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Stiles Stilinski had a gift. Well, not a gift, really. More a talent. Yes. Stiles Stilinski had a talent. It was a talent he hated with every fibre of his being, because unlike good talents like the ability to sing, or draw, or walk in high heels, Stiles’ talent was a little more... unfortunate.

That being that he had a penchant for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was a talent he had acquired in his youth, and had been unable to shake in adulthood. Whenever something bad happened, there Stiles was, ready to take the blame for something he had no part in. Of course, sometimes he did have a part in it, but most of the time, he didn’t.

Well, some of the time.

Okay, he usually almost always had some kind of part in it, but this was different! This, right here and now, was completely different! This was a true and honest wrong place at the wrong time situation.

Right now. In this very moment. Standing on a path in the middle of the preserve. Stiles didn’t even like the preserve. Nature was just so... nature-y. With the bugs, and the leaves, and just—no. Not his thing. Stiles was very anti-preserve. Sure, he was fine with it existing, he had nothing against it or anything, and it was a good place to go jogging, but he was just happier when he wasn’t wandering around in the forest in the middle of the day.

Which he had somehow found himself doing because Scott—his good friend Scott McCall, bestest buddy in the world, and colossally bad friend—needed a special kind of flower for his sweet, adorable girlfriend. Scott wanted to surprise her, and given he was working and Stiles had the day off, clearly it was Stiles’ duty as a best friend to go hunting in the middle of the damn forest for a fucking flower that would wilt and die within three days.

Stiles knew, he’d checked.

But, unlike Scott, Stiles was a good friend. Stiles was what everyone wanted in a best bud, and so when Scott had called him to ask for this favour, Stiles had agreed. Reluctantly, and with much whining, but he’d agreed.

And so, there he was, walking through the preserve, trying to find a fucking special flower, when he froze. Because he’s stopped by a tree thinking he’d found what he was looking for, and had glanced up to see a very naked man through the leaves. He only saw the man’s back, so he didn’t know who it was—being the sheriff’s son, he tended to know everyone.

He was planning on calling out to him to ask why anyone would be crazy enough to hang out in the woods fucking naked—seriously, did he want a tick on his dick?!—when all the air rushed out of his lungs.

Because the man, who was definitely a fucking man, had rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, and then slowly transformed. Fur sprouted, muscles shifted, bones cracked, and within half a minute, where the man had stood, there was now a wolf. A pure black wolf the size of a fucking car.

Okay, maybe not a car, exactly, Stiles was a little freaked out and might be exaggerating, but still fucking huge, bigger than any dog Stiles could think of. Bigger than even a fucking pony. It was massive.

And it had been a man not thirty seconds ago.

Which meant Stiles had just witnessed a bonafide Werewolf transformation.

Because apparently, according to naked man in the woods who was now no longer naked man, Werewolves were fucking real!

And now he feared for his life.

Kind of. Little bit.

Who was he kidding, he was going to fucking die the second wolfman turned around!

Breath caught in his lungs, Stiles very slowly and carefully took one step back, trying to make it out of the area before the wolf spotted him. He put weight on his back foot the second it touched down, and a branch snapped. Because of course it did, why wouldn’t it?! Stiles was the poster child for bad luck!

The wolf’s head whipped around so fast, Stiles felt like he was watching The Exorcist.

Stiles wondered if he could just stand still enough to make the wolf think he was a tree. A very bright red and jean-clad tree. He doubted it, but one could hope.

He knew it was a lost cause when the wolf turned fully, lips pulled back from its sharp teeth—so very sharp, good fucking Lord!—and began walking towards Stiles.

“I didn’t see anything!” Stiles shouted, both hands out in front of himself and sweat instantly breaking out across his skin. “I swear to you! I didn’t see anything! I didn’t see anything! I won’t tell anyone! I won’t! I’ll keep this to myself, until the day I die! I promise! I promise!”

Then, he turned on his heel and bolted through the trees, heading back up the path. His lungs burned and his heart was beating somewhere up in his throat, but he just kept running, pumping his arms and legs, and trying to escape what was probably going to be a very painful and horrific death.

People got mauled by animals all the time in woods like this, nobody would think twice if they saw his mangled, bloodied form lying in the middle of the path. If anything, some people would be surprised it had taken him this long to kick the bucket, given the other crazy shit he’s been involved in during his youth.

Sure their woods tended not to have any wild animal attacks, but that wouldn’t stop people from expecting something like this from Stiles! If anyone was going to wander in the forest and die, it would be Stiles Stilinski!

Stiles didn’t know how long he’d been running, but he didn’t hear the telltale footfalls of a large animal behind him. He resisted the urge to look behind himself, though. Only idiots in horror movies looked behind themselves, and they always tripped! Always! Stiles was already naturally clumsy, he didn’t need the added help with tripping over himself.

When he burst through the trees and rushed for his jeep, he was fumbling to pull out his keys, reaching the driver’s side door and grabbing the handle to yank it open when he glanced towards the end of the trail he had just exploded from.

There was nothing there.

That gave him pause, because he had fully expected to find the wolfman coming for him to either turn him to stop him from revealing his secret, or just straight up kill him to stop him from, well, revealing his secret.

But the wolf wasn’t there.

Stiles didn’t wait around to figure out why. He just yanked open the Jeep door, hitting himself with it, and then struggled to get into his car. Once inside, he slammed the door shut, locked it, then pushed his key into the ignition, driving away from the preserve like his ass was on fire.

He would’ve been less concerned had his ass been on fire.

His ass being on fire was a problem he could solve. That was a reasonable and acceptable thing to happen, and had a resolution. Werewolves being real... not so much.

Stiles definitely broke a few traffic laws on his way back into town, and he may or may not have run through two red lights, a pedestrian-controlled crosswalk and four stop signs. He reached the vet clinic where Scott worked and parked haphazardly in a spot before kicking open the door.

He barely remembered to slam it shut before racing into the clinic, almost taking the door off. The woman waiting in the front area jumped, startled, and her dog let out a loud bark, but otherwise no one else was there.

Ignoring that he wasn’t technically allowed in the back, Stiles pushed through the swinging gate, moved around behind the counter, and then through the swinging door into the back just as Scott was coming out of another room in the same corridor.

“Stiles, what the hell?” Scott asked with a frown. “I told you I’d meet you later for the flowers.”

“Scott! Scotty!” Stiles grabbed him by the shoulders, mouth open, but no words came out. He’d literally just promised the Werewolf that he wouldn’t tell anyone. He’d promised and run off, and the wolf hadn’t followed him.

Or had it? What if it was outside? Waiting? Watching? Listening?

What if it was trying to see what Stiles would do, and if he told Scott, the wolf was going to kill Stiles for talking about it when he’d promised not to, and then kill Scott for being told about it. He would essentially be murdering Scott, and while Scott was a bad friend, Stiles wasn’t. He was a good friend. Good friends didn’t get their best friends murdered, it would move them into the ‘bad friend’ category.

Thus, if he told Scott, he would become a bad friend, and he wasn’t a bad friend, and didn’t want to be a bad friend, so he couldn’t tell him. He couldn’t tell him, he couldn’t tell his dad, fuck he couldn’t even tell Jackson, and he hated Jackson. But Stiles was good. A good friend, a good son, a good person. And so, he couldn’t tell anyone.

“Hey buddy,” Stiles said, voice a few octaves higher than usual. He laughed awkwardly and squeezed Scott’s shoulders, giving him one firm shake. “Good buddy, pal of mine. Hey. Hi. Hello.” He released Scott and smoothed out the wrinkles in his work shirt, dusting off his friend’s shoulders before letting his hands drop back to his own sides. “How’s it going? What’s up?”

“Work,” Scott said, giving him a pointed look. “Work is up, Stiles. What are you doing here? I said I’d meet you later. Do you have the flowers?”

“Yeah, no.” Stiles shook his head, lips pressed together. “Mm mm. Nope, no I sure don’t. They, uh, aren’t in season.”

“They aren’t in season?” Scott asked with a frown. “It’s spring.”

“Exactly. And they’re in season in the, uh, the fall. In fall. So like,” Stiles counted on his fingers, “four months? September. Can’t get them. But you know what?” He started walking backwards, aiming both pointer fingers at Scott. “You’re such a good friend, you know what? I’m gonna-I’m gonna go to every flower shop in town and find you some flowers for Kira.”

“The whole point of you going to get them was so I didn’t have to spend any money,” Scott insisted with a scowl. “You know I’m saving up to buy a new bike.”

Ah Scott. So selfless.

“You know what?” Stiles pressed both hands to his chest. “My treat. I’ll get the flowers on my dime. No problem. What are friends for?”

“Okay?” Scott gave him a weird look, but Stiles just waved one hand and then turned away from him, heading back out towards the exit.

He went back through the swinging gate, offering the lady still sitting there a tight, awkward smile that was probably more of a grimace, and then stopped right at the door. He stared out the glass entrance for a long while, trying to see if he could locate any lurking beasts or glowing eyes in the shadows. But, the day was bright and there were very few shadows to lurk in, not to mention if it was a Werewolf, any one of the dozens of people walking by could be it.

“Are you okay?”

Stiles jumped and turned. Scott was standing behind the counter, and both he and the lady were giving him weird looks.

“Great!” Stiles insisted, voice cracking. “So great. Everything is amazing, life is swell, nothing unusual about anything at all, I’m leaving now, bye!”

Stiles turned and hurried out of the clinic, head swivelling urgently. He sped-walked to his Jeep—because running would definitely be suspicious—and got into it as quickly as he could manage. Once behind the wheel, he sat there and tried to figure out his next move.

Well, now he had to get flowers for Scott, which was a huge pain because he wasn’t made of money, and those things were expensive. But, again, good friend, so he figured that as long as he stayed in public places, he didn’t run any risk of being murdered by a Werewolf, and Jesus fucking Christ Werewolves were real, what the actual fuck?

Trying not to hyperventilate in his car, he started it and pulled out of the spot, slowly making his way back into traffic. He felt like he might be in shock, because he was freaking out internally, but he felt kind of calm externally. He knew it wouldn’t last long, but for now, he just had to focus on staying calm. He was okay. Nothing was coming out to eat him.


Oh God, he wasn’t going to survive the night, he was going to die, maybe he should go see his dad at work. He was due a visit anyway, he probably had a burger and some donuts on his desk. He should check on his dad. Yes. Good plan.

Stiles tried to stay focussed on the task at hand, driving around to the few flower shops in town and procrastinating buying one because it allowed him more time out in public. Eventually, he knew the stores would begin to close, and Scott would murder him and call him a bad friend if he didn’t get the flowers, so he ended up buying an over-priced bouquet of beautiful flowers that his oldest childhood friend, Lydia Martin, would be proud of.

He actually even texted her a picture to ask what she thought of his dope decision making skills. She just replied back that she was busy and didn’t have time to talk.

Ironic that she could type that out but not comment on the flowers, but Stiles was kind of used to his two closest friends being overcome with selfishness when it came to their significant others. He was the forever third-wheel.

Bringing the flowers back to the Jeep, he stared down at the bouquet and hoped Kira liked it. He thought it was worthy of at least a good time in bed for one night.

Not that Stiles wanted a good time in bed with Kira, but he was sure Scott did!

He put the flowers carefully on the back seat, then climbed into the car. It was nearing six, which meant Scott would be off in just one more hour, since Deaton would likely finish up once they closed given Scott and Kira had plans. Stiles didn’t want to hang out where the wolfman could come for him, so the best thing to do was drop the flowers off with Scott, visit his dad until he was off shift at eight, and then hide at home with an armed man of the law. Surely the wolf wouldn’t be crazy enough to come for him with his sheriff dad around?

He hoped. He didn’t know if regular bullets worked on Werewolves. Maybe he could find and melt down all the silver they had in the house. He knew they had some antique spoons in the basement, his dad wouldn’t notice.


When he reached the clinic, Scott was standing by his motorbike with his phone out. He glanced up at the sound of crunching gravel and put his phone away, suggesting he’d been texting Stiles to find out where he was.

“Hey Scotty. Scott. Hey, hi, hello.” Stiles said, having stopped right beside the other and rolling his window down. “How’s it going? How’s life? Anything new? Nothing new with me by the way. Nothing at all.”

Scott frowned at him and leaned a bit closer into the Jeep. “Are you okay? What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing!” Stiles flailed his hands, then realized he hadn’t shifted into park and almost floored it into the side of the clinic. He hastily shifted and engaged the parking brake for good measure. “I’m good. Fine. Great, even. How are you? How’s life? Anything new?”

“You literally just asked me that.” Scott gave him a suspicious look. “What did you do?”

“Do? Nothing!”

“You did something, or you wouldn’t be acting so weird.”

“I did nothing, and am horrified and insulted you think I did!”

Scott just kept staring at him, then seemed to give up, realizing he was running out of time. He just shook his head, sighed, and asked Stiles about the flowers. When he pointed into the back, Scott opened the door and pulled them out, looking impressed and pleased.

“Thanks, Stiles. You’re a good friend.”

“Yup. That’s me. The bestest of best friends.” Because I’d rather go insane than get my best friend killed, he added silently.

He didn’t know how Scott was going to transport the flowers, and to avoid being alone, Stiles very loudly and emphatically insisted he would escort him to Kira’s. He practically wrenched the flowers from Scott’s hands and put them in the passenger seat, then tried to drive off towards Kira’s. He didn’t manage it, because the parking brake was still engaged and he had to disengage it before he could drive off.

Scott followed him, and every time they stopped at a red light, his friend moved up beside the Jeep and gave him a suspicious look. It occurred to Stiles that Scott probably thought he was trying to steal his girlfriend.

Which he wasn’t. Kira was cute, and nice, and would make a man very happy one day, but Stiles was a good friend, and good friends didn’t steal their best friend’s girlfriend. It was just a thing good friends didn’t do.

He stopped two houses down from Kira’s, Scott passing him and going to park in her driveway. Stiles exited the Jeep and grabbed the flowers, starting to head for Kira’s before realizing that he’d have to walk back two houses at dusk by himself. Scott wasn’t going to walk him back to his car.

While the chances of the wolfman coming for him in a residential area in a two house stretch were virtually non-existent, Stiles still wasn’t going to risk it. So he just stood a few steps from the Jeep holding the flowers, and waited for Scott. His friend gave him a weird look as he walked all the way over, and Stiles handed him the flowers.

“Seriously, are you okay?” Scott asked. He was already walking backwards while asking, and Stiles knew he was eager to get going on his date. Didn’t matter, Stiles couldn’t tell him anyway.

“I’m good. I’m fine.” He waved one hand dismissively, stumbling backwards and grabbing at the handle to get back in the Jeep before Scott turned away from him. “Enjoy your date, talk to you later.” He realized how that might sound if the wolf was listening and then said, “Or not! We don’t have to talk! Ever! Never again!”

“What?” Scott paused, giving him a confused and sort of wounded look.

Damn Scott’s puppy eyes.

“No, no, no,” Stiles was half in the Jeep, one hand thrust out towards Scott. “No, not like that! We’ll talk! We will! But about nothing! Nothing important! Or weird! Or life-threatening!”

He needed to shut up, and he knew it, so he shouted goodbye, fell fully into the Jeep, and slammed the door. He may have sped a little on his way to the station, but slowed down the closer he got. If his dad caught him speeding, he’d never hear the end of it. So he slowed down to a more reasonable speed—but still faster than the posted limit—and then parked in an available spot outside the station.

He looked around nervously on his way inside, glancing over his shoulder on his way to the front desk when a sharp voice spoke.

“Stiles. What is it?”

“Fuck me, what?!” he almost shouted, having been startled. He turned to face forward and found Jordan Parrish at the front, one hand on his gun and striding quickly out from behind the desk.

“Are you all right? What’s going on?” He moved to the door, hand still on the butt of his gun, and scanned the area right outside the precinct.

That was bad. If Parrish could tell Stiles was freaked out, all hope was lost for his dad not figuring it out. He needed to calm down. The wolf wasn’t going to murder him as long as he kept his word. Or, at least, that seemed to be the case, anyway.

“What? Nothing. I’m fine.”

“You shouted a curse, you’re pale, and you walked in here acting like someone was following you,” Parrish insisted, turning back to him with a frown. “Is someone following you?”

Stiles’ laugh was too loud. “What? No. What? Who would be after me? No one’s after me.”

“I didn’t ask if anyone was after you, I asked if someone was following you.” Parrish looked suspicious now. Fuck! What was the damn difference?! Only a cop would find a difference in those two statements!

“No, no, it’s fine. No one following me, or after me. All good. All fine. Everything’s fine. I’m fine, you’re fine, naked man in the woods is fine.”

“Naked man in the woods?” Parrish interrupted.

“What?” Stiles laughed too loudly again, inching away from Parrish. “No. What? That’s an expression. Expression, Parrish. It’s what us young people say nowadays.”

“You’re only two years younger than me.”

“And you’re so old. Really. Get with the times. My dad in his office?” Stiles thumbed over his shoulder. “He is? Great. Good chat. Always a pleasure.”

He turned on his heel and practically bolted for his dad’s office, slamming through the ajar door so hard that his father jumped and spilled coffee down his front. He cursed and quickly set the cup down, shaking out his injured hand and sighing up at Stiles.

“Was that necessary?” he asked.

“Sorry,” he muttered, hurrying to the cabinet in the corner and grabbing the tissue box. He went back to his dad and helped him mop up some of the mess on his desk while the sheriff cleaned off his hand.

“What are you doing here?” he asked while tossing the soiled tissues into the trash.

“I can’t come and visit my dad at work?” Stiles asked, trying to calm himself down, because the last thing he needed was his dad going all cop on him.

“You only visit me at work when you’re checking on me, or hiding from someone.” The man held out his trash can so Stiles could toss out the tissues he was holding, and then set it back down. Stiles wiped his coffee-damp hands along his pants. “You’re too late to check on me for dinner, so who are you hiding from?”

“What?” Stiles scoffed. “No one. What?”


“Can’t I just visit my dad at work because he’s my dad and I wanna spend time with him?”

“No.” His dad gave him a look.

“Worth a shot.” Stiles shrugged and tried to act normal. Perfectly normal. Everything was fine, and wonderful, and so very normal.

His dad watched him carefully for a few seconds, then seemed to decide Stiles would tell him when he was ready because he sighed again and leaned back in his seat. He started moving the damp files around, clearly trying to make sure nothing had been damaged. Stiles frowned and tilted his head slightly to read one of the headers.

“Body found in the woods?”

His father slapped one hand down on it and pointed at his couch with the other. “Go sit over there, if you’re staying. If not, get out.”

“Rude,” Stiles informed him, but he obediently wandered over to the couch. When he sat down, he immediately thought about the Werewolf. What if the body in the woods was related? He should tell his dad, then!

But what if it wasn’t? What if it was just a coincidence? Hikers got lost in the woods around Beacon Hills all the time. The preserve was massive and more than once someone had gone out for a hike and not come back. They got lost, or they fell into ravines and got trapped, or they happened upon a wild animal.

Sure, there were the usual trails and small clearings, but some people went further in, when they knew they shouldn’t. They tended to be tourists, mostly, but still. Stiles was a little uncomfortable, now.

“What did the Hales have to say?”

“Hm?” his dad asked, distracted. He looked like he was trying to save a piece of paper from his spilled coffee. “What?”

“The Hales,” Stiles repeated. “About the body.”

“Stiles,” the sheriff sighed, exasperated. “You need to stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Stiles waited, eyebrows raised, and knew his father would eventually break. He always did.

He only had to wait about a minute before the man sighed explosively and leaned back in his seat, rubbing at his face with both hands.

“I’ve let Talia Hale know. She was sorry to hear about it. She said she sent someone to look into it in case animal control needs to get involved.”

Stiles felt cold all over at those words, blood draining from his face. “Animal? It was an animal attack?”

“Stop asking questions,” his dad insisted, pointing his finger at him.

It was hard for Stiles to keep his mouth shut after that. He spent the next hour thinking about whether or not he should tell his dad. Then again, would he even believe him? Shit, Stiles didn’t believe himself! And he’s witnessed it! With his own two eyes!

Was it the Werewolf though? Stiles had been alone in the woods. It would’ve been the perfect opportunity for the beast to kill him, silence him. No one else was around, it was just him. If the wolfman had wanted to hurt him, presumably he would have, wouldn’t he?

Then again, Stiles knew nothing about the guy, so maybe he liked the hunt. Oh God, maybe Stiles was going to be his next meal and he just wanted him to sweat nervously for a few days! Maybe sweaty humans tasted better!


He jumped and turned to his dad. “What?”

“You’ve been staring at the wall jerking one leg up and down for an hour.” His dad gave him a look, pulling his reading glasses off and tossing them onto the desk. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “What’s really going on?”

Stiles didn’t know what to tell him. He didn’t want to admit what was wrong, because if the Werewolf was nearby, he would hear him. But if he didn’t say something, his dad would worry, and he didn’t want that, either.

Not to mention he’d keep pushing and prying and go all cop-dad on him, and that never ended well for Stiles.

“Nothing,” he insisted again. “Just, you know. Scott’s getting serious with Kira. Just thinking about how things will change for us if they take the next step.”

His dad looked a little more relaxed than he had a moment before, but still suspicious. Stiles assumed he was thinking maybe it was a lie, but mostly it looked like he believed him.

“You and Scott have been friends for a long time, Stiles. You’ll be okay.” He glanced at his computer when it dinged and leaned forward, moving his mouse and clicking on the email he’d just received. He let out a grunt and then hit another button before he began to type.

“Everything okay?” Stiles asked.

“Never you mind,” his dad muttered, staring at the keyboard while he hen-pecked at the letters.

“Is it from Talia Hale?”

“What did I do to deserve you?” his dad asked with a sigh.

“Clearly you were a good person in your previous life and you are being rewarded,” Stiles teased with a grin, leaning back on the couch and watching his father struggle to type up a reply.

The older man snorted at his comment, but said nothing, and Stiles wondered what Mrs. Hale was saying.

The Hales were kind of a big deal in Beacon Hills, which made sense, considering they basically owned most of the town and the entire preserve. They were old money, and there was a lot of talk of Hales being the first people to live in what was now known as Beacon Hills. They were a family of avid nature-lovers, and even now, not much was known about them.

Apparently the patriarch had taken the Hale last name, as opposed to the other way around. Stiles found that kind of cool, it was a change from the norm, anyway, and explained why all of them still had the Hale name. Whenever people asked him about it in interviews, he just laughed and said Hale was a much nicer last name than his own.

No one ever questioned his answer.

Stiles knew they owned a few houses out in the preserve, but none of them lived in Beacon Hills anymore.

Talia Hale, and her husband Michael, were some kind of animal rescuers. They travelled the world and helped build sanctuaries and nature preserves. They had a particular interest in wolves and tigers, if Stiles recalled.

Their eldest, Laura, was a photographer for National Geographic, her focus being animals in their natural habitats. Her pictures often ended up on the covers of various editions and his dad had bought every one. He said it was to help support the Hale family in their attempts to protect nature. Stiles insisted they were rich enough without his dad spending money he should be putting towards his retirement.

The youngest, Cora, was an artist. She created beautiful paintings depicting the night sky and vast forests. Her art was breathtaking, and even Stiles would admit to being jealous whenever he saw them online. They were things he would happily spend money on to get one for his wall, but he didn’t have fifty thousand dollars, and would probably never have that much in his entire life.

Their middle child, Derek, was a bit of a mystery. Everyone knew he did something nature-related—he was a Hale, it was what they did—but no one actually knew what it was. Stiles was sure if he looked online hard enough, he would be able to find out, but he wasn’t interested enough to know, and most people talked about his sisters anyway.

Stiles felt like he was interested enough tonight to look into it, but even as he pulled out his phone to do so, his brain reminded him of the more pressing matter at hand and he froze.

The Werewolf. He still didn’t know what he was going to do about it. What if it snuck into his house in the middle of the night and ate his insides?!


He let out a shout and flailed on the couch, hitting himself in the face with his phone and then groaning and covering his injured mouth with one hand. When he looked up at his dad, the man was giving him a concerned look.

He had his jacket on and his keys in one hand. His desk lamp was off, and it looked like he’d been standing beside him for a while.

“Ready to go?” Stiles jerked to his feet and headed for the door.

Before he managed to walk through it, the sheriff’s hand fell onto his shoulder and squeezed.

“Stiles. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m good, pops.” He turned and forced a smile. “Just wanted to spend some time with my old man.”

The sheriff snorted at that, but his gaze was searching. Stiles just punched him lightly in the shoulder and headed out of the office, his father close behind.

He made sure to avoid eye contact with Parrish on his way by the front, his dad calling goodbye to the night shift. They walked out of the station together.

The sun had set while Stiles had been inside, and somehow, the short walk from the door to his Jeep had his skin crawling. He could feel his father’s eyes on him while the man headed for the cruiser, so Stiles made sure not to look around and just walked slightly faster than normal towards his Jeep.

He managed to pull out his keys and climb in without arousing suspicion, but as soon as his dad’s back was turned so he could slide into the front seat of the cruiser, Stiles whipped around to check the back seat, and did a quick scan of the area for anything suspicious. By the time his dad pulled out, Stiles feigned boredom and just eased his car after his dad’s, following him home.

The sheriff parked on the curb while Stiles pulled into the driveway. It was something they had agreed on the moment Stiles has started to drive. His dad needed to leave quickly, and it was easier for him to do that from the road. Stiles both liked parking in the driveway and hated it. He liked it, because he sucked at parallel parking, and he hated it because his dad was a light sleeper and Stiles could never sneak out of the house if he was home.

Stiles realized belatedly that he’d probably led the Werewolf right to him, but hopefully he would see the cruiser and sheriff and realize Stiles was not someone to mess with.

That’s right, we have guns, we can take you out, Stiles thought while looking around as subtly as possible, waiting on his dad to unlock the front door.

Once inside, Stiles hastily shut and locked the door, feeling a little better than he had the rest of this messed up day.

His dad went to his room to change out of his uniform so Stiles just grabbed a Coke from the fridge, some badly hidden Cheetos—his dad sucked at hiding things—and then headed for his own room.

Kicking the door shut, he got settled at his desk, booting up his computer, and munched on some Cheetos while he waited for the screen to load. Slapping his hands together once it did, spreading cheese dust on his carpet, he typed in his password, opened Google, and immediately typed: how do you keep a Werewolf out of your house?

The results that returned were underwhelming.

Most of them related to wolf spiders which, while useful, wasn’t what he needed right now. There were a few game references and some wolf attack sites, but nothing about Werewolves.

Which made sense because no one knew they existed! But Stiles knew! Oh, he knew! He knew, and now he needed to know how to keep them out!

He started to type out a new search, which was going to be ‘how do you harm a Werewolf,’ but stopped before he got past the first word. If the Werewolf had followed him home, and truly was going to leave him be as long as he didn’t tell anyone, Stiles doubted those feelings would remain if he found him Googling how to hurt him.

Leaning back in his seat, he frowned, trying to figure out how to search protecting himself without making it seem like he actively wanted to hurt the Werewolf.

After all, it hadn’t killed him yet. Maybe it was just... being cautious.

He leaned forward once more and typed: Keeping Werewolves out.

The first hit was titled ‘How to Repel a Werewolf’ and Stiles crossed his fingers when he clicked on it. It mostly spoke about religious beliefs, acting as if the same things that repelled Vampires—for example, crosses and holy water—would work for Werewolves, too. Stiles doubted it, and the only things he saw of interest were silver, which he already knew, and wolfsbane. That seemed more harmful than anything, though. He didn’t want to hurt the Werewolf, just... keep it out. Keep it away. Stop it from feasting on his insides.

Stiles rubbed at his face and continued to research, trying to find more sites that had legitimate returns—which he recognized was impossible, because Werewolves weren’t actually real, except they were, and what the fuck was his life?

Two hours later, he felt like he had a bit of a basis for what he could do. Silver, wolfsbane and mistletoe were deadly, but mountain ash and some strains of wolfsbane, could weaken or keep a Werewolf out. Now all Stiles had to do was find some, and he’d be golden.

“Maybe tomorrow,” he muttered to himself, rubbing the back of his neck. He had work in a few hours, and he needed to sleep. He doubted the Werewolf would try anything with his armed dad in the other room.

As long as his dad was around, Stiles would be fine.


“What?!” Stiles whipped around urgently, slamming the top of his laptop shut. “Nothing! Just looking at porn! What?”

His dad froze in the doorway, giving him a weird look. He was back in his uniform, for some reason, but Stiles kept his gaze focussed on his face, one hand tapping a nervous rhythm on the closed top of his computer.

“What were you doing?” the sheriff asked cautiously.

“I was—you know,” Stiles gestured vaguely with one hand. “I said. Porn.”

“Stiles, you weren’t looking at porn,” his dad said, sounding exhausted, and he reached up with one hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“What? Of course I was!”

“Stiles, if you were looking at porn, why did you slam your laptop shut and then admit you were looking at porn?”

Damn his father and his investigative ways! That totally would’ve worked on Scott!

“It was weird porn!” he blurted out. Somehow, he felt like he’d much rather admit he was looking up ways to keep Werewolves out of the house, but then his dad might have him committed.

He didn’t think they allowed people to bring their own pillows.


“I’m serious!” Stiles flailed one hand. “Two guys, a girl, and some vegetables! Really weird! She had a salad!”

His father made a face at that, then said, “I’ve seen that meme, Stiles. I’m not that out of the loop.”

“Oh God!” Stiles covered his face with both hands. “Dad! Come on! I didn’t need to know that!”

“Stiles, what were you really doing?”

Letting his hands slide down his face, he sighed explosively, trying to act calmer and more annoyed than anything. “Dad, I was looking at porn,” he insisted.

The sheriff watched him for a few seconds, then sighed and checked his watch, shaking his head. “Look, I gotta go, but we’re talking about this later.”

Panic instantly shot through Stiles when his dad turned away, about to head out the door. Stiles propelled out of his chair and across the room, grabbing at his dad’s arm and tugging, the older man jumping before turning to him, confused.

“Wait, you’re leaving me?! Where are you going?! Why?! You can’t leave me here by myself!”

The sheriff gave him an exasperated look. “Stiles, you’re a twenty-two year old man. I’m sure you can handle one night alone, considering in high school, you couldn’t begin to express your happiness on nights where I was working late.”

“That was high school! This is now! Where are you doing?!”

“The station. They found another body.”

Stiles’ blood ran cold. “They did?”

“Another animal attack, as far as they can tell.” Stiles knew his dad was only telling him because his son would investigate on his own. He was notorious for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.

What if this was the Werewolf? But—again... it would’ve killed Stiles. And it hadn’t.

Not yet, anyway.

And his only defence was about to walk out the front door, leaving him home alone. Weaponless. Vulnerable.

“But—what if something happens?!” Stiles demanded, tugging harder at his dad’s arm.

“Why would something happen?” Now the sheriff looked suspicious.

“I don’t know!” Stiles let go to flail his arms. “But what if it did?!”

“Then you call the police.”

“But you’ll be so far!”

They were both silent for a moment, his father giving him his usual piercing gaze. It was something he had mastered years ago, which he used when he knew Stiles was hiding something from him. Usually, Stiles caved.

Today, he couldn’t. He could not cave. This was his dad! If Werewolf-man was listening, he was not getting his dad!

“Stiles,” he said, very quietly, “what’s going on?”

For a second, Stiles almost thought he might tell him. He thought about just blurting it out, letting him know Werewolves were real, and maybe that was what had killed those people in the woods. He opened his mouth to say so, to admit everything, to beg him to stay, but all he could think about was his father not believing him. His father rolling his eyes, walking out the door, and getting killed by the wolfman for knowing his secret, even though the sheriff wouldn’t believe him.

So instead, he said, “Nothing! I just don’t want to be left here alone with my porn!”

His dad’s eyebrows shot up and Stiles thought about it for a second before wincing.

“Yeah, that came out wrong.”

Sighing, the sheriff checked the time again, then looked at his son. “Good night, Stiles. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Stiles felt panic building once more, but he didn’t try and stop him again. He just stumbled after him down the stairs and followed him all the way to the door. He locked it behind him, staring out at his dad until the man got into his cruiser and drove away.

Something creaked behind him and Stiles whipped around with a shout, but there was nothing there. Just the house settling.

“Oh, I am so dead,” he whispered, triple-checking the front door was locked before racing back to his room.

Stiles didn’t sleep that night. Not a single wink. He’d been too nervous and worried about something coming for him in the dark of night that he just laid in bed and jerked up every time there was any suspicious noise.

When his alarm went off for work, he had to forcefully drag himself out of bed. He showered in an attempt to wake himself up, dressed, and then stood at the front door staring out into the street for anything suspicious.

He locked his door as quickly as he could, then raced for his Jeep, feeling better once he was behind the wheel of the car. Turning, he headed towards the edge of town, where a rather large car rental company sat on a huge plot of land. It used to belong to the Hales—the land, not the car dealership—but they’d loaned it out to various businesses when tourism started picking up in Beacon Hills. Their preserve was one of the most beautiful in the state, and rivalled a lot of other states in general. Shuttle buses ferried people from the airport to Beacon Hills, but once people arrived in town, they quickly realized it was difficult to get around, which was where his job came in.

He’d started working there over the summer before his senior year of high school, and continued on into university. By the time he graduated with a double degree in Business and Computer Sciences, they’d promoted him to manager. He knew this wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life, but he didn’t have the money to go out further, where the good jobs were. For now, he was content to live with his dad, keep an eye on him, and save up money for a job he really wanted.

Opening shop, he went into the back to get all the paperwork ready, and heard a knock at the front door. He glanced at the cameras to his left and saw Isaac Lahey, one of the employees, so he headed back to the front and unlocked the door.

“You look like shit,” he informed him, eying Stiles with concern. “Did you sleep last night?”

“No,” Stiles grumbled, turning to head back for the office. He was counting out tills and checking the bookings for the day when the other person who’d be on shift showed up. Isaac let her in, and he listened to the two of them chat and joke around while they booted up the computers and got the signage ready.

Stiles brought out the tills and set them both up, ignoring Erica Reyes’ comment that he looked like shit, and then went back to the office. He had a few follow-ups to do and called some people who had kept their cars over the allotted amount of days they’d signed for them.

One call he made was answered by deputy Haigh, and Stiles had to report to the owner—with a sick feeling in his stomach—that one of the cars had been impounded after being found near the preserve. The person who’d leased it still hadn’t been found.

“They’re saying it’s wolves,” Isaac said when Stiles came out of the office a while later. “The bodies were being kept quiet for a while, but it was released on the news this morning.”

Wolves. Stiles didn’t want to think about wolves anymore. He was so tired he wanted to insist he was sick and just sleep in the back room.

He didn’t know if Isaac and Erica noticed him almost passing out on his feet, or were just looking for a reason to get rid of him for the day, but Vernon Boyd showed up two hours before the end of Stiles’ shift and offered to take over for him.

Stiles could’ve kissed him. He didn’t, but he could’ve.

He packed up and went to the Jeep, but even as he climbed in, he knew he would crash if he tried driving home this exhausted, so he just cracked a window and took a nap in the back seat of his car. He woke with a start three hours later when Boyd knocked on the window to ask if he was okay.

Feeling less ready to drop dead, Stiles got into the front and made his way to Scott’s house. His friend had the day off, so Stiles just let himself into his house, feeling like he’d have to talk to him about security given, you know, Werewolves and all. Not that he could tell Scott about the Werewolf part, specifically.

“Are you feeling okay?” Scott asked when Stiles appeared in his bedroom, making a beeline for the bed and falling onto it. Scott had paused his game and turned to look at him, concern on his face.

Good old Scott. He did care.


“I need a nap.”

“Then why did you come over?”

“My place smells.”

“What?” Scott frowned. “Why does your place smell?”

“I don’t know, it just does.” Stiles didn’t have the energy to think up a better lie, and he hoped Scott would just let it go so he could sleep.

He did, turning back to his game, and Stiles dozed for a few more hours before Scott woke him so they could go to dinner. They headed out in the Jeep, and when they sat down at the diner to get some food, Stiles almost spat his water out when the door opened.

“Holy shit,” he managed, once the water was safely out of his mouth. “Is that—?”

Scott whipped around as the waitress excitedly said the man’s name and gave him a giant hug. He grinned, hugging her back, the two of them rocking from side to side.

“Derek Hale,” Stiles breathed, mouth hanging open. “I can’t—holy shit, Scott, it’s Derek Hale!”

“He hasn’t been back here since he graduated from high school,” Scott agreed, the two of them watching the waitress and one of the richest men in their town speak to one another. Stiles didn’t really know the waitress, she was some girl who’d transferred to their school in the last semester of Senior year. She’d mostly kept to herself, and while Scott had tried getting close to her, Allison Argent had made it very clear she just wanted to be left alone.

Apparently her and Derek Hale were pretty chummy, though, because she went on break almost immediately and the two of them went to sit in the back corner.

“Wonder what he’s doing back in town,” Scott said with a frown. “I thought he didn’t like Beacon Hills.”

Stiles shrugged. “Scandal’s pretty much been forgotten. Probably wanted to stop by and visit friends.”

There had been a lot of rumours flying around about one Derek Hale while he’d been in high school. A lot of them surrounded the death of his girlfriend, Paige Krasikeva, and though he’d been released and thought innocent of the act, it was something that had followed him the rest of his high school life. That hadn’t been helped by his relationship with one of the teachers, Jennifer Blake, in his senior year. Rumour had it they’d been caught having sex multiple times, but no one had come forward, presumably bribed by the wealthy Hale, until his older sister had caught him.

Derek had spent the rest of his senior year being home-schooled, and had been shipped off to university right after in England.

His family was still close, and he still followed the tradition of being one with nature and all that, but a lot of people in Beacon Hills still thought of him as a rebellious teenager, with no respect for others, and a bit of a mean streak.

He did have that ‘bad boy’ look thing going for him, if Stiles was honest. He’d walked in wearing combat boots, tight jeans, and a leather jacket. Though his hair was styled, and his beard manicured, he still exuded that ‘I’m a rebel’ attitude, not to mention he had a sweet Camaro sitting outside the diner.

Stiles idly wondered if he was who Talia Hale had sent out to look into all the deaths in the preserve.

Which made him think of Scott’s job and he turned away from Derek Hale.

“Hey, has Deaton been called in by my dad yet?”

“Mm hm,” Scott said, sipping at his pop and then setting it down. “Last night. The cops think it’s wolves.”

“And what does Deaton think?” Stiles asked, feeling his heart rate skyrocket. “Is it wolves? I mean, not saying it couldn’t be, but-but is it?”

“There are no wolves in California,” Scott insisted with a sigh, like he’d been saying those words repeatedly all day. “And I’m not allowed to talk about the case.”

“You don’t have to,” Stiles insisted, leaning forward. “Tell me nothing. Except whether or not he thinks it’s wolves.”

Scott gave him a look and Stiles motioned for him to speak. Stiles didn’t care if it was a serial killer who was into cannibalism, that wasn’t what he wanted to know. He wanted to know if it was fucking wolves because he didn’t want to get killed by a Werewolf!

Sighing and finally giving up after Stiles pushed, Scott looked around and leaned closer. “He doesn’t think it’s wolves. He thinks it’s some kind of wild feline, like a bobcat, or a mountain lion. An expert was brought in from out of town and he disagrees so there’s been a lot of debate about it.”

“And what do you think?” Stiles asked quietly.

“I believe Deaton. I don’t think it’s wolves.”

Stiles felt a huge weight lift off his shoulders at that, rubbing at his face and leaning back in his seat. Maybe the Werewolf had been like Stiles. At the wrong place at the wrong time. He’d probably just wanted to go for a run, stretch his legs, and Stiles had stumbled onto him. For all he knew, the Werewolf thought Stiles was the thing killing all the hikers, but when he saw him run for his life like a weenie, he probably figured Stiles was harmless.

Barring the whole giving away his secret thing.

The waitress with Derek Hale had returned to work while Stiles had been trying to calm his erratic heartbeat, and she returned with some refills on their drinks, asking if they were ready to order. Stiles just got a sandwich with some fries, and Scott got a pasta dish.

Stiles didn’t trust cream-dishes in diners, they were a recipe for disaster in the toilet later.

While they waited for their food, something occurred to him and he said, “Hey, do you know where I could get mountain ash?”

Scott stared at him blankly. “What is that?”

“I don’t know, some kind of tree, or something. But like... not a tree? I want it as, like, a powder?”

“A powder?” Scott frowned. “Why?”

“To make people sneeze on April fool’s, who cares, Scott?” Stiles threw his hands in the air. “I just need some, okay? Do you know where I can get some?” He paused for half a second before snorting. “Of course not, you didn’t even know what it was.”

“Hey!” Scott scowled at him. “Shut up.”

“Nice rebuke, Scotty.”

His friend rolled his eyes, but thought for a moment. “Well, is it like, mystical, magical shit? It sounds like mystical, magical shit. You know Kira’s mom is into that stuff, right? She might have some at her store.”

“She has like, crystal balls and knives,” Stiles insisted. Which was still weird. So very weird. Why did she have crystal balls right beside wicked looking swords and throwing knives? Who did that?

Kira’s mom, apparently.

Scott had pulled out his phone and was looking it up on the woman’s website. “Is this it?”

Stiles took the phone from him, and squinted at the picture. He didn’t know what mountain ash was supposed to look like, but there was a small jar of it for sale at her store. Eleven ninety-nine a bottle.

“Is the store still open?”

Scott shook his head, sipping at his pop again. “Nah, closes at five.”

“Think she’d make an exception for her daughter’s boyfriend’s best friend?”

“Why do you need this stuff so badly?” Scott asked, taking his phone back while their waitress returned.

“I told you, it doesn’t matter. I just need some, okay?”

“What does mountain ash even do?” Scott asked when the girl stopped right beside them.

“Why are you looking up mountain ash?”

Both of them jumped and turned to her at the harshness in her voice. Her eyes were locked on Scott, glaring angrily while she held both of their dishes in either hand.

“I’m not, he is.” Scott motioned Stiles.

Like the fucking traitor he was.

Her angry gaze turned on him.

“I’m planting a garden,” Stiles blurted out hastily.

“I thought you said you wanted the powder, and not the—”

“Is that our food?” Stiles interrupted Scott, grabbing for his sandwich. “It looks great. Thank you, so much. Thanks for that.” He snatched it from her hand and set it down.

She kept a suspicious eye on him while putting Scott’s food down, then glanced towards the back of the diner before walking away.

Stiles felt sweat beginning to form along his spine and he shoved a huge bite of food into his mouth to avoid answering Scott’s question. He didn’t want to talk about this shit anymore. He just wanted to feel safe in his own home, that was all.

He didn’t care about the Werewolf, as long as it left him alone.

Stiles bought five jars of mountain ash before his shift the following day. He kept one in his car, just in case, and saved the others for his house. The first thing he did when he got home was put a line of mountain ash around his entire bedroom. He didn’t think he could get away with doing that in his dad’s, but he did try and put some near his bedroom door, and along the windowsills. He only hoped his dad didn’t notice and wipe it away.

The rest of the jars he used to line each doorway and window in his entire house. When he had some left, he went over to Scott’s and started doing the same in his bedroom while the other wasn’t looking. He still had a little bit left over, but kept that for himself in case he needed it.

So far, he was on day three of no Werewolf sighting. Either he’d followed Stiles around long enough and figured he’d keep his mouth shut, or he was hoping Stiles would let his guard down.

He wouldn’t. He was determined not to die, so he would keep his guard way up!

That started getting harder after a week of nothing. He still jumped when he was home alone, and he still checked shadows for any lurking animals, but otherwise he felt better. Safer, too, with the mountain ash. His dad still hadn’t noticed it, so it was keeping their home safe for the moment.

After two weeks, things were even better. Calmer, even. The deaths had stopped in the preserve, though that was mostly because nobody was allowed in there anymore. The Hales had decided to close it down temporarily until the animal responsible for the attacks was caught.

Not killed, they’d said. But caught.

Stiles was getting uncomfortable with how often his dad was going out into the preserve, but he knew it was only to speak to Derek Hale. Apparently, he was the person they’d sent for animal control. Stiles wondered if maybe he was some kind of animal tamer, like Steve Irwin, but his dad wouldn’t talk to him about Derek.

He didn’t want Stiles sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, which was fair.

Except also not, and Stiles never listened to his dad, anyway.

Almost three weeks after his fateful encounter with sir Werewolf, Stiles was a lot calmer and felt more comfortable with his environment. He’d kept his promise, hadn’t told anyone, and hadn’t seen hide nor hair of his shape-shifting friend since that encounter in the woods. He was feeling good about his life again.

Which explained why, those three weeks later, when Scott insisted he needed some special flowers for Kira again, he enlisted Stiles’ help and, like a putz, he agreed.

And that was how Stiles found himself wandering into the preserve looking for a fucking flower.


He didn’t go past the police tape into the depths of the forest, though. None of the attacks had happened close to town, but further up the hiking trails, so Stiles knew that as long as he stuck close to the road and stayed on the path, he would be fine.

And he was, too. For hours, even. He’d been wandering around, phone in hand with a picture of the flower, and had come out into a clearing when he froze.

There was a man crouched on the other side of the clearing, one hand pressed against the ground and head cocked. He was clothed, which was a relief, and it took a few seconds for Stiles to realize it was Derek Hale.

He must’ve been close to one of the Hale properties, considering he knew Derek was staying in his own house. Stiles hadn’t realized he’d wandered along so far, though he knew he was still in the safe zone.

For a second, he debated whether or not to just leave without saying anything, but felt that would be suspicious. He didn’t want to bother Derek Hale, though. He was Derek fucking Hale.

Stiles was still ho-humming about it when Derek stood, slapped his hands against his jeans, and turned to look right at him. Stiles stood frozen, mouth hanging open like an idiot.

God this guy was gorgeous. Stiles had seen many gorgeous people in his life, but this guys just... he was like a Greek statue chiselled out of marble or something. Stiles wanted to lick his skin.

His deliciously tanned skin, which was clearly visible since he wasn’t wearing his leather jacket today. He only had a tight white shirt, which did nothing to hide the muscles beneath the thin material, and Stiles was willing to beg on his knees for the chance to just fucking touch him. Just once. Just once.

“Tourists aren’t allowed here,” Derek said loudly, walking towards him slowly, scowl on his face. “There’s been animal attacks, didn’t you see the signs?”

“No,” Stiles said, then hastily shook his head. “I mean, yes, I did. But no, I’m not a tourist. I’m a local. Stiles.” He thrust out his hand. “Stiles Stilinski.”

“Stilinski?” Derek frowned, moving closer, then it seemed to click. “The sheriff’s son.”

“Yup, that’s me.” His hand was still hovering awkwardly, and he almost dropped it before Derek reached out and shook it.

“Derek Hale.” He let go, and Stiles was never washing this hand again. “You should know better than anyone not to be out here, considering.”

“I made sure not to pass the police line,” Stiles insisted, motioning out around himself.

“The police line is two miles back.”

“What?” Stiles frowned and turned, as if he could see the yellow police tape through the foliage. “Are you sure? I was being careful not to pass it.”

“I’m sure.” Derek sighed and motioned towards the left. “Come on, let’s get you back to the road. I’ll give you a ride.”

Stiles could get attacked right now, and he wouldn’t even care. A ride from Derek Hale? In his Camaro? Dreams did come true!

He hurried to keep up with the other’s long strides, seeing Derek’s eyes shifting rapidly from side to side. He turned his head every now and then, as if hearing something, and made sure to keep Stiles right beside him. One hand even came out to brush at Stiles’ lower back, as if to keep him moving and close at the same time.

Stiles really could die happy right now.

“So, uh, what are you doing all the way out here, anyway?” Stiles asked, climbing over a fallen tree with some difficulty. Derek Hale just leapt over it like it was nothing.

God he was perfect, Stiles wanted to blow him right here and now.

“I’m a geologist,” Derek informed him, keeping them moving.

Stiles turned to gape at him. A geologist? That was what the rich and famous and gorgeous Derek Hale did for a living? He looked at rocks?!

“Aren’t you too hot?” Stiles blurted out before he could stop himself. Derek turned to give him a weird look and Stiles hastily pointed at the sky. “The weather, I mean. The hot weather. It’s hot. Being almost summer and all.”

“I don’t mind the heat,” Derek said, pushing some branches out of their way and motioning for Stiles to go through first before following. “It’s an interesting job. I like rocks.”

“Oh, me too,” Stiles agreed, nodding emphatically when the other fell into step beside him again. “Particularly marble, which you seem to be made out of.”

Derek turned to him sharply, eyebrows disappearing into his hairline. “What?”

“What?” Stiles repeated.

Had he actually just said that to Derek Hale?! God, he wanted to die!

Derek just eyed him for a second, then faced forward once more. Stiles would’ve normally started babbling at a time like this, but he’d already made a complete ass of himself, he didn’t want to say anything worse. So they walked in silence until they finally broke through the treeline and into another clearing.

This one held an impressive-looking house, painted white with dark blue shutters. It was two stories high, and had to have at least five rooms, with both a front and a back porch. It looked like there was an in-ground pool in the rear, but they walked past the side of the house too quickly for him to be sure. He just followed Derek to the Camaro, trying not to hyperventilate.

It was unlocked with the click of a button and Derek slid smoothly into the driver’s seat. Stiles got in more slowly, hands sliding along the immaculate paint job and then the leather inside. The car was muggy from being out in the sun, but Derek cut on the AC the moment Stiles closed his door.

They got buckled in and Derek drove down the small path that led onto a larger trail, which would eventually cross with the main road. Stiles had parked the Jeep in one of the designated parking locations for the preserve, and he told Derek which one it was when they reached the larger trail.

“What were you doing in the forest, anyway?” Derek asked him, glancing at him before facing forward again.

“Looking for a flower for my friend.” Stiles sighed. “He has a girlfriend who’s kind of into weird mystical stuff, and she wanted a specific flower for something. My buddy’s at work, so I told him I’d get it for him.”

“Is your friend’s request worth your life?” Derek asked, voice hardening slightly. “People have died.”

“I thought I was still in the safe parts,” Stiles insisted. “Besides, you were out there. What makes it different for you?”

“I grew up in these woods,” Derek countered. “I’d have been fine.”

“If you say so.” Stiles shrugged and just looked out the window. He didn’t want to fight with Derek Hale. He was already almost wetting himself at being in his damn presence.

They rode along in silence for a few moments before Stiles turned to him. “What do you think it is?”

“What?” Derek asked.

“The animal. The one everyone’s arguing about.”

“What do you think it is?” Derek turned to him briefly.

Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know. Something big.”

“Like a wolf?”

The question made him think about the Werewolf he’d seen three weeks back—not that he’d forgotten or anything, but Derek was kind of distracting. A lot of people thought it was a wolf, but if it was the Werewolf, he would’ve killed Stiles, first of all, and second of all, he wouldn’t have been deterred by the police stopping hikers from going into the preserve. If the end goal was to kill, the wolfman could literally just lure people out into any part of the woods, and kill them. Nothing had happened since the police line had gone up, warning people out of the deeper parts of the forest.

“No,” Stiles finally said. “Not a wolf.”

“You don’t think it’s a wolf?” Derek asked, surprised. “Everyone else does.”

Stiles shrugged again. “Wolves are pack animals. They’re not usually alone, and they wouldn’t attack anyone unless they were threatened or rabid. If it was a rabid wolf, someone would’ve seen it by now, it wouldn’t be deterred by vehicles passing by on the road. If it was threatened, the deaths would’ve been in one area, but they’re not. It’s probably something bigger, like a cougar or something.”


He didn’t know what that sound was for, but Stiles turned to look at Derek. The other seemed thoughtful, like he hadn’t expected Stiles to know so much about wolves.

Truthfully, he wouldn’t have a few weeks ago. Now, he was a lot more informed about wolves. And he still maintained his belief that the Werewolf wasn’t behind this. He hadn’t come for Stiles yet, and had every reason to be nervous or worried about some stupid human knowing his secret.

He felt confident that whatever this was, it wasn’t the Werewolf. Hell, maybe the Werewolf was trying to find whatever was killing people. That was a nice thought, actually.

“People tend not to like wolves.”

“What?” Stiles asked, having been lost in thought.

“I said people tend not to like wolves,” Derek repeated, hands tightening around the steering wheel. “They attack them without cause. Wolves just want to be left alone.”

Stiles nodded, facing forward again. “I believe that. They’re really pretty, though. Your sister takes pictures of them, sometimes. Wolves, I mean.”

A smile teased the corners of Derek’s lips. “You like my sister’s photography?”

“I do,” Stiles agreed with a grin. “But not half as much as your other sister’s paintings. They’re gorgeous. I’ve always wanted to buy one.”

“Then why don’t you?” Derek asked, turning into the lot Stiles’ Jeep was parked in.

“Uh, I’m not made of money and they cost thousands of dollars?” Stiles asked, laughing awkwardly. “Maybe one day, if I marry rich or make a fortune for myself. But not today.” He turned to glance at his Jeep, wincing slightly. It looked like a piece of shit next to Derek’s gorgeous Camaro, but the other didn’t say anything about it.

“Sorry to hear her paintings are too expensive for you,” Derek said. “I guess she didn’t consider that when she first started selling them. Maybe I can talk her into lowering the prices so people like you could afford them.”

“Nah, it’s okay,” Stiles said, though he was a little touched at the comment. He doubted Derek was sincere, but even pretending to care was nice. “She works hard on them, they’re worth what she charges. Just, you know, a little disappointing for poor people like me.” He turned to open the door and climbed out of the car. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Wait,” Derek said before he could slam it shut. “The flower. The one your friend wanted. What was it?”

“Oh, a gentian.” Stiles got his phone from his pocket and pulled the picture up, turning it to face Derek. “They don’t sell it in the flower shops here. Apparently there are a bunch out in the preserve, but I didn’t find any.”

“Well, I’ll keep an eye out for them, and if I spot any, I can bring them by the station.”

Stiles felt his heart skip a beat. “You don’t have to do that for me.”

“It’s not a problem. I’ve been speaking to your father about the animal attacks the past few days, anyway. If I find some, I’ll bring them by.”

“Thank you,” Stiles blurted out, feeling a flush creeping along his skin. “Thank you so much! That’s really nice of you.”

“It’s more so that you’ll stay out of the woods.” Derek gave him a pointed look. “Go home, Stiles. And try to stay out of trouble.” He reached out for some sunglasses on his dash and slid them onto his nose. “You look like the kind of guy who gets into a lot of trouble.”

Stiles may have just cum right then and there. Derek Hale was so fucking cool, and hot as shit, and Stiles just wanted to blow him! God dammit!

“Thanks for the ride,” he forced out, voice higher than normal, and slammed the door.

Hurrying to his Jeep, he climbed in and watched as Derek waited for him to pull out and drive off before the other did the same, heading in the opposite direction.

Knowing his dad would murder him if he found out, Stiles decided it was worth the risk and pulled out his phone, calling Scott. He put it on speaker and set the phone down on his lap.

“Hey, did you get them?”

“I met Derek Hale!” Stiles blurted out, grin on his face. “I met Derek Hale, and we talked, and walked through the woods together, and he drove me to the Jeep in his car, and he touched my lower back, and I am never washing my right hand ever again!”

There was a short silence, and then, “What?” 

“Come on, Scott!” Stiles shook the wheel slightly, whine in his voice. “I get excited for you when you gush at me about Kira. Let me fanboy over Derek Hale a little. He’s super hot in person, no wonder everyone wants to date him. I wanted to drop trou and get plowed by him right there in the forest.”

“Didn’t need to know that. Also, bit rude of you, to only like him for his looks.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I don’t know him well enough to have an opinion of him as a person, Scott. Don’t ruin this for me.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t get the flowers.”

Oh Scott. So selfless. So thoughtful.

“No, Scott, I didn’t get the flowers. You remember people have been killed in the woods recently, right?”

“There hasn’t been an attack in days, whatever it was probably moved on.”

“Such concern for your best friend,” Stiles sighed. “Anyway, I gotta go. Dad’s gonna want to have dinner before he goes to work.”

“I’ll talk to you later, Stiles.” Scott sounded disappointed, and that ‘eager to please’ part of Stiles was upset he hadn’t managed to find the flowers for him. But another part was kind of frustrated, because Scott was being a little self-centered. Stiles always showed excitement for him and his girlfriend, the least Scott could do was pretend he cared.

He tried not to dwell on it while he made his way home. He got an earful when he arrived, because apparently Parrish had seen him driving out of the preserve and notified his dad, like a tattletale. Stiles promised he hadn’t gone past the police line, but Derek Hale ended up calling while he was making dinner to ensure Stiles had made it home okay, and he got another earful for having lied about the police line.

Which wasn’t his fault! He hadn’t done that on purpose! He’d totally thought he was still within the safe zone, it was the police’s fault for not having made sure it was up all around the preserve!

Dinner was awkward, because his dad was still mad, but he was obviously trying to calm down and have a normal conversation with Stiles before heading to work. Once he was gone, Stiles went up to his room and lay face down on his bed, angry at the world for ruining his high over meeting Derek Hale.

He really was an attractive man, but Scott was right. Stiles didn’t know anything about him, and while he’d seemed fairly nice the short stint they’d spent together, maybe he was just trying to make a good impression because he was the sheriff’s son. After all, he had a reputation to uphold in Beacon Hills. Maybe secretly, he was the monster in the woods killing people. It was suspicious he’d shown up just as the killings started. Maybe he was the cannibal eating the hikers!

“Figures,” Stiles said into his pillow with a sigh. “I find a hot guy, and he’s a serial killer.”

He moped for a few more minutes before getting bored and climbing out of bed. He turned on his laptop and began browsing Tumblr for something to do, wasting time on various forums and checking out a few more Werewolf websites.

The sun had long since set, already dusk when his father had left for work, so it was pitch black outside his bedroom window now.

He stretched and rubbed at his stomach, wanting a snack, so he pushed away from the desk and headed for the stairs, climbing down them and humming to himself. He’d just entered the kitchen, about to turn on the light, when he heard a noise in the backyard.

Stiles froze, wondering if his hasty departure last time had stopped the Werewolf from following him home, but his more leisurely drive back into town this time around had given him away.

Oh God, it was here to eat him!

Turning, Stiles raced for the stairs, hurrying up them so fast he almost tripped a few times. He reached his bedroom and ran for the closet, yanking it open and searching through it for a weapon before finding a baseball bat. Holding it in one hand around the middle, he turned and raced back down the stairs, skidding into the kitchen, heart thundering in his chest.

He kept the light off, wielding the bat over his head, and inched towards the back door, peeking out the window. He saw nothing at first, eyes scanning the dark trees in the yard. After a few seconds, two bright pinpricks of blue light shone through the darkness, staring right at him.

Stiles forgot how to breathe, watching as the eyes moved, the figure slinking forward. He could barely see the animal, dark fur blending with the dark soil beneath large paws. The wolf knew he was there, he had to know. He was staring right at him, eyes bright blue and gaze very human.

“Oh God,” Stiles breathed, sweat breaking out across his entire body. “Please, no. Come on, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t.” He didn’t know if the wolf could hear him, but he was mostly talking to himself, anyway.

He glanced down at the mountain ash, and hoped it would hold. He didn’t honestly know if it was going to stop the Werewolf, he was more going on faith, at this point.

Looking back out the window, the wolf had climbed the back steps, moving closer to the door before stopping. Stiles frowned, because it looked like he had something in his mouth, and when the wolf’s head lowered, Stiles craned his neck to see. He didn’t, but the wolf lifted his head a second later, eyes still on Stiles, and very slowly backed away from the door. Once he reached the stairs, he turned and headed back down them without a backwards glance, disappearing back into the shadows of the backyard.

Stiles waited, watching the darkness. After a few minutes, he finally turned on the light for the back porch. It illuminated almost the entire area, and Stiles saw nothing resembling a wolf anywhere in the yard that the light caught.

He kept a tight grip on his baseball bat with one hand, letting out a slow breath, and unlocked the door. It took him a few seconds to convince himself to open it, worried the Werewolf was just lurking out of sight on the porch, but he finally exhaled sharply and wrenched the door open, hand quickly returning to the bat so he could swing it if necessary.

Nothing jumped out at him. The yard was silent and still.

Glancing down, Stiles started when he saw five gentians right in front of the door, only a few patches of spittle along the stems.

The Werewolf had been nearby when Stiles had been speaking to Derek, and had heard what he was looking for. He’d literally gone out and found the flowers for him, and brought them right to his back door.

“What the...?” Stiles bent down, picking them up, and then scanned the backyard again, utterly confused. “Uh, thanks?” He hadn’t meant for it to be a question, but he was horrendously confused, and a little weirded out.

Shutting the back door and locking it again, he stared down at the flowers, then looked out the window once more before turning off the light. Setting the gentians down on the kitchen table, Stiles couldn’t help but feel like something weird was going on.

He’d found out some dude had turned into a Werewolf, and that same dude was now lurking in his backyard as a wolf, bringing him flowers he’d been saying he needed.

His life was officially weird.

Work was slow for a long time after the announcement of dead bodies being found in the preserve. Usually there was one manager and two staff on shift at a time, but with things so slow, it tended to be one manager and one staff part of the day.

Stiles decided to send Erica home earlier than usual, because they’d had literally one person come in all day, and there weren’t any scheduled pick-ups for the rest of the evening. Unless someone showed up unexpectedly, they would likely have no more customers until tomorrow.

So, Stiles manned the front by himself for the last few hours of his shift, closing up ten minutes early since literally no one had walked in for two hours. He didn’t think the owner would care, and if he did, he could dock ten minutes’ worth of pay off Stiles’ paycheck.

Counting down the tills and squaring everything away for the manager the following morning, he turned off the lights and locked the front doors. Testing to make sure they were locked properly, he headed for the Jeep in the quickly fading light of day and climbed in. Pushing his key into the ignition, he turned it. The car tried to turn over, but eventually sputtered and died.

“No, come on,” Stiles whined, having had a long fucking day. “Come on, don’t do this.” He tried again. And again. And again.

But the car wouldn’t turn over.

Thunking his head on the steering wheel, the horn blaring briefly at the hit, he whined louder and let out a huge sigh. Sitting up once more, he pulled out his phone, called Scott, and placed it to his ear.

“What’s up?” Scott asked after two rings, though he sounded breathless. Like he was excited.

Oh man.

“Hey, my car won’t start, can you come pick me up? Armour Tire and Service is closed for the night, so I can’t get it towed until morning and I need a ride.”

“Uh, I’d love to, but I’m waiting for Kira right now. We’re about to head for the drive-in.”

Yup. Breathless out of excitement. Because everyone knew the only reason people went to the old drive-in was to have sex with a loud movie playing for background noise. Terrific.

“Buddy, I don’t mean to cramp your style, but it’ll take you ten minutes tops to swing by and just drop me off in town.”

“Sorry Stiles,” Scott said, a door opening. “No can do. I’ll spot you next time, okay?”

“Wait, Scotty, I—Scott? Scott?” Stiles sighed, because his best friend, bestest buddy in the world, had just hung up on him.

Stiles was really beginning to rethink this whole best friends thing.

Opening his contacts again, he sighed and called his dad. He knew he was at work, but he was kind of out of options.

The phone rang. And rang. And rang some more. He hung up and called the front desk. Tara answered and told him his dad was on a call because Parrish was already out on another one, who was going to be Stiles’ next attempt. He knew Melissa, Scott’s mom, would come get him in a heartbeat, but she was working.

He knew Boyd, Erica and Isaac were at a movie with some friends out of town, and Lydia was at her family’s cabin for the week. He literally had no one else to call.

As a last ditch effort, he called the owner of the rental place and asked if he could borrow a car just for the night after explaining the situation. While sympathetic, the owner had said no. Stiles didn’t blame him, this was his livelihood, and if Stiles got into an accident, there was no way he could pay the man back.

Resigning himself to his fate, he figured his dad would call back and pick him up once he got back to his office, so Stiles kicked open the Jeep door and climbed out, slamming it behind himself in annoyance and grabbing his messenger bag from the back.

After making sure the Jeep was locked up tight for the night, Stiles turned and began the long walk back towards home. It would probably take him over an hour, and he’d have to walk along the preserve, but he didn’t have much of a choice. They didn’t exactly have a taxi service in town, and he was hopeful his dad would be back quickly and he’d come by and pick him up.

Stiles had a silent argument with Scott in his head over how selfish he was getting since he and Kira started getting really serious. Stiles got it, mostly. Scott hadn’t had a serious girlfriend in his entire life, just casual little things. Kira was kind of a keeper, and to boot, her parents liked him. Which wasn’t hard, Scott was adorable, but his desire to keep everyone in that family happy was kind of making him a bad friend.

Not that he hadn’t always been a bad friend, but he was, well, he was a worse friend, now. Stiles was going to have to talk to him about the bro-code, because Scott was being a bit of a dick.

He was still slowly making his way past the large stretch of the preserve, probably about halfway back towards the denser part of town, when he heard something in the trees to his right and froze. It could’ve been nothing, just the wind rustling some leaves, but there wasn’t any wind right now, and the sound continued. Like something large moving through foliage.

Stiles slowly turned to look towards the trees only a few feet to his right, and saw two bright blue eyes staring out at him from the darkness.

His heart stopped and his breath froze in his lungs. The Werewolf was here. It was right fucking here, and Stiles was an idiot for not having just waited in the Jeep for his dad to call him back. Because he was now standing right beside the damn thing, and the mountain ash was still in his Jeep.

He tightened his grip on the strap of his messenger bag, staring at the wolf, but the other didn’t do anything. It acknowledged that Stiles could see it, and it just stayed where it was, watching him silently.

“I know you’re there,” he said stupidly. “I can see you.”

The wolf let out a small huff, and the way the bright blue eyes shifted made it seem as though he’d just rolled his eyes.

“I didn’t tell anyone,” he said quietly. “I promise I didn’t. Just like I said.”

The wolf just kept watching him, unmoving, and Stiles licked his lips, knowing it was stupid to ask this but needing to anyway.

“It’s not you, is it? The deaths in the woods?”

A loud growl cut through the stillness of the forest and Stiles took a step back, heart jackrabbiting in his chest. It cut off as soon as Stiles inched backwards, and he realized the wolf hadn’t been threatening him. He was just answering his question.

“That’s good,” Stiles said, voice higher than normal. “It’s good you’re not a homicidal maniac. That’s terrific.” He cleared his throat, pulling at his collar. “I’m just—I’m gonna walk home now. And tell no one about this. Ever. I swear.”

He inched around the area where the Werewolf was, then quickly hurried down the road, heart slamming against his ribs, and neck itching because he knew he was being watched. It took everything he had not to turn around and check.

After a few seconds, his head whipped to the side when he heard movement beside him and he stopped again. The wolf did, as well, sitting down and watching him.

Was it—was it following him along?

“What are you doing?” he asked cautiously. Obviously, Stiles received no response, because the other was a wolf right now, and clearly uninterested in Stiles knowing who he was. Honestly, that was probably the main reason Stiles hadn’t been killed yet. He had no idea who the Werewolf was. All he’d seen was skin and dark hair, and that was it. That could be anyone! It could be fucking Scott, for all Stiles knew.

Except it wasn’t Scott, because Scott was too busy with Kira to come give his good buddy Stiles a ride home to avoid him getting eaten by a cougar or a mountain lion or a bobcat, or any other large feline in the area.

Fuck, maybe it was a God damn panther, who fucking knew? Not Stiles!

The wolf sat staring at him for a long while, so Stiles just began slowly walking again. After a few seconds, the wolf was beside him in the trees once more and he frowned, stopping again. The wolf did, too.

“Are you—are you keeping up with me?” The wolf’s head tilted. “Why are you following me?” He said nothing.

They had another staredown, and when something snapped in the forest behind the wolf, he turned abruptly and growled low in his throat. Stiles stepped back a few steps into the road, worried about what the Werewolf could see or hear.

Had it been keeping up with him in case something more malicious came along? First the flowers, now this? Did whoever this was actually like him? That was fucking insane, but maybe Stiles having kept a promise was intriguing to the wolfman, and now he was interested in Stiles. And it was hard to be interested in someone who was dead.

Stiles began to quickly walk further down the road, but the wolf kept up with him, moving quickly and growling low in his throat, head turned towards the depths of the forest. He could obviously sense something Stiles couldn’t, and while still not completely comfortable with the wolf, it was kind of nice having him watch his back.

They’d made it only another mile, the growling having stopped, when a cruiser appeared in the distance. It was coming fast, the lights and siren off, but definitely not following the speed limit. Stiles slowed down when it approached and stopped right beside him, Parrish scowling out at him.

“Tara told me what you were doing. Are you crazy? Your dad’s going to murder you when he finds out.”

If he finds out,” Stiles insisted, moving around the car to the passenger door. He glanced up briefly at the forest, but the wolf was gone.

Well, not gone, he was sure, but out further in woods where he wouldn’t be spotted. Stiles muttered a thanks under his breath, not even knowing if it would be picked up, and got into the cruiser.

Then he had the lovely pleasure of being berated the entire ride back into town, which only worsened when the sheriff radio’d him to ask where he was, and Parrish told him he’d just picked his son up on the side of the road.

Obviously, that sounded worse than it was, and Stiles got to sit there while his dad yelled at him through the radio, no doubt giving many other officers on the same channel a fun evening since things tended to be boring in Beacon Hills when people weren’t getting murdered by wild animals.

Parrish dropped him off at the station before heading back out for patrols, and Stiles trudged up the steps to the front entrance. Tara gave him a sympathetic smile behind the front counter, but before he passed, she stopped him.

“Derek Hale was here earlier today,” she informed him, reaching under the desk. “He said you were looking for these.”

Stiles stared at the gentians she was holding out to him, and realized Derek hadn’t known there was a Werewolf nearby listening in. He’d already gotten the flowers.

“Thanks,” he said, a little dumbfounded, because Derek had said he would bring some by if he found some, but Stiles hadn’t actually thought he’d do it.

“Sure. Your dad’s in his office, and he is in a mood.” She gave him a look. “Why are you trying to give him a heart attack?”

“I am a treasure,” Stiles insisted, sticking his tongue out, and Tara laughed, waving him through.

Stiles headed for the office holding the small almost-bouquet of gentians and knocked on the door before entering. His father’s look could’ve curdled milk, but he just grinned and fell into the seat across from him, putting the flowers down right in front of him.

“Hey pops, how’s it going?”

Anger and curiosity warred on the man’s face, eyes darting between Stiles’ smile and the flowers on his desk. Back and forth, back and forth. Eventually, it looked like he’d yelled enough for the night because he just glared at the flowers.

“What’re those?”

“Gentians. From Derek Hale.”

His dad cocked an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you two were friends.”

“We’re not. I told him what I was looking for that one time I went into the preserve, and he said he’d bring me some if he found any. Guess he found some.”

His father lost all pretense of no longer being mad, face twisting. “Why are you trying to get yourself killed?”

“I’m not.”

“You were walking along the road, at night, with no protection, beside a forest with a wild animal killing hikers in it. If that isn’t you trying to get yourself killed, I don’t know what is.”

“My car wouldn’t start, and everyone was busy.”

“Then you wait,” the sheriff insisted. “Stiles, this isn’t a joke. Something is out there killing hikers. We still haven’t found it, and two people have been missing for weeks. I need you to stop taking unnecessary risks.”

“This wasn’t a risk, dad!” Stiles threw one hand up, exasperated. “I was perfectly safe! Parrish even found me, everything is well with the world.”

“I need you to stop trying to give me a heart attack,” the sheriff insisted, sighing heavily and getting to his feet. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”

Stiles obediently stood and followed his dad out of the station. When he was dropped off at the house, he wasn’t positive, but he was fairly certain a pair of bright blue eyes were watching him from the shadows across the street up until he disappeared into his house.

Stiles was pretty sure he had a Werewolf stalker.

Stiles didn’t see his Werewolf for a while after the car breakdown incident. He kept alternating back and forth on whether or not it was a stalker, or just looking out for him while simultaneously watching its own back secret-wise. He kind of liked the idea of the wolf being his own personal bodyguard, but couldn’t really figure out why he would be keeping an eye on him. Unless he found him interesting.

He was pretty interesting, Stiles liked to think. Lydia would agree with him. And Scott, if Scott was ever around anymore, bad friend that he was.

Seriously, Stiles was starting to think he should fake his own death to see if Scott would even notice or care. The only reason he didn’t was because it was too much work, and he was lazy, though he did tell Scott ‘no’ the next time he asked him for a favour.

He felt guilty about it for almost four hours, but he stuck to his guns, because he had to put his foot down somewhere!

The preserve ended up re-opening closer to the end of the month. The last two bodies had been located, but the animal responsible was still eluding everyone. The expert that insisted Alan Deaton, town vet, was wrong in his assessment that it wasn’t wolves was adamant that the threat had passed and the summer months began filling up with tourists once more.

Derek Hale was still around, Stiles saw him every now and then around town, but never in a situation where he could stop and say hi. He always looked busy, anyway, speaking to officials, or out for coffee with any number of men and women. Stiles wasn’t anyone important, but he’d have liked to thank him for the flowers, even if he ended up tossing them when Scott said Kira didn’t need any more.

Work was busy, but Stiles was used to it this way more than when it was dead. He and the associates managed to keep up, and Stiles went home so exhausted on a nightly basis that he forgot about his Werewolf more often than not.

On his next day off, when the air was humid and the breeze was non-existent, Stiles had the brilliant idea of going out for a run. Because he wanted to suffer, of course, and running in the sweltering heat was the best way to do that. So, that was what he did. He went for a run.

Normally he’d do it around the neighbourhood, but there were so many trails in the preserve—as well as more chances to run into Mr. Attractive-as-all-hell Derek Hale—that he decided to go for a run there despite hating nature and the bugs that came with it. Derek Hale’s pretty face and chiselled body was worth it. So, he drove out to the preserve, parked in one of the almost full lots, and put his earbuds in when he reached the path.

He wasn’t by any means a runner, so he made sure to keep his pace slow, putting one foot in front of the other and making sure he didn’t overexert himself. He needed to get back into shape; he’d gained a few pounds since graduating university. He’d always played some kind of sport in high school and university, which had kept him at least in decent shape. The past few months had been nothing but him and all the bags of Cheetos his dad kept trying to hide—badly—around the house, so he was starting to get a little bit chunkier than he was comfortable with.

He’d been running for close to fifteen minutes when his hand brushed something and he looked down, promptly having a heart attack. Letting out a shout and stumbling sideways, he fell flat on his ass and stared incredulously at the fucking gigantic black wolf now standing beside him. He didn’t think wolves could grin, but this one had a human side, so that was definitely a grin.

“Okay, seriously?” Stiles demanded, ripping his earbuds out and looking around. “Are you trying to kill me? Because there are easier ways than giving me a heart attack!” Stiles massaged at his chest over his heart, struggling to calm it down. It actually hurt in his chest, it had wrenched so hard in fright.

The last thing he’d expected was a fucking wolf to be running right beside him along the trail. He had to wonder how long he’d been there, and how he hadn’t noticed it sooner because up close, the thing was fucking huge.

He’d always pictured wolves as being kind of dog-sized. Like, a really big Husky or something.

Wolves were not the size of Huskies. They were fucking huge. Which he should’ve figured, because he remembered the first time he’d seen the Werewolf, and it had been fucking massive and a good ways from him.

Now, it was right beside him, staring down at him, amused at having startled him.

Well, at least it didn’t want to kill him.

“You’re hilarious, you know that?” Stiles asked, getting unsteadily to his feet. His legs felt like jelly. “A real riot. Aren’t you worried someone’s going to see you?”

The wolf stared at him, then made a huge show of looking around before facing Stiles once more.

“Yeah, whatever, smartass.” Stiles smiled a little, turning to look behind them, then checking the time. “Guess it’s not a good time for tourists. More of a locals time, huh?”

He watched as the Werewolf stretched his front legs, yawning, and then his back ones, shaking himself once and then staring at Stiles, as if waiting for him to do something. Stiles didn’t really know what to do, so he just tucked his music back into his pocket and motioned the path before he started running again. The wolf kept pace beside him, barely having to do more than walk quickly since Stiles was going so slowly.

“So, Mr. Wolfman, you live around here? Beacon Hills, I mean.” The wolf didn’t show any indication that he was listening, ears swivelling as if to keep track of where other people were. Stiles figured he didn’t want to get shot by an overeager hunter.

That was fine, Stiles could just talk, then. And so he did, talking to the wolf and telling him about how things were going in his life. He told him about Scott, and how their friendship was questionable, at best. It made him sad, because he and Scott had been friends for a long time, but lately he felt like he was less important. He was more used to that kind of thing from Lydia, since her relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Jackson had always made her a little more selfish than most when it came to their friendship. He just hadn’t ever expected it from Scott.

The wolf beside him said nothing, but he chuffed once in understanding at something Stiles said, so he knew he was listening. Stiles started talking about random things then, like his dad, and what school had been like. Where he wanted to go, what he was aiming for.

After almost an hour, having turned around at one point, he was in the middle of a sentence when the wolf stiffened and then bolted into the trees, disappearing so fast Stiles was still speaking for a good few seconds after it had left.

Two other joggers were heading towards Stiles down the path less than a minute later, and Stiles realized the wolf had just been hiding from them. When they passed, he expected him to come back, but Stiles was too close to the road now, so he probably figured there was no point.

Before exiting the forest, Stiles turned back to look into it, and smiled a little.

“That was fun,” he told the trees. “We should do it again sometime.”

There was no response, but he knew the wolf was there, listening.

“It’d be great if you talked back next time,” he said hopefully, but he wasn’t going to hold his breath. He just turned and finished jogging out of the forest, heading back to the Jeep sticky and sweaty from his run, but feeling much better than he had in days.

So good, in fact, that he decided to do it again the following day. He listened to music on his way into the preserve once more, but kept glancing beside him every few minutes. When the wolf appeared, Stiles grinned and removed the earbuds, putting his music away and returning to speaking to him. There were more people out and about this time around, so he kept disappearing into the trees, but he always came back. Stiles joked about getting him a leash and a collar so he could pretend he was his dog, and got a real look for that. Stiles didn’t mind, the wolf was actually his closest friend right now.

Which was kind of depressing, when he really thought about it, but Lydia was in an “on-again” phase of her relationship with Jackson and thus missing from his life, and Scott was busy with Kira. Stiles was starting to get offended that people kept ditching him for significant others, and he spent a good portion of that run complaining about how people needed to be more thoughtful towards their single friends.

Stiles wasn’t necessarily looking for someone, but he felt like even if he was in a relationship, he’d have remembered to make time for his friends, and none of his seemed to be doing that.

“What about you?” Stiles asked the wolf while it trotted along beside him. “Are you one of those dicks who ignores their friends while in a relationship?”

The wolf turned to him, one eyebrow seeming to raise, and Stiles grinned.

“Aw, buddy, are you calling me your friend?” Stiles started to reach out to rub the wolf’s head, then remembered it was a person in there and stopped short, letting his hand fall back to his side.

“Are you in a relationship at all?”

He received a huff in response to that, which he chose to interpret as a no. Stiles just smiled and continued along on the path.

They split when they got closer to the road, and Stiles said he’d be back the following day. Which he was. And the day after. And the one after.

When he worked, depending on the shift, he either went earlier in the afternoon before heading out for the late shift, or he went later in the evening after the morning shift. The wolf showed up every time, though couldn’t stay on the path with him as often when there were people around. Stiles didn’t mind, he knew the wolf was there, and having someone actively making time for him felt kind of nice.

His dad tried, bless him, but he worked so much that Stiles usually only saw him when he went to the station, or when he did something that required being yelled at. Stiles admitted to the wolf that sometimes he felt like he unconsciously did things that would get him yelled at just to get some attention.

It was sad to admit that at twenty-two years old, but all he could think about when it came to his dad was work, work, work. Stiles wanted to spend time with him, take him out fishing or go to a game or something. But they couldn’t really afford that, and the sheriff was still helping Stiles work off the student debts he’d incurred, so he understood.

He hated it, but he understood.

Almost two weeks passed of the routine, Stiles jogging through the preserve with his wolf—he was now officially his wolf, because he liked Stiles best, clearly. He enjoyed the few hours he got to spend with the Werewolf, even if the other didn’t speak to him. He figured he’d reveal himself when he felt comfortable, or ready. If he never did, well, Stiles would be sad, but he supposed he’d understand.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, a little later than normal for Stiles, because he’d been held up at work. He was sure his wolf was wondering where he was, but hopefully he’d turned human and figured out Stiles hadn’t ditched him, he’d just been running late.

Stiles began jogging, the woods a little darker than usual, and figured he shouldn’t be out too long or he’d be running in the dark. He didn’t want that, so he checked the time and made sure to keep an eye on it so he’d know when to turn around.

He was only five minutes into his run when his wolf appeared in his path. Usually he ran alongside Stiles, but today, he was in front of him, standing in the middle of the path, waiting on Stiles to reach him. Frowning, Stiles pulled out his earbuds and slowed, stopping in front of him.

“Hey. What’s up?”

The wolf looked tense, watching Stiles carefully, bright blue eyes searching his face. He seemed to nod to himself, then tilted his head before disappearing into the trees. Stiles frowned, taking a step towards where the wolf had gone, but nothing more.

He reappeared a few seconds later, tilting his head again in a ‘follow me’ sort of way before disappearing into the trees again.

“Wait,” Stiles called and, against his better judgement, he left the path and crashed through the trees. He slapped branches and leaves out of his face, moving through the dense foliage and chasing after his wolf. He saw him stop every now and then, waiting for Stiles to catch up before continuing onward.

“Wait, where are we going?” Stiles demanded. “Man, I am not fit enough for this,” he insisted breathlessly, stumbling through a bush and almost landing on his face. He managed to catch himself and finally saw his wolf disappear out into a clearing. Following behind him, he hurried through the last patch of trees, and saw his wolf standing at the complete opposite end.

“What’s going on?” he demanded, wheezing and holding a stitch in his side. “You know it’s not safe off the path, right? You’re fine, what with the teeth and the claws and stuff. I’m a puny human, with puny human teeth, and puny human nails.” He walked forward towards his wolf, still holding the stitch, and struggled to calm his breathing. “Also, out of shape. Clearly. Man, I need to work out more. Was that your attempt at telling me I’m f—”

The words died in Stiles’ throat, because he’d finally neared the wolf at the end of the clearing, and when it turned to look at him, he very clearly saw that it was not his wolf.

This wolf was larger than his wolf by a fair margin, and instead of bright blue eyes, he was staring at ruby red eyes which were boring right into his soul.

Stiles felt like he couldn’t breathe and he slowly took a step back, wondering if he should bother trying to run. Then again, he’d already made it very clear he was out of shape, so where he thought he could run to, he had no idea.

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he saw his wolf coming out of the trees a little to the left of this new giant wolf. His own Werewolf looked tense, almost nervous, shifting his weight uncomfortably. He would look over at Stiles, then at the large wolf, then somewhere else before looking at the large wolf again.

“Oh my God, you planned this,” Stiles realized, horrified. “You made me think we were friends, that you wouldn’t eat me, because I kept your secret for two months, but it was all a ruse! You were planning on feeding me to your wolf leader all along!” Stiles pointed at the large wolf, then hastily snatched his hand back when he realized it was an open invitation to start with his arm.

“I really am just food to you! Oh God, I can’t believe I’m going to die by Werewolf! This is the worst! You’re not supposed to play with your food, wolfman! Didn’t your mama tell you not to play with your food?!” Stiles motioned himself with both hands. “In this scenario, I am the food, and you should not have played with me! We had something good going, man! We were friends! We jogged together! I can’t believe it was all a trick to get me into your master’s belly! Not cool! You and Scott should have a contest for best worst friend ever!”

Stiles wasn’t positive, but he was fairly certain the sound escaping the large wolf in front of him was supposed to be some kind of laugh. His own wolf rolled his eyes, and if he had been human, he almost felt like the other would be groaning his name in both frustration and embarrassment.

“Oh, I’m sorry, am I embarrassing you in front of your leader? Food’s not supposed to talk back, is that it?” Stiles demanded.

He stumbled back a few steps, stupidly raising both fists like a boxer when the large wolf took a few steps forward.

“My dad’s the sheriff,” Stiles insisted desperately, feeling panic beginning to rise the closer the large wolf got. Because Christ, was it ever huge. Made his wolf look like a fucking Chihuahua. “I didn’t tell anyone, I wasn’t... This isn’t how I’m supposed to go.”

Stiles tripped backwards, falling on his ass, and knew it was over for him. He covered his face with his arms, clenched his eyes shut, and waited.

And waited.

Still waited.

And even more waiting.

Finally, he flinched when he felt something wet press against his temple, just above where his arms were. He realized after a second it was the wolf’s nose. It didn’t move, nose pressed to his temple, then let out another small huff like a laugh before retreating.

Stiles waited, eyes still clenched shut. When nothing happened, he hesitantly peeked open one eye, looking through a crack in his arms at the large wolf. It was just staring down at him with very human ruby red eyes, then it turned and wandered away from him.

“Am I too fatty?” Stiles asked breathlessly.

He heard his wolf let out a small growl that almost sounded like a groan, as if Stiles were seriously embarrassing him.

The large wolf wandered over to him, and the blue-eyed wolf straightened, going tense again. After a few seconds, the large wolf inclined its head, then nuzzled against his wolf for a few seconds before disappearing through the trees, flicking its tail once before disappearing.

Stiles had no idea a wolf could look thrilled, but right then, his wolf looked thrilled. He practically bounced back towards Stiles, and immediately licked at his face.

“Whoa, whoa, what the fuck!” Stiles tried to bat the wolf away, but he was three times his size and just licked and nuzzled at any part of skin he could reach. “Dude, what is going on?! Why didn’t your head wolf eat me?!” He pointed one finger into his wolf’s face. “Not that I want to get eaten. That’s not on the agenda for the day. But seriously, what just happened?”

His wolf didn’t say anything—which was normal—but it still looked excited and backed away enough for Stiles to get to his feet, standing shakily and brushing the back of his pants off. He frowned towards his wolf, then checked the time because light was fast fading.

“No time for a run today, though I think I’ve had my heart rate elevated enough for one day,” he muttered, glaring at his wolf. He didn’t seem deterred by Stiles’ anger, he just followed beside Stiles out of the clearing, sticking closer to him than usual, and rubbing up against his side. Occasionally, his wolf would twist his neck and rub his face against Stiles’ stomach and chest, but that usually meant they had to stop, and Stiles was becoming anxious being off the path with darkness falling on them.

Eventually, he made it back to the trail and his wolf stayed with him almost all the way to the exit, stopping just short of the last bend and tilting his head, watching Stiles with an almost-smile on his face.

“What are you so damn happy about?” Stiles muttered, rubbing at his butt again since he’d really hurt his tailbone when he’d fallen over. “Trying to scare me isn’t cool.”

His wolf rolled his eyes again, but as usual, said nothing.

Stiles just muttered a goodbye to him and turned to head back for the Jeep. He climbed in and drove off, wondering what the fuck had just happened. He knew a little bit about wolves themselves, but it hadn’t occurred to him that Werewolves might operate in a pack-like dynamic the same way regular wolves did. He hadn’t done any research on that aspect of Werewolves, and as soon as he got home, he headed for his room and booted up his computer, his ass still smarting and feeling like he had dried slobber all over him.

He opened Google and stared at the search engine, trying to figure out what to type before finally going with: why would one wolf bring someone to another wolf?

The first site that popped up had to do with wolf behaviour in general so he clicked that and began to skim it. Firstly, he found out a head wolf, or wolf leader, or whatever was actually called an Alpha, so he tucked that into his back pocket for later. He continued to read, and the further down he got, the more confused he became until he finally hit a point where it spoke about pack dynamics. Any new member of the pack had to be vetted by the Alpha before it could join, and reading that made Stiles’ blood run cold.

“Oh God, is he going to bite me?!” Stiles didn’t want to be a Werewolf! He was perfectly happy being a normal, regular human being!

“Is who going to bite you?”

“Jesus shit fuck me what?!” Stiles shouted, whipping around and flailing his arms.

Scott gave him a weird look from the doorway and wandered into his room, falling down onto his bed and waiting for an explanation.

Stiles just sat in his chair, hand on his heart, and wondered if it was possible to be that terrified twice in one day. Maybe he was actually dying right now. Shit, maybe he was already dead, maybe the red-eyed Alpha had killed him and everything happening right now was just some weird pre-death hallucination.

He wished his pre-death hallucination involved more sex and less sore tailbones.

“What are you doing here?” Stiles asked, massaging at his chest and trying to calm himself down.

“Kira’s busy, so I figured we could spend some time together.”

Oh Scott, always so selfless. Nicest guy ever, real good pal.

Stiles really couldn’t keep researching Werewolves with Scott in his room, and while he wanted to tell him to leave, that would make him go all puppy-dog eyes on him and Stiles was weak to the puppy-dog eyes, so he just slapped the laptop shut and rubbed his face.

“Can we go get some alcohol first? I think I really need some alcohol.”

“Sure.” Scott stood and started for the door. “Can you drive? I really want to avoid filling up on gas right now, prices are steep.”

Yup. Bestest friend ever.

Stiles stared at his closed computer, and figured he would look into this more tomorrow.

Stiles did not look into it more the following day, because when he woke up from a nice, well-rested sleep that did not involve wolves of any kind—mostly because he’d passed out drunk—he decided to spend the whole day in bed, because that was obviously the best course of action for him.

He knew he should get up, go to the woods and meet his wolf for a run, but he would probably barf all over his wolf if he did that, so he just lay in bed for the majority of the day and only got up when he heard his dad come home.

Double-checking his schedule to be sure he had the later shift the following day, he stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen, his dad giving him a weird look.

“Did you just get up?” he asked uncertainly.

“Yes and no,” Stiles groaned and sat carefully at the table, burying his face in his arms. “I woke up hours ago. I got up just now.” He frowned. “I need to pee.”

“I’m surprised you lasted this long.”

Stiles didn’t want to get up to pee, but he really, really needed to, so he struggled to his feet and went to relieve himself in the downstairs bathroom. Then he wandered back into the kitchen. He wasn’t feeling dinner, so he just sat with his dad while the older man ate, and then watched him retire to the living room to watch some TV he would probably fall asleep to.

Checking the time, Stiles winced when he saw it was close to the latest hour he went for a run at. He didn’t really want to go after what happened yesterday, but he’d at least confirmed the wolf wasn’t looking to eat him. He wanted him in his pack, or something. Or wanted the Alpha to approve of Stiles, for whatever reason. Stiles didn’t know, he lacked the brain capacity to care.

He sat at the kitchen table for an additional ten minutes before feeling guilty enough to get up and go find some clothes.

It took a herculean effort for him to dress and get into his car, but somehow, he made it to the preserve. When he exited the Jeep and started on the path, he didn’t even pretend to run, he just walked along the trail at a snail’s pace, Ipod forgotten on his desk and brain sluggish and hungover. He was never drinking again.

After a few minutes of aimless wandering, he felt the wolf move up beside him and turned to look at him. His wolf did not look happy, lips curled back and nose downturned.

“What? I’m not allowed to get drunk and regret every decision I ever made?” Stiles demanded, feeling judged. “Werewolves are real and I almost got eaten yesterday, cut me some slack.”

His wolf didn’t seem impressed with this, but kept pace beside him anyway. They walked in silence for a while, nobody else on the path at this time of day, and Stiles stared up at the sun filtering through the leaves.

He stopped suddenly and pulled out his phone, the wolf standing beside him. Stiles aimed the camera upwards and snapped a picture. It looked nice in the photo, but much nicer in person. He sighed and lowered the phone, staring at it before angling it towards the wolf, who tilted his head while inspecting the photo.

“I’m not much of a photographer. I actually used to hate nature.” He looked at his wolf. “Too many bugs. But sometimes it’s pretty. Pictures of nature are nice.” He looked back at the photo, then stuffed his phone in his pocket before focussing on the wolf again. “Do people take pictures of you?”

As usual, it didn’t respond, and Stiles began walking once more, hands in his pockets. The Werewolf kept pace beside him.

“I think you’d make a great photo. Laura Hale would probably kill for a chance to take a photo of you.” He looked over. “Do you know Laura Hale’s work? If you’re from Beacon Hills, you must know the Hales. They’re kind of a big deal.” He faced forward again. “My dad likes her work a lot. Buys all the National Geographics with her photos on the cover. She’s good, I guess, but I prefer Cora Hale’s work. She’s got this one painting of the night sky that I would sell my kidneys for, but I don’t think they’re worth fifty grand, which is how much the painting is.” He kicked at a pebble and watched it bounce away down the path. “Talia and Michael Hale seem kind of cool. They run a whole bunch of animal sanctuaries and preserves like this one. Don’t know much about Derek Hale, though.” Stiles frowned. “He’s been in town lately, said he’s a geologist. I find that to be a weird career path given the rest of his family but,” Stiles shrugged. “I guess he just really likes rocks.”

Stiles turned down one of the forks in the road, his wolf keeping pace beside him. He reached out to run one hand along the bark of a nearby tree and let out a sigh.

“Do you ever feel stuck? Like, you’re just going around in circles and you’re never going to be any better than you are?” The wolf didn’t answer, but Stiles knew he was listening. He felt the other push up against his side, rubbing his head against Stiles’ chest like he had yesterday.

“Yeah, I know. I’m just being a downer because I’m hungover.” He reached out and rubbed one hand through the wolf’s fur. He was surprised at how it felt beneath his fingers, coarse and hard with a softer undercoat. He half expected to get snapped at for touching him like he was an animal, but the wolf just pressed harder into his side, making Stiles stumble.

“Dude, have pity, I’m hungover.” He pushed back, but smiled a little, the wolf looking up at him with bright eyes. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be depressed. Just kind of wondering what I’m doing with my life. On the bright side, at least I’m not pretending to be an animal like some people.” He poked the Werewolf in the forehead, and the other pretended to snap at his fingers.

Stiles laughed, then groaned when it made his head pulse. He rubbed at it while they continued walking, his stomach starting to settle a tiny bit, but his head still aching. He just hoped he’d be okay for work the following day.

“You know, you really freaked me out yesterday,” Stiles insisted while they went down another fork in the road. “I actually thought you’d brought me to your leader as a meal.”

He got a real look for that one and Stiles half-smiled.

“Werewolves aren’t cannibals, got it. Still, the whole lack of response thing gets a little freaky sometimes. I don’t know what you’re thinking, and when I looked it up online, all I got from it was that you were making sure I was acceptable to your Alpha.” He frowned. “That’s the word, right? Alpha?”

The Werewolf huffed and Stiles nodded.

“Well, whatever vetting process that was, I’m glad I passed and didn’t get turned into dog food.” He smiled a little at the insulted growl that escaped his wolf. “Though full disclosure, I’m good with the amount of body hair I’ve got. So, uh, no biting okay? I’m perfectly happy being a human.”

The wolf nudged at his hand a few times until Stiles raised it and pet him. After a few strokes, it turned to lick the inside of his wrist, then stopped and turned around. Stiles got the hint and turned as well, heading back the way he’d come. It was late, and he was going slower than normal, so it would be best for him to exit the forest before it got too dark for his poor human eyes.

He was walked all the way to the final bend, and then left to make his way to the Jeep on his own, but he knew his wolf was watching.

Stiles got behind the wheel, then waved at the forest before backing out of the spot and heading home.

Fifteen hours later, Stiles realized that he really, really hated Werewolves. Because when he woke up the following morning, there was a dead deer on his front lawn.

Stiles felt leagues better today than he had the previous day, when he’d been hungover and miserable. Thankfully he hadn’t had to work, and while Scott did, he hadn’t gotten nearly as drunk as Stiles had. He’d managed to keep his mouth shut about Werewolves, which was good, but he doubted Scott would’ve believed him if he’d said anything. Or remembered, since Scott was a blackout drunk.

He’d just finished getting his shoes on and was heading out the door so he could go for a quick jog before heading to work early to catch up on some paperwork when he froze on his front porch.

Because there was a dead deer on his front lawn.

Not even like, the meat of the deer, or the pelt, or the antlers. Nope. Just the whole fucking deer.

There was a whole fucking deer dead on his fucking front lawn.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he whispered, looking around nervously while slowly walking down the porch steps. He neared the deer, trying not to look into its lifeless eyes, and saw that its throat had been torn out. Wherever it had died, it wasn’t here, because there was hardly any blood.

The wind changed and Stiles gagged, turning away and covering his nose and mouth. It smelled disgusting and like death, and why the fuck was there a dead deer on his front lawn?

This screamed Werewolf, but he didn’t understand. What was this? Some kind of message? Was it a warning? What the fuck was a dead deer doing on his front lawn?!

“I don’t have time for this,” he insisted to himself, back still turned away. He let out a harsh breath and then pulled out his phone, calling Scott. He knew he’d be at work, but this was kind of an emergency, and also work-related, so he needed Scott and he needed him now.

“I’m at work,” Scott said in way of greeting.

“Scotty, I uh, I need you to come over and help me with something.”

“Are you okay?” Bless Scott, he actually sounded concerned. “What’s going on?”

“I just need you. Please. I need you to come over. Tell Deaton it’s work-related. Because it is. It’s work-related.”

“Okay, just a sec.” There was shuffling and some muffled voices before Scott came back on the phone. “Deaton says I can come by whenever, when do you need me?”

“Uh, now? Or, you know, ten minutes ago? But also now. Right now. That’d be great. Please. Thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

Scott hung up and Stiles turned back to stare at the dead deer, feeling his gorge rise. This was not how he’d been planning to start his day.

He went around back to the shed to see if he could find anything to wrap the deer in and found a few yard bags buried in a box near the back. There were only two left, but he hoped they would be big enough to at least save his Jeep a little bit. Scott would be coming on his bike, so he’d have to bring it to Deaton’s in the Jeep.

Once he got back to the front and dumped the bags down, he went inside to find some plastic garbage bags and was in the process and laying them out in the back of the Jeep when Scott showed up.

His friend stopped at the bottom of the driveway, pulling off his helmet and staring incredulously at the dead animal. Stiles just finished up what he was doing before moving around towards where the deer was.

“There’s a dead deer on your front lawn,” Scott informed him lamely.

“Yeah, thanks, Scott. Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn’t noticed,” Stiles said rather snappishly. He knew he was directing his anger at the wrong person, but he was a little freaked out and wanted to get rid of the deer before anyone saw it. Which was probably too late, given it had likely been there for fucking hours, but still! “Come on, help me move it.”

Stiles opened one of the yard bags and made a face while he tried to get the back part of the deer into it. He didn’t want to touch it, but he had no choice.

Realizing he was working alone, he glanced up at Scott, who was still sitting on his bike, staring at the deer.

“Preferably today,” he said, jerking his head towards the animal.

“Why is there a dead deer on your front lawn?” Scott asked him, still not moving.

“You know, I um...” Nope. Stiles had nothing. “It doesn’t actually matter. I just—will you help me? Please. Let’s go.” He turned back to the deer and continued shoving its hind quarters into the yard bag. Two looked like it might be enough, but the hooves were going to tear the plastic, so he hoped it was done bleeding.

“Dude, it kind of matters,” Scott insisted, finally kicking down the stand for his motorbike and putting his helmet down on the seat once he’d stood up. “You can’t ask me to come over to help you move a dead deer and not tell me why it’s on your front lawn.”

“I’m still kind of working on that, all right?” Stiles snapped, because he couldn’t go for a jog now, he was going to be late for work, and he still didn’t know if a dead deer was Werewolf talk for ‘you are nothing but prey to me.’ He really wished there was a reference guide for this sort of thing.

Scott was still staring and doing nothing helpful and why had Stiles even bothered to fucking call him at this point?

“Can you please just—” Stiles motioned the deer and Scott winced but finally crouched near its head. “Thank you. Before my dad comes home and arrests me for illegal hunting.”

Scott gave him a confused look that would’ve been adorable any other day, but not today! Not with a dead deer on his fucking lawn!

“Wait, are you hunting?” Scott asked, still not touching the deer.

“Oh my G—Scott. Shut up and help me,” he insisted, shoving harder at the back end of the deer.

Scott did end up helping, but barely, given by the time he started, Stiles was finished with the hind quarters and helped get the front end into the other bag. They tied the ends of the two bags together to stop them from sliding off the deer and then together tried to drag the deer towards the Jeep.

It was too big, and too heavy, and Scott had asthma so Stiles ended up calling Boyd for help. He showed up, no questions asked—though it was clear he had many—and the three of them managed to get the deer into the Jeep with a lot of difficulty. Boyd offered to cover his shift for him, and Stiles agreed only because there was no way he was getting to work remotely close to on time, now. He told Boyd he’d grab his shift on his next scheduled day off and they parted ways, Boyd heading for his car to go to work, and Stiles getting behind the wheel of his Jeep.

Scott left first on his motorbike, going on ahead to tell Deaton what was coming. Stiles made him promise not to tell him where the deer had been, just that Stiles had a dead deer and was bringing it to the clinic. Scott agreed, though reluctantly.

When Stiles arrived at the clinic, Scott was at the back door with a metal table and he rolled it towards the Jeep. It was easier dragging it out of the back than it had been getting it into the Jeep, and they both rolled the table into the clinic and then into one of the empty back rooms.

Scott went to get Deaton and Stiles stood staring at the dead deer, struggling to remain calm. Now that it wasn’t lying on his front lawn anymore, he had no idea what the fuck was going on. Was it some kind of warning? What if the Alpha wolf had changed its mind and thought Stiles was a puny weak human and this was its way of telling him he was dead meat?

“I hate my life,” he told the deer, just as the door opened.

Alan Deaton paused in the doorway, eyes on the dead deer on the table, wrapped in plastic, and then looked up at Stiles while he finished pulling rubber gloves on.

“Stiles. It’s been a long time.”

“Hey doc,” he said with a sigh. “Sorry about this, I didn’t—really know where else to bring it.”

“That’s quite all right,” Deaton said, pulling scissors off a nearby station and cutting through the plastic. He pulled it away and began poking at the deer, eyebrows down in a frown. “It would appear to be in relatively good condition.”

“It’s dead,” Stiles informed him lamely.

“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” Deaton said with a small smile, eyes still on the animal. “I meant considering it’s dead. What did you say happened again?”

Stiles licked his lips and cleared his throat. “I uh, I hit it. With my Jeep. Total accident. Yup.” He popped the ‘p’ in his last word, rocking slightly on his feet.

Deaton didn’t look up at him, but began poking gently at the neck wound. “Is that right? Peculiar markings for a car accident, wouldn’t you say?” He glanced over at Stiles, who feigned innocence and moved closer.

“Well,” he let out a half scoff, half laugh, “you know. It was—it was dark out.”

Deaton looked pointedly towards the window and Stiles scowled.

“It happened last night,” he insisted. “I only called Scott when I woke up to go and get it. I mean, it might’ve been in-injured, you know, before it wandered into the road.” Stiles motioned it with one hand. “It was injured before it was hit. I just came along and finished it. Mortal Kombat style.”

“I see.” Deaton was watching him carefully, and Stiles knew that he was aware of the fact that he was lying. He didn’t call him on it, though. He just looked back at the deer, thanked Stiles for bringing it, and then told him he could go.

Stiles cleared out quickly after washing his hands, calling a thanks to Scott before disappearing out the back door. He hurried to the Jeep and slammed the door, hastily digging for his mountain ash. He found the bottle and held it against his chest, struggling to breathe, and closed his eyes.

It was okay. He was okay. Everything was fine. Nothing to worry about.

He allowed himself a few seconds of panic before setting the mountain ash back where it had been, and then started the Jeep. He went home and immediately sprayed the area the deer had been in with the garden hose. There wasn’t very much blood, but enough that his dad would notice, not to mention the smell, so he just watered the area until it disappeared into the soil, then went inside and checked all the mountain ash barriers.

Once he was sure he was safe, he showered for a good hour, feeling dirty and still gagging occasionally at the thought of the poor dead deer on his front lawn. His wolf—or the Alpha—had killed Bambi. That just wasn’t right.

When he was done, he went to his room and booted up his laptop, beginning to look into why a wolf would bring him a dead deer, and what kind of message that was. His first search of ‘why would a wolf bring me a dead deer’ resulted in nothing useful, so he leaned back and tried to think about it in a different way.

He leaned forward and typed: why do wolves bring dead animals to others?

The first few mostly talked about pups and how the pack as a whole dealt with ensuring the newborns were well fed, but when he scrolled further down the links, he found one that had him freeze as he read the blurb beneath it over and over. Eventually, he clicked on it, scrolled to the section, and read it over a few times.

For regular wolves—though presumably Werewolves, as well—the act of bringing a large animal, such as an elk or a deer, to another wolf was a way for them to show their worth. It was like proving that they could provide, that they were good hunters, fierce protectors, and strong enough to ensure their potential mate was well-cared for.

Potential mate.

Potential mate!

“Oh my fucking God,” Stiles blurted out, covering his mouth with both hands.

The deer wasn’t a fucking warning, it was a gift! It was a fucking gift from his wolf! Because apparently, his wolf was interested in him in that way!

“Oh my God, my life is a disaster.” Stiles covered his face and lowered his head to the desk. “My life is a disaster, and this is so fucked up.”

His wolf had killed Bambi to prove he could provide for Stiles. To show him that, if Stiles needed anything, he could get it for him. Not that Stiles ever wanted deer, but hey, if he did, his wolf could get it for him!

“Oh God, how is this possible? Why is this happening?”

It suddenly occurred to him what had really been going on when he’d met his wolf’s Alpha. It wasn’t vetting him only to join the pack, it was ensuring Stiles was a suitable mate. Because apparently Werewolves did the whole mate thing.

Which wasn’t weird at all.

“Fuck, this can’t be happening.” If his wolf came anywhere near him with his dick out and still an animal, Stiles was going to fucking kill something. Probably not his wolf, because he doubted he’d manage that, but he was not into beastiality. No thank you. No thank you!

He kept reading, attempting to see what else was going on, and got into a few more sections about mates. There was a lot of scenting, which Stiles realized was what his wolf had been doing the past few days. It was to ensure other wolves knew that there was a claim on a specific potential mate—in Stiles’ case, him—and to stay away.

“Oh no,” Stiles insisted, shaking his head. “No. No way. Nope. You can’t just claim someone as your mate, dude, not cool!”

Stiles jerked to his feet and turned to head out of his room. He descended the stair, still shaking his head, and made it out to the Jeep. He and his wolf needed to talk, and if it wouldn’t talk, it would damn well listen!

He wasn’t interested in being some Werewolf’s bitch! Not without some discussions and boundaries and, oh yeah, a fucking human person!

This was the worst. Stiles hadn’t signed up for this craziness. He just wanted to save money and move to Florida so he could go to Disneyworld every day.

Reaching the preserve, Stiles parked in his usual spot and kicked open the Jeep door. It groaned in protest at the rough treatment, but he didn’t care. Climbing out of the car, he hurried towards the path, smiling tightly at two people rushing out.

One of them tried to stop him, but he ignored them and just started running. He didn’t have time to help lost tourists, and maybe that made him a dick, but he didn’t care. He needed to find his wolf.

“Hey,” he called when he was further down the path, turning in a circle. “Yo, where you at? Come on, dude, we need to talk!”

He heard rustling to his left and turned that way. Racing through the trees without thinking, he made it a few feet in, opening his mouth to say something when he froze, skin going cold.

It wasn’t his wolf.

It wasn’t a wolf at all.

Stiles stood frozen staring at a very growly mountain lion. It was half-visible, crouched behind some bushes, but not enough to be fully hidden.

It was highly likely this was not a human who could turn into an animal, and now Stiles was frozen in place, unsure of what to do. A part of him wanted to turn tail and run, but he felt like he remembered learning never to run from a predator.

He was pretty sure it was from one of the National Geographics his dad had bought with a Laura Hale cover.

“Shoo,” Stiles said, voice coming out higher than normal. He raised his arms and tried to steady his voice. “Go away. I am a human, I am very dangerous.”

He doubted the wavering of his voice was convincing anyone, least of all the mountain lion, but he kept his arms raised, trying to appear larger, and took one slow step back.

He heard the growling intensify, and was positive he was about to get his throat ripped out when an even louder growl met his ears and he felt something come up beside him on his left side.

If that’s another mountain lion, I fucking quit, Stiles thought, but when he glanced down, he saw a very pissed off wolf.

His wolf had come to his rescue, growling angrily, hackles up, fur standing on end. Drool was sliding down the animal’s jaw and bright blue eyes were locked on the mountain lion, head lowering threateningly.

Both animals sprang without warning and Stiles let out a shout before falling over backwards. His wolf had bashed into his legs on his way by and Stiles winced when he felt sharp stones cutting into his palms.

He clambered back to his feet urgently, staring at the fight, but it was just a frenzied ball of fur, his wolf growling and snapping his teeth. The mountain lion was yowling and hissing, swiping its paw to catch his wolf in the face.

Thankfully, it missed.

“Ah!” Stiles shouted, waving his hands over his head. “Loud! Very loud! Rawr! I am a scary human!”

Somehow, it was easier to be a yelling idiot when his wolf was keeping most of the mountain lion’s attention.

When they broke apart, the mountain lion had blood dripping down one shoulder, but Stiles saw its own lips were red. His eyes shot to his wolf, but he had his gaze locked on the mountain lion.

After a few seconds, the large feline growled and then turned and leapt over a bush, racing deeper into the forest. It looked like his wolf wanted to follow, going so far as taking a few steps, but he stopped and growled low in his throat, then turned to glare at Stiles.

“What?” Stiles demanded, arms still in the air. “It works! Wilderness survival 101!”

He let his hands drop as his wolf neared him. He buried his face in Stiles’ armpit—why he was going for the armpit, Stiles didn’t know—then inhaled deeply. A small whine left him and he lowered his muzzle to nose at one of Stiles’ bloodied hands.

“It’s okay, it’s nothing,” Stiles insisted, opening both hands and turning them palm up. “See? Just a few scratches.” He eyed his wolf, trying to find the injury on him, but aside from some fur tacky with blood near his neck, he saw nothing. No actual injuries.

“Are you okay?” he asked, worried to touch him since his hands were cut open.

His wolf huffed and then pushed his head against Stiles’ stomach. It took a few seconds for him to realize he was being asked to move. Obeying, he let the wolf lead him back through the forest and onto the path—he hadn’t gone far off it, but he was glad for the extra protection. When they reached it, Stiles again turned to his wolf to make sure he was okay, but the animal stiffened, growled what was definitely a curse had he been human, and the wolf turned and leapt back into the trees.

“Hey, wait!” Stiles took one step to follow when pounding footsteps met his ears and he turned in time to see his dad, a few deputies, and some civilians running down the path towards him.

“Stiles!” His father looked livid. “What the hell are you doing in here?!”


“There was another attack! Hiker from Wisconsin is in critical condition! Why are you here?!”

“Hey, I had no idea!” Stiles held out both hands in surrender and his dad stiffened.

“What happened to your hands?” He was beside him instantly, handing his rifle back to Parrish and pulling Stiles’ hands closer by the wrists.

Stiles took the opportunity to look around at the people. A majority of the people he’d thought were deputies were actually Park Rangers. Two of them looked to be some kind of animal control, and a few of the civilians were local hunters.

They all had rifles, and Stiles hoped his wolf was human and long gone by now.

“Get this cleaned up,” his dad said with a sigh, evidently deeming the injury safe to mostly ignore. When he started to turn away, Stiles grabbed at his sleeve, then winced when his cuts stung.

“It’s a mountain lion.”

“What?” he asked, exhausted.

“The animal. It’s a mountain lion. It came at me, but—” Stiles cut himself off before spilling the beans. “But I, uh, scared it away.”

“People said they saw a wolf,” Parrish insisted.

“What? No.” Stiles felt his skin crawling at the thought of this group of men hurting his wolf. “There are no wolves in California. It was a mountain lion.”

“People said it was a wolf,” Parrish countered, as if trying to beat Stiles into submission by repeating it enough times.

“I’m telling you, it attacked me! It was one-hundred percent a mountain lion!”

When it looked like his dad was going to jump in and argue, a man stepped forward and placed a hand on the sheriff’s shoulder.

“The hikers might’ve been confused,” he said. “They were scared and running away. If your son says it’s not a wolf, I believe him.” He turned to Stiles. “Which way did the mountain lion go?”

Stiles hesitated, because his wolf had gone in the same direction, but he was sure the other was smart enough to get the hell away from there.

“It went that way,” Stiles said, pointing towards where it had run off. “I scared it away.”

Footsteps crunched on the path behind him. The man and his dad looked over his shoulder and Stiles turned around and almost died.

Derek Hale was heading towards them, walking fast and rolling up long sleeves. He was wearing black dress pants, polished shoes and a white button-up.

“I got here as soon as I heard,” he said, casting a worried look at Stiles before focussing back on the two men behind him. “Someone said something about wolves?”

“It was a mountain lion,” Stiles insisted emphatically.

“The sheriff’s son says he saw a mountain lion,” the unknown man informed Derek. “I believe him. He’s a more reliable witness.”

“That makes sense,” Derek said with a nod, crossing his deliciously muscled arms. “The tracks I found while out and about match up with that assessment. It’s likely beyond rehabilitation if it’s attacking people.” He sounded sad, like he didn’t want to have to put the animal down, but would do it if necessary.

“You up for a hunt?” the unknown man asked. “I’ve got a spare rifle in the truck.”

“Sure. Thanks, Chris.”

Stiles realized, quite startled, that the man who had believed him was Chris Argent. It explained why they were so chummy, given Allison’s reaction to Derek’s arrival a few weeks ago. They were probably family friends.

“You should go,” his dad said, pushing once at Stiles’ shoulder while Derek walked past him. “Get Melissa to clean that up for you.”

“Sure.” Stiles turned to look out towards the trees, still nervous about his wolf.

The group of men all turned away from him, speaking to one another and formulating a plan. Stiles could see Derek and Mr. Argent walking down another part of the path to where the older man had evidently parked his truck.

When he was sure no one was paying attention to him, Stiles turned back towards the trees and said, very softly, “Thank you.”

Turning to head back for his Jeep, he saw that Derek Hale’s head was tilted slightly to the side, and when he looked away from him, he could’ve sworn he saw the other man turn back to look at him out of the corner of his eye.

Stiles had to wait over an hour for Melissa to see him. She was at work, and his injuries weren’t that serious, so he just told the nurse at the main desk that he’d wait for her specifically.

She wasn’t happy when she found that out, because, “It could have gotten infected, Stiles! Why didn’t you just see whoever was available?”

He hadn’t wanted to, after the day he’d had—complete with dead deer, mate reveals and mountain lions—but he couldn’t tell her that. So he just cracked a joke and waited while she bandaged his hands.

The injuries weren’t bad, and she said the bandages were just a precaution, but he anticipated issues using the bathroom. Using and washing his hands was going to be rough, with or without the bandages.

When he left the hospital, it was close to dinner. He didn’t think going home to worry about the mate thing, and his wolf, and his dad was going to do him any favours, so he decided to head out to the diner. Even if he was alone, at least he had people around him as a distraction.

He entered the small diner and looked around, a little disappointed by how empty it was. Probably wouldn’t be much of a distraction, but still better than being home alone.

The girl from high school, Allison, was standing at the bar texting on her phone, but she looked over when the door opened and put her phone away. Smiling on her way over—which was a change from the last time, but she probably didn’t remember him—she pulled out a menu and tapped it against one hand.

“Hi. Just for you?”


She motioned the booths with a smile. “Place is yours. Where would you like to sit?”

“Closer to the front. No point in making you walk back and forth.”

She laughed and thanked him, bringing him to the closest empty booth and setting down his menu. She left to grab him some water and he pulled the menu closer, despite already knowing what he wanted.

“You’re Stiles, right?”

Stiles raised his gaze to her, a little confused. “Uh, yeah.”

“We had Biology and English together in our last semester of high school.” Another brilliant smile before she motioned herself. “I’m Allison. I mean, obviously.” She flicked her nametag and rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, I remember,” Stiles said cautiously. Why was she being all friendly with him?

“How’ve you been since graduation? You went away for university, right?” Allison leaned against the opposite side of the booth, seeming unconcerned with making idle chit chat. It made sense, he supposed, given aside from him, a couple mooching in the back, and a few men at the bar, no one else was there. She probably had nothing to do and Stiles was the most entertaining person there.

“Yeah, I did.”

“Cool. What did you study?”

“Double major, Business and Computer Sciences.”

“Oh, cool!” Allison glanced at the other patrons, then slid into the seat across from Stiles. “I did the same. Double major, I mean. History and Anthropology.”

“That sounds interesting,” Stiles said with a small smile.

“Yeah, it was. Still not sure what I’m gonna do with it yet, so I’m living with my dad until I figure myself out.”

“What?” Stiles affected a shocked expression. “You mean your life goal isn’t to be a waitress in this distinguished establishment for the rest of your life?”

Allison grinned and leaned closer. “Don’t let Mabel hear you say that. She thinks I’m a lifer. Pretty sure she put my name on the deed for this place.” She shook her head and settled back into the booth, crossing her arms. “I worked here during high school, and when I came back from university and needed a job, one of the girls here had just graduated and was heading out, so Mabel gave it to me. A few others have quit since then, so I pick up all the shifts because I’ve got nothing else to do.” She shrugged.

“That’s nice. I work for the rental place out past the preserve.”

“Nice. Shift lead?”


“Oh man, I’m in distinguished company,” she teased, winking at him. Probably a jab for his own comment about the establishment.

One of the men at the counter turned to look for her and Allison excused herself to help him. He paid for his meal and left shortly after. She checked on the other patrons, topping up one guy’s coffee and bringing the bill to the lovebirds in the corner before coming back to Stiles.

He knew what he wanted, but he was enjoying their conversation and didn’t want her to just walk away and ignore him once he had what he wanted, so he didn’t bring it up and just kept talking.

She didn’t seem eager to go back to work, so it worked out well for them.

They chatted about school and work a bit more, and Stiles eventually asked why she was suddenly all smiles and friendliness. She admitted, rather reluctantly, that she wasn’t a huge fan of Scott. Stiles had almost fallen out of the booth, because no one had a problem with Scott.

He was Scott!

Well, except Stiles, but they’d known each other since the womb so, really, that didn’t count.

Apparently—and Stiles didn’t know this, thank you very much, Scott!—his best friend had been pursuing Allison rather aggressively in high school, and it had made her uncomfortable. She hadn’t meant to be rude to Stiles, but he and Scott were close and she always worried he would be trying to convince her to date Scott.

She knew now that Scott had someone else, but her opinion of him hadn’t changed. This was just the first time Stiles had come in without him.

Sure, he came in with his dad every now and then, and she was always polite and pleasant, but this was different. This was just him.

“You’re a cool guy,” she said with a shrug. “Even in high school, Lydia often told me about how amazing you were, but it was harder back then to separate my image of you because of Scott. Now, I’m older—”

“And wiser,” Stiles added sagely.

“And wiser,” she agreed with a smirk. “And I can accept that we aren’t our friends. Scott was... intense, but you’re normal.”

“Excuse me?” Stiles let out an affronted scoff. “I am anything but normal. How dare you?”

Allison laughed, then seemed to notice the menu and got back to her feet. “Sorry. I forgot I was working. You’re fun, Stiles. I’d love to hang out with you again.”

“Hey, you are welcome to stick around while I eat. No problem. It can be our first official outing together.” He grinned. “In a purely platonic way, of course. No offence.”

“None taken. And platonic hangouts sounds fun. Just let me get Mr. Collins checked out and put in your order, and I’ll be right back. What can I get you?”

Stiles got the same sandwich and fries combo as last time and she nodded before disappearing. She was gone for about five minutes, since Mr. Collins was a chatterbox, but eventually she came back and sat across from him again, the diner empty.

“Is it always like this at this hour?” he asked, looking around. “I thought it was busier.”

“Depends on the day. And the season.” She sighed. “Tourism is dead this year, what with the attacks.” Her eyes shifted to his bandaged hands. “I heard you were out there earlier. Saw a mountain lion?”

“Yeah.” Stiles rubbed at one of the bandages. “Your dad was there. He tell you?”

She shook her head. “Derek. He was texting me when you walked in.”

Stiles stared at her, unsure of what to say to that. Derek remembered him enough to mention him to Allison?

No way, Stiles was delusional. He’d probably just mentioned the sheriff’s son being injured and Allison knew that was Stiles. They’d only met the one time, it was highly unlikely he remembered him.

“How do you know him, anyway?” Stiles asked. “Derek, I mean.”

“Oh, his mom and my dad go way back. Went to high school together. She actually introduced my parents to each other. We moved away from Beacon Hills when I was three or four, but we visited occasionally and they came up to see us so we kept in touch.”

It was kind of cool to learn about the non-famous side of the Hales. After Allison went to get his sandwich, they started talking about the Hales as a whole, and Stiles admitted his love for Cora Hale’s night sky painting. He was telling everyone and their mother about that painting, but he’d been pining after it for almost two years. It was amazing it hadn’t gotten picked up yet, though he supposed the price tag was a deterrent. Then again, she had another of a raging ocean for almost seventy-five, and that one had sold. Maybe no one else appreciated the night sky one like he did.

Stiles stuck around long after he’d finished eating, and when the diner was getting ready to close, he and Allison exchanged numbers and she made him promise to text her. He agreed without too many threats, because she was really awesome and he definitely needed a friend who wasn’t a wolf.

Which made him sad, now, because he realized he’d have to stay out of the woods. He wouldn’t be able to go for his runs anymore, and hoped his wolf understood.

He headed home in the Jeep, hitting the dash once when it rattled ominously, and then made his way down the street.

It was hard for him to stop thinking about the events of the day once he got home. Without a distraction, he kept going back and forth between, “What if my wolf gets shot by hunters?” and “I’m a potential fucking mate, what the actual fuck?!”

All in all, not a fun night for him, which wasn’t helped by the late hour and the fact that his dad wasn’t home yet. Stiles hoped that they called off the search once it started getting dark, but honestly wasn’t sure.

He was also still extremely nervous about his wolf, and kept pacing back and forth in his room, chewing on his thumbnail. Surely he would be smart and revert to his human form, but what if people were around and he didn’t have the chance to change back? Stiles wasn’t so sure it was tranqs in those rifles and he was kind of terrified to wake up and find out his wolf had been killed.

When his dad finally walked through the door at quarter to midnight, Stiles flew down the stairs and intercepted the exhausted man on his way to the kitchen.

“How did it go? Did you find anything?”

“No sign of the mountain lion,” he said, sitting at the table with a groan and motioning a cabinet. Stiles obediently went to get him a glass and his whiskey. He was okay with his dad drinking when he was around to supervise.

Which was completely backwards, but his life was pretty messed up right now so, by comparison, that was normal.

Setting everything down in front of his old man, he took a seat across from him and waited for him to elaborate.

“Well?” he asked, trying not to betray how nervous he was.

“Well what?” the sheriff asked, pouring himself a small amount of amber liquid before setting the bottle down. “We found nothing.” He picked up the glass. “I still think it’s a wolf,” he muttered, downing the glass.

“It’s not a wolf,” Stiles insisted with a scowl. “I saw it! I’m telling you, it was a mountain lion!”

“If we catch it,” his dad said, pouring himself another drink before capping the bottle, “you can say you told me so.”

“I will!” Stiles watched him stand and move back to the cabinet, returning the bottle where it belonged.

They both headed up to bed soon afterwards, Stiles checking his schedule to make sure he’d be on time, considering Boyd had been kind enough to cover for him today.

Once he was showered and dressed for bed, he managed to fall asleep relatively quickly with the realization that his wolf was safe.

His hands pulsed and stung now that the bandages were gone, but it was better than the alternative.

Which was being dead. Sore hands trumped being dead any day.

Stiles was tired for his morning shift the following day, and he had to recount the story about the mountain lion a few times because of the shift change later. Boyd had work the following day while Stiles had it off, so he offered to cover it given Boyd had helped him out the previous day. He insisted he didn’t have to, but Stiles persisted and he eventually relented.

It wasn’t that he wanted to cover his shift, just that Boyd had done him solid and helped him get the deer into his Jeep. He deserved some time off.

Lydia showed up while Stiles was still on shift and demanded an explanation for why he was stupid enough to go into the woods when there was a mountain lion in the area. Stiles didn’t really have the opportunity to get a word in and mostly just let her chew him out.

The conversation ended with her saying she was glad he and Allison were friends and that she had to go because she had a date with Jackson.

Stiles wasn’t entirely sure what the point of her visit was, especially considering they didn’t see much of each other anymore. It was kind of depressing when he thought about how Scott ditched him for Kira, and Lydia ditched him for Jackson. His closest friend right now was a wolf, and next up was a girl who worked in the diner who’d hated him in high school simply because he was friends with Scott.

His life was sad. He had to get out of Beacon Hills.

When his shift ended, he drove home and then didn’t know what to do with himself. Normally, he’d go for a run and talk to his wolf, but with the mountain lion out there, he couldn’t do that. Not that he had a death wish or anything, but he felt like he was more worried about his wolf getting hurt trying to protect him than his own safety.

Still, now he didn’t know what to do. He’d kind of gotten used to the routine so he was a little out of sorts. He supposed he could go for a run around the block, but it wasn’t the same thing. His wolf wasn’t there to keep him company, and while he acknowledged that he hadn’t originally gone out to the woods to make friendly with a wolf and have a running buddy, it still felt kind of nice to have someone around.

Made him feel less alone, he supposed.

He was sitting at his desk, still ho-humming what to do with the rest of his day when his phone rang. He glanced at it, expecting Scott with some new ode to Kira’s eyelashes or something, but was startled to see Allison’s name blinking back at him.

Snatching up the phone, he almost dropped it in his haste to answer, and had to toss it from hand to hand until he got a good grip and hit the call button.


“Hey! Sorry to call you out of the blue. I was just wondering if you were free tonight. I’m done my shift for the day and I need to let off some steam. I was thinking maybe bowling? They have good nachos down at the bowling alley. My treat.”

If Stiles didn’t feel such a strong friendship connection with Allison, he may have assumed he was falling in love with her. As it stood, she was still in the friend zone, just leagues above Scott and Lydia.

“That sounds awesome. Don’t worry about spotting me, you just saved me from an afternoon of boredom. When do you wanna head out?”

“Now? Well, now for me. I have to wait on my dad to come give me a ride. He should be here in about twenty minutes, so maybe we can meet there in half an hour?”

“I can come get you,” Stiles insisted, getting to his feet and grabbing a hoodie off the floor in case it cooled down later.

“You don’t have to, I can wait for my dad.”

“Hey, it’s cool. You’re doing me a favour, for real. Are you at the diner?”

“Yeah. Thanks, this is awesome.”

“No problem. Do you need to head home to change out first? I don’t mind a pitstop.”

“You are amazing! Yes, please!”

“Be there in five.”

Stiles hung up and headed down the stairs quickly. He texted his dad to let him know he’d be out, and then exited his house and hurried to the Jeep.

He was still disappointed to be missing out on time with his wolf, but he was sure the guy understood. After all, he doubted his wolf wanted him out in the woods by himself getting nommed on by mountain lions so, for now, he would just be normal and go bowling with a new friend.

Despite being terrible at bowling, what had he been thinking?

Then again, it wasn’t about the bowling, really. It was about the company. And Stiles really enjoyed Allison’s company, she was really fun. They got along well.

He picked her up in under eight minutes and followed her prompting as she directed him to her house. He waited in the car while she changed out of her work clothes, and when she came back a few minutes later, they headed to the bowling alley.

Stiles couldn’t remember the last time he’d been bowling, but he remembered the guy who ran the place. Mostly because the second he walked up to the counter to pay and get some shoes, the guy on the other side gave him a suspicious look while handing them over. Stiles felt like he recalled some kind of incident involving shaving cream, an inflatable raft, and a lot of angry yelling from his father. He just smiled pleasantly at the man before turning to sit on a bench with Allison and switched shoes.

Once they were ready to go, they chose a lane and Stiles let Allison start while he went to get their nachos and two drinks. He was in the process of juggling them all on his way back to their seats when he froze a few feet away from the two steps leading up to the lanes.

Because Derek Hale was at the same booth with Allison, one arm thrown casually over the back of the group of seats he was in, and wearing the same jeans and leather jacket as the first time Stiles had seen him in the diner.

Why was Derek Hale there?! If Stiles had known Derek Hale was going to show up, he’d have changed out of his work clothes! He hadn’t bothered when he’d met up with Allison because he didn’t want to dirty another set of clothes. His dad had long ago told him that he was in charge of his own laundry, and while Stiles knew one extra set wasn’t a big deal, it was enough of a deterrent to grab a new outfit.

It took him a few seconds to freak out and finally step up into the bowling area, walking past a few other booths until he reached their lane. Allison was laughing at something Derek had said, and the Hale himself was smiling at her endearingly. Stiles figured he had a crush on her and was trying to make sure Stiles didn’t steal his girl.

Which he wouldn’t because, again, massive friend zone from his side. Not to mention he didn’t want his wolf getting jealous and coming to tear her throat out. Jesus, was that something he needed to worry about? If his wolf was starting to give him gifts as some kind of weird Werewolf courting for him to be his mate, did he need to worry about the guy misunderstanding his new relationship with Allison?

Not to mention he was lucky Stiles didn’t discriminate because, Werewolf or not, if he’d been straight, the wolf would’ve been sent packing! Stiles hoped he was at least taller than him in human form.

God, he would give anything for him to be as ripped and gorgeous as Derek Hale, though.

“I can’t believe you made it here without dropping anything,” Allison teased when Stiles approached.

“I am a master at food, I’ll have you know. As long as it’s made for me.” He got the nachos and two drinks onto the small table in the middle where the score-keeper was and turned to nod awkwardly at Derek. “Hey.”

“Hi. Stiles, right? Sheriff’s son?” Derek’s smile had disappeared, but he didn’t look as scowly as he had the first time Stiles had run into him.

“That’s my given name,” Stiles said with a half-smile. “Sheriff’s son.”

Derek just cocked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing else before returning his focus to Allison. She was smirking kind of annoyingly at Stiles when he glanced at her and he just scowled and went to grab a bowling ball since Allison had already had her turn while he was gone.

He winced when he picked up the ball, realizing it probably wasn’t a great idea to be playing a game like this when his hands were still kind of fucked. He placed the ball down and checked his hands to make sure they weren’t bleeding, then wondered if maybe he could just sit and watch while Allison and Derek played.

When he turned to suggest that, he started at finding Derek right there, reaching out one hand to grab his wrist and pulling it closer, staring down at his hands.

“They seem to be healing up fairly well,” he commented, scowling a little. “But maybe bowling isn’t the best idea for you right now.”

“I’m fine sitting out,” Stiles insisted, motioning the seats with his free hand. “You can play against Allison. I’m mostly here for the company, anyway. My daily run in the woods was thrown out the window when a mountain lion tried to eat me.”

Derek didn’t release his wrist but turned to Allison, who was sipping her drink. “You mind if I take his place?”

She shrugged neatly, pulling the straw from between her lips and smirking once more. “Him, you, doesn’t matter. I’m still going to embarrass the snot out of whoever I play.”

Stiles stared at her, then patted Derek’s shoulder with his free hand. “All you, buddy.”

Derek snorted, but released his wrist and they shifted around each other so that the older man could grab a bowling ball and Stiles could head back to the booth.

When he sat down, Allison shifted a bit closer to him so she could pull one hand over, staring down at it. Some of the cuts had re-opened, but they weren’t really bleeding. It was more that in between state where, if he touched something, blood would come off his hands, but it wouldn’t well up and start sliding down his palm in rivulets.

“Sorry, I didn’t even think about your hands.” She shook her head. “I even saw you with the bandages yesterday.”

“It’s all good. Derek taking over saves me the embarrassment, anyway.” He grinned and turned to watch Derek. He had perfect form leading up to the toss, and when he released, the ball seemed to glide all the way to the end, hitting the front and center pin. It still wasn’t enough to knock them all down, though, and three pins remained standing. He cursed and turned to grab another ball so he could try again.

“Why is Derek here?” he asked quietly.

Allison shrugged. “He asked what I was up to. I said bowling. He showed up a few minutes later.” She cocked her head to one side. “I think he’s bored. His mom won’t let him leave until the mountain lion situation’s been resolved, and he’s been working to catch it—or whatever he thought it was originally—since he got here.” She sighed and released his hand, turning to grab her drink and taking a few sips before setting it back down. “He’s more of a homebody. He likes being left alone. It’s why he became a geologist, he likes to just go out and do his own thing. Away from people and what they think they know about him.”

Before Stiles could ask anything, she stood and headed for the front, Derek coming back towards the bench. It seemed almost pointless for either of them to be sitting down given they were both the only ones playing, but he noticed Derek had taken his time trying to knock down the pins, and even now, Allison was staring at the bowling balls as if trying to decide which one she liked best.

He didn’t know what was going on, but it felt nice having people actively want to spend time with him, even if he didn’t really know anything about them.

“Allison is going to cream me,” Derek muttered, sitting beside Stiles and scowling out towards the brunette. “She’s got impeccable aim.”

“Yeah, she’s into archery or something, right?” Stiles asked with a grin. “I remember seeing her practice after school when I was heading to lacrosse. She was really good.”

“You played lacrosse?” Derek asked, turning back to Stiles. “That’s fun. I wasn’t allowed to play, too rough of a game.”

“Oh.” Stiles frowned. “Were your parents worried you’d get hurt or something?”

“No, they worried the other players would.”

Stiles waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t. He instead just reached out and grabbed Stiles’ drink, turning back to watch Allison while he took a sip.

For a few seconds, Stiles didn’t know what to do. He wondered if maybe Derek thought the drink was for him, then dismissed it because obviously it wasn’t since he hadn’t even known Derek was coming when he’d been buying the drinks. Then he wondered if maybe Derek thought it was Allison’s drink, but that was dismissed even faster because hers had lipstick around the straw. So... did he know it was Stiles’ and not care? Or did he know it was Stiles’ and not care about sharing? Or did he... not care about anything?

Stiles didn’t know what to say, and he was glad when Allison came back towards them, Derek setting the drink back down and standing. She fell down beside Stiles and smiled at him.

“What’s with the look?”

“He was drinking my root beer,” Stiles said, not sure what else to say.

“Oh, yeah. He’s like that.” She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. If you don’t like the sharing thing, he’ll buy you another one.”

“No,” Stiles blurted out, grabbing for his drink and holding it close. This had touched Derek Hale’s lips, no way was he giving it up! “I mean, no. I’m good.” He cleared his throat, ignoring the amused look on her face when she went to take another sip of her own drink. She followed up by grabbing some nachos and Stiles hastily stuffed a bunch into his mouth to avoid saying anything stupid.

It didn’t work, because he’d barely chewed the chips when he asked, “So what did you mean?”

“Mean?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“That thing you said. About people not knowing what they think they do about him.”

“Oh.” Her expression darkened. “Well, Derek’s always been a bit of a jerk, not gonna lie about that.”

Stiles heard Derek curse and turned. He’d just fumbled his shot and was stomping back to grab another bowling ball, shooting Allison a scathing look, as if it were her fault he’d missed. Stiles just turned back to her and saw her grinning, but she was still looking at him and not Derek.

“Derek’s girlfriend got attacked by a wild animal when she snuck out of her house to meet with him in the woods. Derek was caught by his mom on his way out, and she stormed into the forest with him to make sure Paige was safe so she could yell at them both. Unfortunately, she wasn’t safe.”

“I heard about it,” Stiles said quietly. “People thought it was him.”

She nodded, bitterness in her tone when she continued. “The Hales are rich and own practically the whole town. People thought his parents paid off the cops to make it look like an animal attack, but that’s not what happened. She was attacked by an animal. Derek was a wreck. He came to stay with dad and I for almost a month, needing to be away from Beacon Hills.” She sighed, grabbing another few chips and chewing slowly while they both watched Derek line up his next shot.

“He came back, though,” Stiles said quietly.

“Yeah. Lot of good that did,” Allison grumbled bitterly. “Not going into the details or anything, but one of his teachers was sexually abusing him. He didn’t know how to tell anyone, so he didn’t and just let it happen. Figured he deserved it after what happened to Paige because of him. It all came out when Laura walked in on them. She’d come to pick him up as a surprise since she was home early from university. She kind of lost her shit, especially when she realized it wasn’t consensual. Talia was furious, went after the teacher, the school, and the school board. Derek didn’t want to make it a bigger deal than it already was so he just stayed home and had his dad home-school him. When it came time for university, he chose the furthest one he got accepted into and disappeared from Beacon Hills.”

Stiles had no idea what to say, because he’d honestly heard all these stories, but from a completely different angle. Nobody had ever said anything about Derek and Jennifer Blake’s relationship being non-consensual, it was always all about bad boy Derek Hale ruining a teacher’s life and not giving two shits about it.

Sure, it was possible Derek was lying to Allison and it was completely consensual and a way for him to save his own skin, but somehow, Stiles doubted it. He had nothing to gain from admitting to being sexually abused by a teacher and, honestly, he’d probably assumed no one would believe him, which was why he didn’t bother admitting it in the first place. Not to mention someone who was in a relationship with a teacher wouldn’t disappear from school and leave town as soon as possible.

People who did that were usually running away from something.

“I had no idea,” he said quietly, feeling guilty for having been one of the people to believe Derek was just a giant asshole.

“The family doesn’t exactly share that around.” Allison nudged him. “But you’re the sheriff’s kid, and I’m sure you can keep a secret. You seem like someone I can confide in.”

“Trust me, I can keep a secret,” he said, thinking of his wolf while Derek wandered back over, looking smug.

“Got a strike.”

“On your third try,” Allison teased, getting to her feet and knocking her elbow into his side on her way by with a grin.

Derek let out a deep sigh and fell back down beside Stiles. He and Allison kept sitting down on either side of him whenever they came back, like they had their own spots. He didn’t mind, it was nice that they came back to chat with him at all.

Stiles stared at him, thinking about what Allison had just said as Derek reached forward for some chips. He cocked an eyebrow at Stiles, obviously having no idea why he was staring at him like that, and blurted out the first thing he could think of.

“Where were you going?”

“What?” Derek asked.

“Yesterday. Your clothes.” He motioned what Derek was wearing today, then winced. “I mean, you were all dressed up when you showed up in the woods.”

“Oh.” Derek looked back over at Allison for a second, as if checking her progress, then faced Stiles again. “Cora has an exhibit coming up in Sacramento. I was heading there to check out a venue for her, but got a call about the mountain lion so I came back.” He scowled then, turning to face Stiles fully. “That’s the second time I’ve caught you in the woods during a closure. Do you have that little regard for your father, or do you just not care about your own well-being?”

He hadn’t been expecting that, and Stiles just stared at him for a few seconds before hastily taking a few sips of his drink to stall for time. He was sucking hard at his drink through the straw, and saw Derek’s eyes dart down to his lips before they flicked back up.

For a second, Stiles wasn’t sure he’d actually seen that, but when he sucked in another sip, Derek’s eyes lingered on his lips a little longer this time.

Holy shit, was Derek Hale gay?! Or, at least, bisexual?! Jesus Christ!

Clearing his throat and releasing the straw, Stiles said, “Uh, well, you know. The first time was an accident. Second time, I didn’t even know there was another closure.”

“What were you even doing in there?” Derek asked, seeming to recover quickly from his trance of staring at Stiles’ mouth and holy shit, was Derek Hale actually staring at his lips?! “More flowers for your friend?”

“No.” Stiles chased the straw with his tongue, trying to stall again, but Derek grabbed the drink from his hands and set it back down on the table, staring him down. “Uh, no. I was, uh—looking for someone. My—I go jogging in the woods, and my friend shows up sometimes. I was going to meet up with him, but...” It felt rude to say he didn’t show when his wolf had been there, but he didn’t know how to explain his disappearance once the cops showed up.

Safer to just say he hadn’t been there than to have to explain away his disappearance.

“I guess he was just... he didn’t come jogging with me yesterday.”

“He was probably worried about you when he found out what happened.”

Stiles noticed Derek looking at his hands and he clenched them into fists and set them on his lap, looking past Derek at Allison. He felt uncomfortable talking about his wolf with someone, because he didn’t know how much he could actually say about him.

“Yeah,” Stiles admitted, remembering how worried his wolf had been before running off. “He was. I didn’t mean to worry him.”

“Maybe you should stay out of the woods until the mountain lion’s caught, then. Save everyone a lot of grief.”

“Right.” Stiles didn’t know what else to say to that, and thankfully Allison came back then, Derek standing.

He took a sip of Stiles’ drink again, grabbed some chips to stuff into his mouth, and then moved to grab a bowling ball.

“You’re such an animal,” Allison chastised on her way by, presumably because of how messy he’d been grabbing his bite of food.

Derek just smirked at her, and the two of them shared a private joke that Stiles didn’t understand at all.

All he knew was that he was pretty sure Derek Hale was semi-flirting with him, and while that was kind of cool, he didn’t really know how to feel about it.

Stiles showed up on time for Boyd’s shift the following day, working hard to make up for having bailed the other day, what with the whole deer thing.

Because this closure of the preserve wasn’t as official as earlier in the spring when the Hales closed it, a lot of people were showing up for their car rentals, and then yelling at Stiles when he informed them the preserve would be closed for the next few days.

It wasn’t his fault there was a mountain lion running around killing people! One customer was so rude to him that he almost snapped for him to just go in there and die, if that was what he wanted, but he bit his tongue until it almost bled and wished the asshole a pleasant visit when he finally left the establishment.

He texted with Allison a little bit, her replies coming instantaneously in the early morning, but they started slowing down closer to when Stiles was going to be off shift because by then, they were both working.

Scott ended up texting before the end of his shift, too, to tell him that another body that had previously been missing was found and it confirmed it was a mountain lion. Deaton commented that it was likely beyond rehabilitation and would be put down when it was captured.

That kind of made Stiles sad, because he knew how much the Hales cared about animals, and the mountain lion was doing what was in its nature. He was sure it wasn’t meaning to kill people, but maybe it had cubs and was trying to protect them from the big scary humans.

When he told Scott this, he said Deaton had already looked into that with Derek Hale, who’d been working on tracking the animal for the past few days. There were no signs of cubs so it was likely just an aggressive beast hunting for sport.

Stiles just hoped his wolf was okay, because he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him in days.

When he got off shift later, Lydia was waiting for him outside his house and promptly invited herself in. She was in a fight with Jackson and needed someone to vent to, which meant Stiles got the honour of listening to her bitch and moan about him because Allison was working.

To solve this problem, he told her they should go out to dinner, and while she wasn’t happy about where they were having dinner, she at least divided her time between bitching at Stiles, and bitching at Allison. Every time she turned away from one of them, the other would roll their eyes behind her back. Stiles almost made Allison laugh at one point, and Lydia whipped around to smack him with the menu for not caring enough about her troubles.

“I have troubles, too, you know,” Stiles insisted.

“Oh really? Like what?” Lydia demanded while Allison went to help another customer.

“Like—things! Stuff!” Stiles glared at her. “I have a life outside you and Scott, you know.”

“I noticed.” Lydia turned to glance at Allison, then faced Stiles again. “So, is this a thing, now? You and Allison?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you into her?”

If Stiles had been drinking, he would’ve choked on his water. As it was, he wasn’t drinking, so he instead choked on his own spit.

“What? No! I’m not into her! We’re just friends.”

“Mmhm,” Lydia said, eying him and clearly not believing him.

“We are!”

“Then why do you look so flushed all the time?” Lydia poked him in the cheek. “I know you, Mieczyslaw Stilinski.”

“Don’t call me Mieczyslaw,” Stiles insisted, batting at her hand.

“Spill. You’ve not been as obnoxious lately when I complain about Jackson, which means you’re hoping to have an ear when you have your own love woes.” She pulled her water closer to herself, inspected it for a second, then pushed it away with a semi-disgusted look on her face. “If it’s not Allison, who is it?”

“No one,” Stiles muttered, slouching in his seat.

“Is it Derek Hale?”

“What?” Stiles stared at her. “No. I mean, he’s hot and all, but I don’t really know him.” He shrugged. “Actually, I don’t really know him, either.”

“Oh?” Lydia slid the menus aside, as if they were blocking her view of him, even though they’d been lying face-down on the table. “Him who?”

Shit, Stiles thought with an internal wince. He hadn’t meant to say it aloud. “No one. Just—I just met a guy a while back. He’s been... making it known he’s interested, that’s all.”

“Spill!” Lydia had a gleam in her eye when she shifted closer. “What’s his name? What does he look like? How did you meet?”

Shit! This was really bad.

“None of your business,” Stiles said hastily. “Look, don’t make a big deal of it, okay? I’m still—I don’t really know how I feel yet. I’m still not even sure what’s going on with our... whatever it is we have.”

Lydia pushed only a few more times before she realized he was getting angry and then let it drop. It was clear she was curious, but she likely didn’t want to piss him off or he’d just leave and she wouldn’t have a ride back to his house where she’d left her car.

He’d never actually do that, but he threatened her with it a lot.

After dinner, they called goodbye to Allison and Lydia texted with Jackson on the drive back to Stiles’ house. By the time he parked the Jeep, they’d made up and she kissed his cheek in thanks before heading out in her own car. That was fine, it was late by then anyway, and Stiles wanted to get some sleep. He had a well-earned day off the following day—which was sad, because he’d been looking forward to two off in a row, but alas, he’d covered for Boyd—and he was looking forward to enjoying it.

His dad was asleep in the living room when Stiles walked in, so he woke him up and headed to his room. He puttered around on the computer for a few hours, then went to bed and had an uneasy sleep, dreaming of people going after his wolf with pitchforks and torches.

Stiles didn’t know how long he slept, but he knew it was morning when he was woken by a loud curse and his eyes opened.

Jerking up in bed, he squinted sleepily towards his window, seeing bright sunlight streaming through the blinds. His dad was still swearing up a storm downstairs and it took his foggy brain a few seconds to determine why that might be. After all, it had been three days since the deer.

When he clued in, his eyes snapped open fully and he felt instantly awake.

Kicking the covers off himself, he stumbled out of bed and crashed into his bedroom door, struggling to pull it open. Once it cooperated, he bolted for the stairs, descending them rapidly, and reached the entrance hall where his dad was cautiously inching his way out of the house.


The man whipped around, gun aimed outward, and said, “Stay there. Don’t come any closer.”

The second his dad turned back to whatever was outside, Stiles instantly disobeyed and closed the distance. He stood in the doorway while his dad cautiously descended the porch steps.

Stiles almost face-palmed.

He probably would have, if he wasn’t worried his dad would hear and wonder what he was face-palming about.

There was a very dead mountain lion on his front lawn. It was a little closer to the house than the deer had been, but it was definitely there. Because his wolf had definitely hunted the thing down and killed it.

Why was this his life? Why couldn’t he get normal presents? Like a watch, or something? Watches were nice, and useful. And expensive, which proved the whole being able to provide thing!

Letting out a slow, calming breath, he knew being upset over something he couldn’t control would get him nowhere.

So he focussed on what he could control.

Which was the big fat ‘I told you so’ his dad had coming.

Moving down the porch steps and heading towards his dad, he stopped beside him so they were both staring down at the dead animal, then turned to grin at him.

“I told you it was a mountain lion.”

His dad turned to him, exasperated, while holstering his gun. “Really, Stiles? You’re gloating?”

“Well, you know, little bit.” He smirked.

The sheriff said nothing, shaking his head and rubbing at the back of his neck. “What the hell is it doing all the way out here? How did it get here?” He bent down to inspect the neck injury and Stiles heard rustling. He whipped around towards some of the side bushes, and was suddenly very aware of how out in the open they were.

So far, Stiles hadn’t shown any signs of appreciating the gift, and while he didn’t want a dead mountain lion, he acknowledged that it had been caught for him. Probably because the damn thing had tried to eat him.

“Uh, no idea,” he said cautiously, eying the bush for a second before looking back at his crouched father. “Nope. None. No clue. Except, you know, it uh, shows awesome strength and, uh, providability...?” Stiles was pretty sure he’d made that word up.

The look his father sent him from his crouched position made him feel like he was right.


“What?” Stiles echoed.

His dad kept staring for a few seconds, then shook his head in a ‘I don’t wanna know’ fashion before looking back down at the dead animal.

“Get back in the house and call Deaton, would you?”

“Yup. Cool. Sure thing, daddi-o.” Stiles clapped both hands together before doing the finger guns at him. “But, I mean, you gotta admit. Mountain lion.” He whistled. “Really impressive. Definitely showing how dependable—”

“Stiles,” his dad cut him off, giving him a look over his shoulder. “Now.”

“Right, yeah, okay.”

He turned to hurry back for the house, glancing at the bushes, but he didn’t see his wolf. He could just be hiding really well.

Or maybe he wasn’t there at all and Stiles was just crazy.

Returning inside, he called the clinic and spoke to Scott, explaining the situation. He confirmed Deaton would be by shortly and Stiles hung up.

Checking the time, he knew his dad would be running late for work. Stiles, on the other hand, had all day to deal with his new present, whether he wanted to or not.

He went back outside to wait for Deaton, moving up beside his dad, who was still crouched and inspecting the injury.

“What do you think did it?” Stiles asked, wanting to know how nervous he should be.

“Not sure. Whatever it was, it was angry.” His father scowled, then squinted up at Stiles. “You’re sure it was a mountain lion that attacked you?”

“Considering it was contemplating attacking my face, yeah, I’m pretty sure, dad.”

The sheriff grunted and looked back at the mountain lion.

Stiles glanced towards the bushes, licking his lips, and said, “You know, whatever took it down must’ve been really strong. Dependable. Impressive.”

“As long as whatever it was isn’t what’s taking out hikers,” his dad grumbled.

They both looked towards the driveway when a van pulled up, his father grunting and getting back to his feet. They watched Deaton exit the van, eyes on the downed animal, before he shut the door and approached them.

“Sheriff.” He inclined his head politely. “Stiles.” He turned to him, a small smile teasing his lips. “I didn’t think I’d see you again so soon. Yet another animal you hit with your car?”

The sheriff’s head snapped in his direction and Stiles wished he’d just stayed in the house.

“Uh, no.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably, his father’s eyes burning into his skin. “No, not uh,” he coughed once, “not this one.”

“You hit an animal?” his dad asked while Deaton just smiled pleasantly.

Like a dick.

Why was he trying to get Stiles in trouble?!

“What animal? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Stiles insisted, scoffing and making a face, waving one hand dismissively. “Yeah, no, it was nothing.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “It’s fine, really. Don’t worry about it.”

“You bet your ass I’m gonna worry about it,” the sheriff insisted, scowling at Stiles. “When was this? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was fine,” Stiles insisted, motioning himself. “I’m fine, see? Everything’s fine. You were dealing with a mountain lion killing hikers. Speaking of which,” he said emphatically, motioning the dead animal insistently.

“Your Jeep seems to be in remarkably good shape,” Deaton commented lightly, both hands behind his back and body turned so he was looking at his car. “That is to say, considering the size of the deer.”

Deaton, I swear to God, I will murder your ass! Stiles thought angrily, whipping around to give him a “Please stop talking!” look. The man just smiled pleasantly at him while his father had a fucking heart attack, sputtering incredulously before grabbing at Stiles’ shoulder and whipping him around to face him.

“You hit a deer?!”

Stiles stared at him, cleared his throat uncomfortably, and then said, “Yeah, I uh, I did and uh, I,” he coughed, cleared his throat again, “I uh, the Jeep.” He turned to Deaton. “It got fixed.” He cleared his throat once more, pounding on his chest and turning back to his dad, motioning himself vaguely in a “what can you do?” sort of way over his inability to speak right then.

Unfortunately, both men waited him out and he coughed once more before saying. “The Jeep. No big deal. It’s a tough old thing, barely even made a dent.”

“How did you pay for the repairs?”

Stiles stared at his father, picking nervously at the skin around his left thumbnail with his right hand. He pressed his lips together for a second, tried to think of something to say, then settled for, “What?”

“The repairs, Stiles,” his dad said, crossing his arms and staring him down. Oh no, he was using his sheriff voice. This didn’t bode well. “How did you pay for them?”

Stiles kept staring, chewing on his bottom lip for a few seconds to stall, but he still had nothing. “Oh,” he said loudly, forcing out a laugh and then reaching up to scratch at his neck, lines of red appearing on his skin from the rough treatment. “The repairs.” He cleared his throat and turned to look at Deaton, as if for help, then remembered he was the dick to get him into this mess in the first place. He faced his dad again, who was still staring him down. “How I paid for the repairs,” he repeated, coughing once, clearing his throat, coughing again. “I have, uh, a uh,” he cleared his throat, still scratching at his neck. “I have a-a friend.” He coughed. “At the shop. Yeah, we’re buddies. Real close, friends for ages.”

“What’s his name?”

God dammit, Stiles should’ve stayed inside.

“Name?” he asked in a high voice, digging his nails into his skin. His dad’s eyes skirted to what he was doing and Stiles hastily dropped his hand, instead scratching at his right one with his left. He cleared his throat loudly, coughed a few times, then swallowed hard. “Sorry, I’ve got a, uh, my throat.” He coughed again. “Something in my throat. What was–what was the question?”

Hid dad didn’t look impressed, which meant he knew Stiles was lying, and he was going to hear about that later. Dammit, now he had to figure out what to tell his dad about the deer, thank you very much, Deaton!

Stiles was going to tell Scott his boss was trying to get him killed by his own father! Rude!

It looked like Deaton was finally taking pity on him, because he bent down beside the mountain lion, pulling some rubber gloves from his pocket. He snapped them on and then began poking around the large wound in the mountain lion’s neck. He didn’t comment on how similar it was to the deer’s, he just poked and prodded for a little bit with the two Stilinski men watching him before standing.

“Well, looks like the Hales are in for some good news,” he said, pulling the gloves off his hands inside out so that the blood was trapped inside. “The preserve should be safe to re-open once more.”

“I don’t think so, what killed this?” The sheriff’s arms were still crossed, but he nodded his head at the mountain lion.

“Coyotes, it would seem. They likely chased it out of the preserve, which explains why it’s all the way out here. They must’ve downed it and before they could do anything, someone exited their home. Coyotes are not eager to be close to humans, so they were probably spooked and ran off, leaving their spoils.” He smiled pleasantly at the sheriff. “It would seem the danger has passed.”

“Hm,” the sheriff said, clearly unsure but unwilling to argue with Deaton. He’d already argued with him once on the attacks being wolves. If he argued again and was proven wrong a second time, it would look bad.

Stiles was happy, at least. It meant he would be able to see his wolf again.

And yell at him for bringing him large dead animals! Seriously? Seriously?!

Why was this his life?

“I’ll take it to the clinic for now, and contact some people to have it disposed of. I’ll need help with an animal this size.” He side-eyed Stiles before looking back at his father. “Might I borrow your son for some assistance?”

“Feel free to keep him,” the sheriff grunted.

“Hey!” Stiles scowled. “Rude!”

Then again, at least he would be escaping more interrogations, so he ran back inside to get out of his sweats and night shirt, and hurried to pull on actual clothes. When he got back outside, his father and Deaton had just finished getting the mountain lion into the back of Deaton’s van, which he’d backed up onto the lawn for easier access.

Stiles groaned at that, because it meant he’d have to fix the front lawn later, but it beat sticking around with his dad.

When he started to pass him, the older man grabbed his arm lightly and forced him to stop.

“You and me, we’re having a chat later about the deer.”

“Do we have to?” Stiles asked with a sigh.

“Yes,” the sheriff said authoritatively, then released him.

Groaning, Stiles headed for Deaton’s van and climbed into the passenger seat. He saw his dad hosing off the front lawn when they drove away, and hoped he remembered to lock the door.

Once they turned the corner at the end of the street, Stiles wanted to turn to Deaton and immediately demand to know what the hell his problem was. The only reason he didn’t was because he needed to stick to his story and just find a way to make it more believable. Maybe he could tell his dad he was just worried about getting yelled at, so he hadn’t mentioned the deer. He’d made up the part about the Jeep getting fixed since it hadn’t actually gotten damaged, but his dad had made him so nervous he’d just blurted random things out.

He doubted it’d work, but it wasn’t like he could say, “Oh, the deer and mountain lion are just gifts from my new Werewolf friend who’s trying to make me his mate and is showing he can provide for me by killing large animals.”

That probably wouldn’t go over well.

“I know some good recipes for deer,” Deaton said, startling Stiles out of his thoughts. “Not many for mountain lion, though. I suppose that was more protectiveness than food.”

“I’m sorry?” Stiles asked, staring at Deaton.

The man hadn’t turned to look at him while he spoke, but he glanced at Stiles out of the corner of his eye for a moment, smiling mysteriously before his gaze shifted forward once more.

“He’ll worry his gifts are not being appreciated if you don’t make use of them.”

What was happening? Had Stiles slipped up? Had he said the previous words aloud instead of in his head? Was he in an alternate dimension where Werewolves were known?!

“I... don’t...” He felt like he was going to pass out if he breathed any faster. “What?”

Deaton glanced in the rear-view mirror, then the side-mirror before changing lanes. “I know it’s a Werewolf leaving these animals for you.” He turned to smile slightly at Stiles. “And I know that you know that, too.”

Stiles felt like he knew how a deer getting hit by a Jeep would feel, because he currently felt like the fucking deer waiting on the Jeep to hit him. God, why couldn’t the Jeep drive faster and just hit him already?!

“You don’t need to say anything.” Deaton said when Stiles remained quiet for too long. “Just help me get the mountain lion into the clinic. Scott won’t be much use with his asthma, though I’ll admit I wanted you to join me so I could provide you with some of the deer meat and a few recipes. I’ve been holding it for you, hoping you’d come back for it, but I suppose I should have realized you weren’t aware I was privy to the Supernatural world.”

Deaton turned into the back lot of the clinic and shifted the van into reverse to get it as close to the door as possible. Once this was done, he turned off the engine, and looked over at Stiles.

“I would suggest eating the deer on your back porch. It’ll please him to see his efforts aren’t going to waste.” Another teasing smile. “He did kill a mountain lion for you. Those aren’t easy to take down alone.”

Stiles had no idea what to say. Should he lie? Should he call Deaton crazy and get out of the van? Should he grab him by the coat and shake him? Demand to know what the fuck was going on and how to make everything stop?

Not that he necessarily wanted it to stop, just... he didn’t want any more dead animals. He liked his wolf, he liked their friendship, but he didn’t want any dead animals!

He figured the easiest thing to do was pretend to indulge Deaton, so he maintained eye contact and said, very carefully, “Say you aren’t completely crazy, and everything you said is actually legit.” He licked his lips, heart pounding, because this would be the first person he admitted this to since seeing the Werewolf in the woods almost three months ago. But he wasn’t breaking his promise. He wasn’t admitting anything, and he hadn’t brought it up first! Deaton had!

“How, uh...” Stiles winced. “How would I get someone to just, like, bring me a pie instead of a dead animal?”

Deaton looked way too amused when he answered. “I suppose you could ask.”

“Ask.” Stiles looked out the front window. “Right. Okay. Ask.” He and his wolf had a good rapport. He could ask. He was sure he could ask. He wouldn’t get mad at Stiles. After all, Stiles wasn’t rejecting his gifts, just... asking for different ones. Like pie.

Pie was much better than a dead animal.

“Ask. Okay.” Stiles turned and pushed open the door, climbing out of the van and remembering he still had his dad to deal with.

One problem at a time. First his dad, then the dead animals.

Why was this his life?

Stiles’ dad was gone when he got home almost two hours later. Scott had given him a ride home on his bike—always a terrifying event—and Stiles had walked into his kitchen with a bag full of deer meat.

He set it down on the counter, and then stared at it, having absolutely no idea what to do with it. Deaton had given him a recipe, just like he’d promised, but Stiles was by no means a cook. Sure, he could grill a few things on the barbecue, and make pasta and stuff, but the recipe he’d been given looked a little more complicated than that. It was some kind of Venison Roast recipe, and while it sounded delicious, it was a little out of Stiles’ league.

He was still standing staring at the bag when his phone went off and he jumped. Fumbling it out of his pocket, he sighed in relief when he saw it wasn’t his dad and answered the call.

“Hey Allison. I thought you were working.”

“I was. I got let off early today. Slow day, so Mabel figured I could go have a life. You free?”

Stiles stared over at the meat and a thought occurred to him. “Actually, I am, but uh—you know how to cook, right?”

“I do,” she said slowly, suspicion in her voice. “Why?”

“Uh, I,” he coughed, “I uh, am suddenly in possession of a large amount of deer meat. Someone I know gave me a recipe, but I kind of suck at cooking.”

“Oh!” Allison sounded relieved, and Stiles wondered if she’d thought, for a brief moment, that he was about to move them out of the friend zone. “I’m not a big fan of deer, but I can come by and help out, no problem! I’ll have to walk though so it might take me a bit.”

“Nah, I’ll come get you.”

“Don’t be silly, I need the exercise. What’s your address?”

Stiles gave it to her and she confirmed it would take her about half an hour to get there. He again offered to pick her up, but she insisted on walking and they hung up. Once they did, he just checked his cupboards and fridge for the other ingredients in the recipe. A few of them they had, but a majority were missing so he started making a grocery list. He figured he and Allison could go and grab some of the items once she arrived, and maybe some snacks in case they ended up watching a movie or something.

It was interesting how fast their friendship was progressing, but he figured it made sense. Allison’s closest friends in Beacon Hills were Lydia, who was also ditching Stiles so no win there, and Derek Hale, who was busy working on the mountain lion thing for his mom. Though now that it was dead, his dad would likely inform the Hales and he’d be gone again, which was sad.

But on a brighter note, at least it meant Stiles could start jogging in the woods again. He’d get to see his wolf.

That aside though, it made sense Allison and Stiles were progressing so fast in their friendship. Both of them had shitty friends who ditched them for their significant others. Not that Derek Hale was a shitty friend, per se, but Stiles didn’t know him well enough to form an opinion.

Stiles was still in the process of writing out the grocery list when his doorbell rang. He frowned, checking the time, and knew it couldn’t be Allison since she was walking. He set his phone down on the counter beside the recipe and headed for the front door, somewhat startled when he saw Allison through the window.

He hurried to open it and said, “Hey. I thought—”

Derek Hale walked up the porch steps, hands in his pockets and small scowl on his face. It seemed to be a perpetual scowl, considering he sported it a lot.

“Sorry,” she said with a small laugh, motioning behind her without turning. “Derek saw me walking and insisted on driving me over. His family hunts a lot, and while I can cook, I’m not exactly the best. Derek’s actually pretty good with big game like deer.”

“Oh.” Stiles would’ve improved his wardrobe and definitely would’ve brushed his hair and teeth if he knew Derek Hale was coming over. He hadn’t done either of those things before heading out with Deaton, and by the time he got home, he didn’t see a point anymore.

Derek Hale was a point. God dammit, why did he tag along every time Allison was around?!

“Thanks,” Stiles blurted out, realizing he hadn’t said anything yet. “Uh, I actually needed some more items from the store.”

“Perfect. Derek needed to get some gas. Why don’t you both head out and grab what we need, and I’ll start cutting up what you have.” Allison smiled and moved past him into the house. Derek rolled his eyes behind her back, and took a step forward when Stiles motioned him inside. He stopped short, glancing down at the ground beneath his feet, then back at Stiles before taking a step back and shaking his head.

“I’ll just wait out here.”

“Oh. Okay.” Stiles cleared his throat, awkwardly shut the door in Derek’s face, then turned and hurried back for the kitchen. He grabbed his phone and quickly worked on finishing the list while Allison opened the bag of meat.

“This is a lot of deer meat! Where did you get it?”

“Oh, you know” Stiles said evasively. Allison didn’t comment, still looking into the bag.

“You should freeze some. Do you have any ziploc bags?”

Stiles motioned the drawer that held them and Allison pulled the pack out. She was looking down at the same recipe Stiles was while he finished the list, and the two of them spoke about what he had and what he didn’t so she’d know what she had to work with while he was gone.

Stiles might have procrastinated their departure a little, mostly because he got nervous when Derek was around and he seemed to be around a lot. First in the woods, then in the woods again, then bowling, now this? The woods made sense, he lived there.

In a house, not the woods themselves.

He figured when they left he’d have to make it clear to him he wasn’t into Allison, because while he remembered the other staring at his lips during their night bowling, he wasn’t convinced he was right. It was far more likely that Derek was into Allison and that was why he was sticking close.

When he finished with the list, he reminded Allison this was the sheriff’s house and not to steal anything. She threw a dish towel at him and he grinned before dropping it on the table and heading for the entrance. He pushed his feet into his sneakers and then pulled open the door.

Derek was still on the porch, and he turned when Stiles shut the front door. They headed down the stairs and towards the Camaro, which he’d parked behind Stiles’ jeep. He unlocked it with the click of a button and Stiles slid into the passenger seat for the second time, still marvelling at how amazing it was that he was in Derek Hale’s Camaro. One, it was Derek Hale, two, it was a Camaro, and three, it was Derek Hale’s Camaro!

They pulled out of the drive and headed towards the downtown area of Beacon Hills, Derek cutting on the radio and switching stations until it stopped on Despacito. Stiles perked up, but Derek switched stations again.

“Wait, what’s wrong with Despacito?” he asked, turning to him.

Derek gave him a weird look. “You like Justin Bieber?”

“Hey man, his new stuff is on point. Besides, it’s not Justin Bieber, it’s Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat Justin Bieber.” Derek didn’t look impressed. “Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t like Despacito!”

It looked like Derek was, in fact, going to tell him he didn’t like Despacito, but he also seemed smart enough to know Stiles would harass him the remainder of the drive so he just rolled his eyes and switched back to the song.

Stiles grinned and leaned back in his seat, mouthing some of the words when he knew them, and bobbing his head from side to side.

When the song ended, it went to a commercial so Derek switched to another station and stopped on a song Stiles didn’t recognize.

“So what’s with the deer?” Derek asked, stopping at a red light.

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you get deer if you don’t know how to cook it?”

“I didn’t buy it,” Stiles insisted, feeling a little judged. “A friend gave it to me.”

“Same friend who gave you the recipe you can’t cook?”

Derek’s lips were quirked, like he was amused, but Stiles just straightened his back and faced forward once more when they began to move again.

“No, a different friend. The one I go jogging with. He, uh, went hunting and figured I’d like to have some. Scott’s boss gave me the recipe.”

“That was nice of your friend,” Derek said with a more prominent smile.

“Yeah, he’s pretty great.” Stiles turned to Derek again before hesitating. “Speaking of friends, um, I just want you to know that I don’t–I don’t see Allison that way.”

Derek’s head whipped in his direction, which alarmed Stiles a little because they were still moving, but then he realized what he’d said could’ve been construed as him not seeing Allison as a friend.

“No, no!” Stiles held out both hands. “I mean, I don’t see her that way. You know, as more. She and I get on, we’re building a good friendship, but I’m not interested.”

Stiles’ eyes cut to Derek’s hands, which were loosening around the steering wheel. He was right, then, and Derek liked Allison. Disappointing, but not unexpected.

“Why do you think that matters to me?” Derek asked, facing forward again. Stiles didn’t know how they hadn’t crashed, but was thankful.

“Uh, your hands made it pretty clear it mattered.”

“I always hold the steering wheel that way.”



Stiles figured silence was safer and looked out his side window.

They pulled into the gas station a few minutes later and Derek exited the car to pump the gas. He was leaning sideways against the car while doing so, and Stiles got a great view of his ass in the side mirror. He shook his head, dispelling the thought and pulling his phone out to check the list again.

When Derek climbed back in, they went to the store three blocks down. He expected Derek to just wait in the car for him, but he followed him out and into the store, then grabbed a basket for Stiles. It was weird having Derek Hale following behind him while he got groceries, but that was his life now. Werewolves and Derek Hale, apparently.

They had to stop every now and then when someone would come over and make small talk with Derek. Most people seemed glad to see him back, but some people obviously didn’t trust rebellious Derek Hale from high school and kept their distance. They seemed to judge Stiles for being in his presence, too, but he didn’t care about that. People were dumb, anyway, and most of them didn’t like Stiles on principle due to his troublemaking ways so he didn’t worry about it.

Once they were done, they headed back to the Camaro and Derek drove them back to the house. When he stopped the car, he did so on the road at the end of the small drive and Stiles turned to glance at him.

“I have something I need to go do. Can you drive Allison home later?”

“Oh, sure.” Evidently, he wasn’t interested in sticking around anymore because Stiles had confirmed he wasn’t into Allison.

Climbing out of the car, he thanked Derek once he collected his groceries and watched him drive away with a small frown. Oh well, it was too good to be true, anyway. Besides, he didn’t know how his wolf would feel about Derek Hale stealing his time, so he should focus on the whole courting thing first.

When he entered the kitchen, he informed Allison that Derek had left and she called him a coward. When Stiles asked what that was supposed to mean, she just grinned at him and told him to cut the onions.

They got the food cooking and in the oven before retiring to the living room to watch a movie. They ended up putting in a Disney movie, just because they couldn’t decide on anything, and Allison seemed chill enough to sing along to the songs with him.

Which she did. Loudly. It was epic.

When the food was done, Stiles pulled it out of the oven and grinned, because it looked amazing. He asked Allison what he could get for her, since they had some leftovers, or he could make something else for her from his tiny repertoire of food knowledge.

She thanked him but said she was eating with her dad, so he drove her home and waved from the Jeep while he waited for her to enter her house. Once she was inside, he turned and headed home once more.

His dad called to say he was dealing with something at the station and wouldn’t be home until late so Stiles grabbed himself a plate of the roast and put the rest in the fridge for later. He glanced at the backyard, but it was still fairly light out. He doubted his wolf would come around while the sun was still up, so he put his dish in the microwave to stay warm and just grabbed some chips from the cabinet—his dad really needed to learn how to hide things better.

Stiles sat and watched another Disney movie while munching on the salty snack, keeping an eye on the time and the light. The sun began to set an hour into his movie, the world outside darkening, but it took almost another hour and a half before it was fully dark out.

Letting out a slow breath, he tossed the mostly empty bag of chips aside on the couch and stood. He heated his plate up for a minute and then grabbed a fork before heading for the back door.

When he looked out, he saw nothing but darkness and let out a slow breath. Flicking on the back light, he exited the house, still looking around, and went to sit on the back steps. He felt kind of stupid doing this, considering he had no guarantee his wolf would even come. Then again, he seemed to be around more often than not.

When he took his first bite, he was actually pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it was a lot better than he’d thought it would be. He’d been a little worried the deer meat would be hard to eat, mostly because it was a poor Bambi, but it was good enough for him not to think on it too much.

He was about halfway through his plate when he heard rustling and glanced up. Two bright blue pinpricks were staring at him from just beyond the light’s reach. Stiles paused with the fork rising off his plate and stared.

He and the wolf hadn’t seen one another since the whole mountain lion trying to eat him thing had happened, and he was suddenly nervous. He wasn’t sure why, though suspected it had something to do with the whole asking him not to bring him any more dead animals.

He was fine with the courting! Well, mostly. Kind of. It was weird, but, you know, tolerable. Nice.

“Hey,” he said quietly. He wondered if maybe the wolf was worried he might be spotted by neighbours with the light, so Stiles shifted and stood with the plate still in his hands. He opened the back door and leaned inside to turn off the porch light, then turned to sit on the steps again. The light shining out of the house from the open door was enough to illuminate the area around him, but not so much that anyone looking out the window would recognize this as a wolf as opposed to a dog.

He’d been correct in his assumptions, because once the porch light was off, the wolf approached. He moved slowly, as if nervous, but his eyes kept shifting to the plate Stiles had in his lap. It could probably tell it was deer, and Stiles had to wonder if a wolf’s sense of smell was good enough to be able to determine it was the same deer he had killed for Stiles.

When the wolf reached the bottom of the porch steps, only a few feet from Stiles, he noticed there was something in his mouth. He stared for a second, and when the wolf lowered his head and dropped it, Stiles winced.

It was a dead rabbit.

Great. Another dead animal for him to cook.

“Oh. Thanks,” he managed. “Thanks for that, uh, you killed Thumper, that’s-that’s awesome.”

The wolf tensed, as if sensing something was wrong. Stiles suddenly felt like it was way too close, and he worried his ingratitude would be insulting enough for the animal to tear his throat out. His dad would murder him if he got killed.

“So uh, I was thinking,” Stiles forced out, wanting to get this out before anything bad happened. He wasn’t rejecting his wolf, just... asking him not to bring him any more dead things. “About the whole dead animals thing.”

His wolf was still staring up at him, and while he was still tense, Stiles could tell he was already bracing for rejection, because his ears were lowered and it looked like it was taking everything he had not to back away.

“Okay, listen,” Stiles said, trying to find the right words, “so I get it’s like-like a provider thing, the dead animals. You’re showing me that you can provide for me, right? That’s what you’re doing, right?”

The wolf watched him carefully, but dipped his muzzle once and Stiles nodded in return.

“Right. And that’s great, the whole provider thing, it’s awesome, but is there any way you could maybe bring me like, I don’t know,” Stiles thought for a second, then blurted out, “like pie? Or donuts? Or-or cookies, even? Cookies are great. And if, you know, there’s a-a meat theme going on here, burgers. Burgers are delicious so you can, you know, you can bring me a dead animal that someone’s already turned into food. Not that I’m not grateful!” Stiles insisted, throwing one hand out towards the wolf and nodding emphatically. “Because I am! Super grateful! You are an amazing predator, and I’m very, uh—” He struggled to think of the right word, but all he managed was, “Honoured? You’re awesome, good for you, thank you for the meat, I’ll shut up now, this deer is good.”

He shoved another huge bite into his mouth, chewing while watching the wolf nervously. He stared at Stiles for a few seconds, then down at the rabbit. He tilted his head slightly, huffed as if realizing where Stiles was coming from, and then picked the rabbit back up between his teeth.

Stiles’ chewing stopped, and he thought maybe he’d insulted his wolf and now it wasn’t interested anymore. When he turned to walk off, Stiles stood, holding his plate in both hands.

“Wait! I didn’t mean—”

The wolf trotted off into the darkness and Stiles felt his stomach drop. He’d insulted him, and now his wolf was done with him. No more runs together, no more random visits, no nothing. It was actually surprising how much it hurt and Stiles just looked down into his plate, wondering if something was wrong with him. People didn’t seem interested in sticking around much.

Shaking his head and angry at himself for not just appreciating that the wolf cared, he started to turn to head back into the house when movement caught his attention and the wolf wandered back over. He was licking his chops and Stiles was fairly certain his teeth were red. He stared at the wolf while it slowly climbed the porch steps and realized, quite startled, that he had gone to eat the rabbit since Stiles didn’t want it. He wasn’t rejecting his request or insulted, he was understanding and had gone to take care of the rabbit so it wouldn’t go to waste.

“Oh.” He didn’t know what else to say, so he just watched the Werewolf approach him and stared down at him. “Right. Sorry.”

His wolf huffed, as if able to read his mind and knowing what he was thinking. He butted his head against Stiles’ hip, then looked up at him again.

Stiles managed a small smile. “Yeah, I know. I’m a baby.” He reached up to pet the wolf’s head, then motioned the house. “I’m gonna put this away. I’ll be right back.”

He stepped into the kitchen, his plate still a quarter full of food, but his appetite gone. The dead rabbit, along with his brief burst of pain, and then realization that Thumper had become the wolf’s dinner had all kind of made him lose his appetite. He dumped the remains of his food into the trash, then set the plate in the sink.

When he turned back to the door, he found the wolf standing just outside, eyes lowered. Stiles followed his gaze and realized that he was looking at the thin line of mountain ash that was still there. Stiles had tried to put it right up against the edge of the trim to avoid it being blown away whenever the door opened and shut.

He wandered back over and the wolf looked up at him. He glanced down, then back at his wolf and said, “You can’t cross, can you?”

His wolf gave him what could only be an annoyed look.

That was comforting, that mountain ash actually worked. He hadn’t thought it would, it had just been on a whim that he’d bought it and used it all over the place. Knowing it was a real thing was comforting. Not because he wanted to keep his wolf out, but—others. Definitely others.

Stiles motioned for the wolf to back up and stepped onto the porch once more, taking a seat on the top step again. His wolf wandered over and lay down as close to him as possible, resting his head on Stiles’ closest leg.

Smiling slightly, Stiles reached out and began petting him, the wolf’s eyes closing.

“Thanks, by the way,” he said. “For the mountain lion. Well, for saving me from it. It was cool of you to go after it, but kind of irresponsible. What if you’d gotten hurt?”

His wolf said nothing, and kept his eyes closed, but Stiles could tell he was listening, ears twitching. He was choosing to ignore him.

“I don’t mean by the mountain lion,” he said quietly.

This the wolf opened his eyes for, looking up at Stiles with bright blue eyes.

“What if all the people out there looking for it found you instead? I was worried.” He tugged gently on one ear. “No doing stupid things, okay?”

The wolf definitely cocked an eyebrow at him in a very clear “you’re one to talk” sort of way.

“Hey, mine was an accident, okay? I didn’t know about the closure. I was kind of—” He cut off, remembering why, exactly, he’d gone into the woods to begin with. “I was a little preoccupied. I had recently found the deer, and I thought it was like, a warning? I don’t know, I was worried about it, and when I looked into it...”

He trailed off, watching his wolf. He watched him right back, and Stiles felt the other’s muscles tensing beneath his hand once more. The wolf was just as scared of being rejected as Stiles was. While he couldn’t promise him anything, considering he didn’t know him yet, he at least smiled at him.

“Thank you. For liking me. I’d still prefer it if you talked back sometimes, but I get it. You’re still scared about what I know, and how I can ruin your life over it. I understand. But you better fess up one day.” Stiles scratched at the wolf’s head and his eyes closed again. “Not tomorrow, or next week, but one day. I’d like to get to know you a bit better, considering this has all been a little one-sided. Speaking of which, now that the mountain lion’s been dealt with, I’m gonna go for a run tomorrow morning before my shift. Will you join me?”

The wolf’s eyes opened again and Stiles smiled, taking that as a yes.

They sat on the back porch for a long while, Stiles talking about the movies he and Allison had watched, and how difficult it was to cook the deer, but that he’d thoroughly enjoyed it. He reiterated he preferred his food already dead and ready made, though.

At quarter to midnight, his wolf’s head shot up and he stood. His ears swivelled before he leaned into Stiles, nuzzling against his face, then he leapt off the porch in one bound and disappeared into the darkness.

Stiles frowned, but understood when the front door opened a minute later, his dad calling out to him since it was clear he was still up, given all the lights were on.

Standing, Stiles smiled out towards the darkness and said, “See you tomorrow.” Then he re-entered the house and shut the back door.

Stiles sat staring at his computer with one fist against his cheek, sighing repeatedly and frustrated with the system. When he’d arrived, Boyd had said it’d been acting up, and Stiles did not have time for this.

He was already in a relatively bad mood to begin with, and this wasn’t helping.

It had been three days since his wolf had joined him on his back porch, and while they still went for a run in the preserve every day, this morning had been the first time in the past few days when his dad had had time and energy to corner him and demand answers about the deer. He’d been too exhausted the night he’d come home late and Stiles had still been up, otherwise he was sure he’d have gotten an earful then.

Stiles had hoped he’d forgotten, but of course he hadn’t, and it had been a very heated and frustrating conversation because Stiles hated lying to his dad, but he had no choice. And his dad knew he was lying, so that wasn’t helping matters, either.

The argument had delayed his departure for his morning run, and by the time he’d arrived, a boatload of tourists had been around no matter what trail he went on, so he hadn’t seen his wolf at all today. Then, he’d shown up at work to discover the system was down and with the tourists back, business was hopping and they were cranky and annoyed when they arrived from the airport after a long flight to have to wait while the system chugged along.

Stiles wanted to leave. Just go home. Maybe he should quit.

No, he shouldn’t, that was stupid and he was just grumpy.

He rubbed at his face, let out a huge sigh, and leaned back in his seat, listening to Erica charm one of the customers to calm him down since he was giving Isaac attitude. Stiles would step in if it was necessary, but for now it seemed like Erica had things under control.

Stiles scratched at his cheek idly, watching the computer chug along and praying the damn thing would fix itself before long. When an additional five minutes brought him nothing, he sighed and pulled out his cellphone, opening his web browser and continuing to read what he’d had open.

He’d been trying to learn more about wolves the past few days. Well, since the Werewolf, really, but he was more interested in actual behaviour now in an attempt to figure out what might be coming down the road. He wanted to be prepared, since the dead deer hadn’t exactly been well-received.

The first day after the back porch, he’d finally figured out what the wolf was doing when it always rubbed up against him. He knew the wolf was scenting him, he’d known that for a while, and he knew cats and dogs did the same thing, but he hadn’t ever really thought on it much. Once he read about the wolves, it made sense.

They were marking their territory. They were scenting areas, and people, to make sure any other animals around knew that those items belonged to them.

Essentially, his wolf was bathing him in cologne-de-wolf to ensure any other Werewolves in the area knew that Stiles was taken. Not that he thought any more wolves were going to come out of the woodworks and fall for Stiles, but he supposed his wolf was just being cautious.

He was actually learning a lot of interesting stuff, and he suddenly understood why people became park rangers or zoologists. It made him regret not working on something useful, since so far his two degrees were doing nothing for him.

The angry customer was gone a few minutes later, and Stiles put his phone away when the system finally started working a little faster. He was in the process of getting things organized for the rest of the day when he heard a new voice speaking outside. He figured it was a walk-in, since they had a break for the next twenty minutes, according to the pick-up schedule—though it might’ve been someone arriving early, too.

There was a brief conversation, then he heard Isaac thank whoever it was and footsteps moved towards the office. Stiles turned to the door, frowning, and heard Isaac knock. He called him in and the door opened.

“Hey,” Isaac said, poking his head in. “Some guy was just here to drop something off for you.”

“Really?” Stiles frowned, turning his chair so he was facing the door while Isaac walked in and handed him a paper bag. “What is it?”

“Open it and you tell me,” Isaac insisted, craning his neck while Stiles unrolled the top and glanced inside.

He was on his feet instantly, shoving the bag at Isaac and racing out the door. He bolted across the main area, slammed through the front door, and immediately caught sight of the car turning out of the lot and beginning to drive away.

“Hey! Hey, wait!” Stiles raced across the lot, waving his hands like an idiot. It had the desired effect, because the car slowed and finally stopped, the driver turning on the hazzard lights while Stiles finished making his way over.

He bent down on the passenger-side, sparing a second to be impressed with his jogging because he wasn’t winded, and the driver rolled down the window.

“Hi,” Stiles said, eyes raking over the other’s face. “How’s it going? How are you?”

“Fine?” the other responded uncertainly, looking confused. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, no, everything’s great. So great. Who are you?”

“Matt,” the driver informed him. “Dahler. We were in the same grade.”

“Right, Matt.” Stiles nodded. “Hi. Hey. How’s it going?”

The other looked incredibly confused and a little concerned, like he thought Stiles was crazy. And maybe he was. Or at least heading there.

But, the reaction was too genuine to be an act, so he knew this wasn’t who he was hoping. He just offered another small smile and leaned forward.

“Look, I’m just wondering about what you brought me.”

“I’m just the delivery guy, dude.” Matt held up both hands. “We got a call from some guy that threatened to murder me if I didn’t deliver this to you, even though we don’t deliver.”

“Where do you work?”

“The diner in town. I work with Allison.”

“Right. Of course.” Stiles remembered now. Matt worked in the kitchen, usually. He must’ve been spooked enough to leave his post and come out there for him. “So, this guy on the phone, what did he sound like?”

Matt stared at him. “What?”

“The guy. Was he young? Old? Gruff voice? Soft? Describe it.”

“I—don’t know?” Matt was definitely beginning to question Stiles’ sanity. “Look dude, I got a grill to man. Whatever’s going on, you need to sort this shit out without threatening my job.”

“No, no, just one questi—wait, wait!” Matt was rolling up the window, despite Stiles’ best efforts to stop it, but he was going to lose his fingers so he cursed and let go, backing up.

Matt turned off his hazzards and then eased back onto the empty road, driving off while Stiles watched him go, both hands on his head and a disappointed sigh escaping him.

If only it had been Allison to get the call, he could’ve asked her about it and she would’ve dished immediately.


He turned and found Isaac hovering a few feet back, still holding the paper bag and looking uncertain.

“Is everything okay? Do we need to call the cops?”

“What?” Stiles let his hands drop. “No. Why?”

Isaac shrugged. “You reacted as if someone was stalking you or something. Erica and I were worried and wanted to make sure everything was okay.”

Stiles smiled and walked over to him, patting his shoulder and then turning him around while grabbing the paper bag. “Thanks, Isaac, but it’s all good. I was just surprised, is all.”

“Okay,” he said, but he still sounded uncertain.

Erica was eying him suspiciously when he walked back into the dealership and he just smiled at her before heading into the office once more. He shut the door and went back to the desk, sitting down and putting the paper bag in front of him.

Letting out a slow breath, he opened it once more and peered inside.

There was a burger wrapped in wax paper, along with a container holding a slice of pie, and four cookies.

He had only mentioned these three items to one person in the past few days, so he knew this was his wolf. He was still courting him, just in a different way. He’d actually listened when Stiles had asked him not to bring him any more dead animals unless they were already ready to eat.

“You have got to tell me who you are one day,” Stiles said quietly, and pulled out the burger.

It was pouring rain outside when Stiles arrived home from work a few days later, grinning like an idiot and excited for the awful weather. It wasn’t because he enjoyed the rain, but because his runs with his wolf had been a little challenging with all the tourists.

He’d barely even had time to thank him for the burger, pie and cookies, because his wolf kept running off into the woods. He’d casually mentioned at one point that it would be easier for him to stick around if he just turned human, but he got a nasty look for that and his wolf had run off when another group of tourists appeared.

But not today! Nobody went to the preserve when it was raining, because it was gross and muddy and full of bugs. Hell, Stiles didn’t even want to go to the preserve, but he wanted to see his wolf so badly that he was actually vibrating.

He raced from the Jeep to the house, getting soaked in the few seconds he was in the open and hurried up the porch steps. His dad was home, so the door was unlocked when he tried it and he instantly made a break for the stairs, calling hello to his old man.

Stiles wasn’t sure if he got a response, because he was moving too fast. He didn’t want the rain to stop while he was dilly dallying, so he was trying to get to the preserve as quickly as possible. He changed out of his work clothes and into his usual jogging attire. He grabbed a hoodie for good measure, since he’d probably get cold running in the rain, and then pulled on the best sneakers he had to hopefully avoid mud in his shoes.

Hurrying back down the stairs, he called goodbye to his dad and slammed the door. He got soaked racing back to the Jeep, but he just shook water out of his eyes once he was inside and then backed out of the drive. He had to slow down a bit when he got onto the main road, squinting and leaning forward in an attempt to see through the sheet of rain. It was hard, because it was so thick, but most people were going as slowly as he was so he managed to make it out of town and onto the stretch of road that led to the preserve relatively quickly.

Grinning when he parked, he jumped out, stretching and turning to pull on his hoodie since he was already feeling a little chilly now that he was being rained on. He locked the door, then jogged towards the forest entrance, heading into the path and finding it to be a lot darker than he’d anticipated. It made sense, considering it was pouring rain and the clouds overhead were dark, but it was still early enough and light enough that he could see comfortably.

He hadn’t brought his music, since his Ipod would’ve probably gotten damaged from the water, so he just began to jog through the path, pleased when he was five minutes in and still hadn’t seen a single person.

When he hit ten minutes, he couldn’t help but frown, looking around and trying to spot his wolf.

After fifteen, he deflated a little, steps slowing, because he didn’t think his wolf was there. It made sense, now that he thought about it. The rain would soak into his pelt and probably make his fur heavy and difficult to run with. He hadn’t really thought about how hard it would be for his wolf in this kind of weather, he’d just been excited about him showing up.

He stopped on the path, thinking about turning around and just heading home when he heard something behind him. He whipped around, wondering if maybe it was his wolf, or even the reason why his wolf hadn’t appeared yet.

Sure enough, a blurry figure was jogging slowly through the path, and Stiles instantly felt bitter. Who the fuck was out running in this fucking weather?! He just wanted to spend some time with his wolf, was that too much to ask?

He figured he could let the person pass, and then maybe his wolf would come out, but as the other jogger approached, he slowed when he got close to Stiles and that was when Stiles realized who it was.

Derek Hale.

Of course.

“Hey,” Derek called loudly, moving closer and wiping one hand over his face to rid it of some of the water. “What are you doing out here?”

“Jogging,” Stiles called back, the two of them having to speak loudly to be heard over the sound of rain hitting foliage. “Hoping my friend was going to show up, but I think the rain made him change his mind.” Stiles wiped at his own eyes, water falling into them.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Derek said, turning to look behind him, as if for Stiles’ friend, puffs of white escaping his mouth from the cold. He faced Stiles again and said, “Well, since he didn’t show, mind if I join you?”

Jogging in the woods was his thing with his wolf. He didn’t really want to share that with anyone else, even Derek Hale—which, wow, was crazy when he thought about it, but he felt like he somehow knew his wolf better than Derek, even though the other couldn’t speak.

“Come on,” Derek said, beginning to jog and turning so he was running backwards, facing Stiles. “Unless you’d rather I not join you.”

“‘Course not,” Stiles said, forcing a smile and apologizing internally to his wolf. He didn’t really want to offend Derek, especially since he and Allison were close friends, but he was more interested in spending time with the wolf who’d saved his life and liked Stiles for Stiles than Derek Hale, who knew literally nothing about him.

“Let’s go then. I’d rather run with you, anyway.” He stopped, jogging on the spot while Stiles sighed and moved to meet him, Derek turning back around so they were running side by side. “You don’t actually mind, do you?”

“I mean, this is your land,” Stiles said evasively, keeping his pace slow and hoping Derek would get tired of him. “You can do anything you want, right?”

“Anything?” Derek smiled at him slightly, and fuck he looked hot soaking wet, but Stiles was determined not to find him attractive. “That’s a pretty broad spectrum.”

Stiles just shrugged, keeping his gaze forward.

He didn’t really understand what he and his wolf had, but he knew it was something he liked. Sure, he hadn’t met him as a human yet, but the wolf had trusted him to keep his secret. He’d brought Stiles the flowers he was looking for, had come out running with him, liked spending time with him. He’d introduced him to his Alpha, had started courting him in a weird Werewolf way, had saved him from being killed by a mountain lion.

Stiles didn’t know who the wolf was, but he felt like he knew the wolf. He didn’t need to talk for Stiles to know him, he spoke loudly with his actions. He felt like he didn’t care who he ended up being, he just wanted to be with him because he liked him.

His footsteps suddenly stopped at that realization and he stood in the path for a few seconds before Derek noticed and turned back around, frowning slightly.

Stiles didn’t know how to process his own thoughts. He liked his wolf! Holy shit, he was starting to get a crush on a Werewolf he didn’t even know as a human! This was so messed up.

His life was a fucking mess.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asked.

Stiles started, because Derek was suddenly right in front of him, looking worried, thumb and forefinger on Stiles’ chin and tilting his head up.

He jerked away unconsciously, Derek’s fingers sliding from his skin, and cleared his throat.

“Sorry. I actually—I need to go. I forgot about this thing that I just remembered I had forgotten to remember and I gotta go do it.” He pressed his lips together, clapped once while nodding, then turned away and waved one hand over his shoulder.

His heart was pounding in his chest, and he sped up once Derek was out of sight behind him. He knew he couldn’t run his problems away, but this felt very... weird. Different. Confusing.


He didn’t know how he should be processing this, because it felt kind of gross to like a wolf, but he knew in his mind that it was a person. It wasn’t an animal, there was a real human being in there.

When he reached the Jeep, he climbed in and sat staring out at the falling rain for close to twenty minutes, heart still pounding away in his chest and mind a confused mess. Shaking his head, he finally started the car and drove home.

His dad called out to him when he walked into the house, asking where he’d been since it was pouring outside. He just grunted out a nonsensical response before disappearing into the bathroom. He peeled off his wet clothes and climbed into the shower, lips chattering from the cold. When he stepped out, he felt a little more confident about his toes since they weren’t as numb anymore.

He had dinner with his dad and they talked about his work. He was on the graveyard shift so would be heading out around nine, but they talked about the preserve and how good it was for the town that it was open again.

Stiles hung out in his room after dinner, pretending to read a book while he was actually just thinking about his wolf and how he felt about him. He wondered if the realization had been just as surprising for his wolf. Here he was, a big, bad Werewolf, and he’d started hanging out with some loud, annoying human who kept wandering into the woods. And now he liked him.

Were Werewolves and humans even compatible? They had to be, or his wolf wouldn’t be bothering to let him know he was into him.

When his dad called out that he was leaving, Stiles waited until the cruiser had pulled out before climbing out of bed and heading downstairs.

It was still raining, but only a little. More like a light shower than the downpour from earlier.

He opened the back door, crossing his arms against the chill, and looked around. He doubted his wolf would show up, it wasn’t like he just hung out in the shadows and waited for Stiles to be looking for him, but he could hope.

After standing for a few minutes, Stiles shifted forward and sat down on the top step, the first few dry because of the roof overhead.

He waited for close to twenty minutes before he saw the blue pinpricks in the shadows and perked up instantly, smiling a little.

“Hey,” he called out softly, his wolf slinking forward. “I missed you today.”

It climbed the porch steps, fur damp from the rain, and Stiles let out a disgusted groan when it shook itself off like a dog would.

“Come on, really?” he asked with a small laugh, his wolf shifting closer to him and pressing against his side.

Stiles sighed at the warmth and leaned against him, closing his eyes. He could feel the wolf’s heartbeat, slightly fast, and wondered if it was nervous or just calming down from having run over. He wondered how far the wolf lived. Maybe he came a certain distance in human form, and then turned into the wolf when he was closer to Stiles’ house.

“I went for a jog today,” he told him. “I was hoping you’d be there since the rain was deterring tourists from hanging out in the preserve. I guess it was too heavy for you.” He winced, feeling guilty enough about the few minutes of jogging with Derek that he said, “Someone caught up with me while I was there. Derek Hale.” He glanced at his wolf, but it was just staring out at the backyard, ears flicking. “He wanted to go jogging with me. Honestly, I didn’t really want him to. Jogging is my thing with you, you know?”

His wolf turned to look at him then, eyes seeming to flash brighter, and Stiles smiled a little, pressing harder into his wolf.

“I did for a few minutes, though. Wasn’t sure how to say no to the son of the people who own the preserve. So I jogged with him for a bit, but then I left. It wasn’t you. Not to say Derek’s not great, I mean, he seems like a good guy, and he and Allison are friends so he’s gotta be great, but he just... wasn’t who I wanted to have beside me. I wanted you.”

He didn’t know why, but for some reason, that made his wolf straighten and turn to lick at his face incessantly, like he was thrilled to hear Stiles say that. Like hearing he was more liked than Derek Hale was the best news he’d heard in his life.

“Ew, gross, no, no, come on! You wouldn’t do this to me if you were human!” Stiles tried to bat him away, but his wolf was much stronger than him and he ended up on his back with the wolf still attacking his face with his tongue.

Stiles knew it was a lost cause and just let it happens after a few more seconds of fighting. Eventually, the wolf showed him mercy and just laid half of his body on Stiles’ torso, nose brushing the bottom of Stiles’ chin.

He wondered if his wolf could smell Derek’s fingers on his skin, but if he could, he didn’t react to it. Though maybe that was why his gross, wet nose was pressed right up against where he’d been touched.

Stiles wasn’t sure how the whole scent thing worked.

He tucked one hand under his head, and buried the other in the wolf’s fur, petting him idly while staring up at the underside of the roof.

“We should go hang out somewhere,” Stiles said. “Like, in the preserve. Somewhere secluded, where you don’t have to run off every two seconds. We can find a clearing or a path that isn’t as popular, and just go jogging there.”

His wolf raised his head, tilted it slightly as if in thought, then licked at Stiles’ chin before lowering it once more.

Stiles smiled. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

It felt like half of his organs tried to escape his body when Stiles sneezed and he let out a pathetic whine before pulling the blankets up over his head, breathing heavily through his mouth. He had to breathe through his mouth, because his nose was plugged.

Both nostrils! Both! That had never happened before! Every time he swallowed, it felt like he was suffocating because he had to close his mouth!

He let out another pitiful moan and rolled onto his side, coughing roughly and struggling to go back to sleep. He hadn’t been sleeping much, because of the whole breathing thing, and the air in his room felt too cold despite it being summer.

His father had insisted it was his own fault for going out for a jog in the pouring rain, the bastard. No sympathy at all for his dying son. None!

It had been worth it, though. Stiles had realized how much he cared about his wolf on that run, so it was worth the sickness. It would pass in a few days, though he felt bad for Boyd since he’d have to cover almost all the manager shifts. The other manager was a colossal douchebag and never covered for anyone.

Stiles would make it up to Boyd somehow. He didn’t know how yet, but somehow.

The most disappointing part of this whole ‘being sick’ thing though was that he couldn’t go out to meet his wolf. He was sure he knew—magically, by some weird Werewolf superpower—that Stiles wasn’t bailing on him, but he hated the thought that his wolf might assume Stiles had changed his mind.

“No,” he moaned to himself. “He’s smarter than that. I’m sure he knows I’m just dying.”

He tried to get some more sleep, rolling over repeatedly and throwing his covers off himself before pulling them back on. He couldn’t decide if he was hot or cold, and it was hard to breathe the cold air of his room, which meant he kept going back under his covers, but then it was too hard to breathe under them because he felt like he wasn’t getting enough air.

A lose-lose situation. Being sick was the absolute worst!

Stiles ended up dozing off and on for a few hours when he heard the front door open. He groaned and tried to keep hold of sleep but it had slipped through his fingers and he was awake again. He let out a whine, burying his face in his pillow, then pulled it out since he was suffocating again.

When he reached out for his phone to check the time, he frowned because it was quarter to twelve, which meant his dad should still be at work. Unless he’d just come home for lunch, which was possible.

Maybe he did care and was checking to make sure Stiles wasn’t dead.

He heard his bedroom door open and turned miserably to look at his father, who had a weird look on his face. Stiles frowned but didn’t sit up.

“What’s up?” he asked, voice scratchy and followed by a few coughs that had his throat in agony.

“Son. I know I’m not around much, and we don’t talk as often as I’d like, but if something was wrong, you would tell me, right?”

“Aside from the fact that I’m dying right now?” he asked, trying for a smile, but he didn’t think he succeeded.

“I’m serious, Stiles.” His father moved further into the room and pulled Stiles’ desk chair over to the bed, sitting down and folding his hands together between his knees. “Isaac and Erica said you received something at work the other day and ran out like you were chasing someone down. And today, at the station, you received a package.”

Damn Erica and her big mouth! Isaac wouldn’t have acted on it alone, it was all Erica blabbing to Boyd, and then deciding to go tell his dad. She’d dragged Isaac along as another witness, he was sure. Why couldn’t they mind their own business? His wolf was going to be pissed if he got found out.

“It’s nothing,” Stiles insisted. “It was just food I got at work, a joke from a friend. I just wasn’t expecting it, is all.”

“A joke from a friend.” His dad looked like he didn’t believe him. “The same friend who fixed your Jeep?”

“I am way too sick to be arguing with you about this.” Stiles pulled his blankets back over his head, but he felt guilty for lying to his dad. Kind of lying.

After all, the food was from a friend. He just didn’t know him as a person, was all.

“Stiles, I’m serious. Are you in trouble? Is someone stalking you?”

“What?” Stiles pulled the blankets off his head at that, giving his father a weird look. “No. Dad, no,” he emphasized, because it looked like he was getting extremely worried.

Sighing and struggling to sit up, Stiles managed to lean back against the headboard, grabbing a tissue from the box on his nightstand and trying to plug his nose up.

“Dad, I promise, if anything was happening, I would tell you. It was just a friend, we met back in the spring and we’ve been hanging out every now and then. I, uh, think he likes me.” I know he likes me, but you can’t meet him yet, he added silently. “He just brings me stuff sometimes to show he cares.”

“Is it Derek Hale?”

“What?” Stiles stared at him. “Why does everyone keep asking me that? No, dad, it’s not Derek Hale. I don’t even know the guy. He’s just around a lot because I started hanging out with Allison.” Stiles frowned. “Why do you think it’s Derek Hale?”

His dad hesitated, then stood. Stiles watched him walk out of the room and heard him head down the stairs. It occurred to him his father had brought up the delivery at work, but also a delivery at the station.

His wolf had probably known Stiles wouldn’t answer the door while he was dying, so he’d sent it to his father at the station instead.

He waited for his dad to come back, the older man doing so a few minutes later. Stiles frowned when he walked in, because he was holding a plastic bag with what was definitely soup, as well as a large, wrapped, canvas-looking package. It was obvious one corner had been undone and put back together, his dad snooping, but he didn’t know why receiving what looked like a painting was worrying his dad.

He handed the bag to Stiles first, and he opened it to peek inside.

There was a re-purposed take-out container of chicken noodle soup, along with two bread rolls and some more cookies. These ones weren’t as pretty as the ones from last time, which meant they were likely home made. Actually, everything looked home made, and Stiles smiled a little at how much his wolf cared.

There was a note in the bag, as well, and he pulled it out to check it. All it said was ‘Get Well Soon’ with a picture of a paw print on the bottom, evidently his wolf wanting to make sure he knew it was from him.

Not that Stiles would’ve had any doubts.

He set the note back in the bag and put everything down on his nightstand. When he turned back to his dad, he still looked uncomfortable, but Stiles motioned for him to unwrap the package. The sheriff sighed, but did as he asked, ripping at the paper on his side so that Stiles couldn’t see anything yet. When he got the whole thing undone, the back of the canvas facing Stiles, the older man let out another sigh, looked up at Stiles, and flipped the painting around.

“What the—” Stiles did a weird aborted, jerking motion to climb out of bed, but didn’t get that far and just braced one hand on the chair his dad had moved, mouth hanging open and heart going a mile a minute.

It was the Cora Hale painting of the night sky. The one that cost fifty thousand dollars. The one Stiles had been angsting over for years, and had always assumed would disappear without a trace once someone bought it.

And someone had bought it.

His wolf, apparently.

For him.

“Stiles,” his dad said slowly, forcing his gaze back to him from the painting, “are you sure everything is okay?”

“I didn’t—” Stiles was having difficulty breathing, because this was too much. This was way too much. A deer and a mountain lion were nothing compared to this.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Was his wolf trying to prove how much money he had? Was he trying to make sure Stiles understood that he could provide for him, in every way, if Stiles just let him? But there were easier ways to do it! A fucking fifty thousand dollar painting was insane!

And now his dad seemed worried he was involved with some drug-lord gangster type.

“I didn’t—know he had money,” Stiles finally managed to get out. “I—this is too much.”

“Who is this friend?” his dad asked, leaning the painting against the desk and returning to sit in the chair once Stiles straightened. “How did you meet him?”

“It was—he’s kind of... shy?” Stiles winced, rubbing the back of his neck. He felt like he was sweating buckets, and wasn’t entirely sure if it was from being sick or the nerves he felt over this conversation. “I met him when I was out in the woods one day. We go jogging together a lot, and he brings me stuff sometimes. Like food at work, or soup when I’m sick.”

“Or a fifty thousand dollar painting.”

Stiles winced again. “Yeah. That. I didn’t know he had money. I just mentioned that I liked it to him once while we were out running. I guess—I don’t know. He just wanted to get something for me?”

“What’s his name?”

Stiles stared at his father, but he didn’t say anything. He couldn’t make up a name, because if his dad did a background check, he’d know in a second. Not to mention Stiles was hoping to meet his wolf in person one day, so he couldn’t lie.

The sheriff looked exhausted, rubbing at his eyes with one hand. “Stiles—”

“He’s just—very private. I don’t want you snooping on him. He’s fine, dad. I promise. He’s a good guy. He cares about me.”

“There is a line between caring about someone and stalking them,” his dad insisted.

“Dad, he’s not stalking me.” Stiles sighed. “If anything, I feel like I stalk him. I always go out looking for him, I’m surprised he hasn’t filed a restraining order.” He half-smiled.

His dad still didn’t look convinced, so Stiles sighed and reached out one hand, letting it fall onto his father’s on his knee.

“Dad. I promise. He’s a good guy. Maybe a little, uh, over the top.” He eyed the painting when he said this. “But he just wants a friend. And if things go further, well...”

“I want to meet him.”

Stiles opened his mouth to argue, but his dad held up one hand to stop him.

“I know,” his father said. “And I respect that he’s private, but I want to meet him. Doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow, but soon.”

Stiles sighed. He’d have to talk to his wolf. “Yeah, okay.”

The sheriff nodded and got to his feet once more, pushing the chair back where it belonged and moving the painting over a little so it didn’t get damaged. He turned back to Stiles, sighed, and then wandered over to him.

Reaching out one hand, he patted his cheek endearingly and smiled. “Get some rest. You look like hell.”

“Thanks dad,” he commented dryly, but the sheriff just gave his cheek one more light pat before he turned to leave the room, shutting the door behind him.

Stiles listened to him tinker around downstairs for a bit, and when he left, he wasn’t positive, but he thought he might have heard him lock the door. They didn’t often lock the door when one of them was home, because everyone knew this was the sheriff’s house and no one was stupid enough to enter without consent. But, seemed like his dad wasn’t taking that chance, because he definitely locked the door and the cruiser pulled away a minute later.

Stiles grabbed the bag of food once more and opened it so he could get to the soup. He hadn’t eaten much since getting sick, so he figured he should try and eat this, at least. There was even a spoon included, which was particularly thoughtful, in his opinion.

He spent the entire time he was eating staring at the painting, chewing slowly and wondering how many more surprises were going to come up about his wolf.

They were definitely going to need to have a chat.

Stiles was on his deathbed for almost three days before his cold cleared up enough that he could breathe through at least one nostril, and he didn’t feel like he was always hacking up his organs.

He went back to work, because he couldn’t afford to take too much time off, and he figured he felt well enough to sit in the office and do paperwork and look at the schedules on the system. His job was fairly easy when he wasn’t manning the front or dealing with assholes.

He got delivered meals every shift he was back, all of them with the same paw print signature and various ‘get well’ comments. None of them were delivered by the same person, and only some of them had come from the diner Allison worked at.

Stiles still wasn’t well enough to go running, but considering his wolf kept sending him soups and bread, he figured the other was aware of the fact that he wasn’t up to par yet. He was hoping he’d feel better by the following week, because he and his wolf really needed to talk.

Allison came over one day after he was off work with some soup of her own and a few movies. Derek had driven her over, but when Stiles invited him to join them, he’d just lowered his gaze to scowl at the porch beneath his feet just beyond the front door before muttering he had places to be and leaving.

Stiles didn’t take it personally, and just enjoyed his evening with Allison. He asked her about the guy putting in orders and bullying people from her workplace to deliver them, but she told him she was never the one to answer the phone when the guy called, so she couldn’t help him.

His dad ended up hanging the painting in Stiles’ room without telling him, probably because he felt bad for reacting the way he had about it. It was just as well, because if he hadn’t hung it up, Stiles likely would’ve returned it. Fifty grand was a lot of money, and he was starting to worry that his wolf was expecting a bit too much from him. Stiles wasn’t worth fifty grand.

By the following Wednesday, he could happily breathe through both nostrils, and the tickle at the back of his throat was more of a slight annoyance than an actual pain. That was why he woke up early that day so he could go for a jog before he had to head to work for the afternoon shift.

Pulling on his usual running gear, he left the house as quietly as he could, since his father was still sleeping from the graveyard shift, and climbed into the Jeep.

There were a few people on the road, but not as many as he was expecting. When he reached the preserve, there were some other cars parked in the lot which meant they were in the woods. He hoped it wouldn’t be like the last few times where he didn’t see his wolf at all except for brief instances.

He stretched at the entrance, then put his earbuds in and began to jog. He nodded to a few people who were wandering through the preserve, but didn’t stop to chat. When he rounded another bend, he saw movement in the trees ahead and his wolf stepped out of the bushes, but not onto the path.

Grinning and pulling out his earbuds, he stopped beside the other. “Hey.”

His wolf was eying him, as if making sure he was healthy enough to be out right now—which he was, thank you very much!—and then turned on his heel. Stiles frowned, thinking the wolf was about to leave him, but the other turned to see if Stiles was following, then rolled his brilliant blue eyes and motioned for him to step off the path with a jerk of his head.

Stiles looked around to make sure no one was closeby, then obeyed, stepping off the path and following the wolf into the trees. He had to slap a few branches out of his face, and he kept an eye out for any dangerous predators, but his wolf was relaxed and kept glancing back to make sure he was keeping up, so he was probably fine.

They walked for close to ten minutes before they ended up in a large clearing. Stiles thought it might have been the same one he’d met Derek Hale in all those months ago, but he couldn’t be sure. He knew it was definitely the clearing he’d met the Alpha in, though.

His wolf kept walking, so he followed him and stopped at the edge of an overgrown, unused trail.

Grinning, he looked over at his wolf.

“Guess what I said made sense, huh? About finding a new secluded place?” He looked back out at the path, squinting a little. “It’s safe, right? I’m not going to get attacked by any other mountain lions or, you know, your Alpha?”

His wolf huffed at that, pressing against his side, then started walking forward along the path. Stiles followed him until there was enough room for them to move side by side. When the wolf began to trot a little, Stiles got the hint and started to jog, the two of them moving slowly side by side. Stiles looked around at all the trees, since he’d never ventured into this part of the woods, and ran a few hands along the barks of them. It was a nice path, and isolated. Good for him and his wolf, but bad if his wolf ever turned on him and decided to make him dinner.

Stiles doubted he’d do that, his wolf seemed pretty chill most of the time. After all, he hadn’t run after him to murder him when Stiles had seen him transform from man to beast, so that was a pretty big comfort.

“So we need to talk,” Stiles said, remembering they hadn’t since before he’d gotten sick.

His wolf was staring straight ahead while they jogged, but one ear twitched, and Stiles knew it was trying to act innocent.

“When I told you about that Cora Hale painting, that wasn’t a request for you to go out and buy it. My dad thinks I have a stalker.” Stiles scowled. “Allison jokes I have a sugar daddy.”

The wolf turned to him then, looking annoyed, and Stiles just shrugged helplessly.

“You bought me a fifty thousand dollar painting! What else are people going to think? It’s not like I can tell anyone who you are, since I don’t know who you are. I mean, as a human.” He sighed, stopping. The wolf looked like he wanted to pretend this conversation wasn’t happening, so he kept going for a few steps. When it became clear Stiles wasn’t going to follow, he sighed and turned, walking back to him slowly and sitting down in front of him.

“That was too much,” Stiles insisted. “It’s gorgeous, and beautiful, and thank you, but that’s way too much.”

He saw the wolf’s shoulders shift, bored look on his face, and realized he’d just shrugged.

“You don’t even know me,” Stiles insisted.

He got a real look for that one and Stiles rolled his eyes.

“I mean—you know me, but like, you haven’t seen the bad sides of me. Like how I don’t do the dishes, and sometimes if I forget to do laundry I just grab the least repulsive shirt I can find. I can devour an entire pizza by myself, and still have dessert afterwards. I don’t think I’ve ever properly cleaned the bathroom, I get into trouble a lot, I never know when not to pick a fight—I’m just... you only see my good sides. I feel... weird. Accepting that from you. It’s so expensive.”

The wolf rolled his eyes again, let out a huff, and raised his eyebrows in a clear “anything else?” way.

Stiles stared at him, then sighed and shook his head. “You’re not gonna let me return it, are you?”

A low growl meant no, no he was not.

“Fine. But don’t get mad at me when I end up being a colossal disappointment.”

His wolf gave him a look for that, then stood to bump up against his side, turning so they could continue. Stiles just smiled down at him, rubbed one hand along his head, and then began to jog once more, recounting tales of his near-death experience over the past few days.

The wolf didn’t leave his side once.

Stiles wasn’t entirely sure, but he felt like Allison was sneakily trying to set him up with Derek Hale. It was a weird thought to come to mind, but every time she invited herself over, or Stiles went to meet her somewhere, Derek was there.

Usually when Allison came over, Derek just dropped her off at the door before glaring at his porch and leaving, but when they went out, Derek hung around for the entire evening. Stiles didn’t mind, not really, but it was a little weird. It was starting to make him wonder if he hadn’t been right when he’d thought Derek was staring at his mouth back when they’d gone bowling.

He talked to his wolf about it a lot, mostly because he was confused about what was going on, and unsure what Allison was playing at. When he tried to mention the weirdness to Scott, his friend had changed the subject to talk about Kira, so Stiles had given up. At least his wolf listened to him when he spoke. Sure, he couldn’t talk back or interrupt him, but Stiles felt like the wolf wasn’t a big talker even in human form. He seemed content to just listen.

It had taken Stiles a few days to find his way to the clearing and path on his own, but after about four, he was able to do it with his wolf sticking close just to make sure he didn’t get lost. On his fifth day, he made it there alone, his wolf waiting for him and looking proud at how smart his potential mate was.

The whole mate thing was still weird to him, but he was more used to it, now. He still got food and random presents at work—some comic books, a movie or two, a Lego Star Wars set—but for the most part, they just hung out and talked.

Well, Stiles talked.

One day, when Stiles was feeling particularly lazy, he’d gone to the clearing and had laid down on the grass, his wolf coming over to lie with him. He talked about his mom on that day, and his wolf half-lay on top of him, whining in the back of his throat when it became clear Stiles was having a hard time talking about it.

Sometimes they went for a run along the trail. Other times they just ran circles in the clearing. Stiles tried only once to bring a ball and toss it for his wolf to go and get. He got an unimpressed look for that, and then tackled by a massive animal, laughing and conceding defeat when he was pinned down beneath the other’s bulk.

He loved spending time with his wolf. It’d be better if he was a human, but sometimes Stiles just pretended he was a really smart dog. It made him feel less alone, and between his wolf and Allison, he was starting to feel like he actually had people who cared about him.

Scott and Lydia were great, but they focussed so much on their own relationships that they forgot Stiles was their friend and not their marriage counsellor. He still hung out with them, but if he had a choice between either of them, or Allison and the wolf, he chose the latter.

That seemed to get noticed, because Scott showed up one day while Stiles was watching a movie with Allison, and he awkwardly asked if he could join, even though it was one of the Star Wars movies, which he had no interest in. Stiles agreed, because at least Scott was making an effort, but he hoped this was something his friend thought about going forward and not just when Stiles started hanging out with other people.

A few days later, Stiles had just stepped out of the shower after a run with his wolf when he got a call from Allison asking to go have dinner together since her father was out of town. He agreed and said he’d meet her at the diner, then got changed and headed out.

When he arrived, he frowned because Allison was in her work uniform, and her next words made him seriously suspicious about whether or not she was trying to set him up with Derek Hale.

“Sorry,” she insisted, moving up to him and hugging him. “I came in and Mabel said they were short-staffed, and I just felt so guilty, so I agreed to work tonight. But you came all the way out here and I felt bad, so I called Derek.” She motioned the other man across the diner, as if he hadn’t been the first person Stiles had spotted upon entering.

He was wearing his usual leather jacket over a plain grey T-shirt and form-fitting jeans. He was scowling at the menu as if it had personally offended him, and kept raking one hand through his hair, like it wasn’t doing what he wanted it to.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Allison smiled sweetly at him. “He’s kind of stuck here for the summer because his mom wants to make sure everything stays safe in the preserve. He was going to eat alone, and so were you because of my shift, so it works out, right?”

“I guess,” he said suspiciously, eying her. “What are you trying to do?”

“Nothing,” she insisted innocently.

Stiles didn’t believe her for a second.

“Uh huh. Well, after dinner, we’re having a chat.” Stiles moved to sit with Derek, but Allison just called for him to enjoy his night and went back behind the bar.

Nodding to Derek while he slid in across from him, Stiles pulled the second menu closer, flipping it open and perusing the options, even though he already knew what he wanted. His wolf had ordered something for him once that he’d never had before, some kind of barbecue chicken wrap. Stiles had literally had dreams about the damn thing, it was so fucking good.

“Hey,” he said to Derek, still flipping through the menu.

“Hi,” the other grunted, not unkindly. He seemed distracted. That, or nervous, though why he was nervous, Stiles had no idea. He was Derek Hale.

Finding what he wanted on the menu, Stiles shut it and then waited for Derek to finish. It was obvious he already knew what he was going to order, but he was procrastinating, for some reason. Finally, Allison came over and forced the menu out of his hands, asking them both what they wanted.

Stiles ordered a chocolate milkshake with the barbecue chicken wrap and curly fries, and Derek ordered a Coke with the same sandwich set Stiles usually got when he visited. Allison smiled at them both, and disappeared with the menus so Derek couldn’t hide behind his anymore.

An awkward silence fell over them, Stiles tapping an unknown beat on the table. He and Derek weren’t usually alone for an extended period of time, and when they were, Stiles had something to talk about.

Today, he kind of had nothing because he wasn’t entirely sure this wasn’t a weird date set-up on Allison’s part.

“So, uh... Allison said you were sticking around because of your mom. Must suck.”

“Not really, I like Beacon Hills.”



“If you like it, why did you leave?” Stiles realized the second he asked that he probably shouldn’t have. He remembered Allison’s conversation with him about Derek essentially being raped in high school by a teacher, and wished he could suck the words back into his mouth.

Derek’s frame tensed, but he didn’t say anything about it. He wouldn’t have known Allison told Stiles anything unless she’d fessed up to him about it.

“Some things happened,” Derek said evasively. “People blamed me for it. Beacon Hills turned into a place I didn’t want to be around.”

“I’m sorry.” Stiles knew Derek didn’t know why he was apologizing, but he felt bad for having brought it up. “And now?”

“Things are good now,” Derek admitted. “There are reasons to stick around.”

The look he got when those words were spoken made Stiles almost uncomfortable, because nobody had ever looked at him that intently before.

He jumped when Allison set his milkshake down, and tried to laugh it off when she commented on him being twitchy. He just pulled his drink closer and started sucking it down like a man starved for oxygen.

Derek was staring at his mouth again, and Stiles really wasn’t used to people being into him. He pulled away from his straw, licking his lips, then cleared his throat and pushed the milkshake a bit to the left.

“Allison says you got one of Cora’s paintings.”

Oh good, safer waters!

“Yeah, I did.” He grinned. “It was that night sky one I was talking to you about, actually. I’m sure you don’t remember, but it—”

“I remember.”

Stiles’ mouth was still open and he let out a small exhale, then an awkward laugh before licking his lips and pulling his milkshake back over. It seemed like something safe to hide behind, even if he wasn’t drinking it.

“Right. Well, yeah, I got that one. A friend of mine bought it for me.”

“A friend?” Derek cocked an eyebrow. “Must be some friend.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty great.” Stiles beamed. “Honestly, I kind of got mad at him about it, because it was expensive, but I really appreciated it. I’ve loved that painting for years. My dad hung it up on the wall beside my bed, so I can look at it all the time.”

“I think it’s nice your friend did that for you. Probably wanted to show you he appreciates your company.”

Stiles grinned, wondering if that was truly why he’d bought it, or if it was because of the whole potential mate thing. Either way, he loved that painting, and he loved his wolf.

He and Derek managed some idle chit chat while they waited for their food. When it arrived, Stiles was glad for something to hide behind, eating his wrap and trying not to have a moment. It really was very good, and he never would’ve known about it if his wolf hadn’t ordered it for him that one time.

An elderly couple took the booth beside them while he and Derek were halfway through their meal, and Allison came over to get their drink orders. Stiles was still chewing, wrap in his hands, when she came back with their waters and they started making idle chit chat about the preserve.

“Oh, it’s so lovely,” the woman was saying to Allison, unaware that one of the heirs of Beacon Hills was sitting right beside her in the neighbouring booth. “We come out every year to see it. There are always new places to explore.”

“Shame about all the problems this year, though,” the man piped in. “First that mountain lion business, and now this? I’m telling you, there aren’t supposed to be wolves in California, but when the sheriff’s department found that dead wolf, I started wondering whether this shouldn’t be our last visit here.”

Stiles dropped his wrap, the food in his mouth tasting like ash. He saw Derek’s chewing stop at his reaction, frowning slightly, but all Stiles could think about was what the man had just said.

He whipped around, almost shoving Allison aside so he could see him, and said, “I’m sorry, don’t mean to eavesdrop. What wolf?”

The man started, probably because Stiles had been speaking much louder than normal, but he obliged and said, “They found a wolf about an hour ago in the preserve. It was near a less travelled road ‘round back, dead no more than half an hour.”

Oh God. Oh God!

“I have to go.” Stiles stood, not even looking at Derek, or Allison, or anyone really. “I have to go right now.”

“Stiles, wait—”

He ignored Allison and ran for the door. He crashed into another patron who’d been exiting their booth, almost sending them both sprawling, but he didn’t even have the mental capacity to apologize. He just pushed himself around them and slammed into the door so hard he was surprised he hadn’t broken the glass.

Racing across the lot to the Jeep, his hands shook while he struggled to get it unlocked, then climbed behind the wheel. Derek had exited the diner then, calling after him, but Stiles just backed out of his parking spot, cranked the wheel around, and slammed his foot down on the gas.

He felt like he couldn’t breathe, tugging at his collar, eyes having trouble focussing. Jesus Christ, was he having a panic attack? He was totally having a panic attack.

“It’s not him,” he insisted to himself, hands tight around the steering wheel, and breathing coming in short, harsh pants. “It’s not him. It’s not. He’s fine. He’s totally fine.”

His phone buzzed in his pocket, but he ignored it, unable to think about anything but his wolf.

He knew he was speeding, but he couldn’t get himself to slow down. He ran through a red light, mostly because it had just turned from yellow to red, but also partially because he would probably die if he stopped. He had to get to the preserve.

He had to find his wolf right now.

When he reached his usual parking spot, he slammed on the brakes so hard the Jeep protested loudly. He didn’t care. He just leapt out and slammed the door, not even bothering to lock it. The woods were dark now, since it was later than usual, but he just pulled out his phone and turned on the flashlight function, breathing hard and struggling to stop panicking even as it began to buzz in his hand once more.

His wolf was fine. He was fine! It wasn’t him! It wasn’t!

Stumbling through the trees, he tripped over a root, phone flying out of his hand. He struggled back to his feet, feeling his ankle twinge in protest, but he ignored it and just snatched his phone back up, hurrying through the wooded area towards their usual clearing.

Even if it wasn’t his wolf—which it wasn’t, because his wolf was fine—there was no guarantee he would show up. He had no idea Stiles was even looking for him. Whatever, Stiles would wait all fucking night, if he had to! He couldn’t go home without knowing his wolf was safe, he couldn’t!

It felt like an eternity before he finally reached his usual clearing, and he spun in a circle, shining his light around the entire area, trying to catch sight of his wolf.

“Hey,” he called, his vision swimming since he was definitely not getting enough oxygen. “Hey, are you there? Please be there. Please! I can’t...” Stiles stumbled, then put both hands on his knees, struggling to inhale, the panic really starting to take over.

He’d last seem his wolf almost an hour and a half ago. The wolf had been dead half an hour, and then found a half hour after that. Timing wise, he knew it could be his wolf. But he didn’t want to believe that. It couldn’t be his fucking wolf! He would fucking murder someone if it was his wolf.

“Please, I can’t...” Stiles struggled, still breathing hard and clenching his eyes shut.

He heard movement to his left and turned his head, still attempting to inhale. Something crashed through the trees, and he had a split second to worry for his life when two bright blue pinpricks of light shone through the darkness and his lungs opened up.

“Jesus Christ!” Stiles ran for his wolf as the other slowed to a trot. He slid onto his knees and wrapped his arms around the other’s neck. He could feel his wolf’s heart pounding in his chest, the Werewolf panting against his skin like he’d run from a great distance as fast as he could.

Stiles tightened his grip on him, trying to calm his breathing, since it was still pretty choppy, but he felt better now that he had his wolf in front of him. Alive and breathing.

He could hear his phone beginning to buzz behind him again on the ground where he’d dropped it, but he ignored it and just held onto his wolf for dear life. He didn’t know what the wolf thought had happened, but it was obvious he knew something had happened. He was nuzzling against the back of Stiles’ neck, licking at the skin he could reach and pressing against him.

It took a while for Stiles to calm down, but he finally managed to get his breathing back under control, and he sat back on his ass, his wolf almost climbing into his lap in his attempt to get closer. Stiles obediently lay back and his wolf crawled on top of him, resting his head on Stiles’ chest.

Stiles reached out one hand and began petting his head, staring up at the sky, and a little surprised to find that it looked similar to his Cora Hale painting from here. Maybe Cora had been in this clearing when she’d found the inspiration to paint it.

“Sorry,” Stiles said. “Didn’t mean to just freak out on you like that.”

His wolf huffed, as if more worried about him than anything else. Stiles smiled.

“They say a dead wolf was found a little while ago,” he said quietly, heart lurching in his chest at the mere thought of it. “I was scared. I thought it was you.”

Another huff, like his wolf was insulted Stiles thought he’d get taken out so easily.

“I just...” He felt his eyes burning and let out a slow breath. The last thing he wanted to do was cry in front of his wolf. “You mean a lot to me. A lot. I didn’t want to lose you. I was just... I was so scared. I didn’t know how to reach you, wouldn’t have ever known if it was you or not if you’d been out of town or something. I couldn’t...” He reached up with one hand to tug at his collar, finding it hard to breathe again. “Thank you. I’m glad you were here.”

His wolf shifted a little higher on him and licked at his chin. Stiles smiled a little and wrapped both arms around him, despite the fact he was feeling a little crushed. The wolf didn’t usually put his entire body on him, and he wasn’t exactly light. He was a giant beast of a Werewolf, he weighed a fucking ton.

There was more buzzing from his left and he turned to see his phone. It suddenly occurred to him that he’d run out without paying, which wasn’t something a sheriff’s son should do, so he cursed and stretched one hand out to grab for his phone, the other still around his wolf. It took some doing, but he finally got it and pulled it over, seeing Allison’s name flashing back at him.

“Well.” He sighed. “I’m gonna have fun explaining this one.” He answered the call and put it to his ear. “Hello?”

“Stiles! Where are you? Are you okay? What happened?!” 

“Hey,” he said slowly, stretching the word out. “Allison. Hi. Hello. I’m fine. Good. How’re you?”


“Sorry, I just—I had a panic attack. I didn’t want an audience so I just... left.” He winced. “Uh, I’ll come back and pay my bill on my way home.”

“Forget your bill, where are you? Are you okay? Derek went to look for you.”

“Shit, I’m sorry.” He brought his other hand up to rub at his face. “Fuck. He probably thinks I’m a giant asshole. I didn’t mean to run out on you guys like that, I just—I really like wolves, and...” He didn’t know what else to say. “It’s all good now, though. I’m okay now, I promise.”

Allison seemed to be calming down on the other side, like he’d said something that was a relief to her somehow.

“You really scared me, you know that? You acted like you thought someone had died.” She let out another slow breath. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine, I promise. Tell Derek he can just head back to the diner, he doesn’t need to come after me.”

“Okay.” Another slow breath. “Also, it was a coyote.”

“What?” he frowned.

“The dead animal? The tourist was wrong. Some people thought it was a wolf, but it was a coyote. Looks like it was hit by a car, and the driver just threw it off on the side of the road.”

Stiles wanted to punch that stupid tourist for scaring him like that. He’d thought his wolf had fucking died!

“Oh. Well, that’s a relief, but also kind of uncool. Coyote didn’t deserve that treatment.”



“It’s okay, Stiles. As long as you’re okay, that’s all I care about.”

“I’m good, I promise.” He smiled, really glad he had a good friend like Allison.

And his wolf.

And apparently Derek Hale, too. Which was weird, but nice.

“I’ll come by and pay on my way home, I promise.”

“Don’t worry about it, Derek paid the bill before he went to look for you. It’s been covered.”

“Oh. Well shit. I feel doubly bad, now.”

“It’s fine, just pay him back some other time.” There was a voice in the background and she covered the microphone to speak to someone. “Look, I gotta go,” she said to Stiles. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I promise.”

“Okay. I’ll let Derek know. I’ll call you later.”

“Sure. Bye.”

He hung up and let his hand drop over his head, phone held loosely. He sighed and buried his other hand in the wolf’s fur once more, closing his eyes and breathing slowly. He could feel his wolf’s heart slow, as well. He didn’t know where he’d come from, but it seemed to be from far away, because he’d never seen his wolf out of breath like he’d been when he’d entered the clearing.

“You need to give me a phone number or something,” Stiles insisted quietly, idly scratching at the wolf’s shoulder, which is where his hand happened to be. “I definitely can’t have another meltdown like this again. That was not fun.”

His wolf licked his chin, as if in apology, and Stiles sighed, listening to the sounds of the forest around them. He was going to have a hell of a time finding his way back out in the dark, but his wolf was with him, so he doubted he had anything to worry about.

He opened his eyes to look up at the sky again, enjoying the way the stars were easily seen without the town’s light pollution. After a few minutes, he closed them once more, hand still moving in the wolf’s fur.

Stiles had no idea how long they were out in the clearing, but he woke with a start to a loud sound on his right and turned to see his dad staring at him in confusion.

“Stiles. What are you doing?”

Blinking blearily, Stiles looked forward and saw he was in front of his house. He was sitting in the driver’s side of the Jeep with the seat partially reclined and his window cracked. He rubbed at his face with both hands and cleared his throat, opening the door and forcing his dad to step back.

“Hey dad.”

“Why are you sleeping in the Jeep in the driveway?”

“What?” Stiles let out a small laugh. “I wasn’t. I was getting ready to go out somewhere and must’ve dozed off.”

“Getting ready to go out somewhere?”


“Stiles, it’s four in the morning.”

He opened his mouth, thought of an excuse, then said, “Well, it uh, it wasn’t when I got into the Jeep, was it? No, it wasn’t.”

He jumped out of the seat, and stumbled when his left ankle twinged, but he frowned at the support. He bent down and rolled up his jeans, then pushed his sock down and stared.

He had a tensor wrapped around his foot and ankle. He couldn’t see the entirety of it, but he could feel it now that he knew it was there. His eyes widened and he turned to look at his Jeep, realizing what had happened.

Stiles had fallen asleep. He’d passed out in the clearing with his wolf, and he’d been driven home and his ankle had been wrapped. He’d been in the presence of his wolf while he was human, but had been fucking sleeping!

“Oh, that’s cold,” Stiles insisted, glaring at his Jeep, as if his wolf was still there.


He looked up at his dad, then stood and shut the Jeep door. He cleared his throat, then motioned the house. The sheriff still looked suspicious, but he said nothing and led the way up the porch steps to the front door. They entered the house together and Stiles headed upstairs, rubbing at the back of his head. He’d thought his neck would hurt from the nap in the car, but he supposed having the chair back the way it had been had saved him a little bit.

When he entered his room, he took off his shoes and socks first, looking down at the tensor around his foot and ankle. He didn’t know how his wolf knew he’d hurt himself, but he felt really privileged. Also, there was no guarantee Stiles wouldn’t have woken up with all the manhandling, but his wolf had risked it anyway because he didn’t want Stiles sleeping out in the forest all night. Instead of waking him up, he’d just brought him home.

“You are so amazing, and I swear to God I need you to tell me who you are.”

He pulled off the rest of his clothes, and when he went to pull his phone out of his pocket, he found a piece of paper in there with it. Unfolding it, he saw a note, and smiled when he realized it was from his wolf.

I’d have brought you inside, but I can’t enter your house.
Thank you for worrying about me.

It was signed with the usual paw print and Stiles smiled before setting it on the edge of his desk and moving to find his pyjamas.

Work was slow as balls the next day, and Stiles couldn’t figure out why. They were scheduled for a group of pick-ups and drop-offs, but none of the pick-ups showed up, and the drop-offs were all late. He wondered if something was happening in town that he wasn’t aware of, but he and Erica were both bored to tears.

So bored, in fact, that they were actually playing tic-tac-toe using tape and some post-its. Stiles was currently winning, but mostly because Erica wasn’t paying attention. She was more interested in whatever was happening on her phone, which Stiles suspected was her and Boyd having phone sex.

Technically speaking, she and Boyd weren’t allowed to date since he was one of the managers, but Stiles wasn’t a snitch and he’d never seen them acting like a couple, so he could honestly say he didn’t know they were dating.

He did know they were dating, though. She wasn’t subtle with her Instagram. But still. Semantics.

When a customer walked in, they both instantly straightened and put their customer service faces on, but Stiles frowned when he realized it was Derek. He doubted Derek was here to rent a car, given he had a gorgeous Camaro parked outside.

Stiles could see it. It was right there.

And so gorgeous.

“Hey Derek,” Stiles said, then realized that might’ve been rude. “Uh, Mr. Hale?”

“Mr. Hale is my dad,” he insisted, moving up to the counter. “You’ve called me Derek before.”

“Right.” Stiles stared at him, then realized he owed him money. “Right! I owe you money!” That was probably why he was there and Stiles started to fish his wallet out of his pocket.

“I’m not here for your money, Stiles.”

Stiles looked up at him, hand still in his pocket. “Oh. Are you sure? I didn’t mean to run out on dinner or anything, I just—”

“I heard. Allison told me.” Derek’s eyes shot to Erica and Stiles realized she was still there, staring at them both as if this was the most entertaining thing to have happened to her today.

Considering how slow it had been, it probably was the most entertaining thing to have happened to her today.

“Can we talk?” Derek asked. “Somewhere private?”

Erica made a noise beside him and Stiles turned to glare at her. She just grinned and waggled her eyebrows, but smoothed out her features when Derek shot a look at her.

“Um, sure. We can go to my office.” Stiles motioned for Derek to follow him, then turned to point a finger at Erica. “I have cameras. Stay here.”

“Spoilsport.” She grinned.

Stiles moved to open the office door and motioned Derek inside, then followed him in. Stiles sat down in his usual chair, Derek looking around at everything before also taking a seat across from him.

“What’s up? Are you sure you don’t want me to pay you back? I didn’t mean to run out on you like that, I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Derek licked his lips, glancing at the desk. He scowled for a second, then nodded and looked back up at Stiles. “Actually, the reason I’m here...” His eyes lowered to Stiles’ mouth when he licked his own lips.

Stiles pressed them together afterwards, not having meant to do that, and Derek’s eyes shot back up to his.

“I was wondering if...” he trailed off, and Stiles felt like he looked nervous. Or uncomfortable. What the hell did Derek Hale have to be nervous or uncomfortable about? “I was hoping that I could-I could take you out to dinner sometime,” he said in a bit of a rush.

Stiles’ breath caught in his throat and he almost blurted out, ‘yes, take me!’ before he stopped himself.

Was Derek Hale attractive as all hell? Fuck yes, yes he was. But Stiles didn’t know him, and even though he didn’t really know his wolf, either, he still kind of did. Going out with Derek, it felt... wrong.

It felt like a betrayal.

He couldn’t do that to his wolf.

Letting out a slow breath, Stiles leaned forward, placing both hands on the desk and smoothing out a random piece of paper, staring down at it so he wouldn’t have to look at Derek.

“You know, I would love to. Really, I would.” He winced. “But I can’t.”

“You can’t?” Derek asked, and Stiles glanced up at the semi-hard tone of his voice. His face was an emotionless mask, but his tone gave away how he really felt.

Which was confused, angry, humiliated and hurt.

Derek Hale had a lot of bottled up feelings, apparently.

“I’m kind of...” Stiles scratched at his cheek, feeling uncomfortable. People didn’t just turn down Derek Hale, and yet, here he was! For a Werewolf he hadn’t even met, too. How ironic. “I’m kind of seeing someone.”

Stiles noticed Derek’s entire body tense at those words. His eyes seemed to flash for a second, either in anger or hurt, Stiles wasn’t sure. He saw the other man’s hands balling into fists on his thighs, and when he spoke, his voice was hard, as if Stiles had personally offended him for not dropping to his knees and begging for a date.

“Really?” he asked, hard edge to his tone. “Is that so? I was under the impression you were single,” he bit out between clenched teeth.

This conversation was getting really uncomfortable.

“Yeah, no, I uh, I was. It’s... complicated.”

“Complicated,” Derek said bitterly, scoffing and crossing his arms. “Who’s the lucky person, then?”

Stiles stared at him. He hadn’t expected that question, and now he had no idea how to describe his wolf without admitting it was a Werewolf he hadn’t met as a human yet.

He improvised.

“Uh, he’s uh... he’s a super nice guy,” he said slowly. “Really nice. Hairy.”

Derek frowned. “Hairy?”

“No, no, no!” Stiles held out both hands, wishing he could take that description back. “More like, um, soft?” He was not doing well.

“Soft?” Derek repeated slowly, sounding a little confused.

“Yeah, you know... soft.” Stiles winced. “Uh, he brings me gifts. You know, to show he cares. Sometimes they’re uh, they’re cool. Useful. Other times they’re, uh, less cool. But still thoughtful!” Stiles insisted, not wanting Derek to think he didn’t appreciate this kind, amazing person who he was kind of sort of seeing in a complicated way. “And food. He brings me a lot of food. It’s probably why he encourages my jogging. Because of all the food.”

The tense set of Derek’s shoulders seemed to be loosening as Stiles spoke, and his face softened, as if he was coming to a realization. Stiles didn’t know what that realization was, but he sure as hell hoped no one was going to find out his kind of relationship was with a fucking Werewolf he’d yet to meet as a human. Stiles wasn’t into beastiality, so they would need to have a real conversation about that before he and his wolf took anything further.

If they even took anything further, considering he still hadn’t admitted who he was yet.

“Sounds like you like this guy a lot,” Derek said quietly with a small smile.

Well, at least he didn’t look ready to rip Stiles’ face off anymore. That was good.

“Yeah,” Stiles admitted. “You know, he’s... he’s really great. What I know of him, anyway. He’s a good guy. I want to spend more time with him.”

Derek offered him another small smile and Stiles winced.

“So, uh...” Stiles hesitated. “Are we cool? I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean—I wasn’t trying to make like I was available or anything. I didn’t even really know you were interested.”

“I’ll live.” Derek stood. “Wouldn’t want to make things weird for Allison.”

“Right.” Stiles felt relieved. “And seriously, I can pay you back for dinner.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Derek offered him another small smile. “My treat.” He headed for the door and pulled it open, but paused before leaving. “Allison and I are going bowling later with Jackson and Lydia. Did you want to come? You can bring your other friend, if you want. Scott?”

Stiles didn’t remember ever talking about Scott with Derek, but he supposed it had come out at one point. Scott was his brother from another mother, even if he was a selfish dick sometimes.

“Sure. Yeah, that sounds cool.”

“We’ll meet at the bowling alley around six. See you then.”

“Yup. Thanks.”

Derek nodded, then turned and walked out of the office, shutting the door behind himself.

When he was sure Derek had left the dealership, Stiles let out a long, terrified breath and let his forehead thunk against the desk. He couldn’t believe he’d just turned down Derek fucking Hale for his wolf. Was he insane?

No, probably not. He just knew what he wanted, and while Derek was super fun and nice, he didn’t know him like he did his wolf. He really, really liked his wolf. He hoped he got to talk to him in the flesh sometime soon.

An hour later, he got a delivery from the diner, smiling when he found a milkshake, the barbecue chicken wrap he liked so much, and some curly fries.

This time, there was a note.

See you later :)

It was signed with the usual paw print.

Stiles smiled, knowing the wolf was referring to their daily jog.

He was actually more excited than ever to see him today, because it felt nice knowing he liked someone who truly cared about him as much as Stiles cared about his wolf.

His wolf was around a lot more than usual the next few days. Stiles often saw him in his back yard, even when his dad was home, which was heart attack inducing. He always seemed really happy, though, and it was hard for Stiles to get mad at him when he looked so fucking thrilled to see him every time Stiles exited his house to scold him.

They still went for runs in the clearing or the secluded trail, but Stiles was worried about what would happen when winter fell. Fall was already looming, and when it got cold, he wouldn’t want to go for a run. He didn’t want to get sick, like last time. A problem for when winter was knocking on his door, he supposed. He was hoping to know who his wolf was by then, but so far, the other was as tight lipped as usual.

He still hung out with Derek sometimes, but never alone. Derek showed up when he was out with Allison every now and then, and he looked really happy, actually. He would laugh and smile, and be a charming gentleman, but every now and then Stiles would catch him staring at him.

It was nice, being checked out, but also a little uncomfortable since Derek knew he was kind of in a relationship. When he mentioned the weirdness to Allison one night while driving her home, she just laughed hysterically and bid him good night when he parked outside her house. He had no idea why she thought Derek checking him out when Stiles was kind of taken by someone else was so fucking funny.

He tried not to dwell on the weird relationship he had with Derek right now, and instead just focussed on his relationship with his wolf. It was the most important thing to him at this time, anyway, and he was feeling really good about getting an identity out of him sometime soon. He didn’t know why, it was just a feeling he had.

When he came home early one day due to the owner showing up to spend some time upgrading the systems, he excitedly got dressed for his usual jog in the woods and had just tied his shoes when the doorbell rang.

Frowning, he stood up from his bed and headed for his door, descending the stairs quickly and jumping the last few, landing with a loud ‘thud.’ He almost stopped walking when he headed for his front door and saw Derek Hale standing on his porch through the window.

It was pretty clear Allison wasn’t with him, which made sense, since she was working. So why was he here?

“This is going to be awkward,” Stiles muttered to himself, but he plastered on a smile and opened his door. “Hey Derek. What’s up?”

His eyes instantly went to the large package Derek was holding, and he knew this was going to be the worst conversation. Because it looked like a painting. It was wrapped, same as all the paintings that were usually sent out, but he knew it had to be one of Cora Hale’s. She was his sister, and Stiles had gushed at him—or Allison in his presence—numerous times about how much he loved her work.

He’d actually been coveting a new painting of hers lately, another night sky one, but he’d made sure not to tell his wolf lest he feel the need to spoil him some more.

Derek Hale just had to call his sister and ask for a painting and she’d probably give it to him.

“Hi,” Derek said, sounding a little nervous once more. “Sorry to show up unannounced like this, but I didn’t have your number and Allison wouldn’t give it to me.”

“It’s all good. I was actually heading out in a bit though, so...” He stretched the last word out, and saw Derek looking him over. A small smile twitched the corners of his lips, but it looked like he was pulling it back, eyes returning to Stiles’ face.

“I just wanted to come by and see if we couldn’t work something out. About the date.”

Oh God, is Derek Hale going to start stalking me? Stiles didn’t have the energy to deal with this, no meant no, dammit! He had his wolf, he was happy!

“Look Derek,” he said uncomfortably, playing with the door. “You’re a really nice guy, and I really like you, I do, but I—”

He almost took a step back when Derek thrust the painting at him.

“Before you say anything, can you just—please just take this.”

“Derek, I don’t want—”


He looked so nervous that Stiles couldn’t help but sigh and take the painting from him. He moved back a step and motioned into his house. “Do you want to come in?”

Derek stared at him for a second, then said, “You should unwrap the painting first.”

Frowning, Stiles tried not to make his discomfort too obvious, but shrugged and moved a bit further down the corridor where he could lean the painting against the wall without anything else blocking his movements.

He glanced at Derek through the open door, then back at the wrapped painting, sighing once. This was going to be a gorgeous painting, he was sure, but he wasn’t going to keep it. If he did, it would make the one his wolf got him seem like nothing. Derek Hale could afford as many of his sister’s paintings as he wanted. His wolf had bought it for him, it meant something.

Sighing again, Stiles reached for one of the taped corners, and began to rip at the brown paper covering the painting. He realized fairly quickly that the painting was backwards, but he just ripped through the entire back of it, then pulled it a bit further from the wall so he could shove the paper down.

Once it was mostly unwrapped, he flipped it around to look at it, and froze.

It was probably the most breathtaking painting he had ever seen, leagues better than the night sky one in his bedroom, and the one he was currently in love with.

It had a dark forest as the background, in different shades of green and blue, with a full moon in the corner and grass that seemed to be moving with a slight breeze.

But that wasn’t what had caught his attention first.

The largest part of the entire piece was a black wolf, with bright blue eyes and a familiar appearance. It was a wolf he’d known for months, one he would recognize anywhere, no matter what.

Seeing that wolf on this canvas meant only one thing.

Stiles whipped around to look at Derek, standing awkwardly at the door. The other man stared back, then slowly looked down. Stiles immediately looked down, as well. At the line of mountain ash still against the inside of the doorframe on the floor. On the item his wolf wasn’t able to cross.

Derek had never once stepped foot in his house, and every time he’d ever come over, he’d glared at what Stiles had always thought was the porch, but now...

“It’s you,” Stiles said breathlessly, eyes returning to Derek’s face. “My wolf. It’s you.”

“Yeah,” Derek said quietly, almost hesitantly. “It’s me. I was going to tell you on our date, but you turned me down. For myself, ironically.” He half-smiled and Stiles let out a loud laugh, mostly of shock.

Then he realized Derek was still on his porch.

“Shit, right!” He leaned the painting back against the wall and hurried to the front door, bending down and brushing the mountain ash to one side. When he straightened again, he opened his mouth to invite Derek into the house but the other’s hands were on his face, pulling it forward, and a warm mouth pressed against his.

Stiles stumbled back a step, but Derek just advanced with him, holding his face and kissing him like a man starved of oxygen. His tongue was in Stiles’ mouth, and his stubble was rubbing against his cheek and chin.

It was the hottest kiss Stiles had ever had in his life and it was taking a second for his brain to catch up to him.

This was his wolf. His wolf! He had been spending time with him in human form for weeks, and he’d had no idea!

Actually, now he was kind of annoyed about it, because it had been really hard figuring out his feelings given Derek was clearly interested, and nice and attractive, but Stiles was too focussed on his wolf to pay too much attention to him.

For now, though, he forced his brain to just stop and he wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck, sucking lewdly on his tongue and listening to the other man groan.

When they finally pulled apart, Derek’s hands had moved down to Stiles’ waist, pulling him flush against his body. Their foreheads were pressed together, and every breath in Stiles took was mixed in with one of Derek’s exhales.

“It’s really you.”

“It’s really me,” Derek promised. “I had to stand still for six hours for that painting. Cora wouldn’t take a picture, said it had to come from the heart, so she made me stand there.”

“When did you find time for this?” Stiles asked, the two of them still in the open doorway.

“Cora’s in town. She doesn’t get out much, so no one even knew she was here.”

For some reason, hearing that made another thought occur to him and Stiles blurted out, “Holy shit, is your whole family like this?”

Derek laughed. “Pretty much, yeah.”

“Holy shit.” His eyes widened. “Oh my God, was that your dad I met?! The one I thought was going to eat me?! Oh God!” He buried his face in Derek’s shirt, embarrassed.

Derek just laughed, like an asshole. “No, it wasn’t my dad.”

“Oh, good,” Stiles said, relieved.

“It was my mom. My dad is human.”

“Oh God!” Stiles whined into his shirt, still holding him tightly. He didn’t want to let him go. It was just way too fucking amazing for his wolf to be Derek Hale! He was still trying to reconcile that in his head, and kind of wanted a demonstration just to be absolutely sure.

Stiles just stood in the entrance hugging Derek, trying to calm himself down, for a good ten minutes. Derek didn’t seem to mind, he was holding him tightly and kept rubbing his stubble against Stiles’ face and the top of his head. It was a very wolf thing to do, Stiles thought.

“Okay.” Stiles cleared his throat and backed up a step, pulling his hands away from Derek and rubbing at his face. “Okay, we need to talk. Uh,” Stiles looked behind him. “Yeah. Um, can we talk?”

“I have time. I was meant to go running with a friend, but I think he bailed on me.” Derek smirked.

“Hey, I’m the smartass. If we’re gonna make this relationship work, I get to be the smartass,” Stiles insisted, motioning himself. Derek just beamed at that and moved a step forward so he could shut the door.

Stiles picked up the painting and motioned the living room while he hurried upstairs to put it in his room. He set it down by the door, then went back downstairs, Derek standing by the fireplace and looking at all the photos. He turned when Stiles approached, then pointed to one.

“Is this your mom?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said quietly.

“She was beautiful,” Derek said, eyes inspecting every inch of the picture. “Like you.”

“Oh God.” Stiles covered his face with both hands. “Is this like, a thing now? You’re gonna say mushy lovey-dovey stuff to me now?”

“Couldn’t before,” Derek insisted with a small, teasing smile.

Rolling his eyes, Stiles told him to sit on the couch and went to get some drinks. He only had water, but Derek said he was fine with that. Before they got too far into their conversation, Derek recommended they order some food so Stiles called for pizza delivery before settling on the couch beside Derek, facing him.

“I know you have a lot of questions,” Derek said to him before he could open his mouth and ask any of them. “And I’m going to answer them all, but to make it fair, I’d like to ask a few of my own, if that’s okay.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, startled. “Yeah, sure. I mean, I don’t know what I haven’t already told you, but sure.”

Derek nodded, then motioned for Stiles to start.

“Right, okay, so, first question: why didn’t you kill me?” Derek cocked an eyebrow at that and Stiles flailed one hand impatiently. “You know what I mean. That first day, when I looked up and saw you transform, you knew I was there, you saw me, but you didn’t come after me. You trusted me with your secret. Why?”

“Not at first,” Derek admitted, smiling a little. “I knew who you were when I turned and saw you. I recognized you as the sheriff’s son. I wanted to go after you, but I figured a giant animal chasing you through the forest might be cause for alarm, especially given why I was back home to begin with. So, I just turned human and went back to my car. When I followed you to Deaton’s, I felt a bit better, because he works with my mother and I knew he’d fix things.”

Well, that explained how Deaton knew about Werewolves. Stiles wondered if he was one, too.

“He’s not a Werewolf, he’s a Druid.”

And now he wondered if Werewolves could read minds.

“And no, we can’t read minds,” Derek said, looking amused. “I just figured you’d be thinking about Deaton. He’s a Druid, so Supernatural, but not the same thing. Unfortunately,” he continued with a sigh, “when you walked in, you went to your friend Scott. I was about to step out of the car to do something, but you kept your word. You were scared, and I could hear your heart pounding in your chest, but you didn’t say anything and you left the clinic.

“I followed you around that evening, and while I could tell you were terrified, you went to a lot of places, spoke to a lot of people, but not once did you mention anything about what you saw. After that, when you started calming down, you seemed like you didn’t mind as much about the whole Werewolf thing. Sure, you went a little overboard sometimes, like when you saw my mom and thought I was offering you up as dinner, or when I brought you the deer, but for the most part, when you realized I wasn’t interested in hurting you, you were fine with it. Almost too fine with it, actually. It felt... nice.”

Stiles smiled a little, liking that he’d made Derek feel good about their relationship the same way he’d made Stiles feel good.

“My turn,” Derek said, after a short silence. “The mountain ash. Why did you get it?”

“Oh.” Stiles glanced towards the door. “I was just—it was from the beginning. Like, before we were friends. I got—scared? I thought you were going to come and eat me in the night or something, so I looked some stuff up online and bought it, then kind of surrounded my place with it as best I could to be safe. I didn’t really think about removing it once we became friends, but mostly because it made me feel better knowing I could keep Werewolves out. Not you, but, you know, others.”

Derek nodded, seeming to be all right with that answer.

They moved on to other things afterwards, Stiles asking if Allison knew since she seemed a little too interested in their relationship. Derek admitted that she did, and she’d been pushing to get them together in hopes that it would force Derek into telling Stiles the truth.

He admitted he hadn’t wanted to because he liked how Stiles was with him as the wolf. It was why he’d been so happy the day Stiles had ditched Derek on the path when they’d been jogging and gone home to wait for his wolf instead. Most people saw Derek and thought of his looks, or his money, or his power in the town. No one really thought of Derek as a person, and Stiles was the only one who’d actually rejected Derek in favour of someone he didn’t even know.

“I knew you cared about me for who I was, even though you didn’t know much about me as the wolf,” Derek said. “You just appreciated me, and that meant a lot. It wasn’t about how I looked, or how rich I was. Hell, you were mad at me about the painting,” he laughed.

“I’d still be mad if I didn’t know Cora gave it to you,” Stiles insisted, nudging him.

“She didn’t give it to me, I had to buy it from her!”

Stiles sputtered. “What?! For real?”

“Oh yeah, she wasn’t going to just hand that painting over. I had to pay her for this second one, too.” Derek motioned over Stiles’ shoulder towards the stairs. “She’s a greedy bitch, my sister. But she did this for me while she was taking time off, so I can’t be too mad about it.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, feeling like he was in shock. “Okay. Wow. Thank you.”

“I was happy to be able to get you something you wanted.”

They went back to the topic of Allison and Derek’s friendship, and Stiles vehemently insisted that they had to make sure they still hung out with her, because he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and turn into Scott and Lydia. Derek had seemed amused, but he confirmed he had no problems spending time with his best friend on a regular basis, and Stiles felt better about that.

It wouldn’t be fair to ditch Allison just because Stiles could spend time with his wolf in human form, now, too.

The pizza arrived then so Stiles stood and had to threaten Derek to be able to pay for it. Derek had just dropped a hundred grand on him with two paintings, Stiles could pay forty bucks for two pizzas and some pop.

When he settled on the couch again with a slice in both hands, Derek had moved a bit closer, and Stiles grinned at him before shoving food into his mouth. He didn’t feel as awkward as he thought he would, because Derek had seen him eat before. He’d have felt more nervous if his wolf was another person, but he’d already made an ass of himself in front of Derek numerous times, so this wasn’t a huge deal.

They kept talking about things related to Derek being a Werewolf, such as moon cycles and whether or not wolfsbane was actually deadly to him. He apologized to Stiles for the dead animals, and mentioned that he’d been getting a lot of his cues from his mother when she’d been interested in his father.

He’d admitted that, in retrospect, he should’ve asked his human father, considering the first thing his dad had told him after he’d called when Stiles had asked him not to bring him any more dead things was, “Do not bring him dead animals.”

It was in his nature as part wolf, so Stiles understood, it was just... more appreciated when he’d moved to burgers and cookies.

Derek also informed him how far he’d had to run the night Stiles had bolted out of the diner, since he’d worried about him getting hurt alone in the woods. Stiles felt embarrassed all over again about that, and Derek just said he was cute when he snored.

Stiles punched him.

They were slowly running out of things Stiles needed answered, but he was chewing on a piece of crust when he remembered something and pointed the unfinished item at Derek.

“So wait. I’m confused. You brought me gentians.”

“Yes,” Derek agreed, taking a sip of his Coke.

“But then you brought me more at the station. Why?”

Derek shrugged and reached for another slice of pizza. He’d already eaten his entire one and was now picking at pieces Stiles had left.

Apparently Werewolves ate a lot.

“I realized after I brought them to you as the wolf that you might start putting the pieces together and realize it was me. After all, I was the only person there when you commented on the flowers, so I felt it was better safe than sorry. If I brought you some as Derek Hale, you’d assume the wolf was nearby when you’d told me about them and he just heard the conversation.”

“You know, I thought that already even before I was told you’d brought in the flowers, and now I feel stupid for not cluing in that it was you all along. Actually, I feel stupid altogether because you were not subtle, I’m just an idiot.”

Derek just laughed and leaned a bit closer. Stiles had noticed he’d been inching his way across the couch the entire time they’d been speaking. He felt like Derek would end up in his lap soon, at the rate things were going.

“Can I ask you one more question?”

“I’m surprised you have any left,” Derek admitted with a smirk, taking a bite of the piece of pizza he held. “But sure.”

Stiles thought about how to ask this question before finally saying, “Why did you decide that I was a suitable mate?”

Derek’s chewing stopped, and it looked like he hadn’t expected Stiles to know what he’d been doing. Of course Stiles knew, he’d been looking into this shit for months! Maybe it was more the term, because they’d spoken about the courting. Maybe Derek hadn’t expected the word ‘mate’ to escape him.

“You were honest,” Derek said after a brief silence. “You kept your word. You were nice, and despite being a troublemaker, everyone always said you were a great person. You did things for your friend Scott, even though he wasn’t ever appreciative or sympathetic. You helped people, you cared about others, about me. I think I made a pretty great choice, don’t you?”

“But I’m not...” Stiles wasn’t sure how to word this. “I mean, won’t you get bored? I’m not like you.”

“Neither is my dad,” Derek reminded him. “It’s not about what you are, it’s about who you are.”

“And you’re okay with me?”

Derek smiled and reached out one hand, placing it against the side of Stiles’ neck and rubbing his thumb along his jaw. “I wouldn’t want anyone else.”

Stiles smiled back, leaning forward to kiss him. He tasted like Coke and pizza, but Stiles didn’t care. He tried to deepen the kiss, but Derek pushed on his shoulders until they separated.

“Your dad is home.”

“What?” Stiles whipped around, but no one was there, and Derek laughed.

“I mean he’s coming. He’s down the street.”

Stiles eyed him suspiciously. “How far can you hear, anyway?”

“Far enough.” He stood. “Do you want me to go?”

“What? Why?” Stiles grabbed his hand to stop him from leaving. “You don’t want to meet my dad?”

“I’ve met your dad,” he reminded him. “You just told him your jogging friend wasn’t Derek Hale. I wasn’t sure how you’d want to proceed.”

“It’s fine.” Stiles waved his free hand, hearing the cruiser pull up to the curb. “I’ll just tell him we weren’t serious yet, and you value your privacy. I mean, do people know you’re bisexual?”

“Many, it’s been heavily criticised every time my parents do interviews.”

“Oh.” Stiles hadn’t known that. “It’s fine, don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.” He tugged on his hand again and Derek sat. He seemed a little tense, as if wanting to make a good impression, but Stiles knew his dad wouldn’t care.

He’d be more annoyed Stiles hadn’t fessed up on who he was with, though Stiles did notice that Derek didn’t say anything about the ‘we weren’t serious yet’ comment. That made him pretty happy.

Stiles let out a slow breath when his dad opened the front door, then grinned and stood up to greet him in the hallway, asking him if he’d met his boyfriend Derek Hale yet.

It was kind of thrilling when Derek didn’t correct him on the boyfriend part.

Stiles figured ‘mate’ was something more, and if Derek had decided that he was it, well, made sense he wouldn’t mind being his boyfriend.

Stiles stood at the entrance to the preserve, stretching his legs and rolling his neck. He shook out his arms, then put his earbuds in and began to jog slowly. He nodded and smiled to a few people when they passed him, but didn’t spend much time focussing on them. He just went down his usual path, then stopped halfway around a bend.

Looking around to make sure he was alone, he pushed into the foliage and made his way through the trees in a direction he’d grown accustomed to over the past few weeks. It took him only ten minutes to reach the clearing, and he grinned, jogging across it to the trail.

Derek wasn’t there yet, but Stiles waited for him, putting his music away, stretching some more, and jogging on the spot. He pulled out his phone to see if Derek was running late, but glanced up when he saw movement.

A wolf was walking towards him down the path and he rolled his eyes.

“Really? We’re back to this? You realize it’s easier for us to run together when you’re—” Stiles cut off, because he’d just gotten a good look at this wolf, and it wasn’t his wolf.

It wasn’t Derek.

His abrupt halt had the wolf’s eyes flash, and instead of the brilliant blue he was used to, these eyes were pale gold. They weren’t the Alpha red he’d seen once, or Derek’s usual blue tint, but something completely different, and now he wasn’t sure if he should run or stand his ground.

The wolf suddenly broke out into a run and Stiles cursed and backpedalled quickly, stumbling over his own feet and slamming back into a solid body, hands coming up to grab his arms to stop him from falling over.

“Cora!” Derek’s voice said from behind him. “Don’t be a bitch!”

Stiles whipped around, his boyfriend glowering into the path, then turned back to the wolf, who’d slowed while exiting the forest. Stiles wasn’t sure, but he thought she might have been laughing, if the weird sounds escaping her were anything to go by.

“Cora? As in-as in your sister Cora?”

“Yeah,” Derek muttered. “She’s got a dark sense of humour.”

The wolf in front of him paused and began to contort suddenly, Stiles staring in awe since Derek had yet to transform in front of him. It was mostly Stiles’ decision, because he didn’t know that he could handle a naked Derek yet. He was only so strong, and he worried he might jump him.

That was when he remembered the wolves were naked, and he looked up at the sky when he found a very naked Cora Hale in front of him, grinning ear to ear.

“Okay, so, people being naked is a thing I’m gonna have to get used to,” Stiles commented.

Cora laughed, but was looking at her brother when she said, “Don’t be like that, Der-Bear. I was just messing around.”

“Der-Bear?” Stiles asked, turning to glance at him, a smile teasing his lips.

“I took a bear down once when our mom told us to just leave it,” Derek muttered. “Mom got pissed, yelled at me for almost two hours. Cora and Laura haven’t let me forget it.”

“You must be Stiles.” Cora came right up to him and wrapped him in a hug so tight he felt every vertebrae pop. “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you!”

“You too, do you have clothes?” Stiles asked, voice a little higher than normal. He was only human, after all, and Cora Hale was as attractive as her brother. And her naked body was pressed right up against him.

He just kept reminding himself he was taken by the very attractive man pressed up against his back.

Actually, that made it worse, because he was plastered between two gorgeous Hales, one of whom was naked, and wow, was that ever a weird thing he never thought would happen.

“Mom wants to know what’s taking so long.”

“I only just got here,” Derek insisted, pushing his hand into Cora’s face and forcing her back a step. “I was gonna talk to him.”

“Talk to who about what involving your very scary Alpha mom?” Stiles demanded, turning to look at Derek.

“Our parents want you over for dinner,” Cora said excitedly, grinning and bouncing slightly on the spot. Stiles very dutifully kept his eyes on her face. “Laura’s here, too.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, a little too loudly. “So I’m coming over to meet the whole family. Right now. In my running gear, while all sweaty.”

“They already knew that,” Derek grumbled. “They were worried you’d be too scared to come over if I gave you advance notice. They want to officially meet you, and figured a barbecue was the least intimidating way to do that.”

“Oh,” Stiles said again. “So it’s-it’s dinner. I’m coming over for dinner.” He paused. “I’m not the dinner, am I?”

“Why, are you tasty?” Cora asked with a feral grin.

“Cora,” Derek warned.

She just laughed and snapped her teeth together in Stiles’ direction before turning and transforming once more, racing off down the path and around the bend at the end.

Stiles turned around instantly, grabbing Derek by the front of the shirt and giving him a hard shake.

“How could you not tell me you were wolfnapping me for dinner?!”

“I’m pretty sure it’s personnapping, in your case, since you’re not a wolf,” Derek said, amused.

“Derek! How could you not tell me?!” He gave him one shake that barely even moved him. “What if they hate me?!”

“They won’t hate you,” Derek insisted, rolling his eyes.

“I don’t recycle!”

“Well, you should,” Derek said.

“Or compost!” Stiles exclaimed.

“You should do that, too,” Derek said.

“Oh God, they’ll hate me!” Stiles covered his face with both hands and crouched in front of Derek, wishing he could just burrow into the ground.

Derek laughed and bent down in front of him, rubbing one hand along his shoulder and then leaning forward to kiss his forehead.

“My mom already vetted you, and both of my parents will love you. And Cora already likes you, I can tell. Laura is very similar to her, so if Cora likes you, Laura will, too. It’ll be fine.”

“Can I still be your mate even if they don’t?” Stiles asked, pulling his hands away and looking up at him.

Derek smiled and kissed him lightly before getting to his feet and tugging Stiles up with one hand, lacing their fingers together.

“Stiles, you will always be my mate. Because you chose me as much as I chose you.” He kissed his temple, then tugged on their interlocked hands, heading for the path. “Come on, my mom’s trying to recreate that barbecue chicken wrap you like so much, and I can’t wait for her to fail.”

“You’re a terrible son,” Stiles insisted. 

“But a stellar mate.”

“Can’t argue with that.” Stiles grinned and kissed Derek’s cheek. Derek kissed his temple again, loosened his fingers, and then shifted to wrap his arm around Stiles’ shoulders instead.

Stiles leaned into him, and tried not to be nervous about meeting Derek’s family.

After all, he’d survived meeting a bonafide Werewolf.

By comparison, everything else in life was easy.