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a bulwark never failing

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"Lydia?"

"What?"

"Oh good, your hearing is working."

"Do you have a point?" Lydia asks. She's leaning over the reception desk flipping through the reservation ledger for the restaurant and looking extremely disinterested in whatever Stiles is up to.

"I felt the need to test considering the phone has been ringing for twenty minutes and you haven't answered it."

"People are being stupid today," Lydia says airily. "I've decided not to deal with them."

"That's an option?"

"It is for me," Lydia says, then rolls her eyes when Stiles just glares at her and plucks the phone up. "Crescent Moon Inn, how may I help you?" she asks in a voice that would sound polite to an outside observer, but Stiles knows is her mess with me and I will end you tone. They're scarily similar for Lydia.

Once she's done, she turns and sees him still hovering. "What?"

"Just... we need to be super awesome and professional today," Stiles says, wringing his hands.

"Why?"

"Because Deaton's thinking of selling the Inn," Stiles says.

"So?"

"Ugh, so? That means unemployment, begging on the streets, living in cardboard boxes."

"Stiles, stop being so dramatic. You can get another job."

"Where? We live in a town the size of a postage stamp. What would I do, work at the video store with Greenburg?"

"You could move to Silver Lakes. Your dad's there and it's bigger. You'll be fine."

"I like this job," Stiles whines pitifully. "Plus, Silver Lakes doesn't have Derek."

"He could commute."

"It's a three hour round trip and he works seven days a week! When would I see him?" Stiles demands.

"I'm offering solutions. You're the one coming up with problems," Lydia says, then tilts her head, taps her sparkly, feathery blue pen on her chin. "Why do you think the next owners wouldn't want us?"

"Deaton's only thinking of selling because he got a good offer from a developer. The developer's only interested in the land, not what's on it."

"I'm surprised he didn't offer you the option to buy the place first. You practically grew up here and Chester did."

"He... did. That's why I know he's serious about selling."

"Why don't you?"

"With what money?" Stiles says, incredulous. "I haven't had a savings account since I was twelve."

"Surely you've got something squirreled away?"

"My nuts are well and truly spoken for," Stiles says and when Lydia gives him an evil grin he adds, "Yes, I know what I just said, shut up."

"How can you not have anything?" Lydia asks, and Stiles knows that most people wouldn't ask that kind of question, would consider it rude. Lydia is not like other people but Stiles finds himself answering anyway because it's Lydia and she never means to be rude, it just comes kind of naturally.

"Because I live with a six foot three bottomless pit who I can't dress in discarded kitchen scraps and tissue box shoes."

"What about your dad?"

"I get the distinct impression he has less pennies to rub together than I do."

"He's got that house though, his parent's-"

"No!" Stiles snaps, grimaces when Lydia blinks at him. "Sorry, just, I can't ask him to do that. Not... it's only been six months. I can't ask him for a loan."

"What about your grandparents?"

"Did you miss the fact that they hate me? Plus, they're paying for Chester's school and they're going to pay for college. I don't think I could be more in debt to them if I tried."

"How about Der-?"

"I'm just going to stop you right there," Stiles says, holding up a hand. He'd contemplated it for about three seconds, before discarding the idea. It might be silly to be proud about something like this, but Stiles just doesn't think he could bring himself to even ask Derek. He doesn't want to put Derek in a position where he wouldn't feel like he could say no, not that he would necessarily.

"Stiles, until he started dating you and took in Isaac, the guy was basically a grouchy hermit who dragged himself out of his cave only to cook eggs and serve coffee. He has the first dollar he ever earned in a frame on the wall in his diner. You can't tell me he hasn't ferreted away every one after it, possibly under his mattress until he's perched on loot like Smaug."

"I'm fascinated by how your brain works," Stiles says, a little mystified.

"Maybe Jackson can buy the place. He's been looking for another investment now the Soda Shoppe is established."

Stiles winces reflexively at the mention of the Soda Shoppe which has been the bane of Derek's and therefore his existence for the last few months. It doesn't help that the Soda Shoppe is right next to Derek's diner so Derek gets to see Jackson in his stripey apron, bow tie and shit-eating grin every day. Derek's threatened to shove the extra 'p' and 'e' somewhere very uncomfortable on Jackson's person.

"I'd rather work at the video store," he says morosely.

"I know it's completely out there as an idea, but what about a small business loan?" Lydia asks. She's actually trying to help, Stiles is oddly touched to realize. He supposes it might be because if Stiles owns the place, Lydia will remain an employee and a boss she can walk all over, but he's long learned that Lydia has few very people, probably only enough to count on one hand, that she gives a damn about and she will be ferocious about that caring.

"I've looked into it. With my second mortgage and therefore nothing to offer up as collateral, it's a no-go. They might consider it if I had a hefty deposit amount, but I don't."

"Has Deaton given you some time to come up with something?"

"Yeah, he's given me ample time to turn nothing into even more nothing. Maybe I should buy a bunch of lottery tickets?"

"There we go, a practical plan," Lydia says sarcastically.

"I'll think of something, won't I?" Stiles sighs, dropping his head on the reception desk and letting Lydia pet the back of it in sympathy.

"You will," she says but she sounds about as sure as Stiles is, which is to say, not very much.

*

"Oh my god, thank you," Allison says, watching as Stiles ducks around her, grabbing the oranges that have scattered every which way since she dropped the bag. She has one hand resting on her sizable belly and she's smiling at him fondly. "I think if I tried to get down there now, I'd never get back up."

"We need to get you one of those reaching claw toy thingies," Stiles says as he gathers the last of the fruit and herds it back into the bag, folding it over and cradling it against his chest.

"Only two more months until I'm able to duck and weave with the best of them again," Allison says, then frowns down at her belly.

"Are you okay?"

"I just miss seeing my feet. I can't even remember what shoes I'm wearing. Are they cute?"

"The cutest," Stiles enthuses, nodding.

"You're totally lying since my feet are currently the size of small boats and don't fit into any of my cute shoes, but thank you anyway," Allison says, leaning across to peck him on the cheek.

"Can I walk you and your Sunnybest oranges somewhere?" Stiles offers his elbow and Allison tucks her hand into it.

"Actually, I'm craving a milkshake."

"Diner it is," Stiles says. He starts tugging Allison but she hesitates, chewing on her lip. He grimaces and says, "Oh no, not you. How could you betray us?"

"Derek's food is better but the milkshakes at the soda place are just...I can't describe how good they are. Haven't you tried them?"

"No," Stiles huffs. "Mostly because I like sleeping with my boyfriend and he would cease to sleep with me if I was to ever step inside that abomination of stripes and fake smiles."

"Stiles, I'm pregnant, you can't judge my choices," Allison says. "I no longer dictate what goes inside of me. This guy does." She pats her stomach and Stiles sighs heavily.

"Fine, I can escort you to the door, but I can go no further," he says, lowering his voice dramatically and flinging an arm out. He glances around furtively as he shuffles Allison across the street to Jackson's shop. Allison giggles helplessly when he starts humming the Mission Impossible theme as he plasters himself against the wall to the shop so as to stay out of sight of Derek's diner windows.

"There you go m'lady," Stiles says, sweeping an arm in the direction of Jackson's door. Then, "No! No, no, no, no, no!" he wails when Allison turns large, pleading eyes on him.

"You wouldn't just send me in there alone, would you?"

"Allison, I caaaaaaan't," he protests, but he knows he's done for, and she does too. He drags his feet as she tugs him inside and they're greeted by bubbly Jenny Harrison who looks surprised to see Stiles but recovers quickly, leading them to a window table and setting down candy-striped menus.

"Can't we sit somewhere less conspicuous?" Stiles hisses. "Like, maybe under the counter?"

"Stiles, what Derek doesn't know won't hurt him," Allison dismisses, waving a menu at him which he refuses to take by crossing his arms and hunching down in his seat. "Now, you're not sitting across from me and not having anything," she adds and her eyes have gone from puppy pleading to stern pay your invoices or you'll regret it.

"Fine, just, pick something for me."

Allison orders for them and it's not long before Stiles has a tall glass in front of him, stripey straw sticking jauntily out of the top that he uses to stab his bright green ice cream. "What is this?" he asks suspiciously.

"Just try it," Allison says, rolling her eyes.

"Okay, but I can tell you now that I won't... oh my god, what is this?" Stiles moans. He'd been petulantly sucking on his straw while still mostly hunched down in his chair but now sits up and drags his glass closer to him. He snatches the long spoon from Allison's fingers that she'd been using to dig into her own milkshake and uses it himself, shoveling ice cream into his face with reckless abandon. He only stops when he gets an ice cream headache and Allison makes sympathetic noises as he clutches at his freezing brain.

There's an almighty thump on the window right next to Stiles' throbbing head and Stiles nearly sends the rest of his shake all over Allison, only catching it at the last moment. He turns slowly, knowing exactly what he's going to see considering how guilty Allison looks and it's of course Derek standing outside, breathing so hard and so furiously on the glass separating them that it actually fogs.

"You have to come out and explain how this is all your fault," Stiles says desperately.

"I'm not finished and besides, it'll take me like half an hour to stand up again. I'm pretty sure that's a get outside immediately face."

"Coward!" Stiles hisses and risks a look back at Derek who points at Stiles, then at the door. "Tell Chester I loved him and that my death was caused by his evil Auntie Allison."

Stiles trudges outside and is collected by Derek who basically lifts him off the top step he's in such a hurry. Stiles likes being manhandled by Derek, he's found it's a bit of a thing but that's just plain rude. Stiles smacks his hands off. "I'm your size, how are you able to pick me up like that?" he demands.

"I bench press Greenberg for practice," Derek says and Stiles feels a little of his anxiety ease because Derek is cracking jokes, so he mustn't be all the way over in the red zone. He actually looks more annoyed than mad and he flails a hand at the Soda Shoppe. "Explain. Use small, fast words."

"Allison wanted a shake buddy. I can't deny her anything because I can't risk her ire filtering through to the mini-McCall. He/she can't pop out hating on the favorite Uncle."

"Why didn't you guys come into the diner?"

Stiles sighs, girds himself. "We-ell."

"Stiles."

"Okay, so your ice cream always has that weird frost on it and your syrup bottles are older than me. Maybe, in this one little area-"

"Don't say it," Derek groans, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"-you could admit-"

"Don't say it."

"That Jackson is better than you."

"Stiles!"

"I'm sorry, I just tasted heaven and I don't think I can go back."

"You're the worst."

"Derek, no one makes burgers like you and I'm pretty sure I have more of your coffee in my bloodstream than actual blood. Jackson had pancakes on his menu for the first week after he opened and took them off again because no one was eating them since they love yours, frosty ice cream and all. You always complain when you have to make a milkshake, to the point where you actively discourage people from ordering them and you think putting ice cream in soda is disgusting and refuse to do it."

"I'm sure you're meandering up to a point," Derek says, but he looks the tiniest bit mollified by Stiles' effusive praise of his wares.

"Jackson's managed to, and I'm sure by accident rather than design, open a place that doesn't compete with you in any way."

"They bring his to-go cups into the diner. They sit down with their stupid, stripey little cups and think they can eat my food. He wants us to have a voucher program between us."

"You're resisting because it's Jackson, rather than because it's a bad idea," Stiles says, prodding Derek in the ribs and he huffs and curls away, but he's also looking resigned.

"There's gotta be some way this whole thing has been engineered to infuriate me. He just hasn't dropped the boom yet," Derek complains.

"Hey, with his place right next door, at least he's going to stop trying to turn this block into a car park," Stiles points out.

"Fine," Derek grunts, then snags the back of Stiles' shirt when he beams, drops a kiss on Derek's mouth and turns back to Jackson's.

"Hey-urk! What?"

"Where do you think you're going?"

"To finish my tasty beverage," Stiles says, but after he's turned back around to face Derek, he pouts and says, "Or not?"

"I'll make you one," Derek says and when Stiles pulls a disgusted face, he scowls and says, "Just for that I'm making you banana."

"No, gross! You monster!" Stiles wails, tugging at his shirt but Derek just ignores him and tows him back to the diner.

*

"You can talk to me about anything, you know that right?" his dad says that weekend.

They have fortnightly Sunday lunches, alternating between Beacon Hills and Silver Lakes. Chester joins them when he doesn't have homework due, Stiles made it clear that it was his choice because he didn't want to lump his kid with two mandatory familial obligations. Chester makes it more often than not though but that week he had a birthday and Stiles is kind of glad he couldn't make it if the conversation is going in the direction he thinks it is.

"Lydia ratted me out," Stiles grumbles and his dad pauses in picking up the plates off his table from their cold chicken and salad lunch. They're in Stiles' dad's apartment. It's small and cluttered and Stiles loves it. He can sometimes wistfully picture he and his mom there when he was younger, all jammed together, in each other's pockets and not caring a bit.

"She's just worried," his dad says.

"Y'know, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you guys having your little war councils."

"Stiles, it's not that. She's a lovely girl who cares about you."

"You don't talk to Derek as much as you talk to Lydia."

"What are you saying?"

"Do you... wish I was with someone like her?" Stiles asks.

"God, kid, no," his dad says, looking horrified. "I don't... I know you don't know me very well but I don't care who you're with as long as they make you happy. You love Derek and he clearly thinks you hang the moon. I've got no complaints."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, it's okay. We can talk about this stuff, it's good," he says, setting the plates down and sliding back into his seat. "Just like we can talk about maybe working something out with your Inn."

"I'm working on it," Stiles says, rubbing over his face.

"Look, I've been meaning to sell my parents' house anyway."

"No! I don't want you to do that. You've held onto it for a reason."

"Mostly silly sentimentality. I was hoping I'd need it someday for a family. I really don't mind if it serves the family purpose in another way."

"You love that house. Your father built it, you told me that. You don't want to sell it."

"Okay, well, maybe it can be yours anyway, if you were to move here."

"I'm not there yet," Stiles says, then looks at his dad when he's quiet. "I... Beacon Hills is just home, y'know?"

"I know. It's probably selfish wanting you and Chester closer."

"It's not selfish," Stiles says, getting up so he can wrap arms around his dad's shoulders from behind and squeeze. His dad pats his hands, smile lines digging deep around his eyes. Stiles has always been a tactile guy and he's raised Chester the same way. His dad had been hesitant at first but now initiates hugs as frequently as the other Stilinski men do.

"I know you're probably used to resisting help, trying to do everything on your own but I want to. I want to help you."

"Let's say that's Plan B, okay?" Stiles offers after a moment, resting his forehead on his dad's shoulder.

"Okay, Stiles," he sighs, pats at the part of Stiles' head he can reach.

*

"We're trying this again?" Stiles says, seeing Derek at Isaac's shoulder on his doorstep. "Seriously?"

"I can contain myself," Derek grumbles.

"That's what you said the last four times."

"It's a family activity," Derek says, shoving Isaac ahead of him and quickly ducking in to brush a kiss over Stiles' mouth. As Isaac makes a disgruntled noise and disappears in the direction of the living room, Stiles catches Derek by the back of the shirt.

"It's not a... it's a me and Chester activity, that Isaac has invited himself to so he can eat pizza and steal daring glimpses of Chester's ankles."

"You don't want me here?"

"It's not that," Stiles says, smacking Derek's shoulder lightly. "You don't want to be here. You try, valiantly I might add, but you fail and we end up arguing and then you leave in a huff."

"I can do this. I've done worse things."

"Stop it before I expire from your enthusiasm."

"Stiles."

"Seriously, it's no big deal."

"If you would just watch something normal-"

"Oh my god, already? You're starting already? You haven't even reached the living room yet."

"It's a show about-"

"It's not just a show," Stiles hisses, scandalized and pressing a hand to his heart. Derek eyerolls so hard that his whole body gets involved. "It's a religion."

"It's a show about teenage werewolves."

"So? We acknowledge that it's dumb and fluffy but we like it."

"It's ludicrous."

"You're just jealous because the Alpha werewolf is my TV boyfriend."

"Your what?"

"He's totally on my list."

"Your what?"

"Oh!" Stiles says, beaming and dragging Derek towards the kitchen where he can dig through the piles of crap pinned to the refrigerator with over taxed magnets and find the scrap of paper he's looking for. "We all made these a few weeks ago after you huffed off again."

"Stiles, what is this?" Derek demands, sounding dangerous.

"Those are the people that I get a free pass on. If I ever sleep with them, you can't get mad at me."

"I don't remember agreeing to that," Derek says, sounding completely exasperated and then his brow furrows. "Wait, Harrison Ford? He's a zillion years old."

"Hence why in brackets I have circa Star Wars when he was young and lovely and a carpenter."

"Why is that important?"

"Good hands," Stiles says, holding his own up and waggling his fingers with a dirty smirk.

"Gambit? He's fictional."

"Bite your tongue!"

"That's the only name I'm comfortable with on this list, because he's fictional. Also I'll let you keep Harrison Ford because you would've had to have invented time travel and if you manage that I'm willing to give you a little leeway." Derek plucks the pen stuck to the fridge off and uncaps it, starts crossing out names.

"Hey! You're abusing your veto powers," Stiles complains, crossing his arms and watching with a scowl.

"He found the list?" Chester asks, meandering into the kitchen with Isaac in tow.

"I showed it to him," Stiles says and Chester snorts.

"He leaving you anyone?"

"A mutant and someone I'd need a Delorian to reach," Stiles says, pouting.

"That's more than Isaac left me with," Chester says. Isaac pulls a face and Stiles can't help but break down into helpless giggles.

"Save us from these controlling men," he says, collapsing dramatically across the kitchen table.

"I'm trying to remember why I like you," Derek says, not pausing in his efforts to make Stiles' list positively spartan.

"You could make a list too?" Stiles offers, making weak grabby hands at his piece of paper.

"I don't want anyone else," Derek says, then his hand tightens so hard on the pen he's holding that it snaps and Stiles just stares at him.

"Something really gross is about to happen. Flee!" Chester cries, herding Isaac back out of the kitchen. There's the sound of them thumping outside, presumably trying to reach minimum safe distance.

"Um-" Derek starts to say, but Stiles doesn't let him finish. He bolts upright, grabs the front of Derek's shirt and tugs. Even though they're of a size, Stiles knows he wouldn't be able to make Derek budge if he didn't want to, but Derek lets Stiles tow him upstairs without protest, face adorably flushed. "I meant-"

"I know what you meant," Stiles says, which is why I need you to fuck me right this minute."

"The boys-"

"Are outside and have self-preservation instincts great enough to know to go and paw on a neighbor's door until they're fed. They won't risk coming back for at least an hour."

"Your show-?"

"I changed my mind. I couldn't care less about teenage werewolves," Stiles says, then when Derek raises his eyebrows while being pushed onto Stiles' bed, Stiles makes a face and says, "Okay, just for now I don't care about them. I can download it later."

"Stiles-" Derek starts to protest again and Stiles pinches his side, Derek letting out a surprised yelp that dissolves into honest to god giggles as he tries to curl into himself to protect his ribs. Stiles is having none of it, pushing Derek back, urging him up the bed. He strips him quickly of his belt and then peels apart his jeans, making sure to rub the heel of his palm against the hot line of Derek's cock under fabric and Derek makes a choked sound that zings through Stiles' core.

They've done this enough now that it's comfortable, it's good. Stiles divests Derek of the rest of his clothes and strips himself, quick and mostly efficient and only nearly falls off the bed the once, Derek catching him and reeling him back automatically. He prepares himself, held over Derek while his eyes go dark and hungry, then he's lowering himself down and they're both making punched out whines.

"You know... I can't handle it... when you say... unbelievably mushy things without meaning to," Stiles groans out as Derek pushes up to meet him, as they find a rhythm.

"You know I can't handle that you talk the entire time," Derek groans back, hands gripping Stiles' hips and urging him faster.

"Tell me when you're-"

"Yes, I'm-"

"Okay, well, maybe help a guy out?" Stiles says, taking one of Derek's hands off his hip and nudging it towards his straining dick.

"Pushy, pushy, oh, god, yeah," Derek grunts out and then he's tipping Stiles sideways. When they've both gotten their breath back and Stiles control of his limbs, he holds a hand up. "How many times have I told you that we're not high-fiving after sex?"

"Why not? We're awesome! Good team work."

"You're so weird," Derek says, but he's smiling fondly and rubbing a hand over Stiles' hair, nuzzling into his neck.

*

"Can you apologize for me?" his dad asks and Stiles sighs heavily as he jogs down the hall in Chilton leading to the auditorium. "I just feel terrible."

"Of course, it's fine," Stiles says, injecting false cheer into his voice. He's heavily disappointed, but he's hoping the fact that he's badly out of breath from sprinting from the car park will mask it. He'd been relying on his father to be his support as he attended Chester's swearing in ceremony for student council along with his grandparents. He was looking forward to having someone to sit with so he could smugly ignore them. He'd already given Derek a pass because Isaac was in a school play and Derek had been so happy that he'd joined in on an extra-curricular activity that he'd promised to run lines with Isaac the whole afternoon.

He wasn't looking forward to sitting alone per usual or worse, forced to sit awkwardly with the grandparents but his dad was pulling a double shift because he had deputies off sick and he'd already called three times to apologize. This made number four.

"I'll make it up to him. I don't really want to start disappointing him so early."

Stiles pauses, leaning over his knees so he can pull air into his lungs and actually keep talking. "He's fine, I swear. He understands."

"Do you?" his dad asks, always scarily astute.

"I'll recover," Stiles says bravely. "I might need to call you so you can tell me that I'm loved and important after the grandparents smash my ego under their designer shoes."

"I'm on till two," his dad says, sounding warm and amused and it makes everything just that little bit better to hear him say, "Call me if they're mean to you."

Stiles spots Chester hanging out of the doors of the auditorium and slides to a halt. "What time?" he asks, heaving and holding a hand dramatically over his heart.

"Five past eight," Chester says and Stiles stamps his foot, irked.

"No way! I totally left on time and everything. I swear there's a time warp engaged whenever I get into the jeep that makes me late for everything."

"You're not late."

"How am I not late?" Stiles asks, raising a suspicious eyebrow.

"It starts in ten minutes."

"You told me eight!"

"I know," Chester says, unapologetic and Stiles throws his hands up.

"I'm assuming you told them the right time?"

"They're punctual. You have a time warp problem."

"Fine," Stiles huffs and then holds his phone against Chester's head. "Say hi to your grandpa and let him say sorry for the one hundred and thirty second time."

"Hi Grandpa," Chester says, face automatically warming as he leads Stiles inside and pushes him down on a seat. Chester's backpack is hooked across two extra seats and Stiles shakes his head violently. Chester scowls at him and points when Stiles makes to get up. Chester finishes talking on the phone and hands it back. "Stay!"

"Can't I just-?"

"Stay!" Chester orders and Stiles groans, then when Chester turns his back, pushes his bag off the saved seats. It doesn't matter because only a moment later Davis sits down next to him, Felicia on Davis' far side.

"Stiles," Davis greets coolly. Unlike Felicia who swings wildly between remote to outright rude, Davis has merely been politely dismissive of Stiles their entire relationship. He's not sure if that's any better because at least he rates an emotional response from Felicia. From Davis he gets nothing.

"Chester said he was saving us seats, that he put his bag down," Felicia huffs to her husband and Stiles nudges Chester's backpack under his chair with his feet as surreptitiously as possible.

The ceremony is pretty dry, like most Chilton Academy events tend to be. Chester makes a speech about school spirit and responsibility that Stiles has already heard and catcalled in the safety of their living room. Right now, Chester looks dignified and responsible and it makes Stiles warm to think that he's the only one to see his kid doing the same speech in monster feet slippers and an Adventure Time t-shirt.

"He should have combed his hair down," Felicia murmurs and Davis makes a noise of agreement. Stiles bites on his bottom lip to tell them that it's fine, that Chester actually spent about an hour on his hair that morning but he knows it's a useless argument. "We should get him a new jacket. He's already growing out of that one."

It's true, Stiles is surprised to notice. Chester's nobby wrists poke out of the ends of his sleeves when he raises his arms up in a stretch just before he finishes speaking and is moving off to the side of the stage. Stiles curses inwardly, but supposes Chester rarely wears his jacket outside of school, basically flinging it as far away from him as possible as soon as he passes the gates so it's a little hard to keep track of the fit.

"We've ordered a new one already," Stiles lies, feeling judged about his attention to detail.

"Winter or summer jacket?" Felicia asks archly and Stiles opens his mouth and closes it again because why are there two different jackets?

"Uh, winter?" he tries, because it's still pretty crisp.

"That'll be too heavy in a month," Felicia dismisses. "We'll get him a summer one."

"Why do they have a summer jacket?" Stiles can't help but ask. "He's not in school for most of it."

Felicia just looks at him like she really wants to squish him under her expensive shoes and then she leans into Davis and says, "I'm going to go and sit with the Fremantles. I have something to discuss with Eleanor."

Stiles slumps further down in his seat when Felicia moves away. He plans to just stare straight forward and not make a peep for the rest of the miserable assembly when a crisp, white card moves into his line of sight, attached to Davis' hand. "Uh, what?" Stiles says intelligently, eying the card like it's going to explode in his face.

"It's my office address. I need you to come in," Davis says, and Stiles thinks it's the most the man has said to him, ever.

"What? Why?" Stiles asks, supremely suspicious.

"I have something delicate to discuss with you. Are you able to come in at four tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Is there a better time?"

"Why do you want me to come into your office?" Stiles asks, pushing himself all the way upright and still refusing to take the card. Davis doesn't waver, keeps holding it out and Stiles is starting to wonder if maybe this is where he and his mother got their stubbornness.

"I need to discuss something with you," Davis repeats.

"I know, you said. I want to know what."

"We can discuss it tomorrow. Four o'clock?"

Stiles knows, suddenly and with great certainty, that he's not going to get any more information out of Davis except the time and place. He finally plucks the card out of the man's hand and fingers it, feeling the thickness and bending one of the corners nervously. "Not even a hint?" he tries anyway. Davis doesn't say anything so Stiles sighs heavily and says, "Yes, okay, four o'clock is fine."

"Good," Davis says and then his attention is back on the stage.

Stiles swallows, feeling a sinking sensation.

*

"Stiles, calm down," Derek manages to say when Stiles is mostly winding up his anxious babble. He's standing outside waiting the school for Chester to say goodbye to his grandparents before they leave. He'd been glad for the distraction because it meant he could call Derek without a witness that's related to him.

"This is not an occasion where that's going to work for me," Stiles hisses, hunching over his phone when a loose cluster of parents look over at him in a concerned way.

"What's not going to work?"

"That soothing thing you do with your voice. I'm not a spooked horse, I'm a guy with legitimate grounds to freak out." Stiles' voice goes up comically high on the last word because he's still trying to mostly whisper.

"Why are you freaking out?"

"I just told you-"

"Stiles, you called and then basically made noise at me for ten minutes straight but I refuse to believe there was an actual word spoken."

"Davis served me."

"A drink? A sandwich? Help me out here."

"He served me Derek. It's happening."

"I still don't know-"

"They're going to sue me for custody!" Stiles gives up on whispering and pretty much yells that last part.

"Stiles," Derek groans because he's a terrible support system who very obviously doesn't believe him.

"Davis wants me to go into his office. He gave me a card."

"How do you know it's about Chester?"

"It's either that or he's finally decided to have me killed, but I wouldn't expect him to invite me to his office for that." Stiles taps fingers on his chin for a second. "Except, if I get into his office and there's a plastic sheet on the floor I am so out of there."

"You're banned from watching any more crime procedurals."

"Derek!"

"Stiles, how about instead of working yourself up about it, you just go along and see what he wants?"

"That's annoyingly reasonable."

"Do you want me to come with?"

"He already thinks I'm a flake. I'm not sure if I want him to think I'm a flake that needs my boyfriend to hold my hand."

"I get that you want to stand up for yourself, that you think he would be judgmental about it if you let yourself lean on someone, but I'm here and I'm willing. I know you act like you don't care what they think but you do. It hurts to watch you bend over backwards to please them when..."

"When what?" Stiles asks, small-voiced.

"You never will."

It's harsh, but deep down Stiles knows it's true. Stiles catches himself hoping futilely sometimes that Davis and Felicia will eventually come around, decide they don't detest his very existence and welcome him in as wholly as they have Chester. It's a foolish dream and one he can't believe he's still hanging onto after all this time.

"Maybe if I was bringing my husband instead-"

"Don't you dare," Derek interrupts, sounding horrified.

"What?" Stiles says, surprised.

"We're not having that conversation over the phone Stiles, christ," Derek says before Stiles can work himself up again, this time positive that he's being rejected.

"But it's a conversation we can have, in the near-ish future?" he presses, because he wants to know he's not the only one who's thinking about it.

"I was thinking less conversation and more question with a guaranteed positive outcome," Derek says and Stiles can hear the fond smile in his voice.

"Wait, am I the one asking?"

"Of course, and I want it to be spectacular, and a surprise."

"Hot air balloon, candles, that kind of spectacular surprise?"

Derek makes a choked off little noise and at first Stiles thinks it's a laugh, but then his voice sounds a little weird when he says, "Wait, you've already got a plan, don't you?"

"Maybe," Stiles acknowledges after a beat and Derek makes another choked off little noise and, "Oh my god, are you crying?"

"No!" Derek snaps and hangs up.

"What's that look on your face? Get it off, it's weird," Chester says, ducking into Stiles' line of sight.

"Come here, I need to cuddle you in front of all your friends and their parents," Stiles says, holding out his arms.

"Oh my god," Chester groans, but Stiles adores him more than words can express when he just mutely steps into the circle of Stiles' arms.

*

"I appreciate you coming on such short notice," Davis says. Stiles has never been to his grandfather's office. It's a little cold-looking complete with an austere woman at a desk just outside Davis' door who had accepted Stiles' attempt at conversation with a raised eyebrow and a tight little smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"I'm really surprised there isn't a plastic sheet."

"Pardon?"

"Nothing, it's... you needed to see me about something?"

"I have something for you." Davis moves behind his overlarge desk and rummages around for a moment before he comes up with an envelope. Stiles' heart plummets into his feet. Davis sets the envelope down in front of Stiles and he fights the urge to bat it to the floor like a spider, but only barely.

"You can't make me take that."

"You don't know what it is."

"I can guess."

"I highly doubt it," Davis says, frowning. "Don't you want to open it?"

"Not even remotely."

"I see," Davis says in way that really means I don't at all and then he sits down, not behind his desk but in the chair opposite Stiles on the visitor side and steeples his fingers. His expression is very serious and Stiles swallows against a suddenly dry throat. "When your mother was born, as is the tradition in our family, I made a real estate investment in her name."

"You... what?" Stiles gets out, completely thrown. "You couldn't have just bought an impractically large teddy bear?"

"That would not be a very wise investment."

"I guess so."

"Unless it was a collectable item, a toy wouldn't improve in value."

"You're absolutely right. What was I even thinking?"

"When your mother passed away, I transferred the investment to your name."

"What?"

"It seemed the appropriate thing to do."

"Did you bring me here to tell me you're taking something off me I never knew I had?" Stiles asks, incredulous.

"Why on earth would I do that?"

"For funsies?"

Davis is looking steadily at Stiles and if Stiles wasn't staring back so hard, he would've missed the way the skin around Davis' eyes tightened just the tiniest bit, like he almost had an expression but fought it off. "I received a phone call from the lawyer representing the investment group I bought the property through. They're building a highway through your investment."

"You brought me here to tell me someone else is taking away something I didn't know I had?" Stiles presses, thoroughly confused.

"The complex was sold and all the investors received a payout. This is yours." Davis nods at the envelope and Stiles finally picks it up. It's unsealed so it's easy to ease open and then he's tugging the slip of paper out that's inside and gaping at it.

"This is a check."

"Indeed."

"This is a check for seventy five thousand dollars."

"Your voice is doing something weird. Are you alright? Do you need water?"

"This is a check for seventy five thousand dollars that has my name on it."

"It's your money."

"Are you trying to buy Chester from me?"

"That's... Stiles, that's absurd. This money has nothing to do with Chester. I made an investment a long time ago, it matured and now it's been closed out."

"Is this about his last name? I told you-"

"Stiles, listen to me. I know it's probably hard to accept, but this is your money, free and clear, no ties, no favors. If it helps, you can think of it as being from your mother, not from me."

"It's not a trick?"

"I made this investment in your mother's name and it passed to you. Legally, I’m obligated to give you that. This isn’t some kind of sinister plot, it's the law."

"It's the law I get seventy-five thousand dollars?"

"Sometimes the law works in your favor."

"I don't know what to say."

"Nothing to say," Davis dismisses, standing. Stiles follows his lead, clutching the envelope and the check, unsure whether he's supposed to shake Davis' hand but Davis just motions him out and Stiles goes, still utterly bewildered.

Before he escapes completely, Davis clears his throat and Stiles turns. "I do have something to discuss with you actually."

"Here we go," Stiles groans.

"Nothing to do with the money, I assure you. Chester has been asked to escort Stephanie Anderson to her debut. It's expected for the parents of both the debutantes and their escorts to attend." Davis hands Stiles another envelope, with a card inside of stiff, white paper, obviously an invitation. "Do you have a tuxedo?"

"I have an old Halloween Dracula costume that... no, I'll hire one," Stiles says at Davis' unimpressed look.

*

"I have to go to a thing," Stiles says, waving the invitation at Derek when he barrels into Stiles' living room later. Stiles gave Derek a key two months ago and he'd been weirdly uptight about using it and insisted on still knocking, till today apparently.

"You didn't call me all day. I was fretting."

"I didn't know I was supposed to...you were fretting?"

"Hayley said I was fretting. Apparently I was bugging everyone in the diner. Hayley sent me here. She said she would have sent me home but since home was upstairs and she would be able to feel me fretting from in the diner I had to be sent further away."

"Hayley can't do that. You're the owner, remember?"

Derek flails his hands out. "And yet."

"I love that you were fretting, especially after you made fun of me being anxious."

"Your anxiety is infectious. It's like an illness. You passed it to me. Why are you so calm?"

"Because you were right. It wasn't anything bad, except I have to go to a thing."

"Specifics, Stiles! You can't make me think the world is ending and then be vague."

"Just," Stiles shoves the invitation at him and Derek reads it in an impatient way, like he would've preferred to have been told rather than having to find out for himself. Stiles is filled with a sudden and deep affection for Derek who is usually steady as a rock but apparently can be sent into a complete flap when Stiles is involved.

If that's not love, Stiles doesn't know what is.

"They're making Chester debut into society?"

"He's going to be escorting someone. Being arm candy which, what can I say, he has good genes for being candy of the arm."

"Why do we have to go to this again?"

"Only I have to."

"The invite has a plus one."

"It does?" Stiles says, hopping up and snatching it back. His eyes go round with glee. "Oh my god it does! You're my plus one, that's your duty. You have to come with me."

"Can we forget that I pointed that out?" Derek groans.

"Oh, it's black tie. I bet you look totally Bond in a tuxedo."

"Is this all Davis wanted to see you about?"

"No, oh! Look!" Stiles digs through his pockets until he unearths the other envelope he'd jammed in there. He waves it aloft. "Lookit! For the first time in my life I'm a thousand-aire!"

"What are you talking about-?" Derek starts to ask, but then he's got the check and his mouth drops open. "Wait, are you serious? This is great. You'll be able to buy the-" Derek stops what he's saying, his mouth clicking shut so hard it's audible.

"I'll be able to buy the what?" Stiles asks slowly, suspecting that there's a ratty rat person who ratted him out.

"The completely impractical thing that I'm sure you were planning on buying?" Derek tries, but then deflates. "I'm sorry, Lydia told me. I swear it was because she was worried about you."

"Traitor," Stiles grumbles.

"I was going to offer you the money to buy the place. I know how much it means to you and-"

"You have that kind of money?" Stiles asks, surprised. Derek lives in a tiny apartment above his diner and cycles through only three shirts. Stiles isn't sure why it didn't occur to him that this didn't mean that Derek had money stashed away somewhere.

"Until I had Isaac, I didn't really have anything to spend my money on. Listen, the seventy-five is a good starting point but if you want, we can still go into the hotel together. I can provide the rest of the capitol, you can run the place and pay me back out of your share of the profits till we have a fifty-fifty split."

"I didn't want to be beholden to someone else."

"Beholden? Stiles, I'm offering because I trust this is a good business and I trust you. I'm offering because I can."

"Just... let me look into getting a loan the conventional way first, okay?" Stiles begs, unsure why he's being stubborn about it and feeling awful when he sees Derek's face fall. Derek's offer is great and he should be jumping at it but he just can't bring himself to. Independence is a habit he just can't seem to shake, despite Derek's and his own father's obvious frustration.

"Will you promise to think about it?"

"Of course," Stiles agrees readily, grateful that Derek's willing to let the matter drop for now. "Hey, at least I know you're not going to marry me for my money."

"Nope, purely animal lust."

"Awesome."

*

Chester is making unimpressed noises into the printout of the Town Meeting agenda. Stiles finally pushes the paper down so he can hear the actual words. "It's so nice that you and my grandparents are in cahoots now. Ca-hoots."

"I swear, I didn't know you hadn't agreed to it," Stiles whines, thumping his head on the back of Erica's chair. She reaches behind to push at his head absently without stopping her conversation with Allison. He should've known that he couldn't get out of a meeting with either Davis or Felicia without being horribly betrayed in one form or another. The monetary trade-off doesn't do much to make Stiles feel better about Chester's tragic face now.

Okay, it maybe helps a little, especially when he'd burst into Chester's room that morning, threw the check on the bed and demanded Chester roll around in all the money with him.

"Tell them you can't do it then," Stiles offers. "I'll totally back you up."

"They've already accepted for me. There'll be some poor girl without an escort if I cancel now. They made it very clear I would be ruining lives."

"What'd I miss?" Derek asks, glaring at Greenburg until he moves out of the chair on Stiles' other side so he can drop into it.

"Hey, hi! What are you doing here?" Stiles asks, surprised. Derek does come to Town Meetings occasionally, but he'd said he was going to be missing this one because he had to wait for a supplier.

"Jackson left a note for me."

"He left you a note?"

"If he's trying to rezone again-" Derek starts to growl, eyes blazing.

"He wouldn't. He'd be rezoning himself now, remember?"

"I don't like it. This reeks of Jackson's scheming."

"If he was scheming he wouldn't want you here. He'd want you as far away from here as possible."

"Maybe," Derek allows, slumping further down in his chair.

The agenda is full of the usual stuff. There's an upcoming Dandelion Fair and Jackson calling for volunteers to clean up the town square. Two different re-enactment societies are fighting about who gets to use the gazebo on the eighth and Jackson deals with that in short order. One thing Stiles can give the guy is that he's efficient, even if he isn't always particularly fair.

"What do you think this is about?" Erica asks in a not-very-quiet whisper, leaning over the back of her chair and waggling the agenda in Derek's face. Stiles looks at his own and figures she's asking about the item listed just as very important business regarding S and D.

Stiles blinks.

"Hey, wait a minute-" he starts to say.

"A very serious matter has been brought to my attention. We need to discuss the potential ramifications of the diner owner and the Inn owner dating," Jackson announces up the front.

Stiles turns to Derek, who is flushing an interesting shade of outraged red. "Are you cheating on me with an Inn owner?"

"We mean when you purchase the Inn, honey," Mrs Anderson, the music teacher from BHHS pipes up from the other side of the room.

"I haven't-"

"We need to consider whether we can support this," Jackson interrupts, banging his gavel.

"We're sitting right here you know," Stiles splutters. He's gripping Derek's arm who still hasn't spoken and Chester is goggling at the room at large.

"You're welcome to voice your opinion as a member of the town Stiles, at the proper time."

"Oh my god," Stiles squawks.

"I'm opening up the floor for discussion...now," Jackson says, giving Stiles a pointed look. Stiles hadn't noticed it before, but at the side of the room where there's a space between the rows of chairs and the wall, there's a microphone stand. People start standing and shuffling over to it in an orderly kind of way.

Stiles grabs Chester's sleeve when he stands. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm an interested member of the town," Chester says, looking far too amused and Stiles yanks him back into his seat.

"I'll start," Jackson announces as Greenburg, at the front of the queue, fusses with the microphone. "Both establishments are very important to the community and when the relationship goes sour again, because let's face it, neither Stiles nor Derek have a great track record-"

"Hey!" Stiles splutters, using his grip on Derek to jostle him but Derek remains stubbornly silent in his seething.

"We'll have to choose and you'll either be a Stiles or a Derek or, if you're Greenburg who can't make a decision to save his life, neither."

"For the record, I'd be a Stiles," Greenburg says into the microphone.

"Uh, thanks?" Stiles manages and Greenburg flushes and gives him an embarrassed thumbs up.

"It's potentially disastrous for our economy," Jackson finishes.

"Are they going to vote on whether to break you up?" Chester leans over to hiss, his amusement disappearing.

"This is a little crazy," Boyd pipes up and Stiles claps him on the shoulder, grateful for at least some support.

"Remember the gift shop and the flower store? Charlie and Linda?" Jackson demands and there's murmurs in the crowd.

"That was bad," Boyd admits and Stiles would smack him if Boyd weren't big enough to punch Stiles into next week if he wanted to.

"Valentine's day was a nightmare," Paul Betts agrees loudly. "Not to mention when there was a wedding!"

"They both left town," Jackson continues. "Those store fronts were empty for a year."

"We think Linda is still living in a cave at Mason Point," Greenburg adds in a hushed tone right into the microphone.

"I've taken the liberty of mapping out the division if it becomes necessary," Jackson says, plucking a large poster-sized map of the town from beside his podium and setting it up on the easel next to him. Different areas of the town are colored in blue and pink with a few orange spots.

"Am I pink? Why am I pink?" Stiles says, because he needs to concentrate on a small aspect of the craziness because the overall crazy is too big for him.

"We just thought Derek was more of a blue," Mrs Anderson says.

"We?"

"There was a committee," Jackson says.

"You put together a committee for this?"

"What's the orange?" Allison asks. She throws an amused glance at Stiles over her shoulder and he fervently wishes that Scott was there instead of on dinner service at the Inn because seriously, he has no support.

"Those are areas still under debate. We're thinking of classing orange as neutral territory."

"Alright, that's it," Derek growls, standing up and stalking down to the front of the hall.

"Uh, there's a line here!" Greenburg pipes up, but then actually cringes and hides behind Tony Asper when Derek throws him a murderous glance.

"This relationship," Derek seethes when he gets up and jostles Jackson out from behind his podium. "Is no one's business. Not yours, not yours, not-" Derek is angrily pointing around the room but when his finger lands on Stiles he pulls a face. "I mean, yes, yours, but no one else's."

"Derek, we're merely thinking of the economical impact if you break up."

"We're not going to break up!" Derek explodes and Stiles fights the urge to fan himself because Derek is really doing it for him right now. He must be wearing some of that on his face because Chester jabs him in the side with an elbow and mouths gross at him.

"You can't guarantee that," Jackson denies haughtily.

"I'll move," Derek says, smacking the map to the floor. "If we break up, I'll close up the diner and move away. Problem solved."

"Can we get that in writing?" Jackson says.

"Where will you go? Have you actually been outside the town limits your entire life?" Erica asks, waving a hand.

"I'll go live in the cave with Linda. I wish I was there now." Derek stalks back to Stiles and Chester, grabs a handful of both their shirts and hauls them up. "Meeting's over!" he barks.

"I didn't-!" Jackson shrills as everyone starts getting up and heading for the doors.

"Why Derek, I do declare, I am all a-flutter," Stiles gushes, clasping his hands under his chin and fluttering his eyelashes.

"Shut up," Derek grunts.

Stiles is still chuckling when they're outside and his phone rings. "Hey Daddy-o! You'll never guess what kind of meeting-"

"Stiles?" It's a woman's voice, decidedly not his father speaking.

"Uh, hi? Sorry, who-?"

"This is Deputy Fields."

"Oh, right," Stiles says. He remembers her vaguely, a woman with smiling eyes and a competent air about her. "Sorry, I'm a little confused. Why are you calling me on my dad's phone?" Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles sees Derek freeze and spin back to him. He'd had Chester in a headlock but he releases him abruptly and his face does something that Stiles never wants to see ever again.

"Listen, he's okay now but you're dad is in the hospital."

"Um... did he... was he...?" Stiles isn't sure what he wants to ask, isn't sure of anything right now. All he knows is that Chester is looking at him and Derek in confusion and Derek's at his shoulder, hands grasped loosely around his bicep all of a sudden.

"You should come. He's in Silver Lakes Memorial."

"I... right, yes. I'll do that. Thank you," Stiles says stiffly and ends the call.

"Dad, what?" Chester presses in close on his other side.

"Um," Stiles says and knows, without a shadow of a doubt that he's about six seconds away from crying if he has to say anything else.

"Just tell me where. I'll drive," Derek says. He's hooked onto Stiles and Chester again, towing them towards the diner but this time he's painfully gentle about it.

Chapter Text

"I haven't told him I love him yet," Stiles blurts. He's curled against the passenger side door of Derek's truck, Chester in the backseat hugging his coat and looking worried. "I've started calling him Dad but I haven't told him I love him yet, oh god."

"Stiles," Derek says, reaching over to squeeze Stiles' knee. "I'm sure he'll be fine and you'll get to tell him for years to come."

"What, are you psychic now?" Stiles snaps, then grimaces. "I'm sorry, you're driving me to see my dad in the hospital and I'm yelling at you. I'm a terrible person."

"You're not a terrible person," Derek assures him, only taking his hand from Stiles' knee to change gears before he puts it back.

"I love you, like, so much it's a little scary."

"I-"

"Chester, I love you too, kid. I should tell you every day, every hour, every minute."

"Dad," Chester says and he sounds awful, scared and small. Stiles could kick himself because he's freaking out in front of his kid and he shouldn't be. He should be the calm, stoic, supportive one and instead he's letting Derek do all the heavy lifting in that department while he goes to pieces.

"Am I a disappointment?" Stiles asks to no one in particular. He hates his brain sometimes and how it jumps tracks. It gives him whiplash, he can't imagine what it's like being outside of it and trying to follow along.

"You're great," Derek says without hesitation, because apparently Derek can.

"He looked a little surprised when he saw me the first time. Maybe he was expecting something... better?"

"I can't imagine anyone who would be disappointed with you."

"I can name two people, actually," Stiles says morosely, then throws a glance over at Chester who's now staring out the window. "Argh, sorry. I'm being all-around awful today."

"You get a pass for anything you say in the next few hours," Derek says, voice warm.

"A pass? That could be a little dangerous."

"Subject to expiration at any time," Derek amends, because he's obviously learned not to give Stiles enough rope to metaphorically hang himself through long and bitter experience. "Stiles, he'll be okay, honestly."

"Deputy Fields didn't even tell me what happened. Who raised that woman? Who taught her to make cryptic phone calls like that?" Stiles suddenly explodes and Chester jumps a little in the back. "I'm-"

"Stop apologizing," Derek says.

"Just, no details. I'm usually quicker on my mental feet. I should have asked, no, demanded more information."

"We'll be there in a few minutes and you can harass doctors for all the information you want. You'll know everything," Derek promises.

"He was alone. He's a good guy and he didn't deserve to be alone like that."

"You don't know-"

"I don't mean just now," Stiles interrupts. "I mean for his life. He's only had us a little while. It's not... not enough." Stiles bites down on his fist. He knows he's overreacting because they don't know a thing, whether it's serious or not but he can't seem to help it. Derek's just squeezing his knee and cutting glances at Chester every few seconds in the rear view mirror and Stiles is filled with a sudden sense of just how lucky he is to have him.

When they get to the hospital, there's a cluster of uniformed figures near the nurses' station. They're looking pensive but also a little bored and Stiles lets go of the smallest corner of his anxiety because he's pretty sure no one would dare look bored if his dad was on death's door.

"You guys wait here and I'll see what I can find out," Derek says.

"Why can't I do the finding out?" Stiles demands shrilly and then subsides. "Oh right, that."

"I'll be two seconds, okay?"

"No one can do anything in two seconds, really," Stiles huffs and Derek smiles at him in the face of his rudeness, drops a kiss on his cheek bone and squeezes Chester's shoulder before he makes his way to the gathered deputies. Stiles recognizes Fields and that's who Derek catches the attention of, waving behind himself to indicate Stiles and Chester who are now clinging together like lost children. An official-looking woman wearing a white coat joins them, says something and nods and then reaches across the nurses' station counter to retrieve a clipboard and hand it to Derek.

He comes back over and herds Stiles and Chester to a set of seats down the hall a little, making them sit and then doing so himself so he can set the clipboard on his lap. "They said your dad's okay, but he's in for some tests at the moment, blood and they're going to take a chest X-ray just in case. They'll probably keep him overnight, it looks like angina."

"Isn't that a heart attack?" Chester asks, getting out his phone and bringing up Google.

"Honey, maybe you shouldn't-" Stiles starts to say.

"He can look it up, it'll probably reassure him. My Uncle had the same and it was just a matter of lifestyle changes."

"They don't know for sure though, right?" Stiles presses as Chester hunches over his phone, frowning.

"They're pretty sure, but the tests will confirm it. My Uncle just had to cut out red meat, fatty foods and exercise more. I swear, it was fine."

"I should go tell Deputy Details over there that-"

"Stiles, I don't think you're fit for public consumption right now, and she has a gun. Maybe we should leave the nice Deputy alone and go see your dad in a few minutes when he's back, okay?"

"Fine," Stiles grumbles, slumping further down into his seat. Chester throws a leg over him and Derek puts an arm across their seat back so he's encompassing them both.

Stiles feels like crying again, but for a completely different reason.

*

"No red meat, rich desserts and you have to exercise more," Stiles lists off, holding Chester's phone aloft. His dad rolls his eyes, but he's looking tired and pale so his exasperation doesn't exactly translate well. "Golf doesn't count as exercise, by the way."

"What? Of course it does. It's... walking."

"That's completely undone when you reach the illustrious nineteenth hole and sink beer and steak instead of golf balls."

"Help me," his dad implores to Derek but Derek just holds up his hands and pulls a you're on your own face at him.

"You're also coming home with us."

"That's really not necessary," his dad huffs, but he's looking more pleased than embarrassed at the attention.

"Just for a few days. Just... for me, okay? For us," Stiles says, throwing an arm over Chester and jostling him. He knows it's terrible emotional blackmail but he can't bear the thought of his dad getting out of hospital and going back to his apartment by himself, at least for a little while. Chester, because he's learned all his tricks from Stiles, blinks huge, sad eyes at the Sheriff until he relents.

"Coffee, I need coffee," Stiles says, flopping down into the visitor's chair when he's done getting his way.

"I'll get it," Chester volunteers. He darts over to the Sheriff's bed and drops a quick, bashful kiss on his temple before darting out of the room. The Sheriff looks a little dew-eyed for a few moments and Stiles, because he's a saint, ignores it in favor of bringing up Zombie Cupcakes on Chester's phone.

Derek kicks him, none too lightly, on the shin. "Hey, ow, what?" he demands.

"You're here to entertain your Dad, not yourself," Derek says pointedly.

"We've been here for hours and he's watching a... game of some kind."

"Baseball," his dad says, eyes not leaving the television bolted to the top corner of the room. "Sorry, just... I was looking forward to this one. I was expecting to be watching it at home with a pizza but-" He half-shrugs, the stiff, hospital blanket making a shush noise with his movement. "Sorry, you guys must be bored out of your brains. You should head off."

"We can stay till the end of visiting hours at least. Unless there's going to be a sponge bath because then I am out of here."

"Stiles."

He pulls a face at Derek. "You know inappropriate humor is my coping mechanism," Stiles says as his dad looks at him with a fond smile.

"You get that from Angie," the Sheriff says, something wistful in his tone. "The number of fights that woman nearly got me into."

Chester appears in the doorway, clutching a Styrofoam cup and a plastic package. "Coffee machine was jammed," he announces, passing the cup to Stiles.

"What did you get instead?"

"Chicken soup."

"That... is not even remotely the same thing."

"I panicked." Chester got Pez for himself and starts popping them in quick succession. He's usually not allowed Pez because he gets a little crazy but Stiles lets it go.

Stiles notices how tired Chester looks as he slumps against the wall. Stiles reaches across to deposit the cup of, probably disgusting, vending machine chicken soup on his dad's meal tray and then tugs at Derek's sleeve. "Hey, can you take Chester home?"

"I want to stay," Chester immediately protests.

"You've got school tomorrow buster, and it's late. I'll hang out, get a cab back when they kick me out."

"You sure?" Derek asks. Stiles knows he probably wants to argue to, but Chester's got dark smudges under his eyes and he's visibly drooping even despite the candy. Stiles would tell him to skip school if he thought Chester actually would.

"Absolutely. Dad can teach me about what he sees in this... game."

"Why do you keep saying it like that?" the Sheriff asks.

"I can come back for you."

"You have to open the diner at six in the morning. I'll be fine, seriously. I might even be able to charm a cot out of one of the nurses and if I can I'll just crash here."

"Stiles," his dad objects but Stiles holds up a hand.

"Nu-uh. This is a healthy-person-only discussion."

"Good lord," his dad groans.

"Go home Chester," Stiles says, reeling him in for a quick squeeze. "You can call Isaac and make uncomfortable small talk for five minutes and then spend an hour arguing about who's hanging up first."

Chester's retort is to poke out his tongue which means he must be more tired than even Stiles realized. Derek leans around Chester to offer the Sheriff a dorky little wave and then they're gone.

*

Stiles does indeed manage to procure a cot that gets put in next to his dad's bed. He's dozing fitfully when his phone buzzes in his pocket. Stiles levers himself upright and shuffles out of the room. "'ello?"

"Were you asleep?" Derek asks, his voice soft.

"Not really. The cot I'm on has a bar right in the middle that's crippling me. I was losing feeling in my fingers and toes, seriously."

"I can come and get you. I can't sleep anyway," Derek offers. "Or I can just come back there and lie between you and the bar."

"That sounds nice but kinda inappropriate with my dad in the room," Stiles says, rubbing a fist into one of his eyes and stepping out of the way of an orderly that gives him a wan smile as he passes. "What time is it?"

"It's two. I figured I'd give up on sleep. You know what I'm like with under three hours, I might as well not bother."

"Very true," Stiles says. Stiles has had to adjust his own internal clock to a more reasonable hour because of Derek. He's a creature of the night by nature but Derek, because of his early starts, is usually drooping by eight in the evening, even on a weekend.

"How's he doing?"

"He looks tired, but I think he's okay. If they release him tomorrow I might get you to come back and pick us up if that's alright?"

"Of course. Isaac and Hayley can hold down the fort," Derek agrees readily. There's a small pause and then Derek says, "So, you managed to get a cot?"

"I was extremely charming and Eduardo was very cute."

"Eduardo?" Derek says slowly, sounding incredulous.

"A very nice night shift nurse I charmed. I don't think he's actually named Eduardo but he reminded me of Andrew Garfield in that Facebook movie. Oh! He offered me his number."

"What?" Derek says, suddenly sounding less than amused.

"Don't worry, I assured him I was very boring and practically married."

"Good," Derek says, only sounding partially mollified. There's another beat of silence and then he says, "Maybe we can take care of that practically part soon?"

"Hey, you stopped me proposing once on the phone," Stiles warns.

"I wasn't gonna," Derek says, sounding hilariously like a petulant teenager.

"I just... not tonight, okay?"

"Stiles, I didn't-" Derek says.

"I'm just...standing outside my dad's hospital room and I still haven't told him I love him and what-" Stiles feels it then, the ugly tears he's been holding off. Derek makes noises at him, soothing and gentle.

"Tell him when he wakes up. That's the first thing you say, even before you try to steal his breakfast."

"I wouldn't!" Stiles says, using a sleeve to wipe at his face.

"You ate his jello cup last night."

"I asked. He didn't want it."

"You only asked him when half of it was already in your stomach."

"What did I do to deserve you?"

"I expect something terrible."

"Har har."

"You should try and sleep a little. You have a big day of nagging your dad tomorrow."

"Derek?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you. I really don't say it enough."

"I love you too."

*

"Hi Granpa!" Chester says when they come through the door the next afternoon. Derek has the Sheriff's duffel slung over his shoulder and is shadowing him even though the Sheriff keeps throwing him unimpressed looks.

Stiles is ridiculously in love with them both.

"Hi Chester," his dad says, snorting when Chester hugs him overly gently before he darts back into the kitchen. Isaac is at the table and they both have homework spread out between them. "Isaac," he adds.

"Sir," Isaac says. "I'm glad you're well." Isaac turns into this weirdly polite kid whenever the Sheriff is around. He's not exactly a terror normally, but he reverts into full-on fifties sitcom when faced with the Sheriff. Stiles thinks it's the funniest thing he's ever seen.

"I've made up the spare room. It's next to the kitchen," Stiles says. "So you don't have to walk far for snacks. Healthy, good for the heart snacks."

"Stiles," the Sheriff groans.

"There is a lot of broccoli and tofu in your future is all I'm saying," Stiles says through a grin.

"This is going to get old, very fast."

"The aim is for you to get old," Stiles says airily and doesn't miss the smile his dad bites down on as he grumbles good-naturedly when Derek leads him into the spare room. "Oh, and it's nap time!" Stiles calls after them.

"I'm a grown man, I can decide when I nap!" his dad calls back and then seems to realize what he's said. "I mean, I don't need a nap!" he leans out of the room to correct, looking exasperated.

"You were nodding off in the car."

"I find cars very soothing."

"When Stiles is in them?" Derek asks, emerging from the room and Stiles pulls a face at him and mimes laughing uproariously.

"Hello?" A voice calls from the front door and then Scott is there, hugging two giant bags of groceries.

"Scott, hey!" Stiles says, darting forward to retrieve one of the bags that he almost instantly drops but Derek catches.

"I brought everything you asked for-oh, hi Sheriff Stilinski, sir," Scott says when he notices Stiles' dad hovering behind him.

"Scott, you know you can call me-"

"No way, too weird. Parent," Scott says, sketching his hands around the air and encompassing Stiles' dad's entire being.

"Scott, you're going to be a parent very soon," Stiles' dad points out and Scott's face goes through a complicated array of expressions before settling on half terrified, half joyous.

"Oh yeah."

"It's weird for all of us," Stiles snorts as he pokes through the bags.

"I got everything you asked for. I'm not sure the vegetables were kissed by fairies and danced around by bunnies, but they're good. Allison hand-picked everything."

"Boo! I was promised magically blessed produce only," Stiles says as he starts pulling all kinds of green things out of the bag.

"Tell me there's meat in that bag of some kind," Stiles' dad implores, looking increasingly concerned with what's emerging.

"Of course there is," Stiles says but before he can be too relieved, Stiles adds, "Lots of fish. Mmmmmmmm!"

"I'm going to have to gnaw off my own arm to get any kind of red meat, aren't I?"

"You'll be so healthy when I'm done with you that it'll be deemed a medical miracle and journals will be written about you."

"Well, as long as we aren't going overboard," his dad says wryly.

*

"They said I could invite a friend," Chester says, setting his cell phone aside on the diner table and looking uncertain.

"Who said you could invite a friend to what?" Stiles asks, distracted. He's been cruising a lot of recipe websites lately, looking for ways to hide the fact that he's feeding his dad heart healthy stuff. He's hiding his own cell phone under the diner table because Derek still gives him the look if he uses it openly. Apparently Chester is allowed which is completely unfair. "Who knew kale was so big right now?"

"To dinner tomorrow night. My great-grandparents said I could invite someone since we were celebrating."

"Celebrating what?"

"I was top three percent. Apparently dinner tomorrow night is a celebration."

"We already had a celebration," Stiles says. "You know how I know that? Because I was there."

"Dad, can you listen to what I'm saying instead of thinking up the next clever thing you're going to?"

"Ouch," Stiles says and Chester grimaces.

"Do I bring Isaac?"

"We-ell," Stiles hedges. They were supposed to take Isaac along to the mandatory Friday night dinner a while ago, but it had kept getting pushed back and Stiles wasn't at all confident Isaac would survive a night faced with that kind of concentrated judgement. He's a good kid underneath but he has a troublesome veneer of bad kid over the top that most people can't see through.

"I find this frankly disgusting, just for your info," Derek says, dropping a plate in front of Stiles that he falls on immediately like a starving man.

"You made it for me. If you were that disgusted, you would have refused," Stiles points out through a full mouth.

"Please," Chester huffs. "Like he can refuse you anything, even a burger and curly fries for breakfast.

Stiles beams at Derek with a curly fry hanging from his lip and Derek rolls his eyes and retreats back to his counter. "C'mon, don't judge. I was craving this and I can't eat it in front of dad, that would be just mean."

"You should practice what you preach, y'know," Chester says, tipping his chin up.

"I eat healthy... generally. I just can't do it all the time."

"You don't exactly have the constitution of a teenager anymore, you're going to be complaining about a sore tummy later."

"I'm so proud I raised a kid who'd use constitution and tummy in the same sentence."

"Oh! There's a commotion outside," Chester says, suddenly distracted.

"I love commotions!" Stiles enthuses, grabbing half his burger so they can head outside. There's a large group of people gathered around Jackson's shop where Jackson is holding court, sounding loud and indignant.

"A prank? You think this was a prank?" he's demanding of Officer Handen, who's holding a notepad and looking thoroughly unimpressed with Jackson's antics. Stiles spots Erica in the crowd and he makes a beeline for her, towing Chester in his wake.

"Hey, what's-oh my god!" Stiles exclaims when he notices the police tape looped around Jackson's store and the chalk outline of a body on the ground.

"It's totally fake," Erica snorts.

"Just calm down Mr. Whittemore," Handen is saying patiently.

"The perpetrator is right next door. Why aren't you arresting him?"

"Does he mean Derek?" Stiles asks slowly, raising his eyebrows.

"Nope, not Derek," Erica says, nodding back at the diner.

"Wait, Isaac?"

"Jackson's been saying he's the only delinquent in the area and there were witnesses that saw him skulking around last night," Erica imparts.

"He lives right next door. I don't think that qualifies as skulking around Jackson's."

"Hey, you don't need to convince me," Erica says.

"I'd better go tell Derek what's going on before Jackson decides he can make a citizen's arrest or something." Stiles leaves Chester with Erica who basically drags him into service as her eyes because Chester towers over most of the crowd. He makes his way back to the diner, pushing past people heading out to get a look at what's happening.

"Do I want to know?" Derek asks, blinking around his suddenly empty diner.

"This might be more of a need than want situation," Stiles says. "Jackson's probably going to-"

"I need a word with you!" Jackson shrills from the doorway.

"Oh god, what?" Derek groans. The citizens of Beacon Hills have followed the action and are now pressed up against the diner's front windows. Stiles can see Erica and Chester at the front and Erica meets his eyes, grins and then makes a blowfish against the glass.

"I know it was him," Jackson continues, incensed.

"You know what was who?" Derek asks, throwing an exasperated glance at Stiles.

"That's what I-"

"The crime rate has increased since your delinquent nephew hit town and that is only the most recent in a series of acts of vandalism," Jackson says, flinging a hand back at his own shop.

"There's been a series of fake crime scenes?" Stiles asks, pretty surprised because usually something like that would make it through the Beacon Hills grapevine pretty quickly.

"Well... no," Jackson admits, momentarily stymied. "I meant... one of Adelia's garden gnomes also went missing."

"Oh no!" Stiles says, sounding duly outraged by the thought. Derek pinches him on the arm.

"Don't encourage him," he growls.

"Adelia loves those gnomes. If anything happens to them, she goes all gangsta style. She's willing to cut someone."

"I have alerted the authorities. They're gathering evidence as we speak," Jackson says.

"I'm sure Sue has better things to do," Derek says, coming out from behind his counter and crossing to the diner's windows. He knocks on the glass right in front of Erica's face and then glares at the rest of the gathered crowd. "Like I'm sure the rest of you do," he says pointedly and there's grumbling, but the horde also disperses, if reluctantly.

"She does what I tell her to-"

"Jackson!" Office Handen barks from the door and Jackson goes an amusing shade of red. "I'm sure you weren't just about to imply that the local police force was in your pocket."

"What? No!"

"Then I'm also sure that you were just leaving Derek's diner without making any further unfounded accusations."

"Unfounded?" Jackson splutters. He turns on Derek, face thunderous. "Just because you and Sue had some tawdry affair doesn't mean-" Stiles watches it register on Jackson's face the moment he realizes he's crossed a very important line. He stutters to a halt as he feels Handen stalk towards him. He spins, holding his hands up and says, "I didn't mean-"

"Go next door and wait for me there," Handen grits between her teeth. "I'll be taking a statement from Derek here because he is your neighbor and a concerned citizen."

"But-"

"I will deal with you when I'm done and you should just be thankful that you aren't in handcuffs right now."

Jackson beats a hasty and prudent retreat and the diner is silent. Stiles is blinking rapidly and doesn't really register Handen's voice until she puts a hand on his shoulder and shakes him a little. "Stiles, are you alright?"

"What did he just say?" Stiles says in a hollow little whisper of a voice.

"Oh geez, Stiles, no. Sue and I went out on a couple of dates about ten years ago."

"Oh, that's..." Stiles drops himself onto one of the counter stools and breathes deeply for a moment. Handen's looking at him with concern, her hand having migrated to his back and Derek is coming around the counter to him. "I mean, of course. Just... it's taking my mind a moment to absorb that part and reboot."

Derek replaces Handen by Stiles' shoulder, wraps arms around him and tugs him into his chest. The door dings at the front and Derek barks, "We're closed!" without even looking up to see who it is. Stiles hears the gratifying sound of someone tripping over themselves to get back out the door and is able to smile into the comforting warmth of Derek's chest.

"Did you need me to make a statement?" Derek asks, not letting go of Stiles.

"Nah," Handen says, waving him off. "We found Billy Cook with a backpack full of police tape and a couple of boxes of chalk this morning. Makes a lot more sense now."

"Why didn't you tell Jackson that?" Stiles asks, unearthing himself from the curve of Derek's body even though it would be nice to live there, full time.

"He didn't really give me a chance," Handen says. She looks at her watch and sketches them a little salute. "I think that's been enough time to leave him stewing. I'll see you boys later."

"I can understand what you saw in her," Stiles says when Handen's gone.

"Stiles," Derek groans, dropping his head onto Stiles' shoulder.

"So, who else did you date in this town that I don't know about?"

"Oh my god."

"No, seriously, I-"

Derek stiffens suddenly and leans away from Stiles. "Wait, did Jackson say a garden gnome went missing?"

*

"I can't believe you, Isaac!" Derek yells. He's thumped up the stairs to his apartment, Stiles following because he didn't know what else to do. He'd pawed quickly through the detritus around Isaac's bed until he'd come up with, yes, a garden gnome.

"What's happening?" Isaac asks blearily from his bed. "Why is there yelling?"

"You stole one of Adelia's garden gnomes! Why would you do that? I just had to defend you to Jackson and he was right."

"Only partially," Stiles pipes up, then grimaces and cringes when Derek throws him an impatient look.

"I didn't-"

"Oh please, try and tell me this is some other garden gnome," Derek sneers, brandishing the statue. It's got a broken hat and another piece of it comes away when Derek shakes it. "You're getting up, combing your hair, putting on a shirt without a swear word on it and I'm marching you over to Adelia's to return this right now."

"I already did," Isaac says, pushing himself further up and starting to look equally pissed. Isaac and Derek don't look particularly alike usually, but Stiles can see the resemblance now in the matching angry set of their features.

"What do you mean you already did? It's right here."

"That's the broken one."

"You stole more than one?"

"No! God, would you give me a chance to explain!" Isaac is now yelling as well and Stiles thinks about maybe heading back down to the diner but Derek hands the broken gnome off to him so he feels a little pinned, a little involved.

Derek makes an expansive go on then gesture, still fuming.

"Mrs. Yetes helped me with some books I needed for my history paper. I was walking past her place on Tuesday and I saw a delivery guy break one of her gnomes. I told him he'd have to replace it but the guy just laughed and flipped me off. I thought maybe I could fix it or find a replacement as a way of thanking her because I know how much she loves those stupid things. I found a new one that looked just like the broken one and I put it in her front yard last night. I left a note."

There's a beat of silence and then Stiles can't help but say, "That is so sweet I think I'm going to cry."

"Shut up," Isaac grumbles, burying himself back under his blankets.

Derek looks helplessly between the bed and Stiles who has to juggle the broken gnome into one hand so he can hold onto his delighted laughter with the other. "Did you write the note from the gnome?" Stiles asks gleefully. He's kidding, but the way the lump under the blankets squirms miserably has him crowing, "Oh my god, you did!"

"Stiles," Derek sighs and jerks his chin at the door.

"I think you owe someone an a-p-o-l-o-g-y," Stiles sing-songs as he sets the broken gnome down carefully on Derek's dining table and backs out of the apartment.

*

Stiles reluctantly bundles his dad into Derek's truck the next day to head back to Silver Lakes. "You could stay longer," he says, hanging off the passenger side door while Derek slings his dad's duffel into the back.

"I'll take it easy, I swear," his dad reassures.

"Check in two, no, three times a day," Stiles says.

His dad tugs on Stiles' Friday night tie and gives him a warm grin. "Try not to OD on all the junk food you've been denying yourself," he says and Stiles darts guilty eyes at Derek who smirks.

Stiles trots around to the driver's side and leans in once Derek is situated to drop a kiss on his face. "Thanks for taking him. I know it's a long drive."

"It's fine. I'd rather be doing this than going to dinner with you," Derek says and nods at the boys who are standing on Stiles' front porch, Isaac looking faintly ill. "I think Isaac would say the same."

"I'll protect him. I'm used to being their punching bag," Stiles says, shrugging and Derek gives him an inscrutable look before he's wrapping Stiles' tie around his fist and tugging Stiles down to him. The Sheriff clears his throat pointedly when the kiss stops being a chaste one and they break apart, Stiles huffing and rubbing over his head.

"C'mon, let's get this over with," Stiles calls and waves Isaac and Chester over to the jeep.

Felicia looks wholly unimpressed when they arrive in Hartford and introductions are made. They're ushered inside by a maid and cram together on one couch in the sitting room. There's another couch that Felicia and Davis usually perch on and then four stiff chairs that are a risk to spinal health as the only other options.

"Drinks?" Felicia asks crisply. Davis comes in holding a newspaper and only sets it aside long enough to smile at Chester before he's sitting with it over his lap.

"Wine is fine. Scotch on the rocks for Isaac," Stiles says.

"What? No, I... no! I don't drink," Isaac blurts, looking horrified and Stiles grins at him. "Just uh... just soda or... nothing? Nothing is good."

"The kids will have soda, thanks," Stiles says and Felicia nods and passes glasses around.

"How much older than Chester are you?" Davis asks from behind his paper and Stiles blinks. Generally Davis says as little as possible when Stiles is around and he never initiates conversation, except that time with the check and maneuvering Stiles into agreeing to the Debutante ball basically on Chester's behalf.

"Just a year," Isaac says.

"Really?" Davis asks, flipping his paper down so he can eye Isaac suspiciously. "You're very tall."

"Chester's tall too," Stiles points out. "Doesn't make him any less sixteen."

"Which college are you going to?"

"Granpa!" Chester snaps.

"I'm not sure yet?" Isaac says, looking increasingly hunted.

"Well, what do you want to do with your life?" Davis asks and Stiles who can usually fill any awkward silence, finds himself completely at a loss, even when Chester looks at him desperately.

"I don't... know?"

"Why does everything come out of you sounding like a question?" Davis says archly and Stiles can hear Isaac swallowing hard. He was crazy to think they could pass a pleasant evening with his grandparents and he was crazy to have let Chester bring Isaac along and have him be subjected to this.

"Chester's special. He has a bright future ahead of him and I don't want to see that jeopardized."

"Isaac's special too," Chester argues as Isaac sinks backwards, probably wishing he could disappear into the couch forever.

"Exactly how? I certainly haven't seen anything remarkable about him as yet."

"You've known him for a whole five minutes!" Chester explodes, standing. Stiles does too, automatically. Only Isaac remains seated, cringing away from the argument and looking miserable. Stiles could kick himself because Isaac was abandoned by his own father, he doesn't need to be judged by people that barely know him and be left feeling like he's lacking in some way.

"Davis, you're being a bit-" Stiles starts.

"The Worthington name has standards and needs to be lived up to. While it might seem unfair, everyone around you also has to live up to them to be in your company. You are a gifted boy who has the ability to rise above the circumstances of his birth-"

"Now hold on a minute," Stiles growls.

"You have immense promise and you'll learn over time that there are certain people that will drag you down," Davis finishes, addressing Chester only and seemingly dismissing Stiles and Isaac out of the equation entirely.

"You can't... I don't understand why you think you can treat people this way," Chester says, clearly upset.

"Chester, I'm only ever looking out for what's in your best interests."

"You opened your home and your heart to me. Why can't you do that for Isaac? Why can't you do that for my dad?"

"Chester-"

"I'm sorry, but we're leaving," Chester says, his hand cutting through the air before he grabs a hold of Isaac's shirt and tugs him up and after him. There's the slam of a heavy door and then Stiles is left alone in the room with Davis and Felicia.

"You'll talk to him, of course," Davis says and it takes Stiles a minute to realize that Davis is now speaking to him.

"About a great deal of things, but what do you think I have to talk to him about?"

"That boy has trouble written all over him. It's best if Chester-"

"What's best for you, you mean," Stiles says, suddenly extremely weary. "Isaac may not go to Chilton or wear polo shirts or have a number after his last name, but he's a good kid who adores Chester and basically, that's all I could ever ask for. Reach back into the depths of your memories in the stone age when you were a teenager and think about how you might have reacted if someone had told you that you couldn't date the person you wanted to."

"If it was my parents, I would have minded them," Davis says snidely.

"I let you get away with a lot, including how you treat me, all in the name of Chester having more family to rely on but so help me, if you try to interfere this way again or treat anyone Chester chooses to date like that again then I will cut you off, and you're crazy if you think that I can't do it."

"You wouldn't risk Chester's financial future just for spite."

"No, you're right, that's something you would do. Regardless, I would rather work three jobs to put Chester through college than have you think that it's a way you can hold us hostage."

The jeep's horn wails forlornly from outside and Stiles straightens his tie and says, "That's my cue to exit, stage left."

*

"Is Isaac okay?" Stiles had dropped Chester and Isaac at Derek's and then taken himself into Jackson's shop to wait. He was glad for their late Friday night opening so he had somewhere to kill an hour while Chester followed a very glum-looking Isaac into Derek's. It also doesn't hurt that Jackson's ice cream sundaes are divine and he usually isn't allowed to have them without Derek's hurt puppy eyes making him feel overly guilty about it.

"That's... I know they don't treat you like... it's the first time I've seen him be mean," Chester says, accepting a second spoon and digging into Stiles' dessert without much relish.

"They see you as a do-over. They're very protective."

"Are you actually defending them?" Chester asks, looking surprised.

"Not in the least. Just, they see you walk in with this beautiful boy that adores you and when you're a teenager the world starts and ends with beautiful boys like that. They see you slipping away and they panic and they act badly."

"What's the excuse for how they treat you, then?" Chester asks, raising an eyebrow.

"With me it's... different. I guess they see your grandma and really, I take it as a compliment."

"I'm so mad at him, at them both."

"Good, be mad. That's healthy. Just don't make any rash decisions about your relationship with them based on this because, despite everything, they do love you very much."

"You are defending them."

"I know, I feel all dirty, like a need a shower."

"Ha, ha."

"If you cut them some slack, I promise to wear my I Support Single Moms t-shirt to dinner next week, really make Felicia's head explode and they'll forget all about Isaac."

"Maybe we can skip dinner next week? Put them in a timeout?"

"Nothing would make me happier," Stiles enthuses. "Oh! We could go see a movie on a Friday night. I miss doing that."

"They're having a movie in the park next week."

"Oh, yeah! I think next week is Psycho. Oh, I could invite Derek and you could invite Isaac."

"Are you seriously proposing we have a double date?" Chester says, looking dubious and a little scared.

"It'll be fu-u-un," Stiles enthuses, really getting into the idea and scooting around the table so he can hug Chester's head.

"Oh my god," Chester groans.

*

"I thought we might've been able to get out of this considering what happened," Derek says Saturday night. He's in a suit Stiles has never seen before and considering the cut, suspects Erica has a hand in. It's confirmed when Derek shoves a note at him and Stiles sees Erica's untidy scrawl.

I'm considering this your birthday present this year. You don't want to know what it took to get our boy into this suit.

He really needs to buy that woman something because Stiles had pretty much started salivating as soon as Derek walked through the door. Stiles shakes himself and then plasters on a smile. "Chester's partnering a girl called Laney and he said it wasn't her fault what happened. He didn't want her to have a crappy night."

"He's a good kid," Derek says.

"He really is," Stiles agrees readily. "I think I'll keep him."

The debutante ball is pretty much how Stiles pictured it, in a large ballroom with a lot of people and a lot of sequins. When they arrive, Stiles pushes Chester in the direction of a cluster of other boys who are looking uncomfortable and pressured, guessing they're the other escorts. He tows Derek around until he finds a table with their names on cards in front of the place settings or, at least, Stiles Stilinski and Stiles Stilinski + 1. He checks the other cards and gives Derek a relieved thumbs up when he finds that his grandparents aren't on their table.

"Does Chester know how to dance?" Derek asks suddenly as they're sitting and Stiles is very seriously studying the dinner menu.

"I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that he has a number of embarrassing costumes in his past."

"How does that answer my question?"

"There's always more girls than boys in Erica's dance classes. He's been dragooned into service for dance recitals on more than one occasion."

"How did I not know this? How did I not see this?"

"I would start to ask you along and you would start to make that face you make and I would... stop."

"You should've persisted. I wanted to... I want to be there for all your embarrassing moments. Both of you."

"I know that now, Boo," Stiles says gently, picking up Derek's hand and squeezing it.

"How does this all work?"

"Apparently the girls get brought down the stairs by their dads or maybe horrified older brothers and then get handed off to their escorts. There's a presentation, a circle, a curtsy and a fan dance."

"You made that last one up."

"I wish I did," Stiles muses. Someone clears their throat beside him and Stiles cranes around and then gapes at Felicia. "Uh, hello?"

"Good evening Stiles, it was good of you to come. And your... friend," she says, eyes ticking to Derek and then away again, fast.

"Thanks?"

Felicia nods and then swishes off. Derek tugging on Stiles' elbow is what gets him to turn around again. "Okay, I won't make fun of you calling them evil anymore. I just got chills," Derek says.

"No! That was her being nice."

"You're kidding," Derek says flatly.

"Seriously. Maybe Chester finally got them to listen for once."

"Don't get too excited," Derek says, starting to look a little worried. Stiles knows what he's thinking, that Stiles is Charlie Brown and his grandparents are a collective Lucy, that every time he gets a glimmer of hope that they're going to thaw towards him, they find a new way to disappoint him, tugging that proverbial football away at the last minute and leaving him to fall flat with a resigned good grief.

"I'm suitably dubious," Stiles assures him, leaning over to kiss Derek's frown away.

Other guests start sitting at their table and Stiles is amused to see that there's not one person under eighty. "Wow Derek, this is heaven for you, right? You can say things like kids today and get off my porch and you'll have them in the palm of your hand."

"You're hilarious," Derek says, but he's smiling in a hopelessly fond way.

"Four out of five debs marry their escorts," a woman sat next to Stiles grips his arm to tell him.

"Really?" Stiles says, raising his eyebrows at Derek and waggling them. Derek rolls his eyes in response and leans down to hear what the man on his other side is saying politely.

The ceremony goes off without a hitch. No one falls down the stairs which leaves Stiles faintly disappointed and the girls all relieved. Chester holds out an arm to a pretty girl with red hair and freckles that blushes prettily. There's a few dances, food and the eighty year olds turn out to be surprisingly dirty-minded which means Stiles has a good time, mostly despite himself and against all expectations.

The night is wrapping up and he's starting to think they're going to get out of this relatively painlessly when Stiles notices that Chester is talking to another of the escorts, boxed into a corner and it's someone Stiles recognizes.

It's the kid that accidentally punched him at his formal when he'd taken a swing at Isaac.

Stiles makes a determined beeline for them, without Derek who's at the bar but he's waylaid by Felicia on his way. "Stiles, why don't you leave the two of them to talk. They're getting along quite well."

"Are you kidding me?" Stiles seethes. He studies Felicia's face for a moment and she's looking extremely pleased with herself. "Wait, did you organize this?"

"After we met Chester's little friend we knew what to look for and Matt is from a good family. He's a much better match."

"How could you-?" Stiles splutters, then feels a warm presence at his back.

"Everything okay?" Derek asks behind him.

"I'm sorry, this is really none of your concern," Felicia says to Derek over Stiles' shoulder.

"Derek's family," Stiles immediately defends.

"He most certainly is not," Felicia says, sounding horrified by the thought.

"He is actually, more than you'll ever be. He's the reason Chester and I weren't destitute on the street when my mom died. I was about a pocketful of change away from starving when I met Derek."

Felicia blinks at him as Derek makes a noise and touches the small of Stiles's back. "I'm sure that's not-" Felicia starts to say but Stiles has had enough.

"And that kid you think is so perfect for Chester was the one that gave him a black eye at his winter formal."

"That's ridiculous," Felicia huffs.

"Chester didn't want to tell you because he knew you were friends with Matt's parents but now you know, so are you going to get out of my way so I can I go rescue my kid?"

Felicia looks like she's been slapped as she steps aside. When Stiles gets closer, Derek hot on his heels, he can see Chester throwing panicked glances around the room. Matt's leaning into him with his hands on the wall by Chester's shoulders.

Stiles reaches them and clears his throat, pointedly. "Matt, you won't mind if I steal my son, will you?"

"Oh, of course not, Mr Stilinski," Matt says with a smarmy grin, letting one of his arms drop. Stiles grabs Chester's elbow and tugs him away from the corner. Derek stays behind a moment as they move off and Stiles looks over his shoulder to see Derek now looming over Matt, saying something to him that makes Matt go pale and lose the grin, fast.

Derek catches up to them at the door. "What did you say to him?" Stiles asks, slinging an arm over Chester who's looking grateful to be leaving but none the worse for wear otherwise.

"Wouldn't you like to know," Derek says with a dangerous grin and that, coupled with the suit, makes Stiles want to do filthy things to him. Something in his face must tip Derek off to that fact because he blushes and ducks his head. Stiles gives Derek a very concerted we'll be revisiting this later tilt of the head and then turns his attention back to Chester.

"So, I heard that four out of five debs marry their escorts."

"I don't think Laney will be too heartbroken about being the other one," Chester says, tipping his chin down the ugly hallway they're in. About halfway up is Laney pressed together with another of the debutantes, taffeta smooshed between them.

"Oh, well, okay then," Stiles says, chuckling.

*

The next Sunday his father is over at their house for their regular lunch and when Derek is absorbed in presiding over the BBQ, his dad tugs Stiles aside and tries to give him an envelope.

"I've become suspicious of older men bearing envelopes," Stiles says, leaning away from it.

"C'mon, kiddo," his father huffs and Stiles rolls his eyes and takes the proffered object and then wants to drop it immediately because it turns out to be another check.

"No, oh no! You didn't," he says, horrified. He saw a flash of zeroes, way more than his dad had to hand and he just knows what's happened. "I told you I didn't want you to sell the house for me."

"The house was always for you even before I knew there was a you. I had just kind of resigned myself to there being no one to pass it to and was holding onto it because I really didn't know what else to do with it."

"Still, I can't accept all this."

"Calm down, the check isn't made out to you," his dad says and plucks it out of Stiles' hand so he can hold it in front of his eyes.

"Deaton? Wait, are you buying the hotel yourself?"

"Part of it. I'm willing to be a very silent partner and you can buy me out of my share, bit my bit, fund my retirement."

"Your retirement?"

"I figured it was about time."

"What are you going to do?"

"I sold my apartment as well. I was thinking of relocating to a smaller town. Somewhere quaint with a nice diner and, y'know, people related to me in it."

"That's... I mean, that's awesome," Stiles enthuses. Having his dad in his life is a blessing he never foresaw in and of itself, he'd kind of accepted the distance as an unavoidable part of it. Stiles eyes his house, already thinking about how he can fit his dad into it and the Sheriff chuckles and rubs a hand over Stiles' head.

"Don't hurt yourself, I'm not moving in," he says, like he can guess what Stiles is thinking.

"Where are you going to go?"

"I'm going to rent a place in town for a little while and then apparently there'll be a nice apartment above a diner available when the time is right."

Stiles throws a glance at Derek whose shoulders have hunched up almost to his ears. He can hear them with his scary bat hearing, Stiles just knows it. He narrows his eyes, looking between his dad and Derek. "You guys worked this all out, didn't you?"

"Me and Derek talk," his dad says, looking completely unrepentant. "That's what you wanted, right?"

"Yeah, talk, not scheme," Stiles says, but he's not mad, not in the slightest. They're not pressuring him to have Derek move in right away but it's definitely something on the cards in the very near future. Isaac needs a room of his own and Stiles has the space. Plus, sleepy, rumpled, morning Derek is one of his favorite flavors of Derek and he rarely gets to see him that way.

"I guess that sounds okay," Stiles finally relents. "I'm going to be adding a healthy dose of interest though when I buy out your share."

"Fair enough," his dad allows.

"I suppose we'll have to organize a meeting with Deaton and move your stuff."

"Sure will," his dad says, face doing something funny.

"Oh my god, you've arranged it all already, haven't you?"

"I've had some spare time lately."

*

It's a Friday night, he doesn't have to have dinner with the grand-evils, they're in the town square on a blanket with a Scott-provided picnic spread and they're about to watch a movie. Chester and Isaac are sprawled on an adjoining blanket, trying hard not to look like they're with Derek and Stiles and Derek is basically acting as a body pillow to Stiles which he is highly appreciative of.

"This is nice," Stiles observes.

"As long as you don't start chanting double-date, double-date again like a drunken cheerleader, I'll agree with you," Derek offers.

"Double date!" Stiles cheers at the top of his voice, fist pumping the air and nearly punching Derek in the nose as a result because he's lying prone and Derek is curled over him. Most of the people in the immediate vicinity crane around to stare at them and Chester looks like he wants to drown himself in his Tupperware container of Scott's amazing chicken soup.

"You're so weird," Derek huffs.

"Lucky I'm also adorable, right?"

"You are pretty adorable," Derek says agreeably and boops Stiles on the nose.

Isaac makes retching noises and then says, "Oh my god, I think that's worse than Stiles yelling."

"Don't judge our old guy love," Stiles grunts.

"Don't call it that," Derek admonishes immediately, pulling a face.

"Oh, hey, Stiles?" Greenburg says, appearing at their feet. "Um, we're having trouble with the projector. Can you come take a look?"

"You want Stiles to help you?" Derek says, sounding completely surprised.

"Shut up, I'm handy," Stiles grumbles and pushes to his feet. "Of course I will come and render assistance my good man," he says to Greenburg who bobs his head and then leads their way back to the tent with the projector at the back of the crowd. Derek watches them go, actually gaping and Stiles would be offended if Derek wasn't actually pretty right and he would have no clue how to fix a projector.

He'll just have to content himself with the fact that it's all part of his master plan.

"Uh, Stiles?" Greenburg says as they walk.

"Hmm? Oh, you were great, very believable," Stiles says, tapping Greenburg on the arm.

"Oh, that's, um, thanks? That's not what I wanted to say though."

"Oh," Stiles says and then blinks in surprise as Greenburg tugs Stiles aside. He's blushing furiously and Stiles watches him fidget for a full three minutes before he says, "Look-"

"I know that it's a bit late considering what you're doing tonight, but if things ever, y'know, with Derek... end? Then just... I wanted you to know that I think you're the prettiest guy I've ever seen, outside of the movies."

"Oh, that's really very nice, if extremely unfortunately timed of you," Stiles says. He goes to pat Greenburg on the shoulder again, thinks better of it and shoves his hands back into his own pockets.

"I just wanted to you to know."

"Now I do," Stiles says and then Greenburg nods and turns back to the projector tent. Erica's there grinning at Stiles, fairly vibrating with excitement.

"You ready?"

"You don't think it's horribly cheesy?" Stiles asks, losing his nerve all at once.

"No way," Erica says, stepping back into the tent and flipping the projector on.

On the screen, there's a large field with hot air balloons bobbing about, being filled in the distance. People start murmuring in the watching crowd, suspecting that this is not the promised viewing of Psycho they were expecting. After about thirty seconds, Stiles steps into foreground shot on screen and the live Stiles smacks a hand over his face, not sure if he can bear to watch.

On-screen Stiles is holding a large piece of card and he flips it around awkwardly and then grins to camera. Scrawled across the card is MARRY ME HALE, BE MY FOREVER BOO with a crude drawing of a grumpy ghost with large eyebrows underneath it.

There's gasps all around, people standing and talking and laughing. Stiles is looking for Derek, starting to worry when he doesn't burst out of the milling townspeople in front of the tent but then someone has grabbed him from behind and is squeezing the daylights out of him.

"When did you... how did you..." Derek murmurs into his back.

"Let me... argh! Put me down so I can see you!" Stiles protests and Derek does, after giving him another tight squeeze. He doesn't let go the whole way though but Stiles is alright with that, turning in the circle of Derek's arms, content to spend the rest of forever there. He digs into his pocket and pulls out a ring box, jams it between their faces so Derek almost goes cross-eyed looking at it until he leans back enough and releases one of his arms to take it.

Derek opens the box and inside is a simple silver band. It's heavy and present and perfect for Derek who smiles and plucks it out with gentle fingers and puts it on immediately. "Y'know, you have terrible timing," Derek says and Stiles feels everything inside him freeze.

"I... what?" he asks, voice a strained squeak.

"Just because..." Derek finally releases the whole way only long enough to dig into his own back pocket and bring out another ring box.

"Are you serious? Oh my god, sorry," Stiles immediately apologizes when Derek winces at Stiles' excited punch to his shoulder.

"Maybe I should have told someone I was planning to, y'know," Derek says, jerking his chin at Erica who is trying to be surreptitious about wiping the tears off her face and is elbowing Boyd.

"That's... we're mutually proposing. I'm good with that," Stiles says and maybe he's crying a little himself, just a tiny bit, the barest manly tear.

Chester and Isaac appear and accept being squished between Derek and Stiles with rare good grace for teenagers. The townsfolk are applauding and chattering but they've ceased to exist for Stiles.

The only people that do exist right at that moment are the three he has clutched to him.

Now and hopefully forever.