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in this twilight (i can't see shit)

Chapter Text

 

 

Stiles hates the heat. He hates the heat with every fiber of his lanky, awkward self.

When he and his father leave Phoenix in the middle of June, the windows of the moving van they have rented rolled down and the A/C blasting the most delicious lukewarm air, Stiles gleefully sticks his hand out the window.

"See you again never!" he crows and flips the disappearing skyline off.

"Stiles, sit down," his father scolds, but he's smiling and he seems relaxed for what feels like the first time in a long line of years.

"Sure thing, daddy–o."

Stiles flops down onto his seat and futzes with the radio until he finds a song he likes.

"Mariah Carey, oh yeah."

His father groans.

"Remind me to get earplugs at the next rest stop."

Stiles looks at his father in mock affront and then mimics doing CPR on himself.

"Mariah is a national treasure, I'll have you know," he finally says, turning the volume up because he can. His father has a CD collection that includes Céline Dion and Beyoncé, Stiles isn't fooled for one second.

"Great," his dad murmurs, "they can put her where they keep the Declaration of Independence."

Stiles only laughs. He has good music, a mountain of snacks in the glove compartment and something along the lines of five hundred miles of highway ahead of him. Best roadtrip ever (it's also his first roadtrip, but really, who's counting).

By the second refrain of We Belong Together, his father is singing along enthusiastically.

 


 

Beacon Hills is, well, it's Beacon Hills.

Stiles has done excessive online research and the only slightly interesting thing he has found is a local legend about a guy being eaten by a cow (a lot of very disturbing research into cows followed., which resulted in Stiles not eating, or cooking, any beef for almost a month, much to his father's chagrin – never let it be said that Stiles Stilinski does anything by halves) and, more recently, a couple of deer going apeshit.

Smack between two National Forests Beacon Hills has a lot of green. Stiles almost starts hyperventilating when he sees the vast expense of forest stretching out in front of him. The only lush green anything you see in Phoenix is the lawn at Chase Field and that one doesn't count because the city uses thousands of liters of water to maintain it and sometimes they even use spray–green out of a bottle (any lawn's spray–tan of choice).

Stiles, virtually vibrating out of his seat because of the countless pounds of sugar he has consumed and because his Adderall is in a box somewhere between his underwear and his Xbox, presses his face against the window like a five–year–old at Sea World.

"There is so much green! Just look at all the green. It's like a Hulk–forest," he says and turns to his dad, who only hums noncommittally. "No seriously, dad, look at all this green. You get healthier just by looking!"

Stiles slumps down into his seat and pokes his father in the tight.

"Fascinating, Stiles, a tree. I think I lost all capability of awe about five miles back when you pointed out the first one," the Sheriff give back, deadpan, and pokes Stiles right back.

Stiles yelps, rubbing his side.

"And people wonder where I got my sarcasm from."

"Must have been from your mother, since I still have mine."

"Oh, har–de–har. Dad jokes. I thought we were better than this."

The sheriff takes a right turn and in the distance, hugging the treeline, Stiles can see Beacon Hills.

"We? As far as I know I am the only father in this car, Świętomierz Gregory Stilinski, unless there's something you haven't told me?"

Stiles slumps forward, his head hitting the glove compartment.

"Remind me why I love you," he mumbles against the plastic.

"Because I'll be the one paying your college tuition?"

"Ah, yes, that."

 


 

Their house (they have a house now!) is light blue, with an honest to God white picket fence, a garage (some very dedicated citizen already got his dad's cruiser here) and a big lawn that borders on "even more trees, oh my god, dad!".

Stiles has to sit in the van for a few minutes, quietly freaking out about the fact that they have a house and a garden. There's a spot near the fence that seems perfect for a rose bush for his mother; she would have loved it here.

His dad knocking on the window pulls him out of his thoughts.

"Come on, Stiles, the furniture doesn't carry itself."

"We're not nearly Disney enough for that," Stiles agrees and stumbles his way out of the car.

 


 

It takes them more than three hours, the light outside the windows already dusky, to carry all their things from the van into the house and the rooms everything is supposed to go in. Stiles almost breaks his neck twice, once because a potted plant suddenly jumped him ("I swear, dad, it's trying to kill me! – don't laugh, get it off of me!"), and once because he was busy staring at the swaying trees outside and tripped up the stairs, spilling the bed sheets in his arms on the landing ("You should just do gymnastics", his dad said and pulled him up).

They're pretty much literally knee–deep in mountains of clothing (who knew two jeans–and–flannel–shirts–loving men could amass this many clothes? Not Stiles, that's who), when his father's cell rings. They have a landline, now, though no one has the number yet. It's a cordless, silver thing that will live on the haphazard pile of Stiles' shoes until they buy a crate or a table or something.

"Stilinski," his father answers, and wades through socks and boxers to the door of what will, hopefully, be his bedroom at some point.

"Yes, but not until Monday." He shakes his head at whatever the person on the other end is saying. "I don't even have – Okay, but I really can't – Yeah. Gimme a second."

He turns to Stiles, pushing his hand through his graying hair in what Stiles knows to be his father's version of awkward shuffling.

"The station called. There was a giant pile–up on the interstate and my predecessor is already on his way to Aruba and his, well, my, deputy sheriff is at some new–age spa with her husband where they don't allow cell phones. They need someone to supervise the whole clean–up and –"

A balled–up pair of his own socks hits him in the side of the face.

"Dad, daddy, father dearest," Stiles says, sorting boxer shorts into two piles. "Go, do sheriff–y things. Be an adult. Better you than me."

Stiles makes a shooing motion at his father, who just rolls his eyes and smiles at his son gratefully and then carefully extricates himself from Stiles' favorite hoodie that has wound itself around his leg somehow.

"I'll put some money on the dinner table. Order pizza or something." He shrugs on his leather jacket, pats his jeans pocket to make sure he has his badge and phone. "And don't wait up for me."

He stops when Stiles grins at him.

"What?" he asks, looking down at himself. "What?"

"We don't have a dinner table."

The sheriff lifts an eyebrow.

"We had a dinner table in Phoenix. I distinctly remember us having a dinner table."

"We did," Stiles agrees, turning a pair of his boxers from side to side, trying to decide whether it has too many holes to keep. He shrugs and folds them. "But then that unfortunate chemistry experiment happened –"

"You mean when you tried to make one 'ginormous Skittle to rule all other Skittles' and burned a ginormous hole into the table instead?" the sheriff interrupts him.

"As I said, that unfortunate chemistry experiment happened and you said it wasn't worth taking here with us."

"Right." He fishes twenty Dollars out of this wallet and hands them over. "Don't spend it all on sweets, don't open the door to strangers, don't adopt any animals infected with rabies, don't try to boil any eggs."

"Once, dad, once!" Stiles splutters. "And I was seven!"

"You were old enough to know better!" his father calls, already halfway down the stairs. "Don't do it again! Love you!"

 


 

Stiles spends the rest of the evening and night folding and sorting through clothes until his hands and elbows smell like laundry detergent.

He takes a break around ten to look up a pizza place on his phone and order as much doughy goodness as he can get for twenty Dollars.

Then he eats most of the doughy goodness he got for twenty Dollars.

He falls asleep, completely dressed, on the floor, head pillowed on a couple of bunched up socks that might belong to him but might also belong to his dad or could possibly have belonged to a distant cousin of his dad's who stayed with them once and left his underwear and socks everywhere (two months after said cousin had left, Stiles had found a single sock in the freezer, behind a long gone-off packet of German sausages Stiles has no recollection of ever buying).

The sound of snoring coming from the next room wakes Stiles up briefly during the night, his dad's leather jacket now draped over him. It's still dark outside, so he smiles and cuddles deeper into the socks.

 


 

Stiles can honestly say that he has seriously underestimated what a huge hassle moving houses would be. He figured, somewhat naively he now knows, that simply cramming the essential furniture, kitchen utensils, a few plates and some cutlery, clothes and everything that can be labeled 'personal stuff' in a van, driving all of that across the country to a new house and unloading it all there would basically be it. He completely disregarded the fact that when you buy a house that house does not come stocked with toilet paper, soap, band-aids, or food.

He forgot about food.

The first morning in the new house finds Stiles standing in front of the cold but empty fridge, looking like someone just drove over the dog he never had.

He is still standing there when his dad comes out of the shower ten minutes later, wearing old sweats, his hair damp.

"Morning, son." He puts his hand on Stiles' shoulder to look around him and into the fridge. "Bit empty in there, hm?"

"Dad," Stiles whines, grabbing his father's hand, "we have no food."

"Ah, I knew we forgot something," the sheriff teases and goes to poke through a cardboard box marked kitchen stuff, DON'T touch, dad, seriously!. There's an ominous clanking noise and he pulls his hand out swiftly.

"Forgot – Dad! There is nothing to eat!"

"Stiles, there is a supermarket not five minutes from here. And I have a car and money. You're not going to starve, kiddo."

Stiles slumps against the still-open fridge.

"Five minutes is a lifetime without sugar and caffeine."

"You, my son, have imbibed so much sugar and coffee in your short life to last you all the way to retirement. But, because I love you," the sheriff says and maneuvers Stiles out of the kitchen, "I will take you out to breakfast now, and then we'll get groceries."

"No bacon!" Stiles declares, as the sheriff pushes him out the door. "Not for you. For me, definitely."

"You take all the fun out of eating," his dad grumbles.

 


 

Grocery shopping, Stiles has found, is much more enjoyable after you've eaten a stack of pancakes, bacon and a milkshake that, with all the whipped-cream on top of it, was almost larger than his face.

The fact that he has just ingested enough calories to last a sumo (or a half kindergarten group) for a week doesn't, of course, actually make Stiles buy less food, which is why there are vegetables stacked on top of boxes of Fruit Loops and Hot Pockets, next to tofu steaks and peanut butter and turkey bacon and everything else that Stiles considers indispensable in his kitchen and diet. His father is carrying an extra basket filled with smaller items like ersatz-toothbrushes and baking sheets, plastic wrap, soap, and, for some reason, and Stiles wasn't the one who bought it, a potato peeler and spark plugs. His dad may never complain about him being strange ever again.

The young woman at the checkout, pink pigtails swaying softly as she moves, barely spares their mountain of things a second glance and accepts his dad's credit card as if she sells a whole bunch of weird stuff to people everyday (who knows, Beacon Hills might be that kind of town, Stiles thinks and promptly has to laugh, because he sees a man in a leather jacket honest-to-God taking two shopping bags from a little old lady and, after offering her his elbow, helping her across the street).

They're back at home before they realize they forgot the toilet paper. It's not their brightest hour, but at least they bought two boxes of Kleenex. They pinky swear to never talk about it.

 


 

On the Saturday before he has to go back to school, Stiles has his head stuck under his desk, trying to work out a way to get five plugs to fit into a 4-outlet power strip, when his dad knocks on his door.

He doesn't, he's proud to say, bang his head on the underside of the desk. He does, however, get his foot tangled in the cables, stumble, and plant himself, face first, on the floor.

"Ouch," he mumbles, his face smushed into the carpet, which, for some reason, smells like beets and plastic. Maybe the people who lived here before had some weird pickled vegetables kink.

"Gymnastics, son," is his dad's only comment.

"Very funny."

"I thought so."

Just for a second, Stiles contemplates licking the carpet to see whether it tastes like beets, too, but then he shrugs to himself, does a halfhearted push-up, flops over onto his back and starfishes over the carpet instead. For some reason the ceiling has the almost exact color of the beet-carpet, which his a sickly kind of beige. Stiles wonders how difficult it would be to paint a ceiling without also painting the floor; it probably involves a lot of plastic sheets and voodoo magic or something.

"What'ya need, daddy dearest?" Stiles asks, "Or did you just want to gloat at the misfortune of your one and only son?"

"Yes," the sheriff says, but he reaches down to haul Stiles up. "I also wanted to take you down to the station, meet Sharon, my deputy, and a few of the officer, show you around?"

Stiles looks down at his clothes, checking that there are no embarrassing food stains anywhere (there was a very memorable and jarring incident in fourth grade when he sat on some ketchup during recess and didn't realize it until one of his classmates freaked out about him bleeding and then he had to go see a nurse and take of his pants – it's not something Stiles is keen on repeating in any kind of way).

"Sure," Stiles says.

He kicks the still unconnected cables under the desk and grabs his phone and hoodie from where he had thrown them on his brand-spaking-new full-sized bed (he will have to replace all his superhero sheets, but it'll totally be worth it; it's going to be so nice not to risk falling off the bed when jerking off – sadly, this has happened and Stiles never wants to see that mix of horror and unholy glee on his dad's face ever again).

Putting on his hoodie and walking down the stairs at the same time shouldn't be hard, but Stiles almost trips over his feet and is only saved from taking a dive down into the living room because his dad is right in front of him.

"Ouch," he says, for the second time in about two minutes (which has to be a new personal best), and rubs his nose, because his dad's shoulder blade is a lot harder than it looks, even through t-shirt and jacket.

The sheriff doesn't comment, only rubs his shoulder.

"You got your wallet? Your license?"

"Why, do I get to drive the Batmobile?"

Stiles has never driven the cruiser; he always wanted to, begged his dad when he first started learning how to drive, but the sheriff just borrowed the ancient, eggplant-colored (because Stiles refuses to use the word 'aubergine') car belonging to Maureen, master of chocolate cookies and receptionist at his dad's station back in Phoenix.

"The cruiser? Over my dead body," the sheriff declares.

He unlocks the cruiser and gets in, ignoring Stiles pointing his finger at him as he climbs into the car.

"Don't joke, dad, I know you're eating my Froot Loops. I can tell when there is less in the box!"

"Summer 2004, the ice-cream incident."

"What has this got to do – you – Dad!" Stiles splutters. "You promised to never speak of that again!"

"And you promised to pretend not to notice when I have something with sugar in it for breakfast," the sheriff says, signaling a left turn onto the main street.

"I never promised that!"

Stiles has done his own scouting of Beacon Hills the day before, but he still greedily takes in the stores he hadn't seen yet, like the comic book store, and the coffee shop right next to it.

"It was implied," his dad gives back and pulls him out of his musings about whether or not the store will have Iron Man sheets and the latest Ms. Marvel comic.

Stiles turns to his dad, hands flailing.

"When?"

"When I paid for Baseball camp, every computer you ever had and, oh, that huge teddy bear you wanted when you where eleven and then got scared of so we had to put it in the basement."

"One day you'll get tired of listing all the things you pay for. Just wait until you're in a retirement home," Stiles grumbles.

"I'll never retire," the sheriff announces.

 


 

A tall, dark-haired woman is leaving the station just as Stiles and his dad get there. She reminds Stiles of his mom; she has the same air of calm authority around her that Stiles always loved about his mother, this calm-in-a-storm, it's-all-going-to-be-fine feeling she always gave him (she had been a firefighter, his mom, until a wooden beam knocked her out during a call-out and she had to go to the hospital where they found the tumor in her head).

"Sheriff," the woman greets and shakes the hand Stiles' dad extends to her.

"Mrs. Hale." The sheriff nods his head. "What brings you down to the station?"

"We have checked all the fencing around the preserve and the deer seem to have come from our land. But we haven't found any indication of what drove them into a frenzy."

"No sign of foul play? Signs of kids, a party?"

"None, I'm sorry. If we find anything, we'll be sure to let you know."

"Of course. I – we appreciate it."

Stiles has to bite his cheek to keep himself from eye-rolling all over the place. His dad has never looked at any woman who wasn't his mom twice, but he has a type – tall, brunette, headstrong – and tends to turn into an awkward teenager around them (and Stiles should know, because he is an awkward teenager and, with his luck, won't ever be anything but – awkward, not a teenager; he really hopes he's going to outlive his teenage years).

"Oh, yes, my son, Stiles." The sheriff gestures between them, straightening his shirt with his free hand. "Stiles, this is Talia Hale. Her family owns the preserve and some of the adjoining land."

Stiles sticks out his own hand. "Nice to meet you."

"And you, as well." Mrs. Hale's hand feels very warm in Stiles' own one, her grip sure and strong. "I have a daughter your age, Cora. You might share some classes with her."

Stiles shrugs, not really knowing what to say. He still has almost the whole weekend to decidedly ignore the existence of school, and not think about school, let alone worry about it. Because he isn't. Worried, that is.

Well, he's not really worried.

"Maybe," he says, when he realizes that both his dad and Mrs. Hale are looking at him, waiting for a verbal answer.

Mrs. Hale smiles at him like he is a particularly adorable puppy.

"It's been nice to meet you, Stiles," she says and shakes their hands again.

They both watch her walk to her car, a black Volvo, drive out of the station parking lot and down the road toward the city center.

 


 

His dad's deputy sheriff, a woman named Joyce, is absolutely awesome and adopts Stiles right away. She also, much to his father's chagrin, agrees to keep an eye on his eating habits when Stiles is not around.

"This is a conspiracy," the sheriff complains, when Stiles lists all the things his dad is not supposed to eat and Joyce just hums in agreement and even jots down a few things.

The sheriff shows Stiles around the station, the evidence locker, the tiny station kitchen and then introduces him to the other deputies currently on duty. Stiles finds it a lot easier to keep up the small talk with the people at the station than he did with Mrs. Hale. He grew up around policemen and firefighters; men and women who are a little rough around the edges and make jokes that made him blush years later after they'd been told because his five-year-old self didn't understand them. But they always made him feel welcome, and the deputies in Beacon Hills are no different.

After ten minutes, he and his dad have three invitations to various dinners and barbecues, Stiles has promised to send two deputies his recipe for his bigos and has been promised a recipe for banana bread and a healthy cauliflower pizza in return.

The group only disperses when there is a call-out to a disturbance at the bowling center. The bowling center, because Beacon Hills only has the one. Stiles would be overjoyed at the fact that they even have one, but he played bowling once and almost broke both his and his mom's foot – and that was the end of his very short-lived professional bowling career.

"They're nice," Stiles says, bumping his dad's arm. He's glad that his dad is surrounded by good people, people he can trust to have his dad's back.

"They are," his father agrees. He pulls Stiles into a short hug. "Come one, I got something for you."

Stiles follows his dad to his office, file boxes still piled everywhere and the desk still mostly bare, where the sheriff takes something out of a drawer, turned away so Stiles can't see what it is.

"What's with the secrecy, dad?" he asks, "Don't want me to see your secret stash of Hershey's bars?"

There is a tiny flicker of guilt in his dad's eyes before he pushes the drawer closed again.

"Really, dad? Really?" Stiles throws up his hands.

The sheriff steps around the desk and puts his hands on Stiles' shoulders.

"I love you, son, I do, I'll eat your vegetable concoctions and your sugar-free waffles, but not even you will take my chocolate from me."

Stiles grumbles, but his father ignores him in favor of stepping around him and walking outside.

The sun has sunk behind the high building opposite the station and the sky is just starting to turn orange and pink.

"Close your eyes," the sheriff says, looking at Stiles expectantly, when they're in the parking lot.

"Is this some kind of trust exercise, dad? Is it because of the chocolate? I only do that because I love you –"

"Stiles, just … " He rubs a hand over his head. "Just close your eyes, please?"

When Stiles opens his eyes again, after stumbling across what feels like the whole parking lot and almost tripping over a discarded soda can despite his dad's hands securely on his shoulders, he's staring at a baby blue jeep.

A baby blue jeep that looks almost exactly like the one his mother had when she was in college.

"It's yours," his dad says, smiling, dangling a key on a Batman keychain in front of Stiles' face.

"Dad … that –" Stiles stutters. He runs a hand over the side of the jeep and blinks back tears. "Okay, you know what, keep your chocolate."

He throws his arms around his father and hugs him tight.

"I'll buy you chocolate," he promises.

Chapter Text

 

 

Just like the rest of the town, Beacon Hills High is – kind of quaint, in a holy–crap–where–is–the–rest–of–this–school sort of way. Everything here just seems smaller after Phoenix.

Stiles is early for once; not too early, though, since he doesn't want to have to wait in front of a classroom for twenty minutes like an overeager kid waiting for the candy store to open).

He parks his brand-new jeep (new to him, not speaking in terms of years it has existed) in a parking lot that isn't filled to bursting with expensive, hunking SUVs, and looks around without getting out of his car. There's a place for bikes, and a couple of wooden tables under some very scenic trees, but what is missing, like the SUVs, are the metal detectors, the rows and rows of school buses, the throngs of students falling over each other in their haste to get greet their friends and get to their classes.

The main building, BUILDING 1 it says right over the wide double doors, is just a two stories tall, red brick and white window frames structure with a wide, green lawn cut through by cement paths in front of it, and there are just three other, similar but smaller building that are labeled BUILDING 2, GYM/POOL, LIBRARY.

Stiles takes a deep breath. This isn't first grade, he knows. Somehow that knowledge doesn't make him feel any less jittery.

He knows he is not, in any way, any kind of socialite; he's sarcastic and impatient, his ADHD-addled brain going 150 mp/h and his extremities mostly have a mind of their own. He's never liked a lot of people and not a lot of people have liked him back. His mouth often runs away from him. He'd only had one friend in Phoenix; he'd made a Superman joke and Carly'd been the only one to laugh. They had bonded over their mutual adoration of things that go boom. Also, aliens.

But just because he didn't come here with the explicit goal of making friends doesn't mean that he doesn't want to make friends.

He gets out of the jeep, slings his backpack over his shoulder and mutters to himself, "I am one with the force and the force is with me."

 


 

Luckily he doesn't have to stumble around like a new-born Bambi while looking for the office; there is a nice sign pointing him in the right direction.

The elderly woman in a fluffy beige cardigan working there greets him by name, which freaks Stiles out for about a second before she explains that they don't have many new students changing schools in the middle of the semester and that she was the one to handle his paperwork and saw his picture on there, and she's very good with faces and she never forgets students faces and she has been working here for almost thirty years.

It goes on like this for about five minutes until Stiles is able to politely extricate himself with the papers that she gave him.

He grabs his schedule, which seems pretty straight forward, and stuffs the slips he has to have the teachers sign into his backpack. The office door makes a tiny squeaking sound, as he pushes it open with his shoulder and steps out into the hallway.

"Hey, loser." Someone jumps Stiles from behind and it takes all his willpower to not scream and drop.

"What the –?" Stiles flails and just barely keeps from hitting his attacker in the face, who turns out to be a brunette with dark eyes and a leather jacket and she reminds him of someone, but he can't quite figure out who (she's also much too hot in an eat-you-alive kind of way to be talking to Stiles).

"Can I – do I know you?" he asks and looks around. Maybe this is some weird, small town initiation ritual. He just hopes it doesn't involve any nakedness (Stiles and sports do not go together, so he's scrawny and pale, and while there's nothing wrong with that he's also not a fan of parading his white ass around a school where, from what he has seen so far, a majority of students are suspiciously good-looking).

"Not yet," the girls says, "but you're Stiles, right? The sheriff's kid?"

"I – yes, Stiles is me. I mean, I'm Stiles." He adjusts the strap of his backpack, picking nervously at where one of the seams is coming undone. "Who are you?"

"I'm Cora," she says, "Cora Hale."

Her handshake has Stiles flex his slightly aching fingers; Cora doesn't look like a bodybuilder but her grip says otherwise.

"Oh!" Stiles points at her as it finally clicks, "Your mom is Talia Hale? You guys live out on the preserve?"

"That would be us," Cora agrees with a wolfish grin that has Stiles think that the preserve isn't a place where he really wants to be after dark.

"So, newbie," she throws an arm around his shoulders, "what do you have first period?"

Stiles shows her his schedule.

"Ooh, lucky you, Biology. Me too."

"Yay, lucky me."

From the way Cora drags him down the hallway like he's Christopher Robin's Pooh Bear, he doesn't think she caught on to his sarcasm.

 


 

Cora spends their shared first period Biology alternately texting and letting Stiles do their worksheet on identifying the different phases of mitosis in onion root cells.

"See you at lunch, Bambi!" she calls, almost as soon as the bell rings, then she waves, already halfway out the door.

Stiles devotes most of second period Trigonometry to doodling into his notebook. The problems the teacher writes onto the board are similar enough to ones he has already worked on back in Phoenix that he can solve them easily enough and since it's only practice questions he doesn't bother showing his work.

History passes him by in a similar manner; the teacher barely spares him a first, let alone a second, glance, even when he signs his attendance slip. Fortunately he also lets Stiles sit down without making him do the 'Hi, I'm the new kid, my name is Stiles and I like sugar and turtles'-routine.

Only the chemistry teacher, Mr. Harris, makes him stand at the front of the lab and stammer his way through an introduction. And then he smirks when Stiles almost falls flat on his face tripping over a bag on his way to the back of the class.

Because Stiles can be a petty asshole and doesn't like people laughing at him, he answers all of Harris' questions as elaborately and extensively as he can. He goes on an almost five minute long tangent explaining why and how glow sticks work and delights in the face Harris pulls when he uses the word diphenyl oxalate. By then, Harris looks ready to eat his chalk and marker pen.

A couple of people stop him in the halls between classes and introduce themselves. Stiles loves small towns; they're scary, but he loves them, because no one even tries to pronounce his real name. Everybody calls him Stiles, and 'man' and 'bro', as if they hang out together every night. Stiles tries to get around the weird half-hugs that are supposed to be kind of manly and always end up with him having someone else's shoulder stuck uncomfortably in his own chest; he also manages to politely wiggle out of invitations to join the school paper and the chess club and the photography club and walks away remembering absolutely no one's names.

 


 

The cafeteria is a lot smaller than the one he'd known in Phoenix, but somehow the noise level is still way up there. Before Stiles can set more than a foot into the room, though, a hand clamps onto his arm and drags him away – Cora, of course.

"Do you need to get some lunch?" she asks, without slowing down or letting go of him.

"No, I got –"

"Great, you're sitting with us."

Stiles doesn't have time to wonder who us is, because the next moment he is unceremoniously pushed onto a chair and four heads turn to stare at him; this, then, must be 'us'.

Cora flops down beside him, fishes a sandwich stacked high with cold cuts out of a paper bag, takes a ginormous bite, and then starts to nod at people.

"This is Scott, and Allison, and Isaac."

Scott looks a little younger than Stiles himself and he dubs him puppy, because he's all floppy curls and honest eyes. Allison seems deceptively sweet, but for some reason Stiles just knows she could kick his ass three ways into next week. Isaac has the face and locks of a cherub and a scarf wound around his neck despite the Californian temperature outside.

All of them, Cora included, look like runway models, and what's with that anyway?

"Erica and Boyd are making out somewhere, and Lydia and Jackson are too cool," Cora takes her hands off her sandwich long enough to do air quotes, "to join us. Guys, this is Stiles."

"Stiles? Why Stiles?" Scott asks, and is promptly poked in the side by Allison if his flinch is anything to go by.

"Because my parents didn't think I looked like a Cinderella," Stiles gives back.

Scott looks like a very confused puppy for a moment before he starts grinning from ear to ear.

"Nah, you're more of a Snow White."

Stiles scoffs and rubs a hand over his buzzcut.

"Please, I'm clearly Rapunzel."

Scott's grin widens.

"Dude," he says excitedly, "you like Disney?"

"Do I like Disney? Is Pluto forever going to be a planet in my heart? Were the Powerpuff Girls an integral part of my childhood? Is pizza superior to all other foods?" Stiles declares, popping one of the mozzarella Cheez-Its he brought for lunch into his mouth. "I just always wanted to marry Mulan. And Shang. Yes, I like Disney."

Cora looks up from where she is still tearing into her sandwich like it's a particularly juicy gazelle.

"You're bi?" she asks.

"Yes?"

Stiles has made it his personal policy no to lie about things like these when asked directly because he has found that it is the surest way to figure out which people's ass he needs to kick (he doesn't think he could kick Cora's ass, but if she gives him shit, he's certainly going to give it his best, scrawny shot).

Cora holds up her hand, a tiny smear of mustard on her middle finger.

"Um, okay?"

She wiggles both her hand and her eyebrows.

"Uh, oh!" Stiles lifts his own hand, high-fiving Cora with a shit-eating grin on his face. "Bi-five! Nice!"

"Only this once, Bambi."

Stiles mock-pouts. "I'm adorable."

Cora's face says 'Oh, sweetie, please' as clearly as if she had actually said it. Stiles has no idea how she manages to both sound like a mid-forties mother of three and a barely sixteen-year-old member of a biker gang at the same time. He decides that he is too attached to his limbs (both literally and figuratively) to ask.

"Yes, your cute is giving me cavities. Save my teeth and go back to nergasming with Scott, I beg you."

"Aw, Cora Hale, you like me."

"Keep telling yourself that," Cora counters and goes back to her gazelle stand-in of a sandwich.

Like a puppy waiting for his human to give him the OK, Scott leans over the table toward Stiles (Allison only just saves Isaac's hummus from Scott's elbow; "Scott," she warns, but it comes out sounding smitten) as soon as Cora's attention is back on her lunch; if he was physically able to, he would be wagging his tail.

"We need to have a Disney movie night. No, we need to have the Disney movie night. I have all of the movies on Blu-Ray."

"When you say all the movies, Scotty, what are we talking? The really old ones, too? Or Pixar? What about Pirates of the Caribbean?" Stiles asks, nibbling around the edges of a Cheez-It.

"A box set with 154 movies? Like all the princess movies and Toy Story and Bolt, but not the live-action ones. And not the pirate ones."

Cora pops the last piece of her sandwich into her mouth, licking her lips, and then steals Isaac's hummus. She sticks her pinky in and points the same finger at Scott.

"Tell him why not the pirate ones."

Scott grimaces, his cheeks pinking a little. "Because Johnny Depp talks funny and scares me."

Isaac hides a grin behind the carrot stick he's munching on. "And?"

"And I watched the movies when I was younger and had nightmares for weeks."

"When you were how old?" Isaac needles.

"Thirteen is younger," Scott mumbles.

Allison is biting her lip, rubbing up and down Scott's arm. Just like the puppy Stiles is by now convinced that he is, he basically melts into her side.

"We'll make a man out of you one day, Scott," Cora declares.

"Disney-five!" Stiles exclaims and lifts his hand.

"Nope."

Cora licks the hummus container clean.

"Come one! I'm not allowed to take my hand down otherwise."

Allison finally has pity on him. Stiles decides to have her canonized, should he ever become the pope.

By the end of lunch, and he can't for the life of him explain how it happened, Stiles has a new best friend, two quasi-friends, and Cora (he's not sure what Cora is to him and he's too scared of her to ask her to her face).

He has also planned a movie night (well, three, really, because they have a lot of movies to go through and you really can't just watch one Disney movie) with Scott, a Mario Kart tournament with Scott, Isaac and the as-of-yet mysterious Boyd, and has tentatively agreed to think about coming for pizza at Cora's house, which, from what he has gathered, doubles as headquarters for all of his new, probably supermodels, acquaintances (he just can't get over the fact that all of these teenagers are so attractive they almost look photoshopped).

 


 

"So, my friend," Stiles says, as he and Scott are walking to English, "give it to me straight: Are you and Allison dating?"

"What – how? No, we – No!"

Scott actually stops in the middle of the hall and looks around squirrelly as if he expects someone to jump out at him from one of the lockers and yell boo. Stiles grabs Scott's sleeve and pulls him along; he is kind of grateful to have found someone who is seemingly even more awkward then he is.

"Please, there was a lot of lovey-dovey touching and you've been making some serious googly eyes at each other for the last twenty minutes."

"I – you – Stiles, you can't – we don't –"

"Don't break anything, buddy. Deep breaths. Sound it out."

"No one can know," Scott grounds out.

"Sorry to tell you, but you're not exactly subtle, Scotty."

Scott gets his sleeve out of Stiles' hand in order to walk over to the wall and bang his head against the bricks. None of the students still in the hall spare him more than a passing glance, and Stiles wonders how often a day people have to stop Scott from giving himself brain damage.

"Yeah, I know. But we're trying," he mumbles, his nose half smushed against a poster for the upcoming theater club production.

"Why do you two even do this whole Romeo and Juliet routine? She got a big brother? Really big sister?" Stiles asks and turns Scott around gently, patting his shoulder while he's at it.

"Her parents hate me."

"Why? Did you kill their dog?"

"No! I've never killed a dog in my life! I work at a shelter."

"Cat, then?" Stiles asks, really just to see Scott make puppy face #5 (pout, slightly misty eyes, expression that says 'Why don't you love me?').

Scott slumps even further into the wall.

"It's super complicated, dude," he says, scrunching up his face in a way that Stiles refuses to think of as adorable.

"Well," Stiles tries and pulls Scott along toward the English classroom, "you don't have to tell me, but I have to say that I am an amazing listener, like, professional grade really, and my lips will be sealed about this forever." He mimes zipping his mouth. "They'll never get anything out of me! Also, I'm really, according to my dad bordering on obsessionally, curious, so I'll probably end up doing the Tell me, tell me, tell me routine until you tell me, Scotty, just fyi."

They skate into English just barely before their teacher and make their way to the back of the class, after Stiles has collected another signed slip and a reading list. They flop down low in their seats and spend the five minutes taking out notebooks and pens.

Five minutes after the start of the lesson, while the teacher is drowning on about coming-of-age novels, Stiles leans over to Scott and whispers, "Tell me, tell me, tell me. As your new best friend I should know what you're involved in, just in case I ever need to defend you honor or be your second in a duel. Tell me, tell me, tell me."

Scott shushes Stiles very effectively by stuffing a balled-up sheet of paper into his mouth. When the teacher looks at them, Stiles coughs up a storm, his hands in front of his face. As soon as the teacher turns back to her notes, he scrapes the paper off his tongue.

"The Hales and Allison's family have been in Beacon Hills for ages and ages and somewhere along the way someone made a pie and someone else died of a heart attack, I think, and boom, family feud."

Stiles frowns and waggles his finger like a disapproving old lady. "That sounds disgustingly small-town. And, because you're not a Hale, also as if you're fudging your details and lying by omission. Are you lying to me, Scotty?"

Puppy face #5 makes a comeback with a vengeance and Stiles decides to let the puppy off the hook for now and pretend to care about I Capture the Castle even though he has already read (and written an essay on) it.

 


 

His last period of the day is Econ and Coach Finstock, Stiles thinks, might actually be crazy. Not just slightly looney, a few sandwiches missing from his picnic basket, but completely and utterly insane. Stiles is glad Scott is there in the seat next to him, making appropriate retching noises when the Coach starts talking about breeding horses in order to explain productivity and accompanies his example by drawing a crude but sadly no less creepy stick figure diagram on the blackboard.

"Bilinski, you do any sports back in Alaska?" Finstock asks, when Stiles and Scott are almost through the door, smelling sweet, sweet freedom.

"I'm from Arizona," Stiles gives back, throwing Scott a look. Scott just gives him puppy look #3 and shrugs.

"It's all the US of A. Sports, you do?"

"No, Coach, absolutely not."

"Great, lacrosse training Tuesdays and Fridays after school. McCall, make sure he's there or you'll be running suicides until the apocalypse."

Finstock grabs a random pile of papers and books from his desk, stuffs them into a beat-up gym bag and leaves without a goodbye.

Stiles turns to Scott.

"Is he for real?"

"Finstock?" Scott asks and follows Stiles out of the classroom.

"He seems kinda –" Stiles makes a circular motion with his hands. "You know?"

"You mean –" Scott makes the same motion just backwards.

"Yeah, like, three fries short of a happy meal? Not all there?"

"He's always been like that. My mom went to school here with him and she said he once wore the same pair of sweatpants for a whole year to, like, raise awareness for child labor in Indonesia or something?"

"I'm … not sure if that's kinda cool or just disturbing."

"That's pretty much Finstock, I think."

 


 

There is no giant commotion at the parking lot as Stiles would have expected; no honking and cursing because someone can't reverse properly and someone else doesn't know how to use an indicator. Instead there is an orderly line of old Toyotas (why Toyotas, he wonders) and Stiles wants to point and coo.

He's in love with this pretty small town.

"Bambi!"

They turn to see Cora standing next to a black Camaro at the other end of the parking lot.

"See you tomorrow! Don't get eaten by wolves!"

Cora salutes them and gets into the car that speeds away immediately.

"Dude, if she didn't scare me so much, I'd be in love."

Scott is too busy coughing to answer.

The jeep is exactly where Stiles left him, a perfect daydream in blue.

"This is me," he says and pats the hood.

"Nice ride, man."

"Thanks, dude." Stiles preens. "You want a lift?"

"Um, I got my bike?"

Scott blinks at Stiles with big eyes; Stiles doubts he'll ever develop an immunity to that look.

"Pretty sure we can fit it in the back."

"Okay, absolutely. Thanks, dude."

"No problemo, mi amigo. Betty needs her exercise."

Scott doesn't ask for clarification, just nods, and that's when Stiles knows their friendship is one for the ages.

Chapter Text

Their first two weeks pass quickly, as Stiles and his dad fall into a comfortable routine.

In the morning, Stiles rolls out of bed (after flipping his phone over a half dozen times to get it to switch to snooze), then stumbles downstairs to turn on the coffee machine. He drinks his first cup of life-giving, caffeinated goodness standing barefoot in the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. When he's done, the smell of coffee has woken his dad, so Stiles makes a second cup for himself and one for his father, pours himself some cereal into a bowl (or, if he forgot to do the dishes and none of the exactly two bowls they have are clean, into a soup plate or freezer-friendly Tupperware container) and carries the cups and the cereal and a carton of milk, the milk under his arm, the bowl balanced on his arm, to the dinner table.

After a shower and a short quest for a clean t-shirt, Stiles leaves for school and his dad for work (unless the sheriff's working the late shift or sleeping in because he just worked the late shift, in which case only Stiles leaves and closes the door extra quietly).

On Tuesdays and Fridays, Stiles has lacrosse after school. It goes – better than expected, which is to say Stiles hasn't broken anything or accidentally maimed anyone even after his fifth training session and is actually starting to enjoy himself, even if he knows that his chances of making first string are slim. Apparently the student body of Beacon Hills High is not only exceptionally pretty, but has superior motor function, too. Even Scott, who often looks like a harsh gust of wind could blow him over and make him cry, is super fast, can dodge around people like nobody's business, and can aim with an accuracy that could make Clint Barton cry.
Lacrosse, however, also means Jackson, who Stiles finally had the singular pleasure of meeting. They don't hate hate each other, but they're not likely to go shopping for prom dresses together, either.

When he's home again, Stiles does his homework and cooks. He has done extensive online research and printed out about a hundred pages worth of recipes from The Ultimate Guide to Low–Cholesterol Cooking. His father has looked at them in a way that suggests he will definitely try to burn them first chance he gets, or accidentally drop them in the shredder they have at the station, but Stiles has them as .pdf files on his computer as well, so take that, dad.
If his dad's not at work, they eat together (if he eats alone, Stiles puts an extra plate in the fridge), and sometimes the sheriff tells Stiles about the cases he's working on.

 


 

The weekends are Stiles favorite time, hands down, because Saturday means animal pancakes. His dad once managed to cook spaghetti noodles for an hour until all the water had evaporated and the noodles were still too hard to eat, but he is a magician with the pancake batter. Stiles has been watching him shape dogs, and fish, and, on birthdays or special occasions, dragons on their griddle since he was three, and he still loves to gleefully drown his pancake animals in maple and blueberry syrup while allowing his dad only a spoonful of syrup for his ("Dad, I have to make use of my youthful metabolism while I have it!").

The weekends also give Stiles ample time to ("Yes, Dad, I'll do the laundry tomorrow, I – seriously, how do we have so many clothes? Is there someone living in our basement?") go hiking (or whatever counts for hiking when it comes to Stiles: stumbling through the brush trying not to break something – but that he does with relish, because trees!), laze around the comic book store, and wander through all of the five big stores in the town center.

The thing is, the more Stiles explores the town, the deeper he falls in love with Beacon Hills.

Sure, there are spots where his phone service cuts out, the gas station (one of the two) where the employees don't look like they'll eventually end up on Dateline is almost at the other end of town, and there's a fast food place much too close to the station (he has caught his dad smelling like grease more than once already and knows he is cheating on his vegetables with fast food despite Joyce keeping an eye on him).

But the old woman from across the street baked them cookies to welcome them into the neighborhood, the dude at the garden center offered to come by to advice (for free!) Stiles on what to best plant in their back garden, and Scott works at the vet and sometimes takes Stiles to cuddle all the fluffy orphan animal babies.

From where Stiles is standing, Beacon Hills is pretty amazing.

 


 

After this Saturday's pancakes, Stiles does the dishes, grabs his phone, wallet, and housekeeping money for the next week and calls, almost out the door already, "Bye, dad, I'm off into the big city! Try not to miss me too much! And don't forget it's your turn vacuum!"

"I hate vacuuming!" he hears, just before the door falls shut behind him.

First stop of the day is getting baby all fueled up. Since Stiles mostly drives to and from school, he doesn't even have to get gas every week, but he is still glad that his dad subsidizes his allowance with some extra gas money (otherwise Stiles might have to eventually kick that Twizzlers habit he's got going). Stiles looks around idly while he waits for Betty's tank to fill up. It's still kind of early, both for Stiles and for Saturdays, only just half past nine, and the gas station isn't busy yet. The guy manning the register seems half asleep when he takes Stiles' card and taps something into his cash register. An older man is staring at the meager donut selection (they only have powdered and frosted ones) like it's the most important decision he will ever make. Stiles pockets his receipt and card. As he walks back outside, a Camaro drives up. It looks like the Camaro of Cora's mystery chauffeur.

It is the Camaro, the Camaro.

Stiles knows because he memorized the license plate, and the driver isn't really mysterious or a chauffeur because, and Stiles asked, according to Scott, the car belongs to Cora's brother Derek. So far, Stiles has only caught glimpses of not-mysterious Derek; a leather-clad shoulder here, a pair of dark sunglasses there.
Which means he is completely unprepared for the hotness that is Derek Hale. The leather jacket is there, the sunglasses, too, hanging from the neck of his gray Henley that leaves everything to the imagination but still nicely frames an even nicer chest. Tight dark jeans wrap around thighs that would look ridiculous on Stiles but look great on Derek and Stiles knows he is objectifying the fuck out of Cora's brother but – holy stubble, Batman!

And Stiles is done. Done, deaded, and gone to heaven.

He must make some kind of sound, a very manly eep, or maybe, just maybe, a tiny moan. It should be too low to hear, but Derek's head swivels around, his eyes zeroing in on Stiles, who winces and, for an honest second, contemplates just diving for cover behind his jeep, before he realizes that Derek has already seen him and – oh fuck – is staring at him. Or Stiles is staring at Derek? Either way, staring is still happening and Stiles feels his face heat.

There is a slight gust of wind and Derek's eyebrows furrow. He takes a small step forward and it's that movement that finally unfreezes Stiles. He fumbles the keys a couple of times trying to start the jeep, because he wants to look, just one more time. It's stupid, but he was too far away to see what color Derek's eyes are and, for some reason, it suddenly seems incredibly important to know.

When Stiles finally manages to start the jeep and drive away, he keeps his hands firmly at ten and two and doesn't, not even a little bit, look into the rear-view mirror to see if Derek's still watching him.

 


 

His hands shake for a good five minutes, even gripping the steering wheel as hard as he is. It's not a panic attack, he knows, he's intimately acquainted with those.

There's a current, just under his skin, that feels like adrenaline, or too much Adderall and Red Bull.

He finally puts it down to simply being embarrassed at having been caught staring like Jim Carrey stared at Cameron Diaz in The Mask, open-mouthed and with only slightly less tongue-lolling.

"Not the first guy you ever stared at and he won't be the last," he repeats to himself.

Because he still feels a little like a lamb that only just escaped a lion (Stiles has found that anxiety and panic do one of two things to his brain: either they turn it into a Shakespeare production, or they completely erase any brain-to-mouth filter he might have. And he never knows which of the two it is going to be), he takes a right turn into the town center instead of driving straight to the grocery store.

Stopping at the comic book store and then The Cup (his favorite of the four coffee shops Beacon Hills has to offer) is hopefully going to take his mind of all things hot and stubbly.

 


 

He ambles along the rows and rows of comic books and graphic novels and occasional action figure, skimming some of the new releases but mostly just enjoying the quiet and the sense of calm in the store. He leaves with a last fond pat to the head of a life-sized Spider-Man figure crouched next to the entrance.

The Cup is right across the street in a what used to be, or so one of the baristas told him, a butcher shop, an esoteric shop, a pet store, a lingerie store, and, most notably, a shop selling only clogs. It has some of the hipster chic that seems to be required these days, but Stiles likes the bare, unpainted brick walls, adorned only with a couple of hanging plants, the square tables and squishy chairs that don't match, the bare light bulbs; he's been to a lot of similar coffee shops in Phoenix, but The Cup feels homey to him, honest rather than pretentious.
What sold him the most, though, is the fact that every employee he has encountered at The Cup has managed to spell his name correctly on the first try (the home-made pastries and muffins made by the owner's grandpa who is eighty but doesn't joke about backed goods and also kicks some serious ass – Stiles has been introduced and Lewis is amazing – certainly helped, too).

Stiles scans over the handwritten board behind the cash register, trying to figure out whether he feels like trying something called 'The Elephant' (turns out it's a concoction consisting of almond milk, four shots of espresso, four shots of caramel syrup, two pumps of peppermint syrup, and, optional, whipped cream, and Stiles does not want to try something called 'The Elephant'; he wants to live to see eighteen, thank you very much).

He finally decides on a basic large black coffee and a fresh peach spice muffin with streusel on top. He makes small talk with the barista, Mike, about lacrosse and the latest Transformers movie, while Mike pours the coffee into a paper cup, carefully places the muffin, which is almost as big as Stiles fist, and that's what Stiles calls a second breakfast, into a bag and rings up his purchase. His sixty-five cents of change go into a tip jar that looks like a cow and moos when Stiles drops the coins in.

"Dude, this is epic!"

"Thanks. My grammy recently discovered the joys of online shopping, so now it's all novelty socks and things she gets recommended on Amazon."

"Ooh, that's dangerous. I got my babcia a laptop and for the three months she used it I got one email a day reminding me to take a jacket if I leave the house and wash behind my ears. If grandparents ever collectively decide to conquer the internet, we're all doomed."

Mike grins, nodding at Stiles before he turns to the harried-looking mother with a baby strapped to her chest who came in just behind Stiles.

Stiles is just doctoring his coffee with two packets of sugar and a healthy splash of cream that his father will never know about, when the bells above the door chimes.

It's a human instinct that makes him look, Stiles is sure, and not some freaky sixth sense.

He is not surprised, however (and maybe he does have some kind of sixth sense?), to find himself looking at Derek again.

It feels almost like it did at the gas station, like the air between them is stretching like taffy, thinner and thinner, like it should snap, any second now, but it doesn't. Stiles wants to look behind himself, see if there is something there that deserves this kind of singular, focused attention. For some reason, he is scared, though, that if he closes his eyes for too long, Derek will be gone. The air between them still holds, vibrating, and then contracts.

This time Stiles takes a half-step forward, eyes locked onto Derek's (he still can't make out the color of his eyes and why is it so important?). Derek doesn't move, not toward Stiles, not away, but Stiles abrupt movement makes coffee slosh over the side of his still lid-less cup onto his hand.

"Oh Bob Saget!" (It's nice to know his brain automatically switches into no-curse setting around babies.)

He shakes his hand out of reflex, but only manages to make the hot liquid run down the thin skin on the inside of his wrist.

"Shoot."

Stiles grabs a couple of napkins, dabbing at his already reddening hand. After three napkins, he's mostly coffee-free.

When he looks up again, Derek is gone; the bell didn't chime.

 


 

Stiles is torn between being seriously pissed and seriously freaked out (and his hand is still throbbing; he is not amused). Is he discovering some latent stalker tendencies in himself? Was his blood sugar so low he hallucinated his own personal, hot and scruffy Flynn Rider? Is he being stalked?

Or is he maybe, just maybe, seeing things where no things are actually to be seen? Maybe Derek just happened to be at the gas station and now he wanted some coffee because a body like that can't run on protein shakes alone.

When Stiles was thirteen, his dad left him home alone the first time without Shelley from next door there, too. Like a complete newbie at being home alone, Stiles watched a whole CSI marathon, after which he was so scared he hid behind the couch for an hour until he finally felt brave enough to crawl across the floor to get the phone and call his dad.

Now, he just can't tell if he is overreacting and seeing things where there is nothing to see. He isn't even sure which option he prefers: coincidence or design.

 


 

Stiles gets to the grocery store without crashing Betty, despite the fact that he keeps looking around, wondering (or maybe hoping, he's still not sure) if Derek is going to pop up somewhere again.

The parking lot is pretty full already, a variety of older, hand-me-down students' cars and middle-class family cars strewn across the lot like Legos.

Betty gets a nice big spot next to a smallish Toyota (and seriously what is it with this town? Everywhere Stiles goes, there is either a. Derek or b. a Toyota. The universe will likely implode if Derek ever drives a Toyota).

Stiles checks that he has his wallet, his keys, his shopping list, and, most importantly, a dollar for the shopping cart, before he pats Betty a last time and throws himself into the insanity that is shopping on any Saturday of any month.

Getting the essentials is always the easy and quick part of any shopping trip Stiles takes. In about ten minutes, despite the parents and crying children (sometime the parents are crying and the children are pulling various condiments into the shopping cart?), he's got bread, eggs, yogurt, milk, orange juice and random things like Q-tips and shampoo that they always seem to run out of.

It's the little things that stretch Stiles' shopping tours to an hour and a half.

He likes to mosey along the cheese aisle and try to pronounce all the funny names with a French accent. He takes ages to decide what kind of cookies to get (because it's the only kind of dessert his dad gets on weekdays). He seriously contemplates whether he might need a Frozen notebook and matching pens for a couple of minutes. He tries to find spices he hasn't yet cooked with.

"Froot Loops, Froot Loops, Froot Loops," Stiles hums under his breath, skipping down the cereal aisle. He keeps getting cereal for last, so that he won't have the chance to go back and change his mind five times.

Like every time, he's set on grabbing his box of cereal without looking at the other brightly, colored boxes like an excitable five-year-old, but the Froot Loops are higher up and all the others are just there, right at eye level.
Five minutes later, he is still standing in front of the cereal, Froot Loops tucked safely under his arm, playing eeny, meeny, miny, moe to decide whether he also wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Lucky Charms. He actually really wants to get both, but what kind of son would he be to dangle that much sugary deliciousness in front of his dad without letting him have any?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe decides Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Stiles finally decides Lucky Charms. He feels that, all mixed up in a bowl, they'll look better with the Froot Loops (he likes to color-coordinate his food sometimes; never his clothes, though).

He jams the Lucky Charms under his other arm, turns, and walks into a literal wall of a person. His face, for a second, lands on someone's leather-clad shoulder and his elbow hits abs that feel as if they have just giving him an enormous bruise.

Stiles moves back so fast he almost stumbles into the shelf behind him.

"Ups, shit, sorry."

He looks up and finds himself looking at Derek Hale – again.

For a very short moment, during which a bunch of different scenarios fly through his head – throwing down the cereal and storming out, hitting Derek with the cereal, crying, siting down and crying, kissing Derek (and where did that come from?) – Stiles stares. Then the moment passes and he's still tempted to fall right back into what is apparently their thing and stare some more, but he feels like he has used up all of his daily allotment of awe during the first two encounters he and Derek had that day.

"Okay, right, no, this is getting ridiculous," he finally declares. "Are you following me?" He's nothing if not direct.

"Excuse me?" Derek's eyebrows do some kind of angry-hurt-confused thing that reminds Stiles of Scott's puppy face.

"Are you following me, dude?"

Derek seems thrown for a second, then he crosses his arms.

"I could ask you the same thing," he says, looking a little smug.

"Me? Following you? You were giving me the evil eye of death at the gas station. And The Cup!" Stiles gestures with his two boxes of cereal to emphasize his point.

"The evil eye of death?"

"Yeah, that thing that Italian grandmas – don't deflect." Stiles steps closer and only his full arms keep him from poking Derek in his perfect chest (that and the fear that he might break a finger). "I see what you're doing!"

They're standing close together, close enough that the Froot Loops are digging into Derek's arm and Stiles could, if he were paying attention to anything but Derek's mouth, count the other man's eyelashes.

They are standing so close together that Stiles can see Derek sniffing the air surreptitiously, his nostrils flaring the tiniest bit.

"And the – what's with the intense smelling now, Creepy McCreeperson? I'll have you know, I have excellent personal hygiene!"

Derek pulls his shoulders up and there's the tiniest shadow of a blush on his cheekbones, just visible under his dark stubble.

"Dude, are you blushing? Are you shy?" Stiles nudges his (poor, bruised) elbow softly against Derek's. He feels like he just saw a tiny kitten fall over. "You can't be shy and a stalker, that's like being a vegan butcher or something. Does not compute."

"I'm not a stalker."

There is a definite blush on Derek's face now, spreading over his nose and the freckles there.

"So you weren't following me? Because that makes for some really weird coincidences. Once is an accident, thrice is a hobby."

Derek opens his mouth, then closes it, then finally says, resigned, "Can I just have some Snackimals, please?"

"The what now?" Stiles asks, his brain honestly stumped, everything coming to a screeching halt, because what?

Derek's shoulders hunch up some more and Stiles would definitely feel bad for making a grown man all embarrassed if it wasn't so damn adorable.

"Snackimals. The cereal? It's – " He points past Stiles. "You're in the way."

"Oh. Oh! Sorry, dude." He moves over a step. "Wouldn't want to get between a man and his cereal, that's, like, sacrilege or something."

"Sacrilege," Derek repeats and gathers four boxes, two with a panda and two with a monkey on it, to his chest. "You are so weird. And don't call me dude," he adds, almost as an afterthought.

"I give you the first, but I won't make any promises as to the second."

The Snackimals boxes look tiny in Derek's hands, which sends Stiles' brain on a whole 'nother tangent.

"Okay. It was nice talking to you?" Derek half states, half asks. It's an effect Stiles is used to having on people.

"Same, du – Derek. See, I can be good." He winks (or he hopes he does; raising just one eyebrow and winking are two things he never really figured out how to do).

"I'm leaving," Derek says, already backing up. "Bye."

"Bye, Derek!" Stiles shouts after him, "It was nice not being stalked by you! And running into you! Literally!"

 


 

He is loading his groceries into the back of the jeep when he realizes that he still doesn't know Derek's eye-color despite looking right at his face for a whole, actual conversation.

"Motherfucker!" he curses and then has to spend almost ten minutes apologizing to a mother for cursing in front of her four-year-old (so much for built-in no-curse settings; he should really get a refund on his brain).

 


 

Stiles is almost embarrassed to admit that he goes back to the store on Monday after school and buys some Snackimals himself. One box of every one of the three flavors. When his dad asks about them, he says he's just trying to be a bit healthier. The sheriff eyes the red vine hanging from Stiles' mouth and hums disbelievingly.

"They're organic and, like, naturally cholesterol free, dad! And low on sodium! I'd let you have some, if you wanted." (Which is how his dad his finally gets to eat something other than low-fat yogurt and fruit, and the occasional stale donut from the station, for breakfast.)

But seeing the Snackimals in the cupboard every morning is doing absolutely nothing to get Derek out of his head. At school (where he spends Monday and Tuesday in fear that Cora might somehow know about him and Derek, not that there is a Stiles and Derek. But she greets him with her usual punch to the shoulder and a "Hello, loser."), every leather jacket or slight trace of stubble makes his heart beat faster. He keeps rubbing over the small bruise on his elbow absentmindedly.

He feels thirteen, and ridiculous, crushing on a boy for the first time.

 


 

His Derek-induced absentmindedness makes him even more of a liability during lacrosse training than usual.
On Tuesday, he almost breaks Scott's nose with a too enthusiastic swing of his stick; only Scott's top-notch reflexes (he really has to ask him what special juice his momma buys that makes him that good at lacrosse) save him from having to get a nose job. He gets tackled by Jackson even more because he is too preoccupied to hear him coming at him like a train on two legs.
On Friday, even though he is sitting on the bench because coach won't let him on the field after the last abysmal practice, he still gets hit in the head by a stray ball Danny, Jackson's best friend who is much too nice to be best friends with Jackson of all people, doesn't quite catch. His helmet, of course, is lying next to him and even though the ball glanced off Danny's stick and doesn't hit him hard enough to give him a concussion, it still fucking hurts.

Spending the last fifteen minutes of practice rubbing the aching side of his head seems like a perfectly shitty end to a perfectly kind of shitty week, and Stiles feels perfectly justified in skipping the showers; the most athletic thing he did that day was trip over a water bottle someone had dropped at the side of the field.

He throws his jeans on over his gym shorts, his hoodie over his red lacrosse jersey, and stuffs his feet into his sneakers, after throwing his sports shoes into his gym bag along with his gear. He's on his way out of the locker room by the time the team has trickled in. Scott and Isaac look at him with twin what's-wrong-mommy puppy eyes, but Stiles just flops his hand in their direction in a keep-going-gents-nothing-to-see-here gesture and hightails it out of there.

Juggling his gym bag and his backpack while trying not to trip on his untied shoelaces (and wouldn't that be ironic), he pushes outside and walks toward the parking lot.

"Hi, Bambi. Bye, Bambi!"

Cora sashays past him, a leather-jacketed flash so fast he can barely see her. He follows her trajectory across the parking lot, although he knows exactly what he'll find at the end of her path: a black car, a dude who can go from eyebrows of death to adorable cereal buyer in two seconds flat, and coming-of-age-film levels of teenage heartbreak just waiting to happen.

And still, he looks; he can't help it, he looks. And Derek is watching him, his face as inscrutable as it was at the gas station, as if he was just waiting for Stiles to find him. Their eyes meet for only a second before Stiles forces himself to look away. It's enough, though, he already wants to look again.

The strap of his gym bag is starting to slip, so he pulls it up. He trudges across the parking lot, eyes on the ground and his trailing shoelaces, hands digging around his hoodie pockets for his keys.

Later, when his dad asks him what happened, it will be easy to recall what happened, how it happened. But in the moment it happens, Stiles only catches disjointed fragments of sounds and pictures.

One second he is leaning on a car, trying to stop his shoelaces from tangling together, the next second he hears a young voice shout "Benji!" and when he looks up a car is swerving left around the small dog that suddenly appears between two parking cars and then right again to avoid crashing into the side of a silver Porsche.

Unfortunately this means it is coming straight at Stiles.

Stiles is one of those people who always scream at the TV when a character does something stupid, like split from a group in a horror movie, or run away in a straight line instead of zigzagging, or gape stupidly at something potentially life-threatening coming right at them.

While his brain is still running, shouting out various possible courses of action – Jump left! Jump right! Jump up! Drop and roll! – his body is frozen, deer-in-the-headlights, no-muscle-moving rooted to the spot.

And the only thing he can really think is, "Well, this is a shit way to go."

Something hits him in the side moves him out of the way of the car that skids past him and comes to a jerky stop two feet away from his outstretched legs.

"Are you okay?" Stiles hears, and turns toward the voice.

Derek is kneeling in front of him, one arm slung carefully around his shoulders, the other almost on his knee. Someone is screaming in the background, but it's strangely muted.

"Hazel," Stiles says softly and wonders why he's not freaking out about almost being crushed by a car.

"What?" Derek's eyebrows draw up, confused and worried. The arm around Stiles' shoulder tightens a little.

"Your eyes, they're hazel," Stiles explains.

"Did you hit your head?"

"I – no?" He's fairly sure that it's true.

Derek gently tilts Stiles' head and sniffs. "I don't smell any blood."

"Where did you even come from?" Stiles finally remembers to ask, weakly pushing against Derek's chest. He's not hurt, at least he doesn't think so, but his head feels woozy.

"Just stay here, don't move, someone's already called an ambulance," Derek tells him. He is up and gone again the next moment, disappearing into the same thin air he came from.

"Why do you always smell me? How do you know?" Stiles asks even though there's no one there to hear it anymore. "And did you really just superhero-rescue me?"

A bunch of students run around the side of the car (a Toyota van, of course), before Stiles can pick himself up. Over the top of the crowd of students around him, he can already see an ambulance coming his way.

Chapter Text

When the EMTs get there, Stiles is almost convinced that he imagined Derek being there. He cranes his neck, but can't see either the Camaro or Derek or Cora and the movement also sends a sharp spike of pain down his spine which makes him flinches. The EMTs notice, put a neck brace on him and quickly load him into the ambulance, despite Stiles' repeated affirmation that he is fine and really doesn't need to go to the hospital (the kid, a pale-faced sophomore, who almost got Stiles with his car seems rattled but fine, and apologizes to Stiles profusely and at length, until the EMTs close the ambulance doors in his face). The look they both throw him clearly says they think he's full of shit and that they hear protestations like that all the time and aren't easily bullshitted.

At least they tell him that the dog is fine and already being cuddled by the little girl he belongs to, before carting him off to the hospital.

 


 

They won't let him walk into the ER on his own at the hospital; they insist on him sitting on the gurney, which makes him feel a little like he's a toddler in a stroller (Stiles counts it as a win that they don't strap him down).

Melissa McCall, Scott's super-awesome mom, meets them at the ER entrance, a small, kind smile on her face.

"Hey, kiddo. Heard you had a bit of a scare?" she asks, taking a clipboard from one of the EMTs.

"Hey, Scott's mom." Stiles lifts his hand in a weak wave. "I'm fine."

"I thought you hit your head," she says, frowning. "What happened to your hand?"

She reaches for the hand that's still half raised and the moment her gloved fingers touch his, pain shoots down his arm (which in turn makes him wince which makes his neck hurt – it's a whole circle of pain).

"Ow," he grumbles.

Mrs. McCall gives the clipboard back, briefly speaks with the EMTs and another nurse (Stiles' brain interprets most of what they say as medical, medical, medical) and then helps Stiles off the gurney and, one steadying hand on his elbow, helps him walk over to and up on a free bed.

"I'll get that cleaned and wrapped up while we wait for the CT scan, all right?"

"I'm fine," he repeats. "I didn't even really hit my head."

"Are you sure you could tell?" she jokes and pats his knee. "We'll check just to make sure."

She gets something Stiles vaguely recognizes as disinfectant out of a small cabinet next to the bed and puts a sterile bandages and some tape onto a tray. She takes his hand again and starts cleaning the abrasions on his palm that he hadn't even realized were there (he blames Derek simply because he isn't here to defend himself).

The ER is oddly quiet. A small boy is sitting on his father's lap, holding his arm, while a nurse asks them questions before ushering them behind a curtain. Just before Mrs. McCall finishes with his hand, an ambulance arrives and an unconscious older woman is wheeled in among a bustle of the EMTs and nurses.

"All done," Mrs. McCall announces just a few moments later. "Good as new. Change the bandages when they get wet or dirty. You can leave them off once everything has scabbed over. And don't pick at the scabs."

"I would never," Stiles vows, and sketches a sloppy boyscout salute.

Mrs. McCall only rolls her eyes.

"Of course not."

She has just finished cleaning up and throwing everything used and bloody in the trash, when a voice comes from the direction of the hallway. "Melissa? CT is free. Tak is waiting for you."

"Thanks, Ray," she says and turns to Stiles. "Lets get your brain scanned."

 


 

Thankfully it doesn't take all that long to have his brain X-rayed for damage and when he is wheeled (he has been upgraded from a gurney to a wheelchair) out of the CT scan room, his dad is there, waiting.

"Hi, Dad," Stiles says cheerfully.

The sheriff bends down to gently hug Stiles and then takes over Stiles-pushing duty from momma McCall, who greets his dad with a small nod and directs them to a room where they can wait for the doctor, before saying goodbye and leaving in the other direction.

"Jesus, kiddo, you're gonna be the death of me."

"I didn't do anything! This one was one hundred percent not my fault. This Stiles is faultless," Stiles protests, carefully gesturing with his bandaged hand (he has already accidentally knocked it against a door and the wheelchair once, and it might just be a couple of small cuts but it hurts).

"Yeah, I know. But the last thing any parent wants is to get a call from the hospital saying their kid has just been admitted."

"Aw, you love me." Stiles pats at his dad's hand blindly. "I know."

"I know you know."

 


 

Stiles is sitting on a hospital bed ("Dad, my butts falling asleep! I can't lose my butt to poorly cushioned hospital wheelchairs."), legs dangling over the side, and trying his best to ignore his dad's impression of a mother hen (now here's the thing: Stiles loves his father and, every now and then when he's sick or not feeling well, he enjoys being coddled, but he doesn't like it when his dad frets, and he especially doesn't like it when that happens in a hospital because nothing good has ever happened to them in a hospital; even Stiles' birth happened at home), when the door to his room opens and a doctor walks in. He looks like Pierce Brosnan's fraternal twin brother.

"Doctor."

"Sheriff."

The two men shake hands.

"Mr. Stilinski, I'm Doctor Hale, but Andrew is fine," the doctor, who is apparently Cora and Derek's father (and holy hell, Stiles didn't know perfect stubble was hereditary, but it seems that it is) introduces himself, holding out a hand, which Stiles shakes with his unbandaged left one. "I've had a look at your scans and it's all in perfect working order. No sign of concussion or hemorrhage. Still, I'd suggest you take it easy for a couple of days, no strenuous activity, no sports. And if you feel any nausea or dizziness at all, you'll need to come back."

"Sure thing, doc. So I can go?"

"There's some paperwork to fill out, but after that you're good to go."

Stiles' face must be all kinds of pathetic, because his dad sighs, a, to Stiles, well-known mix of fondness and exasperation, gently rubs his hand over Stiles' buzzcut, and says, "I'll get the paperwork done. Why don't you wait for me in the waiting room and I'll get you if there's anything you need to sign?"

"Yes please."

"Well, then, sheriff, if you would follow me. Stiles, it's been very nice to meet you."

The grin he sends Stiles' way almost makes him feel woozy. Damn super model DNA.

 


 

Because Stiles is Stiles, and because that means he was born with ADHD and the inability to sit still anywhere less than five minutes on a good day (unless he fell asleep sitting down somewhere, which has happened), he doesn't stay in the waiting room for long. There are only a couple of well-thumbed, old magazines on a table and a lonely, almost empty vending, and neither can hold his attention for long.

He loiters along the corridor that seems weirdly quiet for a hospital. His shoes, if he drags them a little, make tiny, mouse-like squeaking noises on the linoleum floor. Stiles walks a couple of steps backwards and then some sideways, trying to figure out how to make the least sound. When he can only hear his own breathing, he creeps along the corridor, as quietly as possible, humming the Mission: Impossible theme song in his head.

There are voices coming from around a corner ahead, two deep, male ones. They are hushed but appear to be in a heated discussion.

"– just reacted. I didn't even think about it."

"I know how important this is for you Derek, it's important to us, too, and I know it's hard. But you need to be careful. And I'm sorry that you have to be."

"I know, dad."

"Oh, brother. Only you, Derekins, only you."

It takes hearing that ridiculous nickname to figure out that one of the voices belongs to Derek. Stiles frowns. As always when it comes to Derek and him occupying the same space, he wonders if this incident is accident or design.

In his musing, Stiles has missed part of the conversation going on between the Hales.

"– and go from there," Doctor Hale is saying.

Stiles inches further along the wall; he just wants to take a little peek.

"Stiles!" His dad's voice sounds down the hall and Stiles flinches back from the corner he had just peered around. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, praying to whichever deity's currently on duty that the Hales haven't seen him spying on them.

He speed-walks toward his dad, pasting a sheepish expression on his face to cover up his embarrassment.

"Sorry," he says, once he's reached his father's side.

"I thought you were bad when you were a toddler, but you actually get worse the older you get. I take my eyes off you for one second ..."

"At least now I come when you call and don't hide behind mannequins anymore."

"There is that." His dad throws an arm around his shoulders. "Also, you're getting back into the wheelchair until we're at the car."

"Argh, come on, no, dad."

"Oh yes, son."

(Stiles gets wheeled out to the curb in a wheelchair and forgets all about the pieces of a conversation he overheard.)

 


 

His dad refuses to go back to work, despite Stiles assuring him, vocally and frequently, that he is "fine, dad, and not even a little bit maimed".

"Son, first of all, I only got the one son, you know, and second, just before I left there was a call to a disturbance on Greenhill and that means old Bob got drunk and is trying to serve burgers in his underwear again. And, quite frankly, I can do without that today." And that's that.

The sheriff parks Stiles on the couch and disappears upstairs. After ten minutes, he comes back down, dressed in sweatpants and an old UCLA sweater, carrying three pillows and four blankets from both their beds.

"You know I don't have the flu, right?" Stiles asks, as his dad stacks the pillows behind his back and drapes the blankets around his legs.

"Hush, son, let me smother you in love this once."

Stiles admits defeat and snuggles down into the quilt his mother made for him when he was five (it's a bunch of his old baby clothes stitched together); he has to admit, his dad knows how to make one damn comfortable pillow nest.

They are a movie and a half deep into a Mission: Impossible marathon, before his dad asks what exactly happened. It's a lot longer than Stiles thought he would last, even though he was sort of hoping he might just forget to ask at all.

"Um, well, I mean there was no car and there was no dog and then there was a dog and a car? And then I kind of almost got run over by that car because whoever was driving didn't want to hit the dog?" The sheriff's face crumbles a little, so Stiles hurries to add, "But I didn't get run over! Because Derek totally saved me and I'm still in one piece, completely intact!"

His dad runs his hand down his face and pauses the movie. It stops on a blurred shot of a horse racing track.

"Derek?" the sheriff asks.

"Derek Hale? He pushed me out of the way? It was very Clarke Kent."

"Why didn't you mention this earlier?"

"I forgot? I mean, did I mention that I was almost hit by a car?" His dad raises an eyebrow. "And what's that look for? The dog wasn't hit either. Everyone's in one piece."

"I've met Derek at the station," his dad explains. "His sister, Laura, is one of my deputies. He brings her lunch sometimes." Stiles wants to aww at that, because it is just adds to the adorableness that is Derek Hale (which really isn't fair at all; hot and cute is going to be the death of Stiles. Not a motorized vehicle, no, hot and cute). "He always seems kind of … grumpy in a Son, would you like to talk? kind of way."

Stiles schools his face into what hopefully passes for polite interest and not the wish to know everything, tell me everything!

"Maybe he's just kinda shy … ish?" he suggests, drawing a vague shape with his bandaged hand."I mean, I know he's got the whole wearing-dark-clothes-and-a-leather-jacket thing going and those grumpy eyebrows, but I've met Cora, and she seems pretty … assertive."

"Assertive, that's one way of putting it." His dad smiles at him. "But yes, from what I can tell, Laura's much the same. Makes her a good cop, but I guess it might make being a little brother somewhat – let's go with taxing."

"See? Also, I'm frankly appalled, father, that you think just because someone seems like a sourpuss that they wouldn't save me from being crushed by a Toyota!"

The guilty expression on his father's face is enough to mollify Stiles and he leans back, another argument won, another tidbit about Derek Hale gathered.

The afternoon and evening pass in a comfortable haze of explosions, on-foot chases, overly dramatic stunts, and junk food ("You could have gotten seriously injured, Stiles." "Exactly, dad, I could have gotten seriously injured! You've got no reason to eat all this junk food and clog your arteries!").

Around six, Scott calls, sounding all kinds of worried and puppy-sad.

"Mom just told me you were in the hospital! She said you almost got hit by a car! What happened?"

"I almost got hit by a car, Scotty." There's an aborted, pained sigh at the other end of the line and Stiles grins. "I'm fine, buddy. All limbs still attached. I only scratched my hand a bit and your mom patched that up. All good. Doc – whose Cora's dad, by the way, and honestly, if the rest of that family is just half as attractive as the Hales I've met so far, they could be the next Kardashians."

"Who are the Kashardians?"

"Oh sweet summer child," Stiles purrs. "Too god for this world, too pure."

Silence, then, tentatively, "Are you sure that you didn't hit your head? Can you put your dad on the phone?"

"You are going to be one hell of a dad one day, Scotty-doo. And I'm fine, I swear on my vintage Pokémon cards. I'm not supposed to play lacrosse for a bit, but otherwise I'm a-okay." To calm Scott down further, he adds, "Wanna come by tomorrow? We can play Mario Kart, I can kick your ass, and you can make sure I didn't scramble my brains."

Scott agrees, even though he still doesn't seem completely convinced of Stiles' sane state of mind (when he comes over on Saturday, he brings a printed 'Concussion Signs and Symptoms Checklist' and scratches out different things throughout the afternoon. It's a little aggravating and a lot cute and Stiles feels very cared for, even though Scott insists on calling him at various times on Sunday "just to make sure, Stiles. Mom said you can't always tell right away with concussions.").

 


 

School on Monday makes Stiles feel like he just stepped into a Mirror Universe. People he doesn't think he's ever seen greet him in the hallway, slapping him on the back, asking how he is, leaving before he can think of an answer. The teachers (except Mr. Harris, of course, because he'd probably make Stiles come to school even he had actually been hit by a car) all assure him, in soft voices and with reassuring pats to the shoulder, that he is free to go to the nurse should he feel unwell at any point. He nods a lot and tries not to laugh in anyone's face.

"So, Bambi," Cora says, slumping into the seat next to him, "heard you had a run-in with a car on Friday?"

Stiles looks from Cora to their teacher, who is giving them the stink-eye despite the fact that the bell hasn't even rung yet, and then down at his notebook, pretending to re-read last week's notes.

"It was more of a drive-by kind of thing, you know, thanks to your brother. Who, by the way, is really freaking fast, I mean honestly, one second he's all over the way by his car and the next he is superheroing me out of the way. He must do some serious cardio workout."

When Stiles looks at Cora again she has a hand pressed to her mouth, tears in the corners of her eyes, and her shoulders are shaking.

"What?" Stiles dares to poke her in the arm. He's never seen her laugh quite like this. "What?"

"Just -" she stops, wiping away the moisture from her, "Yeah, Derek is fast, oh he is so fast, you should see him go after a rab – I mean cookies. He's got a real sweet tooth, my brother."

"Did you break something?" Stiles asks, because he is very sure that he just missed, like, an entire conversation.

Cora ignores his question in favor of poking him back (it hurts a lot more when she does it).

"You're my favorite, Bambi. This is going to be amazing.

"You are aware that I have no idea what you are talking about, right?"

"Oh, yeah, wouldn't be half as funny otherwise."

"You are a crazy woman."

The bell rings and Cora laughs again. Stiles rubs his neck and wonders if they would scan his head again at the hospital if he told them about the conversation (if it deserves that description) he had or if they would just send him straight to a mental hospital.

Biology passes without any more cryptic remarks from Cora for which Stiles is extremely grateful.

Just as they are about to split up outside the classroom, Cora pulls at his backpack and says, "Ah, by the way, Bambi, you and your dad are officially invited to the Hale Friday night dinner feast. Seven, no excuses, no getting out of."

The way she seems to disappear between the students milling around makes Stiles think she might be even faster than Derek. Must be something in the water out at the preserve.

 


 

He's been thinking, on and off, about how to thank Derek, because in a sudden 'Oh shit' moment, he remembered that he hadn't done so after he had saved him from being crushed by the mean Toyota (since then, the kid the car belonged to has cornered Stiles no less than six times, apologizing over and over, as if Stiles believed for a second that he was trying to hit him on purpose).
Finally, after much debating and googling, and one final look into his mom's old recipe book, he decides on good old cookies as a thank you. Stiles firmly believes that you can't go wrong with cookies, especially not his mom's peanut butter oatmeal cookies (special ingredient: M&Ms, because Stiles had a phase as a kid when he would only eat colorful things and animal crackers).

Most of the ingredients that he needs for baking, he's got at home. He only needs to get some more flour and peanut butter (and Twizzlers, while he's at the store. And some Mountain Dew to tide him over the afternoon), so he skips Lacrosse on Friday to go shopping. He's got a doctor's note and everything and on Tuesday coach seemed scared that Stiles would manage to injure himself again (or more than he already had), so Stiles just assumes that he isn't going to care (much) if Stiles skips this once.

Weighted down with a paper shopping bag and his backpack, Stiles pushes into his house. He drops his shoes onto the pile at the front door (they still haven't bought a shoe rack), his keys and backpack on the kitchen table and walks into the kitchen already sorting through his purchases.

"C is for cookie," Stiles hums, as he pulls out a backing tray, a mixing bowl and a mixer. "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me. Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C."

 


 

Almost three dozen cookies, the beginnings of a serious sugar rush, and all the Sesame Street songs he knows later, the kitchen is as clean as it is going to get again, and Stiles is in need of a shower; he has flour stuck uncomfortably to the back of his neck.

His dad came home around three and has wisely been avoiding the kitchen. As Stiles walks past where he is working at the dinner table, he looks up and smiles.

"Were you cooking drugs in our kitchen?" he asks, amusement obvious in his eyes.

"What, this?" Stiles asks, and running a hand through his buzzcut, making flour rain down on his dad's shoulder and the file he was reading.

Before his dad can complain, Stiles holds out a still-warm cookie.

"I accept your tribute," the sheriff declares solemnly. "And now go shower, before you make the whole house look like a heroin den."

"Dad," Stiles puts a hand to his chest, "I thought as my father it was your duty to support me in the pursuit of my hobbies"

He bolts upstairs, before his father can hit him over the head with his file. Stiles is still laughing when he steps into the shower.

 


 

Freshly showered, and with an hour to spare, Stiles is in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets and drawers, trying to find the perfect Tupperware container to put his cookies into. He doesn't want to use the grubby ones they've had for ages, but all the other ones are either too small or too big. He finally decides on two containers, one for Derek's cookies and one for the cookies meant for the rest of the Hale family (the first is slightly big, the second crushes the cookies a bit).

In the other room, his dad's phone rings. The conversation is short, the sheriff's contribution mostly grunts.

His dad sticks his head through the doorway into the kitchen, face contrite.

"Stiles, the station called. Some deer have been killed and a couple of cars vandalized by some kind of animal."

"An animal that vandalizes cars after getting itself a snack?" Stiles asks, dusting off his hands on his jeans.

"They called in the local vet, maybe he can tell us what we're dealing with." His dad shuffles his feet. "I'm sorry, I don't know if I'll make it out to the Hale's."

Stiles abandons the Tupperware and cookies and gives his father a hug.

"It's okay, dad. Go and be awesome. I'll be a worthy representative of the Stilinski clan and eat all the food meant for you, because that's just the kind of son that I am."

 


 

The Hale house is gigantic. A neat driveway, flanked by trees, leads up to a sprawling three-story house with wood paneling and white window shutters. There are three cars and a couple of bikes, one small and neon green with rainbow streamers at the handles, already in the driveway, but there is still plenty of space for Betty.

Stiles can't find a doorbell and is just trying to maneuver the cookies and his keys into one hand so he can knock when the door is flung open and Cora pulls him inside before he even realizes what is happening.

The entrance hall is as spacious as the rest of the house seems to be and warm. The various dinner smells and voices that float around make him feel right at home.

Cora stands next to him, arms crossed but somehow more relaxed than usual, while Stiles takes off his shoes and puts them next to the rack stacked haphazardly with sneakers, dress shoes and sandals of varying sizes and colors. He places the Tupperware container he brought for Derek next to the shoes and keeps the other one in the crook of his arm like a precious, sugary baby.

"Come on, Bambi, gotta introduce you to the family," Cora announces and for some reason it sound a lot like 'Meet the in-laws'. Stiles is about to point out that while she is certainly very attractive, he seems to have developed a ridiculous, seemingly irrevocable crush on her big brother and can't commit to any other serious relationships at the moment, when Erica, Boyd, and Isaac come down the wide, curved staircase.

"The light in the bathroom is broken again, our shampoo is almost empty, and you still have to give me back the shirt I lent you, the red one," Erica says to Cora, who nods as if anything that just came out of Erica's mouth made sense.

"Wait, hold on, what? You guys live here?" Stiles asks, when he has processed what Erica said. He points at Erica, then Boyd, then Isaac. "All three of you?"

Erica purses her blood-red lips in a smirk.

"Sweetie, where've you been the whole time?" she asks at the same time as Cora says, "I told you."

"I know!" Stiles flails his arms. "I honestly thought you were being rhetorical. Like they are here so much, they practically live here. But, I mean, good for you guys. Family of choice and all that. Good for you."

"Stop now," Boyd states, throwing an arm around Erica. The two walk into the living room, a power couple if Stiles' has ever seen one.

"Oh, they are scary," he says mostly to himself, but Isaac chuckles like he heard him.

Behind Isaac, Mrs. Hale steps out of a room, wiping her hands on her jeans instead of the towel over her shoulder.

"Stiles, I'm so glad you could come."

She holds out her hand and Stiles takes it, her handshake warm and dry and gripping his hand firmly.

"Mrs. Hale, thank you for the invitation."

"Talia, please. Mrs. Hale is for when I'm at work and need to frighten the opposing counsel."

"I'm sure you're super good at that." Stiles realizes what he said and amends, "And that was supposed to be a compliment."

Mrs. Hale smiles at him much like Scott's mom often smiles at him: slightly amused and a very kind. Also, much like Mrs. McCall, she ignores his rambling.

"Your father couldn't make it?" she inquires instead.

"No, sorry, the joys of being the sheriff. But I brought cookies to make up for it."

He hands over the cookies, forgotten until now.

"Thank you. But we're more than happy –"

"Stiles!"

Scott stumbles in from the living room, mud on his forehead and a little girl, around eight, on his shoulders who is using his curls like reins.

"No, Scott, horsies don't talk!" the little girl explains and pats him, judging by Scott's wince not all that gently, on the head.

"And Issies aren't supposed to use Scott as a horse," Mrs. Hale admonishes her daughter, hands on her hips in a universal disapproving-mother pose.

"But I asked real nice, just like you said."

Talia smiles and goes to pick Issie from Scott's back. "I'm sure you did, darling."

Issie hangs in her mothers arms with limbs like cooked spaghetti and pouts toward the ceiling.

"Why don't you help me in the kitchen and I'll let you lick out the cake bowl?"

Faster than Stiles can see what's happening, Issie is upright again and has climbed down her mother's thin frame. It happens so quick, it almost looks like she teleported; one moment Talia is carrying her, the next she is streaking into the kitchen, squealing about chocolate.

"Scott, why don't you go wash up? Isaac can show Stiles around," Talia suggests and then adds, "Don't forget it's your turn to set the table, Cora. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes."

Cora freezes, caught, halfway through the living-room door.

"Yes, mom."

 


 

Dinner is two huge dishes of the best lasagna Stiles has ever eaten and a salad that even his dad would eat without complaining (Stiles is so going to charm the recipe out of Mrs. Hale).

Stiles has never eaten dinner with so many people; there is Talia and her husband, Cora, Scott, Erica and Boyd, Isaac, and Issie.

And Derek, Derek is there, too.

Stiles doesn't quite know how to feel about that. He thought the fact that Derek saved him from becoming a pavement pancake meant that they were at least acquaintances rather than just people who have accidentally been in the same grocery store once. But the moment Derek steps into the dining room and sees Stiles, he freezes. Literally. He stops and might even have stopped breathing for a couple of seconds. Stiles is about to lift his hand in greeting, but Derek is already back out the door, faster even than Issie when promised chocolate.

This pattern – Derek seeing Stiles, Derek backing the fuck out of whatever room he just walked in to that Stiles is already in – continues throughout the evening (during dinner, Derek keeps his focus on his food, or his little sister next to him. If he has to look in Stiles' direction for some reason, his eyes always go past him, focusing on a point somewhere just over his shoulder).

Twice, Stiles tries to corner Derek. He sees him go into the kitchen and goes after him, but when he comes into the kitchen, there is no one there. The kitchen window is slightly ajar and Stiles wonders if Derek actually somehow squeezed himself through there just so he wouldn't have to talk to Stiles. It's a daunting thought, and also hurtful.
The second time, Stiles follows Derek into the living room, where he finds Derek and Issie on the floor, both focused on a half done puzzle of the New York City skyline. Derek hasn't reacted to Stiles presence yet; it would be the perfect moment to sneak up on him without giving him a chance to run off again. Stiles looks at the relaxed line of Derek's back, and Issie's feet up in the air, and can't bring himself to disturb the two siblings.

At the end of the night, he has said exactly nothing to Derek. Not "Thank you", not "Your eyes are really gorgeous, also I want to climb you like a tree", not "You're such an asshole, it's not like I'd force you to be friends with me or anything".

 


 

Stiles says goodbye to Talia and Andrew, who both invite him back for dinner and bring his dad whenever the sheriff is free, and goes to put on his shoes, Scott and Cora trailing him to the door. His eyes fall onto the cookies he has been meaning to give to Derek all night. He picks the container up, hugs Scott good night, and then pushes the cookies at Cora.

"Tell Derek thanks for saving my life and also he's a douchebag."

"Can I quote you on that?"

"Please do."

Stiles is already at his jeep, keys in the door, when he hears his name being called.

Cora runs down the driveway. She's not wearing shoes, only green socks with pink hearts. She stops right in front of him, face more serious than Stiles has ever seen (and maybe just a tiny bit constipated).

"Listen, I know my brother is as socially retarded and awkward as they come, but he – I can't believe I'm saying this, see what you're making me do – likes you."

"He doesn't even know me," Stiles gives back, thrown by the non sequitur (there is a tiny flicker of warmth in his belly, like shot of whiskey his dad bought him for his eighteenth birthday).

"Pfsh, please, Bambi." Cora waves her hand imperiously. "He likes you, you like him."

"What, no. Lies and slander."

"You baked him cookies. How did you know that peanut butter oatmeal were his favorite, anyway?"

"I – they're my favorite. And I brought cookies for the rest of you guys, too!"

"You brought us alibi-cookies. Derek's cookies are I like you-cookies." Cora rubs her right foot against her left calf and throws her ponytail over her shoulder. "You guys are so cute, you're giving me diabetes."

Before Stiles can think about a comeback, Cora is gone again and Stiles is left staring at the closed front door, wondering what just happened, and thinking that this disappearing act the Hales pull could get really annoying really fast.

"What do I do with this information?" Stiles asks no one in particular. "What was that even? What is it with Hales and leaving me with more questions than answers?"

Chapter Text

The day after the dinner at the Hale house (oh blessed Saturday!), Stiles wakes up at half past eight, wide awake and with the urge to move. His head needs clearing, because he is pretty sure that at some point, somehow, he developed a crush (fell in love? Is too soon to claim to be irrevocably in love?) on a man he hardly knows. He doesn't know how it happened, only that it doesn't feel as strange as it probably should. It feels right, like something has finally slotted into place, and that seems both all kinds of awesome and daunting.

He throws on the first pair of jeans and the least crumpled plaid shirt he finds and then peeks into his dad's bedroom, the door always slightly ajar, to make sure his dad made it home last night (when Stiles came home after dinner, the house was still dark and empty). His father is lying on his bed, still in jeans, his face mostly hidden by the pillow he has pulled over his head. Stiles listens to the soft snores for a while, then tiptoes down the stairs, avoiding the squeaking fourth step.

His dad's most likely going to be out for a couple of hours more, so Stiles writes him a note (Morning, Daddy-o, rain check on the pancakes – DON'T eat any without me! - lunch later? got my phone) and has a cup of coffee. He stops for a breakfast burrito and a smoothie on his way out of town.

 


 

Stiles sings to the Pogo song playing from his phone, as he turns into the parking lot abutting on the National Forest, part of which is Hale land they have made available to the public. He parks Betty in a spot closest to the main trail and then makes sure he has his water bottle, a couple of granola bars and some band-aids (because no matter how hard he tries, he always manages to fall over something or other – usually his feet – or get hit in the face with a low hanging branch) in his backpack and his phone in his jeans pocket. He consults the hiking map, one of the four that have been put up around the parking lot, chooses a trail he hasn't hiked before, and sets off.

It's a good day for walking, sunny and not too hot. The sky is a clear and bright blue. The trail Stiles chose isn't too taxing, all gentle slopes and otherwise straight stretches,with only a few rises that he and his sneakers are easilyup to. Stiles walks at a leisurely pace, simply reveling in the physical activity which, unlike lacrosse where he is always worrying about being tackled into oblivion, helps clear his head.

After about an hour, he comes to a bench overlooking some fields and, a bit further away, Beacon Hills, and decides to take a break. He slumps down on to the bench, pulls one leg up to his chest, stretches the other one out, and breathes. The breeze is nice on his face. He closes his eyes for a moment and just enjoys the sun, the way it paints the backs of his eyelids red. His dry mouth finally moves him to take out his water bottle and chug down half of it. He follows it up with two granola bars; they might be great quick energy snacks, but one always just leaves him feeling hungry and kind of frustrated.

The second bar is peanut butter. It makes Stiles pause (and wonder if, from now on, peanut butter will be tied to thoughts of Derek).

He has had two, admittedly short, relationships in Phoenix. The first when he was just fourteen, and head over heels for Ashley-Lee, who sat in front of him in history and always smelled faintly of candy cotton. They went out three times – for ice-cream, to see a movie, and to a game of their high school football team. When he asked her out to see some local indie band, she told him that one of the football players had asked her out and she had decided to date him instead. Truthfully, Stiles had been more offended than emotionally hurt.
When he was sixteen, he dated an exchange student for a whole of two months – almost the entire time Stefan had been in the US. They exchanged mutually satisfying handjobs as a goodbye and still follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, but Stiles, and Stefan, never believed that their relationship was anything but temporary.

He chews a piece of granola bar thoughtfully (although thoughtful is really his least favorite state). This thing with Derek, which is barely a thing yet, more like a baby-thing or a thing in utero, feels different, not temporary or like a teenage crush. It makes Stiles want to be careful and not rush things. He wants to do this right; he wants to have this, and he wants to keep it.

Stiles is not exactly sure how he'll get it – get Derek – but he'll woo the fuck out of him if he has to.

Mind made up, Stiles stuffs the rest of the granola bar into his mouth and shoves the wrapper into his backpack. He dusts his jeans off and starts walking again, choosing a path that won't lead him further into the National Forest but back to the parking lot. Even if he takes his time, he'll be back at his jeep in another hour or so and he'll get home with enough time to spare for a shower before lunch with his dad.

He stops to take a picture of a lone lime-green sock stuck in a shrub and sends it to Scott on Snapchat with the caption 'found the strangest fruit. tempted to eat it'. Just as he is putting his phone back into his pocket, he hears a twig break behind him and turns around, hoping to see a cute raccoon or bird.

Instead he finds himself looking at a mountain lion, poised on the path, mouth gaping open. There is blood matted on his right side, mostly dried and crusted, and Stiles spares a second to wonder what happened to it, before the animals growls. Startled, Stiles stumbles backwards. His foot catches on a tree root that has grown into the trail and he goes down hard. He can already feel the bruises forming on his ass and back when he scrambles away from the cougar, kicking up dust with his feet. The mountain lion prowls after him and it feels like the car coming right at him all over, all the little details he suddenly notices, like the single drop of blood on the cat's nose, a spot just over his left eye which looks like a heart, the chirping that is clearer, as if the birds were sitting right on his shoulders, and the thought that the universe thinks up the stupidest possible ways for him to die.

He puts his hands out in front of him. "Come on, kitty, I'm sure you don't want to eat me, I really don't taste all that good," Stiles tries.

The cougar actually stops, barely an arm's length from him, ears perked up. The next moment, it looks to its left. Stiles uses its short distraction to scoot back until his back hits a rock, then uses the rock to pull himself into a standing position. His movement brings the cougar's attention back to him and it crouches low, a ready-to-pounce pose if Stiles ever saw one. He can just picture the headline of tomorrow's newspaper: Local boy survives car crash, is killed by mountain lion.

For some reason, this proves to be the catalyst he needed; he refuses to get turned into a small town story that is only going to end up on some Wikipedia entry as a funny footnote. He stands up a little straighter, and slowly drops his backpack from one shoulder, ready to use it as a club if he gets the chance. It's not particularly heavy, but it'll be more effective than a fist to the nose.
There's probably a bunch of 'What to do's when encountering a mountain lion. Some similar tips to when you're facing a bear, like make yourself seem as big as possible, be loud, don't appear scared.

Stiles has just taken a deep breath, ready to roar the cougar into submission, or at least into confusion so severe he'll start running in circles, when there is a rustling sound in the brush, like something big moving, to the cougar's left. Not two seconds later, a shape, bigger than the cougar and much darker in coloring, pounces out of the bushes and on the mountain lion. The two animals roll across the path, a snarling mess of light fur against dark. With a gnarl, they separate. Stiles looks at his mysterious savior and has to swallow heavily.

It's a wolf. A wolf almost as big as a bear. It swipes a paw at the heavily panting cougar, throwing it across the path. The cougar lands with a yelp and only barely manages to push itself up on trembling legs. The wolf growls, a sound that Stiles feels in his bones and which makes the cougar's ears flatten to his head. The next moment, it's limping into the trees.

"Owned", Stiles can't help but breathe.

Stiles hears a soft huffing sound, as if the wolf snorted or laughed (can wolves even laugh? Do they even have a sense of humor? Do they sit around a deer they've hunted down, telling Knock Knock jokes or Why did the deer cross the road jokes?).

The wolf turns fully toward Stiles and ambles in his direction, stopping just where the mountain lion had been a moment ago. His tail is wagging gently from side to side, which Stiles hopes is a good sign, because the fear that had somewhat disappeared with the cougar comes back full tilt. Stiles grips his backpack strap tighter. Between an already hurt cougar and a seriously massive wolf, the cougar might have been a safer bet.

"Good dog – wolf! Good wolfie! The best I ever met. The only one, but still, I'm sure you're a prime example of your species. Also also, thanks for saving me, hope you don't just want to eat me yourself."

The wolf lolls out his (or her? How do you tell a wolf's gender without getting real hands-on?) tongue and takes another, almost hesitant step forward. From where Stiles is standing, their faces are almost level. Stiles takes in the sleek, black fur that shines with a bluish tint, the pink tongue and white, sharp teeth, and the eyes, which have a beautiful hazel color and remind him a lot of –

"– Derek?" Stiles asks and almost doesn't realize he actually said it out loud. It's a ridiculous notion after all (isn't it?). Just because the coloring is very similar, the same amber color around the pupil, doesn't make this wolf Derek (right?).

But the wolf lowers his head a little, pushing his muzzle against the ground, covering it with his paw as if embarrassed.

"No." Stiles shakes his head, stuck between incredulity and giddy amazement. "No. Seriously? Derek?"

Stiles reaches out a hand, slowly, oh so very slowly, just in case it turns out he is actually just crazy; who would believe a wolf could be a person? Just before his hand can connect, though, the wolf backs away, a small whine escaping. He turns around and, with a few long leaps, disappears into the brush.

"Oh, come one!" Stiles shouts after him. "What if there's another mountain lion out there? Or a rabid squirrel?"

(The wolf, the traitor, and Stiles isn't sure if he should think of him as Derek yet, doesn't reappear. Stiles doesn't feel like that's a very promising start to their relationship, but is willing to cut Derek – his wolf – the wolf some slack for saving him from becoming giant kitten chow.)

 


 

Fueled by a combination of residual adrenaline, burning curiosity, and the amazement from earlier, Stiles makes the way back to Betty in a record thirty-five minutes. By the time he's sitting in his precious jeep, his shirt is sticking to his skin and his throat is dry. He drinks some water while throwing the gear shift into reverse. He must look a mess, but he doesn't think that he has the patience to drive home and get changed. And, if he's being honest, he also doesn't want to give himself the time to think about what he is about to do. It might be some of the most brilliant detective work he has ever done (not that there was a lot of detecting involved; only a lot of almost getting killed but being saved at the last minute), or it is going to land him in the loony bin, or worse, Fox News. And he's only been in Beacon Hills a couple of weeks; he's not ready for everyone to think he's off his freaking tree.

The drive to the Hale house passes in fingers tapping impatiently against the steering wheel, thoughts of 'There's still time to turn around' at every other intersection, and an exhilarating, bubbling feeling in his stomach because this might just turn out to be the coolest thing to ever happen to him (and also most life-changing, but then again, that first eyes meeting moment already felt like nothing Stiles had ever experienced so why should anything else he shares with Derek be any different?).

When Stiles is standing in front of the Hales' door, about to knock, he falters slightly. He takes two deep breaths. At worst, he gets laughed out of the house by a hot guy and loses all chance at even becoming his friend, at best … well, at best he might earn a sometimes-fluffy friend.

Stiles nods to himself and knocks. There is silence behind the door, then steps come closer and the door opens, revealing Mrs. Hale, still dressed in what must be her work clothes, a tailored pantsuit, but holding a handful of crayons.

"Hi, Mrs H. Is your – ehm, is Derek here?"

She doesn't ask why he wants to talk to her son when she hasn't ever seen them exchange even one word. She doesn't ask why he has to talk to Derek on Saturday morning, wearing sweaty and dusty clothes. Instead, she holds open the door and says, "Don't be too hard on him, please. And if you have any questions, come talk to me or my husband."

Stiles nods and can't think of anything to say; his brain is screaming 'Shit you were right, shit you were right, shit you were right, this is awesome, a wolf, shit you were right!' over and over.

He only just manages to tune back in when Mrs. Hale adds, "His room is up the stairs, third door on the right. You don't need to knock."

When he walks past the living on his way to the stairs, he spots Cora and what must be her sister Laura, judging by how much she looks like both Cora and Mrs. Hale. They're both looking and smiling at him. Cora even throws in a peace sign.

 


 

Upstairs the third door on the right is a plain wooden door, a Polaroid picture of ducklings climbing over a sleeping black dog tacked to it. Stiles already has his hand lifted up to knock, before he remembers that Mrs. Hale told him to just go in.

At first sight, the room seems empty. The bed is unmade, blanket bunched up in the middle, and the light is turned off, with the curtains drawn.

Stiles takes an uncertain step forward, just enough so he can close the door behind himself.

"Derek?"

The room is quiet and there is no answer and no sound. Maybe Derek went into the bathroom. Stiles contemplates knocking on the door, but it seems kind of creepy. He's about to sit on the bed to wait, when there is movement on the bed, the lump uncurling slowly into the shape of a wolf, the same wolf Stiles saw earlier.

"Derek?" Stiles asks again.

The wolf only lifts his head, a fold of blanket sliding down.

"No, okay, seriously, I mean – Derek?"

The wolf whines, the same sound he made earlier when Stiles tried to touch him.

"No, no, no, Mr. Wolf-Man, you don't get to do that. You can understand me, you can answer. Like nod or something, I guess?"

The wolf thumps his tail twice, mouth slightly open now like he is wolf-laughing at Stiles.

"Oh, very funny, asshole. You are definitely Derek."

Slowly, the wolf nods his head.

"Wow. Shit, okay." Stiles feels for the door at his back and slides down to the floor. "Okay, that is really freaking weird. So, you're, like, a werewolf?"

Another nod.

"Okay. And you can change into a real wolf? Whenever you want?"

A third nod, this somewhat slower than the other two.

"Okay – shit, I say okay a lot, don't I? I mean, right, can you change back, or something? I feel like this would be a lot easier if you actually had vocal chords? Or, like, at least vocal chord capable of producing sounds that I can interpret as words and you are free to change any time now to stop me from rambling myself into an early grave which, really, would kind of undo all your good work so far and –"

There is no sound or magic sparkle in the air to announce the change, but suddenly there is Derek, sitting on the bed – oh damn, he's naked (and surprisingly unhairy in the chest area) – the blanket draped strategically over his junk. There is a barely visible blush on his face that goes down his chest and then even further down and Stiles has to force his eyes back up to Derek's face, because, nope, he is not going to get distracted now by perfect abs and wondering where exactly that blush ends.

Derek pulls the blanket a little tighter around his body, pulling his shoulder up like Stiles has seen him do before when he was feeling self-conscious.

"I guess you have questions," Derek says, looking at Stiles from under his eyelashes. "But could you maybe give me my sweatpants? Please?"

Stiles hands over the gray sweatpants hanging over the back of the desk chair and then pulls the chair over to the side of the bed. While Derek pulls on his sweatpants under the blanket, Stiles takes off his shoes and then curls up on the desk chair with his legs tucked underneath himself.

"Did you like the cookies?" Stiles asks.

Derek's eyebrows do a thing that makes it seem as if his whole face is frowning. "What?"

"The – did Cora not give you the cookies I made? They were Thank you-cookies, for, you know, being all Superman with the car and stuff? And Cora said they were your favorite, which I didn't know but that's just how awesome I am, so it'd be really sad if you didn't get them."

"Cora gave me the cookies." Derek glances to his left quickly, almost too fast to follow. Stiles looks over there as well and sees his, very empty, Tupperware container there.

"Did you already eat all of them? Did you like them? Do you have, like, a super-metabolism or something."

"Yes?"

"Yes? Sorry, that were two questions. Yes to what?"

"I – we, werewolves," Derek starts and only stumbles over the word werewolf a little, "have a faster metabolism. We eat more, but we also burn more energy." He hesitates for a second and then adds with a cautious smile on his face, "And yes, as you can see, I did eat them all. They were really good."

Stiles smiles, happy about the compliment for his mother's cookies. Then he SAYS, "Alright, so, let me just sum up what we've got so far: You are a werewolf, and, dude, you are seriously huge, let me tell you, you'd make an awesome body pillow, you like peanut butter oatmeal cookies and someone in your family eats Snackimals. Which I totally get, those things are seriously yummy."

"You like Snackimals?” Derek asks, like he can't help himself.

Stiles fidgets on the chair, then admits, "I might have bought some myself after seeing you buy them at the store. I was … curious."

Derek nods, but stays silent. There's a slightly awkward pause, before Stiles sighs.

"Dude, you gotta work with me here. I really don't know … You're a werewolf, which is not getting any less crazy no matter of how often I say it. I guess the rest of your family are werewolves, too? How does that work? Is that a dominant gene trait? And do you actually turn fluffy on the full moon or is that a myth? Oh, most important question: Can I cuddle you? Because you look so fluffy, it's not even funny."

Derek looks down at his blanket and picks at an invisible thread.

"Werewolves are predators, Stiles," he says like it hurts him.

"You don't seem very dangerous to me. I mean, you did save my life twice. Unless you only did that because you wanna use me as a chew toy?" Stiles asks, frowning and leaning forward in the chair slightly.

"No!" Derek runs his hand through his hair. "How do you even come up with these things?"

"I got a very active imagination, okay?" Stiles says, wiggling his eyebrows exaggeratedly. The blush on Derek's chest (not that Stiles is looking – not that Stiles is looking much) gets deeper. "Are you blushing again? You are too adorable, always with the blushing. Where did your mind go when I said chew toy? This doesn't really make me buy the big bad wolf routine you're trying to sell."

"Don't – you really can't say things like that, it's not … you're seventeen and human, this is not …" he breaks off.

"First of all, aren't you, like, human, too? I mean, just because you're also a werewolf, doesn't make you not human. Second, I'm eighteen, dude."

"Why are you eighteen?"

"My, you're a real charmer. Also easily distracted, you're really in no position to criticize me. And I'm eighteen because I was born eighteen years ago?"

"I – Stiles," Derek starts, but then just stops. He looks kind of defeated.

Stiles scoots the chair closer on the bed.

"Hey." He puts his hand gently on Derek's blanketed knee. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I think … I'm just kind of lost here? Because I feel like I've missed a couple of steps?" Stiles scrubs a hand over his head, trying to put his thoughts into at least somewhat coherent sentences. "First you do all this intense staring and then you save my life and then you don't talk to me at all and then you save my life again and now you're a werewolf and your family knows that I know and are okay with it, I think, because neither of the scary women downstairs threatened me and –" He huffs an exasperated breath. "You do like me, right?" He can feel himself blushing, too, now but keeps going. "This isn't some 'let's be platonic besties' negotiation or like a 'come join our super secret werewolf clan-group-pack' spiel or something? I'd take it, gotta be honest with you, the friends part, not – I'm not sure about the other thing, but I was kind of hoping –"

"I like you, Stiles," Derek interrupts him. He isn't looking at Stiles, but there is a smile on his lips, and his voice sounds honest. Stiles seriously has to suppress the urge to punch the air. "Although I think you need to show me your driver's license. What eighteen-year-old says 'besties'?"

"Oh, look at you with the funny. Are we making jokes now? They grow up so fast," Stiles says and laughs, almost throwing himself off the desk chair. Derek's hand on his ankle keeps him from having to kiss the carpet.

Stiles enjoys the warmth seeping through his sock. It feels nice to be held on to like this, warm and easy like they've done it hundreds of times already.

"So, how about we do this like responsible adults and take it from the top?" Stiles finally asks into the comfortable quiet between them.

"How?"

"I dunno, like some kind of 'there's no BDSM here' relationship negotiation slash Q&A session."

The pillow to the face is probably deserved.

 


 

When they come downstairs, walking close enough that they arms are always touching, the whole family is sitting in the living room, pretending to be completely caught up in their respective tasks (Cora is on her phone, Laura is watching commercials on the TV, Mr. and Mrs. Hale have their heads stuck together, Issie is running around the couch barking like a dog, and only Erica, Boyd and Isaac are missing), but all of them keep glancing at the doorway, obviously waiting for them. It makes Stiles feel a whole lot like Keira Knightley, minus the long hair; also Derek is a hell of a lot hotter than Mr. Collins with his awkward 'Let's get married, dear cousin'-marriage proposal.

Five pairs of eyes focus on them when they step into the room (and boy is Stiles glad that Derek put a shirt on).

"Everyone still in one piece, nice," Cora says, which earns her an admonishing glare from her mother. "What, Derek doesn't talk if he can help it, he growls. [Someone could have gotten hurt. And by someone I mean Stiles.]"

Stiles feels Derek stiffen next to him and links his arm with Derek's in support.

"It's true, you know," he whispers, "But I talk enough for the both of us, so, really, it evens out."

Laura smothers a laugh with a cough and Stiles looks at the amused faces of the Hales and realizes they must have heard him.

"Let me guess," he asks, "super hearing?"

"Enhanced senses, yes," Mrs. Hale answers, while her husband hides his face behind her hair.

Stiles nods. Mythical creatures have superior hearing, check; that's not going to get awkward for him, at all.

Then Cora, with a mischievous gleam in her eyes, says, "We can also tell when you're lying."

"You're the absolute worst," Stiles groans, leaning his forehead against Derek's biceps (because, hell yeah, he's got dibs on those biceps now, and also because Cora really is terrible).

"And that was a lie," Cora announces smugly and is promptly tackled off the couch by Issie who wants to know why everyone is laughing and "is it funny and can she have a pet rabbit, please, she won't eat it, really!"

 


 

They've agreed to take things slow, but slow has variable definitions, and they didn't define how slow was their slow. Glacier slow, snail pace, Stiles trying to do his chemistry homework? So when Derek brings him to the door to say goodbye, Stiles goes up on his tiptoes, one hand on the other man's shoulder to steady himself, and presses a soft kiss to the corner of Derek's mouth. He can his sharp intake of breath. Stiles holds his lips there, for a few seconds, then pulls back.

Derek's eyes are glowing a bright gold and he is looking at Stiles half shy and half in wonder.

"Dude, your eyes," Stiles breathes.

Derek ducks his head.

"No, no." Stiles puts his hand under Derek's chin to tip his head back up. "They're amazing. Is that another werewolf thing? Is it a good thing?"

"It's – yes, it's a wolf thing. I should have more control over it." It sounds self-critical, but Derek has moved both of his hands to Stiles' hips, holding on, so Stiles figures he can't be too angry about having lost a little control.

"Did I make you lose control?" Stiles asks, sidling closer; it's a humbling prospect, having that kind of influence, that kind of power, on someone, and also kind of heady.

"I really shouldn't encourage you, should I?" Derek wants to know, eyes crinkling.

"I would never use my powers for evil. But I might have to kiss you again."

Stiles doesn't see Derek's eyes change color again, but simply knowing that they most likely do is enough.

Chapter Text

After making out for a good fifteen minutes, Stiles drives home to have lunch with his dad and spend the rest of the day in a state of unbelieving elation, his inner monologue going from "My boyfriend is a werewolf!" to "I have a boyfriend!" to "Yes, Derek likes me back!" and then starts right over again.

Despite the fact that what Stiles is lovingly going to call their first date involved dangerous animals and almost-maiming, actually being with Derek is surprisingly easy.
Stiles hangs out at the Hale house every free minute he gets (that he isn't spending at lacrosse practice or with his dad), either with Derek (talking, making out, watching movies – "What do you mean you've never seen My Best Friend Is a Vampire? That movies is pure supernatural comedy!"), or with Derek and whatever members of the pack are home.

Apart from gaining a pack, a second family (and additional kitchen duty, because except for Talia the Hales are all useless when it comes to cooking), and learning a shit ton about werewolves, Stiles also gets to watch Cora, the wonder triplets (as he's lovingly calling Erica, Boyd, and Isaac in the safety of his head where Erica won't ever know) and Scott spar on the Hales' vast back lawn.
And it's freaking stunning, especially when Laura and Derek, who usually mostly stand on the sidelines, throwing in more or less helpful suggestions or egging the other Betas on, join in. Laura's fighting style is very much like Cora's; they both like to hit, or bite, as it is, first and not ask questions later.

Derek always looks at Stiles first, before joining the sparring. Stiles isn't sure whether he is unsure of what Stiles will think or if he's looking for reassurance, but either way, Stiles smiles and gently pushes him in the direction of the others. And it's not for completely unselfish reasons. Derek as a wolf is simply gorgeous and moves with the natural grace of a predator; Stiles won't ever get tired of looking at him.

 


 

Stiles hasn't told his dad yet, about his updated relationship status. It's not a secret, since the whole Hale pack knows, and neither Derek nor Stiles have ever even thought of maintaining a no-homo zone when out and about the town.
It's starting to feel a lot like the boner debacle back when he was twelve; he really wants to tell his dad, he just doesn't know how.

And just like back then, he should know better than to underestimate his father. About three weeks into his and Derek's relationship (oh, who is he kidding, it's been two weeks, five days, and around eight hours), his dad stops him when he is just about to get up from the dinner table.

"By the way, don't you think it's time to invite your boyfriend over for dinner?" he asks calmly, putting his cutlery on his empty plate.

"My – what the what? I –"

"Son," his dad puts his hand on Stiles' shoulder, "I'm not the sheriff for nothing."

Stiles deflates, rubbing his hands on his jeans guiltily.

"I was going to tell you. I just –"

"I wasn't suggesting that you were trying to keep it from me. But I'd like to meet him anyway, if that's okay."

"How do you even know it's a he?" Stiles asks, already resigned to having dinner with his dad and Derek which is hopefully going to involve only a minimum of shovel talk.

"I have informants everywhere," the sheriff states mysteriously.

Stiles squints, pointing a finger at his father.

"Let me guess, one of your deputies saw us in town and tattled?"

"Got it in one."

"Isn't that some kind of malpractice?"

"Nope, this were simply two dedicated officers doing their civic duty –"

"Okay, alright," Stiles interrupts. "You've been spending too much time with me. Your bullshitting is getting way too good."

"Thank you," his dad says, stacking their plates, then pointedly looks at Stiles with one eyebrow raised.

"Yes, I'll ask him."

 


 

Stiles chooses a quiet moment to broach the subject of dinner at casa Stilinski to Derek. They're lying on an old couch the Hales get out of the garage and put on the patio whenever the weather is nice. Stiles is slouched into the corner of the couch, long legs thrown over the armrest, with Derek's head pillowed on his stomach. It took Derek a while to be comfortable like this, especially since the first few times Stiles and Derek curled up somewhere Cora or Laura or the wonder triplets would inevitably pop up and start singing a rendition of The Kissing Song. Now, Derek curls further into Stiles and gets comfortable, laughing at his siblings' disgusted faces as he kisses Stiles (and flips them the bird behind his back).

"So, I have to ask you something and please don't freak out."

"You telling me not to freak out doesn't actually calm me down."

"I – yeah, I guess it doesn't really. Sorry."

Derek pushes his head a little into Stiles' stomach, rubbing his stubble against him like a giant, lazy cat. He blinks up at Stiles with a grin, eyes only half open, and says, "It's okay. But if this is about knotting again, I'm leaving and I'm changing our WiFi password."

"That was for science, Derek. I had to ask for science," Stiles declares and then adds, just to make sure Derek stays exactly where he is, " And no, it's not about knotting."

"What did you want to ask me?"

"My dad wants you to come over for dinner," Stiles blurts out.

"Oh."

"Yeah, I know."

"It's not that I don't –"

"No, I know, and I really want you there, but –"

"Yes."

They both fall silent, still looking at each other.

"That was a weird conversation," Stiles decides.

"Yes," Derek agrees, turning a little so his face is pushed even more into Stiles' stomach.

"Are you freaking out?"

"I don't know." There's a pause. "I don't really … date. I've never –"

"You don't have to come if you don't want to."

"I do want to. I'm just –"

"Freaking out?"

"Yeah."

"But you'd come for dinner?"

"Yes." Another pause, then Derek looks up at Stiles. "Are you sure he's not going to arrest me?"

"What for?"

"Dating his darling son?"

Stiles pats Derek on the head.

"Please, we're all adults."

"Well, most of us are."

 


 

A few days after Stiles asks Derek to dinner, it's officially spring break, and the sheriff gets the first Monday off and decides that it would be the perfect day to get the grill out and get Derek to come over. Stiles can't really think of anything that speaks against it, especially since Derek agreed to come to dinner and might actually want to come if there's the promise of steak.

Monday turns out to be a perfect day for barbecuing, baking (Stiles will not have anyone over without there being proper dessert), and house-cleaning ("How is it my turn to vacuum again, Stiles?").

When the doorbell rings at seven on the dot, the grill is fired up, the brownies are baked, the potato wedges and coleslaw are almost done, and the house is as clean as it is going to get (which means it's slightly cleaner than it would be if a hurricane had just blown through but nowhere near any home magazine, not that Stiles cares).

"I got it!" Stiles calls, and zips out the kitchen.

Derek is standing in front of the door, wearing his typical dark jeans, Henley and leather jacket, hands knotted nervously together.

"I didn't bring anything," is the first thing he says, as soon as Stiles has pulled open the door.

"I know you didn't bring anything," Stiles says and steps outside, moving so close to Derek he can feel the warmth of him. "I told you not to bring anything."

At his words, Derek slumps forward and Stiles finds himself with his arms full of pretty heavy werewolf.

"You didn't freak out when you met my family," Derek mumbles into the collar of Stiles' shirt, his lips moving distractingly against the skin of his neck.

"I kinda knew your family already? So it wasn't really a 'this is the new guy' kind of thing?"

Stiles runs one hand down Derek's back and curls the other into his hair.

"You're five times bigger than my dad. You could eat him, if you wanted. You've got nothing to worry about, I promise."

"I want him to like me."

One of these days, Stiles is going to ask Derek who made him so insecure in himself, because while his family and pack siblings might tease him, Stiles has no doubt that they would walk through fucking fire for each other, but for now he just tightens his hold on Derek (always surprised how well their bodies fit together) and says, "You're a good guy, Derek. You work at the animal shelter, you're funny when you want to be, you're not a vegetarian, which is always a plus with my dad, and he'll like you because I like you."

With that, Stiles pulls him inside (and Derek lets himself be pulled).

"What if –" Derek starts.

"If he gets out his shotgun, you can hide behind me."

Derek stares at him with big eyes. Stiles just kisses him before pushing him into the living room where his dad is sitting on the couch.

"Sheriff," Derek greets, and doesn't move into the room.

"John, please." The sheriff gets up to shake Derek's hand. He looks at Stiles, still hovering between the kitchen and the living room, and says "And don't worry, my service weapon and shotgun are locked away in a safe upstairs. I don't think I'll need them tonight."

 


 

After the initial, awkward introductions, Derek helps Stiles finish dinner, while his Dad leans in the door, making smalltalk about lacrosse and Derek's work at the animal shelter.

"You want a beer?" his dad asks Derek, standing in front of the open fridge, as Stiles gets the potato wedges out of the oven.

"Yes, please."

"Do I get one?" Stiles asks and hands the coleslaw to his dad, who competently juggles it and the two beer bottles already in his hands.

"Sure, when you're twenty-one."

"This is what I get buying you groceries and cooking for you?"

"I vacuumed, although I'm still sure it was your turn, oh son of mine."

"You have no proof."

They keep bickering until they're in the back yard; by the time they all sit down to eat, Derek is calm and quietly smiling, his hand warm on Stiles' knee.

 


 

Around eleven, Stiles' dad starts to flag. He gets up, downs the last of his beer and salutes Derek and Stiles with the empty bottle.

"I think that's it for me, boys," he says around a yawn. "It was nice to meet you, Derek, we really have to do baseball. Don't forget to lock up, Stiles."

"I was expecting some kind of 'Don't do anything I wouldn't do' kind of thing," Stiles says when his dad's inside. He's almost pouting at Derek.

Just then, the sheriff sticks his head back outside. "Oh, and Stiles, no sex on any furniture I also use."

Stiles sputters, but his dad's already disappeared again.

"I can see where you get it from," Derek says and pulls Stiles closer with an arm around his shoulders to press a kiss to his temple.

"Yeah." Stiles relaxes against Derek's side. He's quiet for a moment, then says, "I wish you could have met my mom. She was a real firecracker. She would have loved you."

The clean-up takes no time at all since Derek insists on helping. Stiles had planned to just dump everything in the kitchen and tackle the dirty dishes tomorrow, but he lets Derek talk him into filling up the dish washer and quickly washing the big salad bowl that doesn't fit in there. As a thank you, Stiles graciously allows Derek to take home the leftover brownies.

"Tell Laura that if she steals your brownies, I won't make those vegan cinnamon buns she loves so much anymore," Stiles says. As a werewolf, Laura is about as far from a true vegan as one could get, but she insists that vegan cinnamon buns taste better than the regular ones; Stiles supposes it's a lot like the Coke vs. Pepsi debate.

Derek smiles and nods, shrugging into his leather jacket (it took Stiles by surprise that he enjoys Derek putting on clothes as much as he enjoys watching him take them off).

"I'll tell her," Derek promises and accepts the Tupperware container (since he has started cooking more, Stiles has invested in new, colorful Tupperware to replace their old ones) full of brownies.

Stiles tails Derek outside. They stand close together in the dark (they really should get that porch light fixed, but Stilinskis aren't handymen, so it might be a while yet), Stiles huddled close to Derek because the werewolf is better than any space-heater.

They never manage to just say goodbye. One kiss turns into ten and then Stiles thinks of another question or Derek thinks of something he wanted to say and it turns into a whole production. Stiles isn't clingy, it's just hard to let Derek go.

"I've been meaning to ask you," Derek says after about ten minutes of them not saying goodbye, pulling back slightly so he can look at Stiles (and it's kind of a mindfuck that they're the same freaking height, which means that if Stiles goes on his tiptoes, he's actually taller than Derek and that's all kinds of awesome), "there's a full moon coming, in three days. Would you like to come to the house?"

"You wouldn't mind having me there?"

Stiles has asked about full moons before and gotten a pretty extensive explanation from Mrs. Hale, but since Derek and he got together just after a full moon, he hasn't actually experienced one with Derek yet.

"No." Derek shakes his head and curls a warm hand around Stiles' neck, his thumb right over his pulse. "I feel stronger, when you're there, more settled," he admits.

"Yeah?"

"Yes. Born werewolves have more control than turned ones, but we still need something to ground us, an anchor, to connect us to our human side when we're in our wolf form. When we're children, it's usually the pack. When we get older, we need to find something else."

"Is that me? Is that what I do for you?" Stiles guesses, warmth tingling through him.

"You're a lot more than that for me," Derek says, as close to sappy as he ever gets. "But yes, that's what you do for me."

"Then I'll be there, anchoring you."

"Thank you."

Stiles boops Derek on the nose.

"You don't have to thank me for that, cutiewolf. All included in the 'Stiles Stilinski best boyfriend ever' package."

 


 

"Be careful tonight, dad," Stiles says, as he watches his dad get ready for the night shift.

"I'm always careful, kid," his dad promises, zipping up his jacket.

It's not the first shift his father has ever done on a full moon, but it's the first one since Stiles has found out that werewolves are actually real and, despite Mrs. Hale assuring him repeatedly that vampires, witches, and trolls don't exist, it has made him wonder what other things might go bump in the night that just haven't shown themselves yet. And Stiles knows his dad, because it's one of the reasons he became a cop in the first place, and in this they are both exactly alike: they can't keep their noses out of a secret, won't accept unsolvable, and if there's something wrong, they'll always try to fix it.

"I know, but it's a full moon. Makes some people extra gaga."

"You must be speaking from experience."

"Hilarious, old man," Stiles says and pushes his dad toward the door.

"I know," his dad gives back earnestly and pulls Stiles into a hug before jogging out to his cruiser.

 


 

When Stiles pulls up to the Hale house, all their cars, including Laura's, are parked out front. Sadly, so is Jackson's Porsche.

"Hi, I'm Jackson Whittemore and this is my penis," Stiles mutters, voice pitched artificially high.

"I fucking heard that, Stilinski!" Jackson's voice echoes around the house. "Why don't you –"

Someone growls and then there's the sound of something (or someone, Stiles suspect) getting hit. The next moment, Laura is jogging around the house, dressed in cut-offs and an oversized, red t-shirt with the outline of a bunny printed on the front.

"Hi, Stiles, Derek is defending your honor." She links her arm through Stiles'. "Come make sure my brother doesn't actually kill some baby-douche."

"It's only Jackson."

"You only get conjugal visits if you're actually married, you know."

"You make a very compelling argument."

The patio and lawn are taken over by more or less controlled chaos. Talia and Andrew are cuddled together in a hammock Stiles has never seen before, Cora is trying to keep a plate of cookies away from Issie, Scott and Allison are feeding each other pizza bites, Lydia and Jackson are both on their phones, sitting slightly removed from the others, and the wonder triplets are already in their wolf forms and romping around the lawn like puppies on a sugar high (which might actually be what's happening).

This is the first kind of family gathering Stiles has been to since his mother's funeral and he feels a pang of loss because neither his mother nor his father are here. He'll have to ask Talia, about letting his dad in on the werewolf secret; he wants him to be part of this, too.

Derek is waiting for them with his arms crossed, and shoots a pointed look at Laura's arm that's still linked with Stiles'. She blows him a raspberry and lets go of Stiles, but not before rubbing her hand over his head. Derek's eyes flare gold.

"Chill, Dee, he reeks of you," Laura says, walking past Derek. She steals a cookie from Cora, drops half of it into Issie's waiting hands (which are already smeared with chocolate), and then gets herself two meat skewers, one for each hand, from one of the tables laden with food.

Derek plasters himself to Stiles' side, warm arms around slim hips. He sniffs behind Stiles' ear and scoffs.

"And hello to you, too," Stiles says, barely containing his laughter. Sometimes, especially when he's tired or grouchy, Derek behaves a lot like a giant dog (and Stiles is aware that wolves and dogs are different, but he's seen Derek chew on an old pair of sneakers, so he doesn't have much room to argue).

 


 

After saying hello to Talia and Andrew, Stiles and Derek get something to eat and sit down on the side of the patio to watch the wonder triplets and Jackson, who seems to have gotten bored with his phone and being ignored by Lydia, run around the lawn.

"Does Jackson have lizard eyes?" Stiles asks, squinting in the waning sunlight.

"Jackson's got this thing," Scott says and wiggles his fingers like that's explaining anything.

"He was a snake-lizard thing and then the same rogue that got Scott bit him and now he's just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth," Cora says, suddenly appearing next to Stiles. Only the fact that he could feel Derek tense keeps him from jumping five feet into the air (that and Derek's arms around him).

"A snake-lizard thing? A snake-lizard thing? That sound terrible." He lifts a hand for a high-five and Cora indulges him with only a small grimace. "Also, again with the nerd, Miss Cora. Nice."

"It was called a kanima," Derek adds.

"Okay, so Jackson was a reptile and now he's a wolf?"

"He's not a full kanima and not a full werewolf, but around the full moon he needs a pack, so he and Lydia hang around with the plebs 'till morning," Cora drawls.

"Wow, salty much?" Stiles asks.

"It's like telling a toddler to play nice in kindergarten. Not going to happen," Laura cuts in from her perch on the railing.

"Pfsh. I'm going to beat up some pups," Cora says and jumps off the patio, changing as she goes.

"I think I'll join her," Laura says, a second later. "Teach the pups some manners."

Stiles watches her go, then frowns and turns to his boyfriend, eyes big.

"Wait, Derek, where do your clothes go when you change? Do they just disappear?"

After that first time, Stiles hasn't seen Derek change back from his wolf form (and that one time Derek certainly seemed very naked) and he hasn't seen any of the others change back either.

"If we're wearing stretchy clothes, they're usually still there when we change back."

"Usually? How often have you ended up buck naked in the woods?"

Derek chooses not to answer, which is really answer enough and completely short-circuits Stiles' brain.

Chapter Text

By the time the puppy pile has broken up, and even the werewolves are well and truly fed, the sun is gone and the moon, even though partly hidden behind clouds, casts everything into a silvery light. Talia gets up from her place next to Andrew, the moonlight making her eyes blaze red, and walks into the middle of the yawn. The other wolves follow her. When they are gathered around her, she tips her head back and howls. It's an eery sound, especially when made with human vocal cords. The wolves around her join in, and it makes something under Stiles' skin itch, like he wants to howl, too.

He settles for stepping a little closer to Allison on his right.

"Do they always do this?" he asks as quietly as he can and hopes that Allison understands that he means the howling as humans, not the howling in general.

Allison nods.

"Laura told me that someone once called the police and they spent half the night assuring everybody that there were no wolves here and no one needed to search the woods," she explains.

The howling breaks off and with it the tension that was in the air breaks as well. The wolves jostle each other, laughing and shaking out their limbs and then Stiles watches ten people turn into wolves.

One moment, the small group is standing in the middle of the yard (all wearing loose clothing and Stiles really hopes Derek was right about that 'usually') and then Stiles blinks and there are ten wolves in the garden and even though Stiles has seen most of them in their wolf forms before, this is still pretty fucking cool. Talia stands in the middle of the pack, not yet transformed, with Issie running around her ankles

As if on cue, Laura and Derek step forward, coming to sit in front of their mother, who takes two scarves out of the pocket of her pants.

"Chose your teams," she says, once she has tied the red scarf around Laura's neck and the blue one around Derek's.

Alternately, Laura and Derek choose between the young Betas by walking up to them and gently (or not so gently) nudging them with their snouts. While teams are chosen, for what Stiles isn't sure yet, Andrew herds Issie off to the side, to Stiles and Allison, tumbling her over on the way and wolf-laughing as she scrambles onto all fours again.
In the end, Derek's team consists of Erica, Boyd, Scott and Laura's of Cora, Jackson, Isaac.

"You know the rules: Whoever manages to either capture the opposing teams king or the other king's scarf and get it to their own king wins. No drawing blood," Talia adds, looking at both teams. When all the wolves have nodded their assent, she continues, "Take your places."

The team move to opposite sides of the yard.

"Begin!" Talia shouts and changes into a black wolf, the same color as Derek's and the same color as both their her daughter's hair, and even taller than the others.

The ensuing fight is faster and fiercer than any of the sparring matches Stiles has witnessed. Derek's team is slightly more passive, the Betas crowding around him in a protective circle, while Laura is at the front of her group, but neither give the other wolves so much as an inch. The second one of the wolves is pinned down, the others are already there, pushing and snarling and freeing their teammate.
At one point, Cora manages to get to Derek. She snaps at his neck, teeth almost closing over the blue scarf. Derek steps out of the way at the last second and swipes her to the side with his paw. Behind him, Erica, Boyd, and Scott are doing their best to keep Jackson and Isaac occupied and block the way for Laura, who is lying in wait behind them like a ready-to-pounce cat. Jackson, for all that he is a giant douchecanoe, is holding his ground against both Boyd and Scott, and Isaac is on par with Erica. Behind them, Derek and Cora are still circling each other, Derek managing to evade her every time she tries to charge him, his greater reach a clear advantage.

Talia is circling the group, watchful eyes on everyone, much like a referee.

"Go, Scott!" Allison shouts, when Scott finally manages to wrestle Jackson to the ground.

Laura launches herself over Scott and Jackson and right past Isaac and Erica, landing right beside Cora. But then Erica manages to throw Isaac into Cora, the two bowl over furry ass over teakettle, and Laura is distracted for just long enough to give Derek enough time to get some distance between them.

And they're back to where they started.

At the edge of the lawn, Issie is running up and down, supervised by Andrew who pulls her back whenever it seems that she might be in danger of getting in the way of the game.

Stiles takes a sip of his Coke and settles in.

 


 

After half an hour no team, as far as Stiles can tell, seems any closer to winning. There have been a couple of fascinating jumps and evasion maneuvers, the wolves moving far faster than would be expected of something so large, but all scarves are still firmly around Laura and Derek's necks.

Stiles is just thinking about getting up to get himself another drink and maybe a third cupcake, when all of the wolves suddenly stop moving, heads low and turned toward the eastern edge of the forest, teeth bared. Only a couple of seconds later, two werewolves, both with bright copper fur and the same black markings around the eyes, step onto the clearing. Considering that they've just stepped onto the territory and in the middle of a whole pack, they seem oddly confident.

As quick as they appeared, they change.

They're clearly twins, both with short-cropped, light brown hair and stocky bodies. And they're both naked (they clearly weren't told to wear loose clothes). The two take a few synchronized steps forward and then, just as in synch, flash Alpha-red eyes at them. Talia flashes her own eyes in answer, shoulders tensing almost imperceptibly. The pack comes to stand behind her, Derek and Laura left and right of her, the other Betas a step behind them, and further back the humans, huddled around Andrew who has Issie in his arms.
The two Alphas stop just outside of what would be Talia's range if she were to change back. They smiles, as they take in everybody, seemingly completely at ease and at the same time somehow condescending.

Stiles always got why people would be afraid of clowns; seeing these twins move their heads at exactly the same time, smile at exactly the same time, makes him realize why there are so many twins in horror movies (he isn't really sure, though, whether they scare him because of their creepy twin-thing, or if there is just something inherently scary about them – their posture a little too obviously relaxed, their smiles a little too sharp).

They don't become the slightest bit less creepy when they start speaking.

"I'm Ethan," the left twin says.

"And I'm Aidan."

"We were just traveling through, –"

"Heard your pack, –"

"Thought we'd say hello."

"We didn't mean to break up a party."

"Tonight –"

"Of all nights," the twin on the right ends.

Stiles barely suppresses a shiver as they both simultaneously look past Talia and the Betas to focus on the humans (and only spares a tiny moment to wonder whether they've rehearsed the whole back and forth speaking).

"And you've even brought –" the right one begins.

"Playmates."

"These humans are part of my pack and under my protection," Talia says, the threat in her voice obvious. Behind her, Derek, Scott and Jackson look ready to attack.

The twins don't miss it. "And obviously spoken for."

A look passes between them, so quick that Stiles thinks he might have imagined it. The next second their expressions turn into something resembling the sheepishness of a child standing next to the vase it broke, still trying to play innocent.

"We wouldn't want to encroach." The way he says is makes it seem like encroaching is exactly what he'd like to do.

"You're welcome to pass through Hale territory," Talia says, "but we would appreciate to be notified the next time."

"Of course."

"We don't mean to cause any trouble."

Talia only nods, her face inscrutable, and Stiles wonders if she heard a lie or if the twins know how to lie without being caught. With a last (creepy) look at the pack, the twins melt back into the shadows of the trees.

There is a lingering silence after the Alphas have disappeared, the wolves obviously listening for their movements in the forest and waiting for them to move out of range. The younger Betas seem to lose them earlier, Talia listening the longest.

As soon as she relaxes, Laura starts speaking. "Mom, their scent was the one we found after those deer went postal. It's off, but –"

She turns to Scott, who nods.

"It's like they're wearing a lot of perfume or something. It's weird, because I can recognize their scent now, but we couldn't follow it."

"I think they were also the ones who killed all those other deer and scratched the cars."

"I agree," Talia says. "Their scent wasn't right. And it seemed like they were looking for us."

"I have never heard of siblings, not even twins, sharing Alpha powers," Andrew chips in.

"Neither have I." Talia turns to address the pack. "We will increase our patrols, just in case. I also want no one to go anywhere alone, especially the humans. They seemed too interested in you, so we should be careful just in case. Allison, warn your parents, but please also let them know that, from our side, nothing nothing has changed and we will only resort to violence if absolutely necessary."

Allison nods, and Talia splits everyone into groups of three to patrol through and along the Hale territory in the coming days. Jackson is exempt because Lydia's parents aren't home a lot and he insists on staying with her. Derek, draped over Stiles' back like a little anxious, overprotective puppy, agrees that while Stiles' dad is home he is probably safe enough but he still wants the patrol to also run by his house. Allison apparently needs no further protection (and Stiles is so going to corner Scott later, because, seriously, what are Allison's parents? Wizards? Scooby-Doo? Van Helsing?).

 


 

Stiles walks up the stairs as softly as possible. His dad's cruiser is in the driveway, but the lights (except for a small lamp on a recently acquired side table in the hall) were off, so Stiles assumes his father's already fast asleep. He stops at the top of the stairs and, through the closed bedroom door, listens to his dad snoring. It's tempting to push open the door to check on his dad, but his father's a light sleeper, so he decides against it (and the shower he would really like to take).

He would have loved to stay with the pack and curl up with them in the living room, but he doesn't want his dad to be alone the rest of the night (he isn't sure how much damage a bullet can actually do to a werewolf).

He ends up in his room, too wired for sleep, and just looks around for a few minutes. There are some clothes on the floor he picks up and throws onto one pile in the bathroom. Then he decides to go through his gym bag and check his lacrosse gear, and, after making sure that all the doors are locked three times and only just stopping himself from checking a fourth time, he finally puts on the t-shirt he wears to sleep and lounges on his bed with his laptop.
Shortly after he started dating Derek (shortly in this case meaning as soon as he was in his room with the door closed), he searched the internet for werewolf facts which ended with him on a couple of terrible porn sites and then in a three-hour fanfiction hole. So while Stiles is very tempted to use his google-fu to search for Alpha twins and anything related, he knows better by now; well, he knows the internet better by now and doesn't want to subject himself to the things he'd find. Instead Stiles opens up Netflix and goes looking for a Korean drama that he hasn't watched yet.

 


 

Stiles startles and almost falls off his bed (he has moved around a lot and is currently slouching with half of his body dangling off the bed, a foot and hand touching the floor) when there is a sudden tapping on his window. His second story window. He jerks upright and finds himself looking at his boyfriend, perched on the roof of the garage.

"Are front doors too basic for you?" Stiles asks, pulling open the window.

Derek shoot him his patented I'm-very-unimpressed look.

"Your dad's asleep."

"And climbing through windows is a lot cooler, too, I guess?"

Derek grumbles something and pulls Stiles into a kiss.

"That's a yes, then?" Stiles asks, once Derek has released him (somehow they've migrated to the bed, Derek poised over Stiles, both of their shirts rucked up slightly, exposing Stiles' stomach to the cold air coming in through the open window).

Derek runs his hands along Stiles' sides, turning serious, but not taking his hands off Stiles' skin.

"We followed the Alphas' scent to the edge of our territory," Derek explains. "They ran there and then turned around. We lost their trail at the old mill. They masked their scent again. We don't know how yet, but mom is calling some people she knows and hopefully they'll be able to help."

"What does that mean?" Stiles asks carefully.

"I'm staying with you until tomorrow."

Stiles would like to be a very much protesting lady, but he's tired, and a little jittery, and tonight made him acutely aware of the fact that he is all pale skin and fragile bones with sarcasm as his only defense and would make a very crunchy snack for the Alpha twins.

"Okay."

"I won't let them hurt you," he promises.

Stiles puts his hands over Derek's and runs them up his forearms.

"I know, big guy, I know."

And Stiles believes it, too, that Derek will do everything he can to keep Stiles and everybody else safe. But if a man with a gun is dangerous, what kind of damage can someone with superior reflexes, strength and claws do?

 


 

At six twenty-seven the next morning, Derek's phone vibrates, Laura calling to tell her brother to haul ass because they are up on patrol duty again. Derek heaves himself out of bed, sporting truly glorious bed head and pillow creases on his cheek, and grumbles his feet into his boots and his arms into his leather jacket. He noses at Stiles' temple for a moment.

"Scott is outside," he says, pressing a kiss to Stiles' head. "He'll come in after your father leaves."

"Are you teaching poor Scotty all your stalker habits?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Mh, you too," Stiles mumbles into his pillow, already half asleep again. He doesn't see Derek stiffen; and when he wakes up again, he also doesn't remember almost telling Derek that he loves him.

Like Derek promised, Scott knocks on the door almost the second the sheriff's cruiser disappears around the corner.

"Now what exactly is it with all the cloak-and-dagger shit? Why couldn't you just come in when my dad was still here?"

"We wanted to have eyes outside," Scott explains, sounding a lot more serious than he normally does.

Stiles has to admit that that sounds kind of clever, but it also makes it all the more clear that the Hale pack considers the twins a real threat.

"Talia has been calling people all night," Scott goes on. "No one knows anything about two Alphas in the area. And," Scott rubs his hand through his curls, "an Alpha on their own is rare, because they draw their power from a pack. So two Alphas together is apparently unheard of."

Instead of asking one of the about a gazillion questions Stiles has, he simply pats Scott's shoulder, pulls his best friend into the living room and says, "Come on, bro, I've got coffee, pancakes and a Wii."

 


 

They play Donkey Kong Country Returns and Mario Kart for hours, Stiles kicking Scott's ass at the latter (because Scott doesn't like to use shells on other players because "that's just mean, Stiles."), and go through most of Stiles' secret snack stash (patent pending).
They're about to start another grand prix, Stiles is hanging from the couch upside-down to give Scott at least some semblance of a chance, when Scott's phone vibrates on the floor next to him. Stiles can almost feel his best friend looking then looking away again hastily. The phone vibrates again, Scott visibly swaying in its direction.

"Just read it, before you hurt yourself," Stiles says, and swings himself upright.

"Are you sure? I don't have to," Scott says, but his puppy eyes say differently.

"Dude, it's a text, not skinning a rabbit in front of a vegetarian."

From the way Scott is smiling, Stiles would think that Christmas had come early. Scott reads the texts, writes something, reads the answer, types out a reply, and Stiles can actually follow the whole conversation just by looking at Scott's face, which is sappy, then kinda scrunchy and then torn.

"Allison?" Stiles asks, even though he doubts Scott makes that face for anybody but her.

"Yeah, her parents are meeting with Talia and Andrew to see if they can find something we didn't."

"Okay, what's the deal with Allison's parents?"

"They're hunters," Scott says, with a little shrug that might have been a wince.

And Stiles gets it.

"Scottie, my bro, are they werewolf hunters? Like Buffy but for dogs?

"Yes?"

"Wait," Stiles says, and puts up both his hands, palms out flat, "Wait, wait, wait."

"Yes?" Scott asks again, trying not to get hit the face by Stiles' hands.

"So if Allison's family really hates you, and your people kinda really don't like Allison's family, then you actually do have the whole Romeo and Juliet thing going?" Stiles asks incredulously. "I totally called that!"

"Yes," Scott says again, but this time there's no question mark.

"Dude, that's awesome!" Stiles holds his fist out for Scott to bump. "Potentially life-threatening, but awesome. Good for you."

"I don't – How is this good for me?"

"Stand up for love, baby," Stiles croons, hands on this chest, and then grins at Scott while wiggling his eyebrows. "Must make climbing through her window difficult, if her parents kind of want to kill you.

"And their house is lined with wolfsbane."

"The keeps-wolfies-out stuff?"

"Yes."

"How do you get in?"

"Oh, she usually breaks the line to let me in and then closes it again," Scott admits and grins his sappy smile again

Stiles nods, then suggests, "Would you like to use this convenient opportunity and go meet Juliet?"

"No, dude, I can't leave you alone."

"Nah, it's cool, bro. Go be Romeo. I'll text Derek. And my dad'll be back soon."

Scott looks at him like a puppy sitting in front of a treat, doing its bets to wait for mom to say go.

"Are you sure?"

"Scottie, my bro, my broest, it's fine. Seriously, I'll text Derek, he'll be here in no time. I mean have you seen his legs? That man can run."

Scott's face takes on a slight green hue.

"I try not to look."

 


 

 

They says their goodbyes and Scott speeds out the back door, sprinting between the old, overgrown vegetable patches that Stiles will have to tackle at some point.
The digital clock on their DVD player tells him that it's about twenty minutes before his dad is supposed be home and he should really text Derek. He doesn't want his boyfriend (and every now and then it's still strange to think of Derek that way because they seemed to have skipped every awkward stage in their relationship and jumped straight to old married couple) to maim Scott if he finds out that he left him alone for half an hour. His phone is not in his pocket, or on the coffee table, so Stiles trots upstairs, after making sure that both the back door and the front one are locked.
After some rooting around his room, Stiles finally manages to unearth his phone from a pair of socks next to his bed. He skims over a couple of news notifications and then leans against the wall next to his window to write Derek.

The sun is just going down behind the tops of the trees that border on their garden, forming a small grove. A couple of rays break through the foliage and make it seem like the leaves they touch have caught on fire. Between the trunks, where it's already mostly dark, are four small, red lights. At first, Stiles thinks it's a reflection on his window, or the light breaking weirdly on a discarded plastic wrapper, but when he looks closer realizes that he is staring straight at two pairs of red eyes.

He shies back from the window, sinking down below it so that he isn't visible and his hands shake only slightly as he sends a second message to Derek, reading only SOS, twins here.

get a weapon lock yourself into your room im almost there, comes Derek's answer, only a couple of seconds later.

When Stiles thinks weapon, he thinks of baseball bats and knifes. He has a wooden bat, somewhere, probably buried in the basement under years and years of detritus he and his dad lugged here from Phoenix, so knife it is. He sprints down the stairs as fast as he can without breaking his neck and slides around the corner to the kitchen. He has just managed to grip the door frame to stop himself from skidding too far down the hall, when the front door is literally blown open and hits the wall with a crack.

The Alpha twins are shirt and shoeless, wearing only loose gym shorts (and boy is he glad about that; this up close he might otherwise have been tempted to laugh and then they'd rip out his throat immediately), but look just as creepy as they did yesterday night, with the addition of also looking slightly unhinged, too.

"And where –"

"Are you going?"

This time, their eyes are already red, like they're not even trying to pretend anymore.

"Somewhere you creeps aren't," Stiles gives back.

"Mh, feisty."

"But so frightened, little human."

"Little? Are you even allowed to be out at this time of night? You're what, fifteen?"

Stiles wants to inch into the kitchen, hoping to maybe grab at least a skillet if he can't get a knife, but he doesn't like his chances of outrunning two Alpha werewolves.

"We like feisty –"

"We do not like impolite."

Their eyes seem to flash even brighter and their blunt teeth lengthen and sharpen, their faces half transforming, changing their faces into something that might still be partially human but certainly doesn't look it anymore.

"You broke into my house."

"We knocked first."

"Of course you did. Let me guess, you don't know your own strength?" Stiles asks, hoping, though he has the sinking feeling it's not going to help him much, to play for time. And also hoping that Derek brings reinforcements. And that his dad doesn't get here right now. And that he isn't about to star in the first five minutes of a CSI episode.

"Oh no –"

"We know exactly what we're doing."

"Care to share?"

They look at each other and start smiling a sharp and not in the least reassuring smile. Then they turn back to Stiles and take two simultaneous steps toward him, which Stiles mirrors with his own receding steps.

"We didn't get to play catch."

"What?"

These two are definitely missing a couple of sandwiches from their picnic basket, and if Stiles hadn't been a little, maybe, scared before, he really would be now.

The twins take another step forward and Stiles another back.

"Your little pack was playing –"

"But we didn't get to play."

"What?" Stiles asks again, feeling a little like Scott, because even though he heard what they said it doesn't really make sense.

"We made up our own game, –"

"With our own rules."

"Your pack gets to play, –"

"Because that's just how nice we are, –"

"And you get to play, too."

"Why me?" Stiles can't help but ask.

"We looked in on your little girlfriends first, but one hardly smells like wolves –"

"And the other has her house warded with wolfsbane."

"Not very nice."

"So I'm last choice? I'm crying on the inside, truly."

"Don't worry, –"

"You're the most important part."

They're on him faster than Stiles can blink. His head hits the wall with a thunk, leaving him dizzy and disoriented. He doesn't manage to get his hands up to defend himself from the fist that connects with his face and throwing him into unconsciousness.

 


 

Stiles comes to because someone is pulling him out of a trunk, moving him around none too gently like a rag doll. The movement makes his head throb painfully.
They have one hand each on his biceps, he's pretty sure he's going to have finger-shaped bruises there come tomorrow (if he is still alive tomorrow, and, boy, is that a depressing though), and set him onto his feet. His vision blurs a little, but he manages to stay upright. The hands linger on his arms, then the twins step in front of him, still very naked, despite the fact that it's dark, now, and Stiles is feeling pretty chilly in his Henley (it's not, technically, his; he stole it from Derek, and right now it's doing a lot to make him feel at least a little better).

"Let's go, little human."

"Again with the little," Stiles grumbles and there's his knee-jerk sarcasm, a defense against everything and also crazy Alphas.

The twins don't react this time, maybe they think they've already asserted enough of their we're-the-coolest-kids-in-this-forest dominance, and frogmarch him deeper into the wood. Stiles tries to orient himself, hoping to figure out which direction the city is, or the Hale house, or, at the very least, the highway, but there is just trees and more trees. The moon doesn't give him any clue, either. Navigating by the stars is, sadly, not one of Stiles manifold useless abilities.

To distract himself from his less than ideal situation, and the way his head is still hurting, and also the cold slowly creeping under his shirt, he asks, "Since we're playing with each other, in a totally non-sexually way, you guys should probably tell me your names, I mean, which one of you is Beavis and which one is Butthead?"

A rough shove to his back makes him stumble.

"No? Snow-White and Rose-Red then? Pee-Bee and Jay?"

Stiles finds himself pushed against a tree, the bark biting into his back, and looking at two pairs of red eyes (again).

"Hey, consent is sexy!" Stiles ground out past the arm pressed against his throat. "Stay in your dance space, spaghetti arms."

"We need you to run –" the one Stiles has just decided looks more like a Beavis starts.

"But we don't need you to be able to talk. If you want to keep you tongue –"

"Be quiet."

Stiles has to admit, that's a pretty good threat if you want him to shut up.

 


 

They stop their march at a spot that doesn't look at all that different from any of the other spots they have passed in the fifteen minutes they've been tracking through this wood; there's trees, and dead leaves, and fog creeping up from the ground (because apparently Stiles' live is secretly a supernatural teenage drama TV show).

Two pairs of hands push him roughly forward, and Stiles has to catch himself on a tree to keep from falling.

"Rude," Stiles mutters.

When he turns around, he is faced with the same half-transformed faces and red eyes, but now both Alphas have claws instead of hands, fingers bony, nails impossibly long and sharp.

"Run," Butthead demands.

"If you run fast enough, maybe you wolves will get to you before we do. If not, there might not be enough of you left to find," Beavis ends.

Stiles shivers, both from the cold, adrenaline, and fear. There's no way he can outrun two Alpha werewolves, no matter how much jogging, hiking, and lacrosse he's been doing. His immediate response is to tell them to go fuck themselves and sit his ass down and not move, because if there's one thing he hates more than bullies it's mind games.
But Stiles' second name isn't stubborn for nothing (it's actually Baptiste, because unfortunate names seem to be his lot in life). And there is absolutely no fucking way that he isn't at least going to try and scratch their eyes out.

Stiles takes a deep breath, turns around and runs.

Somewhere behind him, a wolf howls.