Stiles couldn’t help but fidget. His mouth was dry and his hands were shaking as he toyed with the hem of his shirt.
“Hey,” Derek whispered, taking one of Stiles’ hands in his. “It’ll be okay.”
Stiles swallowed hard against the lump in his throat, not trusting his voice enough to talk. He offered Derek a weak smile, letting the man pull him close and press a kiss to his temple.
Derek pulled him close, looking lovingly into Stiles’ eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m just nervous,” Stiles said dismissively.
“I know you’re nervous, but there’s something else,” Derek pointed out. “What is it?”
“You and I both know that I’m… an acquired taste,” Stiles said quietly. “And one that not many people like.”
“They’re going to love you,” Derek reassured him.
“But what if they don’t?” Stiles asked. “What if this goes so horribly wrong that they refuse to let you ever see me again?”
Derek couldn’t help but smile. He craned his neck and brought his lips to Stiles’, kissing him softly.
“If it came down to it, I would choose you over my family without a heartbeat’s hesitation,” Derek whispered. “But it won’t come to that.”
“How can you be so sure of that?” Stiles asked.
Derek slid his hand into Stiles’ lacking their fingers together. “Because I love you.”
They made their way across the front yard and up to the front doors of the intimidating manor. Derek bounded up the steps and onto the porch, pulling Stiles along behind him. He reached for the knocker and tapped it against the brass plate before stepping back to Stiles’ side.
Stiles felt his heart slam against his ribs.
Derek seemed to notice his discomfort, kissing the top of Stiles’ head as he whispered, “It’s going to be fine.”
The large door rattled as it opened.
Stiles looked at the young woman standing in the doorway. She wore simple black dress with a beaded black belt coiled around her waist. Her long brown hair billowed around her shoulders in waves. Her bright aventurine eyes lit up as she looked at them, and for a second Stiles could see the resemblance.
“Hi,” she said excitedly, her face lit up by a radiant smile.
“Hey, Laura,” Derek greeted.
She pushed the door open and held her arms out for her brother.
Derek gave Stiles’ hand a squeeze before letting go and hugging his big sister.
“Come in, come in,” she said when she released Derek from the hug. She waved them inside and shut the door.
Stiles stood in the foyer, feeling more nervous than ever. Before them, a large staircase stretched up to the second storey of the manor, the landing looming over them. What was even more intimidating was the man who lingered at the top of the staircase, staring down at Stiles. His thinning brown hair was sleeked back, his bright blue eyes fierce as he glared at the young man.
Stiles felt a shudder run down his spine. He swallowed hard, dragging his gaze away from the man and back to Derek.
“Where’s Cora?” Derek asked, shrugging off his leather jacket and hanging it up by the door.
“She’s upstairs,” Laura answered. “She’s… not well.”
Stiles turned to see a glint of colour in Laura’s eyes, the golden glow quickly fading back to the natural colour.
Derek nodded, understand the unspoken connotations.
“You must be Stiles,” Laura said, smiling at the young man. “It’s so nice to meet you. Derek’s told us so much about you.”
“Only good things, I promise,” Derek interjected.
Stiles smiled, unsure of what to say. He opened his mouth to say something, but stammered over his words, feeling the presence of piercing eyes from the landing. Stiles glanced over his shoulder again, finding the man still staring at him.
“Peter,” a quiet voice said warningly, the soft voice trailing out from one of the rooms upstairs. A woman came out of what looked to be a study.
Stiles let out a small sigh of relief as the man turned to look at her.
Her brown hair came down to her shoulders, highlighted by streaks of grey. She made her way down the stairs and over to their side.
“Please, pay no attention to him,” the woman said softly. “He tends to be a little overprotective, especially of his nieces and nephew.”
The woman turned her attention to Derek for a moment, kissing him on his cheek and giving him a shirt lecture about shaving. Derek brushed her hand away, muttering something about how he liked his beard.
Stiles glanced up at the landing again, but Peter was gone.
The woman turned her attention back to Stiles.
“It’s so nice to meet you, Stiles,” she said, pulling the young man into a warm hug.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Mrs Hale,” Stiles replied timidly.
“Call me Talia, please,” she corrected softly. “Are you boys hungry?”
“Yeah,” Derek admitted, reaching out and taking Stiles’ hand again.
“Come on,” Laura said, leading the way into the dining room.
Derek pulled a seat out for Stiles, sitting down next to him.
Laura told her mother to sit down and disappeared into the kitchen. Talia sat down across the table from Derek, talking quietly to him about his job and the new apartment. A moment later, Peter appeared in the doorway of the dining room. He looked Stiles up and down before turning and flowing his niece into the kitchen.
Stiles felt his chest tighten.
Peter appeared again, carrying a couple of glasses in his hand. He set a glass in front of Derek and another in front of Stiles.
“Thank you,” Stiles said quietly.
Peter game him a stern nod before fetching a drink for himself and Talia. He sat down at the far end of the table, slouching back in his seat and sipping at a glass of whiskey.
Talia emerged with a few plates of finger food and appetisers balanced on her arms, setting them down on the table. She sat down to her mother’s side.
“Derek’s told us so much about you but there’s still so much we want to know,” Laura said, her voice sweet and inviting.
“Ask away,” Stiles insisted.
“Are you a cat person or a dog person?” Laura asked.
“Dog person,” Stiles answered. Out the corner of his eye, he could see Derek fighting a smile.
“Derek says you work as a consultant for the police, is that right?” Talia asked.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, feeling himself relax slightly. “My father’s the sheriff-”
“So you got the job easy?” Peter asked from the other end of the table.
“No, my dad was adamant that I not join the police,” Stiles answered. “He didn’t like the thought of me putting myself in danger. So I offered to consult on cases while I train for the FBI program.”
“You got a gun?” Peter asked.
“No,” Stiles answered.
“Ever fired a gun?”
“Peter,” Derek said warningly, his voice a deep growl.
“No,” Stiles replied. “I haven’t.”
“You like hunting?” Peter asked.
“Peter,” Talia growled, glaring at her brother.
Peter ignored her. “Derek’s last girlfriend was a hunter.”
“I know about Kate,” Stiles said bluntly. “I know what she did to Derek. It makes me sick to think that anyone could do what she did. And I don’t know if you’re trying to scare me away or if you’re implying that I would do what she did, but I would never hurt Derek.”
Everything fell silent for a second. Stiles felt tears well in his eyes as his chest tightened. He balled his hands into fists to try and stop them from shaking. He swallowed hard, his voice quiet as he excused himself from the table and ran out into the front yard.
The cool air washed over him, but he couldn’t breathe. His lungs felt like they were on fire, his throat closing over as he gasped for air. Tears trailed down his cheeks, his lips quivering as he collapsed on the stairs of the front porch. He slouched against the pillar of the railing, curling up on himself.
He felt a warm presence by his side, strong hands pulling him close and gently rubbing circles between his shoulder blades.
“Breathe out as much as you can,” Derek instructed. “Then take one deep breath in.”
Stiles shook his head. Tears thumped against the ground. He watched them fall, leaving darkened pools as they stole the warmth from his cheeks. He shivered as a cold sweat rolled over him, seeping into every pore of his skin and chilling him to the core.
“C-Can’t,” he stuttered. His voice caught in the back of his throat.
Derek gently shushed him, holding him close. “Breathe,” he urged, his voice a soft whisper.
Stiles sucked in a breath and held it. Bursts of colour filled his vision and his lungs ached for air. Finally, he let go, breathing in again. Slowly his heartbeat began to settle.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a short while. “I screwed this all up. I should just go home.”
“You did nothing wrong,” Derek reassured him. “Peter can be a real dick sometimes.”
“He’s just trying to protect you,” Stiles replied. “He doesn’t want you to get hurt again.”
“And I’m not going to, because you’re not Kate and he needs to learn that.”
Stiles glanced over his shoulder at the window of the dining room. He could hear the muffled voice of Derek’s mother scolding Peter.
“I didn’t mean to start a fight,” he muttered.
“It’s not your fault,” Derek said softly.
Stiles opened his mouth to argue when the front door rattled open. A slender girl stepped out onto the porch, dressed in shorts and a dull grey Henley. He straight brown hair fell past her shoulders and she hugged herself as she stepped outside.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Derek said. “We’re alright.”
“I heard the shouting,” she explained.
“Being Peter?” Cora finished.
Derek nodded. “How are you feeling?”
She hesitantly came to sit next to them. “Better. Kind of hungry actually.”
“Why don’t we head back inside,” Derek proposed. He rose to his feet, holding his hand out to help Stiles to his feet.
The three of them made their way back inside. The argument in the dining room died away as they came back inside.
“Stiles, could you give me a hand in the kitchen?” Laura asked.
“Sure, no problem.” He started towards the kitchen but paused. He turned to look at Peter, the man’s face twisted in a childishly stubborn pout. “And – for the record – I hate hunting. I think wolves ought to be protected.”
Peter’s eyes widened with surprise.
Derek couldn’t help but smile with pride.
Stiles smirked and followed Laura into the kitchen.