Coming together as the summer came to a close got harder. Erica, Boyd, Scott, and Stiles had families they were obligated to spend the majority of their time with, and some of them had summer jobs that kept them even busier. Jackson left, gone to live in London with his father. Stiles knew that Derek had helped him find an anchor, a thought to keep him sane during the full moon, and that Deaton had given Jackson a number to contact. Apparently there was another wolf pack in the area he was moving to. One that hopefully had less drama and a more stable condition than Derek’s.
Not that they hadn’t been steadily improving. Derek was trying really hard, and Stiles was helping as best he could to make the pack feel more comfortable together. Once Erica and Boyd returned to their homes and the missing persons cases were called off, the pack was finally able to be in public together without one of them being persecuted. They did bonding activities at least once a week like going swimming or running, sometimes Scott even let them all go hang out at his place for movie nights, since Mrs. Mccall finally knew what was going on. Stiles wanted to have them at his as well, but with the Sheriff not in the know, Derek didn’t think it was safe enough. Besides, Stiles knew Derek was antsy about getting to be with the pack in his own space soon.
The house was nearly done, with them all working every spare second on it. Derek was furious that he had to call in actual professionals to do the electrics and utilities, but Stiles hounded him until he gave in. He knew Derek was just sensitive about strangers at the house, but it didn’t take them long at all to finish hooking everything up, and then the house just needed basic things like wallpaper and paint and furniture.
Lydia helped with that. She came up to Scott while he was working at Deaton’s clinic a month and a half into summer break and outright demanded an explanation. Scott being Scott, couldn’t think of a good reason to deny her and brought her to Derek almost immediately.
When the two of them came to the door of the technically brand new house, Stiles was inside, watching Derek teach Isaac hand to hand in a relaxed setting. If he was honest, Stiles spent most of his time at the pack house these days.
His dad had finally kicked him off the volunteer list at the station, citing that Stiles needed to find better things to do than follow him around the office taking decent food away and replacing it with salads. It was the healthiest his father had ever been, but Stiles couldn’t help agreeing that the constant pushing about his blood pressure diet was putting a bit of a strain on them. So he gave him space, and that meant spending all his free time at the pack house hanging out.
It didn’t matter who was there, Stiles always had something to do. Erica made him watch movies with her in her bedless room—which was only technically hers, since she still lived with her parents—and Boyd liked to train with Stiles, pushing him to do pushups and pullups and run laps around the house even though there was no scientific way Stiles could ever keep up with werewolf speed. Isaac just liked to play videogames on whatever console someone brought with them, and Scott joined literally any activity Stiles was already engaged in whenever he came over.
Then there was Derek. It took about a day after the Spark realization for Stiles to get used to Derek’s newfound personal space issues. Well, he’d always had personal space issues, only now he didn’t bother to correct them in public, and they were a lot less violently inclined.
The slightest tick in Stiles’ heartbeat and Derek was sneaking his way into the five foot circle of personal bubble that Stiles was starting to give up on having. There was always someone in it, Derek was just the most unusual. No, Stiles had to take that back. Boyd was the most unusual. For a guy who seemed so disconnected from things sometimes, Boyd was just as tactile as the rest of them and it somehow always surprised Stiles to receive even a hand on the back in acknowledgement.
Derek didn’t usually use his hands, he used his whole body as a soother for Stiles’ anxiety. Sometimes he pressed up against Stiles’ back or wrapped his arms around Stiles’ shoulders like he was preparing to pull him away from something. Other times he actually tried to shield Stiles by standing slightly in front of him. Stiles wasn’t sure how it happened, but he seemed to have somehow become Derek’s pet. Even worse, he didn’t mind.
When they were alone together was when Stiles felt the most at ease, sometimes even more so than when he was alone with Scott, though he didn’t think he could ever admit that to his best friend. They tended not to really do things together, but rather be near each other enjoying their own plans. Stiles worked on research while Derek read for fun, or Derek watched Marvel movies—something that Stiles still couldn’t get over—while Stiles pretended he wasn’t watching over his back.
He used his newfound tranquility with Derek to try and smooth out some of the bumps the Betas had with their Alpha. Once his friends realized he was unaffected by the Alpha’s intimidation tactics, they came to him quietly with things they weren’t able to talk to Derek about. Afterwards, he would find a reason to be alone with Derek and brought it up as gently as he could. His persistence was effective, and he usually managed to either help Derek work it out himself, or at least get him to have a conversation with them.
The sparring was a particularly rough situation, and it’d taken three separate conversations to convince Derek he needed to be more careful during his Betas’ training. To ensure everyone’s comfort, Stiles hung around and supervised while Derek taught the Betas, both one on one and together, without all the urgency and carelessness of their first lessons. Derek eased into it almost immediately, and it quickly became a chance for Stiles to pretend he was watching an MMA fight in slow motion, even throwing popcorn when it became available.
Stiles was in the middle of doing a referee style tap out count for Isaac practicing a takedown, when Derek and Isaac went stiff. “What’s up?” he asked, sitting up immediately. They hadn’t been in danger in a long time, but Stiles was getting better at shifting from one mood to the next as the pack needed it.
“Someone’s coming up to the house with Scott. Someone human.” Derek said. He breathed deeply through his nose. “She’s wearing perfume, something flowery, and smells like cherries?”
Stiles was up and headed to the door even as he corrected, “It’s Apres L’ondee by Guerlain, and the lipgloss is Cherry Symphony.” He didn’t have a chance to be embarrassed by his ridiculous knowledge because he pulled open the door and grinned. “Lydia!”
She still looked perfect. Strawberry blonde curls tumbled across her shoulders looking unfairly soft, a lilac skirt was paired with a frilled white blouse, and her grass green eyes scanned the room with sharp interest. Stiles would have understood her feeling less than amazing after losing the love of her life to London, but he was almost ashamed for expecting her to look anything but fabulous.
Somewhere between taking her to the winter formal and driving her to save Jackson’s life, they’d become actual friends, and Lydia didn’t hesitate to pull Stiles into a quick hug. “What are you doing here, Stiles? Don’t tell me you’re not human either. Not that it wouldn’t make perfect sense, I just don’t see how you could keep a lie like that from me.”
“I’d never lie to you Lydia, I’m as human as it gets, just—” and curse Stiles for glancing at Derek, “a little extra thrown in.” But there were more important things to talk about, like why Lydia Martin was standing in the doorway of the pack house.
Lydia seemed to realize where she was as well, and all it took was a raised eyebrow aimed at Stiles for him to stick an arm out and lead her into the living room. There was no actual furniture, just a few of Erica and Boyd’s old cushions piled together on the floor, but Stiles helped Lydia sit neatly down on them.
Behind him, Scott entered the house with an unsurprised grumble. “Nice to see you too, Stiles. So kind of you to notice there were two people at the door.”
When Stiles finally looked back at Isaac and Derek, they were staring at him, still locked in the pretend takedown sequence. Not sure if their shock was caused by his comment before opening the door, or his behaviour after, Stiles just shrugged. “What? It’s Lydia.”
The reminder seemed to shake Derek from his slight stupor, and he and Isaac straightened up. As he always did around strangers, Derek switched to what Stiles liked to call “Full Alpha Mode”. Besides the obvious defensive crossing of the arms, Derek’s back went straight and his whole body stiffened. Then there was the eyebrow overdose he threw in when he was especially suspicious, bunching them up like he was using them to suppress his shift.
Why Stiles was so acutely aware of these behaviors, he didn’t want to think about.
A much more recent development to the Full Alpha Mode, was Derek moving toward Stiles. He knew the cause of this one, because Scott had explained it, as politely as he could.
“You’re the only human in the pack...the only one who doesn’t have a built in defense system. He’s worried about you,” he’d mumbled. Never mind the thrill Stiles got when Scott outright said he was part of the pack, he should have been offended by the assumption that he couldn’t take care of himself. But he wasn’t. In fact, it was kind of endearing knowing that Derek wanted to protect him.
The unforeseen consequence of Derek trying to shield Stiles from Lydia, however, was that he ended up less than a foot away from Lydia. He didn’t seem in the mood to admit he’d made a mistake, so Stiles just did the backing up for him, letting Derek follow him to a more reasonable distance.
Everyone just looked at each other, until Scott broke the silence. “Lydia wanted an explanation, and I just thought—after everything our situation has put her through—she deserves one. But, Derek, I wanted to let you do it.”
This was big, and Stiles couldn’t stop the beam of happiness he projected at both Scott and Derek. Look at them! Being grown-up and respecting each other!
Scott at least tried to smile back, but Derek had now latched his famous drilling stare onto Lydia, who was staring back. She might not realize it, but Lydia was challenging Derek. That probably wouldn’t end well for anyone, least of all the humans in the room.
Again, there was silence. A silence that was building up pressure very quickly, and Stiles didn’t want to see how it blew. Still slightly hidden behind Derek, Stiles put a hand on his upper arm. “Derek?”
For a second, Stiles worried he’d messed up. Derek went impossibly tense and actually felt like he was vibrating. Then he stopped, and his shoulders lowered, and he began to walk out of the room. “I need a minute.” he growled.
Stiles knew that growl, and he wasn’t the least bit surprised when Derek didn’t make it out of sight before adding, “Come on, Little Red.” It was his I don’t know what to do growl. The confused one that Stiles loved to help with.
He hadn’t even taken a step when Lydia jumped to her feet and snapped, “Excuse me?”
The nickname didn’t make much sense to anyone outside of the pack, Stiles knew that. He’d even tried to suggest different ones for Derek to call him, but it’d never worked. Little Red stuck, and for the most part Stiles didn’t have to worry about it being misunderstood. But Lydia was essentially a redhead. The only one in the house.
“No, Lydia, no, he meant me.” For good measure, Stiles snatched up the hoodie that’d been puddled on the floor and pulled it on. He gestured down at the dark red color, and the flames in Lydia’s eyes died down a little. It was a vicious cycle. No one understood the nickname unless he was wearing his hoodie, but wearing the hoodie only made Derek use the nickname more.
Stiles scrambled into the kitchen where Derek was waiting, and decided to get in a bit of a tirade before he dealt with the actual problem. “See? You see that? If you picked a name that actually sounded like a descriptor of me, and not my wardrobe, that wouldn’t happen!” Stiles scolded. If he waved his arms around a little excessively, it was just a sign of how passionate he was about the subject.
Derek actually laughed, and Stiles hated the smug look on his face when Derek just sipped from a glass of water and said, “You love it.”
God help him, Stiles kind of did. It was a nice way for Derek to show his emotional level without directly saying, “I’m stressed, but not so stressed that I’ll bite your head off for trying to help.” He liked the different ways he and Derek communicated, because it made things about a thousand times easier for the rest of the pack. Somehow they hadn’t learned to read Derek’s eyebrows and growls and body language the way Stiles had, so they often relied on him to be the judge of Derek’s current disposition. As long as it worked, Stiles refused to question his methods.
Resisting the urge to stick his tongue out at the Alpha, Stiles leaned against the counter with Derek and stole his water glass. “So, what’s up?”
Derek didn’t even bother to resist, and Stiles considered it a win. “I need to know if you think it’s safe to tell her. You’ve known her longer than I have.”
This was clearly a serious situation, so Stiles took his own sip and tried to respond with the right amount of solemnity. “Well, if there’s anyone in town that can keep a secret, it’s Lydia. And Scott has a point, she does kind of deserve to understand why all this stuff happened to her. Besides, on the off chance that she doesn’t completely despise us all if we tell her, she could be a huge help in the research department. Lydia is like crazy smart. If you get her on board, you won’t even need me anymore.” Stiles winced at his own words.
“Shut up.” was the affectionate, but firm reply. Derek clearly didn’t want to hear any more, but when Stiles tried to leave he grabbed his arm, gripping Stiles’ wrist in one of his warm hands. “Hey, what was up with that perfume thing? Even I didn’t know what that was.”
Stiles’ face went hot, but he just took another drink and smiled. Maybe if he pretended he wasn’t such a stalker, he wouldn’t sound so much like Peter. “Well, being infatuated with her for eight years had some interesting side effects. Plus, I bought her that perfume for her birthday.”
Blissfully, Derek just laughed and threw an arm over his shoulder. It was a compromise between being in Stiles’ space, and looking a little more like a normal human. It was also really comfortable and made Stiles feel safe by shrouding him in the sandalwood scent that hung on Derek just that much too closely for Stiles to be able to smell it the rest of the time, but he didn’t need to mention that.
Once they got past Derek’s reservations and Lydia’s near interrogation, she started coming over too. Erica was excited to have another girl to talk to, and Stiles had been right about her helping with research. They worked through all of Derek’s old books in less than a month. Also, it was nice to have another human in the pack. It made Stiles feel a bit less fragile in the face of all the superhuman healing and strength and everything else.
Lydia took control of most of the decorating, and the whole pack ended up going along on her shopping trips. Derek, Boyd, and Scott carried things, Erica and Isaac helped with colors, and Stiles was...well to be honest, Stiles was emotional support for everyone else when they started getting frustrated. He might have been desensitised to Lydia’s five hour long shopping sprees, but the rest of the pack started showing teeth after the second hour, and it was Stiles’ job to entertain them.
It was worth it, in Stiles’ opinion. The house was soon fully furnished and actually stylish, which meant that Derek could finally relax with his pack in their space. No adult humans to worry about upsetting, just Stiles scolding when they got too rowdy and making them dinner when they stayed late.
It was the start of a comfortable new routine that was thrown out the window almost the same day school started.
For one thing, Allison was back from her summer vacation in France. Stiles had actually managed to forget about her imminent arrival because at some point over the summer, Scott had stopped talking about her. It felt healthy, good even, that Scott was so interested in pack bonding and working on making himself better and taking all those summer classes so he didn’t have to stay back a grade, Stiles hadn’t wanted to bring it up right away, and then he’d forgotten to.
Lydia was the one who told them, mentioning casually after a movie night that she was going to hang out with Allison before classes started, even taking her on a “group outing.” The special phrasing wasn’t lost on Stiles, nor Scott, going by the small blush that traveled up his face in the low light of the living room. At that moment, he was tucked under Isaac’s arm, and had been for the entirety of Captain America: The First Avenger , but at the mention of Allison he began to pull away. He didn’t get far though, and it was actually Derek who stopped him with a hand on his free shoulder, pushing him back into Isaac softly and mumbling, “You’re alright.”
The two of them didn’t do a lot of talking, choosing instead to share comforting bro touches like what Scott had with Stiles for so long. It worked for them, and Derek usually ended up looking like an older brother to Scott. It did the impulsive Beta a world of good sometimes, and only egged him on others.