Stiles sleeps the whole night through, which is nice, and rather unusual of late. He wakes up to the sun in his eyes and the feeling of Derek’s hand slowly rubbing up and down his upper arm. When he opens his eyes, Derek is just watching him. “You’re such a creeper,” Stiles murmurs. Derek lets out a snort of laughter. “Time’s it?”
“Nearly nine. I’m going to have to go soon. My flight leaves at one.”
“Mmkay,” Stiles says, letting out a sigh. He feels acutely aware of Derek’s gaze on him. It’s intense, but not unpleasant. “What?” he asks.
Derek reaches up and puts his hand on Stiles’ neck, his thumb rubbing over the teenager’s jaw. “I was just wondering how in the hell I had wound up here.”
Stiles lets out a snort. “Good question.”
“I mean it,” Derek says. “When I came here, I was omega. I had no pack, no family to speak of. I tried to build one, but all I did was fuck it up. Then there was you. None of this would have happened without you. Don’t start,” he adds, as Stiles opens his mouth to protest. “You’ve done more for me than I would have imagined possible. I’m not alone anymore.” There’s a brief pause. “You saved my life, you know.”
Stiles knows that he’s turning pink all the way up to the tips of his ears. “No, it wasn’t, I mean,” he says, and sees the way Derek is looking at him. He modifies what he was going to say. “I’m glad I could help. That . . . that we built this together. I think it’s more meaningful, that way.”
Derek nods slowly. “I think you’re right,” he says. His thumb traces gently, absently, over Stiles’ cheekbone. “You’re sure you don’t want to come with me?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Besides, school starts in a couple days. I’m going to have enough on my plate.”
Now the alpha scowls. “You’re not going to let anyone give you a hard time.” It’s not a question. It’s hardly even a statement; it’s more of a command.
“Nope,” Stiles says.
“Okay.” Derek relaxes a little.
“And you know, it wasn’t like you didn’t do anything for me in return,” Stiles says. “I mean, I was . . . drowning. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. You gave me a safe place to go. And maybe you didn’t know exactly what was going on or why I needed you so much, but you were still there for me. And after you found out . . . do you have any idea how terrified I was about what you would say or do? I thought I’d never be able to be in the same room with you ever again. But you understood. And you made me understand. That it didn’t have to be . . . everything I was. It didn’t have to change everything.”
He expects Derek to protest, but instead he just nods, looking pensive. “I guess I’m not used to things in my life going right.”
“Well, get used to it,” Stiles says, “because I plan on making it a trend. In fact . . .” He swallows nervously. “I think you should kiss me. Just a little. If you want to. Okay?”
Derek nods. “I do want to,” he says.
“Just a little,” Stiles repeats.
“Just a little,” Derek agrees. He leans forward, his hand still covering Stiles’ cheek, and presses his lips against Stiles’ in a gentle, chaste kiss. Stiles lets his eyes close, and Derek pulls away after only a moment, almost before Stiles is ready.
“That was nice,” Stiles says, feeling his heart beating wildly out of control in a mixture of fear and desire that’s only somewhat unpleasant.
“Yeah,” Derek agrees.
“We should try that again like . . . in a few weeks,” Stiles says.
“Okay,” Derek says. He leans over again and presses another kiss into Stiles’ forehead. “I need to get up.”
“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says. “Me too. I need breakfast.”
They get out of bed and head downstairs. Stiles makes them scrambled eggs and toast, and both of them put away several servings. Doing the magic has apparently left him with quite an appetite. His father isn’t there, presumably out bringing justice to the world. After breakfast, Derek leaves for the airport, catching Stiles in a bear hug that lasts several minutes.
Sheriff Stilinski is just pulling into the driveway as Derek leaves. They exchange a nod, and then he goes inside. “Hey, you,” he says to Stiles, who’s scrubbing the egg pan. “Sleep okay?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Did I miss anything exciting?”
“Other than a lot of people scratching their heads over Beacon Hills’ latest unsolvable murder?” Stilinski sighs and pours himself some coffee. “Not really. Where’s Derek off to so early?”
“Uh. London,” Stiles says.
His father nearly drops the pot of coffee. He gives his son a narrow-eyed look. “Something you want to tell me about that, son?”
“Uh, yeah, actually,” Stiles says. He sits down at the table and pushes both hands through his hair. “I did a lot of thinking about what you said. And, you know, about the justice system and why vigilantism is terrible, et cetera. I mean . . . you understand now part of why I wouldn’t press charges after the photos, right?”
Sheriff Stilinski sighs. “Because Jackson’s a werewolf. And unlikely to just stay in a prison cell we put him in.”
“Right,” Stiles says. “If there’s a werewolf justice system, I don’t know about it. But Derek pretty much seemed to think that since he was the one who had turned Jackson, that meant he was responsible for him. Even though Jackson’s been a terrible person since, like, birth. Anyway, I uh . . . I don’t want Derek to become a killer for my sake. Or because of Jackson. But I couldn’t live with the idea that Jackson might go hurt other people, and Derek didn’t really want to live with it either. So I asked him to go, uh, remove that with which Jackson might commit another such assault.”
There’s a long moment while Sheriff Stilinski blinks at his son. “So you’re telling me that you asked Derek . . .”
“To go rip Jackson’s balls off. Yep.”
Stilinski rubs a hand over his face. For a minute, Stiles thinks he’s angry. Then he sees that his father is trying his best not to laugh. “Oh, damn,” he finally says. “You actually . . .”
“And his dick, too,” Stiles says brightly, since his father seems to be enjoying this. “Derek said it would be his pleasure to do that for me.”
Sheriff Stilinski manages to get a hold of himself and put a stern look back on his face. “Won’t . . . won’t it grow back?” he asks, and then loses it again, pressing a hand over his mouth to stifle the laughter.
“You know, I asked Derek that,” Stiles says, keeping a straight face. “And he said no. That they can heal external damage but in most circumstances, they can’t actually regrow body parts. Like if I had actually cut his arm off that time, he would have been left with one arm. And Deucalion couldn’t recover his eyesight even though he was an alpha when his eyes were wounded. But he, uh, he volunteered to stay in London and, uh, keep an eye on things just to be sure nothing regenerated.”
“Of course he did,” Sheriff Stilinski says.
“Uh, on a somewhat related topic,” Stiles says, “I’ve decided that I’m five hundred percent done taking people’s bullshit about what happened to me, so you have my advanced apologies if I get suspended or expelled from school within the first week.”
“If you defend yourself and they expel you, I’ll sue that God damned school into the ground,” his father replies.
“Sounds good to me.” Stiles downs the last of his coffee. “I’m heading over to Scott’s. He’s talking about getting a tattoo and I need to insult his taste in body art. Yes, he has his mother’s permission, don’t narrow your eyes at me like that. Oh! Can I borrow some money?”
“Boyd wants to take Erica out on a nice date before school starts again but he can’t afford it, and he felt awkward asking Derek after everything Derek’s done for them. I’ll pay you back.”
His father shakes his head a little but takes two twenties out of his wallet. “I’m glad you’re okay hanging out with your friends again,” he says.
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Me too.” He shoves the money in his back pocket. “I’ll see you later.”
~ ~ ~ ~
School starts two days later, while Derek is still gone. Stiles gets up early, showers, shaves, and gets dressed in an Incredible Hulk T-shirt with his typical plaid over it. He makes an egg white omelet for his father and eats Pop-Tarts for his own breakfast. Then he loads his backpack up with notebooks and pencils and everything else he’ll need for the first day of school and gets in the Jeep.
He’s explicitly told the others that he doesn’t want to be protected or sheltered upon his return, but he doubts that he can stop any of them from taking matters into their own hands if someone makes a comment about Stiles to them. He doesn’t let that worry him. He gets his class schedule, unloads his extra things into his locker, and heads to class.
There are a few surreptitious stares and whispered comments, but it’s not as bad as it was the spring before. Things have happened over the summer; there are newer, juicier rumors going around. A girl in their class is pregnant. A senior got busted for drugs. Two of the teachers got caught hooking up during summer school. And of course, rumors are flying about Boyd and Erica’s return, since most people assume they ran away together and then had to come slinking back when they ran out of money. Erica is helping distract people from Stiles by basically being all over Boyd at every opportunity. Boyd doesn’t seem to mind.
So he makes it all the way to third period before he gets another text. Third period is gym. He changes in the locker room along with everyone else, and when he gets back from the class, he’s gotten a text asking if he enjoyed being ogled by all the boys. He forwards the text to Lydia. She returns it with the owner of the phone number less than four minutes later. It’s a junior named Kevin Swanton.
Stiles waits until lunch. Then he spots the offending junior in the lunch line. He walks up behind him, sees the telltale shape of his phone in his back pocket, and simply picks it out. “Hey – ” the boy says, turning.
Stiles holds up the phone and says, “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut the fuck up?’ It applies to texting, too.” With that, he drops the phone to the ground and slams his heel down on it.
“You piece of shit, you can’t – ” Kevin protests.
Stiles grinds his foot down on the already broken phone, just to prove his point. Half the cafeteria has gone silent to watch this confrontation. “In case nobody thought to tell you,” he says, “I’m five hundred percent done taking everyone’s bullshit about this. You want to text me nasty messages? It’s a free fucking country. Just be prepared for the consequences.”
He turns and walks off. Scott gives him a high-five as he sits down at their table, and Lydia leans over to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Now the rumors are really flying, and Boyd and Erica’s summer fling is all but forgotten. He gets bombarded with some of the most vitriolic text messages that he can imagine. He notes down every number. Lydia identifies the perpetrator. He starts signing them up for every e-mail and text message spam list that he can find. It’s child’s play to guess half a dozen of their Facebook passwords and start posting embarrassing status updates.
“How was school?” his father asks him that evening.
Stiles smiles at him and says, “It was fine.”
The sheriff gives him the side-eye but decides against asking for details. Stiles spends the evening ordering pizza delivery for some of the most obnoxious parties.
The rumors that piss him off most, though, are the ones involving Derek. Without a better suspect unavailable, everyone has come to the idiotic conclusion that Derek was the other person in the photographs, and that either a) Stiles is terrible at enjoying himself in the sack, or b) Derek is an abusive jerk that Stiles stays with out of cowardice and stupidity. Stiles is far beyond the point of caring what his classmates think about him, but he doesn’t want Derek getting the same giggles and whispers every time he steps into a convenience store.
With that in mind, he pulls Danny aside the next morning, as they’re heading into the locker room for gym class. “I need to talk to you,” he says. “Gym class can manage without us.”
Finstock will be pissed, of course, but Danny is his darling so he won’t get in trouble. They change slowly and wait until the locker room has cleared out. “What’s up?” Danny asks.
“Look, I wanted to give you a head’s up,” Stiles says, “because by noon today the school is going to be losing their shit over a new rumor that won’t be a rumor. Because the next time someone accuses my actual boyfriend of being the one who raped me, there’s going to be an incident.”
“You have a boyfriend now?” Danny says. “That’s awesome, man.”
“Uh, yeah.” Stiles actually flushes a little pink. “Remember my, uh, ‘cousin’ Miguel? He’s totally not my cousin, I just made that up because . . . actually it’s a long story, I’ll tell you about it sometime, anyway, his name is Derek and we’re dating now.”
Danny considers this. “He doesn’t look anything like the guy in the photo,” he finally says.
“I know, but people are stupid, and anyway, I’m going to start telling people who actually raped me, and I wanted you to hear it directly from me first.” Stiles squares his jaw, seeing the confused look on Danny’s face. It should be easy, but it isn’t. He doesn’t want to hurt Danny, doesn’t want to make him feel bad, but he needs to know. “It was Jackson.”
Danny actually physically recoils from this statement, stumbling over his own feet. “Jackson wouldn’t – Jackson would never – ” he stammers, and Stiles waits for him to get through it. “Jesus,” he finally says, rubbing his hands over his face. “Does Lydia know?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says.
“It was really . . . you’re not messing with me?”
“I wouldn’t do that and you know it,” Stiles says wearily. “He said he wanted to teach me a lesson for the way I flirted with Lydia.”
Danny winces again, just as hard. “Jesus,” he says. “I knew there was a lot of stuff going on with him, but . . .”
“He was drunk. I was drunk. I’m not saying that excuses his behavior, I’m just . . . saying. He raped me and he filmed it and he told me to go kill myself afterwards,” Stiles says flatly, watching Danny rub a hand over his face. “And then he posted the pictures all over the school because he was pissed at me for . . . some other stuff, I don’t know, it’s a long story.”
They stand in awkward silence for a minute.
“Look,” Stiles says, “you don’t have to . . . say anything. Or be okay. Or anything like that. I just wanted you to hear it from me, because you are going to hear it before the end of the day.”
Danny nods, slowly and painfully. Stiles turns and walks away.
It takes less than twenty minutes. Stiles misses a catch in the basketball game they’re playing and one of his classmates says tauntingly, “Your boyfriend must have really worn you out last night, huh? I hope the sex has gotten better since your first time.”
Stiles retrieves the basketball and says complacently, “You know that Derek isn’t who’s fucking me in those photos, right?”
The other guy leers at him and says, “Who else would be willing to fuck you?”
“Jackson Whittemore,” Stiles says, voice calm and even, and pretty much everyone on the court stops to stare at him. “And it wasn’t consensual. Any other questions?”
Everyone is too stunned to have any.
He only gets a few text messages this time, most of them accusing him of slandering Jackson’s good name. Most of the people at school are learning not to mess with him. By the end of the day, he’s surprised to find that the rumors going around are mostly accurate, and he suspects that the rest of the pack has been contributing. Everyone basically agrees that Jackson and Stiles were both drunk, that it was at Lydia’s party, and that Jackson had been pissed at Stiles for hitting on Lydia. There are some variations, but it’s mostly accurate.
Lydia’s getting a fair share of the attention, but she handles it with her usual poise and grace, simply stating that she hadn’t known, and it’s a good thing that she didn’t find out until after Jackson had left. Among other things, she tells everyone, it was an insult, an implication that she couldn’t take care of herself and wasn’t allowed to talk to other boys.
Since Jackson is gone, the rumors pretty much stop there. Stiles still gets his fair share of stares and whispers, but nothing he can’t handle. Eventually, he thinks, they’ll forget it and move on.
When he leaves school that day, he sees a familiar Camaro in the parking lot. He finds a new spring in his step, which surprises him, as he heads over to it. Derek gets out and leans against the fender, his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses. “Hi,” Stiles says, feeling a little awkward, but excited.
“Hey,” Derek says. He reaches out, but then hesitates. “Can I, uh . . .”
“Sure.” Stiles steps into his embrace, letting Derek rub a cheek over his hair, scent marking him. It feels nice. “How was your trip?”
“I feel jet-lagged,” Derek says, “and it rained the whole time. But I got what I went for.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, relaxing a little to hear that everything went as planned, which probably makes him sick.
“You want to go back to the loft for a while?” Derek says, and Stiles nods. Derek even opens the door to the car for him. Stiles thinks about reminding him that he has his own car, but then realizes that this is just one of Derek’s ways of trying to take care of him. He gets in without protest. Derek gets behind the wheel. “Did I miss anything exciting here?”
“Well, Allison’s back from France,” Stiles says, and sees Derek’s jaw set in an unhappy expression. “She seems to have recovered from drinking Gerard’s Kool-Aid. She apologized to Isaac for stabbing him. He said whatever. She apologized to Erica and Boyd for shooting them full of arrows. Erica slapped her across the face and Allison didn’t hit back. So, you know, progress. She and Scott are awkwardly avoiding each other and throwing each other moony glances across every classroom, so they’ll be having sex by the end of the week, probably.”
Derek gives a snort of laughter. “Teenaged romances.”
“You do realize that I’m still a teenager, right?”
“Yeah, but we’re nowhere near that incompetent,” Derek says. “Yeah, we took a while to get here, but at least we actually talked it over like adults.”
“Fair,” Stiles says, feeling cheerful.
A few minutes later, Derek pulls into the loft parking lot. They head upstairs. Now that they’re in privacy, Derek pulls him into another embrace, marking him again, running his fingers through Stiles’ hair in a motion that’s amazingly intimate and strangely soothing. “Are you hungry?” he asks. “I could make you something.”
“I’m always hungry,” Stiles says, “but uh . . . Jackson first.”
Derek nods. He takes out his phone and pulls up a video, then hands it to Stiles. Then he walks away, going into the kitchen. Stiles turns his attention towards the screen. Jackson was coming into a room that looks like some sort of warehouse, saying hello. Derek greeted him casually and told him that they had rescued Erica and Boyd. “I got a lot of help from Stiles, though,” he said, and Jackson scoffed. Derek kept his expression even and continued, “He’s actually become a pretty valuable member of the pack. He told me a funny story the other day . . .”
Jackson knew when he was caught. He started to backpedal. He tried all the things that Stiles had known he would say if it ever came up in a courtroom. They were drunk, Stiles came onto him, it was just a bit of fun, he hadn’t realized Stiles wasn’t enjoying himself. Derek waited until he gets through all of his defenses, all of his excuses. Then he just said in a voice that was soft and deadly, “Did you think I was going to believe any of that?”
Jackson tried to run.
He didn’t get far.
After that it’s a lot of screaming and blood, and Stiles watches it because he needs to, he needs to see it. It doesn’t bring him any real happiness, but he thinks that’s a good thing. He doesn’t want to be that sort of person. It does bring a sense of relief, an air of finality, and perhaps a little sneaking satisfaction.
Derek left Jackson huddled on the floor, crying, in a position that’s eerily similar to the way Jackson had left Stiles that day. Then he walked over to pick up the phone, and the video ends.
He slowly becomes aware of Derek watching him from the door to the kitchen. He looks up, nods, and says, “Thanks.”
“Are you okay?” Derek asks.
Stiles nods. He taps a few buttons to delete the video off of Derek’s phone. He doesn’t want to see it again, doesn’t want anyone else to see it, and doesn’t want evidence of a violent assault lying around. “Yeah.”
“Are . . . we okay?”
Stiles knows what he means. The type of ferocious violence that Derek had displayed on the video was unnerving. But it was for him, and Stiles knows that. He knows that Derek can be vicious when he needs to be. So he just nods again and says, “Yeah, we’re okay. Did it grow back?”
Derek rolls his eyes at Stiles and says, “No. I told you it wouldn’t. And yes, I checked.”
“That must have gone over well,” Stiles says, thinking about Derek marching back into wherever Jackson was lurking two days later and just yanking his pants down. Jackson must have pissed himself. Messily. “Hey, do I smell bacon?”
“You said you were hungry,” Derek says. “It’s just ready-made, you know, I threw it in the microwave. I’ll make some waffles.”
“Cool,” Stiles says. He walks over and hoists himself up to sit on the counter.
“How are things between you and Scott?” Derek asks, rooting around in the freezer for a package of Eggos.
“They’re okay. He still feels a little awkward, but I figure if I act normal long enough, he’ll eventually get it. In the meantime, he’s helping me kick the shit out of anyone who bothers me, so, you know, that’s okay. How’s Cora?”
“Still a little . . . edgy,” Derek says. “But I think she’ll be okay. You know. She needs time, that’s all. Wherever she was, it wasn’t a nice place.”
“Well, we’ll take care of it, whatever it is,” Stiles says. Derek glances over at him and nods. A few minutes later, he hands Stiles a plate of waffles and bacon. Stiles drenches his waffles in syrup and starts eating.
“You know what I was thinking might be nice,” Derek says, “is to go down to the city this weekend, before the semester really revs up and you’re buried in work. You know, I know you probably went to a lot of the places I recommended, but I thought it might be nice to go there together.”
Stiles glances up, nods, and smiles. “Yeah,” he says, “that sounds like fun.”
~ ~ ~ ~
When Stiles gets home, there’s take-out from his favorite Greek place on the table. He gives his father a suspicious look as he roots around in the refrigerator for a beer. “What’s going on?” he asks. “I’m not getting a surprise party, am I? Because I don’t think my heart could take it.”
“Your school called me today,” Sheriff Stilinski says, popping the top off his beer. He hands Stiles a soda. “Something about how some students have been complaining about you breaking their phones, defacing their lockers, and otherwise harassing them?”
“And stealing their girlfriends,” Stiles agrees cheerfully, taking the lid off a container and stealing one of the dolmades. “I only defaced one locker, and the way I defaced it was to write the exact text he sent me on it so everyone could laugh at his terrible grammar.”
“Apparently you’ve also been slandering Jackson Whittemore’s good name,” his father continues, his voice a little more tight.
Stiles sighs. “I got really tired of everyone presuming it was Derek in the photos after some people saw us together. All I said was that it was Jackson in the photos, and it was nonconsensual. Anything else, the rumor mill generated on its own. Or they heard it from other members of the pack, I guess.”
His father reaches out and hooks an arm around his shoulders, pulling him into an embrace. “I’m really proud of you,” he says.
“Thanks,” Stiles says, hugging back as hard as he can. “So I’m not grounded?”
“Not yet,” his father says, laughing as he lets go. “Like I said, your school called me to express concern. I told them that they were welcome to mete out whatever disciplinary measures they felt were appropriate, and that I in turn would be consulting with a lawyer to find out what my options were to address the way they all looked the other way while you were being bullied. That took the wind out of their sails. But don’t go defacing any more lockers.”
“It was washable marker,” Stiles says. “They should count themselves lucky I didn’t use a Sharpie.”
He starts dishing himself up some of the food, and passes his father a plate. They eat in silence for a few minutes.
“Hey, uh . . .” Stiles says, pushing some of the potatoes around on his plate. “I think . . . I want to see a therapist. About . . . all of this.” He sees his father looking at him over his fork, a little bit of surprise on his face. “Because . . . Derek and I have this thing, right? It’s a good thing. I really like him. But just . . . the thought of sex makes me queasy. Hell, the thought of kissing makes me queasy. And I know I’m only seventeen, and Derek’s obviously got his issues too, so it’s not like we’re going to rush into anything. But I don’t think . . . that this is something I’m going to be able to fix on my own, just by wanting it. I think maybe some, uh, some professional help would be a good idea.”
Sheriff Stilinski lets out a breath. “Yeah, of course,” he says. “I’ll look into it. Do you mind if I talk to Melissa about it? She might have some suggestions.”
“Sure,” Stiles says. “And uh . . . I’d rather it be a woman. You know.”
His father nods. “I’ll find someone.”
“Thanks,” Stiles says.
“You don’t need to thank me, kid,” Stilinski says. “I’m your father. It’s my job to take care of you.”
“And you do a great job,” Stiles says, reaching for the salad. He takes some of it and then nudges it closer to his father, who gives it a dirty look. “I mean it. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. Just . . . knowing you were there for me.” He abandons his dinner and scoots his chair around the table so he can lean his cheek against his father’s shoulder. The sheriff reaches up and puts an arm around his shoulders, pulling him closer. “It’s funny, because when I think about the whole ‘wheel of fortune’ thing, the concept of ‘what goes around, comes around’, I think . . . maybe it’s a good thing, what happened to me. Like, we can’t ever know how things would have been different, right? And if Jackson hadn’t hurt me, hadn’t put those photos up all over school, I never would have gotten so close to Derek, and then who knows what would have happened. I mean, if I hadn’t run away to San Francisco, I wouldn’t have heard Morrell talking to that girl, and we might never have found Erica and Boyd.”
“Snowflake universe?” his father suggests.
Stiles grins. “So you do actually listen when I talk about science fiction.”
“Sometimes,” he grumbles in response. “But that is what you were getting at, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I mean . . . what happened was awful, but . . . maybe it all works out in the end. Maybe it made me stronger.”
“I wouldn’t settle for anything less,” his father says, and Stiles closes his eyes and rests his weight against his father’s reassuring strength. He thinks that he’s going to be okay.