Yes."

Jesus the guy made it hard to have a conversation, sometimes.

"Are you going to try to find out who killed them?" If it had been Stiles in Derek's shoes he wouldn't have been able to keep himself from investigating.

Derek shook his head, "We know who did it, and they were punished for their crimes."

An icy kind of feeling cascaded down Stiles' spine as Chris Argent's accusations came back to him. He’d claimed that his mother had been killed by the Hales, maybe even Derek and Laura, but if their grandparents had been killed first-

He glanced back at the picture and realized the shadow was actually the silhouette of a wolf.

Maybe it was a kind of justice, after all.



Stiles insisted he be allowed to help with breakfast, after he took a quick hot shower and put on yesterday's clothes. Boyd was already in the kitchen, a spread of ingredients on the table in front of him when Stiles got there.

"What are we making?" he asked, his gigantic arms crossed over his chest.

"Let's see," Stiles said as he listed the items, "French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns?"

"Okay," Boyd said, and grabbed the bacon and sausage.

What Stiles has actually been going for was to narrow down what they were going to have, but then again he'd seen how incredibly athletic they all were, so maybe a protein overload was how they liked to start things in the morning. After fight club, of course.

"Okay," he echoed with just a bit more skepticism. If they'd eat it, he'd make it, though he doubted even the six of them could devour all of the food.

Well, they probably couldn’t.

"Isaac doesn't do breakfast or something?" Stiles asked a while later, grating potatoes as Boyd laid out strips of bacon on a cookie sheet.

"Why? Would you rather he help you?" he said with a completely straight face, but somehow Stiles could still tell he was joking. In his own way.

He held up his potato-covered hands with a smile, "No complaints, just making conversation."

Boyd raised his eyebrows and finally smirked, "Isaac's a great cook, but in the mornings he spends extra time in the basement with Laura, to help him work on his moves."

"And his temper?" Stiles asked, going back to his grating. "Derek mentioned it when he was sparring."

"That, too," Boyd replied in a tone that said he was finished with that line of discussion.

Which was fine with Stiles.

"So, what kind of cop are you?"

Boyd huffed out a laugh, and that was probably the most amused Stiles had seen him. "You're pretty talkative."

"Why, thank you. So?"

"I work with the victims of violent crimes," he said as he focused on the task at hand.

Not exactly what Stiles had been expecting, but he could see how victims would feel safe with Boyd by their side, and how criminals would shit their pants if they saw him coming after them.

"That's pretty cool, I bet you're awesome at it."

Boyd actually looked kind of bashful as he put the trays of meat in the oven. "I like helping people," he said.

That made Stiles grin. Boyd was definitely a good guy.



Derek walked in, freshly showered and with his hair still damp, while Stiles was putting the last of the French toast on a plate. Boyd reached over and turned of the stove for both of them, then poured the steaming scrambled eggs into a serving bowl.

"Need help?" Derek asked and Stiles nodded to the bowl.

"That, in there," he indicated the dining room with his elbow as he moved to the sink to wash his hands. "Erica already set the table. Thank you."

Derek took both the bowl and the plate with a smirk and backed through the door into the other room.

The rest quickly followed and everything was on the table in short order. Laura and Isaac appeared almost instantly, which was weird because no one had gone down to get them, but it was still great timing, so whatever.

That time, there wasn't any kind of strange passing of the plates, just a bit of a general free-for-all as everyone helped themselves to whatever was within reach and haggling with each other for things across the table.

They went at it with a single-mindedness Stiles could get behind. He usually didn’t have to have any kind of conversations until after he’d been up for at least an hour or two and had already eaten breakfast, so he appreciated the brief moment of quiet.

Laura finally broke the silence when most of them were reaching for seconds and thirds. "So, Stiles, what are you up to, today?"

He shrugged and swallowed, "Probably look over my notes from work, get a run in, call Scott. What about you guys?"

She gave Erica an impish look, which he knew did not bode well for him. "Actually, Erica and I have some free time, so we're going to be at the studio for most of the day if you want to stop by, later. We’ll drop you off there when we’re done with breakfast."

"Is this later today thing going to be the epic conclusion to the early morning basement fight club hazing initiation Derek refused to talk about, earlier?"

Erica mouthed yes, while Laura rolled her eyes, "Don't be stupid, Stiles, no one is going to haze you."

"Uh, huh. Yeah, we'll see what happens, I guess." But in all honesty he liked the studio and the two women, so spending some free time with them was in no way a burden.

Erica grinned and for just a second it looked like her teeth were awfully sharp.

Weird.

Chapter Text

The trip home wasn’t nearly as frightening with Laura driving. The roads were mostly clear and it didn’t seem like there was much more snow on the ground than had been there the previous afternoon.

“So what kind of car did Boyd say this was?” Stiles asked from the back seat. It was a bit cramped, but the leather was nice enough, even if there weren’t build in butt warmers in the back.

“It’s a camaro,” Erica said, adjusting her lipstick in the flip down mirror, her reflection smiling suggestively at him. “Back seat’s kind of crowded, isn’t it?”

“I feel like you’re about to share a story about this vehicle that may mentally scar me for life. If so, please just consider me suitably traumatized and let’s change the subject.”

Laura barked out a laugh and patted Erica on the knee, “See, hun, I knew he’d fit right in.”

Erica was kind of pouting and when she glanced back at the mirror Stiles stuck his tongue out at her. She pulled a face in response and so he responded in kind. They spent a good few minutes making more and more progressively bizarre expressions until Laura finally noticed and looked at the two of them like they were insane.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” she asked even as she tried to hold back her laughter.

“I don’t know what Erica’s doing, but I’m winning,” Stiles said.

But then Erica contorted her face in a way that couldn’t be natural, until Laura smacked her arm and told her to knock it off.

“Who’s the winner, now?” Erica asked.

Stiles nodded to their driver, “I’m pretty sure Laura is, since she wasn’t just making faces at another adult person like she was five years old.”

“Damn right,” Laura said as she pulled up to what Stiles recognized was the back of the yoga studio. “Come on, kids, out you go.”

Erica opened her door and leapt from the vehicle, while Stiles fiddled with the seat until it collapsed and he could crawl out at a much more dignified pace. Also, he didn’t want to fall on his ass in front of the two of them.

“You said you’re going to be here all day?” he asked when he was upright again, his bag slung over his shoulder and hands jammed into the pockets of his jacket. Every word puffed out of his mouth in a little cloud and his cheeks were starting to burn from the cold.

Laura unlocked the back door and motioned him inside. “Come on, in you go. Get warmed up before you hike home.” She closed and locked the door behind them. “And to answer your question, yes, we’ll be here all day. We have some paperwork to sort through and things to clean. Come by whenever you’re free and we’ll work on your flexibility.”

“Oh, goody, that doesn’t sound painful at all.”

Erica came up behind him and gave his shoulders a squeeze, “It’ll help if you’re already warmed up.”

“So you’re saying I should go for a run sooner rather than later?”

Laura nodded and led the way to the front, “That’s what she’s saying. Try to stay hydrated, too, it helps.”

“You’re not going to do that hot yoga stuff to me, are you?” he asked as Laura unbolted the door and smiled wickedly at him.

“Guess you’ll find out, won’t you?”

“That’s not very reassuring,” he called out as he stepped out the door.

Neither was Erica’s answering smile, but he was slowly getting used to that.



For a few hours after that, things went pretty well. Charlie wasn’t home, like he’d warned, so Stiles took the opportunity to wander around in his underwear even though it was kind of chilly. After a bit, though, he was starting to shiver so he put on his running gear and headed to the basement for some exercise.

It took more than a mile for him to warm up enough to stop shaking, but after that the easy rhythm eased the tension in his muscles and he was able to relax into the movement. For the most part his mind was delightfully blank, but every once in awhile he’d remember something Derek or one of the others had said and he’d burst into a grin, reflected creepily in the shattered mirror beside him.

He deliberately didn’t think about his family or Derek’s family or murder or accusations or anything remotely related to the stomach-knotting weirdness that had popped up over the last day. No, he focused on his breathing and the light tread of his feet as he jogged for mile after mile.

Inevitably, his attention was drawn to Derek and his warm body and soft, private smiles. The previous night took on a kind of fantastical air, all fire lit and quiet conversations. Well, maybe not so quiet, but the memory had a gentle air to it. Something inside of Stiles seemed to shift, like his heart was out of whack. He was about to slow down to a walk when he realized it wasn’t his actual heart, it was his heart.

He did slow down, then, and hopped off to grab his water bottle from where it sat on the floor next to his bag. After a few gulps he was able to focus enough to get back on the treadmill and work on his cool-down, his mind spinning at the cusp of the dawning realization, but he pushed back the feeling and focused instead on the physical aspect of the night and morning.

The ghost of Derek’s touch seemed to chase him as he walked, the broad, hot hands and the feel of his firm body beside and beneath him. Stiles adjusted himself with an embarrassed glance around the empty room. It probably was best to wait until he was alone to dwell on the absolute perfection of Derek's skin glowing in the early morning light and the way his arm felt wrapped around Stiles’ shoulders.

"Shower time," Stiles decided as he powered down the machine and grabbed his things. He jogged to the elevator and secured both doors before punching the number for his floor, using his bag to shield his body's very interested response to the memories of Derek.

"Hurry up," he muttered as it slowly chugged up to the fourth floor.

Finally, after a million creaky years, the ancient thing ground to a stop and he pulled back the metal accordion door and then the solid wooden door. He closed both behind him and locked the latter.

Mrs. Bevenson was watching through the gap of her own open door and with some juggling and hip twisting he managed not to flash her his half-boner as she judgingly watched him walk by.

"Hey, Mrs. B, happy late turkey day!"

She shook her head at him and closed her door.

He had it on good authority she thought he and Charlie were the same person, which was kind of funny since they really didn't look that much alike, except for the fact that they were both skinny white guys, so he was pretty sure her disdain for him was misplaced, or she could be pissed about his free use of the elevator when she and the other tenants always had to beg their super for the key. Either one.

There was still no sign of Charlie when he got in, which was all kinds of perfect because he had things he wanted to do in private. The kind of private that only came when he was home alone and could express himself vocally without fear of being overheard by snooping flatmates who liked to comment on the private goings-on of one Stiles Stilinski.

He stripped as soon as he reached his room and danced naked to the bathroom. The water was hot and he'd barely soaped up before a whine escaped him and he reached down to wrap a hand around his cock with a relieved sigh. He quickly worked himself to full hardness, using the soap to slick the way.

His mind instantly leapt to Derek's impossibly soft hands, imaging them on him and in him and Stiles was already panting from it, almost painfully erect and aching for release as he remembered Derek’s weight pressing him into the mattress, hot breath ghosting across the back of his neck. His other hand slipped down to gently squeeze his balls, and he had to rest his head against the tiled wall as an aching rush of pleasure shot through him at the sensation. He focused on Derek's flawless skin, glistening with sweat, the tattoo Stiles wanted nothing more than to lick as he entered the other man's flawlessly toned ass. As his hand pumped his cock harder and faster he imagined Derek's gorgeous lips wrapped around it as his stunning hazel eyes looked up at Stiles and in an instant he was crying out his release.

Many panted breaths later he finally managed to finish washing off the evidence of his cardiovascular and masturbatory exercises. But that time, instead of feeling embarrassment or self-loathing for having pleasured himself using Derek as his focus, Stiles felt oddly elated. Unless he was completely missing something, it seemed like Derek might actually like him, too.

He smiled and tilted his head back into the spray, for once not all that worried about how things in his life were going. It had been a pretty fantastic holiday, after all.



He'd just toweled off and slipped into some of his more comfortable boxers when he heard the insistent sound of his phone vibrating from his bag. Figuring it was Scott, since his computer wasn't on and Stiles had promised to call him later that day, he almost didn't even look at the caller ID, but then he saw the word hospital on it and almost cried out in fear.

"Hello? Yes?" he said as soon as he could press the thing to his ear.

"Am I speaking to Stiles Stilinski?" the calm voice on the other end asked.

Stiles nodded and cleared his throat, "Yes, speaking." His voice sounded raw and thin.

Everything inside of him was screaming for his dad and Scott and everyone else to be okay, but somehow he managed to keep breathing even as stars burst in front of his eyes from the panic flooding him.

"Mr. Stilinski, we have a patient who was recently admitted here by the name of Charlie Ward who has you listed as his emergency contact."

Stiles put his hand over the receiver and heaved a couple breaths in relief before he could gather himself enough to respond. "Yes, we live together, is he okay? Do I need to bring him clothes or something?"

"I'm afraid it's more serious than that, Mr. Stilinski. Your friend was seriously injured and is currently undergoing surgery. We will need you to come in to fill out some paperwork for him."

Stiles took the phone away from his ear and kind of stared at it for a second before he replaced it. "Uh, okay? Can you tell me what kind of documentation I should bring and where you're located? He's British and I think he's here on a visa or something." Stiles wasn't quite sure, his flatmate's legal status hadn’t exactly come up in casual conversation.

The woman gave him a list of things she needed and told what hospital to go to and the address.

It took Stiles minutes after he’d hung up to force himself into action. He pulled on whatever clothes were closest along with his leather jacket and messenger bag, then walked over to Charlie's room, but stopped outside the closed door. He didn't have a clue where the guy kept his passport or visa or shot record or anything else on the list he'd jotted down in the back of his numbers notebook. As far as he knew, Charlie always carried that kind of stuff with him, but apparently not the night before because the lady had asked for it and Stiles was really not comfortable snooping through another person's things. At least not their physical belongings. Their electronic accounts were fair game, as far as he was concerned. Well, with permission, of course. He briefly contemplated asking Derek to come help him, but dismissed it as seeming just a bit too needy.

With a slight catch in his breath, he pushed open the door and walked into the eerily empty room. There was almost nothing inside. It was just the junky generic furniture the place had come with and some loose change on the nightstand, that was it.

“The fuck?”

They’d both lived there for half a year and there wasn’t an ounce of personality in the room at all. He hesitantly approached the desk and opened one of the drawers before quickly shutting it.

“Okay, that was sex stuff. Check. Charlie is having lots of safe sex. Good for you, dude.”

Three more drawers of progressively uncomfortable finds and Stiles thought his face was going to catch on fire he was experiencing so much secondhand embarrassment. Also, he’d never be able to look at his flatmate the same way, ever again.

“Jesus Christ, Charlie, where the fuck is all your important shit?”

Stiles ruffled his hair in frustration and glanced around again and stopped when he looked at the bed.

Of course.

Of course a glorified prostitute would keep his important documents in the same place where a teenager from an 80s movie kept his porn mags. With a huff he lifted the edge of the mattress and picked up the dark blue folder that, when he opened it to check, held Charlie’s passport and other legal paperwork.

“We’re having a serious talk about your life choices when you get out of there,” Stiles decided as he tucked the folder into his messenger bag and went out the door.



After filling out and turning in the paperwork, he sent Erica a quick text that read, Sorry can’t make it today, then turned off his phone when a passing nurse glared at him and pointed to the No Cell Phones sign posted on the wall.

Melissa had lectured him many a time about the dangers of cell phone use in hospitals and how the radio waves or whatever could interfere with the delicate medical equipment. He wasn’t so sure about all of that, but he knew people could be dicks when they had their phones out texting and calling when they should be focusing on listening to the doctors and nurses and paying attention to whoever was sick or injured, so he wasn’t about to be that kind of a douche.

Also, Stiles hated hospitals.

He scrubbed his hands over his head and tried not to let the all-too familiar smells and sounds get to him, but it was progressively getting harder to ignore. Besides popping in occasionally to see Melissa, he’d largely avoided hospitals since his mother’s slow death had taken place in one. That was, until he’d been admitted for those long few weeks of recovery the previous year. Yet there he was, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, waiting for news just like when he was seven, then eight, and finally nine years old when the doctors had finally stopped lying about how hopeful they were regarding his mom’s recovery.

There was a very real possibility that he was going to throw up.

Stiles breathed in through his nose and out of his mouth, focusing on centering himself and not heaving up his breakfast. He kind of regretted that extra serving of sausage, but he was an adult and he could handle it. There wasn’t anything wrong with him. He was fine. He was safe. He was going to find the bathroom.

And he did find one, just in time to redeposit what was left of the goodness he’d ingested that morning. It was a lot tastier the first time around, that was for certain. When he was done and had rinsed out his mouth he went back to the waiting room to fret.

There was an old tv in one corner and from his vantage point by the doorway he could see Charlie Brown and the paltry Thanksgiving fare he’d scrounged together for his friends. Which of course reminded him of Derek and their own dinner and then the slumber party and he couldn’t quite believe how awesome his Thanksgiving had been, the current situation aside.

Around the time Snoopy and Woodstock were breaking apart the wishbone after their real feast, a nurse came and called out his name.

He had a brief, horrified rush of adrenaline before he squared his shoulders and stood up, slinging his bag over his shoulder. “That’s me,” he said with a wave.

She was an older woman and wore dark green scrubs covered in fall leaves, and led the way back to stop in front of one of the patient rooms. “Your friend was very seriously injured,” the woman said, “You were listed as his emergency contact, but we’re still trying to get ahold of his family.”

“They live in England,” he said, trying to remember any other details, but Charlie hadn’t really talked about them too much, other than to say he was happy to finally get away.

The woman nodded, “Yes, he spoke briefly when he was first admitted, but since the surgery he hasn’t woken up again. That’s normal, though,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder, “The bleeding’s stopped for the most part and he’s had a few transfusions, but there’s still a long road of recovery ahead.”

Stiles nodded, “Okay, is there anything I can do?”

She patted him briefly and dropped her hand, “It helps if there’s someone there for when he wakes up. It makes things easier, sometimes.”

He knew that from experience. Stiles had spent every moment he could at his mother’s bedside, and could remember his father doing the same first for her, and then for him. He nodded again.

“Alright, I’ll stay with him as long as I can,” he said, swallowing down the bile that threatened to rise in the back of his throat.

Stiles really hated hospitals.



From what he could see around the gauze, Charlie’s face was a mess of bruises and scrapes, like he’d gotten in a fight with a brick wall or a raptor or something. His chest and arms were bare, where they weren’t wrapped up, too. Some of the pale hair on his chest had been shaved to make way for the swath of sterile fabric that probably covered what he assumed were the surgical scars. Tubes came and went from various parts of his anatomy and Stiles wasn’t entirely comfortable with the whole situation, but he’d agreed to stay and so he was going to be there for the guy.

“Hey, Charlie,” Stiles said softly as he took the chair next to the bed. “So, you’re in the hospital, but you’re going to be okay.”

He really didn’t really know what else to say.

Stiles glanced around, but the other bed in the room was empty and there wasn’t anything to do besides sit there awkwardly. He thought turning on the tv might be a bit rude, and he couldn’t use his phone, so he just kind of bounced in the surprisingly cushy chair for a bit before the boredom started to get to him.

“Okay. So. I had an unexpected Thanksgiving,” he said, and when the prone figure didn’t protest, he launched into a retelling of events. He might have embellished a bit about some Derek-related parts, but it was mostly true.

By the time he’d talked about breakfast, though, his flatmate still wasn’t awake and Stiles’ throat was kind of dry, so he fell silent and stared up at the ceiling.

“Dude, this fucking sucks. I mean, I know you know it sucks, but I just want you to know that I know it, too.”

The door opened and a different nurse came in to check the various machines beeping and pumping around Charlie’s eerily still body.

“Hey, I’m Stiles,” he said, waving a few fingers.

The guy nodded, “Michael.”

“So, do you have any idea what’s going on with Charlie? No one’s really told me much other than he's probably going to be okay?  And that he was in surgery for something."

Michael looked a little uncomfortable and played with one of the drips. "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about it."

"Woah, what? Seriously? I'm just here for moral support, I have no idea what even happened to him. Was he hit by a bus or something?"

The nurse glanced around, like he was checking to make sure they were alone. Stiles double checked and they were.

“I’m not really supposed to say anything,” Michael repeated, “but your friend was beaten up pretty badly. An anonymous person called it in. If they hadn’t he probably would have died from the internal hemorrhaging.”

What the hell?

“Someone did this to him?” Stiles looked over and saw the injuries in a whole new light. He’d thought it had been something like Charlie getting into a bike accident, though he suddenly remembered that the bike was gone, so it kind of made sense. Maybe. But he had no idea who would have wanted to hurt him like that. Wait.

“Were there any older injuries? Like to his ribs or back?”

The nurse frowned and reached out the door to grab Charlie's file. After flipping through it for a minute he nodded. “Yeah, it says he has some pretty fresh scars on his back and that his ribs were bruised from a previous event.”

So, was Charlie in a fight club, or was someone out to get him?

"Thanks,” Stiles said, distracted by the new turn his thoughts had taken.

If his flatmate was being targeted, that would explain his recent jumpiness and maybe even his bike going missing and him disappearing more often than before and how his room had almost nothing in it, not even a computer and he remembered that Charlie had had one at some point. There also hadn’t been nearly as many nighttime visitors to their apartment as in the previous months, though Stiles had been thinking that was due to the cooling weather or people seeing through his flatmate’s bullshit suave persona and realizing how shallow he really was. But all of the information added up to sound a lot more like a targeted series of attacks. But by whom?

Michael left with the chart and Stiles turned to Charlie with a frown.

“What the hell, dude?”

There was no response.



Eventually he broke down and turned on the tv. The news was a mess of Black Friday deals and reports of people behaving badly because of said deals, which was the usual given the day and the city. He was pretty bored and was considering going to get some food when the door opened.

“Stiles?” the voice asked, incredulous.

“Boyd?”

He stood up, confused, and then realized the other man was wearing his light blue police uniform and things got even more confusing.

“Why are you here?” Stiles asked, glancing behind him for maybe Derek or one of the others, but they didn’t even know he was there, so their absence made more sense than his presence.

Boyd glanced from where Charlie lay to him with a totally blank expression. It looked like a cop face if he’d ever seen one. “I could ask the same of you, Stiles.”

He blinked and frowned, “What? Oh, this is my flatmate, Charlie. I guess I was listed as his emergency contact somewhere because the hospital called me when he was in surgery. I don’t really know what’s going on, but it can’t be good if you’re here. Violent crimes, right?”

“I’ll need your official statement,” Boyd said as he took out a little notebook. “Why don’t you have a seat.”

Seriously? But Stiles did what he was told and sat back down in the chair and switched off the tv, then spread his hands in question.

“What do you want to know?”

Boyd hesitated and lowered the notebook to look at Stiles. “Does Derek know you’re here?” he asked, which was a pretty weird place to start.

“Uh, no? I text Erica and told her I couldn’t make it to the studio today, but then I turned off my phone, it being a hospital and all.”

Boyd shook his head, “You should turn it back on and let him know you’re here, and then keep it on.”

“Is this part of the official questioning because that’s kind of a bizarre thing to say.”

He got an unimpressed look for that one, “Just let him know, Stiles.”

It was still strange.

The notebook came back up and Boyd’s professional demeanor resurfaced as well. “Where were you last night at eleven o’clock?”

“You’re joking, right?”

Boyd’s eyebrows said no.

“Fine, I was staying with some friends at their house. If you want the address, you know it better than I do.”

He jotted something down on the paper.

“And this morning?”

“Same place, but I was taken home around, what time was it? Like, nine?”

“Closer to ten.”

“Closer to ten,” Stiles parroted.

“And after that?”

Stiles leaned forward in the chair and ran a hand over the back of his neck. “Hm, Laura dropped me off at the studio, I walked the couple blocks home, took the elevator, lounged around a bit, went running for a few miles, then after I showered I got the phone call from the hospital and took a cab here.”

“Anyone see you?”

“Laura and Erica when they dropped me off, then Mrs. Bevenson after I finished running, she lives down the hall and thinks Charlie and I are the same terrible person.”

“You didn’t eat lunch?”

He shook his head, “No, I had a big breakfast, which I prepared with a tiny bit of help.”

At that, Boyd’s professional persona slipped just a little and he raised an eyebrow, “A tiny bit, huh?”

Stiles shrugged, “Well, maybe a smidge more than a tiny bit. You know how it is.”

“Mhm.”

“What is this all about? Charlie was beaten? I mean, a little while ago I thought there was something up; he was acting really fidgety and weird, but this is a lot worse than that.”

Boyd went back to writing. “Tell me everything you can remember.”

So Stiles told him about Charlie’s erratic behavior over the past month, which he’d initially just passed off as him being himself, but in another light it seemed to indicate a much more serious series of events.

After telling what he knew he felt kind of drained and slumped back in his chair. “This is pretty serious, isn’t it?” he asked.

Boyd was still looking at his notebook and nodded, “Yeah, Stiles, it’s pretty serious.”

“Is Charlie going to get in trouble about the whole male escort thing?”

“Probably, when he wakes up, but he’s already in a lot of trouble.”

Stiles looked at where some of the bandages were starting to darken with blood. “Yeah, I can see that.”

Boyd sighed and looked at him. “Go get something to eat, Stiles. I’ll wait here for you and see if he wakes up. And call Derek.”



The cafeteria wasn’t all that crowded as Stiles took his tray to an empty table in one of the more deserted corners. He made a face at the food and dug his phone out of his pocket.

Derek answered on the second ring with an abrupt “Hale.”

Stiles sighed, “Hey, Derek, Boyd told me to call you.”

“Boyd? Stiles, where are you?” There was a kind of steel to his voice that Stiles couldn’t remember having heard before.

“Don’t freak out, I’m fine, but I’m at the hospital. My flatmate Charlie was attacked or something and apparently I’m his emergency contact.”

“Which hospital, I’m coming there.”

“Seriously, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. He got out of surgery a few hours ago and hasn’t woken up, yet. Boyd’s sitting with him while I grab some lunch.”

“It’s past four o’clock, Stiles.”

“I had a big breakfast.”

“Why did you turn off your phone.”

Wait, what?

“How did you know I turned it off?” he asked slowly.

Derek sighed, “I tried calling you, earlier, when you cancelled on Erica. It went straight to voicemail.”

“Why would you try to call me, then? Were you going to the studio, too? I thought it was supposed to be just Erica, Laura and me.”

There was a slight pause before Derek huffed out a breath, “It was, but Erica asked me what I’d done to piss you off, so I called to check.”

Stiles couldn’t help but grin. “Dude, that’s hilarious, why would she think you’d pissed me off?”

“I don’t know!”

He laughed, “Oh my god, Derek, that’s amazing. I bet Laura thought you’d did something wrong, too. Am I right?”

Derek grumbled a yes.

Stiles grinned and poked at the food on his plate, feeling some of the stomach-knotting tension ease enough for him to possibly attempt to eat what he’d bought.

"Oh, hey, Boyd asked where I was last night, as one of his official questions," he said around a bite of chicken and something casserole. Or maybe it was leftover turkey. Whatever, it was bland, but marginally edible.

"And what did you say?" Derek asked in his carefully controlled tone that said however Stiles answered was extremely important.

Stiles sipped some grape juice from a little plastic tub before he spoke. "I told him the truth, but will that be weird in the report? I mean, I was with you guys and now he's investigating Charlie's assault and I'm his flatmate. It just seems a bit strange to me."

"Your father never investigated a crime committed by or against someone he knew?"

That was a pretty fair point. "Okay, I'll give you that one, but this is a big city and coincidences aren't all that common like in a small town. Things tend not to be so neat. Shouldn't they should be more random and chaotic?"

Derek sighed, "You're overthinking this, Stiles. Finish your lunch, talk to Boyd, and call me if you need anything. Are you sure you're going to be okay, there?"

Stiles stared down at the half-finished meal and shrugged. "Yeah," he said with a kind of confidence he didn't feel, "I'll be fine, thanks for picking up."

"I'll always pick up when you call," Derek said with a serious tone.

It was such a fragile kind of promise, but it made Stiles smile, anyway.



Boyd was standing by the bed when Stiles got back to the room. Charlie was still sleeping, but it looked like his bandages had been changed.

“He woke up for a few minutes, but couldn’t tell me much. I want you to call me when he's able to talk,” he said, handing Stiles a card with his information on it. “And I have one more question.”

Stiles looked up expectantly, but Boyd didn’t have his notebook out. “Yeah?”

“Where did you get those scars on your chest?”

He looked back at the card, then at Boyd. “Well, Vernon, usually I don’t talk about it, but you’ve been pretty cool, so I’ll tell you. I’ll warn you, though, this is the first and last time either of us will mention it.”

“As long as that’s the first and last time you call me Vernon.”

“Fair enough, though I’m kind of surprised you didn’t look me up, or something, it’s all in the official police report. Last year my ex girlfriend tried to cut my heart out. Obviously, she didn't succeed. So, that’s why it looks like a harpy attempted to shred my chest.”

“She used a knife?”

“Yep.”

“She's in prison?”

“Yep.”

“Okay, then. I take it you called Derek?”

“Yep.”

Boyd kind of gave a half-smirk and patted Stiles on the shoulder as he passed. “Just remember to let me know as soon as he’s awake.”

“Okay, and Boyd? Thanks.”

The man paused at the door and looked back, “For what?”

Stiles shrugged, “Being here.”

“I’ll see you later, Stiles.”

Chapter Text

Charlie didn't wake up that night. Stiles knew because he was there the whole time, sitting or lounging in the chair, pacing the room and exploring the bathroom and wardrobe and investigating the tubes and mixtures they had pumping into his flatmate.

Eustice took over for Michael and showed Stiles how to recline his chair, which was the best thing that had happened to him since his conversation with Derek. But at about midnight, the mind-numbingness of the whole situation got to him and he dug out his numbers notebook in an attempt to keep his brain from sloshing out of his ears. The soft sounds of a sitcom rerun played in the background as he tapped a beat on the book with his pen. He hasn't really thought that much about the Argent Unlimited account, other than writing down the discrepancies, so he plunged into it with a single-minded focus, trying to find a pattern in the chaos.

On Eustice's second or third round she gave Stiles a look and insisted he get some sleep, telling him he'd be no use to his friend if he was passed out from exhaustion. Suitably chastised, he managed a few hours-long nap before his mind churned to life and he went back to the numbers that just didn't quite fit.

Fleming was the next nurse, and was pretty cheerful despite the early hour when he started. He bombarded Stiles with personal information, but his mind was so lost in what he'd been working on he didn't catch a word of it as the peppy guy moved to change Charlie's gross bandages and chattered happily about nothing. That seemed like a good cue for Stiles to get some food, so he dragged himself down to the cafeteria and shoveled something vaguely edible into his mouth and checked his silenced phone.

He had twelve missed calls from Scott, four from his dad, two from Derek, and one from Erica.

"Shit," he said, and a nearby mom still glared at him.

He called his dad, first, and before the franticness could start he quickly said, "I'm fine, I'm okay, don't do anything drastic."

There was a beat of silence before Sheriff Stilinski breathed out noisily, "Damn it, Stiles, then why haven't you returned any of Scott's calls? The kid’s been frantic."

Stiles frowned at his breakfast, "I've been sitting at Charlie's bedside since yesterday afternoon and Melissa always told us having our phones on in the hospital was rude." It was kind of a flimsy excuse and he knew it, but it was the truth. Also, he’d kind of forgotten to let Scott know what was going on, which was shitty of him, but it happened.

That earned him another tired exhale, "What’s wrong with your roommate, Stiles? Did he overdose?"

"First of all, he's my flatmate. We don’t share a room, and we’re never going to. Ew. Second, I'm not even sure he does drugs. You're making an assumption about him based solely on his profession."

"His profession as a prostitute."

He winced and used his fork to poke at his food, "You know, he prefers the term male escort."

"I don't care if he prefers to wear women's underwear, why is he in the hospital?"

Stiles glanced around, but no one was paying attention to him. Still, he whispered, "He was nearly beaten to death, Dad."

"Stiles," he sounded tired, "what the hell have you gotten yourself into out there? You know how I feel about you living-"

“No, please don’t start the Chicago talk, I’ve had like two hours of sleep. And this has nothing to do with me! I wasn’t even home when he was admitted early yesterday morning, and as far as I know he was staying somewhere else, too.”

For some glorious reason, his dad let that little factoid go.

“Fine, we’ll talk about something else. Scott and Allison made an announcement over dinner, though I’m assuming you’ve already heard the good news.”

“That you’re going to be a grandfather? Yeah! That’s super exciting!” He wiggled a bit in his seat and ignored the looks he was getting from the people around him.

His dad chuckled, “You do know that Scott’s not actually my son, right?”

Stiles waved a hand, “Eh, semantics, you know you’re going to spoil that baby rotten, anyway.”

The sheriff didn’t disagree, but then he cleared his throat in a very serious, Stilinski manner that always seemed to bode ill for Stiles. “Speaking of grandchildren-”

“I’m not pregnant, Dad,” Stiles said, just to see the judgey mom a few tables down jump and glare at him.

“How was your Thanksgiving?” the sheriff followed up with, apparently done with that particular topic. He was all over the place, but then again it was probably really early in the morning for him.

Stiles grinned, “It was really good, I had a great time with Derek and Laura and all of them.”

“Erica seems nice.”

He scoffed, “She, Boyd and Isaac are together, which may work for them, but is way too many people for me, so I think I’ll stick with calmer waters. Nice try, though.”

“Derek seems pretty calm.”

Which is exactly what Stiles should have predicted would happen, but of course he’d been distracted by his dad’s seemingly random conversation jumping.

Stiles covered his face with a hand. “Oh my god, can we change the subject, please?”

His dad laughed, “No, I think I like this one. So, tell me more about Derek Hale.”

“Jesus, Dad, you already looked him up, what more could I possibly tell you that you don’t already know? Also, do you honestly believe Chris’ accusations?”

“We’re not talking about him, we’re talking about your friend. Come on Stiles, you know you’re not getting out of this. I can keep this up all day.”

He could, Stiles knew because he could as well and he’d definitely gotten his stubborn streak from his father.

Stiles pouted at his food and grumbled, “Fine. What do you want to know?”

His dad’s sense of satisfaction was palpable through the phone. “Well, he’s certainly good looking,” he said, “and he must be pretty strong if you’re doing the same kind of yoga stuff Scott and Allison are up to. They showed us a few moves and that takes some muscles. I’m assuming he’s the one lifting you.”

“Yes, I’m the girl in that scenario,” Stiles said, resting his face in the crook of his arm on the table. He couldn’t believe he was talking about a boy with his dad.

“Now, that’s not what I said, Stiles,” he chastised, “It’s just that I don’t know anyone who could lift someone his size and wasn’t on PCP.”

He chuckled, “When you put it like that-”

“Don’t even start with me, son,” his dad interrupted, but he was definitely smiling. “So, you spent the night at his house?”

Jesus Christ, of course he hadn’t actually let that go.

“Dad,” he whined, “you’re so embarrassing.”

“Answer the question, Stiles,” he said, sounding totally pleased with himself.

Stiles sat up and huffed out a breath, “You’re not a very nice person, sometimes.”

Stiles.”

“Ugh, fine. Yes, I spent the night at their house, but the heat doesn’t really worK, believe me, it doesn’t, that’s not just some corny line, so we all piled into Derek’s bed, which is on the top floor and is gigantic. There’s a fireplace up there, too. So, yeah, that’s right, I had an old school slumber party with my friends over Thanksgiving.”

“And where was Derek during your slumber party?”

“Oh my god, Dad, I am an adult. Woah, not that we were doing any adult things with four other people in the same bed. Okay, I’m just going to stop talking, now, this really isn’t helping my case.”

“No, it really isn’t,” his dad said, laughing. “But it sounds like you like the guy, so I hope it works out.”

“We’re not dating, Dad, we’re just sort of friends and yoga partners and I happened to stay at his house in his bed right next to him for a night.”

“Did you have any nightmares?”

Stiles swallowed and rubbed a hand over his chest. “No,” he said quietly, “no nightmares.”

“I’m glad, that’s good. Have you been taking anything for your insomnia?”

“I haven’t actually had much of a problem with that, lately. I think all of the exercise is helping. Hey, speaking of exercise-”

“Would you look at the time. Why are you calling me so early? I should get back to bed.”

“Uh, huh, that’s what I thought. Keep it up, Pops and I’ll have to tell Melissa about all the benefits of yoga and you know she’ll drag you along with her.”

“Don’t you dare, and call Scott, I think he was even going to try to get ahold of that yoga place you go to. Keep me updated about your roommate. Love ya, kid.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

Stiles stared down at his phone with a fond expression.



He text Scott instead of calling, since it probably was about three or four in the morning in California, and he wasn’t really feeling up to the whole frantic babbling that would inevitably occur when they did speak.

His phone lit up almost instantly, but it was from Derek.

Any news?

Stiles was kind of impressed with his timing, actually. He debated with himself for a second before he typed out his reply instead of calling like the needy part of him desperately wanted. Because he didn’t actually have to hear Derek’s voice. Even if he really wanted to.

Stiles sighed.

Nothing yet, he still hasn’t woken up.

He sipped his lukewarm orange juice and made a face at it.

Are you still at the hospital? Did you get any sleep last night?

Which, if Stiles allowed himself to indulge in the delusion, sounded like Derek was concerned for his well-being, but that was probably more to do with his dependence on Stiles staying alive and in one piece for yoga class than a real personal investment in him as a person. Maybe.

Still here, managed a few hours. Been doing work stuff.

Your notebook.

Stiles frowned down at his phone as he put his tray away. Derek remembered the numbers notebook? That seemed like a pretty insignificant detail, but then again he was a cop and he had proven himself a good listener and pretty observant.

Yep. I’m going back to the room, now. So no phone. I’ll text you later.

Call if you need ANYTHING.

He was aware he had a dumb-looking grin on his face as he went back to Charlie’s room, but the slightly excessive, all caps ANYTHING was pretty adorable, coming from Derek. But he wasn’t going to read too much into the exchange.

Okay, so maybe he was, but as long as no one else knew it he could pretend that Derek’s apparent concern didn’t want to make him quiver and fan himself like the heroine in a bodice-ripper. Besides, his shoulders were too broad for him to pull off a corset. He’d tried and it wasn’t a good look on him.

 

   

Fleming was in the room when he got back and regaled Stiles with every single thing that had happened in his absence. Which took nearly twenty minutes, and amounted to a fat lot of nothing. Charlie hadn’t woken up, his wounds looked fine, there weren’t any visitors, and Stiles should probably keep that leather jacket with him because it looked pretty nice and someone could steal it.

“Thanks, man,” he responded when he was able to get a word in, “that’s some solid advice. Hey, do you have any other patients you need to check on? I mean, it’s awesome that you’re so attentive and everything, but I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

He did, in fact, have other places to be, and bid Stiles a cheerful farewell as he left the room.

“Guy’s like a Disney forest creature or something,” he told Charlie and collapsed back onto the chair, jamming his messenger bag beside him and curling up on his side. He used his jacket as a pillow and finally felt the pull of sleep that had largely evaded him since the hospital thing had began.

“Yo, Charlie, I’m getting some shut-eye. Don’t wake up when I’m asleep or I’ll be pissed. I’ve been here for like, half a day, at least wait until I’m awake.”

Predictably, there was no response.

“Good talk, man,” Stiles muttered as he burrowed against the plasticy fabric of the chair.



“Shut the fuck up before you wake the kid,” a voice hissed.

Stiles shifted and the room got quiet again. He sighed and began to drift back to sleep, eyes still closed, when he heard careful footsteps circling his chair. Slowly, he became aware that he was not, in fact, dreaming, and that there were at least two mobile humans in there with him and his flatmate. A small part of him wanted to leap up and demand to know what the strangers were doing in Charlie’s room, but the much more vocal, utterly terrified part of him just wanted to stop breathing altogether until the apparent threat went away. He settled on resuming what he hoped was a convincing show of sleeping while every nerve in his body jittered with adrenaline.

“He’s still out,” a second voice whispered, coming from the person who had been walking next to him. The footsteps moved away and stopped somewhere near the door.

“Did you find it?” the first voice asked. They were both men, and that one sounded a bit rougher than the other, like he was a smoker or just had a raspy-sounding voice for some reason.

“Couldn’t get to it, not without waking him up.”

“We have to get it,” the smoker dude said, sounding kind of frantic. “Our instructions said-”

The second guy shushed him and their voices were even further away when he spoke again. “I have a plan, don’t worry.”

As soon as the door closed, Stiles leapt to his feet and checked Charlie for injuries, but other than the ones he’d come in with, he didn’t seem all that worse for wear. He could have run to the door to get a glimpse of the guys, but there was no way he was that brave without backup. Stiles fumbled his phone out of his pocket and then had to pat himself down for Boyd’s card.

By the time he found it and started typing in the number his hands were shaking so hard he was afraid he was going to misdial. He did, actually, and had to hang up and try twice more, his phone getting progressively harder to hold and Stiles forced himself to walk on wobbly legs to the chair so he could sit down instead of collapsing onto the floor like he knew would probably happen.

He finally gave up on the phone altogether and pressed it against his forehead, breath coming too quickly and he had to calm down before he had a panic attack. But Stiles knew how to handle it. He’d been dealing with the same thing since he’d first found out his mom was going to die and being in a hospital room with the same sights and smells and sounds was not in any way comforting him or helping him slow his jackhammering pulse.

Stiles just. He needed someone to talk him through it, to interrupt the downward spiral his thoughts would inevitably take. It was too hard to focus when everything seemed to be conspiring against him and his ability to concentrate on something other than his half-mangled roommate and the strange men who had come in there without him knowing and could have done anything to him while he slept and his breath was starting to catch, which, combined with his racing pulse and the tightness in his chest meant he only had about a minute to calm down before the full-on trainwreck happened.

He forced his finger to tap steadily on the screen and brought up the recent contacts. Stiles meant to push his dad’s name, but hit Derek’s by accident and it was already connecting so he bent forward to press the phone to his ear, his breath sounding too loud as he tried to slow his panting.

“Stiles?”

Nothing came out when he opened his mouth except for a bit of heavy breathing that was way too creepy to be in any way attractive at all. So he could add mortification to his daily list of feelings.

Stiles? Stiles, answer me.”

“Just talk,” he finally managed, “please.” It came out as more of a wheeze than a request, but it was intelligible human speech.

“I’m sending Boyd over to you. I’d come if I could, but I can't leave the station right now. If you need someone to be there immediately you should press the nurse call button.”

“No,” he said, his breath coming a little slower than the frantic gasping he’d been managing, “Boyd’s good.”

“Okay,” Derek said in the same kind of tone that his dad used with hysterical witnesses, which would have made him laugh if he wasn’t afraid the sudden jump of his diaphragm would trigger a relapse. “I’ll just stay on the line with you, then. Boyd’s on his way and everything’s going to be fine. Are you hurt?”

“No,” he whispered. His pulse spiked for a second and a wave of dizziness made him blink back stars. He hated having panic attacks.

“Stiles, you’re going to be fine, just take deep, even breaths. You can breath. You’re okay. Now, look over at Charlie-”

He did as he was told and had to blink back sudden tears. Stupid involuntary reactions.

“-is he the same as before? Can you see any additional injuries?”

“Same,” he croaked, throat dry and cheeks damp and hot with embarrassment.

He just wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear.

“Stiles, that’s great, I’m glad everyone’s fine, now you just need to focus on relaxing, I can practically feel your tension right now. Remember those breathing techniques Laura and Erica have us do in yoga? I’m going to start, and I want you to follow my lead, just like in class. Okay? Now, I’m going to take a deep breath and imagine I’m right next to you.”

Stiles closed his eyes and tried to do as he was told, but it was hard with the incessant noise of the machines. He was about to give up when he heard Derek’s steady exhale and remembered the feel of his perpetually warm skin, his firm muscles and strong presence like an unmoving force by his side.

He let out a shaky breath and the next time Derek inhaled he was able to follow along. It was a slow process to get his body back under control, but with the help he finally managed to stop feeling like his chest was going to constrict and suffocate him.

“Okay,” Stiles said after he was certain the worst had passed. “I think I’m good, now.”

“Can you tell me what happened?” Derek’s voice was still soft, but not quite as formal as a police officer questioning someone. It sounded more personal.

Stiles worked moisture back into his mouth and stared down at his shoes. “I was sleeping and I heard voices. There were these two guys in the room, but they didn’t know I was awake. It, ugh, I fucking hate hospitals, Derek, ever since my mom got sick and then those guys were here and I just lost it. They left and I just panicked.”

"Did they take anything?"

Stiles frowned and looked around, but Charlie hadn’t come in with anything other than his mangled clothes, which were probably in an evidence bag somewhere, and all of Stiles’ things and the paperwork was in his messenger bag, still sitting where he’d curled up on it in the chair.

“No, they didn’t take anything. I think they might have wanted to, but they were afraid to wake me up?”

“Stiles,” Derek said, his professional voice back, “when Boyd gets there I want you to tell him everything you heard, down to the most even the smallest seemingly-insignificant detail. Can you do that?”

He didn’t really appreciate the cop tone, but he had been the one to call Derek half out of his mind with hysteria, so he’d probably earned that. “Yeah, I’ll tell him. And, uh, thanks for helping me. I don’t usually get panic attacks, anymore, but-”

Derek made a noise of understanding, “Hospitals, I know. Don’t worry about it, Stiles, I’m glad I could help. Are you sure you’re okay? Erica and Laura could be there in a few minutes if you need them to come.”

Stiles shook his head, “No, that’s okay, I’ll just talk to Boyd about what happened and see what he thinks we should do.”

There was a pause on the other line before Derek spoke again. “Isaac’s with him and he’s going to take you home after you give a statement. Someone’s going to stay with Charlie and make sure those guys are taken care of if they return.”

He wanted to protest, just because he was Stiles and he didn’t really like being told what to do, but then again he really didn’t want to stay there anymore. He’d done what he could and knew there wasn’t any chance of him feeling comfortable staying there after what had happened.

“Okay,” he said quietly.

“That’s it? Just okay? You’re not going to argue about this?” Derek sounded mildly incredulous, or like he was waiting for the punchline.

Apparently he knew Stiles well enough to recognize his automatic acquiescence as highly unusual. He breathed a laugh and picked at the knee of his jeans, “Yeah, just okay. I don’t want to stay here. I know it’s kind of shitty to leave Charlie like this, but I’m done with hospitals. I can’t-”

“No, I get it, it’s fine, Stiles. You just surprised me a bit.”

Stiles huffed out a breath with a smile, “What? I’m a totally laid back and easygoing guy, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Derek actually laughed at that, “Sure you are, Stiles.”

“Now you’re just being fake-nice to me because I freaked out.”

“Let me know when you’re feeling better and I’ll stop.”

He chuckled and started to say something when he heard a kind of commotion in the hall.

“That should be Boyd,” Derek said.

“Wait, you can hear that?” Stiles asked, but then the door opened and Boyd strode in with Fleming at his elbow looking mildly panicked.

“Boyd,” he said as the man’s eyes scanned him from head to foot, clearly looking for injuries. “I’m fine, just had a scare. Fleming, this is Boyd, he’s obviously a police officer. Can we have some privacy, maybe?” Stiles looked to make sure that was okay with Boyd, and he turned to nod once at Fleming and the guy kind of backed out of the room looking like he was about to shit his pants.

Stiles realized he was still on the phone with Derek and put it on speaker. “Uh, Derek, you’re obviously right, Boyd’s here.”

“Derek,” the other man said in acknowledgement, and walked around the room. Actually it seemed like he was retracing the intruder’s steps, circling the chair where Stiles was still sitting. He moved to stand, but a heavy hand rested on his shoulder, keeping him in place with gentle pressure.

“Stiles, tell Boyd what you told me, elaborate, if you can.”

He looked up at the other man and nodded, “Okay,” the hand lifted and Boyd went to stand near where the intruders had been talking. “Uh, I was taking a nap in the chair-”

“Show me how you were sitting,” Boyd said and Stiles handed him the phone so he could curl up with his bag and jacket like they’d been, his feet tucked up. It probably looked awkward, but was actually pretty comfortable.

“So I was napping like this and then I heard voices, it was a guy with a raspy voice whispering. He was standing over there,” Stiles gestured to near where Boyd was, “and there was another guy closer. He walked around me and they were talking about needing to get something, but,” he paused and tried to remember what they’d said. It was all a bit hazy, eclipsed by his system-wide sensory overload the panic attack had produced.

“It might help if you close your eyes,” Boyd suggested quietly.

Which wasn’t really what Stiles wanted to do, but it was probably the best way to jog his memory. He did as he was told and tried to put himself back in the moment. Even though he knew he was safe, he could feel his heartbeat accelerate a bit and knew he’d better his little storytime over with before his breathing got out of whack, too.

“They were talking about getting something, but they were worried about someone waking up. I’m not sure if it was Charlie or me.” He opened his eyes and for a second it looked like Boyd had been sniffing the air, or not, whatever.  “I mean, I have all of his important documents in my bag, so they could have been after his passport or something, right?”

“Let me see,” Boyd said, trading Stiles his phone for the bag.

“Remember to slow your breathing,” Derek said quietly as Stiles watched the other man carefully extract all the random stuff he kept in there and put it on the rolling bedside table Charlie was obviously not using. At least there wasn’t anything embarrassing in there, like condoms. Actually it was kind of sad that Stiles didn’t need condoms, which was why they weren’t in there to begin with.

The folder and the notebook came out last, and Boyd laid them atop the random collection of expired bus passes and receipts.

“I should probably clean that out more often,” Stiles decided.

“What did you find, Boyd?” Derek asked.

Boyd flipped through the notebook, then picked up the folder. “It looks like what Stiles said, legal documentation for one Charles Anthony Ward.”

The fact that his flatmate’s initials spelled CAW was pretty amusing to Stiles, but he knew better than to share that with the other guys when they were being super serious.

“And what looks like the insane rambling of a numbers freak,” Boyd said, gesturing to Stiles with his notebook.

“That’d be me,” he said, and caught it when Boyd tossed it to him. “It’s something I do to keep myself occupied on my way home.” That was mostly true.

“And,” Boyd said, taking out Charlie’s passport and examining his picture.

“And they’re from the companies I’m auditing for Youngblood and West.”

He snapped the passport shut and put it back in the folder. “I’m not sure what they were after,” he said, mostly to Derek.

“Stay there and see what Charlie knows,” came Derek’s reply. He sounded kind of tense, “Stiles, Isaac should be waiting for you out front.”

Boyd nodded at him and put all of his stuff back in his bag, but left the folder on the table. “Keep Derek on the phone until you get there,” he advised holding the bag and phone as Stiles shrugged into his jacket.

He took both and nodded. “Thanks for all of your help, Boyd. Come on, Derek, time for me to be glared at by every single nurse and orderly I walk by. Try not to say anything, please.”

It kind of sounded like Derek snorted in response, but he was already out in the hallway, so it could have been something else.



Isaac was indeed waiting for him, in the black SUV that looked better fitted for an action movie than transporting a fragile nerd. “Okay, Derek,” he said as he climbed inside and nodded to Isaac. “I’m here. Say hi, Isaac.”

“Derek, I’ll make sure he gets home safe.”

“Good. Let me know how you’re doing later, Stiles, and remember that you can call me at any time.”

“Okay, sounds good. Thanks again for, uh, for everything.”

“Goodbye, Stiles.”

“Later.”

Once he was buckled in, Isaac pulled easily into traffic and didn’t say anything as they drove down the unfamiliar streets toward what he was assuming was his place. Stiles didn’t even feel inclined to break the silence as he watched the buildings go by.

“My dad used to beat me almost every night,” Isaac said out of the blue, staring straight ahead at a stoplight. “It was for the littlest things, too. My grades, the way I cooked, forgetting to take out the trash.

Stiles didn’t really know how to respond to that so he said an automatic, but sincere, “I’m sorry.”

The other man shrugged, like he was trying to dislodge something uncomfortable, “No, that’s not. I didn’t tell you because I want your pity, it’s just that, what I’m saying is that I know what it’s like for people not to see you. All they see are the bruises or the scars and it makes them uncomfortable because then they want to know what’s wrong with you. Why you didn’t run away or ask for help. Why you were abused, what exactly happened, how extensive your injuries were. ” Isaac made a frustrated noise. “It’s so disgustingly voyeuristic.”

Taking a risk, Stiles slowly reached out his hand and put it gently on the other man’s arm. “What happened? I mean after, I am really not one of those people who enjoys hearing about the suffering of others.” No, he’d seen too much of that firsthand to be comfortable listening to stories of the abuse and neglect his friends had suffered.

Isaac nodded to him and Stiles withdrew his hand. Of course when everything in Stiles’ life finally seemed to be sorting itself out, shit started to hit the fan again. He sighed and leaned back in the seat, watching the cars go by as they made their way toward his place.

“It was Derek who figured it out,” Isaac continued quietly, “he saw the bruises and the way I acted and put it all together. We didn’t even really know each other, he just happened to pass me in the grocery store when he was home that weekend. Talia came and confronted my dad the next day.”

“Shit, what happened?” Stiles had seen Derek and Laura’s mom happy and she was still intense, he couldn’t imagine her pissed off.

Isaac snorted, “She scared the hell out of him, is what happened. He, my mom died when I was a kid, and then my brother in Afghanistan, so it was just the two of us. I was old enough to emancipate and Rollin helped me with all the paperwork. I don’t even know how, but within a few weeks I was free from my dad and living with the Hales and Erica.”

Stiles tried to do the math and frowned, “Wait, how old were you when that happened?”

“I was sixteen. I graduated from high school early, with Talia’s help, and moved down to Chicago to go to school and live with Derek, Laura and Boyd.”

They pulled onto Stiles’ street and he showed Isaac a good place to park near enough to the building that it wasn’t a terrible hike across the crusted snow packed onto the sidewalk. Kind of surprisingly, Isaac followed along beside him, his mouth hidden by what looked like a handmade scarf.

The elevator was as slow as always, but was somehow less creepy with Isaac standing there quietly with him. When they reached his apartment, Stiles was proud of himself for managing to unlock the door without his hands shaking, they took off their winter wear and then he was at a bit of a loss.

Stiles led the way to the living room and sat on the couch. It was lumpy and kind of uncomfortable. “So,” he said, spreading his hands, “what do you do? What kind of a cop are you?”

Isaac wandered a bit and studied Charlie’s piles of miscellaneous junk. “Forensic work,” he said, focused on whatever DVDs were piled on the side table near the tv.

“Oh, cool, so like hair samples and DNA and stuff?” He didn’t really know too much about that aspect of police work, though the sciency part of it sounded interesting.

But Isaac shook his head and glanced over his shoulder. If Stiles hadn’t known better he’d have thought the other guy was acting nervous.

“Uh, not that kind of forensics. It’s um, I work more with numbers.”

Which didn’t really make much sense, but okay?

“License plates? Addresses? Those kinds of numbers?”

Isaac’s shoulders were kind of hunched forward and he lowered his gaze. “No, I do forensic accounting.”

Stiles smiled, “Hey, that’s sort of what I do, except for the whole prosecuting people part of it. Well, I guess if I found anything substantial I’d report it to my supervisor who would take it up the chain of command and then there’d be legal action against the company, eventually. That’s cool, though, that you’re a fellow numbers nerd.”

Isaac was studying the DVDs again, running a thumb over the titles. “You haven’t ever found anything illegal?” he asked, kind of sounding a bit weird, but Stiles had figured out that like the rest of his new friends, Isaac was just kind of strange, sometimes. He was a little timid and unsure even though he was a genuinely nice person. Actually he and Scott would probably hit it off if they ever met.

"Naw,” Stiles said, “most of the places that hire us are just paranoid about getting audited by the IRS, so we're kind of a practice run for them. We’re also there to help give investors some peace of mind and to appease outside funders if they have any."

For some reason Isaac looked kind of confused. "Are you working on an account right now?"

Stiles ran one hand through his hair and the other touched the messenger bag at his side. Isaac's eyes followed the movement. "Yeah, I am, but we still have a month of work yet to do. I'm not really allowed to get into specifics."

Isaac nodded and looked away. "Right, I get it. But let's say you do find something suspicious, do you think your supervisors would listen to you and look into it?"

That train of thought was actually something that had occupied a lot of Stiles' free time. The thing was, he couldn't say for certain if anything would come of it, which was part of the reason he hadn't already reported his suspicions about the Argent account. Because if he jumped the gun and made claims about them cooking the books that he couldn't immediately back up with a substantial amount of solid evidence he'd probably be kicked off the team and maybe even be fired from the company. He was the newest and most inexperienced employee there, and he knew how fragile his position was. But if the Argents were committing fraud-

Stiles shook his head, "I don't know, Isaac. I'm not sure what would they'd do." Especially when it dealt with such a massive and prestigious company.

Isaac turned to face him, his expression serious. "Stiles, corporations have to be held accountable for their actions, just like people do." His eyes flickered down to Stiles’ chest, then up to his face.

"I know," he said, leaning forward to press his palms against his eyes, "I know, I do, but it's not like I can just look at a couple of numbers and suddenly know that a company is embezzling or something. It's a pattern of behavior. Numbers hidden within numbers. It takes time to track and figure out."

"Does it take a month?" Isaac asked quietly.

Stiles lowered his hands and looked up at the other man's thoughtful expression. "I don't think it would take that long, Isaac, but I think I’m going to find out."

There was a familiar kind of fear inside of him that he recognized as inevitability. It seemed to wedge it's way just under his ribs to sit tight against his lungs. A part of him knew without a doubt that the Argents were committing fraud, but he still had to prove it.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Isaac cooked him lunch and they hung out watching an action movie marathon that was on tv until he was called into work late that afternoon.

"Are you sure you don't want someone to come and stay with you?" he asked for the third time, wrapping the scarf around his neck.

Stiles grinned and shook his head, "I'm fine, Isaac, seriously. Thanks for looking out for me, though. Sorry I wasn't that great of a host."

Isaac smiled, shy and sweet, "Don't worry about it, but just remember that if you ever need help with your numbers, that I'm pretty good at that kind of thing."

But if Stiles was having legitimate concerns, he was supposed to take it up the Youngblood and West ladder, not to an outsider, and especially not to a cop. Though if no one listened his only other option might be to go to the police, which would probably ruin his career and cast him as the worst kind of tattletale. How had his life gotten so complicated?

Stiles nodded and walked him to the door. "I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, wait, let me get my shoes and I'll take you down in the elevator," he said, but Isaac was already opening the door and stepping out.

"No need, I'll take the stairs. Call one of us if you need anything."

He saluted and waited until Isaac had disappeared into the stairwell before he closed and locked the door. Leaning back against it, he couldn't help but let the coiled up fear unfurl a bit, raising his pulse just enough for him to force out an angry breath.

"Get it together, Stilinski," he muttered.

He had some numbers to run.



The problem with sitting at his desk was that his computer was there, and with that came the Internet and video games and random articles and animated pictures of adorable animals and various social media sites and of course Scott and his frantic face filling up the screen.

"STILES! What the hell, man? I've been worried sick about you!"

He loved Scott, he really did, but sometimes his best friend slash brother was kind of a lot to handle. Especially when he had that slightly panicked expression and his breathing was starting to get funny.

"Dude, take a breath, I'm okay. I text you this morning, didn't you get it?"

Scott glared at him as he nodded and took a hit from his inhaler. Stiles waited him out patiently, automatically evening his own breathing to show how calm and collected he was. Even though he didn’t really feel that way on the inside. His chest was still kind of achy and his muscles were sore from not exercising.

Finally, "Stiles, what the hell happened? I tried calling you like a hundred-"

"Twelve, actually."

"-times, but you never picked up and then I heard from your dad that you were in the hospital with Charlie and that he was dying or something. I finally managed to get ahold of Lana? Lina?"

"Laura?"

"Yeah, Laura. She said you were okay and that you'd talked to Derek." The betrayal in his voice was kind of amusing, actually.

"Jesus, Scott, you make it sound like I offered him your firstborn."

Scott's utterly horrified expression was definitely worth it. Well, it was was before he broke into an epic pout, also known as the Scott Special. Despite being friends for almost their entire lives, Stiles had somehow not yet grown immune to that particular weapon.

He groaned, "Oh for fuck's sake, Scott, I was just sitting in there for less than a day, and I happened to call him. It's not like I'm abandoning you for someone else, you're my bro. Derek's just. Derek."

"You mean Derek's just a super stacked yoga god who started out being mean to you, but then you started to like him, anyway?"

When he put it like that it kind of seemed like Stiles engaged in a pattern of behavior that wasn't exactly healthy, since the same synopsis could be given for basically all of his previous relationships. Well, except for the super stacked yoga god part, but the rest, the being mean to him and then Stiles liking them despite that. Well, that was spot on.

"Jesus fuck," he muttered and covered his face. "I have a type, don't I?"

He didn't need to see Scott's expression to know it was smug. "You do, buddy."

"And this is probably going to end poorly," Stiles predicted.

"That’s pretty much how it goes for you."

Stiles lowered his hand and frowned unhappily. "But I really like him, Scott."

"Why do you like him? He was mean to you."

"He wasn't mean, he was just. He was slow to warm."

"He's not soup, Stiles, he's a person."

"And he's great at cuddling-"

"-so is a dog-"

"-and our imaginary sex is super hot, let me tell you-"

"Oh, ugh, please don't. No sex! Don't even talk about it!"

Stiles laughed, but after a second he sobered. "He talked me down from a panic attack earlier today."

Scott brought out his hurt puppy face again. "You called him? What about your dad? Or me?"

He probably should have predicted that would have been his reaction to the news. Scott didn't often get jealous, but it was known to happen when potential romantic interests were involved and he felt like his status as Stiles’ BFF was threatened.

“My hand kind of slipped,” he admitted. “I was trying to call my dad, but it was pretty far along at that point and I pushed his number by accident.”

Scott looked smug again, “That’s what I thought.”

The need to defend Derek welled up in him, but before he could get a rant started his phone buzzed in his pocket. Stiles dug it out and smiled.

“Speak of the devil,” he said happily, showing Scott the screen with Derek’s name and the new text icon.

“Devil’s right,” Scott muttered unhappily.

Stiles flipped him off and read the message. Isaac said you’re home alone. Do you need anything?

“He wants to know if I’m okay,” he told Scott. “Besides, you know what, he’s a nice guy.”

“You know what they say about nice guys.”

He frowned at him, “They finish last?”

Scott rolled his eyes, “No, Stiles, they’re really douchebags in disguise."

"What, like a transformer?"

Scott ignored that. "He’s bad news. He’s using you. I’m not sure how or why, but he is.”

No, I’m good. Thanks for checking.

When Stiles looked up, Scott was judging him.

“I sincerely doubt Derek’s trying to use me for anything, dude. We’re friends, sort of, definitely yoga buddies. Besides, I was really freaked out, earlier, and he talked me down. I didn’t even throw up afterward, which we both know is a pretty significant accomplishment. Plus, he hasn’t done anything to make me suspicious of him or his motives. The guy invited me for Thanksgiving dinner with his sister and friends and then we cuddled, it was awesome.”

“What about him picking you up out of the blue the other day.”

“Coincidence.”

"What is it your dad says about coincidence?"

"Scott," he said, exasperated, "I like him. The end."

Scott's assholishness diminished at that. "I know, Stiles, but you liked Cassandra, too, and Bethany, and Samson, and-"

"We're seriously going to work through my entire dating history right now?"

"-I'm just saying you don't always make the best choices when it comes to relationships."

"Not all of us get to marry our high school sweethearts, Scott," he said quietly.

If his pained look was anything to go by, Scott knew exactly what Stiles meant by that. "I'm not saying you shouldn't date-"

"Just that I shouldn't date Derek."

"-just that you shouldn't date crazy people or assholes."

Stiles scoffed, "Dude, we both know I'm kind of an asshole. If I don't date one of my own kind then I'm going to be forever alone."

"You're not going to be forever alone, Stiles."

"Scott," he said, his voice coming out slightly thick, "I've been alone, and it really sucks."

He seemed to relent at that, a concerned look on his face. "I just don't want him to hurt you, bro."

"He won't," Stiles promised, but there was a part of him that wondered if he was telling the truth.



Thankfully, after that super heavy topic was out of the way, Scott insisted they play an online game together until Allison finally forced them to stop so Scott could go to bed.

"Spoilsport!" Stiles called out, knowing she could hear him.

"You're a bad influence, Stiles," she said through the speakers with a laugh. "We'll call you tomorrow after brunch with Melissa."

Stiles looked at the clock, it was nearly eleven. "M’kay, sounds good, talk to ya then."

That would give him a few more hours before he should be asleep as well, but when he glanced at the notebook sitting beside him on the desk he just couldn't bring himself to open it up and stare at more numbers.

He exited the game and set himself as invisible on all the messaging clients he used. For once, he just wanted to be alone as he idly checked his favorite sites, not really retaining anything as he fell into the easy pattern of catching up on reading the webcomics he followed and the discussion threads he was interested in.

Normally, when he had free time without Charlie around to interrupt, he’d take the opportunity to watch some porn and masturbate, but he wasn’t eager to raise his pulse after the panic he’d felt earlier, and his mind was too unsettled to let himself completely relax into that kind of activity. Instead, when the rest of the internet seemed to be exhausted, he pulled up a search and typed in his mother’s name.

It was something he did when he was feeling particularly lost.

Not much ever changed. The same articles came up, like the one from when she’d organized the library’s book sale when he was three that raised enough money to justify adding an expansion to the building where they could display some of the historical Beacon Hills documents that were otherwise left to rot in the basement of the courthouse. There was the piece about her taking over as head librarian a few years before he was born, and had a picture of her and his dad, then a deputy, standing outside their newly purchased house where Stiles had grown up. Before long, tears began to gather in his eyes and he let himself feel the aching emptiness that always came when he allowed himself to remember his mother and her long absence.

On days when he’d felt depressed as a kid or a teenager he’d go to her grave and tell her all the things that had upset him or that he couldn’t quite figure out. Of course she’d never answered him, he wasn’t crazy, but just knowing she was listening to him, even in his own imagination, offered some level of comfort. He missed that, and let a sob escape as he dwelled on the fact that he couldn’t even see her grave when he was halfway across the country.

There was always a kind of impotent anger that came from thinking of her, though. It wasn’t directed at her, it was at life itself, at cancer and doctors and hospitals and whenever he realized how the feeling had begun to take over he’d have to take some cleansing breaths and focus on the good times he remembered from the brief years they’d had together. The last thing he wanted was for his memories of her to be tainted by that kind of negativity.

He reread the piece about her organizing his first grade winter festival. The article was was short and not all that well-written, but there was a great picture of her kneeling next to him; she was wearing a tree costume and he was dressed up as an ornament. The play had been cute and filled with silly songs and there was a video tape of it in a box somewhere in his mom’s old sewing room. It was the one place in the house that neither he nor his dad ever ventured.

Stiles brushed the tears from his eyes with a tired sigh and set his laptop to sleep. He dragged himself over to his bed and collapsed on it, kicking his pants off as he wrestled his way out of his hoodie and plaid button-up. He lay there for a few minutes, tired and miserable, wanting nothing more than to feel his mom’s arms wrap around him in a hug, or anyone’s arms, really, and he really needed to get a handle on things or he was going to end up alone and depressed for the rest of his life.

He huffed out a whine and curled up into the fetal position.



There were two texts waiting for him when he woke up the next morning. He rubbed sleep from his eyes and blinked a few times to focus on his phone.

Erica’s read: At the studio all day, come over and play!

While Derek’s said: Charlie woke up, but won’t tell Boyd anything.

Stiles knew what he wanted to do, given those two pieces of information. He wanted to take a leisurely shower, mozy on over to the Hale Yoga and spend the day goofing off with Erica and Laura as they taught him new poses and showed him how insanely strong and flexible they were. He would finally relax, everything would be peaceful, and he could ignore the parts of his life that seemed to be crumbling down around him.

That’s what he wanted, but if he did that, he’d be ignoring his responsibilities, and that would never do. One of the most important lessons his mother had taught him was when she was on her deathbed, skeletal and pale beneath the harsh lights in her hospital room. She had told him that you were only as good as how you treated others. If you ignored those who needed you, then you were nothing more than a user and a horrible kind of social leech.

He closed his eyes and pushed away the image of her bald head and paper-thin skin, the last memories he had of her besides watching the casket containing her wasted corpse being lowered into the ground at the cemetery, and focused on remembering the picture of them from the school play, of her vibrant smile and red-brown hair falling in thick waves around her shoulders.

Stiles sighed and looked at his phone.

Maybe later today, gotta take care of some things, he sent to Erica.

It took him a little longer to compose Derek’s text, and eventually he just wrote: I’ll see what I can do.

When he’d first chosen Chicago, it had been in part to escape the looming shadow of Cassandra and the awful things that had happened to him when they’d been together. There were too many memories of his college town tainted by her presence, but he’d also wanted a change in scenery because he knew he had to reinvent himself if he was ever going to find real happiness in life. Not that he’d had much choice in where he’d start over; Tulsa or Chicago wasn’t much to work with, but he’d hoped that taking a position at Youngblood and West was what he needed to overcome his past and forge a new future.

For the most part it had worked out. He had friends and a new hobby, he had an engaging career and was never bored wit his work. But then there was the ever present drama that followed him like a displaced ghost, haunting his steps and casting shadows over his future.

Stiles showered, distracted and moody as he lathered and washed, not even bothering to get his dick involved in things. Afterward he wandered to the kitchen with his towel slung low across his waist and fixed a bowl of oatmeal and honey, one hand idly tracing the raised scars marring his chest. They didn’t hurt, anymore, and hadn’t for some time, but occasionally they itched with the memory of pain.

If what he thought was true, he was obligated, as Isaac had put it, to hold Argent Unlimited accountable for their crimes, just like Cassandra had been imprisoned for hers. He needed proof, though, undeniable proof that he could point to and say this is what fraud looks like, these numbers don’t add up and here’s why. But until he found that, there wasn’t much he could do besides continue on like nothing was wrong, or else risk getting kicked off the team prematurely.

Do what’s right, even if it hurts, his mother’s voice reminded him.

By the time he was finished eating the water had evaporated from his skin, leaving it chilled and covered in gooseflesh. He wandered back to his room and pulled on clean clothes; dark jeans and shirt to match his mood, a red sweater Allison had given him as a joke when he’d told them he was moving to the midwest. He shrugged into his beaten leather jacket and grabbed his bag, checking to make sure he had his notebook and wallet and phone.

Mrs. Bevenson was watching him as he left, so he took the stairs instead of the elevator because he really didn’t feel like putting up with her judgmental attitude when he was already feeling a bit wrung out and raw from forcing himself to go back to the hospital to see what he could do to convince Charlie to talk to Boyd about the assault.

 

 

It took a series of trains to make his way through the city, and by the time he got there his hands were shaking more from nervousness than the cold where they were jammed against the smooth inner lining of his jacket pockets. The nurse on duty seemed confused when he walked by, but didn’t stop him as he made his way to Charlie’s room.

He slipped inside, an apology on his lips, but when he turned to face the bed it was empty.

“What the-”

The door opened quickly behind him and he was pushed forward a few steps, but it was just Charlie’s nurse, Michael, who looked uncomfortable and fidgety.

“He’s not here,” he whispered, “I was doing rounds and the cop on duty had to take a phone call and when I got back the guy was just gone.”

“Shit,” Stiles said, knowing that couldn’t possibly be a good thing. Either Charlie had run, or he’d been taken.

Michael nodded, but was pushed into Stiles as the door opened again and an officer in uniform entered the room. It wasn’t Boyd. He looked startled for a half-second before he quickly assessed the situation and began to reach for his gun, which was a totally disproportionate reaction.

Stiles held up his hands, “Hey, no, I’m the flatmate, Charlie’s friend. Boyd said he wasn’t talking, so I came to see if I could help out.”

The officer lowered his hand, but he still looked suspicious. “Boyd spoke to you?”

“Uh, technically it was Derek, Derek Hale, who told me about it, but if you call Boyd I’m sure-”

“There’s no need,” the officer said hastily, appearing to change his tune instantly. He actually looked a little pale and Stiles glanced at Michael to see if he’d noticed, too, but he seemed to be trying to disappear into the background, or the wall, really.

The officer’s radio crackled to life with an order for him to report. Apparently his name was Wiggington, which was a terrible name, not that Stiles had any room to judge, and he went across the room to the window for some privacy.

“Officer Wiggington reporting,” he said, shifting uncomfortably as he half-turned to watch Stiles and Michael.

“So, Mike, what’s up with Charlie?” Stiles whispered, “Do you think he could have gotten up and out of here on his own? I mean, his wounds looked pretty extensive to me.”

Michael shook his head, his voice quiet, too, “There’s no way, he’s on some pretty powerful stuff, he couldn’t have snuck out of here without help. He probably couldn’t even stand on his own.”

Which meant someone had either helped him out, or kidnapped him. Stiles had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that those thugs had something to do with it. He pulled out his phone and sent a quick: At hospital, Charlie’s gone. A second later his phone rang.

“Give your phone to the officer in the room,” Derek said with a kind of darkness in his voice Stiles hadn’t heard before. He swallowed and walked over to do as he’d been told.

Officer Wiggington’s hand dropped from the receiver on his lapel and he stared at Stiles’ phone like it was a live adder, or some other highly deadly creature that was about to leap the distance between them and attach itself to his jugular.

Reluctantly, he took it and pressed it to his ear, “O-officer Wiggington speaking.”

Stiles couldn’t hear what Derek said, but from the look on the poor guy’s face, he was getting a royal reaming. At first he tried to defend himself, but quickly shut up and just took the verbal lashing as it was delivered. Not long after he nodded, apologized, and handed it back to Stiles with a wide-eyed kind of look.

“Uh,” he said to Derek, “I don’t think you were very nice to that guy.”

He could practically see Derek shaking his head, “Stiles, Charlie was a vital witness that we needed to keep in custody, that officer let him just walk away, which means we’re back to square one.”

Officer Dumbass went over to Michael and began interrogating him what Stiles assumed were the same questions he’d asked while the guy was fucking around with his radio.

“Well, at least we know Charlie couldn’t have left on his own, right? I mean, he had to have had help, which means the guys who took him are probably on a security video around here, somewhere.”

“We know that?”

Stiles watched as the officer glanced back at him again and left the room. “Yeah, that’s what his nurse told me. Lots of meds in his system, plus he just had surgery like, two days ago, right? I don’t think Wiggy likes you very much, dude, I thought he was going to shit his pants when I handed him the phone.”

Stiles,” Derek said, his exasperation obvious, but there was possibly a touch of amusement there, as well.

“What, it’s true, but why are we just dicking around while my severely maimed flatmate is in the wind? Shouldn’t there be a manhunt on or something?”

“Boyd’s on his way to look into it, and you should be somewhere else. I don’t want you hanging out around a crime scene when we don’t know for sure what happened.”

“Woah, you stole that line right out of my dad’s book, didn’t you? Fine, Erica asked me to swing by the studio, but I’m not sure if that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Laura’s there, too, you should go.”

“Is this your not-so-subtle way of telling me I need to practice my yoga skills so I don’t embarrass you in class?” Stiles smiled even as Derek blew out a frustrated breath.

“You know that’s not what I’m saying, Stiles,” he said.

He laughed and waved as Michael left the room, “Uh, huh, sure thing partner. Alright, I’ll go and let them torture me flexible. And can you let me know when you find out anything about Charlie? He might be a douche, but I’m kind of invested in his well being as a person.”

Derek sighed, “I’ll let you know, now get out of there and go see my sister.”

“Fine, bye.”

“Goodbye, Stiles.”

 

He was outside, shoulders hunched against the cold when his phone began vibrating in his pocket. It was Scott. He sighed and picked up. Surprisingly, they avoided talking about anything Derek-related, and Stiles wasn’t sure what was going on with Charlie, so he didn’t mention that, either. Scott didn’t ask, seeming more interested in telling him all about their baby plans and parenting and a thousand other random things as they popped into his had, so Stiles just kind of made agreeing noises every once in awhile, but he didn’t even have to do much of that as he got on the bus, which was a slower way to get home, but the cell service on the trains was kind of spotty in places. Eventually Allison put their end on speaker and asked how he was doing after his panic from the previous day.

“I’m good, just fine,” Stiles said, but there was a beat of silence that followed which told him they were sharing a significant glance about his nonchalance. “Oh, uh, I’m actually on the bus right now, so I probably shouldn’t talk, you know, it might annoy the other passengers.” Passengers which consisted of a passed out homeless-looking guy and a middle aged businessman who was listening to something with giant headphones.

“Then you can listen,” Allison said in her you better listen and listen good voice. Stiles hadn’t heard her use that one very often, but he knew well enough to shut up and pay attention when she brought it out.

“I have no idea what my dad was talking about the other day, the thing about my grandma. That happened when I was first born and he’s never talked about it, not until he brought it up to you.”

Stiles could hear the slight hurt in her voice, but she continued.

“But from what he’s told me, the Hales are bad news, Stiles.”

He rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything.

“They have these vendettas against people and go after them in any way they can. They’ve done it to a couple of companies around Chicago and they’ve even bankrupted individuals who try to fight them.”

What?

That was a far cry from two kids tearing someone to shreds, and actually, that kind of fit with what he’d seen from Derek and Laura, but from what he’d seen they had some pretty solid moral guidelines for who they targeted. Probably.

“Well, I know they’re kind of like eco warriors, at least that’s the impression I get of Derek’s parents,” he said.

Allison made a frustrated noise, “That’s what they want you to think, but they have a much bigger agenda, Stiles. They’re ruthless and cunning and they use people to get what they want.”

So, they were normal people, then.

He was smart enough to keep that comment to themselves.

“I get that you like Derek, and we’re happy for you, but we don’t want you to just be another notch in his belt when he shows his true nature.

Notch in his belt? Who said that? Allison had some weird sayings, sometimes, but he got the gist of what she was trying to convey.

“No belt notching, got it,” he said, and pulled the cord when he saw his stop coming up. “Well, this has been educational. Thank you for trying to keep me honest, as always. I’ll talk to you guys later.”

Scott made it pretty clear he wasn’t done talking yet, but Stiles had had enough of people questioning his life choices for one weekend, so he politely hung up and silenced his phone. He still had to talk to his dad, but that could wait until after he got his yoga on and mellowed out.



After he’d gone home and grabbed his yoga gear he went to the studio and changed. After checking a few rooms, he found the pair of them in the sage room. Laura was sitting with her legs out straight in front of her, Erica upside-down and facing her, gripping just above Laura’s ankles and doing a handstand, bent at the waist with Laura’s hands wrapped around her lower shins. Together they made a perfect square, every line strong and powerful and seemingly effortless.

It was impressive.

Stiles took a picture of their pose with his phone and sent it to Derek with the caption: We’re doing this on Tuesday.

Hope you’re working on your balance, came Derek’s immediate reply.

When Stiles looked up, still grinning, the two women were watching him. “Hey, so Derek and I are going to do that during the next class,” he said, pointing to them, “What do I need to do to make sure I don’t faceplant?

Laura released Erica’s ankles and her legs came up in full handstand before she bent over backwards and somehow managed to stand up like it was nothing and not some kind of contortionist mania.

“We thought you’d never ask,” Erica said with a wicked smile.

Stiles had a feeling he was going to be very sore by the end of the day.

He was right.

Chapter Text

Stiles had mixed feelings about initiating that evening’s Stilinski Sunday phone call, especially since there wasn’t a game on to take some of the attention away from their discussion. On the one hand, he loved to hear from his dad and catch up on what was happening in Beacon Hills, but on the other hand the previous few days had been a bit of a mess of emotions and accusations.

On a positive note, he’d had fun with Laura and Erica, learning how to keep his balance better and how to straighten his legs without his knees bending like they wanted to. He’d even practiced the pose with Laura, though she’d been the one upside down and he’d held her legs up. He was pretty proud of himself for not dropping her.

It took his dad a few rings to pick up his phone, and when he did he sounded a bit confused. “Stiles? Everything okay?”

He made a face at the sparse contents of the fridge and huffed, “Fine and dandy, I’m assuming from your tone that you thought yesterday’s call counted for the week.”

The sheriff made some noncommittal noise and Stiles laughed. “Dad, if you’re busy we can talk another time.”

“Now, I didn’t say that, Stiles. How’s your friend? Did he tell the police what happened?”

Stiles gave up on the fridge and made another bowl of oatmeal, making a mental note to go shopping before he starved to death. “Actually, he woke up and refused to talk, so I went over there today, but by the time I got there someone had spirited him out of the hospital.”

His dad let out a long breath. “Stiles, that doesn’t sound good, what did Derek say?”

He got the impression that if he ever got the two of them in the same room he would immediately regret it. They were too much alike and would either butt heads, or, more likely, would probably gang up on him in a bad way.

“Derek told me to get out of there and go practice yoga with his sister,” he said as he poked the buttons on the microwave.

 “Good to hear he’s looking out for you.”

 What?

“What the hell does that mean?”

That earned him a sigh, “Stiles, it means that he doesn’t want you involved in an active investigation. He was removing you from the scene so no one would know you’re connected to the victim. It was a smart move and I appreciate him thinking about your safety.”

His safety? It was a hospital for Christ’s sake, not a dark alley. But of course he knew better than to argue that particular point with his dad, especially when he seemed to actually be okay with Derek’s behavior. That was certainly a step in the right direction.

“Speaking of people, what’s up with you and Melissa? Scott mentioned that you two have been hanging out, lately.” Well, he’d mentioned it a while ago, but Stiles had yet to see proof that his earlier claim was no longer the case.

His dad grunted, “Stiles, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about that-”

“Oh, come on! This is Melissa we’re talking about, Dad, not some strange lady off the street. I’m totally happy for you if she makes you happy, okay? I don’t want you thinking you have to hide anything from me if you’re dating her or just hanging out or whatever. I’m an adult, you’re an adult, we can talk about things like this.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said wryly, but Stiles could tell he was being sincere, that he would think about it and tell him when he felt more comfortable, or when he worked it out for himself.   

There was something that had been bothering Stiles and he finally just said it in a rush. “Dad, why didn’t you or Mom every talk about the Hales? Talia said the two of them were friends.”

He held his breath, after, for some reason afraid of the aftermath. They’d never really talked about Stiles’ mom, not in the fourteen years since her death. Even after all that time, he knew the memories of her were too raw for his dad to handle, most days. But it had been a long time, and Stiles’ own memories were starting to dull around the edges. He wanted to know more.

“Well, Stiles,” the sheriff said after a pause, “Anya moved here for a job at the library, where she met Talia. I don’t know much about their friendship, other than what everyone knew about the Hales. They were a powerful, but very private family. I think Anya was the only one in town who had ever been invited to their house besides Doctor Deaton, but after we started dating and I asked her about it she told me she’d promised Talia not to talk about them to anyone, so I didn’t bring it up after that.”

Stiles finally remembered to breathe after his dad finished and put his spoon in the bowl. “Dad, that’s-” but he didn’t even know what to say.

“Talia and, what was her husband’s name? Roman? No, Rollin. Talia and Rollin were pillars of the community. Your mother was devastated when they left so suddenly, it was pretty close to when you were born, too. I think she wanted to ask them to be your godparents.”

Stiles felt his heart seize a bit in his chest, and put his hand there as if he could calm it with a touch. “But you just sat there and let Mr. Argent accuse Derek and Laura, children mind you, of murder!”

“I’m not saying they did that, Stiles, but the circumstances of their move are suspect.”

“What about the other deaths?” he asked as he juggled the hot bowl from the microwave and onto the counter.

“What other deaths?” he sounded genuinely confused, like he actually didn’t know what Stiles was talking about.

“What about Derek and Laura’s grandparents?” Stiles said slowly, squeezing a dollop of honey into his oatmeal.

His dad paused before he answered. “Stiles, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Which was really strange, but okay.

“Dad, they were murdered. Derek said they didn’t want to involve the police so they buried them in the family plot on their property or something. Do you seriously not know about this?”

“No, Stiles,” he sounded a bit frustrated, “No one ever reported it, so of course I didn’t know Rebecca and Eli had been murdered. Jesus, I take it Derek and Laura aren’t looking to open up an inquest about this.”

“No, he said it had been dealt with.”

“Stiles,” he warned.

“I know, vigilantes aren’t out for justice, they’re out for revenge, but you’ve got to admit that this is starting to sound very Hatfield and McCoy-esque.”

“You’re telling me an Argent killed them?” The Sheriff asked, no longer playing the role of Stiles’ dad.

He sighed, loud and long, watching his breath make the steam dance over his oatmeal. “What I’m saying is that Derek told me those responsible for the murders had been punished, or taken care of or something, and I know the Hales moved like the next day or something.”

Jesus, Kid, what have you gotten yourself into?” He could picture his dad rubbing a hand across his face in exasperation.

“I didn’t do anything! I made new friends! It’s not my fault everything is connected and that no one seems to be functioning like rational human beings, anymore. I was doing pretty good for myself before Scott convinced me to try the yoga thing.” He took a bite and immediately sucked air into his mouth to try to cool it enough so it wouldn’t burn his throat.

“You spent all of your free time wallowing in your room, Stiles.”

“Excuse me,” he said after swallowing, “I went for runs as well, and I was having fun! Not that yoga isn’t fun. Oh, Laura and Erica taught me some cool moves, I’ll have to show you when I come visit. Wait, shit, about that-”

“Stiles, you said you were coming home for Christmas.”

He made a face at his food. “I did say that, but that might have been before I landed this account I’m working on, and realized just how massive it is.” He poked the glistening sheen on top of the oatmeal with his spoon. “I kind of have to stick around until the end of December for this one, but I’ll book a flight as soon as I can get out of here!”

“Scott and Allison won’t be happy,” his dad warned.

“I know, I know, and I’ll make it up to you guys, but this is a pretty big deal. It’s a huge client and I have to see this through to the end.”

His dad was quiet for a moment. “Stiles, is there something you’re not telling me about this job of yours? You sound off.”

“Off? I’m not off.”

Stiles.”

“Okay, I might be a little off, or, rather, the numbers are off. Maybe.”

“What did I tell you about that place, Stiles?” he sounded resigned.

“It’s not a Chicago thing, it’s a this company might possibly be engaging in illegal activities thing, and I’m going to do everything in my power to quadruple check to see if that’s really the case.”

“Does Derek know about this?” his dad asked.

Stiles put his dishes in the sink and told himself to do the dishes the next morning before work. “Derek doesn’t even know what account I’m working on. No one does because that would violate the confidentiality agreement I signed when I started working for Youngblood and West.”

“Answer the question, Stiles.”

“Yes, okay, he knows I’m working through something, but I talked to Isaac about it, anecdotally of course, and he supports me in my quest to make sure I’m doing my job properly.”

“Isaac?”

“He’s one of Derek’s friends that lives with them. He’s a forensic accountant for the police.”

“And you’re certain no one knows where you’re working right now?”

Stiles shrugged as he wandered around his room, “I haven’t told them.”

“Could they have figured it out?”

Stiles wasn’t sure where his dad was going with that line of questioning. “Uh, not unless they’ve been tracking my movements or something, no. Why?”

“I just want to make sure you’re being smart about this, Stiles.”

He fell backwards onto his bed with a sigh. “I’m fine, Dad.”

“As fine as your missing friend Charlie who was beaten and left for dead? You know he’s mixed up in something bad, don’t tell me you don’t.”

“Unlike Charlie, I have years of guidance from a very protective sheriff father under my belt. I’m going to be okay, Dad.”

“I hope so, kid. You know I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

“Get some sleep, and if you ever feel unsafe, you call someone.”

“I will, Dad.”

   

   

That night he dreamed of his mother. Her hair was wild as the wind tugged it back and forth, sometimes covering her face and other times sending it billowing straight back. Behind her there were storm clouds brewing, sending tongued forks of lightning plunging into the distant rolling hills. Her mouth was open like she was trying to yell something to him, but all he could hear was the air roaring around them like crashing waves.

   

 

He woke up to sound of rain hitting the window and rolled over with a groan. It was the Monday after a holiday, so of course the weather was shitty. Because going back to work after time off wasn't hard enough without nature actively conspiring against him. A part of Stiles just wanted to stay in bed all day and burrow under his covers, but he was a responsible adult with a job and rent to pay, so he eventually groaned his way out of the warm nest he'd made with all the reluctance of a disgruntled child.

Stiles dragged himself through his morning routine, even washing the dishes from the previous night like he'd told himself he would, and made it to the train station just in time to board. The ride was as crowded as normal, but there weren't any particularly vocal crazies in the car, so that was less stress than he'd been expecting from such a terrible morning. He thought they probably had better things to do than harass their fellow Chicagoans when it was so nasty out.

When he got to Argent Unlimited Stiles quickly discovered that Andrews was out sick with the stomach flu, something about an undercooked turkey, so Luanne was put in charge of their little team. That didn't go over well with Parson Manning, who thought that since he had a dick he was entitled to the position of authority. Stiles was pretty sure that's why guys were castrated by angry women, so he was pretty excited to see how Luanne handled the situation. It wasn't quite as gory as seeing someone getting their member lobbed off, but it was close enough for him to cross his legs and pretend he didn't have anything to lose while she took a firm hold of the situation. Metaphorically.

After that, though, things went pretty smoothly. They all picked up where they'd left off and spent the morning attacking their pieces of the mammoth Argent pie. Speaking of pie, that turned out to be part of their morning refreshments; perfectly baked mini-pies in a half-dozen flavors. Stiles thought it was a bit over-the-top, but he still dug into a mini pumpkin with one hand while the other scrolled through two databases simultaneously, comparing them and jotting notes in his book as he found discrepancies.

Somewhat predictably, Kate Argent showed up sometime around lunch, the bevy of uniformed waitstaff sweeping in behind her pushing carts of what looked to be various kinds of lettuce and salad toppings.

“I figured everyone had quite enough of Thanksgiving fare over the weekend, so I had my staff prepare something a bit lighter for you all,” she said with a smile.

For some reason she looked slightly less predatory than before and even seemed sincere when she went person to person asking them about their holiday.

Each of them regaled her with their family shenanigans or Black Friday deals as Stiles ate his salad and watched them flush with pride or embarrassment at being the center of such a stunning woman’s attention. She was wearing a black pencil skirt that showed off her calves and a white blouse that accentuated her other assets. He was pretty sure Par-Man was actually going to attempt to flirt with her before she touched his arm in a slightly seductive way and moved on to Stiles, who was the last to face the Kate-rogation.

“And how was your Thanksgiving, Stiles?” he said with a smirk, leaning into his space to remove an invisible speck of nothing from his tie.

He sat back in his chair in an attempt to distance himself from her, but she just kind of sidled closer. “Well, um, it was great, thanks for asking. Hey, how about you? Do anything special?”

Kate’s smile grew and she leaned back against the table with her palms flat on the glass. It did all kinds of amazing things to showcase her fit figure, not that Stiles was looking. Well, he was looking, but he wasn’t all that interested, not like Par-Man and one or two others.

“Thank you for asking, Stiles,” she said. Every time his name came off her lips he felt a rush of something unpleasant under his skin, and he really needed to not act neurotic around the VP of the company he was auditing. “We actually received some excellent news. In about a year we’re going to make quite an acquisition.”

That wasn’t in any of the information they’d received, but then again it was a year down the line, so it wasn’t necessary for them to know at that point.

“Awesome, that’s great. Congratulations.”

She was smiling a bit wickedly at him, “And that’s why tomorrow you’re joining me for lunch in my office. No excuses, I’m certain Luanne won’t have a problem with me borrowing you. Right?”

Kate glanced back at Luanne, who stopped mid-bite to shake her head, no. Even though they all knew she didn’t have any real say in the matter, not when they were basically at Argent Unlimited’s mercy.

And that was not a soothing thought, especially since Stiles was in the process of sussing out their quite extensive network of fraudulent money funneling and general illegal behavior. Also, Kate kind of weirded him out. He wasn’t sure if she was actually hitting on him, or if she was just bored and messing with all of them. The other alternative was that she’d somehow figured out his suspicions and was keeping a close eye on Stiles. No matter which one was the case, he was kind of over being the center of attention.

Thankfully, after cramming his mouth full of spinach, she got the hint and, with one last sweeping glance, left the room.

“Creepy,” Stiles whispered to his salad, but when he glanced up Luanne was giving him a kind of look he couldn’t decipher. “What?” he asked, but she just shook her head and went back to her own meal.

 

   

It was still raining as he made his way home, so he just decided to head to Hale Yoga instead of stopping off at his apartment. He had his yoga clothes with him and figured he could dry off and get some practice in before the old ladies descended upon him like middle-aged cougar-vultures.

Laura was lounging on top of the front desk when he got there, which he found pretty amusing since she’d always been pretty professional in her place of business. She turned lazily to face him and smiled as he shook rain from his coat.

“If it isn’t my favorite Stiles, come early to play!” she said, then in a slightly louder voice she called, “Erica, Stiles is here, put some pants on.”

He wasn’t even going to ask about that, but he did have another question.

“Uh, hey, so I was talking to my dad last night about our moms and he mentioned that mine used to go to your house before I was born. He said it was kind of a big deal because you guys were pretty reclusive, or something.” Laura was watching him intently as he stumbled his way through to the actual question he wanted to ask. “So, uh, do you remember her? Her name was Anya and she had brown hair-”

“And the same amber-brown eyes as you and pale skin with freckles and she’d make the most delicious peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had in my life,” Laura finished, swinging her legs around the front of the desk as she sat up. “Yeah, Stiles, I remember Anya. She was the one who taught me how to read before I went to first grade. I didn’t realize she was your mom or I would have brought it up sooner.”

Stiles swallowed back the thickness in his throat and forced a smile. “My dad never really talks about her.”

Laura jumped down and approached him with an understanding look. “Come on, Stiles, let’s get you dried off and warmed up. I’ll tell you what I remember, okay?”

He nodded, not trusting himself to talk as linked her arm through his and pulled him up the stairs beside her, not even caring that his coat was getting her wet. Erica passed them on on her way downstairs and ruffled his hair as she went to take over at the desk.

Unlike Erica, Laura did not attempt to help him get changed, instead letting him use the men’s room all on his own. Stiles was thankful for that because it gave him a chance to study his reflection in the mirror and silently order himself not to burst into tears when Laura told him stories about his mother.

He knew the pep talk probably wasn’t going to work, but he could hope.

Laura took him to the sage room and motioned for him to sit in front of her as she dropped down and crossed her legs.

“Your dad’s right, our family has always been pretty reclusive, especially in Beacon Hills,” she said, calmly stretching her arms.

Stiles automatically followed her lead. “But you’ve been pretty open with me,” he said.

She gave him a private kind of smile and nodded her head. “Yeah, we have, but that’s pretty unusual for us. I don’t know, maybe I recognized Anya in you, and that’s why we took to you so quickly.”

Which was a bit confusing. “But you guys are so nice.”

“Only to you, believe me. No one else has ever been to our house, Stiles, and we’ve lived here for years.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously,” she said, stretching out her legs to work on warming up their back muscles. “Even Boyd likes you, which is a pretty astonishing accomplishment. He’s never been one to trust easily, and neither does Isaac, really.”

“But they weren’t in Beacon Hills,” Stiles prompted.

Laura shook her head as they switched stretches. “No, that was just Derek and me. He might be too young to remember your mom, but I do. She and our mom had a lot to talk about. Grown-up things, for the most part. Anya would come to the house and they’d disappear into Mom’s office for the entire afternoon while Uncle Peter took Derek and me to go swimming in the pond on our property or to run in the woods.”

“You don’t know what they discussed?”

“No, but Anya would always stay after to talk to us and teach us whatever we wanted to learn. Derek was always interested in the animals around where we lived and would end up telling her about the wildlife he’d seen on his runs.”

“But you wanted to learn how to read?”

Laura smiled, “Yeah, Peter wasn’t the most patient teacher, so Anya would sit me on her lap at our kitchen table while Mom and Dad cooked dinner and she’d go over the letters and sounds with me until I was able to figure them out. Sometimes Derek would crawl up on a chair next to us to watch, but I don’t think he really paid attention to the lessons.”

“Did she use comic books?” Stiles asked with a smile.

She tilted her head to the side, like she was trying to remember, before bursting into a grin. “Oh my god she did! She had the coolest ones, too, with female protagonists and talking animals and stuff.”

Stiles laughed, “She taught me to read with those, too! Though I liked the standard superheros a bit more, especially after I figured out how to make my own cape out of a bath towel.”

“I am not even a little bit surprised by that mental image. I can’t get over how patient she was, though! Derek used to have a bit of a temper when we were kids and whenever it was time for her to go he’d throw a fit and latch onto her legs because he didn’t want her to leave. It just got worse when he got older, too. I remember one time, she was pretty far along in her pregnancy, with you, actually, and he was so upset about her leaving that she sat down on the porch with him in her lap for like an hour while he cried against her shoulder until he finally passed out on her and our dad could take him and put him to bed.”

Derek must have been a sensitive kid.

Stiles frowned, “Why was he so upset?”

Laura shook her head, “I don’t know, but it turns out it was the last time we saw her. That happened right before we left for Wisconsin. Maybe he somehow knew that or something.”

He could hear voices in the hallway and stood with a smile. “Thanks, Laura, I know it was kind of a weird request, but I really appreciate you talking to me about her.”

She stood up, too, and wrapped him in a tight hug that he couldn’t help but kind of melt into, her warm curves pressing against him. “You can always come to me if you need to talk, Stiles, you’re like the little brother I’d have preferred to have.”

Stiles laughed and squeezed her gently before they both let go and took a step back. “And you’re the slightly terrifying big sister I never had and I’m kind of grateful for that.”

She swatted at him, but he was already out the door, laughing as he dodged his confused classmates.

Chapter Text

He had a new text from Derek waiting for him when he was done with class, and Stiles read it as he dodged puddles on the sidewalk.

Boyd tracked Charlie north to Wisconsin.

Which was kind of good news?

Is that a good thing? Boyd finding a trail?

Derek's reply was instantaneous: There are at least two others with him.

Stiles assumed that probably wasn't a good thing.

He stopped in at the mini-mart and grabbed a basket, awkwardly juggling it and his phone as he text back a reply: But Charlie's alive, right?

He'd browsed two of the tiny aisles, collecting whatever random things caught his fancy along with the ingredients for chocolate muffins, his super loved chocolate, before Derek sent: We don't know, Stiles.

That sucked, but until he knew more about it, Stiles wasn’t going to dwell on the fact that his flatmate could quite possibly be dead. He’d learned the hard way not to mourn things until they were completely and totally lost. It was bullshit to do so before the absolute end. He breathed out a sigh and quickly finished his shopping with a slightly heavier heart.

Derek sent him another text as he walked into the apartment lobby: How was class tonight?

Stiles couldn’t help the stupid smile that lit up his face as he called the elevator and unlocked the door.

By the time it arrived he’d composed and discarded half a dozen replies. He pulled back the metal folding doors, then closed and locked the main door before he slid the second one closed and pushed the button for his floor.

Pretty good, wasn’t groped too many times.

What? Came the almost instantaneous reply.

Stiles could practically see Derek’s constipated facial expression.

Those old ladies are pretty handsy, what can I say?

The car jolted to a stop and he somehow managed to disembark without getting the grocery bags caught on the rusted metal lining the door. Since coming to his understanding with the super, Stiles had also developed a bit of a sixth sense about when Mrs. Bevenson was watching him, and that evening was no exception. After locking up, he strode by her and gave a jaunty wave, to which she replied by narrowing her eyes and closing her door with a snap.

Stiles was putting away the groceries and setting aside what he needed for the muffins when his phone vibrated again.

You could say stop.

He nodded to the phone. “That I could,” he said as he cued up some music before washing his hands and starting to measure out ingredients.

He was mixing the batter when the music cut off and his phone started buzzing across the countertop. Stiles used his pinky, which was miraculously flour-free, to hit the call accept button and to put it on speaker.

“‘Ello,” he said.

“You know you shouldn’t let those women harass you, Stiles,” Derek said in his super serious voice.

He rolled his eyes, “Yeah, yeah, but where else are they going to get their jollies? I can’t help that my boyish figure makes them hot under the collar, and I’m willing to take one for the team in this case, not that I particularly enjoy it, mind you. Ew, that’s an uncomfortable thought.” He made a face and began lining the muffin tins with foil liners. He’d have enough to take to the super and to the Hales, if he didn’t devour half a dozen on his own before yoga the next day. That was a pretty big if.

Stiles,” Derek said.

Derek,” he replied.

Stiles knew that the judgey eyebrows had joined the conversation and he smiled. “So, how was your day? Have fun at fight club? Catch any bad guys?”

“Erica thrashed us all, and almost. Did you?”

He paused in pouring the batter and looked down. “Props to Erica, she can be super scary, sometimes. And that’s not really my job, dude. ”

Derek was quiet for a beat, “Isaac mentioned you were on somewhat of a moral fence about the account you’re working on.”

“Did he, now?”

Derek made a noise of affirmation.

He sighed and slid the pans into the oven. “I’m working on it. Okay, change of subject,” Stiles decided as he piled the dirty dishes into the sink and ran the water as quietly as he could. “I got to the studio a bit early today and had an awesome talk with your sister.”

“About what?” Derek asked cautiously.

He smiled at the new image of little kid Derek clinging to his mom, then heavily pregnant with fetal Stiles. He made a mental note to ask Laura if he could see pictures of them from when they were little. “About your childhood,” he teased.

Derek’s sigh was audible.

“Nothing too bad, though, just about how my mom used to go over to your house to talk to your mom and then she’d hang out with you and Laura.”

Silence.

Okay.

Stiles continued, squirting soap onto the dishes and idly playing in the suds as he cleaned. “I guess the comic book thing was an Anya classic because she used them to teach your sister how to read, too.”

“I remember,” Derek said quietly.

He finished rinsing the dishes and turned off the water, looking at the phone and wishing he could see the other man’s expression.

“What do you remember?” he asked quietly, then added, “If you feel like talking about it.” He winced and wiped his hands on a dish towel. It was probably really awkward for Derek, being asked about some guy’s dead mother whom he had apparently adored at one distant point in his childhood. A childhood spent in mostly social isolation wandering the woods with his family before tragedy forced them to move halfway across the country to a strange place without his grandmother and grandfather.

That was weird, right? That Stiles was asking about it?

He checked the muffins, which he knew even before he looked weren’t even close to being finished, and stress-cleaned the already spotless countertop for the short seconds it took Derek to answer.

“No, it’s fine, I just haven’t thought about it in a long time,” he finally said. His tone was a bit lighter than before and Stiles could imagine him stretched out on his gigantic bed, one thick arm tucked behind his head and he had to stop that train of thought before it derailed his entire focus from the conversation at hand.

He forced himself to sit on one of the kitchen stools and then poked at the timer he’d set.

“I like hearing stories about her,” he confessed, “I mean, I remember a lot, even though I was only nine when she died, but having other people’s memories makes it easier, sometimes.”

“What about your dad?”

Stiles closed his eyes and breathed in the chocolate-scented air, just like when his mom used to make the same recipe on Sunday mornings when the deputy, and then sheriff, wasn’t working. He finally opened his eyes again and shook his head, even though Derek couldn’t see him. “No, it still makes him too sad to talk about, and I’ve never pushed it. He used to, sometimes, when he’d drink, but-”

"Stiles, it's fine, we can talk about her, I don't mind." Derek’s voice was soft, not talking to the victim soft, but something more private.

He smiled. Stiles couldn't actually believe his luck, that his first, and frankly only, friends in Chicago happened to have such an intimate connection to his past. It was mind blowing. It was the kind of fate his mother had told him about as he sewed weird little scrap monsters on the floor of her sewing room.

It was suspicious, Scott’s voice said. Stiles told it to shut up.

"Okay, so what did you call her, anyway?" he asked, looking around for anything else to clean. He realized the dishes were still in the sink and he went over to dry and put them away.

Derek paused again, but Stiles could tell it was because he was thinking. "We called her Auntie Anya," he finally said with a smile in his voice.

Auntie Anya.

Stiles smiled, too. “That’s pretty cute, dude. Mom didn’t have any siblings that I know of, neither does my dad. She would have been a fantastic aunt.”

“She was,” Derek said quietly, then a bit more normally, “She used to make these amazing cookies-”

“Peanut butter,” Stiles said with a laugh as he put away the bowls and measuring cups, “Laura said she liked them, too.”

He thought he heard Derek breath out a laugh, but Stiles was kind of banging around a bit as he finished closing the drawers and cabinets, so he wasn't entirely sure.

“I still use her recipes, so maybe I’ll have to make you guys a batch in the near future,” Stiles said as he collapsed onto the stool again and stared at the timer. There were still minutes left.

“What are you making, now?” Derek asked because apparently he could somehow makes sense of the chaos of noises Stiles produced and had deduced it was food-related. Super-sniffer and super-hearer? He was pretty sure those weren’t the technical terms for the conditions, but still, they fit.

“Chocolate muffins so my super will keep letting me use the elevator whenever I want,” he said, tapping the timer and willing it to be faster, even though that would mean his muffins would be undercooked when they came out, so he made his hands into dinosaurs, instead, and had them battle each other across the countertop. One was a stegosaurus, minus the awesome back spike things because frankly his hands didn’t do that, and the other was a long-neck, as his childhood self would say. He made silent roaring noises, silent because he didn’t want Derek to know he was that much of a dork, and ultimately the stegosaurus won, even if his armor wasn’t fully intact.

“You bribe your super,” Derek said, not even sounding surprised.

“Yep,” he replied, popping the ‘p’ just because he was starting to get bored and when he got bored he got pretty annoying pretty quickly.

“With chocolate muffins?”

“Why, want some? I was going to bring the leftovers to yoga tomorrow, though I know that’s not a super healthy and holistic food choice, so I was having a bit of an internal debate going on about it.”

“If Erica finds out you made chocolate muffins without giving her at least one, I can guarantee she will make your life hell for the foreseeable future. If you think those ladies in your class are bad now-”

“Ah, no, okay I get it. Bringing the muffins, check. So, any other Auntie Anya stories you feel like sharing, tonight? I hope you know that you’ve signed yourself up for many a storytime with Stiles after this little revelation of yours.”

“The revelation that I adored your mother when I was a kid and would endlessly pester her whenever she came over?”

Stiles laughed and quickly slammed his hand on the timer when it went off. He was still chuckling as he took the muffins out of the oven. “Derek, I’ve gotta say I didn’t peg you for such an adorable kid, but I think I’ll need photographic evidence of your precociousness just to be sure.”

Derek grumbled something and Stiles grinned at the phone. “What? I’m sorry, did you say something? I couldn’t hear you over all the cute floating around in here.”

“Fine, I’ll see if Laura has any pictures she can show you, but you know she’ll want you to return the favor,” he said, sounding resigned but not unhappy.

Stiles shimmied in front of the stove and, after poking one of the muffins, promptly burnt his finger on the molten-hot chocolate. He blew on the gooey substance for a second before he licked it off and turned back to his phone, a kind of recklessness boiling inside of him.

“Hey, what are you doing Friday night?” he heard himself ask.

One beat. Two beats. Three-

Stiles decided that if the silence lingered on to five beats he’d hang up and move to Canada.

-beats. Fou-

“We have a family thing we have to take care of,” Derek answered quietly.

Okay.

“Okay,” Stiles said like an idiot. Sometimes he was surprised he could breathe under his own power, the stupid things that came out of his mouth. He pressed his hand against his face and contemplated how much it would cost to put himself in therapy to cure his lack of basic social skills and cue reading.

“What about Saturday?” Derek asked cautiously and maybe Stiles wasn’t such a dumb tool after all.

“Saturday is perfect. Um, I don’t actually know what we’re going to do, though?” Why had he turned that into a question? Was his mouth broken?

Derek breathed out what sounded like a laugh, “It’s Monday, Stiles, we have plenty of time to figure it out. I’ll see you tomorrow night, okay? Remember the muffins.”

“Or Erica will sic the cougars on me, got it.”

“Goodnight, Stiles.”

“Night, Derek.”

After being sure to hang up the phone, Stiles’ subsequent happy dance almost earned him a wicked burn mark on his arm from the still-hot muffin pans, but he dodged at the last second and came out of it victorious.

 

 

GUESS WHO HAS AN ACTUAL DATE THIS SATURDAY? Stiles text to Scott a minute later.

The immediate, unhelpful reply was: ?

Stiles stared at his phone for a second before giving up on that media and trotting to his bedroom in order to hold their conversation face-to-face. Well, as face to face as they could get several time zones and states apart.

Scott was, predictably, online and immediately requested a video-chat with Stiles once he logged on.

His face looked pretty confused, which was bullshit because Stiles had literally not stopped talking about Derek in the month they'd known each other and Scott could have at least pretended like he'd paid attention to a third of Stiles' babbling.

"Dude," he said, "it's with Derek. I have a date with Derek on Saturday."

Recognition replaced the confusion, but was immediately clouded over by worry.

Jesus Christ.

"But Stiles, what if the dude's really a murderer like Chris said?"

"Then he was probably pretty adorable when he shredded that old lady's face."

Scott was not amused.

"Stiles, I'm being serious-"

"-so am I."

"You have no idea what he's capable of, or what he's done."

"And you do?"

Scott shifted uncomfortably. It wasn't his I have to pee move, though, so it must have had to do with the conversational discomfort and not anything physical. "Allison's been asking her dad more about their family's history with the Hales and-"

"And we're done with this conversation," Stiles said, feeling like his skin was suddenly too tight.

He realized then that he didn't want to know, that he didn't care about whatever weird rivalry Chris' family and the Hales had going on back in the day. He liked Derek and Laura and, even though he'd only met then briefly, Talia and Rollin. Erica, Boyd, and Isaac were great people, too, and he enjoyed spending time with all of them. The last thing he wanted was to be filled with paranoia every time they hung out together. He'd lived in fear, before, and wasn't eager to revisit the experience.

"Scott," he continued, "I love you, buddy, but all of this stuff you and my dad keep trying, you've got to stop. I'm an adult and I'm going to make my own choices. Sure, the Cassandra thing was batshit crazy, but I don't think Derek would ever do anything to hurt me. He was even trying to show me self-defense moves when I was there for Thanksgiving."

"Trying?"

Stiles smiled, "Yeah, I was wearing a hoodie, so-" he trailed off and Scott's serious expression slowly broke into a grin.

"No way, did you do the thing?"

"Yeah, I did the thing! Both my shirts got pulled off, though, but I kicked out his knees and then I choked him with them, so it was pretty much worth it."

"Holy shit, dude, that's awesome!"

"I know, right!"

Scott's grin faded a bit and he looked chagrined. "Hey, man, I'm sorry we've been on your case about this. Chris is just kind of intense, sometimes, and kind of got us all worked up about it."

"It's okay, Scott, I get it, but I'm okay. I have a date!"

"You have a date!"

They exclaimed some more, about dates and babies and whatever random stuff came up, and by the time Stiles went to bed his heart felt light and his mind was clear.

   

 

    That night he saw his mom again. They were in the same place as before, standing in some kind of field with low hills stretched out in the distance. The storm clouds had advanced until they hung directly overhead, pregnant with electrical energy that he could feel vibrating through his bones. Stiles opened his mouth to speak, but she shook her head and he closed it again, tongue already dry from the relentless wind that strained against them. That was strange. She'd never silenced him, before, not even when he'd clearly passed the threshold of annoyance and had ventured into please someone gag this kid territory.

    A thick bolt of lightning flashed down and slammed into the earth between them and as the afterimage burned in his eyes, deafening thunder shattering in his ears, he thought he saw her say Derek’s name before the world went dark.

   

 

Stiles gasped awake, covered in sweat, heart hammering in his chest.

“What the fuck?” he whispered into the darkness of his room, lit only by the red glow of his alarm clock and the blue pulsing light that indicated his computer was asleep.

He glanced over and groaned. It was five in the morning, an hour before he needed to be up, but he couldn’t bring himself to try sleeping again after the weird dream. It almost felt like he could still feel his ears ringing from the thunder, even though he knew it was just psychosomatic.

“Crazy shit,” he said and forced himself to start his morning routine.

Which of course meant he was done showering and getting dressed and eating breakfast a lot earlier than normal. So he went with his standby, which was to putter around on the internet. He inevitably ended up scrolling through pictures of couples yoga poses, imagining it was Derek holding him up as he twisted into impossible shapes. He looked at the clock again and decided it was probably too early to share his findings with his partner, but he bookmarked them anyway, for future reference.

That led him to start thinking of their date, which had him skipping between half a dozen sites trying to find a thing for them to do that wasn’t lame or creepy. Stiles had half-heartedly done the whole tourist thing when he’d first arrived in Chicago, mostly to prove to his family that he wasn't a broken, emotional mess, but there had been so many places to visit he hadn’t quite made it to all of them. On the other hand, Derek had lived there for years, so he probably had seen everything. Stiles gripped his hair in frustration, then glanced down and realized if he didn’t leave immediately he’d be late for work.

Swearing and scrambling he raced through the apartment, grabbing his bag and coat and running out the door, only to skid to a halt in the middle of the hallway to race back and lock it. Mrs. Bevenson was, thankfully, not watching his frantic rush, and it wasn’t until he got outside that he realized it would have probably been wise to check the weather before going out. Fat snowflakes drifted down to melt on the wet street as he trotted down the sidewalk to the station.

He made it, barely, and huffed out a breath as he stood, watching the scenery flash by. Stiles reached for his phone to check the time, more out of nervous habit than necessity, when he realized it was still sitting on his desk.

Of-fucking-course.



Predictably, work was a bit rough that morning. Par-Man was being a dick again and when Luanne couldn’t seem to curb his assholishness Stiles tried to step in, which pissed both of them off for some reason, so he retreated to his side of the conference table and tried to get back to work. Things settled down after that weird power tussle, though, so he tried not to let the negativity in the atmosphere weigh him down. It was probably just his imagination, but the room kind of felt charged like in his dream.

Stiles was on his second cup of tea, something kind of smokey that made the back of his throat burn, when the conference room doors opened and their mid-morning snack arrived. They were clear plastic packages of gourmet chocolates personalized with each team member's name spelled out in some kind of delicate frosting on top. Stiles took his, it did say Stiles, thankfully, and set it on the table by his computer. He wasn't really in the mood for indulgences, not when he had work to do. Something in the last set of numbers relating to the sector Barge had been working on before he was suspended seemed to hold the key to what he was looking for. He just needed to focus.

Which was when Kate swept into the room in a tight red dress with matching lipstick and heels. She pretended to make small-talk with the others, but Stiles could tell she was more focused on him, which sounded conceited, but her body language was pretty obvious. He ignored it all, even Par-Man’s horrible attempt at flirting, and concentrated on his work.

He must have managed to tune everyone out because the next thing he knew there was a soft weight on his shoulder and a face hovering next to his. The weight, he immediately realized, was Kate’s breast, and her cheek was so close to his he couldn’t move his face at all without risking them touching.

Uncomfortable.

“Hi, Kate,” he said, not knowing what else to do.

“Stiles,” she purred. That was actual thing. He thought people just said that for dramatic effect, but there she was, purring in his ear like a talking cat.

That was a weird image, like the people in that play with all the makeup that his mom had him watch on tv one time when he was sick. He tried to imagine Kate wearing a leopard-print leotard and face paint, but it was kind of a creepy picture, so he stopped.

“Cool chocolates,” he said for something to say, gesturing vaguely toward where his individualized box was sitting on the table on top of his notebook.

There were only a handful of times in Stiles’ life that it felt like his balls were going to retract into his body. Kate reaching out, her nails unpainted, but well-kept, and running her fingertips over that box, brushing against his numbers notebook, was definitely one of them. He could feel sweat start to prickle its way to the surface of his pours, tingling and uncomfortable as he tried very hard not to shift in his seat, hyper aware of Kate’s looming presence and the undeniable scent of gunpowder that seemed to follow her like a perfume.

“I thought you’d appreciate it,” she said tilting her head to look at him with a smirk. That close he could see there was a bit of gold in her brown eyes, but they weren’t nearly as captivating as Derek’s.

Stiles was getting way uncomfortable with that situation, “Oh, yeah. Who doesn’t like chocolate, right? Oh, did you know that it’s actually in danger of becoming a kind of threatened commodity? It’s because of climate change, apparently. So, I guess we’ll all have to enjoy it while it lasts, right?” He directed that bit at the rest of the group, who were eating their treats and pretending they weren’t utterly captivated by Kate’s fascination with him.

No one responded to his little fact.

The assholes.

“Well, I guess people who have, like, food allergies or who are lactose intolerant wouldn’t like chocolate too much,” he rambled, seriously grasping at straws at that point.

Fucking do something Luanne, he tried to convey with just his eyes and manic smile.

Luanne, it turned out, was not a mind reader, but Stan, bless his Beatles-loving heart, raised his hand like he was in elementary school, and asked Kate a question about something totally non-chocolate-related. In fact, it was business related, which was even better. She touched Stiles on the shoulder in a way that let him know she wasn’t even close to being finished with him, and swayed her way to where Stan was stammering out his inquiry.

What the fuck was that? he tried to ask their temporary boss with his eyes.

I don’t know! Luanne seemed to reply, or it could have been that he looked mildly panicked and that was her responding facial expression, but still, Stiles was not comfortable with what was going on, there.

Kate left a short while afterward, but not before reminding Stiles that he was to dine with her that day for lunch. The moment she left the room he was up and out of his chair and at Luanne’s side.

“I didn’t just hallucinate that, right? That wasn’t ‘shroom tea I drank this morning, Kate’s hitting on me.”

“Don’t rub it in,” Par-Man grumbled where he was swiping his finger through the last of the chocolate in his box. He had a smear of it on the outside of his lip and just because he was being a dick, Stiles didn’t tell him about it.

“Dude,” Stiles said, not even caring that calling a coworker dude was probably not the most eloquent form of address, “I am one hundred percent not interested in her like that. I am in a committed relationship-”

“With your yoga partner,” Luanne finished for him, even though he was going to say with himself, but hers sounded way less creepy. Well, unless Derek heard about it, then it would definitely not go over well. But it also looked like she was finally getting with the program, her previous paralysis gone in the face of Stiles’ sort-of revelation, but then her face fell.

“Stiles, you have to do what she says. This is an extremely important account and we can’t have anymore trouble.”

He scoffed, “Seriously? You guys are going to basically whore me out to the VP just because she wears scary heels and could buy and sell any of us in a heartbeat?”

The general consensus was a definitive yes.

They were assholes.

“You guys are assholes. Sorry, I know that’s not very professional to say out loud, but I’m also not a prostitute, that’s my flatmate, and what you’re doing is basically trying to sell me to that woman so she won’t devour us whole.”

He was getting some seriously weird looks, then, but he didn’t care. “Fine, but you all owe me big time for this. I’m talking about you writing good things about me on our evaluations when we’re done with this account. I want credit for taking one for the team, but don’t tell them I had sex with her because I think I might actually die of mortification if anyone thought I’d do that for a job. Again, that’s my flatmate, not me.”

Jesus Christ he never had learned to shut up, had he? It was times like those that he wished his mom had told him to shut it every once in awhile, just so that maybe he’d do it on occasion.

“Whatever, I’m having lunch with Kate Argent and you’re all going to pretend like none of this ever happened. Except for the credit thing, you’re still on the line for that.”

No one argued, but they didn’t exactly agree, either.



Like the previous times, Kate returned just as lunch was being wheeled in. It looked like different kinds of tea sandwiches and soups, which sucked because Stiles loved both of those things. He hoped Kate had soup and sandwiches and he really wished he could fake an injury or something to get out of trekking up to her office, but knew better than to try that. He wasn’t a very convincing actor.

“Mr. Stilinski, may I have a word with you in my office?” she said with a predatory smile. It made her look a bit like a lioness.

Hear Me Roar, indeed. Stiles just hoped no one started playing The Rains of Castamere, then lamented the fact that even if he muttered that out loud it was unlikely anyone would get that reference.

Derek would, his very unhelpful brain supplied.

Stiles stood and nodded to Luanne, who nodded back and if his silent communication skills were up to snuff he was pretty sure she’d just given him the go-ahead to not fuck anything up for the rest of them. The team seemed to agree, some even offering him wane smiles of encouragement, except for Par-Man, who looked pissy, as per ususal.

“Don’t bother with that or your phone,” she said as he bent to pick up his bag.

“Okay,” he said, not even attempting to tell her he’d left the latter at home. He stood up and moved to follow her out the door, glancing back once to share a brief, bewildered look with Stan before the door closed between them.

Her office was four floors up, reached by a private elevator with an armed guard stationed inside and who gave Stiles a stern look, like he was criminal or something.

He wasn’t, for the record, his dad would have killed him. Well, he would have jailed him, at the least, and probably fingerprinted him. He would definitely have handcuffed him to a radiator or something, too, as a lesson. Actually, his dad had done that, and it was a lesson, a lesson in lock-picking. Stiles hadn't done so well at that and had to wear a hoodie to school for picture day so no one could see the livid mark he'd managed to bruise onto his wrist when he'd been convinced he could break his way out of the cuffs instead of using the piece of wire to pick them like his dad had instructed.

Kate's office was like something out of a movie. Stiles knew he probably shouldn’t equate her with a Bond villain, but the bleak metal and dark stone everywhere, along with the black leather of the chairs just made the place look like some evil doers headquarters.

At her metal and glass monstrosity of a desk sat two silver serving covers and service for two.

Oh, shit.

A part of him had considered that she was bluffing, that she hadn’t actually wanted to dine with him in private, but the evidence was too overwhelming for his mind to deny it any longer. He was having a lunch date with Kate Argent.

“Come have a seat,” she indicated the chair helpfully pulled up across from her leather throne and conveniently spaced in front of one of the plates.

Luanne and the rest of them were counting on him, so Stiles swallowed the fear bubbling in the back of his throat and did as he was told with what he hoped was a convincing smile.

“Well, this is different,” he said for something to say. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, so he followed her lead and unwrapped the silverware from the silver colored cloth napkin and there was a very sharp knife inside.

He barely managed to keep calm as he placed it on the glass beside the silver serving cover, then set the napkin across his lap like he’d been taught in the etiquette classes his mom had held at the library on Tuesday nights when he was little. He’d also learned to follow his host’s lead, which hadn’t steered him wrong, yet.

Except for the fact that he was alone with her in her private office, which was definitely not where he wanted to be at all ever.

She removed the serving cover, so he did the same and was met by a waft of steam and then a huge, thick steak with delicate stems of asparagus on one side and roasted fingerling potatoes on the other.

Holy. Fuck.

Kate smiled again, and it looked like she’d gotten exactly what she’d wanted. Which, hey, steak was awesome, but Stiles hadn’t really felt like tearing into a whole lot of cow flesh since he’d started the low-fat part of his dad’s diet. It smelled amazing, though.

“Now, Vyacheslav,” she said, the name rolling off her tongue like she’d said it a hundred times before. He’d never heard his name spoken so easily, except for when it came from his own mother’s lips. His skin instantly contracted in goose flesh as he watched her eyes track over his body in a blatant way. “What an unusual name,” she mused cutting off a piece of well cooked steak and slipped it into her mouth.

If he wanted to keep the charade and follow her lead he’d have to pick up the knife. Right-handed, as etiquette dictated.

Cassandra was right-handed.

Stiles forced a smile, which probably looked as strained as it felt if Kate’s smirk was anything to go by. And then he realized that she’d looked him up, which probably meant she’d found that newspaper article about Cassandra and the attack, which in turn led him to speculate that she was doing all of the knife intimidation crap on purpose.

“It’s Russian,” he said, “which you already know.”

No one said his name like that without knowing something about the language. Her accent was perfect. Kate nodded silently, delicately severing another part of the steak and popping it between her blood-red lips.

Stiles was probably going to throw up. If not at that moment, then in the near future. He brought his right hand up to grip the knife, his arm tingling with a rush of what was either electricity or adrenaline. It occurred to him that it was the first time he’d voluntarily touched one in over a year, and that seemed a bit silly to his addled mind because eventually he’d have to chop vegetables instead of buying them pre-cut, or he’d have to tear into a delicious-looking steak with something other than his teeth. It was his moment to shine. Or something.

“Is this part of celebrating your upcoming acquisition?” Stiles asked before taking a bite. He suddenly wanted to divert as much attention from himself as he possibly could. There were two long-stemmed glasses on the table in front of him. One held iced water, condensation running down onto the table, and the other held what looked like red wine.

Nope.

The last thing he needed was to be drunk in front of such a devious person.

Kate made an appreciative noise. “How observant of you,” she purred. Again with the purring. It was weird and cat-like and she was definitely a Lannister. He had mixed feelings about that family in the books. His feelings were much more straightforward with Kate.

Evil, Scott’s voice whispered, which was weird because he hadn’t invited his friend to join their conversation and he was probably losing his mind from the sheer amount of stress he was feeling.

Stiles took another bite. The steak was actually quite delicious, but cooked more thoroughly than he’d have preferred.

Kate wiped her mouth daintily and took a long drink of her wine. When the glass clinked back onto the table she looked up through her lashes at him. It was an advanced move, almost Disney princess-esque, but he was not swayed. “The acquisition, yes. My father, Gerard, is quite excited for us. If our predictions are accurate, this new addition could change the face of Argent Unlimited.”

“Sounds pretty important,” Stiles said. The asparagus was expertly seasoned. He’d have asked for the recipe, but felt weird enough already without adding any more awkward to the situation.

She waved a hand, then took up her knife again. Her movements were getting less flirty and more assertive, like she was reverting back to normal. “It is important. The thing is, I can’t have children-”

Woah that had come out of left field. Stiles tried not to make any embarrassing noises or facial expressions as she continued.

“-so when I heard the news, well, my father and I are of a mind about family.”

He was definitely missing something.

Kate took another bite of steak and he felt obligated to fill the silence.

“Family is important,” he tried.

She wiped her mouth and nodded in agreement. “Family is the most important thing in life,” she said with passion. “When I found out my niece was expecting I knew it was a sign. And then there's you." Kate was smiling, like they were both in on the same secret, only he didn't know what it was.

“Me,” Stiles said without inflection. He stuffed a piece of potato into his mouth to shut himself up. He was supposed to be the emissary for his team, after all, he didn’t want to risk pissing her off when things had been going not entirely terribly.

“You,” she agreed, and took another freaking bite of steak.

And what the hell did that mean?

Kate downed the rest of her wine and wiped her mouth with a satisfied sigh. Her steak was almost entirely gone, leaving only bits of glistening fat and oily juices that mixed with the untouched asparagus and potatoes.

“We’ll have lunch again, tomorrow,” she decided, standing up to show him out.

Stiles followed her and didn’t argue.

Chapter Text

It was a close call, but Stiles didn’t actually end up throwing up his lunch. He didn’t eat the chocolates, though, or anything else. His appetite was totally gone and it really had been a long time since he’d last had red meat. It didn’t seem to entirely agree with him and he felt a bit bloated and gross for the rest of the afternoon.

Miracle of miracles, Luanne offered him a ride home that evening as they were packing up. They were even done on time for once. He quickly accepted and followed her down into the underground employee parking area, which he’d never had to venture into before. It kind of reminded him of Moria, but minus the cave troll, and the goblins, and the balrog. So, it wasn’t really like Moria. Maybe pre-balrog, but post-dwarves? Whatever. Her car was a fairly new Japanese import, bright red with a vanity plate that read SRYNSRY.

“Sorry not sorry?” Stiles guessed, pointing at it.

She smiled and nodded, flicking her hair over her shoulder as she tossed her purse into the back seat.

“I’m not, most of the time,” she said as they got in and buckled their seatbelts.

Stiles always felt kind of weird riding in other people’s cars. They always smelled like a super-concentrated version of that person; thick with perfumes or colognes from when they’d gotten in freshly showered that morning, and sometimes whatever food they indulged in while on the road, the wrappers probably still trapped under the seats. Except the cars Derek and the rest of them shared, those were a bit more impersonal than he’d expected. Nice, but impersonal. Maybe because they had five people sharing three cars?

“So,” Luanne said as she pulled out into the eerie gray sunlight, “you and Kate, huh?”

There was a kind of curious judgement in her voice and he immediately understood why she’d made the offer to drive him. She wanted a gossip buddy.

Stiles was more than willing to comply.

“What’s up her?” he asked, reminding himself not to flail around like he wanted to. She was driving and having limbs flying at her face probably wasn’t conducive to safe travel.

Luanne gave him a skeptical side-eye, “Come on, Stiles, you’re the one with the in. Tell me everything.”

Stiles didn’t tell her everything, but he told her enough to win her back to his side, at least for the time being. He hoped.

“What?” she said as they pulled up to a light a few blocks from his apartment. “I can’t believe she’s being so aggressive about hitting on you when she knows you’re seeing someone else. What a slut!”

He knew better than to make any kind of comment about that, so instead he changed the subject. “We’re going on a date Saturday. Me and my partner, not me and Kate,” he clarified when he thought her plucked eyebrows were going to try to escape into her hairline. They lowered from their alarmed position and she smiled, slow and wide.

“Oh, really? And where are you and your lover going?”

Lover was a way generous term for the what the two of them had going on, but Stiles let it slide because he didn’t really feel like telling Luanne the only loving he’d gotten over the past year was with his own hand.

“I have no idea,” he confessed.

She nodded, like she knew that was going to be his answer. “Well, I take it Thanksgiving wasn’t a disaster since you’re still dating-”

“-I spent the night,” Stiles added because he felt like sharing how wild and daring he was. As long as she never heard the real version of that particular story. Spending the night on a giant bed with Derek and four other people might come across as a bit too freaky for most people.

Luanne made an impressed face as she drove on. He directed her to his building and paused before getting out.

“Hey, thanks for the ride, and I hope Kate’s not as creepy tomorrow, but she invited me to lunch, again.”

She nodded in understanding. “If you want my advice, I’d say don’t tell the boyfriend about your lunch dates with her, especially if he’s the jealous type.”

Stiles wasn’t actually sure if Derek was the jealous type, not that it actually mattered because while they were going to go on their first date, they weren’t actually dating. Or were they? He made a mental note to look it up online when he got upstairs. He nodded at Luanne, pretending to absorb her wisdom, and wished her a goodnight.

 

 

Stiles actually had some time to kill before class that night, which was pretty astonishing, really. There was still no sign of Charlie, which was to be expected if Boyd’s tracking was accurate. Actually, after giving it some thought, Stiles wasn’t sure if Boyd should legally be following his flatmate if the guy had jumped the state line. But then again he was a police officer, so maybe he could do that and the jurisdictional stuff was different in Illinois and Wisconsin?

Huh.

He took a quick shower to help relax himself a bit from the stress of the day and to remove the Kate-stink he had going on. It could have been his imagination, but since Derek had mentioned the whole gunpowder thing he couldn’t stop smelling it whenever she got too close to him. His stomach was slowly getting back to normal, too, which was good because he was supposed to do some inverted poses with Derek and really would prefer not to hork all over the guy if he could help it.

Stiles plopped down in front of his computer and checked his phone. There were a few messages from Derek scattered throughout the day, but since they were going to see each other in less than an hour he didn’t think it was entirely necessary to respond. He logged into his normal messaging clients, just in case anyone interesting was online. Allison’s icon was green, but he didn’t immediately call her up, content to revisit the awesome couples yoga stuff he’d found earlier that day and put some of the pictures on his phone so he could show Derek.

He’d just finished sending one to himself that looked like it could either be the coolest, or most painful thing he’d ever attempt in his life when Allison’s icon blinked on his screen. It wasn’t a video invitation, though, so he assumed she was still at work and couldn’t make her slacking look too obvious.

 

Allison: hey stiles scott told me you have a date

 

There wasn’t any kind of punctuation or smiley faces or frowny faces or anything, so Stiles wasn’t sure how to respond. Was she mad? Was she happy for him? He took a second, then went with her being happy for him because he liked to pretend that everything was okay whenever that was an option.

 

Stiles: Yeah! I’m so excited! Saturday’s the big day!

 

That amount of exclamation points was probably excessive, but it got his point across.

 

Allison: you know we want you to be happy stiles

   

But, there was going to be a but in there, somewhere

 

Allison: but we’re worried about you

 

He put his head on his desk and groaned. “I’m an adult! I don’t need you guys to keep harassing me about this. Derek’s not going to try to fucking murder me, I promise.” Of course that’s not how he responded because he wasn’t an idiot. Allison knew her way around her father’s shooting range, and he did not relish her brandishing a gun at him and wait. No, that was too much of a coincidence, but he had to check.

 

Stiles: Hey, do you have any family in Chicago?

 

There was no instantaneous response, but he could see that she had read the message and was typing something. From the length of time that passed it was either a missive or she kept erasing and re-typing what she wanted to say.

 

Allison: my dad had a falling out with my grandpa and aunt when I was in high school. it was pretty terrible we haven’t talked about them since. they live somewhere in the city I think. why?

 

Stiles worked his jaw, but there was a tinny ringing in his ears as his mind processed what was happening. He couldn’t imagine how the people in his life had converged on all points like that, but suddenly he seemed to have found himself in the middle of an Argent and Hale sandwich of terror, but Kate had said-

 

Stiles: Does your aunt know you’re pregnant? Does your grandfather?

 

His hands were shaking, he wanted to be wrong. He would have willing gone to a five star restaurant with Kate or to wherever else she wanted if what he was thinking wasn’t true. Stiles would happily let her get all creepy gropey up in his business if what he thought was wrong. He’d do it and even manage to smile convincingly, if he was-

 

Allison: i think my dad told them as a courtesy. why?

 

It turned out Stiles did have to throw up, after all. Thankfully, he made it to the toilet in time, and was incredibly grateful that he’d taken the time to clean it in the recent past. Several minutes later he stumbled back to the desk and collapsed onto his chair, heart beating too quickly and fear roiling through him.

 

Stiles: Pretty sure I’ve met your aunt. Kate, right?

 

Allison: you met my aunt kate? when? how?

 

But he couldn’t tell her that, right? He ran his hands down his face and suddenly swore when he saw the time.

 

Stiles: shit, gotta go to yoga. ttyl

 

He logged off before she could reply and grabbed his phone, where he saw there was another text from Derek, asking if he was okay and if he was going to be late.

“On my way, dude,” he muttered as he stuffed his gear into his bag and snagged the two bags of muffins on his way past the kitchen.

He stopped by the super’s apartment on the ground floor and left one of the bags hanging on his door knob. The guy rarely answered, anyway, and if he did Stiles wasn’t feeling stable enough to hold a conversation with him. He had no idea how he was going to get through yoga. After jogging out into the suddenly frigid air, Stiles had a brief coughing fit at the change in temperature, then continued at a more sedate pace, but he still made it on time and slipped into the Men's room unseen and change into his yoga clothes.

Stiles took a moment to collect his thoughts and looked at himself in the mirror.

"Everything's fine," he told himself quietly, "just do this and then you can obsess about the other thing later." The other thing being his discovery that Kate Argent was plotting his niece or nephew's future kidnapping and he just needed to calm the hell down.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he nodded to himself and forced a grin, then after that looked too creepy, he went with a more neutral I'm sane and normal expression.

Eh, he kind of pulled it off.

And of course Derek was lurking right outside the door, his arms folded over his chest in a way that accentuated every single bulging muscle along the bare expanse of his bicep and forearms. It also made him look like a club bouncer, especially with his black tank top. The flattering yoga pants? Not so much.

"Uh, hi?" Stiles said, his automatic responses taking over for his scattered brain.

“You showered,” was not the first thing Stiles expected to hear, but then again Derek wasn’t all that predictable when it came to conversations, or anything, really.

“Brushed my teeth, too." He replied, but didn't share why that had been necessary. "You have a very keen sense of smell. I’ve been thinking about that,” which hadn’t meant to share.

Derek tilted his head and quirked an eyebrow, it was a very adorable dog-like expression and he found it kind of hard not to express that thought.

Instead he coughed awkwardly and ducked his head in a nod, “Yep, I think you’re a super-smeller, or whatever the technical term for it is, and the reason I showered is because creepy chick from work was all up in my business again today and gunpowder really does have a strong smell, which I realized once you so graciously pointed that out to me before.” And he had actually been trying to avoid thinking about Kate Argent, but apparently his mind didn't follow instructions when he was half-panicked with future worries.

"You didn't answer my texts," Derek followed up with, once again all over the conversational board. Stiles was of a mind to track his random leaps of logic sometime to see if there were actually any logical connections.

He shrugged, "Forgot my phone at home this morning and by the time I got back from work I figured I'd be talking to you in person, soon enough, so I didn’t reply. Though now I'm kinda seeing the error in my ways, judging by your grumpy expression. Sorry about that." It was kind of a dick thing to do, he realized in retrospect. He didn't want to be a dick to Derek, he might want to dic-

Stiles stopped thinking about that and led the way to the classroom.

   

 

Both Laura and Erica made judgey faces at him, but he could tell there was some definite concern hidden underneath their pissyness. Class began almost immediately after he and Derek sat down on their mat, eliminating their need to continue with smalltalk, which was fine with Stiles because when he was nervous he became somewhat of a blurter and wasn't sure he could trust himself not to reveal something he shouldn't. That night's question was favorite leisure activity.

Stiles' first choice would probably be cowering in fear or hiding in a blanket fort, given how his day had gone, but he nodded for Derek to go first, if only to give himself enough time to come up with a legitimate answer that didn’t involve ugly crying and a pint of ice cream.

Derek rolled his shoulders, which meant he was talking about himself and that made him uncomfortable, then shrugged. "I like going to baseball games."

Stiles waited, but that seemed to be all Derek was going to say. "Okay, that's pretty cool, my dad and I love doing that when I'm home. He always wants us to catch a foul ball, but my coordination isn't the greatest so that hasn't happened, yet."

Derek's eyebrows told him to proceed.

"Ah, yeah, me. I don't know, yoga's pretty nice, so's running." He ran a hand over the back of his head and shrugged.

The other man's eyes flicked over his shoulder to where Stiles knew Laura and Erica were sitting, then back to him. "Anything not exercise-related?" he asked.

Stiles shrugged again, "I sometimes go to museums when I'm bored or need to get out of the apartment, but I mostly hang out online researching random stuff and talking to my friends."

Derek nodded and then Laura called for everyone's attention so they could begin. Overall, Stiles thought he was doing a pretty good imitation of a functioning human being and congratulated himself on not freaking out and breaking down like he kind of thought he would.

At least he hadn’t yet.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asked as they bent and stretched to touch the floor, their shoulders brushing. Stiles’ reach was getting better, but he still couldn’t put his palms all the way down like Derek could. And of course Derek had picked up on his emotional turmoil because the guy was probably a body language expert, being a cop and all.

“I had a shitty day,” Stiles muttered, “I can’t talk about it.”

Well, that wasn’t entirely true, he could talk about some of the things that had happened, but he couldn’t go into specifics; like the fact that his best friend’s wife’s aunt and grandfather were on his suspicious and or illegal activities radar at work, or that Kate had been pretty mercilessly hitting on him in more and more unsubtle ways, lately, or that she had basically forced him to use what he thought of as a murder weapon while holding him captive in her fortress slash office, or that she had essentially confessed to plotting the kidnapping of an as-yet unborn child.

A shitty day barely seemed to cover the crap he’d had to put up with, and would continue to have to put up with until the Argent Unlimited business was over with.

His life fucking sucked.

“Can’t, or won’t,” Derek asked as they stepped back to do the plank pose.

Stiles’ lips and stomach tightened, “Can’t, don’t want to, won’t, whatever.”

Derek actually kind of pouted at that and something in Stiles, the part of him that cooed at babies and loved to touch puppies’ ears because they were always super soft, gave a long internal whine because Derek’s pouty face was really ridiculously adorable.

Against his better judgement, which wasn't even that great, he conceded and as they did some sun salutations at each other he sighed. "I had to use a steak knife today during lunch at work and it freaked me out," he admitted. It was pretty much the only thing on the list of things that were wrong that he could share without some potentially serious legal implications.

Derek's eyebrows expressed their concern for him.

“I’m okay, though,” Stiles said as they twisted away from each other.

“You don’t have to lie, Stiles,” Derek said softly as they turned back.

Jesus, it was worse than talking to his dad.

“Fine, I’m neurotic mess and I ate a giant hunk of cow that made my stomach hurt for the entire afternoon on top of me having to dissect the poor sucker with the sharpest blade I've ever seen. Happy?”

He should probably dial down the bitchiness, but his nerves were pretty much shot.

Derek held up his hands so they could do some mirror poses and Stiles reluctantly pressed his palms against them, not thinking about how impossibly silky soft they felt.

“I’m sorry you had a bad day, Stiles,” he said as they moved together, first in his direction, then towards Stiles. “Do you feel better, now? If not we can stop-”

“No, I’m fine physically, just really need some of this meditation crap to kick in so I can get out of my head for awhile, you know?”

Derek nodded in understanding, not just okay, yeah, but like he completely understood what Stiles was talking about and could relate on a deep and personal level. “Did you want to try that pose you sent me? The one Laura and Erica were doing? It seems pretty straightforward.”

Stiles considered it while they transitioned to paired practice, loosely overseen by both instructors. Some couples were working on poses together, while others were watching either of the women help position the pairs who were trying new things or perfecting the ones they’d already learned. He’d been wanting to try something a bit out of the norm, and finally nodded.

“Yeah, let’s do it. Which do you want to be, the base or the acrobat?” those were the terms the two of them had come up with during one of their earlier classes because calling the positions top and bottom was just asking for trouble and endless perverted jokes. Predictably, Stiles was almost always the acrobat because neither of them were really eager to figure out just how much of Derek’s impressive bulk he could support before he snapped in half.

“Base,” Derek replied, sitting on their mat with his legs out straight. “From the picture it looks like it would be easiest for me to lift your legs up while you walk your hands back, does that work for you?”

Apparently Derek had a perfect visual memory to add to his flawless auditory memory. Because of course he did.

Stiles nodded, “Works for me. Point your toes, I’m laying on your legs.”

Derek did as he was told and Stiles stretched out over him, resting his legs on his partner’s and supporting himself with a modified plank. Derek’s warm hands wrapped around his lower shins, just above his ankles and, after a nod from Stiles, began lifting up as Stiles stretched his arms out. He walked his hands back and it quickly became clear that what they were trying wasn’t going to work.

“Abort mission,” Stiles decided and they reversed what they’d done. He rolled off of Derek and onto his back, staring at the ceiling as he thought about how to go about getting from point A to point B.

“So, that didn’t work," he said.

Derek grunted in agreement.

"Probably should have looked up a video on it or something."

Another grunt.

Sometimes Derek was positively eloquent, though Stiles knew it was just him thinking. Derek wasn't a think-out-loud kind of a guy. He liked his quiet contemplation.

Stiles sat up and watched him mentally work through the moves, apparently discarding a few with a tiny jerk of his head before his expression cleared and he nodded.

"I'll lay down, you'll lay on top of me, as I sit up I'll lift your legs and you'll push your arms out straight. Okay?"

No. That was not okay. Especially not the Stiles laying on top of him part, but then again he’d already done that during their little slumber party, and hadn’t come out of it any the worse for wear. Though he'd also been passed out for most of it, so there was that.

At least you’ll be awake this time, his almost perpetually enthusiastic inner Scott said. And that really didn’t make him feel any better, but he sighed and nodded, anyway.

“Sorry in advance if I end up braining you with a stray limb or something,” he said, utterly resigned to the fact that he was probably about to completely humiliate himself in front of Derek and Laura and Erica and the rest of the class. Though, really, it wouldn’t be the first time.

The two of them were often the center of attention, partially because Derek looked like a freaking Greek statue, but also because they tended to leap ahead of the competition and try new things before the others felt entirely comfortable doing so. It had ended in more than one knee to a kidney, but luckily Derek didn’t seem to bruise very easily and he’d actually gone out of his way a few times to break Stiles fall so he wouldn't break a limb.

The gentleman.

That class was no different. As soon as they started to get into position again, a few of the less adventurous couples were already gathering in a loose circle around them as Derek laid back and nodded to Stiles when he was in position.

Time to face the music.

Of course Erica and Laura had wandered over to join the crowd, watching with interest, but not offering any advice. Stiles had discovered Derek got a little testy when his sister tried to boss him around, so she mostly laid off. Erica didn’t even try, but seemed to delight in their failures as much as she praised their successes.

Stiles knelt beside Derek’s hips and swung one leg over to straddle him, facing his feet and doing his very best to ignore how close their junk was to touching.

“I’m grabbing your ankles this time,” he warned before stretching down to do just that, his torso flat against Derek’s thighs and knees.

Slowly he brought first one leg up to rest on his partner’s body, and then the other. The muscles underneath him were firm and warm through the thin cloth of their yoga clothes. Derek’s pecs flexed under Stiles’ knees and his hands came up to steady him and grip his shins.

“Ready,” Derek said.

“Go,” Stiles replied, adjusting his hands to get a better hold.

Derek’s insane body flexed and, almost impossibly, began to rise. Stiles tensed and pushed his arms down as his legs came up, passing the level of his head and then he bent at the waist, clenching his abs and forcing his knees to stay straight as Derek’s arms lifted him higher.

Stiles had been staring at the soft dark hair on Derek’s legs and his own veiny forearms, but as they attained their goal of forming a square he ducked his head to see his partner’s face. He had his thinking face on, tensed mouth and slightly furrowed brow. It was not a very zen expression.

“Dude,” Stiles breathed out, not trusting that he’d be able to actually speak given his inverted position and the way his arms were already beginning to tremble, “this is pretty cool.”

That broke the sternness that had found it’s way onto Derek’s face and his lips twitched in a smirk. “Agreed,” he said because he had to act cool all the time when they were in class or he'd lose coolness points or something. The dork.

Stiles laughed and pretty much immediately regretted it, “Woah, the walls are crumbling. Erica, take a picture, I want proof of this for posterity.”

Erica, of course, already had her phone out and had probably already taken a dozen pictures of them from every compromising angle she could find. Once he was certain she’d gotten what he hoped was a flattering he shifted a little to his right.

“Incoming,” he warned, and bent his elbow on that side, letting gravity bring him to the ground, his shoulder absorbing most of the hit as he rolled onto his back. Derek controlled the descent of his legs and it had been a pretty successful dismount, after all.

He shifted so the back of his head was resting on the other man’s ankles. “Dude, that was awesome.”

Derek was laying flat on his back, too, and didn’t disagree.

Laura stepped forward into the open circle of space around them and immediately gained the attention of everyone in the room. “Thank you Stiles and Derek for demonstrating that advanced pose. Now we’re all going to work on something I think is closer to everyone’s comfort level.” She quirked an eyebrow at the two of them and Stiles grabbed Derek’s outstretched hand so they could help each other sit up. His arms were a bit noodley, but he thought he’d be able to make it through the rest of class.

The position Laura showed them was actually similar to what she and Erica had been doing on the floor of Derek’s bedroom on Thanksgiving night. Laura laid on the mat with her back flat and, while the two of them gripped each other’s wrists, pressed her feet against Erica’s hips and slowly pulled her up until their torsos were parallel, the other woman stretched overhead, her legs sticking out straight behind her.

“Once you’re certain your partner is balanced properly, you may even feel confident enough to let go of each other’s arms, but make sure to communicate your intentions before you do so,” Laura said, as if she weren’t supporting another grown human being with only her legs.

“Base,” Derek said, already moving to lay back.

“I think you should switch it up,” Erica said from right next to them.

Stiles startled and looked at her, “Did you apparate here? You were just floating over Laura like two seconds ago.”

She shrugged and focused on Derek. “You should let him lift you, Der. Have you seen his ass? He’s totally got powerful enough leg muscles to do it, no problem. Hell, I could lift you.”

“Erica,” Derek said in warning, but she already had a grip on his arm and was actually pulling him to his feet, seemingly without his permission. Stiles wouldn’t have thought that was humanly possible without seeing it for himself. Then again, he’d watched Laura toss her brother across a room, so he figured it was probably something to do with torque or physics or magic or something.

“Hey, no worries, I’ll give it a shot,” he heard himself say. He’d never particularly thought much about being the base, but if Erica thought he could do it, and demanded he try, he wasn’t going to argue with her. He wasn’t a total idiot. And he was also going to join Derek in ignoring the comment about his ass because he also wasn’t completely insane. Just the mere thought of the other man thinking about his a-

He told his brain to shut up and positioned himself on the mat, pleasantly warmed from where his partner had been. Derek stepped up, broody eyebrows in tow, and reached out with both hands. Stiles met him halfway and they each took a firm hold on each other’s forearms, the hair on Derek’s tickling his palms.

“Okay, feet,” he muttered, bringing his legs up and pressing his heels into the crease of the other man’s hips, careful not to pinch anything important. “Leaning back,” he said, slowly rolling his lower back onto the floor as his legs and arms strained to accommodate Derek’s weight.

He was solid muscle.

The strain must have showed on Stiles’ face because Derek had his constipated look again, like he was about to suggest they stop, but Stiles breathed out a, “‘S’okay,” and finally he was flat on his back with his partner suspended above him.

“Told ya,” Erica sing-songed, then danced away to harass some other couple.

“Dude,” Stiles managed to say despite how his entire abdomen was trembling with the effort of supporting Derek. “How does it feel?”

The constipation was slowly replaced by grudging approval and Stiles could feel his fingers flex. “It’s certainly different,” he allowed and if he’d had the energy or that much control over his diaphragm, Stiles would have laughed. As it was he settled on a wan smile.

“This is awesome and you know it.”

Once Derek had finally rolled his eyes and agreed Stiles lowered him as slowly as he was able, which wasn’t very, but it didn’t matter because the dude moved like a freaking jungle creature and landed gracefully.

There weren’t anymore acrobatics after that, just a lot more gentle touching and the cool-down where they were supposed to compliment each other on their mutual accomplishments and any specific points they had particularly excelled at that session.

“Good job not getting kicked in the head during the square dance dismount,” Stiles said.

That was usually how they went about praising each other.

“Thanks for not dropping me on my head when you were the base,” Derek replied.

It was pretty much perfect.

Chapter Text

They were standing outside the Men’s room again, like they always did after class - fucking Malcolm - when Derek started to shift nervously. That was kind of weird. He wasn’t really a nervous guy, at least not like Stiles, who turned to look at Derek inquisitively and the other man glanced away.

Sketchy.

“You should try to remember your phone,” Derek told the wall, even though it didn’t quite look like that’s what he’d wanted to say.

Stiles squinted at him for a second, trying to figure out what he’d really been trying to communicate, but he couldn’t figure it out. “Okay, but I told you it was an accident, it’s not like I intentionally left it at home. Do you know how boring it was on the train this morning? Crazy Carl wasn't even there, so I couldn't listen to his conspiracy theory spiel about there being chips in our brains.”

Derek shifted his weight from foot to foot, one of his I feel uncomfortable moves. “I know, just, you should be more careful, it’s irresponsible.”

He raised his eyebrows, starting to feel the terror that seemed to perpetually live in his chest churn into something more visceral.

Anger.

“Hey,” he said, realizing his tone was a bit harsh, but not really caring enough to modify it, “I apologized and told you what happened, so why do you keep pushing this?”

That seemed to strike a chord because Derek was still not making eye contact, which was totally bizarre behavior. The guy was like the king of hazel-eyed intensity. Not making eye contact made him look guilty, a lesson his dad had eagerly taught Stiles as a kid.

And holy shit. The electrical energy seemed to be back under his skin, crawling and buzzing as he stared at the other man and his obvious nervousness. But he couldn’t even fathom what Derek could possibly be feeling guilty about. It wasn’t like he’d done anything wrong.

Right?

“Derek?” Stiles asked quietly. He’d learned at an early age that the quieter someone spoke when they were upset, the scarier they were. Not that he was out to scare Derek, but he wanted some actual answers that could explain the man’s bizarre behavior.

Finally, Derek tossed back his head and looked at him with a frown. “I was worried about you, Stiles. Believe it or not but I actually do care about your wellbeing. When you didn’t respond to my messages I thought something was wrong.”

For a brief second, Stiles thought about calling bull, but then he realized the enormity of Derek’s confession and the anger he’d been feeling drained from him with such abruptness he felt momentarily lightheaded. He was pretty much a total ass. Stiles looked down at the floor and nodded, kind of hating himself for putting Derek in such an awkward position just because he’d overreacted.

“I’m sorry, I’ve just had a totally shitty day and I shouldn’t have snapped at you. Can we just forget about this?” He gestured between them to indicate the awkwardness still hanging between them.

Derek nodded and put his hand on Stiles’ bicep, meeting his eyes with a soft expression, “It’s fine, Stiles.”

Fucking Malcolm had to choose that exact moment to exit the bathroom, breaking up whatever might have happened between the two of them before it could actually happen.

The mood gone, Stiles flailed a hand in the direction of the door. “I’m just gonna, yeah,” he said and disappeared inside. He gave himself a stern frown in the mirror, silently reprimanding his reflection for not taking the initiative and expressing his feelings or something. Hell, Derek had expressed his feelings and that just made Stiles feel like an even bigger asshole than before.

Get your shit together, he silently commanded himself.

That over with, he quickly changed back into his normal clothes and shrugged into his leather jacket, then grabbed his messenger bag and the muffins. Derek was leaning against the wall where he’d left him and zeroed in on the bag of baked goods as soon as Stiles walked out the door.

“Give me a second, and then we’ll go downstairs together,” he said, slightly wide-eyed and as animated as he’d been the entire evening.

Stiles nodded slowly and did as he’d been asked, kind of surprised by Derek’s reaction, but whatever. He could deal.

Hardly even a minute later the other man emerged from the bathroom, wearing a dark ensemble of jeans, shirt and leather jacket. Even his boots were black.

“Heading out to rob a bank?” Stiles guessed, giving him a once-over.

Derek’s eyes swept his figure, “No, are you going to a Nickelback concert?”

A laugh burst out of him and he pushed Derek’s shoulder, even though it didn’t really move. Whatever. “Dude, that was a pretty solid burn. Okay, let’s get this muffin handoff over with, I’m tired of smelling them.”

They walked together to the stairs and Derek motioned for him go first on their way down. “Do you not like them?”

Stiles shrugged, “Naw, they’re fine, it’s just the smell brings up a lot of memories, which inevitably reminds me of my mom which can kind of bum me out, sometimes.”

Especially when he was already a bit frayed around the emotional edges.

Derek’s hand came down to rest on his shoulder, the tips of his fingers resting on the ridge of Stiles’ spine, as they got to the first floor and didn’t let up even when they reached the front where Laura and Erica were leaning against the wooden counter talking quietly to each other.

Stiles opened his mouth to announce his offering, but Erica was suddenly right in front of him making grabby hands at the bag.

“Oh my god did you bring us chocolate muffins?” she asked, looking like she was going to take them by force if he didn’t hand them over immediately. He complied and looked back at Derek, whose hand was still resting on his shoulder, but otherwise he was just as stoic as always.

“Uh, yeah. I made some for my super and Derek mentioned that you guys might want the rest.”

“Derek mentioned us, huh?” Laura said, watching Erica tear into one with casual interest.

"Yep, he called when I was making them last night."

"All alone in your kitchen?" her vivid hazel-green eyes turned to him and Stiles nodded.

"That is generally where the baking takes place."

Laura was so weird, sometimes.

Derek's hand tightened just enough to be noticeable and he grabbed the bag from Erica, who had eaten two already and seemed to be about to have a third. "Dinner first," he said, putting them on the counter and blocking it with his body. "Have you eaten, Stiles? There's a Chinese place a few blocks away that has great food."

He was asking Stiles out to dinner? Was it a date? He glanced at the two women. A double date? His stomach gave a familiar anxious churn, not necessarily bad, but still uncomfortable.

“I would love to, but I have some things I need to take care of back at my place. Scott’s wife was kind of frantic about some stuff earlier and I bailed on her to come to class. She’s probably going to be pretty pissed and I should really talk to her and figure out what’s wrong. I’d blame it on the hormones, but I don’t think that’s what it is, and if she heard me say that she’d definitely punch me hard enough to make me cry.”

“Very mature of you,” Laura said, reaching around Derek to take a muffin from the bag.

Stiles smirked, “Yeah, it’s been known to happen on occasion.”

Derek rolled his eyes at his sister, then looked at him and nodded toward the door. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

Stiles followed along behind, waving goodbye to Erica and Laura as he went out the door into the frigid air. He immediately bunched his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders against the chill, but then Derek’s arm was around his shoulders, pressing their sides together and he awkwardly put his own arm around the other man’s waist, amazed that he could feel Derek’s body heat even through the thick leather of his jacket.

“I was wrong, you couldn’t be a robot,” Stiles decided, trying not to focus on how perfectly they fit together as their hips pressed flush. Even their gait was complimentary. Whenever he and Scott had tried to do three-legged races growing up they'd inevitably face planted, but walking pressed against Derek's side felt natural.

Derek made a noise of inquiry and glanced at him. “No?”

Stiles shook his head. “No, you’re too hot. Warm. You produce too much body heat. If you were an actual robot your circuits would have fried from it.” He could feel himself blushing from the inadvertent come-on, not that he wasn’t totally a fan of Derek’s unbelievable appearance because he most definitely was, but he also didn’t want it to seem like he was only interested in him for that reason.

Stiles phone vibrated somewhere in the depths of his bag. A second later Derek's buzzed against Stiles’ side where it was kept in his jacket pocket. They both ignored them.

“Any other theories, since you seem convinced I’m not human?” Derek sounded kind of intrigued, actually.

"I've mostly ruled out aliens," he said watching out of the corner of his eye for Derek's smirk. He wasn't disappointed.

"Mostly," Derek said flatly.

Stiles smiled, cheeks stinging from the cold. "Yeah, mostly. Though after seeing your parents I had a hard time dismissing it at first."

Their phones went off again, first Stiles', then Derek's, and once again they ignored them.

"What changed?"

"The rest of your crew. Your family obviously recruited them locally, and they're clearly not thralls, so I'm guessing you're not extraterrestrials intent on keeping your secret safe from us mere humans."

Derek's short laugh produced a puff of mist. "Anything else?"

"I ruled out vampires, too cliche. Also, I’m pretty sure Isaac used garlic in some of his amazing Thanksgiving recipes, and I know from reading Dracula that vampires are not big fans of garlic."

"Of course."

They arrived at the building and slowed to a stop, the yellow light from the lobby cast a halo across the newly fallen snow around them. Beside him, Derek's dark hair was crowned with condensation like glittering gold. He looked incredible.

Their phones vibrated again.

"Dude, people are definitely conspiring against us," Stiles said, watching as Derek closed his eyes and tilted his head back for a moment, the snow melting instantly as it touched his cheeks, before he turned and looked at Stiles.

"Don't worry about it," he said, his free hand coming up to delicately touch Stiles' jaw, tilting his head just enough for their lips to meet.

Stiles twisted, the leather of their jackets rasping as he found a better angle for them to kiss. It was slow and sweet and Derek's stubble produced a delicious burn on his tender skin, the fine hair on the back of his neck soft against Stiles’ cold hand.

The next time their phones did their weird twin vibrating, Stiles reluctantly broke the kiss with a frustrated sigh, dropped his head to rest on Derek’s shoulder.

“That’s weird, right? The phone thing, not the kissing. The kissing is definitely fantastic. No complaints there, but the phones?”

He cautioned a glance up at the other man, but Derek was distracted, watching something over Stiles’ shoulder and it looked like his eyes flashed blue for a second before they returned to their familiar gorgeous hazel. He made a mental note to schedule an appointment with an opthamologist, or maybe even a neurologist because thinking people had glowing eyes was not normal.

    Stiles turned to look at what Derek was glaring at, but all he could see were tail lights disappearing around the corner. He’d been so distracted he hadn’t even heard the car drive past them. He looked back at Derek, one of his hands still holding the back of the man’s neck as his other hand gripped the side of his black jacket. Stiles slowly released him and stepped away, instantly missing the warmth of Derek’s hands as they fell to his sides.

“You should stay in tonight,” Derek said. His expression was more closed off than it had been all evening and a part of Stiles kind of wanted to cry at that.

Was he bad at kissing? Did he smell? Was he reading too much into the whole thing? Maybe he tasted bad. Derek didn’t taste bad, he tasted like what Stiles’ imagined magic would taste like; warm and wet with a hint of energy. A good kind of energy.

Like lightning, his mother’s voice whispered.

Stiles tried to breath a laugh, but it got caught in this throat. He swallowed and studied the other man’s pensive expression. “I’m kind of a hermit, if you hadn’t caught onto that, I’m not going anywhere.”

Derek raised a hand and brushed a snowflake from Stiles’ cheek. “Just take care of yourself.”

“I always do.”

“I’m serious, Stiles,” Derek cautioned with a hint of exasperation.

Stiles looked at him and couldn’t help but think of his dream the previous night, of his mother yelling Derek’s name as the lightning crashed between them. She’d always believed in omens and signs and he was having a hard time dismissing the way he felt, too. Stiles backed away and smiled gently.

“You might be some kind of a nymph,” he said as he walked backward to the door.

Derek quirked a speculative eyebrow, “A nymph?”

He nodded, “Yeah, a nymph. I know they’re usually chicks in the stories, but I’m onto you.”

“Keep guessing, Stiles,” he said with a soft smile. “I’ll see you Thursday night.”

“Thursday,” he agreed and went inside.



He spent the elevator ride watching his breath mist in front of him and trying to remember the foreign sensation of stubble brushing the delicate skin around his mouth. He placed his icy fingers there and grinned like an idiot. Mrs. Bevenson was watching as he passed and he kind of wanted to blurt out that he’d kissed a super hot guy, but he wasn’t a total asshole, so he kept it to himself and winked at her, instead.

Stiles decided to fix some dinner before he faced Allison’s mania. He definitely would have preferred the maybe double-date at the local Chinese place to his microwavable macaroni and cheese, but maintaining the relationships he had with his friends back home was more important than potentially getting laid in the near to distant future.

He kind of hated himself and his choices, sometimes.

Of course he burned his tongue almost immediately, and danced across the kitchen to grab something to drink, but there was just a bottle of Charlie’s vodka in the freezer and expired milk in the fridge. He took a swig from the sink, instead of either of those options.

“Jesus, I live like I’m still in college,” he told the empty room. “I need a dog, maybe then I’ll be more responsible.”

His entire bag vibrated where it was sitting on the kitchen counter and he pouted at it for a second before he shoveled the rest of the food into his mouth and tossed the empty bowl in the trash.

“Fine, fine,” he muttered, dropping the spoon in the sink and dragging his bag down the hall to his room.

Predictably, Allison was already, or still, online when he woke up his computer. Her icon danced with the incoming video call and he clicked it with a sigh.

“Yo, what’s up?” he said, knowing he wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional onslaught. Indeed, she looked a kind of wrecked, dark hair askew and eyeliner smudged like she’d been crying. “Woah,are you okay?”

She sniffed wetly and gave an unconvincing nod. “Yeah, it’s just that my dad’s been telling me about stuff about his family and it turns out my Aunt Kate basically got my mom killed and I just miss her so much.” Allison broke off with a sob and suddenly there were tears in Stiles’ eyes, too.

“Oh, Alli, I’m so sorry.”

She’d never really talked about her mom anymore than he’d talked about his. Stiles liked to think they were part of the unspoken Dead Moms Club that set them apart from their peers in a very strange and uncomfortable way. They didn’t have a secret handshake or do anything special, but when certain dates rolled around on the calendar they always made sure to give the other person a call or text, just to let them know that someone was there for them even if no one could replace the person they’d lost.

When her crying began to slow, he watched her wipe her eyes and nose with the too-long sleeve of one of Scott’s old Beacon Hills High sweatshirts and grimaced in understanding. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m sorry I bailed on you, earlier, but yoga-”

Allison gave him a watery smile, “Don’t worry about it, Stiles, I understand. If I had someone that hot to do yoga with-”

“Woah, hey!” he said in mock outrage, “No cheaty talk with your husband’s best friend! I’ll have you know that Scott is plenty hot, if you’re into that whole wonky jawline thing.”

She laughed and he let her calm down before he continued.

“Speaking of not-so-tall dark and handsome, where is the boy wonder? Shouldn’t he be rubbing your feet or spoon feeding you ice cream and pickles or something?”

“I’m not that pregnant, Stiles,” she said with a smile, “but he had to work late, something about puppies. I’m not sure because he was talking really fast-”

“-and his voice was high-pitched and it was pretty much impossible to understand him? Oh, yeah, I’m aware of Scott’s super excited voice. You should have heard him right before you guys got married, it was like listening to one of those singing chipmunks.”

Allison laughed and she looked better, already. Stiles kind of felt bad that he was going to bring up what he knew was a delicate topic, but it was becoming apparent that he didn’t have all the data he needed in order to do his job properly.

“So, did you want to tell me anything? I mean, you know that I’ve met Kate,” he trailed off, not sure how to proceed. He couldn’t exactly tell her much about how he’d met her aunt or any other specifics, really.

She was nodding, though, with kind of an intense look on her face. “Yes. Okay, so you’ve apparently met her, and we know that you’re friends with some of the Hales. This is really important, Stiles. Does she know about you and Derek?”

He glanced up, thinking about it, then shook his head. “No, I mean I talked about yoga, but I didn’t say what studio and I’ve mentioned having a partner, but I don’t think I said his name.”

She breathed out what seemed to be a sigh of relief. “That’s good, she can’t know that you know him or she might get crazy.”

“Crazier,” he corrected, “I’ve only talked to her a few times and I can tell she’s not quite right. And I’m pretty sure she did some research on me and still made me eat steak with her. With a knife. Chick’s not all there, I’m telling you.”

Allison bit her bottom lip. “Stiles, you have to stay away from her.”

“Would if I could,” he said sincerely.

“I don’t think you’re safe around her, Stiles, she just takes whatever she wants.”

He swallowed and thought carefully about what he was going to say before he looked directly into his webcam, into Allison’s eyes. “What if Kate wanted a kid?”

She shook her head, “There was an accident or something when she was younger and she can’t have any. It was back when she and my grandparents lived in Beacon Hills when I was a baby. She had to have a couple of surgeries afterward, but I think she ended up needing a hysterectomy.”

Stiles licked his lips and kept staring into the camera. “Allison, what if she was adamant about wanting a kid. What do you think she’d do?”

Allison frowned and looked away for a second, then shrugged. “Well, I know family is really important to her. She was always super nice to me when I was a kid, and as I grew up whenever I saw her she acted more like a sister to me than an authority figure. My mom really liked Kate and wanted me to spend as much time as I could learning from her, but then they went out hunting together one time and only Kate came back.” Her lip quivered, but she powered through it. “After that my dad moved us here and I don’t think he’s even spoken to her or Gerard since that happened. Not until he told them about-”

She stopped then, suddenly frozen in place as her mind caught up with what she’d been about to say and Stiles’ implication.

He held up his hands, “Allison, I’m not saying that, I was only asking because I had a really weird conversation with her today and I just want to make sure-”

“She’s going to try to take my baby, isn’t she?” Allison asked, like she already knew the answer. “That bitch.”

Stiles shook his head, “I don’t know that, we don’t know that. She was being creepy and mentioned an acquisition she and Gerard were going to make for the company in about a year, and then brought you up and then she started talking about me. I don’t know, it was weird. I might have leapt to that conclusion because it’s been a tense fucking day, well yoga was awesome, but still, the rest of it kinda sucked. Whatever, forewarned is forearmed, right?”

Allison leaned forward, “Stiles, what did she say about you?”

“I don’t know! It was weird!”

“Stiles!”

He made a frustrated noise and wiggled in his chair, “I can’t tell you much because of reasons, but I’m having lunch with her again tomorrow and I’ll let you know more when I know more. Okay?”

“You have to be careful, Stiles,” Allison pleaded. “Oh, have you heard from your roommate since he went missing?”

Stiles shook his head, “No, haven’t heard much other than he was traced to somewhere in Wisconsin.”

“So he’s still alive?”

“I hope so,” Stiles said. Even though he might not be the guy’s biggest fan, he definitely didn’t want his flatmate dead.

“Well, let me know what’s happening as soon as you get home tomorrow, okay?”

“I have yoga, but I’ll try to remember to text your or something when I’m done with work.”

Allison smiled, “We miss you, Stiles, you know that, right?”

“I miss you guys, too. Night Alli,” he said before he logged off.

Stiles immediately threw himself across his bed and groaned. A half second later, his phone vibrated.

“Jesus fucking Christ! Are you possessed?” he yelled, army crawling across his covers and onto the floor so he could get the damn thing and silence it or something.

There were half a dozen texts from Allison, but the latest was from Derek.

It was a picture of them doing the square pose and Stiles was pretty sure that if he smiled any wider he would break something in his face.

“Okay, that was worth it,” he said, and saved the image as his phone’s background.

Chapter Text

Stiles spent a good ten minutes composing his reply text, then ended up just sending a smiley face and a couple more images of different poses he thought they could try. One showed a man laying flat on the floor with his legs up straight, his feet pressed against his partner’s butt as she leaned back to look at him. The other was of a man doing what looked like the cobra pose, a woman doing the same, supporting herself with her hands on his shoulders and the tops of her feet resting on his calves.

Derek actually responded with a suggestion of his own, an insane picture of a guy bent backward in the camel pose, with his hands gripping his own heels, and a woman over him, her hands pressed against his chest as she suspended herself in a crouch.

You’re shitting me. Stiles wrote in reply.

Derek replied: You never know until you try, Stiles.

He snorted: Dude, I’m going to fall on you and give you a black eye, AT LEAST.

I trust you. I think we could do it.

Stiles smiled stupidly and shook his head. “Whatever man, your funeral.”

He spent some quality time with his numbers notebook, and after about an hour of swearing at the same irritating pattern that he knew shouldn’t be there, but persisted in all of the neat columns, his phone buzzed again.

Those muffins were amazing, Erica and Laura were fighting over the last one so I ate it while they arm wrestled.

He laughed at Derek’s confession, then at the picture of the two women, definitely arm wrestling, but there was something weird with the light and their faces were kind of obscured in the glare.

Stiles replied: That’s amazing. You just earned yourself the baked good of your choosing. Let me know and I’ll bring it Thursday.

Derek’s immediate response was: Peanut butter cookies.

Of course it was. Stiles smiled and shuffled to the kitchen to see what he needed to pick up from the store the next night. Only a few ingredients, it turned out, and he made a note in his phone to get them on his way home from yoga the next day, but halfway through typing it the thing glitched, showing a weird black screen full of random numbers and symbols, then it returned to its normal home screen like nothing was wrong.

“The fuck?” Stiles said as he frowned at it. He went back to his notes app and had to retype the ingredients. “Whatever.”

   

 

He spent extra time in the shower that night after he’d washed off the day’s sweat, remembering the look on Derek’s face as he hovered above Stiles, the textured feel of his stubble on Stiles’ cheeks, the warmth of his mouth as they kissed. It was easy enough to think of those things in a slightly different context; the two of them together in bed, exchanging lazy kisses and caresses, bodies flush and skin deliciously sensitive.

A majority of his previous lovers hadn't really enjoyed taking things slow, which was mostly fine with Stiles, he could appreciate a good quick fuck as much as the next person, but there was something to be said for drawing it out. His favorite orgasms, he had a whole ranking system and everything, involved the intense moments of denial, of him writhing and begging and aching for release before finally coming with a punched out grunt, too winded and exhausted to even properly express his relief.

It wasn't the same when he was alone, there wasn't the familiar boiling desire or the tension or mystery, but he did his best to make it work, anyway. That time, Stiles didn’t bother to stifle his moans as he slowly jacked himself under the hot spray with a loose fist full of suds. All the things he wanted to say to Derek, the compliments and observations he’d made about the other man’s insane physique and maddeningly funny dry wit just poured from his lips in a filthy kind of stream of consciousness.

He started with things like, "fuck, your fucking abs, man, can't even believe your muscles, you're like a fucking piece of art," which quickly turned to, "thought of a Lannister joke today and just wanted to tell you, but you weren't there and forgot my damn phone." His commentary quickly lost coherence and any semblance of plot as he got closer and closer, devolving into, "your fucking galaxy-colored eyes," and "fucking wanna fuck you." He worked himself faster, needing it to be over with, needing to come so desperately his legs were shaking from it. Eventually, Stiles sobbed out a thready gasp as he finally found completion.

He rested his forehead against the cold tile and let the post orgasmic buzz ease its way through his loose muscles, thankful for his months of yoga so he actually had the strength to keep himself upright as he slowly regained the use of his limbs. It may not have made his top ten list, but it had still felt good.

After toweling dry he didn’t even bother to put on anything as he padded barefoot to the kitchen over the creaky floorboards. He stood in front of the open fridge for a second, shivering at the cold, then abandoned the meager contents for a bag of pretzels. He ate a handful, idly standing there thinking about how nice it was to wander around in the nude without worrying about what his flatmate would think, and wondering if it wouldn’t be worth it to look for place of his own once the lease was up. Distantly, he heard his phone buzz where he'd left it on the bathroom counter and he meandered back to get it before going to his room, dusting salt his hands off against each other as he went.

The text was from Derek, as he'd guessed: Remember to bring your phone tomorrow.

Stiles grinned: Is this your way of wishing me a good night? Because if so you need to work on your bedside manner, dude.

Any tips?

You could put a please in there somewhere. He suggested.

Remember please to bring your please phone tomorrow please.

Stiles laughed and crawled under his covers, muscles tensing at the cold feel of sheets against his bare skin before they slowly relaxed again as his body heat warmed the bed.

Also you could try not being an ass, though I know that's hard for you.

He hoped they'd both ignore the double entendre he'd accidentally included in the text.

What about this. Stiles it would greatly please me if you would try to remember your phone when you leave your apartment tomorrow. I worry about you and want to know that you're safe.

Stiles blushed in the dark and bit his lip as he read and reread the message. Finally, he sent: Guess you just earned a double batch of peanut butter cookies.

Derek's immediate reply was: Goodnight Stiles.

Night Derek.

He smiled as he rolled over to plug in his phone, hoping he'd dream of Derek.



Stiles was standing in the same field as the previous two nights, only that time he was alone. Silent bolts of lightening arched across the sky, from boiling black cloud to cloud, electric purple in their pulsing fury. He turned, but there were only more rolling hills in the distance, and no sign of his mother.

“Mom,” he called out, but his voice was a whisper compared to the rushing noise of the wind that buffeted against his naked flesh. He tried again, louder and it was as if the air were sentient, whipping his skin until it burned. There was still no response.

Growing desperate, his hair standing on end from the thickness of the electricity in the air, Stiles opened his mouth and screamed “Mamulya!” as loudly as he could. the air erupted in flashes of blinding white, the lightning suddenly falling to the ground all around him, the earth exploding in fountains of dirt, but still he called out for his mother, begging her to come back.

Stiles woke just as a thunderous bolt of lightning was about to strike him and gasped for breath as he struggled against the tangled nest of blankets trapping him. His ears were ringing, his skin felt raw, and his throat hurt from screaming. Tears burned his eyes and Stiles curled up onto himself and let out a broken sob. It felt like he’d lost her all over again, even though in the back of his mind he knew it wasn’t true, that she’d been gone for years. The dreams had just been his brain’s fucked up version of wish-fulfillment, but even knowing rationally what had happened couldn’t stop the tears from wetting his cheeks or how his whole body shook with the force of his cries.

Distantly, he was aware of his phone lighting up in the darkness, but he just rolled over and brought the blankets up around his head like a cowl. There was no way he was capable of putting up with whatever it was that had been sent to him. He could hardly handle his own sentience at moments like that; alone and aching with the always-there sensation of loss, the knowledge that no matter how many times he wished or begged or bargained, he would never see her again. Stiles buried his face against his pillow and let himself cry it out.



After he’d calmed down from the dream or nightmare or whatever it was, Stiles had a hard time falling back asleep, half dreading he’d end up back in that field and half hoping he would so he could try to find his mom again. He dozed uneasily for the few hours before his alarm went off, and when it finally did he groaned in frustration.

It took him a few tries, but he finally managed to pull his phone from the charger and then blinked the too-bright screen into focus. He had a text from Derek that was sent around four in the morning and he frowned at it, wiping sleep from his eyes until he could read what it said: Remember that you can always call me.

Stiles grunted in confusion, then rolled out of bed with a put-out whine. It was too early to think or function or be awake and he had a whole day of work and yoga ahead of him. Not for the first time he cursed his inability to get jazzed up after drinking a giant cup of coffee.

Thanks ADHD, he thought bitterly as he went through his morning routine in a grumpy mood. He was on the train before he remembered the message and looked at it again with a frown. Stiles vaguely remembered receiving it during his crying jag, but he’d ignored it.

Stiles stared down at the message and typed out his reply: Not a nymph. Maybe a mind-reader.

I’m not a mind-reader, Stiles. Came the immediate response.

Bull shit. He was having a hard time coming up with any other logical reason for Derek to have known he was in an emotional downward spiral, but the only other theories were more radical than him being a supernatural creature, like that he’d bugged Stiles phone or room and was listening in on him or something.

He huffed out a silent laugh at that and typed: You know I’ll guess one day.

You have to admit that you insisting I’m not human is a bit strange.

Stranger than you waking up by doing calisthenics and being happy about it?

There was a brief pause and Stiles shuffled over to make room for more people to board the train. Derek’s reply came a second later: Actually, the first thing I did that morning was watch you sleep for a few minutes before I got up. Does that make me more or less human?

Stiles raised his eyebrows at the confession, wholly unprepared for it. Finally he managed to send: I’d say that was pretty human of you, unless you were harboring fantasies of devouring my soul or something, then I’d say demon for sure.

I’m not a demon, Stiles.

But he’d watched Stiles sleep, then tucked him in after Derek got up, and maybe even told the others not to wake him when they left to start their fight club in the basement. That had to mean something. And then there was the kiss and holy shit they were going on a date on Saturday which meant they were dating.

Maybe?

Stiles replied: You’re probably right, though Erica could definitely pull it off.

She can be pretty scary when she’s mad. Changing the subject, do you know any other languages?

That was kind of a random question, but then again Derek had proven himself to be kind of a random guy.

Crazy Carl got on the next stop and started yelling about how the full moon was Friday and how everyone’s hearts were going to be devoured by werewolves if they didn’t wear their magical amulets of protection. Amulets he happened to be selling, wouldn’t you know? It was one of his more animated mornings and it was kind of hard to look away, but Stiles wasn’t eager to be the focus of his attention, so he turned back to his phone before he accidentally made eye contact.

Just a bit of this and that, not fluent or even really conversational in anything.

Derek responded a second later: Didn’t you say your first name was Russian?

Yep, and that you’re going to have to tell me about Ginger Bear before I reveal that particular dark secret.

It can’t be that bad, Stiles.

It’s worse, Derek. You have a normal name, you don’t know the kind of pain that comes from being burdened with such a horrible moniker. Seriously. No. Idea.

But you don’t speak Russian?

It wasn’t that strange of a question, he supposed, since he’d sort of brought it up in the past. Stiles answered: My mom taught me some when I was a kid, but I've forgotten most of it. What about you?

Spanish and some French.

Because of course Derek was basically polylingual. Stupid perfect guy.

Stiles had time to send one more text before his stop came up: Almost at work, any news from Boyd?

He traced Charlie to a place near my parent's lake house, but couldn't get close enough to help. We're working on it, though. Text me when you can.

Stiles smiled down at his phone, then powered it off and tucked it into his bag. The Argents, those Argents, he realized, were pretty adamant about security protocols. Thinking of them in the same context as the crazy shit that he’d heard had happened in Beacon Hills was a chilling reminder that he was probably in way over his head. Add to that the account’s inherent weirdness and Kate’s unexpectedly intense interest in him and Stiles had to mentally prepare himself for another awful day, but at least he had the memory of Derek’s kiss to keep him going. He hoped it helped.

 

 

Luckily, Andrews was back at the helm, not even looking the worse for wear after his bout of holiday-induced stomach flu. Par-Man was eager to hear every gory detail of the illness, but thankfully Stiles was at the other end of the conference table so he missed the graphic blow by blow. Luanne switched up her normal routine and set up her laptop next to him with a nod.

“Stiles.”

“Luanne,” he replied, not quite sure what was going on, but figured it was part of the gossip buddy code or something.

No one really talked after that, and they all dove into their projects, occasionally getting up to fix another cup of coffee or tea or to stretch their sore muscles. It was familiar and oddly relaxing despite the precision with which they were required to perform their duties. Andrews kept track of their progress with an occasional quiet question, but otherwise it was a strangely peaceful morning.

Until snack time.

That’s what Stiles had taken to calling it, since the treats arrived at precisely the same time every day like they were toddlers grasping for their juice boxes, only instead of cheese crackers, the snacks that day were, well, cheese and crackers, actually. But not just any cheese, there were half a dozen different wheels with signs next to them written in delicate calligraphy stating their names and the flavors they evoked. He couldn’t understand how something cave-aged could taste goaty and nutty at the same time, but he opted to avoid that one and just snagged some of the multigrain crackers that seemed edible enough.

Thankfully, Kate didn’t show up for their mid-morning break, and they managed to refocus without too much trouble. Luanne did ask him more about yoga when they got up to get some water, and he grinned at the memory.

“Last night I lifted him during one of the poses,” he told her, then after she smacked his arm and demanded details he explained what they’d done and how amazing it was to feel so powerful.

“Sounds like you’re pretty into this guy, Stiles,” she said, winking at him.

He was pretty sure his splotchy blush came into play and he tried to fight back his embarrassment. “Well, I mean yeah, he’s pretty awesome,” he admitted.

“Mhm,” she said and smirked her way back to the table with him trailing behind her.

Lunch rolled in at precisely noon and he shared a look with Luanne just before Kate strolled in wearing a tight black dress and her red heels and lipstick combo. her hair flowed in curls around her shoulders and if Stiles was so shit-scared of her he’d possibly consider her an attractive member of the opposite sex. He knew better, though.

She made her rounds, personable yet exuding enough baseline danger to keep everyone’s answers short as she stalked around the table in her familiar predatory dance; aiming, they all knew, for Stiles. At last she stepped beside him, one hand on her toned hip.

“Stiles,” she purred, again with the purring, “I believe we have some business to discuss in my office. Andrews,” she called over her shoulder. “I’m taking Mr. Stilinski. I trust this isn’t a problem.” Her tone certainly didn’t seem to think so, and Andrews nodded hesitantly in agreement, giving Stiles a strange look like he wasn’t certain what was happening or why. Stiles did his best to mimic the expression. He honestly didn’t know, either.

He wordlessly left his bag, not willing to thwart Kate’s previous orders or incur her wrath should he try. They walked down the long hallway in silence save for her heels clicking jarringly against the marble floor. The guard at the elevator gave him an unimpressed once-over again, and watched Stiles as the doors closed between them.

Until then, he’d never really considered himself a particularly loud breather, but for some reason being stuck in an enclosed space with Kate made him realize he was quite possibly the loudest person on the face of the planet, and that if he stopped or tried to modulate it after his realization she’d probably notice and then it would get even weirder. Thankfully, the doors opened shortly after his mini freak-out and they proceeded to her office.

It wasn’t until the doors shut that she finally broke the silence and turned to him with a smirk. “Stiles, I’ve been thinking about you,” she said, reaching to put her hands on his shoulders. Even through his dress shirt they felt icy cold and it took all of his self-control not to shudder. “Have you thought about my offer?”

Offer? He wasn’t even aware there had been an offer.

He thought about playing it cool, but he was already so far out of his depth that he just looked at her, confused. “Uh,” he said and she rolled her eyes with an amused snort.

“Playing coy? Fine, sit and we’ll talk about it over lunch. I hope you like venison. My father shot it yesterday and send it down as soon as he’d drained and gutted it.”

Jesus Christ, who said shit like that?

Kate, apparently, not even seeming to think that was a completely bizarre conversation as she sashayed around her desk to sit in front of the silver serving dish. She opened it to reveal a delicate filet of meat drizzled with a red sauce.

Stiles sighed internally and went to his own chair to sit. His food was identical to hers, with steamed spinach on the side and he really wasn’t looking forward to eating red meat two days in a row, but there he was. The knife wasn’t as startling that time, since he was expecting it, though he would have preferred not to use it seeing that he’d been stabbed with one by a woman who hadn’t seemed half a dangerous as Kate.

Like the previous day, she cut into her food and ate like nothing at all was amiss, and judging from what he’d seen, Stiles was inclined to believe she thought that was the case. Argent Unlimited was the leading manufacturer and distributer of law enforcement firearms and ammunition in the midwest, at least according to their website and the numbers Stiles had run. They were pretty insanely successful in their niche market. Except for the discrepancies. Those were just starting to piss him off. But she didn’t know about that, and wouldn’t until the numbers had been quadruple checked and all the reports were filed.

He ate the greens first, hoping to fill up on them before he had to tear into poor Bambi. They were slightly buttery and tender and delicious. Stiles wondered if Isaac had a good recipe for cooked spinach.

“Did you have an opportunity to speak to my niece?” Kate asked casually, like they’d actually discussed the fact that Allison McCall, formerly Argent, was related to her. Had they, Stiles would have connected the Argent-Hale dots days earlier. That would have at least given him the opportunity to have a solid freak-out about it in private, and not during random conversations with either party as he slowly connected the dots of violence between the two families. Hatfield and McCoys, indeed.

“Allison, yes, we spoke,” he said, taking a quick bite of the meat so he wouldn’t immediately be forced to answer another question. It was fucking delicious. Because of course it was.

Kate waited, though, sipping her wine and watching him with the same smirk from earlier. “She’s a lovely girl, but not cut out for the family business, I’m afraid. Neither was Chris, not after the little incident with Victoria.”

Allison’s mother, whom she’d accused Kate of possibly killing.

Fuck his life.

Stiles swallowed and nodded. “Allison and I seem to be cut from the same cloth, lovers, not fighters.” It was a gamble, since he knew Allison actually was completely willing and able to fight to defend herself and those she cared about, well, Stiles was, too, but more with words than a scary arsenal of guns and bows.

“Don’t be shy, Stiles, we both know you have special talents far outside my niece's average abilities.”

Huh?

“I do?” he asked, unsure where she was going with that particular compliment. He was pretty good at a few online games and could bake some decent desserts, but other than that he was pretty mediocre at most things not involving dissecting financial records and random pattern-matching.

Kate watched him, probably for his reaction. Something about it seemed important, so he was determined not to give her one. At least to the best of his spastic ability. He was probably screwed.

"Your friend isn't doing very well. We tried to treat him, but he needs your help."

Charlie. She was talking about Charlie. Of fucking course. Because nothing in his life was uncomplicated, it was all tangled in an endless web of bullshit connections with him in the middle, trapped and struggling to make sense of it all, thinking he was somehow the clever spider in control when really he was the world's dumbest fly, and suddenly Charlie’s behavior made sense. The Argents had probably been paying him off for weeks, maybe even having him spy on Stiles or track him or something and shit he had to get to his phone to tell Derek.

"Well,” Stiles gritted out, “he nearly died, so yeah, I assume he needs continued medical attention.”

Kate waved her hand, dismissive, "He asked for something and we gave it to him, but he wasn't really prepared for it, and now he's sick."

Sick?

Stiles swallowed. "Medical attention," he insisted. If Charlie had overdosed on something like Stiles’ dad had suspected then he wouldn’t have much time before his body started losing its more vital functions.

"He's going to die if you don't help him."

"I am helping him, by telling you how you can get him the proper care he clearly needs. I’m not a doctor, Kate, and I can’t just wave my magic wand and make him better.”

Kate was shaking her head, though, like she was bored with the conversation, and Stiles unwillingness to play her game. "Now, Stiles, don't tell me your mother didn't teach you anything. I know she died years ago but-"

"Don't you fucking talk about her," he spat, feeling the familiar white hot flames of rage coiling in his chest and up his arms and he had never wanted to hurt someone as much as he wanted to hurt Kate for bringing up his mother like she had a right to do it. Like she knew her. The rage seethed within him and it suddenly occurred to Stiles that Kate really might have known his mom. They’d lived in Beacon Hills around the same time, when all the Hales had been there and what the fuck was going on?

Looking bored again, Kate took a business card from off her desk and flicked it at him like a throwing star. It hit him in the center of his chest and he flung his hands up to catch it.

“When you’re done wrestling with your conscience or whatever your problem is, give this number a call and someone will take you to your friend. He only has about forty eight hours left, though, so make it quick. It’s about a two hour drive.”

It was very obviously a dismissal, and if Stiles had learned anything from his uncomfortable conversations with Kate, it was to take the openings she gave him without argument. Even if his insides were churning with the repressed anger he still felt from her casual mention of his mother, who hadn’t been in his dream, and Stiles was pretty sure he needed to just take a deep breath and walk out the door, so he did.


As he rode the elevator back down to the floor his coworkers were on, he came to a sudden, chilling understanding about the whole stupid mess he’d found himself in. The Argents weren’t just out to take Allison and Scott’s unborn child, though that was probably still a danger, they were looking to acquire Stiles as well. One way or another.

Chapter Text

“I’m sick,” Stiles said as soon as he entered the conference room, flushed and breathing too quickly. He probably looked the part, actually. “I’ve uh, got this awful pukey, diarrhea thing going on, you know how it is, right Andrews?”

Andrews nodded dumbly, watching Stiles as he flung his bag and coat over his shoulder. “I’m calling a cab and going home to do some herbal remedy stuff. Might not make it back tomorrow, so I’m sorry if that sucks for you guys but this is one of those horrible biological functions things and I gotta go.”

Stiles didn’t even give them a chance to recover before he bolted out the door and nearly sprinted down the slick hallway to the front. The guard at the desk gave his temporary Argent Unlimited credentials a bored glance before turning back to his paper as he rushed out the door and into the arctic Chicago air. Stiles gasped out a breath and wrestled his coat on as he fumbled for his phone to call a-

Actually, there was a cab trolling down the street and he hailed it with a wave. The driver looked pretty pleased with himself when he heard where Stiles lived halfway across town and he settled back on the plastic seat with a relieved sigh. It smelled like cumin, but whatever, Stiles didn’t care if he sat in dog shit, as long as he got the hell away from Kate and her weird plotting and back where he could just do some uninterrupted thinking.

Which was when his phone buzzed.

Stiles stared at his bag in confusion. He’d turned his phone off, he knew, because that was one of the rules for working at Argent Unlimited. Stiles might be many things, a rule-breaker among them, but never when it really mattered. He cautiously dug it out and stared at the screen. It was a text from Derek.

Boyd thinks Gerard Argent has Charlie.

Which was true, going off of what Kate had said, but that didn’t explain how his phone had turned itself on so he could receive the message.

Stiles scrubbed a hand over his face and debated whether or not he should reply. If he did, Derek would know something was wrong, and Stiles also wanted to let him know about all the crazy ass shit Kate had said to him, but knew that if he did he’d be breaking the conditions of his contract, which was as good as throwing away his job with Youngblood and West.

So he did what any stupid pseudo-adult would do in his shoes, he called his dad.

"Stiles? Are you on lunch or something? Why are you calling me in the middle of the day?"

"Uh, hey Dad," he said, then trailed off. He wasn't actually sure why he'd called, except that it had seemed like the right thing to do.

"Stiles?" There was a warning in his tone that time, the what have you done now tone he was so familiar with from all the stupid stunts he and Scott had pulled over the years.

"So, uh, you might have been right about Chicago," he said with a forced laugh.

The sheriff sighed and probably ran his hand over his face, which was what he did when Stiles told him bad news, like that he'd accidentally put a baseball through their neighbor's window or that time with the toilet and all those bouncy balls. "Son, what do you need me to do?"

Stiles’ heart clenched. his father, an upright citizen and law enforcement officer, a sheriff, was willing to do anything to help him. He knew that. It was a simple fact of his life that his dad would drop everything in an instant if Stiles needed help, but he couldn't keep letting that happen. It was Stiles' mess, as far as he was concerned, and he was going to figure it out.

"Nothing, Dad," he said softly pressing his fist to his mouth to keep back the hitched sob that wanted to escape. When he was certain he had it under control he continued. "I just wanted to check in, tell you I love you, the usual."

"Stiles, there's nothing usual about you calling me in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. Are you in trouble? Do you need me to come out there? You know I wi-"

"No, no, it's fine, please don't. I just wanted to hear your voice. I had a dream about Mom last night, and-" he trailed off and closed his eyes. It was a shitty move, bringing up his mom, but Stiles knew it would serve his purpose, which was to distract his dad from the undercurrent of terror infusing Stiles' entire body and probably his voice as well.

There was a sigh over the line. "She'd be proud of you, Stiles, you know that, right?"

He blinked back tears and nodded, "I know, Dad. She'd want you to be happy, too."

"I know, son, I know. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Of course," he lied, but he got away with it that time.

"I love you, Stiles."

"Love you, too, Dad."

They said their goodbyes and when Stiles was capable of containing his feelings he looked up and recognized the street they were on as being a few blocks from his place. A short while later he'd paid the fare and was jogging down the hall to his apartment, ignoring the meddlesome Mrs. Bevenson's watchful eyes as he fumbled his keys in the door and slid inside his apartment.

He normally loved the stillness that came from being the only one there, but after the shitshow with Kate he was pretty willing and eager to have some Derek-like company. Though of course that wasn’t going to happen because it was, like his dad had pointed out, the middle of the day and Derek was probably working and Stiles didn’t know if he could come up with a legitimate-sounding excuse to get him to come over without him figuring out Stiles was just freaked out by everything that was going on and was feeling lonely and vulnerable.

Actually, he wasn’t even certain what was going on, though he might have acquired enough data points to begin to formulate a clearer picture. But first and most importantly, he needed to eat something more substantial than spinach and a few bites of venison, and then he could do some research.



Stiles settled down at his desk, slapping his worn numbers notebook onto the particle wood and tossing his phone on top of it. He slid his bowl of scrambled eggs beside them and booted up his laptop, not bothering to sign into any of his normal messaging clients as he took a bite of food and considered what he knew.

Boyd had tracked Charlie, and probably Gerard, north into Wisconsin. Derek said it was near his parent’s lake house, which at least could help narrow things down if he found out where that was located. From his part of working the account, Stiles knew the Argents had several different manufacturing plants scattered throughout the state, and figured it was a good place to start researching. If he could at least figure out the general area where Charlie was he could-

Stiles wasn’t actually sure what he could do, but he had a place to begin.

Unfortunately, none of his favorite search engines seemed to want to reveal much about the Hales besides some outdated information on a few camps they’d hosted in the past and an ancient-looking website for Rollin’s law office, nor did it mention the location of their lake house. He got up and paced around his room while he thought.

At the best of times, Stiles was somewhat morally ambiguous, not like Scott who seemed to always have a clear opinion of what was right and wrong. No, Stiles was more inclined to see things from as many angles as he could imagine, stripping away the his personal feelings about the events and just viewing them as they were; isolated pixels that, when seen together, made up a much broader image.

Not that Stiles was unaware of the consequences of his actions, or that some things were just wrong, but he sometimes had a hard time caring about that when he became focused on solving a problem. Which would explain why he used some encryption tricks he’d learned from Danny, an incredibly attractive but not into Stiles guy he’d known in high school, and logged into the Beacon Hills Police Department’s database using a false screen name he’d set up once as a teenager when he was bored and probably grounded for doing something nowhere near as stupid or illegal.

“Yep, I’m a terrible person,” he whispered, not that it stopped from typing in Talia Hale.

She had no criminal record, which kind of surprised him given her environmental crusade, or maybe not since she seemed like a pretty stand-up person in general. It did, however, provide him with several addresses; the one in Beacon Hills and two in Wisconsin. He wrote them both down on a scrap of paper, just in case, but the second gave him pause.

Lake Geneva? Stiles thought, frowning. He knew that was just a place in Switzerland, but apparently it was also the unoriginal name of a town up north. Actually, that sounded really familiar.

He nudged his phone onto the desk, then flipped open his numbers notebook to a page the middle of the way through and studied his notation at the top, which looked like a random series of numbers and letters, but when decoded read LAKE GENEVA and the address for the factory he’d been running the numbers on. He glanced down the columns underneath, flipping the page to check the rest, but it all looked pretty much the same as any of the others, except that there didn’t actually seem to be any discrepancies. The fractional differences all of the other locations showed weren’t evident for that location.

Huh. At the very least it was a connection of which he hadn’t previously been aware.

He tried searching Gerard Argent in his dad’s database.

There were dozens of entries.

Each was more alarming than the last, ranging from EPA violations to murder, but none of them had gone to trial except for a handful that dealt with the suspected pollution of a local water supply nearly three years previously. From what he briefly glossed over, that had resulted in a huge fine and the judge’s ruling that they close the factory, located, unsurprisingly, in Lake Geneva, but it didn’t go into much more detail in the short blurb. Most of the other charges had been dismissed, and those that hadn’t were still pending.

“Son of a shit,” he whispered, feeling the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He looked at the latest entries and notes, all about suspected money laundering and other white collar-

“Fuck,” Stiles said, standing so abruptly his chair spun away and hit his bed. “No fucking way. No. Fuck you,” he told the monitor, pointing an angry finger. But really, he should have guessed, shouldn’t he have?

And like he’d spoken Derek’s name, his phone vibrated noisily on the desk, but instead of a text it kept buzzing, working its way over to rattle against his abandoned bowl. Stiles bent forward to look, and sure enough it was an incoming call from Derek.

“I’m not picking up,” Stiles informed it, and just like that it stopped.

So, that maybe partially answered one thought he’d had. He rubbed his face with his hands and paced in a circle. Derek had either tapped his phone, truly was a supernatural creature who could read Stiles’ mind, or Stiles was magic like Kate had weirdly seemed to imply and that him thinking of the other man had compelled him to reach for the phone.

Whatever the reason for Derek’s timing, Stiles knew he was pretty much fucked.

Another thought suddenly occurred to him and he nearly choked in outrage. He’d figured Charlie had been paid off to spy on him, but what if he’d done more than just give periodic reports on Stiles? What if he’d helped bug the apartment?

Stiles ran into the bathroom and pulled out a discarded toilet paper tube from the trash, then grabbed his phone with a scowl. He switched off all the lights and turned on his flashlight app. A bright beam of light lit the corner of the living room, and he put the tube to his eye. With methodical sweeping motions, he searched every inch of the room and found three odd glares hidden amongst Charlie’s little horder piles, positioned so that together the tiny camera lenses covered most of the room and the front door.

He checked the kitchen and found two more, but they were placed pretty close to each other, which didn’t make all that much sense. The glimmers were both coming from boxes of what Stiles had assumed were Charlie’s cereal, but then he remembered that Charlie didn’t usually eat in the apartment and had never bought milk so it was possible they were just there as decoys Stiles wouldn’t question.

The flashlight, toilet paper roll trick didn’t turn up anything in the bathroom, thankfully, or in his bedroom. Then again, it wasn’t impossible to turn a person’s webcam against them, so Stiles took the precaution of folding a discarded receipt over his, just in case. He tried to think of what else his dad had taught him about surveillance and worried his lip. It would be stupid to just destroy them all because that would clue in whoever was watching him, the Argents, to the fact that he was aware he was being watched. Stiles had already broken routine by going home in the middle of the day, if he did anything else weird they might react. Well, weirder than wandering around with a flashlight. He hoped they didn’t recognize that particular trick.

He swore under his breath, not sure if there were microphones to go along with the cameras, and considered his options. He knew that Charlie was sick, probably dying, and that Kate thought Stiles could somehow help keep the guy alive. He checked the clock and amazingly only a little more than two hours had passed since their awkward conversation.

Forty six hours ‘til I’m dead, mate, Charlie’s voice whispered in his mind.

Fuck.

Stiles could call the number on the card tucked into his pant’s pocket and probably end up murdered in a ditch somewhere in rural Wisconsin beside his prostitute flatmate. Gerard’s criminal record spoke for itself, and those were just the crimes he’d been suspected of having committed. So, that was a no.

Another option was to call Derek and tell him everything, which, while that was probably the smartest choice to ensure his own personal safety, wouldn’t really help Charlie. Hell, Boyd had tracked the guy down and still couldn’t do anything about it. Also, that was a guaranteed career-killer for Stiles. The moment he uttered the name Argent Unlimited he would never find work in auditing ever again, which really sucked because he liked his job and had gone to school for four years just so he could do it.

“Fuck my life,” he said, not even caring if Derek heard him because it was one hundred percent true. His life, and the life of his flatmate were both in serious jeopardy, if in different ways. Stiles gripped his hair roughly with both hands and plopped back down in his chair, crab-walking it to his desk as he worried his lip.

It only took him a few seconds of anxiously bouncing his legs before he was up and pacing around the room. He was practically worrying a path into the wooden floor and Stiles knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep a clear head until he did something to relieve the coiling tension infusing his limbs. Yoga was an option, he knew the studio was open for day classes, but there was no way he’d be able to face Laura and Erica’s inquisitiveness without acting incredibly suspicious and they would probably figure out a way to make him tell them what was wrong and he was just going to go for a run, instead.

It would help clear his head and maybe then he’d come to a conclusion as to how he’d get out of the gigantic clusterfuck he’d found himself in.

“Yeah, right,” he muttered. 

Chapter Text

His breathing was deep and even as he jogged, vaguely aware of his shattered reflection bobbing in the mirror off to the side of the treadmill. The steady thudding of his feet echoed in the cold cement basement like the crashing waves of the ocean.

Or the distant sound of thunder.

Stiles shook the thought and focused on the matter at hand, which was his work. He tried to think about it objectively, to see it like an outside observer would. It was easier said than done, even though he had a gift for changing his perception at times. It was still hard when he was so intimately involved in the proceedings, but regardless, he gave it a shot and started at the beginning of things.

His father had been adamant about Stiles accepting a job in a city other than Chicago, listing the crime rates and corruption indexes as reasons for his son to stay as far away from there as possible, but Stiles had always taken his own path regardless of the dangers, which explained the frankly disturbing number of scars littering his body from the days of his misspent youth with Scott and their fearless exploration of the woods surrounding Beacon Hills, not to mention the incident with the evil ex.

But since living in the city, Stiles had realized Chicago had earned it’s seedy reputation. He’d even watched a few of his coworkers being escorted from the Youngblood and West headquarters by police officers for helping various companies cook the books or for taking bribes in exchange for looking the other way. The first time it had happened he’d felt the few pieces left of his faith in humanity shatter like the mirror reflecting the lean lines of his sweaty body. And then there were the recent suspensions of some of the senior auditors, possibly for extortion. While Stiles had tried to prepare himself for that kind of blatant corruption, he hadn’t know it would be so widespread even amongst his own coworkers. That was disheartening. Stiles enjoyed his job, he liked the independence of it and using his innate talent for ferreting out patterns and connecting disparate data points in order to see the broader picture. It was like being paid to play a game.

Stiles upped the speed as different threads of thought slowly began to converge, finally able to think after feeling completely out of his depth and scattered.

Thinking back, an account with the size and reputation of the Argent Unlimited should have had the office scrambling for takers, but instead there hadn’t been any real buzz when Stiles and the handful of others had been assigned to take it. In fact, since their assignment, his team had been mainly sequestered from the rest of the department, kept locked up in the Argent’s boardrooms. They hadn’t even been back to Youngblood and West since their work began, which was slightly unusual. Normally they went to their own headquarters for private meetings where they could discuss their findings without fear of being overheard.

Huh.

Argent Unlimited was a huge company, with operations spanning multiple industries in several states. Surely they wouldn’t need to cover up any of their expenditures, right? Stiles was not so idealistic that he was unaware of the darker aspects of human nature, he’d practically grown up in the police station, watching his dad and the deputies wrestle criminals and convicts into their interrogation rooms. He’d seen more than his fair share of terrible people, but the Argents? Before he’d met Kate, he would have found it hard to imagine such a well-respected family company using their assets for nefarious purposes, but all of Stiles’ data, not to mention his personal impression of her, pointed to just that conclusion. Why else wouldn’t their numbers match up?

He realized he was panting and slowed the treadmill until the burning in his lungs decreased to a more comfortable level. The heavy thudding of his running shoes quieted marginally as he struggled to come to terms with his findings. The Argents were undeniably falsifying their financial records.

But why?

Stiles grunted in frustration and thought it through again, looking for a pattern like his dad had taught him. The main point of intersection, besides Stiles’ unfortunate ass, was between the Hales and Argents. They’d fought or whatever in Beacon Hills, and from the police records it sounded as if they’d taken the conflict with them to Wisconsin. Stiles wondered if it was an innately antagonistic relationship, or if one side was more aggressive against the other. Not that it mattered, the whole thing sucked. It was also pretty obvious Rollin Hale had a hand in shutting down the Argent’s Lake Geneva factory and that was it.

“Holy fucking shitballs,” Stiles breathed as he suddenly found himself short of breath from more than just the run.

The factory had been shut down for three years, but the numbers, the Argent’s own internal records, showed that it was still operating as if nothing at all was amiss. Not like everything else of theirs he’d looked into, which were all off by fractions of cents and that’s where the missing money was going. Maybe?

Stiles breathed out a shocked laugh, disbelieving and kind of impressed with himself, actually. He’d solved the puzzle, he’d found the pattern, and if he showed Andrews and the higher-ups what he’d discovered maybe he could take option number three and make it out of the mess he’d found himself in alive and unscathed and still keep his job. He’d have to figure out a way to help Charlie, but there wasn’t any need to get Derek involved, not since he actually had proof he could show his team. The evidence was copied down in his numbers notebook in his bag by the mirror. He glanced over at it and nearly stumbled as he saw the reflection of two bulky men approaching silently from the stairwell.

They seemed to immediately realize he’d spotted them and the linebacker-looking dudes rushed forward with obviously bad intentions. Stiles leapt over the other side of the treadmill, insanely grateful for Derek’s insistence on increasing his flexibility, and snatched his bag in one hand and his water bottle in the other. The first guy reached him a beat later and Stiles squirted water in his face, distracting him enough to get in a solid front-kick to his groin, which Stiles might have felt bad about if he wasn’t in imminent danger.

The second guy was more wily than the first, who was curled in the fetal position cupping himself and moaning. Wily barely glanced at his friend, then sneered at Stiles, “Come with me, boy, and I won’t rough you up too much.”

“I don’t think so, dude,” Stiles said, feeling his breathing hitch and his free hand shake where it was clenched in a fist at his side, “I’m not getting the impression that you have my best interests at heart.” His eyes flicked down to the zip-ties sticking out of the guy’s pocket and what looked suspiciously like a collapsed baton clipped to his belt.

Wily smirked and, yep, drew out the baton, pushing the button on the side to make it spring out to full extension with a crack. It had only taken Stiles and Scott one ill-advised hour during the summer between seventh and eighth grade to determine once and for all that those things were wickedly painful and not to be played with. After four days he’d thought the bruise on his thigh would never fully heal. It had, slowly, excruciatingly, two weeks later. Stiles had definitely learned his lesson, and was in no way eager to revisit that particular type of pain.

Also, Wily looked a lot more maleficent than Scott could ever manage, which added a whole layer of fear that had been missing during his first encounter with the baton. Wily would undoubtedly enjoy making it hurt instead of nearly bursting into tears after landing the first blow.

“Now I’m certain you’re not on my side,” Stiles said, slowly backing away toward the ancient freight elevator that he’d taken down earlier.

“Come on, boy,” Wily said, probably aiming for cajoling, but landing closer to creeper territory. He moved with a low center of gravity, his footing sure on the uneven cement floor as he made his way toward Stiles like a boxer, or a predator calmly stalking his prey.

“I’m pretty sure we both know I can’t talk you out of this, which means you’re going to beat me with that baton, tie me up, and haul me out of here and probably into the trunk of your car. Am I right?” He was steps away from the shadowed entrance of the elevator, the grate was halfway open, wide enough for Stiles to jump through if he twisted just so, but still out of the line of sight of Wily, who was slowly closing the distance between them.

The guy laughed hoarsely and Stiles suddenly recognized his voice as belonging to one of the guys at the hospital. His chuckling continued, not quite on par with a super villain, but darkly enough that the hair rose on Stiles’ arms. “You’re a clever little rabbit, aren’t you? You know, that was the plan before you attacked my buddy, Duke. Now you see, the thing is Duke’s my brother-in-law, and my sister’s going to be pissed when I bring her husband home in less than perfect condition, so I’m going to take it out on you, since she’s going to take it out on me.”

And that was worrying.

Duke took that moment of awkward silence to lever himself up with a groan, momentarily distracting Wily for the heartbeat it took Stiles to fling himself through the gap between the rusted metal and slam the grate shut with a clang. He was reaching to press the button for his floor when Wily snarled and shoved his hand through one of the diamond-shaped gaps, grabbing onto Stiles’ shirt and yanking him back away from the panel.

When Stiles’ frantic struggles didn’t dislodge the guy he dropped his weight, crashing to his knees and forcing Wily’s arm to bend at an alarming angle. The crack of bone was drown out by an inhuman scream from him and a choked cry from Stiles. He grimaced as he pushed the guy’s crooked arm through the gate and opened it just enough to slam the outer door shut, sliding the bolt to lock it. He closed the inner door and collapsed against the far corner, panting and trembling as he tore through his bag in search of his phone, hastily answering it as it suddenly vibrated in his hands.

“Stil-” Derek began, but he was already talking in a frantic rush, “Some probably Argent guys are trying to kidnap me and I’m stuck in an elevator.”

“What? Stiles, slow down I can hardly understand you.”

Stiles sucked in a hasty breath and tried to keep the keening to a minimum. “Two guys rushed me while I was running and I kicked one in the nuts and slammed the other one’s hand in the door to the freight elevator, within which I am currently trapped.” As explanations went, it was actually pretty clear for him. He blamed that on what felt suspiciously like shock. His limbs were already starting to go cold, though that could be because he was covered in sweat in a drafty elevator shaft in December.

“How are you in an elevator if you were running?”

Really? That was his question?

Stiles choked out a laugh, “I was using the treadmill in my apartment building’s basement. Shit, I probably should have called 911, instead, seeing that I was basically assaulted, which makes this a crime I need to report. Sorry, I’m going to hang up now and when I see you again, if I see you again, we can just laugh this off as me being a total spaz.”

“Wait.”

Stiles bit his lip and waited.

“What did you say about the Argents?”

He opened his mouth to answer, he wasn’t even sure what he would have said, when the unmistakable sound of a gunshot echoed through the basement. “Fuck!” He yelled, instead, looking up at the bullet hole beside the lock. Stiles lurched up and slammed his palm over the button for top floor and the elevator creaked to life, throwing him off balance and sending him back to sit heavily. Two more shots followed and the wooden floor by his foot and hip exploded, splinters bursting upward and out, some of them imbedding into the meat of his bare thigh, but he’d worry about that when he wasn’t actively being shot at in what was alarmingly like a metaphoric fish in a barrel.

“Stiles!” Derek’s voice said from his hand, which was somehow still clutching the phone. It sounded like that wasn’t the first time he’d called Stiles’ name.

“They’re shooting at me,” Stiles said, dimly noting that his voice was awfully calm given the circumstances.

“I can hear that, but I need to know if you’re hurt.”

“Uh,” Stiles looked down and saw at least two thick splinters of wood sticking out from the pale skin of his leg, because of course he thought it would be brilliant to wear shorts while jogging in winter. It would definitely sting when he pulled those out, but he’d live. “No gaping wounds, so we’re good.”

Stiles,” it was interesting that Derek could actually growl his name, he hadn’t known that was possible.

Three more gunshots in rapid succession stalled any further comment, and three more holes appeared in the floor of the elevator, one so close to his hand he whined, which turned into a thready gasp. And then it started to feel like his chest was compressing and it was harder and harder to suck down oxygen. Stiles dropped his phone and tried to control his breathing enough to prevent, or at least coach himself through, the panic attack. He was vaguely aware of Derek’s voice, distant and frantic, as he clutched his knees in a white-knuckled grip. He greyed out for a while, then, absorbed in the choked in and out of his breathing, in imagining his throat not closing, in picturing his lungs inflating to take in air and let it out again. In and out. In and out.

When he came back to awareness, the first thing Stiles noticed was how eerily calm everything seemed. At some point the elevator had reached it’s destination at the top floor, but he made no move to open the doors. He reached out with a shaking hand and carefully picked up his phone, which still showed a connection.

“Derek?” he said, raw throat making his voice sound rough.

A harsh expulsion of air sounded in his ear, “Stiles, thank god, are you okay? We’re on our way. Where are you? Are you hurt?”

“Still in the elevator, top floor,” he said, his vision danced when he looked up at the yellowed glowing number five above the door. “I, uh, I’m not shot or anything.” But thinking about his injuries made him realize he’d grazed his hips on the frame of the door when he’d leapt through and skinned his knees when he’d dropped down to break that asshole’s arm and there were also some splinters in his arm and leg that were thick enough to set off alarms in his mind about tetanus and maybe stitches. Looking at the wounds abruptly caused the pain to flood through the panic he’d felt and he let his head thunk back against the wall with a groan.

“That’s not reassuring, Stiles,” Derek said.

“I wasn’t shot,” he repeated, “but I’m most likely going to require some kind of medical attention with these splinters, they’re kind of nasty. The elevator’s made of wood and when he shot at me the wood, you know, shrapnel,” he preempted Derek’s question. “This whole situation is all kinds of terrible.”

“Laura and Erica are downstairs, the guys who attacked you are gone,” Derek informed him, like sending his yoga-instructor sister and friend into a situation with armed thugs was a completely rational thing to do.

“What?”

“I need you to move, Stiles. Send the elevator down to the basement and they’ll help you out, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Stiles stared at the phone as the line went dead in his hand.

What?

It took him a few breaths to lever his stiff body up, and, after almost hitting the button for the third floor on accident, he finally managed to push B. The gears whirred and the car moved steadily down. Stiles clutched the walls with a sick feeling in his stomach, eyes fixed on the holes in the floor where he could see the brick and mortar of the elevator shaft as it was illuminated by the descending floors.

When the car stopped with a lurch at the basement level he took a few breaths to collect himself. He could hear Laura and Erica on the other side, coaxing him to slide back the grate and to unbolt the lock. The moment he did the heavy door was flung back and he was pulled out of the car and into a sandwich of soft flesh and warm limbs.

Stiles sank against them and let himself be soothed, surrounded by the heady scent of essential oils that permeated the yoga studio and apparently his instructors. He belatedly realized the two of them were talking in reassuring tones, telling him platitudes that, while slightly embarrassing, actually did help stop the trembling in his limbs.

A moment later he heard the thunderous pounding of feet in the stairwell and his body tensed in their embrace. Erica patted his head in a way that somehow didn’t seem condescending, “Don’t worry it’s just Derek making an entrance. He has a tendency to do that when he’s upset.”

When the man in question emerged from the stairwell at a sprint, Stiles was instantly released by the women and found himself pressed firmly against the hard lines of Derek’s body, the familiarity of it loosening the panicked ache in his lungs as Derek’s arms wrapped around him like a promise. It took a long moment for either of them to move, and finally, Stiles felt like he could really breath for the first time since the shitstorm began.

“Well,” Laura said off to one side, she was looking at the still-whirring treadmill. “This whole business stinks. What happened?”

Stiles turned his face from where it was pressed against Derek’s clavicle, deciding it was finally time to just say it. Well, most of it. “I’ve been working on an account at work and I just figured out why their numbers don’t add up. I mean, I literally realized it while I was running, and then those guys showed up and tried to kidnap me and I barely got away.”

“You mean you outsmarted two trained professionals, wounding both of them, before escaping largely unscathed.” Derek said, voice reverberating where their chests were pressed together. One of his hands ran a soothing line across Stiles’ spine.

“I guess that’s another way of looking at it,” he admitted, stupidly pleased with himself when he felt and heard Derek’s sharp laugh. He was also aware of the elephant in the room named Argent that neither of them seemed to be acknowledging.

Erica took a turn around the workout space and powered down the treadmill. “I hate to break up the adorable cuddlefest you two have going on, but we should probably see to Stiles, not to mention the fact that there are hitmen out for his blood.”

Derek made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a growl, stopping abruptly at the unimpressed look Laura gave him. He adjusted his grip on Stiles, drawing back so he could get a better look at the injuries.

“It’s really not that bad,” Stiles said, shivering as Derek’s thumb smoothed the skin around one of the splinters on his forearm. Derek’s expression said it was, indeed, that bad. The pain seemed to dull a bit, though, and Stiles gripped the side of Derek’s shirt with his free hand. “Shit,” he said, suddenly remembering part of the reason the whole mess had started. “My notebook. I took notes on all the numbers that didn’t make sense, it’s in my bag.” He nodded to where it sat in the elevator, unwilling to let go of Derek to get it.

“I remember,” Derek said, adjusting them so Stiles’ injury-free side was flush against him from shoulder to heel, Derek's thumb brushing against his hip for an instant before Stiles’ flinched.

That, of course, led to another round of disapproving glares and gentle, yet persistent manhandling until Stiles showed Derek every single bruise and graze while Laura and Erica went through his bag and notebook. The marks on his hips and knees weren’t terrible, but they were right on the bone and had already begun to purple attractively, ensuring that wearing jeans in the near future would be painful. The splinters, however, were a bit more worrisome, if only because Derek looked like he’s the one who had been shot at as his hands hovered over the contusions, clearly torn between getting the damn things out and waiting until he had the proper medical supplies to sterilize the wounds properly.

“We’re going up to your apartment,” he decided. Laura and Erica were already moving to the elevator, the bag slung over Erica’s shoulder.

Stiles managed to dig his heels in for a brief second before Derek used his greater bulk and an unfamiliar martial arts move to get him to walk forward into the car. Laura quickly closed the doors and pushed the button for his floor and what?

“How did you know where I live? Did Isaac tell you?" It was either ask that or contemplate the bullet holes some more.

She shrugged, “Maybe you look like a fourth floor kind of guy.”

What did that mean?

“What does that mean?”

Derek snorted and tugged him closer. “Don’t worry about it.”

Erica rolled her eyes at the three of them, “How did you think we found where you live, dumbass, by scent?”

That was a weird thing to say. Apparently Derek thought so, too, because he stiffened beside Stiles and glared at her.

She didn’t seem to care, “We have a copy of your driver’s license, dummy. You know, for a smart guy you sure act like an idiot a lot.”

“Hey,” Stiles said, mildly offended, but then the elevator stopped and Laura was drawing back the doors. She and Erica preceded them down the hall, but paused in front of Mrs. Bevenson's closed door.

"She always spy on you?" Laura asked over her shoulder.

Derek shifted so he was between Stiles and the door, like the little old lady was some kind of threat.

Stiles couldn't hide his amused exasperation. "Yeah, she thinks Charlie and I are the same person, so she always gives me dirty looks, but I'm not the one bringing home a string of random lovers-"

"Good to know," Erica smirked at Laura's side.

"-and the only remotely questionable thing I do is bribe the super to use the elevator, but seeing that it's now peppered with bullet holes because of me I guess that's not really going to matter anymore."

Laura nodded and knocked on the door while Erica led him and Derek down the hall to Stiles' apartment.

Behind them he heard Laura speak quietly to the cracked door, though he couldn't make out what she was saying. Erica fished his keys out and unlocked the door, then slipped inside before he could say anything and Derek stopped them in the doorway, taking him by the shoulders and giving him another assessing look.

“She's checking to see if it’s safe,” he answered Stiles’ unasked question.

Stiles narrowed his eyes at Derek, “And how, exactly, is she qualified to do that? Those guys had a gun, Derek. They shot at me. What makes you think they won’t try to shoot Erica?” The panic that had faded around the edges since Derek’s arrival began to grow again and he felt his throat spasm like it was going to close and then there were warm hands cupping his face.

“Stiles,” Derek said, the green-brown-blue of his eyes intense, “everything’s going to be fine. You’re okay, and we’re okay.”

“Charlie’s not okay,” he said despite himself.

That didn’t please the eyebrows, or the rest of Derek’s suddenly grumpy face. His thumbs traced the line of Stiles’ jaw and he sighed. “I know, Stiles, and we’re doing what we can to help him, but-”

But they couldn’t help him. That was the thing. Not Boyd with his law enforcement training or the Hales and their probably vast resources. No, they had too much of a history with the Argents to want to start up another conflict just to save a lone British prostitute who had gotten involved with the wrong crowd. But it was possible that Stiles could help, and if that was the case than his inner Scott demanded he do so because it was right.

Just as soon as he figured out how.

Erica popped her head around the wall of the living room, “It’s clear, put Stiles in the bathroom and I’ll be in there in a minute.”

They did what she said, Derek’s warm hands a constant weight against his sides and shoulders and undamaged skin, guiding and caressing as they moved slowly down the hall. A glance into the living room showed the DVD cases where he’d spotted the cameras were open and the tiny lenses destroyed in a pathetic pile of wires and plastic on the coffee table. The kitchen told a similar story, but there was only one trashed camera there.

“She missed one,” Stiles said, nodding to the other cereal container.

Derek’s grip tightened for a second before he nodded with an unreadable expression, “I’ll tell her.”

In the bathroom, Derek wordlessly hoisted Stiles up to sit on the counter, then banged around under the sink, for towels, apparently. He wrapped one around Stiles’ shoulders and pressed another one against his chest for him to hold, while he draped a third around Stiles’ legs, careful of the splinters.

“For shock,” he said, then stood up and looked kind of lost, clearly hesitating about something.

“What is it?” Stiles asked quietly. He had a feeling he knew, but wanted Derek to say it, to ask about the Argents and get it over with.

He looked on the verge of asking when Erica breezed in, carrying the first aid kit his dad had forced into his hands as a parting gift before he'd left for the airport. Stiles had no idea where it had gotten to, or how she’d found it.

“No worries, Der, I’ll take good care of him,” she said, raising her eyebrows and tilting to head toward the door. “Go see what Laura’s up to with that old lady, and check the rest of the apartment. I just cleared his room, but I might have missed something.”

Derek, surprisingly, did what he was told, glancing briefly at Stiles with a constipated look before he walked out the door. Stiles stared after him for a second before the pop of the kit’s plastic housing drew his attention.

“So, are you a spy?” he asked casually as Erica took out a pair of surgical gloves and some gauze.

She snorted, “And give up my sweet yoga lifestyle? Please.”

“How’d you find the cameras?”

Erica smirked, “How did you?”

He smiled and watched her get out the tweezers and place them and the gloves on the piece of gauze, “You know, perks of being a cop’s kid.”

“Mhm, well I’ve lived with three of them for a few years, guess I just picked up some tricks, too.” She set the kit aside and ran the tap until it warmed up. “Bend down and run your arm under the water,” she instructed, squeezing some soap onto her hands and washing them before she lathered them again and carefully washed around the splinters.

Stiles gritted his teeth at the sharpened pain as the soap got in the abrasions and Erica winced in sympathy. “Sorry, but pulling these things out is probably going to hurt worse.”

“Wow,” he laughed despite himself, “your bedside manner is awful. Where did you go to school for this, anyway? What are your qualifications? I think I want to see some credentials before you get any closer.”

Erica grinned at him as she patted his arm dry with the edge of the towel on his shoulders. “I’ll have you know I’m both CPR and First Aid certified. It’s required for the yoga instructor thing, and I like helping people when I can.”

He read a bit of her past in that, of her seizures and whatever cure Talia had given her. Even though Erica was a bit much to handle, sometimes, helping people seemed to be a driving force for her. Stiles nodded and tried to hold his arm still as she put on the gloves and got the tweezers.

“This is probably going to suck,” she said, “so sorry in advance.”

She was right, it did suck, but probably not nearly as much as it was going to when they got to his leg.

“That wasn’t so bad,” she said as she tossed the wrappers in the trash. There was an impressive little pile of splinters, already pinking the gauze where they sat off to one side. His arm felt mildly better though, slathered in antiseptic and covered with Batman band-aids, proof that his dad knew him well.

Stiles tried to scoot as close to the sink as he could, but the counter had kind of a weird angle to it and in the end his shorts and left shoe and the floor got soaked. Figuring they might as well get it over with, Erica carefully scrubbed debris off of his skinned knees, too, which ended up with his other shoe getting wet and he just kind of felt miserable, his skin itchy from dried sweat, his clothes damp and his wounds stinging.

“Well, this isn’t how I imagined my day going,” he commented, tossing one of the towels onto the floor to soak up some of the water pooled there.

“Me neither. Now, you better not puke on me or anything while I pull that stick from your thigh,” Erica said, nodding to the thick splinter as she put the gloves back on. He wasn’t sure if that was a completely sterile move, but she was in charge so he didn’t argue. Also, he had to concentrate on following her instructions. Stiles leaned his head back against the mirror and focused on breathing. His chest still twinged a bit from the panic attack and he closed his eyes, feeling miserable and sore and wet.

There was a shuffle of fabric and then broad, hot hands cupped his face, Derek’s thumbs resting gently over his eyelids. “Just relax,” he said quietly, and as the first sharp twinge of pain flared in his leg, it suddenly faded along with the rest of the raw burning of his wounds.

Stiles felt his limbs go slack as Erica worked away, muttering and pulling, but there was no piercing jabs or stinging tugs, just a numb kind of warmth suffusing him. It was like Derek’s touch had drugged him into senselessness.

Distantly, he heard the sound of voices, Laura’s and Derek’s and maybe even Erica's, but what they said just drifted around him like mist.

“-n't have used so much-"

"-so sensitive to influence-"

"-Talia would know-"

Talia would know what? Stiles thought, and maybe said.

The room was quiet before, finally, Derek's soft voice spoke again, "You should sleep, Stiles."

And so he did.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up, inexplicably, in Derek's bed. He blinked in the twilight darkness and glanced around, but no one else was lounging beside him or doing some insane workout routine on the floor. He was alone in the big room, the fireplace was bare and he really didn’t know how he got there, or what time it was. There wasn't a clock or anything, but he assumed late afternoon given the fading light coming from the partially covered windows. Stiles hoped he hadn’t slept all the way through the night.

The band-aids on his arm had been changed at some point to more a mundane color, and after further inspection he found his thigh and skinned knees had some gauze taped to them as well. It seemed to be a bit of overkill, but whatever, he was just grateful someone had bothered to take care of him at all.

Also, Stiles was definitely not wearing his own clothes. Which meant someone had changed him because the last thing he remembered were the disembodied voices of his friends and the warmth of Derek's hands, not slipping into a huge pair of sweatpants and a, he checked, faded Chicago PD t-shirt. He was going to go with them belonging to Derek. Just a guess. At least no one had changed his underwear, that would have been just a bit more humiliation that he was prepared to handle.

Stiles pulled back the covers and swung his legs over the side with a grimace as the movement pulled on his cuts. It was nowhere near as painful as the aftermath he'd faced from the knife attack, but thankfully the body tended to forget such things. Of course that didn’t mean that the wounds didn’t still sucked, though. He slowly rose to his feet and catalogued the various aches and pains he felt. Surprisingly, his muscles weren’t as sore as he’d have expected from not going through a normal cool-down and instead running for his life and having a panic attack. His chest felt a bit tight, and would for a few days, he knew from past experience, but once again he hadn’t thrown up, nor had he needed professional medical attention. All in all, it wasn’t entirely terrible.

He slid the band of his boxer briefs down so they weren’t resting directly on his hips, the sweatpants already hung low and loose, barely held up by the tightened string. Otherwise, it really only hurt when he moved. His knees twinged and his thigh burned a bit, but overall he’d call it a successful escape, thanks to his own quick thinking and some of his yoga training. Who knew he could be so flexible, or have such a keen sense of his own body’s placement in the world?

He shuffled over to Derek’s dresser and got a pair of socks. The room wasn’t quite as cold as it had been the night he’d stayed over, but it still made him shiver and that wouldn't do. After a quick search through the rest of the drawers, Derek was also a boxer briefs guy, Stiles gave up looking there and moved to open what he guessed was the closet door. As expected, everything was orderly, hung up precisely and organized by type of clothing and hue, not that there was much of a variety in that regard. There were only two sweatshirts and he grabbed the one with the hood. It was another PD classic in navy blue. Derek needed to get some actual color in his life. Stiles made a mental note to order him something festive for the holidays.

Feeling accomplished and warmer, he took the stairs, slowly, discovering all kinds of new aches and pains as he went and peeked into the open bedroom doors on the second floor. Boyd and Isaac's room reminded him of something from college. Two twin beds on opposite sides of the space, two desks pressed side by side in front of the only window, nightstands, etc. Except, it was a tidier than any of the dorm rooms Stiles had lived in. Erica's room was vacant, but full of mementos from her life. One entire wall was covered in pictures which Stiles intended to have her show him in the near future. From what he could see there were some crazy things going on in some of them. Otherwise, there was just a whole lot of pink, which maybe shouldn't have surprised him as much as it did. He popped his head into Laura's room last and startled when he saw Talia looking at him from the large monitor.

"Uh," Stiles said, glancing around, but there was no one else around.

Talia smiled, "Stiles, I'm happy to see you're awake. Come tell me how you're feeling."

He shuffled awkwardly into the room, suddenly very aware of the fact that he was wearing her son's baggy clothing, and that she probably knew it, too. She motioned for him to sit, so he settled onto the desk chair with what he could see in the bottom corner of the screen was not a very convincing smile.

"Hi, Talia, uh, yeah I feel better. Panic attacks take it out of me, so the nap was helpful." He checked the clock and realized he'd been right, that it was late afternoon, still. He'd only been asleep for maybe an hour or two.

She smiled gently and nodded in understanding, "We were worried for you when Derek told us what had happened."

Derek had told his parents? Stiles supposed it made sense, seeing that it had to do with their arch nemesis. Actually, Stiles wasn't even sure what Talia knew about the whole Argent thing. He and Derek still hadn't finished their own conversation about the subject.

Apparently reading his mind, maybe the Hales really were aliens, Talia put an understanding expression on her face. "It sounds like you're under a lot of pressure. Would you like to talk about it?"

Stiles shifted, feeling the familiar warmth that came when he felt like he was being mothered, but he knew enough to tread lightly. "Well, today I figured out my flatmate has been spying on me. I found the cameras I think he planted around the apartment." That was a safe enough place to start.

Talia looked understandably concerned, "Do you know why he would do that?"

Actually,  he hasn't really had much time to figure out Charlie's motive, but the realization came quickly. "His visa," Stiles said in sudden understanding, "it was going to expire and he must have made a deal with someone so they'd extend it. He was here as a visitor, but needed to find some legitimate employment so he could stay."

Dammit. It was such a simple reason, too.

"And you believe he would have had no objections to doing this? To spying on you?" Talia asked.

Stiles shook his head ruefully. "Not even a little bit, he’s kind of an asshole."

She smiled and nodded, "Okay, that's fair enough, but the real question is who he was working for, and who has him, now?"

Stiles looked straight into the camera. "I think we know the answer, right?"

Talia nodded again. "That may be true, but we still aren't certain of why."

Why the Argents had been spying on him, why they'd beaten and then taken Charlie, why Kate had tried recruiting him, why they'd come after Stiles so aggressively. Why?

He could guess, but it still seemed like he was missing something.

Actually, that wasn’t the only mystery in his life. “Not to change the subject,” he said, deliberately changing the subject, “but I think Laura mentioned your name as I was passing out. It was really weird. Erica was about to pull out a huge splinter from my leg and then Derek came in and it felt like my whole body was melting, but in a good way?”

Talia’s eyebrows raised and she leaned forward slightly. “That sounds quite interesting, Stiles. Was my son touching you when that happened? Were you in pain?”

Stiles shook his head. “No, he was holding my face and the pain kind of just went away. My eyes were closed and I guess I just fell asleep. I’m not quite sure how I got from my apartment to his house, though.” He glanced around and gave a small smile.

She smiled in response. “Derek thought you’d be safer with him at home, so my children brought you there.”

Obviously.

“As for Laura saying my name, she’s right, I do know something of what you’ve experienced, but it’s a story better told in person, I believe.”

In person?

Stiles was about to ask when he heard Derek call his name from down the hall. He turned and leaned back so they could see each other through the doorway. “Hey, in here,” he said with a totally unnecessary wave. As Derek approached with his soft-footed walk Stiles gestured to the computer. “Just chatting with your mom. You know, as you do.”

“Mother,” Derek said, moving to stand behind Stiles with a hand on his shoulder.

He tried to hide how much he enjoyed the contact.

Talia’s soft smile told him he totally failed at subtlety. “Derek,” she said, “Stiles and I were just discussing what happened today.”

Derek’s hand tightened minutely, though his expression on the bottom of the screen remained the same slightly grumpy stoicism Stiles had learned was his default for dealing with people, even family, apparently. “We don’t know where the men went,” Derek admitted reluctantly.

“They were the same guys,” Stiles said, glancing up at him, “they were the ones from the hospital.”

“You’re certain, Stiles?” Derek asked with a strange kind of intensity.

He nodded, “Yeah, the one whose arm I broke, I recognized his voice.”

And wow, he’d broken someone’s arm. It hadn’t been a simple fracture, either, he was pretty sure he’d seen bone before he’d shoved the mangled thing back through the grate. Stiles pushed that thought back into his brain’s abyss, where he sometimes ended up dwelling on long nights when he couldn’t sleep. The broken arm dude and his memories of Cassandra could keep each other company.

“Derek?” Talia prompted, nodding at Stiles.

Reluctantly, Derek shifted so he could meet Stiles’ eyes. “Do you think you’d recognize the men if you saw them again?” And oh, shit, that was definitely a cop voice.

“Yes,” officer, he said slowly. It was never a good thing when the cop voice came into a discussion, Stiles knew from long experience and many lectures throughout his life, whether it was from his dad for doing something stupid, or from one of the deputies who was telling Stiles about what some poor asshole had done to get himself locked up that night. He was well aware of that tone, and it was always followed by unfortunate things, either for him or whoever had committed the crime.

Since Stiles was the only one there, he guessed he was it.

Derek turned back to his mother. “We have some things to go over for the official report. I’ll call you later, when we know more.”

“And think about my offer,” Talia told her son, insistently. “You know it’s in everyone’s best interests.”

He looked disgruntled, but nodded, “I’ll think about it. Goodbye, Mother.”

“Goodbye boys,” she said with a fond smile.

“Bye,” Stiles managed before the call ended. He twisted to look up at Derek. “Dude, did you carry me here?”

He shrugged, like it was nothing. “I lift you all the time.”

“Yeah, that’s in yoga class when I at least attempt to help, no comments about whether or not that’s actually the case, but I was a dead weight when I passed out.”

“It’s fine, Stiles,” Derek said as if he couldn’t imagine why they were still talking about it, clearly ready to move on. “Are you hungry? Isaac made us something for supper before he left for work.”

“Supper?” he asked, letting Derek help him to his feet. He told himself it was because bending and shifting still kind of hurt, but he knew it was really because he just liked it when they touched.

Derek gave him an odd look as they exited his sister’s room. “Yes, supper. The third meal of the day? It takes place after lunch?”

Stiles grinned and stuck his hands in the hoodie’s pocket. “Oh, I know what supper is, I just haven’t really heard anyone call it that, before.”

That baffled the eyebrows, “What do you call it?”

“Uh, dinner, usually.”

Derek made a contemplative noise and led the way downstairs at a sedate pace, probably thinking of Stiles’ injuries and that was pretty considerate, really.

“So, what’s for supper?” Stiles asked with a smirk as they got to the living room and moved to enter the dining room.

That earned him an eye-roll, but Derek held the door open for him, “See for yourself.”

What was on the menu for that night was apparently romance with a side of meddling.

"Wow," Stiles said, and he grinned as he looked back over his shoulder at Derek, who seemed flustered if his blush was anything to go by.

"I'm pretty sure Erica bribed him," he said in a clear attempt to write off the whole thing.

Stiles laughed and took in the scene. The room had been transformed from the neat, but impersonal dining area to a beautiful candlelit haven. The table was set with a rich golden cloth and tiered trays of finger foods. All the chairs but two had been removed, and those were sitting side by side along the long edge of the rectangle. There were thick cream-colored drapes hanging over the windows for privacy and soft violin music playing from some hidden source. Stiles also noted that a lot of the foods on the table showed up on the lists of aphrodisiacs he'd seen online.

Subtle, Isaac was not. Though Stiles certainly appreciated the push, and his absence from the scene.

"Well, this is enchanting," he decided. It was. From the soft lightning to the delicious smelling food and the intimate setting, it looked like a perfect date. "It's a few days early, but I'm not complaining."

"You're okay with this?" Derek asked, still hovering in the doorway and sounding as nervous as Stiles had ever heard him.

He turned from where he was inspecting what looked to be caviar on a thick cracker, "Of course, aren't you?"

That seemed to be hard for him to compute for a second, but then he got onboard and moved to the other door. "Is water okay, or would you like beer? Wine?"

Stiles smiled up at him, "Water's good, alcohol tends not to agree with me so soon after a panic attack."

Derek nodded, seeming to file away that little tidbit as he went into the kitchen.

The best part about the finger foods, besides how unbelievably delicious they looked, was that they were all pretty simple combinations. Some bruschetta here, a square of dark chocolate with a sprig of chile in the center over there, a quartered boiled egg drizzled with some creamy sauce, several phallic-looking meats. Damn, Isaac was sly.

Derek returned with two glasses of ice water and a constipated look.

He very clearly needed some reassurance.

"Derek, this is a pretty amazing first date, and that's great with me, but if you're not comfortable with this then we can call it something else. Like a bro-fest or dude dinner or something." He wanted to wince, but somehow managed to keep his expression gentle and open like Derek so clearly needed.

Finally, the other man shook his head. "No, a date sounds fine."

It wasn't exactly poetry, but it would do.



"So," Stiles said as he sat carefully on the plush blankets covering his chair. "College?"

Derek shifted beside him, trying to get comfortable. "Yeah, it's mandatory unless you have military experience." He reached out and grabbed a square of dark bread topped by a triangle of white cheese.

Stiles grinned, "Okay, that's cool, what did you study?" He took a bruschetta he'd seen earlier. It was as delicious as he thought it would be, with just the right about of basil.

"I majored in psychology," Derek admitted, quickly choosing something else to eat so he didn't have to elaborate.

That was a Stilinski classic, so he recognized the move for what it was. Stiles made a contemplative noise. "And your minor or minors? Oh, come on, you're clearly a smart guy, tell me you didn't have at least one minor."

Derek's mask finally broke and he smirked, "Fine, yes, I double minored in philosophy and Spanish."

Stiles grinned, he hadn't known what he'd expected, but whatever it was, Derek surpassed that. "Psych, philosophy and Spanish. That's quite a variety, isn't it?"

Derek shook his head and focused on picking another piece of food. "They're not that different. It's basically human nature studied from three different angles."

That was an interesting way to put it, actually. "Huh, fair point." He took the caviar and gave it a look. "Think this is really edible?" he asked dubiously.

Derek shrugged and leaned forward, slowly closing his mouth around it and biting delicately at the very edge where Stiles' fingers were holding the cracker. He chewed and swallowed. "Tastes decent enough, if you're into fish eggs."

Stiles stared at him in disbelief for an instant before he burst into a delighted laugh. "That was a dick move, dude!"

The other man grinned and reached over to get an identical piece. "Your turn," he said, holding it out for Stiles to take. With his mouth.

They were definitely on a date.

Stiles sighed good naturedly. "If I end up accidentally biting off your finger it's your fault."

"I think I'll survive," Derek said wryly.

He leaned forward and tried to mimic the care with which the other man had taken his bite, and actually succeeded in not completely ruining the moment. He couldn’t help but make a face as he bit down onto the delicate eggs and they burst in his mouth, though. That was just weird. He finished chewing and swallowed, grimacing at the memory of the weird texture.

“Okay, that was funky, no more fish eggs,” he decided, reaching for the chocolate he’d seen earlier so he could get a better flavor in his mouth.

Their hands met as they both apparently had the same thought and Stiles flashed Derek a smile. “You’re totally going to let me have that, aren’t you?” he asked, just to see what the other man said.

Derek raised an eyebrow and his hand shot out, snagging it before Stiles could even react. “If you want it, you’re going to have to take it from me,” he said, popping it into his mouth.

Stiles just kind of stared at him for a second, at a loss, but then he huffed a laugh and nodded. “Okay, I can play. Come here,” he wrapped a hand around the back of Derek’s neck and drew the man’s lips to his, delving his tongue between them, tasting the spicy chocolate and heat and Derek. He moaned at the heady mixture of flavors and then Derek’s hands were on him as well, cupping his face and holding him steady as he deepened the kiss even further.

The chocolate barely lingered on their tongues as they broke apart, Stiles panting and Derek’s pupils dilated to the point it was difficult to discern the pale green at the edge of his iris.

“That was incredibly hot,” Stiles blurted out, not even caring that he was already flushed and extremely eager to go again regardless of first date protocol or whatever. He’d already slept with Derek. Well, fallen asleep next to him. They’d been in the bed at the same time. Sometimes he embarrassed himself with his own internal monologue.

Derek growled something, then leaned back and ran his fingers through his dark hair. It wasn’t fair that he was even more attractive with tousled hair, it just wasn’t. Finally, he said, “I’m not saying no, to more of that, but we should probably eat some more, and then I have to ask you some questions about today. I know,” his hands came up, broad and smooth and perfect, “you probably don’t really want to talk about it, but this is important. Your safety is important, Stiles.”

He nodded, “Yeah, I get that. I’m not going to argue, I know about proper protocol. It’s actually kind of nice that I don’t even have to go anywhere to have my statement taken. I mean, we can just do it here, right?”

“No, we can do it here,” Derek said faintly, watching as Stiles grabbed one of the egg pieces and popped it into his mouth.

He quickly swallowed and took another one, “How the fuck is this food so good? Is Isaac secretly a wizard or something? Oh! That’s my next guess, are you magical wizard people?”

Derek smirked and studied their selection, taking something that looked Stiles couldn’t quite see. “We’re not wizards, Stiles,” he said with fondness.

But they were something. That’s what his tone seemed to imply.

Stiles narrowed his eyes, but couldn’t think of any other creatures off the top of his head besides werewolf, and he was pretty sure he’d already guessed that one. He huffed out a laugh. That would have been entertaining, at least, but probably the bad kind of entertaining. He’d watched enough B-movies to know a terrible trope when he saw one, and werewolf practically topped the horrendous monster list right after mummies and vampires.

“Not a mummy, obviously,” he said, grabbing something at random.

“Obviously,” Derek said with a sassy sniff.

He smiled and shook his head. Even if he still had to be questioned by Officer Hale, the date was actually pretty fun. He made a mental note to thank Isaac and to get some of his recipes. The guy needed to start a food blog or something.

Chapter Text

After eating their fill and snuffing the candles, they retired to the couch in the living room where there was a low fire burning in the fireplace and the comforting scent of woodsmoke in the air. Stiles wanted to curl up like he normally did, but his abrasions quickly informed him that he’d better make a different decision. Derek walked out of the room briefly and returned with a thin laptop.

“I’m going to be recording the audio on this, is that okay with you?” he asked, setting it so the screen faced away from where Stiles was lounging across most of the couch.

“S’cool with me,” he said, tilting his head to watch Derek sit on one of the sofa chairs. It was a bummer that he didn’t seem ready to cuddle, but there was business to take care of, first, which Stiles totally understood. His dad could never relax when he was in sheriff mode. Thankfully, as far as he was concerned, that’s why ball games were invented, to get obsessed guys out of their own heads. But it wasn’t a night for ball games, unless they were talking about a different kind of ba-

Stiles blew out a breath and concentrated on the task at hand, which was to answer Derek's questions truthfully so maybe they could get on with the evening, if that was in the cards. So far he hadn't gotten any strong stop signals. So, maybe?

   

“This is Officer Derek Hale of the 16th district, interviewing Stiles Stilinski regarding the events of today, December 5th, 2012.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows and turned his head to study Derek’s profile as he bent forward over the computer. He couldn’t see the screen, but the whole set-up was a lot fancier than what they had going on in Beacon Hills, though his dad also didn’t investigate too many attempted murders or spying cases. Also, he probably didn’t let the victims of crimes lounge on the couch in his office when he asked them about it.

“Stiles, I’m going to ask you a series of questions and I’d like for you to be as honest with me as you can.”

He shrugged and itched idly through the sweatshirt sleeve around the band-aids on his arm, “Sure.”

Derek gave him a look, like he was trying to make sure Stiles was onboard, he was, then turned back to the screen.

“Please state your full name and date of birth for the record.”

Stiles huffed out a breath, “That’s a shitty move, dude, but you can probably see it right now, anyway. Whatever. Okay, my full name is Vyacheslav Stilinski, and I was born on August 31st, 1989.”

“No middle name?” Derek asked, not looking at him or reacting to his funky moniker in any way. It was quite a poker face.

“You don't think mine is bad enough already?" Stiles asked with a smirk.

The other man quickly quelled his own smile and used his cop voice again, "Mr. Stilinski."

Jesus, that shouldn't have been so hot, but it most certainly was. Stiles cleared his throat and said, "Uh, no, I don't have a middle name."

"Where were you born?"

"Do you want the address?" Stiles asked, watching as Derek's brow furrowed.

"You know the address," he non-questioned.

Stiles have him a funny look, "I should hope so, I lived there for like seventeen years."

Derek quickly caught on, "You were born at home?"

Stiles nodded, "Yep, Mom didn't want my first experiences in life to take place in a building where people were dying, she said it was bad for the spirit."

"Your mother's name?" Derek asked quietly, almost with reverence.

"Anya Olesia Stilinski."

"Her maiden name?"

Stiles shrugged, "I don't know, she never told me and my dad doesn't talk about her."

Derek was frowning, but he didn't push it. "And your father?"

"Jonathan Leopold Stilinski," Stiles said with a grin. While nowhere near as bad as his own name, his dad's wasn't the greatest, either.

"That's good, thank you, Stiles. I'm going to ask you some more personal questions, now, and ones that deal with what happened to you today. If you need to take a break just let me know."

Derek didn't quite have Boyd's talking to the victim voice down, but he was still oddly soothing, like having a powerful animal at his side, ready and willing to defend him. It was quite a mental image, too, a giant, incongruous ginger colored bear perched on the chair. Stiles grinned at the ridiculous though and nodded, "Sounds good."

 

"Why did that woman want to kill you?" Derek asked.

That was kind of a weird question to start with, right? Stiles hadn't even thought Kate was really trying to kill him, not until that guy whipped out the gun and started shooting willy-nilly. "Uh," he eloquently said.

Apparently sensing his confusion, Derek elaborated, "The marks on your chest, Stiles. Why did the woman stab you there?”

Oh. "Oh, that. Cassandra said that if she ate my heart then we'd be joined forever."

Derek's eyebrows rose. "She was going to eat your heart?"

Stiles nodded, "Yep. Yes, that was her grand plan. Not that she really knew what she was doing, though. I mean, my heart's not in the center of my chest. That’s a pretty basic failure in human anatomy.”

“Did she show any signs of aggression or strange behavior before that?”

He wasn’t really sure where Derek was going with his line of questioning, or what it had to do with current events. “Um, she was always a bit strange. Quirky, kind of. You know I’ve already answered this question like, six times, right? It should be in the official report, which is probably right in front of you. I can even show you where to click.”

Derek looked at him, “You’ve read the reports on your case?”

Stiles nodded slowly, “Yeah, of course I have. I was stuck in the hospital for weeks, bored out of my mind. The internet helped preserve my sanity.”

The eyebrows were in play, things were getting real. “And how, exactly, did you access confidential police records?”

Shit.

“Uh, so, yeah, Cassandra was into some pretty weird stuff. She wasn’t wiccan, though, that’s actually pretty positive and tame, not at all like what she had going on. No, she was trying to do some dark, creepy ritual or something while I was tied up.”

“She restrained you?”

Stiles nodded slowly, it was in the report. “Yeah, she made the rope herself, infused it with something that kind of stung my wrists and ankles, but I managed to loosen it enough to get away, during the whole cutting of the chest thing.”

Derek leaned toward him, “Do you know what she put on the ropes, Stiles?”

He closed his eyes and thought about it, there had been flecks of something. Purple? “Some kind of flower, I think. I could smell whatever it was, kind of sickly sweet and overpowering.”

“And you managed to escape?”

Stiles opened his eyes again and turned to look at where Derek was studying him carefully, like he could tell if Stiles was lying just by watching him. Hell, maybe he could, not that it mattered. He had nothing to hide, at least not where Cassandra was concerned. “Yeah, that was part of my awesome mini-academy training.”

“Mini-academy?”

He made a vague gesture, “Yeah, you know, how to spot a hidden camera, get out of my hoodie if I’m attacked, that kind of stuff. My dad taught me something new pretty much every week and I had to practice it until I was good enough before he’d teach me something else. We spent almost a month on ropes.”

“Your father taught you how to escape-”

“If I was tied to a chair, suspended from the ceiling, hog-tied, hands behind my back, blindfolded with my hands tied to my ankles. Yeah. It was pretty fun, actually, except for the occasional rope-burn. One of my teachers saw a patch of it, once, and I don’t think I’ve ever lied that hard in my life.”

“And how old were you when this happened?” Derek asked, typing something into the computer.

Stiles considered that, “Well, I was in Mrs. Arden’s class, so I must have been about eleven or so.”

“Why did your father want to teach you such specific skills?”

He smiled, “Kind of sounds like he was training me to be a cat burglar, huh?”

Derek’s eyebrows seemed to think so.

He laughed, “Naw, it wasn’t anything like that. He didn’t take my mom’s death very well and then he started to freak out about my safety all the time. We started the skills training after he’d taken me to the ER for the fourth time in a month and Scott’s mom told him to cut it out.”

“Why did he take you to the emergency room?”

“I stubbed my toe, that time. Nothing a little ice couldn’t fix. The others were for a nosebleed, a scratch from a nail, and a stomach ache from eating too much ice cream.”

“And Scott’s mother?”

“She’s a nurse, and she pretty much took care of me right after, until my dad was able to function. When she saw how unhinged he was she told him he had to get his shit together and take care of me. And so the mini-academy was born. It probably wasn’t what she’d been thinking of, but it was a lot of fun.”

“How did you escape from the ropes she tied?”

Stiles rested his uninjured hand on his chest and tapped out a beat over the scars, “Well, she’d blindfolded me and had me sit on a high-backed wooden chair. That was kind of weird because I’d never seen one of those at her place, before. Not that we went there too often, she was pretty private about it even though we’d been dating for about a year. So I sat down, definitely not thinking anything was amiss, and then the ropes came out. She started with my legs and I wasn’t really sure about it, so I made it so my legs weren’t pressed against the chair. Then she moved to my arms and it was starting to freak me out a bit, she wouldn’t say anything, so I used a safeword and she just ignored me.”

That had been when Stiles had realized something was very wrong with the situation. Even the memory of it still sent chills of adrenaline through his body and he had to force himself to breath against the tightening in his chest and relax. When he looked over, Derek was watching him, his expression one of commiseration, like he didn’t want Stiles to have to relive the nightmare, either.

“Anyway, I kept my arms tense as she tied them, and forced them as far apart as they could go to give myself some slack to work with. The rope on my legs was already loosened enough that I knew I could at least get them free if I tried. I still had the blindfold on and she came around in front of me and started pulling at my shirt. I heard her cutting it and realized she had a knife. We’d never talked about that kind of thing, knife play or blood play or any of the more extreme kinks like that, so I started to struggle and she laughed. That’s when she told me her plan.

“She said she was doing a ritual to keep us together forever, and that as soon as she cut out my beating heart and bit into it, my power would flow into her and she’d keep me inside of her for eternity. Every sentence she said was punctuated by a quick stab to my chest. She was straddling me and talking and cutting and I could barely breath it hurt so badly. I kept screaming at her to stop, but she wouldn’t listen, and then I finally managed to focus enough to get my legs free and I kneed her in the back, which made the knife go so deeply into my chest it almost punctured my lung. When she tried to pull it out I got a hand free and grabbed her by the throat, that was another thing my dad taught me, to go for soft spots when attacked.”

It was oddly freeing, talking about it to someone who didn’t have an agenda. But of course then Stiles suddenly remembered Derek’s college major and smirked. Whatever, maybe he liked damaged goods. Regardless, it was Stiles, so Derek could take him or leave him as he was.

“What happened, then?” he asked quietly, much more gently than before. It wasn’t pity, though, he sounded genuinely concerned for Stiles, but he didn’t turn to check the other man’s expression. Instead he studied the swirls of white paint texturing the ceiling.

“I got a grip on her and she tried to go for the knife again, but it was wedged between two of my ribs and the handle was too slick for her to pull out. I got my other arm free and punched her in the side of the head. She fell and knocked some candles over and I got the blindfold off just in time to see the carpet start to catch. I got out of the chair and threw it at her, then jumped over the circle she’d made on the floor and took off out of the house. She lived in a pretty secluded area, but someone happened to be driving by, on his way to Thanksgiving dinner with his parents. He thought I was playing a prank at first, then he saw the knife sticking out of my chest and drove me straight to the hospital. I was there for almost a week before they transferred me to Beacon Hills.”

“What was the ritual circle made out of?” Derek asked. That was a new question, actually, none of the detectives had ever wanted to know that before.

He lazily followed one one of the patterns on the ceiling as he thought. “Hm, it was dark on the white carpet, gritty-looking, but it wasn’t sand. I think it must have been some kind of fine powder of some sort. Ash, maybe. When the fire touched it the stuff sparked green, though. That was weird. Though, I was pretty much swimming in pain and adrenaline, so I could have made that part up.”

“Do you think you made it up?”

“No, I’m pretty sure it sparked green and she was screaming the whole time, telling me I had to let her complete the ritual.”

Derek was typing as Stiles talked, he realized. That was a bit out of the norm, but so was pretty much Stiles’ entire life, so whatever.

“What else do you remember seeing in the room, or smelling, since you were blindfolded for most of it.”

Another new question. Stiles breathed out slowly and closed his eyes. He felt his heart rate kick up, but he knew he was safe and that Derek was right next to him in the quiet comfort of the Hale’s living room. He could do it, though, he could remember.

“Incense. It was thick in the air, and sage?” he could practically taste it on his tongue. “There was something else, citrus, I think. When I took off the blindfold I saw the ash and the candles, they were black with blue flames.” That was weird, unless the wicks were made of something that burned hotter than normal. “The room was on the first floor, in the back. The window was boarded up with plywood and the walls were painted red. Actually, there were some dark smears on them that might have actually been blood.” And fuck, that was all kind of terrible. “Aren’t there crime scene pictures of the place? I didn’t think the fire damage was that extensive.”

He turned and saw that Derek was studying the screen, his face illuminated with the white light. “No,” he told the laptop, still typing quickly, “she had removed most of the items from the room by the time the police came for her.”

Stiles hadn’t actually known that part, he’d tried to stay away from any pictures, even though he’d read the report about forty times. Seeing photographs of his injuries didn’t really appeal to him. Even looking at the scars made him feel sick, sometimes.

“Do you believe me?” he asked, suddenly wondering if he sounded sane at all. He reviewed what he’d said and decided the answer was probably no.

Derek looked over at him, then. “You’re not lying,” he said easily, like he’d been administering a polygraph during their entire conversation. Then, “You mentioned wicca, earlier. Is that your religion?”

Stiles shook his head and shifted on the couch to get more comfortable. His thigh was tender where it pressed against the back of it. “Nope, never really got into any of that. Melissa took me with her and Scott a few times to her church, but my dad was always working or relaxing on Sundays, so it wasn’t really a thing we worried about.”

“What about your mother?”

What about his mother? She’d always seemed to do things her own way, like giving birth at home by herself. She hadn’t even told his dad she was in labor, not until she handed Stiles to him when he’d talked in the door that night after work. The story went that she’d already buried the placenta in the backyard and had a pot of soup simmering on the stove for dinner. Of course Stiles’ dad had freaked out and taken them to the hospital as soon as he’d gotten over the shock of seeing his son for the first time. The two of them were fine, of course, but paperwork had to be filled out and he had to be named, and all that jazz.

“She was unique,” Stiles settled on with a fond smile, “I don’t know what else to call it. During full moons she’d take me outside to whisper to the moon’s reflection in our bird bath. We’d make wishes, and the next day we’d drink from it, which was supposed to help make them come true. I was even convinced it worked, sometimes. But I don’t know what she considered herself. Earthy, maybe? There were always herbs hanging up in front of the kitchen window, and when random things would happen she’d tell me why. Like I’d accidentally drop a glass and she’d say it was because the west wind was bringing a storm, so I had to go close the windows, stuff like that.” Looking back, it was probably just her way of getting him out from underfoot so she could clean up the mess without worrying about him cutting himself, but he seemed to remember the wind whistling through the cracks in the windows on those nights.

Derek, however, seemed surprised. “Did she ever teach you about her views?”

Stiles raised his hands and studied the veins and tendons along the backs. “I just remember some of her stories from where she came from, they were so fantastical; talking animals, magic, the old gods-” he trailed off, the memories of her bittersweet.

The other man made a soft noise and then one of his hands joined Stiles, twining their fingers. “Thank you for telling me about her,” he said. Stiles leaned his head back to look and Derek had such a sweet expression he just wanted to kiss the man.

“Are we done? No, wait, we still have to talk about today, don’t we? Ugh.”

Derek nodded reluctantly and untangled their fingers. “I’m afraid so,” he said as he sat back in his chair, turning his attention back to the laptop.

The fire had died down to embers, so it was the only light source, casting stark shadows behind him. Stiles shifted as much onto his uninjured side as he could, watching Derek as he typed and clicked away.

“Okay,” he finally said, “I’m going to reintroduce you and ask some of the same questions, then we can talk about today.”

Stiles nodded, and they began again. Derek did ask him the same questions, about his name and the names of his parents, then they launched into that day’s events. Stiles tried to breeze over the part about why he left work, but Derek wouldn’t let him.

“Why were you at your apartment in the middle of the day? Were you sick?” His expression seemed to think that wasn’t the case.

Stiles sighed, “No, uh, I left work early.”

“Would you like to tell me why?”

No, not really, he wanted to say, but knew from experience that going that route with an officer of the law was not acceptable. “I told my coworkers I had a stomach bug, but I actually just needed some time and space to think.”

“About?” Derek prompted.

“Do we have to record this part?” Stiles asked. He really didn’t want his name potentially attached to the Argents anymore than it already was; he’d seen Gerard’s record and didn’t relish being added to the list of people he’d potentially murdered.

Derek hesitated, then clicked something on the laptop before he turned to face Stiles. “What don’t you want included as part of your official statement?”

“Are you recording right now?” Stiles asked, levering himself to sit up and swallowing down the swearing he wanted to do as pain sparked through his wounds.

“You asked me not to,” Derek said, eyes fixed on Stiles thigh. It kind of felt like the scab had broken, which irritated him almost as much as the non-answer.

“Yes or no, Derek.”

Derek’s lips tightened, but finally he shook his head. “No, Stiles, I’m not recording this.”

“Good because this is not part of the official report, and if it somehow becomes part of the report I’ll say it isn’t true. And I’ll be pissed.” He knew that he was being kind of an asshole witness, but his personal safety was at risk. Again. Also, he still wasn't sure how he was going to get Charlie out of the trouble he was in, and figured involving the Hales was pretty much signing his death certificate.

Derek gave a quick nod, “Fair enough. Now will you explain?”

Stiles took a moment to breath. “I’m not going to tell you any names, so I’d prefer if you didn’t ask, but there’s this woman at work who’s been acting really weird around me, lately. She keeps saying bizarre things, making it sound like she’s trying to, I don't know, recruit me, or something."

"Was she the one who coerced you into using that knife the other day?" Derek asked with quiet intensity.

Damn he was perceptive.

Stiles nodded, "And again today. She also made me a kind of proposal that I needed time to consider, so I went home."

"You're not going to tell me about this proposal?"

"No."

"Are you going to tell me anything else about the woman?"

"No."

Derek nodded curtly, then turned back to face the screen. "I'm going to continue recording, now."

Stiles nodded and looked down at where his hands were clasped together. He waited for the click, then told about how he'd called his dad and gone home and made lunch. "But then I realized Charlie had probably been spying on me."

"Why would you think that?" Derek prompted.

He explained what he could about his flatmate's odd behavior and his later conclusion about the visa issue, including the thugs in the hospital, but leaving out the Argents’ involvement. He also brought up the cameras he'd found, and how he'd discovered them.

That, at least, seemed to impress Derek, if his slightly less frowny expression was anything to go by. “What happened this afternoon when you went running?” he prompted.

Stiles rolled his shoulders and breathed out a laugh. “Well, I was in the basement running, those guys showed up, I kicked one of them in the nuts. The other guy called him Duke, I think. The other guy had a baton and seemed pretty willing to use it so I ran for the elevator, broke his arm in the grate, then after I closed the door they started shooting at me.”

That had been after his phone had rung in his hand, like Derek had known he was about to call. Actually, that seemed to be a pattern, the exceptional phone timing. Huh.

“You mentioned something when we spoke on the phone,” he said, looking up from the computer and watching Stiles reactions.

“I mentioned a lot of things,” he stalled. Of fucking course he’d blurted out that the douchebags were Argent scum because when he was shitting himself with fear he had no discernable filter or survival instinct.

Derek kept studying him. “Do you remember what you said?”

Was that an out? It kind of seemed like an out. Whatever, he was going to take it.

“I remember having a panic attack and then Laura and Erica showed up,” he said quietly. At least it was true. “I remember Laura talking to Mrs. Bevenson. Hey, what was that about, anyway?”

Finally, he broke eye contact and looked back at the laptop. For a second it kind of looked like his retinas reflected the light like a cat. That was weird. Right? Maybe not, Stiles wasn’t all that well versed on human eyeball anatomy. That wasn’t as common knowledge as the fact that one’s heart was on the left side of their chest.

“Laura asked her about what she’s seen before you were attacked. Your neighbor spoke to two men who were looking for you and she told them where you were.”

“Oh my god, of course she did, she’s had it out for me since we moved in,” Stiles huffed out an unamused laugh.

Derek nodded, “She was horrified when she found out you were almost killed, though, not that it excuses her behavior. She also claims to have seen those men on several other occasions and gave extremely detailed descriptions of them.”

“So it’s just me and Charlie she can’t tell apart?”

“No, she can tell you apart, she just doesn’t like you.”

Stiles gave a genuine laugh, that time. “Okay, fair enough. So, anything else Officer Hale, or can we wrap this up?”

Derek’s eyebrow quirked at the use of his title, but he didn’t object. “I don’t have any further questions, unless you’d like to add anything?” His tone implied that would be a good thing, but Stiles shook his head.

“Nope, I’m good.”

“Then I’m going to file this as an assault charge against the men in question, once we find out who they are.”

Which reminded him, “Oh, the broken arm dude is Duke’s brother-in-law, he mentioned that, and said he was going to beat me because his sister was going to take it out on him. Not sure if that helps.”

Derek’s eyes did that blue flashy thing before they settled. “That is helpful, thank you for telling me,” he said with a slightly graveling voice. He clicked something on his laptop and shut it carefully. “Now, what did you find out in that notebook of yours?”

Chapter Text

Stiles sighed and settled against the couch, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. He was pretty sure there was an incredibly detailed depiction of Cloud City up there, but it was too dark to make out with the laptop closed. “Derek, can we please skip this part for now?”

Derek grunted ineloquently in reply and Stiles smiled.

“I mean, I know you can’t get enough of this sweet voice of mine, but I’d kind of rather be doing other things.”

“Like what?” Derek asked slowly.

Stiles finally looked at him, though it was hard to make out his facial expression in the dark. Predatory, maybe? Whatever, he wasn’t really one to back down from a challenge when he wanted something badly enough, and he’d wanted Derek for weeks.

“Like,” he drew out, eyes sliding down the other man’s shadowed figure, “we could go upstairs.”

“Upstairs.”

Stiles slowly rose to his feet and held out a hand, “Yeah, Derek, we should definitely go upstairs.”

When he didn't immediately respond Stiles sighed dramatically. "Come on, we just talked about pretty much every terrible thing that's ever happened to me. Can we at least try to balance that out with some new memories?"

Derek took his hand carefully, and after a beat of hesitation, stood as well. "New memories?"

"Better memories?" Stiles tried, a smile playing on his lips. It was worth a shot, the blatantly hitting on Derek thing, but the worst that could happen was rejection. Stiles ignored the part of his mind that wanted to butt in with a double dozen actual terrible consequences that could come from being alone with another human being, one who had a proven ability to overpower Stiles on a whim, moving his more slender body in whatever direction the man desired. Oh, that was actually a good thought. Sometimes his paranoia wasn't all that bad.

Derek stepped closer, radiating heat and smelling faintly like woodsmoke from the burnt down fire. "Hm, I think we could arrange something along those lines," he whispered against Stiles lips, and then stepped back.

"What? No, come back here, where are you going?" he asked as he was pulled gently along behind the other man.

Derek snorted, "I'm not going to start something with you in the living room when I know Laura and Erica are coming home in the next few hours."

Few hours? That was plenty of time to start and end several things. Stiles grinned. "I retract my previous complaint, lead on!"



Much like the last time they’d been in that situation, Derek immediately went to the fireplace and began fiddling with the kindling, nodding absently toward the bathroom. “You can go first, your toothbrush is on the counter.”

Warmth bloomed in his chest and Stiles didn’t even try to bite back his grin at the thought of Derek deliberately keeping it there for him. Was it in case he came back for a slumber party? Had Derek actually anticipated the potential for sexy times? Stiles should certainly hope so, they’d been dancing around each other for a while. Since they’d met, really. He huffed out a laugh at the realization that Erica and Laura’s meddling really had paid off. He’d have to either thank or lecture them, later, depending on how things with Derek turned out.

Sure enough, as he closed the door and turned on the light he saw the pink toothbrush on the porcelain next to Derek’s. His was a bright yellow and at that rate Stiles was going to be smiling through sex, too, he was so damn amused with the other man. At least, Stiles was hoping for sex, but was content with whatever Derek felt comfortable with. The key, he knew, was communication. It was a good thing Stiles had no problem talking, at least, but he knew he might have to work on getting Derek to use his words.

Stiles stripped off the sweatshirt and peeked under on of the bandage on his arm. It was slightly pink around the edges, but otherwise the scabbed skin looked fine. He was tempted to check the various marks on his hips and legs as well, but was way more eager to return to Derek’s side than he was to poke and prod at his injuries. He did what he needed to and brushed his teeth, grinning again as he set his toothbrush beside Derek’s, and flipped off the light before he stepped out into the firelit room.

Derek was standing at the window on the far side of the bed, arms crossed as he looked outside. He’d changed into a pair of sweatpants and a tank top. Stiles preferred him in his yoga pants, but figured it was probably best if they didn’t initiate anything hot and heavy while he was wearing those or in the future class would probably get extremely awkward for Stiles. He had a tendency to let his mind wander and if he had an actual imagine of a debauched Derek wearing those clothes he’d never be able to make it through couples yoga without wanting to have his way with him. So, yeah, the sweatpants were just fine. Actually, they were extremely fine. As was Derek’s ass.

Stiles needed to say something before his mind got lost in the gutter where it was currently wallowing. "Hey, why don't I feel gross? I was all sweaty from running when you guys found me."

Derek turned slightly so Stiles could see his profile. It made for a gorgeous image, actually, the soft white light coming through the gauze curtain casting his face in shadow, while the warm orange firelight flickered across his toned back and shoulders. "Don't worry about it, Stiles."

Which really did the exact opposite of comforting him. He frowned. "You have met me, right? I am a worrier, well, a thinker. You gotta give me something. Did you give me a sponge bath, or what?” he said it jokingly, but from what he could see, Derek’s expression didn’t change. “Oh, fuck, are you serious? Did you actually carry my passed-out ass all the way here, give me a sponge bath, and then change my clothes like I was an infant, or some drunk asshole?”

Derek huffed out a breath and turned to face him fully. “I told you not to worry about it, Stiles, it’s fine.”

“Well, that’s a weird descriptor for that series of events, but if you say so.”

The other man walked, stalked, around the massive bed and reached to put his hand on Stiles’ neck. “I didn’t want you to be uncomfortable, I’m sorry if you feel that way now.”

Stiles could feel his face blush, and knew his skin was growing hot under Derek’s palm. He gave a tiny shrug, “It’s not that big a deal, I guess. Kind of sweet, actually.”

Derek’s eyes smiled as his lips brushed Stiles’ before he backed away toward the bathroom. “Get in bed, I’ll only be a minute.”

Not willing to argue, or postpone what seemed to be awesomely inevitable, Stiles did as he was told, momentarily debating whether or not to strip, then deciding that since Derek had put on his pajamas he should probably keep his on as well. He absently noted the presence of both their cellphones on the dresser, but didn’t check his because there was a massive bed to roll in with an extremely attractive man he’d been fantasizing about for weeks and he was having a very hard time wrapping his head around the fact that he’d kissed Derek and that they were going to probably do some other amazing things with their bodies. Together. Sexily.

Or something.

Probably no more than a minute later, Derek emerged from the bathroom and did his slinky stalky walk over to the bed, pulling back the covers and settling beside Stiles with a warm hand on his cheek.

Unwilling to wait a second longer, Stiles met him halfway, lips and tongues and teeth and moans as their breath mingled and their hands wandered. Derek quickly lost his shirt, not that he seemed to miss it as Stiles’ bent to lick across the insanely contoured flesh. At some point Derek had rolled almost on top of Stiles and it was just so perfect, the friction of their still clothed erections and the heaviness of the man’s bulk pressing him down.

"Jesus, I just want to worship you with my mouth," he murmured against the smooth skin of Derek's shoulder. Above him, the other man shuddered, then bent to capture his lips in a hard kiss. Stiles threw an arm around Derek's neck, but hissed as his still tender cuts twinged at the contact.

Gently, but insistently, Derek untangled himself from Stiles and moved to stretch out beside him on the bed, eyes sweeping down the borrowed clothing and the obvious erection it was doing nothing to hide. "I want to suck you off, but I don't want to hurt you," he said softly, trailing his fingers over the fabric covering Stiles' thigh, just at the edge of the bandages and no where near close enough to his dick.

"Well, I know we haven't negotiated any kinks, but a little pain doesn't bother me," he said. It was true enough, he guessed. He actually wasn't entirely sure because he hasn't had sex with anyone since the chest-ripper incident, but before that he hadn't minded it if the pleasure was great enough. Really, he just wanted to have as many sexy experiences with Derek as he could, regardless of anything else.

But the other man was frowning, skimming his hand over his rumpled shirt Stiles was wearing and then up to gently caress his neck. "I don't want to hurt you, Stiles," he insisted, "I couldn't stand it if I did."

Stiles, master of maturity, whined. "Derek, I'm really, obviously into you. We're here, we're alone, we should both have orgasms."

That evoked a smile, quickly hidden as Derek replaced his hand on Stiles' neck with his mouth.

“But,” Stiles said around a shudder, “I still can’t quite decide how.”

“Oh, really,” Derek said, his lips whispering across the tendons, teeth gently grazing the skin and driving Stiles mad with want.

“Yeah, I mean, there are just so many to choose from. We could try missionary, but that’s pretty vanilla, plus the grazes on my hips might not make it much fun. Unfortunately doggy style is out-”

“Your knees,” Derek said sliding a hand over the outside of his uninjured thigh, skirting around the wounds but getting close enough to send shivers of anticipation down Stiles’ spine.

“-because of my knees,” he agreed, swallowing. “There’s spooning, but again with the hips and my thigh. Wow, I’ve managed to get injured in the most inconvenient places, haven’t I? Whatever, we’re going to make it work. Reverse cowgirl? No, not that. Wheelbarrow seems too complicated. Hm, piledriver? Modified T-square? Damn, this is harder, more difficult,” he amended with a gentle squeeze to Derek’s rock-hard shaft through his loose pants that provoked a groan from the other man as Stiles grinned, “than I thought it would be.”

Derek laughed, breath blooming hot across his clavicle and pulling a moan from Stiles at the sensation. “I’m pretty sure you made some of those up, Stiles,” he said, chasing the words with his tongue.

It took him a few abortive attempts to speak again, almost lost in the sensation of Derek’s mouth on him. “Didn’t, ung, make ‘um up. Fuck. Just, really into researching-” the rest of his sentence was lost in a gasp.

Hickies. Hickies were a thing. A delicious, moan-inducing thing. Derek practically mauled his throat, huffing out quick breaths as his mouth and teeth latched onto the thin skin there and probably raised all kinds of interesting marks Stiles was going to relish exploring in the mirror for days to come.

“Shirt,” Stiles said, hands trembling at his hemline, but it was Derek that made things happen, quickly stripping him of it and tossing it off the side of the bed behind Stiles, his mouth only losing contact for a second before delving lower, licking and sucking and Stiles was already wrecked from it, his hands caressing every part of Derek he could reach and he wanted more.

Carefully, but firmly, he twined his fingers in Derek’s hair and used his grip to bring the other man’s face to his. “New idea,” he said, nipping his own marks onto Derek’s neck, though he couldn’t see them in the semi-dark. Above him the man shuddered, hands fisting into the sheet beneath Stiles. “You want to suck me off, and I want to suck you off. What about some good ol’ fashioned sixty nine?” He punctuated his question with a bite on the side of Derek’s neck and a sound rumbled out of the other man like a growl, but then there were hands on either side of his face and his jaw was being angled just right so Derek could plunge his tongue into Stiles’ mouth in the hottest kiss he’d ever had the extreme pleasure of participating in.

When they finally broke apart, he panted inelegantly, grinning at the satisfied smirk on Derek’s kiss-bruised lips. “My offer?” he finally managed to ask.

But instead of answering verbally, a hot palm slid it’s way down Stiles’ torso, firm and perfect as it mapped his muscles and lingered just at the edge of the sweatpants.

“I think,” Derek said, voice husky with want, “that I’m going to make you come, first.”

Stiles gave a delighted laugh and ran his hands over Derek’s shoulders. “Okay big guy, let’s see you put your money where your mouth is, or I guess it would be, let’s see you put your mouth where, well, I think you can figure out where. But first, pants, and then I think we’ve established that you’re going to be on top.”

“This time,” Derek agreed with an easy smile, kissing his way down Stiles’ body to the hem of his pants and further down, carefully easing them down around his wounds and finally off.

Embarrassment was a pretty integral part of Stiles’ life. It wasn’t exactly something he’d ever quite gotten used to, but he’d long ago accepted that things would probably always be awkward for him. But, looking down and seeing his exposed body in the flickering light of the fire, the stark white of the bandages contrasting with the smooth lines of his limbs, he couldn’t help but be enchanted with the man kneeling beside him, his eyes roving Stiles’ naked form like he couldn’t get enough of it.

“You, now,” he whispered, tugging at the waistband of Derek’s pants, drawing his attention back to the task at hand. Stiles was extremely eager to see what he’d have the pleasure of getting his mouth on.

The world’s most perfect cock, apparently.

Stiles breathed out a faint Jesus when he saw it, and Derek gave him a strange look. “No, this is perfect,” he quickly added, “And I want you to know that I mean that literally. I mean come on, uncut? Look at the way it bends up, just okay. Wow, just, hurry up, I want that in my mouth like, yesterday. Last week, a month ago, you’re killing me, here.”

Derek was actually grinning, and chuckled under his breath as he moved his leg over Stiles body so he was facing his feet. It was actually pretty similar to the square yoga move they’d done and Stiles needed to not make associations like that because it would make their couples classes pretty freaking awkward. Also, there was a glorious, thick, uncut dick really close to his face, so that was way more important to focus on.

Always the gentleman, Derek let him adjust his body so his neck wasn’t at a super weird angle before the touching began. Finally, when Stiles wriggled his body into an acceptable position, he reached both hands to run up the inside of Derek’s thighs. His skin there was soft, like every other part of his phenomenal body, and the shudder the touch elicited made Stiles want him even more, as if such a thing were possible.

“Don’t be shy about giving me feedback,” he said, then put his mouth to better use, licking a strip up the underside of Derek’s cock. It was salty and musky and amazing. He moaned and went at it, licking and sucking on the tip, sliding his hands over the surprisingly malleable skin over his hard shaft, relishing the feel and length and width and, just, all of it.

The noises he was pulling from Derek were incredibly sexy, too, and it actually took the other man several deep breaths to get himself under control enough to return the favor, not that Stiles really minded. He could have probably come untouched just from getting Derek off. And that wasn’t a thought he’d ever had before, but it was true and then there were firm hands on his thighs and warm breath ghosting across his skin and Stiles couldn’t contain the mewl he made as his dick was engulfed in the hottest, wettest perfection.

“Fuck,” he breathed out, watching Derek’s cock twitch above him and he ran his tongue just under the head, mouthing at the pulled-back foreskin and sucking marks onto the shaft. Finally, he loosened his jaw and carefully tilted his head, licking his lips and making sure his teeth didn’t graze flesh as he drew Derek’s dick into his mouth as far as he could. It was a strange angle, but somehow he managed it, tongue undulating as much as it could in the greatly reduced space and the sounds Derek make when Stiles’ nose brushed against the soft hair of his sac just made him want to suck the man dry.

It became somewhat of a competition, then, albeit a fantastic one, full of panted breaths and the sloppy sound of sucking, of grunting and swearing and rustling fabric. There were whispered names and frantic exclamations as they both become unhinged in their erotic coupling.

Stiles’ jaw was a delicious kind of sore, his hands damp with his own spit and Derek’s dripping precome that he could feel pooling in the hollow of his throat. He used the slickness to set a quick, firm rhythm, jacking Derek. The man’s legs trembled on either side of him and had their positions been switched Stiles knew he wouldn’t have been able to hold himself up for that long, not with what the things Derek was doing to his cock and balls, the way his hands knew just where to touch and press and how his mouth, and oh fuck.

“Derek,” he whispered, flicking his tongue across the sensitive spot he’d discovered just under the head of his cock. “Come for me.”

The hot spray of semen splattered across the scars on his chest and down almost to his naval. Stiles was fairly certain he’d never come that much before, but then Derek did something with his mouth, and literally sucked the thought right out of Stiles head as he arched up and promptly experienced the most intense orgasm of his life, and he’d discovered his prostate pretty quickly after learning how his dick worked.

Minutes, hours, lifetimes later, Stiles blinked his eyes open, unaware that he’d even shut them. Derek was there, face slick with spit and come, flushed with lust and accomplishment.

“Hey,” Stiles croaked, knowing he looked just as wrecked and not even caring a little bit. He leaned up and kissed his way from Derek’s stubbled chin to his mouth, vaguely aware of the tender burning between his thighs that spoke of reddened skin and good memories. New memories. “That was amazing. You, are amazing,” he felt inclined to add, just in case Derek had somehow missed the fact that he’d basically short-circuited Stiles brain through a vigorous and excellent application of orgasm.

Derek smiled against his lips, not seeming to mind the extra wetness they both had going on, or the taste of each other’s come. “Hope you’re not getting tired,” he said as he moved down to lap at Stiles neck, then lick his way across the damp trail and, impossibly, Stiles was starting to get hard again. He hadn’t been that quickly aroused after an orgasm since he was a teenager, but seeing Derek lap up his own come was like a super-turn-on or something.

Hello, newly discovered kink.

“Definitely not tired, now,” he said, hopeless but to watch as Derek moved lower and lower, hands spreading Stiles pinked thighs and nipping along the tender skin there, careful not to bend his legs too far because of the marks on his hips and knees.

Derek smirked wickedly, which only enhanced his arousal, but Stiles’ cock lay neglected and then the other man licked his lips suggestively. “I’m going to rim you, now, and you’re not going to touch yourself until I tell you to. Is that okay?”

Stiles nodded, not quite trusting his voice to remain steady should he try to answer verbally. And just like he said, Derek nipped his way past Stiles’ sac to the sensitive skin behind his balls and then there was a feather-light touch of tongue along his rim and he breathed out a quick grunt, hands digging into the sheets under him as he focused on not bucking against the sloppy heat of Derek’s questing mouth and it felt so deliciously amazing and and new and Stiles had never really done the whole rimming thing before but the enthusiasm with which Derek went about it was adding a whole new dimension to everything, and Stiles knew his second orgasm of the night was not far off.

He didn’t reach for his cock, as Derek had instructed, even though it was weeping precome onto his stomach, mixing with what was left of Derek’s. Stiles gasped out a startled moan as he felt a thick finger join Derek’s tongue and then he didn’t even try to contain his panting and keening because there was a long finger inside of him, massaging his prostate and pulling noises from him like he was a goddamn musical instrument. Another finger joined the first and then Stiles threw back his head, shouting Derek’s name as he came, feeling it land on his chin and chest and he didn’t even care because he was floating in a cloud of Derek-induced endorphins and his entire body was so fucking relaxed.

Not wanting to experience the euphoria alone, he reached a tingling arm out to Derek and, with the other man’s help, of course, drew him up until their bodies were pressed flush. “That was unbelievable,” he mumbled, mouth not seeming to want to work properly enough for him to enunciate, but the soft look on Derek’s face said that he understood the sentiment, at least.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” he said quietly, nuzzling the side of Stiles’ jaw, then used his thumb to wipe off what was probably come from his chin. Stiles was going to comment, but then the thumb disappeared between Derek’s flushed lips and the words died on his tongue.

So many new kinks.

It took him an embarrassing amount of time time realize he’d neglected his bed-partner’s own pleasure. “Shit, sorry, let me,” he said, running a hand down Derek’s taut torso, but then his hand was captured and brought to the man’s mouth.

“That’s not necessary,” he whispered, kissing the knuckles on Stiles’ fingers.

“Not. Necessity isn’t the point, Derek,” he said, slowly becoming more aware of things like the fact that his scratches weren’t aching at all and that his entire body felt like a pool of gooey warmth, which was way more appealing than it sounded. Still, he wasn’t about to just fall asleep like some asshole when Derek hadn’t gotten off and oh.

“Oh,” he said, realizing what had happened. His wonder became a soft smile when he caught the first hint of Derek’s embarrassment, “Oh, that’s pretty hot, actually. Guess we both came without our dicks being touched that time. Hm, very, very hot.”

“You think so?” Derek asked, his mouth descending on Stiles’ and he grinned against it.

“Mmm,” he hummed in agreement, twining his hands through Derek’s hair to hold him close.

Eventually they broke apart and Derek got up to get a warm washcloth, swiping it gently across Stiles in an attempt to clean him of the sticky come. “You know,” Stiles said conversationally as Derek finally tossed it over the side of the bed and pulled Stiles toward the middle where there weren’t any wet spots, “I think that next time I might want to ride you.” Derek’s hand tightened against his ribs for an instant before he exhaled an unsteady breath.

“Jesus, Stiles,” he murmured, rubbing his stubbled cheek against Stiles’ shoulder.

“Or you could ride me, whatever you prefer.”

Derek made a soft noise in his throat and kissed him again, hard and wet before it slowly became more gentle and sweet. “Why don’t we sleep now, and in the morning we can talk,” he said.

Stiles nodded sleepily and scooted so their bodies were pressed against each other, “M’kay, night Derek.”

“Sweet dreams, Stiles.”

Chapter Text

He shifted on the bed, smiling at the grumble Derek made behind him, an arm wrapped around Stiles’ waist to anchor him there. Something had woken him, but he wasn’t sure what. It took him a few seconds, but eventually he realized it was lighter than it should have been, from one of their phones, it seemed. Even as he realized it the light shut off again. Stiles was going to just go back to sleep, but he suddenly realized he had to pee. After a second of struggling against the unmoving weight that was Derek, he finally elbowed the other man.

"Bathroom, dude," he said. His voice was rough from sleep and other things, and after one last grunt of protest Derek released him and rolled over with a put-out noise.

Jesus the guy was adorable.

Stiles reluctantly slid out of bed and shivered his bare ass to the dresser where their phones were sitting. He grabbed one and squinted at it, but they looked pretty much the same in the dark. He hit the home key and it showed a new text message from his dad. Of course. He yawned and slipped into the bathroom, closing the door behind him so the light wouldn't bother Derek. He wouldn't have minded keeping it open, otherwise, they were kind of beyond the whole modesty thing.

Stiles peed and washed his hands, briefly admiring the molten marks littering his neck and chest, before turning on the phone again and blinking at the message. Apparently his dad had read the police report listing him as a victim of an attempted assault and shit.

He text back a quick: I'm fine, I'll call you in the morning.

The immediate reply was: Who is this?

Stiles stared at the phone for a second and responded: Stiles. You know, your kid?

Whose phone are you using?

Uh, mine. Seriously, he knew it was pretty late, but his dad wasn't normally that slow on the uptake.

Stiles, this isn't your phone number.

He frowned. Of course it was, how else would he have gotten a text from his dad? Stiles hit the home key again, but instead of his and Derek's yoga picture in the background, it was a photograph of a lake at sunset and the apps were in the wrong places. He frowned, clicking on the messages icon, and saw half a dozen different conversations he'd had over the past few weeks with various friends and acquaintances, including the one with his father. But there were others, too, between the sender and Boyd and Isaac and Erica and Laura. And fuck. It was Derek's phone.

Of. Fucking. Course.

Stiles messaged his dad again: My bad, I'll call you later. Night, and then powered the thing off.

Stiles took a minute to just breath, gripping the edges of the sink and not looking himself in the eye, unsure if he wanted to see his own expression. Instead, his gaze was drawn to the toothbrushes sitting side by side on the counter.

Liars, his half-hysterical mind accused, but that was nonsense. All of it was just so much bullshit, but there wasn’t all that much he could do about it in the early hours of the morning. Not when he was in Derek's house, wherever that was, probably without his wallet or anything useful except his tapped fucking phone.

Reminding himself, once again, to breath, Stiles scrubbed a hand over his eyes and tried to calm down. He was safe at the moment, at least. He knew Derek wouldn't hurt him, and actually seemed to like spending time with him. Though that could have just been a ploy and Stiles needed to get some more sleep before he completely lost his shit and did something outrageous like burst into the other room and accuse Derek of.

Of what?

Doing his job?

White collar crimes, that’s what his dad had told him Derek was involved with. Well, so was Stiles, just in a slightly different way. Plus, there were the Argents to take into account, and he’d have to get some answers about the why before he started flinging around accusations, though he already knew the how. So yeah, Stiles was justifiably upset about his discovery, but he had to tread lightly, or else he could be in a lot more trouble than he was probably already in, with Derek tracking him on one side and Kate stalking him on the other. With one last calming breath he looked at his wide eyes in the mirror.

You’re fucked, he thought, then turned off the light and slipped out the door.

Stiles felt kind of numb, actually, as he made his way across the room in the dark, absently setting the phone on the dresser beside his own. Derek turned back to him as he awkwardly climbed onto the bed, his hips and knees burning when he moved and he just kind of felt fucking used. Stiles settled onto his back, staring up at nothing.

"Hey, everything okay?" Derek asked sleepily in the still darkness. He barely sounded awake enough to form words.

Stiles forced a nod, even though there was no way the other man could see it. "Fine," he lied.

Derek brought his broad, hot hand to rest on the center of Stiles' chest, directly over the velvety soft scar tissue. "Heartbeat's crazy," he mumbled, "You sure?"

He closed his eyes and let himself believe, just for that night, that his life wasn't a complete clusterfuck. "Go to sleep, Derek," he whispered, placing his hand over the other man's.

Just for the night.




Stiles was standing in the field again, amongst the rolling hills with dark clouds overhead, and he wasn’t alone.

“What is this place?” Derek asked beside him. He looked startled as his head whipped around, his face raised as if he were smelling the shifting air.

He shrugged and gestured tiredly, “It’s my dream.” A part of him noted that it was beyond strange that he recognized that he was dreaming, and that he was talking about it.

“But why are we here?” It looked like he wanted to explore, but there seemed to be something keeping him close at Stiles’ side, like he was afraid they’d be separated.

Stiles tilted his head back to study the inky black clouds. They looked even more ominous than before, but there was no sign of lightning. “My mom was here before, but she didn’t show up last night.”

“Call out to her,” Derek suggested, like it was that easy.

He shook his head. “I tried, but she didn’t answer.”

Derek seemed to think about that for a minute, considering the storm clouds and the distant rolling horizon. He turned to Stiles, “Have you tried howling?”

Stiles knew that the suggestion was ridiculous, but his dream self simply shook his head.

Derek took his hand, it was warm and real, a sharp contrast to the bizarre windy landscape around them. “Come on, I’ll help you,” he said, sounding strangely excited.

Not knowing what else to do, Stiles nodded faintly in agreement. “Okay.”

Derek tilted his head back, the stubble on his cheeks accentuating the sharp line of his jaw and the corded muscles of his throat. He took a deep breath, his bare chest expanding beyond what Stiles would have thought possible, and then he opened his mouth in an eerie howl.

A rush of adrenaline surged through Stiles and he found himself mimicking Derek’s stance. His own howl sounded, not as throaty or smooth as the other man’s, but together they made a sweet kind of harmony, and the longer they called together, the more beautiful it became.

Eventually they had to pause, to suck in great lungfuls of crisp air. Stiles was about to ask Derek where he’d developed such a talent when the hairs on his arms and neck stood up and then there was a warm weight thrown over his body as the other man curled around him protectively.

“Close your eyes,” Derek demanded and Stiles complied without question.

Even with them squeezed tight, the bolt of lightning sent a mirage of red stars dancing across his vision, but there was no thunder that followed. Slowly, Derek stood, drawing Stiles to his feet as well, and in front of them stood his mother.

“Anya,” “Mamulya,” they said with reverence, their fingers entwined and breath quick.

Without being sure why or how he knew it, Stiles was certain that if he touched her, she would disappear in a vapor of wind, so he squeezed Derek’s hand, instead, and trembled with the repressed urge to fling himself against her, to feel her embrace and smell her hair, to finally be close to her again.

“Hello, boys,” she said with a bright smile. It was the same as it had been during his childhood, before the cancer had taken the mischievous spark from her amber-colored eyes. “Why is it that you’ve called me back? This is no place for you to dwell,” she looked at Stiles when she said the last bit, partially in chastisement, but mostly with a sense of fondness.

“Stiles was looking for you,” Derek said, leaning slightly so their bare sides touched.

For some reason, it wasn’t at all strange for him to be standing naked in a field with his equally nude lover and deceased mother. Stiles thanked the dream for his sudden lack of modesty and warped sense of reality.

“I miss you,” Stiles said, nearly choking on the words. Derek leaned over and nudged Stiles jaw with his nose in a very canine fashion. Despite the oddness of the gesture, it soothed him and he turned to rub his cheek against the other man’s, delighting in the coarse feel of stubble on his skin.

His mother’s fond smile grew wider. “I’m glad you two have finally gotten acquainted. Derek was so eager to meet you when I was pregnant. He said your heartbeat sounded right.”

Stiles made a puzzled noise and turned to the other man, but Derek looked embarrassed and avoided his eyes.

“But now that you’ve met, it’s time to stop lying,” his mother said with a familiar steel in her voice. She hadn’t often been firm with Stiles, but when it had happened he knew to do as he was told. He dropped his gaze to the grass underfoot, whipping back and forth in the chaotic breeze.

Beside him, Derek gave a low whine in his throat, but his mother cut him off.

“Derek, it’s time.”

Stiles looked up, glancing between the two, but before he could question them, another shaft of lightning exploded around them.




He woke to Erica’s frantic face, leaning over him and shaking Derek’s shoulder violently. “Wake the hell up!” she yelled, voice thick and tears clouding her eyes. Stiles shifted to look at the other man and as Derek opened his eyes they flashed blue before his hands shot out and seized the woman, flinging her onto the other side of the bed from where Stiles was laying. The two of them wrestled for a second, incidentally tugging the covers almost completely off of Stiles before Derek finally pinned her and she snuffled out a broken, “Sorry.”

Derek didn’t seem to mind at all that his fine ass was bare to the world, but Stiles was cut from more modest cloth, so he pulled until he had enough of the blanket to cover the two of them from the waist down. Erica had rolled over onto her back and was frowning up at Derek, cheeks damp and hair a disordered mess. She was still wearing her pajamas, clearly having just gotten up.

“Do you want to tell me why you’re in here?” Derek asked with a hint of a growl in his voice.

Erica’s chin quivered and her head tilted back a bit, but there was still an unrepentant look in her eyes. “Boyd didn’t check in this morning,” she said.

Derek ran a hand through his hair, tousling his already messy bedhead. “How long has it been?” He glanced over at his phone, then seemed to remember Stiles was still there because he moved to rest a hand on top of the blankets over Stiles’ uninjured thigh in an automatic gesture of assurance.

“An hour,” she said, no longer sounding quite as defiant.

He sighed and squeezed Stiles’ leg, before reaching over to take her hand. The movement pulled the blanket again and Stiles had to hold onto it to keep from flashing everyone his goods.

“Erica, you know the procedures we have-”

“But tomorrow is-”

“Erica,” Derek said again, tone brokering no more argument, “We have a procedure for this. If you’re so concerned, bring me my phone and I’ll see what I can find out.”

Stiles narrowly avoided shifting uncomfortably, suddenly remembering what he’d found when he’d gotten up earlier that morning. The memory of his shock had already faded, though, and he was surprised at how emotionless he felt about the whole situation. He thought it had to do with his mother and her instruction slash warning; it's time to stop lying. But Stiles wasn't entirely sure if he could.

Erica was at the dresser before He could even finish formulating the thought, though. She plucked one of the phones from it and tossed it to Derek, who caught it one-handed and hit the home key. When it didn't immediately light up he frowned and hit the power button.

"So,” Stiles said, feeling his heart rate kick up, "my dad read your report."

Derek made a noise of acknowledgement, but his eyes were still watching the startup screen. Erica paced the room like a caged animal, and Stiles lost his nerve, just like that.

"I take it Boyd's not one to be late with his check-ins?" he asked instead of informing Derek that he knew about the phone tapping and begging him to have a decent explanation for it beyond the stomach roiling thought that it was all just a ploy to take down the Argents, that Stiles was nothing more than their pawn. An unknowing double-agent of sorts.

Erica paused and turned to him, eyes darting across the livid hickies he made no effort to hide and the scars across his chest. "No, he's never late, ever," she said, addressing the last to Derek, who nodded absently as he selected one of the apps.

What looked like a location beacon popped up on the screen and he swore under his breath. Erica leapt over to him in an instant, which was kind of insane because she'd been standing near the foot of the bed and then was just kneeling Derek's other side.

"Where is he?" she demanded, trying to wrestle the phone from him, but Derek held it out in the opposite direction, toward Stiles and what he saw made him want to gasp and point. He didn't, though, because he wasn't in an Austen novel. Also, he wasn’t sure he should tell them he knew exactly where Boyd was located.

Finally, Derek got her under control with a growled, "Erica, cut it out." He went on to explain why it wasn't the worst news ever, which Stiles was pretty dubious about because from the looks of it, Boyd was in the secretly operating Argent factory in Lake Geneva and that was probably a very, very bad thing.

Chapter Text

Shortly afterward, Erica tried to “help” them both out of bed, but Derek’s seriously pissed off expression at having the blankets pulled almost all the way off of the two of them finally made her relent and she left the room, sticking her tongue out before disappearing to go downstairs. They sat there in silence for a moment, Stiles reeling at the implications of the Argents actually having captured Boyd. The guy was a law enforcement officer, afterall, but they really didn’t seem to care. Not that Stiles was actually surprised given Gerard’s criminal record and the reality of their extensive corporate fraud. And then there was their largely unexplained murder-rivalry with the Hales. It was surreal to think about, all in all. He was pretty sure that before he started doing yoga his life had not been an action movie sub-plot, but apparently things had changed. He really would have preferred to have starred in a romantic comedy, but he didn’t often get what he wanted.

Stiles sighed and, once he was sure Erica was gone, clambered over the crusted spots from his and Derek’s previous night’s activities and liberated the sweatpants he’d worn from the floor. They were still clean, but the Chicago PD shirt had the misfortune of being the landing place for the come and water dampened washcloth. So that was a no. He tossed the other pair of sweats at Derek and went to the dresser to look for underwear and a clean shirt.

His cuts didn’t hurt at all, he noticed as he slipped into some of Derek's slightly loose boxer briefs. It didn’t escape his attention that the other man was avidly watching his innocent show, going so far as to pause while pulling on his own pants to take in the view.

“Commando?” Stiles asked over his shoulder at Derek, his cock hanging between his bare thighs. Stiles idly scratched around the bandages on his hips, “Why doesn’t that surprise me?” He turned his body so they faced each other fully, watching the play of Derek’s muscles as he finished pulling the pants up, then Stiles backed his way to the bathroom with a smirk as Derek rolled his eyes.



Being in the bathroom abruptly reminded him of the previous night’s revelation, and the fact that he was going to have to do everything he could to postpone the inevitable confrontation, at least until he understood more of Derek’s angle and figured out a way to help Charlie because fuck, he had only a little more than a day before what? The guy died? Unless Stiles could figure out a way to help him? That seemed to be what Kate had implied when she’d given him the bizarre recruitment speech ultimatum, after threatening to kidnap her niece’s unborn kid.

Shit.

Stiles scrubbed a hand over his hair and watched his disgruntled reflection in the mirror, the marks on his neck were already starting to purple, and he made a mental note to steal one of Derek’s turtlenecks so he didn’t look like such a well-banged fuck toy when he went to work. If he ended up going. He wasn’t entirely certain of how things were going to play out with the Hales, etc, and with Boyd currently in limbo, probably kidnapped, Stiles would have to go about getting away from the rest of them with some manner of delicacy. He wasn’t entirely convinced calling the number on the card Kate had given him was the best move, or even if he was still in possession of it, but he was kind of running out of alternatives. Well, alternatives that didn’t involve totally fucking over his entire future and career as an auditor.

But the whole Derek situation was troubling. Either he really was into Stiles and it was a coincidence that Stiles happened to be working on the Argent Unlimited case, or Derek had deliberately sought him out because of that fact. Stiles splashed cold water on his face and huffed out a breath as he slipped the shirt over his head and pulled on the sweatpants. He quickly brushed his teeth, thinking liar all the while, and kind of hated himself a bit.

It’s time to stop lying, his mother’s voice reminded him.

Stiles spat in the sink and gagged for a second before he got himself under control.

Not yet, he thought.



Breakfast was slightly awkward, with Erica, Laura, and Isaac studiously ignoring the marks on Stiles’ bare neck as Derek kept staring at them un-subtly, like he thought they’d disappear if he didn’t keep an avid watch. There was an underlying tension at the table, too, the unspoken worry for Boyd and the knowledge that he was probably being held against his will by the Argents. With Charlie, no doubt, not that the rest of them cared about him. Hell, Stiles couldn’t really tolerate being in the same room as the guy for more than a few minutes, but he didn’t want Charlie to end up dead, not if he could help it.

And apparently he turned into Scott when the shit hit the fan. It was actually kind of weirdly moral of him, when he thought about it.

Huh.

That was kind of a new sensation, really. And an uncomfortable one at that.

So, they all knew where Boyd and probably Charlie were being held, but none of the others knew that Stiles knew because he hadn’t told them since he was still trying to figure out a way he could let them know without compromising his career or revealing his not-altogether-legal access to police records. Well, he’d already let that one slip to Derek, but the job thing, yeah, that was kind of important to Stiles, since he’d gone to school for four years for it and it was kind of his career. A career he really enjoyed and was actually good at.

He picked at his eggs, it was Laura’s turn to cook, and she seemed to be a big fan of bell peppers and corn. No one else seemed very enthusiastic, either, though that was probably more to do with Boyd than their food. It was also eerily quiet.

Finally, Derek sighed and pushed his empty dish aside and looked at Stiles. Sensing it was a moment of truth, or something, he did the same. And waited. He was aware of Erica attempting to speak, but Laura elbowed her hard enough to make her grunt, and then Derek closed his eyes for a breath, gathering courage, maybe, then opened them and seemed to stare right into Stiles’ soul.

“We’re werewolves, Stiles,” he said.

Just.

Werewolves.

We’re werewolves, Stiles.

Stiles. We. Are. Werewolves.

Werewolves we are.

Regardless of how he switched around the combination of words, they didn’t seem to be penetrating the bullshit forcefield he’d erected around his brain at a very young age. Gullible, Stiles was not. Werewolves? Yeah, that didn't compute.

“Okay,” he said, levelly.

“Jesus Christ, Derek,” Erica finally said, voice loud and high pitched with panic, “You can’t just fucking tell someone we’re werewolves! What about all the shit Talia’s always saying about secrecy and-”

“We shared a dream last night,” Derek interrupted quietly, but it shut off Erica’s rambling just like that.

Stiles failed to see the significance of the dream thing, though it was kind of cool that Derek had known about it, too. Either that or he’d had a dream with Stiles in it and assumed he'd had had the same one. Which was actually a little crazy, really.

“Derek, that’s-” Laura trailed off with what sounded like reverence in her voice.

He nodded at his sister, “Anya was there; she told me to stop lying, and so I did.”

Oh. Okay. So yeah, that was the same dream. And the thing about his mom, well, that wasn’t what Stiles had been expecting at all. He’d kind of thought she’d been talking to him, actually.

“Hey, wait,” he said, finally getting his mouth in gear. “I already guessed werewolf, no fair.”

Derek gave him a strange, yet fond look, “No you didn’t, Stiles. If you had, I might have told you, but werewolf never passed your lips.”

Huh. He’d thought for sure he’d guessed that, but apparently not. Also, that shit was kind of crazy, if he thought about it, but he wasn’t going to because he needed to be in a safe, secluded place first, and then he could think about it and probably hyperventilate until he passed out because everyone around him was fucking insane. But that was later. He had other things to worry about in the meantime, like how to keep Charlie and probably Boyd from being killed by crazy Grandpa Argent in the not so abandoned factory up north.

“Okay, so what’s the plan to help Boyd?”

That earned him some skeptical looks.

Isaac licked his lips, eyes darting from him to Derek and back. “Stiles, we’re werewolves, and you seem oddly calm about it.”

He waved a hand dismissively, “Yeah, okay, I’m sure I’ll have like, five thousand questions for you guys when I have time to process that fun fact, but for now don’t we have more pressing matters to focus on? You know, like Boyd?”  And Charlie.

Erica seemed to agree because she launched into a detailed, yet suicidal, plan for busting him out of where he was being held. Once again, no one said Argent, probably because he was there judging by their shifty glances, but they were all thinking it. Loudly. It was actually kind of annoying.

“We can’t just walk through the front door,” Derek said, leaning his folded arms onto the table as he looked at her, “They’re going to be armed with more than just bullets, and you know we won’t stand a chance against them, not like that.”

She slumped and picked at the edge of her plate with long nails, “So we do what they’ve done, take one of their own and offer a trade.”

“We’re not going to kidnap anyone,” Laura said, arms crossed like her brother. It sounded like she’d made that argument before and was getting tired of repeating herself.

Erica snarled at her and woah, okay, that was kind of werewolf-ish, but could also just be some kind of dramatic reaction she’d cultivated to look menacing. It certainly worked.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, leg bouncing under the table. He kind of felt the urge to run. Not away, necessarily, but just, to stretch and move and act. To get out of there so he could figure out how to save his dumbass flatmate from certain death. “I have work today, so I should probably-”

“You’re not going to work, Stiles,” Derek said with an uncompromising tone. “Our mother has expressed her desire to see you, and I believe that’s the safest place for you to go right now. Isaac will drive you there today.”

And what?

“Derek, I’m not going to Wisconsin,” he said with a quick, dismissive shake of his head.

Which drew Derek’s gaze to his neck, a suddenly hungry look in his eyes before he tore them away and met Stiles’. “Yes, you are.”

“What, are you going to use your werewolfpowers on me and make me go?” he asked, smirking.

Yeah. No, that wasn’t going to happen.

“Don’t. Tempt. Me.” Derek said through clenched teeth and then his eyes did the blue flashy thing and suddenly that made a lot more sense.

“Huh, guess I don’t have to visit an ophthalmologist after all,” he said. A neurologist, though? Definitely. “Wait, so is the freaky eye thing a werewolf thing? Hey, why are yours blue and Erica’s are yellow? She flashed me once, during our impromptu slumber party,” he finished. The rest of them were staring at him. Again.

Laura covered her mouth and fake-coughed, but Stiles could tell she was trying to suppress a laugh. “Yeah, Stiles, it’s a werewolf thing. Derek’s and mine are blue; Erica, Isaac, and Boyd’s are yellow.”

“Is there a reason they’re different?”

Derek shifted in his chair and suddenly seemed to find the tablecloth totally fascinating. It was Isaac who answered, quietly in the affirmative, but he didn’t elaborate any further, and neither did anyone else.

Okay.

“You should go to our parent’s house,” Derek said again, though that time it was more of a suggestion than a command.

Stiles could work with that, the asking instead of the telling. “Well, I mean your mom mentioned that she wanted to talk to me in person, but do you really think I should just run away from this? I mean, aren’t I obligated to stay in town and help sort things out, it’s kind of my mess, too.”

“Why do you think this is your mess, Stiles?” Derek asked carefully, with a hint of a cop tone.

Time to backtrack.

“Well, I mean, Charlie’s involved, obviously, and he was spying on me for some reason before he was kidnapped, and then those guys came after me.” Maybe if he spun it in that direction, bringing up his own personal safety instead of mentioning his job auditing the Argents he’d have some room to work with, even though he'd already told Derek he knew about the falsification of the records for the company he was working for and fuck, he shouldn't be allowed to talk when he was panicked, but no one had pushed him into revealing more, which was weird and kind of awesome. And actually, heading up to Wisconsin could be beneficial, if his half-thought-out plan he’d been sort of formulating in the back of his mind was going to come to fruition.

Jesus, he just needed some time to think.

Derek seemed a bit suspicious, but Isaac was nodding. “Don’t worry about it, Stiles, I’ll take you to the Hales and we’ll be safe.”

Not that Stiles had been particularly concerned for his safety, even though he probably should have been since he’d almost been beaten and kidnapped the day before. He briefly considered that Derek had been drugging him with something to keep him calm and relatively compliant, but other than the epic sexing they had experienced the night before, he didn’t really think the other man would resort to administering any neurochemical-altering substances.

“Sure,” he said slowly, not wanting to make it obvious that he’d completely changed his mind about the whole thing and actually wanted to go north.

“Then it’s settled,” Laura said, standing up and taking her plate as she walked to the kitchen door, “Isaac, meet me in the basement, Erica, pack some things for him to bring, Stiles, Derek will prepare a bag for you. The two of you will be ready to leave in two hours.”

She disappeared before Stiles, or anyone else for that matter, could object. Not that it looked like they were going to. They all had resigned expressions on their faces, Isaac most of all.

“Fight club?” Stiles asked and he nodded silently.

Beside him Derek shifted. “We’re going upstairs,” he announced, standing and kind of unnecessarily helping Stiles to his feet and out the door while Isaac watched them wide-eyed and Erica smirked knowingly.

“Two hours, Der,” she called after them tauntingly.



But it seemed that all Derek had planned was a heart to heart discussion, not engage in anything elicit. He sat Stiles on the end of the bed, then paced in front of him like Erica had earlier. Stiles was torn between wanting to clear the air between them and making good on his pornographic proposal from the previous night. Of course that had been before he’d gotten confirmation that the man was spying on him and oh, the other camera in the kitchen must have been planted by Isaac for them to keep an eye on Stiles.

Fuck.

So, apparently the previous night hadn’t been the first time Derek had seen him naked, which was all kinds of mortifying, except that he hadn’t seemed to mind? Whatever, Stiles minded. That was a total invasion of his privacy, regardless of his personal feelings about voyeurism. It was an issue of consent, not of his very obvious sexual interest in Derek.

Not that it mattered at the moment, well, of course it mattered, it was an extremely unsettling thought, that the other man had seen him post-orgasm, loose and content, wandering around his kitchen in the buff, and Stiles suddenly began connecting all kinds of other dots, like the fact of Derek’s alarmingly good timing and he suddenly realized his phone wasn’t just tapped for calls and texts, but had been used as a microphone and fuck. How many fucking times had he masturbated, called out Derek’s name, with his goddamn phone right the fuck next to him?

The more Stiles understood about the situation, the harder it was not to lash out, physically or verbally and, “Would you just fucking stop pacing before you drive me insane? Please? Just stop.” Just stop lying. Stop using him. Stop whatever game Derek was fucking playing and tell him the truth.

He realized he was panting and forced himself to take a deep, calming breath, just like in yoga class.

Derek was kneeling in front of him in an instant, hands on Stiles knees and a concerned look on his face. “I’m sorry, it’s just that, I’ve never told anyone before and-” he trailed off, clearly unsure how to continue.

And what?

Stiles just kind of stared at him, confused, before Derek elaborated.

“We don’t tell anyone about us, Stiles, it goes against everything we’ve been taught. There are some people who know, and who claim to have this kind of code of ethics-”

He kept talking, but Stiles tuned him out.

Jesus Christ, the guy actually thought he was a werewolf.

A chill went through him and he wasn’t sure how to respond to that kind of crazy, so, since he was Stiles, he chose the reckless approach. Because why not? It wasn’t like he could un-fuck the situation.

“Show me,” he said, interrupting whatever it was Derek had been trying to explain with that earnest look in his multicolored eyes. Something about hunting? Maybe?

Derek sat back on his heels, hands moving to his own knees like he was debating standing up. Stiles’ immediately missed the warmth of his touch, but chastised himself for the thought. He’d already let himself be wooed by Derek, there was no point in pining for him as well.

“You want me to show you?” he asked slowly, as if he’d misheard.

“Yep,” Stiles said, popping the ‘p’ and nodding curtly. What was Derek going to do? The light trick with his eyes again? Stiles still considered the possibility that he had a brain tumor or something, which, while not exactly a comforting thought, would explain a lot of the shit that had been going on in his life.

He was still contemplating just how he’d have to go about getting an MRI or CAT Scan or whatever the hell he needed when Derek finally sighed and stood up with a purpose.

“-feeling uncomfortable you can go into the bathroom and I’ll leave you alone,” Derek was saying and Stiles tuned back in.

“Bathroom, got it,” he said, but didn’t really think that was going to be necessary. Except maybe so he could take a shower. Even though he’d apparently gotten the sponge bath treatment the day before, he still felt a bit gross, especially since he was fairly certain there was still some dried come on his stomach from one or both of them.

And it was kind of sad that his first relationship after Cassandra was with another crazy person. Not violently crazy, at least, but Derek did think he was a werewolf, so it was probably best if Stiles cut him loose sooner rather than la-

“Holy shit,” he breathed, watching as Derek’s eyes didn’t simply flash, but continuously glowed blue.

Derek looked kind of embarrassed, really. “Stiles, are you sure you want me to do this? I mean, the claws and fangs are-”

Stiles breathed out a laugh, transfixed by the the other man’s eyes, “Did you just say fangs? No backsies, come on, I wanna see this.” He settled back with his hands on the bed, aware it kind of looked like he was offering himself up to Derek, knees spread with an expectant look on his face.

With a resigned sigh, Derek took a few steps back, very clearly giving Stiles an unobstructed path to the bathroom. “Okay. This is a partial shift, it’s mostly cosmetic, but I’m also stronger and have keener senses than when I’m in my human form,” he said, then moved his head in an awkward way like he was cracking his neck but suddenly something happened. It was like his skin rippled across his face and instead of the ridiculously handsome grumpster Stiles knew and sort of wanted to punch, there was a-

“Jesus Christ you’re a werewolf,” Stiles breathed out, floored.

It was still Derek, obviously, with the stubble and the jawline, and his eyes remained that vibrant blue, but his parted lips showed elongated fangs and his forehead protruded and-

“Dude, where the hell did your eyebrows go?” he asked, leaning forward in fascination, “I mean, I get the sideburns, hey, are those fur or hair? Can I touch them? Will you bite me? I don’t think you will, well, unless I’m being super annoying, which happens, and hey, what were you saying about claws?”

Derek made an exasperated noise and clenched his fists before quickly opening his hands and there were suddenly claws there, long and kind of ferocious-looking.

“Has Erica ever threatened to paint those for you? Wait, has she put nail polish on hers? I bet she has. Does the nail polish like, transfer from her human nails to her claws when she does that shift thing? What about the other way around?”

“Stiles,” Derek, the werewolf, grumbled. The s sounds were a bit lisped because of the fangs, but otherwise he could clearly understand what was said.

The questions dried up on his tongue and Stiles just stared. He considered briefly that he was in shock, which would explain why he wasn’t running away or laughing or crying or shitting himself, but that wasn’t it. He was in awe.

“Dude,” he said quietly, noticing how the other man’s pointed ears twitched at the sound, “Seriously, though, can I touch you?”

Derek nodded reluctantly, his werewolfy face pensive, though the expression wasn’t entirely the same without his eyebrows. Stiles stood up and walked over to him, running his fingers across the ridges of his forehead where they were missing.

“I’m mourning the loss of these things,” he informed Derek, hyper-aware of how the other man was standing completely still, like Stiles was a rabbit and any movement he made would startle him into the bushes, well, bathroom. “You can touch me, too, you know. It’s only fair.”

And hot.

Fuck, there probably was something profoundly wrong with Stiles’ brain, but the feel of the surprisingly coarse hair under his fingers as he traced the hot skin of Derek’s jaw was doing all kinds of things to him. Sexual things, as it were. He even had a hard time caring about all the bullshit from before and he was suddenly desperate to know what else changed about Derek when he shifted.

“So,” Stiles said as casually as he could manage, “you ever listen to Nine Inch Nails?” His hands drifted up through Derek’s hair, gently touching the tapered skin of his ears, earning him a shudder from the other man. Werewolf. Whatever.

Derek swallowed, then opened his mouth again, fangs sharp and white and lickable?

Hm. Maybe.

“Not really,” he said, “why?”

Stiles grinned. “Remind me to play one of their songs for you, it’s called Closer, and I think you’d appreciate it. A lot.” He stepped forward, until their bodies were almost flush and finally, Derek put his hands gently on Stiles’ sides, exceedingly careful about the claws. Which wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Also, had Derek said he was stronger like that?

It felt like he’d been gut-punched, his sudden arousal was so strong, sending wherever blood that had been in his brain attempting to formulate thoughts down to his dick. He suddenly knew exactly what he wanted.

“Derek,” Stiles said, watching as the blue eyes studied the lines of his face, the way he licked his lips, and was he sniffing? Could he smell that Stiles wanted to climb him like a fucking tree? “I’m going to kiss you now, like this. Is that okay with you because it’s really, really okay with me.”

Derek made a wounded noise and Stiles heart clenched before he closed the distance between them, carefully pressing their lips together, feeling the hard ridges of Derek’s sharp teeth, fangs, and wondering what they’d feel like on his skin. “Fuck,” he muttered, sliding his hands down to Derek’s neck, holding onto him and relishing the feeling of the claws pressing against his skin just hard enough for him to get an electric rush of arousal from the almost danger.

“You’re okay with this?” Derek asked, pulling back so the tips of his fangs wouldn’t accidentally graze Stiles.

A sarcastic no dumbass was on the tip of his tongue, but then he really looked at the other guy and realized how uncomfortable he was, how tentative and maybe even scared Derek was feeling. So, instead of that, Stiles carefully slid his hands up to hold Derek’s furry cheeks and looked him in the eyes.

“Derek,” he said in all seriousness, “the only concern I have is whether or not your werewolf strength would allow for you to hold me up while you fuck me against the wall, and if I’m going to have to prep myself because while I’m seriously into the whole claw thing, there’s no way those are going near my ass, unless it’s to hold me up in the aforementioned position.”

Because if Stiles was being honest with himself, all he really wanted was to see Derek’s cock and then get it inside of him. The way things were shaping up he probably wasn’t going to get another chance to do anything like that for a long while, and the rest of the drama could wait until he followed through with his perfectly terrible plan to rescue Charlie and Boyd. Besides, he was already achingly hard. They both were, and that was perfect.

Stiles sank to his knees and slid Derek’s sweatpants down, revealing the same perfect cock he remembered. No changes there, not that he was in any way disappointed, the thing was a piece of art as far as he was concerned.

“We good?” Stiles asked, looking up through his lashes at the confused, yet aroused expression on Derek’s wolfish face.

He nodded, unspeaking, but Stiles could see his throat work as he swallowed, and what a great idea. His own mouth was already nearly dripping with saliva and he didn’t waste any time, tonguing around the edge of the foreskin briefly before engulfing the incredible cock with a moan. Stiles hands flexed on the hard muscles of Derek’s thighs, relishing in the feel of them jumping as he took him deeper, hollowing his cheeks as he sucked.

Suddenly there was a gentle, clawed hand on his head, which was fine as long as Derek wasn’t a jackass and tried to impale Stiles’ throat on his cock, but then the opposite happened and he was being carefully, but insistently pulled back.

He wiped the back of his hand over the drool slicking his chin and looked up in confusion, but Derek’s shifted face looked pained. “Stiles, your knees, you shouldn’t be kneeling.”

Oh. So, pained on his behalf? That was pretty fucking precious.

Stiles grinned and twisted his head to nuzzle against Derek’s palm. “Dude, I’m so high on endorphins right now I don’t feel a thing. I’m fine. Now, can I get back to this or do we want to try something else? My hips are fine, too,” he trailed off, giving Derek the choice.

Really? Stiles needed it. He needed to see how Derek felt about him, beyond the creepy stalking and spying shit, and since Derek wasn’t always that good at expressing himself verbally, a physical demonstration seemed incredibly appropriate. Also, Stiles was just selfish enough to overlook his own feeling of righteous indignation if it meant being nailed to the wall by the gorgeous fucking werewolf standing over him.

Derek’s expression slowly softened, though his features remained shifted. “The lube’s in the nightstand over there,” he said, pointing a claw toward the other side of the room.

Stiles grinned and clambered over the bed to get it, but before he could even open the drawer there was a low growl behind him and then the sound of fabric tearing. A cold breeze hit the skin on the back of his thighs and he froze, realizing Derek had followed him and was, Jesus Christ he was clawing the pants and underwear right off of Stiles body and then his tongue-

“Ung,” he grunted, trying to reach his goal, but then clawed hands were gripping his legs, spreading him so Derek had better access to his hole and if he’d thought the rimming had been fantastic the night before his mind was absolutely blown away by the enthusiastic lapping and sucking and fucking fangs grazing the delicate skin and he keened, dropping his head to the bed.

“Fucking fuck, Derek! Yes, oh my god,” Stiles babbled and moaned as the claws carefully worked their way up and down his legs, then under the borrowed shirt to his neck and he rocked back against Derek’s mouth, panting at the sensation of being held and tongue-fucked by the werewolf.

Stiles was already close to coming, but he wanted to postpone it at least long enough to get Derek’s cock in him and the let out another curse before he pushed up on his wobbly arms and reached into the nightstand, grasping blindly until he found what he wanted and flung it back at Derek.

“Condom, now,” he ordered. Well, gasped, really.

Derek nipped playfully at Stiles’s ass, rubbing his stubble against the tender skin and he batted blindly behind him.

“Fucking,” he started, then had to pause to catch his breath while the coarseness drifted up and down the back of his legs as Derek was rubbing his face against Stiles skin like a cat. “Derek, I want your dick inside of me. If this doesn’t happen as quickly as huma-werewolfly possible I’m going to take matters into my own hands. Literally.”

He glared over his shoulder and Derek was grinning, which looked incongruous with his eyebrowless face, but was also kind of sweet. The werewolf settled his scratchy chin on the small of Stiles’ back. “You’re going to have to put it on me,” he said, then took his clawed hands and ran them down his sides so lightly it tickled.

Stiles squirmed and swore, then batted his hands away and scrambled around Derek to get the box. He ripped it open and took out a condom, carefully tearing the foil and deliberately rolled it onto Derek’s engorged cock. He gave the man a sassy look as he snapped open the lube and gave him a few quick, tight strokes.

“Shirt,” Stiles said, smirking and using his slick hand to work a few fingers into his own ass, enjoying the way Derek’s bright blue eyes dilated for an instant before he obeyed and whipped his shirt off, tearing it in a few places.

He slipped his fingers free and crawled on his knees, closing the space between them. “So, Derek,” he whispered, “how do you want me?”

Derek growled and Stiles could feel precome slide down his own cock in response. Apparently the werewolf realized it, too, because he gave Stiles a knowing look, then bent to lick a strip up his neck, huffing a hot breath against the bruised skin there.

“No more marks right now,” Stiles half-heartedly protested, wrapping his arms around Derek’s shoulders and pressing their erections together. “I want you to fuck me, Derek.”

Apparently not needing any more of an invitation than that, the werewolf put an arm around the small of Stiles’ back and lifted him up, knee-walking across the bed, then standing and moving to the other side of the room toward the bathroom and oh, the dresser, where he set Stiles down, and, after one last moment of hesitation, slowly rested his dick against the loosened ring of Stiles’ ass.

“Yes,” he breathed, hands digging into the firm muscles of Derek’s shoulders. “Yes, fucking, oh god, more. Come the fuck on, I want it. Just. Ung. Fucking fuck me.” The rest of his muttering was lost against the skin of Derek’s neck as Stiles latched onto it with his teeth.

Derek surged forward, bottoming out with a grunted “Stiles” before he could regain control of himself and stop, but Stiles didn’t care because he was too busy nipping and sucking and clawing at him, trying to fuck himself on the amazing dick inside of him and nearly weeping at the incredible sensation of fullness.

“Fuck, Derek,” Stiles babbled almost unintelligibly against his skin, pulling the two of them together with his shaking arms and his legs crossed around Derek’s hips. “Please.”

Clearly unable to keep his tentative control any longer, the werewolf pulled out almost all the way, then surged forward, holding onto Stiles’ with hot hands gripping his rib cage so he didn’t go flying against the wall.

The sounds Stiles made were probably something he’d be embarrassed about later, the non-stop gibberish and pleas, the exclamations and moans, the keening and curses, but in that perfect moment as Derek fucked into him he honestly couldn’t even remember if there was anyone else in the house, he was so focused on pulling sounds from Derek as well.

He used his mouth and hands, touching every inch of skin he could reach, holding and scratching, biting and licking, eliciting grunts and gasps, cut-off moans and whispers. From Derek it was practically a scream, and Stiles grinned his way through the star-sparks that shot through his body when the werewolf’s dick grazed the ultra-sensitive spot inside of him and suddenly it was all he could do to hold on, to wrap his arms around Derek like an anchor and squeeze his eyes shut as his body caught fire and the orgasm ripped through him like a storm.

Derek was only a few thrusts behind, stilling with his hands holding tight to Stiles hips, claws pricking against his skin as he silently shuddered through it. As soon as his shoulders showed the first signs of relaxing, Stiles’ lips were on his, the fangs suddenly gone and very human hands cupped in his face.

“Stiles,” he was trying to say, but Stiles wouldn’t let him, needing to ride the tingling waves of euphoria as long as he possibly could. Just. Just needing Derek to be okay with that.

Apparently sensing something was up, Derek quieted and complied, running his hands soothingly up and down Stiles’ sweaty back, and letting himself be caressed in return as Stiles’ fingers ghosting over his eyebrows and the smooth parts of his cheeks, scratching gently at the stubble of his beard as they continued to kiss and touch.

Finally, Derek pulled back slightly and, with a slightly resigned look, caught the condom, tying it quickly before he flung it through the open bathroom door. He returned to Stiles immediately wrapping him in a firm hug, and sliding his body off the dresser. Derek walked them to the bed and gently deposited him on it before he covered Stiles with his warm body, kissing and licking away the sweat on his throat and sliding his hands carefully around the bandages.

“They smell healed,” he said suddenly, glancing up in confusion from where he’d apparently been kissing every single one of Stiles’ many moles.

Stiles stared at him for a second before responding. “Yeah, I don’t know what that means. Care to elaborate?”

Derek knelt above him, straddling Stiles knees as he carefully picked the medical tape off of his hips. It probably shouldn’t have been quite as sexy as it was, but Stiles’ blamed the amazing fucking his partner had just given him and the werewolf’s literally superhuman physique.

He was utterly distracted by the rippling play of muscles and nearly missed the next thing Derek said.

“What?” Stiles asked, then glanced down and frowned in confusion. “Dude, did you werewolf my hips better?”

Because that’s what it looked like. The skin was entirely unblemished, smooth and in no way looking like he’d scraped the shit out of himself the day before on a rusted metal door frame.

“Shit, check me knees,” he said, trying to pull them out from under Derek and nearly nailing him in the balls in his haste.

Once they were clear Stiles ripped the tape off of one, hissing as it pulled on his leg hairs, then gaped at the unmarked skin. The other, after Derek had delicate picked the bandage off, was the same.

“You do my thigh, I’ve got my arm,” Stiles said, bending so he could pull off the band-aids, swearing under his breath as he did so. Neither place showed a sign of having been damaged.

“Derek, what the fuck?” Stiles asked, but the other man looked just as baffled.

“I,” he started to say, then he shook his head. “I don’t know, Stiles. I mean, I know werewolves heal more quickly than humans, even from seemingly mortal wounds, but I don’t think it’s something we can pass on to others. Well, besides being able to take their pain.”

“Take their pain,” Stiles said flatly. And holy shit, he’d just had sex with a magical werewolf.

Derek nodded, “Yes, yesterday when Erica was tending to your wounds I took some of it, but it must have been too sudden or too much because you passed out.”

Stiles nodded, “Uh, yeah, that’s kind of normal, isn’t it? When there are all kinds of neurochemicals swimming around in the brain trying to help manage things and suddenly there’s an absence of pain and then there are an overabundance of the endorphins or whatever. I’m not surprised I passed out since you, wait, does that mean you felt the pain, instead?”

Derek looked slightly uncomfortable and nodded at the bed. “That’s how it works.”

And that was really ridiculously sweet, but Stiles was starting to get his head back in the game and even though he’d really like to spend the rest of the day in bed with Derek, testing the limits of his werewolf super strength, he had shit to do and people to save. Secretly, of course, and he had to actually come up with a plan, but first he had to shower.

“Well, that’s awesome. I’m going to shower, and I’ll need like, a turtleneck or a scarf or something because as much as I love these hickies, I don’t feel like having every single person between here and Wisconsin judging me for them, including your mother.” He scooted across the bed and stretched as he stood, enjoying the burn of his muscles from the rigorous fucking and the tenderness around his hips where Derek had gripped him. Even if that was their one and only proper fuck, it at least made for a wonderful memory.

Behind him, Derek grunted and stretched out on the bed, watching him walk away.

Chapter Text

Their road trip vehicle was the SUV, it seemed, even though Stiles would have preferred to take the sport’s car because it was fun and fast and why not? But no one had asked him his opinion and when he’d suggested it Laura had give him an unimpressed look.

So, that was a no.

Derek just rolled his eyes and told him to get in while he tossed a duffle bag in the back seat. Stiles wasn’t quite sure what the other man had packed for him, but it seemed like way more than just a pair of pajamas and clothes for the next day. He was about to ask when Erica popped up beside him, still wearing her thin nightwear and walking barefoot over the snow like that was a perfectly rational thing to do in early December in northern Illinois. She shoved his messenger bag against his chest and Stiles had never been so happy to see anything since he’d pulled Derek’s pants down that morning.

Okay, so that was a weird thought, but still, he was stoked to have his bag with his, he checked, notebook and phone charger and wallet and various other objects that made his day-to-day life easier, including his laptop.

“Thanks, Erica,” he said, and she flung her arms around him for a second before dancing around the car to give Isaac an enthusiastic kiss.

“Okay,” Stiles trailed off, glancing over to where Laura and Derek were exchanging what seemed to be heated words. Not really knowing what else to do, he opened the passenger door and climbed in. It was the same as the last time Isaac had driven him in it; leather seats, spacious, clean and impersonal. He wedged his bag beside him in the seat and watched the pairs still standing outside finish up their conversations. Stiles huddled down, fisting his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and running his chin absently against the edge of the scarf around his neck. He really should just put the damn jacket away until early spring because it was not doing a very good job of insulating him, though the slightly-too-large sweater Derek had provided for him was helping with that a bit. It was a charcoal gray, while the dark jeans he wore hung low on his hips, even though they were almost obscenely snug on Derek. The other man certainly liked to wear his pants tight, not that Stiles was complaining, it made for quite a view.

Finally, Derek separated from his sister and, predictably, walked around to Stiles’ side of the vehicle, jeans showcasing his toned thighs. He opened the door and then just kind of stood there for a second, looking at Stiles’ borrowed boots and seeming not quite ready to say whatever it was he was clearly there to tell him.

“So, I’ll call you?” Stiles tried.

Derek’s hands, sadly unclawed, reached up and briefly squeezed his shoulders, but he still didn’t look Stiles in the eyes. “When you get to our mother’s house,” he agreed. “Safe travels. Then he backed away and walked toward the house.

It was confusing, actually, the stiff sort of farewell. The awkward formality of it. But maybe that was for the best. After all, Derek may have told him the truth about one thing, the werewolf thing, but they both knew he was lying about a lot more than. Not that Stiles was really in a position to judge, since his secrets could quite possibly be even worse. He pulled the door closed and looked straight ahead at the camaro, ignoring the way the SUV shook from the impact of Isaac being flung against it by an exceedingly enthusiastic Erica. Laura finally pulled them apart and dragged the other woman inside, but Derek paused at the back door and watched as Isaac climbed in and carefully backed out of the driveway. He finally met Stiles’ eyes and nodded a goodbye.

 

The two of them weren’t even out of Chicago before they realized the stereo didn’t work and that they’d either have to listen to the tinny sound of music on Stiles’ phone, talk to each other, or just wait it out in silence.

Yeah, no. The quiet didn’t work for Stiles and their musical alternative was vetoed by Isaac. So, talking it was.

“How does the werewolfiness happen, anyway? Did you drink water out of a werewolf’s pawprint after a full moon? Steal their skin and make a bargain with them? Jump backward over some golden knives?”

Isaac glanced over at him incredulously. “What the hell are you talking about, Stiles?”

He scoffed, “Are you shitting me? You’re a werewolf and you don’t even know those legends? Those are classics, man. So what, were you born like that?”

“No, uh, Talia gave me the gift,” Isaac said haltingly.

Stiles frowned at him. “The gift? Dude, that’s a creepy way to put it, makes it sound like she punched your v-card or something. Wait, she didn’t did she? That would be all kinds of weird and possibly scary. You were a teenager when you went to live with the Hales, right?”

Isaac was shaking his head, “It’s not like that. The Hales are my family, Stiles, they’re not predators.”

“Except for the whole superhuman strength and claws and fangs thing,” Stiles reminded him because he was an asshole, sometimes.

“You know what I mean. They’re good people-”

“Werewolves.”

“-and after Talia explained how their family dynamic worked and the dangers associated with taking the bite I agreed and she gave it to me.”

“Woah, hold up, the bite? No one said anything about biting. Jesus Christ am I going to become a werewolf?" Derek hadn't been too shy with his fangs the night before, though Stiles was pretty sure there hadn't been any broken skin. "I didn’t sign a disclosure form or agree to the terms and conditions. Holy shit-”

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he dug it out, still muttering about consent. It was, unsurprisingly, a text from Derek.

You’re not going to turn into a werewolf, Stiles. It read.

He frowned and text back: Your stalking skills need some work, you are amazingly unsubtle and I figured out the phone tapping thing last night. So, you’re in the metaphorical doghouse. That’s not speciest, either. I’d have used that term even if you weren’t part canine.

Werewolves aren’t canines, Stiles.

Oh I’m sorry, guess I forgot to brush up on my mythical creature classifications before I started getting phone-tapped by a werewolf. My bad, obviously. Also, I am having a discussion with Isaac, so stop interrupting us.

He did. Stop that was.

“So, apparently I'm in the clear. For now, I guess. Is anyone going to offer me this gift? Because I gotta say, I’m kind of like being a real boy. Well, not that you aren’t a real boy, just-” he made a face and trailed off.

“You don’t think before you speak, do you?” Isaac asked, but he didn’t look upset, just kind of surprised.

Stiles shook his head. “You know, not really, most of the time. I usually just keep talking until I finally get around to my point or someone tells me to shut up. But that still doesn’t answer my question.”

Isaac shifted and scrunched up his nose adorably in consideration. “Well, Talia’s our alpha, she’s the only one who could make the offer.”

“Your alpha?” That made sense, Stiles had previously considered the Hales to be a matriarchal family, but to discover they were literally beholden to Talia was kind of cool, really. “Like, pack of wolves, alpha? Wait, I thought there was supposed to be an alpha pair, not just one.”

“Rollin is her mate,” Isaac said softly, almost reverently. “They make decisions together, but he’s just a beta like the rest of us and, in the end, Talia’s word is law.”

Huh. That reminded him of something and-

“Wait, before the Hales moved to Wisconsin was Derek’s grandma the alpha? He told me she was their matriarch in Beacon Hills.”

Isaac seemed nervous again and glanced at the phone still in Stiles’ hand. “That’s not really something we talk about,” he said.

Stiles rolled his eyes, “Fine, Derek, that question’s for you.”

Sure enough, a second later his phone buzzed. Derek’s message read: Yes, my mother’s mother was our alpha.

“So, what, she was killed and then did the rest of you guys, I guess you’d call yourself a pack?” Isaac nodded. “The rest of the pack, did you fight for alpha-dom? He thought that was how it worked in the wild.”

No, my mother inherited it because she was the next in line and was able-bodied enough to hold the position.

Stiles read the text to Isaac because it would have been rude, otherwise.

“Hey, wait, so why am I going to see Talia, anyway? No offense, but I don’t want to be recruited into your secret werewolf club,” he said, then had another thought, “Oh my god, are you guys going to kill me? I mean, I know about you and the shifting and the crazy pain-sucking mojo. Doesn’t that make me a liability, now?”

They were both quick to reassure him that was absolutely not the case, and that some humans were welcome to that privileged information, but he remained dubious.

“Stiles,” Isaac said, “I can smell your distrust, but it’s true-”

“Hold up, you can smell my distrust? Are you shitting me right now? Did you just casually mention the fact that you can tell how I’m feeling with your nose?”

Isaac looked mildly baffled, but nodded. “Yeah, it’s part of being a werewolf. Our senses are heightened-”

“I don’t know, dude, that seems to go a bit above and beyond heightened senses. I mean, do you just know what someone is feeling, like, is it an intuitive thing or did you have to go to some kind of werewolf after school program? The lemony scent is anger and the vanilla and pine is frustration.”

Isaac actually cracked a smile. “No, the after school thing is more like our morning workouts, making sure we can control the shift and augment our strength enough not to hurt anyone on accident. The scent thing is more intuitive. It’s also a combination of a lot of factors, the smell is one, but there’s also someone’s posture and heartbeat to take into account, as well as other physiological responses they might not even be aware they’re making."

“Oh my god, you can hear my heartbeat? What am I saying, of course you can. Hey, how far does that extend, anyway?”

“It depends on the person, I guess.”

“The person you’re listening for or the person who’s listening?”

Both, Derek text.

Stiles held up his phone, “Derek says it’s both. Also, shouldn’t you be doing something productive instead of creeping on our conversation, Mr. Hale?”

Isaac looked like he was trying to hold back a smile and was failing at it. “What he means, is, if there’s someone special to a werewolf, like a family member or a friend, it’s easier to pick out their heartbeat than if it’s a stranger. The range is different depending on their relationship and degree of familiarity. It’s rumored that bonded pairs can always hear each other's heartbeats, no matter how far away they are."

It was so logical, to a point, even though Stiles was trying to make the connection between the scents and heartbeats. “So, wait, someone’s smelling kinda funky and their heartbeat is fast, you know they’re nervous or constipated or what?”

“Something like that,” Isaac replied, “It’s easy to tell when someone’s lying, for example-”

“Let’s talk about that,” Stiles said, suddenly wanting to know exactly what the other man meant.

Isaac shrugged, “When someone lies their heartbeat usually sounds different, and if you’re close enough to smell them, their scent is usually acrid.”

What the hell? That meant Derek had known when Stiles hadn’t been honest?

“Define lying, though,” he said, wanting more data so he knew whether or not he should be freaking out more.

Isaac considered the question for a moment, hands moving over the steering wheel in a kind of caress that would have had Stiles' transfixed before he'd met that asshole Derek.

Ruined me, he thought with a kind of bitter resignation.

It didn't mean he was willing to just forgive and forget, though. No, there was a lot of shit to get straight before any kind of forgiveness could take place. Lots of groveling wouldn't go amiss, either. The kind that took place on hands and knees, and woah he needed to not think about that when the guy next to him could basically read Stiles' mind with his nose.

"Okay, so there are different types of lying," Isaac said. "The more blatant they are, the easier it is to pick them out. Like if you look at me and tell me your name is Wanda, I'm going to hear an uptick in your heart. Even people who are outwardly good at lying can't control the way their body reacts."

"That makes sense."

"Then there are the more subtle lies, like lying by omission."

Of which Stiles was a serial perpetrator. He made an I'm listening noise.

"Those are harder to distinguish, and sometimes it's impossible to tell why a person is lying, what part of what they're saying isn't true, but the closer the relationship is between the two people, the easier it is to tell when they're not being a hundred percent truthful."

"Jesus Christ you guys are walking lie detector tests, aren't you? Wow, that makes the little interrogation sequence Derek and I went through seem a lot creepier, now. You hear that, Derek? You're creepy in a number of fun and unique ways."

Derek didn't dignify that with a response, but suddenly his phone was buzzing in a continuous vibration and it was his dad. "Shit, I've gotta take this. Oh, hey, there's a rest stop up there, is it okay if we pull over?"

Isaac complied and took the off ramp to the charitably labeled oasis that stretched over the highway. Stiles waited until they'd parked before he accepted the call.

"Hey, Dad," he said, wincing as the sheriff launched into what he could tell was going to be a lengthy and detailed lecture about personal safety and police reports.

Isaac looked profoundly uncomfortable sitting in the driver's seat and Stiles motioned that the other man could go inside without him. Seeming grateful for the out, he quickly unbuckled his seatbelt and left Stiles to it, though he took the keys with him with a sheepish apologetic look.

And that kind of ruined one of Stiles' potential plans. Whatever, he took out his laptop, which some kind soul had thought to pack for him, he guessed Erica, and booted it up. Holding the phone between his ear and shoulder, he dug out the notebook as well and flipped to the Lake Geneva pages. It took a few minutes, but eventually his dad wound down and grew quiet. "Stiles? Are you even listening to me?" he asked, sounding pissy and maybe even a little scared.

He scrubbed a hand over his face and sighed, "Dad, I told you that I'm fine. The police report sounds like a pretty accurate account of events and I wasn't even hurt that badly." He left out the fact that the only marks he currently had on his body were the ones that Derek had put there with his mouth and hands. That was the kind of thing that would not endear him to the sheriff, not that Stiles currently found the man all that endearing, either. He activated his webcam and snapped a picture of the first page of Lake Geneva numbers, checking to see that it was legible. It was. He flipped the page and took another.

"I'm just worried about you, kid. Do you think this has anything to do with that case you're working on? You know what I say about-"

"Chicago, yeah, that it's a corrupt shithole. I know, Dad, and yes, I actually think it might be related, but I'm actually in the process of fixing that."

He took pictures of the rest and saved them into a Zip drive, then connected to the oasis' internet and sent them to Luanne and Andrews with a very brief explanation of him finding numbers that weren't off like the rest of the Argent account's information, and his suspicions about the factory still being open, including the link to the article he’d found about it. Stiles let out a breath and hoped he hadn't just killed his career, or painted an even bigger target on his back.

"What are you up to, Stiles?" his dad asked, suspicious because he knew his son well enough to understand when he was doing something that could possibly be detrimental to his health or well-being.

"I'm doing the right thing. Well, what I think is the right thing. I'm going to go, now, I have to make another phone call, but I love you, Dad."

"I love you, too, Son. Don't do anything too stupid."

Stiles smiled, "No jumping off the roof again, I promise."

"Uh, huh. Call me."

"Roger that."

Stiles hung up and quickly pressed his number two contact, powering down his laptop and slipping it and the notebook back into his bag. He scooted over to the driver's side and put his phone on speaker, setting it beside him.

Allison picked up with a muffled, "'Lo?"

“Hey, Alli, sorry if I woke you, but do you remember that thing I always wanted to do to Jackson’s Porche, but you refused to help me out with when we were in high school?"

“Yeah?” she said, sleepily.

“Well, this is me calling in that favor from the time with the drag queens and the stripper glitter. I’ll explain later, but right now you have to walk me through it as quickly as you can. It's kind of urgent."

"Right," she said, suddenly sounding completely awake. "You're going to have to pop the plastic housing off, first."

One grunt and snap later, Stiles had the underside of the steering wheel cover in his hands. He flung it into the back seat. "Next?"

“Find where the wires connect, it should be a box.”

Stiles fumbled around, but finally found it and yanked until he had a handful of wires in a rainbow of colors. “Got it,” he said, glancing up, but he didn’t see Isaac.

“Strip the plastic casing off a piece of the red one, but not with your teeth,” she cautioned and he unbent with a huffed laugh. She knew him too well. Stiles thought for a second, then dug into his bag and grabbed two credit cards, using them to sheer off the plastic.

“Yep.”

“Now twist that wire so the exposed metal is at the top-”

Stiles did so and immediately swore loudly.

“-and don’t use your fingers, are you serious, Stilinski? Don’t you know anything about electrical currents?”

He sucked on the tender skin of his thumb and made a face at the phone. “Hurry up,” he pouted.

 “There’s a brown wire, strip that one and touch it to the exposed part of the red, then rev the engine so it doesn’t stall. Are you going to tell me what this is about? Your dad was just freaking out earlier about you being assaulted.”

“It’s true,” Stiles said, quickly stripping the brown wire and touching its metal to the corresponding exposed part of the red wires. Nothing happened. Also, Isaac was walking out the doors of the oasis. “Shit, fuck,” he muttered, “Sorry, Alli, gotta go.” He mashed the call end button and rasped the wires together again, pressing his foot to the gas pedal and hoping with everything inside of him that it would work. Suddenly, just as Isaac stepped down from the curb the SUV gave a loud vrrrrrm and Stiles didn’t even have time to celebrate as he shifted to drive and floored it out of the parking lot and down the ramp onto the highway.

“Holy shit, I did it,” he breathed, knuckles clenched tight to the steering wheel. A few deep breaths later he realized he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and hastily dragged it on. “I can’t fucking believe that worked.” The wires were hanging loosely from the underside of the steering column and Stiles had just hotwired the vehicle like a total badass. He couldn’t help but grin.

His phone buzzed on the passenger seat, but he ignored it as the thing wiggled its way across the leather before stopping. A second later it did it again, then the call was mysteriously accepted and put on speakerphone.

“Stiles,” Derek’s cop voice said, “What are you doing? Why did you steal the car and leave Isaac at the rest area?”

“Technically, it’s called an oasis,” Stiles informed him, keeping his hands at ten and two and not thinking about the fact that he’d just committed grand theft auto. It was a lot more nerve wracking in real life than it was in video games. Especially when the vehicle in question belonged to a werewolf cop.

“Stiles,” Derek growled through the speaker.

“Derek,” he tried to imitate, but that kind of hurt his throat. “You know what, this whole thing, this phone tapping thing, yeah, that’s some serious bullshit, dude. And don't think I didn't figure out that hidden camera was yours, too. You're un-fucking believable."

Derek was quiet.

Because he felt ashamed? Stiles liked to think so.

"I know why, too, okay. I know you've been spying on me because of the Argents." The words came out bitterly. He was about to yell some more, but then the SUV made alarming whirring noise and just turned itself off. Allison had certainly not told him that was a danger when he was still pushing on the gas.

"What the," he said, trying to pull over without getting himself killed, arms straining against the sudden lack of power steering.

"Ease it to the shoulder," Derek was saying, like he knew exactly what was going on.

"Oh you fucking asshole!" Stiles sputtered, "You just lo-jacked me, didn't you?" Because of course Derek would track his vehicles and have remote control over them, just like he'd been tracking Stiles, the freak.

"You stole our car, Stiles," Derek said levelly, "Did you expect a thank you?"

"I expect you not to be a creepy fucking stalker!" Stiles screamed, finally managing to get the damned enormous vehicle pulled over to stop along the icy shoulder. He slapped the steering wheel, "I expect you not to use me to get to the Argents! So what is this, really, Derek? Fuck the auditor, make him reveal his secrets and then take down your nemesis? All in a day's work, huh, Officer Hale?"

It was already starting to get cold in the cabin.

"It wasn't like that," Derek protested and Stiles' heart sank.

"Wasn't or isn't?" he asked quietly, eyes squeezed shut against the sudden pain in his chest, the confirmation of the intentional betrayal, and his own stupidity.

The phone was silent and Stiles bit his lip, a roiling type of dread in his gut. "Derek, whatever this is, or was, it's over," he told the ceiling, ignoring the tears in his eyes. The worst part, well, besides how used he felt, was that Scott and his dad and Allison and even Chris had all tried to warn him. They'd told him he was a pawn and Stiles had been such a prick about it, disregarding them and what had it gotten him except another terrible dating story to laugh about in the distant future when he wasn't so heartsick about it. "They were right about you," he whispered, knowing the fucking werewolf on the phone could hear him.

"Stiles," Derek said softly. He sounded wounded, like Stiles had hurt him.

He laughed, sharp and cruel, "You don't get to be the victim here, Derek, you don't get to win. You're an asshole and Jesus Christ is that Isaac?"

He stared in the rear view mirror and sure enough, there was Isaac, running alongside the road like it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do on a busy highway with semis and minivans passing a few feet away.

He was probably going to be pissed. Stiles checked the side mirror, then opened the door and got out, sliding on the ice, one hand braced against the side of the vehicle while the other clutched his phone. Because even though he kind of hated Derek he wasn't going to hang up on the guy. Yet.

As Isaac got closer Stiles noticed another SUV was coming down the road, not going quite as fast as the other cars.

“You got reinforcements here already?” he asked Derek as it began to slow down behind Isaac.

“Reinforcements? No, we don- Stiles, get in the car right now!” Derek ordered, but the scene in front of him was already playing out and it felt like he was paralyzed, powerless except to watch.

The other vehicle swerved onto the shoulder and clipped Isaac, sending him flying into the snowy underbrush along the side of the road and then it careened toward him, bumping over the icy slush and Stiles just had time to get clear of the Hales’ SUV before the other, larger one, plowed into the back of it with a thunderous crash that sent cascades of glass scattering through the air.

Derek’s yell was unintelligible because then the vehicle screeched to a stop and four armed men piled out, their weapons trained on Stiles and he automatically put his hands up in surrender, wide-eyed and stunned. They moved around him, checking the SUV and taking the bags from inside of it, while one of them snatched his phone and another cuffed his hands behind his back. They all looked like the worst kind of thugs, muscled and wearing the same military-inspired black fatigues. It was incredibly clear that they were professionals, also, their guns were kind of insane.

After sorting through the shock of seeing Isaac run down and then almost being killed himself, Stiles tried to demand they explain just what the hell they were doing, but none of them responded even as he yelled and looked frantically at the passing cars full of gawking families and bored truckers. No one so much as took out their phones to call the cops, at least not that Stiles could see.

He glanced at where Isaac had fallen, hoping Derek could put two and two together and get someone to help him in time when, amazingly, the man stumbled out of the embankment. Stiles opened his mouth to tell him to run, but then one of the bulky guys gut-punched him and he stumbled to his knees in the icy road slush with a groan. When he looked again, Isaac was nowhere to be seen, but he knew it hadn’t been a hallucination. Well, he hoped it hadn’t been because if Isaac was dead, it was Stiles’ fault.

The men dragged him to his feet and herded him to their vehicle, to the back passenger door. It was spacious and already occupied, which really shouldn’t have surprised him at all.

Kate gave him a once-over and smirked, “Why hello, Stiles. I believe we have some business to discuss.”

Chapter Text

Even though there was plenty of room for him to sit on one of the seats like a normal person, the thugs forced him onto the floor in the back and cuffed his ankles together. Like what, they expected him to kick open the door while they were going seventy and hoof it down the highway? He wasn’t a werewolf and oh, shit. That as an alarming train of thought. The Argents and the Hales were very clearly mortal enemies, but Allison wasn’t a werewolf, he was pretty sure, and suddenly he wished he’d listened to Derek’s explanation about, what had it been? Hunting? Hunters?

Jesus, were the Argents werewolf hunters?

Was that even an actual thing?

His rudimentary high school French was coming back to him and he realized with a sick sense of foreboding that Argent translated to silver and that twisted some of the old school werewolf myths in an entirely new direction. Because what if the stories hadn’t been talking about the substance silver, but the family? That was pretty consistently one of the werewolves’ weaknesses, which made sense because it was clear the Argents were definitely out to actively kill them. Or at least they'd clearly done so in the past with Grandma and Grandpa Hale. He was getting a bit ahead of himself, though, because while the Argent-Hale shitshow was indeed terrible, his own personal well being was in more immediate danger. So he did the only thing he really could, and tried to talk himself out of trouble.

"So, Kate, fancy seeing you here," he said with a wavering grin up at her. She was wearing a sensible black pant suit and white button up shirt, but no coat. None of the guys were wearing anything very winter-appropriate, either. Stiles thought that was a pretty lame way to show how macho they were.

She used the pointed toe of her black boot to prod at his belly through the jacket. "Not really, we've been tracking you for weeks," she said, as casually as that.

Stiles frowned, then, of course she had been. It took him a minute, but suddenly he realized how. The night Charlie had borrowed his jacket he must have taken it to Kate or someone and they’d what? Put some kind of a tracking device in it?

“Wait, so how does that work?” he asked, watching out of the corner of his eye as one of the thugs casually took the back off Stiles' phone and showed Kate something inside of the battery case. Probably Derek's stalker hardware. He didn't take it out, though, just replaced the housing and handed it to her.

“Looks like we weren’t the only ones,” she said, but didn’t sound overly concerned as she slipped the phone into her pocket. “We put it in the lining, right about there,” Kate continued, punctuating her remark with a sharp jab to his lower gut where the hem of the jacket was riding up.

Stiles grunted and held back a curse. In the back of his kind he'd known something was wrong with the jacket, the way the pockets suddenly weren’t full of frayed holes, anymore. He’d meant to sew them up at some point, but it had slipped his mind and then they were smooth and he hadn’t been paying attention at all. His dad would have whapped him upside the head for his inattentiveness.

And that answered one of his dozen questions.

“Tell me about your relationship with the Hales,” Kate said, tapping her foot prettyuncomfortablyclose to Stiles’ dick.

He tried to shift backward, but there wasn’t really anywhere to go and the movement just made her press harder. “Uh,” he said, licking his lips and watching as the guy who’d taken and dissected his phone brought out his laptop. “I mean, I take yoga from Laura and she introduced me to her brother. We're doing a partners class together.” And then they were lovers until he'd figured out what a gigantic jackass stalker Derek was.

"And is that all? I know you've been to their house in Chicago, twice." Her boot was running along the inside of his thigh and Stiles was really not okay with the sexual harassment she had going on. Beside her the thug frowned at the computer and typed something out.

"How long were the cameras in the apartment?" he asked instead of going into detail about his slumber parties at the Hale’s, or any of the things he’d learned about them.

Kate made a contemplative noise and tapped her red lips with a finger, finally retracting her foot. "Long enough," she decided, glancing at the screen of his laptop and pointing at something, but the guy beside her shook his head and continued typing with a slightly peevish look.

So her answer really an answer at all, but she also wasn't touching him anymore. Oh, but that meant she'd probably seen him wandering around naked, too, and he thought his face was going to catch on fire from the utter humiliation he felt.

Why were the people around him so fucking creepy?

He really wanted to know because it was becoming an alarming trend in his unfortunate life. Was it something about him that brought all the psychos to the yard because he would just as soon join a monastery and be done with any kind of intimacy with others if that was the case. He'd learned his lesson. Several times. With several people. It was pretty clear he had terrible taste in lovers.

“Now,” Kate said, “I am aware that you were not, during the confrontation with that Cassandra woman, a werewolf. Your scars are confirmation enough for that. But what I want to know is whether or not that has changed in the meantime.”

Stiles stared at her and tried to think of a rational way to answer that didn’t give away the fact that he knew about the Hales, and, shit, the fact the he knew werewolves were a thing that actually existed in real life.

He settled on a cautiously baffled expression, making his eyes move from her to the other two guard thugs in the back, who weren't giving away anything, well, the one molesting his laptop looked kind of pissed, but that wasn’t directed toward him. “Uh, did you say werewolves? I think I might have misheard you.”

The boot came back, this time planted firmly over Stiles’ chest and forcing him onto his back with a wheeze. “Don’t play coy with me, Vyacheslav, I know you’re in league with the Hales and I need to know if an alpha has bitten you. There are ways I can find out if you don't voluntarily confess; painful, scarring ways.”

He shook his head, believing every single word of her threat, but also remembering Erica’s panic when Derek had told Stiles about them and he didn’t want to be that guy. The guy who couldn’t keep someone else’s secret and spilled at the first opportunity. The boot pressed harder against his chest, forcing the air from his lungs. Finally, he sputtered, “Woah, no! I’m not a freaking werewolf, are you kidding me?” His voice was higher pitched than normal and Kate was just looking at him like she was watching a stupid child tell a lie.

She twisted her ankle so the tip of her boot was under his chin, sharp and cold against his soft flesh. “You may be cute, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mark up that pretty face of yours for deceiving me.” She punctuated her threat with a jab to the underside of his jaw that made his eyes water. "Regardless of whether or not you cooperate, I've read the police report and seen the pictures of your injuries, it won't take more than a second to verify if you are, indeed, still human." The foot trailed down his body and rested across his hips.

Yeah, Stiles was pretty much screwed.



By the time they stopped his hands and feet were numb and Stiles was one hundred percent sure that he'd made a terrible decision in hotwiring the SUV and then ditching Isaac. But he'd done it and he really didn’t have time to play the regret game because the thugs were dragging him out of the vehicle and then, yep, he was being flung over one of their shoulders.

“This is completely unnecessary,” he felt inclined to inform Kate, who was walking purposefully behind him with a smirk.

“I don’t know, you look pretty good tied up.”

Which wasn’t even the creepiest remark she’d made to him, and he thought that was a pretty significant thing to be noted about her personality in general. He didn’t remember Chris being quite so freakishly scary, but then again Stiles wasn’t the one who’d dated his daughter in high school and from what Scott had told him it hadn’t always been a pleasant experience dealing with Allison’s father; particularly when just the two of them went to his shooting range together to bond. But whatever, Kate was apparently fixated on him for some unknown reason and he’d just have to do his best to make it out of there alive.

Stiles was secretly hoping Derek was getting his ass in gear and planning a daring rescue, but then he remembered the conversation from earlier that morning about the very real possibility of it being a suicide mission should the werewolves try to barge in and save Boyd. And apparently he could add himself to the list of people who needed rescuing.

Damnit.

He hated feeling helpless. He hated being bullied and manipulated by people who thought they could take things simply because of who they were or how they looked. Kate was one of those people, he’d recognized that fact about her almost immediately upon meeting her. Stiles knew that what he needed was one question answered; what was her endgame?

They entered through what seemed to be an employee side door and then the thug dropped him onto his feet. Since his ankles were still cuffed, not to mention his inability to feel his toes, he immediately fell onto his back on the cold concrete floor with a muttered curse. Kate was smiling at him and the bored looking guys moved away to go do pushups or kick puppies or whatever it was they did for fun, dumping his bags carelessly on the floor as they went left. He barely managed to bite back a comment about respecting technology, but he hadn’t heard his computer thud against the floor so it was okay, maybe?

Somewhere further in the building, there was a roar.

“What the fuck?” he whispered, trying to crane his neck around toward the source, but there were too many table-legs and chairs in the way for him to see very far into the space. The workstations were empty of people, but piled high with what looked to be bullets and other stuff.

Kate crouched in front of him and casually uncuffed his legs. “Come on and see for yourself,” she said, wrapping her hands around of his bicep and hauling him to his feet.

He’d been right, the place was just a seemingly endless series of workstations, kind of like cubicles without the walls, all covered with what looked to be gunpowder, hollowed out bullets waiting to be filled, and, inexplicably, purple flowers. She led him past all of that back to a more industrial looking part of the building. Huge metal tanks rose up to the ceiling and thick metal pipes hung this way and that like the legs of an octopus.

Or a spider.

He certainly felt like a fly.

But there was an open area between several of the vats and chained to the walls facing each other were Charlie and Boyd, both partially shifted like Derek had showed him that morning, but looking half-crazed instead of pensive or horny. They were growling viciously at each other straining against the manacles like they were going to tear out each other’s throats with their teeth.

“I thought Charlie was sick,” Stiles said, staring wide-eyed at the two shirtless men. Their pants were mostly shredded and their bare clawed feet dug furrows into the sealed concrete floor.

Beside him, Kate crossed her arms and watched the two snap their fangs at each other like it was all perfectly normal. “He wanted the bite, so we gave it to him, but then he killed the alpha we’d captured and now he’s out of control. What about you? Don’t think I’ve forgotten the possibility that you might be one of them, too. Now what will it be, are you going to strip voluntarily, or do I need to persuade you?”

Stiles twisted his neck to look at his bound hands and gave her a significant look. She rolled her eyes, but uncuffed him. His mind was whirling with the new information as he unzipped and shrugged out of his jacket. He didn’t know enough about alphas to be sure about what was wrong with Charlie, but he figured it was a too much power too fast kind of a deal. That was a pretty classic trope in comics and he recognized the red-eyed, slavering  symptoms of power-tripping when he saw them. Well, those were also probably because he was a werewolf, but still. Boyd, though, his eyes were yellow and it looked like he was on the defensive, refusing to cower before the other werewolf. Stiles unwound the scarf from his neck.

“Wait, you said I could save Charlie?” he said, glancing over at Kate, who was watching him. The whole saving Charlie thing didn’t make much sense because what Stiles could see his wounds looked healed and the only other thing wrong with him was an overabundance of werewolfiness. Also, he’d killed the other werewolf?

Jesus, Charlie really was a dick.

Kate’s hand seized his chin and turned his head one way and then the other. “My, oh my, it looks like we’ve answered that question.” She pressed her thumb against one of the hickies and he jumped at the jolt of pain.

“Hey,” he said, but she still had a hold of his chin, stopping him from moving.

“If you were a werewolf, those would have healed. Now that I’m certain you’re not one of them, we’re going to play a little game,” she said with a wicked grin, “and if you lose, you die.”

That definitely wasn’t his kind of game. At all. No part of that sounded the least bit enticing.

“Or you could let us all go and we can forget about it?” he tried because he was Stiles and also desperate. The low rumbling in the background was kind of getting under his skin, too, and without his jacket and scarf, which Kate had taken and thrown to one of the men hovering on the sidelines, it was kind of cold.

She shook her head, “No, we need to make sure you inherited your mother’s talents.”

And what?

“What? What the hell are you talking about? My mother has absolutely nothing to do with-”

Jesus Christ his mom had known about the Hales.

“-any of this,” he trailed off quietly. She had to have known. She was one of the only people outside the family that visited them. Derek had been cooped up as a kid, probably working on his control or something so he didn’t accidentally get wolfy when he was around other people. All that running around in the forest was like the basic training stuff like Isaac had mentioned. But if his mom had known, what did that make her? Some kind of werewolf whisperer?

Kate gave him a look and shook her head. “You really are clueless, aren’t you, kid? Come on,” she led the way in the space between the two werewolves, ignoring them as they temporarily redirected their rage at her instead of each other. Neither seemed particularly interested in Stiles with Kate as a potential target, so that was a plus, but it was still unsettling to see his friends, well, acquaintances, completely out of their minds with rage. Derek hadn’t been nearly as out of control, so there must have been something Stiles was missing.

“Are they on drugs?” he asked. It made as much sense as any other explanation he could come up with.

“Of a sort,” Kate said, stopping at a workstation wedged between some pipes and pointing at the sealed glass jar that was the size of his head. “Take that, and be careful not to spill it, you’re going to need every last bit to survive this next game.”

Game? That sounded about as promising as another dinner date with her.

But he picked it up, anyway, and held it firmly against his chest. It was kind of lightweight, actually, even though it was pretty big and seemed to be packed to the brim with some kind of dark substance. Powder?

She looked at her watch. “Once my father gets here we can begin the show, but until then do you have any other inane questions for me?”

Only about a million, but he spouted out the first that came to mind. “Who killed whom in Beacon Hills?”

She seemed surprised, but then gave a half-hearted shrug. “The Hales probably told you some bullshit about that, but I did say you could ask. Let’s see, my mother put down the bitch and her mate, and then the werebeasts children slaughtered her. They left before we could retaliate, and by the time we found them again they’d fortified their position enough that we've been biding our time, waiting for them to make a mistake.”

So Derek and Laura had killed out of revenge? He couldn’t say he blamed them. Also, Stiles got the impression he was an integral part of the Hale’s mistake and that was a terrible thought.

“Tell me about your code,” he seemed to remember Derek mentioning something like that before Stiles had changed the subject and demanded to be mounted, like a, well, like a bitch in heat. And wasn’t that an unfortunate metaphor. He really had to work on his listening skills. And his timing. And his friend-making skills.

Kate smirked, "Oh, the code. Some soft-headed hunter came up with that drivel after he fell in love with a beast. He used his position of power to force the rest of the families to agree, but I've never believed in that hippie trash."

"But what is it?" Stiles asked, trying to work out a way to escape, but he hadn't seen many exits, and there were armed guards pretty much everywhere.

"The Argent family motto is, well it translates to, we hunt those who hunt us. As far as I'm concerned, that is our code."

But it wasn't the code. Also, it sounded like the Hales hadn't attacked the Argents since Beacon Hills, well, except for the legal battles they'd fought and won, but those had been justified. Whatever, it was pretty clear what Kate's opinion of the matter was, mindless revenge.

Outside there was a near deafening crash and the two werewolves roared.

Kate glanced at her watch again. "Thunderstorm," she said, "not one of your wolf lovers come to save you. Besides, this whole place is full of wolfsbane, that's part of why those two are so rabid, the air is poisonous to them."

"And us," Stiles choked out. Wolfsbane? That stuff was definitely toxic to humans.

She gave a dismissive shrug, "Eventually, but I don't anticipate being here for long, do you?"

Stiles didn't know what to expect. "Kate, I honestly have no clue what's going on. What is this stuff?" he wiggled the jar. "What do you think I am? How are you planning on getting away with my kidnapping?"

Kate was looking expectantly past where Boyd and Charlie were chained to where an older man in a black business suit was approaching. It was Gerard Argent.

"Father," she called out with a professional-looking expression, "I have the boy and the dogs."

The werewolves were flinging themselves toward Gerard like they were possessed, their growls so loud they drown out the thunder outside and Stiles felt his skin crawl as the old man walked calmly through the gauntlet toward him.

"So this is the spark," he said with a clearly unimpressed once-over, his watery blue eyes lingering on the marks littering Stiles' neck. "At least he hasn't been tainted beyond reason. Not like those two," he gestured offhandedly at the still growling pair. Thankfully it no longer looked like they were about to dislocate something in their struggles. Stiles also thought the nickname Gerard gave him was lame, but didn't say so because he was in deep enough shit as it was.

“Mr. Argent, I was just telling your daughter-”

“A spark doesn’t require his tongue to still be useful,” Gerard said mildly.

A chill went through Stiles. Also, a spark? He had no idea what that was, but he certainly wasn’t going to ask because, almost impossibly, Gerard was even more frightening than Kate.

“Put the boy in the center,” he told her.

Kate looked, well, she actually looked a little nervous, which put Stiles even more on edge as she seized the back of his neck with an icy hand and propelled him back to where the two werewolves were breathing heavily and glaring at Gerard and Kate and each other.

“Use the mountain ash to make a circle around you,” she said in a quiet voice, meant only for him. “If you believe it will work, you’ll live.”

Believe what would work? He tried to ask, but she was already moving away, back to where her father was and he was watching Stiles with that same unimpressed look and that was it.

“Fine, assholes,” he muttered, popping open the container and looking down at the fine powder within.

They were ashes, like the ones that had been spread around him during Cassandra’s ritual, and huh, that was a strange coincidence, or connection or whatever. He put his hand in it and for some reason they felt pleasantly warm against his skin. He took out a handful of the soft flakes and was kind of shocked that none of them stuck to the skin on the back of his hand. The texture was light and airy, almost velvety soft as he rubbed the black substance between his fingers in a soft puff of dust.

“Hey, what did you say this was?” Stiles asked, looking up, but both Kate and Gerard had guns drawn, pointed at either werewolf and he was so startled he almost dropped the jar.

“Hurry up, kid,” Kate said, then fired a shot at Boyd. It hit the chain holding one of his arms back against the wall and with a growl and a yank he got that hand free, using his claws to pry off the other manacle before attacking the restraints on his ankles. Another shot and Stiles turned to watch as Charlie clawed himself free with a bone-rattling roar.

Shit.

A circle of ashes? He needed a freaking forcefield if he wanted to keep his flatmate from tearing him to shreds like he was very clearly prepared to do. Stiles hastily began spreading the black substance on the ground at his feet, hoping it would work even though he seriously doubted that it would. Behind him Boyd growled and stalked around him, clawed feet tapping on the smooth floor, and for some insane reason that was comforting instead of terrifying, like he knew Boyd wouldn’t attack him even though he was pretty clearly deranged because of the poison in the air and his proximity to the other werewolf.

Charlie’s attention was divided between the two of them, red eyes flicking back and forth as saliva dripped from his fangs. His features were less human than Derek’s had been. His forehead was more contorted and it actually looked like he’d gained some bulk around his shoulders, which was odd on his otherwise thin frame.

“Dude, you probably don’t want to eat me,” Stiles said, dumping another handful of the warm ash around his feet. He’d made a lopsided circle and felt like kind of a dumbass for thinking it might possibly keep the other guy at bay.

Of course, his speaking drew Charlie’s attention and his eyes fixed on Stiles’ chest, probably listening to his fear-quickened heartbeat and he was seriously going to die.

Except that Boyd was suddenly in front of him, blocking the other werewolf’s advance and it looked like he was going to put up a fight, too, but that was crazy because Stiles had watched enough nature documentaries to know that claws and teeth were pretty freaking good at killing things. Especially fleshy things that weren’t wearing any kind of protective anything. And alphas? Yeah, they were supposed to be the best at the whole wolf thing, right?

“Boyd, don’t,” Stiles said, reaching out to touch his shoulder, but he was already advancing, keeping himself between Stiles and Charlie, growling low in his throat, clawed hands extended at his sides.

“I’d stay in the circle, if I were you,” Gerard commented from the sidelines. He still had his gun out, but it was casually pointed at the floor and not any of them. Kate had put hers back wherever she’d gotten it from, arms crossed over her chest and a watchful look on her face.

Right, he should stay in the circle of magical powder and believe it would protect him from the half-crazed, roaring psychopath that had recently murdered another person and looked like he wanted to eat Stiles’ insides. He might as well dump the ash on his head and think of a happy thought so he could fly to Neverland, while he was at it. In his hands the jar grew slick from sweat, but he hugged it tighter to his chest.

Charlie attacked first, charging straight into Boyd like he was planning to go through the much larger guy because he hadn’t heard of physics before? But instead of just punching the guy in the back of the head and being done with it, Boyd seemed to be struggling to hold Charlie back, like he really was superhumanly stronger as an alpha than Boyd was as a beta.

Stiles glanced down, his circle was complete and what? He had to believe? It was pretty clear that Boyd wasn’t going to be able to hold back Charlie forever and there was no way Stiles could get anywhere faster than either of the others, not that the gun-toting Argents would let that happen anyway and he just had to shut his mind up for half a second and concentrate.

Stiles closed his eyes and wished he could shut his ears against the slashing and snapping of the werewolves brawling in front of him and the tumultuous crashing of the thunder outside that seemed to be shaking the building as the lightening struck. There weren’t any nearby windows, so he couldn’t estimate how far off the strikes were, but they were close enough for the air to gain a hair-raising charge.

Believe, his mother’s voice whispered, and so he did.

Stiles believed the circle would keep out danger, that he would remain there unharmed regardless of whatever else deemed fit to befall him. He believed, probably stupidly, that the Hales would come and save him and Boyd, and hopefully even Charlie. He believed that when he opened his eyes, Derek would be there.

There was shouting and gunshots in the part of the warehouse where Stiles had entered, and then a long, loud roar. Suddenly, Kate was yelling something and when Stiles opened his eyes to look, Gerard had his gun out, firing rapid shots at first Charlie and then Boyd. Stiles yelled for him to stop but it was too late, Boyd was crumbling onto the floor in a growing pool of his own blood and Charlie was charging toward him, bullet holes pocking his bare chest but doing nothing to slow him down.

Stiles held his ground, somehow, probably because he was too scared shitless to move a muscle as the red-eyed werewolf leapt toward him. Surprisingly, the only thing that really went through his mind was shit, but then it was like Charlie struck a brick wall, or maybe a rubber one because midway through the air, where the line of ash lay, he suddenly reversed directions and flew backward and slammed onto the concrete floor, where Gerard promptly shot him some more.

Dumbfounded, Stiles stared from the unmoving body over to Gerard. Kate was nowhere to be seen. The older man casually ejected the magazine, the noise if it hitting the ground drown out by the distant sound of shots and growls and thunder. He loaded another and pulled back the slide purposefully, and Stiles knew he was going to finish of Boyd. Just like that.

Unthinking, probably because he was beyond the capacity for complex thought, Stiles leapt over his partition, the jar somehow still clutched against his chest and he flung the ash in a circle around the fallen werewolf and himself, eyes trained on Gerard, who watched him with a look of mild irritation.

"That was a dumb move, boy," the older man said, walking slowly toward them.

Beside where he knelt, Stiles could feel Boyd breathing and that gave him courage.

"You're not going to hurt us," he said with conviction. "You aren't going to cross that line and you aren't going to kill either of us." He tried not to think about where his flatmate was lying in a leaking heap just out of his eyeline.

"Stupid child," Gerard sneered, "What are you going to do, stay there indefinitely? No one but those dogs know you're here, and that one," he pointed to Boyd, "will tear you apart come the full moon tomorrow."

"So I'll die tomorrow," Stiles gritted out. "And you're wrong, the other auditors know about this place and that I'm here. Your illegal operation is finished, we know you’ve been cooking your books. You and Kate are going to be arrested and thrown in jail for what you’ve done.”

It was mostly true, at least, he emailed Andrews and Luanne, hoping for the best, but not expecting them to immediately call the cops or anything. Hell, it was pretty much a bluff to throw the other man off his game, but he just casually kept walking closer to the circle.

“Then I guess I’ll just have to get rid of the evidence,” Gerard said, and raised his gun at Stiles’ head.

Believe, his mother’s voice commanded.

Stiles closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

He could still hear his mother’s voice in back of his mind as the constant barrage of sound echoed around them. Stiles crouched over Boyd’s head and shoulders, shielding him from he didn’t even know what because his eyes were closed and it was just so loud; gunshots and growls and screams. He finally peeked over his shoulder to find that Charlie was latched onto Gerard’s calf by his teeth like an extra in a bad zombie movie and then the man was shooting him in head, splattering his brain across the ground and Stiles was going to throw up as soon as he wasn’t quarantined in a magical circle with an unconscious person who didn’t actually seem to be bleeding, anymore, though the bullet holes kind of looked like they were glowing, and that barely even registered on his weirdness radar, his life was so fucked up.

Gerard finally pried Charlie's mouth off of him and staggered toward Stiles with a horrified look on his face, the gun waving wildly in his hand. "You did this," he accused, coming closer and closer to the edge of the barrier. "You-"

The moment his foot touched the ash Stiles shouted "No!" Partially out of reflex, but mostly because if he believed hard enough, if he denied the other man's capacity to harm him, then it would be true.

And just like that, Gerard was flung back so far he struck one of the metal vats with a hollow clang before he slammed to the concrete in a broken heap.

Stiles stared at him, but he didn't even twitch, and neither did Charlie. Boyd did, though, finally. He groaned and turned his head away from the carnage, which was pretty much what Stiles wanted to do, but he'd seen enough horror movies to know that taking his eyes off of the bad guy's corpse practically guaranteed that at some point it would disappear and then a scarier version of him would come after Stiles one night when he was feeling peaceful and calm and not at all like zombie-bait.

"Hey Boyd," he said, patting the other guy on an unwounded patch of his shoulder. His features had melted back to normal and it looked like he was in a hell of a lot of pain.

"Stiles," he mumbled, then said something else, but things were still pretty loud and it was hard to hear.

He crouched down, "What was that, buddy?" They were buddies. They'd cooked together and been kidnapped by the same creepy family. That practically made them bros.

"Bullet," Boyd rasped, "need one from his gun, 'nd a lighter."

Which, well, that was kind of weird.

He wanted Stiles to step outside his magical circle, go to Gerard's corpse, get his gun, take one of the bullets, frisk him for a lighter, and bring it back? That was really not a buddy kind of a thing to ask him to do, that was more a bro-soulmate type of a deal. Stiles would have done that for Scott in a heartbeat, after bitching, probably, but then again Boyd kinda looked like he was actively dying, so that altered the rules just a touch.

"Fine, yeah, okay," Stiles said, setting down the jar of ash next to the man’s prone figure. "Just, hold onto this for me and I'll go touch that dead guy over there."

Fuck his life.

Stiles carefully stepped over the line, believing that it would still protect his friend, and quickly sidestepped over to Gerard, keeping his eye out for anyone else, but the thugs were nowhere to be seen and neither was Kate or any of the other werewolves who were clearly on the scene tearing up some fools by the sounds of it. The gun was actually pretty difficult to pry from Gerard's still warm fingers and Stiles added that event to the list of things he was going to talk to a therapist about one day, preferably not too far in the future. Finally, he got it loose and quickly extracted a bullet from the chamber and slipped it into his pocket, tossing the gun away from the probably dead but maybe not body.

The next step was ten kinds of awkward as he patted down the body, finding a wallet stuffed with cash, some of which he may or may not have appropriated, and not much else besides a small pill case. With a sick sense of dread he realized Gerard didn't have a lighter, and that there was another body in the room that probably did have one.

Because of course he needed more terrible experiences in his life.

Stiles grimaced, but moved to his former flatmate's blood-spattered figure. Half his head was missing, well, not missing, just redistributed all over the floor and then Stiles smelled the bitter tang of blood and promptly fell to his knees and threw up all over the cold concrete. After that it took him several dry heaves and high pitched noises, but eventually he gathered the courage to pat down Charlie's body and he quickly found what he was looking for.

He stumbled to his feet to return to Boyd when Kate walked back into the room with a rifle in her hands. It looked like she'd been in quite a brawl; her hair was disordered, one sleeve of her suit was hanging on by threads, and she was walking with a bit of a limp. She didn't seem to be actually injured, though, well, there were no gaping wounds that he could see. Kate stopped just inside the room as Stiles cautiously approached Boyd, who was glaring at her.

"What the hell happened here?" she asked, taking in the scene with quick glances from the ash circles to the fallen bodies, her hands tightening menacingly on the gun.

Stiles froze and pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "He did it," he said, gesturing to Gerard's body. "Well, so did he," Stiles pointed to Charlie's bloody corpse. In the circle, Boyd struggled to sit up and Kate snarled.

She raised the rifle against her shoulder and aimed at Stiles, but he was outside the ash circle and there wasn't anything he could do and then it was like the room became a solid wall of sound as she pulled the trigger with a yell and a roaring red-orange blur tackled her to the ground with a sickening thud. Boyd was struggling to get out of the circle, growling and clawing helplessly at the ground and Stiles closed his eyes.

Like in his dream, the brilliant white light cast stark red afterimages through his eyelids as the shattering crash of thunder stole his breath and hearing.

When Stiles opened his eyes he thought he'd gone momentarily insane. He was laying on his stomach on the ground, his right cheek pressed against it, already beginning to ache from what had probably been a pretty significant impact, though he couldn’t remember having fallen. His bottom lip hurt, too, and as he tongued it he realized he’d somehow split it, probably from accidentally biting it or something? Stiles had no idea. He sat up dizzily, watching as thick snowflakes fell around him and Boyd and the massive wolf he'd only gotten a glimpse of before. It was standing over Kate's crumpled body, and it looked like her throat had been cut, or, more likely, devoured by the giant ginger furred-

"Ginger Bear?" Stiles asked, but his voice sounded kind of weird from what he hoped was only temporary hearing loss and talking made his lip and face ache.

The wolf, Derek, raised his head and sniffed the frigid air, then shook his entire body and ran back the way he'd come, toward where the noises of fighting had been.

Stiles wasn't sure how long he'd sat there, but Boyd was saying something he didn't quite catch, so he stumbled to his feet and shuffled over to him and fell to his knees inside the circle. His mind was swimming and things weren't really making any sense and there were dead bodies everywhere and he'd been shot at, but wasn’t injured beyond what had happened to his face, and then Boyd's warm hands were gently prying the lighter from his and then he hastily dug into his pocket for the bullet and gave it to the other man.

Because right. Saving Boyd first, freaking out later.

Boyd put the bullet between his teeth and bit the top off, spitting it out off to his other side and pouring the gunpowder and flower bits onto the concrete close to Stiles. It took him a few tries, but he finally managed to spark the lighter and when the flames touched the mixture they turned a brilliant purple for an instant before emitting a thin trail of blue smoke. Boyd pinched some between his fingers and lay back with a grimace before pressing it into one of the wounds on his chest and that couldn't have been sanitary, but then he was writhing and gritting his teeth in pain and Stiles was just sitting there watching him suffer.

He put his hands on Boyd's shoulder, wishing he could help alleviate at least some part of the other man's pain, and then the warm body beneath him went slack as he passed out.

"Boyd?" Stiles whispered, or maybe yelled, he wasn't sure because all he could really hear was the constant whistling of the wind through the gaping hole overhead that had probably been blasted there during the lightening strike.

Boyd didn't respond.

The spot on his chest where he'd put the ash wasn't glowing like the other bullet holes, and actually seemed to be healing, so Stiles figured that was a good thing and quickly scooped up more of the powder and pressed it to each and every wound. Boyd didn't stir, but by the time he was done all the marks were fading and Stiles didn't think he could get used to knowing that kind of magic existed in the world.

He was shivering from the cold and probably shock and Boyd was still shirtless and passed out and Stiles wasn’t entirely sure about whole werewolf physiology, but being exposed to the elements whilst mostly naked probably wasn’t all that good for anyone, regardless of species.

Were werewolves even a different species?

Isaac said he’d been bitten and turned into one, which would seem to indicate he’d been a human before, as he knew Charlie had been and figured Erica had been, too, but wasn’t sure about Boyd and Stiles was aware his brain was slowly descending into chaos as he curled up with his chin on his knees beside Boyd in the middle of what was probably a massacre. And he was cold and his face hurt.

When he’d gone into auditing, Stiles had never expected his life to be full of any real excitement or danger. He’d actually chosen that field in part because of the amount of anxiety his dad’s job had caused him over the years he’d spent surreptitiously listening in on the police bands, just waiting for what he thought was the inevitable broadcast that the sheriff had been shot or something equally horrible. Stiles knew how nerve wracking it could be, waiting for that phone call, so, even though he would have made an awesome cop or FBI agent, he’d deliberately chosen a field where his life wasn’t on the line.

Fat lot of good that had done him.

Stiles stared down at the half-empty jar of ash and the restful breathing of the man beside him and knew he had to make a decision. And that it was probably going to suck. But before all of that, he had to do a few things, the first of which was to get Boyd up and active.

“Boyd,” he said, his voice sounding a bit more normal than before. He tapped the other guy on the face, but it didn’t seem to do anything. “Boyd! Wake up!”

Nothing.

He stood up and bent over the other man, gritting his teeth as the blood rushed to his own face with a painful thud. “Sorry, man, but this is for you own good,” he said before punching Boyd in the face.

His reaction was immediately and slightly comical. He surged upright, nearly headbutting Stiles’ stomach as he looked around with a wide-eyed expression. “What-” he started to say, but Stiles was too busy nursing his maybe broken hand to concentrate.

“Dude, is your head made of granite? What the hell?” It wasn’t like he didn’t know how to throw a punch, either, but he figured werewolfiness must endow the person with some kind of Wolverine-like skeletal system because he wasn’t sure his hand was ever going to be the same. Some time later, after it no longer felt like it was going to fall off, Stiles helped Boyd struggle to his feet and they surveyed the carnage together.

“So, uh, Charlie bit Gerard and then got his head splattered. Oh, and Derek killed Kate. Any questions?” It was probably as succinct an explanation as could be given of events, and remarkably short-winded for Stiles.

“You’re hurt.” Boyd said, his arm was around Stiles’ shoulder to support himself and even through the sweater he could feel the other man’s body heat.

“Not a big deal, at least not physically, but emotionally I’m pretty sure I’ll never be the same,” he said honestly.

Beside him Boyd breathed out a laugh, “Yeah, okay. You gonna break this circle or are we going to stand around and cuddle all day?”

“Uh, yeah,” he said, then scuffed the toe of his borrowed boot through the line. He bent them both so he could pick up the jar, then they hobbled toward Charlie’s body. “So, this might be weird, but I’ve seen too many horror movies, so just bear with me, okay?”

Boyd didn’t comment as he spread a circle around the body and believed it would hold the possibly reanimated corpse inside. Then they moved to Gerard and did the same. At some point between his hearing going out and it returning to almost normal, the wind and fighting noises had died down and the snow had stopped falling into the warehouse. Stiles glanced up through the hole overhead and there was nothing but pale winter-blue sky.

That was actually a really good thing.

Boyd was strong enough to walk on his own as they moved toward the open space leading to the other side of the warehouse. He stayed in front of Stiles, which he really had no problem with at all because if any big bad came careening out of the dimly-lit space Boyd was probably the one who would have been able to deal with it. They passed the corpse of Kate Argent and it was pretty clear she was extremely dead as well, but Stiles spread the ashes around her, anyway. All that remained in the jar was little more than a handful, so he scooped it into his hand and poured it into the pocket of the borrowed pair of Derek’s jeans, he was wearing. Stiles set the container on one of the worktables as they continued through the vast space.

There were other bodies, of men and women in the same black combat gear, all of them armed, but their throats or stomachs had been torn out and splattered on the ground underneath and around them. Stiles lost count at around seven, and after that he just kind of followed numbly after Boyd, vaguely aware that he’d stopped shaking at some point and a part of him realized that was probably a bad thing, but he was too fucking done with the situation to really care about anything, including his own basic needs, like not succoming to hypothermia or shock.

Despite the massacre, they moved quickly through the space to where Stiles had entered. No one was around, well, no one alive, and he mindlessly collected his messenger bag and the duffle bag Derek had packed for him as they made their way out the door and into the icy winter air.

Chapter Text

Once outside, Boyd immediately took a deep breath of the crisp air, almost panting, like he’d been holding his breath and maybe he had because apparently the warehouse was full of werewolf poison. He’d only taken a few inhalations when a blond-haired blur rushed toward them and flung herself against Boyd’s half-clothed body. Erica actually climbed up him, legs and arms wrapped tight around his waist and neck as she peppered his face with frantic kisses. Isaac was a half-beat behind her, but settled for a more dignified shoulder pat and private kind of smile, which Boyd returned as he nuzzled his cheek against Erica’s head. Stiles was thrilled to see that Isaac was alive and unscathed, but the whole reunion looked like a personal kind of a deal, so he glanced away and saw Laura and Derek talking in low voices, but she looked pretty passionately upset about something as the man scowled and slipped a pale gray henley over his head. He was barefoot, but had on his signature tight black jeans and Stiles realized he wasn’t ready to deal with any of it, yet.

Finally, Erica disengaged herself from her lovers and stumbled over to Stiles, he was momentarily startled as she flung her arms around him in a tight, comforting hug and it reminded him of the time after he’d been shot at, and Jesus, that had only been the previous day, hadn’t it?

Stiles needed a new life, his was too full of terrible things that didn’t make sense and the sharp breeze was stinging his cheek and split lip and he kind of wanted to collapse onto Erica and have a good long cry, but the others were around and it was really too cold for that. He let himself be half-dragged to the SUV he’d hotwired. The back was crumbled from the impact and some of the windows were busted out, but it was drivable. The camaro was there, too, and the hybrid.

Apparently it had been an all hands on deck kind of a situation. But when he looked beyond the Hales there were other people milling around and driving away, too, fading into the background before he could really focus on them and he was just fucking done. “I’m taking a nap,” he declared before the inquisition or whatever could begin.

No one argued when he claimed the front passenger seat of the SUV and Laura wordlessly got behind the wheel. The rest of them spread out amongst the other cars and Stiles closed his eyes, not bothering to adjust the vents so the heat blasted on him or fiddle around getting comfortable. He just settled and tried not to think.

After driving for a while, Laura finally sighed. “So, Derek fucked up pretty badly, didn’t he?”

Stiles snorted out a wry laugh, wincing as his cheek burned from the movement. “Yeah, I’d say so, why, are you going to try to defend him because I gotta tell you, I’m not really interested in hearing it.”

“Naw, he dug himself this hole, it’s his job to get himself out of it.”

“Pretty deep hole,” Stiles commented, lazily opening his eyes to watch the white fields roll by.

He could hear the leather of Laura’s jacket shifting, like she’d shrugged. “Yeah, maybe, but he does feel like shit, just in case you missed that.”

Stiles didn’t respond, thinking about the man in his wolf form, massive and majestic and very very orange. Ginger Bear, indeed. He’d moved like a shadow, too, pouncing on Kate when she’d shot at Stiles and killing her without a thought, it seemed. That was a pretty significant thing to do for another person. To kill for them. To defend them. And Stiles wasn’t sure how he was going to handle it, knowing that Derek had done that for him. Kate Argent was dead, and he was responsible, in a way.   

And he needed to think of someone else before he started swirling down the morality whirlpool of thoughts and feelings. That was better left for Scott, who would tell Stiles how to handle it after he told him. If he told him. It wasn't like he could just bring up the fact that Derek and company were werewolves, not without having his friend think he was totally fucking insane.

Maybe he was.

Shit.

Change of subject, change of subject, oh. "Hey, who were those other people that drove away? They didn't look like Argent thugs." No, they'd looked like normal people, actually.

Laura sighed and tapped her hands on the wheel, "They're part of my mom's pack, and when we raised the alarm they came to help out. All of them live near enough that it wasn't a problem for them to show, and they're all fine, by the way."

Which was nice to hear. At least he didn't have to add more bodies to his count, no, just Kate and Gerard and Charlie and the dead alpha and the dozen or more thugs that had gotten themselves killed by the Hale pack, which was a lot more expansive than he'd been led to believe. For some reason he'd thought pack was just family and immediate friends, like Isaac, Erica, and Boyd, but there had been all kinds of others. At least a handful of vehicles carrying several people each, but pack dynamics weren't really on his list of super priorities to contemplate at the moment. He was more concerned with how he was going to deal with Derek.

Poorly, probably. With a dash of pettiness and maybe even some vengeance thrown in for good measure. He wasn't the most level-headed person when he felt he'd been wronged, which, even though he knew that was a definite personality flaw of his, Stiles really didn't care all that much to modify his behavior, especially not when he felt he was in the right. And the whole thing with Derek? Yeah, Stiles was definitely the wronged party in that equation.

"Are the police going to be involved with this, or is it going to be some hush-hush hunter and werewolf only situation?"

"Well, you're already involved and their operations extended far beyond just this factory, so I think it's safe to assume you're going to be interviewed at least one more time about this. We'll go over your story with you to make sure everything's okay, first."

Because of course they would.

"I told some people at my company about the fraud, sent them pictures of my notebook," Stiles told her, staring at the endless white out the window. There really wasn't much to the place.

Laura made a soft humming noise. "That's really good, Stiles, that'll help us a lot. I'm glad you decided to report your findings, I know it must have been hard."

Not as hard as hotwiring the SUV, he didn't say. Actually, she probably would have found that amusing, except for the part where it got Isaac run over and him kidnapped and almost killed. It had gotten a lot of other people killed, instead.

"You guys got up here fast," he said.

"Derek freaked out when he realized you'd been taken and we sped the entire way. I'm actually surprised we weren't pulled over half a dozen times, but he always knew where the traps would be and we can see the infrared of the speed gauges if we really look for them. Erica drove because he could hardly control his shift and we were afraid he was going to accidentally rip the steering wheel off the car. Isaac met us here with the other pack members and we charged in together.”

There was a stretch of silence before Laura finally asked the question he knew had been bothering her. “Who did that to your face?”

Stiles realized he hadn’t actually seen the damage and pulled down the mirror to take a look. There was an angry red smear of bruise across his cheek and his bottom lip was scabbed over where he’d split it. He looked haggard and drawn, his cheeks too hollow and his eyes dull, haunted.

Great.

He flipped the mirror back up and studied the landscape again. “It’s my fault,” he said softly.

The sound of Laura’s hands tightening on the steering wheel was audible. “Stiles,” she warned, “That’s not what I asked you, now which of those assholes did that to you, and don’t try to lie to me because you and I both know that’s not going to work.”

Because she was a werewolf who could hear his heartbeat.

Yeah, he got that.

“I think I did it to myself,” he finally admitted. Why not? It wasn’t like he had anything to hide, he barely understood what was going on as it was.

“What do you mean, you did it to yourself?”

Stiles made a frustrated noise, “It means that when Kate tried to shoot me I closed my eyes and then there was a lightening strike and the next thing I knew I was on the floor with my face all fucked up. That’s what it means.”

“You were struck by lightning?” there was definite panic in her voice and the SUV swerved a bit on the snowy road before she got it back under control. Ahead of him, Isaac slowed the camaro and Stiles could see Derek turn his head to look back at them.

“Derek didn’t seem to think it was a big deal,” he challenged, definitely not looking at the other man or his constipated concerned face.

Laura scowled, “Well, Derek’s an idiot, I think we’re well aware of that, but Stiles, we should get you to a hospital or something, right? I mean, lightning strikes, oh shit. Call my mom," she said leaning over to reach for the glove compartment and not really watching the road of the fact that they were pretty freaking close to the jagged shards of ice on the shoulder.

"The road, Laura, watch the road," he demanded, batting her hands away. "Fine, fine, I'll get your damn phone, just watch the freaking road!"

Ahead of them it looked like Isaac and Derek were arguing about something as Stiles opened the glove box and took out the cellphone. She tried to take it but he held of away. "No, you're a terrible driver when you're distracted, I'll call her."

Stiles waited for her to sit back in her seat before he went to her contacts menu and scrolled down to find Talia's number. There were over a dozen Hales and he felt a brief moment of envy. His own family was so tiny in comparison.

He pushed call and sighed, waiting for her to pick up. She did so after the second ring with an anxious-sounding "Laura? Are they safe?"

"Uh, this is Stiles, actually. Laura's driving and everyone's okay. We're heading to, well I'm not really sure," he trailed off and Laura chimed in, "The lake house. Stiles summoned lightning and the Argents are dead."

Stiles winced, "Yeah, that, too."

The line was mostly quiet, but he thought he could hear Talia reporting to someone else, Rollin, probably. When she spoke again her voice was soft, "Stiles, is what my daughter said about you true? Did you summon lightning?"

She reminded him of his own mother and he bit his lip before remembering why that was such a bad idea. Blood and pain burst into his mouth and he used the sleeve of Derek's sweater to wipe it away. "Yeah," he said quietly, feeling drained both physically and emotionally.

"Your mother would be so proud of you," Talia said gently and he had to close his eyes against the tears.

"Yeah, well, I'm a liar so probably not so much," he said, voice wavering.

"You don't have to be, not with us."

Stiles finally opened his eyes and stared out at the tear-blurred landscape. "Maybe not," he said without conviction, knowing that he still had a few more deceptive seeds to sow before the thing was done.

Talia made a soothing noise, a wolf-like sound that made his heart ache. "Did you know before this that you are a spark?" she asked quietly.

Stiles shook his head, "I don't even know what that means, but Gerard called me that before he died." Before Stiles had killed him. Jesus, he'd killed a guy. The reality of it hasn't actually caught up with him until that moment, but instead of feeling guilty or sick or any other rational emotion he was just kind of numb.

"Stiles? Tell me how you're feeling. The use of magic is incredibly taxing on the body and spirit. You need to anchor yourself before you get sick or worse.”

“Anchor?” he said, but then he realized the rest of what she’d said, “Was that why my mom died?” She’d slowly wasted away for a few years before finally dying.

“No, Stiles, your mother didn’t pass away because of her magic, that was just nature that took her. For werewolves, as well as others who deal with magic, an anchor is a feeling or person or memory that keeps them grounded. It makes it so they don’t lose themselves. We need to find your anchor so you can recover properly from the summoning.”

Laura waved her hand at him until he put the phone on speaker, not that she really needed it, and held it out between them. “Oh, Mom, Stiles and Derek shared a dream,” she said, glancing over at him like she wasn’t sure how he was going to react.

He didn’t. React that was, just turned back to stare outside. Stiles didn’t really care, anymore, about anything.

Talia made a noise of understanding. “Well, that’s simple enough, you just need to make sure Derek is close to you for the next few hours, a day, to be safe.”

“No,” Stiles said, “I don’t want to be near Derek. I don’t want to speak to him or have him speak to me. I want nothing to do with him.”

There, he’d said it, though he wasn’t brave enough to check Derek’s reaction to the rude confession.

Talia was silent for a long moment. Then she asked mildly, “Stiles, what did my son do?”

Like she knew Derek was the one in the wrong and that almost brought a smile to his lips, except that would have pulled on his wounds and so he settled for a soft sigh, instead. “He’s a jackass,” Stiles said.

Laura barked out a laugh, “He really is.”

“Laura,” her mother warned, fondly. “Stiles, would you please elaborate? I want to know just how much trouble my son has caused for himself.”

“He’s been spying on me,” Stiles said, “he had a camera in my apartment and some kind of receiver or something in my phone. He’s heard every call, seen every text, and listened in on what I was doing even when I wasn’t using it.”

On the phone Talia growled, low and menacing.

Laura promptly stiffened beside him and bit her lip as her eyes flashed blue. Ahead, the camaro swerved almost to the center line before Isaac seemed to regain control.

“Would you care to explain why my son is such an idiot?” she asked, her words slightly lisped and oh, that probably meant her fangs were out. Mama Hale was pissed.

And really, her question was something Stiles was pretty interested in finding out as well, but he hazarded a guess as best he could. “I’ve been auditing the Argent’s company, Argent Unlimited. Derek and I actually met the day I started working there, so I think he’s been trying to get information from me since the start.” It was painful to admit, but almost certainly the truth. Stiles wasn’t quite capable of maintaining any illusions about life and random coincidences after what he’d gone through.

Laura started to speak, maybe to protest, but Talia cut her off, “Not you, child, let Stiles tell me.”

“He bugged my phone during yoga,” probably at some point during the session when he’d acted so weird about Stiles being late, “and Isaac planted the camera after I had a panic attack at the hospital where my flatmate was recovering from being attacked. He took me to the apartment and put it in a cereal box on the counter.” Ahead of them, Isaac seemed to be driving extremely carefully.

“And what was the purpose of all of this spying, do you think?”

Stiles sighed, “The Argent’s numbers were off, which I knew pretty much from the start, but I couldn’t immediately see why, so I didn’t bring it up to my team. I eventually figured it out, though, and realized the Lake Geneva plant that had been shut down was still up and running, and that’s where they were putting their money, into manufacturing werewolf-stopping bullets, from the looks of it. I think Derek was spying on me because he thought I was on their side, that I wouldn’t do my job and turn them in once I figured out what the problem was, but I did. I sent the report a few hours ago, not that it matters now, since Kate and Gerard are dead.”

Since Derek and Stiles had killed them.

“So you’re saying my son invaded your privacy because he was unsure of your intentions.”

Was that what he was saying? It sounded like it. “Pretty much,” he said.

“And when did you find out about our family’s secret?”

“Well, they weren’t exactly subtle, but Derek admitted it this morning over breakfast. He said it was because we had the same dream last night.”

“It’s more complex than that, I think,” Talia said quietly, “You were together in the same dreamscape, experiencing it together. That’s an extremely rare event, even for those of us who are more magically inclined. Was there anyone else with you?”

Stiles swallowed and watched as Derek shifted in his seat. All of them could hear the conversation he and Talia were having, he realized. Not that it really mattered, secrecy didn’t seem to be a concept the Hales understood, well, except for the whole werewolf thing. They’d been okay at keeping that under wraps.

“My mother was there,” he said.

Talia hummed. “Very rare, indeed. Well, the fact remains that regardless of whether or not you like him, my son is your anchor, and the only way to prevent you from becoming sick is for you to be near him.”

“And how close is near?” Stiles asked. It was becoming difficult to keep his eyes open and he felt so tired, like when Derek had done the whole pain drain mojo thing the day before. He felt Laura’s hand on his, taking the phone and moving his arm to rest in his lap.

“Close enough to touch,” Talia said, but if she continued on it was lost to Stiles as he succumbed to sleep.



A feeling of warmth suffused his body and Stiles let himself relax into it, slowly sorting out the rest of his senses until he was able to recognize the quiet lapping of water and the soft thudding of his heartbeat and the careful grip someone had on the back of his neck. Stiles’ eyes slowly drifted open and he saw it was Derek who was holding him up in what he quickly deduced was a bathtub. Which meant he was probably naked, but everything was so blissfully warm he couldn’t quite be sure.

The man huffed out a relieved breath, “I’m sorry, I know you don’t want anything to do with me, but your heart rate was so low and your skin was cold and-”

“Please stop talking,” Stiles whispered, wanting nothing more than to just close his eyes again, but he couldn’t, not with Derek hovering over him looking like a kicked puppy.

Cub.

Whatever.

Derek stopped, but his eyebrows were showing how seriously concerned he was, and Stiles didn’t know where they were supposed to go from there. He knew where he wanted to go, but that wasn’t going to happen until he was able to move under his own power, which didn't look like it was a thing quite yet. But as for the two of them? There was just too much uncertainty. Their foundation was full of cracks.

Stiles sighed and closed his eyes, but then Derek made a soft, wounded noise not unlike the one he’d made that morning under very different circumstances, and he opened them again, studying the half-panicked expression on the other man’s face. “I’m not dying, dude, I’m just tired,” he finally said. His voice sounded thready and his body was so uselessly heavy, but his face didn’t hurt anymore and he was feeling pretty pleasantly warm, actually. Because of course Derek would know the exact perfect temperature to make his bathwater.

Derek started to open his mouth, but stopped and adjusted his gentle hold on the back of Stiles’ neck, instead, the other hand moving to brush water over the chilled skin of his upper chest. It was a means of comforting both of them without speech, Stiles recognized, and he allowed it; in part because it looked like Derek was about to lose his mind with worry, but also because it actually felt pretty good.

They stayed like that until the water started to get uncomfortably cool, at which point Derek pulled the plug and patiently lowered Stiles while it drained. When it was all gone he reluctantly let go and disappeared for an instant, appearing with his arms full of ridiculously towels. Stiles had never felt so useless, before. He could barely even flex his bare toes, let alone lever himself up out of the tub and dry himself off. Derek did it for him, though, draping a towel over his body, then carefully lifting him until he was sort of sitting up and putting another around his shoulders. He lifted Stiles with care, his skin warm through the damp fabric of his darkened gray shirt, then set him on a soft chair in front of the mirror, luckily facing away. Stiles wasn’t certain he could handle seeing them like that.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Stiles accused quietly as the other man gently toweled water from his damp hair with one hand while the other supported him.

Derek soft expression clouded. “Not because you’re temporarily incapacitated.”

“Then why?” he challenged, not sure if he was really prepared for the answer.

“Because it’s you.”

Yeah, he wasn’t ready for that, so he didn’t respond, just wordlessly allowed his former lover - could he even be considered former after less than a day? - wipe the water off with delicate touches of the soft towels.

The bathroom was spacious, much bigger than Stiles had been in before, tiled in white and pale blue. The tub looked like something out of one of the hoity-toity architectural magazines that always seemed to be lying around the places Stiles had helped audit. It was like a modern version of a claw-foot, all smooth lines and stark white.

"Fancy place," he commented.

Derek paused where he was drying Stiles' shoulders. "Am I allowed to speak again?" he asked, but it sounded like more of a legitimate question than sass.

Stiles considered being an asshole about it, but figured since Derek had been kind enough not to allow him to fall victim to probably not actual hypothermia but close enough, he could at least hear the guy out, not to mention the fact that he was literally at Derek's mercy. He didn't even have the strength to lift his hand, let alone dry off his own feet.

"Sure," he said curtly. He might allow it, but he didn't have to act like he was enjoying it.

"We're at my family's lake house not far from the factory. You've been asleep for a few hours, but when your heart rate became erratic and your skin was cold to the touch it was decided that I should bathe you."

"It was unanimous, I'm sure," Stiles said wryly.

Derek had the decency to blush, "There may have been some growling involved." And Jesus Christ if Stiles hadn't been set on remaining pissed off at the other man that little confession would have made his heart flutter. As it was it have a half-assed little jolt that the freaking werewolf crouched in front of him must have heard.

"I'm getting this chair thing soaking wet," he said instead of dwelling on their proximity or the weird relationship they had going on. Derek was Stiles' anchor? Yeah, okay.

"Your comfort takes precedence over any material goods, Stiles," Derek said in all seriousness.

He managed to raise his eyebrows in response. "Really? Because I'm pretty sure the SUV isn't going to be the same after I hotwired it. Glad to see it still worked, though." Because of course he had to bring that up, like an idiot.

"You're improvisation skills are commendable," Derek said with the barest hint of a smile, which amounted to a grin on any other man.

"So you're not pissed about that?" Stiles was pretty certain he'd have to take out a loan if he had to pay for the repairs himself.

Derek shook his head and carefully worked his way up Stiles' calves. "No one is angry at you for that."

"But you are angry at me for other things," Stiles challenged. Which was pretty rich, coming from Derek.

He looked slightly pensive, but altogether unapologetic.

"For getting myself kidnapped? Really? Victim blaming?"

Derek made a frustrated noise. "I'm angry that we're having this conversation under these circumstances."

"Oh, sorry my funky sparkle magic shit is an inconvenience to you, I'll try harder to schedule my episodes of total bone-weary exhaustion around your busy life."

"It's spark, not- and that's not what I'm saying, Stiles, don't put words in my mouth,” and it kind of sounded like Derek was pouting.

"Then use your own!" Stiles said, he was breathing too quickly and it made him dizzy. He had to close his eyes and catch his breath, cursing his stupid useless body.

Derek's hands gently cradled his face for an instant before wrapping Stiles in more dry towels and lifting him. Had he been an ordinary human, there would have been no way he could have carried him to so easily, but then again, if Derek had been normal, neither of them would have been in that mess to begin with. The post fight to the death mess.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” Derek said, gently laying him on something plush, a blanket, but Stiles’ couldn’t manage to force his eyes open, but he could feel the soft whisper of Derek’s hands as they caressed him. “I don’t want you to hate me, but I understand if you do. Just, I need you to be okay. Let me help you get better, and then you can push me away or punch me or whatever it is you want to do.”

That all sounded pretty okay with Stiles, really.

“Take off your shirt,” he mumbled, “s’wet.”

He swore he heard Derek chuckle as the sound of fabric rustled, then there was a living warmth against his side and Stiles felt his body completely relax.

Chapter Text

Stiles slept through the night, undreaming, and probably not even moving because when he finally woke up he was in almost the exact same position, his muscles were stiff and his joints ached, but there was a pleasant line of heat along his back and he’d played that game before. He reached behind him and elbowed the heavy weight, realizing as Derek let out a disgruntled murmur that at some point he’d regained the use of his limbs. That was a happy thought, at least. He finally managed to disentangle himself and sat up with a groan.

Soft early morning light shone through the large bare windows that overlooked a smooth icy expanse of water. It was a stunning view, and from what he could see there weren’t any other houses around to obstruct it. Yeah, the Hales were filthy rich.

Behind him, Derek finally got with the program and yawned, stretching out his arms and legs in a way that looked ridiculously appealing, both because of his unbelievable physique and the fact that Stiles could use a good stretch, too. The other man's torso was bare, but he was wearing boxer briefs, having shed his jeans at some point. Stiles' however, was still completely naked.

“Bathroom,” he said quietly, wincing as his bare feet touched the cold wood floor, “not going to find out anymore deep dark secrets about you this time, am I?”

Derek huffed out a breath, “No, Stiles, I don’t have any of those left.”

Which he didn’t actually believe, but whatever.

Stiles shuffled across the floor, feeling like a crotchety old man instead of a supposedly semi-virile youth. Apparently that magic stuff was no joke. He made it to the toilet, eventually and without help, and then to the sink after that, but by the time he'd dried his hands he was pretty much tapped out, leaning heavily against the counter and trying not to stare at the glaring red bruise across his face. It was actually a little surprising that it hadn’t healed overnight, but then again he and Derek hadn’t been intimate, nor had they shared a dream that time. He dragged himself across the bathroom counter and sat heavily on the backless chair thing he'd used before, then contemplated how much effort it would be to scoot it across the tile and into the bedroom so he could sleep for about a day.

A few minutes later, Derek meandered in and blinked at him. "You okay?" he asked as he casually took a leak, like there was nothing at all weird about it. Actually, the whole scenario felt oddly domestic and it made Stiles kind of squirm internally a bit.

"Fine. I like this chair." he did, too, the chair was his bro. It helped him out without asking stupid questions or spying on him and he really wasn't going to let that go ever.

"Okay," Derek said, but it was clear he was just humoring Stiles, the ass. "Laura set up an interview for you to speak with one of the local police detectives. He's coming in about an hour. We're going to have to get your strength up a bit and your story straight before that."

"Gee, that all sounds like so much fun," Stiles said bitterly.

Derek sighed and washed his hands, staring at him over his shoulder. “I know you’re upset with me-”

“Pissed, actually.”

“-and rightfully so, but you know we need to touch for you to regain your energy and to keep you from becoming sick.”

“I’m not cuddling with you, Derek,” Stiles said seriously. He wouldn’t. That was not a thing that was going to happen, the previous night aside. Passed out cuddles totally didn't count. Also, he might have been a pushover in past relationships, letting his lovers get away with way too much, including treating him like shit, but he was done with that. He wasn’t going to give in so easily. Not anymore.

“I’m not asking you to do that,” Derek said quietly, “but we could try something else, something we’ve done before-”

“I’m not fucking you, either.”

Derek’s ears turned red. “I was talking about yoga, Stiles.”

Oh.

“Oh, that might work,” he said lamely. It was kind of ironic, actually. The very thing that had brought them together being used to keep them that way, at least until Stiles regained full control of all his limbs. "Though it might be pretty painful for you, dude. I'm a hazard to both of us when I'm not mostly useless, I don't know how it's going to work with me like this." he sort of gestured to his slumped frame.

"Don't worry about it," Derek said. It was Stiles' least favorite of his catchphrases. "But first we should have breakfast, you haven't eaten anything since yesterday morning."

He hasn't, Stiles realized with a sudden gnawing pain in his stomach. "Thanks for the reminder," he said wryly.

Unrepentant, Derek disappeared into the other room, returning with more of his clothes for Stiles to wear and he was getting tired of feeling so beholden to the other man, but since that wasn't set to change for at least the immediate future he swallowed down the bitterness of his pride and let himself be dressed, helping as much as he was able while they wrestled on boxer briefs, sweatpants, and thick socks. Well, honestly, he really wasn't that big of a help, though he did feel a touch of guilty pleasure when he accidentally smacked Derek in the face while struggling his way into on of the man's plain dark shirt. He’d apologized, of course, but Derek hadn’t seem to buy it, for whatever reason, probably because Stiles laughed for a solid minute afterward.

Once dressed in what amounted to pajamas, Derek wrapped an arm around his waist, his hand slipping under his shirt to touch skin, with Stiles' arm draped over his bare shoulder, and walked them through the bedroom, then further into the house.

"You're not going to put pants on?" Stiles asked, though he didn't trust his head control enough to look down and check out the hairy musculature of Derek's legs.

"Breakfast first," he insisted.

The hallway was wide, and covered with photographs and paintings of people who he assumed were Hales. Stiles didn't get more than a glimpse of them, but they all had the same dark hair and stunning features. It looked like most had been taken at the lake, but there were others featuring dark expanses of woods and even a few of their house in Beacon Hills. Those made Stiles feel suddenly homesick and so he stopped looking.

“How do you want to do the stairs?” Derek asked because he wasn’t an ass one hundred percent of the time.

Stiles thought about all of the embarrassing ways their descent could play out and chose the lesser of the damsel in distress like evils. “Piggyback,” he decided. It was possible that he’d have the strength to hang on.

Maybe.

Derek humored him and twisted so he was partially crouched down in front of him, with Stiles’ arms wrapped around his neck. “Hold on,” he said unnecessarily, then stood, grabbing the underside of Stiles' thighs and hiking him up.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a total disaster. Stiles managed to maintain his hold, though he had to concentrate so hard on maintaining his grip that he missed seeing whatever rooms they passed through to get to the kitchen, where Derek set him gently on a chair in the breakfast nook. Erica was lounging against the pale granite kitchen counter eating an apple and smirking.

“Fun night?” she asked suggestively.

“Probably shouldn’t provoke the guy who can summon lightning. Just saying,” Stiles replied peevishly. He really wasn’t in the mood for banter. Or speaking. Or being around other people.

She chuckled and dodged Derek’s not altogether playful swat, actually leaping over the wide counter like a mountain goat or a werewolf or something, then racing back the way they’d come.

“Your pseudo-sister’s a brat,” he said, settling against the high-backed chair and staring out the window at the large snowy deck and the dock and ice beyond it. The sky was clear and in the distance he could see trees lining the far side of the lake.

Derek was messing around in the fridge, but stopped to respond, “So is my actual sister.”

Stiles smiled in silent agreement.

Since there wasn’t a lot of fresh food in the lake house, apparently Erica had brought the apple with her, maybe just for dramatic effect, they ended up eating canned beans and slices of frozen bread Derek popped into the toaster. It wasn’t exactly a feast, but Stiles was hungry enough to have thirds.

“We’re defrosting some red meat for you to have later. I know you don’t normally eat that, but it will help you recover more quickly,” Derek said as he sat back, watching Stiles shovel beans into his mouth with a piece of toast.

He frowned and swallowed. “Since when are you an expert on the care of magical creatures? Do you have a certificate of completion from Hogwarts? I'd like to see your credentials."

Derek rolled his eyes, “I called my mother when you were sleeping, Stiles, you were out for nearly twelve hours.”

“And yet I’m still having trouble walking on my own. I think your mom might have overestimated my ability to make a speedy recovery, dude.”

“The red meat will help. We have venison and beef.”

“Beef,” Stiles said, wrinkling his nose, “Kate basically force-fed me Bambi and I’m not keen to repeat that experience. Well, she did that with beef, too, but there wasn’t a creepy, my daddy shot this, story about the cow."

Derek’s eyes flashed blue as he scowled at the table. Which usually only happened when he was experiencing a strong emotion, Stiles had discovered and oh.

“Are you seriously jealous of a dead chick? Is that a thing that’s happening right now?” he asked, mopping up the remaining bean juice with the last of his toast. It made sense, he guessed. Clearly she’d known about Stiles being magical before Derek had figured it out, which in part explained the choice in meals she foisted upon him. Probably keeping up his red meat quotient so he could shoot fire out of his ass or whatever. He wasn’t even sure what he was capable of doing, besides his one impressive sideshow trick.

“I’m not jealous of Kate, I’m angry that she was trying to use you.”

Which was pretty rich, coming from Derek. “Oh, ho, so you’re mad that the tables were turned? Really? Because from my perspective, that’s pretty much exactly what you’ve been doing since day one, dude.”

Derek was still scowling, "it wasn't like that Stilles-"

"Which is a very long conversation the two of you are going to have in the near future," Laura said as she walked in, all dressed and ready for the day. She gave her brother's boxer briefs a pointed look, then turned to smile at Stiles. "Good to see you’re awake, I thought Derek was going to either cry or claw someone last night."

"Laura," the man growled, a hint of fang appearing between his lips.

Stiles smirked back at her and nodded, "You gonna brief me on the police thing?"

"As soon as we slap some band-aids on your arm," she said moving toward him with a first aid kit. It looked brand new as she set it on the table and popped it open, tearing off the top of the band-aid box and taking out a handful.

Derek took their plates to the sink and washed them, clearly watching his sister as one by one she stuck the very boring plain band-aids on to where Stiles' arm had been marked by the splinters.

"Can't have anyone asking questions about that," she said, patting the last of them. "As for your face we're going with Gerard punching you. Boyd'll back you up on that. And as for Charlie-"

She laid out the entire chain of events from the time he got in the SUV without Isaac that morning to how he ended up at the Hale's lake house that night. His mind was kind of swimming by the time he finished and he was pretty much ready for another nap. Derek wiped his hands on a dish towel and came over to rest his hand on Stiles' neck. It felt so unbelievably comforting it made him kind of want to pull away. He didn’t though because he could feel himself become more energized even from such a simple touch.

"You guys are seriously trusting me not to throw you under the bus, aren't you?" he asked. Because that's what it sounded like. If he told even a portion of the truth they'd all be imprisoned. Well, he and Derek would be for certain.

Derek's hand tightened on his neck, "We trust you, Stiles."

Laura smirked, "Lord knows why."



The detective showed up a little while later. Stiles was already ensconced in a soft pile of blankets on the gigantic couch that took up a large portion of the living room. Derek had started a fire in the fireplace, since that seemed to be what he did wherever they were, and Stiles actually dozed for a bit before he heard someone, Laura, clear their throat from the entry way behind him. He twisted his head and nodded to her and the middle-aged woman standing at her side.

It turned out that Detective O’Mara was understanding and a good listener and a werewolf.

Stiles wasn’t certain how he knew that last bit, but it was pretty much an indisputable fact. It could have been the way she sneakily scented the air, or how she sat on the edge of the sofa chair with just a bit more poise than was typical for her someone her age, or it could have been the fact that Derek barely left his side for the entire interview, very obviously keeping a hand on his skin every time he passed behind Stiles until he’d finally dragged the other man onto the couch next to him and linked their fingers so he’d just fucking stay still while he told his not quite accurate version of events.

“I get panic attacks, sometimes,” he told the detective to explain away some of their bizarre behavior. That much was true, at least.

She nodded and continued jotting down notes in her little booklet, an apparent must-have for police officers across the nation. Was it standard issue? Even his dad had one.

“So you took the Hale’s vehicle, a black SUV, with the intent to drive here to this house?” She asked.

Stiles nodded, “That’s correct, we thought I’d be safer here.”

“And on the way you were rear ended by another black SUV driven by Kate Argent?”

“She was in the backseat, I’m not sure who was driving.”

The detective made a note. “At which point you were forcibly taken and placed in the other vehicle.”

“Yes, I was cuffed around the wrists and ankles and put on the floor in front of the back seat. Ms. Argent kept poking me with her boot when she threatened me and told me that she had put a tracking device in my jacket, which is probably still in the warehouse, somewhere,” he said, looking at Derek for confirmation.

The other man nodded and used his free hand to gently touch the skin around Stiles’ band-aids, intentionally drawing the detective’s eyes to the proof of his former injury while appearing to just be offering comfort.

She made another note. “And did Ms. Argent tell you why she had been tracking you?”

They actually hadn’t covered that in Laura’s briefing, surprisingly enough. He shrugged, “She’d been showing an interest in me, lately, insisting I have lunch with her privately at work and generally making unwanted advances. The other members of my team, from Youngblood and West, they were kind of intimidated by her, so they made me play along to keep her happy. It’s an important account and we didn’t want to alienate our client, even if it meant suffering through awkward lunches together.”

“Were you having sexual relations with Ms. Argent?”

Derek’s grip tightened so alarmingly Stiles thought his fingers might pop off, but he managed a wry smile as he bounced their hands to clue the guy into his unwelcomely possessive behavior. “Uh, no, Kate’s not my type,” he said, nodding unsubtly toward Derek.

Another note, “And how long have you and Mr. Hale been involved.”

Derek actually blushed and his grip was suddenly lax, so Stiles answered as smoothly as he could. “Well, we’ve been taking couples yoga together since early November, and I spent Thanksgiving at his and Laura’s house in Chicago. Does that answer your question?”

She nodded. “What happened when you arrived at the warehouse?”

That was getting into trickier territory, so Stiles took a second to think about the story Laura had told him, concentrating on believing it. He wasn’t under the impression that the werewolf detective would call him on his bullshit, but was unwilling to take the chance should that be the case.

He started off with the actual truth. “One of the thugs, mercenaries, whatever, he carried me inside and dumped me on the floor. Kate uncuffed me and led me further back into the warehouse, factory, whatever it was. She had Charlie, my flatmate, chained up on one wall and Boyd on the other. I tried to negotiate with her, but she wouldn’t listen and then Gerard Argent showed up and wanted the two men to fight to the death.” Stiles trailed off as she took notes, looking over at Derek to see how he was doing. The other man nodded and pulled him so their sides were flush. At some point between breakfast and the interview he’d gone back upstairs and put on a shirt and jeans, which weren’t as comfortable to snuggle up against, but the whole almost naked thing probably wasn’t appropriate for company. Or Stiles, since he wasn’t going to think of Derek as a sexual object while he was mad at him, which was going to be his state of being for the foreseeable future.

“Did Ms. or Mr. Argent comment on the mutilated body that was discovered in one of the back rooms?”

Stiles’ brow furrowed, “Mutilated? What do you mean by that?” He knew, of course, well, he assumed, but wanted to be certain it was Charlie’s handiwork.

The detective studied him for a brief second before continuing. “There was a body of an older man found with large gashes and bite marks all across his throat and stomach. He died of his wounds.”

“Jesus,” Stiles breathed, settling more firmly against Derek. That certainly backed up Kate’s claim that Charlie had killed the alpha who had bitten him. Well, that and the red eyes. He figured that was an alpha thing as well. Stiles realized he probably had to continue the conversation so he shook his head. “There was a big animal somewhere in there. I heard it when Charlie and Boyd were fighting, but then Gerard,” he gestured to the mark on his face. He thought that saying as little as possible about the whole situation was probably for the best, since he didn’t want to lie outright to a werewolf and it wasn’t as if he could talk about his magical lightning powers.

Jesus, was he a mutant? Was he Storm? If that was the case, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to him. He could be blue with a tail, oh, but then he could apparate, which was a pretty useful skill, and he was getting kind of again.

“Did you, at any point, see either of the men who assaulted you December 5th?” the detective asked.

Stiles frowned, thinking about it. “No, I didn’t. And I’m pretty sure I would have recognized them. Were they there?” Were they dead? Had one of the werewolves from Talia’s pack killed them? That was a thought that didn’t make him feel all that bad, actually. If that was the case it would have been a bit of a relief, truth be told.

But the woman was shaking her head, “No, there were no men meeting the descriptions you gave, or the corroborating images we picked up from the hospital cameras on the day you visited your friend there.”

Which, shit, that sucked. Also, no one had brought up the fact that Charlie’s body was definitely not sporting any of the grievous injuries he’d been admitted for, but then again the detective was a werewolf, so she probably knew all about the why of that situation, right? But whatever, Stiles was starting to have a hard time thinking of so many different things at once, so he settled back against Derek, moving so the skin all along their arms was touching. Derek reached over with his free hand and rested it on the soft underside of Stiles’ forearm, holding them together.

The detective seemed to get the hint and continued. “What happened after Gerard Argent assaulted you?”

Stiles frowned, “I was disoriented.” He didn’t mention that he’d passed out or lost time or whatever because that probably would have guaranteed him a trip to the ER. Head injuries leading to blackouts were bad news. Probably especially those caused by lightning strikes. “Everything was really loud and there was a lot of wind from that hole in the roof, and gunshots and whatever animal that was loose in there was growling. I’m not sure what happened, but the next thing I knew Boyd and I were the only ones left.” He swallowed, trying to appear vulnerable and he wasn’t sure if Derek was playing it up or felt genuine concern for him because he disentangled their hands and wrapped Stiles in a firm one-armed hug, the other hand grabbing onto both of his.

Detective O’Mara nodded and jotted something down. “You’re unsure how Mr. Argent came by his injuries, then?”

Stiles wasn’t even sure of the extent of Gerard’s injuries so he settled on a nod.

“What about Kate Argent?”

Stiles swallowed. “Boyd and I passed her body when we were finally able to walk out of there, but I don’t know much about it.” He could guess Derek’s motive, to protect Stiles from danger, but it wasn’t as if they’d discussed it. Also, most of his answers to the detective’s questions had been pretty vague and unhelpful, but she acted like it was exactly what she’d been expecting to hear. Perhaps that was the case. Whatever, he was kind of done talking and thinking.

She wrote one final thing, then closed the notebook. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Stilinski, Mr. Hale,” she kind of bowed her head to Derek when she said that and he nodded to her. “I understand Mr. Boyd is waiting for me in the dining room?”

“That’s correct, just through the kitchen then through the far door,” Derek said nodding the way.

She stood up and walked soundlessly to where he’d indicated.

Once she was gone Stiles slumped back on the couch and opened his mouth to comment, but Derek’s finger was pressed against his lips and he shook his head.

Right, werewolf.

Stiles batted Derek’s hand away and made fangs with his fingers in a silent question.

Derek rolled his eyes in response, but nodded.

Huh, so Stiles had been right.

That was kind of weird, though, wasn’t it?

Whatever, his entire life was weird.

Chapter Text

Derek carried him bridal style back up the stairs, which Stiles would have protested more vocally had there not been a strange werewolf in the house, so he settled on scowling and maybe even pouting. Not that it did anything but make the other man have to bite back an amused smile, the jerk.

But instead of taking him back to what Stiles assumed was the master bedroom where he’d woken up, Derek detoured midway down the hall and took them to what looked like a bedroom designed for children to sleep and play in.

“My cousins use it, now,” Derek explained, setting Stiles on the beanbag chair by the base of the sturdy wooden bunk bed. Which implied that, at one point, Derek had used the room.

“Did you get the top or bottom bunk?” Stiles asked, glancing at the random bits of lake debris on the dresser; some smooth pieces of glass, fun colored rocks, a piece of driftwood, typical kid collectables. He still had some shells from when his parents had taken him to the beach back before his mom had gotten sick.

Derek’s cheeks pinked, “The bottom, Laura would never let me take the top.”

Jesus, imagining Derek as a little kid arguing with his sister over something so normal was kind of an adorable image, and he had to stop thinking about before he did something unpardonably stupid like forgive the jackass for spying on him like a possessive douchebag.

“Okay, so I think it’s safe to say that if you want the top now, you can have it. I’m perfectly fine on the bottom.” And hey, that came out sounding kind of not the way he intended at all.

Derek seemed to think so, too because the blush was still there and he ran a hand over the back of his neck in a very Stiles manner, looking kind of awkward and uncomfortable.

“Wow, whatever,” Stiles quickly continued, “So why are we in the kiddie room? Have we been sexiled? Are Isaac and Erica destroying the bed we used last night? Tell me what’s up.”

“No it’s, it’s nothing like that,” Derek said, looking kind of bewildered. “Isaac and Erica went into town to get groceries. The full moon’s tonight and we tend to go through a lot of food afterward, plus you need fresh produce.”

“Part of the,” he wiggled his fingers, “stuff?”

“Yes, Stiles,” Derek said with a hint of a smirk, “it’s because of that, plus that’s what you’re used to eating.”

Which Derek knew in part because he’d been spying on Stiles when he was cooking in his kitchen. The asshole.

“And we’re here?” Stiles said, trailing off and glancing pointedly around the room.

“For yoga. I figured you’d prefer to do it in a room with a softer floor, and this is one of the only places in the house with carpeting.”

Which was actually pretty thoughtful since it wasn’t like Derek cared all that much about what surface they used. After all, it wasn't like he’d be the one falling and busting himself on it, and even if he was the acrobat, which wasn’t going to happen with Stiles mostly out of commission, he’d have probably been able to just heal unsightly bruises or whatever pretty quickly. Stiles’ marks on the other hand tended to linger, his recent cuts from the assault aside, though his cheek and lip were still pretty messed up.

“Okay, that’s cool, but I’m feeling more like a jellyfish than a swan, if you get my drift. Heh, drift. That’s an ocean joke.”

Derek just shook his head and stretched his arms overhead. making his shirt ruck up a bit to show the toned lines of his hips and stomach and no, Stiles wasn’t looking at that, he was looking at a little square canvas on the wall behind Derek that depicted a child’s painting of an orange-colored dog or something and holy shit.

“Dude, is that you?” he asked, pointing to it with an incredulous smile.

The other man frowned and shook his head unconvincingly, “Why would you think that?”

He was a terrible bullshitter, Stiles was embarrassed for him. “You’re awful at lying, just so you know, and that’s totally you! You’re Ginger Bear! Oh my god that’s fucking adorable. Did Laura paint that?” It was mostly just a slightly cartoony depiction of the orange wolf's head and neck, bright blue eyes seeming to glare directly at the viewer.

Derek nodded reluctantly. “Thankfully it’s the only image of me in my wolf form. My coloring is too unusual for us to take pictures like we can with everyone else.” He didn’t sound the least bit upset about that fact, which was kind of sad, really.

“Derek, you look totally badass as a wolf,” he said in all seriousness. “I mean, you’re massive and that awesome color. If I hadn’t known it was you I’d have probably shit my pants. No joke.”

“But you knew it was me?” Derek asked softly, turning to Stiles with his arms folded across his chest. It was a defensive posture, or maybe a self-conscious one.

Stiles let himself smile, “Yeah, dude, I knew it was you.”

“And my wolf form didn’t scare you?” he asked, almost challengingly.

“No, I was too impressed to be scared. Plus, what were you going to do, lick me to death? I think we both know that even when you’re wolfed out, you won't hurt me.” It was kind of a hard thing for Stiles to admit, but he knew it was true. The facts were there, and the previous morning’s half-shifted sex was pretty solid evidence in support of that theory as well. It didn’t mean Stiles trusted him to keep his manipulations under control, just his fangs and claws and apparent super-strength. “You won’t hurt me physically,” he amended quietly.

That last part seemed to cost Derek something and he closed his eyes for a moment.

Stiles was tired in so many ways, but he was the one who broke first, with a long sigh. “Whatever, let’s do this, but seriously? You’re going to wear those jeans? Those make my junk hurt just watching you in them right now.”

Derek frowned, "Were my jeans uncomfortable when you wore them yesterday?"

"What? No, they were fine, but you're like, all-" Stiles gestured to the other man's frankly insane body.

"All what, Stiles?" Derek asked, but he was kind of smirking just a little bit and Stiles rolled his eyes.

"I can't believe you're fishing for compliments right now-"

"I'm not fishing for-"

"-but fine. Yes, you have a body that makes angels weep, I can't believe your phenomenal ass fits in those skin-tight jeans, but I'll be the first to say thank you for suffering for the benefit of mankind. Wolfkind, too, I guess."

Derek's face was pink and he was biting his bottom lip in clear embarrassment. "I don't," he started, then cleared his throat.

"Whatever, dude, now what are you going to do about the pants situation? Did you pack any more sweatpants?"

He shook his head. "We didn't pack anything. When I realized you'd been taken we got in the car immediately."

Which, okay. That had happened. Hales to the rescue, apparently. “But you can’t seriously be contemplating doing yoga in those. I don’t care if you can heal from partial castration or whatever, no one should wear something so restrictive when they’re bending and flexing.”

“What do you suggest?”

Stiles gave him an unimpressed look. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?”

Derek’s faux innocent expression was pretty convincing, actually, but Stiles still saw through it.

“Oh my god, you’re a menace Derek Hale. Take off your damn pants already.”

“That won’t make you uncomfortable?” he asked in all seriousness, the almost playfulness gone.

Stiles scoffed, "Only if you try to bad-touch me. Otherwise I'll be uncomfortable if you don't take them off. So, what will it be?"

The answer was no pants.



"So, how is this going to work?" Stiles asked as he took off his socks and concentrated on not looking at Derek's toned calves.

The other man shrugged. "We begin like we always do."

Which meant stretching.

"Yeah, but how?" It wasn't as if Stiles was functioning properly. He couldn't exactly just jump up and swing his arms around like nothing was wrong with him. Hell, he could barely sit up on his own, and he was starting to get extremely frustrated.

Derek dropped to sit cross-legged in front of him and held his hands out, palms facing Stiles. Right, touching was necessary, too, because Stiles life was just a series of shitty, apparently supernatural events and he was even reevaluating Cassandra’s weird freakout stabby thing, but it wasn’t the time to think about that he knew because he tended to hyperventilate a bit when he started dwelling and-

“Breath with me,” the other man said softly, bending forward to accommodate Stiles’ limited range, pressing his warm palms to Stiles’, then sliding them to grip the underside of his wrists. “Like this, I’ll control the movement.”

It was easy to give in, to fold his fingers around the surprisingly delicate bones of Derek’s wrists and allow himself to fall into the rhythm of the man’s breathing. To let him take charge and gracefully transition them from one posture to another, their feet touching as Derek bent first Stiles forward while he leaned back, then the reverse. It wasn’t long before all of Stiles’ remembered anxiety began to fade and he was able to just exist.

Derek seemed to sense it because his expression was strangely calm as well. “Would you like to try something new?” he asked, clearly leaving it up to Stiles.

He nodded wordlessly, already feeling stronger.

“I have an idea, but we should take our shirts off, first. If you feel comfortable with that,” he amended.

Stiles answered by pulling at the back of the borrowed shirt, sliding it over his head and arms, then tossed it toward the door next to where Derek had discarded his own.

“Okay, I’m the base,” the other man said, “I’ll put my knees up and I want you to stand in front of my feet facing away. I’ll place them on you and pull you back with our hands clasped together. You’ll be suspended over me-”

“Like that picture I sent you. The guy laying flat with his legs up straight, the woman supported above him with his feet on her ass.”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

Stiles was actually pretty interested in trying that, too, so he nodded and let Derek pull him to his feet, Waiting out the bloodrush before he shook off the other man’s hand and got into position. Derek quickly laid on the floor and then his feet were pressed against Stiles, his toes just touching the skin at the small of his back.

“Hands,” Derek said, and they clasped wrists before he slowly extended his legs and drew him up. When the angle of Stiles’ arms became too taxing, Derek slowly slid his hands up to hold onto Stiles’ shoulders, instead, steadying him until he was fully seated. Stiles leaned back and grabbed his own ankles, watching Derek’s upside-down face stare at him as he finally dropped his hands and then it was only his feet supporting Stiles.

“You know, there’s probably a technical term for this pose,” Stiles said conversationally so he wouldn’t think about the perfect pressure of Derek’s feet against his ass or the fact that if the other man leaned up just a bit they could do a spider-man inspired yoga kiss. Not that he wanted that, but still, it was a theoretical thing that could happen.

Derek gave a half-shrug, “I told Laura I wouldn’t learn the names of the poses when I started, and since it pisses her off so much it’s kind of worth sticking with.”

Stiles smiled. Even with the slight excess of blood to his head, he felt pretty awesome like that, almost weightless.

Beneath him, Derek carefully lifted his hand and brushed it just to the side of the bruise on Stiles’ cheek. “I hate seeing you hurt,” he said quietly.

“And I hate being hurt, but I’m glad it was this and not a bullet. Hey, do you remember what happens when you’re a wolf? I mean afterward, like right now could you tell me what you were experiencing and feeling and all that?”

“I’m still me, regardless of the form I take.”

“No, I know, just. Uh, it’s hard to think in this position.”

“Shall we try another?”

Stiles smirked, “I’m not doing that crazy one you showed me where you lean back and I crouch on top of you with my hands on your chest. No way, dude, not today.”

“What about the other one you sent me a picture of?”

He thought for a second, “Where they’re both doing the cobra pose?”

Derek gave him an unimpressed look and Stiles continued, “Oh, right, can’t have you actually play along and admit you know the names of all these fancy yoga moves because then Laura would win?”

“Something like that,” Derek said, sounding serious, but Stiles knew he was joking, in his own weird way.

“Dork,” he muttered, then carefully let go of his ankles and felt Derek’s hands on his shoulders as he carefully bent his knees and lowered Stiles to his feet.

He shook out his arms and stretched for a moment, reveling in the fact that his body felt almost normal, though he knew that was probably just a temporary sensation, a side effect from touching Derek. Also, his face hadn’t ached all day.

“Did you pain drain me?” he asked, turning to look at where the other man was watching him, laying on the floor with his hands behind his head, the lines of his body so obscenely muscled it made Stiles want to swallow his own tongue, sometimes.

Derek glanced away for a second, then back. “Yes,” he admitted. “Whenever I touch you I make sure to take any of the pain you’re feeling.”

“Is this because you feel guilty about me being injured?” If so, that was idiotic.

He sat up and looked at the floor by Stiles’ feet. “Kate never should have gotten off that shot, and you shouldn’t have had to defend yourself using magic. It was incredibly dangerous for you cast like that for the first time without guidance.”

“More real magic talk with your mom?” he guessed, moving to sit cross-legged in front of Derek, not even minding when their feet touched.

Derek nodded and studied his own hands, the skin was so beautifully smooth, unlike Stiles’ full bodied freckle and mole situation. “She told me about the potential consequences and it makes me sick to think what might have happened to you. The lightning could have cause permanent damage, or the bullet might not have been deflected, or you could have been killed outright, just from the casting.”

“But nothing bad happened. Well,” he amended at the stormy look Derek gave him, “Nothing unfixable, right? We touch for a while, I eat some meat, and I’m good to go, right?”

“It might not be that simple, Stiles. Once you start using magic it becomes easier to do so accidentally. You’ll need guidance, and me anchoring you will only help so much if you start casting heavily.”

“Who’s going to guide me? My mom’s dead, and she’s the only other person who I know that’s dealt with this.” He thought it was a pretty safe assumption to make, that his mom had been magically-inclined.

Derek ran a hand over the back of his neck and frowned. “My mother may be able to guide you through it a bit, she and your mother were close and shared a lot of their secrets with each other. Auntie Anya was like an honorary member of the pack.”

“But Talia’s not a wizard or mutant or whatever the hell I am,” Stiles pointed out, not dwelling on the fact that had his mother lived his life would have been so very different.

“You’re right, werewolves can’t be sparks, but she still knows things,” he insisted.

Stiles huffed out a breath and rolled his shoulders, “I don’t doubt that, Derek, but I’m just hoping it’s not one of those having a fish teach a bird to fly situations. Isn’t there something I could read or study to get a basic grasp of what we’re talking about? I’m a researcher and I’m pretty sure the internet is full of shit in this regard.”

Derek shrugged, “My mother might have something about it at home, but we left a lot of our older reference books in Beacon Hills.”

Huh, that wasn’t the worst news he’d heard all day.

“Okay, well, thanks for the pain drain, you shouldn’t feel guilty about me casting my first spell, like the magical badass I am, and let’s do the pose you refuse to call cobra, shall we?”

Derek had that conflicted look back on his face, but relented without protest.

Chapter Text

“So,” Stiles said as he flexed his fingers experimentally against Derek’s hot shoulders. He would have tried wiggling his toes against the other man’s calves, but his balance had never been the best and he was afraid he’d fall off and faceplant if he got too cocky, “What’s up with the werewolf lady-cop?”

Stiles could feel Derek sigh by the way his shoulders moved. “She’s part of a local pack allied with my mother’s. They made sure to assign her the case when they found out our family was involved.” The way he said it kind of made it sound like he wasn’t supposed to talk about it.

“Dude, did you just spill the beans on a werewolf secret to me?” Stiles asked, shifting just a little with excitement. No one ever told Stiles secrets, for whatever reason. Which was bullshit because he was a great secret-keeper, the whole Kate threatening him about werewolves aside. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t all that great at it, but he could be.

Derek grunted an affirmative.

“That’s pretty neat, which would explain why she didn’t ask questions about Charlie’s otherwise uninjured body, or about the ash stuff I spread around the bodies.”

Beneath him, Derek kind of rolled his shoulders, which made him grip the other man a bit tighter. “Why did you do use the mountain ash like that? What were you thinking about?”

Stiles considered the question for a second, “Well, at first I used it to protect myself, then Boyd. Afterward I was thinking that I didn’t want those assholes getting up and wandering around, just in case they weren’t really dead. I don’t really know about the regenerative capabilities of werewolves, so I considered them on-par with Wolverine or that creepy Terminator dude. Kate told me to believe that the ash, mountain ash, whatever, would do what I thought, so I believed it would act like a barrier. Why? Is that wrong?”

“No, that’s, actually the manipulation of mountain ash is a powerful ability for a pack to possess. If it is enchanted like you were able to make it, no werewolf or supernatural creature can pass over it.”

Huh.

“What else can it do?” Stiles asked curiously, eager to learn as much as he possibly could about that and every other aspect of spell casting that was pertinent to him as an apparent magical being. A spark.

Derek sighed and slowly lowered himself so his stomach and chest were on the floor, folding his hands under his chin. Not really caring about propriety or whatever, Stiles did the same, settling his own chest on top of Derek’s swirling tattoo.

“I don’t know that much, just what I’ve overheard, but I suppose it could do whatever you wanted it to; keep magical creatures in or out of an area, throw off a pursuer, disguise a scent, seal a building.”

Actually, the implications of the last bit were kind of alarming. “By seal a building do you mean potentially trapping werewolves inside of a place?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded, “Yeah, I guess.”

It was a damn good thing Kate and Gerard hadn’t been sparks or they could have done something pretty gruesome to the Hales, like apparently mask their scents and surround the Hale house with mountain ash. Throw in some wolfsbane and they could have poisoned the entire family. Jesus, that was a horrible thought. Had that been why they’d tried so hard to recruit him? The very idea gave him chills.

“Ugh, that’s all kinds of wrong. Pass. But wait, are there evil werewolves?”

Derek turned his head so he could side-eye Stiles. “Are there evil humans?”

Stiles huffed out a breath, “Point."

“How are you feeling?” Derek asked, resting his chin back on his hands.

He was actually feeling pretty normal, and said so. “Does that mean I’m good? Are my batteries recharged?”

“That’s not exactly how it works, but close enough,” Derek replied, but he made no move to force Stiles off of him even though the full body contact was no longer necessary.

It was pleasantly warm, really, the hot line under his belly and chest and along his legs, the firmness of Derek’s muscles and how soft his skin felt and okay, Stiles was done. “Right,” he said, slowly rolling himself off and onto the floor where he flopped onto his back to contemplate the ceiling and not the fact that he and Derek were shirtless and alone.

“So are we going to talk about the whole spying thing? We haven’t exactly had the time, what with me being kidnapped and then magically energy drained and all.” Stiles moved so he was sitting up with his back against the bottom bunk, his knees drawn up to his chest.

Derek sighed and sat up as well, cross-legged even though that position did very little to preserve the modesty of his boxer-brief clad junk. Not that he seemed to mind at all, though. Derek took a deep breath and looked at Stiles. "I'm sorry that you're upset, but I’m not sorry for not for what I did."

"For what you,” he huffed out an incredulous breath, no longer focused on the man's package, “Jesus Christ, Derek! You violated my basic right to privacy! You invaded my personal, private space and watched me wander around my apartment naked! You listened to me masturbate, for fuck’s sake! You seriously don't see what's wrong with that?"

"It was never my intention to make you feel uncomfortable, nudity is a natural-"

"No," Stiles cut him off, "we are not having what I’m assuming is a werewolf discussion right now, we're talking about us and the fact that you fucking illegally wiretapped and videotaped me without probable cause."

"I told you it was to ensure your safety and the safety of my pack," Derek insisted, like he truly didn't grasp the problem.

Stiles covered his face with his hands, trying to think of a way he could put it that would penetrate Derek's bullheaded point of view. "Okay, what about if I didn't know about werewolves and I started following you around all the time."

Derek frowned. "I'd hear your heartbeat and avoid you."

Because of course he had an easy solution.

"But what if I hacked your dashcam, or put one in your vehicles that you didn't know about?"

"That probably wouldn't work because I'd smell that you'd been there."

"I'm a car mechanic and it makes sense for my scent to be there. So I've been watching you and I see you flash your blue eyes one too many times and have figured out you're a werewolf. What would you do?"

Derek didn't look happy to be playing the game. "I'd consult my alpha."

"Alpha says do what you think is best," Stiles improvised.

"Then I'd probably threaten you."

"I don't bow to pressure."

"I'd show up in your bedroom and tell you that if you didn't stop I'd rip your throat out with my teeth."

Now they were getting somewhere.

"How does it feel to have someone invade your privacy, Derek?"

His eyes widened, then narrowed. "Like a violation," he said grumpily.

"Do you understand why I'm pissed off at you?"

He nodded.

"And do you see why I'm not going to trust you very easily after what you’ve done to me?"

There was a bit more of a hesitation, but again he nodded.

Stiles breathed out, relieved and saddened that it had come to that. "I'm not ready to be your friend right now, and I’m especially not prepared for to be anything beyond that. Cassandra may have tried to tear me apart physically, but as far as i'm concerned you did the same thing to me, only mentally." That had been Derek's endgame, after all, to get Stiles to trust him enough to share the Argent's secrets.

Derek winced at the comparison, as well he should, it wasn't everyday someone wronged Stiles like the devil herself. “So where does that leave us?” he finally asked, with the familiar broody mask back in place.

“I don’t know,” Stiles admitted. “Why don’t we start with allies and go from there?”

The other man nodded, but Stiles could feel his sorrow as palpably as his own.



Erica and Isaac arrived not long after and Stiles helped them put away the groceries while Boyd and Derek went outside to bring in more firewood from the shed and to check the border, whatever that meant. Isaac was looking a bit peakish and jumpy, so Stiles stayed out of his way as best he could, taking the bags of dry goods from Erica and going to the other side of the large kitchen. When Stiles glanced up from where he was putting the last of the veal stock in the pantry, Laura was right there, leaning casually against the door frame and very obviously blocking his exit.

“Derek seems sad,” she said, like she didn’t know why, which was bullshit because she was a werewolf with super hearing and had probably been listening to their entire conversation.

Stiles raised his eyebrows, “Really? You’re going to act like you don’t know exactly what’s going on. That’s a bold choice, Laura, though not a very clever one.”

She finally broke with a smirk and rolled her eyes, “Okay, fine, but don’t you think you were a little harsh on him?”

“Me? Harsh? Are you fucking kidding? Please tell me you’re kidding or I might have to go in the other room and scream into a pillow or punch a wall or weep for humanity or something equally dramatic.”

Laura shifted a bit and looked slightly uncomfortable, “It’s just that Derek’s never really dated-”

“And as far as I’m concerned his track record remains untainted. Did we have fun? Yes. Was it awesome at times? Hell yes. Am I just going to forgive him just because he’s pretty and slightly socially awkward? Fuck no. Your brother did a super shitty thing to me and I’m not going to just let it go because he pouts and acts sad.”

“He issad. I’m not saying I agree with how he handled things because believe me, I don’t, but I hate to see him like this.” Laura said quietly, “He’s devastated.”

Stiles let his assholish demeanor fade. “Yeah, well, so am I, but this isn’t some easy fix, Laura. No magic wand waving for this scenario. If Derek really does like me he’s going to have to prove it by not being a total bag of dicks. But I’m warning you, I don’t forgive easily, not after what I’ve gone through.”

Laura’s eyes jumped down to his chest before she nodded silently and left. Erica immediately took her place and before Stiles could say or do anything she had him wrapped in a tight hug. He was beginning to mentally call that the Erica Classic. It was nice, comforting without being creepy and he’d missed having real human contact. Back in Beacon Hills he and Scott had always bumped shoulders and done their secret handshake and sat close together on the couch, just casually touching and he hadn’t had that in Chicago, the class and subsequent relationship with Derek aside. So Erica giving him a squeeze? Totally okay with him.

“Derek’s an asshole,” she muttered against his shoulder, “I seriously didn’t know he was going to do any of that when I introduced you two.”

Stiles put his arms around her and returned the hug firmly, “You mean when you tricked us into taking that couples class together?”

She squirmed for a second, but then sagged against him, “Yeah. I just thought you two would make a cute couple, not that the douchebag would try to use you to get to the Argents. I didn’t even know you were working there until I smelled the gunpowder on you and Laura told me.”

“I know, I don’t blame you, Erica. Plus, hey, I’m way more flexible now that you forced me into that second class!”

Erica laughed and eventually pulled away. “Just, don’t be a total dick to him, okay? I mean, yeah, he definitely deserves it, but if you could smell how miserable he is right now you’d have just a tiny bit of compassion for him. Think about it?”

Stiles nodded, “I’ll think about it, but no promises.”

She let go and turned to leave, but stopped and looked at him. “You know, he really hasn’t dated before. I mean, people have hit on him, of course, and there have been a few one night stands here and there, but no one’s ever really liked him enough as a person to stick around. They see his face and think he’s just some shallow pretty boy. Kate tried to get to him like that a few times, sending different attractive women and men to hit on him in bars or at the store or wherever, but he’s always been so wary he never fell for it. When I asked him how he knew they were working for the Argents he just said they smelled off, but when he met you I knew things were different. After the first class when I asked him what he thought he said you smelled right. Just,” she held up a hand to stop him from commenting, “just think about what I said, okay?”

Like he’d be capable of doing anything else.



The day of the full moon was apparently spent fidgeting, cuddling, and avoiding most intense topics of conversation because the werewolves tended to get a bit testy, in Laura’s words, especially the younger ones.

Not that it stopped Stiles from asking questions.

“Okay,” he said, lounging back on the massive couch where most of them were gathered. Derek had taken to pacing the room behind Stiles, which was kind of creepy but wherever. “So, you can be bitten by an alpha and turned into a werewolf like Charlie and I’m assuming you three,” he indicted Boyd, Erica, and Isaac, who were curled up together with various articles of clothing mysteriously missing, “or you can what, be born like that?”

He was asking Laura, who had stretched out on the massive couch with Boyd’s hands idly combing through her long hair and her feet occasionally brushing against Stiles’, but it was Derek who answered.

“Laura and I are born werewolves,” he said gruffly.

Stiles twisted his head to look at Derek and didn’t miss the quick flash of blue when Laura’s foot poked his playfully. “How does that work?” he asked, “Is it a one hundred percent werewolfiness thing or is there a Punnett square like from biology class? Is it a dominant trait or recessive? What if one parent is a werewolf and the other is human? Can male werewolves get pregnant?”

Laura laughed, “Isaac? You want to take this?”

He lifted his head from where it was laying on Erica’s shoulder and brushed a strand of her hair from his mouth. “Humans and werewolves can marry and have children, but the human must be told in advance and offered the bite by the werewolf’s alpha if he or she isn’t one. Even if the human accepts the bite, any children from the union will have a seventy five percent chance of being born werewolves. If they are human, they’re offered the bite when they turn twelve, but are discouraged from choosing to accept it after they turn twenty.  It becomes more dangerous to turn someone after that. And no, male werewolves, even born ones, can’t get pregnant.”

Well, that killed one secret kink of his, but the rest was interesting. “Huh, learn that in werewolf after school?”

Isaac nodded absently and nuzzled against Erica, who threaded her fingers through his hair and twisted her head to kiss him.

Stiles cleared his throat and looked away, “So, uh, what’s the schedule of events?  When the moon rises do you guys all turn into wolves and frolic around outside or something? Is that why we’re somewhere so isolated?”

Derek finally stopped his pacing and moved so Stiles could see him without wrenching his neck. “We’ll make lunch and then later in the day when the pull becomes too great to ignore we’ll all go downstairs and you’ll stay up here where it’s safe.”

Stiles frowned, “What’s downstairs?”

“Would you like to see?”

He nodded and crawled to the side of the couch, his face kind of throbbing a bit from the change in position, but he ignored it and followed Derek through the gorgeous open entryway, past the stairs to a thick door that seemed to be made of metal.

“This is the last defense for the non-weres in our family, should one of us get out of control during the full moon,” Derek explained, muscles seeming to strain a bit as he pulled it open. The inside was covered in long spikes, like from pictures Stiles had seen of the old iron maidens that had been used to torture people in the past. There wasn’t a handle on the inside.

“Dude,” Stiles breathed, resisting the urge to test the wicked-looking points to see if they were as sharp as they looked. If they were supposed to be werewolf deterrents he figured they would be. “How the hell do you guys get out of there if you can’t even push open the door?”

Derek nodded to the wall just inside the door where a slick looking electronic screen was mounted. “We set it to open and close automatically during the full moon. There’s no way for us to override it when we’re down here, at least not during the zenith. There’s a corresponding screen in the study, which can be used by whoever is in the house to either lock or unlock the door. Just in case you need to know. We uh, we calibrated it to respond to your thumbprint,” he finished, looking slightly sheepish.

Stiles nodded wordlessly and, at a wave from Derek, preceded him down the sturdy wooden stairs. He thought he saw some scratch marks on them and the otherwise plain walls, but didn’t comment. Like in their Chicago home, the basement had a fairly open design, and suddenly the gouges on the floors in both places made a lot more sense.

“Do you guys do the partial shift sometimes when you’re sparring?” he asked indicating a particularly vivid set of five slashes in the stone floor.

Derek looked up from where he was fiddling with the handle of another metal door on the other side of the room and nodded faintly, “Sometimes. The younger wolves have a harder time controlling their shift, so we practice a lot in all three of our forms. It’s a lot more difficult for bitten werewolves to turn into their wolf shape, though, it takes a lot of concentration.”

Stiles licked his lips, suddenly remembering the cut there, and moved over to where the other man was standing by, if he didn’t know better, what looked like some kind of a panic room, just sitting there in the corner of the basement. “Is this-” he trailed off as Derek opened the door to reveal what seemed like a serial killer’s candy store.

“Dude,” Stiles said, stumbling backward, away from the chains and handcuffs and what looked like collar, “What the fuck?”

Derek, the idiot, didn’t seem to see what the problem was but looked alarmed at Stiles’ reaction and was immediately in front of him, hands clasping his face with gentle firmness that focused his vision on the other man and not the paraphernalia behind him. “It’s okay, Stiles, that’s just where we keep the pups if they’re out of control.”

“The, did you just call your friends pups?” he asked, half-hysterical and suddenly the pain was fading from his aching face and he watched in silent wonder as the veins on Derek’s arms seemed to blacken and then fade.

The eyebrows were confused, “Well, they are, at least that’s the case for Isaac and Erica. They haven’t even reached the tenth anniversaries of their turnings, yet.”

“Did you just pain drain me?” Stiles asked faintly, realizing his panic was gone as well and he felt oddly calm with Derek’s hands on him and that wasn’t supposed to be so comfortable but he didn’t pull away.

Derek nodded, “I told you I can’t stand to see you in pain, even if you do hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Derek,” Stiles whispered, hearing the truth in his own voice, “I hate what you did to me.”

With a tired sigh, the other man reluctantly pulled away, his hands dropping heavily to his sides. “I’m sorry if I startled you with this. We don’t always have to resort to using the restraints, but it’s been a stressful few days and I anticipate there being a lot of agitation tonight.”

“It’s uh, what it is, I guess,” Stiles said vaguely. “I’m kind of not a fan of the hardware, though,” he gestured to the doorway without looking inside.

Derek nodded and quickly closed the door, moving back to Stiles with a hand on his shoulder to show him back upstairs.

“Hey,” he said turning on the bottom step to look down at Derek. It was kind of a strange sensation, being taller than the other man when they were really so close in height. “Is there any chance I could see Ginger Bear again? I just got a glimpse of you like that and I was kinda brain fried at the time. I mean, you don’t have to-”

“It’s fine, Stiles,” Derek said with a slight smile. “But are you sure?”

Stiles smirked back at him, “What, think I’ll be afraid of your adorably fluffy wolf form? Not a chance, dude. But seriously, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I mean, am I violating some kind of werewolf etiquette by asking?”

“Not by asking me,” Derek said, which wasn’t a real answer but whatever. “I’m going to strip and then shift. If you’re uncomfortable you can go up the stairs and close the door behind you and I’ll stay down here.”

Alone.

In the unforgiving chill of the stone and concrete basement.

Yeah. Right.

“I think I’ll manage to reign in my girlish screams,” Stiles said wryly, taking the shirt Derek pulled off and not oogly the other man’s delicious body.

“Please see that you do that, my hearing is more sensitive as a wolf and I don’t relish my ears bleeding from your high pitched squeals of terror,” Derek said with the same tone of voice.

The sass. Stiles liked it.

He was smiling as Derek stripped off his pants and turned, probably unnecessarily, to give the other man some privacy as he slipped out of his boxer briefs. Derek didn’t seem to be all that modest of a person, which was either a him thing or a werewolf thing.

“You can watch, if you want,” he said quietly and Stiles peeked cautiously over his shoulder as Derek closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His body was so unfairly gorgeous Stiles let himself take one last lingering look, drinking in the firm lines and stark contours of his muscles and the soft dusting of hair across his skin.

In the next instant he was gone.

Just.

Vanished.

And in his place stood a powerful looking wolf with the unusual red tinged orange fur, his eyes the startling electric blue. There was a bit of white around his muzzle and his dark nose seemed oddly out of place amongst his otherwise lighter coloring. His shoulders were tall enough to reach Stiles’ waist and he was adorable.

“Dude,” Stiles whispered, reminding himself about the whole super hearing thing, “I’m not kidding, you’re ridiculously fluffy. I just want to cuddle you right now. Is that weird? That seems weird.”

Wolf Derek didn’t seem to think it was weird because he stepped cautiously forward, moving so slowly it looked like his paws were glued to the floor and, “Oh my god, even your paws are adorable. Oh, hey, you kind of still have eyebrows like that, I can tell because they’re judging me right now.”

Derek gave a short woof, not quite like a dog, but it told Stiles a lot, like the fact that he was slightly exasperated with being called adorable and the fact that he wasn’t going to move any closer until Stiles gave the go-ahead. In response he did one better and dropped to his knees, setting Derek’s discarded clothing on the ground beside him.

“Come here, big guy,” he said with a soft smile, and spread his arms wide.

The wolf, Derek, surged forward in a flash of orange slammed their chests together as his furry head hooked over Stiles’ shoulder and his arms clasped tight around the wolf’s neck to keep his balance and holy hell Derek’s fur was soft.

“Dude your fur is even softer than your skin. How does that even happen? Do you shampoo it with fairy tears or something. Hang on, are fairies even real? Wait, shit, sorry, you don’t have to answer that. Well, I mean obviously you can’t answer that at the moment since you, okay, shutting up,” he trailed off, feeling his cheeks heat with his blush.

Derek’s broad, furry head moved against his back like he was soothing Stiles and he had to close his eyes and bury his face against the impossibly plush fur of his neck to keep from saying anything else stupid, like that he was sorely tempted to forgive the dumbass. That wasn’t going to happen, he told himself, at least not for a while.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, Stiles’ hands smoothing the fur of Derek’s back as the wolf nuzzled him in return.

“Alright, Derek, want to go upstairs with me, now? I mean, as awesome as it is kneeling on this cold ass floor, I think I’d rather lounge on that gargantuan couch and watch the fire burn, wouldn’t you?”

Wolf Derek backed up and tilted his head in an inquisitive manner.

“Your choice,” Stiles said in reply, “wolf or man, it’s whatever you want to do.”

He used his muzzle to nudge the clothes toward Stiles and he gathered them up again. “Wolf it is, I’ll lead the way, shall I?”

Derek nodded and followed Stiles up the stairs on silent paws.

Chapter Text

The others seemed kind of surprised by Derek’s appearance, but no one said anything as Stiles dropped the other man’s clothes on the back of the bed-like couch and crawled onto it. He sprawled out with Derek not far behind, leaping onto the plush surface and sort of wiggling his way to lay beside Stiles. After some maneuvering, the wolf put himself between Stiles and the rest, so his back was a long line of soft fur against Stiles’ stomach and his alert expression faced the others.

Stiles idly carded his fingers through the soft fur and let his eyes drift half-closed as he relished the feelings of warmth and peace and safety that came from being surrounded by friends. Even with everything that had happened to them, it didn’t make Stiles feel uncomfortable, well, besides Derek’s dumbass lying and scheming, but otherwise, he was content. The fire crackled softly in the background and he kind of got temporarily lost in the even whisper of the wolf’s breathing.

On the other side of Derek, Erica finally burst out with an exclamation like she’d been keeping it bottled up since they’d gotten there. “Oh my god what the hell is going on you guys? Can I please pet you, Derek? You never let anyone pet you, hey, don’t glare at me like that.”

Derek’s hackles were up and his body had gone tense.

“Dude, chill out,” Stiles said, then frowned at Erica, “Think that’s a pretty clear no on the whole you petting him thing.” No one ever pet him? Huh. “Hey, what color are you when you turn wolfy?”

She huffed at him, but finally settled back between Boyd and Isaac. “I look like a normal gray wolf, but with yellow eyes, of course.”

It turned out that Laura was a darker version of Erica’s coloring, while Boyd was almost solid white and Isaac as a mix of tans and white. So, there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason to it, as far as Stiles could tell, though it was incredibly cool and he kind of wanted to see them all in their wolf forms, but Derek had said it wasn’t weird for Stiles to ask him to shift, implying it would be bad form for him to ask others to do the same.

Huh.

Derek finally seemed to calm a bit, at least his hackles smoothed down when Stiles ran his hand over them, but he was still watching the others like they were about to rugby tackle either him or Stiles at any given moment, which really wasn’t conducive to a zen kind of cuddling experience.

It was Laura who took matters into her own hands. “Come on,” she said, sitting up and stretching, “Isaac, Boyd, Erica, help me make lunch so Derek can chill the hell out. No one else is going to fondle you baby bro, you can relax.”

Stiles dug his fingers into the nape of Derek’s neck, feeling the tension there and kind of wishing the others would just leave so they could both enjoy the quiet.

They did, eventually, with a few more significant looks and barbs, but then they were gone and Stiles moved so he could wrap his arm around the wolf and press his face against the soft fur of his shoulder. Derek made an inquisitive noise in his throat.

“I know,” Stiles sighed against him, feeling the delightfully silky texture against his lips when he talked, “I said no cuddling, but I think you underestimate your appeal in this form. Well, in any of your forms, really. But this, I just need this, and it isn’t even because of my desperation to have a dog when I was a kid, hey, don’t be mad at me, I was joking about that part,” he pulled Derek closer when it became apparent that was allowed again. “I just miss hugs, okay? And you’re especially huggable like this.”

Derek made another soft noise and wiggled a bit so they could see each other.

“Lonely? No, what? I’m not lonely, I mean, hey, stop looking at me like that. Okay fine, maybe a little, but that’s why I have the yoga thing, right? Skype works, too, for calling up people back home.”

The wolf was not impressed.

“Fine,” Stiles said softly, “you win. Now shut up and let me cuddle you before you have to go down to that creepy ass dungeon and possibly tie up your friends.”

Derek let him off the hook, allowing himself to be cuddled, then and everything was soft and warm and peaceful as Stiles sort of dozed. At least until the wolf suddenly went stiff again and there was some drool on Stiles’ cheek and that wasn’t very attractive.

“Dude, sorry about that,” he said around a yawn and wiped at his face with the back of one hand while the other scratched along the raised fur of Derek’s back. “Sup, Derek?” he asked, then glanced at where the wolf was glaring and saw Laura standing there behind them with her arms crossed and a mulish look on her face.

“You’re right,” Stiles said faintly as they watched her stare at them, “she does look kind of pretentious when she stands like that.”

Laura’s expression became one of slight confusion and something more, hope? “Stiles,” she said carefully, “Do you really understand what Derek is saying to you?”

He stretched his legs with a happy sigh. “I mean, as much as anyone does, your brother isn’t exactly a wordy guy. No offense, dude, I get it, you’re more the strong and silent type, it works for you. Well, most of the time.”

But when he glanced up the confusion on her face was replaced by that hint of hope he’d seen before and maybe even a touch of awe. “Are you serious? You know what my brother is saying right now? Answer me honestly, Stiles.”

He frowned and glanced from Derek, who didn't like where the discussion was headed, to her. “Uh, yeah, why? Can’t you?”

“Only when I’m in my wolf form, too,” she said, but she was staring at her brother, who was definitely getting uncomfortable. “Derek,” she warned,  “if you don’t tell him I will.”

Tell him what?

Shockingly, Derek’s lips curled back to show his impressive fangs and a wet-sounding growl emerged from deep within his chest. Stiles could feel the vibration from where his sternum was still pressed against the wolf’s ribcage and it was like a mini earthquake.

“Wha-” he started to ask, but then there was the sound of fabric tearing behind him and suddenly Derek was slipping out of his hold to surge over the back of the couch. The room was instantly filled with the jarring sound of the two wolves fighting. Stiles scrambled up to look and the two were just a blur of fur and snapping teeth as they wrestled and slammed against the walls and floor, savaging each other with canine intensity.

The other three were at the kitchen doorway a beat later, staring wide-eyed at the Hales, but making no move to break up the fight. They looked about as shocked as Stiles felt, which sent a chill through him and he instantly took charge.

“Jesus Christ you guys,” Stiles yelled, “Fucking stop them! Boyd, take Derek, Erica, get Laura.” He jumped over the back of the couch and moved to join the fray when long arms hauled him back away from the fight that Erica and Boyd had dutifully joined, sort of succeeding in at least temporarily separating the still growling wolves.

“Le’go, Isaac, I got this,” Stiles said, struggling against the superhuman strength of the other man’s hold, which probably wasn’t the wisest choice because then Derek’s attention was suddenly riveted on Isaac and not his sister, and then his whole massive body wriggling against Boyd’s hold as he gnashed his teeth and let out savage-sounding barks at both men.

Isaac let go immediately, holding his hands up and averting his eyes. Stiles stumbled a few steps, then collapsed on his knees in front of Derek and seized his slightly startled-looking face, heedless of the slaver dripping from his chin and the almost feral look in his blue eyes. “Hey, Derek! Cut it out,” he said, shaking the wolf’s head in a gentle reprimand. “No attacking your siblings, even if they are acting like jerks,” he looked over his shoulder at where Laura was sitting by Erica’s feet with a haughty expression on her dark grey face. Isaac and Boyd moved back toward the kitchen, but not before Stiles saw the dripping wound.

“Derek! Dude, look what you did to Boyd’s arm,” he said, using one hand to point, but even as he looked at it the gashes stitched themselves closed and Stiles was left kind of speechless, actually. He knew, theoretically, about the healing power of werewolves, but he hadn’t ever seen it in action before, well, besides the mean hickies he’d given Derek that hadn’t ever seemed to stay there for more than a few hormone-addled breaths, but he hadn’t really been paying that much attention to them at the time.

The cold wet of the wolf’s nose shocked him out of his contemplation and he stared from Derek to Boyd and back. “Holy shit, you guys can heal that quickly?”

It was Erica who answered, giving Derek a wide berth as she sauntered behind Stiles toward Boyd and Isaac. She seized the suddenly unwound arm and twisted it to show Stiles the smooth skin. "This is one of those werewolf secrets we don’t talk about. We can heal from almost anything, I mean, it fucking hurts, but we rarely die from our wounds. So a little scratch," she punctuated the word by popping out her claws and running them over Boyd's forearm in dripping lines of red, "Yeah, that's not a big deal."

Beside her Boyd let out a soft growl, but it sounded more hungry than angry, and woah, okay, full moon shenanigans. Derek pressed against where Stiles’ hand was still on his face until his arm was wrapped around the wolf's neck in what he realized was a way to comfort him if he was uncomfortable with all the werewolfiness they had going on.

Isaac suddenly lifted his nose and mumbled something about the food, then disappeared into the kitchen. Erica casually licked Boyd's blood from her claws with a wink over her shoulder at Stiles and Laura let out a disgruntled woof as she followed the pair out of the room.

"Dude," Stiles said softly, "you weren't joking about full moons bringing out the weird, were you?"

Derek huffed and nudged Stiles toward the couch.

"Oh, no, I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell that was about," Stiles declared, plopping down to sit on his butt on the hard wooden floor. "Better make it quick, though because this is not the most comfortable seat in the house."

The wolf tried pushing him toward the couch again, but Stiles refused to budge, instead bringing both hands up to play with his ears because he figured that would annoy Derek into compliance.

"Nope, tell me and I'll go, that's the deal."

Derek wasn’t a fan of the deal, but he finally relented, his head hanging a bit with his ears pinned back away from Stiles’ hands and it was the most adorable sulk Stiles had ever seen. Not even Scott's kicked puppy expression could compare.

"Dude, you're not helping your cause, though you look pretty damn cute when you do that. Now come on, why did you and Laura freak out and attack each other? I know it isn't just the moon, you're not a pup, you have better control than that."

The wolf heaved a deep, tired sigh and suddenly Stiles's hands were touching stubbled skin instead of fur and Derek's intense hazel eyes were studying him. "I think it might be easier to explain like this," he said quietly.

Stiles nodded dumbly, and it took him an embarrassing about of time to realize the other man was completely naked.

And gorgeous.

But when he did he hastily scrambled back and grabbed the previously discarded clothing from the back of the couch, flinging it at Derek’s stupid smirking face. He caught it all gracefully.

Of course.

"Don't be an ass," Stiles warned, looking away as Derek slipped on the boxer briefs, but nothing else.

"Once we finish talking I'm going to shift again," he said as he stood up and stretched, answering Stiles' unasked question. “I prefer to be in my wolf form during the full moon, it makes it easier to handle the pull, and gives the others someone to chase.”

The pull. That wasn’t something they’d had time to talk about, but Stiles added it to his list, which was already about forty topics long, more than half of which were werewolf-related. Also, imagining the others chasing him around was kind of adorable, except for the fact that there would probably be claws and fangs involved and that was a game of tag Stiles never wanted to be a part of. Well, unless it ended with-

Nope. He wasn’t thinking of that.

“Come on,” Derek said, holding out his hand to Stiles, who took it and was promptly hauled to his feet. “Let’s go in the study, it’s soundproofed so none of them can eavesdrop. The basement is as well, but I don’t relish going down there again before I have to.”

Stiles let himself be led, his hand still firmly held by Derek, but he didn’t pull away because he could tell the other man was worried about something, though he didn’t know what. The study was on the other side of the entry way, down a short hallway that overlooked the snowy landscape on one side, and was covered in family pictures on the other. Derek opened the door and finally let go of Stiles, ushering him inside and closing it behind him.

Stiles wandered around looking at the random titles of the twenty or so books sitting on various low tables and bookshelves. The room had a bit of a nautical feel to it, with heavy wooden furniture and sparse decorations. The dark wood and pale blue walls looked nice, though, just kind of empty. “So,” he finally said, becoming aware that Derek seemed conflicted about how to proceed with their conversation, “why is it that I can understand what you’re telling me when you’re a wolf, but other people can’t? Laura seemed to freak out a bit over that, and you know what, I don’t think attacking her was the right thing to do. You guys didn’t set a very good example for the rest of them, and then Erica went and slashed Boyd’s arm like it was nothing and-”

“Stiles,” Derek said with quiet exasperation, “Boyd’s fine, trust me.” He paused and winced in discomfort, “That’s basically foreplay for them.”

He made a yuck face in response. “Uh, blood play? That’s a big ol’ no. I don’t care if you can heal instantly, that’s one kink I just can’t get behind. Not that it matters,” he quickly added. Which it didn’t because he and Derek weren’t doing that. Not anymore.

Derek nodded in acquiescence. “To each their own,” he said mildly.

Stiles narrowed his eyes at the other man, “So, are you going to tell me about the freaky wolf-speak thing?”

It kind of looked like Derek wanted to say no, that he didn’t want to tell Stiles about it, but he finally heaved a sigh and sat down on one of the uncomfortable-looking leather chairs that faced each other in the center of the room. He gestured to the other one and Stiles joined him, wiggling against the cold seat until he found a comfortable position with one leg drawn up so he could grab his knee and the other foot bouncing slightly against the carpet.

“There are a lot of things you don’t know about us, about werewolves,” Derek began, which was a pretty broad place to start, but it was his story, so Stiles kept his mouth shut and let him continue without interrupting. “You asked a few interesting questions, earlier, but none of them really touched on the most central relationship two wolves, or a wolf and a human can have.”

But Stiles had asked about marriage. He couldn’t keep that comment to himself and Derek’s lips quirked in his amused, almost-smile.

“Anyone can get married,” he said like it was just a meaningless ritual, which could be true in some cases, but Stiles’ parents had been happily married and- “I’m not saying that to disregard the importance some people place on that union, I’m saying it because for us, it’s different.”

“Different how?” Stiles asked.

The almost-smile became something else, something warmer and more private. “There are some, but not all, who during the course of their lives meet their mate-”

“Like your grandparents and parents,” he interrupted.

Derek nodded, “Like my mothers parents and my parents, yes. But it doesn’t always happen. My Uncle Peter loves his wife, but they don’t have the same connection as a true mated pair.”

“Okay,” Stiles said slowly, not quite sure where Derek was going with the little werewolf anthropology lesson. Sociology? Whatever.

The other man cleared his throat and leaned forward so his forearms were resting on his thighs and he was looking at the design on the carpet beneath their feet. “I asked my mother once, what it was like, how she’d known that my father was her mate. She told me that it was her senses that revealed their compatibility.”

“What like, how he looked?”

“And smelled, the sound of his voice, and the rhythm of his heart,” Derek said, then looked up at Stiles with a pensive expression and oh.

“Oh,” he said. Kid Derek had been distraught about letting go of Auntie Anya because Stiles’ fetal heartbeat had sounded right. Derek had kept attending the couples yoga class with Stiles because, according to Erica, he’d smelled right to Derek. And that meant-

“We’re mates,” Stiles said with a confused sense of recognition. It was all well and good to apply a label to their now non-relationship, but he still didn’t know what being mates truly meant. “You’re going to have to break this down for me, dude because I’ve got to admit I’m a little bit lost.”

Derek held out his hand, palm up, giving Stiles the choice to take it or not. He did, if a bit reluctantly, and kind of wishing the other guy would just tell him what was going on instead of being all quiet and mysterious and woah.

A sense of warmth and carefully restrained happiness crept up his arm from where they touched.

“What?” Stiles asked, but then he just knew.

He knew what Derek was feeling; the awe and peace and worry, he knew that the other man was scared and heartsick and Stiles had to swallow to keep from saying anything he’d regret.

Like that he forgave Derek because even though a part of him, the part that wanted to feel the man’s hot hands all over his body and his lips against his skin and his fur between his fingers, was more than willing to just bow down and accept his actions, the hardness Stiles had had to cultivate over the years refused to let him yield so easily. Perhaps his house motto should be Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

If Derek felt that kind of transference, the steely undertone of Stiles’ wonder, he gave no indication, and it could have been a one-way thing? The feelings-sharing.

“Whenever I heard your heartbeat accelerate or change abruptly, I listened in on what was happening to you, if your phone was nearby. Yes,” he said, holding up a hand to stall Stiles’ protest, “sometimes it was due to reasons you’d rather not have shared.”

“Like masterbation,” he said curtly.

Derek’s cheeks pinked, “Yes.”

Stiles couldn’t help but laugh, then put on a stern expression, “Derek, did you put the phone down when you realized that’s what I was doing. Be honest, now.”

The confession really wasn’t necessary because suddenly the other man couldn’t quite seem to meet his eye and his hand jumped under Stiles’ palm, not to mention the palpable feeling of embarrassment coming through the bond.

“Dude, that’s shitty and you know it,” he said, but he was smiling because he could tell how absolutely mortified Derek was and there was also an undercurrent of something more, a pleasant twist in the gut and Stiles snatched his hand back. “Nope,” he said, shaking his head, “I told you we were done with that.”

Derek cleared his throat, “And I will respect your wishes, but that doesn’t change the effect you have on me. However, I’ll do my best to keep it contained, so as not to make you feel uncomfortable around me. Though I do hope that in the future we might be able to share such moments again.”

It sounded kind of rehearsed and formal, but Stiles nodded anyway. “Fine,” he said, and put his palm back, “you were saying? Something about spying on me.”

“I almost didn’t realize you were in danger the other day. When you run your heartbeat is so quick, I couldn’t tell the difference between you exercising and your sudden fear. I don’t know what finally made me listen, but then I heard you cry out as you broke that man’s arm and I thought my heart was going to stop I was so afraid.”

It was probably the nicest and creepiest thing anyone had ever said to him, and when he told Derek that the man laughed for a moment before he sobered.

“Whenever you mentioned that woman from work who smelled like gunpowder-”

“Kate.”

“-it made me feel so conflicted. I knew you weren’t on her side-”

“Mhm,” Stiles said in disbelief.

“-I did, Stiles.” Derek insisted. “Even though you may have felt conflicted about reporting the Argent’s fraud, I knew you wouldn’t willingly go along with any of her schemes, especially not after she threatened to take your future niece or nephew.” Affection and pride roiled through their bond in hot waves that seemed to fill the cavernous space in Stiles’ chest. “But I was worried that you wouldn’t be able to unravel the mess before she made her move.”

“So you didn’t doubt that I’d turn them in?” Stiles asked, giving their hands a pointed look.

He’d know if Derek was lying to him.

Derek shook his head. “I’ve never doubted you, but I’ve always been wary of her.”

“Erica mentioned that,” Stiles said quietly, and he felt a zing of remembered emotional pain through the bond that made his brow furrow, and that reminded him of something he hadn’t had time to think about but it kind of went with their topic of conversation. “Hey, was Cassandra really just nuts or did the whole eating my heart immortality thing have some basis in reality? Wait, there was wolfbane in the ropes around my wrists, wasn’t there? And the circle was made of mountain ash. Did she think I was a werewolf?”

Derek’s palm jumped under his before it stilled, the pads of his fingers just barely caressing Stiles’. “I want to apologize for the other night, when I asked so many questions about the ritual she performed. I know you don’t like talking about what happened and it wasn’t really for any official police report, but I did send the recording to my mother for her to look into.”

Honestly, it didn’t even surprise Stiles, but he gave Derek an unimpressed look, anyway.

“She says the ritual could be performed on a variety of magically-inclined creatures, including werewolves, but it was meant for you, for a spark. The woman, Cassandra,” he said her name like a curse, “she must have known something about your gift, but was too weak to keep you contained and perform the ritual herself. Had she succeeded, there is a very real possibility it would have granted her an extension on her life, but she would have born the taint of having performed black magic.”

“Black magic? It seriously would have worked?” he could feel himself getting worked up with the implications of her actually having succeeded in doing the ritual-

Derek’s other hand pressed against the center of his chest over his shirt, warm and real and grounding in a way that derailed the manic train of his thoughts. “It’s okay,” Derek whispered, breathing evenly so Stiles could follow him, “You’ve manifested your ability, and that makes it much harder for people to take it from you.”

“That’s something I have to worry about?” he choked out.

For fucking serious, his life.

“Not anymore,” Derek said, like it was a promise and a challenge all rolled up in one. Like it was his mission to ensure that never happened again.

“You know I’m going to have to learn to protect myself from that kind of stuff, right?”

Derek’s eyebrows and the discontent coming through where they were connected said that no, he didn’t know that.

Stiles tried to convey his absolute refusal to bow to that kind of hyper-protective bullshit with a stern look, pushing his feelings toward the other man. He wasn’t sure if that was how the transference worked, but he gave it a shot.

“Fine,” Derek eventually grumbled. “My mother has some books on sparks, but she may need to contact someone in Beacon Hills for them.”

“You mean Dr. Deaton?” Stiles asked.

“That’s right, you said he’d taken you to our house there,” Derek said with another small burst of pleasure, like having Stiles in the place where he’d grown up was a fulfilling notion.

Stiles leaned back from where he’d been hunching forward into the press of Derek’s hand on his chest and the other man slowly took back his arm, but instead of sitting back as well, he put it on top of Stiles’, gently but effectively trapping his hand between Derek’s.

“You know you can’t hold my hand forever,” Stiles said.

Derek nodded, but Stiles could feel his reluctance. “I know that, but I will as long as you let me.”

Which was. Well, it was sweet and a bit stifling, really. “Tell me more about werewolves,” he said instead of dwelling on whatever they had going on. He could use a bit of a distraction from his immediate reality. Not that werewolves weren’t his immediate reality, but still.

He and Derek were mates?

Fuck.

He also didn't miss the fact that his heartbeat was apparently audible from across the city. His fucking life.

Chapter Text

"Why are you so nervous?" Stiles asked. He could read it in the tense line of Derek's shoulders, even without their weird, empathic touch-bond thing. Though he definitely got a dose of it from where their hands were joined, too.

Derek shook his head, "I don't like the thought of you being up here unprotected during the full moon. It's mostly instinct, but also the fact that you've been attacked twice recently when I wasn't there to defend you."

"But both times I managed to get away with only minor injuries, and mostly on my own," Stiles pointed out. While he got where Derek was coming from, he was also a fully functioning human being capable of looking after himself. Well, for the most part. Plus, with the Argents dead that cut out about half the people who wanted to harm him, though the two assholes from the basement were still in the wind.

The eyebrows were judging him. "You were shot at in both situations, Stiles-"

"No one knows that better than me, dude."

"-you're still recovering from your first casting-"

"Recovered."

"-and I'd rather not leave you alone."

Which was simultaneously sweet and a touch stiflingly creepy.

"But," Derek continued reluctantly, "the others need me to help them tonight."

"Which is why you're going to be in the basement with them and I'm going to he up here twiddling my thumbs or whatever. I’m assuming there's no wifi in the house?"

The other man shook his head.

"Right, so I'll read some of these old books, maybe take another bath, snack on meat-stuff, and sleep." And plan just what the hell he was going to do next. Probably something stupid. Actually, that was most definitely going to be the case, judging by his past track record of spontaneous decision making and the ensuing fallout. Not that any of that would stop him.

Derek narrowed his eyes like he'd caught a hint of that last bit, but wasn't sure what to make of it.

"Dude, it's going to be fine, now are you going to go wolfy before or after lunch?"

Derek responded by shucking his underwear and blink-and-you-miss-it transforming into a wolf.

Jesus, they weren't even married and the guy expected Stiles to pick up after him. Unbelievable. But he bent over anyway, snagging the boxer briefs from the floor with an unimpressed look, and Derek's tail twitched in response.

"I'm counting that as a wag," Stiles informed him with a triumphant smirk, then dodged the playfully snapping teeth with a laugh. "Hey! No biting, Fido!"

Dog jokes, so many of them.

Derek huffed and shook his thick fluffy mane of fur, then nudged Stiles butt with the flat of his head in an effort to get him to move to the door.

"Pushy, pushy. Okay, time to eat I get it," he said, opening the door and almost stepping back onto Derek as he came face to smirking face with Erica.

“Having a private moment?” she asked because she really was kind of evil, sometimes.

Before Stiles could respond the wolf darted around him and flanked her, growling playfully as he snapped his sharp teeth at her heels. Erica jumped and squawked before she turned and chased him down the hall with a delighted laugh. Stiles went the other way at a more sedate pace, the man’s boxer briefs in hand, and tossed them onto the pile of Derek's clothing on the living room floor. Laura’s tattered outfit was still sitting there, too and he made a mental note to tidy up when the werewolves were having their full moon party in the basement.

The other three were already in the kitchen when he got there, standing around the counter laden with massive platters of steaming ground meat, mashed potatoes and a fresh spinach salad, but their plates were empty and no one was making any move to eat.

Derek, pursued by Erica, finally raced in from the dining room and skidded across the tile floor before she managed to tackle him with a triumphant shout.

"Good job, Erica," Laura commented with an approving smile, "you've never caught him before."

Derek finally wriggled his way free and panted a bit as he trotted to Stiles' side and reared up on his hind legs, propping his paws on the edge of the counter so he could reach his plate. Stiles was kind of impressed that when Derek stood like that they were basically the same height, which he figured would be intimidating to other people if they were faced by the gruesome wrath of Ginger Bear, though he wasn’t particularly worried about anything other than drool. Apparently, Derek’s behavior was normal because no one said anything about the wolf at the counter, though Boyd raised and eyebrow and Laura rolled her eyes.

"Right," she said, "normally we are served and eat in order of rank-"

Which explained why Thanksgiving had been so weird.

"-but we have a powerful guest in attendance, our friend the spark, so Stiles, you get to go first."

And while that wasn't on his list of things he really preferred to do, he shrugged and used the large serving spoon to scoop some meat up and dump it on his plate, then he realized Derek didn't exactly have opposable thumbs and got him a portion, too. When he looked up Laura was smirking and he swore he heard Derek make a happy noise on his throat.

"What? Oh, rank, sorry was he supposed to wait?"

She shook her head, "Oh, no, you did the right thing."

But she was still kind of smirking and so was Erica and Stiles needed a werewolf etiquette guidebook before he ended up accidentally getting werewolf married to someone. Oh, wait, that had kind of already happened to him and the fluffy asshole who was waiting patiently for Stiles to take his first bite of food so he could eat, too.

Stiles sighed and ate some of the meat and barely held back his moan at how deliciously tender it was. "Dude, Isaac," he said after he'd swallowed, "did you make this?"

Isaac nodded, wide-eyed, his eyes flashed yellow, but it was clearly from nervousness and not fear.

"Hey, it's awesome, you're going to have to teach me your skills, man because you're like a food miracle worker or something."

The other man smiled nervously and Stiles figured it was probably best to stop pestering him since he didn't seem to have the best control over things at the moment. Boyd nudged his friend's shoulder and smiled, "He's right, it's awesome. Good job, man."

Erica and Laura complimented him next, but he didn't actually blush until Derek added his half-yowl to the mix.



"You know what?" Laura said, standing in front of the fireplace with her hands on her hips. "I think we should all go outside. We've been cooped up all day and it isn't snowing anymore. Come on, you can shift if you want and we can all run around together like we do at Mom's house."

Stiles thought that sounded pretty fun, actually, but he didn't want to include himself in the festivities if he wasn't invited, and since it kind of seemed like the frolicking was a precursor to their future basement-dwelling-

"Oh!" Erica said, hopping up and down where she was seated on the couch, "We have a bunch of old winter stuff we can layer Stiles with so he won't freeze, and we can build a snowman and go ice skating-"

"The ice on the lake isn't thick enough for that, babe," Boyd commented beside her, running a hand over her forearm.

"-whatever, we're going outside. Isaac come on, do you want to shift? I'm sure Derek will run with you."

Derek's ears perked up and he lifted his head from off of Stiles' lap at the suggestion.

"Derek's in," Stiles pointed out, "and so am I, if we can find me winter stuff. But I'll warn you, I'm not exactly a snow bunny. Beacon Hills isn't typically known for weather like this."

"You'll be fine, Stiles," Laura said with a smirk.

Yeah, right.

Beside him, Derek's tail definitely twitched.

 

Not only did the Hales have enough winter gear to outfit Stiles like a marshmallow man, but they had half a dozen sleds and toboggans as well. Derek, however, gave the dog sled harness one disdainful look and darted away from Stiles like his tail was in fire.

"It was just a suggestion," he called after the wolf, who had disappeared around the side of the house with a bark.

Isaac had tried to shift, but ended up with just the wonky forehead, fangs and claws. He looked really weird without eyebrows, though Stiles was polite enough not to mention it. Also, the dude had only tentative control over himself, plus claws.

So Stiles left the sleds in the shed and tromped through the shin-deep snow over toward where Derek had disappeared, only to be met by Erica, who had a snowball in either fist.

"Woah," he said, raising his obviously empty-handed gloves, "I don't want any trouble, Miss."

She smirked and pursed her lips at him in an air kiss before she knocked his hat off and smeared one of the snowballs onto his hair as he yelped at the cold, then darted away toward Boyd, who saw her and ran.

"You're an asshole," Stiles called after her, trying to brush the snow off, but it just kept melting down the back of his neck and seriously? Snow was totally overrated.

He didn't even see Derek, but the there was a solid weight not quite slamming, but definitely pushing insistently against his stomach and he let himself fall back in a graceless heap. The ginger-colored wolf grinned down at him, paws planted on his shoulders and Stiles couldn't help but grin back. "Having fun?" he asked, though he knew the answer already, could see it in the delighted sparkle of the crystal blue eyes that were studying him. "Yeah, me, too."

He'd come to realize that the Hales and their fellow werewolf weren't truly enjoying themselves unless they were in motion. It was an interesting fact about them, something Stiles wasn't even sure they were completely aware of, but he'd never seen them so free and happy before, and that eased something inside of him as well. He knew they'd be okay with each other, even during the full moon.

Derek licked a cold stream of melted snow from Stiles' cheek and he made a face. "Ugh, seriously, Derek?" he asked around a snorted laugh, "Did you know that most of your body heat escapes from your head? Come on, help me find that hat I was wearing before I die of exposure."

Derek leapt off of him and frantically began circling Stiles prone body as he struggled to lever himself upright. "Dude, chill out, I'm not actually in any danger, but I would like that hat. Oh, awesome, thanks," he said taking it awkwardly between the two thick gloves and kind of smearing the slightly snowy knitted cap onto his head. He thought he was more or less successful, but then warm hands finished pressing it down for him and he tilted his head back to see Laura smirking at him.

"Can't have little bro's spark catch a cold, can we?"

Stiles wasn't sure how he felt about being called Derek's anything, but instead of correcting her he launched into a mini-lecture about how the act of being cold and getting a cold were often erroneously connected, when in fact the illness was most likely cause by a virus that couldn't actually survive in such hostile temperatures. Laura suffered through it with a wry smile, then patted his cheek with a parting dork and took off after Isaac.

Derek was still sitting beside him in the snow, seemingly content to just be near him despite how freaking cold it must have felt against his wolfy junk.

"Well, if you don't want to haul my ass across the snow like a sled dog-"

Derek's expression said not a chance in hell.

"-then I guess we'll just have to build snow-wolves."

The wolf tilted his head to the side in interest.

"Yeah," Stiles said, awkwardly shifting around to stand up with some help from Derek's unsurprisingly sturdy back, "thought that might sound like fun. Come on, you can help me pick a spot to build."

In the end, they all pitched in and made a snow-creature to represent each of them. Derek's looked the coolest, probably because Stiles spent the most time on it trying to capture the wolf's likeness as best he could, even though he’d never really had the time to perfect his snow-crafting skills prior to his Wisconsin visit.

Erica's was a cracked out kind of version of her half-shifted, as was Isaac's. Boyd's was a wolf even bigger than Derek, which Stiles had to admit would be terrifying to run into in the dark woods, or anywhere, really. Laura and Stiles' likenesses were of them dancing together, which was kind of ridiculously silly, especially since Derek actually seemed a bit offended by it.

"Dude," Stiles said ruffling his ears with his bulky, gloved hands, "pretty sure Laura and I are one hundred percent not each other's types, so stop acting butthurt about our snowpeople doing the waltz, or whatever it is they're getting up to."

"It's the foxtrot," Erica interjected as she made the finishing touches to Isaac's ass. Well, snow-beta Isaac's ass.

"So let me get this straight," Stiles said, pointing to the snow versions of Erica and Isaac, "you call that your beta form, right? That’s you partially, or half-shifted."

"Yes," Boyd said, folding his sweater-clad arms over his chest and Stiles felt chilled just looking at him. If he'd just been in a sweater he'd have been crying at that point, and probably blue.

"Okay, but you guys are all betas, regardless of whether or not you've fully or partially shifted?"

"Yes," Laura said from where she was playing some kind of hand game with Isaac, apparently trying not to let him slap her bare hands with his clawed ones. There wasn't any blood in the snow around them so he assumed she was winning.

"But this is your wolf form," he pointed to snow-Derek and the real one nodded. “That’s a full shift. And that's your human form," he indicated dancing Laura. “Which is unshifted?"

"What a smart human!" Erica said throwing her arms up and running at him like she was going to either tackle or hug him or both.

Derek surged to meet her halfway and they fell onto the snow with a thud, but then Boyd was grinning and leaping on top of them, followed quickly by Laura and Isaac and if Stiles hadn't know about the super powered healing stuff he could have been concerned for those at the bottom of the pile, but as it was he could see Derek's orange tail wagging from between Isaac's sprawled legs and he couldn't really do anything but laugh.



His cheeks were bright pink, well, except for the ugly red-purple bruise, when he went back inside a while later. The others were still chasing eachother around outside with huge icy snowballs, but Derek followed him through the house and up the stairs to the master bathroom where he began the laborious process of peeling off the snow crusted clothes.

"You know, you don't have to hover," he pointed out, yanking on the outer layer of sock and accidentally spraying slush across the tile floor, almost hitting Derek, but he dodged in time with an indignant huff. "Whoops, sorry 'bout that, I'm kinda new to this whole thing you know?”

Stiles really didn’t know where to begin with the whole defrocking situation, but the wolf helped solve that little mystery by tugging on the sleeve of his puffy jacket.

“Right, that makes sense,” he said, knocking freezing snow off the zipper so he could pull it down. The slick pants were apparently next, though Derek had the courtesy to point at them with his paw instead of sniffing Stiles’ crotch or anything else inappropriate. Not that Derek hadn’t done something similar before. Just. Yeah, things had changed, at least for Stiles.

It gradually got easier as the layers came off one article at a time. He draped the wet clothes on the towel racks and in the shower to dry, and by the time he was down to his underwear and t-shirt the room was pretty much covered in damp clothes.

“Phew, that took a lot of effort,” Stiles said, rubbing his arms with his hands. He definitely didn’t have the I always run hot werewolf internal furnace thing going on like the rest of them, but before he could go into the other room to put on the sweatpants he’d left in there Derek was nudging the tap on the tub to turn on the hot water. “What? No, you don’t have to do that, dude,” he said, but the wolf refused to back down, going so far as to lean over the edge of the tub like he was about to try to put the plug in it.

“Hey, okay, okay, move over before you get your fur all wet or something. I’ve got it, ya stubborn ass,” he said with an exasperated smile as he batted Derek’s shoulder and did it himself.

But of course when he glanced over to him it looked like Derek thought he’d won something and Stiles stuck his tongue out. Derek, in turn, mimicked him and that was really way more hilarious than it should have been because pretty soon Stiles was sitting on the floor laughing hysterically. "Dude, seriously? I doubt anyone would believe me if I told them you do shit like that, you’re stupidly cute for words."

Sometimes it was easy to forget that Derek the person and Derek the wolf were one in the same. He just seemed so much happier in his furry form, but then again he'd apparently been under a tremendous amount of stress since Stiles had known him, and now that that was gone perhaps the happy-go-lucky tail wagged was really who the guy was. Stiles wasn't entirely convinced that was the case, though, since he pulled off the asshole vibe just a bit too well for that.

Derek's smugness didn't wane and he nudged Stiles' shirt so his cold wet nose touched the skin of his stomach. He yelped and shoved Derek's head away, "Not cool! I'll strip when I'm good and ready. I'm assuming you're not leaving for this, creeper wolf? Even though it’s kind of weird, in all honesty.”

The wolf plopped his butt on the floor and gave him a sassy look, so he took that as a no. Stiles could have kicked him out, could have insisted he leave, but it was only a few hours before the full moon rose and he wouldn’t bullshit himself, he wanted to be close to Derek as much as it was apparent Derek wanted to be close to him.

“Turn around, perv,” Stiles said, not bothering to check if Derek followed his orders as he shucked the rest of his clothes and leaned over to feel the water in the tub. It was perfect, of course, because even in wolf form Derek was a bathwater temperature guru. Stiles slowly lowered himself in and let out a deep, satisfied groan as the water burned its way up his chilled skin and eased the tension that had settled into his muscles. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said, sinking up to his chin, hands clutching the weirdly rounded sides.

Something soft brushed against the arm still littered with bandages and he shifted his grip so he could run his fingers through Derek’s fur. The wolf was feeling content, glad Stiles was warm and safe and that he could watch over him.

It was getting easier for him to parse out Derek’s emotions and he tried to wrap his head around what being mates really meant. He had so many questions, but even though he was supposedly the one for Derek, the guy didn’t seem to have many objective answers to give him. It seemed like something he’d have to go to someone else to find out more, someone who didn’t have a vested interest in sugar coating anything, or who at least had the capacity to keep their own emotions out of the equation. Talia was probably the best person to ask.

Or.

Stiles barely managed to keep himself from biting his lip as he thought. Beside the tub, Derek shifted his head so he was looking over the edge, studying Stiles’ expression with an intense look of his own.

“Just ruminating,” he said in response to the obvious what’s wrong? “You know, about things and stuff and people.”

Derek made an inquisitive noise and he snagged the first errant thought that came to mind. “You know, I never really thought I’d kill anyone. I mean, I used to watch action movies and play violent video games, but actually taking someone’s life? That’s, it’s just not a thing I considered a real possibility in my life. Before my mom died I was kind of fascinated with death. When we went to the beach I found a jellyfish lying there, baking in the sand and Mom explained what had happened to it and why it wasn’t moving like the ones we’d seen at the aquarium. It could still sting, though, she told me, and I guess that’s the same with people, too. Even when they’re dead, their memories can still cause you pain.”

The wolf nuzzled his hand and he slid it across Derek’s cheek with a sad smile. “I don’t regret it, necessarily, but it’s still a bit of a mindfuck. I mean, not only did I end Gerard, but I did it with magic. That’s. Wow. You know? It’s some crazy shit.”

It was seven kinds of crazy. It was if you ever tell anyone besides your werewolf friends about this they’ll commit you levels of crazy. His plan to tell Scott and have him help Stiles through the moral implications went out the window and he had to resist the urge to sink completely under the water to drown out the sudden melancholy that filled him at the thought.

“I guess I just need to make peace with it,” he said, which didn’t actually seem all that hard as long as he didn’t dwell on the fact that he ended another man’s life. “Make peace and move on.”

He wondered how Derek felt about killing Kate, but he just scratched behind the wolf’s ears instead of mentioning it. There was enough turmoil in their lives without dredging up more of their past. Though at some point they were due for a long, serious discussion about that and their future. But first they had to get through that night and the full moon.

Chapter Text

 

Derek barely even let Stiles find a towel after he finally got out of the bath, the wolf’s whole furry body was glued to his side, broad tongue lapping up whatever water was dripping down Stiles’ bare legs and arms and chest and back. He tried to push Derek away at first, but then he felt the wolf’s frantic kind of need to touch him through the contact and eventually Stiles relented, sitting cross-legged on the bathmat with the towel around his waist and Derek’s huge furred head rubbing and licking against his bare torso like it was the most delicious thing on the planet.

 

“This better not be a precursor to cannibalism,” Stiles warned, and had to smile at Derek’s indignant huff.

 

No, it wasn’t cannibalism, but it was clearly a kind of hunger.

 

“No bestiality, either,” he said and Derek froze where he’d been licking a spot near Stiles’ armpit, his blue eyes kind of shocked as he stared up at him. Stiles figured that was as good an answer as any. “Okay, dude, just so long as we’re clear.”

 

Derek gave him a few more tentative licks before turning on his heel and rummaging around the floor, returning with Stiles’ discarded underwear and shirt. He deposited the clothing in his lap in an unspoken command to get dressed.

 

“You’re pretty bossy, you know that?” Stiles asked as he slipped on the boxer briefs under the towel, the wrangled the shirt over his head. When he looked again Derek had the sweatpants hanging out of his mouth and he tilted his head to the side like a cartoon character or one of the well-trained dogs on tv and Stiles plucked them from him with a laugh. “Yeah, okay, no need to play up your cuteness. Thanks for the pants, dude. Now are you going to tell me what all that licking was about because that was a bit unusual, even for you.”

 

It was pretty clear that Derek wasn’t willing or maybe able to talk about the whole licking thing, if his darting eyes and hunched forward posture were anything to go by. So Stiles held up his hands, “Hey, fine, tell me later when you’re not all wolfy. What now? It can’t be more than a few hours before dark, and I don’t know when you guys normally go downstairs for the full moon festivities. Do we just hang out for now, play parcheesi?”

 

The answer, apparently, was more cuddling on the bed where Stiles had woken up next to Derek that morning. In the late afternoon light he was able to truly appreciate the stunning view of the frozen lake and the simple elegance of the furnishings the Hales had chosen to compliment the grandeur of the natural landscape. Derek made him take the side of the bed by the windows so his massive body was between Stiles and whatever dared to enter the room via the door. In all honesty, he thought that was kind of ridiculous, but the wolf had gradually stopped conveying actual complex thoughts to him and instead Stiles had had to work out what Derek was thinking solely based on his actions and raw emotions, which was kind of difficult since the guy hadn’t ever been very open and honest with him in the past and most of what he felt seemed like varying degrees of protect.

 

So, cuddling on the bed was a thing, Derek’s massive warm body wedged next to Stiles’ so his arms were around him and his fingers carded through the thick fur. It was kind of hypnotic, really, the deep, even breathing of the wolf against his chest, the steady thudding of their heartbeats, and the way the silky strands slid across the delicate skin between his fingers. Derek seemed to think so, too, because he let out a huge, relieved sigh after they’d been lying there a while.

 

“I know, dude,” Stiles murmured against the red-orange fur of the wolf’s neck, rubbing his face against it and trying to think of all the times he'd been so comfortably content. The list wasn't too long, actually, and several of instances had taken place in Derek's company. Which. Huh.

 

He suddenly remembered another such time, and smiled. "When I was little I used to follow my mom around from room to room in our house. She'd just wander, sometimes, on the mornings when she didn't have to work and I'd wander, too. When I'd ask her what she was doing she'd say she was checking in, though she never elaborated on that. Now I guess we can assume it was a magic thing, but at the time I’d just nod like I understood and keep trailing behind her, checking stuff, too."

 

Stiles didn’t often just talked about his mom, but somehow with Derek it felt easy, whether it was because he'd known her or that he was a wolf and couldn't really talk back, Stiles didn't know, but he just kept going.

 

"She was a really good cook. Most of her dishes were Russian, which dad would make faces at when he smelled them, but he loved every bite. Toward the end she tried to teach me how to make some of the recipes, but I was so sad and angry I never really paid attention to anything other than the sound of her voice as it slowly got weaker and weaker."

 

Derek must have felt or heard his regret because he nestled closer with a comforting kind of sound.

 

"I learned how to bake, though, which was easier because I could actually read the recipes and Scott would come over and help me eat whatever I made and I wasn't so alone when I made her cookies and cakes and stuff."

 

The wolf made an inquisitive noise.

 

"Yeah, dude, I know, I still owe you a double batch of peanut butter cookies."

 

He pulled Derek closer against him and breathed in the wild, familiar scent that suffused the guy regardless of his form. It was kind of a perfect moment, actually.



Which inevitably had to end. It was Laura who came upstairs to get her brother a while later. Derek heard her coming a long way off, his ears alert between where Stiles' hand was resting, his body gone tense as if he were on the verge of explosive motion. Stiles rolled onto his back and stretched while the wolf continued to stare intently at the door. Laura didn't bother knocking as she opened it, but she also didn't come inside, just rested her hip against the jam and nodded to her brother.

 

"Come on, Der, the pups are getting feisty and I don't really want to have to explain to mom why she needs to replace the couch if they get out of hand, which they will if we don’t corral them soon."

 

Derek's ears went back and for a still moment Stiles thought he was going to refuse his sister's request, so he kneed the wolf in the side. "Go on, dude, your pseudo-siblings need you."

 

Laura huffed at that, but she was smiling. "See you downstairs baby bro," she said with a parting wave at Stiles.

 

Derek twisted and nuzzled his way closer to Stiles, which he hadn't really thought was possible, but apparently it was.

 

"Eck, dude," he said, spitting out a mouthful of fur, "Come on, you know the drill or whatever. You said the others need someone to chase, right? They're seriously relying on you, and Laura's relying on you. Oh, don't give me that look. It's not your best kicked pup expression, by the way, pretty sure you won that award earlier when I refused to cuddle with you on the couch and made you use your words instead."

 

Derek sighed and finally gave up, slowly heaving himself upright and looking down at Stiles with a complicated expression.

 

From that angle in the near darkness he was even more imposing. It would have been so easy for the wolf to just open his mouth and lock it onto Stiles' throat, in either of his forms, really, but he knew Derek wouldn't do that, at least not to him.

 

"Hey, it'll be okay," Stiles insisted, caressing one fuzzy cheek. With the contact he could feel the roiling sensation of Derek's concern and the almost frantic pull of the moon that seemed to light his blood on fire and-

 

"Oh, dude, go. It can't be comfortable to just lay here when you feel like that. You should be chasing Erica or something. Come on, I'll walk with you."

 

But Derek steadfastly refused to let Stiles leave the bed. First by physically restraining him with his entire, heavy body, and then after Stiles whined too much, by racing across the floor, licking at whatever part of him he tried to slip off the bed. He gave up, eventually, but not before Derek was panting from the effort of the chase and he had to catch his breath from laughing.

 

"Okay, fine, I'll stay up here until you guys are locked up. Just go, Derek, and have a good full moon."

 

Derek looked at him strangely, but Stiles couldn't decipher exactly what the wolf was feeling.

 

"I'm going to be fine," he said softly, then on impulse he grabbed the wolf's head and kissed him between the eyes, feeling his perked forward ears tickle his cheeks. "Now go."

 

Derek went.



Stiles waited until it was fully dark, which really didn’t take too long, before he finally rolled out of bed and went through the brightly lit house to make sure everything was as it should be. All the windows and doors were locked, including the metal one leading to the basement where Derek, Laura and the rest were struggling to control their wolfish tendencies under the power of the full moon. The remembered pull from when he’d touched Derek was a fascinating sensation, and he wondered just how strong the werewolves’ primal urges became when faced with such an unwavering force. He wandered through the living room and tidied it up, making sure the ashes in the fireplace were cold before bringing Derek's clothes up to the master bedroom and poking around looking for his own things.

 

He found the duffel bag and his messenger bag and almost cried when he realized he hadn't lost his laptop or phone. Well, he was less thrilled about the phone when he remembered Derek's hacking, but whatever. Also, he had no cell service wherever they were and the battery was too low for him to risk keeping it turned on without having a charger to use, so he powered it off and removed the battery and finally took the time to think.

 

Stiles knew he was in so far over his head he was in imminent danger of drowning. Hell, he'd almost been killed twice in as many days and surrounding himself with supernatural creatures, some with only tentative control over their extremely deadly natures, wasn't exactly conducive to a long and fulfilling life of remaining un-maimed. Not that he distrusted Derek, well, okay he actually didn't trust Derek when it came to making sound life decisions or following social protocol, but he knew the guy wouldn't physically harm him or allow harm to befall him. As long as they were together, at least, which hadn't really helped Stiles all that much and suddenly he was magical?

 

That was some weird shit, but he'd seen and felt the evidence for himself, plus there was the whole Cassandra thing and he needed a lot more data about that and he knew exactly where to get it. Which wasn't further into the mouths of wolves, either, it was back home.

 

Stiles bit his lip, ignoring the blood and pain the action caused him, and suddenly had a hint of a thought. He looked through the room again and made a triumphant noise as he came across the dirty clothes hamper which held the pants he'd been wearing the precious day. Sure enough, one pocket still held the mountain ash while the other was fat with the cash he'd gotten off of Gerard's corpse.

 

"This is either going to be awesome, or incredibly stupid," he muttered to himself as he shimmied out of the sweats and into the jeans, not thinking about how obscenely they hugged Derek's curves. Yeah, he didn't do a very good job of that and had to adjust himself and think of gross things to make his natural reaction dissipate.

 

In the meantime he found Derek’s phone, no service, and thought about taking it with him to keep the guy from stalking him some more, but just shook his head and threw it on the bed. It wasn’t as if Stiles could actually hide from him unless he used up the last of his mountain ash, and even then it was a pretty risky bet.

 

Once everything was sorted out and he’d donned a sweatshirt from the duffle bag, Stiles snatched up his messenger bag and took the stairs two at a time, but then had to stop at the bottom with his hands on his knees as he panted for breath.

 

Not fully recovered, indeed.

 

His next stop was the kitchen, where he heated up some of the leftovers from lunch and tried to plan out just what he was going to do. He came up with and discarded half a dozen plans before settling on one that wasn't quite as fuck-nuts crazy as the rest and involved a minimal amount of lawbreaking. There was still a potential for arrest, just maybe not as badly as the others? Which he knew wasn’t really how the law worked, but whatever.

 

Stiles barely even tasted the food as he shoveled it into his mouth over the sink, then cleaned up and sat down at the breakfast table with his numbers notebook. He flipped to a blank page and stared at the even lines, considering. Some things were easier done than explained, but he knew he had to give it a shot.

 

Stiles spent the better part of an hour crafting the letter. Tearing out page after page of dissatisfactory prose and shoving them into his bag to throw away or burn later.

 

He didn’t want it to come across as too harsh or too sappy, nor did he want to sound dismissive or trite. Stiles knew he didn’t fully understand the implications of the bond he and Derek supposedly shared - mates - but whatever it was he just wasn’t ready for it. At least not until they both came to terms with Derek's unconscionably untrustworthy behavior and Stiles' newfound magical capabilities and that was something he desperately needed to know more about before anything else happened to unbalance his life even further.

 

He ended the letter as gently as he was able, then just sat there for a long moment and held it, allowing himself a brief, emotional moment to wish things had been different between them. He knew Derek was a good person, deep beneath his harsh demeanor and manpain, but the guy was also cunning and driven, which while those were traits Stiles admired, they were also sometimes dangerous, as he could personally attest. It didn’t matter who or what Derek was, though, because Stiles had made a decision.

 

In the past Stiles had always been the one to bow down to the will of whoever he was dating. He hadn’t actually wanted to accompany Cassandra to her place for Thanksgiving, though he had been curious about her home since she had only rarely let him visit her there. Stiles’ dad had taken that day’s shift at work, though, and Scott and Melissa had gone to eat with Allison and her father, so Stiles would have been alone during the holiday had he gone home like he’d wanted to. So instead he’d gone with Cassandra and ended up hospitalized for his pacificity. But that kind of acceptance of things, of the cheating and the lies and the bullshit he’d gone through with her and the others, that hadn’t gotten him anything but hurt and disrespected. As far as his own personal track record went, Derek was just another name to be added to the list of people who had used him, even if there was some kind of maybe mystical connection between them. It wasn’t that Stiles hated him, or was even actively angry anymore, but he’d been used and he wasn’t going to let that happen again, not if he had a choice.

 

He left the letter there on the table and, with a sigh, went in search of the last things he needed to make his plan come to fruition. The keys to the house and all of the vehicles were conveniently sitting on the table by the front door, as was Derek's black leather jacket and Stiles had never been that great at impulse control, so he took it and a scarf he found lying nearby, and maybe felt a tiny bit bad, but not really. He picked up the keys to the hybrid because he'd never driven one and was curious, but also because it had a GPS system built into it and he wasn't entirely sure how to get to where he was going on his own. Stiles stood with his hand on the doorknob and thought for a brief second about turning back.

 

Derek had mentioned that the basement was soundproofed, which meant none of them would know that Stiles had been about to leave, but then again Derek could apparently hear his heartbeat regardless of the distance? Because that was a thing? A mates thing, maybe? Whatever, they probably wouldn’t know whether or not he left or stayed, not until the automatic lock released them at some point the next morning.

But no, he’d decided and he was done backing down, and he was going to follow through with his decision. With one last look around at the peaceful serenity of the Hale’s lake house, Stiles slipped out the front door, locking it behind him and disappeared into the cold Wisconsin night.