Sometimes Derek forgot that Victoria Argent owned the bar catty corner from Boyd’s dive. Her place catered to the higher ends, people who could afford three hundred dollars for a bottle of fucking wine. She wasn’t exactly competition, because Boyd was comfortable serving the usual crowd of blue collar workers looking to forget their problems in a bottle of beer or a glass of cheap whiskey. And that suited Derek just fine, because he’d never been able to handle people with too much money anyway, a hard-learned lesson courtesy of his ex.
And because Derek sometimes forgot about Victoria Argent’s goddamn bar, he forgot that Victoria Argent’s sister-in-law, his ex, would occasionally be nearby. It was something he usually didn’t worry about, because it’d never really been a problem in the three years Derek worked for Boyd. He hadn’t seen Kate in person since she’d smiled serenely while telling Derek they were over because she couldn’t date a talentless journalist, couldn’t date someone who wasn’t working a six figure job - and to say Derek had been devastated was an understatement. He’d been planning on proposing.
So, Derek wasn’t really expecting trouble that night, midway into August. He’d been writing articles for Scott’s webzine, about a band Scott had asked him to take a look at last winter, between shifts at Boyd’s bar and helping Laura clean her tattoo parlor. He wouldn’t normally be writing at all, but Scott was Laura’s boyfriend, his packmate, and he’d given Derek the patented Puppy Eyes. Then the band gained a sudden internet following, and a spot on Van’s Warped Tour, since Derek’s initial article on them, which Scott constantly attributed to Derek and also used as an excuse to get Derek to write semi-regularly for his webzine.
Derek thought it was ridiculous to attribute Hybrid’s success to him, but he could admit it was hard to imagine the band gaining much of a following without outside help. Hybrid was an underground band from NYC. They hadn’t even had any kind of website where someone could listen to their EPs until the middle of that summer. And the only reason Scott knew about Hybrid, apparently, was because the frontman was his childhood best friend.
It was why, Scott had explained, Derek had to write the article on Hybrid. Scott was biased, and he thought Hybrid deserved hype from an unbiased party. Derek was still skeptical about Scott’s true intention, because there was no way Laura didn’t ask for Scott’s help to get Derek writing again.
It was Kate's scent that first alerted him to her presence, yanking him out of his thoughts as he listened to Hybrid’s cover of Gone Forever, and Derek stiffened as she stepped into the bar and made her way towards him. “I hear someone’s been writing again, for a dinky little webzine that’s apparently gaining quite the following.”
Derek bared his fangs at her, and accidentally broke one of the glasses he’d been cleaning. Kate smiled sweetly, the expression making Derek’s stomach twist with disgust, and sat on the barstool closest to Derek. He wanted to shout at her to get the fuck out, but he was afraid if he opened his mouth he’d end up doing something he’d regret, like protesting her potshot about his writing.
“Oh, sweetie, don’t look so happy to see me!” Kate laughed and ran her fingers along the wood grain of the bar, pulling her hand back to inspect them with a look of distaste. “I just came by to tell you how happy I am for you, now that you’ve started writing again! I know how much you loved it, and for a while I was worried you stopped because of me.”
“Leave.” Derek snarled, his hackles rising as Kate laughed again.
“Derek, you certainly know how to make a girl feel loved.”
Derek sneered at her and moved to grab a broom. “Get. Out.”
Kate sighed, long-suffering, and stood up. “Fine, fine, don’t let me get your panties in a knot.” She smirked, Derek flinched, and her mocking laughter followed her out the door.
As soon as the door slammed shut behind her, Derek snarled angrily and punched the wall the broom was leaning against. There was a startled squeak behind him followed immediately by the unmistakable sound of a body slamming into the jukebox. Derek whipped around to see a tall, broad shouldered guy with tousled brown hair balancing himself with a hand on the top of the jukebox and his other hand gripping the back of a nearby chair. He was wearing a pair of glasses, dangling precariously on his nose, and a dark purple v-neck and low riding jeans that looked old and a little frayed, hugging a slim waist and strong legs.
“Shit,” the guy muttered and ran a long-fingered hand through his hair before turning to face Derek all the way, startling him with big amber eyes and a sinful mouth. Derek huffed quietly and watched the guy make his way to the bar. There was a tattered notebook in his left hand, and a pencil tucked behind his ear.
“Yes?” Derek snapped, his voice coming out more of a waspish bark than he wanted. He grimaced internally, because he was supposed to be polite to customers, and it wasn’t this guy’s fault that he’d just walked in literally right after Kate left, leaving Derek in a coiled rage he couldn’t exactly release until his shift ended and he could go running in the woods.
“Jesus, rude,” the guy replied and rolled his eyes. “Captain and Coke, if you would, your rudeness.”
Derek glared, quirking an eyebrow. “ID?”
“Ugh, I am twenty-five, dude,” he grumbled and flashed his driver’s license.
“You don’t even look like you’ve gone through puberty,” Derek offered, meanly, and turned to get the guy’s order ready.
“Why is it that literally every werewolf I meet feels the need to be nothing but a raging dick?”
“What’s a guy like you doing drinking alone at three in the afternoon?” Derek shot back, feeling reluctantly amused by the guy, and pulled a coke out of the fridge.
“Hey man, it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?”
The question was rhetorical, Derek was sure, so he contented himself with an exaggerated eye roll as he poured Captain Morgan into a clean glass. The guy muttered something unflattering about nearly being eaten multiple times as he tapped his fingers against the bar top. It was kinda funny, actually, and Derek smirked a little as he poured the can of coke into the glass.
Derek turned back around, nearly dropping the drink when his eyes caught the customer’s, their amber color catching the light and looking almost golden for a brief moment. It startled Derek, a bit, because he’d never seen a human’s eyes that color. He set the drink on the counter and took the twenty the guy handed to him, giving him back his change and watching him walk over to the back corner and take up residence in the darkened booth.
He felt like he should maybe apologize, but Derek wasn’t really sure how to go about doing that. It’d be weird if he went over to the booth, and the guy’d put headphones on anyway, pulling the pencil from behind his ear and turning to a blank page in his notebook. Derek watched the guy for a while, because there wasn’t anything better to do and he was...interesting.
Boyd showed up sometime later, saluting Derek before disappearing into the kitchen. By then, the guy had been there for a little over three hours and he’d only had one alcoholic beverage before sticking strictly to Coke. In that time Derek had imagined several different ways to apologize for being an ass. He’d even actually tried, but the guy was too absorbed in whatever was going on with that notebook to take notice of anything. Derek wasn’t entirely sure the guy’d even been aware he’d purchased another soda and a bag of peanuts.
“Laura wants to know if you’ll pick Peter up from the mall,” Boyd relayed after coming back from the kitchen and joining Derek behind the bar wearing a grease-stained apron. “Apparently your mother dropped him off and then ran away with the car, and Laura has an appointment that’s probably going to last all evening.”
“What is my mother doing?”
Boyd snorted and leaned his hip against the counter. “She and your father are apparently on their way to San Diego for a conference. It isn’t my job to keep tabs on your parents, Derek.” He shrugged and smirked a little. “I still don’t know the circumstances behind why there are two separate packs in this town, and how Laura even became an alpha in the first place, or how you, Scott, Isaac, and Peter are somehow her betas.”
Derek drew patterns on the wood of the bar. “My parents are working on establishing territory in upstate New York, so Laura has most of the control over this territory. Peter, Isaac and I want to stay in town, but the others are following my mom because they’re all a little unhappy with Laura.”
“What in the hell did Laura do?”
“She killed a feral alpha, then bit Scott immediately after because she’d run across him in the woods, half dead because he’d been attacked by a mountain lion. Everyone was really uncomfortable with Laura taking Scott’s choice away, but he’s Isaac’s best friend and she refused to let him die.”
“And now they’re fucking.”
“Gross, thanks, Boyd, thanks for that.”
Boyd smirked and nodded his head like he’d done Derek a huge favor pointing out Laura’s sex life. Derek grimaced and slumped over the counter, his hands dangling over the edge. His shift didn’t end for another half hour and he wasn’t really inclined for time to go faster. Derek loved his uncle, truly, but Peter was an ass and took great pleasure in mocking Derek about everything. It wasn’t so bad, mostly, but he was still twitchy from his encounter with Kate.
“Why the hell did you let a minor into my bar, Derek?”
Derek startled and glanced around, his eyes alighting on the only patron currently in the bar. “He’s twenty-five, Boyd. I carded him when he walked up to the bar and ordered a rum and coke.”
Boyd gave a disbelieving ‘hmm’ and shook his head. “Did you make sure it wasn’t a fake?”
“Jesus, he even told me how old he was. No lie in his heart beat,” Derek grumbled and pushed himself up off the bar top. “But if it makes you feel better, you can card him the next time he comes over to order something.”
“That tells me you didn't bother to look very hard at his ID. And honestly, what the hell has you in a mood?” Boyd asked, looking a little amused but mostly annoyed. “You’re usually less bitchy and more faux-irritated when I question your dubious skills.”
Derek bared his fangs halfheartedly and moved to switch the small TV on. Local news murmured at him and Boyd rolled his eyes like he didn’t know Derek had spent the entire afternoon going insane. That jerk always scheduled Derek for the afternoon shifts, purely because he knew how much Derek hated the afternoon shifts. They were slow, and so goddamned boring.
More crap about a court case that Derek wasn’t interested in hearing about, though he hesitated changing the channel when one of the reporters asked an older man in a sheriff's uniform what his thoughts were on the evidence compiled against the accused. The little box-thingy that displayed names and other odd information declared that the man being interviewed was Sheriff John Stilinski of Beacon County. The sheriff had a lot to say about the evidence, and all of it suggested that he thought the charges were a load of bull.
Boyd stood next to Derek, shoulder to shoulder, and crossed his arms as they watched Sheriff Stilinski explain his opinion. Derek was lost in thought, contemplating the idea that he’d met Hybrid’s frontman before, unknowingly. Scott had mentioned, once or twice before, that his friend, Stiles - what the hell kind of name was that anyway? - was the sheriff’s kid. Derek was a little irked that he’d never run into Stilinski when he was in high school, because, according to Laura, they’d all gone to school together, Scott and Stilinski freshman during Derek’s junior year. Not that it particularly mattered, because Derek hadn’t even been aware of Scott’s existence the last two years of high school, either. Scott and Isaac didn’t develop their sickening bromance until they were freshman in college and sitting through the same pre-rec classes.
“I’m honestly surprised someone in law enforcement thinks the DA is a speciest prick,” Boyd murmured, his brow furrowed and head cocked to the side. Derek shook himself from his thoughts and focused on the interview playing out on the TV, the reporter’s microphone all but shoved in the sheriff’s face as he calmly explained why Greenberg was only being taken to trial because she was a freshly bitten werewolf with no pack.
“What is this kid even being accused of?” Derek asked, his eyebrows climbing into his hairline as the camera moved from the Sheriff to show a twenty-something werewolf who looked both terrified and lost as she was led up the steps of the court house.
Boyd snorted and shook his head at Derek. “This is a high profile case, and you have no clue what it’s about?” He grabbed the remote from Derek’s hand and changed it to ESPN. “She’s being charged with the attempted murder of a school teacher; she’s in a coma, still, but it seems that the city thinks there’s enough evidence to prove Greenberg did it.”
Derek raised an eyebrow at Boyd, turning to lean his hip against the bar and give the other werewolf his full attention. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s a load of bullshit. Greenberg was in my class, and even being turned into a werewolf couldn’t make her a violent person. She was on the lacrosse team, and she cried the one time she body-checked someone during practice.” Boyd jerked his thumb at the television. “If she’d done it, she would’ve confessed, and she’d be a sobbing mess, instead of looking terrified and confused.”
“She doesn’t have a pack?”
Boyd narrowed his eyes. “She didn’t, not when the attack took place, but the alpha who bit her brought Greenberg fully into her pack. She’s supposedly paying for her lawyer, seeing as she’s responsible for her being turned.”
Derek frowned. “How the hell did that happen, anyway? There’s no way she was turned here, Laura would have mentioned another alpha in Beacon Hills.”
“I guess it happened when she was in Maui for a weekend getaway.” Boyd shrugged and glanced pointedly at the clock. “Go pick Peter up before he traumatizes one of the mall workers. Or potentially gets arrested for being creepy.”
“Why is he a kindergarten teacher again?” Derek groaned and stomped from behind the bar to clock out. “He’s freaking insane, and I don’t understand how he’s licensed to teach young, impressionable minds.”
“The guy plays with glitter, Derek. He teaches them what he has to, and then lets them throw glitter all over him.”
Derek shuddered. “Please, don’t remind me about the glitter. He showed up at the apartment one night covered in it and decided that his niece and nephews needed cuddled. All three of us were covered in glitter for a week. It was in my hair.”
“Then you should go get him before he buys more.”
“Right,” Derek grimaced and spared one last glance at the bar’s lone customer before leaving.
“Stiles, sweetie, do me a favor and take your father his lunch? He left it this morning in his hurry; the silly man overslept.” Claudia called from the master bedroom.
“Sure thing, mom!” Stiles called back and pulled a relatively clean shirt on. He’d been back home for less than three days and already he was running errands. He would say he hated it, but that would be a big fat lie. Stiles had always loved helping his parents out, especially after his mother got sick and had to hand her beloved bookstore over to a close friend while she went into the hospital for treatments. It’d been a close call, for a while. Claudia was too proud to ever ask Talia Hale, local alpha werewolf, for the bite that could potentially help. She never needed it, though, and now she was running around with more energy than ever, spending time between her bookstore, the elementary school library, home, and other various things.
Stiles shoved his legs into an old pair of jeans, the bottoms frayed from years of walking on them, and grabbed his keys and wallet. He ducked back in to grab his notebook and iPod, then ran down into the kitchen. His mother came up from the basement, carrying an empty laundry basket, and smacked a kiss to his cheek before pointing to the lunchbox sitting innocently on the counter.
“Thank you, honey. Your father’s been so busy with this recent case, trying his hardest to prove his theory.” Claudia sighed, her eyes darkening with anger. “Harris is a dick, pinning those charges on poor Dezzy. That sweet girl balled like a baby when she knocked you down in lacrosse practice. She could never do what she’s being accused of.”
“What evidence does Harris even have?” Stiles asked, frowning, and put his wallet and iPod into his jeans pocket. “I mean, I’ve been really stupidly busy, otherwise I’d actually have some idea of what’s going on. From what I’ve seen, though, Greenberg looks like another werewolf being fucked over.”
Claudia pressed her lips together tightly and nodded. “That’s exactly what happened to her. She was bitten while on vacation, but hadn’t realized it because she was drunk at the time, so she didn’t remember being bitten and the bite had healed before she woke up the next morning. The alpha who bit her - things are done differently in Maui, apparently, and she’d bitten Dez without consent - didn’t know she was vacationing. Dez got on a plane the next day and was back in California before she could talk to her.”
“Jesus,” Stiles sighed and grabbed his dad’s lunch. “No wonder dad’s been working extra hard. It’s almost like Scott; exactly like Jackson, though that happened in New York and he sure as hell wasn’t charged with attempted murder.”
“Yeah,” Claudia smiled faintly. “Thank fuck for Laura Hale.”
Stiles chuckled and nodded, a stray surge of relief that his mother was still around to be bluntly vulgar surging through him. His mother had the mouth of a sailor, even more so when she was angry, and Stiles hadn’t realized how much he’d miss her foul mouth until the first time she was home after a year in the hospital, dropped a vase, and muttered curses at the broken glass.
“I’ll drop this off, and then I’m going to find somewhere to get my creative juices flowing so I can write some stuff.” Stiles hugged his mom with his free arm and planted a kiss to her temple. “I probably won’t be home for dinner, so don’t worry about me. I have a feeling Erica is going to call me up sometime to cry about writer’s block and demand I take her out to eat.”
Claudia smiled warmly and hugged Stiles back. “That’s alright, your father and I have dinner reservations for tonight anyway.”
“Do I need to remind him about that, for you?”
“No, Peter will remind him if he’s forgotten.”
“Okay, see you later, mom!” Stiles smiled brightly, pulled his cell off the charger, and ran out the door. His Jeep sat in the driveway, looking sad and old with its faded blue paint and slightly-rusted bumper. Stiles ran a hand lovingly over the hood as he walked around to the driver’s side and hopped in the front seat.
His dad was neck deep in evidence bags when Stiles showed up. Stiles knocked on his father’s office door once before stepping in, holding up the lunchbox. “You forgot this in your rush this morning, and mom asked me to bring it in.”
“Thanks, kiddo,” Sheriff Stilinski smiled tiredly and pushed whatever he was looking at to the side. “In the nick of time, too. I’m starving.”
Stiles grinned and set the lunchbox on his father’s desk. “I have awesome timing, then. And before you open it, don’t be pissed at me. Mom’s the one who packed it this morning. I had nothing to do with the contents of this lunchbox.”
His father scowled and unzipped it with a frustrated sigh. “You two are determined to make me suffer. I just want a nice burger and some curly fries, what’s so bad about that?”
The sheriff snorted and pulled out the salad and perch sandwich tucked into the main body of the lunchbox. “Well, at least I like perch.”
“Yup,” Stiles snorted, amused, and dropped into the empty chair in front of his dad’s desk. “So, who do you think actually attacked that woman?”
“Stiles,” John said sharply, and stared at his son with no small amount of exasperation. “I can’t discuss the case with you, as you’re well aware of.”
“C’mon, dad, who the hell am I going to talk to about this?”
John raised his eyebrow. “Hm, well, Scott. And your bandmates. Lydia, maybe; I hear you two have been much friendlier, now.”
“Dad!” Stiles rolled his eyes. “Lydia is dating an old classmate from high school, has been since her second year of college. Besides, I’m not interested in Lydia, not like that. Ew, it’d be like you wanting to date your friend Peter.”
John choked on his perch sandwich and coughed, thumping his fist against his sternum, his face bright red. Stiles stared at his father for a wide-eyed moment before scrambling up to thump his father on the back. After a moment, John managed to stop coughing. He massaged his throat, his face still red, and glared up at Stiles.
“I’m fine, kid.” John mumbled, grabbing his water bottle and taking a long drink. “I didn’t really mean anything by that, Stiles. I know you’ve been more into men as of late.”
Stiles blushed. “Oh Jesus, Dad! Not cool, who told you that?”
“Your mother thinks I should be updated about your inclinations, so that I don’t accidentally say something offensive to you or a significant other if you bring one around.”
“Oh my God, I’m leaving now,” Stiles winced and waved at his father. “Enjoy your lunch, and have a good dinner with mom tonight!”
“Don’t get into any trouble,” John called after him with a knowing smirk in his voice, and Stiles winced again as he walked by the front desk. One of the deputies winked at Stiles and went back to their paperwork.
Stiles made his way into the middle of downtown Beacon Hills on foot, his headphones on and sample instrumentals playing in his ears. They sounded really good, and all they needed were Stiles’ lyrics. Which was the point of his random wandering and the notebook in his hand, the reason he’d spent the entire previous afternoon and evening in a bar on Main, where the werewolf bartending had been equal parts hot and surly. Though it could probably be argued that the level of hot that bartender was was the reason he’d initially stayed in the bar, the atmosphere there had been very inspiring.
He wandered down Main, again, and paused outside the bar. It wouldn’t be open for another hour and a half, but there was a tattoo parlor right next door, and that was open. Stiles had been wanting another tattoo, one to curl around his left wrist and climb up to his elbow until it bled into the one curved around his bicep, and he’d also been meaning to, maybe, get something pierced. Like his eyebrow, or his lip (Erica had tried talking him into getting his dick pierced, and Jackson had suggested his bellybutton; Stiles thought they were horrible friends, but then, they were all pretty hammered from a night of binge drinking at Danny’s place at the time). The sign on the door said walk-ins were welcome, and the only people in the parlor - from where Stiles could see through the window - was a tall woman with dark hair and a full sleeve of colorful tattoos on her right arm, a guy with multiple facial piercings, and an older guy who looked a lot like the woman.
Stiles debated with himself for another moment before pausing his iPod and sliding the headphones down so they were around his neck. He opened the door and stepped into the building, no noise to alert anyone to his entrance, but the woman turned to greet him with a bright smile. There was a lip ring on her bottom lip, the silver of it flashing in the lights.
“Hi,” she said and turned fully while the guy with the facial piercings walked into the back. The older guy pressed a kiss to the top of the woman’s head and headed towards the door.
“I’ll see you at dinner tonight, Laura.”
“Yeah, dad, see you then, and make sure you and mom don’t run off to San Diego without saying something to your betas again!” The woman, Laura, scolded. Her father smirked and waved a hand at her before turning fully to leave, nodding politely to Stiles on his way out.
“How can I help you?” Laura asked him, moving to stand behind the counter.
“Um, I’m thinking about getting a new tattoo,” Stiles said, moving closer to the counter, and stared up at the artwork hanging on the wall behind Laura. “I’ve been thinking about the design for years, but I never had the money to get it done, and I’ve never liked anyone’s work enough.”
Laura laughed, the sound bright and crisp like winter air, and Stiles decided he liked her. “Well, I hope you like my work enough to get it done, then. I’ve been doing this for years, and my mentor seems to think I’m pretty good at it, seeing as he set me free after a four-year apprenticeship with his seal of approval.”
Stiles grinned and leaned against the counter. “That’s reassuring, but I think I’ll look through your portfolio before I decide to trust ‘the mentor’s seal of approval’.”
“I should hope so,” Laura chuckled and nudged a couple three-ring-binders at Stiles. “Pictures of my finished pieces,” she tapped the top one. “This one has my co-worker’s finished pieces. He’s very good with color; in fact, he’s the one who did my arm.”
“Wow,” Stiles smiled and studied the sleeve closer up. It was a swirl of reds and greens and blues that formed a myriad of flowers, all sheltering a sleeping wolf curling around the bend of her elbow. It was interesting, and Stiles wondered if it was very significant, or if she’d just really liked the idea, or what else. “He certainly is good with color.”
“Yep,” Laura smiled approvingly and nudged the binders at Stiles. “Go ahead and look through these, and we can talk when you’re done.”
Stiles smiled and nodded, pulling the top one closer and flipping it open. He was instantly impressed with the linework, the picture of a set of angel wings up and down the entire back of a skinny-ish woman with light brown hair pulled out of the way. The impressed feeling didn’t go away as he flipped through the other pictures; script names, tribal designs, intricate linework, a few portraits sprinkled with some animals. The last picture looked old, a spiral triskelion set between sculpted shoulder blades, and Stiles felt a little bad that the picture sent a frisson of lust licking up his spine. He shut the binder and pulled the other one over to him, glancing through it. The work was awesome, but what Stiles wanted didn’t involve color.
“So, what do you say, Mr. Stilinski?” Laura asked several minutes later, startling Stiles enough that he dropped his tattered notebook. Laura smirked and leaned over to pick it up, handing it back to Stiles with a quirked eyebrow.
“Uh,” Stiles flushed and bent the notebook enough to stuff into the pocket of his hoodie. “How do you know my name?”
Laura rolled her eyes. “Please tell me you’re just off after running around the country for a few months? I’m Laura. Scott? Ringing any bells?”
“Holy shit!” Stiles shrieked, suddenly excited, and tackled Laura into an unexpected hug. Laura nearly toppled backwards, catching Stiles with one arm and the side of the counter with the other so they didn’t go down in a tangle of limbs. “You have no idea how grateful I am that you two are finally dating! I thought I was going to strangle him there for a long while. He wouldn’t stop angsting about you and his feelings for you and how you couldn’t possibly feel the same because you’re the alpha and he’s just this dopey beta.”
Laura laughed and hugged Stiles back. “Scott can be pretty unobservant sometimes, I swear. But, I guess I don’t have all that much room to talk. I didn’t think Scott had feelings for me, either. Isaac was the one to sit us both down and tell us we were being ridiculous.”
Stiles released Laura and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry for tackling you, by the way. And aren’t you all meant to be werewolves? I don’t understand how you two couldn’t figure it out. And how did you know it was me?”
“I mostly thought Scott was pining after Isaac.” Laura said matter-of-factly and pulled her sketch book to her, turning it to a blank page. “But! We can discuss this all over dinner, right? Scott said he was inviting you out for dinner tomorrow so that we could be introduced. Also, I recognized you from Scott’s high school pictures; not much of a guess, considering he only had the one friend back then, according to Isaac.”
“True, we were giant nerds and each other’s only friend. And, he did indeed invite me out for food-type substances. We should pretend like we haven’t already met and fuck with him.” Stiles winked and folded his arms on the counter, leaning forward to study the blank page. “Do you have a book with the wolf runes?”
Laura frowned thoughtfully before walking over to a bookcase stuffed with what looked like ancient tomes and freshly-bound new age crap people still tried to pass off as authentic. Some of the information in those books were actually legitimate, so often times they were ‘read at own risk’ stuff, something that drove Stiles nuts. She ran her fingers over the spines of a set of books that looked particularly old on the top shelf, standing up on her toes to reach.
“I most certainly do.” Laura murmured and pulled a couple books off the shelf. “Do you know exactly what you’re looking for, or is this going to be one of those pick and choose like an idiot. I can read them, and I swear to god if you’re just picking out random symbols because they look cool I will not tell you if they say something really stupid.”
Stiles snickered and shook his head. “No, I can read it too. I was trained under Deaton, because, you know, there’s still a ton of secrets you supernatural types have.”
She carried the books over and raised an eyebrow at Stiles. “Are you telling me you’re a singer in a band that’s steadily gaining popularity on top of acting as a trained Emissary?”
“That’s me!” Stiles grinned and made grabby hands at the books. Laura forked them over with a disbelieving look and watched as he leafed through the pages. “I’m a little surprised Scott never said anything about that, to be honest. I mean, he was a little pissed at me for not telling him when he found out about it, but he was also super excited because it meant he could come to me with questions when he was too embarrassed to ask someone else.”
Laura snorted and went back behind the counter, picking up one of her drawing pencils. “I’m assuming you’re going to get tattooed, right? So what is this super special design that you refused to get for the longest time because no one’s work was good enough?”
“Right!” Stiles pulled his notebook from his pocket, using one hand to keep his place in the book he was looking through, and placed the spiral bound notebook onto the counter by Laura’s sketchbook. He opened it to the first page and spun it around so Laura was looking at it the right way up. “Rough sketch of what I want done, minus the symbols. I kinda want the runes to wrap around my wrist in a cuff, like a bracelet, and this part should bleed into the cuff, while this part bleeds into the ink on my bicep.”
Laura leaned forward, studying Stiles’ sketch with a small smile, and looked up at him with raised eyebrows. “So, okay, what are the runes supposed to express?” She traced one of the lines, smearing the pen ink a bit, and cocked her head to the side. “This makes me think of spellweaving.”
Stiles grinned and gave a little shrug. “Similar concept, I guess. I’m not actively magical, so I can’t actually weave spells on my own. I mean, I can manipulate mountain ash, so.”
“You’re more a ball of energy that can’t utilize itself without outside resources,” Laura offered with a warm smile.
“Yeah,” Stiles nodded and turned his attention back to the book. “That sounds pretty accurate. S’probably why I never bothered studying extensively beyond my duties as an Emissary. There’re some things I’d love to be able to do, but I can’t because there isn’t anything I can pour my will into. And, I mean, sometimes magic-type stuff’ll happen if I’m pissed off enough, but yeah.”
Laura hummed and started sketching out Stiles’ design in her own sketchbook. Stiles shut his eyes, shifting through his memories of middle school and high school. A moment later, he opened them and focused on the book in front of him, flipping through the pages, copying down the symbols he wanted. He knew them, recognized them and read them as easily as written English. The only reason he was consulting the book: wolf-rune was a bitch to write from memory if you weren’t in the practice of using it daily.
After another ten minutes, Stiles had everything he wanted hashed out on the top of his notebook page, upside down from the actual design as the notebook was still turned so Laura could see the design rightside up. Laura was still in the process of sketching it out in her sketchbook, so Stiles flipped through the other book. It had more intricate symbols, more meant for protection and binding. They weren’t any use to him, but Stiles still enjoyed studying them.
“So, this is going to take longer than an average walk-in.” Laura declared, and then turned Stiles’ notebook upside down to read the runes there. She furrowed her brow, her head cocked to the side, and stuck her tongue out a bit as she concentrated. “Is this part of a Ray Charles quote?”
Stiles grinned and gently closed the book he’d been looking through. “Yep. It’s true, for me too. ‘I was born with music inside me’.” He tapped the notebook absently.
Laura smiled and turned her sketchbook so that Stiles could better see what she had down. Stiles smiled and explained how he wanted the runes incorporated as Laura drew what she heard. In the end, Stiles was satisfied, and impressed, with the image, and Laura grinned proudly. He pulled his notebook back to him, dug into his hoodie pocket for a pen, and wrote down the time and date Laura set the appointment up for.
When he checked the time, he was annoyed to find he still had a half hour to kill before the bar opened. Stiles sighed heavily and slumped against the counter while Laura scribbled down his appointment in her calendar. She cocked an eyebrow at him and Stiles grumbled under his breath before shoving himself upright and shrugging.
“Just, I need to kill another half hour.”
“Got a hot date or something?” Laura smirked and winked.
Stiles snorted. “No, I’m just waiting for the bar next door to open. I went there the other day, and despite the less than stellar welcome from the bartender, I actually managed to get a lot of writing done there. I’m hoping today will be a repeat of the writing success; I’d rather not repeat the surly bartender schtick. Don’t get me wrong, he was hot like lava, but he was also in a really impressively dour mood.”
Laura’s smile was terrifying, and Stiles wondered what exactly he’d said that put that evil glint in her eye. It made her look even more like the hot bartender, and Stiles wondered which of the Hales the bartender was, because there was no way he wasn’t a Hale.
“Oh hell, he’s going to piss himself when he finds out.”
“Quiet, Boldiz - um, Boldizs - “
“Oh my god, I’m going to kill Scott, that bastard. No, stop, stop, please, Jesus, just call me Stiles.” Stiles dropped his head into his hands and moaned pitifully. “I’m pretty sure the only person who can actually pronounce my name correctly is my grandfather, and, honestly, he’s the only one left alive that can say if it’s being pronounced properly or not, so I’m not entirely convinced that he’s really pronouncing it correctly just to fuck with people.”
“You poor child.” Laura smirked.
“Oh shut up, or I won’t tell you any embarrassing stories about Scott when he was a kid!”
Despite the late night they’d had, fucking pack bonding runs, Boyd still made Derek come into work that afternoon. He knew Derek hadn’t gone to sleep until eight that morning, and thus hadn’t gotten much sleep before stumbling down the stairs and opening the bar up. So he plugged his iPod into the stereo system and blasted the playlist he’d put together to especially irritate Boyd as retaliation.
Boyd wasn’t all that impressed with him, which Derek took as a victory as he sat at the end of the bar, next to the little space allotted for him to go back behind the bar, with his laptop open and an empty webzine article template glaring at him. Scott’s fucking Puppy Eyes. But the webzine’s followers actually liked the way he wrote, apparently, and, well, Scott. The guy was like his brother, sorta. It was all weird, especially now that Scott and Laura were together.
He had to click onto the email from Scott. Again. He kept forgetting what he was supposed to be writing about, because Laura kept sending him taunting texts telling him he was going to be so fucking mortified, and then refusing to tell him why. It was goddamned irritating.
Hybrid’s cover of Moves Like Jagger was blaring out, and Derek maybe turned the volume up a bit more. He liked how Stilinski sounded like he was having a ton of fun with the song. Derek had never cared for the song much before Scott handed him a USB with all of Hybrid’s MP3s.
(Hybrid didn’t really have that much out; there were some covers, a few live performances, and a handful of original songs. Derek had listened to all of them.)
“Oh, it’s surly bartender with an attitude problem.” A familiar, smug voice declared several minutes later.
Derek looked over to the door and sighed heavily through his nose. “Oh, look, it’s the twenty-five-year-old prepubescent werewolf chow. I see you still haven’t managed a hint of stubble.”
The guy from the day before grinned and came the rest of the way into the bar. “Aww, you remembered! I’m flattered, really. Also, fuck you, I shaved this morning.”
“Uh-huh, that’s a lie,” Derek rolled his eyes with a smirk and stood up to go back behind the bar. “What would you like today?”
“You seem like you’re in a better mood.” The guy smiled, wide and uninhibited, and leaned his elbows against the back of a barstool. He smelled like Laura’s tattoo parlor, and the woods. “Can I just get a coke for now? It’s too damn early to drink.”
Derek snorted and moved over to the cooler. “I don’t even know why Boyd bothers opening this place before five, honestly. We don’t really get any consistent customers until four, at the earliest.” Derek snagged a plastic cup and filled it with ice before placing that and the coke on the bar top.
“Sounds very boring, dude,” the guy said and handed Derek a five.
“Like your job is much more entertaining?” Derek snarked and handed him his change.
The guy opened his mouth to no doubt reply when whatever had been playing switched to one of Hybrid’s original songs. Derek blinked as the guy’s face flushed and he snapped his mouth shut with an audible click, pocketing his change and grabbing the coke and the cup of ice before scurrying over to the same booth he’d sat in the day before. Derek waited another beat, slightly confused, before shrugging and going back over to his laptop.
There was another text from Laura on his phone.
(2:45 p.m.) Scott’s taking me out to dinner w/Stilinski tomorrow for introductions!!!!
Derek scowled and shoved his phone into his pocket, turning his glare to the laptop screen. He had to check his email. Again. To remind himself that he was supposed to be writing an article on a new band out of San Diego. A new band that needed to pick a different sound, one that actually fit the singer’s voice, because what he’s heard from the few samples Scott gave him... Not. Good.
Stiles wasn’t embarrassed. Nope. Not in the slightest. He also wasn’t stupidly flattered. There was no proof that he was. None. Because he wasn’t. Though, he was panicking a little.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and sent a text off to Jackson.
(2:58 p.m.) dude, when did hybrid songs get on the radio????????
Jackson was supposed to be visiting with his parents, so it was unlikely that he’d reply right away. Stiles pulled his headphones back over his ears and turned the iPod up so that he couldn’t hear another of his songs playing over the bar’s speakers. He opened his notebook up to a fresh page, and then spent the next several minutes staring blankly at it.
Hybrid, while gaining a decent following, wasn’t actually popular enough to be on mainstream radio, and mainstream radio was about all the radio stations Beacon Hills got. The town was too far out for smaller radio stations to reach, and mainstream was what the local stations stuck to, when they weren’t relaying the news and weather. There was no way one of his songs got on the radio, let alone that they’d play more than one in a row. Not exactly how radio stations worked.
His cell phone vibrated in his pocket after a while, and Stiles pulled it out with a frustrated look at his notebook.
From ‘guitarguy’ (3:23 p.m.):
wtf r u talking about?
Stiles sighed and replied.
(3:24 p.m.) yeah...thought so
(3:24 p.m.) i’m in a bar back home & 1 of our songs started playing
(3:25 p.m.) and then another of our songs came on
(3:25 p.m.) i don’t know how to handle this
(3:25 p.m.) dude
(3:25 p.m.) the only way the songs would play is if he had it on a cd or ipod or something!!!!!!
(3:26 p.m.) which means he likes our songs!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(3:26 p.m.) wtf am i supposed to do? so awkward!!!! T-T
He set his phone on the table next to his notebook and glared at them both like they held all the answers to the universe. The phone lit up a moment later, and Stiles regretted all decisions that led to Jackson becoming one of his good friends.
From ‘guitarguy’ (3:28 p.m.):
To ‘guitarguy’ (3:28 p.m.):
Stiles didn’t know why he was friends with Jackson. Or why he’d texted Jackson about it. Jackson, had he been in Stiles’ shoes, would’ve preened and introduced himself as Hybrid’s guitarist like the obnoxious bastard he was. Stiles questioned his life choices a lot, and why he ever thought sharing a humiliating experience at the gym involving the exercise equipment and being naked had been a bonding moment for them. Jackson was clearly an evil jerk.
Derek narrowed his eyes at Boyd. “No, no I don’t have plans for tonight, but that doesn’t mean you get to stick me with a double, unannounced. I’ve been in here since two, Boyd. I opened the bar, and sat around while it remained dead in here for the first four hours of my shift.”
Boyd shrugged and pulled his apron off over his head. “Don’t care. You’re not busy, I can’t call Laura because she’s at that dinner with Scott and his friend, and I don’t get many chances to take Lydia out to a nice dinner. Her schedule keeps her busy, between studying for her doctorate and managing that stupid band you’re obsessed with.”
“Your girlfriend manages a band?” Derek asked, trying not to feel as excited as he did, and refusing to admit to any obsession Boyd or anyone else accused him of having with Hybrid. Jesus, it was bad enough Laura made fun of him for having a crush on Stilinski’s fucking voice, which he didn’t no matter what proof Laura liked to think she had. But Derek had met Lydia; she used to stop by while Boyd was working. From what he remembered, she was fiery, and kind of terrifying, like a hurricane, and Boyd was her resilient island that stood tall in the face of her ferocity. Derek was impressed that she had the time to manage Hybrid, especially with their growing popularity. There was no way he was actually going to keep Boyd from getting some time alone with her.
“Yes,” Boyd rolled his eyes, clearly seeing through Derek’s nonchalance. “She’s known all of them for years. I guess Danny pestered Lydia into helping out until they could afford an actual manager.”
“That’s...nice.” Derek bit back the questions, because he had millions, and he knew Boyd probably knew the answers to most of them, but he would be mocked, mercilessly, and that wasn’t anything he wanted to endure just to satisfy the stupid fanboy that apparently lived in a corner of his brain. Derek had never really gotten as into anything as much as he was into Hybrid, and he tried not to show it because Laura would use it against him. “But that isn’t going to make me work this double.”
Boyd smiled. “Fine, then. You can call Lydia and tell her why we have to cancel our dinner reservations for her favorite restaurant.”
Derek thought about it for a moment, pretending to weigh his options. “Jesus Christ,” he mock-groaned and leaned back against the wall. “Fine. You better get laid tonight, Boyd.”
“Not part of the plan, exactly,” Boyd replied, and his smile shifted into something warm and hopeful. Derek blinked and watched as his boss disappeared into the kitchen again. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind that outcome, but I’m perfectly content with no sex so long as she says yes.”
“Boyd,” Derek said a little dumbly. Boyd came back through the door a moment later, wearing a nice pair of slacks and a dark blue button-up. “You’re going to propose?”
“That’s the plan.” His smile stretched across his face, having not really left it in the last few minutes. “We’ve been together since our second year of college.”
Derek grinned and clapped Boyd on the back. “Well, I wish you luck tonight, even if I don’t really think you’ll need it all that much.”
“Thanks, Derek. I’ll pay you overtime for this.” Boyd knocked their shoulders together and disappeared out the door before Derek could reply.
Derek sighed after a moment, feeling only slightly envious, before shaking himself and going back over behind the bar. There weren’t many people in yet, but it was still early evening on a Saturday, and they would be busy soon enough. He pulled his phone out and sent a text off to Isaac and Scott, asking them if they were aware of Boyd’s plans for the night. Isaac, Scott, and Boyd had a weird friendship dynamic that Derek didn’t exactly understand. Isaac had tried, once, to explain how it worked, that Scott was too loveable and was everyone’s squishy. Derek had walked out of the room before Isaac could continue, because the explanation kinda hurt his head, and Laura’s face made it too hard for Derek not to laugh (Laura and Scott hadn’t started dating yet, and Laura’d been in a weird stage where hearing about anyone being loveable with Scott made her irrationally jealous).
He got to work on the dishes while waiting for a reply from one of them. When his phone went off, it was a text from Laura declaring that she was going to tell Stilinski all of the embarrassing things about him. Derek groaned and hoped that list didn’t include what he thought it did. Hybrid’s lead singer did not need to know about Derek’s stupid attraction to his voice and what Derek may or may not do in the shower while Hybrid played on the speakers hooked up to his iPod.
To Laura (7:26 p.m.):
fuck off, Laura
From Laura (7:27 p.m.):
all of the things, derek, ALL OF THE THINGS
Derek huffed and turned the sound on his phone off before shoving it into his jeans pocket. There wasn’t anything he could say to Laura that would express just how much he’d like her not to do that, because Laura already knew. And she didn’t care. One of Laura’s favorite pastimes was tormenting and/or embarrassing him. It was her thing.
And because it was her thing, as he well knew and should have considered a possibility, Laura showed up at the bar a couple hours later. Her smile was ten kinds of mischievous and Derek was instantly on guard. Also: Scott was with her, turned around and walking backwards as he gestured enthusiastically with his hands.
“Dude, I promised you, didn’t I? I swore I’d introduce you to Derek, and that’s what we’re doing.” Scott was reassuring whoever he was talking to. But Derek knew it wasn’t a whoever, it was Scott’s childhood best friend whose name was Stiles Stilinski and had his own damn band that was gaining popularity.
Laura smirked at him from her spot at the bar, sitting on one of the barstools and sprawling out across the bar top. Derek ignored her as Scott backed up enough that his friend could come through the door, and Derek felt his face go hot when twenty-five-year-old-prepubescent-werewolf-chow followed Scott, nearly tripping over the doormat, and looked up to pin Derek with his stupid, gorgeous - holy shit, was it weird that he’d noticed their absence in the bar earlier? - amber eyes. Scott spun around on his heel, after chuckling and steadying his friend, and grinned brightly at Derek.
“Dude!” Scott called and practically raced towards the bar. “Dude, Derek, I wanna introduce you to Stiles!”
Stiles followed Scott up to the bar a lot more calmly than his friend, his expression caught between fond amusement and surprise. Derek blinked and tried not to visibly panic, because he had both snarked at this guy and unabashedly played and sang along with Hybrid’s songs in front of him, and he was the lead singer. And, apparently, he’d wanted to meet Derek.
“So, surly bartender is also the dude who wrote those incredibly flattering articles for the webzine, huh?” Stiles grinned and shoved Scott’s shoulder so he could take a seat at the bar. His face was bright red, like he was embarrassed about something, and Derek nodded stiffly.
“Stiles told me all about his first encounter with you when he set up a tattoo appointment with me yesterday.” Laura declared, smug, and a lot of Laura’s texts from the day before made so much more sense. And confirmed she was the devil.
Stiles’ face went even redder, down his neck and disappearing into his shirt. Derek tried not to wince, or glare daggers at his sister. Scott, though, looked like he was thoroughly enjoying everything, a huge smile stretching across his face as he thumped Stiles’ shoulder in a show of brotherly affection. Stiles did wince and shoot Scott a glare, reaching up to rub at his shoulder with a scowl.
“Holy shit, this is hot surly bartender?” Scott beamed, either truly ignorant - in which case Derek feared for any prospective children Laura might have with Scott - or just intentionally ignoring his best friend’s obvious mortification and enjoying the squirming. Which, Derek was more than willing to go with the second option purely based on the fact that Scott was willingly dating his demon-spawn sister. Either way, Derek wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. He could make guesses, maybe try to figure it out through everyone’s body language and the scents given off, but.
The last time Derek had done something similar...well. Kate Argent.
“Dude,” Stiles whined.
Scott threw his arm around Stiles’ shoulders and jostled him. “Relax, Stiles, there isn’t anything wrong with finding someone attractive.”
“Yeah,” Laura added. Her smile was mischievous and Derek mentally bemoaned his life and his blood ties to her. “Derek is probably more embarrassed than you are, Stiles. He’s got Hale DNA, but he still isn’t used to people hitting on him and telling him how attractive he is. Derek is shy.”
Derek hated everything.
(Mostly he hated, Laura, but. Everything was a blanket term.)
“You guys are both terrible people, and I regret any and all decisions that led me to this incredibly embarrassing interaction.” Stiles muttered and hid his face in the crook of his elbow, leaning on the bar top. Derek felt the same, really. “I hate you two so much right now. So. Much.”
“Aw, I could’ve embarrassed you further by using your description for my baby brother,” Laura smirked. “What was it? You said he was ‘hot like lava’ but in an incredibly dour mood?”
Stiles made a strangled sound, and Derek felt the back of his neck go hot. He turned to the shelves with all the various bottles of alcohol that kept Boyd in business and pulled down the Grey Goose, Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, and the wolfsbane mix that actually allowed werewolves to get as drunk as the humans. Scott was choking on his laughter, like his friends’ embarrassment was hilarious, and Laura exuded an aura of pure smugness.
Derek generally made it a point to avoid resorting to physical violence, but he was incredibly tempted to punch his sister. He didn’t even feel reassured in the mutual embarrassment. Mostly, Derek felt bad, because Stiles had only known Laura a couple days and should not have been subjected to her favorite past time(: humiliate family and pack). Derek refused to think about the implications of Laura’s treatment of Stiles for many reasons; as of yet, mostly, he was pretty sure Stiles was human and Laura didn’t know enough about him to consider him anything beyond fringe-pack.
“Scott, you’re supposed to be sticking up for me here!” Stiles groaned into his arms.
“Dude, no,” Scott exclaimed with so much enthusiasm Derek had to pause and watch his packmate gesture emphatically. “I would be, but it’s totally cool because Derek totally developed a huge cru-”
Derek threw a bag of potato chips and caught Scott straight in the face before the dick could finish that statement. Laura choked on her laughter and Scott looked like a startled deer, big brown eyes blinking in shock at Derek. Stiles lifted his head to see what had shut his friend up, but Derek turned back to making the drinks before he could see Stiles’ expression.
“Derek, what the hell?” Scott spluttered after another moment.
“Oh my God, this whole situation is so incredibly awkward.” Stiles moaned and thumped his head against the bar. “How the hell is this my life? What did I do wrong in a past life to deserve the amount of social awkwardness I am forced to endure?”
Derek silently agreed with Stiles, and set a glass of rum and coke down in front of Stiles’ head before shoving Laura’s drink at her. Laura took it and cackled like the spawn of satan she was. Scott stared at Laura’s drink, then at Stiles’ drink, before looking up at Derek with a confused frown. Derek narrowed his eyes and pointedly put the wolfsbane mix and the alcohol back up, trying to mentally communicate: none for Scott.
Scott pouted. With the Puppy Eyes.
Derek made Scott a screw-driver.
Stiles whined a little, flapped his hands at Erica, and hoped that it all conveyed how much he didn’t want to go back into the bar. Because, while he appreciated getting to meet more people from Scott’s pack, and being able to meet the guy that was basically the only reason Hybrid had any sort of following, Stiles was also beyond mortified. Because reasons. Reasons that involved Stiles and his overall inability to interact normally with strangers, which led him to interactions most people would deem insane, which then led him to the conclusion that he never should have let Laura and Scott get him drunk the other night.
Of course, Erica didn’t get any of that.
Erica wanted to celebrate being accepted into Laura Hale’s pack, and to also drown her writer's block woes in wolfsbane-infused alcohol until she couldn’t function properly. And, because Danny was busy down in San Diego and Jackson was still in Nevada with his parents (and Lydia was busy working out her new life schedule but what Lydia was busy doing didn’t exactly matter because she wasn’t anywhere near drinking-buddy friendly with Erica), Stiles was the only one left for Erica to drag out for a night on the town. Nevermind that Beacon Hills had the reputation of boring and that Erica would be better off to go to, like, Reno or someplace else if she actually wanted more than binge drinking at a bar.
Or maybe Jungle.
“Ericaaaaaaaa!” Stiles groaned and tried the pout. It didn’t work, because his life sucked and he was not in fact Scott, who had a very effective pout. If it actually would’ve helped, Stiles would’ve pouted until his pout was as effective as Scott’s, but that kind of logic seemed really circular and incredibly fruitless so he never tried applying it.
Stiles kind of felt drunk. He wished he were drunk. Being drunk would make walking into this particular bar less awkward.
“Shut up, Stilinski,” Erica smiled and threw her arm around his shoulders to steer him back towards the bar. “Laura told me her beta, Boyd, owns this place and that her younger brother works here, so in we go.”
“Isn’t Boyd the dude Lydia’s dating?” Stiles asked, giving up the fight as bad news and letting Erica shove through the door.
“They’re getting married, actually,” Derek declared from behind the bar and Stiles tripped over nothing. Again. And then fell into the jukebox. Again. Like his life wasn’t already a slapstick comedy.
“That explains Lydia’s sudden determination to re-plan her entire life.” Stiles said and slumped against the closest chair, not even bothering to try and stand up properly.
Erica rolled her eyes. “Does that mean you’re going to finally stop obsessing over her?”
Stiles’ face went hot and he glared at the back of Erica’s head as she flounced her way to the bar. “I wasn’t obsessed with Lydia, holy god. I had a crush on her in high school, before I knew the merits of another guy’s dick.”
Derek shot Stiles an indecipherable look, which Stiles chose to ignore because he could not afford to think about how much he embarrassed himself in front of Derek already. Besides, Stiles was allowed to be out and open with his sexuality wherever the hell he pleased - so long as there weren’t any public indecency laws being broken because he did not ever need to see his dad’s expression if he was ever arrested for it - and if Derek had a problem with it he could just shove it. And anyway, Laura’d said something about Derek having had a boyfriend in college, so it wasn’t like the dude could be judgemental about it.
“Hm,” Erica paused and turned to consider Stiles for a moment. “Please tell me you didn’t figure that out with Danny. Because, honestly, up until I was bitten, I’d always wondered about you two, you know? You guys were weirdly cuddly for just friends, but Danny kept insisting that you had no interest in him and Danny had no interest in you.”
“Rude,” Stiles declared and shuffled his way over to his spot - and how did he already have a spot? He’d only been in the bar three times before, one of which was more by force and something Stiles wished he could erase completely from his mind because Scott didn’t know how to not share embarrassing things with the class.
Erica snorted and ordered herself a margarita before joining Stiles in his little corner booth. “You two were really weird, up until Danny started dating that one actor from, ah, hell, I don’t remember the show. But, you get what I’m saying here.”
“Fuck you,” Stiles pouted and slumped against the table. “I’m a tactile person, alright. Did you really think Jackson would be up to cuddling with me?”
“Point,” Erica nodded and took a sip of her alcoholic beverage of doom (because tequila was both gross and evil and did not-good things to Stiles).
“And, well, most of that was because Danny was actually really in need of a cuddle-buddy because he had his heart broken the weekend before we first came to college.”
Erica blinked and lowered her margarita back to the table. “You’re telling me...”
Stiles grimaced and nodded. “Yeah, someone was actually enough of a dick to hurt Danny that badly.”
“And Jackson didn’t break this guy’s face?”
“Jackson was already in NYC. He had to leave a week earlier than Danny and me.”
“Dude got lucky,” Erica declared and went back to sucking her margarita down.
Stiles made a face and shoved himself out of the booth to go harass Derek. “I’m going to need another margarita for Erica, dude. She’s determined to not be able to remember at least part of today, because, as she explained when she abducted me from my parents’ house, of reasons.”
Derek raised his eyebrows and turned to look at Erica. “Did she get dumped?”
“She’d have to be in a committed relationship before she could be dumped?” Stiles shrugged. “She is simultaneously celebrating becoming a member of your pack and moping because she’s apparently got really bad writer’s block.”
“I just want them to cooperate, but they’re being stubborn little bitches!” Erica wailed from the booth. “Also, fuck you, Stiles. I am in a committed relationship!”
Stiles turned to eye Erica dubiously. “Jackson...and you? You guys moved up from fuckbuddies? He’s dating you exclusively?”
“Yes,” Erica hissed and then whined at her empty glass. “Stilessssss, I need more.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles groaned and dropped his head to the bar. He tapped his fingers along to the beat of a Paramore song, and another moment later he lifted his head to pin Derek, who’d been in the middle of setting Erica’s margarita down in front of Stiles’ head, with a wide-eyed look. “Dude, do you have some paper and a pen?”
“Um,” Derek blinked and gently pushed the margarita towards Stiles. “Yeah, uh, just. Hold on a moment, I’ve got a notepad by the register, and pens, obviously. Um, yeah, here.” Derek jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the cash register before turning and ducking down to open a cupboard door. He pulled out one of those yellow notepads people kept by office phones, shut the cupboard with his knee, and grabbed a pen from off the register.
Stiles took them and the margarita and flashed a grateful smile at Derek. “Thanks, Derek, you just saved me about a week’s worth of angsting over trying to remember the stuff that literally just popped into my head. I seriously need to carry my notebook with me all the time, and not just when I’m actually trying to write.”
Derek nodded, looking a little shellshocked, and Stiles tried not to trip as he made his way back to the booth. Erica grabbed the margarita from his hand and proceeded to suck that down too, smacking the tabletop with her free hand and pinning Stiles with a withering glare. Stiles rolled his eyes and settled himself on his side, waving his right hand in a ‘carry on’ motion while he started writing down lyric ideas.
“I hate you, Stiles. I hate you so much,” Erica whined. “How can you possibly be writing right now? How is that fair? You’ve had nothing but flowing juices since we came back to Beacon Hills, and I have had nothing.”
Stiles groaned and lifted his head to stare at Erica incredulously. “Seriously, pick a better choice of words, please. Otherwise I’m going to feel like that was a comment on my sex life, and I have, sadly, had absolutely no sex since junior year of college.”
Erica flapped her hand at him. “Not my fault you’re not into one night stands, Stiles.” She glared down at her empty margarita glass. “Barkeep! I require your biggest glass of whiskey mixed with your most potent wolfsbane, for I need to no longer be sober. I cannot with you, Stiles. I need to be hammered right now, because.”
“Are you already drunk? Did you start drinking before you showed up at my house demanding we come here?” Stiles huffed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Also, he isn’t your servant, get up and go over to the bar, you raging weirdo.”
“Fuck you very much, I’m as sober as a cat.” Erica declared and threw herself out of the booth.
Stiles stared after her as she draped herself across the bar. “Definitely drunk, what the hell,” he muttered and shook his head. Erica, apparently, was a lot more stressed about the writer’s block than Stiles had originally thought. He sighed and focused back on the notepad with his chickenscratch.
“Stiles, Stiles, Stiles, you need to get laid,” Erica whined and slammed a glass down onto the table by his elbow. “Get drunk with me! Please! You’ve been at that for over an hour!”
“Wha?” Stiles startled and glanced at the glass of, what looked like, whiskey and then up at Erica. She leered, leaning over the table, and poked his nose. “How much did you have to drink before we came here?”
“Enough to get me kinda tipsy, but since being here? I’ve had...a lot. And I whined at Derek, because you’re a terrible friend and have been trapped in your head with your song lyrics for the last hour.” Erica narrowed her eyes at him and snatched the notepad away before Stiles could stop her. “You need to get laid, I need to be able to write, and we both need to get wasted.”
“Pretty sure you’re already wasted,” Derek said, standing next to their booth with a wash rag in his hand. “Which is why I’m cutting you off.”
Stiles glanced around, noting the increased number of patrons since he last bothered to pay attention, and instantly felt pretty guilty. He’d been writing for a lot longer than an hour, but Erica was wasted. Her sense of time was just as trashed as she was.
“Aw, Derek!” Erica pouted and flopped over to drape herself all over Derek. Stiles cringed and took the notepad from Erica before she could spill her drink all over it. “Heyyy, Derek, you could have sex with Stiles!”
“Oh my god, Erica,” Stiles flushed and covered his eyes with his hands. “Erica, shut up and sit down, holy shit. Just, oh my God. C’mon, Erica, sit down and I’ll pay whatever tab you started here and then I’ll take you to your apartment and ply you with gatorade. I am so sorry, Derek.”
He peeked through his fingers, slightly gratified to see Derek blushing too, and tried not to die of mortification. Derek pushed Erica back into her seat gently with a slight grimace. Stiles could sympathize.
“It’s, ah, alright.” Derek said, his voice sounding a little choked, and he headed back behind the bar.
“No, really, it isn’t,” Stiles replied and pulled his wallet out when he reached the bar. “I really should’ve been paying attention to her, jeez. Erica can be pretty, uh, I don’t even know the right word for it, when she’s sober, let alone when she’s plastered like this. Fuck, I am so sorry.”
Derek coughed and flicked his gaze over Stiles’ shoulder before shaking his head. “It’s alright, Stiles. She’s pack, she’s stressed, and I didn’t mind talking to her. I’m pretty sure a couple of the regulars enjoyed her, too. She’s very, um, enthusiastic about some things.”
Stiles snorted. “Erica has always been outgoing. She is in no way shy, so I am very unsurprised to hear this.”
“Mm,” Derek hummed and gave a small smile. Stiles felt his stomach drop in a way he hadn’t really experienced in years, and his heart stuttered in his chest. “Her tab is seventy-five even.”
“Holy crap,” Stiles breathed and focused on digging through his wallet. Now was not the time to develop a crush on anyone, damnit.
(He didn’t know who he was trying to fool, it was already too late.)
A couple weeks later, Derek slid into the booth across from Stiles, sliding a can of coke next to Stiles’ head. He tapped his fingers against the notebook partially hidden beneath the other man’s arms and made a considering noise in the back of his throat. Stiles lifted his head enough to meet Derek’s eyes.
“Why did I think it’d be a good idea to write songs without the rest of my band?” Stiles groaned and pushed himself up until he was sitting up straight in his booth. “Or, I guess I should ask, why did I think it was a good idea to write songs without Jackson and Danny?”
“Erica doesn’t help?” Derek asked and nudged the soda can closer to Stiles.
“Wha? Oh, no. Erica usually helps with the lyrics, but she’s been focusing on her book.” Stiles wrapped one large hand around the can and sent Derek a small, thankful smile. “I guess she’s had a breakthrough with her writer’s block, or so she’s told me, just the other day. Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact Jackson’ll be back soon.”
Derek smiled and sprawled his legs out under the table, his knees bumping into Stiles’. “What, does Jackson have some sort of sway over her creative inspiration?”
Stiles snorted and nudged Derek’s knee with his own playfully. “More like he threatens to withhold certain things - things I’m not actually aware of but are apparently important enough to warrant the fear - from Erica if she doesn’t crank out so many words a day or a week or whatever.”
“It work?” Derek smiled a little, leaning his elbows on the table.
“Seems to,” Stiles supplied and grinned. “Her editor adores Jackson for it.”
Derek grinned back and ran a hand through his hair absently, watching Stiles’ fingers tap out a beat against the wood. He still wasn’t sure, exactly, how Stiles was single. Because he was. Stiles was single, had only had a couple casual boyfriends in college. Derek didn’t get how anyone could do casual with Stiles. It just didn’t make sense. Or maybe his crush on Stiles’ voice morphed into a crush on Stiles’ everything and he was just biased.
“I don’t really get the appeal,” Stiles sighed, kind of long-suffering, jerking Derek from his silent contemplation of Stiles, and picked at the spiral of his notebook. “Jackson is too much of an asshole to be attractive.”
“Isn’t he one of your closest friends?” Derek cocked an eyebrow at Stiles.
“Yup,” Stiles agreed and smiled. “Does not make him any less of an asshole. In fact,” Stiles continued and tapped his finger against the table. “We used to hate each other in high school. He was captain of the lacrosse team, a self-entitled dickwad, and I was the hyperactive dork with one friend and the attention span of a goldfish, with medication. Also, I have no brain-to-mouth filter, which is why I’m surprised I haven’t humiliated myself more in front of you, let’s be real here, and Jackson used every opportunity he had to humiliate me.”
Derek’s eyebrows shot up. “How the hell did you two end up friends?”
Stiles laughed softly and shook his head. “Danny’s fault. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t say Scott was my only friend in high school, because that isn’t exactly true. Senior year, Danny and I started hanging out a lot more, mostly because I was having a mental crisis and he understood it more than Scott would.”
“Well,” Derek shrugged, and scratched the back of his head again. “I mean, I’ve seen a few shitty cell phone recordings uploaded to Youtube of Hybrid’s performances from Warped Tour, and your dynamic works on stage.”
“Oh jeez,” Stiles blushed bright red, and ducked his head. “I am in no way prepared to function when Hybrid is brought up. Jesus, I nearly fled the bar that day you had your iPod hooked up to the stereo and one of my songs came on.”
Derek’s face went hot. “I was hoping you’d forgotten that.”
Stiles snorted and shot Derek a disbelieving look. “Dude, seriously? How the hell could I forget hearing my song playing in a bar? I mean, the only people I’ve ever met randomly who listened to my music were, uh, no one? My parents listen to it, obviously, and Scott, because he’s fucking awesome and the only reason Hybrid was thrust onto the internet.” He narrowed his eyes at Derek. “And also, you’re kind of the only reason Hybrid gained a following online.”
“Not really,” Derek mumbled and averted his eyes, his face growing even hotter. “You’re... Hybrid is good. All I did was - “
“All you did was wax beautiful poetic about us, to the point that people were sending Scott tons of emails telling him to tell us to create a website with access to our EPs. We even got a few emails, after Danny made the aforementioned website, telling us that they read your reviews in Scott’s ‘zine and decided to give us a chance, and that they were incredibly fucking glad they did!” Stiles flailed a hand out at Derek to emphasize his point.
Derek glanced up at Stiles. “I didn’t wax beautiful poetic, Stiles.”
Stiles snorted and shook his head. “Call it whatever you want, you are still the reason Hybrid has an internet following.”
“I doubt that,” Derek said dubiously. “Hybrid was a part of Warped Tour.”
“Stop trying to undermine my attempts at gratitude and compliments, jackass, you deserve some of the credit here. I don’t think we would’ve gotten a spot on the tour if it wasn’t for all the hype your articles created.” Stiles glowered and reached up to flick Derek’s nose.
Derek jerked back in shock, blinking at Stiles, who was grinning crookedly.
“If you two defile my bar, I will kill you both and get Lydia to hide your bodies and remove any evidence,” Boyd declared flatly as he walked by them and straight through the door leading into the kitchen.
Stiles blinked, eyes wide and confused, and settled back against the booth. “One, I believe your threats because Lydia is terrifying and she’d probably get some twisted sort of glee about hiding my mangled corpse - I really shouldn’t have pissed her off the other week, but how was I supposed to know she paid that much money for my shirt? Do I look like I spend more than twenty dollars on an outfit? If she’d told me she paid that much money, I never would’ve worn that shirt to hang out with Scott.
“And second, what exactly do you mean ‘don’t defile my bar’?” Stiles frowned over his shoulder at the door to the kitchen, waiting for Boyd to come back into the bar proper.
Derek felt his blush crawl its way down his neck and beneath his shirt collar. He bit back the mortified noise he wanted to make in favor of thumping his head against the tabletop and hoping Boyd choked on a Dorito. Preferably before he could say anything else.
“You write all your own lyrics, Stiles,” Boyd said flatly as he reappeared and went behind the bar. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what defile means. I don’t need any health code violations. The health inspector who usually does inspections is an asshole, and I’m pretty sure if there weren’t discrimination laws in place he’d have shut my bar down years ago.”
“Boyd,” Derek sighed, mortified and exasperated. “You seriously think I’m into public sex?”
Boyd rolled his eyes. “I don’t pretend to know what your kinks are, Derek. My mind is my temple, I don’t need to sully it by trying to imagine what gets you off.”
“Wow, okay,” Stiles squeaked, his face bright red, and cleared his throat. “That was maybe more than I needed to hear.”
Derek was pretty sure his face was on fire, and he bit the inside of his cheek as he watched Stiles flail from the corner of his eye. Stiles just did something to him, made his guard drop, made him comfortable enough to just say things he wouldn’t normally say in front of anyone who wasn’t pack. And Stiles wasn’t officially pack; not yet. Derek was pretty sure Laura was going to ask Stiles to be her Emissary.
“Aren’t you supposed to be going to dinner with your parents, Derek?” Boyd asked pointedly, smirking. “I didn’t come in early just to discuss your potential sex life.”
“Fuck,” Derek grimaced and shoved up out of the booth. “Good luck with your writing, Stiles,” he muttered and flew out of the bar before Stiles had a chance to respond, or Boyd had the chance to mock him.
“Had any luck getting passed whatever it was you were struggling with the other day?” Derek asked as he turned to pull a can of Mountain Dew from the refrigerator while Stiles made his way up to the bar.
Stiles slumped into a barstool, making a face, and let out a pathetic whine in response. Derek made a commiserative noise and pressed the soda can into Stiles’ arm. Stiles shot him a weary smile and wrapped his big hand around the can. Derek yanked his thoughts away from any mental images involving Stiles’ hands and the things he could wrap them around before Derek had to go hide in the kitchen in shame, and Stiles proceeded to mangle the stirring straw he...found from somewhere.
“Jackson’ll be here next week, and he’s gonna kill me,” Stiles lamented, tapping his fingers against the bar top, flailing his other hand out in a dramatic gesture that, Derek guessed, represented the gruesome way in which Jackson would kill him. “He’s already pissy about still being there, you know? He hasn’t gotten a chance to meet the pack, and he’s worried you’re all going to hate him, which translates into Douche Jackson 500.”
Derek blinked and frowned. “He’s really that worried we’ll hate him on sight?”
“Jackson’s insecure,” Stiles shrugged and sighed. “I think it stems back to finding out he was adopted. It was probably the worst thing his parents could do, telling him that, but I guess I can understand how they thought they were doing the right thing in telling him. For Jackson, well, he didn’t take it all that well and instead turned into a raging douchebag to keep people out, so that they couldn’t decide to get rid of him too.”
“Hm,” Derek hummed and turned back to the sink, where he’d been cleaning the glasses until he’d heard Stiles’ heartbeat from halfway down the street. It probably meant something. Actually it really did, but he wasn’t really willing to think about it.
“Hey,” Stiles said a while later, after Derek had finished up with the glasses and was checking the inventory. “So, Laura was telling me you used to write fiction, too. Like short stories and stuff?”
Derek paused, frowned at the beer he was in the middle of restocking. “I, yeah. Used to.”
“No,” Derek confirmed, and scowled at the beer bottles. “I...don’t really see the point of it. I’m not that good.”
“Bull shit!” Stiles denied instantaneously, slapping his hand down on the bar top. “I don’t believe you one bit. I bet your stories are the fucking greatest. You’re way too modest about your writing, dude.”
Derek flushed and forced himself to finish restocking the beer. “How would you know? You’ve never read any of my fiction pieces.”
“Yeah, but I’ve read all of your articles, man, and you’re fucking brilliant!” Stiles exclaimed, and Derek jerked around to stare at him in disbelief.
“You’ve read all of my articles?”
“Uh,” Stiles blushed and ran a hand through his hair nervously. “Yeah, man. I like your sarcastic commentary, especially when it’s clear how much you didn’t enjoy the band you’re reviewing.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged and smiled sheepishly. “So, that’s why I think you’re a biased lying liar who lies about his writing.”
Derek ducked his head, probably completely failing to hide his smile, and turned back to the freezer. “Maybe.”
“No maybes,” Stiles replied, smug.
“Hm,” Derek’s smile widened. “I never said in any of the articles I wrote on Hybrid, for personal reasons, but… Your lyrics speak to me, you know? I don’t pretend to know what your intentions are when writing them, and obviously music is open to such a wide interpretation anyway, but your songs always told me stories I never thought I’d hear in a three minute song.”
“Really?” Stiles asked, voice shy and hesitant.
Derek nodded, turning to meet Stiles’ eyes. “Yeah, really. It’s a huge part of the reason I was so drawn to Hybrid, when Scott first gave me the songs to listen to. Your voice certainly helped, of course, but your lyrics just sort of...captivate me every time I listen to your original songs.”
“Wow,” Stiles blushed and smiled happily down at the bar top. “Thanks. That...that really means a lot, to me. I’ve never had anyone compliment my lyrics before.”
“Well, you deserve any and all compliments.”
Derek smiled, the big, happy smile that made his eyes crinkle in the corners.
A few days later, Isaac flopped over the back of the couch and landed on top of Derek, who’d been stretched out across it watching Courage the Cowardly Dog on Netflix. Derek blinked down at Isaac’s mop of curly blond hair, too shocked to shove his brother off of him, and Isaac muttered unintelligibly before nuzzling into Derek’s chest and curling himself to better hide from the rest of the world. Derek sighed and shifted around until he could curl his arm around Isaac’s shoulders and lay on the couch more comfortably with his little brother curled on top of him.
“What’s wrong, Isaac?” Derek asked after pausing Courage in the middle of telling Eustice that something-or-other had Muriel.
“Why do I always get crushes on the ones who’re in relationships?” Isaac whined and shoved his face between the couch back and Derek’s shoulder. “It’s not fair! She’s really, really gorgeous and she’s a writer, and then she’s in our pack and she’s in a relationship!”
Derek’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline and he stared up at the ceiling. “You have a crush on Erica?”
“Shut up, Derek,” Isaac muttered and burrowed further into the non-existent space between Derek and the back of the couch. “Don’t tell anyone. I know what kind of problems it could cause, seeing as Jackson is pack now too, even if he’s still in Nevada.”
“S’alright, Isaac,” Derek murmured and scratched at Isaac’s scalp soothingly. “I won’t say anything.”
“Good,” Isaac hummed and snuggled further into Derek. “Now go back to your nostalgia marathon.”
Derek snorted and reached out to hit the spacebar on his laptop. Courage’s whimpering shouts started up again and he felt Isaac grin against his arm. “Don’t mock Courage, or I’ll tease you about how you loved the Powerpuff Girls next time Erica comes over for dinner.”
Isaac made a distressed noise and pinched Derek’s arm. Derek huffed and flicked Isaac’s ear before settling in to watch Courage rescue Muriel for the billionth time. No one mocked Courage, damn it. Courage was awesome. And no one mocked Derek and his nostalgia marathons; mostly because they eventually joined him.
“How are you two actually real?” Scott whined a couple hours later, and Derek startled so violently Isaac went flying off of him and into the coffee table. “Holy crap, I mean, it is completely unfair for two grown men to be that adorable.”
“Careful, Scotty, or I’ll think you wanna bang my brothers.” Laura cooed and leaned down to kiss Scott’s cheek (Derek thought it was hilarious that Laura was taller than Scott, Isaac thought it was adorable, and Scott hated everyone whenever someone mentioned it).
“Ugh, ew, no,” Scott shuddered and nuzzled into Laura’s shoulder, pressing a kiss to the exposed skin of her collarbone. “No, they just remind me of the puppies at work and I wanna wrap them up in blankets and give them chocolate milk and stuff.”
“You are an actual weirdo,” Isaac declared with wide eyes, shoving himself up from his prone position on the coffee table.
“Careful baby brother, you have no room to talk. Or have you forgotten the summer you volunteered at Deaton’s clinic?” Laura smiled sweetly and flounced over to the kitchen.
Derek snorted and reached over to flick Isaac’s ear again. “I don’t know what you’re even talking about, Isaac. You get the same way whenever you catch Scott and Laura cuddling.”
Isaac stuck his tongue out and moved to the armchair, picking his book up from the side table and disappearing behind it with red-tipped ears. Scott grinned goofily, and shoved Derek’s feet out of the way so he could sit on the couch. Laura came back over carrying a can of beer, raising a single eyebrow at Derek. He rolled his eyes and maneuvered himself until he was sitting up and she could plop onto the center cushion and snuggle up to her boyfriend.
“What’re you marathoning this time?” Laura asked and popped the top of her beer.
Derek grimaced and jostled the external mouse, waking his laptop up so that the Netflix screen would blare out of the TV screen. Laura hummed and grabbed the mouse from him, going through his instant queue until she found Goosebumps.
“Fuck yes,” Laura declared and started the first episode.
“I love everything about you,” Scott grinned and wrapped his arm around Laura’s shoulders.
Derek pretended to gag.
“Get a room,” Isaac snarled, without heat, and ducked the throw pillow Laura threw at his head.
“Can’t, Isaac. Stiles is coming over after he has dinner with his parents. I guess they have something they need to talk to him about?” Scott frowned thoughtfully.
Derek froze, keeping his breaths as shallow as he could without garnering Laura’s attention. It was one thing, seeing Stiles every day downstairs in Boyd’s bar, watching him chew on pen caps while scribbling randomly in his notebook, or mutilating the stupid little red straws in his drinks. It’d be an entirely different thing for Stiles to be up in the apartment. It was... Derek wouldn’t be able to function like a normal person with Stiles’ scent all over his space.
“I think John and Claudia are finally talking to him about Peter,” Laura mused and relaxed further into the couch and Scott. “I mean, Peter said they were talking about him moving in with them when mom and dad move out to New York. He doesn’t want to live out at the house by himself, I’m not moving from this apartment because my parlor is right downstairs, and there isn’t enough room for Peter to move in permanently unless one us shares a room.”
“Wait,” Derek frowned and turned to his sister. “John and Claudia are Stiles’ parents?”
“Oh my fuck, seriously Derek?” Laura glared incredulously and shook her head. “Yes, they’re Stiles’ parents. Holy shit, John and Claudia Stilinski. You have known them for years, and you didn’t know their last name?”
“Hey, I’ve never personally met them!” Derek glowered. “I didn’t see the point, because Peter never bothered introducing them to us.”
“Because he figured we all knew them already, I mean, Derek,” Isaac said disbelievingly, lowering his book to shoot Derek a judgmental look. “John’s the county sheriff and Claudia is the elementary school librarian, plus she owns that bookstore a block over. Peter has mentioned all of these facts numerous times.”
“The bastard mocks my life choices and spreads his nasty glitter STDs to me every chance he gets,” Derek rolled his eyes and shuddered. “I only ever listened enough to know their relationship to him.”
“Glitter STDs?” Scott asked dubiously, leaning forward enough to shoot Derek a strange look. “Holy crap, you guys are basically perfect for each other.”
“Shut up, Scott,” Laura huffed and pointedly turned the volume up on the TV. “Shit’s starting to get real for Lucy, guys. No more talk-y.”
Derek huffed and settled in to watch some Goosebumps. Nostalgia marathons were the best.
A few hours later found Derek retreating to the kitchen, trying not to freak out as Scott tackled Stiles into the couch.
“Okay, you’re gonna tell me why you’re freaking out,” Laura demanded, cornering him in the kitchen while Scott, Isaac, and Stiles began arguing over the last slice of pizza after Stiles had managed to wriggle out from Scott’s hold.
Derek scowled and tried shouldering her out of his way to no avail, thinking about hiding out in his bedroom. Laura crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow at him, expression completely unimpressed. He deflated a little and leaned back against the cabinets.
“You know why,” he grumbled, the tips of his ears turning red. “And now his scent is going to be in our home. How the hell am I supposed to function? It’s already bad enough he’s at the bar often enough that his scent is practically ingrained.”
Laura raised her eyes to the ceiling. “You’re an idiot, I swear to god,” she muttered. “Just fucking live a little, Derek, and ask him out.”
“Easy for you to say,” Derek muttered skeptically and leaned his head around Laura’s shoulder to make sure no one was eavesdropping.
“Does this have anything to do with that rancid fuck Kate?” Laura narrowed her eyes at him. “I promise you Stiles is nothing like her.”
Derek winced and crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “That’s not it, Laura.”
“Then what am I supposed to think? You haven’t dated anyone since she broke your heart. You quit writing for two and a half years because of her!”
“Laura!” Derek hissed, eyes going wide as her voice shifted into a shout. Isaac, Scott, and Stiles were all staring at them, Stiles looking concerned while Scott and Isaac grimaced.
His sister took a deep breath and clapped Derek on the shoulder affectionately. “Sorry, just...you gotta live a little, okay? Whatever’s keeping you from it? Just ignore it.”
Derek sighed and headbutted her shoulder. “S’just not as easy as you seem to think.”
Laura flicked his ear. “You’re such a baby.”
“Hey! Are we going to play Cards Against Humanity or what?” Isaac demanded, launching an empty beer can at the back of Laura’s head.
“What even is happening right now?” Stiles sighed and slumped back into the back of the bar stool, making it wobble threateningly.
Boyd raised a single eyebrow and leaned forward on his elbows. “Right now you’re sitting at my bar, as you have been the last couple minutes, not ordering anything. Derek might let you get away with that, but I won’t.”
Stiles flapped his hand. “I always order something when I’m here, dude, chill out. Derek doesn’t let me loiter. But, eh, I really need some liquor. Hard liquor.”
“I’m pretty sure Derek would let you loiter,” Boyd smirked and pushed off of the bar. “What kind of liquor, Stilinski?”
“Something with a nice, harsh burn.” Stiles declared and straightened. “Just, a couple shots of your cheapest whiskey.”
“Alright,” Boyd agreed and moved to grab a couple shot glasses and a brown, unmarked bottle off the bottom shelf.
Stiles pulled his wallet from his back pocket and glared at his driver’s license. “I don’t suppose you have some brain bleach, by chance?”
“Pretty sure that doesn’t exist,” Boyd grinned and poured the shots out. “And you’re gonna need about five more shots if you plan on getting drunk.”
“No,” Stiles huffed and handed Boyd exact change. “I’m pretty sure getting drunk isn’t going to get the image of my parents tangled together with Peter, half-naked, on the living room floor out of my head.”
Boyd made a face and slid the shots closer to Stiles. Stiles knocked back the first shot and muttered a thanks to Boyd, who went back to cleaning glasses. He wondered, idly, where Derek was, his heart doing that stupid flippy thing it did every other time he thought of or saw Derek.
While he was distracted, a woman came into the bar and leaned against one of the barstools with a cocky grin, catching Boyd’s attention. His snarl snapped Stiles from his daydreaming, and he glanced over to see Boyd gesturing for her to leave. If Stiles remembered correctly, she was the same woman he’d run into the first day he tripped into the bar. She’d been smirking then, too, with a cruel, victorious edge to it. She set Stiles’ teeth on edge, like dissonant chords on a piano did, and he felt overly suspicious of someone he’d never met officially.
“Get out of my damn bar,” Boyd demanded when she didn’t seem to get the memo, his voice rising over the sound of Aaron Lewis crooning Fade into the darkened room.
The woman’s smirk pulled up further into a gleeful thing. Her eyes were cold, empty but for the satisfaction of getting a rise out of Boyd. She pushed away from the bar, waggled her fingers mockingly, and sashayed towards the exit.
“Send Derek my love,” she called over her shoulder.
Boyd flashed his fangs at her back and avoided Stiles’ gaze.
“Who was that?” Stiles asked and pushed the other shot away. Everything in him, everything that made him who he was, demanded him to investigate and to be well away from the influence of cheap alcohol while doing it. The woman was a threat, Stiles could feel it the same way he felt tied to Erica and Jackson even after they were made part of Laura’s pack, and he needed to know why and what kind.
“Kate Argent,” Boyd said, and raised an eyebrow at the second shot glass. “She’s not welcome here or anyplace owned by the pack.”
Stiles frowned and traced the grooves of the wood under his hands. “Argent. The Argent family, they used to hunt werewolves, back before you guys were revealed to the rest of the world.”
“That was over a century ago, they don’t hunt anymore. They can’t, really.” Boyd shrugged and picked up the shot Stiles hadn’t touched. “Law enforcement is fully equipped to deal with werewolves, now, so there isn’t any point to hunters.” He knocked the shot back and put both shot glasses in the sink nestled beneath the bar top.
“Doesn’t mean much of anything,” Stiles frowned and turned to glare at the door. “I ran into her the first day I came here; she was walking out of the bar and I was watching my converse against the sidewalk, walked right into her. She sets my teeth on edge.”
“I need to hire a bouncer or something, just to keep her out and away from Derek.” Boyd sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against the small bit of wall that didn’t have shelves of alcohol or racks of chips and peanuts hanging from it.
Stiles turned back to Boyd, his heart jumping up into his throat. “Derek specifically? Why?”
Boyd shook his head. “Not exactly my place to say.”
“She’s his ex, right?” Stiles remembered what Laura had shouted the other day, and if Kate Argent was who she’d been referring to, he understood why she wasn’t welcome.
“Yeah,” Boyd sighed and shook his head again. “She strung him along and broke his heart. It’s made him leery of opening up to people, understandably.”
“I can imagine,” Stiles muttered, his stomach dropping unpleasantly, and slumped over the bar top. He checked the time on his phone a moment later, and shoved himself up off of the bar. “Well, I need to go get my tattoo finished up, so I’ll see you around,” he sent Boyd a grin.
“Have fun getting stabbed repeatedly by Laura,” Boyd smirked and went back to washing the dishes still sitting in the sink.
Stiles laughed as he slipped out of the bar, walking the fifteen feet over to Laura’s parlor. He paused in the entrance, watching as Derek struggled to get out of the headlock his sister had him in, and snorted in amusement when Laura called out a cheery greeting. Derek’s face flushed and he elbowed Laura in the stomach, managing to extract himself from her hold.
“Dick,” Laura punched Derek’s shoulder, grinning, and waved Stiles over to her station.
“You getting something done, too?” Stiles teased as he walked by Derek, pulling his hoodie off to reveal the tank top Erica’s nephew had made - one for each of them - with Hybrid printed across the chest. Laura whistled and gave him an exaggerated wink, and Stiles felt his face get hot as he twisted his left arm about to study the half-finished tattoo.
Derek made a strangled noise, and Stiles looked up in concern. “No, no I’m here because Laura forces me to sanitize things every other day.”
“Too bad, you’d look good with a tattoo or twenty,” Stiles said, snapping his mouth shut in the next moment as his blush darkened. “Um.”
“He’s already got one, on his back,” Laura said helpfully, smirking, and patted the chair. “Ready to go whenever you are.”
“I’m gonna finish with the thing,” Derek mumbled, the tips of his ears bright red, and fled into the back room.
Stiles watched him disappear behind the door before shaking himself and taking a seat. He put his arm up on the stand and watched, sort of detached, as Laura cleaned his arm up before running through the general “everything’s sterile, completely unopened, look here is the expiration date”. Once they’d gotten that out of the way, Laura started laying the linework for the runes down, and Stiles disappeared into his mind.
“What in the actual hell are you doing?” Laura demanded, glaring exasperatedly at Derek and Isaac wrestling on the carpet between the couch and the coffee table. “No, don’t actually answer that. I don’t want to know why two grown-ass men are wrestling around like they’re secretly five and fighting over the Batman action figure.”
Derek snorted and disentangled himself from Isaac, shooting the younger werewolf a look when Isaac whined about Batman and how that was one time, Laura, and I was three! Isaac bared his teeth at Derek and shoved himself up into a sitting position, smoothing out the wrinkles in his shirt. Laura just sighed, long-suffering, and moved the rest of the way into the apartment like she hadn’t stopped to question why she was stuck with them.
“Isaac thought it’d be funny to try and ambush me.” Derek declared and made his way over to the bar separating kitchen from living room to sit on one of the stools and finish editing his current project. “He apparently forgets that I’m stronger.”
“Shut up, jackass,” Isaac grumbled and retreated to the couch with one of his books.
“Nice comeback, Bubbles.”
“Oh my God, you two are twenty-four and twenty-six.” Laura snapped and slapped the back of Derek’s head as she walked past him. “Grow the fuck up.”
“I’m young at heart.”
“You’re just the prettiest princess at the ball.”
Derek turned around to stare incredulously at Isaac. “What?”
Isaac shrugged and turned the page in his book, ignoring everyone else in the room. Derek shook his head and turned back to focus on his laptop, the article he was working on glaring back at him angrily. He didn’t know how he was supposed to write anything when he kept picturing Stiles’ arms, the breadth of his shoulders.
“Stop looking at your laptop like you’re going to murder it,” Laura said with a note of exasperation and flicked his ear.
Derek scowled and let his shoulders slump a little in defeat. “I’m not looking at my computer like I’m going to murder it, Jesus, Laura.”
Laura snorted and moved around to pull a glass down from the cupboard. “Fine, like you’re going to take it into your bedroom and try to figure out how to insert your dick into the disk drive.”
“Jesus Christ, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Derek whined and hunched his shoulders, focusing on the screen of his laptop as the tips of his ears turned red.
“Relax, butthead, I’m just teasing you.” Laura grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge. “I know your fragile mind short circuited the minute Stiles pulled his hoodie off earlier, it’s okay.”
Derek groaned in embarrassment and thumped his head into his arms. Laura put the milk away and grabbed down the package of oreos before moving around to sit down on the empty stool next to Derek. She offered him one before dragging her sketchbook over to her, pulling the pencil from the spiral binding and tapping the eraser against the countertop as she studied a blank page.
“He’s interested in you, too, you know. The attraction is mutual.”
“Shut up,” Derek grumbled.
Isaac threw a hand-held dictionary at them. “Jesus Christ, fucking ask him out before I punch you in your stupid, pouty face.”
“I hate you both and I want new siblings,” Derek muttered and grabbed up his laptop, retreating to his bedroom before either of them could say anything.
His shut door didn’t stop Laura from sing-songing about dicks in disc drives. Derek figured he should’ve known better than to think it ever would.
“Lydia thinks I should hire another bartender,” Boyd grumbled when Derek came in a couple days before Halloween.
Derek hummed noncommittally as he stepped behind the bar and logged his start time. “Did she say why, or is she leaving you guessing?”
Boyd rolled his eyes and threw a balled up dish towel at Derek’s head. “What do you think, jackass?”
“I think I agree because it can only benefit the both of us in the long run if we’re not the only two working,” Derek said and went into the kitchen to grab the box of chips to restock the racks.
“Good, because I already hired someone,” Boyd declared when Derek came back, a small, smug grin on his face.
Derek made a face and opened the box up, pulling several bags of chips out and hanging them up on the display. “I’m not training them.”
“According to Stiles, he doesn’t need to be trained.”
“You hired Stiles?” Derek demanded incredulously.
Boyd scoffed and shouldered Derek out of the way to log his time. “No, dumbass, I hired Jackson. Stiles recommended him the other night over dinner, when Lydia first suggested I hire another bartender.”
“You and Lydia had Stiles over for dinner the other night?” Derek frowned.
“Why did I think you’d take anything else away from that,” Boyd asked, eyes raised to the ceiling, and sighed. “Obviously, or did you forget the part where she manages his band?”
Derek glared. “Shut up.”
“You’re a child.”
“I’m older than you are,” Derek protested.
“By less than six months, sure,” Boyd rolled his eyes and Derek huffed, ducking his head to hide his grin. “We also had him over for dinner because I wanted to see what he thought about my idea of hiring the band to play gigs here when Danny gets in from San Diego.”
Derek froze for a moment, blinking stupidly at his reflection in the mirror hung over the cash register. “I thought you weren’t a fan of their music? In fact I’m positive you mentioned that you’d only ever hire blues players to play here.”
Boyd shrugged. “It’s why you’d be working the nights they played.”
“The nights who played?” Scott called as he barged into the bar, practically skipping over to Boyd and Derek with a happy grin.
“Hybrid,” Boyd said and gave Scott an unimpressed look. “I talked to Stiles about booking the band to play here some weekends, and he said yes.”
Scott’s face lit up. “Dude, of course he said yes!”
“I know,” Boyd agreed, shooting Derek a smug grin, and wiped his hands on his jeans. “He practically jumped at the offer, he was so excited about it.”
“Oh man, I bet,” Scott laughed and sat down in the barstool closest to Derek. “Dude, Derek, did I ever mention how Stiles practically begged me to introduce you two while he was still on Warped Tour? He’s probably simultaneously excited and terrified to get the chance to perform where you might see!”
Derek felt his face go hot as he ducked his head to hide a smile. “Uh, Scott, you sure Stiles would really want you telling me that?”
Scott made a face. “Why would he care? I mean, he knows he’s not very good at being subtle about, well, anything. He’s had a crush on you since the spring, dude.”
“What?” Derek jerked his head up to stare at Scott incredulously. “How the hell could he have had a crush on me since the spring? He didn’t even know who I was until August.”
“Pfft, the same way you had a crush on him since the first time you heard him sing?” Scott shrugged and waved goodbye to Boyd as he left before turning his full attention to Derek. “Only difference is he had a crush on you based off of the sarcastic tone in your articles for the ‘zine, and you developed a crush based on his lyrics and voice.”
“Please, Stiles doesn’t have a crush on me,” Derek shook his head and went back to restocking the snacks.
Scott groaned and thunked his head down onto the bar. “Oh jeez, now I know what you and Isaac and Stiles all went through when Laura and I were dancing around each other.”
Derek huffed. “This isn’t anything like that. For one, I’ve only know Stiles for two months. You and Laura have known each other for years.”
“I know you’re not that oblivious,” Scott snorted and launched an M&M at Derek. Derek snatched the package of M&Ms out of Scott’s hands before he could stuff them back in his pocket. “Dude!”
“I hardly know him, Scott, and he hardly knows me. He’d probably find me really boring once he got to know me.”
“But you wouldn’t find him boring?” Scott asked with a grin. Derek scowled and Scott sobered, shaking his head. “Dude, give Stiles a chance. He really likes you, and you’re at least forty-five percent of the reason Stiles keeps coming back to the bar to write every day. I can always tell when he gets to snark with you, just like I can tell when you get to snark with him.”
“Can we please drop it?” Derek asked, voice a near-whine, and shoved the empty box out of his way.
Scott sighed and nodded. “Yeah, alright, but remember! Anyway, I came here because Isaac is having a bit of a crisis and we need some of the good stuff.”
“Erica?” Derek asked and grabbed Isaac’s favorite from the back of the freezer.
“Uh, well,” Scott made a face and scratched the back of his neck. “Her and Jackson, actually.”
Derek shook his head. “No, nope, don’t need to know.” He handed the bottle over to Scott and waved him out.
He paused at the door, a serious look on his face. “Just...would you at least tell Stiles you’re interested in him? I’ve been trying to talk him into asking you out for the last three weeks, but he won’t believe me when I tell him you’re attracted to him.”
“If I tell him I find him attractive, will you drop it?”
“Yeah,” Scott promised, his eyes sincere as he nodded. “Thanks, Derek.”
“Go distract Isaac with copious amounts of alcohol and all the Netflix he can handle.”
“We’re just doing covers tonight, right?” Erica demanded as she twirled a drumstick around her fingers, anxious.
Stiles slapped Jackson’s hands away from his hair. “Yeah, just covers tonight. Next week we’ll do all originals.”
“Awesome,” Danny grinned and kicked Jackson’s shin. “Let me fix your outfit, you dumbass.”
Jackson huffed and moved over to Danny, scowling as Danny tugged and pulled and yanked. Stiles ran a hand down his worn jeans, suddenly incredibly nervous, and glanced at his reflection in Laura’s mirror. She’d been kind enough to let them use her apartment to group up and get ready.
“You ready to sing in front of a home crowd?” Jackson asked, bumping their shoulders together once Danny was satisfied with Jackson’s look and moved onto Erica.
Stiles whined and shook his head. “Noooo.”
“Is it because Derek’ll be there?” Jackson teased, winking exaggeratedly.
“Shuddup,” Stiles grumbled, his facing going hot, and shoved Jackson playfully. Jackson laughed and bounced away from Stiles, coming up behind Erica and wrapping his arms around her waist. Stiles sighed, leaning back against the wall, and watched them with a hint of envy. Even Danny was dating someone, an actor if Stiles remembered correctly, and there Stiles was. Lonely, with a Lydia Martin-sized crush on a guy he had no chance with.
“Don’t look so glum,” Danny chastised and tugged at the hem of Stiles’ overshirt. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just,” Stiles said, and gave a frustrated sigh.
Stiles nodded and flailed his hand around them, indicating the apartment. Danny would understand his meaning just fine. He knew Stiles well enough, and had seen him crush on people during college. He’d dragged Stiles clubbing every time a crush got to the point where Stiles couldn’t even verbalize. Like just then.
“Oh jeez,” Danny sighed, and shook his head. “Is he at least into dudes?”
“Um,” Stiles shrugged and cringed. “I don’t know?”
Danny sighed, all long-suffering, and shook his head. “Stiles,” he started, but was interrupted by Scott slamming into the apartment with an excited shout.
“Jesus Christ, McCall!” Jackson squawked and glared at Scott as he bounded over to Stiles.
“Scott?” Stiles blinked and let Scott envelop him in a crushing hug, not so secretly amused by Scott’s utter excitement.
“Dude,” Scott exclaimed and nuzzled Stiles’ shoulder a bit before pulling back to grin blindingly at him. “I’m so excited! I finally get to sit in on a live performance!”
Stiles grinned despite himself. “Even though I offered to get you tickets and shit for Warped Tour? Or the number of times I offered to fly your ass out to NYC?”
Scott shrugged. “It feels wrong leaving the territory, man,” he smiled apologetically and hugged Stiles again.
“I know,” Stiles bumped Scott’s shoulder with his. “But I couldn’t not give you a hard time.”
“You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t,” Scott laughed and threw an arm over Stiles’ shoulders. “But, dude, I couldn’t help overhearing you and Danny talking before I burst into the apartment. How many times do I need to tell you Derek is interested in you?”
“Shut up, Scott,” Stiles hissed, face turning bright red, and elbowed Scott in the side. “He is not.”
“Oh my god, you’re an idiot,” Scott whined. “Anyway, I actually came up here because Lydia wants the set list for tonight.”
“I thought I already gave it to her?” Erica said from the bathroom, frowning as she ducked her head out to catch Scott’s eyes.
Scott shook his head. “Nu-uh.”
Jackson slapped a sheet of paper against Scott’s chest as he darted by, slinking into the bathroom with Erica. Scott caught it before it could flutter to the floor, looking it over and frowning. Stiles poked at Scott’s face, his eyes narrowed at Scott’s expression.
“What? What is it? Why with the look?”
“You’re not doing any original songs tonight?”
Stiles shrugged and scratched the back of his head awkwardly. “Uh, no, no we’re not. I...should we?”
“Yes!” Scott shouted, overly enthusiastic. “At the very least you guys should play Writ, man.”
Danny furrowed his brow. “Yeah, actually. It’s good, and we all know our parts, and, well, it’s good.”
Scott nodded, practically vibrating out of his skin. “And, you know, it’d be the first time Derek’s hearing it, too.”
Stiles’ face went hot. “Jesus Christ, you’re an asshole, oh my god I hate you,” he grumbled and squirmed out of Scott’s hold. “I hate you so much.”
“No you don’t,” Scott sing-songed, dancing away from Stiles’ attempted hit. “But seriously, Stiles, you wrote the lyrics in less than two days. Because of Derek. Don’t try to tell me differently, I know better. I also may have recorded one of our conversations about it, in which you specifically blamed Derek for the sudden inspiration.”
“You’re - ” Stiles started, his heart hammering, his face warm and bright red, and made an indecipherable noise of irritation. “Why are we friends again?”
“Because I shared my Reeses with you in kindergarten and you kicked Jackson in the shin when he made fun of my unicorn themed shirt,” Scott replied automatically, his grin getting bigger, and Stiles smiled in response. “I’ll take the set list to Lydia, and add on Writ while I’m at it.”
“Ugh, fine,” Stiles huffed and rolled his eyes fondly. “As long as the others don’t mind it?”
Three separate voices answered at once, the same exact words. “Add it!”
“Awesome,” Scott beamed. “Oh, before I forget, your friends from Jungle are downstairs. Jazzy asked me to say hi.”
Scott traipsed back out the front door and Stiles flopped onto the couch. “Oh god,” he groaned, suddenly horrified. The girls were well aware of his crush on Derek. Stiles talked about him all the time, whenever Stiles was with the girls, and he told them more than enough for them to figure out exactly who Derek is.
“They’re probably going to interrogate Derek tonight,” Erica declared with a delighted cackle.
Stiles made a noise and threw one of her boots at her head. “I have the worst friends ever.”
Derek wasn’t sure how to respond to the group of drag queens who’d cornered him by the bar. How they’d managed was beyond Derek, considering he was the only one working and the bar was pretty busy already. The tallest one, blond hair done up in outrageous curls and bright red lipstick, loomed over Derek from the other side of the bar, narrowing her eyes at him calculatingly.
“Well, he certainly has excellent taste,” she said decisively. “My name’s Jazzy, you’re Derek, and if you hurt our precious baby we’ll impale you with our heels.”
“Um,” Derek blinked. “Okay?”
Jazzy smiled. “So long as we’re clear. We’ve known Stiles since he was fifteen and sneaking into Jungle. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to keep an eye on him.”
“Oh,” Derek said a little dumbly, and felt the tips of his ears burning. “I think you’ve got the wrong idea. We’re not - ”
“Oh please,” another lady snorted over him, tapping her long pink fingernails against the bar top. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and gave Derek an unimpressed look that could rival his own. “Honey, I don’t know who you’re trying to fool, or if you’re just blind, but that boy is so gone on you.”
“And Scott has reliably informed us that you’re just as gone on Stiles,” Jazzy added.
"I'm going to kill Scott," Derek growled, blushing, before sighing heavily..
“Relax, honey,” Jazzy said and sent him a dazzling smile. “We did our research, because an enamored Stiles cannot be trusted to be unbiased.”
"That's actually terrifying," Derek said, "But there are customers and I'm the only one working, so if you'll excuse me."
Jazzy nodded and retreated to a booth with her friends, sitting with a prime view of the stage set up on the other side of the bar where Lydia was ordering people around as they set up for Hybrid’s performance.
Derek slumped against the bar for a moment, suddenly exhausted and yet completely wired. He knew he couldn’t avoid it anymore, or be stubborn. Couldn’t deny. Jazzy and her friends didn’t know Derek, had no interest in his happiness, unlike Scott or Laura or Isaac or Boyd. Jazzy was only concerned about Stiles’ happiness.
It left Derek no room to deny suppositions of Stiles’ feelings for him, because his denials ultimately came from the thought that Scott (or Isaac or Laura or Boyd) was only encouraging Derek because he wanted him to be happy. The fact that that argument was weak when one considered how Scott was also concerned with Stiles’ happiness, too, was something Derek ignored on the regular.
He shook himself from his thoughts after a few seconds, because Derek didn’t see much point in dwelling on them at that moment.
Kate showed up towards the very end of Hybrid’s set. Derek didn’t register her presence, at first; too busy trying to pay attention to the customers while simultaneously watching Stiles flit around the small stage like an excited puppy, all manic enthusiasm as he sang, shooting the shit with his band and the audience between songs.
It was a miracle (for Kate) the rest of the pack hadn’t noticed her, either.
“You weren’t bullshitting when you said the band’s going places,” Kate drawled, leaning up against the bar and startling Derek so badly he dropped a bottle of top shelf product Boyd was going to be pissed about later.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Derek snarled, his eyes flashing and hackles raising.
She smiled, an expression Derek would’ve called sweet at one time and now just looked predatory and cruel. “My niece is here, on personal invite from your alpha, and Peter,” Kate pointed to Laura, a disgusted curl to her lip, “and I wanted to see why.”
Laura and Scott were on either side of a pretty brunette at a small table right by the stage. Derek remembered seeing her whenever he’d pick Peter up from the elementary school; she was one of his co-workers. And apparently an Argent.
“Doesn’t give you the right to show up in an establishment you’re not welcome in,” Derek bit out.
Everything was too loud, suddenly. Too muddled.
Kate leaned further towards him, her perfume cloying as it choked him. “It does,” she whispered, like it was all one big secret she was letting him in on, “when it involves my niece making nice with mutts.”
Derek’s claws bit into the wooden top of the bar. “Just get the fuck out, Kate. Now.”
“What’re you gonna do, Der, if I don’t? Rip my throat out?” Kate laughed and slipped back into the crowd before Derek could respond, and he lost track of her within seconds. Let her get out of sight and scent range, really, because it wasn’t any other day and he sure as hell wasn’t going to ruin Stiles’ or his new packmates’ night.
He snarled wordlessly and turned to clean up the broken bottle and spilled vodka. Hoped his emotions weren’t volatile enough to bleed through the pack bonds and alert Laura. He didn’t want to distract her from what was obviously a very important development, even if he hadn’t realized Laura and Scott were interested in bringing a third person into their relationship. He’d never pegged Scott for the type, if only because what he knew of Scott screamed of an inability to notice anyone who wasn’t his partner in a romantic light.
“Alright, motherfuckin’ request hour!” Stiles shouted, panting into the mic, catching his breath after an enthusiastic performance of Over and Over. “Okay, so, not actually a whole hour, because fuck that, and also because that’d push this gig over the allotted time. But, I digress! Requests! It’s something we did out in NYC, every gig, take a couple requests just ‘cuz. Hopefully we’ll actually know how to play the song you request.”
“Fuck you, Stilinski!” Jackson snapped, without heat. “That was one time, and how the fuck did you even know that song anyway?”
Derek couldn’t see from the bar and Stiles turned away from him, but he was pretty sure Stiles was smirking and rolling his eyes.
“My mom, dumbass. Now, my dear audience, please ignore that jackass and holler up some requests!”
There was a cacophony of yells, tons of different song titles shouted up at Stiles. Derek winced, and tried to pick out suggestions he recognized. There were a few, of course there were, but for the most part people were shouting for mainstream shit Derek couldn’t tell apart.
“Right, whoa, okay,” Stiles laughed and sat down on one of the amps. “I think I heard a request for a Blink song, please tell me I heard a request for Blink!”
A few people cheered, Scott the loudest amongst them, and a few others actually shouted song titles Derek assumed were Blink 182 songs.
“I distinctly heard someone ask for Dammit,” Erica purred.
Derek bit back a smile as he watched Stiles flail up off the amp in excitement. Not even Kate could ruin the way Stiles made Derek feel. It was a startling, warm realization that pooled low beneath his sternum. He smiled, letting himself revel in the warmth, and filled an order for a fuzzy navel for Peter, who’d shown up sometime between Stiles tripping off the amp and Derek realizing his feelings maybe ran deeper than he first thought.
“The song Stiles was talking about is Uriah Heep’s Sunrise. I got to hear the story from Claudia, how Stiles was mortally offended that no one but he and the woman who’d requested the song in the first place knew what she was talking about,” Peter said as Derek slid him his fuzzy navel.
The ball of warmth expanded just a bit more in Derek’s chest, and he smiled down at the tip jar. “He’s ridiculous.”
Peter chuckled and flicked Derek’s ear. “You have no room to talk, you indignant hipster.”
“Peter, I swear to god,” Derek groaned and glared at his uncle. “Go back to your freaky, glitter-infused world before I tell Stiles you let his dad eat fried things.”
“Tetchy,” Peter simpered and sauntered off. Derek rolled his eyes and turned to the next customer, getting them their desired beverage and the last bag of chips.
The band started, a fresh wave of energized excitement flowing from them and into the audience. Derek watched Stiles bounce around the little stage, in awe of everything about him, and found himself bobbing his head along with the beat. Scott was dancing like a lunatic, singing along so loudly Derek wondered if the audience could actually hear Stiles over him.
All the second-wave energy and excitement seemed to instill a sudden need for more beer. It kept Derek on his toes, so he couldn’t actually watch Stiles jump around the stage for much longer than those first few seconds. He was going to have to talk to Boyd about working while Hybrid performed, because he felt it both ridiculous and unfair. Boyd probably already knew and was expecting that, the dick.
Eventually the line tapered off, and Derek was able to tune back into Stiles as he chattered with the audience. There really had been an excellent turn out for it. It was...it made Derek feel smug, which was vaguely alarming, but he liked that people were maybe seeing what he first heard all those months ago.
“Alright, alright, one more request and then an original song, that, honestly, Scott and the rest of the band twisted my arm to get me to play tonight,” Stiles laughed and stuck his tongue out. “Now, this request is totally going to be weird because Scott’s lady love, the wonderfully terrifying Laura, who, by the way, is an amazing tattoo artist and if you don’t believe me come look at my arm afterwards...right! Laura cornered me last night, and asked me how I felt about doing a thing, and I agreed, because, well. She’s terrifying.”
“Don’t you even lie, Stiles,” Erica sing-songed and smiled sweetly. Derek was familiar with her enough, now, to know the sweetness was a lie. “You agreed because you - ”
“Because you need to shut the fuck up, Erica,” Stiles sing-songed back, and made a face. “Seriously you guys, please ignore these idiots. On the sole basis that they’re evil dicks out to ruin my life. Ruin I say! But you know who isn’t? Isaac! Come up here you precious angel, and save me from these psychos with your sexophone!”
“Stiles, I swear to god I will kill you, I told you to stop calling it that!”
“But saxophones are sexy!”
Derek’s eyebrows tried disappearing into his hairline. Laura was grinning back at him, an evil glint in her eyes. Isaac, his saxophone in his hands and huge blush on his face, joined Hybrid on the little stage and let Stiles position him between Erica and Jackson.
“Dude, don’t even pretend this wasn’t planned for longer than a day,” Scott called and grunted when Laura reached over the Argent girl to smack the back of his head. “What, you may’ve asked him last night but he wouldn’t’ve even bothered learning the song if I hadn’t mentioned it in February.”
“Shut up, Scott,” Stiles pouted. “Absolutely nobody asked you.”
Scott beamed. “Lies.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“C’mon baby boy, stop flirting with your bro and play the damn song!” Jazzy called out, and Stiles flushed.
“I told you not to call me that!” Stiles whined.
Derek tried not to imagine how or why Stiles got that nickname, and then tried not to imagine using it in an entirely different context.
“Well, you’re not exactly jailbait anymore.”
“Oh my god. Danny, please just count us off,” Stiles groaned and made a face at Jazzy when she laughed.
“This one’s for you, Der-bear!” Laura said, in just the right pitch that Derek would pick up on it without her drawing attention to them, as Danny counted off, and Derek glanced up sharply as Isaac’s saxophone belted out the familiar first bars of one of Derek’s favorite songs.
It snagged Derek’s attention better than almost anything else could, and then Stiles started singing, and it was like he was hearing Stiles for the first time again, something a little different and new and wonderful. Derek didn’t know how to feel about that, or about how the way Stiles’ fingers wrapped around the mic made his blood hot. Not that he was thinking about that.
A few people came up for drinks, and probably walked away, pissed, with the wrong ones. Not that Derek gave two fucks. If Boyd ever expected Derek to actually do a halfway decent job bartending while Hybrid was playing not twenty feet away, he was horribly mistaken.
When the song came to the end, and his voice faded out to the saxophone, Stiles gulped down half a bottle of water and Derek could see Stiles’ throat working from across the bar. It was like everyone and everything was out to make him admit how he felt. Derek found he didn’t mind so much.
“If you lovely few can’t tell me what song that was, I despair for you,” Stiles grinned and lifted his tank top up to mop the sweat from his face, drawing Derek’s eyes to the toned abdomen and trail of hair leading from Stiles’ navel into his jeans. “Nah, don’t sweat it you guys! It’s cool if you don’t know the song, or even who originally sung it. But hey, give it up for Isaac! Who has supposedly never played, solo, in front of anyone ever.”
“Shut the fuck up, Stiles,” Isaac mumbled and stepped off the stage.
Derek grinned, leaning his elbows on the bar top.
“Whatever, you love me,” Stiles laughed and ducked the plastic cup Isaac threw at him. “Anyway, just this last song and then we’re done for the night. If you loved us or something, come back next weekend, ‘cuz apparently Boyd wants us to play regularly. But if you hated us, uh...well, that’s unfortunate and please don’t actually tell me.
“But, I digress, this is Writ, it’s...well, new. I fucking wrote it in this bar, actually, so there.”
Derek went completely still as his mind processed Stiles’ words. It felt strange, knowing that he was about to hear the product of Stiles’ hard work, knowing that he’d snarked with Stiles while he was writing this song. And it was stranger, still, to watch as Stiles seemed to go still, hunching down onto a stool and fixing the mic onto a stand. He was suddenly all quiet intensity wrapped up in a shock of shyness that looked so very good on him. Derek’s breath caught.
Stiles was sweating like a pig, still floating on an adrenaline high as he slipped out of the bar and upstairs to Laura’s apartment to get changed. He came back down, freshly showered, in a pair of loose-fitting jeans, holes in the knees, and just a hoodie, as comfortable as he could possibly be while still being decent enough for public.
Jackson, who’d just shoved his head under the kitchen sink and changed his clothes, caught Stiles’ arm and led him over to Lydia’s booth with a friendly arm thrown over his shoulders. Lydia waited until Stiles was cornered in across from her before giving him a terrifying smile and steepling her fingers together.
“Any particular reason you couldn’t’ve just added on Laura’s request instead of taking that slot from the crowd?”
“Ugh,” Stiles sighed. “Because tonight was on short notice, and I didn’t think of that.”
“And because he wanted to impress Derek,” Jackson added, smirking. “He wanted to make certain we’d play it, after Laura put the idea into his head. Derek is bad for your intelligence, I think.”
“Shut the fuck up, Jackson,” Stiles snapped without heat, face going red behind an embarrassed scowl. “Now let me out of the booth, so I can go intrude on Scott and Laura’s pre-date-date with, uh...I think her name is Allison.”
He shoved at Jackson’s shoulder, ignored the look on Lydia’s face, and ended up escaping the booth by crawling underneath the table.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be around Lydia, because Lydia was one of his best friends for sure, but he couldn’t exactly handle her logic or sharp tongue. Stiles felt like he was on a knife edge, nervous and jittery after singing Writ in front of a small crowd, in front of Derek, who, despite Stiles’ protests, was the sole inspiration. And maybe he wasn’t actually in love with Derek, but he could be, he knew he could be, and. He wanted to try.
“Dude!” Scott shouted, vaulting out of his seat to wrap Stiles in a bear hug, “I’m so mad at myself for not taking the opportunity to come see you guys in NYC, or when you were in Cali for Warped!”
Stiles grinned and punched Scott’s shoulder when he was finally let go. “Damn straight, asshole.”
“You guys were as great as expected,” Laura smiled and lifted her drink in acknowledgement. “I’m pretty sure Scott nearly pissed himself when you guys decided to play Dammit.”
Scott made an excited noise and bounced on the balls of his feet, entirely reminiscent of his excitable puppy high school days, as if he’d ever actually left the excitable puppy phase, and made Laura’s point by gesturing wildly. “Oh dude, you gotta play - ”
“Jesus, yes, Scott,” Stiles laughed and pushed Scott’s face away from him. “We’ll play your damn song, oh my god.”
He turned to Allison and held out his hand. “My friends are assholes, I’m sorry they haven’t introduced us yet. I’m Stiles.”
“Allison,” Allison replied, a bit shyly, and smiled up at him. With dimples. It was totally unfair. “I’ve heard a lot about you, from Scott.”
“I am not an asshole,” Laura narrowed her eyes. “More of a dick.”
“Hey!” Scott protested and punched Stiles’ arm lightly. “And I was getting to it!”
“Yeah, I just distracted you with Blink 182,” Stiles grinned and dropped down into the last free chair at their table.
“Your band is very good, I can see why Laura’s brother writes such passionate reviews about Hybrid,” Allison said, ignoring Laura and Scott entirely while still reaching out to brush a hand across a shoulder and knee. “And why Peter insisted I come tonight, before I explained to him that I’d already planned to anyway, because of Scott and Laura.”
“Peter’s weird and I don’t wanna think about him,” Stiles made a face. “No offense. He’s sleeping with my parents and I just do not know how to process that.”
“Um,” Allison’s brows drew together in a little frown. “Okay?”
“Uh, sorry,” Stiles grimaced. “Oversharing, I’m good at it. It’s sorta my thing.”
Scott snorted. “It’s a miracle you haven’t blurted out how badly you want Derek to bend you over the pool table in front of him.”
“I will kill you, Scott, oh my god,” Stiles said, strangled, and kicked Scott’s shin under the table.
Laura grimaced and shook her head. “So many things I don’t need to hear. Though,” she trailed off with a wicked glint in her eyes.
“You guys are the fucking worst and I hate you,” Stiles grumbled, then added, “but not you, Allison. I just met you.”
Allison smiled brightly at him, and Stiles decided that she was just about perfect for Laura and Scott.
“We’re not rehashing why you don’t hate me, we did that two and a half hours ago,” Scott said, grinning.
“Unicorns,” Stiles muttered.
“Now wait a minute,” Laura started, “I have not heard this story. I demand that you - ” she froze mid-sentence, her eyes flaring red. It looked like every muscle in her body went tense all at once, and the snarl slowly forming on her face was absolutely terrifying.
“Laura?” Scott near-whined, distressed, and reached out to touch his fingers to Laura’s wrist.
Stiles twisted around in his seat, trying to see what caught Laura’s attention. It wasn’t all that hard, even with his human limitations, and he’d only seen her twice. But the way she held herself, smug and so self assured, was entirely too familiar.
Like a shot, Stiles was out of his seat before Laura, and he was at Derek’s elbow in the next instant. Just in time to hear Kate purr something about bitches in heat and how Derek wasn’t going to kick her out of the bar. It shattered something inside Stiles, and he was drawing a fist back and punching Kate before she could even notice him.
Everything went quiet as people turned to stare at them. Stiles didn’t care, his rage boiling just under his skin as he stared down at Kate impassively. She stared back, one hand covering her bloody nose, and the smug expression on her face wavered for a moment.
“The panties make a lot more sense now, Derek,” Kate quipped as she moved to stand back up.
Stiles sneered and crouched down to meet her eyes, the latent magic he’d inherited from his mother surging up to keep Kate in place. “Are you implying that Derek is lesser? Because he, what, wears panties?” Stiles was just guessing, but it was the only thing that even remotely made sense to him in context to her comment. “Because if you are, you would also be implying that anyone who wears panties is lesser, and to the best of my knowledge that includes a significant number of women. Now, I don’t know about you, Kate, but the women I know are pretty superior beings. And besides, I’m aware enough about the way the Argent hunters worked, back when they were hunting, to know that women were the leaders. So.”
“Pathetic,” Kate spat back, though she was looking at Derek. “Getting a witch to fight your battles?”
“Kate, sweetie, I’m not a witch, just born with latent magical abilities that flare up when I’m angry. I guess you could compare it to the Hulk, almost, except I don’t turn green and gain inhuman strength. Or rip out of my clothes, thank god.”
Kate’s eyes swept over him, assessing, and she quirked an eyebrow at him. “I could get you arrested for assault, you know?”
Stiles shook his head, giving a small smile of mock disappointment. “Sorry, but no. For a couple reasons, the key one being that I’m Laura Hale’s emissary, and it is well within my rights to defend any and all of her packmates from both physical and psychological threats. You, I believe fully, pose as both. Second, I am going to call my father, assuming Peter hasn’t already done so, and ask him to come down to arrest you on charges of stalking, trespassing, and anything else that is relevant to the sick shit you pulled. And you won’t be able to get out of it, because Sheriff Stilinski has been, you know, making a case against you at my request.”
She smiled, up at Derek, like she was impressed. “Look at you, sweetie, picking someone just like me. Someone just as calculating and ruthless.”
“Bitch, please,” Stiles snorted and stood back up, dusting imaginary dirt off of himself. “You aren’t nearly awesome enough to compare yourself to me.” He turned his back on her, wrapped his hand around Derek’s right wrist, and tugged the werewolf away from Kate.
Jackson and Erica stepped in, each of them grabbing Kate’s biceps, and pulled Kate out of the bar. Scott was darting between Laura and Allison, clearly trying to comfort Allison and keep Laura from losing control. Stiles urged Derek over to his sister, and turned to clear out the bar.
Which Lydia had apparently already taken care of.
With nothing really left to do, Stiles retreated back to his regular booth and immediately started to over-think everything. He’d probably just bulldozed over a lot of lines he wasn’t even supposed to go near with a twenty foot pole, and it was highly likely that Derek would never speak to him again. Stiles had jumped to Derek’s defense like he had a right, like he didn’t think Derek could hold his own, and it very easily could have made the werewolf feel weak.
After a bit, one of his dad’s deputies, Parrish, came over to him to take his statement, and Stiles numbly wondered when the cops had shown up.
He felt ridiculous, and a little ashamed. He was upset, anxious, and he...felt as though he had no right to be. Derek was the one who’d been cornered, by his clearly unhinged ex, not Stiles.
Stiles slipped out the back once Deputy Parrish went to get Jackson’s statement, too anxious to keep sitting in the bar. The chill air felt good against his flushed skin, pulled tight over his bones, and Stiles was finally able to start relaxing. Went near-boneless when he made it into the nearby park and flopped onto a bench. The dirt and trees and grass always made him feel a little better, after his magic flared up.
“I didn’t get the chance to say how great you guys were tonight,” Derek said, coming up behind Stiles on silent feet. He sat down beside Stiles, hands stuffed into the pockets of his leather jacket.
“Oh, thanks,” Stiles mumbled, blushing. He glanced over at Derek from the corner of his eye, studied him for a long moment, before returning his gaze back to the playground he’d been staring at for the last several minutes.
They were quiet for a long time after that, Stiles staring absently at the playground and Derek staring up at the sky, like he was looking for the stars the city lights hid. They were close enough on the bench that Stiles could feel the heat of Derek. It was nice. Calming.
“You know, I can’t remember when the last I hit someone was. High school, maybe. I think it was Jackson, in our freshman year, when he made fun of Scott for wanting to join the lacrosse team. I felt like shit afterwards, but I remember telling my parents it was the only way Jackson would shut up. Which, that was true, but. I’m not a violent person, not like that at least. If I have to, I prefer to do it with words and intellect. But tonight? I don’t feel shitty about punching her, I don’t.
“I feel shitty because I crossed so many lines, with you. I don’t even know if you just tolerate me because I’m friends with your sister and Scott, and Erica and Jackson, or if we really are friends. I like to think we are, but...you can be really hard to read. I feel shitty for inserting myself into a situation I don’t know anything about, a situation I could’ve made worse for you by doing what I did, just because I saw the look on your face and lost my cool. I like you, Derek, a lot. Probably more than I should, given my abysmal track record with relationships - with people. But you know, I listen to certain songs and I think of you, and I feel so many things at once.
“It scares me, because my experience tells me that no one ever feels as strongly for me as I do for them, no one ever wants to be with me for more than a night.”
Stiles swallowed around the lump that’d formed in his throat, ran a hand through his hair nervously. He didn’t know why he’d just said all of that. Just blurted it out, like an idiot. He made to get up and leave when Derek sighed and scratched at the stubble along his jaw.
“I haven’t...haven’t dated anyone, since Kate. Who, hilariously, I just found out is actually a speciest bastard. She only showed up tonight because she heard her niece, Allison, was on a date with Scott and Laura, and Kate wasn’t happy about that. I didn’t know about...her real thoughts on werewolves. I’m not really surprised, though. But, that’s not...not the point. I, uh, I quit writing, when she left me. Stiles, I quit. I wouldn’t touch a notebook and pen unless it was to making a fucking grocery list, and I sold my laptop.
“She said some things,” Derek cut himself off, swiped a hand down his face in frustration, and scowled. “And I couldn’t bring myself to write. Until Scott begged me to, and gave me Hybrid’s EPs. I had to borrow Isaac’s laptop to write that first article, while they all hoped I’d get out a couple paragraphs. But, you know, I wasn’t lying, when I said your lyrics spoke to me on a level I’d never experienced before. They made me want to write, again. The others all teased me about having a crush on you, even though in the beginning I had no idea what you looked like or who you were, beyond Scott’s best friend, and even then he never actually gave me any names because he thought it was hilarious, and Hybrid’s website was so vague about all of you guys.”
Derek smiled softly and turned his head just enough to study Stiles. “Then you stumble into the bar, with your gangly limbs and sarcasm, practically unfazed by my pissy attitude. I had so much fun snarking back and forth with you.”
“Bet you weren’t expecting me,” Stiles joked.
“No,” Derek agreed, sounding fond. “I was expecting an annoying twenty-something who would prove to be an utter disappointment compared to the mental image I’d formed while listening to your band.”
Stiles’ entire face went red. “Um, so, I’m...not, then?”
“Far from it,” Derek confirmed, and reached out to brush his fingers across the top of Stiles’ left hand. “It left me feeling...stunned, is the closest word I can think of. I was so stunned, to meet you and discover that you were far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Thrilled, to know that the guy who was behind the songs that went through me like a bolt of electricity each and every time I listened to them was so far beyond what I built up in my head, so, so far beyond the disappointment I was positive I’d face when I finally got to meet you.”
“I...you…” Stiles floundered, sounding strangled, and made a defeated noise, any and all of his words disappearing.
Derek gave a small smile and turned his gaze to his lap. “I’m not much for talking, as Laura is more than eager to point out whenever she can. She thinks it’s hilarious, that I can write so much but can’t find the words to verbally express myself. I guess it is kind of funny; you’d think I’d be good with words.”
“There’s a difference between being good with words and being able to express those words verbally,” Stiles said after a second of hesitation. “You just have to communicate with people the best way you know how.”
“If you were a werewolf, this would be so much easier,” Derek huffed, and leaned his head back to stare up at the tree tops. “You’d be able to pick out my scent, and how it changes whenever I’m around you or just thinking about you. You’d hear my heart, how it speeds up, how it skips beats, just because I can smell you nearby, or hear your laughter - ”
“Writ, uh, it...you. It’s about you, for you, inspired by you,” Stiles interrupted, his heart hammering away. He wondered if Derek’s was, too.
Derek smiled, small and happy, something Stiles had never seen before. It was absolutely breathtaking, and Stiles wanted to see it every day for the rest of his life. He turned his hand over, catching Derek’s fingers with his and lacing them together.
“I’d like to kiss you now, if that’s alright?” Derek whispered, turning to meet Stiles’ eyes.
Stiles leaned into Derek, smiling. “You better, because I swear, if you don’t - ”
Derek cut Stiles off, his free hand coming up to cup Stiles’ jaw as he fit their lips together. Stiles wrapped his own free hand around the back of Derek’s neck, sighing a breath of finally into Derek’s mouth.