A car door slams outside and Stiles jumps, jerking awake and nearly falling off of his desk chair. He flails for a moment, his chair wiggling dangerously before he’s able to right himself.
Blinking, Stiles glances around, his eyes squinting in the morning light as he tries to figure out where he is and or even what year it is. Because, seriously, he hasn’t slept that hard in ages; the kind of sleep that has him passing out at his desk, puddles of drool on the book he was reading.
God, Deaton’s really is going to kill him for this. He’s going to kill him and then he’s never going to loan Stiles another book again, which is worse than dying, as far as Stiles is concerned.
Stiles pulls the hem of his shirt up to pat the spot dry before he wipes at his mouth, feeling gross. His limbs are still heavy from sleep, his eyes burning a bit, but the alarm clock next to his bed tells him that he got three hours more of sleep than he was ever going to give himself, which is a lot considering the fact that Stiles was thinking about pulling an all-nighter.
It sucks because Stiles vaguely remembers feeling like he was onto something last night, but everything on the page he has open feels brand new, and so does the five pages before it. Almost like he was reading in his sleep or something, because the entire chapter on pixies isn’t clicking for him at all.
It’s fine. It’s not a big deal. Stiles only spent hours reading it and taking notes, according to the chicken scratch handwriting on the back of a receipt, but what does that matter? It doesn’t when he can’t remember any of it.
Groaning, Stiles stretches and scoots the chair across the room, reaching for his phone off the floor. Seriously, what did he do last night?
There’s nothing from Scott or anyone else. That could mean one of two things. It could mean that Scott remembers Stiles told him he was going to be doing research all night and decided to leave Stiles to it, trusting Stiles to text him if he found anything that could help them. Or, the pixies they think they’re checking out – honestly, no one knows if they’re pixies at this point – have completely overpowered them in the middle of the night and now Stiles is on his own to save everyone.
Maybe he should send a courtesy ‘Are you alive?’ text.
Yeah, after he eats.
Stiles feels like an old man hobbling towards the kitchen. There’s pain in his back and he thinks he might be waddling a bit to compensate for that but embarrassment be damned, he can’t seem to stop.
He grabs a bowl and a spoon, then cracks open a box of cereal as he scrolls mindlessly through his phone, checking Facebook to see that Kira and Lydia went out last night. He angry-faces their picture and then clicks over to his email as he grabs the gallon of milk.
There’s the usual onslaught of spam mail from places he’s too lazy to unsubscribe from. Instead, he just grumbles under his breath and swipes delete, delete, delete, until they all start to disappear one by one. It takes what feels like ages, sifting through the four different email accounts on his phones junk mail before his phone chimes with a new notification.
Stiles stomach drops and flips simultaneously when he sees that he has a new email.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Stiles groans, throwing the milk back into the fridge, slamming the door shut and then dropping down into his seat as the message loads. Of course the one email that he wants to read and his phone has to revert back to the dark ages when things like wifi didn’t exist to bring him everything he wants instantly.
Today, I said goodbye to home. I thought it would be harder, to close this chapter, but for once, it felt like I was doing the right thing.
I put everything I own into the back of this van and now I’m going to go all the way across the country, to California. I’m not sure if I should tell you that, since we promised no personal details, but I can’t help myself. You’re there.
I wish I knew where you were, so I could find your address and see how close it is to mine. If I knew your name, I’d find you, just so this new chapter could start off right. That’s cheesy, isn’t it? Or, is that creepy?
My friend made a list of all the most ridiculous places in America. I’ll try to tell you what Carhenge is like. I hear it’s beautiful this time of year.
The email was sent two days ago and Stiles wonders how he missed it, laughs as he pictures this man he’s created in his head visiting the world’s largest teapot, Carhenge, and every other ridiculous roadside attraction this country can think of. With a smile, Stiles works on his reply.
“Did you find anything?” Scott asks, as Stiles steps out of his jeep.
“I found out that reading about pixies is so incredibly boring that it’ll lure even me into sleep,” Stiles explains, bending to fit under the sign that says Do Not Enter. “But based on what we’ve been seeing, I don’t think it’s what we’re after. I don’t know, though. A lot of pixie myth comes from fairy myth, and it’s hard to figure out what is myth and what is reality.”
Scott nods, falling in step next to Stiles as they head into the preserve. Stiles doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for or what they’re hoping to find, but there is something in these woods, and they’re never going to find it by twiddling their thumbs at home and waiting.
“Liam doesn’t think it’s anything supernatural,” Scott explains, making Stiles scoff. “No, really. Him and Theo were out here for most of the night—“
Stiles snorts. “I’m sure they were.”
“And,” Scott continues, pushing his elbow into Stiles so he stumbles a bit, “they didn’t notice anything. Liam said they thought they saw something, but it ended up being nothing.”
“Those two were never going to find anything,” Stiles says, shrugging when Scott makes a face.
It’s the truth. They have a vague idea of what they’re looking for, based on strange occurrences of people hiking through the preserve that have gotten lost and wound up in strange areas. Areas off the trail and deeper in the woods than most people can get to. Normally, it’s not something they’d look into. This is where Stiles’ dad comes into place being the Sheriff. It’s kind of his job to find people that are lost and figure out if there was foul play. But with all of the hikers exhibiting some minor confusion, Stiles’ dad thought it might be something supernatural, which is out of his jurisdiction.
“I got another email,” Stiles says, cutting into the silence.
Scott’s face pulls together in confusion before he brightens up, smiling. “Really? What did it say?”
“He’s moving. I don’t know from where, somewhere out east, but now he’s coming out to California with a friend. They’re going to stop at all of those, like, really awful places on the side of the road. He mentioned Carhenge, which I googled, by the way, and it’s all these cars painted grey and arranged like Stonehenge in the middle of Nebraska.”
“It sounds like something people in the Midwest would do. Is Nebraska in the Midwest? I don’t know, but,” Stiles breathes out and shrugs, trying to filter through his brain and see if he has any useless knowledge about Nebraska besides Carhenge.
“Yeah, maybe,” Scott replies. “But he’s moving out here? Did you, like, ask him where or anything? Does he know you live here?”
“No and no. Well, he knows I live in California and I knew he lived out East, but he’s always been fairly vague about where exactly he was at. I always thought Boston, for a while, until he mentioned seeing a rat ride the subway, and then my suspicions shifted because, like, pretty sure New York has seats reserved for rats on their trains.”
“All the way across the country,” Scott mutters, shaking his head, like he can’t imagine it. “That’s a big move.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, nibbling on his lip as he debates internally, trying to decide if he should tell Scott what else the email said. They agreed no secrets years ago after the run in with the alpha pack that almost tore them apart, both physically and every other way. “He said that if he knew where I was that he’d find me. He said if he knew my address he’d see how close it was to mine, to come see me.”
“Cheesy? Yeah, that’s what he said. Well, he also said it was kind of creepy, but I don’t know, I thought— What? Why are you smiling at me like that?” asks Stiles, frowning and looking around, trying to see what has that look on Scott’s face. “Freaking me out here, buddy.”
“Nothing, it’s just…- well, you sound happy when you talk about him.”
“Well, duh. I mean, we’ve been talking for a while now, and, I don’t know, it’s nice. He’s nice. Half the pack is dating and sometimes it’s nice to feel like I have someone. Not like that. Shut up. Seriously, stop making that face,” Stiles whines, waving his hands around in Scott’s face, making Scott laugh.
Scott grabs his wrists, pushing Stiles’ hands back down to his sides. “I know what you mean.”
“Really? Because your face is doing that wistful thing it likes to do when you imagine anyone in love.”
“Who’s in love?”
“Gah,” Stiles shouts, jumping and turning to see Lydia standing there, arms folded over her chest as she looks between Scott and Stiles like she knows they have secrets and she wants them. “Okay, Scott, now what if that had been a pixie? What’s the point of wolfy senses if you’re not going to pay attention?”
Lydia hums, eyes squinting as she peers at Stiles. “So, you’re the one in love. Right?”
“Yeah, he is.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles groans.
Lydia nods. “Explain.”
Stiles folds his arms over his chest because he is not going to explain anything. It’s his own form of silent protest because he does not like what is going on right now. It’s not like he was trying to hide his conversations with this guy. He’s not. He told Scott about it nearly a month after he realized that the emails were still coming.
Stiles doesn’t know his name, outside of the email address and the name that shows up as the sender: Mowgli. It’s obviously not his real name, Stiles is pretty sure, since Stiles uses the name Luke Skywalker and he is very clearly and unfortunately not a Skywalker, let alone Luke.
They met when Stiles was invading an online forum talking about harpies and asking a million different questions to try and see what the deal was with that without opening a book. Mowgli seemed to know a lot, more so than anyone else. Their conversation shifted out of the forum when things began to change and the others were getting tired of them harping on about harpies.
And while Stiles isn’t scared of strangers on the Internet, it felt reckless to give out his actual personal information when he was trying to research for his pack. Knowing that the supernatural is real opens a lot of doors to danger that he didn’t know existed many years ago, so he has to be cautious. He can’t ask the questions that he does and then shout about how he’s Stiles Stilinski; pack member, self-appointed number two, and best friend, to True Alpha Scott McCall in Beacon Hills, California. Trouble seems to find them - and Stiles isn’t reckless enough to invite more.
So, when they shifted the conversation from the forum to private emails, Stiles quickly made a new Gmail account for Luke Skywalker - and tried not to feel annoyed when he received an email from Mowgli, because honestly, posing as Luke Skywalker doesn’t exactly give him any right to feel annoyed that someone wouldn’t trust him.
As Scott tells Lydia everything that he knows, Lydia keeps her eyes on Stiles. She’s got that look on her face that tells Stiles she knows more than she really does.
“I could totally stop talking to him,” Stiles interjects, feeling a sudden overwhelming urge to defend himself and brush the whole thing off as nothing. “I could. Easily. That’s the beauty of talking to someone online; you can just, like, talk to them for however long you want and then disappear for however long you want without any real impact on your daily life. It’s not like I’m going to run into him at the grocery store. I could stop at any moment.”
“But you don’t,” Lydia points out.
“No, he doesn't,” Scott replies, forcing Stiles to scowl at him. “He just got a new one this morning and he hasn’t stopped talking about it.”
“I see. And to what extent do you have these conversations?”
“What do you mean?” Stiles asks.
“I mean,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes like Stiles is wasting her time by making her ask these questions, “you know...”
Stiles shakes his head, looking between Scott and Lydia in confusion. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you mean, like, the basics of our conversation, then it’s pretty simple. We leave out everything personal, no names, no work places, and we don’t mention where we live. Or, at least not anything too specific, like he knows I live in Cali but not in Beacon Hills; that kind of thing. But we talk about anything else, as vaguely as we can.”
Lydia nods, but she doesn’t look convinced. Flipping her hair over her shoulder she says, “So, there’s not any—“
“No,” Scott interrupts, shaking his head. “I asked that already. They don’t sext.”
“Who doesn’t sext?”
“Oh my god,” Stiles shouts, because seriously. Best friend is a werewolf. He deserves some of the bonus features like warning him when people are approaching him from behind. “Nice to see you, Liam.”
“Who aren’t you sexting?”
“I am not answering that. I refuse to be a part of a conversation that involves the word sext, so,” Stiles waves his arms around wildly, gesturing towards the preserve, “maybe we should make ourselves useful and see if any of us can find these pixies before something worse happens to somebody in these woods.”
“Who is he sexting?” Liam asks again, looking between Scott and Lydia, ignoring Stiles as he continues to wave his arms around in the air.
“Um, hello, pack meeting real quick. I think we need to search now and not talk about this. All in favor say aye. Aye,” Stiles says, raising his hand. “Wow, look at that, the ayes have it, so you know what that means.”
“It means you’re trying to hide something,” Lydia says.
“No, it means I’m trying to spend the day being productive. Where’s everyone else? I thought the group chat said everyone needed to be here. Why are we the only ones here?”
“Oh,” Liam says, “We split up. We figured it’d be helpful to cover more ground instead of roaming together.”
“So, what are you doing here?”
“Malia told me to find Scott. We figured he’d be with you, and since Lydia hadn’t shown up yet, I thought that I’d come and look around with someone.”
“Not just any someone,” Stiles says, putting his arm on Lydia’s back and gently nudging her in Liam’s direction. “You two head east. I think it’s that way. Scott and I will head west, and we’ll see each other when we see each other. Lovely chatting.”
Lydia rolls her eyes. Stiles does not care. He grabs a hold of Scott, wishing that his best friend had a scruff on the back of his neck that he could grab onto and say ‘bad boy’ a few times like Scott just got caught chewing Stiles’ shoes instead of spilling his secrets to their friends.
It’s not the end of the world, but Lydia Martin is the last person Stiles wanted to find out about this, with her overenthusiastic curiosity, know-it-all-ness, and keen observational skills.
It’s a tough life for Stiles Stilinski on this lovely fall day. Tough life.
Searching the preserve didn’t reveal much of anything, so Stiles finds himself at the Coffee Bean. It’s one of the only local coffee shops near the center of town that hasn’t memorized his order or given him judgey eyes yet. He feels safe and comfortable to dump his stuff down on a table and actually commit to research instead of falling asleep at his desk.
Stiles finds a lot of information, nothing fully concrete on what’s real and what’s not, but it’s something. It’s more than anything he had walking into the preserve this morning and it makes him feel like he’ll be able to think of something when he needs to. There’s no information on ‘if pixies are inherently violent and what to do if you need to take them out,’ so that’s…wonderful.
They’re pixies, though. Stiles doesn’t think they’ll need to do more than have an actual conversation about how cool it would be if they could stop getting people to wander into dangerous parts of the preserve for laughs, or whatever reason they’re doing it, because someone could really get hurt. Basically, they need to channel the lectures their parents used to give them and direct that towards a bunch of small, winged people. No big deal.
There are three empty cups in front of Stiles and his fingers are shaking slightly as he types up everything he has so he can forward it to the rest of the pack in hopes that they’ll actually read it.
Stiles thinks he’s going to need a fourth cup of coffee to go, even if he’s feeling a bit manic and jittery, like he could climb up the side of the building and shout his love for coffee to all of Beacon Hills.
If they even think about cutting him off, he’s likely to hulk out, and while he likes to think he’s above the Applecare lady, he’s not above becoming a joke on the Internet for another cup of coffee. Anything to help him get through another night of research, because while he’s spent all morning searching the woods for pixies and all afternoon searching the internet for pixies, Liam, Theo, and Kira are all under the impression that they’re looking for something else, like fairies. But Scott and Malia had said they were on edge, claiming that they knew something was in there with other something, something foreign, almost like they were chasing the scent of a wolf.
Stiles has no idea how they went from pixies to fairies to omegas, but he’s got a long night ahead of him. Scott and the wolves can figure out how to deal with an omega. Though Stiles might be helpful in getting Liam annoyed enough that before they head out into the woods, Scott won’t have to worry about the omega because Liam will be so wound up that he’ll do it himself.
Lydia claims she’s doing her own research, but since she refuses to meet up with Stiles and watch him slip into a caffeine-induced-whatever you want to call what happens to Stiles when he’s had too much caffeine.
Checking the time, Stiles sees that it’s almost time to head home, so he starts grabbing his stuff and shoving it into his bag. He grabs his empty cups and tosses them in the trash. Swinging his bag over his shoulders, Stiles heads towards the counter. He bumps into some guy on the way. A solid wall of man. Gorgeous man, and Stiles mouth sort of moves around uselessly like a fish because wow that is a very attractive person.
The man’s eyes are soft and green, and he’s got a pretty face covered in pretty black stubble that Stiles wants to rub his hands against. Stiles can’t stop blinking at him as he takes him in and it takes a minute for him to realize that the guy has said something.
The stranger laughs and wow. He’s even prettier. “I said sorry for running into you.”
“Oh, no,” Stiles mutters, shaking his head. “I think that was my fault. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
The guy’s eyes track the movements of Stiles hands, which are waving around wildly as he tries to gesture that he was sitting at the table and then got up to head towards the counter without looking where he was going. Maybe he should get decaf.
“Anyway,” Stiles breathes in a large gulp of air, “I haven’t really seen you around before. Small-ish town and all. Kind of. I think it’s large compared to some places with only one stop sign that blinks red all the time, but when you’ve lived here your whole life, you sort of know when you’ve seen someone or not.”
“Yeah,” the stranger nods, amusement written in his face. “I just moved here.”
“Oh, wow. Really? To Beacon Hills?”
“Yeah,” he laughs, and he really is pretty when he smiles. “It’s nice. Warm, too.”
“That’s why it’s awful,” Stiles away.
The guy shrugs and then glances around. He stares at the line building and then motions towards it, silently inviting Stiles to join him. And yes, yes, Stiles would love to stand in line with this person.
“So, how long have you been here?”
“Not long,” the guy says, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Long enough to get settled in and find the coffee.”
“Arguably, the most important thing, if I do say so myself.” Stiles can’t help but bounce on the balls of his feet a bit as they wait in line. He’s not shy, but he’s nervous, because this guys is definitely really hot. He just is and Stiles is, well, he’s an acquired taste, or so it seems.
The stranger smiles and just as Stiles is about to open his mouth and ask for his name, a pretty blonde is sliding is next to him with a predatory smile on her face like she could just eat Stiles. She could definitely take him in a fight. Not like he’s going to fight, or actively engages in fighting strange women that hook their arms around attractive men, but, like, she could definitely punch Stiles right in the cheek and do some serious damage. Or maybe her smile and the look in her eyes is just that intense. She’s got big brown eyes and cherry red lips that make Stiles wonder if they’re poisonous, like Poison Ivy.
“Hello,” she sings, her grin shifting into one that makes Stiles feel like he’s a little boy that’s lost and looking for directions. “Derek, who is this?”
“I’m not sure. We haven’t exchanged names yet,” replies Derek, raising an expectant brow at Stiles.
With a nod and a look of confusion, Derek says, “Erica, this is Stiles.”
Erica is still smiling at Stiles, and Stiles can’t help but stare at them and wonder what it is he’s missing. There’s something and he can’t put his finger on it, at least with Erica, and Stiles doesn’t know if he should be worried or not. Unless… oh.
Stiles just totally and very badly attempted to flirt with someone that is very obviously dating a badass that wears red lipstick and leather skirts like it’s not the most uncomfortable material known to man.
There are a lot of options to consider on what Stiles can do right about now. He could laugh it off and ask Erica if she’s enjoying Beacon Hills, suggest a couple drinks that he enjoys here, and then go about his life. Or, like the graceful creature that Stiles is, he could run. And run is what he does.
Stiles grabs the straps of his bag and bolts towards his jeep before Erica can kill him for talking to her boyfriend.
Waking up for the first time in years in Beacon Hills, Derek feels surprisingly well. He lies in bed for a moment and waits, wondering if he’s only fooling himself by feeling calm and settled; except, nothing happens. The world doesn’t cave in around him and his brain doesn’t start making Kill Bill siren noises at being in a house built over the one he grew up in, the one he lost.
Instead, it feels nice. It’s nice to wake up on his own and not because it’s his turn to drive. It’s nice to wake up without a crick in his neck from sleeping at odd angles, because it doesn’t matter how quickly they heal, it’s still in a pain in the ass to wake up quickly, jerk your body, and feel pain shoot from your shoulder to your skull because you slept funny. And it’s nice to not wake up with someone’s foot in your face from how they’re stretched out in the backseat, or to wake up from Boyd snoring, which put everyone but Erica in a bad mood.
Derek steps out of bed and makes his way downstairs, finding the coffee pot in one of the few boxes they brought in the night before so he can make himself a cup. It only takes twenty minutes to figure out how to work it and to hear the crackle of the maker going as coffee starts to dispense into the pot.
The rest of the pack is sleeping and probably will be for a while. They arrived at Beacon Hills in the middle of the night and went to sleep kind of late, so Derek takes his coffee out on the front porch to enjoy where there are nothing but the woods, filled with trees and different animals.
Derek hadn’t been living in New York City long enough to forget the sounds of squirrels and birds. He thinks he might even hear a deer somewhere, if he focuses hard enough. There are definitely rabbits, if the one standing a few feet away is anything to go off of.
Derek inhales slowly, letting the air leave his lungs, and he can’t believe he’s thinking how nice it is to be back in Beacon Hills, to be home. When they stepped out of the car last night, Derek felt like he was taking in oxygen for the first time, like he’s been swimming under water and just finally reached the surface.
It’s a strange thing for him, to be feeling this way, but it’s like Isaac kept telling him: they’re taking this horrible thing that happened to him and Cora and then turning it into something that can be theirs again, this house, this property. They’re back and they’re reclaiming this place. one of them had been present for the build,though Instead, they trusted builders and contractors to do what they needed to do. But, in the end, everything has turned out amazingly. For now, at least.
There’s still more that they want to do, like spread out and build Boyd and Erica their own place, and Cora, as long as things go well here. As of now, Derek knows that Isaac wants to stay with him for a while, which is fine. Derek doesn’t want any of them go too far for a while, even if it’s only a matter of time before they get tired of each other, before they’re crawling at the bits to get away.
But for now, everything is fine.
Derek’s phone chimes where he put next to him on the porch steps. He sets his mug down and grabs the phone. He doesn’t see a notification immediately, which means that it’s his email, he guesses. Derek doesn’t use different tones for any of his notifications, and it makes Cora want to ring his neck because he never knows if he’s getting a text or an email or if one of his apps is bothering him to do something with it.
Derek’s stomach does an excited flip when he sees that it’s an email notification from Luke Skywalker. The name still makes him want to roll his eyes. It makes him think about when Cora was younger and she insisted that she was talking to Britney Spears, who eventually revealed herself to be a girl in Florida that was just trying to do something nice. But despite the eye roll every time Derek sees the name Luke Skywalker, he still feels like he’s walking on clouds every time he sees it.
I have to admit, I’ve never crossed through Nebraska, so please forgive us mere mortals when I ask about the wonders of Carhenge. Was it even better than the pictures? Please tell me it was.
What other places did you stop in? I googled, and it sounds like there’s, like, a million different places you can go to in the US. I mean, there’s actual maps dedicated to going on road trips just for roadside attractions. I saw a few for flea markets, too. Have you ever been to one of those?
Once, when I was a kid, I remember my mom took my dad and I to one. Now, if you knew my dad, you’d know that it is not his kind of thing at all. Anyway, we wound up finding some of those vintage troll dolls and my mom and I used them as decorations. We set them up on the fireplace, in front of the TV, on the back of the toilet. Our house was covered in trolls for an entire summer. It was great.
Sorry I didn’t see your last email sooner. Things have been kind of busy here. I hope your trip was nice, though, and that you made it to California in one piece.
P.S- if we were to have given out personal details, I’d have been over the moon to see you.
When Derek announces that he’s going to head into town and hit up the grocery store, Erica decides that she’s going to come along with him because Derek never buys the snacks they want, which is a total lie. Derek doesn't call her out on it because he knows that everyone is curious about Beacon Hills, and Erica seems the most curious. Boyd doesn’t seem to care very much, and hasn’t since they first started talking about moving the pack somewhere else, back home – home for Cora and Derek, anyway. Isaac just wanted them all in one place, whether that’s in Beacon Hills or New York or anywhere else in the world. Cora threw a fit for a while, before she decided that Derek would eventually be building her her own house when she decided that she’s had enough of living with all of them and that was it.
So, the curiosity level is high and Derek only grits his teeth for a moment when they park in front of the grocery store and Erica grabs him by the elbow and drags him towards the main road to look around. Somehow they end up ten blocks away, moving down a small street with tiny shops owned by the people that live there. They pass a frozen yogurt place, a coffee shop, and those little stores where people sell their own creations, like banners for the front yard or clothes or all things knitted.
“Oh, let’s go in there,” Erica says, pointing towards a store with small mason jars filled with different kinds of jams, spreads, and dips.
“Why?” Derek asks, eyeing the store warily, it’s not like any of them sit around munching on jam.
“Because we live here now, and I want to see what’s inside,” Erica explains, pinching Derek’s arm as she tugs him inside.
Derek’s nose wrinkles as they enter, too many smells hitting him at once. Erica keeps her face even, like she knows if she shows any sign of being bothered by it Derek will drag her outside and make her go into the knitting store where all they’ll smell is yarn and different animal fibers, nothing as offensive and chipotle apricot jam, chocolate grape jam, and cinnamon basil chip dip. It’s just too many spices, too many herbs, and too many fruits.
“We should get some for Isaac,” Erica says, grabbing a pretzel and dipping it in something. She hums when she tastes it, then grabs another and holds it up for Derek to try. With a roll of his eyes, Derek leans forward and takes the bite. “It’s a good thing we have absolutely no groceries, because I plan on sampling all of these.”
“We’d have groceries if we went into the store like I planned on doing.”
“Could have,” Erica hums, distracted. “Oh, this one tastes like pumpkin pie. Isaac loves pumpkin pie.” She grabs three jars and holds them in the crook of her elbow.
“Why don’t you just buy him a pie?”
“Because, Derek, this way he’ll be able to have the taste of it whenever he wants,” she replies, shaking her head at him. She grabs a little basket from the employee and smiles at her, promising that they don’t need any help and then drops the jars of jam inside of it.
Derek sighs, resigned to his fate. “You’re going to have to get everyone something.”
“I know. Oh,” Erica gasps, rushing off. “Derek, they make syrup. This one is a jalapeño spice. Boyd would love that.”
Derek leaves her to her muttering, keeping an ear on her so he knows her place in the shop as he glances around. It’s not a bad place, not really, despite the smell. Derek finds some wine infused jams and grabs them for Cora, and a bacon bourbon glaze that’s supposed to go on meats that Isaac might like.
With his arms full, Derek can feel the pinpricks of a headache coming on because the smell really is just too overpowering. He heads towards Erica, dropping his jars in her basket.
“I’m going to head a few shops over and get us some coffee. I can’t take the smell anymore,” he says, pulling a couple bills out of his wallet and handing them over. “I’ll meet you there.”
“All right, I’m almost done,” says Erica, taking the money and ignoring Derek in favor of a reading a label for raspberry bubblegum jam. Derek wants to take it and throw it on the ground, because no. Just no. There’s only so many flavor combinations that he can tolerate and bubblegum anything is not one of them.
Luckily, Derek doesn’t have to worry about it as he stumbles into the street, breathing in deep gulps of air to rid of nose of everything from inside the shop.
There are only four drinks that are acceptable to Erica, so Derek feels confident that The Coffee Bean will have something Erica will like and Derek won’t have to listen to her complain.
Upon entering, Derek can smell something. Something is off about this place. It makes his nose tingle as he glances around, trying to figure out what exactly it is that his hackles rising. He can’t quite place it until he bumps into someone, too busy glancing around to pay attention, and he realizes that the smell is coming off him.
The stranger seems shocked, his mouth hanging open uselessly and Derek has three seconds before he realizes that this kid, who looks like he should be smaller than he is, smells both aroused and like a werewolf. Derek eyes him carefully, studying him. He’s about the same height as Derek, his shoulders a little broad and hidden by the straps of a book bag he’s sporting. He’s got wide brown eyes and moles dotting up his flushed cheeks. This stranger is not a wolf, Derek knows that much, but he smells like one, and it sets Derek on edge.
“Sorry for running into you,” Derek says.
The stranger stares at him, mouth-hanging open like he hasn’t heard a word. Derek’s brows rise expectantly, a smirk pulling at his lips.
Derek laughs. “I said, sorry for running into you.”
“Oh, no,” The stranger says, shaking his head wildly, “I think that was my fault. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
The boy’s arms move around wildly, gesturing to different parts of the coffee shop like he’s trying to show Derek what was happening. Derek notices that his hands are shaking, the smell of coffee and anxious energy coming off him in waves.
“Anyway,” the guy says, breathing in deeply. “I haven’t really seen you around before. Small-ish town and all. Kind of. I think it’s large compared to some places with only one stop light that blinks red all the time, but when you’ve lived here your whole life, you sort of know when you’ve seen someone or not.”
Derek nods, amused. “Yeah, I just moved here.”
“Oh, wow. Really? To Beacon Hills?” The kid looks shocked, like he can’t imagine anyone choosing to live here.
“Yeah,” Derek laughs, because he remembers when he asked his mom why Beacon Hills had hotels as a kid, because who in their right mind would want to stay there? “It’s nice. Warm, too.”
“That’s why it’s awful.”
Derek shrugs and then glances around, trying to see if he can spot the werewolf whose scent is clinging to this boy like they were rolling around somewhere. If there are other werewolves in Beacon Hills, then Derek needs to be careful to not come off as a threat. He just wants to live near his family, where they died, where they’re buried, where all of his memories are tied with them. He’s tired of running from that; he’s tired of being away from that because he hates his past.
Derek motions towards the line. If this stranger knows any werewolves in Beacon Hills, then he’s going to need him for some kind of information.
“So, how long have you been here?” The stranger asks.
“Not long,” Derek replies, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Long enough to get settled and find the coffee.”
“Arguably the most important thing, if I do say so myself,” the kid says, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Derek can smell how nervous he is and how attracted he is to Derek.
Derek’s not conceited, he’s really not, but he’s used to people smelling that way when they look at him. It can be flattering, at times, annoying at other. He’s not sure what he thinks of it now. This is kid is, arguably, pretty cute. Derek likes his Bambi eyes and upturned nose. He likes that it appears like the kid has a permanent flush to his cheeks and that his hair is messy because he can’t stop touching it and not because he spent hours in front of the mirror perfecting it.
The door to the coffee shop chimes and Derek can smell that it’s Erica, striding towards him while a plastic bag crinkles at her side. She stops at Derek’s side, looping their arms together and grins at the boy.
With Erica there, Derek learns that the boy’s name is Stiles. It sounds like a lie but it’s not. There’s no tick to his heartbeat even as it jackhammers in his chest from nerves and caffeine. Erica looks at Stiles and Derek knows that she can smell the wolf on him. She looks like she wants to snap her teeth at Stiles and ask whom the wolf is but she doesn’t, or she doesn’t get a chance to because Stiles bolts, grabbing onto his bag and rushing out of the coffee shop without anything to drink.
“So,” Erica mutters, eyes trained on the door that Stiles just ran out of.
“Yeah,” Derek agrees, sighing. “Come on, we need to get to the store so we can get back. We need to talk to everyone about this.”
Erica doesn’t protest that they don’t have their coffee; instead, she follows behind him and asks, “Is he a wolf?”
Derek shakes his head. “No,” he answers, just as a blue jeep speeds past them. “He knows a wolf, though.”
“Do you think he actually knows that whoever it is is a wolf?”
“I don’t know. If there’s a pack here, that changes things.”
Derek realizes that Erica’s stopped so he turns around, looking at her in confusion. “Do we have to go back to New York?”
“No, not necessarily,” he answers, watching as she frowns. “Hey, let’s just get food, and then we can talk to everyone. We’ll figure this out.”
Derek can hear three steady heartbeats when he steps out of his car. The pack is home and that’s good. Derek still doesn’t know how he’s going to talk to them. He doesn’t want to make any of them worry.
Erica helps him grab some of the bags, and either because she doesn’t care or because she has a big mouth, she storms into the house and shouts, “There’s fucking werewolves here.”
Derek sighs as he grabs the rest of the bags, taking everything that Erica left for him, which makes it difficult to open the door, since he can hardly move his fingers.
When Derek walks into the kitchen, he can see Isaac standing off to the side. He looks worried, his hands wringing together in front of him, his eyes wide as he looks at Derek.
“What’s going on?” Boyd asks, while Erica stands behind him, arms folded over her chest and expression hard and angry, even though she knows more than the rest of them.
Derek can’t see Cora but he can hear that she’s near, close enough to hear him.
“We met a human while we were out, and he smelt like he’d been around another were,” explains Derek, unloading groceries and tossing the empty bags on the ground to clean up after he’s finished. “We don’t know anything else. We don’t know where the wolf is, if it’s actually here or if the kid went to visit them. Or if he even knows that whoever it is is a were. There’s no way of knowing right now.”
“I thought this was supposed to be Hale territory,” Isaac says, looking around like he needs someone else to confirm that.
“Hard to be Hale territory when there haven’t been any Hale’s living here,” Cora says, leaning against the kitchen wall and looking both pissed and unimpressed.
“Maybe,” Isaac mutters.
Derek shakes his head. “No. No one would do that, not unless they were really ballsy, or a brand new pack. Everyone knows this area, Beacon Hills specifically and the surrounding area, is Hale land. It’s always been that way. Packs have been calling me for years to ask permission to cross it.”
“So what should we do?” Isaac asks.
“Should we do something about the human?” Boyd asks.
“No. Well, maybe we can keep an eye on him. See if he meets up with the werewolf, and if the does, then—We’ll figure it out. We’ll find a way to talk to the wolf. Wolves,” Derek corrects, hoping that he sounds reassuring. “It’ll be fine.”
“Why don’t we just grab the scrawny kid and bring him back here to talk?” Erica asks. “Or, we could corner him somewhere and figure out what he knows.”
“No,” Derek says firmly. “We’re not kidnapping him, oh my god. We’ll figure this out without violence or kidnap.”
Cora snorts and pushes off the wall, heading back towards wherever she came from. Isaac nods, like he always does, because he trusts Derek to be a good alpha and do the right thing. Erica looks annoyed, and Boyd simply shrugs, like he’ll go along with whatever.
Derek knows, though, that they’ll kill him if they have to move back to New York already because Derek didn’t do his research. He should have come down here. He shouldn’t have trusted that everything would be fine.
It takes the pack a week to figure out the pixie situation. Apparently, and Stiles is really pissed about this, all they had to do was have Scott whip out the puppy eyes – the begging ones, not the glowing red ones – and explain to the pixies that they could really hurt someone. He basically gave them the ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed’ lecture of a lifetime until Malia stepped in and said they were going to end up killing someone and if that happened, they’d have to kill them. She shined her teeth and growled at them like the feisty werecoyote she is, making Scott sigh.
The pixies seemed to take Malia a little more seriously because they apologized and then fluttered off.
“Do you know how much research I did on this?” Stiles whines, rushing after Scott because this is serious. He’s being serious right now. “Do you how many nights I did not sleep at all because I was reading about pixies and fairies and omega werewolves on the freaking internet because no one had any idea what we were going after, and all you had to do was bat your pretty little eyelashes to make them disappear. Do you know how monumentally unfair that is?”
Scott sighs and then shrugs, like it’s not his fault his eyes did the trick. “Malia did scare them. Maybe you should lecture her.”
“No, because Malia put in a little effort to get that little growl going. You put in zero effort. You get an F. Or, no; I’ll give you a D because you got the job done.”
“I’m sorry you lost sleep,” Scott says, “but at least now you know everything we need to know if more pixies come.”
“It’s not the losing sleep that’s the problem, Scott.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Stiles sighs. “The problem is that I lost all that sleep only for all this to be extremely anticlimactic. It’s like a really shitty movie. I’m having a hard time thinking of a movie. Hmm, kind of like War of the Worlds, nothing can take down these stupid aliens, except, oh, look at that, the aliens can. Nice twist, I guess, but pretty freaking lame.”
Scott, for the most part, doesn’t look all that bothered by Stiles’ ranting. A perk of being best friends for so long is that Scott really doesn’t mind when Stiles goes off on a tangent; instead, he’ll listen and nod along, providing some kind of response when he thinks Stiles might need one or be expecting one. Right now, Stiles just wants to be pacified into thinking that he didn’t waste his time.
Scott doesn’t do that for him, so Stiles goes home and feels a bit cheated about the day’s events, even if they stopped more hikers from getting lost and maybe a potential death.
Stiles’ dad still isn’t home yet, so Stiles grabs his laptop and flops down on the couch, unsure what he wants to do besides waste his life some more because why not? Apparently he can do that for researching pixies.
Stiles immediately checks his email and sees a reply from Mowgli. He grins and feels a bit of the annoyance of the day melt away as he reads.
Carhenge was Carhenge, I don’t really know what to say about it. There was a surprisingly large crowd and I felt slightly out of place, until my sister bought me those sunglasses that make you look like a Nascar driver.
We saw giant statues of Paul Bunyan. There was a big blue whale, and a field of corn. Statue corn, not real corn. Though, we did see a lot of real corn. So many states bleed together because of corn.
It feels nice to be in California. We haven’t been here long, so I don’t know what to say about it other than I don’t know anyone. I don’t feel alone yet, though. 40 million people, I should hope I never do.
P.S- Trolls? Really?
The email immediately relieves all of the stress and annoyance of the day. Stiles can’t help but smile, imagining Mowgli’s made-up face when he pictures a house with trolls. Stiles thinks they might still have them in a box in the attic or the garage somewhere. Stiles and his dad have been very careful about not throwing away anything that’s attached to significant memories of Stiles’ mom.
Normally, Stiles would wait to reply – well, he’d wait twenty minutes while he thought about what he wanted to say or while he looked into and analyzed every word Mowgli said to him, but his dad is still at the station and there’s nothing else to do, so he replies.
Only, Stiles hears a soft chime and sees a message notification pop up in the little section where instant messages come through.
Mowgli: I was hoping to see you online
Stiles feels like a girl in a teen romance movie with the smile on his face and with how his heart is hammering excitedly in his chest.
Luke Skywalker: i’m guilty of always being online. might b addicted.
Mowgli: Think they have treatment for that now, actually.
Luke Skywalker: might have to go.
Luke Skywalker: how r u liking cali?
Mowgli: California is nice. I don’t know.
Luke Skywalker: wht does tht mean?
Mowgli: There’s just…a lot going on right now.
Mowgli: Some stuff happened and I don’t know if I made the right choice coming here.
Luke Skywalker: ur already doubting urself?
Luke Skywalker: what’s going on? u want to talk about it? sans personal details, ofc.
Mowgli: There’s just some things that I didn’t check up on before we came. I don’t know why, I’m normally (and these are my sister’s words) pretty anal about these kinds of things.
Mowgli: And my sister is mad at me.
Luke Skywalker: doesn’t tht happen a lot?
Mowgli: Pretty much.
Luke Skywalker: well, u know what, uve only been here for, like, a week or whatev, so give things time to settle before u start thinking so negatively.
Luke Skywalker: it’ll all work out.
Mowgli: Hmm… maybe.
Mowgli: What are you doing?
Luke Skywalker: i am sitting on my couch in the dark. almost dark, or whatev.
Luke Skywalker: u?
Mowgli: On the deck. My wifi works outside. I didn’t know that.
Luke Skywalker: nerdddd.
Mowgli: I read that book you asked me to read ages ago. I read it in the car on the drive to California.
Luke Skywalker: finally!!!
Luke Skywalker: what’d u think?
Luke Skywalker: also, most people don’t call comics books, dude.
Mowgli: I think the same thing I did when I watched the movie. I can understand both sides, but ultimately, is Captain America really wrong? There’s a lot to be said about having to sign and register their secret identities and to trust that the people who have that information aren’t taken advantage of it. Plus, you can’t trust that the people you’re taking the orders from aren’t going to ask you to do something that’s wrong, and you’re not allowed to back out of it because you’ve been forced to sign those papers. The accords.
Luke Skywalker: YOU’RE A FOOL!!!!!!!
Luke Skywalker: tony > steve. ironman > captain America.
Luke Skywalker: who are u to just come online and spread these lies, huh??
Luke Skywalker: i see ur point, but… ur wrong.
Mowgli: I knew you’d say that.
Luke Skywalker: bc u secretly know i’m right, or bc we’re on that level?
Mowgli: Because when you suggested I read the comic instead of basing my opinions on the movie, you wrote three thousands words on why you thought Tony Stark is the superior avenger and why Steve Rogers should, quote unquote, chuck rocks and break his arm.
Luke Skywalker: i still stand by that opinion.
Mowgli: I know you do.
Mowgli: I have to go. It’s my turn to make dinner tonight.
Luke Skywalker: yeah, all right. i should get started on mine too. I’ll email u later???
Mowgli: Looking forward to it.
Nothing happening in Beacon Hills feels like a warning in and of itself. It’s an occupational hazard for Stiles to be on edge at all times. There’s always something passing through or causing a ruckus, so for nothing to be here, Stiles finds that he doesn't actually know what to do with himself, which is only half true, because Stiles never really struggles to find something to do, it just means that he doesn’t have anything to research so he feels like he’s not doing anything… at least not anything useful, anyway.
So, Stiles finds himself at Dog-Eared Books – honestly, the name used to bring tears to his eyes after Scott was first turned – in the older part of Beacon Hills, looking for obscure books on different myths and legends. If his best friend turning into a werewolf with magical healing ability, wicked sideburns, and glowing eyes have taught Stiles anything, it’s that every myth and legend has some truth to it. Sometimes Stiles has to obsessively dig for the truth or annoy Deaton until he sighs and gives Stiles some kind of half-assed clue, but he finds it.
Stiles is sitting on the floor, stacks of books next to him as he flips through each of them to find which one he wants to buy when he hears someone enter his aisle. And, like, rude? Stiles is clearly sitting here so he can find what he needs to save this city at an undisclosed date and time, so silence in his aisle is very much appreciated.
A pair of feet stops next to Stiles and he sighs, dragging his books closer to his body and resisting the urge to poke the person in their ugly shoes and tell them to buzz off. They don’t go away and they don’t move, though. Stiles can feel his annoyance level rising to dangerous levels, levels that might make Ms. Swain - the sweet elderly woman who owns the shop - call his dad. Not necessarily his dad, but someone at the sheriff’s station that will call his dad and tell him that his son has broken some kind of law… again.
“Am I, like, in your way?” asks Stiles, craning his neck to see—oh. Oh. The pretty stranger from the coffee shop, Derek, is what Stiles sees. It’s not- It’s not a bad sight, to be fair, but Stiles’ body tenses when he realizes that Derek’s girlfriend might be around and she might be finally ready to kill him. “Is this an ambush?”
Derek frowns. “What? No, why would it be an ambush?”
“I don’t know, dude,” Stiles mutters, quickly shoving the books back on the shelf. He grabs a couple that he wants, one on vampires and another on selkies. He’s not sure if selkies will ever make it to Beacon Hills, but the whole concept of seal in the water, human on land is fascinating. “Do you need help finding anything?”
Derek shrugs and looks around, his eyes calculating as he takes it all in. “Interesting aisle.”
This time Stiles shrugs, because there’s a section called ‘Tragic Life Stories’ and ‘Books Without Tears’ for people who don’t want to cry while they read, nice concept, odd section, even if Stiles has read twenty of them, and ‘Dead Parents’, which is broken down into so many subgenres that Ms. Swain could open a second shop just for that.
“Oddly, it’s not that strange,” he replies. “Maybe I’m writing a paper.”
“Hmm… you’re not,” Derek says, and he makes it sound ominous, almost like it’s a threat and Stiles doesn’t even know how anyone can do that, make him want to pee his pants with three words. “I’m not judging; I just find the section interesting.”
“Oh, you like these kind of stories?”
“A bit. I think it’s interesting to see what people used to believe in. Like, greek mythology and the idea of a god for everything, ones that walked the Earth and ones that didn’t. Or, in some cases,” Derek says, nodding towards the books in Stiles’ hands, “reading about the creatures that people believe are real. It’s, like, seeing who the Loch Ness Monster is for past centuries.”
“Pretty sure Nessie has been around far longer than the twentieth and twenty-first century. You don’t just, like, evade humans for this long without having thousands of years of practice.”
“I’m pretty sure the Loch Ness Monster hasn’t been around for thousands of years.”
“Uh, dude, pretty sure it could.”
“It’s literally impossible. A thousand years, at most could be believable, and even that is pushing it.”
“Pushing it for what? Your small mind?”
“No,” Derek laughs, annoyed, “if Loch Ness has been around that long, where is the proof?”
“Oh, sorry, do you need an oil painting from the seventeenth century to prove that it’s possible? Jesus, do you even, like, look into any of this shit?” Stiles asks, feeling overly offended that Derek is going to try and deny the existence of some lake monster. “There’s a story or something written in the sixth century that mentions Nessie. Some guy was killed by a river monster, so there’s that, and then there are countless other sightings through the nineteenth century to now.”
“And all those years where there’s nothing?”
“Well, jeez, I don’t know, you kill a man and you might have to hide out for a couple centuries.” Derek breathes out of his nose harshly, shaking his head like he can’t believe Stiles. “Besides,” Stiles mumbles, not wanting to hear whatever counterargument Derek is working up, “You’d be surprised what kind of truth lies in these myths and legends, even about Nessie.”
Derek nods and there’s something about the look on his face that makes Stiles feel like he’s said something he shouldn’t have, which is, to be fair, a common occurrence with him. His brain to mouth filter gets a little wonky sometimes and forgets to work. But he hasn’t said anything that could make Derek look this on edge, or whatever is going on with his eyebrows and the harsh line of his very attractive shoulders.
“What kind of truth do you think lies in them?”
Stiles turns and sees another guy approaching him from behind, a tall, sort of lanky guy with short curly hair and big blue eyes. He’s wearing a scarf, so of course he’s pretentious and probably one of Derek’s friends or some random stranger that wants to insert their opinion into a conversation that they’re not a part of. He probably studied art history and took figure drawing or something.
“I just think there’s more to legends than people’s overactive imaginations, is all,” Stiles says, looking between the new guy and Derek, wondering why they look like they’re having a silent conversation with their eyebrows. Or, Derek’s eyebrows are the ones talking, but the new guy looks like he can read them. So, they definitely know each other.
“Jesus, why don’t you just ask him?” Someone says, striding into the aisle and settling in behind Derek.
“Cora,” Derek sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I thought you were going to stay home?”
“No one was staying home,” a new voice says and Stiles turns to see Erica, Derek’s girlfriend behind him. He jumps, dropping the books in his hands as he tries to put space between them because he is not in the mood to be murdered, especially when he was not flirting at all, just arguing. Even if he admired Derek’s body once or twice, three times at most, honestly.
“This feels like a thing,” Stiles says, looking for an escape route, “and I’m just going to—“ He points towards Derek and the new girl, Cora, like he’s just going to slip past them and head on his merry way back to safety, but Erica is reaching her hand out, curling her fingers around Stiles’ arm and keeping him in place. “If you guys need some kind of mediator, you really should try someone with a license or degree, or whatever they need. I’m really just not qualified to deal with whatever is going on right now.”
“Hi, handsome,” Erica says, gently pressing Stiles into the bookcase. “Whatcha reading?”
“Just…words. I don’t know.”
Erica nods, but of course she doesn’t believe him.
“Looks like something on vampires and…Scottish lore,” says a deep voice belonging to a dark skinned man. “Is that where all the Loch Ness Monster talk came from?”
“Uh, no, actually, your little friend there is severely uneducated,” Stiles replies, watching as they all look at him in various degrees of ‘we want to break your bones’. “I feel like I’m missing something, though, like with all this.”
“How about you answer Isaac’s question,” the girl, Cora, demands, looking like she wants to cut Stiles up and wow, what did he do to deserve that?
“I’ll be honest, no idea who Isaac is.” Pretentious scarf raises his hand. “Ah, cool. Hi. Stiles. What was your question?”
“I asked what kind of truth you think lies in those legends,” Isaac clarifies and Stiles nods, right.
“Yeah, definitely answered that. Isaac for 100, answered, so I think I’m gonna head home now. It’s, wow, what is it, 5 or something? Definitely getting late,” Stiles laughs, managing to step just a pinch closer to Derek without anyone yanking at him.
Derek sighs, and it sounds like Stiles’ dad when Stiles has done something completely off the rails and he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how he’s supposed to react and handle the situation.
“I thought—I thought we talked about this,” Derek says and no, no Stiles doesn’t think they talked about anything like this. Unless Loch Ness was code for…something Stiles wasn’t given the SparkNotes on. “I thought Isaac and I were going to, you know.” Derek gestures around uselessly and okay, yeah, definitely not talking to Stiles.
“And I told you that wasn’t a smart idea,” Cora says. “There’s obviously more going on than you thought.”
“Cora’s right,” Erica says. “I mean, look, he obviously knows something.”
“Knows what? Who knows what?” Stiles asks, looking at each of them. “I mean, no need to pretend that we’re not talking about me, and no need to pretend that I actually have any idea what is going on right now, so why don’t we fill me in.”
No one says anything. They all look around at each other like they’re waiting to see what someone else is going to do. Derek’s face looks cross and stern, but then the girl to his right sighs and looks at Stiles, and it’s only for a second but Stiles has been around werewolves enough to know when someone’s eyes flash gold. And that’s not at all what Stiles was expecting.
Stiles heart rate picks up because Scott was right when he said that he smelled a werewolf in the preserve, but he was wrong about how many. Stiles is going to flick a newspaper to Scott, Liam, Malia, and Theo’s noses for not being able to scent this out. An entire freaking pack of werewolves in Beacon Hills that don’t belong and the human had to find them.
There’s too many ways that Stiles can react, too many ways for this to turn ugly very quickly. Ms. Swain is too old to actually do much besides call the police and even then, there might be the chance she can’t even hear the 911 operators and just hangs up, so relying on her is out of the question. And Stiles has nothing on him to protect himself because he foolishly relies on the weres of his pack to sniff out the enemy, which they’ve failed to do.
Stiles refuses to die death by hot werewolf and his equally, kind of less attractive (to Stiles) pack. He’s just not. And if he is, then he’s going to go out in a blaze of glory, so he takes off.
Stiles shoves past Cora and Derek, stumbling over the books he dropped on the ground thanks to Erica. He runs, weaving through the aisles until he makes it to the door, ignoring Ms. Swain so he can book it across the parking lot to his jeep.
Stiles is aware that he’s running from wolves like he’s their prey and that any one of them could catch up with him easily and slash his throat when they get annoyed with his screaming. He’s aware of that, but right now he’s got to go; he has to get to his pack to tell them.
Scott doesn’t answer any of Stiles’ thirteen phone calls. Stiles starts to panic around the fourth phone call, because if there’s another pack in town and they’re flashing their eyes at Stiles, then they know that he knows about werewolves, which means they could know about Scott. Stiles doesn’t have the fancy smelling powers to know if they killed anyone today.
Around call ten, Stiles decides that if Scott even is alive, Stiles is going to kill him.
Luckily, Scott’s bike is parked outside of his place, along with Liam and Kira’s cars, so Stiles doesn’t have to worry about or wonder where Scott is at. Stiles parks the jeep terribly, half on the curb, in his rush to get inside because another pack in their territory is never a good thing. They’ve learned that the hard way (several times before), and Stiles has had a bad feeling about these wolves since before he knew they were wolves, and it’s pretty rare that Stiles’ feelings end up being wrong, so he wastes no time slamming into Scott’s house.
There’s a bit of a commotion and Stiles follows the noise to the living room where Scott, Kira, and Liam are sitting together. Liam and Scott are playing some video game and shouting at each other while Kira sits between them munching on popcorn. And cool. Cool, everyone is alive. Not cool how no one answered Scott’s phone and made Stiles think for five phone calls that his best friend was dead in a bloody heap somewhere.
So, it’s only fair when Stiles unplugs the television set, feeling a bit wild as he stands there holding the cord in the air.
“Dude,” Scott says, blinking at Stiles.
“Stiles, what the hell?” Liam demands, definitely angrier than Scott is.
“Where’s your phone, Scotty?”
Scott shrugs and then pats his jeans for a second before he tugs the device out of his pocket. Stiles raises his brows, making Scott frown.
“We’re going to come back to how you cannot keep it on silent, and if you leave it on do not disturb again, then we’re going to have a very serious discussion,” Stiles says, taking a deep breath, “because me, myself, this person standing right here, me, was just corned at the freaking bookstore by an entire pack.”
Scott’s still frowning, his confusion evident on his face. “Okay, uh, should I ask them to leave you alone?”
“Was it Malia and Lydia again?” Kira asks, frowning sympathetically. “I really did ask them to stop trying to set you up.”
“What? No, it wasn’t Lydia and Malia. When were they trying to set me up?” Stiles asks, because, um, brand new information to him. “Is that why they’re always wanting to go to Jungle? No, you know what, we’re coming back to that. Don’t think I’m going to forget about it,” he says, pointing at Kira, who simply smiles and nods, shoving another bite of popcorn in her mouth. “But Scott, you definitely might have to ask them to leave me alone because I’m talking about a brand new pack of werewolves in Beacon Hills. You guys were right when you said you thought there was a wolf in the woods, except, it was probably multiple wolves.”
“What are you talking about?” Liam asks, as Kira pulls out her phone, hopefully calling everyone else to get them over here as soon as possible.
“What happened? Are you okay?” Scott asks and now he looks concerned, eyes scanning over Stiles like he missed something before, like he might be able to see what happened with the werewolves on Stiles’ clothes and skin.
“What happened? I was almost killed, murdered, maimed, and you didn’t answer your freaking phone,” Stiles shouts, waving the plug for the Playstation around.
“I didn’t feel it,” Scott says and then he’s pressing on the screen and frowning. “Oh, it’s dead.”
“Oh, it’s dead. Hmm, cool, I could have been dead.”
“You seem fine,” Liam points out, shrugging when Stiles turns to glare at him. “I’m just saying. For someone who nearly died, you look pretty good.”
“Thank you, Liam. I will be sure to tell the ladies of this pack, who moonlight as matchmakers for the resident human, apparently, that I look pretty good.” Stiles makes a face, dropping the plug on the ground. He’ going to hide it when they’re both distracted later and cover it in mountain ash so they can’t touch it.
“Everyone is going to be here soon,” Kira informs them all, “and then we can talk about what happened and what we’re going to do. In the meantime, popcorn?” Kira grins as she holds the bowl out and Stiles glares at it, grumbling under breath because he’s not going to be pacified by popcorn.
For the simple fact that Stiles is upset with everyone sitting in this room, he doesn’t tell them all of the details surrounding what happened with the other pack. He loves the sound of his own voice and he’s happy to explain things more than once, but right now he’s running on principle, and the principle is that people need to answer their phones if they want information out of him.
It takes twenty minutes before Lydia, Malia, and Theo arrive, trailing in together and Stiles smiles at them because finally, people who would answer his calls. Well, Theo definitely wouldn’t because he doesn’t seem to answer for anyone, and Lydia might, depending on what she’s doing, and Malia, well, it really just depends on if she even knows where her phone is. So, they all suck, too, actually.
“So there really was a wolf in the woods,” Lydia says, striding in like she has all of the facts. “How many are there?”
Everyone turns to Stiles and oh, cool, now they’re interested in what happened. “Five. I was at Dog-Eared and this guy—no, wait. Actually, I met two of them a few days ago, the other week, I don’t know, when we were dealing with the pixies. I bumped into this guy at the coffee shop, and it seemed fine,” Stiles explains, trying to wrack his brain to see if maybe he missed some kind of sign that they were scoping him out then, too.
“Did something happen?” Kira asks.
“No, I just bumped into him and then we were in line getting coffee together when his girlfriend came over, this blonde badass that might be the alpha, I don’t know, but she wanted to know who I was and—“
“She probably smelled Scott on you,” Lydia assumes.
“Maybe. Anyway, I left, and then I ran into them this afternoon at Dog-Eared and first it was this guy, scowling face and hot eyebrows, and he—“
“Hot eyebrows?” Theo questions, looking annoyed until Liam elbows him in the ribs to shut up.
“God, can I finish?” Stiles asks, looking at them all. “Anyway, we talked for a bit and then this guy came up behind me, and then three more showed up and they just surrounded me. They were asking me all these really weird questions and then one of them flashed their eyes at me and I got out of there.”
“I thought you said you were almost killed,” Liam says and Stiles turns to glare at him.
“Peanut gallery is not allowed to comment when they were not there, okay? I’m one freaking human surrounded by five werewolves, yeah, I almost died.”
“Regardless, we still need to figure out what they’re doing here,” Malia says. “If they’re cornering Stiles, then they’re probably not friendly.”
“We don’t know that,” Scott reasons.
Stiles hits him on the knee. “A strange pack stumbles into Beacon Hills, it’s highly unlikely that they’re here for fun.”
“I haven’t seen anyone new around lately,” Theo says.
“They’re only approaching Stiles, so maybe they want to use him as kind of mediator to talk to you, Scott,” Lydia guesses, and no, wrong.
“Or, maybe they want to break Stiles legs and beat him with them,” Stiles reasons. “There’s something off about them. I can’t put my finger on it.”
Stiles can’t figure out if the coffee shop encounter really was an accident or if the whole thing was planned. If they’ve been here since the pixies then there’s a chance that they really are here for malicious reasons, because that’s a long time to be in another pack’s territory and not make yourself known. Stiles has read enough about this to know that werewolves take that kind of thing seriously and invading another pack’s territory is a threat, especially when they’re not invited.
And, well, Scott’s not going to see it as a threat. He’s just not. Even now, Scott is arguing that they don’t know everything and they need to talk to them before they can decide what to do. Luckily, Malia, Theo, and Liam are reasonable as they argue how they need to be prepared for a fight, just in case.
Stiles listens to them all talk and tries to process what happened. He needs to filter through the confrontation at the bookstore to make sure that he didn’t miss anything. With any scientific equation, you need to know all of the variables, and if Stiles has some tucked away, then he needs them. He needs to be able to tell them everything he can before Scott can convince everyone that they should just leave the pack alone and wait, or something dumb like that because Scott is a good egg that makes poor decisions sometimes, despite not seeing for himself how these wolves behave.
“Wait,” Stiles mumbles, because something is clicking into place in his head. He yanks his phone out of his pocket and quickly starts searching for what he thinks he knows. There’s something in his gut telling him that’s he’s right, and then he sees that it is.
“It’s Derek Hale,” Stiles announces, cutting everyone off as he turns his phone around to reveal Derek in all his broody glory. Stiles is so annoyed it took him this long to figure it out. “He’s one of them.”
“Derek Hale?” Lydia says, head tilted like she knows the name but can’t place him.
“Yeah, his sister Cora was in our grade,” he quickly types in her name and thumbs down the screen, “and…yup, this is her,” Stiles says, turning the phone to show everyone her picture. “Their family died in a fire. Remember? It was years ago. They left Beacon Hills after it happened.”
“I wonder what they’re doing back here,” Scott mutters.
“I don’t know,” Stiles says, hitting back and staring down at Derek’s face on his phone. “I don’t think it’s good, whatever the reason is.”
“Didn’t someone rebuild the Hale House?” asks Kira.
Lydia purses her lips. “Well, I guess we know where we can find them.”
“I thought we agreed that is was going to be me that talked to Stiles,” Derek says, glaring when Cora, Erica, and Boyd finally walk in the door. He had been too annoyed to talk to them at the bookstore. Instead, he ordered that they head back to the house because their behavior had been wildly inappropriate and he’s so tired of them going against him on everything, but most especially on stuff like this, when it involves relations with another pack. A pack they don’t even know.
“I thought you agreed that it was going to be you and Isaac,” Erica retorts, spinning to look at Derek, a grin on her face that disappears when she sees the look on his face. “What?”
“Fine. Yes, I decided that I was going to talk to Stiles alone and bring Isaac with me, just in case. Where in there do you hear any of your names?”
“We just wanted to back you up,” explains Boyd. There’s a moment before he sighs and shrugs. “I was just doing what they wanted.”
“And what is it that they wanted to do?” asks Derek, folding his arms over his chest. He’s not trying to look intimidating but if it’s working, then…
“We’re trying to do the right thing,” says Cora, staring at Derek like she knows what he’s trying to do and it’s not going to work on her. It never actually does. “This is Hale territory and we’re not the ones that should be tip-toeing around and trying to pacify them.”
“This was Hale territory, and technically it still is, but we’re not going to start something with them. With their human,” sighs Derek, dropping down on the couch and pulling his laptop into his lap. “I get what you were trying to do. I get it. But you’re not…” Derek breathes out harshly.
He doesn’t know what he wants to say. He wants them to understand that they’re not going about this the right way. Derek doesn’t want any problems with this other pack. He just wants to live. He wants to be able to exist in Beacon Hills without any problems. A group of werewolves cornering a human connected or in another pack- it doesn’t look good. Derek understands Cora’s impulse to defend what’s theirs, what they think is theirs. But the fact of the matter is, the only living Hales left fled years ago, and haven’t been back until now.
Cora is still ranting about why she feels they made the right choice when Derek’s laptop starts up. Erica is agreeing with everything Cora says, as Boyd digs around in the fridge for something to eat. Isaac is sitting on the couch opposite Derek, chewing on an apple and looking back and forth between the girls as they rant. Derek’s not even worried about them. Instead, he starts up the Internet so that his email can load.
“Are you even listening?” asks Cora.
Derek glances over the top of his screen. “Like you listened to me earlier, or actually listening?”
“Actually listening, smartass.”
“Then no, not really,” mutters Derek, his heart hammering when he sees that he has a new email. It arrived nearly twenty minutes ago.
Do you ever feel like no one listens to you? Like you’re right about something but you’re just screaming into the void because no one wants to believe you?
I know we said no personal details, so I’m not going to give any, and this might not make any sense without them, but I am right. I’m right. It’s just a fact, at this point. I’m right.
God, this is making no sense whatsoever. A friend and I got into a disagreement about something. He thinks one thing, I think another, but I know that I’m right. I’ve got this feeling. I just know. I can’t even explain it properly because I don’t think it’ll make sense to anyone else, but it’s deep in my gut and my friend won’t listen to me.
I just don’t want something bad to come out of this.
Sorry, none of this makes any sense. I just wanted to get this off my chest. It’s been a long day. I hope yours was better.
“What are you so interested in?” asks Erica.
“Nothing,” replies Derek.
Erica snorts and then sets her soda down so she can stride over towards the couch. Derek hits sleep and closes it before she can see anything, because he’s doing pretty freaking well about making sure she and Cora can’t access his email or his laptop since he started talking to Luke. He doesn’t want them to overanalyze it or try and make it into something that it’s not.
“If it’s not interesting, then maybe you could listen,” she says, annoyed.
“No,” he answers, grabbing his things so he can stand. “You guys are the ones that need to listen. We’re not going to make this worse with the other pack. If you see or smell, if you even think one of them is near you, then you leave. You come back here and you shut up,” he orders. “You’re not going to corner any of them again. I’ll take care of this.”
Cora snorts but looks away when Derek flashes his eyes at her. He turns towards Erica and Boyd, watching as they both nod, staring down at the floor. Derek doesn’t look at Isaac, but he pats his arm as he leaves the room.
Derek might not know what Luke is going through, but he gets it. He knows that he’s right about this other pack, about how they should be behaving, and how they should approach them. He knows that. His pack doesn’t agree with him, but he’s right.
Climbing into bed, Derek restarts his laptop and decides that he’s going to focus on his friend’s problem instead of his own. He feels bad for Luke, but he’s so thankful for the distraction away from what his pack did tonight that he almost doesn’t feel bad at all. Almost.
A witch wanders into their backyard nearly a week later.
Derek has been sensing magic for the past couple days. It feels like his hair is standing on edge. Everyone is wound so tight that the smallest thing will set them off. He doesn’t know what to make of it, but whatever it is, he knows that someone is taunting them. His pack is isolated in these woods, which makes them an easy target for almost anyone. Isaac questions why any magic-doer would want to bother them and Derek tells him it’s because they can.
The pack searches the woods several different times and always comes up with nothing, because the witch is masking her scent somehow and sending them on paths that lead to nowhere, even leading to Erica nearly falling off a cliff until Boyd grabs her and yanks her back onto flat ground.
After that, everyone’s nerves are shot. Until the witch stumbles out into the backyard, smirking at them from the tree line. It’s Isaac who takes off first, sprinting into the trees to try and catch her. He comes back with a gash down his side, open and bleeding. He’s withering in pain and Derek decides that this is the final straw. He hates-hates- seeing his pack hurt, but most especially Isaac. His wolf feels like those videos people watch of wild animals in confinement on the Internet, the kind that pace back and forth, waiting, until they can strike at whatever human comes near them first. Except, Derek doesn’t want a human, he wants a witch.
Isaac stays behind at the house. Derek doesn’t know what the witch did and he needs him somewhere safe for now. The rest of them rush off into the preserve, shifted, and hoping to find the witch. Derek can feel her taunting them, can feel it in the way his hairs stand on end and a shudder runs down his spine as he runs. There’s magic crackling in the air. It’s tangible and Derek can feel it wrapping around him, pinching his lungs.
There’s a figure standing in the middle of a clearing, long blond hair whipping wildly from a wind that’s not there. Her eyes are glinting in the sunlight, filtering through the trees, playing up the smirk on her face as Derek and the others burst through the trees. Erica dives after her first, always eager to get into a fight. The witch waves her arm and Erica goes soaring, bouncing off a tree with a scream that leaves Derek snarling.
The fight is quick. Derek, Cora, and Boyd work together, doing everything they can to get the witch while Erica heals. They never manage to gain the upper hand. The pack is tossed back, cut open, thrown in the air and slammed down by nothing more than a flick of the witch’s wrist. It’s nothing more than air, and the longer it goes on, the more frustrated Derek becomes, because they haven’t laid a hand on her but Boyd’s arm has been broken twice, Erica’s back once, Cora has a cut from her neck down to her hip, her skin stitching together slowly, and Derek’s bleeding from god knows where, his shirt sticking to his skin.
With a hurricane force of air, the witch disappears.
“Damn it,” curses Derek, rolling onto his back so he can sit up, after the witch sent them all flying.
“Why couldn’t we touch her?” asks Erica, wiping her face off on her shirt.
“She’s a witch,” explains Cora, letting Boyd tug her up. “I think we found where she’s been staying.”
“More than just her, by the looks of it,” says Erica, kicking at some of the ruminants left behind by the witch.
Derek glances around and sees what looks like a campsite, one that’s been dismantled and taking apart in haste. So there’s more than one of them, and they’re on the move. Derek doesn’t know what they’re doing here or why they’ve decided to go, and he’s not naïve enough to believe that they won’t be back, but he hopes…god, he hopes that they won’t have to deal with this again.
Derek straightens when he hears Cora growling, expecting to see more witches. He turns to see a group approaching them. His claws start to extend automatically until he smells the human, Stiles. He retracts his claws, striding forward to put himself between his pack and them. There’s seven of them, all of them younger than Derek but about the same age as the rest of his pack, if he had to guess.
The group stops in front of them and stares, spreading out to flank a boy with dark hair a crooked jaw. The alpha. Neither of them says anything; they just stare at each other, waiting, the tension building, curling around them like thick smoke.
“You have a witch problem,” spits out Erica, and Derek turns to see her wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand. “You might want to take care of that.”
“Yeah? You sure you didn’t cause it?” shouts Stiles, shoving through the other wolves to step forward, making himself seen, to glare at Erica.
Erica smirks, and Derek knows she loves that. Loves how much Stiles bites back. “Nearly killed me and Isaac, so yeah, pretty sure we didn’t cause it.”
“Didn’t have a witch problem until you arrived,” someone else says, a boy with broad, muscular shoulders.
“Or you didn’t know about it,” Cora growls, staring at them.
“We should talk,” says Derek, cutting Cora off before she can say anything else, before she can make things worse. “Relatively privately, maybe.”
The alpha nods and motions for Derek to follow him a few paces away. Derek glares at his pack before he goes, silently telling them to behave themselves. Honestly, sometimes he feels like a father leaving his children with a babysitter when he leaves them alone. Only, there’s not one there to watch them but themselves.
“We didn’t bring the witch here,” Derek explains first, because he needs to start somewhere. “We wouldn’t do that.”
Everyone can hear him. This kid’s pack is crawling werewolves, some other kind of were that Derek can’t sense out, and two more that he can feel the supernatural energy rolling off of but he can’t place them just yet. He’s not sure what they can hear and what they can’t, but he knows one person for sure can’t. That person being the angry, huffing human that’s stomping towards them with his arms folded over his chest. He stops next to the alpha and glares at Derek.
Derek frowns at Stiles, because he doesn’t get him. He seems angrier than the alpha does about all of this.
“Well,” says Stiles, unfolding his arms so he can wave one of them around wildly. “Explain yourself.”
“Explain what you’re doing here and why you brought a witch with you.”
“We didn’t bring the witch,” protests Derek. “And we’re here because—We’re not here for trouble, okay?”
“Then why are you here?” asks the alpha, looking at Derek like he’s trying to sense him out. “And how did the witch get here?”
“Good one, Scottie,” says Stiles, elbowing his friend and winking at him before he turns back to scowl at Derek.
“I’d be happy to talk to you about this when we’re not covered in blood. And I’ve got a beta back at my house that was having trouble healing earlier, so I’d like to go back and at least check on him first. You’re more than welcome to follow,” offers Derek.
Stiles snorts and rolls his eyes, like he finds Derek unbearable.
“Stiles,” the alpha says, almost like a sigh, like he’s known Stiles long enough to perfect the art of saying his name like that. Though, Derek doesn’t think it would take that long to perfect, because this kid is kind of insufferable. “We’ll come back to your house later tonight.”
“No, we’ll be meeting in public,” suggests Stiles.
“Yeah, we could do that,” agrees Derek. Less likely that either side can ambush the other, and then they’ll both feel more comfortable. “At the coffee shop. The one we first met at.”
“Seven. Don’t be late,” grumbles Stiles, grabbing the alpha’s arm. “C’mon, Scott.”
Derek breathes out, watching them retreat. Scott, the alpha, motions for everyone to follow him and they go. Stiles shoots glares over his shoulder, like he doesn’t trust Derek or his pack, which is understandable given the bookstore incident, but the boy with the muscular shoulders walks backwards, eyes flicking to each of Derek’s betas and to Derek. It seems Stiles isn’t alone in not trusting Derek’s pack. Derek sighs, shaking his head as he turns to head back to the house.
Derek brings Isaac with him to the coffeehouse, and this time, the rest of the pack agrees to stay at home while Derek talks to Scott and whomever he decides to bring along. Probably Stiles, as he seems unable to stay out of anything.
They pick a table towards the back, away from the crowd so they’ll have sense of privacy. Derek buys Isaac a coffee and a slice of banana bread to keep him occupied. He’s mostly here as a kind of…just in case. Just in case something goes wrong, or just in case Derek can’t find the words to explain what it is that he wants to say.
“They’re coming,” says Isaac, picking at his bread as he glances up at Derek. “I can hear the human complaining.”
“Sounds standard,” mutters Derek, glancing towards the door and waiting.
Sure enough, just moments later, Scott and Stiles walk through the door. Scott seems pleasant enough, mouth quirking up when he spots them. Derek doesn't sense any kind of hostility or negative feelings towards Derek and Isaac, just the faint air of curiosity. Stiles, however, is scowling at them and can smell the bitter resentment rolling off him in waves. Derek sighs, because he still doesn’t know what he’s done to the kid to make him this angry.
“Where’s the rest of your pack?” asks Stiles, the chair he’s pulling out making a screeching noise that causes Derek to flinch.
“Talking isn’t really Boyd’s thing, and the girls can get a bit testy, so they stayed at home.”
“Wow,” mutters Stiles, shaking his head at Derek, “that’s incredibly sexist of you.”
“Maybe, but they’re the two that prefer to fight instead of talk, and I’d rather talk and avoid any kind of fight,” explains Derek. “We’re not really here to fight.”
Stiles scoffs, glaring at Isaac. “What are you doing here?”
Isaac smiles and shoves a piece of bread in his mouth. “In Beacon Hills or this coffee place?”
“I was referring to the Earth, actually,” retorts Stiles.
“Stiles,” sighs Scott, in the same way exhausted way he did in the preserve. “You wanted to talk, so let’s talk. Why are you here and what is the witch doing here?”
Derek wets his lips. “Right,” he mumbles, breathing out. “I don’t know what the witch is doing here. We’ve been noticing something is going on. You can sense their magic. And then this morning, Isaac was hurt, and we just…wanted to get rid of it.”
“So you didn’t bring it?”
Derek shakes his head. “I don’t know how long they’ve been there, but—“
“They?” interrupts Stiles.
“Yeah,” Derek nods, “where we were today, it looked like some kind of campsite, for lack of a better word, or something. Like they’ve been staying there for a while.”
“A while like how long you’ve been in Beacon Hills?”
“We haven’t been here that long,” says Isaac.
“We didn’t know there was another pack,” says Derek, cutting Stiles off before he can say anything. “I used to live here. I grew up here. It’s been years since I’ve been back, and we just wanted to come home. I didn’t think another pack would be here. This used to be—This was my family’s territory. It has been for forever.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s still yours.”
“It should,” Isaac interjects.
“No, it shouldn’t.”
“It should,” says Derek. “It’s…a werewolf thing. A Hale hasn’t been here but most werewolves know to leave it alone, and it’s not a big deal. I don’t—It doesn’t bother me that anyone is here. We just want—We don’t want any problems. And we fully intend on keeping to ourselves.”
“Yeah, it really seemed like it when you and your freaking puppies cornered me in the bookstore.”
“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” says Derek. “I told them to stay back.”
“Yeah, you tell that one to stay back?” asks Stiles, pointing an accusatory finger at Isaac. “He was there, wearing that pretentious little scarf.”
“I was invited,” Isaac informs them, grinning.
“Not by me,” mutters Stiles, making a face when Scott turns to glance at him. He nods, like he gets it, and he scent turns bitter for a moment before it evens out.
Derek breathes out. “You’re free to do what you’ve always been doing. Obviously there will be two packs here, but it doesn’t have to be—It doesn’t have to—“ Derek bites his lip in frustration, unsure what he wants to say or how he should say it. He doesn’t know what’s the best way to say that just because there are two packs it doesn’t mean there has to be some kind of pissing contest for who gets what or anything like that.
“No one is trying to take over Beacon Hills,” explains Isaac, sitting up straighter. “We’re trying to make this home, so you’re free to live your life however you want, and you don’t have to worry about us. You can do whatever it is you’ve been doing here for however long you’ve been here, and that’ll be it.”
“Fine. Whatever, so you claim you want to stick to yourselves, but what about with this witch? You want to stick to yourselves and you want us to keep doing what we’ve been doing, well, that’s all fine and good, but what about today, huh?” asks Stiles, because he’s unable to keep his pretty mouth shut for more than three seconds.
Derek sighs. “That wasn’t intentional. She hurt Isaac, he wasn’t healing, and we had to do something. It’d be just like if he came after someone in your pack. You have to understand what that’s like.”
“I get it,” replies Scott, while Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Why are you so—“ starts Derek, cutting himself off when Stiles raises an eyebrow at him.
“So frustrating,” Derek grounds out, clenching his jaw.
“Oh, sorry, am I not making this blatant attempt at manipulation harder for you?”
“Manipulation? Are you serious? Your friend can hear if I’ve been lying, if we’ve been lying. Have I?” asks Derek, looking at Scott expectantly.
Scott shakes his head, looking slightly exasperated with this exchange at this point, like he just wants to get a cup of coffee and go home, maybe without the coffee at this point.
Stiles snorts. “Right, like you wouldn’t know how to lie, a born wolf life yourself.”
“How do you know what kind of wolf I am?”
Stiles’ cheeks redden when everyone turns to look at him. He looks embarrassed for all of three seconds before he says, “you talk about your family and how this is your land, how it has been your family’s land for ages, it’s not hard to figure out.”
“Or you knew who we were and you’ve been researching us. Researching me.”
“God, like you’re even that interesting.”
“Interesting enough for you to have done your homework before you came. I can tell you lied about knowing based on what I’ve said, and I can smell it on you.”
“Hey, no,” says Stiles, slapping the table in frustration. “We don’t sniff out the human around here, okay? Leave me and my,” he waves wildly at his body,” out of your little wolf senses, got it?”
Derek clenches his jaw and nods, feeling overwhelmed and prickly, his skin itching a bit in a way that feels like it’s from the inside out.
Isaac’s smirking when Derek turns to look at him, clearly amused by Stiles and Derek’s back and forth. Good, that makes one of them.
Through the excitement of the witch and meeting with Scott, Derek realizes that he never replied to Luke’s email. With the list of things he needs to worry about, it escaped his mind, and Derek feels slightly bad for it, for leaving his friend hanging in his time of need.
Luke’s online when Derek accesses his email, so he decides to message him instantly instead of emailing.
Mowgli: Sorry I didn’t reply earlier, I hope everything is better.
Luke Skywalker: heyyyyyyy
Luke Skywalker: it’s fine. don’t worry abt it. things r things. idk
Mowgli: Doesn’t sound too good
Luke Skywalker: is there a way i can send u just a giant fart noise? not of my own, but more like the ones u make with ur mouth sometimes to little kids for fun? Bc everything is a giant fart noise
Luke Skywalker: a friend is jst makin a bad choice and idk what to do about it.
Luke Skywalker: prob nothing. he’s a big boy. he can make his own mistakes and choices. technically. he can. i don’t have to like it but he can do it. whatever.
Luke Skywalker: it’s jst i want to help him. he’s made choices like this in the past, where he… idk i can’t really go into detail i guess, but it’s frustrating.
Luke Skywalker: it feels like… u know those movie montages where they’re screaming and u can’t hear anything? that’s what it feels like, like i’m screaming but no one can hear me, not even myself, bc…
Luke Skywalker: eh, that’s dumb. i’m bein weird.
Mowgli: You’re not weird. It makes sense.
Mowgli: And I know you’re not asking and you probably won’t, but I’ll offer some advice anyway. Sometimes, as hard as it is, you just have to let people figure things out on their own. They have to make their own mistakes. You just have to let him know that you’re here for him, no matter what.
Luke Skywalker: he knows. we’ll figure it out.
Luke Skywalker: it’s hard. just don’t want him to do anything that’ll end badly. i love him.
Derek’s stomach bottoms out and his throat feels a bit tight as he thinks about, about Luke loving someone else. It’s a silly thought, a silly, stupid thought because a stranger on the Internet has never and will never be his.
Luke Skywalker: like a brother, ofc.
Derek breathes out, feeling his chest collapse in relief. He laughs lightly, scratching at his beard. Okay, he can live with this. That’s…yeah, wow. That’s good. Derek’s glad that Luke has someone he’s close to like that.
Luke Skywalker: tho, there was a time when i asked if he wanted to try making out when i was going thru a self-discovery phase and he was being really…
Luke Skywalker: idk u had to be there probably.
Mowgli: I’m sure
Luke Skywalker: u should be
Luke Skywalker: how r things for u?
Mowgli: Fine, I guess.
Luke Skywalker: fine?
Mowgli: I’m struggling a bit with one of my... new co-workers. They don’t seem to like me very much.
Luke Skywalker: oh shit.
Mowgli: Yeah, it’s fine. I don’t know what their problem is, but it’ll be fine. I don’t really plan on interacting with them much, if at all.
Luke Skywalker: do i need to have a talk w someone? bc i totally could do that.
Mowgli: Ha ha. No, I think I’ll be okay.
Luke Skywalker: u say the word and i’m there. i’ll do it.
Derek bites his lip, staring at the message thread. It’s nice, to have someone on his side, someone who wants to be there for him and scare off Stiles. It’s amusing, imagining Luke arguing with Stiles over how he treats Derek. But there’s more to it than that. Derek likes the thought of having Luke here. He likes the idea of meeting and getting to know each other on a different level. Sure, yeah, he can get to know someone in this way. He has. But it’s different in real life. The connection is different and Derek is—Derek’s so curious about this stranger that he’s been talking to for ages now. He wants to know more about him. He wants him to be more than just a faceless Luke Skywalker on the Internet.
Mowgli: You know, I’ve been thinking… maybe we could meet. It sounds like you could really use someone to talk to and I don’t know, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Not a lot, but frequently. It could be nice to have someone that you can talk to. An unbiased third-party. A friend. What do you think?
Derek sits and waits. It’s not often that he feels nervous but he is now. He chews absently on his lip and waits and waits and waits. He waits longer than he should, hopeful for something that never comes. The green light signaling that Luke is available disappears and Derek knows that he’s messed up. He’s messed everything up, just like he always does.
Mowgli: I’m sorry.
Mowgli: I shouldn’t have asked that.
Mowgli: Please just forget that I did. I’m not trying to make things awkward or have you… hate me. I don’t know. I’m sorry.
Mowgli: I know that’s a no and that’s fine. Sorry for asking. I shouldn’t have…
Mowgli: I’m so sorry.
“I don’t understand,” says Scott, frowning as he turns to look at Stiles. “You’re gonna have to explain this again.”
“Scott,” Stiles groans, trying not to pout. “You were supposed to pay attention.”
“I was paying attention,” Scott promises, the corners of his mouth curling slightly to form what Stiles suspects is supposed to be a reassuring smile. It mostly makes Stiles want to slap him over the head with the comic book in his hand.
It’s been three days since Mowgli asked to meet. Three days since Stiles panicked, shut his laptop down, and hasn’t used it since. Three days of Stiles pacing his bedroom until his dad begged him to do something with someone if nothing was wrong. Stiles was ready to dig his feet in and kick and scream about it, but it made sense. Stiles needs to talk. So he called Scott, thinking a little best bro bonding time at the comic shop would help. It just so happens to coincide with the fact that he needs to pick up issues of his favorite comics that the owner keeps in a tote behind the register for him. But it is for the bro time.
Or it was, until Scott decided to completely ignore Stiles for the last fifteen minutes as Stiles bared his soul.
“I was listening,” Scott repeats, biting back a smile when Stiles rolls his eyes. “You were complaining about me, he was complaining about something, and then he asked if you wanted to meet.”
“If you were listening, then what don’t you understand? What do I need to repeat for you?”
“I don’t understand why you’re freaking out. I thought you liked him?”
Stiles makes a face because that’s not even the point here. Scott is just completely missing the mark. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“If you like him, if you like talking to him, then why wouldn’t you want to meet him?”
“Because that’s against the rules.”
“What rules?” laughs Scott, putting the Batman comic in his hand back on the shelf.
“The rules of our relationship. We don't touch on personal details. I’d have to give him my real name. I’d have to tell him where, at least approximately, I live because northern California and southern California are very far apart, and that’s completely ignoring the entirely of the middle of the state, which is still fairly far apart. It’s a big state, Scott,” Stiles rambles, watching Scott smirk in amusement. “I don’t even know what he looks like. What if he’s a catfish, huh? What if we meet up and it’s actually someone like Jackson, or worse, Greenberg? What then?”
“Jackson wouldn’t do that to you,” sighs Scott.
“Uh, Jackson would, actually. He hates me.”
“Same difference with Jackson. He could barely tolerate me.”
“Theo could barely tolerate you, too,” Scott reminds him.
“Oh, wow. Thanks. That’s real great. Thank you, Scott.”
This time, Stiles does knock him over the head with a comic before he puts it back on the shelf and stomps off to the register so he can get his comics and go. Mark, the owner, nods at him and asks how he’s been doing as he reaches for the new comics that he has for Stiles. He walks Stiles through the majority of them, giving his thoughts and opinions, letting Stiles know which ones he thinks he’ll like the most based on previous things that Stiles has said.
Stiles thanks him and then leans against the counter so he can block Scott from Mark’s view while Mark tosses them in a bag. The first time Stiles tried to go bagless, he ended up dropping two of his comics in a puddle and lying on the sidewalk wallowing in his own misery until Mark came out and gave him two new ones and told him to go home.
“Are you ignoring me because you forgot that Theo didn’t like you at first, because if so, I’d like to remind you that he didn’t care for any of us at first. Or, are you ignoring me because you’re stressed about this whole thing with that guy?” Scott asks, trailing behind Stiles towards the exit.
“First of all, it’s not just some guy,” Stiles corrects, holding up a finger so he can start listing things off. “Second of all, I just don’t understand why he would ask me that. Why would he want to ruin it? I know it’s a fairly shitty statement, but don’t fix what’s not broken, you know what I mean? And third of all, when you point out how people—“
Stiles stops, blinking as he stares out of the glass door of the comic shop with his hands held up, just barely pressing against the door as he spots Derek walking across the street. He’s dressed casually, and there’s a shopping bag wrapped around his wrist. Stiles wishes, not for the first time, that he had x-ray vision so that he could see what Derek thinks he can just buy in Stiles’ city oh so casually like anyone wants him in their store.
“What’s the matter?” Scott asks, concern laced in his words as he peers over Stiles shoulder. “Oh, no. Stiles, leave him alone.”
“Shut up, Scott.”
“He’s doing what he promised. He’s sticking to himself and he hasn’t bothered anyone. Can you do the same?”
“I never promised such a thing,” Stiles mutters, watching Derek until he disappears from Stiles’ line of sight. He’s keeping to himself for now, but that doesn’t mean he always will. And not to sound like the lady from Monsters Inc, but Stiles plans on watching Derek every chance he gets, always watching.
Scott sighs, and shoves the door open for Stiles before he pushes Stiles outside. “What was your third of all?” he asks, and Stiles takes a deep breath, because there’s a lot more than a third of all that Scott should be worried about.
Stiles nearly forgets that there’s a witch wandering through the woods of Beacon Hills. Since her apparent attack of Derek and his pack members, there hasn’t been so much of a whisper of a witch, but none of them have ever been naïve enough to believe that silence means that whatever supernatural enemy existing in Beacon Hills is gone for good. But between the conversation with Mowgli, and Stiles trying to keep a watchful eye on the other pack, it’s hard to remember a rogue witch.
Until Theo comes dragging Liam into Scott’s place, throwing up slugs like—
“Like Harry Potter,” says Scott, shutting his bathroom door so none of them have to see or hear it anymore.
“Technically, it’s more like Ron Weasley,” Stiles corrects, grimacing when both Theo and Scott turn to look at him at the same time. “Just, technically, is all I’m saying.”
“Could you say something that’s relevant to getting Liam to not, you know,” Theo points towards the door that Liam is groaning behind, muttering ‘so gross, so gross, so gross’ when he’s not busy getting slug sick.
“Tell us what happened,” says Scott.
“We were driving along the road that runs along the edge of the preserve. There were a few other cars around, but not many, and next thing we know, Liam’s blowing slugs all over my freaking car,” Theo explains.
Stiles frowns, turning to share a look with Scott. The witch is still in the preserve somewhere and she’s targeting the wolves. Obviously she has some weird sense of humor to pull her ideas from Harry Potter, but that doesn’t explain why she’s targeting werewolves or why she’s in Beacon Hills at all.
“What are we supposed to do?” Theo asks, looking more annoyed than he did when they go there.
“He’s going to have to wait it out. That’s what Hagrid told Ron to do.”
“Jesus,” Theo mutters under his breath, running his fingers through his hair. “We’re supposed to follow the advice of some guy made up in a movie?”
“We could call my mom,” Scott suggests, frowning, like even he knows that’s probably not going to work out very well, because nowhere in her medical training did she cover what to do for slug sickness. There are no medical terms for anything like this. It’s just weird and only something that could come from the supernatural.
Stiles sighs and pulls his phone out, sending a text to Lydia to see if she can find something that can stop this. Then he texts Deaton and hopes he’ll get a little more than vague, cryptic bullshit. If Stiles has to listen to sound of slugs hitting bathtub any longer, he’s going to actually scream.
“I’m going to go home and figure this out. The witch, not this,” says Stiles, pointing towards the bathroom door. “I don’t know what to do for him. I’m sorry, I don’t. I’m not a witch. It doesn’t look like he’s dying, or like this could kill him, so I think he’ll be okay. For now. Just text me if anything changes. Lydia or Deaton know to text you, Scott.”
“Let me know what you find,” Scott shouts after him and Stiles waves, no longer listening.
Stiles brain is moving three hundred miles a minute as he tries to filter through what he already knows about witches and what resources he has immediately available in his room. He can browse through the forums he’s found where strange, and often supernatural, things are reported to see if anyone else has had to deal with this particular witch. Witches, maybe. Stiles can’t remember what Derek said about his encounter with them. But from where he was standing when they found him, it looked like there was more than just the one.
Researching about witches proves to be easier than researching about a random flying being that could have been an array of different things. Stiles knows exactly where to look, exactly where to find what he needs about witches, how they work, and anything else he can find. He doesn’t find anything that rings any alarms as being about this particular group of witches. Though there is a story from someone about a friend of a friend’s friend who couldn’t stop hiccupping frogs.
Stiles isn’t sure which is worse, hiccupping frogs or getting sick with slugs.
It’s two hours before Stiles feels like he’s made any kind of sizable dent in his research. He complies it all into a document and then emails it to Scott, knowing Scott won’t read it, so he sends it to Kira, who will. He sends it to Liam as well, just in case he wants to know plausible ideas on what he can do to avoid this situation again.
With nothing left to research, Stiles feels like he’s itching. There’s energy running through his veins and his fingers are tapping against his desk, waiting to be put to use. He’s in the zone, and while he could do something productive like log the information from the pixies down and work on the research they have on them for future reference, he can’t find the fun in that.
Instead, Stiles taps his fingers out against the keys to spell out Derek Hale.
Because why not? Is Derek a supernatural enemy? Technically, not yet, but the possibility is still out there and Stiles likes to be prepared.
“All right, get away from the computer.”
Stiles doesn’t register that the voice is speaking to him until his laptop is slammed shut by Lydia while Malia slides his desk chair across the room.
“What are you doing?” demands Stiles; at a volume that is definitely not a screech or anything close to that. “I was onto something.”
“Hmm, no,” sighs Lydia, leaning against Stiles’ desk, and looking at him like she pities him. “You really weren’t. At most you found their Facebooks and maybe some odd mentions on the Internet, nothing concrete.”
“What are you talking about?”
Malia rolls her eyes. “Stiles, you’ve been texting Scott for three hours updates on Derek and everyone else. Mostly Derek, though. You’re getting on his nerves.”
Okay, rude. “Some of that is valuable information.”
“Yes, because Scott cares what Derek’s third grade picture looks like. The fact you were able to find that, is proof enough that you need to stop,” Lydia explains.
“Okay, I can admit that it might not be entirely relevant to whether or not he’s going to attack us, but it’s a pretty funny picture.”
“It looked like every other school picture.” Malia shrugs when Stiles turns to look at him.
“Stiles, it’s been long enough since they moved here that, if they were going to do something, they would have already done something. You’re going to—“
“Or, they’re just trying to lure us into a false sense of security, where we think that they’re going to leave us alone, but next thing we know poor Theo is tied to a tree somewhere all slashed up.”
Lydia breathes out through her nose and pushes off Stiles desk. She moves towards his closet, yanking the door open and starts sifting through his shirts.
“What are you doing?” Stiles asks, watching Lydia shake her head at every single one of his shirts, even his good ones that he bought from the fancy part of the department store with buttons and collars. The kind he has to iron if he wants to look decent.
“We're taking you out. You’re annoying Scott and you need a night away from thinking about anything supernatural,” Malia explains.
“You’re both supernatural,” Stiles points out. Malia flicks him on the forehead and then tosses a pair of his dirty boxers at him. Gross. Gross they’re lying on his floor and gross she touched them.
There’s a knock on Stiles’ bedroom door and he breathes a sigh of relief when he sees his dad leaning against the doorframe in his uniform, looking exhausted from a long shift.
“Hey, just wanted to check in and make sure everything is okay,” he says, nodding at Malia and Lydia. “Everything okay?”
“Perfect,” Lydia answers, smiling prettily at him and holding a purple shirt that Stiles did not know he owned and will be immediately tossing out because it’s not a good purple, like lilac, it’s more like eggplant.
“Dad, can you ground me?” Stiles asks, as Lydia starts to approach him because he’s not going out, period, but he’s sure as hell not going out in eggplant.
“Aren’t you a little old for that?”
“No, I deserve it,” he replies, hoping that his face is begging and pleading and not hopelessly desperate. “I’m stalking people on the Internet. Take me into the station. Anything.”
Stiles’ dad raises an eyebrow at that, looking to Lydia and Malia. “Is that true?”
“Partially,” Lydia answers. “He’s obsessed with the alpha of a new pack. We’re trying to get him to go out so he’ll stop sending Scott pictures of Derek growing up.”
Okay, Stiles sent two, and one of them was because it was hilarious, and the other was because Derek had a shifty look in his eyes that Stiles thinks should be noted.
“He’s probably going to stay home and whine all night, too,” Malia adds, grinning.
The sheriff nods, pushing off the doorframe and smiling at them. “Have a good time tonight. Enjoy yourselves.”
“What? No, Dad. Dad, arrest me,” Stiles begs, wondering if he should get down on his hands and knees or if he should just assume the position and wait for the cuffs.
His dad sighs, shaking his head. “I’m not arresting you. Have fun with your friends. Try not to be too loud when you come home, I’ve got an early morning shift.”
“Good night,” Lydia sings after his retreating back, holding the shirt out for Stiles to take. “Put this on. It’s one of my favorite colors on you.”
“You have a favorite color on me?” Stiles asks in awe before he shakes his head. “No, damn it. You can’t get my dad against me. You’re not allowed. He has to always be on my side.”
Lydia smiles and drops the shirt in his lap. “Those pants are fine. Put this shirt on. We’ll be in the car,” she says, before turning on her heel and walking out of the room.
Malia leaves with her, pointing to her wrist like Stiles better get a move on. Stiles rolls his eyes and wonders what movie Malia picked that up from. Before Stiles gets dressed, he texts literally every single person that he can think of because he’s scared of what a night with Malia and Lydia could mean for him. Kira mentioned how they’ve been trying to set him up and he doesn’t want to go.
Stiles pouts a bit as he changes his shirt and brushes his teeth. There’s no point in arguing, so he slides into his shoes and sprays on a bit of cologne before he drags his feet outside, taking his time locking and closing the front door. Eventually, Malia gets out of her car and carries him over to it so she can shove him into the backseat, and, god, he was coming, okay?
During the ride, Kira replies to let him know that she and Scott might come out, but she’s not sure yet. Theo and Liam ignore him because neither of them are really prone to helping Stiles, especially in times like this. Ethan and Jackson don’t answer, but they’re all the way in London, so what can they really do for him? He considers texting Mason and Corey but they’re away at school and he doesn’t want them to worry about him being thrown to the wolves.
And Stiles is thrown to the wolves, it seems, when they walk into the club and Stiles immediately spots Derek and his band of merry misfits.
“I want to go home,” Stiles announces, turning to leave, but Malia and Lydia loop their arms through his and walk him backwards towards the bar.
“We’re going to ignore them and have fun. We’re not going to worry or obsess over what they’re doing,” Lydia decides, smiling at Stiles in a way that lets him know he has no choice and he will be listening.
“Yeah,” Malia agrees. “Wait, which ones are they again?”
Stiles picks at his nails, feigning indifference until Malia elbows him. “Oh, sorry, are we suddenly interested in having Stiles relay his knowledge?”
Malia rolls her eyes. “Just tell me.”
Stiles sits up and leans around her, pointing towards the other group. “See the grumpy one in the burgundy shirt, with the eyebrows and muscles the size of his head? That’s Derek. Next to him is Isaac, with the curls and the scarf.” Stiles doesn’t mention how he’s going to use that scarf as a weapon against Isaac when the pack wars begin. “The blonde is Erica, and there’s Boyd, and that is Derek’s little sister, Cora.”
Malia nods and when Stiles turns to Lydia, he can see a calculating expression on her face. It’s one that Stiles is familiar with, after years of pining after her while she was interested in almost everyone else. Stiles is not going to ask about it because his motto is ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
“Which of you ladies is going to buy me a drink?” He asks instead. Lydia smirks at him and leans over the bar to get the bartender’s attention.
It takes a drink and a half for Malia and Lydia to convince Stiles to join them on the dance floor. Not like he needs a drink to dance, but he’s going for difficult tonight, and caving the first time they ask isn’t going to help him accomplish that. There is a little resistance to the idea of letting his guard down and dancing when Derek and his pack are out as well, but it’s fine. Stiles is going to prove that he’s not out of control and that he’s not obsessed. If wanting to keep your pace safe means obsessed, which apparently it does, to some people.
Stiles doesn’t know how long they’re dancing but he realizes that Malia has abandoned him and is pressed against some guy and Lydia is…gone. Stiles can’t see Lydia anywhere. Not exactly panic worthy behavior, unless she’s snuck off on one of her weird banshee vision things where she pops up somewhere she doesn’t remember getting to. Stiles would love for that not to be the case.
If there’s a banshee-like scream from somewhere then Stiles will worry, for now, Stiles is going to get himself another drink and that’s that.
“Oh, shit,” Stiles mutters, colliding into a solid mass of another human being. “Sorr—oh, it’s you.”
Derek lifts his glass to his lips and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, it’s me. Apology accepted.”
“I didn’t apologize,” Stiles sniffs, shrugging when Derek turns an unimpressed eye on him. “I just wanted to ask for a drink.”
Derek lifts his hand and nods in Stiles direction, magically summoning a bartender in front of Stiles. Stiles didn’t need his help but he orders a drink anyway, watching as the bartender pours different liquids together until it resembles something green that tastes like apples. Stiles doesn’t know the official name, just always asks for the apple one that Lydia turned him onto ages ago.
“Nice choice,” Derek shouts nears Stiles’ ear, trying to be heard over the music.
“Nice dumb face.”
“You know, I was hoping that you’d, I don’t know, be okay with me, but I guess that’s too much to ask for.”
“Beyond too much to ask for,” Stiles confirms. “I don’t trust you.”
Derek opens his mouth like he wants to say something; instead, he nods like he understands. “I’m sorry for, you know, making it seem like we were cornering you.”
“Sure. You’re sorry, okay,” replies Stiles, taking a drink.
“You make this so hard. Why is this so hard?”
Stiles looks Derek up and down, bored, as he pushes away from the bar. He doesn’t need supernatural hearing to know that Derek is following closely. “It just feels like there’s more to you guys. There’s more to your story. No one just chooses to come back to Beacon Hills because they missed it. This town sucks.”
“You’re still here.”
“Yeah, because my dad is.”
“So is mine,” says Derek, shrugging when Stiles turns around to look at him. “My mom, along with my sister, and aunts, uncles, most of my family. All of my family. My cousin.”
Stiles makes a face like he’s tasted something sour. “Fair point.”
“I’m not trying to do whatever it is you think I’m doing here. I’m really not.”
“Maybe. I don’t buy it, but maybe,” Stiles mumbles, looking around, knowing that Derek can hear him no matter how quietly he says it.
Stiles gets it. He understands wanting to come back to the one place where you have a connection with the people you lost. He gets it. He does. But there’s still something nipping at the back of his head telling him that Derek’s not who he says he is, or maybe he is, but he’s hiding something. Stiles doesn’t know how to explain it other than that his gut is telling him something about Derek and he doesn’t want to ignore it. Ignoring his gut has lead to disaster in the past.
Too much bad shit has happened for Stiles to let his guard down so willingly like Scott has.
Stiles scans the crowd of the club, finding Malia making out with the guy he left her with. Lydia is still missing, but Stiles still isn’t too worried about that. If nothing else, the line to the bathroom is always three years long so he’ll see her again eventually. Out of pure curiosity, Stiles scans the crowd for Derek’s pack. Cora is missing in action but it’s not hard to spot Isaac, Erica and Boyd out on the dance floor.
The three of them are dancing together, having a good time without their alpha. It seems fine, their bodies shifting and swaying to the music, almost melting into the crowd. Stiles assumes there’s not much to see, until Erica turns, wrapping her arms around Boyd’s neck. She pulls their faces close and Stiles’ mouth drops open when she pulls Boyd into a kiss that is bound to get them kicked out. Isaac doesn’t even blink. Instead, he continues dancing, like he’s not worried at all about his alpha’s girlfriend making out with another beta.
Stiles blinks at Derek and sees that he’s staring down at his drink, giving it his full attention, like his drink is telling him a secret. The poor fool doesn’t even know what’s going on. God, Stiles is really starting to question his life. He doesn’t even like Derek but he doesn’t want the poor guy seeing his girlfriend making out with someone else.
“You’re a bit of an asshole,” Stiles says, wincing. He didn’t meant to say that but it’s too late now.
Derek looks offended. “How am I the asshole?”
“Are you implying that I’m an asshole?”
Derek rolls his eyes. “I don’t understand you.”
“Good,” Stiles retorts, wishing that it wasn’t so much fun to argue with Derek. “And what are you even drinking, anyway? You spike your own drinks or just want to look cool?”
“I like the taste.”
“Alcohol tastes like shit. Same question, better answer.”
“There’s not alcohol in it. It’s just some juice blend. They’re all getting drunk tonight,” Derek says, nodding in the direction of the crowd. “I have to put on the allusion of designated driver, don’t I?”
“No one is paying that close of attention,” says Stiles.
Derek shrugs and starts to turn his head towards the dance floor. Stiles grabs his face and turns it back towards him, unsure what else to do as panic starts to build in his gut. Derek raises an eyebrow and Stiles sighs.
“Don’t look over there.”
“Because I said so, okay? Just don't,” Stiles demands, trying to sound authoritative as he lets go of Derek’s face.
Derek looks suspicious, like he doesn't trust Stiles and he’s definitely not going to listen to him. Of course he doesn’t. As soon as Stiles’ hand is safely back to his side, Derek cranes his neck to see what’s going on.
“Don’t,” Stiles tries but Derek doesn’t even blink at him. “Whatever. Get your heart broken, I don’t really care.”
“What are you talking about?” asks Derek, looking genuinely confused.
“I just,” Stiles waves his arms around, hoping that the words will somehow form in the air between them so Stiles doesn’t have to call Derek an asshole and tell him that his girlfriend is cheating all in the same night. “Nothing. I just don’t think you’re that kind of guy.”
“The kind of guy who…what?” Derek asks, still looking a little lost.
“The kind of guy who would want to see that. Or, I don’t know, would let that happen. No, that’s kind of,” Stiles frowns, “a gross way of saying it. But you know what I mean.”
“No, not really. What are you talking about?”
Stiles groans, and grabs Derek’s face once again, turning it in the direction of Erica and Boyd, who are still going at it pretty heavily. “That. Them. Erica and Boyd.”
“You think I wouldn’t let Erica kiss her own boyfriend? Or Boyd kiss his girlfriend?”
Stiles blinks, letting go of Derek’s face so that he can read Derek’s face better. “Wait. Her boyfriend?”
“So, you’re not?”
“With Erica? No,” Derek replies, shaking his head.
Stiles nods and takes a drink. He needs a minute to process all of this. He wasn’t expecting that. “What about with—“
“Cora is my sister. Boyd is obviously dating Erica, has been for years now, and Isaac is… I don’t know but no.”
“Huh,” mumbles Stiles, nodding.
It makes him feel a little better to know that it’s not just his pack that dates each other. And that he’s not the only one left out of that, even if he did have a brief thing with Malia in high school and a giant crush on Lydia for most of his life.
“You really thought I was dating Erica?”
“Dude,” Stiles exclaims. “She was like all over you and looked like she wanted to kill me.”
Stiles shrugs and makes a face. “So what she was all over you, or so what she wanted to kill me?”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Oh god, we’re not doing this again.”
“No, which one is it, Derek? Huh? Because the way your sister is glaring at me from that corner – yes, Cora, I can see you - you’d think that it would be so what that she wanted to kill me, which just proves my point that I’m right about you.”
Derek mutters something under his breath and then downs his juice in one go, turning and walking away from Stiles. Which by the way, uh, pretty freaking rude. Stiles downs his own drink, setting the glass down and chasing after Derek. If Derek can openly admit to wanting Stiles murdered, then he can torture him until Malia or Lydia tell him that it’s time to go home.
Derek wakes up earlier than everyone else. The house is silent and the sun is peeking through the slits in his blinds that are exposed from the curtains not being shut all the way. He lies in bed for a while, rubbing his hand against his face and trying to get the sleep out of his eyes.
It takes Derek twenty minutes to roll out of bed and decide that he’s going to cook everything greasy that he can, for the four werewolves in the house that did spike their drinks with wolfsbane last night.
Derek’s standing at the stove flipping bacon when he hears a car approaching the house. He pauses and waits, tilting his head to the side as a car door slams shut and someone approaches the house. He’s setting the fork down, ready to go and answer the door, when a key is shoved into the lock and the door is swinging open.
“Where have you been?” Derek asks, watching Cora slip out of her shoes. She’s still wearing what she wore to the club, though her hair is pulled back and out of her face. She brushes past Derek easily, ignoring him completely. “Should I be concerned?”
Cora snorts and picks a piece of bacon out of the pan. “I’m going to sleep.”
“You haven’t slept?”
“Good night, Derek.”
Derek sighs and watches after her, ignoring the older brother urge inside of him to worry because she came home with them last night, and he didn’t hear her leave.
Isaac comes stumbling down the stairs fifteen minutes later, covering his eyes from the harsh morning light filtering through the kitchen windows. He waves at Derek when he drops down in a chair, reaching blindly for the food Derek’s laid out.
“Rough night?” Derek asks, smirking when Isaac makes a face. “I think I’m going to head out for a run. Can you manage on your own?”
“I’m going to eat every pancake and then I’ll let you know.”
Derek smirks, running his fingers through Isaac’s hair as he leaves the kitchen.
The preserve is quiet when Derek finally makes it outside. There’s the sound of a few other joggers on the trails, some cars driving along the roads, but there’s nothing that’s going to make his run unpleasant. The air is cool, just enough that he feels the chill in his lungs when he breathes in, but not enough to feel like he needs to layer up.
Derek runs and thinks about how he needs to email Luke. He hasn’t heard from him in a while, not since Derek ruined it by suggesting that they meet up. The same wave of shame passes over him when he remembers it how dumb he was for even trying to break every rule, every boundary that they’ve put into place for their friendship. There’s a reason for those rules. They need to remember that they’re just friends online. Outside of that square screen, Derek doesn’t know who Luke is and Luke doesn't know who he is.
They don’t even know each other’s real names and Derek thought that they could just meet up somewhere and act like two people who actually knew each other and had a connection that exists in the real world.
Derek’s always had a knack for messing things up. And he’s not surprised that this is happening, even if he had hoped for something different.
Derek falters when he sees a figure standing behind a tree a few yards away. He doesn’t slow his movements, doesn’t act like he notices, because whoever it is, they don’t want Derek to know that they’re there. Derek inhales deeply, trying to figure out if his spy has some kind of weapon on him. One sniff tells him that it’s Stiles hiding behind that tree.
“Stalking is illegal,” Derek announces, coming to a halt besides the tree that Stiles is attempting, albeit horribly, to stretch against. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” Stiles groans, attempting to reach his toes. “You can get seriously injured if you don’t prepare before a run. Did you stretch, Derek?”
“You’re stretching? Behind a tree?”
“I don’t want to block the trail.”
Derek rolls his eyes, an action that feels almost involuntary around Stiles at this point in time. “I’m not even going to pretend that I believe you,” Derek replies. “Why are you following me?”
“I should be asking you that question, since I was here first,” says Stiles, shrugging when he sees the look on Derek’s face. “Like you said, stalking is illegal.”
“I was out for a run. I’m not stalking you.”
“I’m out for a run as well, funny that,” Stiles mutters, swinging his arms at his sides before he stretches one across his chest, the other arm pinning it in place. “Love to run.”
“You just lied.”
“Hey,” Stiles snaps, dropping his arms so that he can step closer to Derek, pointing his finger in Derek’s face. “I told you, we don’t sniff or listen too closely to the human around here. I don’t get to know your lies, your emotions, and your whereabouts before you’re in my eyesight, so you don’t get that advantage over me.”
“It’s a habit,” Derek defends, holding his hands up to pacify Stiles. “I can’t just turn it off.”
“My friends can.”
“Your friends are liars.”
Stiles grits his teeth, glaring at Derek. “I know you’re connected to that witch. I don’t know how but I know that you are.”
“I wish you could tell that I’m not lying when I say that I have nothing to do with that witch, but since you can’t, go ahead and follow me I guess,” says Derek, shrugging as he backs away from Stiles before breaking out into a run.
“I’m not following you,” Stiles shouts, but Derek can hear his feet on the trail as Stiles tries to catch up with him.
Derek sighs, breathing in slowly through his nose and then letting it out. He’s not going to let this kid get under his skin.
Giving Stiles permission to follow him, turns out to be one big annoyance on Derek’s end. Stiles is always there. Always. When Derek heads to the grocery store, Stiles always manages to be at the end of the aisle, inspecting something that Derek is supposed to believe he’s going to buy. When Derek heads to Walgreens to get Erica’s prescription because she’s whining that she doesn’t want to do it, Stiles is there, grinning at Derek.
Stiles isn’t always obvious about it. Sometimes Derek will feel like he’s alone when he’s out, but then he’ll catch Stiles’ scent and find him hiding behind a tree or holding a magazine up to try and cover his face, like Derek doesn’t know, or won’t know that it’s him.
Derek’s waiting for the day that Stiles is hiding under Derek’s bathroom sink while he takes a shower, or hidden behind his shirts in his closet, or on a ladder outside Derek’s bedroom window while he sleeps. He doesn’t smell Stiles outside of the house, but he’s not going to put it past the human that’s been following him for three days.
“He’s kind of funny,” says Isaac, pulling the spoon out of his mouth slowly before stabbing it into his ice cream. “Does he really not think you can see him?”
Derek breathes out slowly through his nose. “Yes, he thinks I can’t see him.”
Derek doesn’t even bother to turn around. He saw Stiles sneak into the ice cream parlor not even thirty seconds after they did. He hid behind a family in line, and now he’s sitting on the other side of the building, hood up but staring at Derek and Isaac.
“What is he watching for exactly?”
“He thinks I’m working with the witch. Or I have something to do with the witch, anyway.” Derek sighs. “I told him he could follow me to prove that I have nothing to do with the witch and that all of his suspicions are wrong.”
“He is oddly suspicious,” Isaac notes, still staring at Stiles instead of looking at Derek. “His best friend is a werewolf, you’d think he’d hate them a little less.”
“He doesn’t hate werewolves. He hates me,” says Derek. “And anyway, I think he’s suspicious because he’s trying to protect his friends. His pack.”
Isaac nods, like he gets it. Derek knows that he does. They all used to be the same way, suspicious of every knock at Derek’s door thirty seconds after the alarm started going off. Suspicious of each other until they finally started settling into the pack after Derek turned them. Stiles is behaving just like any of them would if the roles were reversed.
If they were reversed, Derek would be camped outside of someone’s house, watching and waiting, wondering when and how they were going to attack. Maybe not now, but Derek would have, in the past. Now, he likes to think he’s above stalking to get his information.
“He’s annoying,” says Derek, watching as Isaac turns to him with a smirk.
“I think he’s funny.”
Derek rolls his eyes. Erica is oddly fond of Stiles, despite only talking to him a grand total of three times. “Not funny, just annoying.”
“Maybe he has a crush on you,” Isaac suggests and Derek makes a sour face, shaking his head at the thought. Isaac laughs. “There’s worse people in Beacon Hills, you know.”
“So far, he’s the worst,” Derek decides, ignoring the smile that Isaac is sending him. He’s not saying anything worthy of a smile. Stiles is annoying and so far, the worst person that Beacon Hills has to offer, except for the witch. Maybe.
Three days later, Derek finds a moment of peace at The Coffee Bean. He’s cautiously on edge, glancing around quickly and sharply, like a criminal would if they were up to no good. Derek’s not up to no good, actually, he’s trying to find a moment away from Erica so she can stop trying to see him drafting an email to Luke. He doesn’t normally draft them, but after what happened last time, Derek’s not sure Luke wants to talk to him anymore. Derek’s stomach turns unpleasantly at the thought.
Getting away from Erica was easy, but Derek still worries that Stiles is going to jump out from behind him and shout every word Derek’s typed to the coffee house. It’s why he picked a table in the back, one where the chair is shoved against the wall and the only people who could possibly see his laptop screen are ones coming out of the bathroom. Derek will know if Stiles is lurking back there because he’ll have to announce that he’s not actually waiting in line for the restroom, instead he’s being a total creep and spying on Derek.
Except, Stiles isn’t here. Derek hasn’t seen Stiles since yesterday when he popped into Subway for a sandwich. Stiles has been suspiciously absent from Derek’s life since then.
Whatever. Derek’s not going to think too heavily on it when he finally has a moment of peace and a peppermint mocha that makes his stomach warm.
Derek is on the second paragraph of his email and a fourth finished with his drink when his laptop pings with an IM notification.
Luke Skywalker: Hey
Derek’s stomach drops to the floor and his palms start to sweat as he sits and waits, wondering what bomb is about to be dropped.
Luke Skywalker: Sorry abt the other day.
Luke Skywalker: I was surprised. Didn’t expect it.
Okay, not a bomb. Derek breathes as he reads, the tension in his shoulders dissipating slightly.
Luke Skywalker: Felt a bit like an ass for disappearing on u
Mowgli: It’s okay. I understand.
Luke Skywalker: It’s not okay, but thanks.
Luke Skywalker: How have you been?
Mowgli: Okay, I guess. I don’t know. Not much to report.
Luke Skywalker: Still struggling with that coworker?
Mowgli: You could say that. It’s okay though, doesn’t really bother me as much as it did before. How about you? How’s your friend?
Luke Skywalker: :///////
Mowgli: That bad?
Luke Skywalker: No, he’s okay. Still ignoring me tho.
Mowgli: Like not talking to you, or not listening to you and your advice like before?
Luke Skywalker: Not listening to me.
Luke Skywalker: He’s not the only one. A couple of our friends are on his side now. I don’t know. It feels like history is going to repeat itself and my friend is going to get bit in the ass.
Luke Skywalker: He’s a good guy but I don’t know.
Mowgli: It’s like you said before, he’s a big boy.
Luke Skywalker: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!
Mowgli: No, I didn’t think you would.
Luke Skywalker: He’s like my brother. I don’t want bad things to happen to him.
Mowgli: Then maybe there’s something more you can do besides telling him what your gut says.
Luke Skywalker: What do you mean?
Mowgli: I mean, so far, you keep saying that you have a feeling. You feel whatever it is you’re feeling, but you don’t have anything to back it up. Find proof. Prove you’re right.
Luke Skywalker: Find proof?
Mowgli: Yeah. I know you can do it. If you find proof, you’re more likely to get him to understand why you’ve been feeling the way that you have. Your friend will be more likely to listen to you, to take you seriously.
Luke doesn’t type back for several long seconds, and Derek starts to wonder if maybe he said the wrong thing. The little dots appear and Derek waits with bated breath.
Luke Skywalker: You’re a genius!!!
Mowgli. Hardly. But I’m glad you think that’ll work
Luke Skywalker: I’ve been trying to find proof but I don’t know, something about saying something, I feel like I finally have an idea.
Mowgli: Glad I could help.
Someone clears their throat next to his table and Derek’s head snaps up, ready to find Stiles. Instead, he’s surprised to see Scott standing there, hands in his pockets and bouncing on the balls of his feet nervously. Derek blinks at him for a moment before quickly typing:
Mowlgi: Shit, gotta go. Email me? Please.
Derek closes his laptop and slides it closer, worried that maybe Scott saw something.
“Hey, sorry,” Scott mutters. “Can I sit?” He points to the chair across from Derek, one hand already wrapping around the back and tugging it out.
“I guess,” replies Derek, cautious and confused. “Does your guard dog know you’re here?”
Scott pauses, looking at Derek in confusion for half a second before he smiles, shaking his head. “No, Stiles is at home. He’s actually pretty pissed at me right now.”
Derek raises an eyebrow and lifts his mocha to his mouth.
Scott sighs, shaking his head. “The witch, she’s—they’ve, I don’t know. Liam was throwing up slugs the other day, and now they’ve almost caught Malia on fire.”
Derek winces, gritting his teeth against memories he doesn’t want to relive.
“We don’t know what to do,” Scott explains. “We’ve been trying everything. Stiles and Lydia are constantly researching, and everyone’s been trying to find them, which is hard because we don’t want to accidentally stumble onto your territory, but we know they’re in the preserve, somewhere.”
“You can look wherever you need to,” Derek assures him, nodding when Scott doesn’t look convinced. “If you get too close to the house, someone might come out, but if you say why you’re there no one is going to bother you. They might even help. Everyone’s still pretty pissed about what happened to Isaac.”
Scott nods, his brows pulled together like he’s trying. Maybe trying to remember who Isaac is. “I’m not familiar with witches,” he says carefully and slowly, like he’s trying to word this perfectly. “We’ve had some before, but they’ve mostly just been passing through. There have been other magical people, druids and a darach, and a lot of people died when they came. I don’t want that to happen again.”
Derek looks at Scott. He’s young, too young to be leading a pack as large as his is. Derek can feel that they’re powerful, that they have so much potential, but they’re all so young, and he doesn’t think any of them have the faintest idea of what they’re getting themselves into day in and day out. What could happen, what’s out there, and how they can take care of it. Derek didn’t know what that was like until after his family died and it was just him and Cora, alone, without the protection of the powerful pack they once had.
He gets why Stiles is so suspicious of him.
“We could really use your help,” says Scott eventually, his brown eyes turning wide as he silently begs.
Derek nods. “I know a couple packs that I can call, see if they’ve had any problems lately. It’ll help give us an idea of what we might be working with.”
Scott grins and nods, excited. “Thank you. Seriously, thank you.”
Derek waves him off, taking a drink of his mocha. “Don’t worry about it. Give me your number,” he says, pulling his phone out of his pocket and sliding it across the table. “I’ll call you when I know something.”
Scott types his number in quickly, a smile on his face as he slides the phone back to Derek.
Stiles nearly throws the bowl of chips in his hands when he sees Derek and his pack walk into Scott’s apartment. He doesn’t because the bowl is glass and he doesn’t want to upset Kira by shattering her bowl against the wall. But Stiles wants to throw something, so he grabs a chip and chucks it at Derek’s head, scowling at him when Derek catches it and stares at him, bored.
“Thanks,” says Derek, popping the chip in his mouth. He chews it, like a giant cow, as he shrugs out of his jacket, draping it over the back of a chair like he wasn’t raised in a barn.
“What are you doing here? What are they doing here?” Stiles asks, whipping his head around to look at Scott. “What are they doing here? I’m happy to keep repeating that until you answer me. What are they—“
“We were invited,” says Cora, looking like she wants to put her hand over Stiles mouth to shut him up. “We’re here to talk about the witch.”
Stiles glares and pops a chip in his mouth, chewing loudly to get on their nerves.
Scott goes through the introductions again, properly introducing Derek and his pack to everyone. There aren’t handshakes or anything, just awkward nods of acknowledgement and Scott goes around the room and points everyone out. Derek does the same and Stiles rolls his eyes because so unnecessary, Stiles has already briefed everyone in his pack about Derek and his pack. They know all of this information already.
“So, I just wanted to bring everyone together so we can come up with a plan for how to deal with this witch,” Scott explains.
“Witches,” Derek corrects and Scott turns, frowning. “There’s more than one.”
Derek nods and Stiles snorts. Of course he knows. Scott turns to look at Stiles, he’s not angry, but Stiles knows when his best friend wants him to shut up. Stiles takes another bite of a chip, making a show of it so Scott can see that he’s going to behave himself.
“When we chased after the one, we found where they had been staying until that point,” says Erica. “They haven’t been back, but there was definitely more than one.”
“A pack north of here was dealing with them a couple months ago,” Derek adds and Scott’s eyebrows shoot up. “Same with one west of them. Seems like this particular coven has been traveling. I don’t know the pattern, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to figure out.”
“What happened between them and the other packs?” Lydia asks, eyes narrowed. Stiles knows that she’s interested, that her brain is working three hundred miles an hour as she tries to take everything in and turn it into something they can work with. “Is there a pattern with that?”
“Yeah, they fuck with werewolves,” Erica says bluntly, shrugging when everyone turns to look at her.
“The pack out west, one of them had a pack member hiccup frogs, kind of like your guy,” Derek explains and Stiles sits up straighter because he knew that. He didn’t know it happened so close to Beacon Hills but he knew that. “One of their wolves nearly lost a leg, when a witch wrapped tree roots around it. Another’s car mysteriously swerved off the road and went hood first into mud, getting stuck there. It’s all stuff like that.”
“Why would they enter werewolf territory just to mess with werewolves. That doesn’t make sense,” says Stiles.
“Makes sense if they’re trying to start something. When Isaac was attacked, his wounds, they looked like one of us could have done it; a little excessively but one of us nonetheless,” Derek explains. “Some of the stuff they do, it really is just to have a laugh, like the frogs and the slugs, but the rest of it, it always happens near the edge of the pack’s territory. Always.”
“They said they saw stuff. The girl who swerved off the road, she swore something collided with her car,” Cora adds. “The other pack, same thing. If it wasn’t obviously magic, they made it seem like there was something there, even though there wasn’t.”
“Like they want it to seem like another werewolf did it,” mumbles Lydia, pursing her lips together.
“I don’t understand why they’d want to start pack wars,” says Scott, frowning. “What would that do for them?”
“Entertainment,” Liam guesses and Stiles nods, because that’s a fair point. If they want to fuck with werewolves and want to hurt them, watching them hurt each other would feel like the cherry on top of their werewolf sundae.
“None of the attacks here have happened at the edge of Beacon Hills, though,” says Scott.
“Just the edge of the preserve,” says Stiles. “The line between where Derek’s pack stays and ours.”
Derek’s eyes lock with Stiles’ and Stiles knows that Derek knows exactly what he’s thinking. Derek’s jaw ticks slightly like he’s waiting for an outburst but Stiles isn’t going to give him one.
The conversation moves on around them, people talking about what they’re going to do now that they know the witches want to start a war between them. Derek explains how the other packs had to beat the witches at their own game, had to fight back, had to make it difficult for them getting the upper hand and pull anymore stunts like hiccupping frogs or getting tree roots wrapped around ankles like boa constrictors.
The come up with a plan to see if Deaton has anything that’ll help them gain the edge on the witches. The packs Derek called are going to reach out to other packs to warm them about the witches so that no werewolf battles actually take place.
In the end, the conversations slowly start to branch off. Erica and Boyd are talking to Malia, while Isaac is talking with Scott and Kira, Cora and Lydia are talking closely. Liam and Theo are in their own little world, arguing while Liam texts Mason, if what Theo is saying to Liam about his phone is any indicator to that. Stiles glances around and doesn’t see Derek anywhere. His eyes narrow as he sets the chip bowl aside, wondering where he might have snuck off too.
“Jesus,” Derek sighs when he rounds a corner, nearly colliding into Stiles. He’s rubbing wet hands on his jeans, like he wants Stiles to believe he just came out of the bathroom.
“Where were you?”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Let’s see, bathroom is right behind me, so I must have been in the kitchen.”
“Probably,” Stiles snorts, folding his arms over his chest and blocking the hallway so Derek can’t leave. “Interesting story you told about the witches earlier. I especially liked the part about how the witches were attacking from your little corner of Beacon Hills.”
“God, you need a hobby,” Derek mumbles under his breath, pinching the bridge of his nose like Stiles’ dad does when he knows Stiles about to be a handful. “I know you think you’re onto something when it comes to me and the witches, but I have nothing to do with them. The last thing I want is deal with anything that could be considered a problem.”
“Funny coming from a problem himself,” retorts Stiles, maturely. “And maybe you don’t have any connect to the witch, but it’s weird, okay? It’s weird.”
“They’ve probably been watching you guys for ages, saw we moved to town, and decided it was the perfect set up. I’m sure you suspecting me of everything wrong in your life is making them beyond thrilled.”
“Well, I live to please witches.”
The corner of Derek’s mouth pulls up for a fraction of a second before it drops back down. “Your friend asked me for help. If I could stay out of this, I would, but I’m not going to let you guys take the brunt of this because I don’t want to be involved.”
“How very heroic of you,” Stiles mutters, clenching his jaw as he feels a flare of annoyance at the reminder that Scott asked for Derek’s help. “I told him not to ask you for anything.”
“I figured as much.”
“I told him that you were—“
“God,” Derek groans, looking like he wants to pull his hair out. “Don’t you have something better to do with your time than worry about me? Like a hobby or a job, anything.”
Stiles sniffs and then shrugs, running his fingers along Scott’s wall. “No, I don’t have a job.”
“Well, I’m sure that’s not because of your dazzling personality.”
“No, it’s because my dad wants me to stop breaking into the police station and accessing information that I don’t have access to. If I can stop doing that for six months then he’ll give me a job,” Stiles explains, tugging at his sleeves. He’s not necessarily embarrassed by that fact, but it’s weird to tell Derek that Stiles likes to break into the police station when he could get in serious trouble for that.
Derek looks at Stiles and smirks. “Why don’t I have a hard time believing that?” He asks, shaking his head.
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’ve been considering starting over so I can prove that I’m right about you.”
Derek looks at him for a moment, eyes tracking over Stiles’ body slowly. Stiles fidgets under his gaze until Derek turns, walking down the hallway. Stiles mouth drops open but he recovers quickly, chasing after Derek to see where he went.
Derek’s bent over Scott’s kitchen table, writing something down on the notepad Scott writes his grocery list in. Or, the one Kira writes the grocery list in so that Scott doesn’t make four trips because he keeps forgetting things.
“What are you doing?” Stiles asks, trying to peek over Derek’s shoulder.
Derek tears the paper out and shoves it into Stiles’ hands. “Text me later tonight.”
“What? No. Why?”
“We’re breaking into the police station and you’re going to read my file, Cora’s file, Isaac’s, Erica’s, and Boyd’s,” explains Derek. “After that, after you’ve read everything they have on us, you’re going to stop. No one brought the witches here besides themselves, okay?”
Derek steps around Stiles after that, leaving him standing there with his mouth open as he tries to find an excuse not to break his promise to his dad and break into the station.
Derek picks Stiles up at the edge of the preserve. Stiles has his jeep parked where his dad won’t see it if he goes out because even though Stiles’ dad has the night off, he can’t turn off the fact that he’s the sheriff and Stiles knows his dad tries to keep an eye on things when he does go out.
“What are you overcompensating for?” asks Stiles, sliding into Derek’s sleek black Camaro. He tries not to feel impressed because the leather seats feel like heaven. Derek has the seat warmers on and Stiles feels like he could melt into the leather and just became another layer to it. “Seriously, this is, like, the epitome of overcompensating.”
Derek rolls his eyes and ignores Stiles. The Camaro’s engine revs as Derek turns left and heads towards the station. Stiles wonders if he should send someone in the pack his location so they’ll be able to find his body if Derek kills him or takes him to the warehouse district and locks Stiles up in some small basement room.
“Do you have a plan for when we get there?” asks Derek, looking at Stiles briefly.
Stiles snorts. “Of course I have a plan.”
“Yeah, I forgot you do this all the time,” replies Derek, brows furrowing as he thinks for a second. “How often do you break into the station?” He adds, turning to fully look at Stiles as he rolls to a stop at a red light. “You made it sound like this is a pretty frequent occurrence.”
“It’s not frequent.”
“Just enough for your dad to hold a job over your head?”
Stiles sighs, folding his eyes arms over his chest as Derek’s eyes travel back towards the road, the Camaro pulling forward more quickly than Stiles’ jeep ever could after coming to a complete stop. “We’ve dealt with a lot of shit since Scott was turned. You’re not the first strangers to come rolling into Beacon Hills with a less than stellar agenda.”
“I don’t have an agenda,” says Derek.
“Yeah, whatever,” mumbles Stiles. “Anyway, my dad hasn’t always known about werewolves and all that, so I’ve done what I had to do. Then, dad found out, and has been trying to forbid me from accessing what I shouldn’t. Now, here we are.”
“Here we are,” mutters Derek, nodding slowly. “So what’s your plan?”
“You’re going to cause a distraction while I slip in and get into my dad’s office.”
“What am I supposed to do once you’re in there?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know. Keep them distracted while I read up on all of you.”
“I’d say you probably need our full names but I have a feeling you already know all that.” Stiles grins and Derek rolls his eyes. “And I’m not going to cause a scene while you access whatever is they have on us. I’m going with you.”
“Fine,” Stiles groans. “You’ll cause a scene, say you have to pee, and then come in there with me. After, you can cause another scene.”
When they get to the station, Stiles sees two cars parked out. One belongs to the woman who sits at the front desk, another to an officer that sits in the station all night. There’s other officers out on patrol but as long as they don’t come back, then they’ll be fine.
Stiles tries to mime to Derek, letting him know that he needs to make sure the door is blocked so Stiles isn’t seen and that when it’s clear, Stiles is going to slip into his dad’s office, and Derek needs to keep his mouth shut before he joins Stiles. Derek either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care because he rolls his eyes and shoves the police station’s doors open.
“You’re an idiot,” Stiles whispers, knowing that Derek will hear him.
Stiles counts to ten before he pushes the station’s door open, poking his head in to see what’s going on.
Stiles can’t make out exactly what Derek’s saying but Derek’s smiling, honest to god smiling as Joan, the woman at the desk, blushes. Stiles hears something about how beautiful Joan is and feels annoyance flare up in his stomach, spreading like wildfire. Stiles told him to cause a distraction, not flirt with one of his dad’s employees.
Stiles slips into the station easily, clutching the door and helping it close silently. Joan is completely oblivious to Stiles, as she tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear and laughs at something Derek is saying. Derek’s eyes glance at Stiles briefly and Stiles rolls his eyes at him, resisting the urge to flip him off as he stomps off towards his dad’s office.
Stiles has the computer started and is waiting for it to load when Derek slips in behind him, shutting the blinds to the office windows so Joan and whoever is on shift can’t see them.
“Have fun?” asks Stiles, hitting the keys on the keyboard harder than he needs to as he types Boyd’s full name in.
“You were flirting with her,” hisses Stiles, jamming the enter button four times.
Derek falters, taking a step back as he stares at Stiles. “You said to distract her.”
Stiles narrows his eyes. “Whatever,” he huffs, turning back to his dad’s computer. “There’s nothing on Boyd. He’s never even had so much as a parking ticket.”
“Yeah, could have told you that. He had his appendix taken out when he was ten, and I think a brief stay in the hospital when he was fourteen because of a high fever caused by the flu,” says Derek, leaning over Stiles so he can look at the computer. “There was also an incident—“
“Involving someone falling through the ice,” finishes Stiles. It doesn’t look like anything ever came of it, and considering it was something that happened when Boyd was a minor, it’s not in his official record. “Let’s see about Erica.”
“Several parking tickets. Had epilepsy before I turned her, and probably something about being a runaway.”
“Shut up, stop taking the fun out of things,” mumbles Stiles, skimming through Erica’s decently long record. “God, does she just, like, ignore the speed limit or is she completely unaware that we have one?”
“She likes to sing and gets distracted,” Derek explains.
Stiles nods because he gets that. Sometimes Scott points out that Stiles tends to speed up for songs that he really likes, or during specific parts of songs, which is why Scott never plays those songs when he has control of the aux cord and Stiles is driving.
Stiles doesn’t read Isaac’s record for very long because reading the story of his abusive dad and terrible childhood feels even too invasive for Stiles. Derek doesn’t say anything about Isaac and Stiles doesn’t ask. It’s not something Stiles is going to read through. There’s nothing else on there anyway.
Cora’s file is much of the same, just reports of the Hale fire and a speeding ticket when she was sixteen.
“You were wanted for murder?” Stiles shouts, punching Derek in the thigh when he tries to cover Stiles’ mouth with his hand. “I knew there was something that we should be worried about. Who did you kill?”
“I didn’t kill anyone,” sighs Derek, rolling his eyes. “The girl who set my parent’s house on fire died suspiciously and they suspected me of doing it. It took three days for them to figure out that I wasn’t even in the same state as her and I haven’t seen her since the fire.”
“What else have you done?”
“Parked in a place I shouldn’t have,” Derek’s eyes narrow as he reads the computer screen, “October third, three years ago.”
“You knew the person who started the fire?”
Derek’s jaw ticks as he clenches his teeth. “She was my girlfriend,” he grits out, glaring at Stiles, daring him to say something.
Stiles doesn’t say anything, just nods and goes back to reading the details of Derek’s parking tickets and the speeding tickets he got when he was a teenager. Stiles’ dad wrote up a couple of them and it gives him a cheap thrill to know that his dad pulled Derek over.
But besides the accusation of murder, there’s nothing in Derek’s record to hint at the fact that he’s a dangerous, murdering criminal that’s going to horribly maim Stiles and everyone in his pack. It still doesn’t feel like Stiles is wrong. There’s something about Derek that’s not sitting right with Stiles. He’s hiding something and Stiles can’t figure out what it is from his record alone.
Stiles closes out of everything and starts shutting the computer down. Derek takes a step back from him, no longer leaning into Stiles’ personal space, which is good. because if Stiles had to breathe in Derek’s cologne for another minute he was going to…fight Derek, or something. Something. He was going to do something.
“Do you feel better?” asks Derek. “Are you going to stop following me? Are you going to finally let up on me and my pack?”
Stiles shrugs, wrinkling his nose at the thought. “Maybe,” he says as an answer, watching Derek rolls his eyes. Honestly, Derek’s eyes are going to just roll out of his head if he doesn’t stop doing that every three seconds. “You going to head out there and flirt with Joan some more so we can leave.”
“I wasn’t flirting with her.”
“Right. Sure, whatever.”
“God, what does it matter?” asks Derek, throwing his hands up.
“It doesn’t,” Stiles protests, standing up and tucking his father’s chair back in. “Go, we don’t have all night.”
Derek breathes out harshly and goes, slipping out Stiles’ dad’s office and disappearing. When Stiles passes reception, Derek’s relaxed and laughing at something Joan’s saying. Stiles wants to throw his shoe at him.
Stiles is lying on Scott’s couch, his laptop pulled up on his stomach as he deletes his junk mail. Scott’s sitting in the chair, his Playstation warming up as he talks.
“Kira had lunch with Erica the other day. She had a lot of fun,” says Scott and Stiles makes a face. “She seems okay.”
“She’s kind of intense,” says Stiles, remembering how scary Erica was when he thought she and Derek were dating.
“Yeah, she is that. Kira likes her.”
“Kira’s always had questionable judgment.”
Scott frowns. “What does that mean?”
Stiles lowers his laptop screen for a second so Scott can see his face when he says, “she’s dating you, isn’t she?”
“Oh, ha, you’re so funny,” mutters Scott, leaning back in the chair. “But Erica really isn’t that bad, according to Kira. I haven’t spent much time with her. Isaac’s pretty great.”
“When have you hung out with Isaac?”
“I ran into him in town the other night, we went and got something to eat together.”
“You got food with that scarf wearing,” Stiles stutters, unsure of what insult he wants to call Isaac exactly. “Are you—Is this the twilight zone or something? I thought everyone was going to stick to themselves. When did you make other friends? When do you have time to hang out with Isaac?”
“Are you done?” asks Scott, sounding amused. “And he’s not a friend, not really. I just don’t want to be rude. I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“We're living in the same town, might as well not make it awkward. I’d say you know what I mean, but you probably don’t.”
Stiles sighs, waving his hand around as he opens his email thread with Mowgli. He needs to reply and let him know how everything turned out with trying to find proof about Derek’s desire to bring down Scott and their pack.
“I actually do know what you mean,” says Stiles. “I broke into the police station with Derek.”
“You did what?” shouts Scott. “Stiles, I thought you weren’t going to do that anymore? Wait, why did you do that?”
“Derek told me to look up their records, so I did.”
Stiles hears Scott sigh. He leans his head over and sees Scott with his head in his hands, shaking it slowly, muttering something under his breath that Stiles can’t hear with his human ears.
“We didn’t find anything,” adds Stiles, watching Scott turn to look at him from between two fingers. “Derek was wanted for murder at one point but apparently he’s innocent. That’s really the only thing exciting, except for the fact that Erica loves to ignore the speed limit. Warn Kira not ride in the car with her.”
“Noted,” Scott mutters, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “Does your dad know you broke in again?” Stiles shakes his head no and Scott nods. “Do you feel any better about the Hale pack?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess maybe they won’t kill us all in some weird werewolf ritual sacrifice, but there’s still something about Derek. I don’t know what it is,” Stiles explains. “I just feel like he’s hiding something.”
Scott nods like he gets it. Maybe he doesn’t get what Stiles is feeling or understand entirely why Stiles is so adamant about all of this. Honestly, he’s probably just glad Stiles isn’t going on anymore about how Derek and his pack are going to kill them all, or something even more creative.
As Scott becomes preoccupied with his game, Stiles decides he’s going to finish his email to Mowgli before he yanks the controller out of Scott’s hand because he told him that he wanted to play and if Stiles can stop being suspicious of another pack, then Scott can do Stiles the courtesy of letting Stiles play the game first.
It’s Boyd who catches sight of the witches next.
From what Derek understands, nothing happened. Boyd had been walking home from the job he got at an outdoor supply store. Derek doesn’t understand why he doesn’t want a car or why he chose the outdoor supply store, but it’s Boyd’s life, and in the end it seems to have been a wise decision, because he catches sight of two witches, more than anyone else has seen so far.
Derek texts Scott as soon as he finds out, though he doesn’t have to because Boyd howls in the woods and Scott can hear it from wherever he is in Beacon Hills.
It’s how Derek finds himself alone in the preserve with Stiles. Well, not entirely. He’s alone in the woods with Stiles because Stiles decided that everyone needed to head out in pairs of two, one person from each separate pack, with the exception of Malia and some stocky kid named Theo.
Stiles had waited until everyone else had wandered off in their own directions before he looked Derek in the eyes and said, “Now, if your pack tries to cross mine, we’ll know which one of you did it.” Derek hadn’t replied, just rolled his eyes and let Stiles wander off in front of him with a sigh.
“You really can’t smell anything?” groans Stiles, yanking his jacket out the thorn bush he’s stuck in.
Derek watches, arms folded over his chest. “No,” he says, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He’s explained this three times already. “They can mask their scent, especially since they’ve been in the woods long enough that they probably already smell like the preserve, so it wouldn’t be that hard. I can smell the preserve.”
“That’s all you can smell?” asks Stiles, stumbling over a tree root. If a witch doesn’t harm him, then Stiles is going to get injured because of his own clumsiness. Derek is one thorn bush and one tree root away from throwing Stiles over his shoulder like a toddler so he doesn’t have to hear him tell Scott that Derek tried to kill him.
“I can smell how annoyed you are.”
Stiles turns to glare at him. “I told you to stop smelling me.”
“You asked what else I could smell.”
“So just me and the preserve, huh?”
“There are different elements to the preserves, like animals and the plants, the pond and the quarry on the other side.”
Stiles nods, pulling a branch back with his shoulder as they continue to weave through the trees. Derek hisses when the branch snaps back and hits his own shoulder. He rubs at the tender skin and ignores Stiles snort of laughter.
“I don’t understand any of this,” says Stiles. Derek’s nose wrinkles, as the air turns sour with Stiles’ frustration. “How can an entire coven of witches move into a town with, like, ten werewolves and go completely unnoticed until they start a bunch of shit? How is any of this possible?”
“Magical beings are different,” Derek explains.
“Yeah, I get it. They can change their scent. Mask it, whatever,” mumbles Stiles, his pace picking up as words begin to pour more quickly out of his mouth. “This town never makes any sense. It’s literally a beacon for this kind of shit and I’m so tired of having to deal with it. How are we supposed to find a witch, let alone an entire group of them, when your nose is useless and nothing—“
Derek’s heart drops to his feet as Stiles tumbles over an edge that neither of them saw coming. His ranting ceases and all Derek can hear is groaning and smell the sharp scent of pain. It makes the hair on his arms stand on edge as he slides down the hell just on the side of where Stiles fell, grabbing a thin tree and using it to throw himself into the rocky clearing that Stiles landed in.
“Don’t move,” Derek orders through gritted teeth, feeling like his ankle has broken as it slips between two rocks. He digs his claws into his palms and yanks his foot up, stumbling towards Stiles easily, ignoring the pain in his ankle as it starts to heal. “If you broke your neck, I’m going to kill you,” he grumbles, dropping down next to Stiles.
Stiles laughs, clutching at his shoulder.
“God, how did you not land on any of these rocks?” marvels Derek, finally taking note of where Stiles has landed. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s managed to land on a mossy patch of Earth instead of the sharp terrain that Derek managed to break his ankle running through. “Holy shit, Stiles.”
“Stilinski luck,” breathes Stiles, attempting to sit up.
Derek places his hand on Stiles’ chest, gently easing him back down to the ground. “Don’t move,” he says, running his fingers along Stiles’ skin.
There’s a few cuts that look like nothing more than cat scratches on his arms and a tender area on his left thigh that Stiles swears isn’t broken, probably just bruised, but, overall, there’s nothing that’s going to leave any lasting damage. Derek checks the shoulder that Stiles is still clutching to find a nice bruise already forming on pale skin.
“Let me,” says Derek, already pulling the pain, feeling as Stiles relaxes under his hand.
“God. Always forget how great that is,” Stiles slurs, grinning as Derek pulls his hand away. “Help me up now, doc.”
Derek nods, gripping Stiles’ forearms and pulling him up. Besides a slight wince, Stiles seems fine and Derek releases a chest full of air, satisfied to know that the annoying brat doesn’t have any serious injuries.
“We’re not that close to the quarry, I don’t understand,” Derek mutters, scratching at his beard.
“No, but we are near something better,” says Stiles and Derek turns, brows pulled together when he can no longer see Stiles.
“Stiles?” He calls, listening, waiting.
“In here,” says Stiles, his head peaking out from the rock face. “I found where the witches are staying.”
With the witch nest found, Derek leaves Scott and his pack to formulate a plan. Derek’s willing to go along with just about anything. It’s too far into the preserve to keep an eye on and Scott’s forbidden Stiles from going back until his shoulder is healed. Derek had been surprised when Stiles didn’t blame the whole thing on Derek. Instead, Stiles had been bouncy with excitement and something else, something that made Derek’s nose tingle, at the prospect of being able to tell both of their packs about what they found.
Theo and the werecoyote Malia had found another camp that they had abandoned, meaning that the witches are slowly moving through the preserve. Derek still isn’t sure what that means, but Scott was under the impression that maybe they’re moving out of Beacon Hills. It’s wishful thinking for an optimistic kid.
And with no more sightings of the witches, maybe Scott’s right. Though, it’s only been a few days since their outing in the woods. The outing that caused some kind of shift between the packs; a shift that means that when Derek comes home one night, it’s to find his living room filled with Erica and Cora, which isn’t a sight too uncommon, but it’s Lydia, Kira, and Malia that cause him to frown in confusion.
“We’re having a girl’s night,” says Erica, grinning from her place on the couch. Her feet are in Malia’s lap, whose focusing intently on painting Erica’s toenails hot pink.
“Which means you shouldn’t be here,” adds Cora, looking less impressed with a glass of wine in her hand.
“This is my house,” Derek reminds them, but he’s already shoving his wallet into his pocket. “Is this an all night thing or will I be allowed back?”
“You’re actually supposed to be meeting everyone else,” says the one Derek thinks might be Kira, “for a boy’s night.”
Derek shakes his head. “No, I’ll be fine.”
Cora rolls her eyes. “Just shut up and go.”
“Yeah, it’s for pack bonding,” adds Erica.
“Stiles is going,” says Lydia, smiling sweetly. Derek’s face must do something because she laughs at him, flicking her hair over her shoulder as she grabs Kira by the ankle, tugging her foot into her lap as she shakes a bottle of baby blue nail polish. “I’m just saying. Everyone’s going to be there.”
“Think I could do with a night off from Stiles’ torment.”
“Oh, that’s right,” says Lydia, uncapping the polish. “You ran into him at the bookstore, didn’t you?”
“And at the grocery store,” says Malia, before blowing out puffs of air onto Erica’s toes. “And if you don’t want to see him, you could always stay here with us.”
“Yeah, no one is painting my nails,” says Cora, wiggling her toes in Derek’s direction.
Derek rolls his eyes. Grabbing his car keys, he turns to leave, foregoing goodbyes. In the car, Derek texts Isaac and finds out that boy’s night means beer at a local bar because none of them knew what else to do.
Derek’s not opposed to getting beers with Isaac and Boyd, but when he wanders into the bar twenty minutes later, Liam and Theo are there, arguing over the loud music. Scott’s there as well, waving at Derek like they’ve known each other for years, and then there’s Stiles, his head in a book as he sips some electric blue drink through a straw.
“What are you reading?” asks Derek, dropping down in the bar stool next to him. He has to lean in close, because as much as everyone wants to make it seem like this is a bar, it’s more like a club with the laser lights and music that makes Derek’s chest ache. Sensory overload.
“It’s a ‘how to’ book. How to get another pack out of your territory,” says Stiles, grinning around his straw. “Nah, it’s just a bunch of legends and shit about witches. Trying to see if there’s anything we can pull from.”
“On a Saturday night?”
“Witches don’t take weekends off, Derek, trust me. I’ve read the books.”
“Still. Odd place to read about witches.”
“Odd place to move your pack into,” counters Stiles, because he’s a pain in the ass. At this point, Derek’s not sure if Stiles actually means it when he says it. There’s no uptick to his heart to make Derek think he’s lying; there’s still something there, something in the way he says it that makes Derek think he’s not too angry about Derek and his pack living in Beacon Hills. “Anyway, this wasn’t my idea.”
Derek snorts, nodding when Boyd passes him a beer. “Could have fooled me.”
Stiles shrugs. “Scott likes Isaac, thinks he’s funny, for whatever reason. Liam and Boyd seem to have bonded out in the woods, which means Theo wants to know everything there is to know about Boyd, and I, the lowly human, was threatened within an inch of my life.”
From a few feet away, Derek hears Scott sigh. He chances a glance over Stiles’ shoulder and sees Scott shaking his head, and says, “He was given a choice. He’s just stubborn.”
Stiles can’t hear it over the music, though Derek barely could without reading Scott’s lips, but he nods. “Yeah, I’d say that’s a fair assumption,” replies Derek before turning to look at Stiles with a grin. “Scott says hi.”
“Stop talking when I can’t hear you,” says Stiles, flipping his middle finger over his shoulder as he slurps at the last remaining droplets of his drink. “And I am going to kill Lydia for turning me on to these because they’re really freaking good.”
“You want another?” asks Derek, already raising his hand to flag down the bartender.
“Oh, you gonna buy me a drink?”
Derek rolls his eyes and points towards Stiles empty cup, digging his wallet out when the bartender nods in acknowledgment.
As the night wears on, Derek finds that his pack and Stiles’ have migrated to the dance floor. Scott seems to mostly be hopping around like an excited puppy while Isaac flops around him, clearly having had a bit to drink. Boyd is a little looser than he normally is, while Liam and Theo seem to be a little bit more in their element, sweaty and waving their arms in the air. Not one for dancing, Derek keeps his seat next to Stiles, leaning against the bar. He’s traded his beer for water, because without it being laced with wolfsbane – because Liam is the one doing that, and he’s out on the dance floor so he can’t help Derek with his drink – Derek can’t find it in him to pretend he enjoys the taste.
It’s fine though, Derek gets to bother Stiles, who has long since abandoned his reading to argue with Derek about how the New York Mets are the greatest team in baseball and Derek can take his Los Angeles Dodgers and shove them up his ass.
In fact, they argue about most things, Derek finds, as he listens to Stiles rant off a list of reasons as to why the original Star Wars movies are better than the three that followed, and that doesn’t make it Natalie Portman’s fault, they’re just not as good as the original three. Derek’s never seen Star Wars, nor does he have any idea who Natalie Portman is but Stiles’ scent turns bitter and his cheeks flush when he says that it is her fault and the original three are by far some of the worst movies that Derek’s ever seen.
“If I thought it would do anything, I’d punch you right in your smug werewolf face,” mutters Stiles, fists clenching at his sides. “I don’t know how anyone can just casually throw around lies as impactful as those, but—I’m going to get Scott to hit you. Scott!”
Out on the dance floor, Scott turns, eyes going wide as he looks at Stiles. Stiles growls, making a face as he punches his open palm a few times; he points from Scott and then to Derek. Scott sighs and shakes his head, turning around to continue dancing.
“Looks like your alpha’s not on your side,” says Derek, leaning in close to Stiles’ ear so he can hear him.
“Oh, piss off,” Stiles spits out, shoving at Derek’s shoulder as he walks away from him, his book clutched under his arm.
Derek drops his beer down on the bar and follows, weaving through the crowd until he finds Stiles outside.
“God, do you ever go away?” sighs Stiles, palming his face. “You’re like the common cold, you just never go away.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” laughs Derek, stopping in front of Stiles. “And do you really want me to go away?”
“I don’t really care.”
Derek nods. “I’ve never seen Star Wars before,” he admits, standing still when Stiles throws a punch to his shoulder. “I don’t even know who Natalie Portman is.”
Stiles punches him once more, shaking his hand to ease the ache. “You’re a dick.”
Derek shrugs. “You’re not the first to think so. Though, to be fair, you are a bit of an ass yourself.”
Stiles snorts. “Hardly.”
“Accusing me of bringing witches to Beacon Hills, following me around Beacon Hills, and continuing to accuse of bringing a coven to Beacon Hills when it’s been made more than clear that I haven’t?” Derek counters, raising an eyebrow when Stiles glares at him.
Stiles rolls his eyes and folds his arms, so the book is pressed to his chest. “Are you ever going to get over that?”
“Not until you admit that you were wrong about me, about my pack, about everything.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“And why is that? Why is it that you feel you get to—“
Derek chokes on his words when Stiles pushes off the wall and kisses him, fingers digging bruises into Derek’s shoulders. Derek doesn’t even pause, just presses forward until Stiles is pressed firm against the wall and Derek can kiss him back, their mouths slotting together almost perfectly. Derek runs his tongue along Stiles’ lips and that’s it, Stiles is shoving at him, pushing Derek off him roughly.
“You fucking asshole,” mutters Stiles, glaring at him before he rushes off towards his jeep.
Derek watches him go, wondering what he did wrong.
Stiles lies in bed and realizes that there’s a lot of things in the world he doesn’t understand anymore.
Stiles hates being wrong, and he isn’t, most of the time, but he’s starting to feel like he might be. And he hates it. Stiles hates everything about this. It leaves him feeling uncomfortable in his skin. It’s like his skin is on too tight, like when his shirt’s on too tight and he has to tug at the collar to feel like he’s getting any relief. Only, with this, he doesn’t have a collar to tug at, just an itch he can’t scratch.
Stiles taps his fingers against his keyboard and wonders if he’s doing the right thing. There’s a certain level of risk to asking Mowgli to meet him that even Stiles is afraid of.
Stiles doesn’t want to think about this too. He doesn’t want to think about the one person he’s been able to count on feeling some kind of way about meeting him. Mowgli has already asked once. It was him who wanted this first but maybe Stiles chickening out and getting scared the first time will make Mowgli do the same thing, maybe he’s given up on meeting Stiles.
But there’s one person that he’s been sure of lately, and that’s been Mowgli. Stiles is just tired of not knowing. He’s tired of wondering, and maybe if Mowgli is here, maybe if Stiles has a connection to someone that he’s sure of, he’ll be able to feel like himself.
It’s a lot to put on Mowgli, but Stiles needs something, so he writes and he asks Mowgli if he wants to meet, if they can finally meet, and Stiles assures him that he’s not going to disappear again.
Stiles sends the email and breathes, counts backwards from one thirty until he feels like he’s not going to have a panic attack.
With the worst of it done, Stiles decides to take shower. Maybe when he’s finished, he’ll bring lunch to his dad and they can eat it in his patrol car like they did when he was younger.
When Kira pulls the door open, Stiles grins and holds up a tray with three coffees on it.
“Oh,” she breathes, frowning as she takes a coffee from him. “Scott’s in the bedroom. He just got out of the shower.”
Stiles nods, letting Kira hug him before he goes to find his best friend. He doesn’t care about waiting, doesn’t care about the fact that he’s probably going to see Scott’s ass. Scott will hear him coming and hide in the bathroom anyway because apparently he cares if Stiles sees his butt.
“I need help,” he says, shoving open the bedroom door to see Scott hopping into a pair of jeans. “What? I brought coffee.” He adds when he sees the look on Scott’s face.
“Is the coffee a bribe?” asks Scott, turning his back on Stiles so he can find a shirt.
Stiles shrugs and drops down on Scott’s bed with a sigh, wondering if he should go for dramatic or overly dramatic. Scott’s probably expecting dramatic at the very least but Stiles could amp it up a bit.
“I’m meeting Mowgli,” says Stiles, smirking when Scott nearly yanks the drawer out of his dresser in his haste to turn around.
“Jesus, Stiles,” groans Scott, yanking on his shirt and fixing everything he knocked over on top of the dresser. “What are you talking about? I thought you said you two had rules?”
“We did. I broke them, I guess. Technically, he did, actually,” Stiles corrects. “But now I am, because apparently I was having a crisis.”
“Do you want to meet him?”
Stiles nods. “Yeah, I’m just absolutely terrified.”
“So what do you need me for?”
“I need you for a few things. I need you to talk me off the metaphorical ledge that I’m standing, because I’m freaking out man, and then I need you to help me because I have no idea how to meet anyone new and get them to like me in that first meeting,” explains Stiles. “I only have one chance and I don’t want to ruin this for myself because I’m myself. Do you see the dilemma?”
Scott frowns at Stiles. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“To you,” retorts Stiles, rolling his eyes. “You’ve known me for too long. You’re biased.”
“Not to Kira, either.”
“Again, she’s known me too long. Let’s look at—“
Scott’s bedroom door slams open and Stiles turns, mouth dropping open when he sees Lydia waltz in. She snags the drink that’s supposed to for Stiles, takes a sip and then says, “So, what’s the crisis?”
“Did you call her?” Stiles asks Kira, ignoring Lydia so he can feel completely betrayed for one second.
“She was already on her way before you got here. I’m sorry,” says Kira and Stiles waves her off, flopping back down on the bed because he’s going to bypass dramatic and overly dramatic so he can become the soap opera of drama about everything in his life. Old-man-on-the-front-lawn-shaking-his-fist-at-the-sky dramatic. That’s Stiles right now.
“Well?” Lydia prompts, hand on her hip.
Stiles waves to Scott before he throws a hand over his eyes, silently telling his best friend to tell the ex-love of his life about his problems; and Scott does, he tells Lydia everything just like he did that day in the woods. Lydia listens until Scott finishes, and then she’s poking Stiles in the ribs and telling him to get up.
“You’re being dramatic,” she says and Stiles frowns because no, he’s decided not to be dramatic, he’s being soap opera right now. “You’ve already been talking to him, why would talking in person ruin anything?”
“Uh, hello,” says Stiles, sitting up so he can properly motion at his body. “I’m me, Stiles. I’m Stiles, do you remember that?”
Lydia rolls her eyes. “We all know who you are, Stiles.”
“You’re great,” says Kira, smiling encouragingly at him. “You’re funny and smart, and you’re an excellent friend. Remember how you told Scott to ask me out?”
Stiles nods. “Yeah, and then I remember telling him not to because I thought you were going to turn into a monster and kill us all.”
“If you’re going to turn everyone’s compliments into insults then you might as well stop now,” says Lydia, taking another sip of his coffee.
“Meeting people is hard sometimes, but you guys have already been talking for ages now. He knows what to expect. Or, at the very least, he has some idea about who are you,” reasons Scott. “And he’s talked to you for this long, and he obviously wants to meet you.”
“You really have nothing to worry about,” Lydia assures him, with that look on her face that implies she knows something that he doesn’t. “Honestly, you’re getting all worked up about nothing.”
“How do you know?” asks Stiles, making Lydia sigh.
“Honestly, I’m surprised,” she says. “You’re usually the one who figures everything out.” It’s vague and she still sounds like she knows something, which she almost always does, but Stiles doesn’t understand how she thinks she knows anything about this.
“When are you meeting him?” Kira asks.
“I have to leave in like three hours.”
Scott’s eyes go wide at that. “Dude.”
“Yeah, I know,” agrees Stiles. “That’s what I’m saying.”
“Maybe we could help you find something to wear,” says Kira.
Stiles frowns and feels slightly offended when he asks, “What’s wrong with what I have on?”
“Oh,” says Kira, surprised. “Um, nothing. It’s just—“
“Stiles, sweetie,” says Lydia, shaking her head at him like he shouldn’t ask that question. And yeah, fair point. Fashion has never been his strong suit, he supposes.
“God,” Stiles groans, flopping back on his back because he’s supposed to be in soap opera mode. Maybe he should find something to throw in someone’s face, like a cup of water or Scott’s towel. “Someone needs to help me before I cancel and insert myself into everyone’s romantic life again. I swear to god, I’ll do it. I’ll sleep in between Scott and Kira every night, spend Wednesday and Thursday with Theo and Liam, spend the summers with Ethan and Jackson. The weekends with Mason and Corey, and then I’ll give my Tuesdays to—“
“Stiles, shut up,” demands Lydia, grabbing his wrist and pulling him up. “We have more than enough time to put on an outfit that’ll have this…stranger,” she says, swallowing around the word like she hates it, “wanting you in more ways than he’ll know what to do with. So get up and stop whining. It doesn’t suit you.”
“It kind of does,” Scott mutters under his breath.
Stiles glares at him and then lets Lydia drag him out to his jeep. Kira chases after them, saying something to Scott about being nice.
With the possibility of meeting Luke nearly here, Derek asks Isaac to drive him to Cannon Ridge. Derek doesn’t know if he’ll be able to go alone.
Cannon Ridge is about an hour and a half from Beacon Hills, and while it’s not the city that Luke lives in, it’s near where he’s at but also close enough to where Derek lives in Beacon Hills that both of them agreed to meet there instead of saying where they lived. It’s only pure luck they live in the same part of California.
Derek figures with traffic, he should leave two hours early, which is why he’s on the road at 3:30, foot tapping nervously against the floor of his car while Isaac cruises down the highway.
He’s not worried about where they’re meeting because, from the looks of it, it seems like some kind of diner. It’ll be easier to meet in a neutral public place, somewhere Isaac can wait for him if he starts to feel like Luke might be some kind of Internet creep. But Derek is worried because he’s meeting someone new, someone he cares about, and with Derek, first impressions aren’t his strong suit.
“You’re starting to stress me out with the foot tapping,” says Isaac.
Derek breathes out and runs his hands along his jeans, curling his fist around his knees. “Sorry,” he whispers, closing his eyes. “I’m nervous.”
When Derek opens his eyes, Isaac shrugs. “Yeah, that’s normal.”
“I don’t like it.”
“It’s good. You’re always saying pain makes you human, well, so does stuff like this.”
“It just feels pathetic, to be nervous about something like this. I don’t even know why I’m nervous,” Derek admits. “Maybe he’ll bail on me again.”
“Doubt it,” says Isaac. “He started this whole thing, didn’t he?”
Derek nods and breathes out because Isaac’s right. Luke’s the one who asked to meet this time and maybe that means he’s ready. Maybe he’s just as nervous as Derek feels. It’s an obvious thought, but it comforts Derek. The possibility of Luke bailing on him still leaves him on edge, so he pulls out his phone and shoots a quick email to Luke so that he knows he’s on his way and that Derek will be there.
Despite leaving early and with more than enough time to make it to Bluebell’s Diner on time, Derek arrives five minutes late. It takes everything in him not to growl at Isaac to pull the car over and let him drive.
“I can’t go in there,” breathes Derek, staring at the building in front of him. It’s a tiny place that’s painted blue on the outside, with a picture of a cow hanging over the door. It’s quaint and nice, the kind of place his mom would have loved and he bets, if he can calm his stomach enough to eat, the food will taste like it was made by Boyd’s grandma, warm and filling, and the best food Derek’s ever had before.
“What? Why not?” asks Isaac, looking alarmed. “You have to; he’s in there waiting for you and you’re already late.”
“What if he’s not? What if he’s not in there?”
“Did you not set up some kind of system so you’d know who you both were?”
Derek groans, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He checks his email and sees that Luke replied to him.
On my way!!!
Oh shit, hey. I’m here. I sat at a table in the back, with a yellow flower. I’m wearing red.
“Yellow flower and red,” says Isaac. “He’s here. Go in there.”
“See if he’s really here,” Derek begs, shoving Isaac so he can see through the diner’s windows.
Isaac nods and looks around, tugging his jacket tighter around his body as he glances around.
“Several of these tables have yellow flowers, Derek,” says Isaac. “Oh.”
“Oh? Oh what?”
Isaac turns to face him, his mouth open as he tries to talk. He glances back through the window and squints, frowning before he turns to face Derek once more. “What do you think of Stiles?”
Derek takes a step back, blinking. “I don’t understand. Why are you asking me that?”
“Humor me,” replies Isaac. “I know he’s a pain in the ass but do you like him? Are you attracted to him?”
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
“I know there’s some kind of tension between the two of you,” says Isaac. “But I can’t tell if it’s just with him or with you as well, so just answer the question.”
Derek releases a deep breath, shaking his head because he doesn’t understand why Isaac would choose this very moment to ask Derek this. There’s someone inside that diner waiting for him and Isaac and these questions are standing in the way of Derek knowing who Luke Skywalker is once and for all.
“Stiles is…Stiles,” says Derek. “Fine, yes he’s cute,” he adds, when Isaac raises a brow at him. “He’s annoying, but he’s smart and determined, and a stubborn brat most of the time, but his heart is usually in the right place. And yes, he’s cute.”
Isaac nods. “Good, that’s good.”
“Why are you asking me about Stiles?”
“I think your feelings about Stiles are going to greatly influence your feelings about this guy.”
Derek’s eyes narrow as he begins to feel suspicious. “Why?”
Isaac opens his mouth to reply but Derek’s patience is gone, so he shoves past him and glances inside, his eyes scanning through the room of yellow flowers until he finds a red shirt and blinks.
“It’s Stiles,” Isaac finally says but Derek can barely hear him, his ears ringing as he watches Stiles text rapidly on his phone, chewing on the end of a straw that’s sunk in a red cup filled with soda. “You said he was cute. And maybe this will get him to stop thinking you’re summoning witch covens. If he knows you as this other guy, maybe he’ll realize that’s you too, because he’s Luke and he’s Stiles. They’re the same person. All you have to do is go in there.”
“No,” says Derek, shaking his head as he takes a step away from the window. “No, I’m not going in there.”
“Derek,” Isaac calls after him, his foot hitting against the pavement. “You can’t just leave him in there.”
“Pretty sure I can,” Derek growls, turning to head back to his car.
It takes time, but eventually Derek decides that he is going to meet Stiles in Bluebell’s. He doesn’t know what he’s going to say or do, but Isaac locked him out of his car and made him promise that he was going to talk to Stiles. So here he is, fulfilling his promise in the most basic way possible.
“Oh, holy shit,” groans Stiles when he sees Derek dropping down in the seat across from him. “Why are you here?”
Derek grins, ignoring Stiles to smile at the waitress that’s approaching their table. “I’ll just have a water.”
“He won’t have anything, actually. He’s not sitting here,” Stiles corrects.
“I am, actually,” Derek assures her. She looks hesitant, looking from Derek and back to Stiles before she nods, closing her notepad and hurrying off. “What brings you to Cannon Ridge?”
“I don’t understand why you’re here. How are you here? No, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know,” Stiles says vehemently, shaking his head rapidly. “I want you to leave. I need you to leave. You seriously have to get out of here. Like…out of here, as in not here anymore, in this place.”
“I kind of like it here. Have you been here before?” asks Derek. “You have any recommendations?”
“Yeah, I recommend you leave.”
Derek wants to argue how that would be pointless because he’s exactly who Stiles is waiting for, he’s the person that Stiles wants to be sitting right there, he just doesn’t know yet. But Derek can’t. There’s something stopping him and he’ll hate himself tomorrow but, for now, he can’t say anything.
“What are you doing here?” Stiles whines. “Seriously, how are you here right now?”
“Isaac drove me.”
“Oh, great. Another one. Is anyone else going to be joining us? Do you have a dog somewhere that I don’t know about?”
Derek raises an eyebrow, no longer amused. “Is that some poorly disguised dog joke? Oh, thank you,” he says, directing the last bit towards the waitress as she sets down a glass of water.
“Are you two ready to order?” she asks, smiling at them as she clicks her pen.
“Oh, I haven’t even had a chance to look,” says Derek, cracking open a menu.
Stiles slaps his hand, yanking the menu out of Derek’s hand. “I’m waiting for someone,” says Stiles.
“Oh, I thought,” the waitress starts, pausing as she looks between Stiles and Derek. “Okay, just let me know when you’re ready.”
“We will,” Derek promises, watching her go. “You’re waiting for someone?”
“God, it’s really none of your business.”
“Is it a friend? No? Am I interrupting a date?” Derek asks, watching as Stiles frowns into his coke. “So it’s a date. Who is it?”
“Derek,” Stiles sighs, rubbing his temples. “Can you please not be here right now? I know it’s incredibly hard for you to not be where no one wants you, but I’d really appreciate it if you could go.”
“Is that about me in Beacon Hills?”
“It’s about you everywhere, Derek. I don’t want you in Beacon Hills and I don’t want you in Cannon Ridge.”
Derek nods, his finger moving to stop a drop of condensation from moving down the slide of his glass. “Is there anywhere you want me?” he asks. He’s unsure in what way he means, if he means here in the physical sense or something more, something else.
Either way, Derek gets his answer when Stiles grips the edge of the table and says, “no,” the anger and resentment evident. Derek doesn’t need to smell him to know it’s there.
“Okay,” he says, standing slowly. He taps his knuckles on the edge of the table, wondering if there’s something more he should say.
Derek doesn’t know. He’s never been good with saying the right thing at the right time.
Stiles waits for two hours, alone, before he realizes that Mowgli isn’t coming.
It’s late when he makes it back to his house, offering his dad a simple hello before he trudges up the stairs to his room and disappears for a while.
The drive home is enough for Stiles to start to feel like an idiot. Mowgli sent an email saying that he’d be there, that he was on his way. Stiles had thought… Call him absurd, but he thought that meant Mowgli would be there. It felt like an RSVP and people aren’t supposed to go back on those. They’re not pinky promises or blood oaths but they mean something. They mean something to people like Stiles, and people that have a shred of decency in them and maybe that’s not the kind of person Mowgli is.
Or maybe Stiles is just a fool that put stock in someone that he met on the Internet. Some random someone that obviously never gave a damn about Stiles.
But maybe Stiles deserves it. Maybe it’s payback for disappearing when Mowgli asked to meet the first time.
Stiles doesn’t know and maybe he shouldn’t beat himself up just yet. Maybe there’s answers somewhere, answers only Mowgli can give him.
Stiles sends Mowgli an email asking what happened, asking if he’s okay, and then he gets into bed and hopes that it’s not him. Please let it not be because Mowgli saw him and he just couldn’t. He just couldn’t because it’s Stiles.
Stiles can feel the tick in his jaw when he sees the excitement on Scott’s face three days later. Stiles has been pretty successful in avoiding everyone that knew about him going to meet Mowgli. It means he has to run a red light to avoid being seen by Lydia, and flee the supermarket when he sees Kira buying apples.
When Scott and Lydia show up to his house, it’s a little harder to avoid his own personal shame and misery when he has to crawl out of his pit of despair and wallowing to answer his front door.
“You’re supposed to be pizza,” he says, breathing out.
“Dude, where have you been?” Scott asks, letting himself into Stiles’ house. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for days now.”
“Yeah,” says Stiles, scratching his ear as he lets Lydia in. She looks at him carefully, head tilted as she takes him in. “I would have texted you back, you know that right? Eventually, at some point.”
“Yeah man, of course. I just wanted to know what happened. How did everything go with that guy?”
Stiles frowns, making a face as he tries to think of some kind of excuse to explain what happened and what’s been going on with him lately, anything so he doesn’t have to talk about Mowgli and getting stood up almost two hours from home.
“Scott,” says Lydia, looking at Stiles carefully like she knows everything. She probably does. She always does.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that? I just wanted to know what happened with him and that guy.”
“Scott,” Lydia repeats, this time firmer than before.
“It’s fine,” says Stiles, waving her off. “He never showed.”
It’s a testament to what a great friend Scott is because he looks positively outraged for Stiles. “What do you mean? How could he not show?”
“I dunno Scott, he just didn’t show up.”
“I’m sure there’s a reason,” Lydia reasons.
Stiles nods, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, pretty positive that’s not the case,” he says, shifting around them to drop down on his couch. He’s awarded himself two more days of wallowing before he’s going to get his shit together.
“Dude,” Scott breathes, dropping down at Stiles’ feet. “That guy’s a jerk. Seriously, forget him. He agrees to meet you, makes you drive hours away, and then he just bails on you. Forget him.”
“There has to be a reason,” repeats Lydia, sitting down in Stiles’ dad’s chair. “It doesn’t really make any sense otherwise.”
“Guys, he didn’t show,” says Stiles, reaching blindly for the remote. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Did he at least have a reason?” asks Lydia.
Stiles shakes his head. “He actually sent an email that said he’d be there.”
“And he didn’t show up?” questions Scott.
“Nope, just like I’ve said. Just like I keep saying, actually. It’s almost like the more you ask that, the more I give you the same answer. The question doesn’t change so neither does the answer,” says Stiles, flinching when Lydia hits him upside the head.
“Don’t be rude,” she says. “We’re only asking because you’ve been holed away and ignoring everyone. You’re obviously upset by it.”
“Not upset,” replies Stiles. “Mostly embarrassed.”
From the other end of the couch, Scott frowns, tapping his finger against Stiles’ ankle. “Why would you feel embarrassed?”
“For an assortment of reasons, actually,” says Stiles, sitting up, pulling his feet up under him. “One, because I can’t even get a guy on the Internet, someone who doesn’t even know who I am, to want anything to do with me; pretty embarrassing given my track record as the pack’s undesirable.”
Lydia rolls her eyes. “You’re not undesirable.”
Stiles waves her off. “Two, in the middle of my misery, Derek Hale showed up.”
“Derek?” Lydia and Scott both ask and Stiles notes that they both ask it in different ways. Scott sounds confused while Lydia sounds intrigued, like it’s something she wants to hear.
“Yeah. Derek. Guy’s outstanding. I told you, remember I told you how great he is?”
“Maybe he was there for a reason,” says Lydia, grinning as she plucks the remote out of Stiles’ hand. “Plenty of reasons he could have been there, hours away, at the same location as you.”
“Yeah, to make me miserable,” mutters Stiles, elbowing Scott when the doorbell rings. “Your turn to pay for pizza.”
Scott sighs, already pulling his wallet out as he leaps over the back of the couch. Stiles laughs, feeling proud of himself for getting his way and saving himself ten dollars. When he looks at Lydia, she’s smirking at him but Stiles has a feeling it has nothing to do with pizza.
Stiles’ hands shake as he presses his jacket to the wound on Theo’s abdomen. It’s not healing and he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how to stop it.
“He’s not healing,” shouts Stiles, hoping that someone will hear him and do something. “Guys, come on.” He shakes his head, trying to get some of the nerves out of his system.
“It’s their magic, it’s slowing the process,” says Theo, groaning.
“Yeah, well, unless their magic can somehow give you a blood transfusion, then I’m going to say this doesn’t look so pretty.”
Lydia drops down on the ground next to them, muttering something under her breath as she places her hands over Stiles’, it sounds like some kind of Latin. Stiles feels warmth, like the sun when it shines through his car window and hits his face in the late afternoons.
“I’ve been practicing,” she says, grinning as she flips her hair over her shoulder.
“Magic?” asks Theo, raising an eyebrow as he pushes both of their hands off him.
“Well, someone had to know what to do,” she says, practical and matter of fact. “You’ll be fine.”
Theo nods, patting her on the shoulder as he jumps up and dives back into the fight. It’s been going on for a while, Derek calling Scott to let him know that Boyd and Erica had been ambushed out in the preserve. They needed help and they needed it quick. Stiles didn’t even have a witty comment about Derek and the witches when he saw the look in Scott’s eyes. They’ve been through this enough that Stiles can tell, just from the look on Scott’s face, how serious it’s going to be.
They thought it was the coven, but it wasn’t until Stiles and everyone else arrived that more of the witches showed up, more than the number of people in both packs, and Stiles has been feeling out of sorts because he doesn’t know what to do. There’s not much he can do, besides stand back and watch as the weres of the packs do everything they can to take the witches down.
Kira’s gotten a few of them, managed to use her katana to get them off Scott. Stiles’ bat is up a tree and he’s going to find a weremonkey, if they exist, to help him in times like this.
“Liam, you need to help Liam,” says Stiles, pointing towards where he’s hunched over. Stiles doesn’t know what’s happening to him but if Lydia is in the business of healing people then she needs to take care of this.
“I can stop them,” she says, looking at Stiles with wide eyes. “That’s why I’ve been practicing. I read about something online. It’s supposed to—It’ll stop them. They’ll leave.”
“Then do it,” Stiles shouts, watching as Liam drops and withers in pain. “Lydia, do it.”
Lydia nods. Stiles watches the way her hands shake for the briefest of seconds before she takes a deep breath and the shaking stops, her composure back. And that’s the Lydia he knows, brave and ready to do anything she can to help the people she cares about. Stiles watches as she closes her eyes, as she breathes words out under her breath, slow and methodical, every word uttered with a purpose. He has no idea what she’s saying but Stiles can see as the witches start to snap their gaze around in every direction, trying to find the source of the spell. One of them screams and it feels like the Earth stops around them, everything going utterly still before chaos surrounds them.
The trees whip around, bending as their branches begin to sway. Fallen leaves swirling and Stiles has to push Lydia out of the way when a branch snaps off a tree.
And just as quickly as it started, it’s over. Stiles blinks and the witches are fleeing, racing through the trees and away from them, away from Beacon Hills if Lydia and her newfound magic are anything to trust.
“Did it work?” asks Lydia, her eyes still closed. “Please tell me it worked.”
“They’re not here anymore,” answers Stiles. “I’d say it worked.”
Lydia cracks her eyes open, glancing around. She grins and then laughs, throwing herself onto Stiles. “Wait, I need to help Liam,” she says, shoving Stiles away from her so she can race off.
Stiles laughs, leaning back against the tree behind him. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a moment, feeling as his pack once again made it by the skin of their teeth.
“You all right?” a voice asks and Stiles turns his head to see Derek standing behind him, shirt torn and bleeding out of a cut on his collarbone.
“Fine,” answers Stiles, turning to stare back at Theo and Liam as they check each other over for more injuries. “Lydia can magically heal people, if you need her services.”
Derek shakes his head. “No, it’s already healing.”
“Shame,” mutters Stiles, sighing as he pulls himself up from the ground.
“Hey,” says Derek, grabbing Stiles’ arm to stop him from leaving. “You haven’t been a pain in the ass today. You sure you’re all right?”
“Fine, Derek,” replies Stiles, yanking his arm out of Derek’s grip. “I’m fine.”
“Why don’t you just leave me the hell alone?” he shouts, swallowing when he notices that he has everyone’s attention. He watches as Derek’s face goes confused, looking at Stiles like he’s trying to read him, like he doesn’t understand.
Derek doesn’t need his werewolf capabilities to know that Isaac is following closely behind him. They’re ahead of the rest of the pack, far enough away that none of them are going to hear what they’re talking about. It’s only a matter time before Isaac asks what he’s been itching to ask for days now, the words on the edge of his tongue and in his eyes every time he sees Derek.
Derek ignores him, slipping back into the house without a word.
“Derek,” says Isaac, fingers drumming on the countertop as Derek roots through the fridge for something to eat. “What happened with Stiles?”
Derek tries to make it seem like he didn’t hear. He doesn’t want to. It’s a question he’s been trying to figure out since he left the diner. Derek doesn’t know, so he doesn’t answer. Instead he grabs a Tupperware filled with chicken tortilla soup that Erica made, setting down on the counter and closing the fridge.
“Derek,” sighs Isaac, and Derek can smell as he gets impatient.
“Do you want anything to eat?” Derek asks instead, grabbing two bowls without waiting for an answer.
“Derek,” Isaac shouts, impatient and annoyed.
Derek breathes out through his nose, grabbing a spoon so he can scoop portions into each of the bowls. He waits until he has them in the microwave before he answers, turning to Isaac to ask, “Why do you care?”
“You asked Stiles about it too, how he was acting today. He wasn’t himself. Scott says he hasn’t been himself,” explains Isaac. “He’s normally a little more assertive in situations like that, when you and the witches are involved. So either you completely blew meeting him, you didn’t meet him at all, or something else happened.”
“Nothing happened.” Isaac doesn't look impressed with that answer, so Derek sighs, yanking the soup bowls out of the microwave and slamming the door closed with more force than necessary. “I talked to him.”
“He doesn’t know it was me.”
“He doesn’t know that he’s been—“
Isaac cuts off and both their gazes snap to the backdoor where Cora’s moving into the house with the force of a hurricane, shoving a chair at the kitchen table.
“What did you do?” bellows Cora, eyes flashing as she glares at Derek.
Derek looks at Isaac and raises his eyebrow because he’s been accused of doing a lot of things in his time and there’s too much that he could answer to, all of which will make Cora angrier than she is now.
“What did you do to Stiles?” Cora clarifies, annunciating each word like she’s talking to a small child that doesn’t understand.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Lydia says you did.”
“Lydia doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” says Derek, looking around when he sees Boyd and Erica enter the room. “I haven’t done anything to Stiles.”
“Lydia said you were an ass to him,” says Cora, pulling Derek’s bowl of soup away from him.
“More of an ass than usual or his typical self?” Erica asks, taking a seat next to Derek. She takes the soup of Cora, grinning at Derek as she takes a bite. “Not that there’s a difference, but.”
“I’m going to say more of an ass than usual,” says Isaac, shrugging when Derek turns to glare at him.
Derek palms his forehead, starting to feel like he’s on trial. “Since when is everyone on Stiles’ side? Annoying, talks too much, doesn’t know when to stop—“
“Defenseless Stiles?” Erica finishes.
“He’s kind of funny,” says Boyd. “But I also don’t really care.”
Derek leans back in the chair, arms folded over his chest as his pack starts to discuss their feelings on Stiles. It’s surprising to hear Cora likes him and thinks, despite his insistence that they brought the witches to Beacon Hills, that he’s smart and they’re lucky to have an ally like him. Erica agrees, slurping Derek’s soup. It’s back and forth between the two of them until Isaac decides to turn the conversation back on Derek by saying, “Derek’s been talking to Stiles’ online.”
The room is silent for a all of a minute before Erica is shrieking, “What?”
“Thanks, Isaac,” Derek says around a mouthful of fangs, his eyes bleeding red.
Isaac looks away, baring his neck. “Someone had to say something,” he says.
“Someone better explain,” says Cora, looking back and forth between Isaac and Derek. “Now!”
Derek rolls his eyes, adjusting his position. “I didn’t know it was Stiles.”
“Who did you think it was?” asks Erica.
“Some random guy. I don’t know. I didn’t think it was Stiles. I didn’t know it was Stiles until not even a week ago.”
“We drove to Cannon Ridge to meet him. Stiles was there and that’s how we figured it out,” Isaac explains, stirring his spoon around in the soup like the secret he’s revealed doesn’t matter, like it’s no big deal, like it doesn’t matter to Derek that everyone knows.
“What’d you do, make him feel like shit for talking to you?” asks Cora.
Derek shakes his head, rubbing the palm of his hand across his forehead. “I didn’t do that. I mean, I talked to him but I didn’t make him feel badly about that.”
“So what did you make him feel badly about?” asks Boyd. “How didn’t you know it was Stiles? What name did he go by?”
Derek rubs the bridge of his nose, wishing he could disappear into the floor. “Luke Skywalker,” he answers, words quiet and mumbled. Derek knows they heard him, based on the snort that escapes Erica and the exasperated sigh of Cora. “We agreed to no personal details. It started out as just a name, one of those username things. And then it’s just how we identified each other.”
“So who were you, Darth Vader?” asks Cora.
Derek shakes his head. He doesn’t want to do this. He’d rather talk about what a monster everyone thinks he was to Stiles.
“Oh, it’s going to be good, isn’t it?” Erica smirks, bottom lip pulled between her teeth.
“Mowgli,” Isaac answers, grinning when everyone looks at him. “Raised by wolves in the jungle, it seemed fitting.”
“You picked it out?” Erica asks, pointing an accusatory spoon in his direction. “When?”
“So you’ve been talking to Stiles for ages, you go to meet him, and you act like a dick to him? Is that more or less what happened?”
Derek clasps his hand together, turning to look at Isaac.
“More or less,” answers Isaac.
Derek rests his forehead on his hands when everyone turns to look at him. He doesn’t want to see the look on anyone’s face because he already knows how they feel about Stiles, that he’s a little shit but he’s fun and nice, smart and willing to do anything to protect his pack.
“I didn’t do anything,” Derek repeats, standing up quickly. His knees hit the edge of the table as he leaves the rest of them. If they want to talk about Stiles and what they think happened, then so be it, Derek’s not going to stop them.
The thing that Derek hates about opening his doors and his pack to a bunch of a people, by letting people in, is that he can’t hide away like he wants to. He can’t escape and retreat, can’t pull away. Especially not now, because he’s an alpha and people are counting on him, people that he turned and people that have needed him since they were young, since their family died.
There’s just not a chance in hell that Derek is going to be able to disappear until everyone forgets what happened with him and Stiles. Everyone in his pack knows, all of them aware of what he’s done, what he’s been doing.
It’s no one’s fault. They met anonymously, under circumstances that no one could foresee. What are the chances that the annoying brat who thinks he brought witches to Beacon Hills is the same person that he’s been talking to for ages on the Internet, the person that he’s shared so much of himself with.
Derek couldn’t have known. He couldn’t have, and neither could Stiles. Derek doesn’t know everything about Scott’s pack, but he does know that none of them can predict something like that.
Everyone knows and Derek is never going to be able to escape this.
And all of the talk about what he’s done and what happened with Stiles it’s forcing him to remember what he did in the diner, what Stiles’ face looked like when he saw Derek sitting across from him, and the way Stiles smelled when he realized that Mowgli wasn’t coming for him.
Derek squeezes his eyes shut, wills himself to forget that part.
“Fuck,” Derek mutters, yanking his phone off the charger and pulling open his email. Curiosity gets the best of him and he has to know, he has to know what Stiles sent him after he left the dinner.
Hey, so I was at that diner tonight in Cannon Ridge. What happened? Why didn’t you show? Everything okay?
So still haven’t heard anything from you. I hope everything’s all right. I know it sounds kind of awful, but I really hope something happened and that’s why you didn’t show. Like I said, I know it’s awful, but it’d be easier.
I’ve gone back and forth about this. I can’t figure out if something happened or if this is you giving me a taste of my own medicine for that time I disappeared on you after you suggested we meet, but I hate it. Dude, I really hate it. I get it. I was an asshole, but please. Please just let me know everything’s okay, or if it’s not, or if you really just want me to piss off and leave you alone. I don’t know. You could do one of those Walgreens emails where you just reply with a blank form to get a refill. Reply with nothing. Anything.
I know all these emails are getting annoying, sorry. I have a hard time stopping but I’m going to. Stop that is. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about you and I wish I knew why you didn’t show up. I felt… It was so embarrassing, to be sitting there, waiting for you. I felt like such an idiot, for thinking you’d show.
While I was sitting there and waiting for you, that guy I’ve been telling you about showed up. Well, I haven’t really told you about him, but he’s the one I’ve been worried about, the one I thought my friend was putting too much trust in. Anyway, he was there and he’s the last person that I’d want to see me in that situation, hopeful for something that’s never going to come. I know he’ll mock me for it, and after everything I’ve said to him, I probably deserve it.
I don’t know.
I just wanted to send this to let you know that I hope everything is okay. I hope you’re okay. You don’t seem like the type of person to leave someone waiting, and I know that’s hard to tell over conversations like these that probably mean nothing in the overall space of my life, but. They’ve meant something to me. These conversations with you, they’ve meant something.
You’ve meant something.
Derek shuts his phone off and sets it down carefully. He tries to ignore the shaking in his fingers and the way it feels like he can’t catch his breath.
This time when Derek sees Stiles sitting alone in a diner, he makes a point of asking if he can have a seat. Stiles glances up at him, looking around cautiously as he dunks his grilled cheese in his tomato soup. His eyes narrow suspiciously and Derek holds back a sigh because he doesn’t want Stiles to think something is up. Nothing is up. Derek’s just had enough time to realize that he’s an asshole. Erica and Cora reminding him every time their paths crossed just helped speed the process along.
“I guess,” says Stiles, taking a bite of his sandwich. “Is there really nowhere else you can sit?”
“Yeah, I guess,” says Derek, taking his leather jacket off and draping it over the back of the chair. “Kind of wanted to talk to you, though.”
Stiles hums, his head bobbing in a nod as he chews his food. “Am I allowed to ask what about?”
“I just wanted to talk to you. Um, about what happened the other day.”
“Which day?” asks Stiles and Derek can’t tell if he’s doing this on purpose or if he’s really not sure what Derek is talking about.
“The day in Cannon Ridge,” Derek clarifies, studying Stiles’ carefully. His scent turns sour and his heart rate picks up but he doesn’t tell Derek to get the hell away from him, so he thinks it might be okay to continue. “Sorry for not being more understanding when you said that you were meeting someone.”
“It’s fine,” says Stiles, shrugging. “He never showed up anyway.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry for being an ass about that. I should haven’t have made you feel like shit about that.” He doesn’t say that he’s sorry for not telling Stiles that he was waiting for him and that he’s Mowgli and that he doesn’t know if he’d do things differently if he had the chance to do them again, but he does know that he’s sorry and he shouldn’t have handled things in the way he did. “I could tell you were stressed. I shouldn’t have made shit worse for you.”
Stiles nods and offers Derek a smile as he slurps his soup. “It’s fine,” he says. “After everything, I don’t really care you were there. It mostly sucks that you were there to witness my embarrassment and mortification at being stood up, but oh well. It’s over and done with.”
“Still, I’ve been told I’m an asshole.”
Stiles laughs at that. “Yeah? Who told you that this time?”
“Cora. Erica. Isaac a few times,” says Derek. “Actually, I think Lydia might have wanted to when I saw her at the supermarket.”
“Don’t forget me.”
“Oh, of course. How could I forget the original person to call me an ass,” Derek retorts, rolling his eyes when Stiles winks at him.
Derek sits back and watches as Stiles eats his food. He orders a sandwich when the waitress walks by. She smiles at him but Derek can smell how distressed she is by the afternoon rush. If he could, Derek would walk back there and make his own sandwich, but he thinks that would cause more harm than good, and Stiles looks like he’d bite Derek’s hand off if he tried to steal some of his food.
“Can I ask about that guy you were supposed to meet?” asks Derek, because curiosity is getting the better of him and he wants to know what Stiles thinks of him. Not the him that’s sitting here, because he already knows how Stiles feels about him as Derek Hale. He wants to know how Stiles feels about him as Mowgli, as the boy he’s been talking to on the Internet that he asked to meet up with.
“Depends. What are you going to ask?”
Derek shrugs. He doesn’t know what to ask. He knows too much. “Do you know him?”
“In a sense, yeah. I’ve never met him before, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Is he some guy you met on one of those apps?”
Stiles shakes his head. “No. I met him online, though. It was going to be our first time meeting.”
“Oh,” mutters Derek, putting his hands in his lap as the waitress comes to drop his food off. “Thanks.”
“That’s kind of why I didn’t want you to be there. Well, aside from the obvious reasons of it being you. But also because I’ve never met him before and I don’t think it would look good to have someone else there with me at the table we were supposed to be occupying.”
Derek nods because yeah, he can understand that. If Derek had showed up as Mowgli and Stiles had been sitting there with someone else, Derek probably would have panicked and not shown up.
“Did he say why he never came?” asks Derek.
“No,” admits Stiles, shaking his head. “No, he never said anything. He actually said he would be there and then when the time came for him to be there, he just wasn’t. Couldn't tell you why.”
“I’m sure he had a reason.”
Stiles snorts. “I don’t really care,” he says, grabbing at his soda. His tongue drags across the top of the straw before he closes his lips around it, slurping the soda loudly. Derek can smell that Stiles does care, can hear it in the uptick of his heart, but he doesn’t mention it. “I’ve tried to email him and he hasn’t answered. It happens. Whatever.”
“Maybe something came up. A lot of people forget to check their email, forget to reply, especially when major things happen. Maybe that’s what happened.”
“Could be,” Stiles admits, shrugging once more. “Still don’t really care.”
Derek frowns, unsure how he feels about that answer. He doesn’t know what to say so he lets the topic drop, lets Stiles get started on the witches and how he can’t believe Lydia learned witchcraft just to get the witches out of Beacon Hills. He asks if Derek’s heard anything from neighboring packs, if the witches went to them, or if they’re still lurking in the woods somewhere. Derek doesn’t think they are and he hasn’t heard anything, so he tells Stiles as much, and wonders if he missed an opportunity.
I’m sorry. I can’t even begin to express how sorry I am. I promised I’d be there and I wasn’t. Something happened. Something came up and I couldn’t be there. I wish that I had been. I can understand if you can’t forgive me, but I wish you would. I hope that you do.
Stiles reads the email over for the fifth time in a row, chewing at his thumb while his leg shakes below his desk. The email was sent two hours ago and Stiles has been staring at it for the last twenty minutes, wishing that he knew what he should be feeling.
It’s everything he wanted as he walked out of the diner that day. He wanted to see an email from Mowgli saying that he’s sorry, saying that something came up and he couldn’t be there but he wishes that he had been. It’s all right there, wrapped up in a pretty little digital package. Stiles just doesn’t know if it’s come too late. He doesn’t know what to think or feel, or how to respond right now.
There’s a rustle outside and Stiles turns, reaching for the bat he keeps next to his desk. Derek leans out of the way when Stiles throws it, clutching his heart as it beats wildly in his chest.
“Dude, what the fuck,” shouts Stiles, feeling like he’s going to have a heart attack. “What are you doing here?”
Derek frowns, holding up a bag in his hand. “I wanted to know if you wanted to hang out. I made soup.”
Stiles makes a face and waves his arms around, trying to convey with his hands that this is his bedroom, not the front door. “Dude,” Stiles repeats, scratching his temple as Derek begins to look even more confused. “You’re supposed to use the door.”
Derek points across the room and Stiles sighs, shaking his head. “The front door.”
“Your window was open.”
“That’s not really an invitation to enter.”
Derek turns around and nods. He climbs back out of Stiles’ window, jumping down onto the ground outside. Stiles waits, rubbing his temples until he hears his doorbell ring. He breathes out a laugh, taking his time to go and answer it. When he pulls the door open, Derek’s standing there, eyebrows raised expectantly.
“This is where you ask if I want to hang out,” says Stiles, leaning against the doorframe.
“I made soup. Do you want to hang out?”
Stiles nods and pulls the door open wider so Derek can enter the appropriate way. He shuts the door and turns to see Derek looking around his living room, taking it all in before he slowly starts to move through the house, trying to find the kitchen.
Stiles’ house isn’t that big. His family never needed much room, with it being just his dad, his mom, and him. It’s nothing like the Hale house, the new and the old one; both grand and more than Stiles’ family could ever need in a home. But it’s home and Stiles isn’t going to start feeling embarrassed about it now just because Derek is rooting through his cabinets, pulling out bowls and spoons like he’s done it a million times before.
“Why’d you make soup?” asks Stiles, taking, leaning against the doorframe and watching Derek work.
“Boyd likes it this time of year,” explains Derek, transferring the soup from the container he brought it into the bowls. “Someone’s always making soup. We have too much of it. You and your dad can keep the rest of this, if you want it.”
“Dad will be thrilled,” Stiles lies, waiting for Derek to warm them up.
When Derek’s done, he passes Stiles a bowl and Stiles makes him follow him into the living room so he can eat his soup and be comfortable. Derek follows him, sitting on the other end of the couch.
“Is your dad going to be home soon?”
Stiles shrugs. “There was a car accident on the interstate. He won’t be back for a while. Why? You scared of the law.”
“No, just wondering,” says Derek.
Stiles nods, taking a bite of the soup; he can’t help but groan at the taste. “This is really good.” Derek smirks down at his soup and Stiles takes that as a thank you. “Oh,” he says, balancing his soup in one hand so he can tug his phone out of his pocket. He gets into his email and pulls open what Mowgli just sent him. He passes it over to Derek wordlessly.
Derek frowns, taking the phone. His eyebrows pull together as he reads, his face blank. He nods and then hands it back over. “Is that your friend? The one you were supposed to meet up with?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“He seems sorry enough. Do you think he is?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t doubt he’s sorry, just wish I knew what happened. I hate not knowing things,” he says. “I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t, and then he says something important happened, but he hasn’t told me what. There’s a piece of the puzzle missing and I don’t like not knowing what it is. I hate not knowing.”
“Maybe he’s embarrassed.”
“About what? About me?”
“No,” says Derek, shaking his head. “No, not you. Himself. Maybe he’s got insecurities and they got the best of him.”
“Maybe,” mutters Stiles, not feeling satisfied. “No, it’s not that.”
“Maybe someone in his family is sick. Family emergencies are fairly common.”
“Fairly common lies. Everyone says family emergencies when they’re lying and need an excuse that people agree with,” says Stiles, looking unimpressed with Derek.
Derek sighs, taking another bite of his soup. Stiles watches as he thinks, as he chews over his thoughts slowly and carefully. “Maybe he’s got a family and kids, like a wife or something and he couldn’t get out of the house.”
Stiles wrinkles his nose at that. “God, I hope I’m not his mistress. His mister? What’s the male version?”
“I’m not sure if there is one,” admits Derek. “It’s pretty common. Loads of people meet people online because they’re married. You’d hardly be the first.”
“So you think he’s in some kind of marriage with kids and he was using me, and then when it became time to meet in person, he…what? Chickened out? Realized that’s a piece of shit thing to do to his wife?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, I’m not married.”
“If that is the case, then why would he email me again? Why would he apologize and start talking to me again? Why not cut me off?”
“I don’t know,” Derek admits, breathing out slowly. “He thought about it and realized that he made a mistake. He really is unhappy in his marriage and he wants to talk to you again.”
“Boring. What else ya got?”
Derek chuckles, setting his empty soup bowl on the coffee table. “Okay, what if it’s like that show on TV,” says Derek. “Erica’s always watching this show where people meet online but they’re not who they say they are. Sometimes they say they’re a model and a girl, but really they’re a man.”
“You think I’m being catfished?”
“I don’t know what that is.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, setting his own bowl down on the table and pulling his feet under him. “That’s the show. It’s called Catfish. When someone else on the Internet lies about their identity to someone else, they’re a catfish and they’re catfishing someone.”
“Oh,” says Derek, looking surprised. “Then, maybe. You could ask him. Ask him if he’s a catfish. Ask him what happened.”
“Yeah, all right,” Stiles mutters, unlocking his phone and opening up a new email. He types it quickly, asking Mowgli what happened and why everything changed when he was almost to Cannon Ridge. He hits send and shows Derek before dropping his phone on the couch.
“Do you think he’ll reply soon?”
“Probably not. I don’t think he has his email attached to his phone,” Stiles admits, leaning forward for the remote. “You wanna watch something?”
“Sure,” Derek replies, leaning back against Stiles’ couch.
Stiles looks at him for a second, taking in the sight of Derek on his couch, relaxed and comfortable, and wonders if this is going to become a thing.
It becomes a thing. Derek starts to come over when Stiles’ dad is at work. They binge watch TV shows because Derek is so behind in pop culture it’s embarrassing. Stiles’ opens him to a whole new world.
Stiles’ gets sick with a cold and Derek brings him soup because Stiles whines to everyone in Beacon County about it; the gas station attendant, the cashier at the grocery store, his dad and every member of his pack. Word trickles to Derek’s pack who hear it from Scott and Lydia. Derek helps Stiles and doesn’t do anything besides roll his eyes when Stiles says that he’s never going to breathe through his nose again and he’s going to die from mouth breathing.
Then he gets better and it’s Stiles’ turn to take care of Derek when Erica and Boyd go out of town to do cute couple things that Stiles’ pretends to gag about when Erica tells him all the things she wants Boyd to do to her while they’re gone.
Stiles brings pizzas and wolfsbane laced beer, and even shares it with Isaac, even though he still wants to strangle him with his scarf more often than not. But Stiles can’t because Scott’s starting to love him and Derek is kind of fond of Isaac too, so Stiles just resorts to throwing things at Isaac as he and Derek spar in the basement of their house.
Derek still helps him with Mowgli, which proves to be helpful when Mowgli doesn’t elaborate but says that he’ll tell Stiles about it sometime when they meet again because he still wants to meet, just that now isn’t a good time. Stiles asks him if he’s married or if he has any kids, if that’s the reason why he bailed on Stiles, because Derek’s gotten into his head, but Mowgli assures him that’s not the case.
Everything’s perfect. The only thing that’s not is that Stiles still hasn’t met Mowgli yet.
“You’ve been spending an awful lot of time with Derek lately,” says Lydia, dropping her purse down next to Stiles’ bed as she takes a seat.
Stiles frowns from inside his closet, sniffing a shirt on the floor. It passes the sniff test so he yanks it on and steps out to glare at Lydia. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” she says, leaning back. “It’s an observation.”
“Is this because I cancelled our plans the other day to get coffee with Derek? Because if so, I really have to remind you that I made those plans with him first, and it’s only right to bail on the second person, not the first,” he repeats, having said this to her three different times now. “I’m willing to take a werewolf polygraph if you don’t believe me.”
“No, I believe you,” she says. “I just don’t understand when that became a thing.”
“It’s not a thing. There’s no thing going on. Ha, that’s kind of funny,” he says, laughing to himself. “No thing sounds like nothing, which makes sense now that I think about how they’re both spelled the same, just one has a space between the two words. Sorry. I’m not doing that purpose.”
Lydia nods, pursing her lips together as she looks at Stiles. “Are you two…”
“I just said we’re not a thing.”
Lydia rolls her eyes. “Fine, do you want to be one?”
“What?” Stiles asks, laughing as he reaches for his deodorant. “No. I don’t like him. I mean, as a friend, sure, but not anything else.”
“It’s for the sake of the packs,” says Stiles. “I’m trying to make peace with him since I was kind of dick when they first arrived and through all of the shit with the witches. I kind of made things weird for everyone. Besides, he apologized for being a dick that day I was meeting Mowgli.”
“Yeah. He’s actually been helping me talk to him lately.”
“Is he now,” says Lydia, folding her legs. “Don’t wear that cologne, it gives Liam a headache, get the other one.”
Stiles rolls his eyes and puts his cologne back. He doesn't bother reaching for the other one. He doesn’t want to hear Liam complain all night. As much as Stiles tells him to stop smelling him, Liam always seems to complain about the way Stiles’ smells when he wears cologne. Either it’s not mixing his natural odors very well or no one wants to let Stiles’ know how bad his cologne smells. Kira says it’s not that bad. Though, Kira’s also the one willing to lie to him to spare his feelings.
“Do we have to pick Malia up before we head to Scott’s, or is Theo going to be useful for once in his life and do it?”
“He is,” says Lydia, “And don’t think you’ve gotten out of talking to me about Derek, because you haven't.”
Stiles looks at Lydia and frowns. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything, of course,” she says, smiling at him before she leaves the room. Stiles blinks and wonders what he’s missing.
When Derek steps out of his house and sees Lydia leaning against the driver’s door of his car, her feet crossed at the ankle and her arms folded over her chest, he’s not sure why she’s there. He takes his time moving towards her, scenting the air to try and see what’s going on. She smells vaguely annoyed and impatient, like Derek’s wasting her time.
“Cora’s at the gym,” he says. “And Erica went to dinner with Boyd.”
“I know,” she replies, because it seems Lydia knows most things. “Isaac’s at Scott and Kira’s, and you’re on your way to see Stiles, right?”
Derek nods. “And you’re here. Why?”
“I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Stiles and whatever little game you’re playing with him.” Derek’s frown deepens, his eyebrows pulling together because he has no idea what Lydia’s talking about. She sighs, annoyed. “You two hated each other.”
“And now we don’t.”
“No, you don’t,” she says, pursing her lips together as her gaze sweeps over Derek slowly, taking him in. “Not since you stood him up in Cannon Ridge. Except, you didn’t really. You were there, you just didn’t tell him who you were.”
Derek’s blood runs cold as he tries to think of ways to deny it, to prove to Lydia that she has no idea what she’s talking about. His chest grumbles as he growls but Lydia just rolls her eyes, like all Derek’s doing is proving her right. “What do you know?”
“Please, I know everything,” she says. “I know you’re his little Internet friend. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you moved to California the same time he did, and please, Derek, your handle is a character that was raised by wolves in the woods. Everyone knows your family is a bunch of werewolves and,” she looks around, holding her hands up to motion towards the preserve, “you grew up in the woods. I’m just surprised Stiles hasn’t figured it out.”
“You’re not the only one,” Derek mumbles, running his thumb along his eyebrow as he feels a headache start to bloom. It’ll be gone soon enough, but Lydia’s presence has it throbbing and until she’s gone, Derek suspects that the headache will stay. “So are you going to tell him?”
Lydia looks at him, watches Derek for a moment before she shakes her head. “No, I’m not going to tell him anything because I have a feeling that you’re going to, eventually.”
“I’m working up towards it.”
“Right,” she says, pushing off the car to crowd into Derek’s space. “Just know that Stiles is great. He has a big heart and he cares deeply about people, probably even you at this point, but I have no problem gutting you or anyone else that messes with him. Or hurts him,” she adds, straightening Derek’s shirt. “Got it?”
Derek nods and tries not to laugh. “Got it,” he says.
“Great,” says Lydia, grinning at him as she steps around him. “I’m going to wait inside for Cora.”
Derek watches as she disappears into his house. He stands in front of his car for ten minutes before he can get his brain and feet to work together, dragging himself to his car so he can drive to Stiles’ house.
Derek lets himself in like he always does when he sees the sheriff isn’t home. Stiles is sitting on the couch, pizza hanging out of his mouth when he turns to look at Derek.
“You’re late,” says Stiles, talking around a mouthful of food. Always charming, he is. “Why do you look like you saw a ghost?”
“Saw Lydia,” Derek replies and Stiles nods, like he understands now, even though he doesn’t have any of the details. “It’ll be fine.”
“Did she say something?”
“I don’t think she likes me,” says Derek, dropping his coat on the back of the couch. “Like, I really don’t think she likes me.”
“She’s never said anything,” says Stiles, frowning as Derek grabs a slice of pizza. “Do you want me to ask her about it?”
Derek shakes his head quickly because no, he definitely doesn’t want Stiles asking Lydia about what happened earlier. He will though, because it’s Stiles and that's what he does, he asks questions and pokes around where he’s not supposed to. If he wasn’t like that, he’d probably already be working in the police station instead of spending all his free time with Derek.
God, Derek really needs to tell Stiles. He really needs to be open and honest. Maybe it should be like pulling off a Band-Aid, quick and painful but, in the long run, the best option. Right now, Derek’s pulling it off slowly, taking one arm hair at a time and it’s only going to cause more confusion and…heartache, maybe. If Stiles is that invested, and Derek thinks he might be.
Derek knows he is.
“No, you don’t have to ask her about it. I’m sure she’ll warm up to me,” he says. “You did.”
Stiles snorts. “Not everyone is as forgiving as I am, Derek,” teases Stiles. “Although, if Lydia doesn’t like you, then maybe I shouldn’t. She has a really good judge of character.”
“Please don’t. This is much easier on me.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well, as long as it’s easy for you.”
Derek grins at him, taking a bite. “Have you heard back from your friend?” he asks, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah. We keep talking about meeting but I feel like he’s waiting for me to ask again. And maybe I should, but I don’t know. I don’t really want to,” says Stiles. “I mean, I do. I want to finally meet him. I’ve been dying to meet him, but last time I asked didn’t really turn out that great, so I feel like if he asks then he’ll actually follow through with it.”
“I’m sure it’ll happen.”
Stiles sighs. “Maybe.”
Derek smiles and watches Stiles as he finishes his pizza. He’s not the most graceful eater, there’s bits of cheese hanging out of the corners of his mouth, and sauce gathered on his chin but Derek’s chest feels tight, like his heart wants to pound right out of his rib cage. He can feel it in his throat, the way he wants to just breathe Stiles in, wants to burrow himself under Stiles’ ribs and stay there.
Derek doesn’t know how it happened, how Stiles went from the most annoying person in the state of California, to the only person in Derek’s world. The only person that he wants, the only person he could probably only want again, like Stiles’ has ruined him and Derek’s never even had him. And everything is going end horribly when Stiles’ knows the truth, what Derek’s done, who Derek is.
“What?” asks Stiles, his eyes going wide as he looks at Derek.
Derek shakes his head and swallows. “Do you want to do something on Sunday?”
Stiles shrugs. “Yeah, I guess,” he answers, licking the sauce off his chin. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“We’ll figure it out. When do we ever actually have a plan?” Stiles laughs.
Derek nods because yeah, they always figure it out.
Erica’s sitting at the counter when Derek finds her. She smiles at him when he walks in, but her smile falters as Derek stands there and looks at her, his mouth open as he tries to figure out how to get his words out. Sunday. He’s going to tell Stiles on Sunday, in two days, and he needs words. He needs words and he doesn’t have them. Derek doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore, maybe he never did. He probably never did.
“I need to tell Stiles,” he says and Erica nods but still looks mostly confused. “He doesn’t know.”
“You haven’t told him,” she says, finally understanding what Derek’s talking about. “I thought—You’ve been spending all your time with him. I thought he knew.”
Derek shakes his head. “No, I didn’t tell him.”
“I know,” he says, cutting her off. “I know. I’m going to, on Sunday. I’m going to tell him. I just don’t know—I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to tell him. He’s going to hate me.”
Erica rolls his eyes. “He’s not going to hate you.”
“Do you not know Stiles at all? He hated me because I moved to Beacon Hills. You really think he’s going to be calm and rational when he finds out that he’s been talking to me online and I was too scared, too much of an ass to admit it was me sooner,” says Derek, feeling as his chest starts to ache, his stomach filling with dread. “He’s not going to understand that.”
“I don’t think most people would,” Erica reasons. “But he’s not going to hate you.”
“Not forever, at least,” says Cora, stepping out of the darkness to lean against the wall.
“I need help,” he says. “I already went to Isaac for advice.”
“Well, you must have been desperate to think Isaac could help you,” says Erica.
And it’s true. Derek is desperate. He plans on going to Boyd next because he needs to hear from everyone in his pack. He’d ask everyone in Beacon County if he could, take an official poll from everyone that he can to see if they can help him. Derek’s never been good at this kind of thing, at opening up and laying his feelings out on the table, but he’s going to have to do just that if he’s going to get Stiles to understand, to see that the place Derek was at when he approached Stiles’ in the diner is nowhere near the place Derek’s at now.
“Isaac doesn’t know anything about romance,” Erica adds.
Derek shrugs because neither does he. His ex killed his family. Derek’s kind of batting oh-for-oh in the romance department, so Isaac’s pretty much a love guru compared to Derek.
“What should I do?”
“Fuck him,” says Erica, like it really is the best solution. Like having sex with Stiles is going to make everything better.
“Erica,” groans Derek, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Can you be serious? That’s not going to work.”
“And I really don’t want to hear that,” says Cora, glaring at Erica.
Erica shrugs like she doesn’t care. “It’s obvious that Stiles likes you, Derek. He’s probably just confused.”
Derek shakes his head. “He doesn’t.”
“He does,” laughs Erica. “Don’t be dumb about it. And he’s probably thought about you since the time we first bumped into him at the coffee shop, but then he was too busy hating you to realize anything. But he likes you.”
“He does,” says Cora, rolling her eyes when Derek turns to look at her. “He reeks when you’re around.”
Derek blushes, feeling as his ears heat up. “Be that as it may, he also likes Mowgli.”
“God, I can’t believe that’s the name you picked,” says Cora, stepping around him to get into the fridge. “All of the names in the world and you chose that.”
“Isaac chose that,” Derek defends.
“It doesn’t matter,” Erica cuts in. “He’s confused because he thinks you’re two separate people. He’s confused because that’s someone he’s trusted and has been curious about for ages. And you know Stiles, curiosity always wins out, but that doesn’t change how he feels about you. He’s probably torn.”
“Don’t make it anymore confusing for him,” says Cora. “Tell him. Tell him and make sure that he knows that it’s you telling him, not you trying to save your ass, but you wanting him to know how you feel, regardless of what comes out of it.”
Derek nods. Tell him. Tell Stiles. Derek doesn’t know how to do that. Doesn’t know what he should or shouldn’t do, but he thinks he can manage. He can be honest. If it means telling Stiles everything, if it means pouring himself open and laying himself bare, Derek can do that. For Stiles, he will.
Derek thanks them and then rushes upstairs to his room, yanking his laptop off his bed. He waits impatiently as it loads, barely giving it time before he’s tapping the button repeatedly so his email will load.
Do you want to meet on Sunday? Walter’s Park, Beacon City. He writes and then sends before he can stop himself. Sunday. He’s going to do it.
Stiles finds a place for them to meet in Beacon City, some hot dog shop called Wieners that he cackled about over the phone until he was wheezing and coughing, unable to control himself like he’s in junior high because of the word wiener. It’s a twenty minute drive from Walter’s Park.
Derek can see Stiles in the window, bouncing excitedly as he holds up two hot dogs. Derek shakes his head, shutting off his car and moving towards Stiles. He feels nervous and like his skin is on too tight, but he can do this. It’s Stiles. Stiles is the easiest person in the world for Derek to get along with, which should be scary, but it’s not.
“I got you two already,” says Stiles, sliding a tray over towards Derek. “Technically it was your turn to pay, but it’s fine. We’ll figure it out. God, take your bite. I wanna see your face as you eat a wiener.”
Derek rolls his eyes and grabs one of the hot dogs, taking a bite of it as Stiles grins at him, practically vibrating he’s so happy.
“Is it good?” asks Stiles.
“Tastes like a hot dog.”
“So it’s good,” says Stiles, taking his own bite. There’s relish on his cheeks and mustard on his chin that makes Derek roll his eyes fondly. He resists the urge to wipe at Stiles’ face because he’s learned that Stiles is going to eat like a slob and it’s best to leave the cleaning up until the very end. “Almost as good as a dog at a baseball game.”
“Almost,” agrees Derek.
“Hey, we should go to a game when the season starts again.”
Derek nods. “All right.”
“Two games, so we can see both of our teams. I’ll even pretend to enjoy myself when we see the Dodgers, as long as we don’t see the Yankees, then I can totally do that. I can totally pretend to enjoy myself. Though, I’m not wearing a jersey. I won’t do it. You can’t make me.”
“I wasn’t going to try.”
“I’m sure you weren’t,” says Stiles, smiling as he takes another bite.
The hot dogs are good, even though Derek’s doesn’t sit fully in his stomach because of how nervous he is. He keeps thinking of ways to tell Stiles, but he doesn’t want Stiles to choke on his hot dog so Derek waits and listens to Stiles tell Derek about how he and Scott are trying to plan some big camping trip this summer for both packs. It’s a nice idea and Derek doesn’t tell Stiles to wait and see how he feels about Derek within the hour.
Derek starts to feel nervous as they throw their trash away, making their way outside.
“I have to tell you something,” says Stiles, digging his hands in his pockets.
“Yeah, me too,” says Derek, walking Stiles’ towards his jeep.
“All right, you want to go first?” Derek shakes his head adamantly and Stiles laughs. “Fine, that’s okay. I’ve been sort of dying to tell you but I wanted to wait because I knew we’d be seeing each other today, but I’m meeting Mowgli.”
“You are? He asked?”
“Yeah, today. He wants to meet today. I told him we had to do it later, since I had plans, but it works out.”
“Wow,” mutters Derek, trying to act like he’s surprised. “Do you think he’s going to be there?”
“Yeah, I think so. I hope so.”
“What if he doesn’t show?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know, but I have a feeling that he’s going to. I don’t know. I just feel better this time around, like there’s actually hope for me.”
“There’s always been hope for you,” says Derek.
Stiles snorts. “Hardly,” he says. “Now, what’d you want to tell me?”
“Oh, um,” Derek tries to wave him off but Stiles frowns and he knows that Stiles isn’t going to let him drop it. Derek feels his hands shake and he honest to god might get sick because he’s so nervous. There’s a lump in his throat and it feels like he’s not taking in air but then Stiles wraps his fingers around Derek’s wrist and Derek breathes, taking in big gulps of air. “I’ve just been thinking lately.”
“What do you think would have happened had we met differently? If I wasn’t a werewolf, or if we met somewhere like Cannon Ridge, far away from Beacon Hills. Would things be different?” asks Derek.
Stiles frowns, blinking rapidly. “I don’t understand.”
“If we did meet somewhere else, if we bumped into each other in the coffee shop that day and I hadn’t been a werewolf and you hadn’t been terrified of Erica, and I asked for your number, what do you think would have happened?”
“I think I wouldn’t have been able to wait to call you, to see you again.”
“Derek,” says Stiles, his grip going tight on Derek’s arm.
“We’d be the kind of couple that bickers about everything, where to eat, what movie to watch, whose turn it is to do the dishes, and your inability to put your socks in your hamper instead of playing basketball with them and leaving them where they drop.”
“We don’t bicker about that stuff.”
“No, we don’t,” laughs Derek, shaking his head. “We’re always on the same page. Even when you hated me, it felt like we were always meeting in the middle somewhere.”
“Except I don’t hate you anymore.”
“If only you didn’t then,” says Derek. “If only I had asked for your number and we could be that couple.”
Stiles opens his mouth, struggling with what to say. “Derek,” he says again, looking confused and torn.
“I know it’s not the right time, but I had to tell you,” says Derek. Stiles has to know that Derek likes him like this, likes as Derek Hale. Derek can only hope that Stiles likes him like this too, because if not, if Stiles can’t. Derek doesn’t know what’s going to happen if Stiles can only like him on the computer and not in real life.
“Derek, you know that I’m—“
“Yeah,” says Derek, nodding as he steps out of Stiles’ grip. “You don’t want to be late.”
“I don’t—Derek, I have to go.”
“I know. I hope that he’s what you want, what you’re expecting,” he says. “If only... if only it were me.”
Stiles breathes in harshly and then turns, running towards the jeep and jumping in. Derek stands there and watches him go, watches as the jeep leaves for Walter’s Park. He checks the time and figures that he might as well leave too if he’s going to risk it all.
Stiles doesn’t know where he’s supposed to meet Mowgli in Walter’s Park. It’s a small park, with a rose garden and a fountain that kids like to play in when the weather is unbearably hot. There’s a playground and a basketball court. Stiles wanders the trails, moving throughout the park and he wonders how he’s going to know that it’s Mowgli when he spots him.
God, Stiles doesn’t even know if he wants to be here anymore. But he has to know. That’s the point of all of this, he has to know who Mowgli is and he just… Stiles has to see.
Stiles wonders if it’s someone he knows, since Mowgli said Beacon City is close to where he lived. It feels like a sign, some kind of something, to know that Mowgli has been so close to him this whole time. It means that Stiles can see him anytime he wants. Anytime he wants to see Mowgli, he can. It’s almost blowing his mind.
Stiles finds a park bench to sit down on, no longer able to feel his legs he’s so nervous. His legs bounce as he chews on his thumbnail, glancing around. The park’s not as busy as he thought it was going to be for the late afternoon. There are couples holding hands, teenagers riding skateboards, and a couple kids running and screaming. There’s no one that fits the mental image that Stiles has given Mowgli.
The longer Stiles sits there, the more his mind starts to race and wander. Maybe he’s going to be stood up again, maybe Mowgli is some asshole playing tricks on him. Maybe it’s Theo and he’s somewhere cackling as Stiles waits for someone who will never show. And then there’s Derek, who Stiles thinks was trying to pour his heart out to him in some weirdly poetic and romantic way, and Stiles just left him, because he has to know who Mowgli is.
Derek who—is walking towards Stiles now.
Stiles blinks, frowning as Derek moves towards him with his hands in his pockets.
“Oh god,” he mutters, hoping and praying that Derek isn’t here to cause a scene; some kind of fight for his man thing or something equally horrific. But Stiles didn’t tell Derek where he was meeting Mowgli, he purposely didn’t tell him because he didn’t want a repeat of last time. And yet, here Derek is.
Derek looks down at him, the corner of his mouth curving slightly in a greeting. Stiles doesn’t know what that means.
Stiles doesn't know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know words, doesn’t know anything besides the fact that Derek is standing in front him looking better than any Disney prince could, and Stiles is waiting for someone else.
“You all right there,” Derek starts, taking a deep breath, “Luke?”
Stiles chokes on a breath, feeling like his chest is going to cave in. He throws a punch to Derek’s thigh because it’s been him all along. All along Stiles has been talking to Derek, and Stiles’ heart hasn’t been in two places but instead it’s been in one, with one person that’s finally merging together and Stiles can have this. He can have Derek and Mowgli and holy shit.
Stiles punches Derek once more before he’s jumping up, throwing himself on Derek. He kisses him because holy shit yes. He can hear some old woman saying something about indecency but Stiles doesn’t even care. Derek holds onto him like he’s afraid Stiles is going to go somewhere, both hands fisted in Stiles’ shirt as they kiss.
“Wait,” says Stiles, pulling away. “It’s you.”
“It’s me,” admits Derek, running his fingers through Stiles’ hair. “Yeah, it’s me.”
Stiles looks at him and feels as everything starts to click together; the move to California, the raised by wolves character name, everything. He starts to understand the looks Lydia had been giving him, like she’s known everything. It was because she did. Lydia was able to put the pieces together way before Stiles ever could.
Stiles shakes as he laughs, pulling Derek into a hug. He can feel Derek scenting him behind the ears, kissing at the corner of his jaw, and this is it. This is real. Stiles gets to keep both Derek and Mowgli and he never has to wonder what might have been because he gets this.
Stiles pulls away and looks at Derek, breathes in him before he leans forward and kisses him.
“Stiles, will you shut up,” hisses Derek, eyes flashing red in warning as he ducks beneath a tree branch.
“No,” Stiles hisses back at him, letting go of the branch he’s holding and watching as Derek has to duck to avoid being hit by it. Derek scowls at him and Stiles sticks out his tongue. “Dragons don’t have exceptional hearing, I looked it up.”
“We’re not looking for a dragon,” Derek repeats for the fiftieth time today.
“We’re looking for something large and with wings. How do you know it’s not a dragon?”
“Because dragons aren’t real,” says Derek. “Just because you’ve heard of it doesn’t make it real.”
Stiles snorts. “Like you know anything.”
“I know that you’re getting on my nerves.”
“Good, do you know that you’re getting on mine?”
“You smell like you’re enjoying this,” says Derek, smirking when Stiles turns around to glare at him.
Stiles has given up on asking Derek not to smell him. Derek always does, whether it’s first thing in the morning with his nose in Stiles’ hair, or when he sniffs Stiles out because he’s lost in the preserve because he didn’t want to wait for everyone else before he started his investigation, which isn’t what happened. Stiles wasn’t alone in the woods after shooting off a text to his pack because he thinks he found the dragon they’re looking for, no matter how many times everyone tells him that it’s not a dragon. He certainly wasn’t trying to get his phone to work so he could use a compass to figure out which way would lead him back to his jeep when Derek found him.
“Because I’m right.”
“You’re not right.”
“The only way I’m not right is if you put whatever is in these woods here.”
“Oh god,” groans Derek, rolling his eyes. “Don’t start that again.”
“I still think you had something to do with those witches, and you can argue as much as you want but I know that you know that you brought them here, just like you did this drag—“
Derek surges forward and kisses Stiles, gripping the base of his skull and working Stiles’ mouth open. Because Derek is smart and Derek has found the only way to shut Stiles up is to give him food or kiss him. Stiles prefers the kissing. Always the kissing.
“You done?” asks Derek, breathing the words out against Stiles’ lips.
“You done unleashing beasts into these woods?” He asks, making Derek laugh.
He doesn’t mean it. Stiles knows that Derek hates dealing with other supernatural beings more than anyone else in the two packs, but Stiles is a little shit and if being obnoxious means Derek will pin him to a tree and kiss him until he’s breathless and weak in the knees, then who cares? Right?