The Jeep stopped suddenly.
It wasn’t the usual slow, groaning decrease of speed that Stiles could verbally and lovingly coax back up to full speed, or that at least gave him enough warning to pull over to the side of the road.
The engine just cut. Right there, in the middle of the road.
Stiles dropped his head onto his steering wheel with a heartfelt groan.
His dad was going to kill him. He’d definitely commented that the jeep was making a weird sound. Stiles had noticed the sound, but also didn't want to ask for the money to pay for whatever was making the sound, so he’d just laughed it off. And now he was stranded.
He glanced on either side of him, already knowing he wouldn’t see anyone else he could flag down. He was on a back road that wasn’t really popular.
He picked up his phone. Hopefully, Scott wasn't with Allison or his new posse. Stiles wished for a moment that he was still the only person Scott was interested in hanging out with. But that was selfish, so he tried his best to squash it.
‘Here’s hoping,’ he thought as he tapped Scott's contact. The phone cut out mid ring. Ignored. He tried again. Ignored. He tried a third time. Ignored.
Stiles banged his head on the steering wheel. Clearly, if he was calling 3 times in a row, it was probably an emergency. Like why else would he be calling so consistently? Then again, Stiles had done this before when it wasn’t important. Sometimes he just really needed to tell someone what he’d learned after an Adderall fueled Wiki spiral. So he guessed Scott couldn't be blamed too much. After a few more minutes passed, he tried again.
‘Please pick up. Please pick up. Please pick up,’ Stiles prayed. His phone beeped and for a moment he thought Scott had ignored his call again. Then he realized his phone had died. Now he couldn’t call anyone. Great.
He definitely had no idea how to fix his car. It would probably make everything worse if he even tried. Town was pretty far and it would take him forever to walk back. Also, he wouldn’t put it past himself to somehow get lost. Hopefully, someone would drive by sooner or later.
An hour and a half later, Stiles’ hope was starting to wane. It was getting dark quickly and it was even more quickly getting cold. Stiles thought he might have to screw up his courage and try to find his way back to town.
Just as the thought crossed his mind, his ears picked up on the sound of an engine.
Thank fuck, too, because he definitely was not about walking at least a mile in the cold at night. Stiles got out of his car so whoever was coming wouldn't think he was just being an asshole and stopped in the middle of the road on purpose. He almost laughed when he caught sight of the approaching car. A black Camaro. Which meant Derek Hale was the one slowing down to pull up behind him. The town mechanic and also the scariest fucker around.
Oh, sweet irony.
He was exactly the person Stiles desperately needed and was also terrified of.
The Camaro braked and after a moment, out stepped Derek Hale, all tall, dark, and dangerous. And handsome. Because goddamn the man was fine. Had he forgotten to mention that? Because it was true. Those cheekbones. That stubble. Those muscles. That leather jacket. Those eyes. That ass. Derek was so... not the type of person you should be attracted to, Stiles shouted at himself. But he couldn't help but stare as Derek swaggered over to him. Did the man know no decent way to walk? Probably not, given how tight his jeans were. Though, Stiles could definitely appreciate what the denim did for his thighs. Holy god.
“Problem?” Derek demanded more than asked with a glare so fierce Stiles could physically feel it.
Which sent his rapidly moving brain skittering into thoughts of how easily someone of Derek's strength and stature could harm him. And they just happened to be alone on a dark road with the woods literally feet away. Stiles was really hoping he wouldn't get murdered and buried in the woods.
“My car broke down,” he said slowly. He needed to stay calm. Dogs could smell fear. Not that Derek was a dog, but he shouldn't let a predator know he was afraid was the point.
Derek was looking at the Jeep now. “Not surprising,” he said flatly. “That thing is a piece of junk.”
“Don't talk about my baby that way,” Stiles snapped, deeply affronted.
“I'll talk about your baby, if it's a piece of shit,” Derek replied.
“It was my mom's, you asshole.” Stiles was embarrassed by the way his voice cracked with emotion when Derek's head drew back slightly. He looked between Stiles and his Jeep with new understanding. Stiles almost wished he could take the words back, but fuck if he was going to let someone say some shit about his mom's Jeep. No one got to do that. Not even Derek Hale.
Derek didn't apologize, but he did offer more softly, “I'm a mechanic. Do you want me to take a look?”
Stiles hesitated, wondering whether he should continue being offended. But it wasn't worth it. Not when he could already tell Derek wouldn't give him a straight-up apology.
“Sure. Thanks,” he said. Derek nodded and headed to the front of his Jeep.
“Pop the hood,” he ordered. Stiles hurried to comply. “Does your phone have a flashlight?” Derek asked.
“Um. My phone's dead,” Stiles said. “Part of the reason I'm still here.”
Derek made a low sound that was distantly displeased, but bent down under the hood like not having the light he’d just asked for was no big deal. After surveying the engine and tinkering around with the oil, he sighed. “I can't fix this with just the tools I have in my car. We have to go back to my house for some specific things.”
“We?” Stiles squeaked.
Derek raised an eyebrow. “ You want to stay here in the dark?”
Stiles had a mental slip and fell into the scene from Beauty and the Beast where the Beast asked, “You want to stay here in the dungeon?”
Just like Belle, he said, “No.”
“Then get in the car,” Derek replied, closing the hood of Stiles's Jeep.
“Um. Are we just going to leave him here?” Stiles asked gesturing to the Jeep.
Derek gave him a look, and Stiles couldn't tell whether it was for asking the question or for calling his Jeep, ‘him.’
“Hardly anyone comes down this road, and anyone will see it in their headlights long before they hit it. And…” He paused, frowning. “ I don't think anyone would try to strip it or something.”
Which was him attempting to politely say no one with an ounce of sense would try to get useful parts out of his Jeep.
Stiles just nodded and walked to the passenger side of the Camaro. Part of him was screaming at the situation he was getting himself into. Stiles was getting into a car with a literal stranger whose very bad reputation preceded him. He was abandoning his Jeep with no other way to get away from Derek. He had no way to contact anyone or let someone know where he was since his phone was dead.
But only a small part was screaming warnings.
The bigger part of him was curious as fuck, because what did Derek Hale's house look like?
“Wow, I just realized I never introduced myself,” Stiles said, as Derek closed the driver's door. “I'm Stiles.”
“Derek Hale,” Derek replied flatly. He obviously already knew that Stiles knew exactly who he was.
“And you said you’re a mechanic, which means you work at Mo’s right?”
“I own Mo’s.”
“What? I thought…” Stiles started. But then he remembered that the original Mo’s cousin’s son had died under mysterious circumstances and Derek had bought the garage.
Derek’s eyes flicked from the road to Stiles for just a moment.
“Do you like it there?” Stiles asked.
Derek didn’t respond, but Stiles felt there was a questioning note to the silence.
“I just mean, is it interesting, I guess? I don’t know anything at all about cars. Clearly. Since I didn’t know how to fix my Jeep. But I feel like only people with experience and knowledge would have any idea how to fix my Jeep, right?”
“Honestly, I should just always be prepared for it to break down. It happens often enough,” Stiles said.
“Why…” Derek started. Then he shook his head slightly and fell silent again.
Stiles guessed he’d been about to ask why Stiles didn’t just get a new car, but remembered the Jeep was his mom’s which meant there was absolutely no way he would give it up.
Some people wondered why Derek had chosen to rebuild his own home instead of living somewhere else, but Stiles thought he could understand.
“Yeah,” Stiles said in response to the unasked question. “My dad worries a lot, but it gets me to and from school and to the grocery store so he allows it.”
After a moment of silence, which Stiles was using to silently freak out and also desperately try to come up with something new to talk about, Derek asked, “What grade are you in?”
Stiles barely kept himself from gaping at the man. Barely.
“Um. I’m a sophomore. It’s the worst because I have to take chemistry and my teacher, Harris, is a complete asshole. He loves to pick on me because I’m smart and I do well even though I don’t pay attention. Even though he knows I have ADHD and I literally can’t help the way my mind wanders sometimes,” Stiles said.
“Harris has always been like that,” Derek said.
“Dude, you had Harris?” Stiles exclaimed. He squinted at Derek. “How old are you anyway?”
Derek glanced over, but didn’t say anything. Stiles mentally shrugged. He could look it up in his father’s police records later.
“I’m 16,” he offered instead. “My birthday isn’t super soon though. I love birthdays. I love birthday cake, you know? It’s like the only dessert in the world that is made just for you. Same with the Happy Birthday song. It gets sung to a lot of people and it’s still always just for them.”
It was quiet for a few moments. Then, Derek said, “I like lemon bars.”
“Oh, lemon bars are your favorite, huh, Sourwolf?” Stiles teased.
“Sourwolf?” Derek asked sharply.
Stiles shrugged, ignoring the tone. “You found me in the woods and now you’re leading me back to your house. I’m even wearing a red hoodie.”
Derek actually turned his whole head to look at Stiles.
“Dude, eyes on the road!”
“There’s no one there,” Derek said, even as he faced front once more.
“Yeah, well, you can’t tell for sure if you’re not looking.”
Derek smirked like he was laughing at a private joke, but didn’t respond. He took a turn onto a dirt road and Stiles blinked in surprise because apparently he’d been closer to the Hale place than he realized. He knew it was in the woods, of course, but it never would have occurred to him to go there for help. It definitely would have been quicker to go to the Hale house than to try to make it to town on foot.
Derek parked and swung open his door.
“You can come in if you want,” he said. Stiles startled and realized his hand had been hovering over the door handle.
Derek Hale was actually inviting him into his house. He couldn’t believe it. How was this his life?
Slowly, he got out of the car, taking his first look at the reconstructed house. He couldn’t see it very well in the dark, but he could tell it was massive. Bigger than the original? Why would Derek do that? Then again, Stiles wasn’t one to talk about coping mechanisms.
“Stiles,” Derek said.
The teen blinked and stumbled out of his own head. Derek was already at the top of the steps, looking back at him.
“Sorry,” Stiles yelped. He ran toward the steps, tripping a little, but righting himself before he actually fell.
The inside of the house was better lit and gorgeous. He looked at the open foyer, the slowly winding staircase, the beautifully stained wood. Stiles walked into the living room, so caught up in his exploration he was oblivious to the way Derek was watching him. Stiles couldn’t really say whether the living room was as amazing as the foyer because his attention was completely captured by one thing.
The massive bookcase that took up all of one wall.
“Holy shit,” he breathed. He remembered Derek and whirled to see if he'd somehow offended the man by tramping through his house like he was a welcome visitor instead of one brought there by circumstance. But Derek was just smirking at him again.
“You can look,” he said, gesturing to the bookshelf.
Stiles dashed over without a second thought. He was vaguely aware of Derek still talking to him, but he was too occupied with reading titles and brushing his fingers reverently against spines to pay much attention. He was hard-pressed not to grab a book and curl up in that comfy looking armchair and forget the world for awhile. Stiles perused the books, pulling out a few at random to take a look at the summaries. He’d pulled out a book about the indigenous people of that area of California and cracked it open when he sensed something next to him.
He looked up directly into Derek's beautiful eyes. ‘Wow,’ he thought, immediately distracted by trying to name all the colors he could find.
“Wow?” Derek asked.
Stiles frowned, confused. Until he realized he must have said that out loud.
“Wow, this book is so interesting,” he blurted.
Derek glanced down to where he was still in the first page.
“The first sentence really grabs you,” Stiles said, shutting the book as he spoke so Derek wouldn't read what was a pretty average first sentence.
“Hn,” Derek said, eyes scanning the title. Stiles tried to stifle the feeling that Derek would find it again later. He definitely wouldn't care that much.
“You can borrow it,” he said.
Stiles blinked at him. “What? No, I couldn't do that. You're already helping me with my car. I can't steal your books too.”
“It's not stealing if I offer to let you borrow it,” Derek said. But he immediately turned and headed to the door.
Stiles scrambled to put the book back in hurry after him.
“Your house looks beautiful,” he offered when they were back in the car. “From what I saw.”
Derek nodded his acknowledgement.
“It’s very big,” Stiles said. He let a questioning note slip into his voice, but Derek just shrugged.
“My house is average, I guess,” Stiles said. “Nothing special. But it’s also where I grew up. It’s home, you know?”
He thought about having to go back to his house that night and wondered if what he said was really true. Was it a home anymore? His mom was dead. No more baking cookies or folding laundry or making forts. His dad was hardly ever home, too busy with work. Scott never came over, always spending every moment with Allison. Stiles spent a lot of time in an empty house all by himself.
“I used to hate that we lived so far from town,” Derek suddenly said into the silence. “But now I like it. The quiet is nice.”
Stiles blinked and then burst into laughter. He calmed himself when he realized Derek was scowling.
“Sorry,” he said contritely, “I just pictured you as a lumberjack for a second. Which you’re totally not. Though, with that beard, you could seriously pull it off.”
His mind lurched into a fantasy of what beard burn would feel like on the insides of his thighs. He had to physically shake his head to bring himself out of it, because what the fuck brain. Stop with the graphic and completely impossible imagery. Stiles noticed Derek watching him out of the corner of his eye.
Forcing a wide smile, he said, “So how long do you think it will take to fix my car?”
“To fix what’s wrong with it right now? Not long,” Derek said. “To fix what’s wrong with it in general? I’d need a bit more time.”
“Yeah, I really can’t afford to fix everything that’s wrong with it,” Stiles said. “Shit. Speaking of, how much will I owe you for this?” He was already mentally calculating how much time Derek had spent on this.
But Derek shook his head. “On the house.”
Stiles stared at him. “Look, I know what I just said, but…”
“I know what it’s like, Stiles,” Derek interrupted. “To want to hold on to the memories.” He paused, lips parting and pursing in turn for several moments. Finally, he said quietly, “This was Laura’s car.”
‘Fuck,’ Stiles thought. He was not prepared for this. He was not prepared to deal with the physical sexiness of Derek Hale paired with the automatic protectiveness he felt whenever he saw genuine grief. He wasn’t ready.
“After she died, I used to put the back seats down in the Jeep and sleep there,” Stiles said.
‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ he screamed at himself. Who the fuck admitted something like that to a perfect stranger?
“I used to drive to her favorite spot in the woods,” Derek said.
Stiles still slept in the Jeep on particularly bad days. He wondered how often Derek visited Laura’s favorite spot.
“Thanks,” he said quietly. He appreciated it now that he knew Derek wasn’t doing it out of pity. Derek only nodded, but Stiles didn’t need him to say anything to know he got it.
They pulled up behind his Jeep and Stiles realized that Derek had brought a light with him even though he hadn’t seemed to need it before. Then again, it was later than it had been. Even especially good night vision had its limits.
As Derek got to work, Stiles looked around them.
“Have you ever been really aware that the situation you’re in is a horror movie situation?” he asked, looking at the forest. He turned back to Derek, who was watching him now. “Like this is the part of the movie where the axe murderer or monster comes out of the woods to eat us.”
Derek smirked. “Don’t worry,” he said dryly, “I’d protect you.”
“Oh, yes, my savior, the Big Bad Wolf,” Stiles sighed, clasping his hands to his chest and making a pretty successful attempt at heart eyes.
“Are you still on that?” Derek asked, smirk gone. He returned to his work.
“If the poorly constructed fairy tale fits,” Stiles shrugged. Derek snorted. “I like the old fairy tales,” Stiles said.
“You mean the ones where everyone dies at the end?” Derek asked.
“Not everyone dies,” Stiles said, “There’s, like, some maiming and mangling, but not everyone dies. I think that’s an important distinction.”
Derek didn’t say anything.
“Oh my god, how are you making silence sarcastic?” Stiles asked, appalled. The other man still didn’t say anything, but Stiles thought the silence was amused now.
He continued chattering about fairy tales, starting to pace, gestures getting more wild as he went on.
“...and the consent issues. Holy hell, the consent issues. In Sleeping Beauty alone. I just…”
Stiles happened to glance over and see Derek leaning against the front of his Jeep, arms crossed, watching him. He stopped so suddenly he tripped a little.
“Oh my god, when did you finish?”
“About 10 minutes ago,” Derek shrugged.
Stiles gaped. “Why didn’t I hear you closing the hood?”
“You were deep into a rant about how unfair it was that the little mermaid got turned into foam just because the one she loved was a fickle asshat,” Derek said. Stiles caught the amusement even though it seemed like Derek was trying to hide it.
“Wow, I… can’t believe you actually listened to me,” Stiles said, stunned.
Derek’s lips twitched. “I’ve never heard such an in-depth analysis of Snow White.”
Stiles blushed and looked away. “Um. Thanks a lot,” he said, kicking at the ground. “I really appreciate your help.”
“You’re welcome,” Derek said gently. He gathered his tools. “I’ll wait in my car to make sure you can start okay,” he said. “Have a good night, Stiles.”
“Yeah, um, you too, Derek,” Stiles said. He forced himself to get in his car instead of standing there and watching while Derek walked away. Of course his car started perfectly. The clanking sound it usually made when he turned the key was nowhere to be found. Stiles wondered exactly how much work Derek had actually done because after spending time with the man, he was pretty sure Derek was exactly the type of person to throw in some extra work while Stiles was too distracted to protest. Maybe he should do something to thank the man. He knew Derek wouldn’t accept payment, would be insulted if Stiles offered money after his explanation of why it was on the house. But a small token of appreciation wouldn’t be amiss right?
Stiles waved a hand to let Derek know all was good. The Camaro’s headlights flickered in acknowledgement.
Stiles put Roscoe in drive and went home.
It was late, but his dad wasn’t there when he got in.
‘Home sweet alone,’ he thought as he walked up the stairs to his room.
Derek knew by the time he got home, the rest of the Pack would be there. They would definitely ask whose scent was in the house, and he wondered what he would tell them. Well, obviously, he would tell the truth. That he’d been on his way back and seen Stiles stopped literally in the middle of the road. He didn’t have the right tools to help, so he’d brought Stiles with him when he came to get what he needed. They’d gone back to his car. Derek fixed it. Stiles went on his way. That was it.
That wasn’t really it.
That should have been all there was to it, but Derek was intrigued by Stiles. By his big honey eyes and full mouth and constantly moving limbs. By the way his mind moved almost too fast for his scent to catch up. He’d said his phone being dead was the reason he had still been there, stranded. But he hadn’t asked to use Derek’s phone to let someone know of his situation. It seemed like it hadn’t even occurred to him that someone might be wondering why he was still out so late at night.
And there was that moment, when he’d been talking about his house being a home, where he smelled sad and… lonely.
Derek knew what loneliness smelled like. He’d smelled it on everyone in his Pack before he bit them. But he wasn’t prepared to bite anyone else at the moment. He already had three relatively new Betas.
And with Stiles, there wasn’t… It wasn’t that Derek thought he wouldn’t make a good wolf. He would probably make an amazing wolf. But while Derek knew that objectively, there wasn’t any instinct to bite him. Not the way there had been with his other Betas.
And even if he’d felt the instinct to bite, he might have hesitated. The kid was ridiculous. Who ranted about old-time fairy tales for 45 minutes? And yet, he’d been so passionate, excited about every story and every point he’d made.
There was… there was just something about him. Something that had made Derek stand and watch Stiles even after he’d finished working on the Jeep. Something that made Derek want to watch him even more. He’d actually been disappointed when Stiles had noticed he was finished.
Derek pulled up in the clearing in front of the house. As he’d predicted, the others were already there.
“Who was here?” Erica asked as soon as he walked in.
“The scent seems kind of familiar for some reason,” Isaac added quietly.
He was Derek’s youngest Beta, both in terms of actual age and when he’d received the bite. He was still getting comfortable with the rest of the Pack, and he was especially wary around Derek. The Alpha understood that, though, considering how he’d found Isaac in the first place.
“You probably recognize the scent from school,” Derek said. “Some kid broke down and I didn’t have the right tools to fix his Jeep so he we had to come back here.”
“Oh, Stiles,” Isaac said. “Yeah, that Jeep is so old, I’m kind of surprised his dad lets him drive it around.”
Derek shrugged. He knew Stiles got to keep the car because it was his mom’s. He just didn’t know whether Stiles would be comfortable with him sharing that. Not many people knew the Camaro had been Laura’s.
“This kid the only one that drives a Jeep?” Erica asked, surprised by Isaac’s quick recognition.
“The one who drives a Jeep most likely to break down,” Isaac said, “Like I said, it’s old.”
“Maybe you’ll get some good karma for helping a stranger in need,” Erica teased.
Derek rolled his eyes and walked over to stand next to Boyd at the stove. It was far more likely that any karma he generated would simply prevent something bad rather than grant something especially good.