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The Adventures of Ranger Rookie and Deputy Dork

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It's March when his dad tells him that he's getting a new partner. 

 

"Really, Dad? Just because Parish moved doesn't mean I need a new partner. I'm fine on my own."

 

"Not happening, son."

 

Stiles had always known he'd become a cop one day. Following in his old man's footsteps and all that. He hadn't always known that he was going to be an elemental mage, but hey. When life gives you lemons.

 

"The only people who know about my magic are you, Scott, and Parish. I can't start driving around with some new guy who doesn't know shit from shoelaces and who's gonna blow the whistle on my secret!"

 

"You're just gonna have to learn to work around it, Stiles. You need a ride-along."

 

He'd started studying magic when he was fifteen and a nearby mage had contacted him. He'd told Stiles that he was going to die soon and that he needed an apprentice. He'd told Stiles that his spark was strong. He'd been right. 

 

"I've been a deputy for four years now! I can watch my own back. Literally! I can literally watch my own back, I just mastered this new spell where I-"

 

"Deputy Stilinski, you're working with Deputy Hale come Monday. No buts."

 

"Deputy Hale? As in the Hale family? Those weirdos that home-schooled all 47 of their kids? The ones that all moved out of town years ago?"

 

"Well, they're moving back."

 

_~_~_~_~

 

"What? We're moving back?"

 

"Yes, Derek. Our family has had land there for generations. It's time the Hale pack resumes our position as guardians of Beacon Hills."

 

When Derek was fifteen, he'd made an awful decision. A decision he'd never forgive himself for. His family did though, and they packed up and moved to Wyoming the very next day. 

 

"What about Ka- What about the hunters?"

 

"Chris Argent reached out to us and shared some shocking news. His sister, wife, and father have all been arrested and are serving life sentences for multiple counts of murder and organized crime. He promised to stay out of our business as long as we keep our end of the truce."

 

 Derek tries to remember what Beacon Hills was like. Thick woods, friendly locals. It'd been too long though; his life was here. 

 

"What am I supposed to do for work? I've been a park ranger here since I graduated high school."

 

"There's a Sheriff's Department in Beacon Hills, Derek. They'd be lucky to have you."

 

_~_~_~_~

 

Stiles catches a glimpse of the Derek Hale in his dad's office Monday morning. He's- well, hot. He's hot and tall and buff and grumpy. His eyebrows are tipped downwards and his lips are twisted to the side and his uniform is definitely too tight because Stiles' shirt does not pull at the buttons like that.

 

His dad catches him looking and waves him in. Stiles trips through the door with all the grace of an untrained circus monkey and while Derek Hale does not look impressed, he keeps any opinions he might have on the topic to himself. 

 

"Deputy Hale, meet Deputy Stilinski. He'll be showing you the ropes for now."

 

"Nice to meet you." Derek grunts, his voice conveying that it is not in fact nice to meet Stiles.

 

"S'up, man." Stiles gives his trademark grin that does too woo all the ladies, Scott. Derek seems unaffected. "Uh. I don't think that your top is regulation. We should probably get you a larger size. You'd hate to pop a perp's eye out with a button, ya know?"

 

The following silence makes Chief Stilinski's weary sigh sound very loud.

 

"Deputy Hale here was a Park Ranger at Yellowstone. He's gonna be a fine addition to our team."

 

Stiles takes in the angry eyebrows and the crossed arms and feels his mouth start to move without permission. "Could he be a fine addition with Deputy Weaver, maybe?"

 

"He's joining you in cruiser PC04, end of discussion. Don't let him bully you, Hale." The Sheriff gives them a dismissive hand gesture and Stiles looks back to his statue of a new partner.

 

"Alright, Ranger Rookie." Stiles says when Derek fails to say anything. "Let's get this show on the road."

 

_~_~_~_~

 

The first few days of work are... not that bad. When he'd been paired with the Sheriff's son, Derek had expected a spoiled brat who coasted by on nepotism. What he got was a competent, if chatty and quirky, partner. 

 

He explains everything that Derek needs to know- and more- in detail, giving Derek the chance to sit back and adjust to the changes in silence. It isn't until Friday on their lunch break that he starts a conversation that requires responses.

 

"So, Deputy Hale, do you have any siblings?" Stiles’ mouth is full of curly fries and milk shake at the same time and Derek is torn between disgust and amusement. 

 

"Two sisters and a brother."

 

"And how long were you a Park Ranger?"

 

"Since I graduated high school six years ago." Stiles taps his fingers against his milkshake, jittery and hyperactive. 

 

Just as Derek thinks that they'll be allowed to slip into silence, Stiles puts on a comically unhappy expression and, in an obnoxiously high voice, says "so, Deputy Stilinski, how long have you been in law enforcement?"

 

Derek feels his lips twitch into a smile. "So, Deputy Stilinski-" He dutifully repeats only to be cut off. 

 

"My friends call me Stiles."

 

"So, Stiles...?" He says, waving his hand for the younger man to continue. 

 

"Four years. It's really the only thing I've ever wanted. You know, protect and serve yada yada yada." His heart beat is steady and honest and Derek feels himself growing fond of the goofy (handsome) man in front of him. 

 

"I do. Know, that is. It's rewarding work." Stiles nods happily and Derek catches the scent of relief seep through Stiles' strong smell of herbs and spices. He smells like a garden, earthy and coated in dozens of different plants

 

"Tell me more about the mysterious Derek Hale. We're partners, we should know each other pretty well." Derek nods and opens his mouth to speak but nothing comes out. His life revolves around work, which Stiles already knows about, and pack, which Stiles can't ever know. 

 

"I.... like the woods?" He feels it come out like a question and winces. Way to go, Hale.

 

"Yeah? Me too!" Stiles enthuses, not seeming to notice Derek's behavior. "I get enough of downtown on the job, it feels good to be out in the trees, huh?"

 

He sounds so earnest, so honest, that Derek can’t help but nod back. "Exactly."

 

"Hey!" Stiles shoots up in his seat like he simply can't contain his excitement. "Sometime we're both free, we should-"

 

He quickly snaps his mouth shut and deflates, leaving Derek with Stiles-induced whiplash. 

 

"What?" He asks, head tilting to the side in confusion. 

 

"We should, uh, we should take the cruiser in for a car wash, huh?" 

 

"Okay." Derek says slowly, but Stiles is already off on another tangent and Derek shrugs it off. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

"Keep it together, Stilinski." Stiles mutters under his breath as he washes his hands in the bathroom.

 

He'd gotten so caught up in getting to know Derek that he'd almost invited him for a jog through the woods. But when Stiles jogs through woods, the woods waves back. Trees blossom, brooks babble, deer stop to sniff his hair. And that is all a lot harder to explain than why there's never bird poop on Stiles' favorite bench.

 

When he gets back to the cruiser, his new partner is leaning against it casually, red lips sucking down on the remains of a strawberry smoothie.

 

"Ready to catch some teenagers smooching in the park, Deputy Hale?" He asks jovially. 

 

"Actually, my friends call me Derek." The older man doesn't smile, but Stiles can see the mirth hidden in his green eyes. Maybe this won't be so bad...

 

"Well, Derek, let's get going." They climb into the cruiser and Stiles sees Derek taking notes on set up protocol.

 

"PC04 to dispatch, back on duty, over." Stiles says into the radio as they pull out of the parking lot. 

 

"Perfect timing." The radio crackles back. "We've got a report of child endangerment coming from 4481 Hillberry Drive. PC08 is already on location and requesting back up, over."

 

The good mood is sucked out of the car like heat in a rain storm. Stiles lets his head clunk against the wheel as he answers. "PC04 responding, ETA ten minutes, over and out."

 

As Stiles flips on the sirens and peels out, he can see Derek curl his hands into fists. "Listen, you're still technically a probationary deputy. You can't interact with a perp or suspect. When we get there, help establish a perimeter if needed, or start documenting the scene if not. Got it?"

 

Derek nods and Stiles understands his quiet. When they pull up to the scene, there's a man wrestling in the grass with Deputy Divers and a small boy with curly hair cowering behind Deputy Jones. Stiles immediately flings himself from the car, cuffs in hand, and rushes to Danvers' side.

 

After a short tussle, the man is in cuffs and shoved in the back of the other cruiser. "He's my boy, you don't have any right to interfere!" 

 

"Yeah, tell it to the judge, Lahey." Stiles spits. 

 

"Fuck it. He's a useless little shit anyways. Ungrateful bastard."

 

Stiles flips Lahey the bird before leaving him with Danvers and turning to look for Derek. When he can't find him, Jones points towards the house. 

 

"He went in to get Isaac here a bag for his sleep over." She says, and the little boy nods. 

 

"Mr. Derek promised he'd find my Spider-Man shoes." Isaac has a bruise peeking out from under his hair line and blood dripping from his nail beds and Stiles has to take a deep breath. 

 

"Hey, Jones. Why don't you and Danvers head out. Me and Hale will keep Isaac here company until the social worker shows up." Jones nods and Stiles goes to sit on the grass beside the boy as she walks away. 

 

"Hey, Isaac. My name is Stiles."

 

"Hi, Mr. Stiles." His voice has an unnatural politeness for a six-year-old.

 

"You know, Isaac, I can do some magic tricks. Wanna see?" When he nods eagerly and sends his curls bouncing, Stiles can't help but smile. 

 

He does a few simple tricks that even humans could pull off. Flowers from the sleeve, quarters behind the ear. Then, after checking for any onlookers, Stiles leans in close to Isaac. 

 

"Did you know, I can even fix boo boos? Here, can I hold your hand?" When his skinny hand is cupped in one of Stiles calloused ones, the mage uses his free hand to touch the healing spell tattooed on his arm. While healing has never been an instinctive magic for Stiles, he's spent years practicing. He can feel the telltale tingle just as Isaac lets out an adorable gasp. "Mr. Stiles, my boo boos are all better!"

 

Stiles smiles widely and leans back in the grass to wait for Derek. When he emerges from the house, he has their evidence camera slung around his neck and a Walmart bag clutched in his hand. His face looks murderous, rage clear to even the boy tucked into Stiles' side. 

 

"Hey, Ranger Rookie, put the murder-brows away, alright?" He calls and Derek at least looks a little chagrined before he plasters on a more appropriate expression. 

 

"Hey, Isaac. I found everything you asked for! I even grabbed some of your comic books so you won't get bored." And then the three of them sit and waited for the social worker, Stiles being his usual chatty self and Derek being surprisingly kid friendly. 

 

As the social worker pulls away ten minutes later, Stiles says as much. "You were really good with him."

 

"I- Yeah, I've gotta lot of family, ya know?" Stiles doesn't know, but he nods anyways. 

 

"So. What was it like in there? Get any pictures for the DA?" Derek's face is back to raging before Stiles can even finish the question. 

 

"There's broken glass all over the kitchen. And- Stiles, there's a broken deep freezer in the basement that has blood all over the inside. It reeks of urine and tears and-"

 

"Tears?" Stiles has gotten used to being vague in police reports -you can't exactly write 'used magic to ask the family dog if there'd been one or two intruders' in a statement- but 'smelled like tears'? That's a rough one. 

 

"No! Not literally. It just..." Derek gives a vague hand gesture and Stiles takes pity on him. 

 

"Bad vibes, man. I feel ya. What do you say we blow this popsicle stand as soon as the crime scene unit gets here and find ourselves a puppy to save?" Derek lets out a sigh of relief and Stiles pats his back. "First kid is hard. You did good."

 

Derek's smile is like the sun peeking out from behind storm clouds and Stiles has to bite his tongue when he feels butterflies in his stomach. He was already unfairly handsome and now he's a good person too? Well shit.

 

_~_~_~_~

 

"So, how'd your first week go, Der-Bear?" Derek lets out a quiet groan as Laura flops onto Derek's bed and stretches out across his legs. Laura's voice has the sing song quality that she's been using to tease Derek since they were children. 

 

"It was fine."

 

"Fine?" Cora chimes in, suddenly worming her way under Derek's elbow. Where did she come from?

 

"Yes, fine."

 

Suddenly Malia is redistributing pillows and Derek resigns himself to the puppy pile. "Then why do you smell so sad?"

 

"We arrested an abusive father today. Stiles says it gets easier, but." Derek shrugs vaguely and all three of the girls -women, Derek reminds himself, they're women now- nod understandingly. 

 

"But he can't smell their fear, hear their little hearts beating out of their chests." Laura says, ever the wise alpha-in-training. 

 

"Exactly. But Stiles is really at home with our job. His dad is the Sheriff, so he's grown up seeing this stuff."

 

"Sheriff Stilinski? That means your partner's name is... Stiles Stilinski?" Malia wrinkles her noise in a perfect imitation of her father.

 

"No, Stiles is just a nickname." When all three gasp loudly, Derek knows he's played his hand. 

 

"A nickname?!"

 

"Der-Bear, you've never used a nickname in your life!"

 

"Tell us more about Stiles-Is-Just-A-Nickname Stilinski!"

 

Really? Derek thinks. Laura and Malia are both mothers now. Cora is a year away from being a physical therapist. "Don't you guys have something more important to do than bug me about my new partner?"

 

"No, Derek." Laura says, her voice oddly serious. "Who you spend your time with is very important to us." Damn alpha-in-training... "Now, tell us all about this Stiles." 

 

The girls all cackle like they're witches instead of werewolves and Derek rubs at his eyes. He could say a lot of things. That Stiles never seems to shut up, that his tattoos are nonsensical and unprofessional, that his hair is too damn fluffy and his lips are too damn red. But instead-

 

"He's a good deputy. He takes this job seriously. I think he really does everything he can every day to help everybody he interacts with."

 

"Oh wow." Malia's hand is patting Derek's hair in mock comfort. "Derek's secret kink, an upstanding moral code."

 

"Are you gonna ask him out?" Cora asks, like it's that easy. Like he doesn't have to ask his mother's permission and wonder if he'll be able to trust Stiles with his secret someday. Like he doesn't have to feel guilty about bringing Stiles into this world. Like humans don't recoil in disgust at them. 

 

So instead of answering, he says "I don't have a secret kink" and flicks Malia and Cora both on the tops of their heads. They laugh and pounce on him and the puppy pile dissolves into a wrestling match. Laura send him a look that implies a 'talk' though, and Derek gives another weary sigh. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

It's June when Stiles decides that Derek is the fourth most important person in his life, besides his dad, Scott, and Melissa. 

 

"No, really, Scott! He's the best!"

 

Scott rolls his eyes, elbow deep in a bowl of sage. "Sure."

 

"I'm serious! We're the best together! He's the strong and silent type who makes people feel safe, I'm the friendly and chatty type who cheers them up." The Sheriff snorts at that from across the room. Stiles is prevented from defending himself when the bundle of lavender in his hand burst into flames. 

 

It's the full moon, the best night for mixing new potions and filling hex bags. Scott and his dad always take off of work too, to lend a hand with the non-magical half of things. It's a nice way for them to spend some family time together, with how busy they all are at work. Thankfully Derek had also asked for the night off, so he hadn't had to come up with any excuses. 

 

"Really. I haven't gotten along with a new person so well since I found some nerd's inhaler three feet deep in the sandbox at summer camp." Scott rolls his eyes at the familiar taunt. 

 

"I haven't lost my inhaler since junior year, Stiles. Let it go."

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Stiles ties off another bag and stretches out his arms. "What do you guys say we take a break, grab a beer, and go sit on the back porch for a bit?"

 

Scott nods happily and darts out to the garage for the cooler. The Sheriff comes up behind Stiles and claps him on the back.

 

"I'm happy you and Hale are working out, son." He says. Stiles grins thankfully and they move outside to meet Scott. 

 

The spark in Stiles unfurls and coos, ecstatic to feel the moon on his face. They sit and talk for a while, Scott earnestly singing the praise of the new nurse, Kira, who his mom had introduced him to and Stiles chiming in with stories about Derek helping little old ladies and lost kids.

 

"Alright. Let's get back inside and finish up. All we've got left are the ginger and rattlesnake venom bags for Mrs. Helmer’s arthritis and the wolfsbane stuffed rabbit paws for that omega in New Mexico that Allison found." Before the trio can make it back up the porch, though, the sound of a wolf howl drifts from down the mountain.  

 

"Was that a wolf?" Scott's head swivels as if the wolf is somehow in their backyard.

 

"No, no way. There haven't been any wolves in California since the 60's." Stiles objects. 

 

"They must've started some kind of relocation project or something." His dad says from the doorway. 

 

Scott nods and while the other two go back inside, Stiles pauses. The mage tilts his head and stretches his magic out, feeling for anything unusual. Whatever it is, it's out of his range though. He shrugs before giving the forest one last look and heading back inside. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

The next day, Derek drags himself to the station. He's running late but he can't bring it in himself to feel bad. Yes, he's exhausted from a lack of sleep, but he's also rejuvenated from the pack run under the full moon. 

 

He isn't surprised to see Stiles perched on the hood of their cruiser, two cups of coffee balanced in one hand and a takeout bag in the other. 

 

"Late start, Ranger Rookie?" He shouts, peaking over his stereotypical cop sunglasses. His smile is wide and his hair is ruffled. 

 

Honestly, it's just unprofessional to look so.... So unprofessional.

 

"I've been sitting out here for fifteen minutes!"

 

"Yeah, sorry. My sisters got a little wild last night and- achoo!" Derek lets out a loud sneeze as he comes to a halt beside his partner

 

"You okay, man?" Stiles asks, but the werewolf hardly hears him. 

 

Derek takes a deep and practically flinches away from Stiles. Was that... wolfsbane? He takes another step back and forces down a growl that claws at his throat. Panic. Derek realizes. This is what panic feels like.

 

"Wow, Der. You look a little pale. Maybe you should sit down?"

 

Stiles can't be a hunter, right? With his easy smiles and gentle hands. He'd thought the same thing about Ka- about her. Stiles is also good with a gun, just like her. They both grew up here, Stiles was even the right age to have gone to school with her niece. 

 

Derek's mind flashes back to a conversation about the woods that Stiles had shied away from. A conversation about how Stiles always took off work 'once a month' to hang out with his dad and roommate. The tattoo on Stiles' forearm of a demon banishment rune that Derek had always assumed was some hipster thing. It was possible....

 

"Here, buddy. Why don't you get in the car and I'll drive you home.?"

 

Home. Home, where his whole pack is living in the house he almost got them killed in a decade ago.

 

"No!" He gasps with his head between his knees. 

 

"Hey? Alright. Just breath. What's going on?"

 

He tilts his head towards Stiles' chest and slows his breathing, trying to stay calm. "Stiles, do you... like hunting?"

 

"Hunting? Bro, I can hardly kill bugs! I've never been hunting, never want to." Steady, calm. Derek feels the panic start to dissipate. 

 

"Not even if it were something dangerous? Like mountain lions or, or wolves?" Derek's panic clears away completely at Stiles' peal of genuine laughter. 

 

"Wolves? Oh, not you too. I told Scott last night, there aren't any wolves in California."

 

Derek takes another breath and smells not just wolfsbane, but all kinds of plants. Just Stiles' normal scent, only stronger than normal. 

 

"Sorry." Derek breathes out, head tilting back to look at his partner. "I just- I'm hungover and your cologne is kinda strong today."

 

"My cologne? Oh! The herbs! Sorry, I was- Me and Scott have a garden at our place, we were harvesting some herbs and spices last night. Ginger, lavender, monkshood. They can be pretty potent in large quantities."

 

"You... garden?" All of the despair Derek had been feeling is immediately replaced with amusement at the mental image of Stiles covered in dirt and wearing one of those dorky sun hats. 

 

"Hey, man! Don't knock my hobbies, Mr. I'm-Writing-a-Novel!" Stiles mocks offense and Derek plays along. 

 

"Well, I am. And I think I know what I'm gonna name the villain's ugly henchman now."

 

Stiles laughs again and it's so open and light and clean that Derek laughs too, at the idea that Stiles could ever be a hunter. That he could ever be like her. 

 

"Hey, there's a laugh from my grumpy partner! Alright, let's get going. I heard over dispatch that there was a cat stuck in a tree somewhere and I promised my dad I'd film you trying to get a hold of it this time."

 

"I'm not grumpy! And it's not my fault cats don't like me!" Derek grumbles as he climbs up and into their cruiser. "You're the freaky one. They flock to you like cat nip! And not just the cats, their crazy cat lady owners love you too."

 

"What can I say?" Stiles smirks, handing over one of the coffee cups. "I'm Deputy Dashing!"

 

"More like Deputy Dork." Derek snarks before taking a sip. He'd been expecting the lukewarm sludge that he gets every morning but the coffee is perfect. Warm, sweet, and strong. 

 

"Wow. This is good stuff. And it's warm. I thought you said you'd been waiting for me? This tastes straight out of an espresso machine."

 

"Oh, yeah, um," Stiles suddenly goes red and Derek hears his heart beat stutter. "Well, yeah, I just said that to make you feel bad. You know." 

 

Lie. Weird. Derek squints at Stiles for a moment before shrugging it off. There's never a reason to complain about good coffee. Derek takes one last deep breath, the scent of coffee mixing with a million other things. Plants, dirt, the pastries in the bag, the faint scent of ozone.

 

Must be a storm coming. Derek thinks as Stiles turns on the car and launches into their plan for the day. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

"You down for Chinese?" Stiles asks a couple of days later as he and Derek change out of their uniforms.

 

"No, Stiles. Really? You're the one who told me the health department shut them down two weeks ago."

 

"Yeah, but that was for contaminated beef. You know I'm gonna order kung pow chicken."

 

"Um. You're not ordering kung pow chicken, because We're. Not. Going."

 

"Dude, you are being so unfa-" Stiles spins on his heels to waggle a finger and feels the rest of the sentence be yanked out of his throat. 

 

Derek is folding his uniform shirt. And he hasn't put on his civilian shirt yet. And his shoulders are.... there. And so is his back. With a large tattoo. Stiles feels his mouth go dry.

 

He'd been nervous when he'd gotten his first tattoo. It was a doodle of a lit match resting in a shallow glass of water, and he uses it practically daily to summon or tame fire and to freeze or melt water. After a while, it had become a cool experience. Designing art to hide runes and incantations with practical applications all over his body was almost a hobby now. He'd really gotten a taste for it.

 

But to see a tattoo on Derek's muscled back? That was something he could really get a taste for, so to speak. It's a symbol Stiles recognizes from a book on supernatural history, three spirals joining in the middle. Very tasteful, probably something Derek had found on the internet somewhere.

 

"Hello? Stiles?"

 

"What! Oh!" He blinks to find Derek waving his hand in Stiles' face with a grin. 

 

"Earth to Stiles? Where'd you go?" His tone is light and Stiles tries to match it, despite the heat curling in his stomach. 

 

"Uh, your tat. I didn't peg you for a tattoo guy."

 

"I've got nothing on you. Talk about being an ink addict. Is it even Sheriff's Department regulation to have so many exposed tattoos?" Derek's eyebrows dip to form a perplexed expression. 

 

"Um. No. But it's the only time I've ever played the sheriff's son card, so most people don't mind." Stiles tries to control his blush as he turns away and finishes tying up his hiking boots. His dad looks the other way when it comes to his tattoos because he knows of their purpose, but Stiles still feels weird with the favoritism. 

 

"Alright. So. No Chinese. What about just getting a pizza? I could go for a deep-dish meat lover right about now." Stiles nods dumbly and follows Derek out to the parking lot. 

 

They've almost made it to the Camaro when Stiles hisses in pain at the sharp sting of a rune on his thigh activating. He knows without checking that it's his border spell. A supernatural creature must've set off one of his wards. 

 

"Hey, man," he starts, brain scrambling to think of an excuse to get out of pizza. "I think I've got to-"

 

Derek's phone rings and Stiles lets out a relieved breath. Derek gives him the 'just a minute' finger and answers with a professional mantra. "Deputy Hale, how can I help you? Oh, hey, Mom. What's up?"

 

As Derek talks to his mom, Stiles yanks a paper and pencil from his bag. He quickly draws a rough outline of Beacon Hills and casually turns away from his partner before adding a small rune to the middle of the page. He already uses magic too often around Derek for little things- heating up cold coffee, cooling down the cruiser since the AC is busted. He needs to be more careful. 

 

He snaps his fingers over the page and watches as a small spark of fire light up and then die down, leaving a small hole burnt into the page. There's the intruder, not too far away by the looks of it. He turns back around to tell Derek that he isn't feeling too well but stops at the sight of the larger man rubbing his shoulder sheepishly.

 

"Hey, my mom needs me. I hate to bail but-"

 

"No, it's cool. Family first, Der." Whoo. Dodged a bullet there. 

 

"Cool. Well, I'll see you tomorrow, Deputy Dork." Derek's smile is hesitant and heartwarming and it leaves Stiles weak kneed. 

 

"Not if I see you first, Ranger Rookie!" He says back. 

 

"Stiles, I've been carrying a gun since you were in high school!" Derek shouts over the roar of his engine before speeding out of the parking lot with a little less decorum than is expected of sheriff's deputies.

 

Gees. Stiles thinks to himself as he grins stupidly after his partner. Why do I always end up crushing on douches?

 

_~_~_~_~

 

Derek pulls the Camaro into one of the small lots along the abandoned country road and quickly jogs over to where his mother and Peter are arguing -as always- and Laura, Cora, and Malia are relaxing in the sun. 

 

"Finally! Derek, tell your mother that the five us are plenty to take down a rogue omega." Peter gestures wildly with his arms at the small group as if that's all the argument needed.

 

"Why not, Mom? We've done it before."

 

"I'm not saying we can't." Talia states calmly. "I'm just saying that we should be careful. There's no reason to raise suspicion when we've only been in town for a month."

 

"So, we'll be careful." Malia interjects before hopping up and wrapping her hand around Derek's arm. "I call dibs on Derek as my partner."

 

Talia looks like she's about to say something else, but she just gives a weary sigh and turns towards the tree line. "Come on, Cora, let's go."

 

Derek and Malia trudge through the terrain in blissful silence. There's a reason they always team up, they're the only Hales who understand the gift of shutting the hell up. It's only been about ten minutes before they catch the scent of the omega and they wordlessly adjust their course. 

 

Soon, however, Derek stops dead in his tracks. That couldn't possibly be...?

 

"Malia, do you hear that?" He asks quietly. 

 

"I hear a moron blabbing about the pros and cons of levitation, if that's what you're talking about. We should probably get the human out of the omega's path, I guess."

 

"I think that's my- Stiles! What the hell are you doing!" Once Derek lays eyes on the other man he breaks into a jog. He knows that the words came out sounding angry, accusatory, but he can't stop himself.

 

Stiles is bent over the dead, bloody body of a young man. The young man which ten minutes ago had been a very alive, very blood thirsty monster. And Stiles? Stiles is touching it. Stiles had been right there and Derek hadn't known and oh god humans were so fragile, this was why he kept to his pack.

 

"Derek?!" Stiles bolts to his feet with a look of panic. Honestly, he has no right to be the one looking shocked. 

 

His face is flushed and sweaty and his chest is heaving slightly. In one hand he's holding his work radio and in the other he's clutching a-

 

"Is that a baseball bat?" Derek asks, confusion bubbling up past the concern. 

 

"I, uh. Yes. But I'm more focused on, you know, the dead man. Who was out here in the woods. Where I was also at. With... my um, you know. Baseball bat..."

 

"But," Derek squints and shakes his head. "Stiles, you don't play baseball."

 

"Derek. Dead body. Focus. In fact, call it in while I look for an ID." Stiles tosses him the radio which Derek fumbles with for a moment. 

 

"Right, okay." He raises the radio and tries to sound professional. "PC04 to dispatch, over."

 

"Derek, you know this guy?" Malia whispers as she mistrustfully watches Stiles pat down the body.

 

"He's my partner at the station. Stiles, this is my cousin, Malia. Malia, meet Deputy Stilinski." Stiles offers a hesitant wave and Malia starts to smile like an escaped mental patient. 

 

The radio crackles to life in Derek's hand. "Dispatch to PC04, thought you were off duty, over."

 

"Affirmative. We're calling in a body found approximately two miles into the woods off County Road 317. Stumbled across it while hiking on personal time. We're gonna need a crime scene unit and an ambulance, over." Derek pauses and glances down at Stiles with raised eyebrows. 

 

"Tell the sheriff it's an R613." Stiles calls from his bent over position and Derek repeats it carefully. 

 

"PC04, Sheriff has been notified. Stand by for additional units, dispatch over and out."

 

"PC04 over and out."  Derek tosses back the radio and slowly creeps closer to Stiles and the dead wolf. 

 

The scent was right, this is definitely where the trail ends. But the body looks human. 

 

"No ID. But there was something wrong with him, Derek. He was- raving and ranting. Like he was high, almost. I don't know. And then before I could even do anything, he just reached up and slit his own throat!" Stiles looks so serious, so professional. So not like he just saw a werewolf. 

 

"Are you okay, Stiles? Did you see anything... strange?"

 

"Strange like the man who committed suicide in front of me? What are you even doing out here? I thought you said you had to help your mom?" The two partners stare at each other suspiciously until Malia coughs awkwardly. 

 

"He was picking me up. I got lost."

 

"Right, yeah. Malia needed a ride home. Are you sure you're okay?" Derek tries to smell if Stiles is okay but the scent of ozone and dead body are too thick to really get anything. 

 

"I'm fine, Derek." Stiles seems to deflate a little and gives his partner a soft smile. "I can handle myself better than anyone thinks."

 

"I don't think that you can't protect yourself." Derek protests, for some reason really bothered that Stiles might think that he thinks that Stiles is weak. 

 

"I know, dude. Why don't you get your cousin home, okay? I'll stay here until the unit shows up and then I'll give you a call."

 

"A call? Pish posh. Why don't you stop by for dinner? I'll tell Dad and Aunt Talia that you're coming."

 

"What? Malia, you can't just-" "No, I'd hate to intrude on-"

 

"It wouldn't be intruding, I've invited you. Huh, Der Bear?" Malia smiles sweetly and Derek feels his cheeks heat up. 

 

"It's not that you'd be intruding, Stiles. I just don't want you to feel obligated to come sit through an entire dinner with my family. They're... intense."

 

"Oh, don't think I can handle it, Hale?" Stiles wiggles his eyebrows playfully and Derek lets out an exasperated huff. 

 

"Fine, come to dinner. But don't blame me when the sight of two dozen red blooded Hales eating dinner gives you nightmares."

 

"Deal." Stiles looks so happy that Derek almost forgets the dead body between them. 

 

"Come on, Derek, I've got gossip to share. 7:00, Deputy, don't be late." And with that Derek is being dragged back into the woods, Stiles' face and the strange scent of ozone both getting lost in the trees.

 

_~_~_~_~

 

Stiles realizes a little bit too late that maybe he should have asked for directions to the Hale house, instead of following Derek's trace. Creepy, Stilinski.

 

With a sigh, Stiles hauls himself out of his jeep and takes in the Hale house. It's... huge. And lived in. Some kid bikes are haphazardly stacked on the porch, a kiddie pool is overflowing with toys, there's even a garden fenced off. And not a garden like Stiles has, with even lines of dangerous and rare potions ingredients. This garden has messy plots of cherry tomatoes and crooked rows of cucumber plants. It's beautiful.

 

"Just don't embarrass yourself." Stiles mutters to himself, thinking about his quiet-house-and-microwave-pizza style childhood. "It's only dinner. With your partner. Your insanely hot partner. And his family. His entire family..." 

 

Stiles steels himself before knocking on the large door, only for it to immediately be swung open by a manically laughing female clone of Derek. Derek himself has his arms wrapped around the woman's middle as if they'd been wrestling to get to the door. His face is crimson red, a blush spreading down past his shirt collar. 

 

"Oh Stiles! It's lovely to meet you! I'm Laura, come in!" The woman says, shoving Derek back with one hand and latching on to Stiles with the other.

 

"H- hi, um, Laura. Um. Derek."

 

"Stiles." Derek's voice is rough and quiet, but before Stiles can say anything, a herd of children come thundering down the stairs.

 

"So, I hear you watched a man kill himself." Laura says it with the sort of tone that one would use to comment on weather.

 

"Yeah... sure did. Probably a tweeker, he seemed really off." That sounded okay, right? Better than "It was a feral werewolf who clawed himself to death right in front of me."

 

Laura looks like she has more to say on the topic but is cut off be a chubby toddler that comes rearing around the corner and clamps onto her with vigor. "Mommy! Is that the human?" He asks, finger pointing directly at Stiles.

 

Laura winces, probably in embarrassment, Derek let out a strangled whine, and Stiles gives a hearty laugh. "I think human might be a loose term, little dude." Looser than you'll ever know... Stiles thinks to himself with a wince. 

 

"Guest, DJ. He's the guest."  Laura corrects.

 

"Hi!" The little boy says enthusiastically before darting off. 

 

"I'm sorry, he's-" Laura starts, but Stiles holds up a hand to stop her. 

 

"Don't worry. I love kids, I totally understand. So! Where's this dinner?"

 

And what follows is definitely not dinner. The food is plentiful and delicious, but that's where the comparison ends. There are twenty-two (twenty-two!) Hales, ranging from Great Great Great Aunt Beatrice to Laura's newborn baby Daphnia. All twenty-two of them are loud and interactive, shoving food into their mouths and laughing with abandon. 

 

Stiles is squished between Derek and Malia, and across from Peter. Peter, who's cutting a hot dog into toddler safe pieces while arguing with Derek's brother Samuel about the benefits of solar panels. At the head of the table, Talia and her husband calmly maintain the disorder with authoritative 'sit down's, 'say please's, and even the occasional 'so help me'.

 

Stiles is used to being the loudest person in the room. This is.... nice? Nice. Nice to be able to talk loudly without getting embarrassed and gesture wildly without getting uncomfortable glances. Nice to feel Derek's shoulder bump against his and bump it back, without work or magic pulling his focus away. 

 

"So, Stiles," Alice is Peter's wife, and her hair is a tornado of blonde curls. "I hear you like gardening. Any other hobbies?"

 

"Um. I played lacrosse in high school. I wasn't the best but it was fun. I uh," Stiles chews on his lip hesitantly before Derek knocks their knees together under the table. "I actually have some um, some pets."

 

Derek's head swivels to look at his partner, eyebrows dipped. "I didn't know that. Cats or dogs?"

 

Stiles lets out an awkward laugh. "More like snakes and spiders. I have a whole room of venomous creatures that Scott made me deadbolt. I have some jelly fish too, actually. I just got them this year. Did you know that the Australian box jelly fish is widely regarded as the most dangerous thing on the planet? Even though it doesn't even have a brain?"

 

Alice, Peter, and Malia all nod thoughtfully while Derek gives a pathetic whine that has Stiles biting his cheek to hide a smile. "You own something like that? On purpose?"

 

"What's wrong, Ranger Rookie? Scared of a little fishy?" Stiles puts on an exaggerated pout. "But you've been carrying a gun since I was a high schooler."

 

Derek glowers at first Stiles, and then at the Hale family at large when all of the adults break out in laughter. Stiles almost feels guilt, so he pats Derek's knee under the table before picking up his fork again. 

 

The rest of dinner passes peacefully, laughter and conversation and food. When he’s finally too stuffed to move, at least half of the Hales escort him back to the front door. Derek is bumping up behind him in his haste to reach the front door and Stiles relaxes into the warmth against his back. 

 

"You don't have to worry, Derek. It was a fun night."

 

"Fun! Human had fun!" DJ chants, his little chubby hands clapping in delight. 

 

Another child, probably Peter and Alice's if the blonde curls are anything to go by, claps her hand dramatically over her mouth. "That's a secret!" She sputters, with indignation that only a kindergartner can muster. 

 

Stiles gives them a fond smile before slipping out of the door with Derek in tow. The air is cool and the trees shifts with excitement at Stiles’ spark. He shushes them and hopes Derek doesn't notice. 

 

"I'm sorry about..." Derek trails off, giving the house behind him a wide gesture. 

 

Stiles shakes his head. "It was fun. Really. I'm so used to just me and Dad, just me and Scott. I loved it."

 

Derek opens his mouth, closes his mouth, ducks his head, and opens his mouth again. "Do you really own jelly fish?"

 

"Sure do! Rattlesnakes, tarantulas, I even have a little frog than can kill a grown adult with only two seconds of skin exposure."

 

"Stiles, you're one of the strangest people I've ever met." Derek finally looks up and into Stiles' eyes and the mage suddenly feels powerless. It's intense, those eyes and the jaw line and all that stubble.

 

They're silent for a few moments, and then Derek breaks whatever metaphorical spell has taken hold of them. "What's code R613? I've been studying the Sheriff's guide for weeks and I don't remember anything about it."

 

Stiles cringes. He'd known this was coming, Derek wasn't stupid. That doesn't mean he'd come up with a good explanation yet. It's not like he can just say "Oh, yeah, that's the code I use to let my dad know that there's something going bump in the night."

 

Instead he says "oh, um, it's nothing really, just something informal."

 

Before Derek can say anything to that, a young woman pokes her head out of the front door. "Derek, Mom needs your help with the dishes."

 

"Cora, could you-" Derek cuts himself off and tilts his head to the side, before sighing. "Okay. I guess I'll see you at work, Deputy Stilinski."

 

His lips tilt up in a fond smile and Stiles nods dumbly. "You got it, Deputy Hale."

 

With one last look, Derek jogs back up the porch steps and into that commotion of a house. Before Stiles can climb into his jeep, the woman, Cora, is striding into his personal space. "You like Derek, right?"

 

She squints with a righteous fury that Stiles could never imitate. "Uh. Yeah. He's a good partner. A real ride or die." Stiles tries to lighten the mood, but Cora isn't having it. 

 

"He likes you."

 

"Oh... good..."

 

"No. He likes you, ya know? Derek is.... he's a real man's man. You catch my drift?"

 

"Um."

 

"A real. Man's. Man."

 

"Listen, Cora, I- Ohhhhhh! Wow. Oh. Um. Right. Cool. I- Me too, you know? Does Derek know? That you're telling me, not that I am. But does he? 'Cause I am. I guess you could- that's some news that could be shared, I suppose. Alright cool bye!" Stiles is in his jeep and turning the key before Cora can get another word in. 

 

"Bye!" She shouts happily in Stiles' rear-view mirror, the Hale house disappearing behind him.

 

_~_~_~_~

 

It's September when Derek thinks that maybe he should ask his mother to tell Stiles their secret. 

 

Derek and Stiles grow into their partnership with ease. They're efficient in their work and have more fun than they probably should. They do have the tendency to, as the Sheriff had said, bicker like an old married couple. Stiles had denied it, getting into an ironic bickering match with his father to try and defend their honor. Derek had stayed mostly silent.

 

He'd frozen, actually. The words 'you and Stiles' and 'couple' in the same sentence had fried his brain. He'd been wanting to ask Stiles out to dinner for weeks, since that night after he had had dinner with his family for the first time. But. It wasn't right. Dragging Stiles into the world of monsters without him knowing what he was getting into, that wasn't right.

 

Speaking of monsters and bickering...

 

"Derek, I've gotta swing by Deaton's clinic, do you mind? It'll only take a couple of minutes."

 

"Yeah, what for?"

 

"Bonnie is sick, I just wanna check up on her."

 

"Bonnie?" Derek frowns. He's never heard Stiles talk about a Bonnie, but if she was checked into a clinic of course they'd stop to check on her. 

 

"Yeah, my African black mamba. She wasn't eating her mice last night."

 

"What? Deaton the vet? Your snake? No, Stiles! I'm not going anywhere near that thing!" Derek can't wrap his head around his partner's obsessions. Venomous creatures, tattoos, gardening. None of them really fit with Stiles' easy, lazy nature and geeky personality. 

 

Stiles turns to Derek with a pout. "But she's only a baby. She's not even two years old yet!"

 

"Stiles, no."

 

"Derek, yes."

 

"I'm serious. I don't care about your snakes."

 

"Well I don't care about your weird neat freak thing but I've stopped leaving trash in our cruiser!"

 

"That is not the same thing. This thing was disgusting when we first got partnered. There was enough trash in the back seat to drown a perp before we could get them back to the station!"

 

"Oh, so you can't handle a candy bar wrapper but when I don't wanna stick my hand in a druggie's purse I'm the wimp?"

 

"It was just a purse, Stiles."

 

"A purse that could've had needles in it!"

 

"You have tattoos over fifty percent of your body, you can't complain about needles!"

 

Stiles' face is flushed, eyes bright. His hair is ruffled as always and his lips are pushed down in what Derek knows is him overcompensating trying to hide his smile. His thin, strong frame is twisted in the driver seat to face Derek head on, and-

 

"You're handsome."  Wants to say the flirt in Derek. 

 

"You're kind and funny."  Wants to say the romantic. 

 

"You're brave and strong." Wants to say the cop. 

 

"You smell like the woods and your heartbeat sounds like home."  Wants to say the werewolf. 

 

He's stuck, eyes unable to move away but mouth to scared to open. Stiles eyes dart between Derek's eyes and his lips and Derek know he's thinking the same things and Derek knows that this isn't right. Stiles is already a cop, too human in a dangerous world. Derek can't make it even more dangerous. 

 

So, he says "I guess we can visit your stupid snake" instead and savors the sight, smell, and sound of a happy Stiles while he can. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

"Dispatch to all available units. We have an amber alert out on an eight-year-old girl. Last seen at the playground at Ridgeview Park. All units respond."

 

Stiles shares a grim look with Derek before picking up the radio. "This is PC04, approximately five minutes out."

 

When they pull up to the scene, Derek and Stiles fling themselves out of the car and jog over to the hysterical woman clutching a small pink jacket. Stiles is already pulling out his notepad and enchanted pencil, palms sweaty. He could find this girl within minutes, he's sure. But to explain that to Derek....

 

It's time. Stiles has been putting it off for months. He knows he can trust Derek with his secret, and a missing girl needs everything that Stiles can bring to the table. It's time.

 

"Ma'am, is that her jacket?" Derek asks, prompting Stiles to squint at him. Weird first question, dude. 

 

"Yes! She said she was getting cold so I ran to the car to get her jacket and when I came back, she-"

The mother lets out a heart-breaking sob and Stiles instinctively reaches out to grip her elbow. 

 

"Take a breath, ma'am. Over 99% of these cases end up with an embarrassed child showing up where they were last seen after wandering off. Give us a quick rundown on your daughter. Age, name, appearance." Stiles is well versed in this script, unfortunately.

 

"Her name is Lydia. Lydia Martin. She just turned eight and she's a smart girl! She wouldn't have just wandered off! Not Lydia!"

 

"We understand that. What does she look like?"

 

"Strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, three and a half feet tall, 35 pounds. She was wearing a blue dress with white poc-a-dots and white sneakers. She's a good girl, I swear!" Stiles nods understanding and writes 'Lydia Martin' down in notebook.

 

"Derek, radio that in, I'm going to get our map." Derek nods seriously, his green eyes scanning the tree line intensely. 

 

When Stiles is safely hidden in the cruiser, he quickly scrawls down the rune for a locating spell and yanks out an angled gem from his pocket. He presses the gem to the notebook and feels the tingle of magic transfer to it. Now just to get Derek to trust his seemingly pointless path.

 

"Stiles!" Derek waves at him from outside the cruiser where he's clutching the pink jacket to his side. "I think I've got something!"

 

Stiles scrambles out and jogs over to him. "What's up?"

 

"Miss Martin said that Lydia has been talking about hearing rushing water. I was thinking, there's a waterfall only a couple miles from here, right?" He looks nervous, anxious, and Stiles knew the stress of the case is getting to him. 

 

"We could check it out, I guess, but that's kind of vague, Der. Which way is the waterfall?" He stretches out the map on the hood and him and Derek study it for a moment before he sees it and taps it with his finger. "There. Which makes the waterfall-"

 

"That way." Derek points into the woods, seemingly at random. He starts striding towards the woods with a purpose, leaving Stiles to stumble after him. 

 

"Wait, maybe we should split up! I'll go," Stiles discreetly spins the gem in his hands and it points- it points directly at Derek's back, who's just stomping away, shoulders as expressive as his eyebrows. "I'll just go with you, I think!" Stiles shouts and scrambles after him. 

 

"What's with the jacket?" He asks after catching up.

 

"She said she was chilly." Is all Derek says, striding through the trees in a straight path.

 

Stiles nods dumbly and continues to check with his locator gem. Derek is on the exact right path though, so Stiles doesn't say anything. They've been hiking for almost two miles when the older man pushes a hand into Stiles' chest to stop him. 

 

"Derek, what-"

 

"Sh." Derek closes his eyes and tilts his head, before breaking into a run. "This way!"

 

Stiles struggles to keep up. Soon he can hear it too though. Small, high pitch whimpers that must be little Lydia Martin. By the time Stiles catches up, Derek is cradling the crying girl in his arms, her pink jacket draped over her.

 

"Is she okay?" Stiles shouts over the roar of the waterfall. Derek nods solemnly and points across the river. Stiles immediately sees what has Derek and Lydia so upset. 

 

A body, a young man, is swinging back and forth from a tree. Stiles immediately recognizes him as Todd Miller -23, went missing on Saturday, "please, find my son"- and unclips his radio from his jacket. 

 

"PC04 to dispatch, over."

 

"Dispatch responding."

 

"We have Lydia Martin in our custody, safe and uninjured. ETA to station one hour."

 

"Huzzah, kid. Bring her in."

 

"Will do. We've also found the body of Todd Miller, apparent suicide. Hanging by the Shatner creek waterfall."

 

"Understood. We'll send out a unit. Take preliminary pictures and get that little girl over here ASAP, over."

 

"Understood, over and out."

 

"Catch that, Derek?" Stiles calls after reclipping his radio. The other man nods, not taking his eyes off of the girl in his arms. She seems to be calming down a little, eyes puffy but dry. 

 

After taking the pictures, the trio starts their trek back through the woods. Once she warms up to them, Lydia is almost as much of a motor mouth as Stiles. 

 

"Did you know that Disney World is larger than seventeen countries?"

 

"Oh wow. I wonder which ones."

 

"Vatican, Monaco, Nauru," Lydia continues on and on until they're piling her into the back of the cruiser and heading to the station. 

 

When they pull up in the parking lot, Miss Martin is running towards the car with her arms out. Derek and Stiles watch the reunion with smiles on their faces. 

 

"Turned out pretty good, hm?" Stiles murmurs, nudging Derek in the ribs. 

 

"Mmm." Derek nods and Stiles has to bite his lip at the sight of his partner. 

 

His stubble is dark and rough looking, and his cheek bones are throwing dramatic shadows in the setting sun's light. His green eyes are shimmering with relief and happiness. Well damn...

 

It's dark in the cruiser and Stiles feels himself leaning forward. "Derek?" His voice sounds strange in his own ears, shaky and weak. 

 

Then Derek turns to face him and their faces are only inches apart. They move in tandem, and suddenly their lips are touching. It probably doesn't even count as a kiss, but the mage feels his spark shiver with excitement. It reaches out to touch. Stiles pushes it down. 

 

After one second, two, three, Derek pulls away. His eyes are closed and he's gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles. "Stiles, I-"

 

Silence. Well. Damn. 

 

"Don't mention it. Really. Let's just not mention it. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. That was unprofessional. And inconsiderate. I thought you- I'm sorry. See you tomorrow."

 

And with that, Stiles is stumbling away. He drives home in a daze. When Scott asks him what's wrong, his "nothing, dude" sounds hollow. It's okay. It'll be okay. Derek will still be his friend. 

 

_~_~_~_~

 

It's late when Derek gets home. All the kids are tucked into bed and asleep. Most of the adults are too. Just Cora and and Aunt Patricia's wife Rosa are awake down in the library. Rosa is cradling a glass of wine and their laughter is echoing off the basement walls. 

 

When Derek flops onto the floor beside them, uniform half unbuttoned, Cora immediately tangles their legs together. "Long day?"

 

Derek just nods, taking in the scent of pack. Between the lost girl, the suicide, and the- and Stiles, he's exhausted.

 

"Tell us about it, miho." Rosa's voice is deep and calming. 

 

"There was a lost little girl. I caught her scent through the woods and I was worried about how I'd explain to Stiles that I knew which way she went but he just... he trusted me. And when we found the girl two miles into the woods, she was by this dead body. A man had hung himself and she was just sitting there looking at him."

 

"Why'd she walk so far into the woods?"

 

"I don't know. She kept saying she heard the waterfall and she needed to see it."

 

Cora is leaning forward as if he's telling a bed time story. "Strange. But she was okay?"

 

"Yeah. That's the tenth suicide this year though. Stiles said they haven't had that many in the past five years combined."

 

"Oh? Stiiiileeees?" Cora's grin is -no pun intended- wolfish. 

 

"When... when she and her mom were hugging at the station, Stiles and I were sitting in the cruiser and it was so good to see them happy and- and then Stiles leaned over and kissed me."

 

Both of them women coo and clap and Cora clings to him in excitement. "Oh yay! I'm so glad, Derek!"

 

"I didn't kiss him back."

 

Cora's arms go from hugging him to slapping him. "What?"

 

"Cora! Cora, stop that. I can't kiss him back until he knows. It's not right."

 

"Oh, Derek." Rosa sounds sad. "Your mother will listen, if you tell her how you feel."

 

"I know. I just- Humans. Ya know?" He tries to say it like a joke, to lighten the mood.

 

Rosa, at least, takes the bait. "Hey, don't knock us humans."

 

"You're an enchantress, Aunt Rosa. You're hardly an average human." Cora points out, finger darting over to trace one of the tattoos on her thigh. 

 

"Well," Rose smiles, patting Cora and then Derek both on the head. "Maybe your dear Stiles isn't all that ordinary either."

 

She gets up and leaves after that, leaving Cora and Derek to themselves. He thinks back on how tough Stiles was after seeing the omega in the woods months ago. Stiles is strong enough to be pack, Derek decides. Now it's just a matter of deciding how to tell him...

 

_~_~_~_~

 

It's December when Stiles makes plans to tell Derek about his magic. 

 

They're sitting in the cruiser eating pizza when Stiles takes in a deep breath. "Derek, I have a secret."

 

"Hm? Oh god, please tell me it’s that you don't actually like pineapple on your pizza. I know it's California but good god man, have some decency." 

 

Derek makes jokes around Stiles all the time. When Stiles had mentioned to Malia a couple of weeks ago how funny he was, she'd said "Mr. Stick-up-the-Ass?" like it was a joke that Derek could ever tell a joke. Stiles thinks it means something. 

 

"First of all, pizza and pineapple are an amazing combination."

 

"So's me and peace and quiet, but that never seems to happen."

 

Stiles forces himself to laugh, even as his palms grow sweaty. Come on, Stilinski...

 

"Actually, it's about that time I found that man in the woods, who slit his throat in front of me? Back in June?"

 

Derek chokes roughly on his pizza. His head snaps to look at Stiles, eyes wide. "Uh, uh yeah I definitely remember that."

 

"Well, the thing is that he didn't slit his throat with a knife."

 

When Stiles convinces himself to look up, Derek is pale and wide eyed. "Stiles, that was a traumatic event. You don't know what you saw." He sounds desperate. Weird

 

"I know what I saw, Derek. I saw-"

 

"Dispatch to all available units. We have an amber alert out on an eight-year-old girl. Last seen in her home at 3952 Capper Street. All units respond."

 

"That sounds familiar." Stiles shares a dark look with Derek as he picks up the radio. 

 

"PC04 responding. Was this Lydia Martin by any chance?"

 

"It was. Why? How'd you know?"

 

"ETA ten minutes, PC04 over and out." Stiles clips the radio onto its base and sighs. "Derek, can you-"

 

"Hey, Stiles." The radio crackles back to life with the Sheriff's voice. "Possible R613 tonight, you gotta keep this Martin girl outta danger."

 

"Got it, Dad." Stiles can feel Derek's stare as he flips on the sirens and pulls the cruiser onto the road. "Tone down the eyebrows, Ranger Rookie. We're gonna find her."

 

"I know we'll find her."

 

"Okay, then wh-"

 

"What's an R613?"

 

Stiles wishes he wasn't driving so he could shut his eyes and bang his head against the window. "I promise, Derek. Once tonight is over, we'll go get a strawberry pie and sit on your front porch and I'll tell you everything. But for now, we need to focus on finding Lydia."

 

Stiles think that Derek is going to argue, but he just nods curtly and turns to stare out the window until they pull into the Martin's driveway. Miss Martin is sitting on the front steps with her head in her hands, shoulders shaking.

 

When they approach her, she wipes away the tears and stands. "You must think I'm an awful mother."

 

"No, Miss Martin. We think you're a worried mother. Lydia is old enough to unlock doors, you're not doing anything wrong." Derek says calmly as Stiles slips into the house. 

 

He takes a quick look around but everything seems normal. Tidy kitchen, girly bedroom, missing jacket and shoes from the front door. When he comes back outside, Derek is shaking her hand and saying "stay her, Miss Martin, in case she comes back."

 

As they pile back into the cruiser, Derek rolls down the window. "She said Lydia has been complaining about hearing fog horns."

 

"Fog horns?"

 

"Yeah, like on a boat." Stiles takes a quick glance over at Derek as he's driving. He's leaning towards the open window, hands clenched into white knuckled fists.

 

"Okay, so we head to the docks on the river. Call it in, hopefully we'll be able to get a couple more units searching along the banks before she falls in. It's already thirty degrees out, it's only gonna get colder."

 

Derek calls in their information while Stiles grips the wheel tightly. He thinks back on the suicides and on how he watched an omega claw himself open. And now the same 'very smart' girl wanders off, claiming she's hearing things? 

 

"We need to find her soon." He says out loud and Derek grunts in response.

 

When they get to the docks, Derek is out of the car and running before Stiles has even gotten his seat belt undone. He's moving with a purpose, so Stiles follows him. It isn't long before he hears a distant "I've got her, Stiles!"

 

"PC04 to all units, Lydia Martin is in ship yard building 17, please send additional unit for back up." Stiles bursts through the doors and skids to a halt. 

 

Derek is crouched low with a hysterical Lydia Martin pressed against his back. And in front of them is a vampire. A thin, pale, pointy teethed, and long clawed vampire. 

 

"Well damn."

 

"Stiles!" Derek's voice is actually calmer than Stiles would have expected. "Get her out of here! Go, now!"

 

"No, you take her. I've got this." Stiles starts to pull his magic to the surface, fire just under the skin of his fingertips. 

 

"What? Stiles, we don't have time to argue! Take the girl!"

 

Stiles itches to jump in front of them both, but he doesn't have the time to fight with Derek. He snatches up Lydia and rushes outside. He can hear the sirens of the backup unit. If they hurry-

 

"Lydia, you need to run towards the sirens, okay? Can you do that?" He holds her up and points the flashing red and blue lights. 

 

She nods confidently, so Stiles gives her a gentle shove. As soon as he sees Deputy Lopez stepping out her cruiser, he runs back into the building. "Derek, are you-"

 

Oh God. Derek is tussling with the vampire, both of them moving too fast for him see. Stiles clenches his fist and pushes his magic up, out. Fire pours forth, blue flames that light up the room.

 

Stiles takes one, two, three steps forward and grips the vampire around the neck. He pushes the fire as far as he can. He can feel the vampire weakening. Just a little bit more...

 

"Stiles, stop!" Derek's voice is slurred. 

 

Was he punched? Stiles looks down to check on him and. Oh. Derek isn't slurring because he was punched. He's slurring because there are giant fangs in his mouth.

 

Giant. Werewolf. Fangs.

 

In his shock, Stiles lets go of the vampire and he falls to the ground, unconscious but alive. His mouth flops open as he stares at his partner. 

 

The blue flames in Stiles hand cast enough light that Stiles can see Derek's beta form clearly. His fangs protrude sharply and his ears point up and out. He has the ridges and bumps Stiles knows all werewolves have and his eyes are a glowing blue. And shocked. His eyes are shocked. 

 

Oh right... Stiles releases the flames in his hand and gives a hollow chuckle. "So. About that pie tonight..."

 

"He wasn't trying to hurt me."

 

"What?"

 

Derek finally looks away from Stiles' now empty hand to the vampire. "We weren't fighting because he was trying to hurt me. He was trying to kill himself and I was trying to stop him."

 

"Like the omega in the woods. Derek. I think I know what's going on."

 

_~_~_~_~

 

Derek deposits the unconscious vampire in the back seat of their cruiser and slides into his spot in the passenger seat. Next to Stiles. Who's a-

 

"Witch?" His voice sounds off to his own ears but Stiles laughs. 

 

"Witch? I'm not a pointy nosed hag, Derek. I'm an elemental mage." His voice is the forced kind of casual, like that time he'd told Cora he was gay. 

 

"Right. Silly me." Derek is starting to feel the tingling sensations of both relief and panic. Before he can help it, laughter is bubbling up and out of his mouth.

 

Derek can dimly hear Stiles saying "Der? You okay?"

 

"Okay?" The words come out angrier than he meant for them to be. “No. It's been months. I've been trying to protect you for months by not telling you and it turns out you're already involved!"

 

"Is this why..." Stiles trails off and Derek looks over at him.

 

His red lips are caught between his teeth, a habit that Derek finds distracting. His pale skin is flushed from the cold and the excitement of the night. His messy hair has rain droplets weighing it down. He smells soil and ozone. 

 

"Yes." He stares Stiles right in his honey colored eyes. 

 

"Yes...?" Stiles looks hopeful. 

 

"Yes, that's why I didn't kiss you." And then Derek leans in and presses his lips gently against his partner's. 

 

His hand weaves gently into Stiles' hair. Stiles' hands come up to cup his jaw. It grows more intense, tongue and teeth and-

 

"What the fuck?"

 

Stiles and Derek jump apart as the vampire in the back seat sits up. He looks human now, younger than both of them with a ring of blisters around his neck. 

 

"Oh. Hey. Um." Derek watches Stiles put on his work face. "I'm Deputy Stilinski with the Beacon Hills Sheriff Department and the mage of the Northern California region. You were trying to commit suicide and my partner and I subdued you. Can you tell me what you remember?"

 

"I was just going for a walk along the docks. I wasn't looking for trouble, I swear." He seems frightened. Derek can relate. 

 

"I know." Stiles is pulling out his phone as he talks. "I think you were under the influence of a nymph. They're supernatural creatures that feed off of energy. Some of them like trees, some of them like water. I think this one likes suicides."

 

"Nymphs?" Derek leans over as Stiles shows the vampire his phone.

 

"I think. Does this look familiar?" The young man nods his head.

 

"I think. Maybe. It's kind of fuzzy."

 

Derek watches as Stiles nods and turns on the cruiser. "That's how they work. You're safe now, as safe as anyone in Beacon Hills. Get out, go home, and keep your fangs to yourself."

 

"What?" His pale face crumples in confusion. "But I thought-"

 

"Get out." Derek makes the face that Laura says he should sell to horror movies. The vampire flings himself from the car and scurries off into the darkness.

 

Stiles calls his dad to explain as he starts driving. After he hangs up, silence fills the vehicle.

 

This isn't right, Derek think. Stiles isn't supposed to be quiet. 

 

"Bet you never thought you'd get me this quiet." Stiles all but whispers as he grips the steering wheel. 

 

Derek lets out a rough laugh. "That exactly what I was thinking. Sure you're not psychic?" He means it as a joke, but it comes out a little bitter. 

 

"No." Stiles says with amusement. Good, he understands. He always understands. "But, I think Lydia Martin is. Well, not a psychic. But something."

 

"That'd explain why she showed up to two crime scenes based on a feeling."

 

"Mmm." Stiles bites at his lips. "So. Werewolf. I should've seen it. Weirdly big family all in one house, always taking off the full moons. The way you find people so quickly. Those hairy wolf man eye brows." He shoots a hesitant smile Derek's way and they share a laugh. 

 

"I wanted to tell you." Derek says. He doesn't say that he once thought Stiles was a hunter, or that he once thought Stiles couldn't hold his own. Nothing good would come off the sad look that it'd put in Stiles' eyes. 

 

"I know, man. But. Now we're both in the game." He shoots Derek a different look this time. It's heavy lidded and thick lipped and- oh

 

"How- how long is your plan for the nymph going to take?" His voice sounds rough in his ears and Stiles heart ticks faster. 

 

"Once we get to my place, all I need is the basics and ten minutes. It's not hard, a college freshman with a Wiccan for Dummies book could do it."

 

"The basics?" Stiles' place is all the way across town, almost thirty minutes. Who knows what the nymph could do with that time. 

 

"Rosemary for a base, blood of an alpha for the trace, venom of snake to weaken it, and tears of a mother for containment. Chalk for the outline and glass jar to hold it." He looks anxious as he speeds up a little. 

 

"My place is closer." Derek says, pulling out his phone. "I'll text my Aunt Rosa what you need."

 

"Your Aunt Rosa?" Stiles sounds off. 

 

"Oh. Do you not want my pack to know about you? You can trust them, Stiles, I swear. But if you don't want-"

 

"No, no Derek. Werewolf packs don't just invite mages into their territory. Are you sure your alpha will want me there?”

 

"My mom doesn't mind that stuff. Aunt Rosa is an enchantress. She'll help us."

 

"Your pack has an enchantress?" His voice sounds... hopeful?

 

"Yeah. Our pack is a family, Stiles. It doesn't matter what you are. Not-  not what you are, I just meant in general. But also, you know, you."

 

Derek's rambling. He never rambles. He can feel the blush moving up his chest. Stiles though, Stiles is smiling and his eyes are bright.

 

"Okay." He says.

 

"Okay?"

 

"Okay, text your aunt."

 

Derek blinks. "Right, right."

 

The rest of the drive goes by quickly and as they're pulling into the driveway, Derek can see his mom and Aunt Rosa jogging down the steps with a basket.

 

"So, nymphs?" Rosa asks. 

 

"Apparently." Stiles says, plucking the chalk out of Rosa's hand and crouching down to start drawing on the pavement.

 

Rosa immediately starts measuring out ingredients and with five minutes, an angry fairy-like creature is buzzing around in the glass jar.

 

"Normally, I'd call Eichen House, but-" Stiles holds out the jar to Talia. Talia who hasn't said a word all night. 

 

Derek knows his mother, know that she uses silence as a weapon. Stiles doesn't know this, and quickly caves. Derek has never seen him look so nervous. 

 

"But since you're the alpha of the territory, I guess you can. Or I can. If that's what you want. Or I guess it makes more sense for me to do it, 'cause-"

 

"Mom. Stiles is a mage. We think the strange deaths are being caused by a nymph. Wake up Aunt Rosa, we need rosemary, your blood, your tears, snake venom, chalk, and a glass jar. Be there soon." Talia is holding her iPhone the way moms do, at arm’s length. She reads the words from Derek's text in a dispassionate voice and glares dispassionately at the two of them.

 

Stiles rubs at his neck nervously and Derek feels the sudden urge to step between Stiles and the threat. But the threat is his mother, his alpha. He'd never stand between his alpha and her goal. But her goal is Stiles.

 

"Mom, we're still on duty. We've gotta go fill out statements and stuff. We can talk later about-"

 

"Now is fine." His mother's eyes never leave Stiles. "Deputy Stilinski. How long have you been practicing magic." She's doesn't make it a question, but Stiles rushes to answer. 

 

"For eight years. Well, I was an apprentice for three so I guess five but that means-"

 

"And do you have any allegiances?"

 

"Um. I have a supplier here in town but he's not really-"

 

"Deaton."

 

"Um. Yeah. And I have a good friend who's a hunter, her and her dad really follow the code so-"

 

"Chris Argent, I presume?"

 

"Yeah. And Allison. And I rely on Eichen House a lot for containment."

 

"And who else knows about your... trade?"

 

"Three. Three others. My dad, my best friend, and my old partner."

 

"All human?"

 

"Yes." Lie. Derek can hear Stiles' heart skip and thud. Who...?

 

Stiles must know that his lie was obvious because he starts to wince and stammer. "It's just that it's not my secret and I can't-"

 

"Pack meetings are Wednesday night, Deputy. If you're dating my son, you best show up on time."

 

And with that, his mom and Aunt Rosa are gone, leaving a confused and blushing pair of deputies in their wake.

 

_~_~_~_~

 

It’s February when Stiles moves into the pack house. Derek makes him keep his pets in the basement.