He doesn't think it's unreasonable to not want a suspected murderer in his house. A suspected murderer who is also a werewolf who drives a stop me for speeding please car, has a perpetual scowl, and owns a Danny Zuko leather jacket which he wears all the time. John would suspect Hale of putting the whole look together intentionally, but whenever Hale's around him, he looks vaguely uncomfortably instead of cocky. John can't help but think back to his middle school field trip to the zoo.
The animals are more afraid of you than you are of them.
He's seen werewolves fully hulked out (wolfed out? He'll ask Stiles what to call it), and they are definitely not as afraid of him as he is of them, even when he's got a gun pointed at eyeball level. Un-wolfed out, it seems to be a different story.
When Hale knocks on his door (in his leather jacket, with his Camaro parked in the driveway, his hair all messed up the way Stiles tries to get his to do sometimes--basically, looking like every parent’s worst nightmare), the shy, guilty expression on his face is enough to somehow make him look like he's all of fourteen years old.
"Is, uh--is Stiles home?" Hale is staring at the ground and his shoulders are so tense that John's tempted to say 'Boo!' just to see what'll happen.
"Can't you tell? Super sniffer and all?"
"Yeah. Just. Thought it'd be nicer to ask. Seemed more polite than jumping on the roof and climbing through his window." Hale clears his throat and lifts his head. For a second John thinks he's going to make eye contact like a man (wolf?), but Hale just stares over his shoulder. "Stiles isn't a big fan of that, so. Here I am. Knocking."
"I appreciate you using the door. Also, in unrelated news, I'm going to be installing electronic alarms on all of the windows." He glares and Hale shuffles his feet. "Stiles is upstairs," John says slowly. "Are you--is everything okay?"
Hale flinches and suddenly John remembers seeing Derek sitting in the back of an ambulance, wrapped in a blanket, his older sister's arm around his shoulders. He'd have been about fourteen then.
"I'm fine," Derek says. He's glaring now, but he's still not looking at John. "I'll just go upstairs and see him. I've got questions. About pack stuff."
John opens the door the rest of the way and watches Hale take the steps to Stiles's room two at a time.
He hopes whatever pack stuff they’re getting into doesn’t result in too much bloodshed.
A week later he's working in his study, eating the beet salad Stiles forced on him since John had to work through dinner, when the doorbell rings. Stiles stampedes down the stairs, yelling "I volunteered us for pack night!" at top volume.
"You volunteered us for what?" John’s question gets lost in the flood of teenage exuberance pouring into his front hallway.
Stiles hugs Allison, the girl Scott's gone stupid over and is staring at adoringly, the Lahey kid's standing in a corner looking mildly terrified, right next to the two John's barely met--Boyd, who seems like the quiet, steady type, and Erica, who John wants to send home to change into more appropriate clothing. He's picked up hookers showing less cleavage than that girl.
But she's the one who grabs Isaac's hand and drags him into the living room, like she's aware of how uncomfortable Isaac feels (and also like she’s suspiciously familiar with the layout of John's house; he and Stiles are going to have words later). Boyd follows Erica with a casual wave to John.
Stiles turns to John and says, "Surprise? Look, before you say anything, I didn't ask because I thought you'd probably say no, but Mrs. McCall wouldn't let us do pack night at her house after we broke the--the...nothing, nothing was broken--so I figured we could have it here. Probably. Hooray?"
Allison lifts up two grocery bags full of chips, and Scott holds out a tray of veggies and dip like a peace offering. "Lydia's bringing the drinks," Allison says. "And Stiles somehow convinced Derek to come this time, so he'll put a stop to any roughhousing. We should be able to avoid any more property damage."
"Hahaha, property damage is such a harsh term," Stiles says hastily, ushering Allison and Scott out of the hallway as quickly as possible.
The door’s still open, and John's staring at the empty hallway, feeling a bit shell-shocked, when Derek slips in.
"I wouldn't have let them come if I'd known you weren't okay with it," Derek says quietly, his back against the wall. "I can get them to leave if you want."
"Don't waaaaanna leave," Erica whines from the living room. Enhanced werewolf hearing. Right. "They've got all the Blade movies."
John points a finger at Derek. "If anything breaks, I'm holding you responsible." Derek nods, like he'd already expected that.
Stiles pops his head back into the hallway and grabs Derek arm. "No shenanigans," Stiles says. "Scout’s honor."
"He was never a Boy Scout," John informs Derek, who doesn't seem the least bit perturbed by Stiles's attempts to pull him away.
"I know," Derek says. He smiles, just a little, and it's like his whole face transforms. The abrupt change from Bad Influence to Nice Guy is disconcerting.
"Better get in there if you want any food," John says, clearing his throat. "Scott can eat a bag of chips in under five minutes."
"Under four!" Scott hollers.
John retreats upstairs to his study. There's a lot of laughter drifting up from downstairs, along with the background sounds of movies being played. Eventually they order some pizza. Stiles brings him a small thin-crust veggie pizza, because he is both thoughtful and cruel.
John goes downstairs once the noise dies down. Everyone except Derek has left. Derek's in the living room, garbage bag in hand, picking up trash with Stiles. He freezes when he sees John, which makes John feels like a bully.
"Thanks," he says, gesturing at the mess. "Did anything get broken?"
"No, sir," Derek says.
John nods, then turns to Stiles, who's being suspiciously silent. "If Derek's staying late to follow up on that pack research, then remember it's a school night. He'll need to leave by eleven." He walks back upstairs before Stiles finishes stuttering out what's either going to be a denial or a protest.
John keeps an eye on the window. Derek's car pulls away at 10:45.
When he finds out Stiles has been watching gay porn, the thing with Derek Hale makes a lot more sense. A terrible, terrifying kind of sense.
Stiles left his laptop open on a day when John was going into every room in the house closing windows before turning up the air conditioning, because their utility bills are getting crazy high, and Stiles, uh—Stiles had left some very graphic images up on his screen.
John's no stranger to sex, or pornography, but Jesus Christ his little baby boy is all grown up and watching porn.
As soon as the A/C's on he shuts himself into his office and calls Melissa, because he has to freak out about this with someone.
"Scott hid his under the bed," she says sympathetically, once he stumbles through the initial explanation. "I also found his condoms once. Well, I found an open box of condoms, with very few condoms left in it."
John blinks. "I need to buy my son condoms, don't I? Oh god. I need to buy my son condoms. Because my son is going to have sex. Sex with other people. Oh my god."
"You take all the time you need to process that," Melissa says. "I'm folding laundry; I've got plenty of time."
"But the Martin girl," he says eventually, rubbing a hand over his face. "He was in love with her for years."
"She's with Jackson now."
"Jackson's not even in the state!"
"Teenagers," she says, with a sigh.
"Teenagers," John agrees. He drops into his chair and stares at a wall. "My son's going to have sex. Probably gay sex. With a man. And he'll need condoms for that."
"Yep. Do you want me to pick up some up for you from the hospital? If you go to a pharmacy and buy them yourself you're going to start a lot of rumors."
He stares at the wall some more. It continues to be unhelpful. "Do you think," he says slowly, having an out of body experience, "that if he's having sex with a male werewolf, he'll still need condoms? Do superhealing abilities extend to STDs?"
There is a long pause on the other end of the line. "I do not know," she says, enunciating very carefully. "And, no offense, but that is not a question I am going to ask my son. I'd say get them just to be on the safe side. Plus, it'll easier clean-up for them."
"I really miss my wife," he says, when he gives up on the wall and puts his head in his hands.
"I know what you mean," she says softly. Being a parent is hard enough; being a parent alone sometimes feels impossible. "I'll get you condoms and some pamphlets from the hospital. You should talk to him. Stiles is a smart kid. You can trust him."
He laughs; it sounds broken. "My son lied to me for two entire years."
"And you don't want him to lie to you about this. So start off on the right foot."
"Start off with condoms."
He sits Stiles down in the kitchen on Tuesday night and says, "We need to talk."
Stiles's eyes get really big and he reaches out across the table. "Are you hurt? Are you sick? Are you okay? What's--" John puts the box of condoms on the table. Stiles makes his fish mouth face for a while. "Soooo," Stiles says eventually, "this is not a conversation about you." His eyes narrow. "Unless it is. Dad. Do you need tips about dating in the modern world? Because Melissa McCall's a classy lady, and--"
"Do not derail this conversation." He punctuates his words with a sharp finger in Stiles’s general direction, and Stiles wisely shuts up. "I know that you have access to a lot of information online. And I know that you and I had a talk about sex a long time ago, but I didn't--I should have--we talked about the birds and the bees," John says, "not the birds and the...birds."
"Or would it be the bees and the bees?"
"I think it might be the boy and the wolf," John says, as gently as possible. Stiles's teeth clack when he closes his mouth. "I'm not entirely off the mark, am I?"
"You're--I'm--Derek--I mean, not Derek, it could be anyone, it might be Scott, Scott could be--"
"Stiles, breathe." He knows the warning signs of an impending panic attack. They look a lot like fear, and that's...that's not okay. "Son, the most important thing in the world to me is your happiness. I want you to be safe, and happy, and I want you to be able to talk to me about anything."
"You say that now," Stiles says, half a joke in his voice.
"I am saying that now. And I've said it before. And I'll say it again, no matter what happens. No matter what you tell me." Stiles's long fingers are holding on tight to the edge of the table. "And I think maybe you have something to tell me."
"Maybe," Stiles says hesitantly, "maybe it's--maybe it's the boy and the wolf. Although I think it's mostly the boy pining for the wolf, because I'm really good at falling in--in like--with people who think I'm the poorly timed comic relief."
"Am I right in assuming that we're talking about Derek Hale?"
Stiles looks up at him, and he looks--he looks not just worried, but afraid. "I know you think he's a bad guy," Stiles says, in a whispered, hurried rush. "But he's not. He helps us, and he's nice to me, even though he's really bad at it, and he tries as hard as he can--"
"And he looks at you like I used to look at your mom," John interrupts, because loving Lydia, for as long as Stiles had, has twisted something inside of his son; twisted the part of him that should be brave enough to put himself out there.
"I'm not ecstatic that he's so much older than you," John says, hoping that he gets this right, "because that can make things more complicated. And it worries me that you might be getting into more danger because of who and what he is. But if he makes you happy, then all that I'm going to do is try my best to help you both out as much as I can." He takes a deep breath. "Even if that means getting you condoms and talking to you about safe sex. I have pamphlets. And we are going to go through them. And we are going to talk about them. Even if it kills us."
Stiles's eyes are bright and he's blinking away tears that leave his eyelashes clumped together. "I love hate you so much right now."
"I love you too, son. Now. Let's talk about water-based lubrication."
When he hears laughter coming from Stiles's room--Stiles's voice intertwined with someone else's, someone male (someone probably Derek), he doesn't think twice before opening the door.
Stiles had been laughing hard, and the other man had been chuckling and arguing with Stiles in a happy, teasing tone, so John had figured they were playing video games. Maybe watching a comedy on Netflix. Maybe reading the Sunday cartoons.
He hadn't expected Derek to be sprawled on his son's bed wearing only his boxer shorts, Stiles straddling him in his Superman boxers and 'I Brake for Stop Signs' t-shirt.
His son has stubble burn on his chin, cheeks, and neck.
Their faces go from happy to oh shit in the blink of an eye. Derek rolls them over, pulling the covers over Stiles and putting himself between John and Stiles. It's--it makes John uncomfortable. What does Derek think John's going to do?
John turns his back and says, "I should've knocked. I'll do that from now on. I've got a lot of work to do, so I'll just be going now. You two, uh--be safe." He closes the door behind him. There's silence until he walks away, and then whispered, urgent voices. Stiles's laugh is nervous now, high-pitched and uneven.
The door to Stiles's room opens and closes. From his office he can hear the Camaro's engine start up and drive away.
Eventually, Stiles--fully clothed--shows up at his door. "Sorry," Stiles said. "I should have told you he was coming over."
"It's fine," John says, even though a loud internal voice is yelling at him to lock Stiles in the basement until he's forty. "You know the rules," John says. "If you're going to be fooling around, I'd rather you do it here or somewhere safe instead of in the backseat of a car or a sleazy motel or something. And I should've knocked. I'm just used to Scott being over, not...not your boyfriend."
Stiles makes a strangled sound. "He's not my boyfriend. He's just a man. A man who is my friend. Well, kind of a friend, because Derek is basically clueless in the friend department--"
Stiles steps farther into his office, his arms wrapped around himself. "I don't know what he is yet," he says quietly. "We haven't talked about it. I think we're dating, so he's...he's my dater? Datee?"
"I'll stick with calling him Hale."
"Or Derek. He's got a first name. And it might not matter, anyway--I'm not sure I'm ever going to convince him to come back here. He thinks you're going to shoot him."
John thinks about it. "Wouldn't he just heal?"
"Yeah, but it'd still hurt for a little. And I mean... I told him you were okay with us. Me and him. And he knows this is the first big relationship for me, and it kind of is for him too, in a way, and he..."
Stiles sits in John's armchair and curls up in a ball, like he had in the months after his mother died. "Someone hurt him, Dad," Stiles says, his voice muffled with his face smushed against his knees. "A long time ago someone hurt him. And now...it's like pulling teeth trying to get him to believe that I'm not her."
"Maybe he's not ready yet," John says.
"It's been years," Stiles says. "And it's not that he's not over her yet, it's just like he's still...punishing himself for the mistakes he made. I just want him to be happy. He deserves that."
"He seemed happy," John says, before blushing a bright red. "I mean--I meant, he was laughing, not--I'm just saying I heard laughter, not that you, what you were doing, what you do behind closed doors is--"
"Tickle fight," Stiles says drily. "And that's not even a lie or a euphimism. He wants to take things slow. Glacier slow. I just wish..."
Stiles shrugs. "I wish he could just date me, instead of dating me and the person he used to date. The one who hurt him." He frowns at John and puts on his serious face. "Threesomes with ghosts are not fun and games, no matter how good the BBC version of 'Being Human' is."
Stiles stays in John's office until he starts to droop, his cell phone chiming occasionally. He says, "Thanks," before he leaves, and John makes him stay a moment longer to give him a hug before going to bed.
"Stiles isn't here," John says, when he answers the knock on his door and finds Derek Hale on his porch again. This time he's wearing a button-up shirt and slacks and no leather jacket. (John's not quite sure what's folklore and what's reality at this point in the game, so at some point later on he's going to ask Deaton and Stiles about podpeople and dopplegangers.) "But it's a schoolday, so...you already knew that."
"I came to talk to you."
"Then you better come inside." He holds the door open and Derek edges inside, keeping his back to the wall. When John shows him into the living room, he picks the seat with the best view of the two exits. John sits on the couch across from him, leans his elbows on his knees, and reminds himself that he's not on duty, he's just having a conversation with his son's...man-friend. "So, Mr. Hale. How can I help you?"
"I'm here to talk about Stiles," Derek starts.
"I never would have guessed." Derek glares at him, which actually makes John feel better. He likes knowing that Derek's got a sassy side.
"Stiles doesn't always have the best sense of self-preservation," Derek starts off. John snorts, because that's one of the most obvious truths about his son. He's self-sacrificing, selfless, and he's never been as careful with himself as he is with the people that he loves. "And he...he seems to think that being in a--a relationship with me--isn't going to hurt him." He stops there, squaring his shoulders, satisfied to have said his piece.
"And? And--and he's a teenager. You should want me to go away."
John frowns. "I know how old my son is. And I just invited you into my home. Your deductive reasoning skills aren't the sharpest, son."
"No, listen to me--I'm telling you: I'm twenty-three, I'm a werewolf, I'm a man--"
"You're the person my son wants to be with. He's a good judge of character. I trust his judgement."
Derek's face twists, like there's something inside of himself so painful that it's deforming him. "Forgive me for doubting you," Derek says. "But I thought I had good judgment too, when I was a teenager." His voice is strained and harsh and mean. "I thought I was in love. I thought I'd found someone I could trust." He laughs and it sends a shiver down John's spine. "She played with me like a toy, a toy that she threw away once she got what she needed." The smile on Derek's face right now doesn't make him look like a nicer, happier person. It makes him look broken.
The Hale fire.
Derek at fourteen, sitting on the back of that ambulance. His sister, only a few years older, so fiercely protective, streaks of ash on both their faces.
"Listen to me, son," John says, leaning forward. "You're not Kate Argent." Derek sucks in a deep breath and retreats into the corner of the couch. "And my son may be a teenager, but he is also more mature and self-possessed than most adults I know. And even though he's been through hell and back, somehow he's still happy, and light-hearted, and a goofball." Derek's staring at him like he's the one not making sense. "You make him laugh," John says, helplessly, because his son doesn't laugh as much as he used to, and John doesn't think he can fix that on his own.
Derek still looks confused. "I don't know how to get him to stop trusting me," he whispers. It sounds like a plea for help.
"He seems to think you've earned it."
"I don't--I can't--you're not supposed to help me make things work," Derek growls. His fingers are growing into claws, and John's distracted for a moment, because he's only seen that happen a few times, and it's fascinating. "You're supposed to help me break up with him."
"Are you planning on hurting my son?"
"Of course not." Derek sounds horrified. His claws retract in an instant.
"Will you protect my son, even if he breaks your heart, or you break his?"
"Always," Derek says, without hesitation.
"Then why the hell would I stop you from being with him?" John asks. "Now, I don't think I need to tell you this, but just in case: you're his first. His first everything. So take things slow. No means no," (Derek flinches when John says that and John wishes he had Kate Argent in a cell, wishes he could put her on trial, wishes Derek could get proof that what she did to him was wrong), "and yes means yes. So talk to each other.
"Stiles and I have already had a very long, uncomfortable, and thorough conversation about sex and intimacy--and the difference between the two--but he might have more questions. If you don't know the answers, do me a favor and point him my way instead of Google."
Derek looks completely and utterly lost. "You thought you'd come here, and I'd forbid you from seeing my son, and you'd have an excuse to end it, right?" Derek averts his gaze and nods. "That's not going to happen. If you're not ready for this, then you end it yourself. But if you decide to give it a chance, and you need any help--if you have any questions--you know where to find me. I want what's best for my son," he says. "He's my everything. But that doesn't mean that I don't care about you, too."
"I don't understand," Derek says, his voice raw, like he's being torn in half.
"We're pack, right?" John asks, because Stiles and Melissa had explained the most important wolf-y things to him first. They're stronger together. Pack--this kind of pack, bitten but not born--is a family of choice. What some people forget is that with families like this, you have to keep choosing to stay. Derek's expecting them to choose to leave. "If you need help, I'll help you."
Derek finally meets his gaze, and it's odd to see him so open, so vulnerable. Without the glow of blue or red roaring through him, John can't figure out what color his eyes are. John stands up and Derek matches his movement. "Take your time. Talk it over with Stiles. And give yourself a little credit, okay?"
He puts a hand on Derek's shoulder, and the man's whole body freezes. John squeezes, but not too hard, because he was originally going to go in for a man-hug, but Derek doesn't seem like he'd know how to handle that. "You're not Kate Argent. Your visit here today proves that."
"Okay," Derek says. His shoulders are slumped and his eyebrows are drawn tight with confusion.
"You're welcome here, if you need to talk about anything. You understand that, son?"
Derek's "Yes" is whisper soft. John squeezes his sholder again before he walks him to the door.
He waits for the Camaro to leave and then pulls out the whiskey.
Jesus fucking Christ.
On Saturday, Stiles marches into the Sheriff's office, puts a bag of greasy food on John's desk, and says, "Thank you. Now stay out of my love life." Stiles pulls up a seat and digs into the bag of delicious, artery-clogging goodness. "Unless Derek asks you for more relationship advice, in which case, you Dr. Phil it up to your heart's desire." Stiles talks through a mouthful of curly fries.
John doesn't understand how they'd managed to teach Stiles the 'Don't talk with your mouth full!' rule so many years ago, only to see it disppear the year he turned thirteen. "I only understood about half of that."
"Derek said he came to talk to you. And that you were nice to him. And that you were cool with us doing..." Stiles pauses, a curly fry sticking out of his mouth. "Well, I'm not going into any more detail, but we talked some more about it. He had no idea that there was a difference between assuming that your partner not saying 'no' was the same as saying 'okay,' versus waiting for your partner to actually say 'yes,' and that...that made a big difference to him. So."
John stares at his burger. "I think I just enabled my son to have underage sex."
"Really good underage sex," Stiles says, before freezing, half a fry hanging out of his mouth. "I meant to say tickle fights. Really good tickle fights."
"You using condoms during these tickle fights?" John asks. Stiles blushes bright red, then nods. John takes a bite of his burger and ponders. "Does all of this make me a really good dad, or a really bad one?"
"Eating the burger? Bad dad. Being thoughtful and kind? Good dad."
"Right. Glad we've got that sorted out."
Stiles sticks around for a while even after the food is gone. He bugs John about the open case files on the desk, the photos tacked up on the bulletin board behind the desk, and the lack of flowers arrangements in the office's interior design. It feels like old times.
John knows he's still going to worry. He's always going to worry about Stiles; he's a parent, it comes with the territory. But he trusts his son again, and he thinks that Stiles is beginning to trust him again too.
"I love you," he says, as Stiles leaves, picking up the trash from lunch.
"We're having salad for dinner!" Stiles hollers from the squad room.
John watches him go, stumbling and laughing his way towards the door. John ambles his way out to the front desk to make sure Stiles didn't knock over anything important on his way out. Through the glass door he sees the Camaro parked across the street.
Derek rolls down the window when Stiles gets closer, and Stiles leans in for a quick peck before doing a half-assed slide across the hood to the other side of the car. Derek catches sight of John and freezes for a moment, before gifting John with one of his rare, honest smiles.