Sitting on the curb outside his house was meant to calm Stiles down, allow him room to breathe and realize he was overreacting. His dad was just feeling prideful, or feeling vulnerable, he should be more sensitive, he could have phrased it better. He knew, at least, that his dad hated when he went through his mail or listened to his calls. Sure, their finances were bad—as far as he could tell without his dad’s actual budgeting notebook, they were teetering on the edge of selling the house—but usually after a fight about money he could bring himself back around to feeling ashamed for prying.
Tonight, though, was only making him angrier because Mrs. Meyer across the street, Mr. Hart on the corner, and Mrs. Craster three houses down, were all peering out of their curtains, slivers of golden flourescent light seeping out where they held them aside. If he knew anything from the past few years of dishonesty between him and his dad, they’d be calling the sheriff’s line within the hour to inform him of the ‘odd behavior’.
If he had to live with the background radiation of knowing he was always being watched, his dad could deal with him taking a summer job to help them pay the goddamn mortgage.
At the very least, the cold was helping him step back from the anger just a little, and he folded in on himself, arms crossed over his stomach. He should have brought a sweater, but he wasn’t ready to go back inside yet.
Along the side driveway, the hedge rustled and shifted, and a prickle of fear ran up Stiles’ spine.
He froze where he was, moving only those muscles necessary to tilt his head and look out of the corner of his eye. In the dark, the leaves were indistinct and murky, the space between them void. From within that void, he heard a growl, and then he was scrambling up, getting his feet under him, his bear mace already unlatched in his right hand.
A black snout pushed out through the leaves, and then two points of blue appeared and grew bright above it. A wolf then, and a killer.
The wolf pushed forward, belly close to the ground, and a whimper escaped from its throat.
“Okay. Okay,” Stiles said, fingering the trigger and trying to keep his shoulders loose and ready, “I appreciate the non-threatening thing you’re trying to do, but it’s a little undermined by your alpha form. I know you know that’s a show of strength, only a couple wolves in the world can do it. I know one of them, and—wait. Derek? Is that you?”
The wolf yipped and then ducked his head, almost a half nod.
“Well why the fuck are you hanging out in my hedges, man? You know you can just shift back and knock on the door right? Or, wait…you didn’t bring pants did you? Shit,” Stiles laughed, “guess not showing your junk to all the prying eyes is a good reason. Here, follow me before my dad gets a call from his informants about me being attacked by a dog.”
He jerked his head towards the house and took off at a trot, Derek’s footsteps heavy behind him. The sheriff met them at the door, cordless phone in his hand and a stern expression on his face.
“No one’s being murdered, it’s just Derek. I’m gonna get him some sweatpants, okay?”
The sheriff rolled his eyes but stepped aside to let them in.
“We’re not done talking about before,” he said, setting a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, “but I’m glad you’re not mad enough to be sleeping at Scott’s.”
“Of course,” Stiles murmured. He wondered how the supernatural hearing was in alpha shift. Probably even better, “I never meant to make you angry, I just want to help. We’re a family, we do whatever it takes for the family to be happy.”
His dad nodded, but his eyes were still sad, and then he was headed off to the kitchen, chatting to Mr. Hart about his son taking in strays.
Stiles was up the stairs in a few strides. His laundry was still on his bed, blessedly, folded and ready to put away, and he grabbed some sweats and a pajama shirt off the top and turned around to toss them at Derek’s feet.
“Okay, dude, I’ll close my eyes, you can shift back and then maybe we can watch Great Pumpkin? Scott won’t watch with me anymore,” he covered his eyes with his hands, “Says we’re too grown up now, as if that ever happens. Great Pumpkin is tradition. You don’t outgrow tradition. Ready yet, Derek?”
The room was silent except for gentle panting from the wolf.
He peeked through his fingers, just enough to get a sense of shape, and saw a short, furry form still in front of him.
“Whatcha waiting on, Derek.”
The wolf yipped, and Stiles gave up the ghost and dropped his hands.
Derek gave a half nod again, and whined high in his throat. Stiles groaned as his legs gave out and he sank to the edge of the bed. There were a lot of possibilities, sure, but he already knew which one it was.
“You can’t shift. You ran into those motherfucking faeries, didn’t you?”
Derek huffed in assent and pushed his head into Stiles’ shins. He dropped a hand to his friend’s head and stroked through the fur absentmindedly and tried not to panic.
“Well, it seems like he’s safe with you, so I’ll take Isaac and Allison and we can—”
“Wait, what now?”
Scott paused on the other end of the line.
“Which part should I repeat?”
“He’s staying here?”
Derek whined behind him and smacked a paw against his thigh, but he pushed him off.
“Hush, dude, you know I love you. I just don’t want the faeries turning up at my house. I’m not Deaton, I can’t defend against that crap.”
He yipped and Stiles smiled, Scott already chattering in his ear again.
“…so just grind up some supplements and treat it like mountain ash. Easy as anything. Look, man, I gotta go, so do the iron thing and I’ll call you in a couple hours, okay?”
“Okay, iron, got it,” he sighed, “If I get disemboweled though, you need to play something cool at my funeral. Don’t let them play taps or rent bagpipes or whatever.”
Scott snorted, and hung up without comment.
“So, is Great Pumpkin still on the table?”
Derek nudged his cold nose against Stiles’ back and he yelped.
“Alright, fine, I’ll get the iron pills,” he laughed.
With all the windows and doors shut tight, and lined with powdered ferrous sulfate, Stiles finally headed for the kitchen to deal with his dad. It was easy to forget, when Derek was like this, that he could hear and understand the things they said and Stiles found himself falling into those same patterns when Derek curled up around his feet under the table, settling with a wuff and contented purring growls. He just dug his toes into Derek’s belly and he plowed straight ahead.
“So. Derek is stuck like this, turns out. The faeries that live in the preserve got to him. And until the others can figure out how to reverse it or get in touch with their Queen, there’s not much we can do besides keep an eye on him and keep him out of trouble.”
“Well how long is he going to stay? Not to restart that thing from before, but I’m not sure I can afford to keep him stocked in dog food.”
Stiles rolled his eyes, “He can eat human food, dad. And anyway he’ll be more than happy to pay us back, won’t you sourwolf?”
The dog was solid where he leaned against Stiles’ shins, breathing even, and he was pretty sure he was asleep.
“He’s pretty loaded, so…”
“Well, I’m not going to turn that down. But I may have to take him up on it sooner than later.”
Stiles stared at his hands where they were folded on the table. When he spoke, his voice was small, and it took a tremendous effort to keep it from wavering.
“I wish you'd accept my help the way you accept anyone else’s.”
“Stiles,” his dad sighed and ran a hand across his forehead, “We’ve been over this. You’re the kid, and I—”
“Would rather starve than let me think we might be starving. Yeah. I got it.”
For a few long moments they sat in silence, neither looking in the other’s direction. Finally, the sheriff drummed his knuckles on the table, and cleared his throat.
“Okay, kid. You win.”
Stiles looked up, eyes wide with shock,
“It’s my job as your dad to protect you from how garbage the world is, at least for a while, but I guess that time’s over now. You know the worst of it, you’ve seen it, and I need to stop thinking I can move backwards. Just promise me, that if you start working, you’ll spend some of it on yourself.”
He smiled, even as he could feels his eyes growing hot and wet.
“For God’s sake, you’re eighteen. You’re supposed to buy cigarettes and then hide them from me, or a stack of porn mags you stash in the bathroom.”
“We have the internet now, dad.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he waved him off, but there was a smile on his face for the first time in a while. It was small, and half-hearted, but Stiles would take it.
“And promise me that if you do this you won’t forget about college. Or trade school, or an apprenticeship, or whatever it is you want to do. Promise me you won’t get stuck somewhere, thinking it’s the best you can do because it’s all we can afford.”
“I promise dad,” he said, and reached a hand across the table to twine their hands together.
He pulled from his mug of tea—jasmine green tea for his health, although the sheriff thought it tasted like lawn trimmings—and a sly look crossed his face .
“As long as it’s honesty hour. Mind telling me what’s going on with you and Derek?”
“What?” Stiles asked, his brow scrunching.
“I was gonna wait until you were ready to tell me,” the sheriff shrugged, “and I have a bet with Mel about whether that time would come in high school or in college. But lately I’ve started to think maybe I’m psyching you out. That you don’t think you know how I’d react or something. So I figured I’d throw my two cents in.”
He leaned forward, propped on his elbows, and caught Stiles’ gaze.
“Whoever you love, man or woman, is okay with me. Okay?”
Stiles’ breath caught in his throat and his eyes blurred with tears still unshed from before.
“I may not always say the right thing or do it in the—the right way. But I’ve been to a PFLAG meeting and had a middle aged woman chew me out when I got her pronouns wrong, and I’m at least a little bit more educated than I think you think I am. Whatever it is, I’ve been expecting it for a little while. It’s okay.”
It felt like the room was encased in a bubble, suddenly. Beacon Hills and Beacon County and the whole world didn’t matter anymore. They were just here, in this kitchen, one of them asleep and in his fur, and that was all that mattered.
“How did you know?” Stiles asked, barely more than a whisper.
“Well, at first it was when I met that Danny kid, at the charity auction his mom forced him to come to. He’s a real jackass. I mean, he can play nice with others but he was always looking down his nose and treating people like they should be so lucky to be talking to him. But you, kid, you’ve never had anything but high praise for Danny, and you practically followed him around the whole night drooling.”
Stiles laughed, and wiped a hand across his cheeks, smearing the wetness everywhere, “Hey, now, everybody loves Danny.”
“No, kid, you love Danny. Or you love his abs or…or butt or his nose or whatever there is to admire on men. I dunno, it’s not my department.”
"No, I guess not,” Stiles smiled, “For the record, I like both, I think. Men and women.”
“Well,” his dad shrugged, “I can’t say your life wouldn’t be easier if you choose a woman when the time comes. But I mean it, no matter who you care about you’ve got me at your back. Although, I’d prefer if we figure out how to shift him back first.”
“Dad!” Stiles swatted at his dad’s arm, but he pulled back out of the way, chuckling under his breath, “He’ll hear you!”
“He should! You don’t need another Lydia, he should know you like him, and if he doesn’t return the favor you should find someone even better.”
Suddenly, Stiles took stock, and realized how tense his foot warmer had gotten on the floor, not at all like the drowsy sleep of before. He groaned and dropped his head to the table, grinding against the wood.
Scott didn’t call again until the morning. Stiles rolled over in bed, slapping ineffectually at his nightstand in an attempt to silence his phone.
“Fuck, fuck, aaaaaaaah,” he groaned as he finally got it in his grasp and answered, sill wound up for a fight.
“Good, you’re in just as nice a mood as I am,” Scott said, his voice rough.
“What’s happening? Where do I need to go?”
“Well, we found the fairy Queen,” Scott said, and then sighed and readjusted the phone, “She was sympathetic to our plight, or whatever, and the brownies at fault have been rounded up.”
“But the spell on Derek isn’t…breakable, I guess? They basically made him feral, he’s all instinct now, and he’s trapped in his shift just because he can’t connect with his anchors when he’s like this. Technically he’s capable, but he doesn’t remember how.”
Stiles ground a palm into his eye. He was getting a head ache already.
“So, what, he needs to go back to Werewolf Night School?”
There was a crackle on the line, and a low rumble like an engine starting, and then Scott sighed.
“That’s where we’re up shit creek. The Queen said there was an old tradition that would work, but we need someone who loves him, and who he loves back. The Queen kept saying ‘mates’, or something like soulmates. But Derek’s all alone.”
Stiles stared at the ceiling, his head turning in circles. He knew he didn’t qualify. They’d never been anything more to one another than friends, and for most of their relationship they weren’t even that. But he had to admit that whatever his feelings were, they were the closest the pack was going to get to mate level love. The only question was if they were returned, and if they were willing to roll the dice on that possibility.
“What does the mate have to do?”
“Does it matter?”
“It might. Just…what would they have to do?”
Scott hummed, “The legend says that you have to remind them of their humanity—so anchors, basically—by calling them by their name and bringing them their clothes. Only the person they care about the most is supposed to be strong enough.”
He swallowed, his heart practically seizing in his chest. He had to try.
“Okay. Well, you text Deaton and see if he has any additional insight. I’ll just hang out with Derek and…hang out.”
“Sure thing. God, I need to sleep.”
When he hung up, he could hear his pulse pounding under his skin. He tried to think if there was anything of Derek’s he could use, a jacket or a shirt or even a sock. Nothing came to mind. When he turned his head towards the far wall, though, he saw an old Henley of his draped over the back of the computer chair, leftover from when he was still trying to convince himself he didn’t like men, he just admired them, and he had tried to buy similar clothes and emulate his crushes. It would have to do, he guessed. He slipped out of bed and into slippers, padding downstairs.
Derek wasn’t sleeping in his room, or in front of the couch, or anywhere else he’d expect a double-sized wolf to spend their leisure time, and a tendril of panic started to creep into his consciousness. What if he’d just…left? He started the coffee, pulled a few croissants from the cupboard, and popped them in the oven before his dad appeared through the kitchen door and sat heavily at the table.
“Why’s Derek on the porch?”
“What?” Stiles’ head snapped up from where he’d been focused on measuring creamer.
“Derek. He’s on the back porch making stink faces at squirrels. Or something like that.”
“I uh,” he coughed, “I don’t know. I’ll go get him, tell him to come inside and eat.”
He grabbed the shirt from the counter as he went, and stepped out the sliding door into the cold morning air.
The wolf was on the back steps, posture held tall and firm as he surveyed the treeline.
“Thinking about running?” Stiles asked, and plunked down next to him. Derek stiffened, but didn’t look at him, “I get it. Why stay with me, you know? I’m pretty weak, even with the iron, and you have to think strategically.”
He tried his best not to wring the shirt in his hands.
“Thing is…I’d really like you to stay. Maybe forever. I know that whole talk yesterday, with my dad, was kind of intense. And I’m not asking you to become a Stilinski or anything. I just think that you’re really great, and that faeries or no faeries my home is always better when you’re in it.”
They hadn’t made eye contact yet, hadn’t really even looked at each other, but Stiles turned his whole body now, sitting sideways on the step and holding out the shirt like an offering.
“Derek Hale, would you come in to breakfast with us?”
The fur, and the bones, and the skin roiled, moving like waves over his form, shifting and changing in so many directions that Stiles couldn’t be sure what was moving where. And then, there Derek was. Naked, blushing, and staring at Stiles in something like awe.
If he was hoping for a declaration of affection, he was disappointed.
“You didn’t bring me pants.”
Stiles barked a laugh, and tipped forward to wrap Derek in a hug.
“You’re such an ass,” he said, and he meant it just as much as everything else in his speech. He cared for Derek. He was exasperated with Derek. He loved Derek.
And Derek loved him.