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Funny how it always goes with love

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Stiles beats Natalie Portman to the buzz cut by a year. It’s cute on Portman, looks good and it makes her eyes pop. On Stiles, it looks… It doesn’t look wrong, but she still isn’t sure it actually suits her. It was a convenience thing: too many times of Scott managing to get gum in her hair, too many times where she just couldn’t be bothered to use a hair brush.

Too many times of being reminded that Mom wasn’t here anymore.

Dad doesn't really say anything, but he doesn’t disapprove, either. Stiles thinks maybe he was more okay with it than the opposite, though. She doesn’t look so much like her mom without her hair, after all.

Also: if Sinead O’Connor can do it, then so can Stiles and screw you if you don’t know who that is.

--

Stiles gets boobs late. Like, epically late. She thinks she possibly the last one in the entire school to get boobs, that’s how late she is. And no, that’s not an exaggeration: Ms McCall was starting to look worried. Possibly, it’s all a combination of stress, Adderall, panic attacks and ADHD, but it might just be genetics, too.

Dad notices because he’s her dad and that’s what dads do – they take note when their kids change and start growing up. He looks awkward, even though Stiles’ boobs are practically not there. But they stick out. A bit. Kind of. Stiles isn’t sure if she likes them yet, because mostly they just kinda hurt and feel achy.

“Do we need to go shopping or should I just call Melissa over?”

“They’re just boobs, Dad,” Stiles says and rolls her eyes. “It’s not like they’re world changing.”

“Yes,” Dad says, tone matching Stiles’ exactly. “Because I’ve gone bra shopping so many times, I’m practically a pro.”

--

In the end, Stiles goes with Melissa because it seems least embarrassing to everyone involved that way. When they get there, Stiles spends some time walking around the underwear department of the store. There are a lot of frills, a lot of lace and velvet, cutesy pink things that scare her to the marrow of her bones. “You know, Ms McCall, I don’t think I need a bra.”

Ms McCall just smiles. “Yeah, they’re not really you, are they? I’m not even sure if they even had most of this stuff when I was a teenager. There’s no reason to dive straight into the bra pool, though,” she says, even as she’s leading Stiles to a small shelf with just two racks on either side of it. “I think a sports bra would be a good starting point. What do you say, Stiles?”

Stiles looks them over with suspicious eyes, but in the end she nods. “I can accept this compromise,” she agrees.

“Let’s start with four.”

“I don’t—”

“One for PE, at least two for normal wear and I’d go with one white in case you feel like wearing a dress shirt for some reason even though I can’t remember the last time you dressed up.”

On the way back, Stiles laden with sports bras and some new underwear, Ms McCall smirks at her via the rear-view mirror. “I should make sure your dad knows to talk to you about your period. Breasts are usually a good indicator that it’s not far off.”

“You’re evil,” Stiles says.

Ms McCall just laughs.

--

Two nights later, Dad approaches her with a constipated look on his face.

Stiles laughs until she cries and says she owes Ms McCall at least a box of expensive chocolates for this amount of pure gold.

--

Scott takes to the change in Stiles the way he usually takes to everything. That is to say: he doesn’t notice.

Well, he doesn’t until they’re wrestling for the controller to Stiles’ Xbox and Scott ends up with a hand on them. Scott definitely takes notice then and he scrambles off with a red face.

“Dude!”

Stiles laughs. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“They weren’t there before!”

“That’s how puberty works, buddy. Changes sprouting in strange places.”

--

Later, when Scott starts dating Allison and makes noises like he has no idea what he’s doing, Stiles sits him down and explains that just because Scott’s one hotspot is his dick, that doesn’t mean that Allison works the same. Mainly because she doesn’t have a dick. Stiles explains about nipples and how Scott might want to try Allison’s out, about the fact that not everyone gets off on having stuff inside them and that a lot of people need help getting an orgasm. Stiles is maybe too detailed in her explanation in how to work a clitoris, but she thinks Scott gets it.

She’s sure of it, especially when Allison just says thanks, this look of gratitude in her eyes and Scott walks on clouds for days.

--

“Stiles,” Lydia says, about a week later. “Why is Allison looking so smug?”

“Because I explained the clitoris to Scott,” Stiles says and looks up from her book. “Why?”

“I don’t like it.”

“Jackson not find it?”

Lydia’s smile is icy. “Jackson couldn’t find his brain if it wasn’t in his head.”

Stiles just stares at her. “And you’re just accepting that?”

“Hell, no,” Lydia says. “It’s really none of your business, Stilinski, but Jackson sometimes gets confused when he has to focus on more than one thing. It’s just easier taking care of that part myself.”

Stiles snorts. “Maybe you should tell him Scott can manage it.”

Lydia smirks. “It’s true he doesn’t like coming second.”

“I don’t need to know,” Stiles mutters, but Lydia’s already walked off. Possibly in search of Jackson or to rule the world. One never knows with Lydia.

--

Stiles never does graduate past sports bras. She doesn’t always wear one and she takes to having a wife beater as her default bottom layer. She buys graphic tees online, spends more money than maybe she should on hoodies from society6, gets jeans and plaid shirts from various second-hand shops around Beacon Hills. It works for her.

Since the fact that werewolves proved to be real and not just a myth, it means that Stiles now has new friends. Friends who aren’t Scott.

Friends who happen to be female.

The look in Lydia’s eyes sometimes scares Stiles half to death, especially when they’re directed at her clothes. Stiles likes her clothes, thank you very much, and something about the way Lydia eyes them makes her think that she should keep a very close eye on them. Just in case Lydia gets ideas about burning them.

Possibly while Stiles is still wearing them.

--

The summer between junior and senior year of high school, Derek decides to buy a house. His old one was claimed by the county years ago, torn down only last year and the grounds it stood on are now part of the preserve. The new house is from the sixties, on the outskirts of Beacon Hills but on the other side from where the old house was. Stiles isn’t sure that it isn’t an old farm, actually, because there are some architectural choices the builders made that she questions, like why the garage/tool-shed combo looks more like a small barn than it does, well, anything else, come to think of it.

They spend a lot of time renovating the house that summer. Stiles personally makes sure to watch Derek sweat and stretch his muscles as he fixes drywalls and replaces structural beams in a tight, tight tank top as often as possible.

It’s a very good view.

Stiles spends most of her days outside, tearing up the old garden that had probably grown wild in the early nineties when someone just abruptly stopped caring for it. So she tears up everything ugly, everything that doesn’t belong and unearths some old, forgotten treasures. She trims back the roses until they’re manageable again, rescues an herb garden and strikes gold with a mulberry bush. There are other shrubs and bushes, too, with perfectly edible fruits and berries, but a lot of it has to go because they’re overgrown and too old – a rhubarb should never be taller than you, okay? Some of the plants have diseases and infections, vermin or are just already destroyed and/or dead.

It’s a lot of hard work and Stiles comes home most days dead tired and ready to sleep for a week.

--

“I didn’t know you’d be good at this,” Derek says one day, eyeing her progress.

Stiles gapes, then gestures wildly at the garden “Then why put me in charge of it? Alone?”

Derek smirks. “Because you’re good at solving problems. What do you think would’ve happened if I’d asked Scott to do it?”

Stiles winces. “I see your point, say no more.”

Instead of answering, Derek turns them around so the front door of the house is at their backs. “I want a paved road from the garage to the front door,” he says. “I plan on removing the fence along that side entirely, but for now I’ll just open up a hole where I want the path to start. Do you think you could fix one?”

Stiles eyes the distance with narrowed eyes, then nods. “What do you have in mind?”

Derek shows her, bringing up the type of stone and the cut he wants them in on his laptop inside. He has some vague ideas of a curved path, rather than a straight and narrow one.

“Can you do it?”

Stiles nods, eyes trained on the notepad in her lap as she writes down the information. “Yeah, man, no worries. I’ll have your garden in tip-top shape in no time. Hey, speaking of tip-top: any chance you’ll hand over your money and let me go buy some new stuff for it?”

“Like what?” Derek asks, sounding a bit apprehensive.

Stiles grins. “Nothing bad, I swear. Just, after tearing out so much there’s a bunch of bald spots that need covering, don’t you think?”

“What, like, flowers?”

“Or useful stuff. There used to be an herb garden, but a lot of it’s gone to waste. It’d be easy restoring it. And, like, thyme? Perfect little creepers, and oregano? Pretty decorative little bush-things. Lavender grows fast, smells good and looks pretty groovy. If we just get perennials they’ll pretty much take care of themselves with the occasional weeding and pruning required. It can look good and still be easy, you know.”

Derek blinks at her, a little wide-eyed. “Is it too late to regret leaving you in charge of something?”

“Pfft,” Stiles says and strikes a pose. “What’s to regret? I’m awesome.”

“I’m willing to disagree,” Derek says. Stiles just rolls her eyes.

--

Derek helps her unload the stones from the back of the jeep. Well, Stiles says helps when in reality all she does is hold the trunk open and watch his progress. It had taken the guys at the shop a couple of trips to load everything in, but they weren’t werewolves nor were they even close to as ripped as Derek is.

“You know,” Stiles says, once Derek has the stones in a pile by the front door, covered in tarp, “I took the liberty of sketching out an outline for the garden.”

“Of course you did,” Derek says, rolling his eyes.

“Hey! Having a plan is, you know, a good thing! Like, this path you want—”

“I already told you how I want it, Stiles. I even spray-painted a line on the grass for you.”

“Yeah, but do you want a rose bush on either side of your door, tiny little lanterns by the stones, stuff like that. Like, if you built an arch right there—” Stiles gestures at where the path is planned to originate, where they’ve already prepared by removing the old, crumbling fence— “Then we could plant something with climbing vines there, like honeysuckles or clematis or something, you know?”

“I’ll think about it,” Derek says.

It’s not exactly explicit agreement, but it’s not an outright no, either.

--

Stiles spends a week digging a long, narrow hole in the ground after that. It’s hot, the sun sweltering and Stiles sheds as many layers as she feels comfortable with, until she’s just working in a pair of Scott’s old shorts and a wife-beater that, once upon a time, was whole and clean. These days? Not so much on either those accounts. She’s been wearing a baseball cap since pretty much day one after the migraine of all migraines assaulted her after having her head cooked by the heat and the sun.

Scott spends his lunch with her and they stretch out on the grass and eat the sandwiches he brought. He’s got work with Deaton most days, but he’ll pitch in and help out with the house whenever he can. Lydia drops by every once in a while to hang out with Jackson, but for the most part it’s just Stiles, Derek, Isaac and Jackson who work routinely on the house. Boyd and Erica have jobs, and Allison, well. She would probably come over all the time as well if Lydia hadn’t insisted she teach her how to shoot a bow.

Dad comes by every now and then, ostensibly to make sure Stiles’ is all right, but mostly to snoop.

Stiles’ dad is a terrible snoop.

Admittedly, he’s also the sheriff and he hadn’t freaked out too bad at the whole “werewolves are real, what now” reveal, so Stiles feels like maybe Dad can get away with being overly curious, just this once.

--

“Oh my god,” Lydia says two days later. It’s a Saturday and they’re all there, eating lunch in Derek’s back garden.

“What?” Jackson says.

“Stiles, your legs are furrier than hobbit feet.”

Stiles barely glances at her. “They’re not that bad. Hey, you should see Derek’s, he’s—”

“Stiles, Derek isn’t a girl,” Lydia says, ever so patiently.

“So?”

Lydia huffs. “Great, I’m all for the equal rights movement, but your legs look—”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Stiles’ legs,” Scott protests. “If I don’t have to shave my legs, then neither do Stiles. It’s the rules, okay?”

--

It’s maybe a week or two later when Lydia asks if she can’t, well, wax Stiles.

Stiles just stares at her, horrified, then she exclaims, “Why, oh, why would I want to torture myself? Oh my god, no, Lydia!”

“Your legs would look great,” Lydia insists.

“My legs look great right now,” Stiles says and she’s starting to get annoyed.

“Yeah, I don’t get it either,” Scott says. “It, like, hurts like a bitch and it’s kinda meaningless? I mean, it just grows back, right?”

Stiles grins at Scott, who fistbumps her in return. It’s the “I have your back, man,” fistbump, not to be confused with the “awesome, bro,” one.

Lydia glares at them. “You won’t know until you try,” she says.

“We did,” Scott says. “We were thirteen and we found some wax in Mom’s bathroom. We went around with bald patches on our thighs for a month. It was kinda awesome, but it really hurt. I don’t get why you keep doing it, to be honest.”

“Really?” Lydia raises an eyebrow. “So if Allison stopped, you wouldn’t care?”

“No?” Scott looks adorably confused. “What’s Allison got to do with this? Stiles is my best friend, man.”

--

After that, Stiles takes to avoiding Lydia a little more on purpose. Usually, she’s kind of good at not being where people who could potentially make fun of her would be, but ever since the whole werewolf thing they are moving in the same crowds. When Lydia plans a pool party, Stiles panics and rushes over to Derek’s place.

Stiles hates public bathing places for several reasons, not least because of the looks she gets in her sports bra plus board shorts combo.

“Derek—”

“No, Stiles,” Derek says.

“But you didn’t even—”

“I don’t need to, do I? I know you, Stiles.”

“True,” Stiles acknowledges. “It’s just, if I have to hear Lydia bitch about the state of my legs again and how she wants to give me a Brazilian, I might actually kill her. Or shave her head, see how she likes that—”

Derek sighs, closes his eyes, then nods. “I’m going camping in the preserve this weekend.”

Stiles narrows her eyes. “Camping,” she says.

“No internet for two days.”

“I have internet in my phone—”

“There’s no reception out there.”

Stiles gapes. “I can’t go camping with you over a weekend and tell Dad that no, sorry, I’m just running away with Derek Hale for two days, but don’t worry, you can’t contact us because the phones don’t work out there!”

Derek winces a little, then says, “On second thought, you can’t come. Your dad is the sheriff.”

--

Dad solves it by lending Derek – Derek, not Stiles; Dad is a traitor! – a satellite phone from the sheriff’s department. He says he expects updates in the morning and evening to make sure they haven’t been eaten by bears.

He steadfastly refuses to listen to Stiles’ protests that Derek is a werewolf and therefor would probably win over a bear.

The talk he has with Stiles in private is stilted and awkward, but the gist of it is that if Stiles is having sex with Derek, then there better be at least a dozen condoms involved in every go and she better not even think that Dad has forgotten that she’s still underage.

Stiles likes to pretend that part of the conversation never took place.

--

By the time they set camp the first day, Stiles is informed by a smiling Derek that they have walked a couple of miles – the metric kind that involves ten kilometres per mile, not the common American kind. Stiles glares at him. Derek’s smile just grows. It’s unbearably smug. She still feels a bit out of breath, her legs are burning and, yeah, she can totally feel every one of those stupid international miles in her aching feet. It’s unfair, because Derek doesn’t even look winded.

No, the bastard just looks content.

The spot he chose as his destination is nice, though, Stiles has to hand it to him. It’s secluded enough that the wind is almost non-existent, there’s a gap between the edge of the forest and the rocky beach where the grass grows wild and unhindered. And there’s a lake, a huge, sprawling lake.

It’s beautiful.

“Is this something you do?” Stiles asks, watching Derek unpack.

“I used to,” Derek says.

“With your family?”

Derek nods, then he turns his back and sets about assembling the little tent he’s carried – actually, Derek carried most of the equipment, save for the little backpack Stiles packed for herself. She figures she would maybe feel inadequate about that if it wasn’t for the fact that Derek was a stupid werewolf with super-strength. Stiles sits back and watches Derek for a while, then concedes to the fact that Derek might be a werewolf with super-strength, but he isn’t one with the added benefit of super-assembling-tent-building skills.

“You want me to hold something?”

“I swear, when my parents did this it wasn’t this complicated,” Derek bites out.

Stiles laughs. “I bet they’d done it thousands of times, though.”

“How is this a tent!?”

“How do you normally camp?”

“Without a tent,” Derek snaps and Stiles mouths a silent “oh.”

So Stiles gets over and does her best. Which, granted, is a lot better than Derek was doing before, because if there’s one thing Stiles is a pro at, it’s reading instruction manuals. “Okay,” she says. “Green goes into green. You got it?”

“Green into green,” Derek repeats, then does the exact same thing he’d been doing before: putting pieces of the tent sticks together. It still looks wrong, but at least it looks wrong according to the blueprints. Stiles figures that’s marginally better.

The tent ends up a little lopsided, but it’s firmly secured into the ground and is remarkably sturdy.

“You brought a sleeping bag,” Derek says when Stiles rolls it out inside the tent.

“Yes, Derek, I brought a sleeping bag.”

“It’s the middle of summer and a hundred degrees out.”

Stiles rolls her eyes. “We can’t all be buff werewolves who don’t get cold at night,” she grumbles. “I have delicate toes.”

Derek snorts.

“What, you don’t agree?”

“You don’t have a delicate bone in your body,” Derek says, before moving off.

Stiles huffs, scrambles out of the tent and stalks after Derek. “Hey, I’ll have you know my feelings are easily bruised, Derek!”

“What feelings?” Derek calls back, and Stiles can just hear the grin in his voice. “Come on!”

“What— Derek!”

This time, Derek turns enough to smirk over his shoulder. He’s already pulling off his shirt when he declares, “Last in the lake’s a looser.”

Stiles is too busy cursing and stripping to wonder where Derek’s sudden playful side came from, but no matter how much she rushes, Derek is still in the water before her. Stiles stumbles only twice and she isn’t further behind him than she can outrun him once in the water.

Derek makes up for it by dunking her under when he catches up.

--

Of all the new people in Stiles’ life, Derek is probably the only one who’s never given her that odd glance, the one that says she’s a freak that doesn’t belong. Not the way Lydia can’t stop staring at her legs now or the way Isaac did a double take at her underarms, or any of the other ways she’s been stared at. Jackson’s always glared at her, so that’s nothing new. It’s the little things that chafe.

Erica’s most likely one of the few who can sort of relate, but the fact that when Erica is free to be who she wants to be, when she’s in charge of her life and her body, she chose to go for sexy killer queen rather than the laid back look she had before. It means that she doesn’t question or prod, though, because she knows about choices and being yourself perhaps even better than Stiles does. It doesn’t mean Erica never looks, though.

Scott is her bro, he’s always had her back the same way she has his. Stiles knows that she isn’t a girl to him the same way Scott isn’t a boy to her; they’re family, best friends and in it for life. Derek is none of those things and yet he’s never really stared or made any disparaging comments about who Stiles is.

“Since I started high school, I’ve either been a dyke or Scott’s girlfriend. Well, then Allison came, so lately it’s mostly been dyke.”

Derek frowns at her. “They call you dyke.”

“Yep,” Stiles says. “The school with the out-and-proud lacrosse goalkeeper. Can’t have bitches with short hair who refuse to shave who ain’t tapping the home team.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Derek says.

“Also, I might have had a crush on Lydia at one point but, man, have you seen her boobs? They’re, like, perfect. It’s okay to have sexual identity crisis over boobs like that, okay?”

“I wasn’t arguing—”

“And, like, that first day Erica showed up after you bit her? Totally got off to that later, but that doesn’t make me gay. It makes me aware of fucking hot people, man.”

Derek clears his throat, then he says, “When I was twelve, Lord of the Rings came out in the cinema.”

Stiles turns and frowns at Derek. “Dude, what this got to do with hot people?”

“I saw it eight times. I had posters. My sisters teased me mercilessly over my obvious and, in their words, ‘hopelessly adorable’ crush on Merry and Pippin.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, grinning. “You were a hobbit fan!”

“Shut up,” Derek mutters, rolling his eyes. His ears are bright pink and Stiles can’t resist reaching out to squeeze one even as Derek is swatting her away. “I’m just saying, I thought they were cool and funny. They were brave when they needed to be, strong for each other and—”

“And they totally broke my fucking heart in the third movie, I swear.”

“Yeah,” Derek agrees.

Stiles stretches out a bit on the towel, wriggling her toes. She’s almost dry, but her boxers and sports bra are still damp. “So are you gay?”

Derek shrugs. “Not really.”

“Just not into people?”

This time, Derek grimaces. “I don’t get along with people I don’t know and I don’t like people I don’t know. I don’t really do sex, Stiles. Not with people I don’t like, that I can’t trust, but most of the time I still don’t want to. It’s like, the only time I want more with someone is when we’re already friends and our relationship isn’t supposed to be sexual, but even then it’s not like I want to have sex with them. I just….”

“You mean you want to kiss them and hold them close.”

Derek nods. “Yeah. It’s almost a visceral urge sometimes. I can see myself just reaching out for it, but then I remember we’re not like that. After— Laura would take me to clubs sometimes.”

“Isn’t it weird going out with your sister?”

“It was so weird,” Derek says, sounding a little distant, as if he’s remembering. “She would dance, would date so many people, and I never could—” He shakes his head.

“Let me guess,” Stiles says. “Kinda hard connecting and getting all close when you can’t even tell them about who you are.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re asexual?”

Derek grimaces. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think I could have sex if it was with the right person, but that’s only in theory and most of the time I don’t. I don’t get it, Stiles. Sex, I mean. I don’t get sex.”

“Huh,” Stiles says. “So like, either grey-sexual or demisexual.”

Derek just shrugs. “I don’t need a definition. Labels always mattered more to Laura than to me. I never needed outside validation the same way. I know who I am.”

“I think I’m more like her,” Stiles says. “Sometimes labels piss me off like you wouldn’t believe when they’re used to stereotype crap and belittle people, but sometimes it’s, like, comforting because if there’s a label then it means you’re not alone.” Derek makes a noise that’s neither disagreeing nor agreeing: it’s the kind of noise he makes to show that he’s listening, even if he doesn’t think he’s got anything to say. So Stiles goes on. “I don’t think I am. Demi or grey, I mean. I guess I could maybe be semi-demi at most, but some days I get turned on by almost nothing, like, Robert Downey Jr. is just there and I’m gone. At the same time, I don’t want sex just for the sake of sexing it up. Call me a fucking girl if you want, but I want meaning, I want deep soul-bonds and emotional connection.”

“Laura would hit you for calling sex with emotional ties girly.”

“Good for her, recognising stupid sexism. More power to the women.” Stiles raises a fist to the sky.

Derek rolls his eyes. “You’re ridiculous sometimes.”

“Just sometimes?”

Derek smiles at the sky. “You’re all right.”

--

They grill marshmallows over a fire. Derek collected the wood, but Stiles was the one who piled it and set the fire, all under Derek’s watchful gaze. There’s a ring of stones around the fire, the ground meticulously cleared from anything that might catch fire and a bucket of water is standing not two feet away. Stiles didn’t ask where Derek found it.

Every time a log shifts and cracks in the fire, Derek tenses. So Stiles settles for sitting close, practically resting her head on Derek’s shoulder. The fact that Derek in no way makes a move to dislodge her is telling enough that Derek really, really doesn’t like fire. Besides, it’s not as if it hurts Stiles to be practically cuddling with Derek, so, you know. Win-win all around.

Dinner had been carefully and successfully cooked in one of those portable little portable Trangia stoves, the fire in it contained by metal and consisting solely of methylated spirit. Stiles had been in charge of that, too, and had cooked their food while Derek was still out looking for firewood.

“What’s on for tomorrow?”

Derek shrugs. “Normally I go for a run.”

“Yeah? Wolf-run?”

Derek nods. “I like to stretch my legs. It’s easier when no one’s watching.”

Stiles hums in agreement.

“You could come with me.”

Stiles laughs. “No offense, man, but I can’t even keep up when you run like this.” She pats him on the leg. “This Stilinski isn’t coordinated enough for rough terrain.”

--

The next morning, Stiles pulls out her little pill box and shakes out three pills.  Derek pokes his snout over her shoulder, sniffing at them. He pulls back with a huff and the next time Derek appears, he’s human again.

“What are you taking?” he asks, voice sleep-rough.

“Adderall and birth control,” Stiles answers.

Derek frowns. “Birth control?”

Stiles is peripherally aware of Derek as he crawls around until he’s sitting cross-legged in front of her. She’s too busy rooting out a water bottle from their stash to really look at him, though. “Dude, until you’ve experienced cramps of which likes make you want to first kill the world, then yourself, you have no place to judge, okay— Oh my god, are you seriously naked right now?”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “So? I’m just gonna change back again.”

Stiles nods, hurried and choppy. She manages to swallow the pills without choking, but that’s really a miracle. “Okay, you’re naked. Cool. Awesome. Dude, you know I don’t have a dick, right? So are you a shower or a grower?”

Derek scowls at her, then he crawls out of the tent and stalks off towards the lake, glorious, muscular buttocks on full display all the way down. Stiles may or may not have needed to fan herself a little at the sight.

She still makes sure to shout: “tight ass!” after him, though.

After that, it takes about five seconds of Stiles watching Derek dive into the lake, consider her own sticky skin, the sweaty and gross-icky feeling after having spent a night in a tent with a fucking wolf for a blanket, before she’s diving out of her own clothes and jumping into the water as well.

It’s cold – not freezing cold, but still far from warm – and refreshing. It’s the perfect wake-up call.

--

“It feels really weird being naked outside,” Stiles tells Derek. “Like, I know we’re totally alone out here, but there’s still this feeling that we might not be and anyone could see.”

They’re out far enough in the lake that she can still stand on the somewhat slimy mud-like sand at the bottom, but the water comes up almost to her shoulders. Standing still is a little bit tricky.

Derek stares at her. His hair is wet and plastered to his skull, tufts of it sticking out right by his ears. “You’re naked?” he asks.

Stiles scowls and waves her arms at him. “Dude, if clothes are fucking optional for you, then they sure as hell are optional for me.”

“That’s not— I meant—” Derek cuts himself off and clears his throat. Then he says, “Humans aren’t typically as open to nudity as werewolves.” It sounds like he’s reciting something from memory, something he’d been told over and over as a kid.

Stiles shrugs. “Normally, I’m not. But, well, you don’t care.”

“I told you I’m not gay,” Derek starts.

“No, no, I meant you don’t care how I look, you know? I mean, like Lydia and the rest. I’m just a person to you, right?” Stiles rubs the back of her head. “Me and Scott used to run around half-naked all the time until Dad got this really constipated look on his face because of my looming boob-hood, but, yeah. I know what I look like, okay, but I’m kinda fine with that. I totally rock my body.”

“You do,” Derek says, then he scowls at her grin. “I mean, I can see that you’re comfortable with yourself,” he grits out. “I’m going to swim.”

“You do that,” Stiles says, teasing grin firmly in place. “If you want, I can move back a bit so you can see my tits the way they’re supposed to be appreciated.”

Derek’s eyes actually drop, just that tiny bit, before he looks up and glares at her. Then he disappears under the surface and swims off. Stiles, being a kind hearted saint, laughs after him.

--

Stiles gets out of the lake way ahead of Derek. The towel from yesterday isn’t quite dry, but she rubs the worst of the water off with it anyway, then ties it around her waist as she goes looking for the satellite phone to give an update to her dad.

“Still not eaten by bears,” she says when Dad picks up. “We’re hearty and hale.”

“That’s good,” Dad says. “You survived the night with no difficulties?”

“Well,” Stiles says, “There was the time when I almost choked on wolf hair because Derek decided to get his cuddle on and almost suffocated me, but other than that? Nope, went totally fine.”

Dad groans. “Stiles…”

Stiles grins. “Dad.”

“Tell me you packed the condoms.”

Stiles rolls her eyes and ignores the blush stretching from her navel to the top of her head. “Dad, I told you, we’re not like that.”

“Uh-huh,” Dad says. He doesn’t sound like he believes her. Stiles supposes she can’t blame him, not with the way Stiles can sometimes go on for hours talking about the contradicting miracle slash impossible asshole that Derek Hale actually is. “Are you sore this morning?”

“Oh my god, Dad—”

“After your walk,” Dad chokes out. “Oh my god, Stiles, are you sore after walking all those miles yesterday.”

Stiles breathes out loudly and shakes her head. “I can’t believe you, Dad.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now answer the question, kid.”

“Sure you don’t,” Stiles grumbles. “But no, actually. It’s not that bad. Might be tomorrow, though.”

“When are you coming home?”

“I don’t know. Derek said he wanted to go wolf-running, so I’ll probably be packing up camp while he does that and— oh my god, where the fuck did the fish come from, Derek?”

Derek grins smugly. “I caught them,” he says.

“Caught them with what? You’re naked!”

“With my hands. I need the towel to dry off.”

Stiles gapes at him and hands the towel over without thinking. On the ground next to her is a boulder with three huge fish on it that Derek apparently caught with his hands. “Dad,” Stiles says. She can’t stop staring at the fish. “Derek caught three fish with his hands.”

“I heard,” Dad says in that longsuffering way when he’s heard more than he’s comfortable with about his daughter’s shenanigans. “Can Derek hear this? I’ll just assume he can hear this and that he’d better not be running around naked with my underage daughter—”

“Oh my god!” Stiles squeaks. “I’m hanging up now, Dad, you’re so unbelievably not funny right now, bye!”

Derek is kind of frozen in the middle of drying his hair. He looks shell-shocked and also a bit afraid, as if Stiles’ dad is about to jump out through the phone at him and shoot him or something.

Stiles sighs. “Derek, he’s just messing with you.”

“You have freckles on your boobs,” Derek says.

“Fuck my life!” Stiles exclaims, hands in the air, and then she whirls around to stalk off towards the tent.

“There’s a mole on your butt!” Derek calls after her.

“And you have a birthmark the size of Texas right next to your dick!”

--

That day is easy to summarise: Derek spends most of it as a wolf. Stiles can almost track his movements by listening to which parts of the woods goes quiet. Stiles packs their equipment, builds a fire, guts the fish and grills them. By the time Derek is done frolicking – “For the last time, Stiles, I wasn’t frolicking, dammit!” – Stiles has the food ready to be consumed.

It is the most delicious tasting fish she’s ever had in her life. Also, gutting fish is seriously traumatising and she’s never doing it again in her life, ever.

They don’t leave until Derek is sure the wet clumps of ash won’t set fire to the hole they’ve dug. The hole filled with sand and rocks.

Even then, Derek turns to look back a lot the first hour.

Stiles isn’t really surprised.

--

The next day is a Monday and Stiles is back to wrestling Derek’s garden under submission. Lydia corners her with lunch and a steely glare.

“You didn’t come to my party,” she says, eyebrow raised. “It wasn’t an optional invitation, Stiles.”

“I was camping with Derek!” Stiles protests. “In the woods. Far from mankind and pool parties.”

Lydia hums and tilts her head to the side. “Did you at least have sex?”

“Oh my god! No, Lydia, I didn’t have sex with Derek. We went camping and he caught fish with his bare hands like the savage wolf he is!”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “You know, I bought you this cute little bikini for the party.”

“I don’t wear bikinis,” Stiles says, nose scrunching up.

“No, you don’t even wear a bra, do you?”

“I don’t need to.”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “It’s not about need, Stiles, it’s about looks and attitude. I think you could look really sexy with the right kind of clothes.”

“What? You mean, if I just change everything about who I am? I’ll look ‘sexy’ then? Screw that! This is who I am and if that’s not good enough for you, then too bad, because guess what? I don’t fucking care!”

“Stiles.” Lydia’s nostrils flare. “You look like—”

“What? A dyke? A dude? A fucking freak?”

Lydia’s eyebrows are raised. She looks a little taken aback, Stiles thinks, but not enough to stop her from saying, “I was going to say like a hobo.”

“Good,” Stiles says, hands in the air. “Mission accomplished. Hobo!Stiles achievement unlocked, fucking finally.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says through clenched teeth when the door to the house opens and Derek walks out. Lydia glances at him. “Derek, back me up.”

“I had two aunts and four sisters,” Derek says. “My four cousins were all girls. I’m not backing you up.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I know better than to try change someone who’s mind is already made up. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with Stiles.”

“Oh, so you’re saying you wouldn’t like to see her in a dress or with some makeup on?”

“No,” Derek says. “It wouldn’t be Stiles. People look good when they’re comfortable in their skin.” He shrugs. “Everyone has different skin.”

“Thank you, Derek!” Stiles exclaims. “Now will you leave me be?”

Lydia frowns, but she does stop bringing Stiles’ looks up again. What Lydia does do, though, is show up later that night when Stiles really wishes she were already asleep.

--

“Lydia,” Stiles groans. “I need sleep.”

Lydia huffs. “I need to do a manicure and yet here I am. Okay, off with it, then.”

“What?”

“Your clothes.” Lydia rolls her eyes. “Take your clothes off, Stiles, so I can see what you really look like.”

“Um, no?” Stiles crosses her arms over her chest. She’s wearing one of Dad’s old T-shirts and a pair of Scott’s shorts. Lydia purses her lips and moves closer, so Stiles backs away until she can’t anymore because some idiot decided a wall would look great right there, smack-dab in the line of Stiles’ retreat.

“Are you even wearing anything under that?”

“What? No, I’m going to bed— Oh my god, what are you doing?”

Lydia smirks. “Please,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Like you haven’t imagined me doing more than just touching your breasts.”

“Usually there’s this thing called ‘consent’ involved,” Stiles gets out, batting Lydia’s hands away – her perfect, warm and soft glorious little hands. “What do you even want?”

“I want to understand.”

Stiles frowns. “What’s to understand, dude?”

“I’m not good with people,” Lydia says. “So I buy things. I buy Erica all the shoes she could want, I buy Allison cute little clothes, I make sure Isaac has things that fit, that Jackson doesn’t go around looking like a slob even though he has both me and Danny to make sure that doesn’t happen. I fix things—”

“—with money,” Stiles fills in. “Lydia, you don’t need to ‘fix’ anything for me, okay? I happen to be pretty damn content with myself and the parts I don’t like—”

“What?” Lydia jumps in, sharp and shark like.

“I get debilitating cramps once a month to the point where I actually throw up unless I drug myself out of my mind beforehand. I have ADHD and it’s taken almost ten years for my doctor to find a drug that works and figure out how much of it I have to take. It’s stuff like that, Lydia. You can’t help me with that.”

Lydia sighs, looking frustrated as she puts her hands on her hips. “Why won’t you just wear a bra?”

“Why would I?” Stiles snaps. “I don’t want to. I don’t need to. Half the time I forget to put on a sports bra and no one even notices. Five minutes in the women’s lingerie department freaks me out so bad, you have no idea. I’ve seen things in there I swear are torture implements—”

“But why? I could make you look so good, Stiles.”

“I look good the way I am.”

Lydia sort of nods at that. “Better, then.”

“No, you could make me look like one of you. Like ‘girls’ are supposed to look. I… I don’t want that. I want this. My own stuff.”

“Do you remember when we started school? When you actually had hair?”

Stiles nods. “I had pigtails. Mom…” Stiles clears her throat. “Mom was really good with hair.”

“I used to be so jealous of you. I remember you had the most gorgeous hair and it always looked so pretty. I badgered my mom to make it just like yours every day for years. Then you came to school one day and you’d shaved it all off. I didn’t understand. I was so mad at you for that. I had braces and ugly hair, and you just cut yours all off like you didn’t even care.”

“You still don’t,” Stiles says. “Understand, I mean. I… Part of me just couldn’t anymore, you know? After Mom died, I couldn’t— I didn’t brush my hair once after she went to the hospital. Yeah, cutting it all off was easier, but I needed to do it. For me.” Stiles moves away, goes over to sit on the bed. “Do you remember my clothes, though? When we were kids?”

Lydia frowns and eventually shakes her head.

“Scott and I bonded over our superhero shirts. We shared toys, got into trading cards, played video games and ran around terrorising the neighbourhood. Mom left me alone about it for the most part, so long as she could have my hair. Dad never really cared one way or the other, but he always takes my side when people give me crap about who I am. Like, there are all these old binnies who go around muttering about the fact that I don’t wear dresses, that I look like a boy and that it’s not ‘right.’ It’s bullshit, Lydia. I’m a person. I’m me.”

“I just want to make sure you have what you deserve,” Lydia says after a while. “My powers are limited, essentially. I utilise fashion to make sure I stay on top—”

“And your scary genius brain.”

Lydia smirks. “Of course. But without fashion, I wouldn’t have power.”

“That’s because the world’s fucked up in terms of acceptable behaviour according to sex and gender—”

“I know,” Lydia snaps. “I took control and did what I had to do to ensure I stay on top.”

“I don’t need to be on top when I can get my own way by saying fuck you to the people who disagree. I… I never thought about it, growing up, but I never had to be a girl or a boy, you know? Scott was always my best friend and Dad let me be so long as I was happy. After Mom— He sat me down and told me I could be whatever I wanted so long as I never stopped smiling, because smiles feed the soul. His soul. If I’m happy, he’s happy.”

Lydia sighs, lying back on the bed, her head pillowed on Stiles’ old Jigglypuff plushie, her red hair fanned around her head. She looks beautiful. “I wish my dad was like that,” she says. “On a good day, he hands me his credit card.” Quieter, she adds, “On bad days, I never see him at all.”

--

“I don’t like it when people call you names.”

“Most of the time, I don’t even listen. Don’t worry about it, Lydia.”

--//interlude

At Christmas, Lydia gives Stiles a denim shirt and she thinks she might actually love Lydia forever for this, because it’s a concession that Stiles is just fine as she is, that Lydia understands and supports it the way she knows how: working fashion under the parameters set by Stiles.

It’s only when Stiles tries it on that she realises that, well, it’s kind of small? Also, it’s tight and cut: it’s a women’s shirt. Stiles stares at it as if it’s betrayed her. She can’t wear it without bunching the shirt she’s got on under it and even then she can’t really button it all the way. Like, Stiles’ boobs aren’t really things you take notice of, but they still feel like they’re too big for this shirt.

When Lydia asks, though Stiles is fully prepared to lie because she’s wanted a denim shirt for months, something must show up on her face.

Lydia sighs. “Okay, out with it.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles mutters. “I really love it.”

“Yes, I could tell that much from your facial expression alone, but the shouting really sold the deal. What’s the problem, then?”

“I don’t think it was made for people like me.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It’s too small. Like, my boobs are in the way.”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “Stiles, you don’t have boobs.”

“Exactly! But I can’t button that shirt over them – I cried, Lydia, okay? I cried fat tears over that shirt!”

To no one’s surprise, Lydia isn’t satisfied until she’s seen the shirt on Stiles. She watches without saying anything as Stiles wrestles the thing on and tries to button it. Her T-shirt bunches, her wife-beater gets twisted and Stiles feels defeated and foiled by a piece of denim yet again. It’s not fair.

“Where do you normally by your clothes, Stiles?”

“I go with Scott or Dad. Unless I find cool stuff online.”

Lydia hums and nods. “I see.”

“What?”

“Stiles, that’s how shirts from the women’s department fit.”

“But it’s too small! Why do you want clothes that don’t fit?”

Lydia’s smile is almost indulgent. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s get it exchanged for something that you’ll actually wear. Do you at least get slim fitting shirts?”

“Sometimes,” Stiles says. She stares mournfully at the shirt as Lydia packs it away. “They don’t always have the clothes I like in slim fit.”

--//part deux

Scott’s birthday is on January twenty-eight. Stiles’ birthday is on February second. For years, they’ve been promising each other that when they finally turn eighteen, they’ll either get a tattoo or a piercing. They’re not going to do it for each other, but for themselves to prove that they can, like a rite of passage. Scott’s been talking about getting a tattoo for years, but Stiles has always been a bit indecisive, waffling back and forth between getting a batman tattoo or a piercing of some kind. Of course, since they made the vow, Stiles has discovered a crippling fear of blood and pain, so she’s not sure how she’s going to survive her birthday, but that’s beside the point.

Scott gets a tattoo with Derek’s help and he looks unbearably proud for days. It’s actually kind of cute, like puppy’s first howl or something. Five days later, Stiles turns eighteen and has no idea what to do.

“It’s, like, I realised that I’m scared or something,” she says to Scott. “I mean, I fucking passed out at the sight of you getting repeatedly stabbed with a needle.”

“I know,” Scott says. He has an arm slung around her shoulders. “We promised.”

“We made an oath,” Stiles corrects. “A piercing is just one stab.”

“Two if you count that they have to pull the piercing through the hole,” Scott says, then winces when Stiles’ turns an alarming shade of pale. “But it’s still just one!”

“I can’t do this,” Stiles wheezes.

“Yes, you can,” Scott says.

“Yes, I can.”

“I’ll even draw the pain, okay?”

“I love you, Scott.”

Scott laughs. “I know. You ready?”

Stiles nods, and then they go inside.

The piercer is really good. Her name is Anna, she answers any and all questions, is professional and approachable, and she even lets Stiles take a look at how the piercings look on her as opposed to pictures on the internet and the weird, black plastic cut-outs.

She is also incredibly hot.

Scott turns red when Stiles sheds all her upper layers, but he doesn’t turn away. They haven’t really been half naked around each other since Stiles grew breasts, but Stiles figures Scott’s seen Allison’s often enough by now that it really shouldn’t be a big deal anymore.

“Personally,” Anna says, “Going by the look of you, I think a nipple piercing would suit you better. You have a great figure, so it’s not about that. But the kind of image you project doesn’t go hand in hand with a belly button piercing. It’s not a bad thing, it’s nothing personal against you, it’s just my opinion.”

“I’m just doing this once, so it damn well better be good,” Stiles says.

Anna laughs. She has latex gloves on and her touch is gentle but firm on Stiles’ breasts. Stiles goes bright red of course, but Anna doesn’t comment on it. “You have a cluster of really cute freckles right here—” She points them out with her pinky, a splodge of freckles perfectly off-centre on Stiles’ left breast right by the nipple— “And then there’s a mole right here on the other side, so I’d go with your right nipple. It’s always best to work with what your body already has to offer. How does that sound?”

“Good,” Stiles squeaks. “I want you to know before I start hating you for causing me pain, but I would totally go gay for you right now.”

Scott makes a high pitched noise.

Anna just laughs. “You actually have great breasts for either a ring or a bar, Stiles. Do you play sports?”

“God, I play soccer at school,” Stiles says quickly, because there’s a light at the other end of the tunnel, a way out that’s hers if she can just reach it, “No jewellery allowed, stupid FIFA, sorry, but I think we have to cancel this—”

“The season is over, Stiles,” Scott says. “You played your last game two days ago, plus I know Mandy’s got a belly button piercing. Allison said so.”

“Can’t you just let me worm out of this with my dignity intact?”

“Nope,” Scott says, looking entirely too gleeful.

Anna smiles at them. “So a ring or a bar, Stiles? Bars are better if you do a lot of contact sports.”

Stiles sucks in a deep breath. “A bar, then.”

“Okay.” After, Anna disinfects, shows the needle in its sealed box to Scott because Stiles refuses to look at it and then, well. Then she shoves the needle through Stiles’ poor nipple. Scott draws most of the pain away, so she couldn’t accurately say whether it hurt that bad or not but it’s still painful.

“I’m just going to put the bar through now, okay, Stiles?”

Stiles makes a whimpering noise.

Anna smiles at her. “You’re doing really good. You’d never believe it, but mostly it’s actually guys who pass out.”

“I fainted when Scott got a tattoo.”

Anna just nods. “Sometimes it’s worse seeing it done to others. Don’t forget to breathe.”

Stiles gulps down air.

Eventually, Anna says, “There, all done. Now, don’t forget to be kind to it, okay? If you treat it right, you’ll enjoy this piercing for the rest of your life. Don’t touch it with your hands unless you know they’re clean. If you’re sick, clean it even more carefully. Sometimes they heal between two and four months, but sometimes it takes over a year. Wash it twice a day for six months and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to come see me. Okay?”

“Okay,” Stiles says.

“You did great, Stiles. Let your friend help you, then go eat lots of candy so your blood sugar can get a rush. You look too pale.”

--

“Okay,” Dad says when she gets home. “Let’s have it, what did you do?”

“Dad, I’m offended that you think I would—”

“Stiles, you and Scott have been talking about this ‘pact’ of yours since you were thirteen. I know he got a tattoo, so. What did you do?”

“I got a piercing.”

“A piercing.”

Stiles nods. “You’ll never see it,” she promises.

“Oh, god,” Dad says. “I don’t want to know.”

“It’s in my nipple,” Stiles says, because she feels perfectly justified being a bit mean to her dad when he’s being too curious for his own good.

“I said I didn’t want to know, Stiles!”

Stiles just grins. “I thought you wanted to see, Dad?”

“No! Just, go be somewhere that isn’t here.”

Stiles frowns. “What about my birthday dinner?”

Dad rolls his eyes. “Just give me fifteen to bleach this conversation from my brain, okay?”

--

Derek’s house turns out unbelievably gorgeous. It’s two floors, has a patio on the backside that leads to a deck and a pool, a gorgeous garden that Stiles is taking all the credit for and the inside is slowly catching up. The kitchen’s been done for a while, the bedroom Derek uses was one of the first rooms to get ready and the bathrooms are getting there as well. It’s slow going these days, especially since all of Derek’s little helpers had to go back to school and Derek himself got a job.

Well, he had to retake some qualification courses and make sure his references and credits from New Jersey were up to date. He has a real job waiting for him starting September as a park ranger.

Stiles can’t actually believe that Derek Hale is a park ranger. It’s kind of hilariously fitting.

By the time summer comes around again, all that’s left is painting the two extra rooms upstairs and the living room downstairs. They need to buy furniture, of course, but the house itself is done and it only took them a year.

--

Stiles and Derek go camping for three weeks that summer, endless days in the forest that bleed into each other. It was only supposed to be for two weeks, but it’s harder to pack up and leave to go back home than Stiles had counted on, so they stay longer. There are bugs and creepy stuff, disgusting things that freak her out – seriously, just try going to the toilet when there isn’t a freaking toilet for miles – but she prevails and emerges victorious. They both carry packs this time, Stiles’ significantly larger than last year’s, and they don’t stop until they’re on the other side of the lake they’d been at before.

Stiles doesn’t fully appreciate how huge that lake is until she has to walk around it and it takes them the better part of an extra day to do so. That fucking lake is massive, okay?

Derek doesn’t bring a sleeping bag this time either and Stiles suspects he’s really starved for wolf-cuddles. It’s either that or an allergy to nylon or whatever material sleeping bags are made of.

--

That first day, the day after they set the tent, where they sleep in as much as is possible in a tent that turns a hundred degrees hot in the sun, Derek hunts down a deer. He butchers it for as much meat as they can possibly make use of, then teaches Stiles how to smoke it, how to turn it into something they can preserve for as long as they need to. They grill a lot of it as it is and eat on the spot, greasy with fat and still hot from the fire.

“Are you providing for me, Derek? Showing me what a good wolf you are?”

“Shut up, Stiles.”

“‘Cause I’m just saying, this is totally working for me. Give me food and I’ll be yours forever, I kid you not, especially for stuff that’s this fucking delicious.”

“I don’t know if that’s useful information or just terrifying.”

“Just go with it. C’mon, give me some more, I want that juicy bit— No, no, the big one.”

--

Derek wakes her the next morning by licking her toes in his wolf form.

Stiles may or may not have shrieked and kicked out at his snout.

Derek changes back to Stiles cursing him out, but he doesn’t look bothered by it. “Come on, a swim, then I thought we could go for a walk.”

“Because we haven’t walked at all coming here,” Stiles mutters, but she pulls her tank off, then wiggles out of her shorts. She doesn’t notice Derek staring until she tries to get out of the tent and he’s still blocking the entrance.

“Derek?”

“That’s new,” he says. “You didn’t have that— Before, I mean. It wasn’t there before.”

Stiles grins. “Oh, you mean the nipple piercing that I got on my birthday?”

Derek glares at the overly careful pronunciation but, hey, at least it gets him to stop ogling her boobs.

“Yeah, Scott got a tattoo and I got this bad boy. Scott says it smells healed, but I’m gonna keep washing it a while longer, I think. Speaking of which, I need to take my pills.”

Stiles digs through her pack for the little container with her pills, accepts the water bottle Derek hands over and swallows them all down in one go. Derek doesn’t exactly move, but he doesn’t outright stare either as she cleans her piercing. It feels oddly intimate to have him there, watching, while she does it, but she’s a pro at ignoring her own feelings.

“I wondered why you smelled like you were healing when you weren’t hurt,” Derek says.

“Yeah, Scott kept scrunching his nose at me. Like, oh my god, he even offered to lick it for me with his wolf-tongue, he was so concerned over the time it took to heal even though the piercer said it could take, like, a year or something.”

“Scott offered to lick your breast.”

Stiles rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I don’t think he thought that one through. Seriously, you should’ve seen the look on Allison’s face.”

--

Those three weeks is the reason Stiles grows her hair out a little. It’s still short, but it’s not a buzz cut anymore, and now she can style it a little with gel if she feels like it. Most days she doesn’t, but some days she fixes her fringe a little. Just to give it an edge. She’s thinking of maybe getting a mowhawk.

--

“Stiles, answer this: how do you get a tan without tan lines?”

Lydia smiles smartly at Stiles. She has the feeling that this a trap even if she can’t figure how it is one, because it’s such an innocuous question. “You’re naked?”

“Exactly,” Lydia agrees.

“Okay, good talk,” Stiles says and just as she’s about to slowly back away, Lydia reaches out and pushes the shoulder of her loose tank to the side.

“See, you have no lines, Stiles, and the opening under your arm is so wide that anyone can see that your tan is extremely even.”

Stiles swallows. “So?”

Lydia smiles. It’s her shark smile. “So how did you get a tan like that while camping in the woods with Derek for three weeks?”

“I didn’t have a top on?”

Lydia hums. “Did you at least sleep with him this time?”

“Uh, I think I need to— Yeah, hey, Dad!”

“Nope,” her dad says. “I’m not helping you run from Lydia.”

Dad—!”

“See you later, kid,” Dad says, then he jumps inside his patrol car and drives off. He waves jauntily at her as he does and Stiles can spy the bag of goodies on the passenger seat that he most definitely should not be eating. At least it explains why he wouldn’t help her escape from the clutches of Lydia Martin, though.

Lydia’s nails are sharp and hard when they dig into Stiles’ arm, grip firm.

“Is Derek gay?” Lydia asks. “Is that why you still haven’t banged him?”

“No, I— No! It’s none of your business—”

“Please, you couldn’t be more obviously in love with him.”

“So?” Stiles sighs. “Look, just because I like him doesn’t mean he automatically has to like me, too, okay? Life isn’t a fairy-tale – werewolves being real so not the point – and just because you have this huge crush on someone—“

“Oh, come on, Stiles!” Lydia rolls her eyes. “Did you see him bringing anyone else on his three week long seclusion into the woods?”

“That’s not the point—”

“Of course it’s the point!” Lydia exclaims. “He tolerates you in a way he doesn’t with the rest of us. You were the only one he didn’t supervise to death when he fixed up his house! Stiles, there’s something about you that’s different to what he feels about the rest of us. Since it’s obviously not that he can’t stand you, severely dislikes you, find you annoying and just plain and simple hates you, it must mean the opposite.” She raises an eyebrow. “Well?”

Stiles bites her lips and shrugs because, well. Stacked like that the evidence maybe, perhaps make a little sense. Maybe… “Did you see my piercing?”

Lydia smirks. “Yes. It had me considering things.”

“Your boobs make me considering things all the time,” Stiles says, grinning.

“Good.” Lydia sounds pleased. “And Derek?”

“He, uh. I think he liked it.” Lydia raises an eyebrow, gesturing at her. “He— Looked. He looked. A lot.”

“And?”

“And then he’d look away and suddenly be real busy.”

Lydia’s smile grows. She looks happy, Stiles thinks, and her eyes are glowing. It’s a little scary. “Perfect.”

Stiles feels hesitant.

“You’re going to rock Derek’s world, Stiles. I’m going to make sure of it or my name isn’t Lydia Martin.”

“Lydia—” Stiles starts.

“What?”

“He likes that I’m me. That I’m happy being me.”

Lydia just rolls her eyes. “Of course he does. You’re strong, stubborn, don’t take shit from anyone and you stand up to him.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“People look sexy because they know they are sexy,” Lydia says. She twirls the straw in her smoothie, then lifts it up and licks it clean. It’s tantalising, her lips pink and perfect, her tongue curling just so and Stiles feels that familiar clench down below. “Derek knows how to use his body but he doesn’t like being attractive to strangers.”

Stiles has to blink a couple of times to refocus and when she finally manages, Lydia is smirking softly at her. “Uh,” Stiles says.

“All you need to do is believe that you are sexy to Derek. There is no magical transformation or sudden make-over that can change it for you. Sure, I know what the movies think of the whole ‘ugly duckling turning into a swan princess’ trope, but seriously, real life isn’t like that. If I put you in heels, you’d wobble like Bambi on ice and feel out of place and ugly.”

--

“It’s about attitude, Stiles.”

Attitude? What kind of attitude?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lydia says airily. “How about: ‘Derek Hale thinks my breasts look amazing.’”

Stiles gapes, even as her ears feels hot. “He does?”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “No, he just kept checking out that piercing of yours because it clearly disgusted him. Of course he thinks it looks great on you!” She raises an eyebrow, expectant. “Well?”

“Yeah, uh. Okay. So, Derek Hale is into my boobs,” Stiles says, sounding lame even to her own ears.

Lydia tuts at her. “Stiles, if you don’t believe it, you can’t sell it. Now get out of my car and work it.”

--

The advice to “feel sexy ergo you are sexy” feels a little bit like a piece of crap to Stiles. Lydia insists, though, says it’s all about attitude and that Stiles has plenty of that.

Stiles is pretty sure she has a lot of bullshit, which, hey, might actually get her places but probably won’t do much of any good in terms of getting it on with Derek. Derek, who she doesn’t even know for sure if he likes her that way. Yeah, he’d occasionally been staring at her nipple piercing, but he could’ve been doing that for any reason! Like, he appreciates body jewellery or, or just likes nipples and not just hers in particular or something.

Lydia buys none of this.

No, what Lydia does is drop Stiles off at Derek’s place, tells her to “work it,” then drives off. Derek comes wandering out of the garage just as Lydia is making off with squealing tires to frown at Stiles, one eyebrow raised.

“Hey, Derek,” Stiles says. “I was just, uh. So.”

“Stiles?”

Stiles turns around and looks down the empty road. “I think I just got ditched by my ride.”

“Any reason your driver went out of her way to drop you off here instead of at home?”

“No, nope, no reason at all,” Stiles says and they both know it’s a lie.

“Uh-huh.”

How do you even use your boobs to feel sexy, though? Like, how do you start selling that concept when boobs are really just boobs because they’re those little bits of extra flesh on your chest, right, and how do you make your own start being sexy?

Derek chokes on air.

Stiles purses her lips, nods. “So yeah, awesome job on the brain-to-mouth filter there, Stiles.”

“Stiles, why—” Derek sounds pained.

“Just something Lydia said. Like, if I believe the boobs are sexy, they become the sexy.”

Derek just stares at her. “Why do you want—?”

“Well,” Stiles says, drawing the word out, looking carefully at Derek. “There’s this guy. That I like. That I’d really like to like me, too.”

“Oh,” Derek says, soft and confused.

“Yeah. If I have sexy boobs, Lydia reckons he’ll notice. Personally? I think it’s bullshit because if he can’t see how awesome I am without me having to flaunt my boobs in his face then it’s his loss, really. Of course, if it works for Lydia – and it does, it totally does, like she did this thing with a straw and—” Stiles cuts herself off. “Anyway, I’m saying it could work for me, too, right? Hypothetically, I mean. Except I’m not sure I want someone to like me just because they think I have a great set of tits. Like, apparently I have awesome side-boobs in this shirt and I had no idea.” Stiles lifts the arm closest to Derek, tugs at the shirt a bit and twists around on the spot as she tries to get a look inside her shirt. Derek clamps a hand down on her arm and lowers it, though, before Stiles can really twist herself into a pretzel, a pained look on his face. “What?”

“You do,” Derek says. “I mean—”

Stiles blinks, then her grin turns sly. “Derek,” she says, “Were you looking?”

“No,” he grumps, but he won’t meet her eyes and his ears look pink.

Stiles’ grin grows. Her belly feels warm and soft, tight, and there’s a slow simmering heat building below it. She feels awesome and you couldn’t pay her to stop grinning.

“What?” Derek demands.

“Nothing.” A pause. “You like my boobs.”

Derek scowls, but he doesn’t deny it, just says, “So?”

So – you don’t like boobs, you like people, which means you’re totally into me, like, a lot.”

Derek glares at her, but it’s lacking power and conviction. Stiles can tell. There’s a distinct lack of menacing in the air.

“Just FYI,” Stiles says, leaning close. “I’m totally down with that.”

Derek looks away, then he says, “What if I’m not?”

Stiles feels her good mood plummet to her toes, because, yeah, that would be just about the only thing that could bring her down. “Oh,” she says.

“It’s not—” Derek cuts himself off. “Half the time, I don’t even know what I want. If I want— If I can. You’re under my skin, Stiles. You make me crazy, but—”

“Okay, okay,” Stiles says, and this time her smile is soft, small, a little curved. “Challenge accepted.”

“I wasn’t— Stiles, I'm not a 'challenge.'”

Stiles bumps her shoulder into Derek’s, smiling a little. “I know that, dumbass. I'm gonna woo the fuck out of you. Just wait for it: you’ll never see me coming.”

--

Derek totally sees her coming; Stiles is about as subtle as a train wreck.

--

Stiles starts her plan “Wooing Derek Hale” in stealth mode, easing Derek in as gently as snowflakes on your nose. That is, she drags him to the movies, provides him with his favourite snacks, then snags Derek’s hand and doesn’t let go until the movie’s well and truly over. To be fair, his grip of her hand is so tight she doubts she’d be able to slip out of it without a fight anyway, so she feels fairly certain that Derek is completely on-board with the plan.

After that, there’s the day long hikes, the home cooked meals, the long cuddle sessions in front of the TV and the sneak-hug attacks.

Stiles is nothing if not thorough and efficient.

It’s a skill.

--

Stiles starts college right around the time that Derek actively starts working. She sets them up with Skype even though she’s still living in Beacon Hills and still sees Derek as often as possible, makes sure to send at least a message a day to him but usually ends up closer to thirty – so she’s forgetful and enthusiastic and feels a need to share, that’s not a crime, okay?

Berkeley is forty minutes away and Lydia and she commute. They drive alternating weeks and spend on average ten hours a day on campus. Stiles loves campus: there are libraries and lecture halls, club rooms and rec centres. She can spend hours in a coffee shop, sitting in a stuffed armchair typing away on her computer surrounded by a dozen people doing the exact same thing.

Stiles loves college. Dad let her go wild picking whatever courses she wanted so long as she agreed to see a study counsellor to help her make sense of it, to find some sort of red thread. She takes more classes than Lydia simply because Stiles’ mind goes off in a million directions at once, rather than the focused beam of genius that is Lydia Martin’s brain.

Scott is going to the state college in Beacon Hills with Isaac and Erica, while Boyd opts for the local community college. Jackson and Allison are the ones furthest away at Stanford, a one and half hour car trip that either they or Scott makes every weekend.

--

Dad and Stiles talk a lot about her moving out, about her learning the responsibility required of taking care of your own household. Granted, she’s been mostly in charge of their household for years, but she never had to learn about paying bills or what kind of insurances a house needs, or her car for that matter. On principle, she agrees with Dad because living on her own would be awesome, it’s definitely something she wants.

The problem is money. As in: Stiles doesn’t have any.

“You could get a job,” Dad says.

“Duh, Daddy-o.” Stiles rolls her eyes. “Have you tried adding a job into the equation that is my life?”

Dad tilts his head back, eyes narrowed. “It’d have to be a weekend gig or something you can squeeze in during the day when you’re at college.”

“I can’t work there. Keeping focused is an art of science, okay? You do not want to screw with a system that works. It’d be messy and ugly, someone would have to die and I do not want to go to jail, Dad, I wouldn’t make it in jail.”

“Stiles…”

“Sorry,” Stiles says. “Anyway, I don’t think I could manage a job at school. I need all the extra hours I spend there to do schoolwork. It’s either that or I stop sleeping. Again.”

“Again,” Dad agrees, wincing.

It’d taken years and several careful adjustments of her Adderall intake before she could sleep the night through, and then only because her doctor had prescribed a calming agent that she had to take an hour before bedtime that effectively knocked her out for eight hours. Neither she nor Dad wanted to revisit the days prior to that.

Suffice to say it hadn’t been pretty.

“Or,” Dad says after a while. “Or you could stop spending so much time with Hale. That’d free you up.”

“Dad!” Stiles hisses. “Not an option.”

“Indulge me?”

“Nope. One day, that man is gonna be mine and you’re gonna be happy for us.”

Dad just smiles. “Stiles, the day you settle down with the love of your life I’m gonna be the happiest man alive, okay? Until then, I fully intend to exercise my right to be a dad and make life difficult for Derek Hale.”

“He’s a park ranger. He’s got a respectable job. He went to school for it—”

“And you’re still my kid. I’m allowed to pick sides when it comes to you. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt if he could take you on a date for a change, show some responsibility.”

Stiles rolls her eyes. “He’s working up to it. Honestly, you should see how flustered he gets about it sometimes. His ears go pink: it’s kinda cute. He’s kinda cute, Dad. Like, he’ll deny it until he gets blue in the face, but he craves wolf-cuddles like a man dying of thirst craves water. And, like, he won’t ask for anything – anything, Dad! – no, instead he has this ‘special glare’ that makes him look extra grumpy which means it’s been, like, an hour since he last had his hug-fix or something. He’s ridiculous, Dad.”

Dad just smiles. “I know,” he says.

--

The first time they actually kiss, Stiles forgets that they’re still working on dating, still working on letting Derek be comfortable and relaxed in his own skin. They’re outside on Derek’s porch, snuggling close on the swing seat. It’s November and there’s enough of a chill in the air that it warrants having a blanket wrapped around them. Stiles has her head resting on Derek’s shoulder and it’s so easy – too easy – to just tilt her head a little bit closer, to nose at Derek’s cheek as he puts his hand on hers.

By the time they’re kissing, lips sliding over lips, tongues brushing, slick with saliva and moist with heat, Stiles has a fire in her belly and she’s forgotten all about her careful plan on wooing Derek Hale. She figures that’s okay, thought, because Derek seems to be perfectly on-board with this change. In fact, he’s so much on-board that he keeps chasing after more kisses every time Stiles pulls back to take it slow because slow and Derek have been synonymous up until this point.

“Derek?”

“I’m fine. It’s fine.”

“Yeah?”

Derek hums, nods. “I like kissing.”

Stiles grins, cheeks warm and lips burning – damn Derek’s stupidly attractive stubble. “Good, yeah. That’s awesome, man, because kissing may be my favourite thing in the world right now, just saying.”

“Good,” Derek says. Then, “Get your hands off my ass.”

Stiles wants to pout and protest that it’s so firm, that it’s sexy and hot and deserves a good squeezing, but Derek looks stiff in the not good way, like he really doesn’t like all the places Stiles wandering hands go and is seconds away from getting off the swing seat, so she pulls back, lets Derek twine their fingers together and leans in for more kisses.

Stiles thinks she could probably kiss this man for the rest of her life without ever wanting to stop. That’s okay – actually, it’s more than okay – because she’s starting to suspect that Derek feels the same way, that this is a forever sort of deal more than it is anything else.

Truth be told, Stiles is falling heads over heels in love with that idea, with Derek, with everything they could be.

Derek squeezes Stiles’ fingers, pulls her back. He’s looking lazy and amused, eyes hooded. “If you’re going to be lost in your head—”

“Lost in you,” Stiles says, waggling her eyebrows.

Derek just laughs. “Sure you are,” he says. He lifts a hand, thumbs her cheek. “You should come over on Friday.”

“Yeah? What’s in it for me?”

“Food,” Derek says. “I’ve been practicing: your dad taught me all your favourites. Not the sauce, though. No sane person makes béarnaise sauce from scratch.”

“Are you saying my dad is insane?”

Derek looks caught, but then he smirks. “I’m saying Stilinskis are a special brand of humanity.”

Stiles snorts, but her heart is beating hard and strong under her breastbone. “Sure you are. Don’t forget I know you, Hale. I know all about you.”

“I know,” Derek says, eyes soft. “I should thank you for that, shouldn’t I?”

Stiles’ ears heat up. “It’s not like my motives were altruistic, man. You were totally into me and you’re you and I just needed to, you know, open your eyes to the awesomeness that is Stiles Stilinski. Make sure you knew what you were missing out on.”

Derek kisses her, a series of short, warm kisses that sets a fire deep inside Stiles. “I know,” he just says. “I know now.”

Stiles smiles and it makes kissing kind of awkward and difficult, but Stiles is willing to put all and any blame on Derek and his stupid, shy little grin.