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Words Cannot Espresso How Much You Bean to Me

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When the door opened across the small coffeehouse, the sound of it was distinct enough that Stiles Stilinski stopped what he was doing and smiled brightly at the girl heading towards the counter, eyes on her phone.

He moved back to the till and waited for her to reach him, finally looking up and offering a small smile.

“Welcome to A Howling Good Coffee, what can I get you?”

“What kind of tea do you have?”

“Anything on the board,” Stiles said, turning to motion the overhead board, which boasted their rather impressively large selection of cold and hot beverages. “What kind of tea are you thinking? Green tea? Black tea? Iced tea?”

“Can I get a large Darjeeling tea to go?”

“Coming right up.” Stiles winked and turned to grab one of the to go cups, sticking two tea bags into it and humming to himself while using the hot water machine to fill it up just enough that the girl could add milk to it, if desired.

Turning back to her, he set it down and saw she had her card ready, so he put the total in, motioned the machine, and waited while she tapped her card. The till opened as the receipt printed and he ripped it off, setting it in the card section of the till before closing it and smiling brightly at her while she picked up her tea.

“Thank you for steeping by!”

A loud groan sounded from his left, but Stiles just grinned and nodded to the girl as she got herself organized to leave. She smiled back, clearly amused by his pun, and then turned to walk out of the small coffeeshop into the cooling air outside.

Winter was coming. And not in a Game of Thrones way, in an actual winter was coming kind of way. With the snow and the wind and the cold and just all-around general winterness.

“I swear, the only reason you were hired was because of your ridiculous puns,” a voice said from through the door that led into the back room.

“I’ll have you know, it was my good looks and charm that got me hired, my puns had nothing to do with it.”

“Uh huh.” Erica Reyes emerged from the back carrying a large tray of baked goods. She moved to the display case and began to transfer items from one to the other. “The fact that you saw the name of the place had a pun had absolutely nothing to do with you regaling Peter with puns for over an hour until I was positive you were murdering him with how hard he was laughing.”

Stiles grinned, because it had been a rather amazing interview, if he did say so himself.

The owner of the small coffeeshop, Peter Hale, hadn’t actually wanted to meet with him originally because he insisted his establishment was for Supernatural folk only. Not to drink there, of course, but for hire. There was a lot of discrimination in the world, and he wasn’t interested in giving a spot up to some human who could literally work anywhere he wanted. It wasn’t as easy for Supernaturals to get jobs, even in retail, so giving up a Supernatural spot to a human was something Peter had been strongly against.

But Stiles had persisted, because anyone who named their shop with a pun was someone he absolutely wanted to work for, and he’d kind of bullied his way into the man’s office. One pun accidentally came out of his mouth while insisting he be given a chance, and that had been enough for Peter to pause, eye him with interest, and then offer him five minutes to convince him.

He ended up staying almost an hour, he and Peter trying to out-pun each other, and it had probably been the best interview of his life because it was all just having a laugh. After all that time, it was impossible for Peter not to give him a job, so Stiles had been happily working at the place for just over five months. He had a few shifts here and there with Peter, and the guy was actually super amazing for a Werewolf.

Not that Stiles had a problem with Werewolves, but Peter was one of those ‘bad eggs.’

Blue eyes and all. Everyone knew what blue eyes on a Werewolf meant.

People killers.

But Stiles didn’t care about that. For all Stiles knew, Peter had killed someone in a car accident one night when his car spun out of control. He tried not to think the worst of people and just liked to insist Peter’s business was his own and as long as he liked Stiles well enough not to eat him for dinner, then he was happy.

Besides, Peter wasn’t in jail, which meant the officials had obviously investigated and deemed him a non-threat, so Stiles wasn’t going to worry about it. Still wasn’t going to tell his dad his Werewolf boss had blue eyes though, that was just a recipe for disaster right there.

Stiles went back to cleaning the coffee machine, since the place was empty save for the two girls writing in the back—Peter always said to leave them be because they bought enough food to pay rent for the month, so Stiles tried not to be annoyed about it. He just didn’t like it when people hogged seats in coffeeshops, because every time he’d ever gone out with friends when he was younger, they never found seats because of people with laptops just chilling for hours on end.

Homes existed! People had couches and desks at home! Maybe they should spend time there instead of the coffeeshop!

Then again, he knew he was just being bitter because of his own personal experience. The two girls were actually really nice, and they always tipped, which he appreciated.

Erica was still restocking their baked goods when the door opened. Stiles glanced over and grinned when he saw their replacements walking in. Isaac Lahey and Vernon Boyd were chatting while entering the small shop, both of them wearing stylish coats and a brown scarf wrapped around Isaac’s shoulders. Stiles often wondered how they could all afford clothes like this—Erica included—on a coffeeshop salary, but he also suspected they might all be part of the same pack. Packs always took care of each other, and while Stiles would’ve loved to find out more about their lives on the Werewolf side, it wasn’t polite to ask. There was societal etiquette to follow, and asking a Werewolf about their pack as a human was a big no-no unless they offered up the information first.

So, Stiles just speculated they belonged to a mega rich pack and left it at that in his head.

He opened his mouth to greet them, but before he even got a word out, Boyd pointed his finger at him and flashed his amber eyes.

“One pun comes out of your mouth and I’ll make you regret it.”

Stiles grinned, but didn’t want to press his luck so he just waved and went back to cleaning the coffee machine while the other two headed into the back to get out of their winter clothes. Boyd kissed Erica’s temple on his way by and she grunted in response. When she glanced at Stiles, he smirked and waggled his eyebrows.

She threw a wrapped biscotti at him and he laughed.

Boyd was very PDA, but surprisingly Erica was not. Stiles would’ve assumed it was the other way around when he’d first started, because of their personalities, but as time passed it slowly became obvious that Erica didn’t like flaunting her relationship around, and Boyd was just happy to be near her all the time. He wasn’t disgusting about it like some people could be, he was more cute about it, but Erica hated it. She tolerated it because she loved Boyd, but it was always funny to see her react to lovey dovey things he did sometimes.

Stiles was kind of a dick in that he liked to exacerbate the problem.

Boyd came back out in a black T-shirt and slacks, pulling on the bright blue apron that was customary for all the baristas, the store’s logo on the front. “Peter texted to say he put the new schedule up last night. He didn’t get the chance to come by to talk to anyone about it.”

“It requires talking about?” Erica asked, straightening and brushing her hands along the front of her apron. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Why?”

Boyd shrugged but just moved to the tills to count them down for the night shift. Stiles checked the time, mentally calculating how long he had before he needed to head for his one night class at seven. He wandered towards the schedule while he continued to count, and determined he had time to head home for a quick shower.

Working with a bunch of Werewolves always made him feel like he wasn’t clean enough, for some reason. Probably because they always gave him weird looks when he got too close, like his scent bothered them. He’d switched to unscented soap and tried for neutral things with shampoo, but it never seemed to make them happy and thus he showered more frequently out of some weird sense of hygiene obsession. It seriously always felt like he made them want to puke whenever he got anywhere close to them.

Moving to the schedule, he flipped it open, looking over the current week. He had work the following day with Boyd—morning shift—and then was off until the following week. He flipped the page to the next week, looking over all his days, and frowned when he saw a new name.

It looked like he was working with this new person every day the next week. On a whim, he flipped to the week after, since Peter sometimes had the chance to do two weeks of schedules, and noticed it was also there, with every shift being with this new guy again.

“Hey,” Stiles said loudly, frowning down at the schedule. “Who’s Derek?”

He heard a clatter and looked up, seeing Erica and Boyd both staring at him with Isaac having rushed to the door that led into the back. When he’d swung it open, it had hit off a metal shelf, hence the clatter.

“No!” Isaac insisted loudly, causing the two regulars in the back to glance over. “No, tell me he’s not back!”

“Isaac,” Boyd reprimanded with a scowl, but it didn’t seem as though Isaac cared.

Before Stiles could even say anything, Isaac had crossed the area, apron in one hand, and practically knocked Stiles over he was leaning into him so much, checking over the schedule and letting out a groan.

“Dammit, no. Things have been so good without him around. Why is he coming back?”

“Isaac, remember who you’re talking about. Be polite,” Boyd insisted, having returned to taking down the till, though Stiles could see him frowning. “He’s been through a lot.”

Dealing with him is a lot,” Isaac muttered, eyes on the schedule. “Wait. Wait, are you...” Isaac flipped through what was present of the schedule, then shifted his head around to look at Stiles. “Holy shit, Peter scheduled you to work every shift with Derek! He either hates you and wants you to quit, or he thinks way too highly of you.”

Stiles was looking back and forth between the other three, noting all their reactions. Isaac seemed the most upset by this news, but even Boyd and Erica looked unhappy with this Derek guy working every shift with Stiles.

“Okay,” he said slowly, looking at them all in turn. “Should I be scared, or...?”

“No, there’s nothing to be scared of,” Boyd insisted, finishing with the till and shutting it, turning to Stiles while holding the old till in one hand. “Derek won’t hurt you.”

“That’s good?” Stiles said uncertainly, not meaning for it to be a question.

“Derek is...” Erica trailed off. “Derek is just...”

She looked to Boyd for help, like she wasn’t sure what to say.

“Difficult,” Boyd offered, at almost the exact same time as Isaac snapped, “A huge dick.”

“Fantastic.” Stiles looked back down at the schedule, a little annoyed. He’d thought he and Peter were getting along, but apparently if he was trying to make Stiles suffer, maybe he’d misunderstood their friendship.

He doubted Peter thought highly enough of him to assume that Stiles would survive someone who was apparently an asshole for five shifts a week on a regular basis. It looked like Derek was only ever working with Stiles. The other three rotated around each other with Peter thrown in every now and then, but no one else worked with the guy.

Uncool. If Peter hated him so much, maybe he should just fire him.

“Don’t worry about it,” Boyd said, Stiles glancing up at him. “He’s really not that bad. He’s just unpleasant to be around. Just ignore him and you’ll be fine.”

“Right.” Stiles didn’t know how that was going to work out, but he tried not to dwell on it. He just took a picture of the schedule so he could ensure nothing clashed—though Peter was good about making sure it didn’t—and then shrugged away from Isaac, heading for the back room to change. He hung his apron up behind the door then grabbed his messenger bag, waving to the others while moving out from behind the counter and heading out so he could rush home for his shower before class.

He didn’t know who this Derek guy was, but hopefully he wouldn’t be as bad as the others implied.


Dropping his messenger bag on the floor by his desk, Stiles sighed while wandering to his bed and falling onto it, groaning and rolling onto his back. He stared up at his ceiling for a few minutes, brain still a little overloaded from three hours or class, then pulled his phone out of his pocket.

He scrolled through it to FaceTime, then tapped on his best friend’s name, waiting while it rang. When it connected, he winced, because it was very evident he’d been sleeping given he was lying on his stomach in bed with his hair matted down on one side and his eyes almost shut.

“Stiles,” he said, voice thick with sleep. “You are determined to have me sleep deprived.”

“Not my fault you’re ahead in the world,” Stiles insisted, though he did feel bad. He often forgot that they were three hours apart.

Scott McCall had been his best friend since before birth, their mothers having become friends during some birthing classes. When they were both born within two months of each other, it was easy for them to latch onto one another. They were in all the same classes, had all the same after school activities, and had basically grown up together more as brothers than friends.

Stiles knew Scott’s family didn’t make a lot of money, given it was just his mom because his deadbeat, drunkard, asshat of a dad had left and never come back, but Scott had managed to get an amazing opportunity to head to New York for university. They’d never been apart before, so when Scott had left, it had hit Stiles really hard. He was at least relieved Scott was just as affected, because the first year had been rough for both of them.

Scott also forgot about the time difference, and their first year apart had mostly been the two of them calling each other at horrible hours. Like Scott calling before his seven am class, which was four in the morning for Stiles. And things like this, where Stiles would call Scott at the end of the night and have it be all hours of the morning for him.

They never got mad about it though, and even when one of them was sleeping, they still woke up and chatted, because they really missed each other. It was hard, being apart.

Harder still that Scott hadn’t visited even once since he’d left. His mother couldn’t afford to fly him back and forth, so Scott stayed out in a small apartment in New York year round. It had been three years since they’d seen one another face to face, and Stiles was seriously in withdrawal.

It was only made worse when he remembered their final weeks together. Scott had been sick. Really sick. He’d barely been making it to school, and he and Stiles couldn’t really hang out because of how unwell he was.

Stiles hated it. He missed Scott, he missed spending time with him. He wanted him to come back, but that was the selfish part of him. That was the selfishness insisting what he wanted was more important than what Scott did, so he tried to reign that in as much as possible. Scott getting an education like this was amazing and he wanted to be happy for him about it.

“How was your night. You had an exam today, right? How’d it go?”

Scott rubbed at his face sleepily, inhaling deeply and settling more comfortably in bed, hugging his pillow beneath his cheek with one arm, the other holding his phone. It was kind of at an angle, but Scott was obviously tired, so Stiles forgave him.

“It went well, I think. Managed to answer everything this time, so that’s a plus.”

“I hope you did well,” Stiles said with a small smile. “Wouldn’t want you to go through all this hard work only to fail at your end goal.”

“End goal’s kind of... fluctuating.”

Stiles frowned. “What do you mean? You’ve wanted to be a vet since you were, like, four.”

Scott shrugged, which Stiles wasn’t really happy about. Scott had big plans of working at the vet’s clinic in town with their one and only local vet, Alan Deaton. He’d been talking about it for years, even going so far as getting a part time job there in his sophomore year of high school, which he’d kept until graduation. But the past two years, Scott kept oscillating between wanting to keep his major, or switching out, and Stiles didn’t understand why he’d changed his mind.

He didn’t seem happy about changing his end goal, but he often spoke about another career path, which made no sense.

“I think being a vet just isn’t in the cards for me, is all.” Scott shrugged again, eyes closed while he kept the phone held up.

Stiles should let him sleep, but he wanted to chat just a bit longer. It sucked not being able to talk to him whenever he wanted like he used to.

“So, what’re the plans this winter?” Stiles asked, sitting up and shifting on the bed, bringing both legs up so he could cross them together beneath him. “You coming home to see your mom for the holidays?”

Scott’s eyes opened at that and the look on his face made Stiles’ heart sink.

He knew the answer before Scott even spoke.

“I can’t,” he said quietly. “Sorry, Stiles. I want to, I really do. I miss you like crazy, and I want to spend time with you, but I just—I can’t.”

“Right,” Stiles propped his voice up and forced a smile. “No, man, I get it. Flights, am I right? They’re expensive.”

Scott winced on the other end, and didn’t look at the camera when he said, “Yeah. Flights are expensive.”

“Well, I should let you sleep. It’s late over there. Sorry I woke you.”

“It’s cool.” Scott hesitated. “Stiles?”

“What’s up, buddy?”

“You know you’re my best friend, right? You know that—aside from my mom, you’re the most important person in the world to me. You know that, right?”

Stiles laughed a little. “Dude, don’t get all sappy on me.”

“I’m serious.”

“Yes, Scott. I know. You’re my brother, I’m your brother. We’re always going to be there for each other, no matter what. Now go to sleep before your brain turns to mush and you start professing your undying love for me.”

Scott rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I’ll talk to you later today, okay?”

“Sure thing, buddy. Miss you.”

“Yeah.” Scott looked sad when he said this. “I really miss you, too. Good night, Stiles.”

“Night Scott.”

He let Scott be the one to hang up, then fell onto his back once more, staring up at his ceiling. He should visit Melissa, she was probably missing her son something fierce. She was all alone in her big house now, and while he and his dad invited her over for dinner every now and then—where she cooked, because she didn’t want to be poisoned—it wasn’t the same. He should stop by the hospital and see her to make sure she was doing okay.

Grunting and trying not to feel sorry for himself, Stiles got himself organized for bed since he had work in the morning, but he couldn’t stop the ache in his chest at how much he missed Scott.


Stiles’ next shift—the last one before meeting this Derek guy—was with Boyd, and he tried to grill him for some information. It proved to be difficult once Boyd informed him he was Peter’s nephew, Derek Hale, because that wasn’t a story that was polite to pry into.

Everyone knew the story about the Hales. When Werewolves were finally given amnesty and it was decided they weren’t considered a threat and could live normal lives, some people didn’t take kindly to the new laws being passed. A group of Hunters had gone to the only known Werewolf house in town, the Hale’s, and had burned it to the ground with the whole family locked inside.

Only four survivors had escaped the flames. Cora Hale and Malia Hale, who’d both been at boarding school at the time, Derek Hale, who’d been out with friends, and Peter Hale, who’d actually been in the house but had somehow survived the worst of the fire.

Stiles remembered his dad pulling doubles at the time, trying to find those responsible, and while they’d eventually been brought to justice, it didn’t take back what they’d done. Peter’s entire family had died barring his daughter, niece and nephew. Both his niece and his daughter were still fairly young at the time, and a lot of people said neither of them seemed very broken up about it, but Derek had been about sixteen or seventeen.

And he went a little wrong after the fire.

Not in a kill-all-on-sight way, more in a lack of trust way. He hated everyone, he didn’t want to be near people, and rumour had it he was a recluse living up in the mountains outside Beacon Hills doing God knew what. Most people assumed he would just live out there for the rest of his life, alone, away from the people he hated so much.

Evidently they were wrong, because he was back in town. And the way Boyd, Isaac and Erica spoke about him, it sounded like he came back to town fairly frequently, like he spent only a few months a year up in his cabin before deciding he needed to be around other people.

It also reinforced Stiles’ belief that everyone involved was part of the same pack. Peter had a lot of money, and Derek was apparently loaded, so it made sense they would have enough means to support a rather large pack.

Still, not his business, so Stiles didn’t ask about it. He just let Boyd tell him about experiences he’d had working with Derek.

Basically, he sounded like the fun police. If someone was having fun, they weren’t working hard enough. Which was definitely going to be a problem, and further reinforced the whole ‘Peter wanted him to quit’ thing.

Stiles had morning classes his first shift with Derek, and of course, his class ran late which meant he missed his bus, which meant he exited the shower ten minutes later than normal, which meant he missed his second bus, and by the time he got to work he was just on time. Like, on the nose exactly on time.

He was brushing drops of water off his head, hair still wet from his shower, when he noticed the sour-looking dude behind the counter. He was standing behind the till with his arms crossed, muscles bulging in the tight black shirt he was wearing. He had the apron on, but tied only around his waist with the top part hanging down, like wearing it to begin with was beneath him.

He had a neatly trimmed beard, almost military-precision cut hair and hard green eyes that seemed to be telling Stiles to hurry up and order and get the fuck out. Stiles actually noticed the usual girls in the back were missing today, and today was Tuesday. They were always there on Tuesday.

Well, no time like the present to introduce myself. 

He approached the front, and saw Derek’s nostrils flare before his eyes hardened into shards of green glass and his expression turned murderous. He actually looked like he wanted to rip Stiles’ head off and drop-kick it across the coffeeshop.

Not the most comforting look to be getting from his new coworker, but Stiles wasn’t going to be deterred!

Moving right up to the till, Stiles offered who was obviously Derek his best smile and held out one hand. “Hey! You must be Derek!”

Evidently, Stiles saying this made it clear to him who he was. That is to say, an employee. The one he was meant to be working with.

His murderous look seemed to get even more murderous, if that were even possible, and Stiles almost took a step back, because he was radiating so much annoyance and hatred and wow was he ever going to be difficult to work with. Stiles wasn’t a Werewolf, but he still kind of wanted to bare his neck to him and submit.

“You’re late,” Derek informed him coldly, jaw clenched. He barely even moved his mouth to speak. This guy was seriously scary.

And because Stiles was suicidal, he said, “No, I’m Stiles.”

The look he got could’ve curdled milk. Stiles even noticed that Derek’s muscles were tensing, arms bulging even more and wow this guy was scary and hot but mostly scary holy shit.

“You’re not funny,” Derek informed him coldly.

Stiles shrugged. “I think that’s a matter of opinion.” He glanced towards the back door. “Where are Isaac and Boyd?”

“They left. Because their shift was done. And you’re late.”

“I was actually exactly on time.”

“You should be dressed and ready to work by your expected start time, not waltzing in like you own the place.” Derek uncrossed his arms and pointed angrily towards the back room. “Get yourself ready for your shift. I expect you to stay an extra ten minutes after your usual end time for delaying your start. We don’t pay you to slack off.”

Stiles stared at him for a few seconds, then snorted. “Well. You’re going to be a joy to work with.”

He trudged towards the back room before Derek could say anything, moving behind the counter and through the door, rolling his eyes hard enough his head went with it.

Great. Just great. Finally getting the hang of this job, and now he was going to have to quit. Peter must really hate him. How could someone as jovial and easygoing as Peter be related to an asshole like that?

Stiles changed out quickly, grabbing his apron off the door and hoping it smelled okay. He usually tried to bring it home to wash it, but the others always stopped him and insisted they would do it themselves. He doubted it was ever washed though, because he was positive all the stains on it were from one of his first shifts there.

The others were weird, but Stiles supposed it was a Werewolf thing and it wasn’t polite to point out their weirdness since it might only be weird to him and perfectly normal Werewolf behaviour.

Pushing back out into the front area, he saw Derek practically slam a takeout cup of coffee onto the counter, the guy ordering looking both angry and terrified at the same time. He paid quickly and then hurried out the door, but he did give Derek the stink eye over his shoulder while heading out.

“Dude, what the hell!” Stiles appeared beside Derek, frustrated and annoyed with how rude he’d been. It was one thing to be rude to Stiles, who worked there, but another thing entirely to be rude to a customer. “That guy’s a regular and he’s really nice. What’s your problem? Do you want your uncle to go out of business?”

“Kind of,” Derek informed him coldly.

Stiles gave him an incredulous look, then threw both hands in the air. “You need to chill out, what the hell! If you don’t wanna be here, why did you bother coming? Go sit in the back or something, I’ll man the till.”

Derek gave him the most demeaning once over Stiles had ever gotten in his life, which only increased his annoyance levels, hackles rising, but he forced himself to stand his ground, crossing his arms.

“What?” he demanded when Derek was silent for too long.

“I doubt someone like you even knows how to use a door.”

“My, my.”

Both of them jumped, Stiles whipping around and seeing Peter exiting the back room. He’d either been holed up in his office, or had come in from the parking lot door at the end of the back room, because Stiles hadn’t even known he was there.

“I see you two are getting along wonderfully. Do try not to hurt the human, nephew, I’m rather fond of him.”

“Yeah, about that,” Derek bit out coldly, still staring Stiles down. Stiles just kept his eyes on Peter, ignoring the gaze burning into the back of his skull. “Why did you hire a human?”

Oh. Okay. That explained a lot. Speciesist. Derek didn’t like humans. Stiles supposed that made sense, given humans had burned his home to the ground, but Stiles was a good human, okay! He didn’t make it a habit to burn people alive, and he liked Werewolves, they were cool.

“Expanding our horizons,” Peter said jovially, omitting the fact that he’d originally vehemently insisted he didn’t want to hire a human in the first place. “The rest of the pack is unwilling to help out, and while Boyd, Erica and Isaac have been a great help, I’m running short on staff.”

And now Stiles had it confirmed. They were all one pack. He knew the Hales had a rather large pack, but because of how discriminatory people still were, they mostly kept to themselves and no one knew where they lived. The area had a few other smaller packs, but it was kind of nice having it officially confirmed that Erica, Boyd and Isaac belonged to Peter’s pack.

Though he always thought a pack needed an Alpha, and he knew Peter was only a Beta. His eyes would’ve been red if he were an Alpha, but they weren’t.

That was when Stiles slowly realized that he’d wanted to bare his neck to Derek. And that it was the Hale pack. And that Derek was a Hale.

He whipped around, realizing he’d been showing his back to a fucking Alpha and blurted out, “Holy shit, you’re the Hale Alpha?!”

Derek glared at him hard enough to light him on fire, but thankfully Werewolves couldn’t make people spontaneously combust and all he did was flash his eyes, the red of them a little daunting.

Stiles had never met an Alpha before.

It certainly explained why Boyd had been reprimanding Isaac for what he’d said when he’d found out Derek was coming back. Isaac shouldn’t have been complaining the way he was about his own Alpha. Stiles may not know a lot about Werewolves, but he at least knew enough that Betas had to respect their Alphas.

Derek didn’t seem to be a very kind Alpha.

“You’re not welcome here,” Derek informed him.

“Now, now, nephew,” Peter insisted, moving up behind Stiles and placing both hands on his shoulders. “You might be in charge of the pack when you bother to be around, but this is my business, and I’m free to hire whoever I choose. Stiles is a wonderful employee, and the customers like him.”

“Because he’s human,” Derek snapped.

“Actually, it’s because he’s punny.” Stiles heard Peter let out a small chuckle. “Get it, Derek? Punny?”

Derek was crossing his arms angrily once more, muscles bulging and eyes flashing red in warning.

For a few tense seconds, no one moved. Stiles felt like Peter and Derek were having a silent conversation, and everything was getting really intense and Stiles wanted to leave and it was hard to breathe and holy shit he was going to die at the hands of an Alpha Werewolf and—

The door opened.

“Welcome to A Howling Good Coffee!” Stiles practically shouted across the small area, the couple who’d just walked in pausing, a little startled. They surveyed the scene, and it looked like they were going to leave, but Stiles just hastily moved to the till, shoving Derek aside as respectfully as possible—though it was hard to respectfully shove someone, but he tried!

Turned out he didn’t even really have to shove him aside, because Derek moved quickly to avoid Stiles touching him. Whatever, Stiles didn’t have fucking cooties.

“What can I get for you? Coffee? Tea? Hot chocolate?”

The couple still looked a little uncomfortable, but they approached the front anyway, perusing the board while Stiles just smiled and tried to act like there wasn’t a Werewolf hierarchy war happening behind him. Peter and Derek could glare and growl at each other all they wanted, Stiles was just there to work, thank you very much.

The drink orders were easy to make without bothering the two Werewolves. Stiles just moved around them while they glared each other down. Well, really, Derek was glaring. Peter looked pleased as punch, like upsetting his Alpha was amusing to him.

The only hiccup in the road was when he had to get the croissants out of the pastry section, because Peter was leaning against it and he was worried to ask him to move. He hovered for a second, then ducked under Peter’s arm and squeezed himself behind him. The dick just stood there and let Stiles attempt to get the doors open, using the tongs to get the croissants out.

“We don’t—it’s okay,” the girl at the till insisted.

“No, no, it’s fine, all good, no problem. Warmed up?” He snagged a croissant, trying not to crush it while pulling it through the gap he’d created.

“Yes,” the guy said.

“No!” the girl insisted. Stiles noticed her nudge him and nod towards the warmer. Stiles turned his head and saw that was where Derek was standing.

They really weren’t making his life easy right now. Fucking Werewolves.

He managed to get both pastries out and then moved to the warmer. Derek redirected his glare on him instead, as if daring Stiles to even think about approaching him to use the warmer. Stiles just gave him a look right back. Derek didn’t seem very keen on Stiles touching him, because when he went to squeeze behind him like he had Peter, Derek moved instantly, looking at Stiles as if he smelled like garbage.

Seriously, what the fuck was the deal with people giving him disgusted looks? He could only shower so many times a day!

Once everything was warmed up and ready to go, Stiles returned to the till, handing everything over while the guy paid for their items. When they turned to leave, Stiles waved and tried for his best smile.

“Thanks a latte for your patronage!”

It was kind of a small win to have Peter snort behind him, clearly amused, but no one spoke again until the couple left the shop, the door closing behind them.

“This is unacceptable,” Derek snapped at Peter. “I’m not working with him.”

“Well no one wants to work with you, Derek, so either you work alone, or you work with him. And working alone isn’t an option, because you suck at customer service.”

“I’m fine working with Boyd or Erica,” Stiles said, motioning himself and having both Werewolves turn to him. “Like, I’m cool with that, if it’ll solve things here. No problemo.”

“I’ll work with Isaac,” Derek said, turning back to Peter. “Problem solved on both fronts. You get to keep your pet, and I don’t have to be near him.”

“It’s cute you think Isaac would willingly work with you, nephew.” Peter moved to pat his cheek and Derek slapped his hand away violently, growling low in his chest. “I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for both of you. You’re working together. And you’ll make it work somehow, I’m sure. I’ll be going now. Enjoy your evening.”

Stiles wanted to protest, but Peter just moved over to him to pat at his shoulder a few times, grabbed the inventory list from under the till, and then walked towards the back room, disappearing through the door.

And then he was alone with Derek. The human-hater. Great.

Stiles was drumming the fingers of his right hand on the counter, because he was extremely uncomfortable and unsure of what to do. Normally he busied himself with cleaning up and stocking things, but he was kind of scared to breathe right now. Alpha Derek Hale the human-hater was kind of scary.

In a super hot but totally terrifying sort of way. Why were the hot ones always taken or assholes?

It looked like Derek was trying to reign in his temper, because he still had his back to Stiles, but his hands were clenching and unclenching at his sides and he was taking long, deep breaths in through his mouth before expelling them slowly.

Deciding he wasn’t going to let this guy scare him, Stiles resolutely picked up the clipboard under the till and moved to the baked goods, beginning to compare the numbers in the display with the numbers on the page in front of him.

“What are you doing?” Derek snarled from literally right behind him.

Stiles would admit to being a little freaked out, because it had sounded particularly menacing, but he just turned and calmly said, “Checking what needs restocking.”

“What?” Derek asked.

“Did I stutter?” Stiles faced the display again, continuing to count. “You’re just standing there fuming, someone might as well get some work done.”

“You were late, don’t talk to me about work!”

“My class ran late,” Stiles snapped, rounding on him. “So I missed my bus. Which made me late getting home. Which made me miss my second bus. Excuse me for not having a reliable mode of transportation! It’s not like I make thousands of dollars working in a coffee shop!”

He stomped off towards the back room, because if he didn’t, he was liable to punch the asshole, and that would be a bad idea. Not only because Derek would probably murder him, but his hand would be broken on top of that. Broken hand prior to murder sounded fairly unpleasant, so it was safer to just walk away.

They mostly stayed away from each other the remainder of their shift. Whenever Derek went to do something in the back, Stiles would be at the front, greeting customers and making small-talk and basically acting like Derek wasn’t even there. Whenever Derek came back to the front, Stiles would go busy himself in the back, either with cleaning up, or prepping things for the morning shift, or re-arranging the storeroom.

Whatever they had to do to keep their distance from each other.

Stiles was actually a little put out with how rude Derek was to him. After all, Stiles hadn’t done anything to him, and Derek was acting like he had the bubonic plague. Like his mere presence was death walking or something. It pissed him off.

Supernaturals like Derek were the reason people hated Werewolves.

When the end of the shift came around, Stiles locked the door and started mopping and cleaning up. He found it somewhat ironic that Derek was so vehemently against him working there, and yet was also adamant that he couldn’t leave until he’d made up his ten minute tardiness.

Derek was a weird, weird dude. Stiles pitied his bed partners.

Finally, ten minutes past his shift, Stiles finished up cleaning the bathroom and then headed into the back room to change out, shoving his apron into his bag so he could bring it home to wash it before his shift the following evening.

With Derek again. Ugh. With any luck, Boyd or Erica would pity him enough they’d switch shifts with him. Though probably not, they seemed to like Isaac a lot and since Isaac was the only other non-shift leader, it meant Derek would be with either Isaac or Stiles.

And if they were in the same pack, it stood to reason they lived together, and Isaac probably saw enough of him at home. So Stiles was willing to suck it up and sacrifice a few hours of his day being stuck with this colossal douchebag. He just hoped he stopped being such a dick.

It was fine if he wanted to be a dick, just not as much of one as he currently was. Stiles just wanted to not hate coming to work. Derek didn’t have to like him. They didn’t have to be friends. Stiles just wanted them to at least be civil. Civility wasn’t too much to ask, in his opinion.

Heading back to the main area, he saw Derek still counting down the till.

“Good night.”

He didn’t expect a response, so he wasn’t offended when he didn’t get one. He just walked out of the shop, being sure to pull the gate closed behind him before shutting the door.

Though it was just a coffeeshop, and didn’t technically need gates inside the windows, everyone knew this was a Werewolf coffeehouse and it had been vandalized numerous times since its opening three years ago. Stiles figured that Peter had installed the gates to minimize the damage. All people could really do was break the windows, which was easily fixed with good insurance. Back before the gates, the people used to break in and destroy all the machinery and furniture, so this was definitely the better option.

It made Stiles sad that people were such assholes about things that were different. Racism was still a thing. Homophobia was still a thing. People needed to just stay in their own fucking lane, he didn’t understand why they actively went out looking for things to upset them.

Sighing and rubbing the back of his neck, he headed slowly for the bus stop, the streets quiet at this hour. He wasn’t concerned, Beacon Hills was pretty safe, but he still didn’t like it when his Jeep was in the shop.

He refused to get rid of it. It didn’t matter how much it cost—okay, it kind of did, but still!—he was never getting rid of that thing. It used to belong to his mother, and if the only thing keeping it running was duct tape, love and a prayer, well then he was going to keep working hard at the love and prayer parts, and single-handedly keep the duct tape industry afloat.

Reaching the bus stop, Stiles sat down on the bench and pulled out his phone, opening his text messages with Scott and sending a reply. He knew he wouldn’t get a response back, since it was well past midnight for Scott, so he opened one of his many games and began to play while he waited for the bus. He knew it would be around in about twenty minutes or so, but it was getting colder out now that winter was looming, so he really hoped it came by early today. That’d be nice.

“Hey.”

“Jesus!” Stiles almost dropped his phone but managed to keep his hands closed around it, glancing up and offering a small smile.

It hurt to have to smile, but this guy was a regular and he didn’t want to piss him off. Peter seemed to like him, anyway, but he kind of bothered Stiles. Not in a ‘you’re creepy, get away from me’ way, but more in a ‘stop looking at me like you want to defile me, it’s uncomfortable’ way.

He didn’t really know much about the guy aside from his name being Matt and he always came in to order the same gross dark roast coffee and green tea mix. Stiles knew it was gross, he’d tried it, and it was gross.

“Hey. Matt, right?”

“Yeah. And you’re Stiles.” Matt took a seat beside him on the bench, giving him what Stiles assumed was supposed to be a winning smile, but the slow once over he got made him feel like he needed to take a shower.

Again. Stiles was getting tired of showering all the time.

Matt was harmless, though. Stiles could literally bench-press the guy, he was all gangly and awkward. Attractive, sure, in his own way, but Stiles had been sending ‘not interested’ vibes his way since they’d first met and Matt either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Stiles knew he couldn’t afford to be picky about things like this, but Matt wasn’t his type and the guy was super pushy. He knew that even entertaining a relationship with him would be disastrous because he would probably be super toxic and Stiles didn’t need that in his life.

“Just get off work?” Matt asked.

“Yup. You?”

“Hanging out with a buddy a few blocks over.”

“Cool.” Stiles went back to his game, trying not to be rude, but he also wasn’t really in the mood to chat with Matt. He didn’t have a choice at work, but he wasn’t at work right now, and he had a choice, and he was choosing not to speak to him.

Matt didn’t get the hint, and he started asking Stiles questions and leaning into him to look at what he was playing and just being generally annoying. Stiles hoped the bus showed up soon.

He was in the middle of shifting away from Matt on the bench, because the other man kept moving closer, when a car screeched to a halt right in front of the stop they were at.

Stiles didn’t recognize it, and hoped they weren’t being mistaken for gang members or something.

The car was a sleek, pristine, black Camaro, with shiny rims and an absolutely perfect to die for paint job. It was probably the most gorgeous car he’d ever seen, and Stiles immediately took the sentiment back when the passenger-side window rolled down and he saw Derek behind the wheel, scowling out at him angrily. Like Stiles had just ruined his entire night with his mere presence at the bus stop.

Fuck, what now?

“Get in,” Derek ordered.

For a second, Stiles was positive he was speaking to Matt, but when he turned to look at him, he saw Matt looking just as confused as he was.

“Who, me?” Stiles finally asked, surprised, turning back to Derek.

“I don’t have all night, hurry up!”

Stiles had no idea what was going on, but he obediently stood, nevermind he didn’t actually want to, but Derek’s Alpha voice was very persuasive. Even to humans, apparently. He’d taken one step when Matt grabbed his wrist.

“Do you know that guy?”

“Huh?” Stiles turned back to him. “Yeah, no, it’s cool. Um, see you later.”

Pulling his hand free, Stiles moved quickly to the passenger door and pulled it open. He climbed in, dumping his bag onto the floor, and then slammed the door. It had barely latched when Derek hit the gas and shot forward.

Stiles scrambled for his seatbelt, getting it pulled on and buckled in, then turned to stare at Derek.

He was clenching and unclenching his hands around the steering wheel, like he was pissed at himself. Stiles figured he was probably pissed off he’d stopped to offer Stiles a ride. Maybe he’d driven by and seen how uncomfortable Stiles looked.

It wasn’t like he had a problem telling people to fuck off, it was just hard to do to a customer, even outside of work. Whatever happened outside work affected work itself later.

“Where do you live?”

“What?” Stiles asked, a little surprised. He’d assumed Derek was going to drive him to the bus depot and be done with him.

“Did I stutter?” Derek asked mockingly, echoing Stiles’ earlier words back at him.

“Don’t you know who I am?” Stiles asked with a small snort.

“No.”

“Well, you will in a second. You know where the sheriff lives?”

Derek turned to him sharply at that, baring his teeth. “Why are we going there? If you don’t want a ride, just fucking say so!”

“Dude, you need to chill.” Stiles rolled his eyes and thumbed himself. “Stiles Stilinski.”

Derek had turned back to face the road, but he glanced at Stiles again when he said his name. “Sheriff’s kid.”

“One and only.”

“Huh.”

Stiles didn’t know how to interpret that sound, so he said nothing. And apparently, Derek did know where the sheriff lived, because he didn’t ask for any directions and just made his way back through town.

Made sense, most people knew where the sheriff lived. Stiles found that to be dangerous, personally, because his dad was not a very popular man right now. A lot of people didn’t like that he was a firm supporter of equality with the Supernaturals, so their place got egged a lot.

But at least no one was stupid enough to break in and try something. Stiles didn’t have a gun himself, but he had a lacrosse stick—and a bat somewhere from his days in little league—and he knew the combination to his dad’s gun safe. It was only for emergencies, and his dad had drilled that into his head fairly heavily when he’d given it to him after Stiles had turned nineteen and gotten his gun license.

The gun safe was only in case of emergency. So far, three years strong, and no gun safe emergency.

Actually, twenty-two years strong, because Stiles was twenty-two now and to date, no one had been dumb enough to break into the sheriff’s house.

They drove in silence, Stiles fidgeting the whole time and wishing Derek would just turn on the radio or something. But, he just sat there and tolerated it, feeling the anger slowly mounting in the car. He didn’t know why Derek was so fucking angry with him, Stiles literally hadn’t asked for a ride. He was sitting at the damn bus stop!

Finally, after what felt like the longest car ride of his life, Derek pulled up to his house. The cruiser wasn’t there, meaning his dad was working the graveyard shift, but the porch light was on.

“Thanks f—”

“Get out.”

Stiles refused to try and understand how Derek’s brain worked, so he just obediently climbed out and slammed the door. Derek peeled away, tires squealing, the second the door was shut. Stiles just flipped him off as he drove away.

Sure, the guy had given him a ride home, but somehow Stiles felt inclined to believe Peter had called and bullied him into it or something. And if Matt hadn’t been at the bus stop harassing him, Stiles wouldn’t have taken him up on the offer anyway.

“You are going to make me hate my job,” he muttered, turning to head for the front door.

Fuck Derek Hale.


Stiles almost wanted to call in sick the following day, because he didn’t want to deal with Sir Scowly McEyebrows of the Grouchy table, but he was a good person who had responsibilities so he obediently went home to shower after class, being sure to do so quickly, and then headed out.

The Jeep was still in the shop, so he had to take the bus, but he made it there almost twenty minutes early, and perked up instantly when he saw Boyd counting down the till.

“Boyd, I could kiss you!”

“I don’t know that Erica would appreciate that,” Boyd informed him, offering him a small smile, though his nose turned up slightly, like Stiles smelled bad. He was almost at the point where he was going to fucking give up on the stench thing. “I see you survived your first shift with Derek.”

“Ugh, barely. That guy’s the fucking worst!”

Stiles only realized his mistake when he saw Boyd wince and he whipped around to look at the back door, realizing Derek was probably back there and Boyd had been on the morning shift.

Usually the tills weren’t counted down until the next shift started, but Boyd was probably eager to get out of there if Derek was around.

Dammit, Stiles had been hoping the others pitied him enough to switch out with him but apparently, no dice.

“Is he like this at home, too?” Stiles asked, lowering his voice and hoping it was low enough that Derek couldn’t hear him in the back.

Boyd just nodded, which meant Derek could hear him. Great. He was going to have a fun night.

“You haven’t quit yet, so that’s a good sign, at least.”

“The night’s still young,” Stiles muttered, moving towards the back room. Derek wasn’t anywhere in sight, which meant he was probably in the office. Isaac was there though, and he made a face when Stiles walked in.

He almost sighed, wondering if he should change his shampoo or something. He didn’t know what else to do, they all kept giving him those looks. He could only shower so many times a day!

“You survived. I’m impressed.” Isaac stood from tying his shoes and came over to Stiles while he shoved his bag into one of the lockers. He wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into his side. “You know, you deserve some kind of reward for your sacrifice. We’re all going to a movie on Sunday, Peter’s treat. He was going to close the shop for the day so we could all go. You should come.”

“I don’t think you should be inviting me to something Peter’s putting on,” Stiles insisted, grabbing his apron from his bag and wincing. He’d forgotten it in the washer until right before class had started, so it was all wrinkled. He was definitely going to hear about that.

“No way, Peter loves you. You should come. Come on, we’re gonna go watch some awesome action thriller. It’s A Howling Good Coffee employees outing. Come on. Come!” Isaac was practically nuzzling his head and Stiles just rolled his eyes.

“All right, fine, fine. I’ll come.”

“Awesome!” Isaac wrenched the apron from his hands, wincing at it, and then wandered back to the front with it.

Stiles didn’t pretend to know what he was doing. He just sighed and shut the locker, rubbing at his neck and hoping Derek wouldn’t be going to the movie, or it was going to be awkward.

He gave himself a minute to warm up in the back, because it was particularly cold out today and the front wasn’t exactly the warmest place in the world since the door opened and shut so often. He didn’t want to be ‘late,’ though, so he only made sure his fingers still worked before finally heading out to the front.

Boyd had already counted out the till and was on his way to the back door when Stiles exited, so he held it open for him.

“Thanks.” Boyd patted his shoulder on his way by and Stiles nodded before heading for the till.

He noticed the wolves all touched him a lot. He knew it was probably a wolf thing, but it was strange when he remembered his first few months there.

No one had been mean to him, because the other three were good people, but they’d made it a habit not to get too close to him. He assumed that over time, his obvious lack of care that they were Werewolves was appreciated and they started coming out of their shells more.

Then again, he and Isaac actually hung out every now and then outside of work. Isaac was a cool dude, and with no Scott to entertain Stiles, he was glad he had someone to hang out with every now and then. While he’d love to hang out with Boyd and Erica too, their schedules tended to clash. Either he was in class when they weren’t on shift, or he was working—sometimes with one of them.

It would be interesting to see how things went on Sunday with the whole group. It’d be fun to see their dynamic together in a more public setting.

Though, again, he was hoping for no Derek.

He had to chase after Isaac for his apron back, because apparently it was too clean or something and Isaac was busy pouring tea all over it and using it to clean counters like an asshole. Stiles didn’t get Werewolves and their issues with scents, but he supposed it was because he wasn’t one. He just knew something about his scent bothered them a lot, and he wished he could just ask them what it was.

He hadn’t, mostly because he wasn’t sure how to ask. Was it rude to just—to just ask? Or was that like asking a girl if she had her period? He didn’t know, there wasn’t etiquette class on this kind of thing in high school. He just knew pack questions were out because packs were just... packs. They were private. Unless the information was offered up, he wasn’t allowed to ask.

When he finally wrestled the apron back from Isaac, it was wet and stained and he glared at him, positive he was going to hear about that from Derek. He pulled it on anyway, getting himself organized for his shift and cleaning the coffee machine while Isaac cleared off the counter.

“I saw Matt yesterday,” Stiles told him while they both did their individual tasks.

“Really? That guy’s weird,” Isaac muttered. “He always gets turned on when he’s near you, it’s kind of gross.”

“Thanks Isaac,” Stiles said dryly. Things he didn’t need to know about people. Them getting turned on in his presence. Awesome.

“I don’t mean it as an insult, it’s just really unpleasant when he’s around.”

“For me, too,” Stiles muttered. “Kind of wish I could tell him to fuck off, but I can’t. So I just smile uncomfortably, get him his drink, and hope he leaves.”

“Yeah.” Isaac patted his arm on his way by, sliding his hand along his shoulder blades before letting it drop. “Well, I’m out before Derek emerges. He’s in a mood today, so have fun!”

“Thanks.” Stiles was sure he was going to have an awesome evening.

Isaac left the shop, and Boyd followed soon after, waving to Stiles before exiting the establishment. There was no one there right now, so Stiles just busied himself with cleaning the machines thoroughly and beginning to count the pastries.

It took almost twenty minutes for Derek to finally emerge, but he didn’t acknowledge him at all. Which suited Stiles just fine, because he wasn’t interested in acknowledging Derek, either. So they just stayed at opposite ends of the counter, doing their own thing.

When customers came in, Stiles welcomed them brightly and took their orders. Derek actually made drinks when they weren’t tea, which was surprising but also annoying because he was always rude with the customers about it when he set their drinks down. Stiles usually had to balance him out by being extra cheerful and throwing a few puns in there.

Except if the people coming in were rude assholes, then he was just polite enough to feel like a good person, but he didn’t try and smooth out the abrasiveness of Derek’s hard edge. If Stiles had to deal with him, assholes did, too. Stiles was only willing to be a buffer between Derek and nice customers.

When the evening was over, Stiles helped clean up, staying only a few minutes late since he was finishing up with the bathroom, but before he headed out, he was on his way to the door that led back out into the front of the shop so he could head for the entrance when he quite literally choked. Derek had grabbed his shirt to wrench him back and he let out a harsh cough, righting himself and pulling free from Derek, rubbing at his throat.

“What?” he asked, rather rudely. It occurred to him that this was literally the first word he’d said to Derek during their entire shift together.

“I’m driving you home.”

“Don’t bother, I can take the bus.”

Derek seemed to unfold himself, if that were even possible, because while he definitely hadn’t grown, he suddenly seemed entirely too large, looming over him and snarling slightly.

“I’m. Driving. You. Home.”

Stiles stared at him for a few seconds, the weight of Derek’s words rolling over him and almost trying to force him to submit. Deciding he didn’t want to submit, he figured he could just make it his own choice, so he rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sound, throwing both hands in the air before moving to sit down in one of the chairs in the back room.

Wouldn’t want to piss off the Alpha.

Derek eyed him for a second, as if unsure whether Stiles was going to make a break for it the second he turned his back, but he eventually returned to the office and Stiles slouched in his seat, pulling his phone out to text Scott and play some games.

He really didn’t get Derek. Guy was a colossal dick to him whenever they were near each other, and yet bullied him into waiting around so he could get driven home. He knew last night was likely Peter’s doing, but they’d both been mostly out front all evening and Stiles hadn’t seen Derek take his phone out once—if he even had one. And besides, Stiles was actually starting to wonder if Peter could even bully Derek into doing anything. Derek was the Alpha, so wouldn’t it be more likely that Derek could bully Peter into doing something as opposed to the other way around?

He tried not to dwell on it while he played Empires and Puzzles on his phone, cursing when he saw his stronghold had been attacked during his shift. He was still in the process of trying to kill another team in a raid so he could earn some trophies back when the office door opened. He wasn’t done with what he was doing, but he hit ‘auto’ so the cycle would continue on its own and hoped for the best, getting to his feet and shoving his phone back into his pocket.

Derek didn’t say a word to him while they closed up shop and headed out to the back lot where his Camaro was. Stiles climbed in once the door was unlocked, and was glad to be sitting down first, because it gave him the chance to buckle himself in before Derek hit the gas and they shot out of the lot.

He noticed Derek wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. He hadn’t really been paying attention last night, but tonight, it was pretty clear given he’d climbed in and gunned the engine.

“You should wear your seatbelt.”

Derek didn’t even deign him with a response.

“You know that ninety percent of car crash fatalities are because people aren’t wearing seatbelts, right?”

“Werewolf,” Derek snapped, as if hoping that would be the end of the conversation.

“You might be, but I’m not. If we get hit on your side of the car, you’re going to crash into me and the impact of your skull hitting mine will most definitely kill me. I can’t heal like you can, and there have been multiple studies of one person in a car not wearing a seatbelt being the cause of death of the other passengers in the car.”

Stiles jerked into his seatbelt hard when the car slammed to a halt. He assumed Derek was going to growl for him to get out, but when he looked up, he saw they’d stopped at a red light. He turned back to glare at Derek, and found him already looking back at him. He was much more practised at the scowly angry look, probably because that was just how his face always was.

Very deliberately, while keeping eye contact, Derek reached back with one hand, grabbed his seatbelt, slowly started to pull it across his chest, and then buckled it in. Stiles thought he was going to slice through it with his claws or something as a protest, so he was a little surprised to have Derek actually buckle himself in.

“Thank you.”

“Now shut up.”

Ah, that explained it. He just wanted Stiles to stop talking. Well, whatever, so long as he practised safe driving.

Which Derek didn’t, not really. He hit the gas again when the light turned green and Stiles kept jerking painfully against his seatbelt. He almost reached up to grab the ‘oh shit’ handle, but didn’t want Derek to feel satisfied in having forced him to go that far.

The rest of the drive was conducted in silence and when Derek came to a stop outside Stiles’ house, he climbed out quickly, throwing back a muted ‘thanks,’ and had barely shut the door when Derek was peeling off down the street again.

Stiles really didn’t get this guy.

He also really, really hoped he wasn’t coming on Sunday.


“You’ve been in a mood the past few texts, what’s on your mind?” Scott asked, sitting at the counter in his small apartment and eating some cereal. Stiles knew with the time difference that it was closer to noon than anything, but he and Scott were nothing if not firm believers of breakfast being the first meal of the day. Even when Stiles woke up at three in the afternoon, it was breakfast food or nothing.

He and Scott hadn’t had the chance to actually speak for the past few days, so Stiles had only been able to aggressively voice his displeasure through text. It was hard to convey messages accurately through text messages, but boy did Stiles ever try!

“New boss at work,” Stiles muttered. “Well, new shift lead, I should say. Big boss’ nephew. He’s got quite the personality, nobody likes working with him. Not sure how I got shafted, but I’ve worked every shift with him since he got here and I’m ready to commit murder.”

“That sucks,” Scott said sympathetically. “Can’t you tell your boss? Like, big boss?”

“I mean, I’m pretty sure he knows. The others I’m working with all think that he’s doing it either because he wants me to quit, or because he thinks highly of me. I’m more inclined to believe he wants me to quit.”

“You should still talk to him. If he actually did it because he thinks highly of you, maybe he’ll realize this is a bad idea if you say it’s driving you towards quitting.”

“I will not yield first!” Stiles insisted, pointing his own spoon at his phone and narrowing his eyes. “I’m not a quitter! I will beat him into submission!”

Scott snorted and rolled his eyes. “Sure. You’re going to beat someone into submission. With what muscles?”

Stiles sputtered, offended. “I have muscles!” he insisted. “And I meant with my stubbornness! I will out-stubborn the shit out of that guy!”

“Whatever you say,” Scott said with an endearing smile.

Stiles just pointed his spoon at him again before shovelling another bite of coco puffs into his mouth.

He and Scott talked about his job a lot, but Stiles made sure not to provide any names. While neither of them had ever spoken about their stance on the Supernatural, Stiles liked to think Scott was okay with it. He felt Scott should know how Stiles felt about it, considering his dad, but because it was never spoken about, Stiles felt more comfortable keeping the fact that he worked with a bunch of Werewolves to himself. He didn’t want his relationship with Scott to suffer because he found out he was speciesist. It was best to avoid the topic altogether.

Still, he felt like Scott and Isaac would probably get along really well. Isaac was kind of a mix of Scott and Stiles, he thought, so if he got on well with Stiles, he’d probably get along with Scott, too. And Lord knew they both needed more friends, considering they basically had each other, for the most part.

Though Scott had made some friends in New York, but Stiles felt like they weren’t super close friends. Scott was almost always available when Stiles called him, which led him to believe he didn’t hang out with anyone.

The only times Scott ignored his phone was when his girlfriend Kira Yukimura was visiting. She was a Supernatural, as well, but only just. To most people, a Kitsune didn’t count, which was why Stiles didn’t feel comfortable telling Scott about Werewolves. Kitsunes were different, they were just Fox spirits. Werewolves were, well, wolves. They were people who could partially turn into wolves, and they were more well-known and hated overall. Kitsunes weren’t even on people’s radar, and Kira was basically human, in Stiles’ opinion.

Either way, he still didn’t want to mention his cool new Werewolf friends, just in case.

“Got plans for the day?” Scott asked, standing and moving out of frame, presumably to put his bowl in the sink.

“Yeah, heading out to catch a movie with some work friends. Hoping the douche isn’t going to be there.”

“Right.” Scott returned, sitting back down.

“What about you?”

“Nah, just homework.” Scott tilted his head slightly. “Hey, whatever happened to that dude who always comes in? The one who’s hitting on you? Michael?”

“Ugh. Matt.” Stiles made a face. “Still coming around. Still hitting on me. I feel like I need to be more direct or something. Like, tattoo it on my forehead. ‘Not interested.’”

Scott snorted, crossing his arms. The muscles bulged, and Stiles was always surprised to find that Scott was really filling out lately. Over the past few years apart, he’d been bulking up, he looked really buff, now. It was weird, because with Scott’s asthma, he’d struggled to do any weight lifting in the gym when he and Stiles used to go to get ready for Lacrosse season. Now, though, he looked really good.

Stiles was happy, if a little jealous. He was allowed to be jealous as long as he was supportive!

“I think if you tattooed that on your forehead, you’d find yourself single forever.”

“Dude, I am going to be single forever. I don’t see a line-up out the door.” Stiles sighed and dropped his spoon on the counter, picking up his bowl and slurping down the milk that had taken on a slightly chocolate flavour given the cereal. He licked his lips while setting it back down and shrugged. “I’m not really people’s type. It’s cool. I’ll just live vicariously through you.”

“You’ll find someone eventually, Stiles. You just need to get out there and show people how amazing you are.”

“Nice speech, Scotty,” Stiles teased, rolling his eyes, then checking the time on the stove before standing. “Anyway, I should go or I’m gonna be late. Talk to you later?”

“Sure. Whenever you’re back, just shoot me a text.”

“Cool. Hope homework goes well.” He grinned and winked. Scott groaned and hung up on him, but Stiles just laughed, trying to ignore the ache in his chest.

No matter how often he and Scott spoke, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t enough. He really missed him, and he wished he could figure out a way to get him back before the end of the year.

They both still had one more year of university left. He didn’t know if he could survive another full year without Scott.


The first person Stiles saw when he walked into the large movie theatre and looked around for his co-workers was Derek. He would’ve turned and walked right back out if not for them being Werewolves. Everyone immediately turned, as if smelling his entrance, and Isaac grinned before waving him over. No way for him to sneak out now, which was a shame.

He wanted to hang out with everyone, he just didn’t want ‘everyone’ to include Derek. He saw him enough at work. It had only been four days of working with the guy, and already he wanted to quit. There was only so much he could take.

“Stiles,” Peter said fondly when he approached, patting him on the shoulder and rubbing at his back. “You made it. Good.”

“You’re late,” was Derek’s greeting for him.

“He’s not late,” Boyd said calmly. “He arrived ahead of the movie’s commencement.” Boyd walked past him, placing one hand on his shoulder. “I’m getting the popcorn, you want anything?”

“I’m good, thanks.” Stiles could tell Erica and Isaac wanted to hug him, but they seemed to be holding back a little because of Derek, who was standing just that little bit away from them to show he wasn’t happy to be there with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.

“Does his face have any other setting?” Stiles asked, motioning Derek and turning to Peter.

The man sighed. “Alas, no.”

Derek turned back to them, scowling even more, his eyes flashing red. Peter’s flashed blue in response, and Stiles really hoped they weren’t going to start another fight. He didn’t need that in his life right now, he was just here to watch Venom.

“Who let the dogs out?”

Stiles honestly hadn’t even really thought of the words he’d just heard, especially given it was a song—that was now going to be stuck in his head for hours, thanks dude—but the way all the wolves around him stiffened made him realize they meant nothing to him because he was a human.

“They know this is an animal-free zone, right?”

Stiles turned to see who was speaking and saw a group of guys a little ways from them giving them all disgusted looks. Though he did notice one of them was giving Erica a lecherous once-over like a fucking scumbag. Apparently they weren’t disgusting enough to not be aesthetically pleasing, which was fucking bullshit, in Stiles’ opinion.

“Do they serve kibble at concession?” one of them asked his friend.

“As long as their owners clean up after their mess,” another replied.

Stiles could tell the Werewolves were getting pissed, but they all kept their mouths shut. Which surprised Stiles a little bit, because Peter especially usually didn’t take that. Then again, that was in his coffeeshop, and they were currently in a public setting.

He wanted to ignore them and pretend he wasn’t hearing anything, but Stiles wasn’t like that. There was a saying about how the only way for bad people to succeed was for good people to stand around and do nothing. The wolves didn’t look like they were going to say anything, but Stiles wasn’t okay with this. People were assholes for no good fucking reason and he hadn’t been raised to tolerate that bullshit.

When one more derogatory comment came out of the men’s mouths, something particularly foul about Erica that had Boyd turning angrily from his spot in line a little to their left, Stiles had had enough and he rounded on them, taking a few angry steps in their direction.

“What’s your problem, man?” he demanded, not being stupid enough to get right in the guy’s face, but close enough that it was clear he was talking to him.

“Aw, what’s the matter, little wolf?” one of them sneered at Stiles. “Did we hurt your little animal feelings?”

“I’m human, dipshit,” Stiles snapped, because he needed to make it clear to them he was an ally, and not reacting badly because he felt personally offended.

Well, actually, he did feel personally offended. These were his friends—barring Derek—and he didn’t want to listen to people degrade them and compare them to animals just because they were fucking jealous of them.

“Oh,” one of the guys said, moving closer so he was right in Stiles’ personal space. He had the most foul-smelling cologne on that had Stiles want to gag, and was wearing a polo shirt with the collar popped up. Some kind of preppy jock asshole, which explained a lot about why he was being such a dick for no reason. Stiles dubbed him Polly in his head, because someone as threatened as this dude probably felt emasculated having people as attractive as Isaac and—he’d admit it—Derek in his general vicinity.

“Human, huh?” Polly continued with a smarmy smirk. “What, you such a loser you can’t find real friends? Have to resort to animals?”

“Bet he’s fucking them,” another one of the guys said, approaching Polly. He also had a popped collar, though he was wearing a button-down with the sleeves rolled back. He looked like a Chad if Stiles had ever seen one. “Maybe he’s their human fucktoy. That it?” He reached out to ruffle Stiles’ hair, and it took all his self-control not to punch him in the face. For the hair ruffle, not the comment. He’d be lucky to get fucked by any of the attractive people behind him. “You into beastiality, little man?”

“If you want a good, solid pounding, I’m sure that can be arranged for you.” Polly grinned. “You’ve got a good mouth, I’m sure I could pretend you were some bitch sucking my dick.”

When he reached out for Stiles’ face, Stiles felt the energy behind him shift, like the wolves were ready to pounce. Stiles just slapped the guy’s hand away impatiently. It wasn’t the first time assholes had commented on his mouth looking like a good place to slot their dicks. It made him feel like a lot of people in Beacon Hills were closeted, because nobody should be that interested in sticking their dick in his mouth unless they found him at least somewhat attractive.

“What’s wrong, you jealous Erica’s dick is bigger than yours?” Stiles retorted, because these guys looked like the kind of people who would take a blow to their ego hard.

He almost smiled when he heard Erica snort behind him.

Polly’s expression darkened, eyes narrowing. “What’d you say, you little pissant?”

“Did I stutter?” Stiles asked jovially, smiling sarcastically at him. “I think I was pretty clear. Must be hard masturbating, you need tweezers to find your dick down there?”

Polly had just reached forward to fist the front of Stiles’ shirt, and Stiles had just resigned himself to getting punched in the face—he was really much better with his words than his fists—but just as the hand was about to grab at his shirt, another shot out and closed around Polly’s wrist hard enough for the bones to grind together.

Chad took a step back and all the other guys in the background went silent, all eyes on Derek who’d stepped forward to stop Polly from touching Stiles.

His eyes were red, but the rest of his features remained human.

“Walk away,” he said darkly, tightening his grip on Polly’s wrist so that the man winced. “I’m not in the mood.”

He released him and Polly took two quick steps back, rubbing at his injured wrist. He eyed Derek, as if debating taking this further, but then seemed to remember there was a whole pack behind him, and while Polly and Chad had a bunch of buff friends with them, they were no match for Werewolves.

So instead, he just scoffed and turned his nose up at them. “Whatever. Have fun fucking your human cumbucket, wolf.”

He turned to stalk back to his friends, who’d begun heading off quickly towards one of the theatres.

“Have fun with your tweezers!” Stiles called after him, because he was determined to get the last word.

He saw Polly shoot him a filthy look over his shoulder, but he didn’t stop and Stiles felt pretty good about that.

At least, he did, until Derek rounded on him and bared his teeth angrily. So fangs were a no-go for people insulting them, but apparently fangs and distorted features were okay when bearing down on Stiles.

Rude.

“What the fuck is your problem?!” Derek demanded angrily, voice only slightly lower than a shout. A few people had turned to look, but nobody seemed brave enough to come over and ask Stiles if he was okay.

Which was fine, because he was, if not a little annoyed.

“Derek—” Erica started, but he held up a hand to her and she shut her mouth. Damn Alphas.

“Do you have any idea how that could’ve escalated for us?!” Derek demanded, Boyd having wandered back over from the concession. He didn’t have any food, which meant he’d just left the line to ensure nothing bad was about to happen. Stiles even felt Peter in his personal space behind him, like everyone was bracing for a fight with their Alpha.

“Dude,” Stiles insisted. “Chill. I was just—”

“Well don’t!” Derek roared. A lot of the area went silent, but when Stiles looked around and waved one hand dismissively, people hastily cleared out so that they weren’t quite so close. He did notice a security guard moving a bit closer, eyes on them and hand on his walkie-talkie, like he was ready to call the cops at a moment’s notice.

Stiles looked back at Derek while the Alpha continued to berate him, as if he had any right to expect Stiles’ respect given he was human and did not answer to him, not to mention he was rude as fuck.

“You’re a human,” Derek snarled at him. “You are a white, human male. You can get away with shit like that! We can’t!” He motioned the others and himself angrily with a wave of his hand. “If this had turned into a fight, I’m the one who would’ve spent the night in jail, not you, and not them!”

Stiles was offended about that, because he knew all of the cops in Beacon Hills personally, and none of them barring perhaps Haigh would ever arrest someone without cause. Shit, if his dad or Parrish had shown up, they would’ve asked for the full story and probably slapped a fine on the douchebags for being discriminatory. Stiles didn’t know if that was a thing, but considering how noble his dad was, and the fact that Parrish was also a Supernatural being, he wouldn’t put it past them to punish people being speciesist.

Returning to the argument at hand, Stiles said, “I didn’t ask you to come to my defence. You did that all on your own.”

“Well next time,” Derek snarled, unfolding himself so he seemed eight feet tall instead of just six feet, “I won’t!”

“Good!” Stiles snapped.

“Fine!” Derek shot back angrily.

Peter let out an aggrieved sigh behind Stiles, then moved to the left so he could stand beside both of them, looking back and forth between them.

“If you’re both done flirting now, the movie’s going to start.”

Stiles would’ve argued that they were not flirting, but the scathing look Derek shot him did enough for the both of them so he just let that comment drop.

“I’m just gonna go,” Stiles said instead, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Not in the mood for a movie anymore.”

“Nonsense!” Peter insisted before Stiles could make a break for it. He threw one arm around his shoulders and turned them both around, dragging him towards one of the theatres. “I already have your ticket. You can sit between Isaac and I, we can relegate my nephew to the end of the row where only Boyd will have to deal with him.”

“Thanks,” Boyd muttered, following along. “What have I done to piss you off lately, Peter?”

“Oh, I’m sure I can think of a few things.” Peter offered him a smile. “Popcorn, Boyd?”

With a deep sigh, Boyd turned and headed back for the line-up once Peter handed him his own ticket. Stiles felt a little guilty, because the only reason he’d left it to begin with was because of him. He didn’t have the chance to really do anything about it though because Peter was dragging him towards their theatre, giving the tickets to the usher and then entering the dark room.

The screen was still playing the pre-show, but Stiles watched it anyway, almost tripping on the stairs on his way up to their seats. As promised, he sat down with Peter on his right, and Isaac on his left. Erica was on Isaac’s other side, with an empty seat left for Boyd, Derek taking up the aisle seat.

When Boyd arrived, Stiles had no idea how he’d carried everything, because he had so much stuff it shouldn’t have been possible. Isaac put his drink down in the spot between him and Stiles, telling him he was welcome to share if he wanted.

Stiles took that to mean he could have the whole thing, pretty much, because halfway through the movie he found himself sucking air through the straw. He felt bad about that, but Isaac didn’t seem to mind. Stiles blamed it on the popcorn, because Boyd had bought him a small popcorn with extra butter and it was making his mouth dry.

The movie was actually pretty good. Better than he’d been anticipating, if he was honest. He hadn’t had high hopes for it because the trailers hadn’t looked great, so it was nice to be able to walk out feeling like he’d enjoyed it.

When they got outside, the others were talking about dinner, and while Stiles could tell there was a bit of a hint that he was invited, he didn’t have the money for it with tuition coming up again in the new year so he just stayed silent while they spoke about it.

When the opportunity presented itself, he politely told them he was going to head home. He saw Isaac deflate and Boyd frown a little, but it was Erica who spoke.

“You’re thick, we were inviting you to come without actually saying it. It’s still a work outing.”

“Thanks, but I really can’t. My Jeep’s still in the shop and tuition’s coming up. Maybe next time.” He made it very clear in his emphasis that he wasn’t going to accept someone paying for him so they let it drop.

He started to wave and turn so he could leave, but Derek grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him in another direction quite forcefully, walking behind him a few steps before moving beside him and impatiently motioning for him to head for his Camaro.

“I’ll meet you at the restaurant,” Derek said over his shoulder.

Stiles still had no idea what the fuck was going on, because Derek still hated him, but he was just so fucking weird.

He followed Derek to the Camaro without complaint, because anything was better than riding the bus in the middle of the day on a Sunday, and climbed in once the door was unlocked. He was gratified when Derek buckled in, and while he still drove like a maniac, he had to tone it down a little since it wasn’t the middle of the night and there were more cars out on the road.

They both rode in silence, as always, and once the car stopped in front of his house, Stiles turned to Derek.

“Why do you drive me home all the time?” he asked, because by God, he was going to get an answer if it killed him. “You don’t even like me.”

Derek turned to scowl at him. “Because they like you.”

Stiles scoffed. “You don’t even seem to like them, from the looks of things.”

He heard creaking, eyes shooting to Derek’s hands clenching the steering wheel. “They’re mine,” Derek said, forcing Stiles’ gaze back to his face. “They belong to me. So I care about them. And they care about you. Annoyingly.” He faced forward once more. “Now get out.”

Stiles rolled his eyes but still muttered a thanks while exiting the car, slamming the door and watching Derek peel away from the curb. He really didn’t get that guy, but at least it was nice he cared about his pack.

He wandered into the house a few minutes later, having stayed outside pondering the enigma that was Derek Hale. His dad was watching TV in the living room, but turned when he entered and fell onto the couch.

“How was the movie?”

“Pretty good, actually. You’d hate it.”

“Hm.” His dad sipped at the beer in his hand. “So,” he said casually, which had Stiles tensing immediately. “Noticed you got dropped off by Derek Hale. Didn’t realize he was back in town.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said cautiously, eyes on the TV. “He was at the outing.”

“This work outing you went to. For the coffeeshop you work at.”

Uh oh, Stiles realized. Because his dad knew perfectly well that Peter Hale owned a coffeeshop in town, and while Stiles hadn’t immediately made the connection about Derek and Peter since he knew very little about the Hales as a whole, his dad had been involved in the investigation when the Hale house burned down and knew perfectly well that Derek was Peter’s nephew.

“Yup,” Stiles said, popping the ‘p’ and continuing to watch the television.

His dad turned it off, which was bad, because it was baseball so if his dad was turning it off, it meant he was in trouble.

“Stiles, why didn’t you tell me you worked for Peter Hale?”

“Didn’t I?” Stiles asked, turning to him and feigning innocence. “Could’ve sworn I did.”

“Stiles,” his dad said, using The Tone.

Man, he was so not in the mood for this right now.

“Dad, it’s not a big deal, okay? They’re all really nice, and I like my job.” He didn’t mention Derek was a bit of a dick and making him slowly hate his job, but that was neither here nor there.

“I’m not going to tell you not to work there, Stiles, I just wish you’d told me. It’s dangerous working in that area, and everyone knows the Howling coffee place only employs Werewolves. People are going to think you’re one of them and then what?”

“Then I sue them and can afford to pay off all my debts when they come at me and I don’t end up being a Werewolf.” Stiles shrugged. “Pops, it’s fine. And nothing’s ever happened, it’s actually really chill. People like the place, and sure it gets vandalized, but never while anyone’s in there.”

His dad still didn’t look happy about it, but more likely because he’d omitted rather than because he worked there. Though maybe also a tiny bit because he worked there.

“Dad, it’s fine.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”


Working with Derek was making Stiles hate his life a lot. If he thought the others gave him weird looks when he walked in, it was nothing to what Derek did. He always looked like Stiles personally offended him with his hygiene, which was getting kind of frustrating because Stiles could literally do nothing further to improve what he smelled like. He showered as much as he could, it wasn’t his fault they didn’t like how he smelled.

Maybe it was his natural scent. Everyone had a natural smell unique to them, maybe his was just particularly foul to Werewolves. There wasn’t anything he could do about that!

It made him want to just douse himself with coffee or something, which would be relatively easy given where he worked, not to mention the messes he cleaned up. Like right now, for example, because he was in the process of wiping down the counter after a particularly nasty spill from one of the patrons. He’d just about finished up clearing the worst of it when the door opened and he groaned internally.

Matt had just walked in and he made a bee-line for the counter, smiling at Stiles and leaning forward slightly so they were closer together. Stiles just straightened, having mostly finished mopping up the mess anyway, though Matt had his arms in the residue, now. He probably couldn’t feel it through his thick coat.

It looked expensive, which meant Matt had money. Which meant he was used to getting what he wanted. That kind of explained why he wasn’t paying attention to Stiles’ very clear ‘not interested’ signals.

“Hey Stiles.”

“Hi Matt. The usual?” he turned to get his drink started, wanting him gone as quickly as possible, though he knew it wasn’t that easy. It was never that easy.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” Matt said from behind him. Stiles turned to give him a small nod and saw Matt’s eyes shoot back to his face. Great, he’d been checking out his ass. This guy was so fucking creepy. He was the kind of person who peeped through people’s windows at night.

Stiles tried his best to just ignore that he was there, grabbing what he needed quickly and turning back to make his drink at the coffee machine. He liked a whole bunch of weird green tea shit in his coffee, so Stiles always had to grab the tea stuff first.

“So how’ve you been?” Matt asked, moving over on the other side of the counter so he and Stiles were facing one another while he worked at the coffee machine.

“Fine. How are you?” Stiles asked, because he was polite.

“I’m good. Better now, being in here. I love the coffee here, but it always tastes extra special when you make him.” He offered Stiles an awkward wink. Stiles didn’t know how to react to that so he just kept staring down at the metal cup he was using to heat up the milk in, pretending he hadn’t even seen the wink.

“You have any plans for the winter holidays this year?”

“It’s still over a month away,” Stiles informed him instead of answering, pouring his drink into a to go cup and slapping a lid on it. Matt hadn’t technically said it was to go, but Stiles was nothing if not optimistic! He moved back to the till, setting it down and waiting for Matt to pay. He hadn’t even gone for his wallet yet.

“I know,” he said, leaning forward on the counter again, having followed Stiles back.

Stiles really wished he’d just pay and leave. If he wanted to get harassed and hit on by creepers, he’d go to a club.

“But I figured school’s gonna be out for both of us by then. Maybe we could hang o—”

“Hey!”

Both Stiles and Matt jumped at the snarl and Stiles whipped around to see Derek at the back door, looking livid.

Christ, what now?!

“We don’t pay you to socialize, get back to work. I have shit I need you to get done before the day’s over.”

“Sorry,” Stiles said, even though he wasn’t at all, and was actually super grateful because Derek was inadvertently saving him from Matt by being pissed he was ‘socializing.’ He turned back to Matt, offering a weak smile. “Sorry, back to work. That’ll be four-seventy.”

Matt scowled at Derek, who just stood at the back door glaring back with his arms crossed. He seemed to realize he wasn’t going to win the staring contest because he pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and handed it over to Stiles.

“Keep the change.” He winked again.

Thirty cents. Golly gee, Stiles could pay for his tuition with all that tip money!

“Thanks for stopping by.” Stiles couldn’t even muster up a half-hearted pun for him. Puns were reserved for the nice customers and the newbies, not for assholes and creepers.

He watched Matt leave the coffeeshop, Derek still hovering by the back door. Once he’d exited and the front door eased to a close behind him, Stiles let out a slow breath and turned to Derek with a sense of trepidation. Something unpleasant was in his future, he could feel it.

“What’s up? What do you need?”

Derek was still glaring at the front door, but he shifted his gaze to Stiles when he spoke.

Then they stared at each other. Stiles raised his eyebrows, waiting for his orders, but Derek just levelled him with a hard glare.

“Clean some machines or something,” he finally snapped, and turned to disappear into the back once more.

Stiles rolled his eyes, annoyed and not understanding the guy, but he obediently started cleaning the coffee machine. He usually did it regularly anyway when there was a lull, it helped ensure there was no build-up. He also did the pastry inventory to ensure they had enough to fill up the display in the morning. Sometimes they ran out of muffins, and their customers were not happy about it. Muffins appeared to be their favourite, which Stiles kind of liked because Erica was the one who made them.

And they were pretty delicious, but he felt like it was mostly because they weren’t the same generic ones as other places. They didn’t have things like carrot, and chocolate chip, and blueberry. Their four muffins were maple pecan, strawberry rhubarb, chocolate peanut butter and for some inexplicable reason, cheesy jalapeno. They were the only place in town where people could get these muffins and during the morning shift, they sold out like wildfire. Stiles didn’t often work the morning shifts because of his classes—though he did occasionally when he was scheduled on the day he had his night class—but it was hell once they sold out because people were not nice about it.

Stiles was in the middle of checking out another customer, offering one of his puns—“Enjoy your iced coffee! They’re cool beans!”—when the door opened and Boyd walked in.

Frowning, he watched Boyd head for the back room, and a few moments later, he re-emerged pulling his apron on over his head and tying it off.

“Hey,” Stiles said cautiously, confused. Was he being sent home or something? “What’s up?”

“Derek had to go,” Boyd explained. “Something happened with his work.”

“Oh.” Stiles had had no idea. Which made sense, he supposed, since he and Derek literally never spoke unless Derek was being rude to him. The guy really needed to work on his interpersonal skills.

Though apparently Derek had another job? Doing what, making people miserable? Stiles didn’t know they paid people to do that, assholes were free!

He stood there pondering what possible job Derek could have before giving up. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Can I stop you?” Boyd asked, expression neutral but tone giving away that he was teasing.

Stiles grinned at him, Boyd wandering past him and patting his shoulder while heading for the schedule on the other counter.

“What’s Derek’s job? Like, what does he do aside from bully me?”

“He’s a writer,” Boyd informed him, not even commenting on the bullying because he probably knew it was true. “A really good one. Famous one, actually.”

What?

“Wait, Derek’s a writer?” What did he write, books on how to make people quit their jobs? “A famous one?”

“Yeah, really big name author,” Boyd informed him.

Okay, seriously, what?!

“How come I’ve never heard about his books?” Stiles asked. “I mean, not that I’ve ever actively gone looking for them or anything considering I only just found out about this, but if he’s some kind of hotshot writer that people read all the time, how come no one knows about him? You’d think the whole town would be all over that, but I’ve never heard anyone mention a book by him.”

Boyd seemed to hesitate for a moment, flipping through the schedule for a bit before he said, “He writes under a pseudonym. Only a few people in town know it’s him, but no one really spreads it around to avoid causing him problems. People would start boycotting his books if they knew a Werewolf was the one writing them, so it’s mostly a few really big supporters who know. He doesn’t do signings and his picture isn’t in the back of the book, so no one who doesn’t already know it’s him can figure it out.”

“Oh.” Stiles supposed that made sense. After all, the town was almost evenly split between supporters and haters of Werewolves. “Uh, am I allowed to ask what it is? His pseudonym, I mean.”

Boyd glanced up at him, eyebrows raised.

Stiles waived one hand. “I’m not going to tell anyone. I guess I’m just curious about what he writes, is all.”

They stared at one another for a moment, then Boyd dropped the page he was looking at and walked across the area to the back door once more. Stiles’ stomach clenched at the thought that maybe he’d crossed some kind of line he hadn’t been aware of.

He was in the middle of trying to figure out how to fix this when Boyd came back out carrying a worn paperback book. He moved over to Stiles and held it out.

The thing looked terrible, spine bent and peeling, cover faded and cracked, pages ear-marked and ripped.

“This is his first book,” Boyd explained when Stiles made no move to take it. “It’s my favourite of his.”

“Clearly,” Stiles said, trying for a small smile, but he still took the battered book in both hands as cautiously as he could, checking the cover.

When he saw the author, he was actually surprised, because he had heard about him. He’d heard a lot about him, because his books were at the top of the best seller’s list for months, almost never being unseated because he churned new ones out so fast.

The book he held was under the name ‘Michael Wolfe.’ Stiles knew his father’s name had been Michael, and well, the last name seemed pretty obvious. A little on the nose for Stiles’ taste, but whatever. He looked over the title, ‘Catalyst,’ and then flipped it over to read the back.

Stiles was a little surprised by the synopsis. He hadn’t exactly been sure what he’d been expecting, but it sounded kind of Sherlock Holmes-ish. It was about two detectives who helped the police solve murders, but no one knew they were Supernatural beings. One was a Warlock, and the other was a Necromancer, so while their detective skills were top class, their Supernatural boost made it easier for them to solve crime.

“This actually sounds pretty good,” Stiles admitted, starting to hand it back.

“You can borrow it,” Boyd said. “Give it a read. If you like it, let me know. We have his whole series at home.”

“This is a series?” Stiles asked.

“Yeah, his more popular one. He’s got four ongoing series right now, but this is the one he works on the most. People really like it.”

“Cool, thanks!” Stiles was actually kind of excited to read about it. He knew being aware that an asshole like Derek had written it might influence his ability to enjoy it, but he’d at least give it a try.

The rest of the shift was spent in enjoyable company, Stiles’ mood improving now that he didn’t have a dick to deal with, and at the end of the shift, Boyd offered him a ride home. Thankfully his Jeep was scheduled to be picked up in the morning, so he wouldn’t have to worry about the bus anymore, but for tonight he did accept the offer since he didn’t want to end up waiting at the bus stop in the cold again.

He and Boyd chatted about the next outing Peter was planning—a dinner at a fancy buffet, apparently—and Boyd was very insistent that Stiles was invited. Stiles always felt uncomfortable because it was never Peter who invited him, but the others. Then again, Peter never seemed to mind when he showed up so it kind of reinforced the whole ‘Peter felt like Stiles could handle Derek and wasn’t trying to get him to quit’ thing. Though only just.

Once he got home, Stiles showered thoroughly, being sure to scrub extra hard to ensure any and all unpleasant scents would leave his skin before morning. He wasn’t working the following day, but the more he cleaned himself, the better he would smell, he was sure.

Ready for bed and crawling under the covers, Stiles kept his nightstand light on and grabbed the book Boyd had lent him. He stared at the cover for a long while before finally sighing and flipping to the first page, beginning to read.

He hadn’t expected the book to start on an action sequence right away, which was unfortunate for him because he ended up super engrossed in the book and by the time he realized what time it was, he was halfway through chapter five and there were bodies hanging from the rafters of one of the detectives’ homes. But it was also three in the morning, so Stiles forced himself to put it down and then rolled over to try and get some sleep.

That lasted all of five minutes before he was sitting up and grabbing the book again.

He could just get coffee on his way to class. No big deal.

No big deal.


Stiles flew into the coffeeshop two days later, hurrying to the counter where Boyd was counting down the till and Isaac was cleaning one of the coffee machines. Stiles slammed both hands on the counter, Boyd cocking an eyebrow at him.

Stiles mouthed ‘is he here?’ and motioned the back door, and when Boyd nodded, he just flailed spastically and jumped up and down a few times before pulling the book out of his bag and shaking it at Boyd with both hands.

Boyd let out a small chuckle and took it from Stiles, pantomiming that he’d bring him the next one later. Stiles pulled out his phone and typed out a message for him not to bother since he’d already bought it and was halfway through it. Boyd let out a louder laugh at that.

“What’s going on over here?” Isaac demanded, leaning in beside Boyd. He winced when he got close to Stiles, lips downturned, but said nothing while Stiles typed out a message and turned his phone once more, informing Isaac that he was reading Derek’s books but that Derek could not know.

“Good, right?” Isaac asked with an impish grin.

“Oh my God,” Stiles moaned, the sound of it positively filthy, but that was how he felt. The books were orgasmic. How someone like Derek could fucking write like that, he had no idea. “I stayed up all night on the first. I like, I can’t even handle it. I feel like I’m dying right now.”

The back door slammed open hard enough for it to hit the opposite wall, Derek walking out with a scowl on his face. His black shirt was sticking to his skin, it was so tight, every muscle clearly defined, and he had his apron around his waist, like he always did.

If he weren’t such a dick, Stiles would have a crush on him.

“If you’re going to die, do it after your shift. You’re late.”

“I’m not late,” Stiles informed him, mood souring instantly. He noticed Boyd tucking the book away out of sight, and was grateful.

Then again, it might have been for Boyd’s own benefit rather than Stiles’, considering it would suggest he’d admitted that Derek was Michael Wolfe.

“I’m still early,” Stiles informed him, “my shift starts in seven minutes.”

“And it’ll take you ten to get ready, because you’re slow.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, does my human movement inconvenience you? Am I not moving fast enough for your wolf liking?” Stiles snapped, good mood instantly gone.

He was never letting Derek know about how much he liked his books. Never.

Stomping to the end of the counter and back around it, he shoved himself past Derek into the back room, not really having to work at it since Derek moved instantly before Stiles could touch him. At least that was one thing Stiles had going for him: Derek didn’t want him touching him. Stiles felt like he could chase Derek around the coffeeshop with his hand outstretched and Derek would run like they were playing a game of tag and he didn’t want to be it.

He threw his things angrily into his locker, pulling off his coat and grabbing his apron, yanking it on over his head and arguing vehemently with Derek in his head. His imagination self was very loquacious and always put Derek in his place. He wished he could be that good in person, but alas, he was not.

Hell, the only reason Stiles had even come through the front door today was to avoid Derek as long as possible. He had the Jeep back, so he’d parked it behind the shop, thus technically being able to come into the back room through the door that led out to the lot, but Derek was always in the back, so he didn’t do that.

By the time he was out front, the other three immediately stopped speaking and he scowled, wondering what Derek was saying about him since he knew Boyd and Isaac had his back. Maybe Derek was using his Alpha status to tell them to stop being so friendly with him, but even if he had, it obviously hadn’t worked. Isaac gave him a huge hug on his way by, ruffling his hair and grinning at Stiles’ annoyed exclamation. Boyd patted his shoulder, as he often did, and the two of the disappeared into the back.

Stiles just went straight to the till and began to organize the area a little bit, Derek standing unmoving behind him. He didn’t have time for this stupid speciesist bullshit, so he just ignored him.

His mood only soured when he glanced up ten seconds later to find Matt walking in, beaming like Stiles was the fucking light of his life. He moved right up to the counter, and Stiles heard Derek inhaling deeply behind him, as if trying to find patience.

“Hey Stiles,” Matt said with a smile, eyes flicking past him to Derek and hardening slightly. “How’s it going?”

“Super,” Stiles replied, trying not to sound too sarcastic. “The usual?”

“Actually, maybe something different this time. What do you recommend?”

Fuck, Stiles was not in the mood for this. “I don’t know, what do you like?”

“Surprise me, then.”

Stiles was going to quit. Fuck working here, he could just hang out with Boyd, Isaac and Erica outside of work. He’d find another job, he could utilize his amazing punning skills elsewhere. He didn’t need to deal with this kind of—

Stiles jumped when a coffee was almost slammed down beside him, hastily moving his hand to avoid getting burned when some of it sloshed over the side. Matt jerked upright so he wasn’t leaning on the counter anymore, scowling at Derek.

“Surprise,” Derek informed him. “Two-fifty. Pay and get out.”

“Dude,” Stiles insisted, turning to him. Sure, he didn’t like Matt himself, but he was a regular and Peter seemed to like him. Stiles turned back to Matt. “Sorry,” he muttered, not really feeling very sorry. “I can make you something else.”

“It’s fine,” Matt said, tone a little cold, but he was mostly directing that at Derek. “Coffee is fine.” He handed him a five dollar bill and told him to keep the change, then picked up his coffee, glared at Derek, and left the coffeeshop.

Before Stiles could even turn to snap at him, Derek had already disappeared through the back door and Stiles scoffed. Seriously, why did Derek even work there? He didn’t like the people, he didn’t like the store, he didn’t like Stiles. He should just fucking not work there. Go back to his secluded cabin in the woods and write his books.

At least his books were good and disguised that he was an all-around shitty person.

He spent the majority of his shift debating telling Peter he was going to quit. He felt like the only reason he didn’t was because Derek hung out in the back most of the shift, as was the norm, and the customers coming in were all relatively nice to him.

When the shift ended, he cleaned up the area and finished up what he was doing. Derek was done before him, and they headed out of the coffeehouse together into the lot. Derek was in his car and gone before Stiles had even reached his Jeep. He just rolled his eyes and climbed into his car, slamming the door hard.

“Whatever,” he muttered, trying not to let it bother him.

But it did. It did bother him. Stiles didn’t like that Derek hated him for no reason.

And it fucking did bother him!


“What happened to beating him into submission?” Scott asked, sitting at his desk and scowling down at a notebook in front of him, pen in one hand and cheek resting against his other fist. He had the phone propped up against something so it was aimed at him, but Stiles knew he was mostly focussing on what he was doing.

“I don’t think I can beat him into submission,” Stiles muttered. “I can only take so much bullshit, and he is a master bullshiter. He’s so rude, and mean.” Stiles felt very childish for saying that, but he really hated how Derek treated him. Stiles had been nothing but pleasant since they’d started working together, but Derek seemed determined to make his life miserable. Stiles wasn’t asking for much, just a bit of civility. Just for Derek to say hi every now and then, to cut him some slack, to not always insist Stiles was lazy or late or a bad worker. He just... wanted to go back to enjoying going to work.

He’d actually been debating quitting a majority of the day again, and the only reason he didn’t was because he came home to a stack of bills his dad had to pay. His dad was already struggling to put him through school, and Stiles wasn’t going to make things harder on him. He didn’t make much at the coffeeshop, but he made enough that he could pay for groceries, and that was already helping out his dad a lot. At the rate things were going, his dad wouldn’t have a retirement fund, and Stiles was not okay with that.

He wondered what it was like having money. Given Derek was super rich, the pack had tons of it, and he wondered what that must be like. Being able to go out and eat in fancy restaurants all the time. Buying clothes just because they could and not because they needed them. Having nice cars, and a big house, and a cabin in the woods. Owning a coffeeshop and not having to care if it did well or not.

Having money must be nice. Stiles didn’t know what that was like. He wished he did, but he knew that was never going to happen.

“You seriously need to talk to your boss.”

“It won’t do any good.”

Scott looked up, frowning into the phone. “Why not? He’s his boss too, isn’t he? I know you said he was his nephew, but he’s still his boss, right?”

Stiles opened his mouth to explain, then shut it again. He couldn’t exactly tell Scott that Peter had no control over Derek, because it would mean explaining Derek was Peter’s Alpha and that was a conversation he wasn’t going to be having. Not only because he avoided Supernatural talk, but also because that was Werewolf pack business, and Stiles wasn’t involved in that and wasn’t at liberty to discuss it. He technically shouldn’t even know it, considering Derek hadn’t told him willingly.

“It’s complicated,” he settled on instead.

“I could probably get you a gig at Deaton’s,” Scott offered hesitantly. “I mean, you’d probably be manning the front, and I can’t guarantee anything, but I could try.”

Bless Scott, really. That was so nice. But Stiles didn’t want him to try and use any favours up. Scott still wasn’t guaranteed a job when he got back, and Stiles wasn’t willing to risk Scott and Deaton having a fallout over him.

“Nah, it’s cool.” Stiles leaned back in his desk chair and crossed his arms, his phone propped up against a mug that had been sitting on his desk for far too long. “I’ll talk to someone about it.”

Stiles was not, in fact, going to talk to anyone about it, but Scott looked a little less concerned now thinking that he would. He went back to his notebook, chewing on his pen, and Stiles was once again hit with a sense of nostalgia. His chest ached with how much he missed Scott, and if he didn’t already know the answer, he’d have asked again if he was sure Scott couldn’t come home for the winter holidays. As it stood, he would just have to live without him for another holiday season.

When it became clear that Scott was completely focussed on what he was doing, Stiles called goodbye and hung up when Scott grunted at him. Realistically, Stiles needed to get some studying done, too. He was just lazy.

So lazy, in fact, that he stood to go and fall onto his bed, rolling over until he was comfortable, and then grabbed the book on his nightstand, ignoring that it was Derek who’d written it and turning to the last page he’d been on.

It was weird to see how well Derek could write relationships and friendships. He was so good at it that Stiles sometimes couldn’t help but wonder if Derek really was the author, or if Boyd was just fucking with him.

He knew Boyd wasn’t like that, so he hadn’t lied, but still! It was just so weird! This was Derek’s writing! Derek! The guy who couldn’t even make coffee for someone without being rude about it. Whose own pack didn’t like having him around because he was such a dick. Who treated Stiles like dirt under his shoe because he was human.

Then again, for dirt under his shoe, Derek drove him home a lot. When the Jeep was out of commission, anyway. Sure, he’d said he did it because his pack cared about him, but it was still weird for a big, bad Alpha Werewolf to be driving around a puny human he hated just because his pack liked the puny human.

Werewolves were weird.

They were so, so weird.

If Stiles ever got the opportunity to learn more about them, he was going to write a ‘how to’ book.

People needed to know how fucking weird they were, and how hard it was keeping all their weird Werewolf activities in check.


Stiles was on book four of Derek’s series by the end of the week. Things had remained mostly the same, with the upturned noses at how he smelled, Derek’s shitty behaviour, Matt’s incessant inability to understand no. So basically, the usual.

He hadn’t quit yet, and he hadn’t spoken to anyone. He tried his best not to let Derek bother him, and just focussed on the positives of working for the coffeeshop.

All that being said, Stiles also had midterms, which was making him more irritable than usual, and being around someone who was a dick to him all the time was not helping his mood.

Which probably explained why he wasn’t super careful with his words in front of an irate customer.

The man had ordered a double hot black, dark roast coffee, and Stiles had proceeded to give him what he asked for. The guy had paid—without tipping, because he was clearly a dick—and then turned away to leave, sipping at his coffee. He then immediately rounded on Stiles, holding out the steaming cup and glaring at him.

“What the fuck is this shit?”

Stiles scowled, because this was a family establishment and there was no need for that kind of language. “The coffee you ordered.”

“This isn’t coffee,” the man insisted, moving back up to the till. “This tastes like garbage. Like liquid dirt.”

“Liquid dirt?” Stiles asked, giving him an annoyed look. “You mean mud? Is that what you mean? The coffee tastes like mud? Maybe that’s because it was ground a couple of minutes ago.”

He knew even as he said it that he shouldn’t have. Even as the pun left his mouth, he knew he shouldn’t say it, and just apologize for the man not knowing what the fuck dark roast tasted like—that is to say, fucking battery acid. He should’ve offered him another cup, free of charge, and let him go on his merry way having jipped a coffeehouse two dollars and fifty cents.

But he didn’t. Instead, he said those words. And the man in front of him stiffened. He gave him a hard look, scowled angrily, and Stiles practically watched in slow motion as he shifted his arm and angled the coffee in his direction.

The fucking steaming hot coffee Stiles had just double-heated, that was literally steaming, and probably going to burn the shit out of his face, given that was where it was angled.

He’d barely managed to get one arm up, attempting to cover as much of his face as he could in the split second of time he had before it would hit him when he flew sideways, landing hard on his side on the ground and hearing a snarl. His shoulder burned from the impact and he quickly rolled onto his back, braced on his elbows, and stared up at Derek, who was fisting the man’s shirt, coffee dripping down his own front and staining his apron.

“Ow,” Derek snarled, features more animal than human.

He was pretty sure the customer had just wet himself.

“That was fucking hot, asshole,” he said to the man, the entire coffeehouse pitch silent barring the jovial music playing over the speakers. “Do you know what hot coffee does when it hits human skin? It burns. Coffee this hot would’ve burned my employee. In the face. You could’ve blinded him. Because you didn’t like your coffee? Is that why you were going to blind my employee? Because it wasn’t to your liking?”

The man shook his head vehemently, and Stiles was totally positive he’d wet himself.

“You are not welcome back here,” Derek informed him. “You should re-evaluate your life if you think throwing hot coffee at a customer service worker is an appropriate reaction to not having received what you think you ordered.” He shoved the man back hard, and he stumbled a few steps before falling on his ass, out of Stiles’ field of vision now.

“Get the fuck out before I call the cops, and don’t you dare come back.”

Stiles heard scrambling footsteps and then the door was slammed open. A split second later, people were clapping and one person started cheering. Derek just scowled out at all of them before turning to glare at Stiles, his features slowly melting back to human but his eyes bright red.

For a few long seconds, they just stared at one another, Derek’s eyes still Alpha red and Stiles unable to fully process what had just happened. After what seemed an age, Derek’s eyes finally lost their Alpha glow, returning to normal, but he was still staring down at Stiles like he had no idea what to do with him.

Eventually, he said, “Clean this up.” Then, he turned and slammed into the back room once more, the door swinging for a few seconds before finally settling.

Stiles didn’t really know how to react. He hadn’t known Derek was anywhere close to him when the man had gone to throw the coffee at him, and he knew Derek was fast, but he didn’t have super speed. So had he just been right inside the door, waiting for Stiles to fuck up?

And why had he saved him anyway? Sure, Stiles would’ve definitely gotten badly burned, given the temperature of the coffee, and he was super grateful, but Derek didn’t like him. He barely seemed to tolerate him. So this was unexpected, and while he knew Derek insisted he protected him because the pack liked him, it wasn’t like the pack was here. Derek could’ve pretended he hadn’t reached him in time.

It’s not like Stiles was expecting him to save him. He’d been totally convinced he was about to get his face and arm burned, and all he had to show for his smart mouth was a sore shoulder and dirty jeans.

Stiles climbed back to his feet, looking around awkwardly, though most of the remaining patrons had gone back to what they were doing. He just cleaned up the mess, as instructed, and slowly began to clean up the coffee machine for something to occupy his hands with.

One of the girls who hung out with her laptop approached the counter a few minutes later, asking for a refill, and then quietly inquired as to whether or not he was okay. He forced the best smile he could and promised he was fine.

She gave him a five dollar tip, which definitely helped improve his mood. Derek saving him had been unexpected, but appreciated, and he really wished the guy made more sense.

Derek didn’t re-emerge from the office all evening until around ten, when Matt came in and started chatting with Stiles for a while. While he wasn’t positive, he felt like Derek knew he didn’t like him and was trying to intervene for Stiles’ sake. Though maybe also to ensure Stiles got back to work, not that he slacked off. His ADHD made it hard for him to slack off because he always had to be doing something.

They left the coffeehouse after their shift at the same time again, Derek peeling out before Stiles had even reached his Jeep. He just rolled his eyes, like he always did, and climbed into his car, slamming the door and sitting there thinking about Derek.

He really wished the guy made more sense.


It was well into November, with snow on the ground and holiday spirit in the air, the day that Isaac finally told Stiles why everyone looked like he smelled bad whenever he walked in.

They were at the mall doing some very early shopping—Christmas for Stiles and Hanukkah for Isaac which started in early December this year—when they stopped in a Starbucks to grab a drink. For some inexplicable reason, Stiles decided he wanted a frappuccino, because if he was going to be cold outside, he might as well be cold inside, too.

Isaac had opted for a hot chocolate and they’d sat down near the back corner to sip at their drinks, Stiles chasing the straw with his tongue and then sucking hard, hollowing his cheeks to get maximum suckage. He got a good mouthful of vanilla bean and chocolate, and while he was positive he was going to get a brain freeze, it would be worth it.

They were in the middle of having a quiet moment together, watching the people walk by and ignoring the hustle and bustle of impatient people behind them in the line-up when Isaac let out a harsh exhale, put his coffee on the table, and turned to Stiles.

“Stiles?”

“Hm?” he asked, still watching people walk by outside and chewing on his straw.

“Can I ask you something?” Stiles glanced at Isaac, because he sounded nervous, but looked determined. “It’s been bothering me for a while.”

“Sure, what’s up?” Stiles was still chewing on the straw, but instantly stopped when Isaac asked his question.

“Why do you wash our scents off?”

Stiles stared at him for a long while, trying to figure out what the fuck he was talking about. Eventually, he gave up, and just said, “What?”

“You shower like,” Isaac sniffed, then crinkled his nose. “What, three times a day? Every time you come back to work, we notice that you seem to scrub really hard to get our scents off so that the barest trace of us remains on you. I was just—I mean, why do you do that? If it—if it bothers you, you can just tell us and we’ll stop.”

Stiles kept staring at him, mind screeching to a halt. “What?” he asked.

Isaac just watched him, looking like a kicked puppy, and Stiles straightened from his hunched position, pushing his frap aside and practically slamming both hands down on the table.

“Wait, what?!” he demanded, completely floored. All this time, he’d been scrubbing hard to get himself to smell better, and that was actually the fucking problem?! “No! I thought—you guys always look really unhappy when—I just thought...” Stiles didn’t even know what to say. “I thought I smelled bad!” he finally blurted out. “I’m getting a complex over it!”

Isaac gave him a weird look. “What? No, you don’t smell bad. You smell like us. Like pack. We keep trying to pull you in more, but you just... you keep washing it off.”

“No,” Stiles insisted, shaking his head emphatically. “No, I didn’t—I had no idea! Isaac, I swear, I wasn’t purposefully trying to wash anything off about your scents, I just thought I smelled bad!” He felt like everything had just tipped sideways.

He’d been taking multiple showers a day for months, scrubbing his skin raw and probably really damaging his hair because no one should shower that much on a daily basis, and now to find out he was doing the opposite of what they wanted—shit! It was probably why they also insisted he keep his apron at work, and why Isaac and Erica always stole it when he did wash it. They were just trying to get their scents back on it!

“Is that–is that why you guys always look so unhappy when I walk in? Because you’re scenting me, and I keep washing it off?”

Isaac hesitated, eying him, as if unsure to believe whether or not Stiles was being sincere. But he had to know he was, because he could hear Stiles’ heartbeat!

“You’re really not doing it on purpose?”

“Shit dude, no! I honestly thought I smelled bad so I was just—I’m actually showering too much, at this point, but I was doing it to be courteous to you guys! Because, you know, the whole sensitive to smells thing. I was trying to be nice. Shit, I’m really sorry. I didn’t—I had no idea, I swear.”

Isaac looked both relieved and a little embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, displacing the scarf he had around his neck. It wasn’t so much a scarf for warmth as it was a scarf for fashion. Stiles had learned long ago Isaac was big into fashion.

“So... is it cool, then? If we keep scenting you, I mean.”

“Yeah, man!” Stiles grinned and reached over to punch him lightly in the arm. “Yeah, it’s totally fine. I didn’t—I swear, it was a complete misunderstanding. If you guys are fine with how I smell, I’ll go back to showering once a day like a normal person. I just—I really thought you guys didn’t like something about how I smelled.” He laughed and rubbed his face with both hands. “Shit, I feel like a dick. You guys probably all thought I was subtly trying to get you to back off. I swear, I wasn’t trying to get rid of the scents.”

“It’s okay.” Isaac looked much happier now, like he was glad they’d cleared up the misunderstanding since both the wolves and Stiles thought they were bothering the other. “Thanks for explaining. We were all getting a little, you know... we thought maybe you just pretended you were cool about the whole Werewolves thing.”

“Nah, man.” Stiles grinned, pulling his frap back over. “I really don’t mind the scenting thing. You guys are awesome, I love hanging out with you. Case and point.” He motioned between them and Isaac smiled.

It was true, too. With Scott across the country, Skype and FaceTime just didn’t do it for him anymore. It was hard being apart from his best friend, so it was nice he had new people to hang out with. Not that he and Scott weren’t still just as close, but it was different than having friends who were here.

Stiles didn’t have many of them from high school, so meeting the wolves who were more or less the same age as him had been a bit of a relief for him. They were all really nice, and good people, so he’d lucked out that they didn’t find him completely obnoxious and actually wanted to hang out with him.

They continued with their shopping after their brief break, and Stiles noticed Isaac hanging off him a lot more than usual. Evidently, now that Isaac knew Stiles didn’t mind, he was going to be a lot more touchey-feely. Stiles was cool with that, he knew it was a wolf thing. The others hung all over each other a lot at work, he just didn’t comment on it because it wasn’t polite.

Another advantage to this conversation was that Isaac now seemed to feel like he could whine about the pack to Stiles, which he definitely could because Stiles was bursting with questions he wasn’t comfortable asking.

He found out the Hale pack consisted of fifteen people—nine men and six women. The majority of them were adults, around Peter’s age, but Derek’s cousin, another guy away at school and Cora Hale were in the same age range as Isaac and the others. Surprisingly, Derek was only three years older than Stiles, which he hadn’t expected. He always thought he was much older.

He’d become the Alpha when his family had died in the house fire, and while Peter had been bitter about it at first, he’d mellowed out over the years and was mostly running the pack anyway since Derek always disappeared for months on end when he had a deadline looming. Isaac said the second in the pack didn’t bother fighting Peter on it since he didn’t want to have to be in charge all the time, even though that was technically his duty while the Alpha was away. Stiles wished he’d said who the second was, but assumed it was someone he didn’t know.

They had pack dinners together three times a year, and they shared all expenses and income so that everyone felt like they were contributing to the pack, and could benefit from each other’s hard work.

Isaac didn’t tell him exactly where their home was, but he described the house itself relatively well. It sounded more like a mansion than a house, but Isaac insisted it sounded bigger than it was. For a bunch of Werewolves living together, it was the pits. Apparently Derek and Boyd had actually built a little extension off the end of the house for Boyd and Erica, since nobody wanted to listen to them have sex, but no one wanted to leave the pack house, either.

Pack was safety. It was family. It was understanding and compassion and friendship. It sounded kind of amazing, if Stiles was honest.

He also learned that nine of the thirteen in the pack were bitten wolves, including Isaac. Most of them had been bitten to be saved from death, though one of them had been bitten because he had no other family and nowhere else to go. Derek had been against his addition, but only because he felt like the man didn’t understand the consequences. Eventually, the pack had voted, and while he was the Alpha, he was also fair—apparently, who knew? So, he’d given him the bite and the guy had been part of their pack for almost four years. Isaac said he really liked him, because he was some old history professor who helped him a lot with his thesis for school.

All in all, Stiles got a lot of insight into the pack on that one day, and he went home later feeling a little relieved. He liked knowing more about the people he had come to see as friends, and he was extremely glad to discover he didn’t have to take a shower three times a day anymore.

He spent the evening with his dad, watching a movie and berating him for his poor eating habits, and then went to bed so he could be well rested for his morning shift with Derek McGrumpypants. Still, even though he had Derek to look forward to, knowing the rest of the pack liked him enough to actively scent him felt kind of nice, and he knew no matter what happened during his shift, Derek wouldn’t be able to spoil his good mood.


They were halfway through the second week of December when shit got real for Stiles. Hanukkah had passed for Isaac and two others in the pack, but he’d told Stiles he’d wait for Christmas before giving him his present. That wasn’t what real shit was gotten, though, even if Stiles loved that he and Isaac were close enough for present exchanges.

Stiles knew he liked the wolves, and he knew they meant something to him—even Derek, when he wasn’t being a dick—but he hadn’t realized how much he cared about them until that cold winter night in December.

Derek had been sulking a lot lately, something that was evident because he was less of a dick and just more mopey and scowly than usual. Boyd informed Stiles that it was because he’d stopped showering so often so the scent of pack hit Derek in the face every time Stiles walked in.

He felt kind of bad about it, but not enough to go back to showering three times a day. For one thing, the others were all a lot more cheerful when he was around and smelling like them, and for another, well, it was bad for his hair and skin. Derek could just deal with it. Wasn’t like he was in the pack, anyway.

They still worked together pretty much all the time, and Stiles had officially read every single book in Derek’s detectives series. He’d started one of the other series a few days back, but it wasn’t as captivating as the detective one. He was still giving it a shot, though, because this one was a romance and he was really interested to learn how someone like Derek viewed romance.

Stiles was in the middle of one of the more romance heavy chapters when he realized it was well past midnight. He’d put the book down and rolled over to try and sleep, but something was bothering him and he couldn’t put his finger on what. He felt antsy and uncomfortable and just... itchy. Kind of itchy. Like he could run a marathon. He didn’t really get it.

After trying unsuccessfully to sleep for over an hour, he kicked his covers off himself, grabbed a hoodie, shoved his feet into some sneakers and left his room with his keys, phone and wallet. He didn’t bother being quiet on his way down the stairs, since his dad was working, and he let himself out of the house.

There was frost on the ground, but thankfully no new snow. He walked slowly towards the Jeep, enjoying the peacefulness of the night, and paused when he glanced up and saw the moon was full. That meant the wolves were probably out running, enjoying their time together and being themselves in the forest somewhere.

Stiles hoped they were having a good time, though he wished he could stop feeling so uncomfortable and jittery. He didn’t understand why, which was the most annoying thing, so he just climbed into the Jeep and started it, backing out onto the road. It was really cold in his car, and when he tried the heater, of course it just sputtered and died.

He sighed and figured he wouldn’t be out long, anyway. He was just going for a short drive to clear his head and try and calm himself down. He didn’t have any particular destination in mind, so he just started driving around to areas he was familiar with. Being a resident of Beacon Hills since birth meant lots of places he was familiar with.

He started with the police station, then his old school, his favourite diner in town, the library, and finally the coffeeshop.

Stiles had just started to pass A Howling Good Coffee when he hit the brakes, frowning when he noticed the windows looked... weird. It was dark out, and the streetlight above the store wasn’t working, so it took him a few seconds to realize the reason the shop looked weird was because all the windows had been broken.

“Fuck, really?!” he demanded angrily.

He eased the Jeep to the side of the road, parking in one of the meter-parking spaces and pulled out his phone. He called his dad, sighing and rubbing the back of his neck.

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” his father asked in way of greeting.

“It’s Friday,” he argued. “Couldn’t sleep. I went for a drive, and just passed work. Someone vandalized it, can you please get a unit down here?”

His dad sounded disappointed to hear that, but promised he’d be on his way with Parrish. Stiles said he’d call Peter and hung up. He was ready to do just that, dial his boss’ number, when movement caught his attention out of the corner of his eye and he turned to the coffeeshop again.

He hadn’t realized it at first, but one of the gates was bent out of shape, and there were people inside the coffeehouse, probably breaking everything and causing thousands of dollars of damage to the machinery inside.

“Oh, fuck no!” Stiles snapped. He shoved his phone into his hoodie pocket and kicked open the Jeep door. Moving to the trunk, he opened it and rooted around for something he could use as a weapon, finding an old baseball bat from his stint playing in little league wedged in a corner—he’d been wondering where that went. He yanked it out, slammed the trunk, and then hurried to the front of the store.

He cut himself on some broken glass while climbing through the window over the broken gate, but he didn’t care, because he could see someone in the process of cutting into one of the plush leather seats with a hunting knife and his vision went red.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” he demanded angrily, wielding his bat and ready to swing hard enough to have the guy’s head fly clear off his body.

The other man jumped and whipped around, the coffeehouse too dark for Stiles to see his face. He rushed him, knife raised, but Stiles just swung the bat and was actually pretty sure he broke the guy’s arm. The other man let out a cry of pain, dropping the knife, and Stiles stumbled forward when something was smashed over his head from behind. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he saw stars for a few seconds and felt wetness in his hairline.

He swung the bat wildly behind him, hearing an ‘oof’ that suggested he connected with someone. There was scrambling and crunching glass, and by the time Stiles’ head stopped spinning, he heard footsteps racing for the window so they could climb back out.

Just in time for a police cruiser to stop at the curb.

“Shit!” The group of four guys bolted for the door leading to the back room, but Stiles knew this place better than they did and he hurled his bat low to the ground across the open space, having it skid right through the gap on the right end of the counter so that when numbnuts number one went for the door, he stepped on the bat, lost his footing, and fell backwards into numbnuts number two.

“Stiles?”

“Dad, they’re still in here!” Stiles shouted.

He didn’t know how many officers had come with his dad, but having slowed the men down from exiting the front part of the store meant Parrish had time to climb through and yell for them to stop, flashlight in one hand and gun in the other.

Three of them made it through the door and into the back, likely racing for the exit that led into the lot. The last one just stood behind the counter with his hands raised, looking put out and annoyed.

Stiles raced after the other three, but by the time he slammed through the exit door into the back lot, two of the remaining men were being wrestled to the ground—one of them by his dad—and the last one was being chased by who Stiles thought might be Tara.

He hoped she caught him, because that was the guy who’d tried to slice into Stiles with his knife. He really hoped he’d broken his arm.

“I thought you said you were only bringing Parrish,” Stiles said to his dad, though he was glad to see more officers.

“I radioed that I was on my way here. Tara’s unit was closeby and she decided to come along.” He looked up at Stiles and scowled. “What happened?”

Stiles waved one hand dismissively. His arm was cut and bleeding from the glass, but it didn’t really hurt so he didn’t worry about it. It looked worse than it was, because blood was staining the sleeve of his blue hoodie, but it really wasn’t that bad. He had a headache, and could feel blood in his hair, but he wasn’t woozy so he assumed that wasn’t serious, either.

His dad was probably still going to force him to get checked out.

Which he unfortunately did.

An ambulance showed up a few minutes later, and Stiles got to sit in the back while they patched him up, confirming what he’d already assumed in that he was perfectly fine. Sure, he had a few injuries, but his arm didn’t even need stitches, and they didn’t seem at all concerned with his head, giving him some Tylenol and cleaning it up for him. His arm at least got bandaged, but his head didn’t even need that, further proving that he was fine and his dad was paranoid.

Stiles tried to call Peter a few times while the police went through the shop to assess the damage, but he didn’t answer. Since Stiles worked there, he was the one they asked about all the items that had been destroyed or damaged. He felt uncomfortable having to talk about that, since this wasn’t his store, but thankfully it was just his dad and Tara. Parrish and Tara’s partner took the two cruisers back to the station with the four guys—Tara ended up catching the fourth guy, which Stiles was thrilled about, and turned out he did break his arm since the paramedics had had to check him out before he was put in the cruiser. Stiles felt a little sorry about it, but he was just glad they hadn’t gotten away, and he was super thankful for his bat. He was going to keep that bat in his Jeep forever.

Once statements were given and the damage report was done, his dad said he’d keep trying to call Peter and that Stiles should go home.

He refused, because the place was a mess, and that meant they’d have to close for the day which was one day of lost income for Peter and the pack and Stiles was not okay with that. He had no plans on Saturday, and he wasn’t working, so he just told his dad he’d stick around and clean up until someone could get a hold of Peter. Given the full moon, it’d probably take them a while.

So, his dad left and Stiles locked the back door, then stood in the destroyed coffeehouse looking around and sighing. It was so chaotic he didn’t even know where to start, and decided after a few minutes to begin cleaning up all the glass.

Literally every window had been broken, so there was glass everywhere. Stiles pulled out the broom and one of the buckets to carry the glass in since a bag would probably rip through, and got to work sweeping up all the glass in the shop. That took him the better part of an hour, and then he moved on to the chairs and tables, trying to decide which ones were salvageable and which ones weren’t.

He kept trying to call Peter every now and then, sprinkling in some calls to Boyd, Isaac and Erica, but none of them picked up. Every few minutes he felt a spike of panic about something having happened to them, but he quickly squashed it because it was the full moon and they were fine.

He was in the process of trying to figure out if he could fix up one of the broken coffee machines when he almost jumped out of his skin at his phone ringing loudly in the silence of the coffeeshop. He hastily pulled it from his pocket, Peter’s name flashing on the screen, and answered the call.

“Pet—”

“Are you okay? What happened? What’s wrong? Why did you call so many times? What’s going on? Do I need to murder someone?” 

Stiles was a little taken aback at the aggressive tone coming down the line. He could only assume Peter hadn’t listened to his voicemails, because Stiles had left him a few, and he was sure his father had, as well. The cops had been there until close to three, and it was now almost seven with the sun rising. Stiles was exhausted, but unwilling to stop working because he wanted to try and get the place into some semblance of order so that maybe they could open shop around nine, which would only be an hour later than normal for a Saturday.

“Someone vandalized the shop,” Stiles told him, listening to Peter’s angry breathing on the other end. It was weird that Peter was so pissed off without even knowing why to be pissed off yet. “I was driving by and I saw them doing it. They’re all in custody, but the shop’s kind of in bad shape.”

“Are you safe? Where are you?” Peter demanded, and Stiles could hear movement and voices in the background.

“Uh, at the shop?”

“What?! Why?!”

“I was cleaning up?” Stiles was very confused.

“Don’t move. I’ll be right there. Do not move!”

He hung up while half-way through shouting Boyd’s name and Stiles just pulled his phone away from his ear and stared down at it. He shrugged and put it back into his pocket, returning to the task at hand. The machine was damaged for sure, but it didn’t seem to be in too bad of a shape. He felt like a service call might be enough to get it working, and on the plus side, the second machine didn’t even look touched. Like Stiles had interrupted them before they’d gotten that far.

Making himself a coffee, both to test the machine and because he was exhausted, he was pleased to find that it actually worked. As long as they opened only for to-go orders, they could probably manage. Most of the baked goods in the back hadn’t been touched, and while the display case was broken, it still had shelves they could put the food on. All in all, maybe not the best, but they could open! It wasn’t a day of lost revenue, at least.

Stiles looked up when he heard the door leading to the lot slam open and within seconds Peter was through the back door and rushing him. Stiles stumbled back in alarm, wondering if he was being attacked, but Peter just grabbed him by the shoulders tightly, nostrils flaring and eyes blue.

“You’re injured. Where are you injured?!”

“I’m fine,” he insisted, a little worried. He’d never seen Peter like this before. It was kind of scary. “I cut myself on some glass when I climbed into the store,” he insisted, motioning the window in question. His dad and Tara had helped him put some plastic up before they left to try and help with the cold coming in. It didn’t do much, but at least it blocked out the wind, for the most part.

“You should call my dad, he’s been trying to reach you about the place. You’ll probably have to go down to the station at some point.”

Peter didn’t seem to be listening. Great.

“The place looks pretty good, considering,” Boyd said from behind Peter. Stiles noticed Derek was there, too. He looked surly and tired.

And annoyed.

Awesome.

“How long have you been here?” Peter demanded.

“I don’t know, since like, one?”

“What?!”

Stiles winced when he felt claws against his shoulders, but they didn’t break through his skin. Peter calmed himself down before that happened, hands still tight on Stiles’ shoulders. Then he pulled him into a hug, which, okay, weird. Stiles wasn’t sure what was going on.

After a few awkward seconds, Peter pulled away and turned to assess the damage. Boyd wandered over and gave Stiles a one-armed hug, saying he was glad he was okay. Derek just stayed by the back door, looking surly.

“I did what I could,” Stiles said while the others looked around at the damage. “One of the coffee machines still works, and the pastries in the back are fine, too. You can open for the day in a to-go capacity so you don’t lose out on revenue.”

“Is that why you cleaned up?” Derek asked.

Stiles honestly hadn’t been sure at first that it was him who spoke, because he’d never heard Derek sound anything but condescending and snappy before. And while he still looked surly and unhappy, his tone was kinder than Stiles had ever heard it before.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles insisted with a shrug. “I had no plans for today, and I figured if I could at least get the place organized enough to serve customers, it was a win. No point in losing out on business because a bunch of assholes are speciesist.”

Derek just stared at him like he was a puzzle he was trying to solve, but Stiles turned back to Boyd and Peter when they began to speak in low tones. Eventually, Boyd pulled out his phone and called Erica, and Peter came over to tell him to head home and get some sleep. He squeezed his shoulder tightly in thanks before releasing him and Stiles picked up his bat and coffee while heading for the door, promising he’d pay for the coffee when he worked the following day.

Peter told him to take his money and shove it up his ass which, okay, was both nice and kind of rude.

Boyd and Derek had to wrestle the gate off the front door to get it open. The two of them had to work together because they were trying not to break it, but it was misshapen which was making it hard to operate. They ended up getting it though, and Stiles left the store with a small wave, starting for the Jeep—thankfully paid parking wasn’t in effect. He opened the back to toss his bat in there, and when he started to head for the front, Derek was beside the door with one hand held out.

“Keys.”

“Excuse me?”

“Give me your keys,” he said impatiently. “You’re in no condition to drive.”

“I’m feeling fine, actually.”

“Give me your keys,” he ordered, eyes flashing.

Stiles found his hand moving without his consent, dropping his keys into Derek’s. Derek gave him a weird look, but then just opened the driver’s door and climbed behind the wheel.

It chaffed. No one was allowed to drive his Jeep, not even Scott, and Stiles wasn’t exactly happy about the first person doing so being Derek. But, he was too tired to argue, so he obediently climbed into the passenger seat and buckled himself in.

It actually ended up being a good thing Derek drove, because Stiles passed out not even a minute out, and only woke up when he heard the driver’s door slam. He looked out the windshield and saw his house, rubbing his face with both hands and undoing his seatbelt, opening the door in time for Derek to reach him, holding the keys out once more.

“Thanks,” he muttered, climbing out of the car and slamming the door. “How’re you gonna get back?”

“I have legs,” Derek said dryly.

Stiles was too tired to deal with his attitude, so he just muttered another thanks and headed for the house, disappearing through the door.

He didn’t want to take a shower, but he felt like he should given the night he’d had. He peeled the bandages off his arm, and winced while shampooing his hair, because his fingers caught on the injury he had there. He fingered it for a few seconds, because he was masochistic apparently, and was glad that it was just a small cut. He heard head wounds bled a lot, which explained why the water turned pink. He was just hoping it wouldn’t stain his pillow.

Once out of the shower, Stiles stumbled to his room in his boxers, grabbing some sweats and a random shirt before dressing quickly and falling onto his bed.

He was pretty sure he was unconscious before his head even hit the pillow.

He didn’t even think about the coffee he’d forgotten in the Jeep.


Things were... weird after the incident with the coffeeshop. It had been cleaned up exceptionally quickly, given Stiles had done so much of the work before the wolves had even arrived. But it was more than that.

By the time he worked his morning shift on Sunday, the broken machine had been repaired, some of the windows had already been replaced, and all the damaged furniture had been removed to make room for new furniture.

It was almost like nothing had happened, and Stiles was kind of glad for it because it meant the assholes were in jail and this hadn’t even affected the Hale pack all that much.

But it wasn’t the shop that was weird.

It was Derek.

It wasn’t that he’d changed, not really. It was more that he was... less. Less angry, less scowly, less rude. He still didn’t talk to Stiles, and he still peeled out of the lot whenever their shifts were done, but he wasn’t as much of a dick as he used to be. If anything, he mostly pretended Stiles wasn’t there.

The only times Stiles ever really saw Derek was when Matt came by—which he did often, unfortunately. They were now on winter break from school so Matt tended to stop in for some of his gross tea-coffee hybrid and linger at the counter while Stiles worked.

It was very evident—to literally everyone but Matt, apparently, since even some of the other regulars in the shop had come to his rescue—that Stiles was not interested, but Matt didn’t seem like he could take a hint. He figured it was rich-boy syndrome, unable to see what was right in front of his eyes because Matt was so rich he usually always got what he wanted.

Stiles was almost happy when Peter closed the shop for two weeks because it meant an escape from him—and kind of Derek, though he minded him less now. Apparently Peter was trying to be sure he was inclusive in his time off, since not everyone celebrated just Christmas—in his pack, they celebrated three different holidays, though Hanukkah had been earlier in December this year, but Stiles still thought it was nice he was conscious of it. Apparently Isaac had gotten Hanukkah off, so he was getting double the time off from work given the shop’s closure.

One of the pack members celebrated Kwanzaa, which started the day after Christmas this year, and went on until after New Year’s. Stiles found it really cool the pack was so diverse.

Though the shop’s closure also meant Stiles had a lot of free time to do nothing, since school was out until the next semester, and thus he had no homework or exams to study for. He and Isaac hung out a lot, and Stiles played some Halo online with Scott, but other than that, he was mostly bored.

He ended up going to the mall the day before Christmas, which was a stupid idea considering the mad rush of people there trying to get presents. He just wandered through the large area and people watched, sipping on a Starbucks frappuccino and enjoying the hustle and bustle.

At one point, he got distracted watching two women arguing through a store entrance, both of them valiantly trying to tug the end of a board game out of the other’s hands. He was so focussed on them that he jerked when someone grabbed his arm and yanked him to the side, stopping him from walking right into a pillar.

“Watch where you’re going.”

He knew that voice. He hadn’t heard that voice for days, why was he hearing that voice right now?

Stiles turned, positive he was hallucinating, but no. There he was. Right beside him.

Derek.

Holding his arm.

Wait.

Stiles looked down at Derek’s hand, which was still wrapped around his bicep.

Derek was touching him.

Derek was actually touching him. Had he fallen into an alternate dimension or something?

When he looked up into Derek’s face, he was scowling, as per usual. But he still hadn’t let go of Stiles’ arm.

“Thanks,” he said uncertainly, pulling the straw of his drink from between his lips.

Derek seemed to realize he was still holding his arm and quickly released him. “Watch where you’re going,” he repeated.

“Yeah, no, I was just...” Stiles motioned behind him and frowned when he saw Derek holding a bag from Victoria’s Secret. “Uh, girlfriend?”

“No, it’s for Erica.”

Stiles had to be hallucinating. “I’m sorry, what?”

Derek’s scowl deepened. “Erica.”

“Dude, you cannot be serious! You can’t just buy a girl something from Victoria’s Secret unless she’s your girlfriend! What the hell is wrong with you?! I mean, what did you get Boyd?”

Derek shifted his weight uncomfortably. “Haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Stiles stared at him. “Are you serious? Who do you have gifts for so far?”

“Erica.”

Oh boy. Stiles might not like him very much, but there was just something in him that was determined to save this poor, poor little man from himself because he was clearly in way over his head right now.

Stiles turned to toss his mostly finished drink out and then faced Derek again, pointing back the way he’d come. “We’re returning whatever atrocity it is you bought for your friend’s girlfriend right now. Not cool, dude. You don’t buy underwear for a friend’s girlfriend.”

“She’s my friend, too,” Derek muttered. “And part of my pack.”

“I don’t care! Dude, there are rules! You realize this will make everyone involved uncomfortable, right? Jesus, this is terrible. Come on, let’s go. We’re returning it.”

“And then what?” Derek snapped, not budging. “I have no other ideas!”

“Dude.” Stiles motioned himself. “I got this. Trust me. Come on.”

He wasn’t brave enough to grab at Derek, so he just grabbed at the bag instead. It was follow Stiles, or break the bag, so Derek ended up sighing heavily and turned to follow him.

They made it back to the store—which was mayhem, good Lord!—and Stiles sweet-talked the lady behind the till into giving Derek a refund. Once that was done, he immediately dragged him across the mall to Sephora where Stiles grabbed a small basket and proceeded to grab everything his brain could remember about Erica’s makeup woes.

He’d been working with her for months, and he was pretty good at remembering useless things. She complained about them always being out of her favourite lipstick—which was currently in stock—and how she could never decide between two of their more expensive purple eyeshadows—which Stiles just grabbed one of each of—and how much she needed a new curling iron—which they actually sold in a makeup store, for some reason.

They checked out at the front, the total a little daunting, but only slightly more than the lingerie had cost so Stiles didn’t worry about it.

Once they were done there, Stiles dragged Derek to the store a few shops down—actually dragged him this time, because Derek seemed stuck in his perpetual ‘why is this happening to me?’ state and the mall would close eventually! It was the holidays, it was going to close early, too!

Isaac was easy, because he always bemoaned how expensive nice coats were, as well as fashionable scarves and sweaters in general. Apparently he didn’t run as hot as the others for a Werewolf, so Stiles just pulled Derek around the store and pointed out things that he thought Isaac might like. While Derek was perusing the items, Stiles talked to a sales clerk about their return policy, just in case something Derek bought either didn’t fit or wasn’t to Isaac’s liking.

They left that store with two coats and eight scarves. Eight was a little much, but Derek hadn’t known which ones to get so he’d just bought one of each that were in the pricier range.

Man, having money must be nice.

Stiles could only help with the people he knew, so they went to other shops for Boyd and Peter. They got Boyd a new laptop, since he’d been groaning about his old one kicking the bucket for weeks, and Peter some history and recipe books, since he was an avid history lover.

The other people in the pack Stiles didn’t really know, but he tried to help Derek as best he could based on information Derek provided. They ended up having to bring some stuff back to Derek’s car when both of their arms were full of bags, but they still had two people left to shop for and the mall would be closing soon. Stiles told him the best course of action was to split up, so he got as much detail as he could about one of the parties and then raced to the puzzle store on the first level to buy a few puzzles and crosswords for them. He didn’t know for sure that this would be a good gift, since he didn’t know the person, but Derek insisted they were really into puzzles. He found a bunch of nice wolf ones and paid for them with some cash Derek had given him.

Before heading back, because he was positive Derek hadn’t thought ahead, Stiles stopped in one of the pharmacies literally a split second before they started to close the gate. He promised he’d be quick and hastened to find some wrapping paper, present tags and tape, buying a few rolls along with some gift bags, and thanking the lady for being kind enough to let him finish his purchase.

He wished her a happy holiday on his way out, not wanting to say ‘Merry Christmas’ since he didn’t want to assume. Then he headed for the parking lot, since the mall was officially closing.

Stiles met up with Derek back at the Camaro and grinned, because he’d been right about him forgetting the wrapping paper.

“I suck at wrapping,” Derek muttered while he watched Stiles dump everything into the trunk and slam it shut.

“What do you usually do then?”

“I just leave everything unwrapped.”

Stiles stared at him. “Dude. Uncool.” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, then looked around before shrugging. “Well, my night’s free. You can come to mine if you want. Dad’s working, so I was just gonna order pizza and watch Avengers. I’m not bad at gift-wrapping if you want some help.”

Derek gave him a weird look, like he didn’t understand what Stiles was doing. “Why?”

“Why not?” Stiles shrugged. “Might as well, I got all that wrapping paper.” He started walking backwards then. “Up to you. I don’t mind either way. Open invitation until midnight.”

He turned and waved over his shoulder, other hand shoved in the pocket of his coat. He actually felt a little hot, given all the running around he’d been doing, but he knew it wouldn’t last long since the Jeep’s heater was on the fritz again.

It took him a few minutes to find his Jeep in the crowded lot, people leaving now that the mall was closed and causing massive amounts of traffic in the area. He wasn’t in a hurry, so he just took his time finding his vehicle, and then slowly made his way out of the lot behind everyone else.

He wasn’t disappointed when he got home and found no Derek. He hadn’t expected him to show up. He let himself in and then queued up Avengers while ordering himself pizza. He was in the middle of giving his order, pacing in the living room, when he turned his head and froze.

The Camaro was idling at the curb.

Derek was literally sitting in the Camaro at the curb, likely debating whether or not to come inside.

“Uh, on second thought, can you make that two large pizzas?” Stiles asked, turning away so Derek wouldn’t see him grinning. “Yeah, uh, extra meat on both, please. Thanks.”

They confirmed his order and his address, then gave him the total before hanging up. Stiles fell onto his couch and started up the movie, waiting for Derek to decide on what he wanted to do.

After half an hour, Stiles figured he wasn’t coming in, but when the doorbell rang—presumably the pizza—and he went to answer it, he found Derek on his doorstep holding the pizzas.

“I don’t like owing people any favours, so I paid for the food,” Derek muttered, shoving the boxes at Stiles and scowling. “I’ll get the stuff.”

Stiles just rolled his eyes, because Derek couldn’t just be a fucking normal human being. Er, normal Werewolf being? Whatever. He couldn’t be normal.

He dropped the pizzas on the coffee table in the living room and went to grab some Cokes out of the fridge, along with napkins and some plates. He also had to hunt down two pairs of scissors, but eventually found them and headed back for the living room with everything.

Derek was already sitting on the couch, looking a little overwhelmed with the amount of things around him. Stiles almost laughed, but he didn’t think Derek would appreciate that, so he just fell down beside him and dumped everything he held onto the table barring the plates. He handed one to Derek, then motioned that one of the Cokes was his, and flipped open the pizza.

“First we eat, then we work.”

Derek just grunted, but he obediently reached for a slice once Stiles had grabbed his own and the two of them sat watching the movie in silence while they ate. Stiles had his legs crossed up on the couch, and his knee was touching Derek’s thigh.

Surprisingly, he didn’t get yelled at or maimed. Derek didn’t even move away from him, which was progress from the past few weeks.

Once Stiles ate five slices of pizza, he wiped his mouth and hands with his napkin then stood to put his plate in the sink and wash the grease from his fingers. When he returned, he took up residence on the floor and pulled the plastic wrap off one of the rolls of wrapping paper, beginning to size out some presents so he could cut it into more manageable pieces.

By the time Derek joined him on the floor, Stiles had wrapped a quarter of the presents, slapping tags on them and occasionally holding out a pen to Derek so he could write down the recipient’s name in his own handwriting.

“How do you even know they’re going to like any of this?” Derek demanded as he tried to carefully arrange Erica’s makeup in one of the gift bags Stiles had bought.

“Because these are things they want?” Stiles asked, a little confused. “I talk to them a lot. We hang out. I listen when they say they like things.” He shrugged. “They’re my friends. I want them to like what they get, so I pay attention.”

“If you helped me with all this, what are you going to get them?” Derek asked with a frown, still trying to ensure the makeup was in order in the bag.

“I already got them all something,” Stiles explained. “Well, sort of. I asked them all if they would be okay with me buying them something, since I wasn’t sure given, you know Werewolves and all, but they said they knew I was strapped for cash so they didn’t want anything. I figured if I just made them stuff, it wasn’t going to cost me anything, so I did that instead.”

“You made them stuff?” Derek asked, as if unable to believe Stiles were artistic.

“Hey man, I am a master craftsman, okay!” He put the scissors down and got to his feet. “Wait here.”

Stiles ran up to his room to grab the various presents he’d made and then headed back to the living room with them. Derek was still working on the gift bag, and Stiles assumed he was a little intimidated by how well the other presents were wrapped and was trying not to wrap any himself. Stiles didn’t mind, he was having fun wrapping all the gifts.

He set a large square piece of wood against the wall and motioned it in a ‘ta-dah!’ way once it was visible. He’d bought some scrap pieces of wood from the hardware store for next to nothing and glued them all together. Then he’d stained them and painted a large logo of Boyd’s favourite Lacrosse team. He kept whining that his walls were bare and he wanted some colour in his and Erica’s part of the house, so Stiles had gone for this.

“You did that?” Derek asked, sounding surprised.

“Yup. Took me about seventeen hours, but I think it turned out okay.” He looked over at it and grinned, proud of himself. “This is for Erica.”

He handed over a thick book, his hand aching just holding it. Derek took it and began to flip through it, looking even more surprised than he had upon seeing the painting.

“Are these recipes?”

“Yeah, for baked goods. I know Peter’s the chef of the house, but Erica loves baking. I have a lot of leftover recipe books from my mom, some of which are family recipes and some are just ones she made up, or even found in books or online.”

“And you sat down and wrote out an entire book of recipes by hand?” Derek asked, giving him a weird look.

“Well, yeah. I couldn’t print them, that would just look bad glued into the book. So I wrote them all out. Took forever, but it was worth it. There’s an entire section of chocolate in there, so expect to eat a lot of that in the new year.” He grinned and took the book back, making sure it closed properly without bending any pages. “Isaac’s was kind of a joint thing with Erica. He wants to start a fashion blog for fun, but he’s kind of useless at the whole website thing. Erica bought a domain for him and I made it all fancy and pretty. I’m going to teach him how to use it once the holidays are over, so he just gets a card explaining his present.”

Derek nodded slowly. “And Peter?”

“Oh, his was easy. He keeps raving about this book he had when he was a kid that’s out of print and he’s desperately searching for.” Stiles grinned. “Turns out my dad had a copy stored up in the attic. I asked him if I could give it away and he said yes, so his present’s been ready for months.”

“Oh.” Derek looked like he didn’t even know what to say. Like he had no idea Stiles had thought that far ahead about people in his pack, when Derek himself had been clueless and scrambling to figure out what to get them the day before Christmas.

Stiles hesitated, then said, “I uh, I got you something, too. You know, since we work together all the time. But I can’t tell you what it is, because then it’s not a surprise.”

Derek looked like Stiles had slapped him. “What?”

“You don’t—I mean, it’s cool if you don’t want it. I just figured it’d be nice to give you something, too.” Stiles shrugged. “Hey, since you’re here anyway, when we’re done wrapping your gifts, can I quickly wrap mine up for your pack and have you bring them back with you? It’ll just save me having to bring them to work since I can’t very well drop them off at your place. You know, since I have no idea where you guys all live.”

Derek was still just staring at him, but Stiles took it as confirmation anyway and sat back down to continue wrapping presents.

He did most of the paper wrappings. Derek seemed more comfortable with the bags, but even then he went extremely slowly, like he was debating whether or not things should go in bags or get wrapped up. They made good time, considering the amount of gifts, and once they were done with Derek’s, Stiles began wrapping his gifts for the pack, slapping a tag on them and scrawling out everyone’s names accordingly, with his own underneath as the sender.

Boyd’s was by far the hardest to wrap, but he just ended up having Derek hold it and he wrapped a full roll of paper around it. It was good enough, wasn’t like Boyd would have any idea what it was until he took the wrapping off, anyway.

Stiles went to his room to quickly wrap Derek’s gift while the other man took things out to the car. He hadn’t really known what to get Derek, and his was actually the only present Stiles spent more than twenty bucks on.

It was an idea book. Not to say Derek needed help with ideas, but it was something that was meant to help writers keep their inspiration. It had three-hundred and sixty-five pages of ideas, with blank lines beneath them to have the individual write out a short story. Stiles had thought it might be neat, and he hoped Derek at least appreciated it, even if he didn’t like it. Though he acknowledged that it meant Derek would know someone in the pack had admitted he was a writer.

When he returned downstairs, Derek was standing in the living room, looking awkward and uncomfortable. Stiles just beamed at him and held out the last present, Derek staring at it exceptionally hard before finally taking it.

“I hope you guys have a great holiday season,” Stiles said. “Tell the others that too for me, okay?”

Derek just nodded once, muttered what could’ve been thanks, and left the house as quickly as he could. Stiles just rolled his eyes.

He really didn’t get that guy, but at least they’d spent a relatively fun day together. Derek hadn’t snapped at him once barring when he’d told him to watch where he was going.

“Progress,” Stiles decided, grabbing a remaining slice of now-cold pizza and taking a bite of it while pulling his phone out to text Scott. “It’s progress.”


The coffeeshop opened again on the second day of classes in January. Stiles was working the first shift back with Boyd, which was a change from usual, but he definitely didn’t mind.

He got a massive bearhug from him for the present, which had been a bit of a shock, since Boyd had never actually hugged him before, but not unpleasant. He was also given his gift from Boyd, which was a Star Wars themed messenger bag. He immediately gushed about it to every regular he saw, going so far as to wear it around the shop while working because it was so fucking awesome.

When Erica and Isaac showed up for the evening shift, he got more presents that almost had him lose his shit. Erica had bought him some tickets to see a live Broadway show of Star Wars in San Francisco in the summer. Stiles didn’t even know that was a fucking thing, but apparently it was!

Isaac had been almost offended when he’d handed over his present, but that was because he probably thought it was a fashion faux-pas given it was a bunch of Star Wars graphic T-shirts. Stiles felt like he must’ve really talked up his love for Star Wars in the few months they’d known one another.

Erica also had Stiles’ present from Peter, which was a book of puns that he was eager to devour and memorize to torture everyone with.

“Of all the Christmas books I’ve ever received, my favourite is this one from Peter. There is no tome like the present.”

That had Erica groaning immediately. “Peter is enabling your horrible addiction. Seriously, I’ve never wanted to commit murder so much for punning until I met you.”

“Aw,” Stiles said with a grin. “Erica! Thanks a latte for being my friend.”

“You’re on thin ice,” she insisted dryly, eyes flashing yellow, and Stiles laughed.

“So rumour has it you’re responsible for people getting, not only wrapped gifts this year, but decent ones, as well,” Isaac said, moving towards the back room to remove his coat. Stiles realized it was one of the new ones Derek had bought him, and was actually a little surprised Derek would’ve admitted to them that Stiles had helped out. “True or false?”

“I couldn’t help it!” Stiles insisted, looking back over at Boyd and Erica. “He just looked so lost and confused. He bought Erica lingerie! Lingerie!”

Erica made a face at that and Boyd snorted once in amusement.

“I had to save him from himself. And then he told me he doesn’t wrap gifts! I had to help him, it was my duty as a human being to help him. So I did.”

“He still hasn’t opened his present from you,” Boyd admitted. “Says he doesn’t feel right opening it until he gets something for you.”

Stiles frowned at that. “Why? I didn’t get it for him expecting something in return.”

“He knows that.” Boyd shrugged. “I guess he just feels uncomfortable about it. He doesn’t like owing people anything.”

Stiles just rolled his eyes, because that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard, but he didn’t argue it. If Derek was going to angst about it, nothing anyone said was going to stop him so Stiles figured as long as Derek didn’t go overboard, it was fine.

The four of them chatted for a bit while Erica counted down the till for the evening shift, and then he and Boyd went down the street to have dinner together. He told Stiles all about how their holiday season went, and how everyone was honestly surprised and pleased with all the gifts Derek had bought them.

Poor guy had been a little overwhelmed because people weren’t usually that thrilled for any presents he got them. That made Stiles feel a little sad, but also really pleased. He was glad that he’d bumped into Derek in the mall and had ended up bullying him into buying decent presents for the people he cared about.

Stiles went home that evening feeling particularly good about himself and slept extremely well that night. When he woke up in the morning, he and his dad went out for breakfast in town since they didn’t get to spend much time together, then Stiles dicked around on the computer until it was time to head to work.

He walked in to find Derek counting down the till, which was new, because usually Boyd or Erica did that since they wanted to get the hell out of there pronto. But for the first time since walking into the coffeeshop during Derek’s presence there, things felt... good.

Normal. Kind of pleasant.

“Hey Derek.”

Derek glanced up at him, and while he didn’t say hello, he at least grunted, which was more acknowledgement than Stiles had gotten from him in the past. Stiles grinned, pleased with this development, and went to the back to take off his coat and shove his new bag into his locker.

Isaac was still there changing out, but Boyd had already left since he had a movie date with Erica.

Stiles and Isaac spoke for a bit, making plans for their next shared day off, and then Isaac waved on his way out the exit at the back towards the lot. Stiles pushed through the swinging door to take his place at the till, Derek at the end of the counter scowling at the schedule. He was scribbling things out and drawing arrows, and Stiles had to wonder what he was doing. He didn’t dwell on it though, he just smiled at the next patron who walked in.

“Welcome to A Howling Good Coffee, what can I get you?” he asked, feeling like today was going to be a good day.

When one of the regulars came in, he actually handed Stiles a present—a gift card for the comic book store down the street. Stiles was a little floored, but the guy just said that Stiles always did his job with a smile on his face, and it made such a difference for people who needed that. While he wasn’t sure he understood entirely, he could tell he’d obviously made a huge difference in this man’s life by being himself, and that felt really good.

“Thank you so much,” he said sincerely. And, because he couldn’t help it, he added, “You mocha me so happy to hear that.”

The guy laughed, patted the counter once, and then left with his drink—which was, ironically, a mocha.

At the end of the evening, when they closed up shop, Stiles was heading for the back room to grab the mop so he could clean the floors when Derek stood in his path, stopping him from going any further.

“This is for you.” He pulled something out from behind him and held it out to Stiles. It was probably the worst wrapping job Stiles had ever seen in his life, but he didn’t care.

Because Derek had wrapped it. For him.

“Thanks Derek.” He took it and offered him his best smile. “You really didn’t have to do this for me, you know. I didn’t get you the gift so that you would return the favour.”

“I wanted to,” he muttered, not sounding like he’d wanted to at all. “It’s a thank you for helping with the shopping.”

“No thanks necessary, big guy.” Stiles slapped him in the arm before he could stop himself, but was gratified not to get scowled at for it.

Derek didn’t seem to know what else to say, so he just pushed open the door and motioned for Stiles to go. Which he did, wandering into the back room and putting the wrapped gift into his locker with his bag. He was excited to see what it was, but wanted to finish work first.

He mopped the floors, then cleaned the machines and the bathroom before he was done. Derek came out of the office while Stiles was pulling on his coat, and they left the shop together, like they always did. Derek was in his Camaro and gone before Stiles had even reached the Jeep, as usual.

Stiles paused on his way there to dig into his bag for the present, wanting to know what it was, but froze when he felt a blade pressed against the base of his spine.

“Give me your wallet.”

Seriously? His day had been going so well, too.

“Okay, let’s be cool,” Stiles said, slowly reaching for his pocket. “It’s all good.”

He pulled his wallet out of his pocket as slowly as he could and held it up over his shoulder. The guy’s free hand shot out to grab it, and a few seconds later, he felt that same hand wrap around the strap of his bag.

“Give me the bag, too.”

“Look man, there’s nothing–there’s nothing in the bag. It’s just my work clothes and a present I got from my coworker.”

The guy tugged harder, pressing the knife a little more firmly into his back.

“I said give it to me.”

Stiles knew it was stupid. He knew it was just a bag. It was just clothes. It was just a present.

But the bag was from Boyd, and he had a gift in there from Derek, and the guy already had his wallet so why was he trying to take his bag, too?

He twisted and elbowed the guy in the gut.

Thankfully he didn’t get a knife to the spine for it, but he also wasn’t the best fighter, so while he managed to force the guy to drop his weapon, he still got punched in the face at least six times, and kicked in the stomach about a bazillion times, from the feel of things—okay, maybe just like, eight or nine times, but it felt like a bazillion.

They were both wrestling on the ground, Stiles struggling to get the guy’s weight off him and seeing stars from all the blows to his face. It was hard to breathe, like a few ribs had cracked, and he was positive he wasn’t going to win this battle when someone shouted loudly from his left.

The guy on top of him leapt to his feet and ran, Stiles only slightly mollified with the knowledge that he still had his bag and the moron had dropped Stiles’ wallet.

Two sets of feet raced towards Stiles, an unknown older gentleman bending down in front of him, one hand clutching his shoulder tightly.

“Son, are you okay?”

He could hear the woman he’d been with calling the police and Stiles just groaned, knowing his dad was going to be the one to show up the second they mentioned the address. Just what he needed right now.

Stiles felt sore, but he didn’t think he had any serious injuries. The guy helped him to his feet and walked him slowly to the front of the Jeep so he could sit down. Stiles winced and wrapped one arm around his ribs, the other still being held by the man, as if worried Stiles was going to topple over.

When the cruiser arrived with the lights flashing, Stiles was relieved to see Parrish behind the wheel. He didn’t know if his dad was working tonight or not, but maybe he wasn’t, and thank God for that.

Parrish’s partner got the couple’s statement while Parrish himself looked Stiles over and asked him what happened. Unfortunately, neither the couple nor Stiles had seen much of his attacker, so it would be impossible to get a positive ID on him.

Stiles made Parrish promise not to call his dad just yet, because he knew he would panic. It took some doing, but he eventually agreed, though only if Stiles went to Emergency. He agreed, though was annoyed about it, and climbed into the back of the cruiser.

Parrish went in with him to sign him in, but he only stayed until Melissa was free and then left Stiles with her. She looked him over ahead of most of the other people waiting—which Stiles felt guilty about, but well, he was her son’s best friend and the sheriff’s kid, so it was bound to happen.

After almost two hours in the hospital, he left with a diagnosis of a concussion and three bruised ribs, along with massive amounts of bruising on his face. He knew his dad would hear about this at the station in the morning, so Stiles wrote out a letter on his computer when he got home, printed it, and slipped it under his dad’s door.

It was mostly just him repeating that he was fine, Parrish had taken care of his statement, he was fine, Melissa had checked him out, he was fine, he was really tired and wanted to sleep, and he was fine. He was hoping his dad wouldn’t come into his room to speak to him, hence the comment about really needing sleep. He didn’t want his dad to see how bad it was, he wanted the bruising to go down a bit, first.

School was going to be super fun in the morning.


As predicted, school was the best part of his day. Of course, that statement was dripping with sarcasm, because Stiles spent a majority of the day with his hood pulled up over his head and his face lowered. People kept staring at him. And not even subtly, either, just full-on staring. Like they’d never seen someone lose a fight before.

Scott had been horrified when they’d done FaceTime between two of Stiles’ classes, and had abruptly hung up before calling back on the phone. Stiles didn’t understand why he was calling him back as opposed to sticking to FaceTime, but he did notice that Scott sounded weird. He sounded... growlier? And his words were a little slurred. Obviously he was pissed as hell that Stiles was so badly hurt, but honestly, it looked way worse than it felt and he told Scott so.

Not to say he wasn’t in pain, because he was, but it definitely looked worse than it felt.

He also realized while he was sitting in his second class of the day that he hadn’t opened Derek’s present. He only remembered it when he dug into his bag for his notebook and his hand closed around the wrapped gift. He didn’t want to open it just yet, because he was in class, but he knew he had to know what it was before his shift with Derek later.

Though his shift was going to be a problem, because by the time he left class, he felt uncomfortable with how many stares he was getting and didn’t know if he could handle an entire evening of them at the shop. But he wasn’t sick, so he didn’t want to call in, and while he was in a fair amount of pain, it wasn’t so bad he felt like he couldn’t work.

Eventually, when he got home, he sighed and texted Erica.

[Stiles]
hey you have makeup with you right?
[Stiles]
at work i mean

Stiles had just taken a seat at his desk with Derek’s present, ready to open it, when he got a response.

[Erica]
of course I do
[Erica]
what am I, a savage?

[Stiles]
can you stick around until i get there?
[Stiles]
i need your magical expertise

[Erica]
??????
[Erica]
something you need to tell me?
[Erica]
because if you’re entering a drag race or something
[Erica]
Isaac and I need to be involved in the outfit choice

[Stiles]
you’ll be the first to know if i do
[Stiles]
thanks erica

[Erica]
mmhm.
[Erica]
see you soon

Stiles tossed his phone back onto his desk, wincing because he should probably stop tossing it around in case the screen cracked. With the Erica side of his day done, he pulled the present over and again stared down at the atrocious wrapping job.

No wonder Derek never wrapped his gifts, he truly was horrible at it. But the thing about gift-wrapping was that it didn’t matter how bad someone was, what mattered was the thought behind it. Yes, Derek sucked, and he knew he sucked, but he’d still wrapped Stiles’ present which made this the best wrapping job on the planet, in his opinion.

It took him a little bit to convince himself to unwrap it, mostly because it felt precious somehow. A wrapped gift from Derek Hale. But, he wanted to know what it was, so he slowly tore through the tape and pulled the paper off.

It was a book, which he’d already surmised based on the shape, but it wasn’t until he flipped it around that he realized just what book it was.

Derek’s detective series was due for another instalment in February—not that Stiles had the date circled or anything, of course not—but obviously Derek always got a few advance copies.

And Stiles was holding one of them. Stiles was holding a copy of Derek’s new book, that wasn’t even available to the general public.

On the downside, it meant someone had blabbed to Derek about Stiles being a fan—probably Isaac, the traitor—but on the upside Stiles had the next book!

Oh God, he was liable to tackle hug Derek for this!

He quickly checked the time, figuring he had a few minutes to at least start it and flipped to the first page.

He paused on the cover page, because there, in neat black print, was a message.

Stiles,
Thank you for your support.
I hope you enjoy it.
Michael Wolfe.

Everyone knew Michael Wolfe, aka Derek Hale, didn’t do signings. He didn’t do signings, or prints with his autograph, or offer anything at all with his signature on it. He wrote books, and that was that.

But Stiles was now holding an advance copy of his next book, with a handwritten personalized message, and a fucking autograph. Stiles was probably the only person outside of the pack who had this and he was now so, so, so thankful he hadn’t let his bag get stolen last night.

He realized he’d been sitting there for too long staring incredulously and he now had to go if he wanted Erica to do his make-up before his shift. Hastily grabbing his things, but leaving the oh-so-precious book on his desk, he hurried to the door and left the house, regretting his over-eager jump into the Jeep when his ribs protested something fierce.

Right. Injured. In his jubilation he’d forgotten he was injured.

He drove carefully to the shop, not sure why he was being careful, but wanting to—he didn’t know. Not get in an accident? He made it there in plenty of time, and since Erica was the shift lead on duty, it would be fine for her to be in the back doing his makeup while her shift finished.

Stiles normally went through the front door out of habit. Even when he had the Jeep, he generally went through the front unless it was snowing or raining, so it was kind of weird for him to park beside Derek’s Camaro, and then step out and head for the back door when the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t too biting. He pulled it open with a bit of difficulty, since it didn’t have a handle and Stiles had to use the key to get it open, then stepped into the back room.

It was empty, which wasn’t unusual, given Isaac and Erica were likely both in the front. He assumed Derek was in the office.

Walking to the small lockers, he shoved his bag into it, shrugged out of his coat, then let out a slow breath and said, “Erica, I’m here.”

He knew she would hear him, she was a Werewolf, after all.

Stiles went to sit down on one of the chairs to wait on her, and ten seconds later, the back door swung open. Erica was grinning when she walked through it, but the expression died on her face and she froze, one hand still pushing the door open and eyes locked on his face.

“Oh my God!” she blurted out, rushing him so quickly he worried she’d slam into him, but she stopped right in front of him and crouched to get a better look at him, her eyes wide and flashing gold angrily. “What happened?!”

He hadn’t even opened his mouth to explain anything and the back door slammed open again, Isaac in the doorway looking worried, and then furious. Stiles also heard the office door open and glanced over to find Derek there, red eyes locked on him and a growl rumbling up from his chest.

All three of them looked more animal than human in that moment and Stiles worried about them going ape-shit on—he didn’t even know. Evidently not him, but someone.

“I’m fine,” he blurted out insistently, looking between them all before settling on Erica. “It’s nothing, I’m okay, I promise. I swear, it’s not as bad as it looks.”

“What happened?!” Erica demanded again, starting to reach out for his face before stopping herself, looking ten different kinds of pissed.

Stiles shifted uncomfortably. “I uh, I got mugged.”

“You got mugged?!” Isaac demanded furiously, looking ready to murder someone. It was actually quite startling, because Isaac was like an angelic cherub in Stiles’ eyes, so seeing him this murderous was a little uncomfortable.

“When?” Derek demanded, voice more of a growl than anything.

Stiles winced, rubbing the back of his neck and glancing over at Derek. “Um, last night. After, you know...”

Derek’s eyes seemed to be glowing now, the red almost painful to look at. Stiles shifted his gaze away away, focussing back on Erica, who looked furious and wounded all at once. Like Stiles’ pain was something she could physically feel now that she could see it.

Stiles was actually starting to feel pissed off himself, though he wasn’t sure why. He supposed their anger was just making him angry this had happened, too. He hated that someone had gotten the jump on him, and was determined to ensure it never happened again.

“I’m fine, I swear,” he repeated, trying to calm himself down so he didn’t accidentally snap at anyone. He had no idea why he was getting so angry right now. “It’s just... I got a lot of looks at school today,” he admitted uncomfortably. “I didn’t want that at work, too. I was just hoping—It’s a little jarring, you know? It’s really in your face. I was hoping makeup might tone it down a little bit.”

“Stiles, you shouldn’t be here,” Erica insisted. Which, okay, was nice, but also insulting because Stiles wasn’t a weakling. Yes, he was human, and he was in pain, but he could still do his job!

“Yeah,” Isaac agreed. “I can cover your shift, it’s totally fine.”

“No, no!” Stiles waved one hand. “I swear, I’m okay. It doesn’t even hurt.”

Which was a lie, and he probably should’ve thought of that before speaking those words in a room of Werewolves. All of them stiffened, and he knew some kind of body signal had proven to them he wasn’t telling the truth.

Erica reached out for his wrist, and at first he didn’t understand, but when he glanced down he saw that black lines were slowly sliding beneath her skin, working their way up her arm. And even as he watched, he realized that the dull ache in his face and the sharper pain in his ribs was ebbing. Within seconds, the pain was completely gone and he just stared down incredulously at Erica’s hand.

People knew things about Werewolves, of course they did, but the wolves were all very private. Kept to themselves. Didn’t share more than people needed to know. He had no idea that they could do something like this, take away his pain, make it feel like his injuries were gone.

He looked back up into Erica’s face, stunned, and saw her lips downturned unhappily.

“Liar,” she said softly.

Stiles kept staring at her for a long while, then blurted out, “Well, I’m fine now!” He glanced back down at her hand, still around his wrist. “What did you do? That’s amazing!”

“Stiles,” she scolded, and he remembered they were still trying to convince him to go home.

He deflated slightly, wincing. “Look, my dad’s gonna freak out it—”

“You didn’t tell your dad?!” Derek demanded angrily from the office door.

Stiles gave him an unimpressed look. “What am I, an idiot? Of course I told my dad. I might have just—downplayed how beat up I got. He knows as much as he needs to, and I told Parrish the whole thing. He brought me to the hospital to get checked out, so I’m perfectly fine. I just... I didn’t want my dad to worry. If you send me home, he’s gonna know it was serious and he doesn’t need that kind of stress. It’s just coffee, I can handle making coffee. I just need to not look like this.” He motioned his face and looked back at Erica. “Please?”

She turned to glance at Derek, so Stiles did, too. He looked pissed, back ramrod straight, arms crossed and tense, and his jaw set in a hard line. He was watching Stiles intently, like he was assessing the damage and trying to determine how he felt. His eyes finally shifted to Erica and he gave the smallest of nods.

Sighing, she turned back to Stiles. “You are going to be the death of me.”

She reached back for another chair, dragging it closer so she could sit, then grabbed her bag out of her locker on her left, pulling makeup out of it and beginning to try and match concealer, holding various different shades up to his face before discarding a majority of them and testing others against the inside of his wrist. Stiles had to wonder why she had so many, but he didn’t ask.

Derek disappeared back into the office, and Isaac went back to the front. Erica began working on Stiles a few minutes later, once she was satisfied with the colours she had.

Makeup felt kind of gross and weird. It was all... kind of wet against his face, and when it dried, it felt chalky and uncomfortable. Like his face would crack through it if he moved any of his muscles.

He knew it would probably hold up against his grins and usual expressions, because girls wore this stuff all the time and it was fine, but it still felt weird against his skin.

Erica was still working on him when Derek exited the office to go count down Isaac’s till. He returned a few minutes later when she was putting on the finishing touches, pausing to look over her head at him.

“Look okay?” Stiles asked.

“It’ll do,” Derek grunted, then continued on his way to the office.

When Erica was done, Stiles checked himself out in the bathroom mirror, and was a little startled at what he found. The makeup was a touch too dark for his skin tone, so that it looked like he’d gotten a bad tan job, but his bruises were almost entirely covered up. One along his nose was still peeking out through the concealer, but only just, he doubted anyone would notice unless they were staring at him with the intention of seeing the injury.

He got his apron on and went out to the front to relieve Isaac, cracking jokes and making puns with customers as they walked in, just like usual.

Erica and Isaac were sticking around longer than they normally did, but Stiles didn’t mind. It was nice they were worried. Though he felt... antsy. Uncomfortable? No, just... he felt really on edge. High strung, maybe. Like something was wrong. Something was really bothering him, but he didn’t really understand what it was. And angry. He kept getting bursts of anger, but he was thinking about the previous night, so it kind of made sense, he supposed.

An hour into his shift, Erica and Isaac were still hanging out in the back, Derek at the front with him working on various mundane things and glancing up sharply every time someone walked in.

One of the people who walked in was Boyd, and at first Stiles thought maybe the others had told him what had happened, but it became clear they hadn’t when he approached Stiles and asked why he was wearing makeup.

His eyes shifted to the back door then, one of the others obviously telling him something, and he moved around the counter and into the back room. A few minutes later, the antsy feeling Stiles had went up a couple notches and the rage returned. He shook out his hands and shifted his weight a few times, then started pacing while doing as much of his job as he could, trying to calm himself down.

Two hours into his shift, Peter walked in, snapping something at Derek about bothering him even though Stiles knew Derek hadn’t called him or made any move to touch base with him at all. Derek just glared back at him and motioned the back room before the two of them disappeared through the door.

Being left alone was something of a relief, but Stiles was still feeling antsy and uncomfortable, and it only seemed to be getting worse as his shift progressed, random bouts of rage hitting him and an inexplicable anxiousness settling over him. He tried for smiles and his usual cheer whenever people walked in, but it felt like he’d taken four shots of espresso and he was seriously considering going to run around the block a few times to get rid of this extra nervous energy.

And then, because things couldn’t possibly get any worse, his dad walked in.

Because of course he did.

“Hi dad,” Stiles said cheerfully, trying to move away from the front counter a little bit, putting more space between them. “You just get off shift? Want some coffee? I’ve bean waiting to serve you since my first day here. Huh? Huh?” He grinned, knowing his dad would get it, and hoping he’d just chortle at the pun, insist he was just checking in, and then leave.

No dice. He leaned forward on the front counter, elbows on the hard surface and hands clasped together.

“Rumour has it,” he said, eying Stiles with extreme scrutiny, and it made him feel like the makeup was doing nothing against his dad’s laser vision, “you were mugged last night.”

“It’s not a rumour if I’m the one who tells you about it, dad.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “Remember? The note?”

“I remember,” he said, still staring exceptionally hard. “I remember reading that someone tried to steal your wallet, and you let them have it, but when they went for your bag you fought back and a nice couple came to help you chase your attacker off. You know what I don’t remember reading in your note? The beating you got before the couple showed up.”

Damn Parrish, always brownnosing.

“Do I look beat up to you?” Stiles asked with a laugh, motioning his face.

“You look like you’re wearing a pound of makeup to me,” his father shot back. “You also look like someone who forgets that Melissa and I have lunch on occasion and she told me that your ribs were bruised and you should be taking it easy for the next couple of days.”

Damn Melissa! Why was everyone out to get him?

“Dad, it’s really not that bad. I’m perfectly fine,” he insisted. “Besides, I get mugged all the time. You know, stealing someone’s coffee is called a mugging.” He raised both eyebrows, trying for a smile, but his father still had his serious face on so he deflated. “Dad, I’m okay. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. And it’s just coffee. I can make coffee.”

Before his dad could say anything else, the back door opened and Derek walked out, coming up right beside Stiles, so close they were almost touching.

“Sheriff,” he said with a polite nod. “I’m Derek Hale.”

“I know who you are, son.” His father’s expression softened ever so slightly, obviously remembering things about Derek and his family.

“This won’t happen again,” Derek promised. “It shouldn’t have happened at all, but it won’t happen again.”

His dad looked a little surprised, glancing between Derek and Stiles before nodding once. “Thank you. My son is very important to me.”

“He is important to all of us.”

Stiles gave Derek a weird look at that, because Derek barely tolerated him on a good day, let alone cared about him. But then... he had gone all red-eyed angry Alpha when Stiles had told them all what happened. Maybe he was chipping away at Derek’s assholeness bit by bit. Stiles was pretty stubborn, but Derek was heavily armoured. It was like trying to beat away at a metal suit of armour with a regular hammer. He supposed even the hammer would win out eventually, so maybe his hammer had started denting the armour a bit.

For a few seconds, no one said anything, then Derek’s back straightened and his eyes flashed red, and Stiles felt... he didn’t even know. Something. He felt like he was suddenly happy. The antsiness from earlier was gone, and he felt good. Better than he had all day, including when Erica had taken his pain away.

“Can I speak to you in the back for a moment?” Derek asked the sheriff. “I’m about to get an important call, and I think you need to be there for it.”

“Sure.” He looked confused, but obediently followed Derek on the other side of the counter, then moved back around it and through the door.

Stiles frowned after them, but didn’t worry about it, turning in time for the door to open. His cheerful greeting kind of fell flat when Matt walked in.

“Hi, the usual?” He started to move to make his drink, Matt offering him a huge smile.

He obviously couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, much like the other customers. His dad just had a keen eye, and was also kind of looking for it.

“Sure.” Matt leaned forward on the counter, like he always did, watching Stiles move around to get his coffee made.

Whatever Erica had done to him was slowly beginning to wear off, and his ribs were beginning to twinge again. Stiles winced, but didn’t worry about it. It was just coffee, he would be fine.

“How have you been doing? Classes going well?” Matt asked while Stiles made his gross coffee.

“Good,” he replied shortly, hoping to end the conversation quickly. He didn’t ask about Matt’s, but the guy told him all about it anyway, standing in front of him while Stiles waited for him to fucking pay and get out.

He didn’t even pretend to be interested, moving to organize their syrups and beginning to wipe down the counter, but Matt just kept talking and ignoring the fact that Stiles clearly wanted him to pay and go away!

The back door opened then, Stiles turning to it, and his dad hurried out while speaking into his radio, asking Parrish to meet him somewhere. He frowned, but didn’t have time to dwell on it, because Derek was suddenly in his space again, snapping at him to get Matt checked out because he had work for him to do in the back.

Matt glared at Derek exceptionally hard, but it was kind of laughable because Derek was much more practised at it. Eventually though, he paid, bid Stiles a good night with a call that they should hang out sometime, and then left.

When Stiles turned to Derek to ask him what he wanted him to do in the back, Derek stared at him for a few long seconds, as if not actually having anything for him to do. Which was ridiculous, because why else would Derek have told him he did?

“Just go do inventory or something,” Derek finally settled on.

Stiles shrugged and grabbed the clipboard, heading around Derek to obey.

“Wait.” Derek grabbed his arm and Stiles turned back to him, but Derek just stared at him for a second longer, then muttered, “Never mind.” and let him go.

Heading into the back, Stiles started to reach up to shift something out of the way so he could see the back of the shelf when he froze. Very slowly, he reached down to poke at his ribs, jabbing in a little harder than he probably should.

He felt nothing. Well, not nothing, but no pain. It had been coming back while he’d been making Matt’s drink, but now...

Stiles turned to the back door, confused. Was that Derek? Had Derek realized the pain-sucking mojo from Erica was wearing off and he’d re-done it so Stiles wasn’t in pain anymore?

How had Derek even known he was in pain again? Or did he just guess because the mojo had a time limit? Or maybe he didn’t even know and he’d just done it in case?

Stiles tried not to dwell on it, because that would be weird, since Derek didn’t even like him, but he thought about it for a long time afterwards. He did inventory, then went back to the front, where Derek was rudely helping customers. Stiles shoved him towards the machines and told him to make the drinks. Surprisingly, he didn’t get snapped at for touching him, which was progress.

When the shift ended, Derek told him not to bother with cleaning the floors or bathroom, and that the morning shift would take care of it. So Stiles just cleaned up all the machines, took out the trash, and then got ready to head home.

Derek was finished at the same time as him and they headed out together. Stiles expected him to just go to his car and leave, like he normally did, but Derek seemed to be walking exceptionally slowly, playing with his keys, checking his phone, basically doing anything he had to in order for Stiles to reach the Jeep before Derek got to the Camaro.

It seemed insane, but he was almost willing to bet that Derek was making sure Stiles made it out of the lot safely. For someone who hated Stiles, he seemed to be warming up to him, and that was kind of nice.

He felt all warm and fuzzy on his way home, and when he got there, his dad was still up, watching TV in the living room. Stiles sat down on the couch beside his armchair and his dad turned to him briefly before facing forward once more.

“We caught him.”

Stiles frowned. “Caught who?”

“The guy who mugged you.”

He just stared at his father, not understanding. “What? How? I don’t even know who he is.”

“Your friends found him. Sniffed him out.”

Stiles suddenly realized that... he had no idea when the others had left. They’d been in the back, and then suddenly—they weren’t. He hadn’t given it any thought, because he’d actually kind of forgotten they were there.

“So... so they found him, and they called you?”

“Actually, they called Derek. It was why he asked to speak to me in the back. He said they’d caught the guy’s scent in the lot and were trying to find him. Once they did, they called Derek.”

“But it’s not like he just confessed or anything,” Stiles insisted.

His dad turned to him. “Wouldn’t you if you had four very angry Werewolves breathing down your neck?”

“But that’s confession under duress, it doesn’t hold up,” Stiles insisted.

“It does when the wolves are involved, because you can’t lie to a Werewolf. They know it’s him, he admitted it, he agreed to his time, and I slapped a restraining order on him for good measure.”

Stiles had no idea how this had happened, but he kind of felt warm and fuzzy all over again. The pack liked him. They truly cared about him, Derek included! He hadn’t realized how much they all cared about one another until recently, and when he went to bed that night, he felt so good that his pain didn’t even seem to be bothering him anymore.


It was halfway through February when Stiles finally clued in.

Things had been good, really good. Derek treated him—not well, but kindly enough. They weren’t friends, but he was polite to him, and always made sure he stuck around until Stiles got into his Jeep. He was civil, which was all Stiles had ever wanted from him.

Stiles even finally saw what he was always doing at the schedule once, which he’d had to pretend he hadn’t noticed because he didn’t want to deter whatever truce he and Derek had.

He often found Derek at the schedule, scratching things out and drawing arrows. He’d never given it much thought because he always assumed it was to accommodate his writing or whatever, but one day he wandered past him while going to get more to-go cups from the cupboard behind him, and he realized it was the schedule for the week after next.

And Derek was crossing out all the shifts where he and Stiles weren’t working together, re-arranging people so that Stiles never worked with anyone except for him.

He’d been so startled he’d almost dropped the bag of cups he’d been pulling out, but thankfully caught it before it hit the ground and had Derek turn to see what the fuck he was doing. Stiles had grinned the whole way back to the till because, as much as Derek pretended not to like him, he was slowly but surely proving that he did like Stiles.

Or at least tolerated him more than the other humans who came in the shop.

He didn’t mind working with Derek anymore. Things had been good since the winter break, and he wasn’t about to rock the boat, so he just happily worked alongside him, occasionally trying to speak to him, but not pushing his luck. It was fine, though. The regulars talked to him all the time, asking him about his classes, his dad, how things were going in general.

The only downside to any of his time in the shop was Matt. The guy could not take a hint, and it was slowly but surely getting on Stiles’ last nerve. He really felt like he needed a flashing neon sign that declared ‘NOT INTERESTED’ to make him understand.

Today was crazy, though. Insanely crazy.

Because it was Valentine’s day. And of course, people were coming in to cuddle up and be all gross and sappy together, and Stiles was so, so thankful Peter had planned ahead and had Boyd working, too.

Stiles, Derek and Boyd were doing the morning shift since Stiles had class early the following day and thus preferred not to work the night shift. So the three of them did the morning shift together, and Erica, Isaac and Peter would be covering the evening shift.

Boyd and Derek were making the drinks, and Stiles was on till since his personality made him the better option to keep people from getting too frustrated by the wait.

Also, his pun game on Valentine’s was strong, especially for the singles who walked in looking annoyed or dejected about what day it was.

One of the two regular girls who sat at the back was missing her friend that day, and she looked a little sad about it—he understood from her that her friend was married and spending a romantic day with her husband, so she was alone doing homework today. Stiles wanted to cheer her up, so when her order was ready, he handed it to her and smiled.

“A Valentine brew, just for you. Lots of mugs and kisses.”

She’d looked startled, and then had barked out a laugh, punching his shoulder lightly before thanking him, giving him a nice tip, and returning to her spot at the back.

By the time one rolled around, they had a bit of a lull, and Stiles heard Boyd let out a relieved sigh.

“I hate these days of the year. They’re always hectic.”

“Yeah, this is kind of nuts,” Stiles agreed, looking around at the mostly full coffeeshop. No one new had come in though, so he squeezed himself between Derek and the machine and started making himself an iced coffee, still pleased every time Derek didn’t move away like Stiles had the plague.

Peter had long ago told him he didn’t mind when Stiles took anything from the shop, but it still kind of bothered him. The rest of the employees were pack, they shared everything, but Stiles wasn’t. So he made his drink, and then rang himself in. When he went to pay, Boyd snatched his card from his hand and shoved it into his own pocket.

“You don’t pay.”

“I should be paying,” Stiles insisted, holding his hand out. Boyd just kept staring at him so Stiles tried to reach into his pocket himself to grab the card. He and Boyd had a mini battle behind the counter, Stiles actually getting his hand into his pocket and almost snatching his card back since Boyd was trying not to hurt him.

The only reason he failed was because Derek pulled him away from Boyd and held his hand out. Stiles smirked in triumph while Boyd pulled Stiles’ card from his pocket, and when he reached for it, Derek raised his eyebrows and then shoved it into his own pocket.

Boyd burst out laughing while Stiles sputtered. Derek had totally done that because he knew Stiles wasn’t brave enough to go for his pocket! Sure, they got along better, but Stiles and Boyd were friends. They hung out outside of work.

He and Derek definitely didn’t do that, barring that one time around the holidays.

“I’ll pay later,” Stiles insisted stubbornly. “You can’t keep my card forever.”

“I mean, I could,” Derek insisted.

“But you won’t,” Stiles shot back, chasing the straw with his tongue and then sipping at his drink. He looked over at Boyd when he sighed and pulled the straw from between his lips. “What’s up?”

“Just disappointed I can’t spend Valentine’s day with Erica,” he said with another small sigh, wiping down the counter and cleaning out the blender Stiles had used to make his drink. “I’m working now, and she’s working later. It just sucks, is all.”

Stiles licked his lips, feeling like he could understand that. It wasn’t great that Boyd had to spend the day away from his girlfriend, but he was sure they’d do something nice maybe tomorrow. He knew Peter was working the morning shift with Isaac, and Stiles and Derek were working the night shift, so they could be super romantic and disgustingly lovey-dovey tomorrow.

And the places wouldn’t be as packed, either, so it was really a win-win all around.

“Well, at least we’re spending the day together,” Stiles offered with a grin. “Coffee and friends are the perfect blend!”

“Don’t make me hurt you,” Boyd insisted with another, deeper sigh. “It’s bad enough I have to hear your puns with the customers. Seriously,” he turned to Derek, “how do you handle spending every shift with him?”

Derek just shrugged while Stiles went back to sucking frozen goodness through his straw. He hollowed his cheeks, trying to get a stubborn piece of ice through the straw, and noticed Derek staring at him. He released the straw, licking some cream off his lips.

“What?”

Derek started, as if he hadn’t realized he’d been zoning out. He just scowled at him, told Stiles to watch the front, then stormed off into the back.

Cocking an eyebrow, Stiles turned to Boyd, who just shrugged helplessly.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Stiles figured Derek was just having a weird day, probably because he kept getting hit on. Actually, barring all the awesome puns Stiles was having the chance to use, watching people try and hit on Derek was the highlight of his day. He was really, truly enjoying it though he did feel bad for the poor girls who were probably going to be traumatized for the rest of their lives.

Still, the entertainment value was top class for him.

He was still sipping at his drink when the door opened and he turned, a greeting on his lips before it died at who had just walked in.

Fucking Matt. Again. God dammit.

Stiles eyed the box of chocolates he was holding a little apprehensively and Boyd frowned, like he wasn’t any happier about seeing him than Stiles was. Boyd had been around during the beginning, ever since Matt had started this whole thing with Stiles.

Why couldn’t he get hit on by people who weren’t creepy?

Matt reached the counter and offered a smile, setting the box of chocolates down. “Hey Stiles.”

“Hi. Usual?” He was definitely less curt than he normally tried to be, but he was really losing patience, and the box of chocolates was kind of worrying him.

“No thanks, not today. This is for you.”

Stiles groaned internally when Matt pushed the box of chocolates closer to him. They were Lindor chocolates, thus extremely delicious and not exactly cheap. How was he supposed to fucking say no to this guy?

“Actually,” Matt continued, even though Stiles had made no move to grab the chocolates, “I was thinking we could do something after you’re done work today. You and me. Go on a date.”

Stiles could feel Boyd staring at him exceptionally hard, and for absolutely no reason, Stiles suddenly felt a surge of rage. It happened so fast, he had no idea where it had even come from. It slammed into him hard enough he almost staggered, and then disappeared instantly.

He saw Boyd tense beside him, turning to look at the back door, but Stiles didn’t have time to worry about that. He had to finally be super fucking blunt with Matt, because apparently he needed to be blunt.

Moving forward, he slowly pushed the box of chocolates back across the counter, hearing the back door swing open.

“Okay, look,” he said cautiously, worried Matt might get violent. He was kind of creepy, so he didn’t really know how he’d react. Best to be super polite about it. “You’re a nice guy,” he lied, hoping Boyd and Derek wouldn’t call him on it, “and I’m flattered and all, but I’m—”

“Taken.”

Wait. That wasn’t the word Stiles had been about to use. Why had he said that?

Okay no, that definitely wasn’t his voice. He wasn’t the one who’d said that. And there was a hand touching his waist, someone’s arm wrapped around him, and a warm line of heat against his side. He was being pulled into someone’s side in a very suggestive way, and what?

What?

He turned to look at Derek, who was flashing angry red eyes at Matt.

What was happening?

“He’s taken,” Derek repeated, slowly, as if to emphasize his point. “And I’ve officially lost my patience with you flirting with him in front of me.”

Matt was staring at Derek, then he shifted to look at Stiles. He didn’t know what he looked like, but it seemed to make Matt believe they weren’t a couple.

Which was a good instinct, considering they weren’t! But... wow, Derek was really firm. Like, literally all muscle. Did he have any fat on him at all? Jesus.

“You?” Matt asked, scoff in his voice. He motioned between Stiles and Derek. “He’s dating you? Do I look stupid?”

“Yes,” Derek said before Matt could continue.

Matt just glared at him but kept speaking as if Derek hadn’t interrupted him. “All you ever do is yell at him and insult him.”

“It’s called being professional in the workplace,” Derek said with a smile. It was all teeth, and not at all friendly, not to mention yelling and insulting him wasn’t professional at all. To be fair though, he hadn’t done either of those things in a long time. “I’m not going to show him favouritism just because I’m fucking him.”

Stiles’ heart did something weird in his chest at those words, and wow, he hadn’t actually thought about Derek fucking him ever, but now, yup. That was a visual. That was something he could get behind.

Or in front of, considering.

And perfect, now he was getting a little turned on at the idea of Derek fucking him. While Derek was right next to him. And Boyd was like, two feet away.

Great. Just great.

“If he messes up,” Derek continued, pulling Stiles more tightly against himself, “he gets yelled at like everyone else.”

Matt one-hundred percent did not believe him. “Uh huh. No way you two are banging. There’s no chemistry there at all.”

“Really?” Boyd asked, sounding genuinely surprised. “I thought they were a thing the first time I saw them outside the workplace together. They were angry flirting, it was pretty intense.”

Stiles figured Boyd was talking about the movie they’d gone to, though that was not angry flirting. Stiles didn’t know why he and Peter thought they were flirting! There had been no flirting!

“Either way,” Derek said before Matt could get another word out, “I find it interesting you think it’s any of your business.”

“What’s the matter, wolf?” Matt offered a condescending smile. “Jealous?”

“You’re the one hitting on my boyfriend. Pretty sure I’m not the one who’s jealous.”

“You don’t have to take this from him, you know,” Matt insisted, turning back to Stiles. “Just because you work here doesn’t mean he’s allowed to harass you like this.”

Well, Derek and Boyd had already played it up. And if it got Matt to leave him alone and never come back, Stiles was okay with that. Not like dating Derek would be the worst thing in the world, if he was honest.

“Harass me? Babe, are you harassing me?” He turned to Derek and offered him a grin. “Sexually, I hope, though I wouldn’t consider that to be harassment coming from you.”

“You know I hate it when you call me babe,” Derek said with a convincing, exasperated sigh. “It’s demeaning.”

“I can make it up to you later.” Stiles waggled his eyebrows, then turned back to Matt, resting his head on Derek’s shoulder and wow he really was all muscle, what the fuck? “Look, I didn’t mean to lead you on, and if I did, I’m really sorry because it wasn’t my intent.”

“I’m still not buying it,” Matt insisted, which kind of irked Stiles, because regardless of whether or not it was true, if Stiles was playing along, didn’t that send pretty clear ‘not interested’ signals? Was Matt dense, obsessed, or both?

Probably both.

“Look Matt,” Stiles began, “don’t you th—”

He didn’t get the chance to finish, because Derek let out an angry huff, shifted Stiles in his arms, and then...

Wow, and then!

Derek was kissing him. Derek was actually kissing him.

And not like, a little peck on the lips, some shy little thing. No. Derek’s tongue was in his mouth, and his lips were moving against Stiles’, and his hands were on his skin, sliding up under his shirt and along his back, and holy shit Stiles couldn’t breathe.

Derek was literally kissing him like he was trying to suck the oxygen out of his lungs, like he wanted this to be the last thing Stiles ever experienced before he was sent to heaven, like he was desperate to keep this moment going forever.

It was at once extremely hot and horrendously confusing. Because someone who was kissing him this desperately couldn’t possibly hate him as much as Derek tried to make him believe he did.

When Derek pulled back, Stiles realized he’d been gripping the front of his shirt, but he couldn’t find it in himself to unclench his hands. Derek had his bottom lip trapped between his teeth, tugging gently before releasing it, then kissing him lightly once more, this one a lingering peck.

It took a few seconds for Stiles to finally open his eyes, and when he looked at Derek, the usual green was ruby red and it made his heart trip in his chest. Jesus, Derek was fucking amazing, he didn’t even know what the hell was going on anymore.

Stiles jumped when he heard someone clear their throat loudly and hastily released Derek’s shirt. He took a huge step back, Derek’s hands sliding out from beneath his shirt and falling back to his sides.

Glancing over at Boyd, he looked way too amused, and simply said, “Matt left like, five minutes ago.”

“Shut up,” Stiles insisted, feeling his face beginning to heat up.

When he looked back at Derek, his eyes had returned to normal and his jaw was clenched. Before Stiles could even say anything, Derek ripped off his apron and reached into his pocket, practically hurling Stiles’ bank card at him. He turned and shoved his apron at Boyd, who actually stumbled from the force of it.

“I’m leaving, you two can handle the rest of the shift alone.”

“Dere—” Stiles cut himself off when the back door was swung open so hard it actually hit the wall inside. He glanced at Boyd, who was also staring after him, then turned back to Stiles.

“Just leave him be,” Boyd insisted, setting Derek’s apron down on the back counter out of the way.

“What was that?” Stiles demanded, pointing at the back door and feeling... he didn’t even know. Hurt, and confused, and angry and also not at the same time. He didn’t understand why his feelings were all over the place because half of them didn’t even seem to belong to him, which made no sense and what was happening?!

“Don’t dwell on it,” Boyd insisted, glancing over his shoulder. “We have customers, we’ll talk later.”

They did not, in fact, talk later. Because Boyd booked it the second Peter showed up.

Like a coward.

The next day, Derek was gone.


“I just don’t understand,” Stiles insisted, flailing one hand rather violently. “I mean, who does that?! Kisses someone, and then just leaves like that? Was it that bad? He literally fled Beacon Hills. Like, he left town, dad! Town!”

His dad was being supremely unhelpful right now, because he was just sitting across from Stiles eating his veggie burger and curly fries—they’d compromised that he could have one unhealthy thing, and he’d wanted the fries—but not offering any words of support. He just kept staring at Stiles while he raged and flailed, nodding on occasion and humming his confirmation to things Stiles said.

It was actually kind of pissing him off a little bit, but he tried not to take it out on his dad. He probably just didn’t know what to say anymore, since Stiles had been raging about this same thing for literally days. And not even just to his dad, but to Scott, as well. Poor Scott, who’d looked so adorably confused and helpless while Stiles raged about the sexy and infuriating asshole who was usually always mean to him but suddenly wasn’t and apparently wanted to kiss his face?

Like, what? What?!

It had been almost two weeks since Derek had kissed him and then disappeared. Stiles hadn’t worried about it on Valentine’s day, because he figured Derek was either disgusted or embarrassed, and whatever, no big deal. But when he’d shown up to work the following evening, Boyd was there instead of Derek.

That had made him a little uncomfortable, but still not a big deal, no problem. The next shift though was when he knew something was wrong, because he was working with Peter. When he hesitantly asked if Derek was sick or something—nevermind that Werewolves didn’t get sick, but whatever—Peter informed him that Derek had left to head back up to his cabin. He’d said it matter-of-factly, like it wasn’t unusual for Derek to disappear randomly without a word, but the pinch in his eyebrows when he said it made it seem like this was different.

And his coworkers were acting... weird around him. Well, weirder than usual.

Like the other day, when a guy had mouthed off at Stiles about getting his order wrong—which he hadn’t, the guy was just an idiot and didn’t remember his own fucking order—Erica had literally wolfed out, grabbed the guy by the shirt, and told him not to speak to Stiles like that.

Stiles was pretty sure the man wet himself.

And the others weren’t much better, acting extremely possessive and protective, snarling when people got too close to him, and touching him a lot more often than they used to.

He also kept getting random bursts of emotions that he couldn’t seem to control. He’d burst into tears for no reason a few days ago while working on an assignment for school. It had taken him almost ten minutes to stop, and he had no idea why! And sometimes, he got irrationally angry at nothing.

Literally nothing!

He’d been cooking dinner at one point, flipping a quesadilla, and had gotten so pissed off that he threw the pan across the kitchen. Not only did he have to clean up the mess, but he’d also been forced to figure out how to fix the damage to the wall before his dad got home. Not that it had been a lot of damage, but still!

Now, ranting to his father, he knew the anger was his own, but all these weird things were happening and he didn’t get it! And it was driving him crazy!

He was in the middle of bitching about something else related to Derek when a shadow loomed over him and he jerked away, startled. He frowned when he saw the town vet standing beside him, Alan Deaton.

The man was some kind of magic-user. A Druid or something, Stiles had never asked because he didn’t want to pry, but he was pretty sure Scott had said he was a Druid.

He was deemed a non-threat and virtually human, so nobody bothered him about his magic. As far as Stiles understood, he wasn’t exactly powerful anyway. By Supernatural standards, he was almost boring.

He was smiling down at Stiles, all mysterious aura and sparkling eyes. It was making him a little uncomfortable.

“Deaton.” His father stood and held out his hand for a firm shake. “Thank you for coming, I really appreciate it.”

“Not at all, sheriff.”

“Wait, you invited him?” Stiles demanded, motioning Deaton while his father sat back down and Deaton pulled up a chair. “Why?”

“Because, Stiles, you’ve been acting weird for a while now and it’s something I think we need to talk about,” his dad said.

“Are you a shrink?” Stiles asked Deaton, surprised. Shit, a Druid, a vet, and a shrink? His schooling must be impressive.

Deaton offered a small laugh. “Not quite. But I do know a fair amount about Werewolves and their packs. I am actually fairly heavily involved with the Hale pack, and invited one of them to join us today to obtain some clarity on what’s been going on with you.”

“Okay,” Stiles said slowly.

“He should be here shortly.”

Stiles was kind of hoping for Derek, though he tried not to set that expectation too high. It was a good thing, too, because ten minutes later, it was Peter who walked in, offering a smile and moving to grab a seat beside Stiles.

He was too close, but Stiles was kind of getting used to it now after two weeks of the weird behaviour from the pack.

Deaton let out a small hum of interest at that and Peter turned to him, flashing his blue eyes.

“You said this was about Stiles,” Peter said. “What’s been going on? Is he okay?”

“I’m right here,” Stiles insisted, but Deaton ignored him and spoke to Peter as if Stiles weren’t even there.

“I think you know why we’re here. Seeing this,” Deaton motioned Peter and Stiles, “tells me everything about what’s been going on. So, shall you inform his father, or shall I?”

“Inform me about what?” the sheriff asked curtly.

“Yeah, inform him about what?” Stiles demanded, wondering what the fuck was going on.

“I can’t,” Peter said, tone pleasant but expression hard.

“Not everything, no. That would need to come from the Alpha. But you can explain some things, as we are both well aware.”

Peter shot Deaton a menacing look, but the Druid just smiled pleasantly, waiting for Peter to decide if he was going to speak, or if he would be speaking for him. They stared at one another for a long while before Peter finally turned to Stiles.

“You’re pack.”

“That... that explains nothing,” Stiles said, frowning. “What does that mean?”

Peter shot another glare at Deaton. “This isn’t discussed in front of humans,” he insisted.

“Stiles is in your pack, it hardly counts,” Deaton responded cheerfully.

“His father isn’t.”

“Ah. Well, that is unfortunate, but I doubt the sheriff will be leaving.”

“You bet your ass I’m not leaving,” he snapped, glaring at Peter and crossing his arms. “What does this mean, him being your pack?”

“It means he belongs to us,” Peter said.

“I’m sorry, I what now?” Stiles demanded, turning to Peter.

It was clear Peter did not want to discuss this in front of the sheriff, but he eventually relented and mostly just stared at Stiles while he spoke, ignoring the older man was there.

Apparently, when the wolves had started to get more touchy-feely with him, they’d been pulling him into their pack without entirely meaning to. They’d decided they liked this human, that they wanted to keep him around, they wanted him to smell like them. It used to only be Isaac and Erica, at first. But Boyd had joined in soon afterwards, and eventually even Peter. The catalyst was when Derek had started doing it. He didn’t do it as often, but he’d stopped keeping his distance from Stiles, and every now and then he’d brush past him. Stiles always assumed it was regular brushing past someone, but for Derek, he’d been scenting him in a way that wasn’t as obvious as the others.

And once Derek started doing that, it pulled him into the pack even more, made him kind of a part of them. Which was why Stiles was having weird bursts of emotions he didn’t understand.

Because the pack had a bond, a strong one. They had to be able to know when one of their own was in trouble, or hurt, or lonely. They had to be completely attuned to their pack’s needs, and that was mostly governed through the Alpha.

Which was Derek.

He’d pulled him in already, but not so much that he was officially in the pack. Just enough that he was hovering on the outskirts, which was why the last few full moons had made him antsy and full of nervous energy he couldn’t control.

The day Stiles had shown up at the coffeeshop after the mugging was the first day Stiles had started feeling all these weird, out of whack emotions. Peter explained that it was why he and Boyd had shown up at the coffeeshop. Because Derek was livid Stiles had gotten hurt, because Stiles belonged to him. Maybe not entirely before that moment, but as soon as he’d seen how injured he was, Stiles had gotten sucked in completely, and Derek’s rage had vibrated along the bonds.

Derek being angry was normal though, as apparently he was always perpetually angry about something or another. But it wasn’t until the new bond had appeared that Boyd and Peter had realized something was different. They could feel pain, but it was a foreign pain. It belonged to someone they knew but couldn’t place.

It was why they’d both shown up, because they could sense where it was coming from, and the closer they got to the shop, the more they realized who that new person could be. And when they’d walked in and found out what happened to Stiles, it was logical that he was the one who’d shoved his way into the pack bonds.

Not that he’d shoved, it was more like the others had pushed him into Derek, and instead of pushing back, Derek had just fallen over and let Stiles win.

“So...” Stiles didn’t know what to say. “So I’m... in your pack? How does that even work?”

“Ah, I’m afraid this is where the conversation must end,” Deaton informed him with a mysterious smile. “Peter isn’t allowed to discuss anything about the pack without the Alpha present.”

“He was literally just talking pack talk,” Stiles insisted, motioning Peter.

“He was explaining how you became part of the pack, nothing more. Anything further would need to be addressed with the Alpha. Especially considering.”

“Considering?” Stiles prompted, because Deaton didn’t seem like he was going to continue.

“You need to talk to Derek,” Peter informed him. “I can’t tell you anything more.”

“No, he said ‘considering,’” Stiles insisted, pointing at Deaton, then turning back to him. “Considering what?”

“You need to speak with Alpha Hale,” Deaton echoed. “There is nothing further either of us can advise on.”

“And how am I supposed to speak to the mighty Alpha Hale?” Stiles asked angrily. “He fucking kissed me and then disappeared!”

“Language,” his dad insisted, though a little subdued. He looked like he was trying to figure out if he was losing his son to the wolves. Stiles knew that would never happen, his dad would chain him up in the basement, if he had to.

Stiles didn’t like the basement, it was cold and damp and dark. He hoped he didn’t get chained up in the basement.

Peter pulled out his phone and Stiles scowled at him until he put it away. A few seconds later, Stiles’ phone vibrated in his pocket.

“I just sent you the address to his cabin,” Peter informed him cheerfully. “Do make sure he doesn’t know where you got it from. It’s a bitch having to get blood out of my good shirts.”

Stiles had no fucking idea what was going on.


When he stopped the Jeep and stared out the window at the location Peter had given him, Stiles wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t this. Everyone called it a ‘cabin,’ and logically, a cabin was normally just a small wooden house. Rustic looking. Homey. The kind of place where you curl up on the couch in front of the fire and listen to the sounds of the forest.

That was kind of what Stiles had been expecting when he’d shown up, using his phone for the coordinates because it wasn’t exactly an address, more just a place in the middle of the woods.

Stopping the Jeep though, the house in front of him was not a cabin.

It was two stories high, looked to be at least five thousand square feet, had beautiful, rich brown wood overlay with white trim and a white door. There was a wrap-around porch, complete with a barbecue around the back, and one of those swing chairs at the front right beside the door.

The place looked stunning. Somewhere Stiles would love to disappear to for months on end, which explained why Derek did it so frequently.

He knew Derek was there, because the Camaro was parked on a patch of gravel over to the left. Stiles didn’t bother moving the Jeep, no one else was coming up this way, and at least blocking the exit meant Derek couldn’t escape.

With his car, anyway. He could probably run out the back door and disappear through the trees faster than Stiles could walk two steps. He just hoped he didn’t. They really needed to talk. He needed to understand what the fuck this whole pack bullshit was, and what was going on, and why and how he was in the pack.

It couldn’t be as easy as pulling someone in. Stiles wasn’t a Werewolf, he was human.

Letting out a slow, calming breath, Stiles pushed open the door and stepped out of the Jeep. Derek had to know he was there, he’d be a shitty Werewolf and a worse Alpha if he didn’t, so Stiles didn’t bother being quiet. He slammed the door, shoved his hands in his pockets, and walked slowly up to the porch.

He’d just put his foot on the bottom step when the door opened and Derek stood in the doorway, glaring down at him hard enough it was like he believed he could make Stiles leave just by scowling at him.

Normally, it’d probably work.

Actually, no. It wouldn’t. Stiles was immune now. Repeated exposure, and all that.

“How did you find this place?” Derek asked, voice barely holding back the rage he so obviously felt.

It was weird for Stiles to realize what was happening, now. He felt like he was also getting angry, though he didn’t know why. And once he acknowledged that it was Derek who was pissed off, the anger he felt seemed... less. Less present, less intense, less consuming. He could still feel it, the rage behind Derek’s eyes, but it wasn’t threatening to swallow him whole anymore.

“Luck,” Stiles said simply, because he’d promised Peter not to rat him out. “We need to talk.”

“No, we don’t.” Derek took a step back and went to slam the door, but Stiles flew up the stairs as fast as he could and shoved his foot in the gap. He banged his elbow on the door and the wood hitting his foot actually hurt from the force of Derek’s attempted slam, but at least it was still open.

“You’re not welcome here,” Derek seethed through the gap.

“Well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?” Stiles insisted. “You owe me some answers.”

“Answers?” Derek scoffed. “For what?”

“For what the fuck is happening to me!” Stiles snapped. “You can’t just pull me into your pack, kiss me like a man starved of oxygen, and then disappear without a trace. Things don’t work that way, Derek! You have to take responsibility for your actions, and tell me things so I don’t think I’m just losing my God damn mind!”

Derek looked like Stiles had slapped him, the anger sliding off his face and shock replacing it.

“You know.”

“I only know what your Betas are allowed to tell me. Everything else is all ‘talk to Derek, talk to Derek,’ which, you know, love to, if Derek wasn’t hiding out in the woods like some kind of redneck murderer!”

Derek scowled at that. “I’m not a redneck or a murderer!”

“Not very brave, either.” Stiles raised his eyebrows. “You going to let me in, or we gonna stand here all day having a staredown?”

“I’d win.”

“I’m pretty stubborn.”

“Also very annoying,” Derek said.

They stared at one another for a few minutes, Stiles just raising his eyebrows again in a very clear ‘I ain’t leavin’ without answers’ kind of way. Finally, Derek growled and pulled the door back open, stepping aside and motioning Stiles in.

He walked into the front hall, looking around curiously. The inside was as gorgeous as the outside. The walls were all painted in soft colours, varying shades of grey and blue. The two rooms he could see—a large sitting room with a TV, and an office with a laptop, wireless printer, bookcase and couch—looked comfortable and inviting. It was evident that Derek liked being alone in this place, because it was very peaceful. Calm. Probably helped him focus on his writing.

Derek shut the door behind him and brushed past him, leading the way down the corridor and past some stairs that went up to the second level. Stiles followed him and paused when he walked through the kitchen door.

The entire back wall of the house was made of glass, large floor to ceiling windows providing a perfect view of the forest out back. The house was on a bit of an incline, so there was a dip in the forest before it rose once more, giving it an extremely nice view.

“Coffee?” Derek grunted while moving to the coffee machine in the corner. It looked like one of those Nespresso pod machines, where people just stuck a capsule in and it magically spat out coffee.

“No thanks.” Stiles sat down at the table—it only seemed to seat four people, was round, and made of some kind of rich wood that wasn’t mahogany; he had no idea what it was. The chair was comfortable with a plush pillow, and he really felt like he could learn to love living here. Seriously, no wonder Derek spent more time in his cabin than in the pack house, it was amazing.

Then again, maybe the pack house was almost identical, only bigger. Stiles didn’t know, he hadn’t gone over yet. The others had told him he could, and had offered to bring him by, but he felt like he needed to talk to the Alpha first. They were only cool with him being at their house because he was officially pack, but it still didn’t feel real. Until Derek told him it was real, he wouldn’t believe it.

He watched Derek take his time making a coffee. It was obvious he was procrastinating, but eventually he had nothing else to use to delay his arrival at the table. So he filled a glass with water, picked up his coffee mug, and went to join Stiles at the table. He set the water down in front of him, then sat and took a sip of his coffee, avoiding Stiles’ eye while setting it down.

“What do you want?” Derek asked.

Polite, as always. No wonder people didn’t let him out of the house to do signings.

Stiles knew it was more likely Derek’s choice, but it made him feel better to think people were as frustrated with his lack of manners as Stiles was.

“Why did you kiss me?” It wasn’t what Stiles meant to ask, but before Derek disappeared into the void, kicked him out, or killed him, he needed to have an answer.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Kind of does.”

“I’m not discussing this with you, so if that’s why you drove all the way up here, there’s the door.” Derek nodded behind Stiles to where the front door was, slouched in his seat with his arms crossed and his expression set.

“You’re such a dick,” Stiles insisted, shaking his head and slouching in his own seat. “Why can’t you just act your age? You know you’re being a child right now, right? So you kissed me, big fucking deal. It’s not like I gave you human cooties or anything. And I didn’t ask you to kiss me. I didn’t ask for your help. I didn’t ask for any of this! But now, apparently, I’m part of your pack, and nobody can tell me why, or how it happened, because it has to come from you. So start talking.”

Predictably, Derek just sat there staring at him, arms crossed and scowl on his face. Like he looked every time Stiles ever glanced over at him at work. Someone really needed to tell him his face was going to get stuck that way.

Or maybe it already was stuck that way. Would certainly explain why he was such a dick, Stiles would be pissy too if he always looked like he wanted to murder someone.

They sat there for close to ten minutes in silence, Stiles keeping an eye on the time over Derek’s head since the stove’s hood range had a clock on it. When they hit the fifteen minute mark, Stiles was done.

“Okay.” He slapped one hand on the table and stood. “Good chat. Thanks for all that. So, now that we’ve cleared the air, I don’t want to be in your pack, since you won’t tell me anything about it. So whatever you need to do to undo it, get on that. I’ll quit the coffeeshop, since clearly you don’t want me around, and it’ll be like I never fucking existed. Happy?” He fake-smiled at Derek and turned to head for the door. “Just tell me you want to get rid of me instead of acting like a fucking child.”

He was halfway down the corridor when he heard Derek speak, pausing in his steps, but not turning back.

“I don’t like humans.”

Shocker. Stiles never would’ve guessed, but Derek was talking, so that was something. Sure, Stiles had been forced to give him an ultimatum, but from the looks of things, Derek didn’t want him in his pack anyway, so if anything, it should’ve been easy for Derek to keep his mouth shut.

But he hadn’t. Which meant he didn’t want Stiles out of the pack. So if that was true, then he needed to talk.

“Humans are... fragile,” Derek continued quietly. “Dishonest. Cruel.” The chair creaked, like he’d stood up, and Stiles heard him coming up behind him. He didn’t stand so close that Stiles could reach back and touch him, but almost. “I’m not saying wolves aren’t like that, but we have a bond. We have pack. That means something to us. It’s like... family, but more. And I don’t—”

Derek cut himself off and Stiles chanced a glance over his shoulder. He was frowning down at the floor, like he was trying to find the right words to say. For someone who wrote for a living, it was interesting that he struggled with words. Context, Stiles supposed.

“I haven’t had the best luck with humans,” Derek finally said, looking back up at Stiles, where he stood half-turned so they could look at one another properly. “The first human I ever loved died because I was selfish.” His hands clenched into fists and Stiles could see red peeking out, like his claws had come out and he’d cut into his palms. “The second human I loved burned my house to the ground with my family inside.”

Stiles felt the grief then, hitting him like a truck. There was sadness there, too, but that was his. He recognized it as belonging to him.

And guilt. So much guilt it threatened to suffocate him. Derek had never forgiven himself for what had happened.

“When I came back,” Derek continued, taking a step closer, but still keeping some distance between them, “when I smelled the pack on you, I was angry. I was beyond pissed off at them. Because in my absence, the others had slowly started pulling you into the pack.”

“Is that...” Stiles knew it was possible, because Peter had told him as much. That they could pull him in, but only the Alpha could truly accept him into the pack. He changed his question to something Peter hadn’t answered. “I mean, can that happen with a human? Is that a thing?”

“Humans in a pack?” Derek asked. He didn’t look happy to answer, but he did. “It’s rare when it’s not a relative or a spouse, but it can happen. Humans joining a pack as nothing more than a friend. I didn’t think it would happen with you. I was determined not to let them suck you in too far. It’s why I didn’t want them around you, I wanted to control the amount of exposure the others had with you.”

Well. That was a dick move. But not surprising, given Derek’s hatred of him from the very beginning.

“It didn’t matter what I said, they all cared about you. And the longer you stuck around, the more they sucked you in. And because they’re my pack, and I’m the Alpha, I look out for what they care about, even if I don’t care about it myself.” Derek eyed him critically then, Stiles shifting his weight uncomfortably. “Looking out for you made me care about you, too. I didn’t want to, and I tried to fight it off, but after a while, I started pulling you in, too. Without realizing it, I was making you pack until one day you just... were pack.”

Stiles nodded slowly, licking his lips. “And, uh... is that... is that bad? Me being pack?”

He honestly didn’t know what the answer was going to be. A part of him insisted it would be an insult with, “Of course it’s bad!” but another part of him insisted that if it was bad, Derek would’ve kicked him out of the pack by now. The fact that he hadn’t proved it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in his mind.

Derek was silent for a moment, then eventually he seemed to almost deflate, scrubbing one exhausted hand over his face and losing a bit of his hard edge, like he was too tired to put on his asshole, big, bad Alpha persona anymore.

“No,” Derek finally admitted. “It’s not bad. But I did it without consulting you. I pulled you into the pack without your permission. And I’m...” He trailed off, like he didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

Stiles waited, then finally offered, “Scared?”

Surprisingly, Derek didn’t deny it. And that was when Stiles realized Derek was scared. He was scared of letting another human into his life. Of trusting someone not to stab him in the back, or burn his house to the ground. Of having a human in his pack, in his space, sharing this special and sacred bond that only wolves and their packs were supposed to have.

For all his bravado, Derek was still only a young adult at twenty-five, and everything about his life had been done in fast forward. He was never meant to be an Alpha at the age he ended up becoming one, and he was scared of screwing up again. He was scared of letting his pack down.

“Humans are fragile,” Derek repeated softly, eying Stiles. “Humans are dangerous.”

“No more than anyone else,” Stiles insisted quietly.

Derek shook his head, like Stiles didn’t understand. “I don’t want to love another human,” he finally explained.

“Then don’t.”

The wince he got in response made his heart stutter in his chest, but not nearly as much as Derek’s next words.

“Too late.”

Stiles just stared at him for what felt like an eternity. It must’ve felt like that to Derek, too, because he looked increasingly uncomfortable the longer they stood there, and eventually he glanced away, like Stiles’ silence was telling him everything he needed to know and he was stupid for having thought Stiles was different.

Finally, thankfully, Stiles was able to get his brain to function once more. “You don’t even like me,” he managed to get out. “You’ve hated me since the moment I walked into the shop.”

“I hated you back then,” Derek admitted, eyes focussed on something over Stiles’ shoulder, like he didn’t want to look at him. “I didn’t want a human around, and I didn’t want to deal with the pack sucking you in. But by keeping them away from you, it meant you spent more time with me, instead. Not that Peter helped, considering he was the one making the schedule. But because I ended up with you so often, I listened to you. I didn’t want to, but you’re pretty loud,” he said dryly. “I listened to you interact with other people, with the pack, with your dad sometimes while you were on the phone. We went to that movie, and you defended us for no reason other than because it was the right thing to do. You saw me in the mall trying to buy presents, and even though you thought I hated you, you offered to help me anyway. You could’ve just let me flounder, ruined the holidays like I always do, but you didn’t. You helped me, you ran around the mall with me, you offered to help me wrap things. The shop got broken into, and you got injured chasing the people away, and then spent hours there alone cleaning up the mess so that it could open the next day. You’ve never once asked for anything from anyone, you just...” Derek shook his head, like he had no idea what else to say. “You make no sense. You’re human, but you don’t act like any human I’ve ever met.”

“Selfless?” Stiles asked. “Because there’s a lot of us like that, you know that, right?”

“I try to avoid humans as much as possible,” Derek advised him. “I don’t trust them. And I didn’t trust you.”

The past tense was not lost on Stiles. “But you do now.”

“It’s the only reason you’re standing in my house.”

Stiles nodded once, conceding his point. Though to be fair, he was pretty stubborn, so it was entirely possible he’d have muscled his way in eventually. Well, not muscled, since Derek was winning on that front, but he’d have gotten in somehow!

“Deaton alluded to something when I met with him earlier,” Stiles admitted. “About me being in the pack, and it being something you had to talk to me about, considering. Is that... I mean, what you said. About, uh, it being too late. Is that the ‘considering’ part?”

Derek just stared at something over Stiles’ shoulder, so he chose to take that as a yes.

“So... what now?” Stiles asked uncertainly. “I mean...” He had no idea what to say. “Are you actually working up here? Or were you just running away?”

Derek’s eyes shot back to him and flashed red. He obviously didn’t like the accusation, though Stiles noticed he didn’t deny it, either.

When he said nothing further, Stiles just nodded and motioned behind himself. “Okay, well, since I’m not kicked out of the pack, and I’ve got homework, I’m gonna go. You can either come back down with me and we can work on our friendship, or you can stay up here and brood like a redneck murderer. Your choice. Though I won’t deny being happy you’re working on a book, since I need my fix, but you should practice being a normal human being. Or a normal Werewolf being? Whatever, you know what I mean. Anyway, I’m going now so...” He motioned behind himself again, clicked his tongue, then turned to leave the house.

Derek made no move to stop him, or follow him. Stiles just went back to the Jeep, started it, turned around, and headed home.

Werewolves were so fucking weird.


“So how do I like, turn it off?” Stiles demanded.

“Off?” Peter asked, arching an eyebrow. He was leaning back in his seat with one leg crossed over the other, one arm out over the chairback of the neighbouring chair and the other hand holding a glass of red wine he’d been sipping at for the past ten minutes.

“The emotions thing. The—feeling everything you guys feel. Is there, like, an off switch?”

Peter offered him an amused smile before taking a sip of his drink. Like an asshole.

When Stiles had returned home, he found Isaac there waiting for him, looking somewhat nervous, but also relieved when Stiles exited the Jeep in one piece and still smelling like pack. He’d hugged him for good measure, and had told Stiles the pack was taking him out to dinner.

Well, not the whole pack. Just the pack members he knew—so Peter, Boyd, Erica and Isaac. While Stiles was going to be invited over to the house for the next pack gathering, for now he was fine with hanging out with the members he knew.

He and Isaac had gone to one of the ritzier restaurants in town, and that was how Stiles found himself sitting in a fancy chair with a cloth napkin in his lap, sparkling water in a wine glass, three different kinds of bread on the table, and a menu that boasted items that cost more than his weekly paycheck.

He was not comfortable being in this place at all, but Peter had insisted he was officially pack now, since Derek hadn’t kicked him out of it, and that everything would be covered and to stop worrying about it.

Actually, he was more worried now, because the way Peter was speaking suggested they were all going to try and fight to pay his tuition next semester, and while that would be a huge help to his dad, it felt... weird. He wasn’t a Werewolf, he didn’t belong in a pack, and he didn’t know how to feel about all this.

About the pack practically adopting him, and Derek being in love with him, and feeling other people’s emotions. It was kind of a lot to take in all in one day.

“Seriously,” Stiles insisted, glancing at Boyd, “can you turn it off?”

“You can dull it,” Boyd offered, shrugging one shoulder. “Most of the time we only feel each other’s strong emotions. Pain, anger, grief, that sort of thing.”

“Pleasure,” Isaac insisted, looking traumatized. “We definitely feel that, too.”

Erica grinned at him and winked. Isaac just groaned and buried his face in his hands. Stiles could only assume that whenever Erica and Boyd got physical, it was uncomfortable for everyone.

Well. That was awesome. He couldn’t wait for that...

“It’s harder for the party feeling those emotions to dull them,” Boyd continued. “Usually emotions that strong are hard to control, but the rest of us can drown it out somewhat. You can send your own emotions back up the bond, too.”

“And really, the most intense come from Derek,” Erica insisted, sitting sideways in her chair and playing with her knife like she was contemplating carving something into the expensive table. “He’s the Alpha, so he’s kind of the central command on the feelings thing.”

“So we mostly just feel a lot of anger, got it,” Stiles muttered.

He can switch it on and off, though,” Isaac said. “Which is convenient when these two start going at it.” He motioned Erica and Boyd. Erica just grinned ferally again. Boyd had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed. “When Derek switches it off, it basically just severs the ties for everyone in the pack. We can’t feel anything anyone else is feeling.”

“He tries not to do it when he can help it,” Peter explained. “As the Alpha, he needs to know when one of his own is in danger. But yes, it is appreciated when he severs the connection during any, how to say, lovemaking in the household.”

“It’s mostly just Boyd and Erica,” Isaac explained with a shrug. “Though when Malia’s out looking to get laid, or Scott’s with his girlfriend, that’s pretty bad, too.”

Stiles turned to Isaac, positive he’d heard wrong. “I’m sorry, who?”

“Oh, Malia is Derek’s cousin, Peter’s daughter,” Isaac said.

“No, no,” Stiles waved one hand. “Scott? Scott who? Which Scott?” Surely there were more Scotts that Isaac could be referring to. It wasn’t like his Scott was the only Scott in existence, so whoever Isaac was talking about, there was no way it was his Scott. His Scott would’ve told him if he was a Werewolf. His Scott would’ve mentioned that he was in a pack, that he’d been turned, that he wasn’t entirely human anymore. He and his Scott shared everything, no matter how small, and this was something big, so surely his Scott wouldn’t have kept something this big a secret from his oldest, bestest friend. His brother in everything but blood. The second half of his brotherly soul.

“Oh, Scott McCall. I think you guys went to the same high school, right?”

Stiles stared at Isaac for a few seconds, then pulled the napkin off his lap and excused himself. He headed outside while pulling out his phone, scrolled through his contacts to find Scott’s name, then dialled. He put the phone to his ear, tried to reign in his temper, and promptly lost it the second Scott answered.

“Hey Sti—”

“You’re a Werewolf?!” Stiles shouted into the phone, hoping to cause permanent damage to Scott’s eardrums. “How could you not tell me?! How could you keep this from me?! Is that how you could afford to go to school across the country?! Is that why you don’t come back, or do you lie about when you’re here so I don’t know you’re back?! What the fuck, Scotty, I thought we were friends! Best friends! Brothers! How could you keep something like this from me?!”

Stiles didn’t know how to reign himself in. His mind was a haze of rage over this, and his chest ached with pain over not being trusted with something like this. How many times had Scott been back in town? Melissa had never said anything, but she also didn’t seem to miss Scott all that much, so Stiles had to wonder if Scott was around all the fucking time and just hadn’t said anything. Maybe he came back once a month, hung out with his mom, with the pack, and just stayed away from Stiles. Maybe Scott was here right now and Stiles had no fucking idea because Scott had lied to him for years! About something so, so important!

The answer to his anger from Scott was silence. A long silence. It was doing nothing for Stiles’ anger, and he could feel it beginning to creep upwards to a dangerous degree. It was weird, because now that he understood the bonds a bit more, he could feel the others inside pushing some calmness at him. Trying to lower the anger, help him be reasonable, more zen about this.

They obviously didn’t know Stiles and Scott knew each other. Which made sense, because Stiles didn’t really talk about Scott, it hurt too much to remember he wasn’t around. And if he wasn’t around, there wasn’t really much for him to talk about. As for Scott, well, he probably felt uncomfortable talking about his human friend Stiles with his new pack.

Shit, was it new? How long had Scott been a Werewolf? When had he become one?!

“Holy shit,” Scott finally said quietly. “It’s you. The... everyone was saying Derek pulled a human into the pack, but I had no idea... I can... dude, I can feel your anger right now. It’s you. You’re the human in our pack.”

“How could you keep this from me?!” Stiles demanded again. “I thought we told each other everything, Scott! I’ve told you so many things! Embarrassing things! Terrifying things! I told you I was bi, Scott! That was hard! That was scary! I’ve told you things I was too ashamed or afraid to tell my dad! You being a Werewolf is huge, how could you keep this from me?!”

Scott was silent for a moment longer, then he finally said, very softly, “I didn’t want things to change.”

That answer startled some of Stiles’ anger right out of him. “What?” he asked, feeling the calmness coming down the bonds latching onto him, as if he’d left them an opening to help calm him down and they were all taking advantage of it. “What would change?”

“Us. You. I—it was an accident. I got bitten out of necessity. Rogue Werewolf the pack was chasing out of the territory. I was—it was dumb. I was out in the woods, sneaking through them on my way to Kira’s. The rogue attacked me to slow the pack down. I was going to die, I was—it was bad, Stiles. I wasn’t going to make it. Derek had a choice. He could let me die, or he could turn me and hope the bite took. He asked first. It was hard to understand, I was in a lot of pain, but he—he made sure I was okay with it. It was certain death, or the chance to survive, so I agreed. And he bit me.”

“When?” Stiles asked softly, his stomach bottoming out. Scott had almost died. He’d almost died and he hadn’t told him. “When did this happen?”

“Two weeks before second semester of our Senior year.”

Stiles remembered Scott was really sick during the beginning of January that year. Well, evidently he wasn’t sick, considering, but that was what Stiles had been told. Scott hadn’t been around much. He’d come to school eventually, and he always texted with Stiles, and they hung out at school, but they didn’t afterwards. Once school was out, Scott had to head straight home. He’d told Stiles some bullshit story about an illness he had, and while Stiles hadn’t believed him at first, his mother had backed him up when Stiles had asked her about it.

Apparently Scott did have an illness. Lycanthropy was technically an illness.

“So you left,” he said quietly, the ache in his chest spreading. He could feel new emotions coming down the bonds, friendship and acceptance. One almost felt like love, and if he had to guess where that was coming from, he’d guess it was Scott himself. “You joined the pack, had money, and went to school somewhere far away from here. From me.”

“I didn’t know how to tell you. Telling my mom was terrifying, and I thought I was going to lose her. The thought of-of having to tell you just—I didn’t know how you’d take it. I was just scared, Stiles. You’re my best friend, you’re my brother. I couldn’t... I wouldn’t have been able to handle it if you looked at me the same way other people do. Not you.”

“You should know me better than that,” Stiles insisted, hurt lancing through him even more at the suggestion that he wouldn’t be okay with this. “Scott, you should know me!”

“I know. Stiles, I know. I should’ve trusted that you’d be different, but I couldn’t lose you, Stiles. I was too scared to lose you. So I figured it was safer this way. We could still be friends across the country. I didn’t—I couldn’t lose you because of this. I’m sorry. Stiles, I’m sorry.” 

He was still pissed. He knew this was a betrayal he wasn’t going to get over any time soon, but he also tried to see it from Scott’s perspective, as much as he didn’t want to. Stiles liked to think he’d have trusted Scott enough to admit he was a Werewolf were their roles reversed, but it was easy to think that hypothetically. He couldn’t really imagine how Scott must’ve felt, newly bitten and terrified and confused. The only people he cared about in his life were Stiles and his mother, and he’d reacted the same way anyone would to a change.

With fear. With thoughts of rejection. With self-preservation instincts.

Sighing, Stiles rubbed at his face with his free hand, kind of annoyed that everyone was throwing calming thoughts down the bonds at him to make him less angry. Sure, it was beneficial, but he also kind of wanted to keep being mad about this. This was kind of something he needed to rage about so he could try and get over it.

He knew the choice was Scott’s. He knew that he didn’t have a right to any of this information if Scott didn’t want to share it with him. But... but it was Scott. They told each other everything, and to know this secret had been kept for years made Stiles feel like he wasn’t someone worth trusting. Like he wasn’t worth anything. He knew that wasn’t what Scott was doing, and he knew it was Scott’s choice, just like Stiles telling him he was bisexual had been his choice, but it still made him feel unworthy somehow. Like he didn’t deserve to know Scott’s secrets the way Scott knew his.

This was a lot to take in all in one day. Being in a pack, having the Alpha in love with his, his best friend being a Werewolf. This was turning into the longest day of his life, it felt like it was seventy hours long, at this point.

Stiles let out a slow breath, rubbing at his face with one hand, trying to calm down before he broke. This was kind of a lot. He wanted to go home and take a nap or something. Maybe he’d go to bed early.

“Look, it’s been a long day. This is—it’s not the kind of conversation we should be having over the phone. When you’re back in town later this year, you tell me, and we’ll—I don’t know. We’ll get pizza and hash it out or something. But I’m still pissed you didn’t trust me not to freak out at you over this.”

And that was the thing that really stung. It wasn’t that Scott hadn’t told him, it was that he hadn’t told him because he didn’t trust Stiles to take it in stride. His dad was the fucking advocate for change in the town, did Scott really think he’d raised someone who didn’t feel the exact same way?

“Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that. Stiles, I really would. I really want to-to share this entire experience with you. And hey, since you’re pack now, I can talk to you about like, everything. I can tell you everything. And I will, I promise. I will.”

“Yeah.” Stiles inhaled deeply, then slowly let it out once more. “I’m at dinner with the others, so I should go. But we’re talking about this when you’re back.”

“I promise,” Scott said. “Stiles, I’m really sorry. I didn’t—I just can’t lose you, okay? Not you.”

“Yeah,” he said softly with a sigh. “I get it. I get it, Scott. We’ll talk about it when you’re back. You can make it up to me for not believing I’m a good person.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologizing, it doesn’t work as well when you can’t puppy-dog eyes me.” Stiles half-smiled. “Have a good night, okay? We’ll talk soon.”

“Right. You too. And Stiles?”

“Hm?”

“If our pack had to have a human, I’m really glad it’s you.”

“Yeah, me too, buddy. Night.” Stiles waited for Scott to wish him farewell, then hung up, rubbing at his face with his free hand.

Scott was a Werewolf. His oldest, bestest friend in the world was a Werewolf, and had legitimately fled the state to get away from Stiles.

By comparison, Derek running off to his cabin was nothing. He might as well not have gone anywhere. Scott was a true believer of ‘go big or go home,’ apparently.

When Stiles walked back into the restaurant, Isaac and Boyd looked a little uncomfortable. Erica and Peter looked amused, because they were kind of dicks.

“So,” Isaac said cautiously. “You and, uh... you and Scott. You know each other?”

“Literally since before we were born. Our moms met when they were both pregnant.”

“Oh,” Isaac said, startled. “You’re the human!”

Stiles frowned. “He talked about me?”

“Not by name, and not very often,” Erica offered. “Derek is usually around when Scott is, and given we all know how Derek feels about humans, he tried not to mention you too much.”

“How he feels about some humans,” Peter said, sounding amused. His wine looked fuller than it had when Stiles left, so he was assuming he’d ordered another drink. “Stiles has a way with getting under people’s skin.”

Stiles sighed and just let the others talk about the pack. For the most part, they were referencing things Stiles kind of already knew, but occasionally they’d bring up something he didn’t understand and he’d ask them to clarify.

When their meals arrived, Stiles pretty much had a spiritual experience, because he’d never eaten an eighty dollar steak before, and it was amazing. While he didn’t like the whole pack paying for his meal, since he didn’t feel like he was truly pack, he was going to take at least this one steak for his troubles the past few months.

It wasn’t until hours later, when they were leaving the restaurant and confirming everyone’s schedules at the coffeehouse, that something occurred to Stiles and he froze, turning back to Isaac.

“Wait,” he said, stopping him in his tracks, “you said that the emotions are super intense when people are doing the hanky panky, and that Scott’s pretty bad when he’s with his girlfriend, right? Can we, like—can we feel that across the country?” He knew Scott had felt his rage earlier, but maybe rage was stronger?

“Oh yeah,” Isaac said with a sad nod. “We can definitely feel it.”

Stiles’ heart sank. “Kira’s visiting him this weekend.”

The other Betas all groaned and Stiles felt like his next conversation with Scott was going to be really, really uncomfortable.

He might never be able to look Kira in the eye ever again.


When Stiles showed up for work the following day, he was scheduled to work with Boyd, which probably explained his immediate halt when he walked into the coffeeshop and found Derek at the till, counting it down.

Derek didn’t acknowledge him, but the tense set to his shoulders the second Stiles opened the door made it clear he knew exactly who’d just walked in.

Pulling his strap higher on his shoulder, Stiles walked up to the till, Derek still looking down at what he was doing and pointedly ignoring him.

“Hey,” Stiles offered. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks,” Derek muttered, slamming the till shut much harder than was necessary.

“Get a lot of writing done?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

Silence. Awkward silence.

“Um, you working with me tonight? Or did you do the morning shift?”

“With you.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah.”

Silence.

“Oh my God, just kiss already!”

Stiles didn’t need to be a Werewolf to hear Erica from the back, and he turned to glare at the door. Sure, all this was easy for them. They didn’t understand the weird and precarious relationship he and Derek had. Stiles felt like one wrong move would have Derek either tearing his throat out, or running back for his Camaro to head to his cabin-that-isn’t-really-a-cabin in the woods.

Clearing his throat awkwardly, Stiles slapped the counter once, then motioned the back door, heading for it and disappearing through it. He punched Erica hard—and only hurt himself, but whatever—when he passed her, then headed for the lockers so he could shove his bag into it.

Erica followed him, moving up right into his personal space and wrapping an arm around him.

“So? What’s the plan?”

“Plan?”

“You and Derek. You have a plan, right?”

“He doesn’t have a plan,” Isaac insisted, coming out of the washroom while drying his hands with paper towel. “Look at his face. He doesn’t even know how gone for him Derek is.”

Both he and Erica tensed and glanced at the door leading to the front, Derek clearly having said something terrifying that Stiles couldn’t hear with his puny human ears.

“There’s no plan,” Stiles insisted with a sigh, slamming his locker shut and grabbing his apron. “I think we need to work on our friendship before anything else. He still acts like I’m an inconvenience to have around, so there’s that.”

“Well, no time like the present!” Erica said jovially, shoving him forcefully for the back door and through it. Stiles slammed right into Derek, who’d been on his way into the back.

“Sorry,” he muttered, side-stepping him and rubbing at his injured arm. “Your pack sucks, by the way.”

“Your pack, too,” Derek reminded him before he disappeared.

Stiles sighed. He made his way to the till, forcing a smile when a couple walked in. He tried for a pun, but none came to mind so he just took their order, got them their coffees and snacks, and bid them a good night.

He felt like it was going to be weird, now. He was pack, which, okay, fine, whatever. Still weird, but that was okay. The thing he didn’t know how to handle was Derek. He still acted like he hated him, but apparently he liked him? Like, I-want-to-kiss-your-face-until-you-can’t-breathe liked him? He didn’t even know how to handle that.

Stiles felt like he didn’t have much of an opinion of Derek, if he was honest. He wasn’t his favourite person, that was for sure, but he’d mellowed out the past two months. He was less of a dick, and he was attractive, and he could kiss like nobody’s business. And it wasn’t that he was a dude, because Stiles was an equal opportunist—he felt like he couldn’t afford to be picky about who to date, not like there was a line-up out his door. He just... he didn’t know Derek.

And he felt like he kind of wanted to. Knowing what he did now, he wanted to get to know Derek.

When Derek finally came back out, probably forced out by Erica since he was clearly hiding from him, Stiles watched him while Derek moved around at the other end of the counter, cleaning things up that were already clean and re-organizing items that didn’t need organizing.

Stiles allowed it for a few minutes, then looked around the shop. It was still early evening, and the sun was actually still out, which was comforting after months of darkness due to winter. The shop only had two people in it, one near the back working furiously on something with notebooks, papers and their computer spread out across two tables. They also had four plates and three mugs, showing they’d been there for a while and had probably been keeping themselves satiated by buying the various treats the display case had to offer. The other person was an older man by the window, sipping his coffee and staring out at the people passing by.

No one else. Just them, and him and Derek.

Stiles turned back to Derek, picked up a sugar packet, and tossed it at him. It hit him in the cheek and Derek froze, but didn’t turn to him.

“What’s your favourite movie?” Stiles asked.

At this, Derek did turn, giving him a weird look. “What?”

“Your favourite movie,” Stiles repeated. “What is it?”

For a second, it looked like Derek wasn’t going to answer. Then, finally, he said, “Citizen Kane.”

“Huh,” Stiles said. “I’ve never seen it. Is it good? What’s it about? Why do you like it?”

Derek didn’t seem to understand what they were doing, but he answered anyway, explaining that the story itself was interesting and that the cinematography and the music were well ahead of its time for the nineteen-forties. Stiles listened while he spoke about it, noting Derek’s mannerisms and the way he seemed to be getting more and more into the discussion the more questions Stiles asked.

It didn’t sound like his kind of movie, especially given its year of release, but he could appreciate all the reasons Derek was interested in it, and he told him so. When Derek asked about his, Stiles immediately started on his ode to Star Wars. Of course, that wasn’t the only thing he liked—he was quite fond of Indiana Jones as well as the Terminator movies—but Star Wars was just...

“It does things to me, you know? Like cowboys in space, except not, and there’s kind of like, magic, but also not? And there’s twists and turns and everything is just so amazing and advanced, and George Lucas is a treasure.” Stiles grinned. “Seriously, I love them. Have you seen them?”

“Who hasn’t?” Derek demanded with a scoff.

“Scott.”

“Well, we can change that.” Derek smirked. “I can make it a mandatory pack thing.”

Stiles laughed and said he was down for that, but only if he was present because no way was Scott watching Star Wars for the first time without him.

Derek had relaxed while they’d been speaking, leaning back against the counter with his arms crossed, but not in a defensive way. In a calm and relaxed way, like he felt at ease, and was enjoying their conversation. Stiles didn’t really know how he felt, because the whole emotions thing didn’t exactly translate properly when it was just regular feelings, but he liked to think he was comfortable right then.

“What about books?” Stiles asked, not wanting the conversation to halt. “Any books you like?”

“It varies.” Derek reached up to scratch at his chin, the sound of his nails against his beard doing things to Stiles. It should not be as fucking sexy as he felt it was and good Lord, what was happening to him right now?

When Derek wasn’t being an asshole, he really did things to Stiles, holy shit.

“Like what?” Stiles forced out.

“I like some of the new stuff. Maze Runner, Ready Player One, that kind of thing. But I also like some of the older classics, like Count of Monte Cristo and Ender’s Game and things like that.”

“Ah. So science fiction and revenge stories.” Stiles smirked a little. “But hey, Maze Runner was totally entertaining. I really liked it. So that’s cool you liked it, too.”

“What kind of genre do you like?” Derek asked curiously.

Stiles shrugged. “I’m kind of all over the place. As long as it’s entertaining, I’ll read it.” He winced, but knew he had to admit this, because Derek had been pretty open about a few things back at the cabin. “Actually, um... right now I’m kind of sort of maybe a little tiny bit obsessed with, uh, you know, Michael Wolfe.”

The right corner of Derek’s mouth quirked upwards at those words. “Is that right?”

“Yeah,” Stiles admitted awkwardly. “He’s got—it’s just... really good writing. And compelling story. I like that it’s really focussed on the story, you know? There’s no unnecessary romantic tension between the two mains, they’ve both got their own things going on, and it’s super diverse. I mean, two Supernatural detectives, one of whom is of Asian descent, along with their human roommate who’s African American and works for NASA, and there’s the lesbian neighbour, and the asexual lab technician and just... it’s kind of got everything. And apparently the next book is going to have a deaf Fae or something?”

“Or something,” Derek agreed with a mysterious smile.

“Like—it’s amazing. It’s so awesome how inclusive everything is, and the story just... it sucks you in. I never know what’s coming next. It’s just... the guy’s got talent,” Stiles finished, feeling like he’d gushed enough.

“I’d like to think he has at least a little talent,” Derek agreed, but Stiles could tell he was extremely happy to hear such high praise.

“Do you think there’d ever be the possibility of like, a movie? Or a TV show? Just, you know, hypothetically speaking for the author.” Stiles didn’t think the two people in the shop were listening—well, the one at the back working furiously on whatever certainly wasn’t—but just in case, he didn’t want to out Derek as Michael Wolfe.

“I suppose it depends on if someone approached him with a pitch for a TV show.” Derek shrugged. “I think Mr. Wolfe would be very difficult to work with, though. He probably wouldn’t get much interest.”

“I don’t know, I think he’s pretty okay to work with when you get to know him.”

Derek let out a small laugh, but his smile slowly slid off his face and his features hardened. Stiles frowned at the abrupt change, but when the door opened and he turned, he recognized why.

Matt had just walked in. Terrific.

“Hi,” Stiles said obediently, because it was still his job. “The usual?”

“Sure,” Matt replied.

When Stiles went to get his drink started, he heard Matt inhale like he was going to say something, but Derek was suddenly at the till barking out the price. Matt obediently paid, and when the drink was ready, Derek took it from Stiles’ hand as carefully as he could manage while clearly annoyed, and then slammed it on the counter in front of Matt. Some of it sloshed over the sides, likely burning his hand, but he just kept eye contact with Matt the whole time.

“You know, this is terrible customer service,” Matt insisted coldly. “You should be careful, I have a pretty popular online blog for the town. I give one poor review, and this place will lose business so fast your poor uncle will blink and the store will be closed.”

“I’m sure he’d live.” Derek smiled, all teeth. “As for your blog, it’s not nearly as well travelled as you seem to think it is. I’ve seen it, and I’ve also seen better.” He pushed the coffee closer to Matt. “Take it and get out. Leave my boyfriend alone.”

“You don’t scare me, Alpha,” Matt sneered. “You know what they say, a dog’s bark is worse than its bite.”

“Not from me,” Derek insisted. “But if you’re adamant I’m not scary, what about the sheriff? Maybe you’d prefer we get him involved?”

“Like the sheriff will take a wolf’s word over mine,” Matt said with a scoff.

“Considering who the sheriff is,” Stiles cut in, “pretty sure he would. You know what I call the sheriff?” When Matt looked at him, Stiles grinned. “I call him dad. Pretty sure he’ll listen to me over anyone else.”

It looked like Matt wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him, but it was easy enough to prove. Anyone who looked up the sheriff’s last official election would very clearly see a bored Stiles on stage with him, so it would be a stupid lie.

Not that Stiles wanted to play the sheriff card, but to be fair, Derek had started it. And it was better they play the sheriff card than have Derek wolf out on him and chase him out of the shop on all fours.

Though Stiles would pay good money to see that.

“Get out,” Derek said again slowly, his eyes burning red and his fangs dropping, “and don’t come back. I mean it.”

Matt scowled, but he seemed to recognize Derek was serious. He glanced at Stiles one last time, as if to be sure this was truly what Stiles wanted. He just waved at him with a brilliant smile on his face, which had Matt’s lips turn down in an unhappy frown before he picked up his drink, insisted the place was shit anyway, Stiles was ugly, and then stormed out.

Once the door shut, Stiles laughed and slapped Derek hard on the back. “Shit, I’ve been trying to get rid of him for months. Peter’ll be mad though, he kind of liked him.”

“He likes you more,” Derek grumbled. “Pretty sure he’s hoping you and Malia will hit it off so you can officially be part of his family.”

Stiles’ eyebrows shot up. “What, you think he wants me to get with his daughter?”

Derek turned to him. “Pretty sure he’s already got the venue for your wedding picked out.”

Stiles didn’t know whether to laugh or not, because Derek looked pretty serious. He settled for a weird strangled sound, then cleared his throat and insisted he was going to grab some dinner, asking Derek if he wanted anything.

When he left the shop to head over to the sandwich place two stores down, he tried to think of more things to talk to Derek about throughout the evening.

So far, things were going well, and he wanted them to continue that way.


Things with Derek started becoming more natural. He was less hostile, more relaxed, and most of the time when they were working together, they actually enjoyed themselves. Derek wasn’t much of a talker, but Stiles did enough speaking for the both of them.

He asked as many questions as he could, though. Even though Derek didn’t talk much, when Stiles asked him questions, he answered them. It was nice, because it felt like he was starting to get to know Derek as opposed to the big, scary, human-hating Alpha.

It was also nice because Derek seemed to be smoothing out around the edges a little bit. He was nicer to customers when he could tell they were human. Not to say he did a one-eighty, but he at least wasn’t rude unless the other party was rude first.

Stiles would take it.

He did notice Derek was more antsy than usual, though. Well, not so much notice as sense. Whenever they parted ways, Derek’s anxiety seemed to go up a notch. Stiles attributed it to the fact that he was in his pack and, while there were others who were away right now, Stiles was still one of those people who wasn’t within Derek’s immediate line of sight. As an Alpha who’d already lost one pack, he probably didn’t like that his was currently divided across various areas.

Then again, Stiles had his dad, so really, Derek’s worry was redundant. His dad was the most terrifying person in town, Derek included, so if anyone came at Stiles, they’d be lucky not to get shot by the man.

One Friday night, after they’d both finished up and Derek locked up shop, Stiles waved at him while heading to his Jeep and barely made it half-way there when Derek spoke.

“Are you busy?”

Stiles paused and turned, staring at Derek. “What?”

“Are you busy?” Derek repeated, scowling a little. Always with the scowling.

“Uh, right now? Like, right this second?” When Derek nodded, Stiles said, “Uh, no? Not really? I was just going to head home and probably play some video games until I got tired enough to sleep.”

“Oh.”

Derek didn’t say anything else. Stiles was thinking of just waiting him out, but felt like that would be mean. Derek obviously had a reason for asking, he just... didn’t seem to want to tell Stiles what it was.

“Why?” Stiles finally asked.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” Derek shoved his hands in his pockets and started for the Camaro.

Stiles hurried after him, touching his shoulder and forcing him to stop. “Hey big guy, you forget the whole pack bond thing we’ve got going on? I mean, super inconvenient most of the time, I still can’t look Boyd or Erica in the eye, but pretty great right now when you obviously want something and can’t ask for whatever reason. So...?” he prompted.

Derek scowled at him again, then said, “I just—wanted to pick your brain. But you’re busy, an—”

“In what universe is going home to play video games alone, by myself, with no one else, me literally being busy?” Stiles rolled his eyes and slapped Derek’s arm before moving around the Camaro so he could climb into the passenger seat.

He could do these things now. Derek let him touch him, and his things, without glaring or threatening to maim him. It was allowed now, and Stiles took advantage of it because he didn’t know how to not touch people. He wasn’t as touchy-feely as the wolves were, but he did punch people in the shoulder or slap them in the back and whatnot so it was something of a relief that he was allowed to do that with Derek, now.

He sat waiting for Derek, who was all tense and weird outside the car. Stiles tried not to dwell on it, because he knew the whole human-in-his-pack thing was still bothering him. Not to mention apparently Derek was in love with him, so this probably wasn’t helping him much.

Man, would it be hot to fuck in the Camaro, though. But not yet. Not that Stiles wasn’t into Derek, he just felt like he wanted to make sure this was going to work before taking that leap. It’d be pretty shitty if he and Derek got together and then things didn’t work out. He didn’t want to have to break off a lifetime long friendship with Scott, not to mention the others he’d gotten close to the past year.

After a few minutes, Derek finally climbed into the car and started it, resolutely looking anywhere but at Stiles.

“We’re not heading up to your cabin, are we?” Stiles asked when Derek turned left out of the lot and headed down the mostly deserted road. “Because it’s pretty far, and while I know I can sleep in tomorrow, I don’t really want to fuck over my schedule too much.”

“No, we’re going to Denny’s.”

“Denny’s?” Stiles didn’t even remember the last time he went to Denny’s. Probably the last time he was drunk. Aside from Waffle House, which they didn’t have anywhere close to Beacon Hills, Denny’s was the best place to go when drunk because it had greasy food and there was a twenty-four hour one just before the highway.

“You don’t like Denny’s?” Derek asked, looking ready to turn around and find somewhere else to go.

“No, no,” Stiles insisted, throwing both hands out. “Denny’s is fine. I’m cool with Denny’s.”

“Okay.”

They sat in silence for about thirty seconds before Stiles couldn’t handle it. He started talking to Derek about a new TV show he was watching. He’d kind of started discussing it with him briefly at the end of their shift, but they’d been cleaning up so it hadn’t been super in-depth.

Now, Stiles just talked. He explained all the things he liked about it so far, and how he hoped one of the characters didn’t die though with his luck, he probably would. The leader was kind of annoying and unrelatable, but the rest of the cast was pretty great.

He got in as far as episode four by the time Derek stopped in the Denny’s lot, and he continued to give him a run-down of the episode while they headed for the door. There was only one other person there, and the waitress motioned for them to sit wherever. Derek chose the furthest corner in the back that he could, which Stiles kind of hated because the poor waitress was going to have to walk all the way back here.

“The rest of the place is empty,” Stiles reminded him, motioning the entire empty space.

“This conversation needs to stay private,” Derek said.

“What does that mean?”

Derek didn’t elaborate, because the waitress wandered over, looking tired and done with life while handing out the menus. She’d barely gotten her question out about whether or not they wanted anything to drink when Derek interrupted her.

“Coffee. Black.”

Stiles winced, and tried to balance out his curtness. “Can I get a chocolate milkshake please? With extra whip? I’m a fan of whip.”

“Sure,” she said while writing on her notepad before turning and heading off.

Stiles noticed Derek stiffen when he’d ordered and turned to him with a frown. “What?”

“Nothing,” Derek said quickly, clearing his throat and perusing the menu.

Stiles didn’t know for sure that he was even hungry but, well, they were here and he’d ordered a milkshake, so he might as well order some food, too.

Derek put his menu down when he was ready and Stiles followed suit, waiting for him to speak. Derek was just staring across the restaurant, as if waiting for something. Eventually, the waitress came back with their drinks, setting coffee down in front of Derek, and the milkshake in front of Stiles.

“Ready to order?”

“Yup,” Stiles said with a smile, trying for cheerful. It didn’t seem to help, the waitress looked like her soul had left her body years ago. Working retail really did suck, Stiles could relate, but he hoped she got some nice customers for the rest of her shift so that her faith in humanity returned just a little.

“What’ll it be?” she asked, clicking her pen and pressing it to her notepad.

Derek ordered first. He got three appetizers—zesty nachos, mozzarella sticks and pancake puppies—and a main course—sirloin steak with both hashbrowns and seasoned fries as his sides.

Stiles recognized he’d originally not been hungry, but now that he was there, he just ordered his usual, which was the Lumberjack Slam. It consisted of two pancakes, a slice of ham, two bacon strips, two sausage links, two sunny-side up eggs, two slices of toast and some hashbrowns.

Derek looked a little amused at the order, but didn’t say anything while the waitress picked up their menus and took them back towards the kitchen. Stiles assumed the appetizers would come out first, and while he wasn’t positive Derek was sharing, if he did, Stiles would probably be full for his food.

He didn’t dwell on it, grabbing his milkshake and pulling it closer. He’d just started to put the straw in his mouth when Derek sat up abruptly, reached across the table, and pulled the straw right out of his milkshake.

“Hey!” Stiles insisted, trying to snatch it back, but Derek just stuck the chocolatey end into his mouth before tossing the straw to the side on the table. “What the hell, that was mine! How am I supposed to drink this?”

“From the glass,” Derek informed him.

“There’s whipped cream!”

“Use your spoon!”

This wasn’t the first time Derek had done something like this. Lately, whenever Stiles went to make an iced drink, Derek shoved a spoon at him and told him not to use up all the straws because they were expensive. Which was ridiculous, because so were plastic spoons!

He hadn’t really thought much about it, but the more it happened, the more he felt like he should be cluing in to something.

Grumbling, he grabbed his spoon from his napkin and began to eat the whipped cream off the top. The girl had given him extra, bless her, so it took a bit longer than anticipated. He’d just taken his last bite of actual cream, licking his lips, when he glanced up at Derek and saw his gaze shoot from Stiles’ mouth back up to his eyes.

Stiles paused, and finally remembered the first time he’d noticed Derek acting weird about straws.

On Valentine’s day.

“Wait,” Stiles said slowly, pointing his spoon at Derek. “Wait, does—are you turned on when I drink things through straws?!”

“Have you seen how you use a straw?” Derek asked dryly. “No, I’m not turned on. You do this weird thing with your mouth, and chase the straw with your tongue. It’s obscene.”

Stiles kept staring at him. “It’s obscene and hot, is what you’re saying. You think it’s hot. You get turned on watching me drink through straws!”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes you do!”

“I don’t!” Derek insisted, scowling further.

“Oh, so I can just ask her for another one then?” Stiles turned and started to raise one hand so he could call the waitress back over, but Derek grabbed at his wrist and pulled it back down.

“Fine,” he hissed between gritted teeth. “Fine, seeing your lips wrapped around something and the way you suck does things to me. Happy?”

“I mean, yeah, I am,” Stiles admitted with a grin, but he showed Derek some pity and kept his arm down, even once his wrist was released. He went back to digging into his milkshake with his spoon, which was ridiculous but whatever. At least he had a milkshake. “So, you said you wanted to pick my brain.” Stiles licked at his spoon, and tried not to grin when he saw Derek watching him like some kind of predator. He was probably going to regret taking away the straw. “Pick away. What do you need?”

Derek lowered his gaze, playing with the knife on his side of the table. Stiles couldn’t help but wonder if he was avoiding looking at him because of what Stiles was doing to the spoon. He should probably be a little kinder, considering he knew how Derek felt.

“How would you react to being chased?”

Stiles stared at him for a long while. “Come again?”

“If you were being chased, knowing the Supernatural exists but not being a part of it, how would you react?”

For a few long seconds, Stiles just sat there staring at Derek, trying to figure out what was going on. Why was Derek asking him that? Was there... did he have cause for concern? Was something after him? Was this Derek trying to warn him to be careful? Or was Derek thinking of chasing him down the street as some weird Werewolf courting ritual? Should Stiles start taking up jogging or something?

He must’ve been sending some kind of fear or concern down the bond because Derek frowned slightly, then his eyes widened and he sat up straighter. “This isn’t about you,” he said quickly. “I wasn’t—this isn’t about anything with you. I’m just... trying to figure something out.”

“Figure what out?” Stiles demanded in a hoarse whisper. “Dude, should I be concerned?”

“No, no, you’re fine,” Derek insisted, looking like he was regretting this entire conversation. “Stiles, it’s okay, nothing’s—you’re fine. It was...” He sighed and rubbed at his face, suddenly looking exhausted before blurting out, “Stanislaw won’t cooperate!”

Stiles stared at him. “Who the fuck is Stanislaw?”

Derek looked extremely unhappy now, but he finally sighed and leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms and scowling. “He’s a new character in the detective series. He’s a Polish police officer whose mother is the deaf Fae we were talking about the other week. He works with one of the two mains a lot in the new book, they actually both think he’s the murderer but he’s not. Once they realize that, he becomes an asset to them because while he’s human, he knows about the Supernatural world since his mother is a Fae.”

Stiles was trying to figure out what this had to do with him. “So you’re—asking for... a human opinion?” he asked slowly, trying to be sure he understood.

“I’m struggling to make his reactions to the Supernatural believable. He’s either too over the top, or too mellow about it. I just—wanted a human’s opinion on how he should be reacting.”

That was probably the most adorable thing Stiles had ever heard.

He pushed his milkshake aside and placed both hands on the table, staring intently at Derek. “What’s chasing him?”

“A Lich.”

“Yikes.” Stiles leaned back in his own seat, the plastic booth creaking beneath him. He stuck his spoon in his mouth, sucking on it while he tried to think. “Does he have any magic? Like, his mom’s a Fae you said, right? Can he do anything?”

Derek’s eyes were following the spoon Stiles was now waving in his direction. “No. He didn’t get any magic from his mother. He’s completely human.”

“Okay, well he’s a cop, right? So he has weapons.” Stiles went back to sucking on the spoon, frowning in thought. “Okay, is he near fire?”

“Fire?” Derek asked, seeming confused by Stiles’ train of thought. “Uh, no. He’s being chased in a sewer.”

“Gross,” Stiles informed him before pushing on. “Okay, so no fire. Well, first off, if he knows about the Supernatural, he knows a Lich is basically just another type of harder-to-kill Zombie. So he isn’t going to panic. He’ll run, because bro doesn’t want to become one of the undead, but he’ll probably use his surroundings to his advantage. He can run faster, for one thing, so there’s that. He’d probably try and turn as many corners as possible while bearing in mind where he’s going. I’m guessing he’s not overly familiar with the sewer system, but just make him follow light from manholes covers.”

Stiles pulled his milkshake over again, digging another bite of the chocolatey goodness out of it and licking his spoon clean, still thinking.

“He wouldn’t go up to the surface, because it would risk civilians being hurt, and he wouldn’t want to expose the Supernatural world, or it’ll pose a risk to his mother. So he’d try and make it somewhere less populated before exiting the sewer system. Lich are usually vulnerable to fire, because whatever destroys the body destroys the being, but one tiny little flame isn’t going to be hot enough. He’d have to find like, a flamethrower or something and I doubt those are just lying around. Though his mom probably has the ability to hurt the Lich, so he’d just have to find a way to contact his mom to have her come out and help him. Or the Warlock, since fireballs and all.” Stiles shrugged. “Basically as a human who knows about this shit and doesn’t want to expose the Supernatural world, since your books have that as being a secret, not to mention him being a cop, he’d probably just try his best to lure it away from people before figuring out how to deal with it. Does that help?”

Derek was staring at him as if Stiles made no sense. Before either of them could speak again, the waitress appeared with the appetizers and Stiles immediately grabbed a mozzarella stick before Derek could insist all the food was his.

“You’re an interesting person, Stiles.”

“Is that why you named a human character after me?” Stiles asked with a grin.

Even though Derek didn’t say anything, there was a brief jolt of embarrassment that vibrated down the bonds before Derek managed to reign it back in. Not fast enough though, because Stiles felt it and he smirked.

He decided not to harass him though so they just sat there and ate their way through the three appetizers, Stiles having most of the mozzarella sticks because cheese was delicious and Derek didn’t seem interested in eating them. It was like he’d ordered them specifically for Stiles, but that would mean Derek listened to him when he spoke, which was a weird thought but kind of obvious now.

“It’s not, by the way,” Stiles finally said when they’d finished the appetizers and their meals arrived. He was in the middle of dipping the corner of his toast into the yolk of his egg, Derek popping a fry in his mouth.

“What?” Derek asked with a frown.

“My name. It’s not Stanislaw. Stiles is a nickname based on Stilinski.”

Derek’s chewing slowed, half a fry still between his fingers. “So... what is your name?”

“Mieczyslaw.”

“That’s... I think I’ll stick with Stanislaw,” Derek said.

“Ha!” Stiles pointed a finger at him. “So you do admit he’s me! You’re writing about me!”

“I never said I wasn’t.” Derek cut into his steak and stuck a rather large piece into his mouth. “I need more characters, and a new human will be good for everyone. You’re the only human I don’t hate, so it seemed logical I’d start with you.”

“Can I read it? What you have so far?”

“No.”

“What? Come on! You can’t tell me you’re writing about me and then say I can’t read it.”

“Sure I can.”

“Asshole.” Stiles grinned, reaching across the table to steal a fry.

It was a small win that he didn’t get his hand smacked for the theft.

Things were good.


Things were terrible! Stiles was going to hyperventilate himself into unconsciousness!

He knew the others could feel it, because they kept sending calm down the bonds at him, trying to make him relax, to calm down, to stop panicking!

But he couldn’t. He couldn’t stop panicking because there was a lot to panic about right now!

He pulled off his shirt and switched it out for what felt like the millionth time but was probably closer to the twentieth. He didn’t have that many shirts.

He checked himself out in the mirror, but he still felt... he didn’t know. He wanted to make a good impression, and somehow he felt like everything was going to go to shit.

Today was the first day the entire pack was going to be together after months of separation. Pretty much all of them lived up in the Hale house, but Scott was off at university—back as of an hour ago and coming by so they could leave together soon—and apparently Malia and Cora had also been away and had now returned. Because the whole pack was back in Beacon Hills, they were having a pack dinner and because Stiles was pack, he had to go.

Well, he didn’t have to go, but he was supposed to go, and he wanted to go but it was just... intimidating.

He didn’t know how any of the other pack members were around humans, and he was worried they would hate him on principle. Especially Cora and Malia, since they were actually Hales and had been forced to grow up knowing humans had murdered their family.

Boyd and Isaac had insisted it would be fine and that everyone was really excited to meet him, but they had to say that otherwise they risked him not showing up!

And the worst part of all of this was that, yes, it was a pack dinner, but it was also a pack event. Which meant he was spending the whole night there because Derek needed to have them all there at least once to kind of... ease some tension.

Scott and Stiles were both in his pack but living elsewhere so for one night, he just wanted all members of the pack under his roof. Scott said it happened every time he came back, and they had a giant sleepover in the living room. He insisted it was kind of fun, but Stiles just felt like he was going to puke.

He was a horrible sleeper. He moved a lot, he snored, he drooled, and if anyone touched his pillow they were going to lose a limb. This was a disaster!

“Stiles?”

“What?!” He hadn’t exactly meant to scream, but his dad had startled him and he wasn’t ready to leave, and this was the worst, they were going to hate him and kick him out of the pack the second he showed up and he’d have to walk home because Scott was the one driving them there, and then he wouldn’t be able to face the others at work on Monday and God he’d have to quit and maybe move and—

His dad’s hands fell onto his shoulders and gave him one firm shake. “Stop panicking. You’re going to be fine. It’ll be fun. Melissa says Scott enjoys all of his times at the Hale house. You’re just nervous because it’s your first time going over, but it’ll be fine.”

“I’m human!” Stiles insisted. “They’re all Werewolves! They’re gonna hate me!”

“And so what if they do? Half the pack likes you, and Derek’s on that same side of the line. You have the Alpha in your corner, don’t worry so much.” He patted his cheek lightly, then glanced around the room. “This is a mess. Have you even packed?”

“No!”

His dad sighed and shook his head, then went about trying to organize some of his things while Stiles slowly continued to panic. He forced himself to at least get some things ready, because he didn’t want Scott showing up to go and still be scrambling around getting his things organized. Then they’d be late to dinner and his first impression for the pack would be that human who was incapable of following a proper schedule.

He’d just finished up with his bag, his dad helping him hold it closed so his pillow fit and the zipper actually shut when the door downstairs opened.

“Hello? Stiles?”

His dad held the bag up and patted his cheek again. “Go. Have fun. Keep things PG.”

“Dad! There’s a whole pack there! Gross!” He turned on his heel and raced for the stairs, shouting back, “Bye, love you!”

“Love you too, son.”

It always felt nice hearing those words from his dad. He figured it made sense, considering he only had one parent to hear them from now, but still, it was nice.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, some of his nerves left him and he grinned, dropping his bag and rushing at Scott, wrapping his arms around him and hugging him tightly. Scott hugged him back, the two of them standing there hugging for a long while. It felt like forever since he’d last seen him in person.

Sure, they spoke virtually every day and they texted constantly, but it had been so long since they’d physically been in the same room, and it felt so good to see him. To physically touch him, and hug him, and have him right there. God, he’d missed him. So fucking much.

“Missed you, buddy.” Stiles said, slapping his back a few times before pulling away. “Also,” he said, and then punched Scott as hard as he could in the arm. “Ow! Oh God!” His hand felt like it was on fire, and Scott let out a loud squawk, asking if he was okay and insisting he could fix it. Stiles just waved him off, clutching his injured hand against his chest and wincing. “Right. Werewolf. Should’ve taken that into account, given that’s why I punched you.”

“I figured.” Scott offered him a small smile, patting his back lightly. “Come on, we’re gonna be late.”

Stiles grunted and grabbed his bag, flexing his injured hand and following Scott outside. He thought they were going to be taking Scott’s mother’s car, but turned out Scott wanted Stiles to drive. He insisted that Stiles would feel better knowing he had a quick escape if it got overwhelming and while that was nice, it also meant there was something to be overwhelmed about and now he was panicking a little bit.

A little lot bit.

When they both put their things in the back and Stiles started the Jeep, they’d barely started on their way down the street when Scott turned to him.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out. “Stiles, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like this, and I was going to tell you, you know, eventually, but I was just really scared of losing you, and I didn’t have it under control for a long time. Joanna had to come to university with me for the first year to keep me under control, it was rough, and then when I got better at it, I just kept thinking about how I couldn’t handle losing you. Like, I can’t, Stiles. I kept panicking about it, and I didn’t want to lose you, and I know you’re mad about it, but I didn—”

“Oh my God,” Stiles insisted, glancing at him before punching him lightly once more. He couldn’t do it harder than that or he’d hurt himself again. “Calm down. It’s fine. I mean, yeah, I was really pissed, and I still kind of am a little bit, but I think I’m more just... hurt. But I also tried to see it from your perspective, and how hard it would be to tell you if it was me who was the Werewolf. I’m sure a part of you knew I’d be fine with it, but the other part was louder and it freaked you out.”

“Yeah,” Scott admitted quietly. “It did. I’m really sorry. I know you wouldn’t have cared. I know it wouldn’t have been a big deal, I know it, but at the time all I could think was ‘Stiles can’t know, he can’t know, he’ll hate me, he’ll abandon me, he can’t ever know’ so it kind of... consumed me a little bit. The fear.”

“Well, we’re pack now, or whatever, so you’re gonna have to catch me up on the past few years.” He turned to grin at him. “Guessing Kira knows, what with the whole Kitsune thing she’s got going on. She probably didn’t care.”

“Yeah.” Scott got a bit of a dopey smile on his face. “Kira was great when she found out. Was a little relieved, actually. She was worried I’d find her too weird to date, but when I became a wolf, it was like a ‘you’re stuck with me now’ thing. Which is fine by me, I really love her.”

“Yeah, well, five years strong. If that ain’t love,” Stiles said with a laugh. “She back?”

“Not yet, she’s flying in tomorrow, so I’m heading over to see her after we’re done the pack breakfast.”

“That’s cool. We should do dinner, the three of us. Tomorrow or later in the week, whenever.”

“Tomorrow would be awesome,” Scott said with a grin.

Stiles grinned back at him, then focussed fully on the road again. “So tell me about things. Life. School. How are you?”

Scott immediately started telling Stiles about the entire Werewolf side of his life. He started with a more in-depth story of how he was bitten, since he’d mostly given the cliffnotes to Stiles when he’d called him in a rage a few months back.

It wasn’t until they were about twenty minutes away from his house that something occurred to Stiles and he interrupted Scott mid-sentence.

“I have no idea where I’m going.” He’d honestly just been driving towards the coffeeshop out of habit.

“What?” Scott frowned, then realized what he meant. “Oh. Yeah, no, you’re good. You’re headed towards the preserve, which is on track, so just keep going that way and I’ll let you know when to turn.”

Scott did not, in fact, let him know when to turn. They overshot the path that led into where the Hale house was and had to backtrack. Stiles was beginning to worry because if they were late, he was positive he’d be blamed, but so far they seemed to be making good time.

The path leading to the Hale house was not kind to his Jeep, but he somehow made it. When he finally saw the house, it made Derek’s cabin look like an actual cabin. The house wasn’t so much a house as it was a fucking mansion.

Whenever the others complained about how much they hated all being in such close proximity sometimes, he’d imagined like... a two story house, maybe about seven or eight thousand square feet considering how many people lived there. But this place looked closer to being something like twenty thousand square feet! It had four floors, and was so large it was evident parts of the forest around it had been cut away to accommodate it. The house actually looked like it was shaped a little bit like the White House, with a center piece and two large wings out on either side. It wasn’t built like the White House at all, though. It was all dark colours and earth tones, like it was trying to blend into the foliage. It really was massive, though, and when Stiles slowly drove up the gravel path, he could see a few cars parked on either side of the path. Some were on the grass, but most were on more gravel, and Stiles figured those were the cars used the most frequently.

He parked beside the last car on the left, hoping he wasn’t taking anyone’s spot, and then he and Scott climbed out. Scott was still chatting away at him about school and what he was doing for his final year, grabbing his bag from the back without a care in the world, but Stiles was still thinking about what was behind the front door.

It took him a few seconds to get his bag, and once he did, Scott wrapped an arm around his shoulders and grinned at him.

“Calm down. Your heart’s going a mile a minute. It’ll be fine, the food’s super good and we always have a good time. Even when Derek’s being a wet blanket.” The grin he’d been sporting slowly slid off his face and he winced, glancing at the house.

Stiles figured someone had heard him and he’d just been reminded that Derek could hear him, too.

Patting his back, Scott released him and headed for the porch, Stiles following him a little apprehensively, looking around. It was actually fairly bright, likely because of all the lights on inside the house, as well as the porch lights. He followed Scott up the stairs, but when his friend went to open the door, Stiles panicked.

“Wait!” he insisted, grabbing Scott’s arm. “Shouldn’t we, like, knock?”

Scott gave him a weird look. “You? Knocking? Funny. Besides, we’re pack. It’d be like knocking on your own front door.”

Stiles would’ve been happy to argue longer, but the door opened and a girl he didn’t know was standing there, eying him up and down.

He couldn’t really gauge her opinion based on her expression, but she finally said, “Huh. I’d fuck him.”

“No you won’t!” someone else Stiles didn’t recognize shouted from inside the house.

“She can if she wants to,” Peter called back, moving up behind the girl and putting his hand on her shoulder. “Stiles. Glad you could make it. This is my daughter, Malia.”

“I’m here too,” Scott said, offering a small wave.

“Yes, hello Steve.”

Stiles snorted at that but Scott just scowled and moved into the house past Malia and her father. Peter motioned Stiles in and he obediently followed, the door shutting behind him. Peter’s arm was around him instantly and he pulled him through the house towards the back.

Scott took Stiles’ bag when they passed him and headed up the stairs with it, presumably to drop it off somewhere. Stiles didn’t have the chance to think on it too much, because Peter was still dragging him along through the house.

The kitchen was bright and lively, and looked similar to the cabin’s kitchen with a wall of windows. The only difference was that this one was massive and full of people.

And enough food to feed an army.

Which he supposed made sense, he’d seen the wolves eat.

“Oh hey, is this the loser?” Another girl asked. She was the only one around their age he hadn’t met, so he concluded she must be Derek’s sister Cora.

“This is the loser,” Erica agreed with a grin, wandering over to Stiles and squishing his cheeks. He batted her away, trying not to feel like a loser. There were a lot of people in the room he didn’t know, but so far, no looks that made him uncomfortable. A few of the adults he hadn’t met looked curious, but nobody seemed hostile, which was good.

Peter dragged him around the room, introducing him to everyone, though he forgot most of their names as soon as they were said because it was a lot of names to remember. He did notice that Derek wasn’t there though, and wondered if he was still out.

After he’d made the rounds and people started moving food out into the dining room, Stiles went to grab something to help when three different people stopped him immediately. One of them was Boyd, and he stared at him like Stiles had just done something terrible.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out. “I don’t—I was just trying to help. I didn’t mean—is this like, a Werewolf faux-pas?”

“You can’t help,” Cora said with a small smile, walking past him with a bowl of mashed potatoes.

“She means,” one of the older women said, glaring after her, “that you’re not required to help. You’re welcome to go and sit.”

“Actually, why don’t you go fetch Derek?” One of the men—Stiles thought his name might be Kincaid—said with a smile. “He should be in the study.”

“Sure. I can do that.” Stiles turned and walked out of the kitchen. He made it all the way back to the front hall before saying, “I mean, I would, if I knew where the study was.”

He was actually a little worried he might get lost and it would take an army of Werewolves to find him. Which should be relatively easy, given this was his first time in the house so they could just follow his scent and they’d locate him in seconds.

Figuring the study was on another floor, Stiles began climbing the stairs and hoped he wasn’t breaking any weird Werewolf rules. Like apparently trying to pick up a dish, which he was still really antsy about. Picking up a dish was bad? How was that bad?! Was it because he was human? But no one seemed bothered by that, as far as he could tell, and he was pack, right? So...

Stiles had almost reached the landing, still thinking about the error he’d made, when he walked into someone and had to windmill his arms to avoid falling backwards down the stairs.

Derek grabbed his arm and wrenched him upright again, pain lancing through him at the rough action, but he knew it was just a knee-jerk reaction and, hey! At least he didn’t fall backwards down the stairs.

“Hey,” Stiles said.

“Hi.” Derek was staring at him exceptionally hard. And he still hadn’t let go of his arm.

“Uh, I think—dinner’s ready?” Derek looked really good right then, holy shit.

Stiles had tried to clean up, tried to choose a nice shirt, be presentable and all, but Derek looked really good. He was wearing black jeans with a green Henley that made his eyes pop. It looked like he was freshly showered, and Stiles was pretty sure he’d trimmed his beard, too. All in all, he looked really delicious and wow, boners were not a good idea in a house full of Werewolves. Cease and desist with the boner.

“Dinner. Right.”

Why were things suddenly super intimate and awkward? Stiles didn’t like intimate and awkward!

“Your house is awesome,” he blurted out.

“Thank you.” Derek finally released his arm. “Your house, too.”

“What? Oh. Right. Um, well, it’s more, you know, your house. But it’s awesome. And really big. Like, is there a reason it’s so big?”

“We’re a lot of people.”

“Right.” Stiles took one step backwards, hands in the back pockets of his jeans. “Right. Yeah. Fifteen in the pack.”

“Sixteen,” Derek corrected.

“Right. Me. Duh. Sorry, it’s just—I guess before getting here, it still hadn’t really...” Stiles shook his head. “Why can’t I bring dishes to the table?”

“What?” Derek frowned.

“Dishes. Food. To the table. I tried to help and the others said not to.”

“Oh.” The expression on Derek’s face suggested he wasn’t going to be answering that question. “You don’t need to worry about doing things like that.”

“Okay. Why?”

“We can talk about it later.” Derek took a step down and Stiles hastily turned to go back down the stairs before he just fell down them. He and Derek reached the landing and Stiles followed him towards where the dining room was.

Most of the others were already sitting, chatting amongst themselves. Scott looked a little pouty, and Stiles heard him muttering something about rules being stupid if they weren’t being followed. He paused beside him to arch an eyebrow and Scott rolled his eyes, still pouting like a child.

“Newest member of the pack sits furthest from the Alpha,” Scott said sourly.

“Oh.” That was uncomfortable for him. He didn’t really know anyone at this end of the table except for Scott, but he supposed it made sense in the hierarchy.

Then again, when he looked around, all the seats were taken except the one at the head of the table—obviously Derek’s—and the one to his left. Boyd was seated on his right.

Stiles bent down beside Scott and lowered his voice, even though he knew it wouldn’t help. He just hoped the others would be polite enough not to listen.

“So uh, do I ask people to move up, or...?”

“Apparently rules don’t apply to you,” Scott said dryly, still looking like a stubborn, put-out child. “You’re sitting beside Derek.”

Stiles stared at him. “What? But you just said—”

“We haven’t got all night, Stiles,” Peter called from the other end of the long table. “Come along.”

“Is there some kind of Werewolf grace I need to know about before I screw this up?” Stiles hissed quickly.

Scott shook his head. “Just don’t eat before Derek and his second do. Boyd’s his second, so once Boyd’s had his first bite, you can dig in.”

“Cool. Right. Okay.”

Stiles straightened and hurried down the table, feeling a lot of eyes on him. This was all extremely uncomfortable and he hated Werewolf politics and why was he sitting beside Derek, of all people? Not that he minded or anything, and Peter was on his other side, and Boyd was across from him, so it was all fine, just fine, everything was fine, super fine, so much of the fine and what the fuck was happening?!

Taking the last seat somewhat awkwardly, he saw that he’d already been served, food on his plate. He hadn’t noticed at first, but they all had food on their plates. It was weird though, because he only had things he liked on his. He figured maybe Scott had served him or something, it made sense.

He turned to Derek when he stood up, and this all felt very formal and weird. Stiles hoped he got used to it. Exposure usually helped, he’d have to ask to come around for dinner whenever his dad was working late. It would ensure he got used to this.

“It’s been a while since we’ve all been together. This is Stiles. He’s our newest pack member. Everyone behave.”

Derek started to sit back down but Peter cleared his throat. Derek scowled at him but said, “Welcome back to those of you who just returned.”

He went to sit again but Peter just cleared his throat loudly once more, then coughed, giving him eyebrows. Derek looked uncomfortable, like he had no idea what to do or say, and Stiles felt like he could sense some anxiety vibrating down the bonds at him. No one else seemed to notice, but Stiles could feel it, and it was slowly mounting, like Derek was about to have a panic attack. So, hoping he wasn’t breaking some kind of Werewolf rule, he at least stayed seated so that Derek was higher than him and turned to the table at large.

“I think what Derek means is that this doesn’t happen, the whole pack together, nearly as often as he’d like. Of course, it’s difficult with everyone off at school, and conflicting schedules, but it’s really nice having everyone together even if it’s just a few times a year. It’s really nice to see the Hale pack expanding and while we’re all still getting to know one another, I’m really looking forward to seeing all the awesome work everyone’s been doing to keep the Hale pack together. Tonight should be really fun, and it’s great having everyone here.” He realized he’d been speaking a lot more than he’d originally intended and coughed. “That’s, uh, what Derek meant.”

Everyone was silent, and Stiles knew, he just knew he’d broken another one of those stupid Werewolf rules.

Okay they weren’t stupid, he just hated it because he didn’t understand or know any of them. He’d stopped by the clinic a few times to ask Deaton about it, but the guy kept insisting only Derek could tell him about Werewolf culture as his Alpha. When he’d tried to weasel it out of the others, they kept insisting they liked their organs where they were and that it had to come from Derek.

Had they met Derek?! The guy wasn’t exactly chatty!

He turned to look at said un-chatty Alpha, hunching his shoulders and waiting for some kind of reprimand. Instead, he had Derek staring down at him with the softest expression Stiles had ever seen. It actually almost looked like he wanted to kiss him.

Which, hey, Stiles was cool with. He was actually pretty okay with the whole Derek being into him thing. He might kind of sort of also be into Derek a little bit, too. Tiny bit. Itty bitty bit.

Stiles was a horrible liar, he was so into Derek. Ever since their weird truce at Christmas he’d been falling, and now to know he was in the pack, and Derek was in love with him, and he actually had a personality, what? Stiles was so falling for him, super hard, and he totally would’ve been okay with kissing him right now.

“Huh,” Cora finally said, breaking the silence and forcing everyone to look over at her. She turned to Erica, leaning forward so she could see her past Isaac. “I get it.”

“Right?” Erica just grinned. “Nice speech, Derek. Thanks.”

Derek scowled, told them both to shut up, and sat down. He grabbed his utensils and angrily shoved a bite of food into his mouth. Stiles was glad Scott had told him about the whole waiting thing, because he’d have started shovelling food into his mouth instantly. It all looked so delicious, he didn’t even know what he wanted to try first.

He was staring down at his plate trying to decide, watching Boyd out of his peripheral so he’d know when he took a bite, but Boyd just sat there staring at him. Like he didn’t want to eat, or he wanted to make Stiles suffer, or like everyone at the table thought this was a huge joke of some kind and they were going to wait for Stiles to mess up or something.

After about thirty seconds, he glanced up and saw everyone staring at him. Well, everyone but Derek, who was sulking and shovelling pasta salad into his mouth, pretending the rest of the table wasn’t there.

Why was everyone staring at him?

“Sometime today would be nice, Stiles,” Peter said, tone amused.

“What?” he asked, looking at him, then Boyd. “But—okay, am I being punked? I specifically asked if I needed to know anything and I was told the Alpha eats first, then his second, then everyone else.”

“That’s normally the order, yes,” Peter said with a small nod. “It’s been the order in our pack for a long time. But there is one other position that, once it arises, becomes second in line. So you’re next. Boyd will be after you.”

“Why?” Stiles asked slowly, uncertainly.

“I’m afraid I can’t say.” Peter still looked amused. “Derek, would you like to—”

“Just eat your food,” he interrupted, and Stiles felt a light kick to his shin under the table. “It’s your turn, just do it.”

“Someone is really going to have to answer my questions one day,” Stiles muttered, grabbing his fork. The only reason he felt like this wasn’t a trick was that Derek himself had said it was fine. If it was truly a prank, Derek wouldn’t go along with it. He was the Alpha, so he couldn’t trick Stiles into breaking a Werewolf rule and then punish him for it.

Even Derek wasn’t that much of an asshole.

Stiles decided on the maccaroni and cheese first, taking a bite of it and sighing happily while he chewed. It was good. Really good. Super cheesy and awesome, and delicious. He also had some hashbrowns on his plate, for some reason, but he didn’t dwell on it and just went about taking another bite while Boyd ate from his own plate. Soon afterwards, the clink of cutlery sounded down the table and everyone began to eat.

Stiles felt like he was never going to get this whole Werewolf thing down, but more than that, he felt like he was missing something and nobody seemed allowed to tell him about it except Derek.

He was really going to have to annoy the shit out of Derek to get himself some answers.


Dinner was surprisingly fun, though a little stressful. He still wasn’t sure what everyone’s names were, but a majority of his side of the table were people he knew. He figured they were all Derek’s first Betas, though there was also family, of course.

He and Peter chatted for a bit before Stiles noticed Boyd was speaking to Cora, who was beside him. That meant no one was talking to Derek, so when he and Peter were at an acceptable stopping point in their conversation, he’d turned to Derek to ask how he was liking his food and had proceeded to talk his ear off for the rest of the meal.

Derek looked relieved, and it made Stiles wonder if he was just a little lonely. He was the Alpha, but he was young, something Stiles had already been thinking about when he’d gone to visit him at his cabin. Derek was doing his best, but it was probably hard being an Alpha to such a big pack when he likely just wanted to sit in his room and write all the time.

When dinner was finished, Stiles stood to bring his dishes to the kitchen, but Peter just pushed him back down, smiled mysteriously, and took his plate for him. Apparently there was dessert, but they were going to eat that either during or after the mandatory pack movie they were about to watch.

Stiles sat there awkwardly and watched the others clear away the table. Boyd was leaning back in his chair, arms crossed loosely over his chest and speaking to Derek in quiet tones about his weekend trip coming up with Erica. Stiles assumed Derek was listening, but he noticed the Alpha watching him out of the corner of his eye.

When everyone had left the room, still in the process of clearing the table, Derek stood and headed out, motioning for Stiles to follow. Boyd trailed along behind them, hands in his pockets and looking relaxed.

Derek led them into an amazingly huge living room, complete with multiple plush couches, a fifty-inch TV, an impressive surround-sound and enough pillows and blankets for the child that lived inside Stiles to flail in excitement because blanket fort!

“Remember what I said about Star Wars?” Derek asked with a small smirk.

“Uh, yes?” Stiles asked, wondering if he was about to have an awesome night.

Derek held up Episode IV and Stiles burst out laughing before punching him in the arm. “Dude. Scott’s gonna murder me for this. I love it. Thank you!”

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, as well.” Derek moved towards the machine so he could put it in. “Should be fun.”

“Hey,” Boyd said from right beside him, making him jump. “Do you like nuts on your sundaes?”

“Uh, no?” Stiles said, confused. Then he remembered he was in a house of Werewolves and they were probably in the kitchen making sundaes.

Derek motioned the couches while he fiddled with the remotes and controls, so Stiles looked at them all before taking a running leap at one and grinning at how bouncy and soft it was. He could get used to this. Living with Derek felt like living with Bruce Wayne or something. Though presumably without the bat outfit.

Then again, he’d never seen Derek’s closet, and he did brood enough to be mistaken for Batman so he supposed anything was possible.

He got himself comfortable, pulling up a few blankets for himself since there had to be, like, thirty on the floor. He snuggled himself up in a comfortable burrito, watching the screen while it loaded. Boyd took another one of the couches, and Stiles was excited to sit with Scott and harass him the whole movie, but he didn’t know how the pack hierarchy worked in a setting like this.

Derek wandered over to him, sitting down beside Stiles and tugging at his blankets.

“What?” Stiles whined.

“Share.”

“There’re like, thirty blankets on the floor. Get your own!”

Derek looked at him, eyebrows raised, and tugged once more. Stiles knew if he really wanted to tug them out from around him, he could. The fact that he wasn’t meant he was trying to give Stiles the option of actually refusing.

He was so comfortable, though. Ugh.

But, he relented. Because it was Derek, and once they were both under the pile of blankets, Stiles was actually a little pleased because he’d forgotten how warm Derek could be. He’d only really experienced it once, back when they’d been getting rid of Matt. Derek had pulled him into his side, all hard muscle and long lines of heat. And he’d kissed him so well, too. All commanding and demanding and taking what he wanted and wow now was not a good time for his boner, down. Down!

Still, Stiles didn’t pull away from Derek where they were touching. Because he was warm and comfortable, and Derek liked him anyway so it was fine because Stiles kind of liked him, too.

Scott was the first to come into the room, and he paused in the doorway when he saw Stiles and Derek on the same couch. Stiles patted the free spot on his other side, but Scott glanced at Derek first. Stiles saw him nod out of the corner of his eye, so Scott obediently moved over to them and took a seat. He had two sundaes in his hands, and he passed one over to Stiles, who grinned and took it eagerly.

“This is awesome. Nice and cozy under a blanket between two Werewolves, while eating a deliciously chocolate-covered sundae. This is the life. Can we have pack dinners every night?”

“We should certainly have them more often,” Peter said, wandering into the room with his daughter in tow. “Perhaps something you can change for us?”

“Why would I have to change it?” Stiles asked, already digging into his ice cream. Scott had taken a bite of his, so Stiles figured the no-eating-until-the-Alpha-does rule only applied to dinner at the dinner table. “Can’t Derek just be like, ‘hey everyone, pack dinner tonight’ or whatever?”

“Derek sucks with people, you think he can handle pack dinners more than once a year?” Malia asked with a scoff, falling onto another one of the couches. Stiles figured they all had their usual seats, and he knew Isaac and Scott were pretty close—courtesy of Isaac telling him so a few days back—so he wondered if Derek usually ended up sitting alone. Boyd and Erica obviously cuddled, and everyone else seemed to just... sit wherever was comfortable to them.

He had to wonder if Derek always ended up eating by himself, with no one speaking to him. Sitting by himself, with no one paying attention to him. Sure the others all called him a dick, but even when he’d been a dick, he’d always taken care of Stiles. Derek just... didn’t know how to people. It was something Stiles was slowly but surely learning.

When everyone was seated, he poked at Derek in the side, excitedly telling him to hurry up and unpause the movie since Scott didn’t know what it was yet. As soon as it started, someone turning off the lights so the only illumination came from the television, Scott let out a loud groan and Stiles cackled maniacally.

“Man, it’s been ages since I’ve seen this,” Cora said from another one of the couches. “This is a great movie.”

“Scott’s never seen it,” Derek informed them.

“And now he has no choice!” Stiles thrust both fists in the air, almost dripping ice cream on himself and immediately cold since he’d been all nice and cozy warm in his cocoon. “Suck it, McCall!”

“Yeah, yeah, rub it in,” Scott muttered, slouching in his seat.

“I will. With glee.” Stiles got himself settled once more when the opening scrolling text began to disappear and the movie itself started.

Everyone was quiet while they watched, a few people still eating their sundaes and others snuggled up against their partners. Derek had wrapped one arm around Stiles at some point, pulling him into his side, but he didn’t really notice until halfway through the movie when he realized he was getting a little too warm.

Besides, Derek seemed really content. Almost happy. Stiles didn’t want to kill the mood, so he just sat there and suffered through the heat, though he suspected Derek began to notice because he did pull the blanket off just a little bit, which was something of a relief.

They managed to get through Episode IV as well as Episode V, having paused between the two to put away their dessert dishes and have bathroom breaks, before it was determined they should all head to bed. Some of the pack were working the following day, including Isaac and Boyd at the coffeeshop, so it was best to call it a night.

Stiles watched while the others all piled even more pillows and blankets into the middle of the room. He honestly didn’t think the adults would all go for it—well, the real adults, those older than like, forty—but surprisingly they were all making sure the area was comfortable.

“It’s comforting,” one of the older men told Stiles when they saw him looking all confused. Stiles thought he must be the professor Isaac had told him about back in December. “Being close to pack, being with our Alpha. It’s calming. We don’t get it very often.”

“Oh.” Stiles didn’t really know what else to say.

When everything was all settled, everyone dispersed to get ready for bed. Scott wrapped an arm around Stiles’ shoulders and led him up to his room in the pack house so they could change and brush their teeth. Stiles had to wonder if he was going to have his own room in the pack house, too.

“So?” Stiles asked once the door was closed and he stripped off his two shirts. “What did you think? You’ve insisted you’d hate Star Wars your whole life, but now that you’ve seen it...?”

“It’s okay,” Scott acquiesced, though bitterly, while removing his own shirt. “It’s literally just cowboys in space.”

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles insisted, going for his pants. “That’s exactly wha—”

The door opened and both of them jumped. Why Scott jumped, Stiles didn’t know, couldn’t he hear, like, everything?

“Scott, might I have a word?” Peter asked with a small smile. “Now. Quickly.”

“Uh, sure?” Scott shot Stiles a confused look but exited the room, shutting the door behind him.

Stiles just shrugged and finished changing out, grabbing his sweats and night shirt and pulling them on. Scott still wasn’t back, so Stiles took advantage of the en-suite, brushing his teeth and relieving himself.

When he was done, Scott still wasn’t back, so he just packed his things back up, grabbed his pillow, and left his bag by the door. He exited the room and headed down the corridor and back downstairs. When he entered the sitting room, a few people were already there, chatting amongst themselves and spread out on the floor.

“What’s that?” Erica asked upon spotting him.

“My pyjamas?”

“No, your pillow. Why did you bring your own pillow? We have plenty of pillows.”

“I can’t sleep without it. It needs to be mine.” Stiles held it defensively, but Erica just shrugged and motioned the middle of the pile.

He wasn’t exactly comfortable with being in the middle, considering how much he moved around, but he didn’t have a choice in the matter, apparently. So he just picked his way into the middle and put his pillow down, trying to get comfortable on his back.

The others all trickled in slowly afterwards, Scott coming almost last. He looked pale and uncomfortable, and when Derek appeared behind him, he flinched and moved away from him, as if he was worried he would get attacked. Stiles just frowned at him for acting all squirrelly but ignored that when Derek plopped down beside him.

Someone got the lights and the room went pitch black. Stiles was glad he was already on the blankets because he couldn’t see in the dark and would probably have killed himself trying to get to his spot.

There were a few murmured good nights, and Stiles felt Erica snuggling up to him on one side. Derek was pressed right into him on the other and Stiles was positive he wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight.

He just lay staring at the ceiling, listening to all the breathing around him even out. Someone near the edge was snoring, but a kick from someone else had them grunt, roll over, and return to sleep without the soundtrack.

The longer he lay there, the more his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He could see vague shapes around him, and there was some kind of pattern ghosting across the ceiling. He was sure the lights outside had been turned off, so it was likely just the moon.

He wondered when the next full moon was.

Stiles jumped when a hand wrapped around his waist, Derek pulling him closer. “Go to sleep, Stiles,” he mumbled sleepily.

“I can’t. I move around a lot.”

“So move. We’re used to it.” Derek was rubbing his stubbled cheek against Stiles’ shoulder, the scratch of it coming through his shirt and against his skin. “Go to sleep.”

Stiles could feel calm pushing down the bonds at him, and after a few moments, he relaxed. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about the fact that he was sandwiched between two Werewolves.

His life was officially weird.


Scott was acting weird. Well, to be fair, everyone was acting weird, but Stiles was okay with that for the most part. It was the Scott part of the weirdness that he didn’t like, because Scott was his brother, and they’d already had one major blowout this year. He really didn’t want another, he just wanted to know what the fuck was going on.

Because Scott was avoiding him. Scott was literally avoiding him. He’d even cancelled their dinner the night after the pack event and had disappeared with Kira somewhere. There was one time where Stiles had shown up at his house, and he’d literally watched Scott speed out of the garage and down the street on his dirt bike. Right past Stiles, meaning he knew Stiles was there. And he would’ve chased him, except his Jeep wasn’t doing so hot lately and he didn’t want to aggravate it.

The only time he actually managed to corner Scott to ask him what the fuck was going on was when he ambushed him at work. There were other people in the waiting room, so he had to be quiet with his ambush, but he demanded an explanation as to why Scott kept running off on him.

“Look, I fucked up, okay?” Scott hissed, eyes skirting around, as if worried another pack member was there to tattle. “I didn’t know, and I did something, and I just—want to keep my distance until things are okay again.”

“What does that even mean?” Stiles demanded. “What did you do?”

“I can’t tell you, I’m not allowed.”

“Scotty,” Stiles insisted, exasperated. “Dude, I need answers, okay? Derek’s certainly not giving them to me, and the rest of the pack keeps saying they can’t tell me. Someone needs to tell me something! I mean,” Stiles raked a hand through his hair, “I went out with Isaac the other night to see a movie, and the girl beside me was being friendly, like, not even flirting, just friendly, and Isaac lost it on her. With the teeth and the eyes and the growling. Isaac isn’t like that, but he and the others are all getting really...” He didn’t even know.

“Territorial?” Scott offered quietly.

“Yeah. Protective and possessive. Like, does being in the pack mean I can’t be around other people? Because my dad’s going to have words with Derek if that’s the case.”

“No, it’s not about that. It’s about you. It’s because of who you are.” Scott clacked his teeth together, obviously not having meant to say that.

Stiles narrowed his eyes at him. “What do you know? Did Peter tell you why everyone’s so weird around me? What is it?”

“I can’t,” Scott insisted, grabbing a folder and turning to head into the back of the clinic.

“No, no, you don’t get to do that!” Stiles pushed past the swinging door, hoping Deaton wouldn’t get too mad about it—the guy was chill, and apparently involved with the pack, so Stiles was hopeful—and followed Scott into the room he was trying to escape into. “Scott, you’re my best bro, you have to talk to me about this!”

“Look, I’m not supposed to say anything,” Scott insisted, putting the folder down on the counter beside him while Stiles shut the door.

“Scott, I won’t tell,” he insisted, motioning himself with both hands. “I promise. No one will know. I just—Derek won’t tell me and everyone else insists it has to be him. I’m kind of at an impasse.”

Scott still didn’t look convinced. Stiles knew it was a dick move on his part, trying to use their friendship as a means of getting answers, but he needed answers! No one was telling him anything and he knew he was being kept out of the loop. The others didn’t want to tell him because it was up to Derek, but the others had to know Derek wasn’t going to say anything! Because he was Derek and it took Stiles saying he was going to quit and leave the pack to get Derek to admit he cared about him.

Stiles needed answers! And he would play dirty if he had to just to get them, even if he felt guilty about it later!

“Please?” he asked, going for his most pathetic expression ever. “I’ll do anything. Anything. Just-just tell me.”

Scott stared at him for a long moment, seeming to war with himself. Stiles just did everything he could to look pathetic and finally, Scott let out a groan and covered his face with both hands.

“Okay, fine. Fine.” He dragged his hands down his face, eying Stiles, then sighed and crossed his arms. He cocked his head, as if listening to make sure no one was around, then lowered his voice. “So, I don’t really know much about Werewolf hierarchy, but I do know that usually, the top is always the Alpha.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we all know that.”

“Right.” Scott frowned. “Yeah. Well, if the Alpha is alone in the pack, then the most important person after the Alpha is his second, which is Boyd in our pack.”

Dammit, he should’ve known when he’d asked Scott that he would start from the creation of the universe before getting to the point. “Still nothing new to me, buddy.”

“Okay, well...” Scott winced, looking uncomfortable. “Usually, after some time, the Alpha eventually gets a, you know, a... you know.”

Scott was giving him the eyebrows, trying to make Stiles read his mind, apparently.

Stiles shook his head impatiently. “A what, Scott?”

His friend winced. “A mate.”

A what now? Stiles was pretty sure he’d misheard.

“What?” he asked, just to be sure.

“A mate.” Nope, he hadn’t misheard. “It’s like a significant other, but more... intense?” Scott shrugged. “I don’t really know. The Alpha and the mate’s bond is stronger. They can feel each other more than the rest of the pack.”

Okay, that wasn’t good. Stiles recognized that he and Derek seemed to be particularly attuned to one another. Was it because of this... this mate bond thing they had?

“Not that they don’t feel the rest of the pack,” Scott continued, completely oblivious to Stiles’ slow mental breakdown, “just that if something were to happen to the Alpha, the mate would be the first to know, and vice versa. The mate is in charge when the Alpha isn’t around. The mate is like-like the speaker of the house. Someone who can articulate what the Alpha sometimes can’t. Good negotiators, glue that keeps the pack together, makes everyone more open and willing to spend time together, things like that.”

Stiles’ brain was short-circuiting. He remembered the pack dinner, when Derek had been trying to speak to the pack and floundered. Stiles had jumped in, and then thought maybe he’d fucked up, but everyone had looked pleased and Derek had been happy. And then there was the general mood in the place, like Stiles keeping Derek’s attention was making him mellow out, and thus making the whole house mellow out. Everyone had had a great time, and while they all admitted it was usually nice having the whole pack together like that, more than one person had said it was the best pack event they’d ever had. The best!

And though this was before, there was still the whole presents thing. With Stiles helping Derek find decent gifts for the pack that they would like for the holidays. Derek had been trying hard on his own, but he couldn’t people, and Stiles had jumped in to help him because he could tell how important it was to Derek.

Oh Jesus fuck, was Stiles Derek’s mate? How could he not know he was his mate?! Wasn’t there, like, a waiver he had to sign or something?! A consent form?!

“And-and when, uh, when does the mate eat in the uh, hierarchy of it all?”

Scott and Stiles stared at one another for a long while, and even though they both knew how that question was going to be answered, even though they were both well aware of what was going on, Scott still answered.

“Second,” he said quietly. “The mate eats second.”

Holy fucking shit. Stiles suddenly understood what had happened the other day at the house. He and Scott had known one another since birth, and they’d changed out for Lacrosse together all throughout high school. They didn’t get embarrassed or uncomfortable changing out together, because they’d been doing it for years.

But if Stiles was Derek’s mate, and he was alone and changing out in front of another member of the pack... that was deemed a threat. That was like a Beta—and not even any Beta, the newest and weakest Beta—trying to steal from the Alpha.

Oh my fucking God!

And so, Stiles’ mind did what it always did when it was overloaded with information.

It panicked.

“Stiles, you need to calm down,” Scott insisted, looking concerned. “Your panic’s starting to leak into the bonds. Derek’s going to know something is wrong.”

How the hell was he supposed to calm down?!

“Dude, am I a Werewolf mate right now?” Stiles blurted out, burying both hands in his hair and beginning to pace. “Am I Derek’s mate and no one told me? How could no one tell me?! Do I get a say in this? What if I don’t want to be a mate?!”

“Uh, it’s kind of too late.” Scott said with a wince.

Stiles froze, turning to him. “Too late?! How too late?!”

“Well, you uh, you said that you can feel Derek, right? That he’s... that you know little things about how he’s feeling?”

Stiles nodded, not liking where this was going. I mean, yeah, sure, he was fine with Derek, found him hot and all, they got on, but this was... like... Stiles was still young! This sounded like Werewolf marriage!

“So? Isn’t that because he made me his mate?”

“Well—I mean, I don’t really understand it, but Deaton tried to explain it to me the other day and basically the only way for the bond to... solidify? Like, take hold, I guess?” Scott frowned, as if trying to think of a better word, but Stiles didn’t need a better word! He got it, okay! He understood! He motioned for Scott to get on with it. “Well, the only way for that to happen is for the feelings to be mutual. It has to go both ways. The Alpha has to accept their mate as their mate, and the mate has to accept in return.”

Stiles sputtered incredulously. “I accepted nothing!”

“It’s not a verbal thing, Stiles.” Scott said with a sigh. “It’s like... he did something. At one point, something happened. He did something, and you accepted it. He opened himself to you, offered up the chance to be his mate, and you took it. Whether you knew or not doesn’t change the fact that it happened.”

Stiles opened his mouth to argue further, to insist he had done no such thing, because he wasn’t that stupid that he wouldn’t recognize a mate invitation when he saw one, but then he realized... he kind of... did...

When he’d gone to visit Derek up at the cabin, he’d basically flat out talked about what Deaton had implied, about Derek pulling him into the pack, considering. He’d talked to Derek about it, and while he hadn’t flat out said that he was his mate, he had admitted to being in love with him. And Stiles hadn’t shot him down. Stiles hadn’t said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” He’d just taken that for what it was and asked how to proceed. He hadn’t said no, he hadn’t backed out of the pack, he hadn’t given Derek any reason to believe that he wasn’t okay with this.

And when he went to the pack dinner, he’d been freaking out. Yes, a part of it was about making a good impression for the rest of the pack, but he’d also wanted to look good. And Derek had showered and dressed up a little, and had stuck close to him all night. And he’d been snuggling with Derek on the couch! He’d slept with Derek practically wrapped around him. Sure, Erica was behind him doing the same thing, but still!

Stiles’ brain was fucking blown. Derek had non-verbally asked him to be his mate. And Stiles had non-verbally agreed to it without even knowing!

“This is... a lot,” Stiles managed to get out.

“Yeah.” Scott winced. “You can’t say anything though! Derek’s supposed to talk to you about it in his own time. I mean, everyone kind of realized you guys were mates without you realizing it, but... he has to tell you eventually.”

“Right.” Stiles didn’t know what else to say. His brain was still reeling over this revelation.

He was a human in a wolf pack who was apparently mated to the Alpha. The Alpha who’d hated him the second he’d met him, and who’d wanted him fired or gone. It was kind of insane to realize how much had changed over the course of a few months. It went from hatred to mates. Well, from Derek’s side, anyway. Stiles had never hated Derek. He’d thought he was a dick, but hate was a strong word, and he didn’t feel like he’d ever hated him. Disliked him, maybe, but only because he was such an asshole to him.

All of that had changed after one outing in a mall when the poor guy had been buying lingerie for his friend because he was so hopelessly socially awkward.

And Derek tried to be a good Alpha. Stiles had seen it during the dinner. He knew Derek wanted to do right by his pack. He worked hard, he shared all of his wealth, he had a huge house with all these areas designed for everyone to be happy, he liked spending time with them even if he didn’t know how to do that.

Derek was a good Alpha, he just struggled with being social. And there was nothing wrong with that! Stiles knew Derek was trying his best, and he had to assume the others knew it, too. Derek was doing his best after being shoved into a role he wasn’t ready for at the age of sixteen.

Considering, he was actually pretty damn impressive.

Stiles didn’t remember driving home, but he sure hoped no one was injured on his way. Derek had texted him to ask if he was okay, likely because of the burst of panic, but Stiles responded in a way he thought was believable and he didn’t hear from him again. He had dinner alone, since his dad was working, and spent a majority of the evening just... thinking. He didn’t know how to proceed, now.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like Derek, because he did, and he knew he did. He’d fallen for him hard, and he wanted to maybe try to move forward with this, but he also didn’t feel like he was good enough. The only human in a pack of Werewolves. Would any of them even listen to him? Would they resent him? A human being higher in the chain of command than any of them were? Hell, he was above Boyd, and Boyd could bench-press the fucking Jeep! Stiles knew, he’d seen him do it! Stiles was just... this puny little human who’d muscled his way into getting a job in a coffeeshop because he liked puns, and had somehow managed to muscle his way into the largest and richest pack in town. He hadn’t even known he was doing it! But what if this wasn’t even what any of them wanted? What if he’d-he’d forced himself on them, and now they were stuck with him?

“Hey.”

Stiles let out an impressively loud scream and flailed in his bed, trying to grab at something and settling on his alarm clock, hurling it across the room.

Derek just watched it fly past him and smash against the wall, turning back to Stiles and arching an eyebrow at him.

“What the fuck!” Stiles shouted, heart going a mile a minute. “Where did you come from?! How did you get in here?!”

Derek was standing with his arms crossed, but he shifted his weight slightly and turned to look at the window. Great, if anyone saw him climbing up onto his roof, his dad would be home faster than Derek could say he was sorry for breaking into the sheriff’s son’s bedroom.

“You could’ve knocked!”

“I did,” Derek informed him. He shifted his weight, seemed to hesitate, and then went through with his original plan, uncrossing his arms and moving over to the bed, sitting down on the edge and staring at Stiles, inspecting every inch of his face. “You’re upset.”

“I’m not upset! Who’s upset?! You’re upset!”

Derek raised his eyebrows at him in a very clear, “Are you sure?” sort of way.

Stiles deflated and rubbed at his face. “I’m not upset,” he insisted.

“You know I can feel you, right?”

Oh. Yeah. The thing. With the bonds. That meant the whole pack probably knew something was wrong. Excellent. The whole pack bond thing was kind of inconvenient. Now Stiles was going to get uncomfortable every time he beat off.

“I’m just... thinking.”

“Thinking?”

“Shockingly, I do that sometimes,” Stiles said dryly, falling onto his back and groaning, rubbing his face with both hands. “Just... have a lot on my mind.”

“About what?”

“Stuff.”

“About the pack?”

“Kind of.” He couldn’t exactly say it was all about Derek! “You’re not very informative.”

“I know. It’s hard. I’m sorry.”

Stiles let his hands fall away from his face. “Wow, an apology? From you? To a human? Did it hurt a little?”

“Shut up.” Derek rolled his eyes and shoved at Stiles to get him to move over.

In one fluid movement, Derek had kicked off his shoes and shucked his leather jacket, lying down beside Stiles on the bed and staring up at the ceiling. Stiles just stared at Derek, inspecting every inch of his profile. It was a far cry from the man who’d looked at him hard enough to set him on fire the first time they met.

“We should do more pack dinners.”

Derek turned to him, confused. To be honest, Stiles didn’t know where it had come from either.

“What?”

Stiles shrugged, figuring it was out, so he might as well go with it. “We should do more pack dinners. The pack likes spending time with you.”

“They hate me,” he insisted, scowling back up at the ceiling. “They think I’m an asshole.”

“Well, I mean, you are an asshole,” Stiles said with a grin. “But you’re their Alpha, and you care about them. They were all really happy the other day. I know it’s hard with everyone’s schedules to do pack dinners all the time, but I think you should try and make it so that twice a week, as much of the pack that’s available should have dinner together, and once a month the whole pack should make themselves available for it. I mean, barring people away at school when it starts up again, but it’s just... nice. Everyone really likes it.”

Derek was still scowling at the ceiling, but more pensive, now. Like he was trying to see what Stiles was telling him.

“Really?” he finally asked, sounding uncomfortable, as if he didn’t want to admit he had no idea the pack liked their dinners together.

“Yeah.” He poked Derek in the side. “You know you’re doing a good job, right?”

Derek snorted, clearly not believing him.

“I’m serious. Dude, how old were you when you became the Alpha?”

“Sixteen.”

“And look at your pack. It’s really big! And it’s still together. You care about your pack, you make sure they’re doing okay, you keep tabs on them. Hell, you came over because you could tell something was wrong with me. You care.”

“You’re different,” Derek muttered.

“Why is that?” Stiles’ heart started pounding in his chest even as he asked the question. He couldn’t help but wonder if Derek was going to admit it to him. If he was actually going to tell him why Stiles was different.

Derek turned to him, frowning at his chest, like he could hear Stiles’ heartrate spike. Stiles realized, somewhat belatedly, that he totally could hear it. Derek’s frown turned sour.

“Who told you?”

“Told me what?”

“Lie.”

“Does it matter?” Stiles asked with a sigh.

“Yes. An Alpha’s word is law. People shouldn’t be telling you things.”

“Well, you weren’t telling me anything, so really, they did me a favour.” No way was Stiles ratting out Scott, though Derek would probably figure it out on his own. He wasn’t an idiot, and Scott was the newest pack member barring Stiles himself. And they were best friends. It stood to reason that if anyone was going to spill the beans, it was Scott.

“I wasn’t ready,” Derek muttered. “It’s... a lot. Even for me.”

“Yeah.” Stiles could relate. Derek had probably had months to come to terms with this. Stiles was on hour like, seven or something. “But... I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“We work.”

“Do we?”

“I think so.” Stiles shrugged. “I mean, you’ve got the whole broody, authoritative, commanding Alpha thing going on.” Derek snorted and Stiles grinned. “I’ve got the whole talking and keeping tabs on things about the pack that are more personal and less required, you know? Like, you keep tabs on them, but in a way that matters. In a way to keep them safe and cared for. I keep tabs in the sense of making sure they’re happy and know they’re appreciated when their Alpha falls flat on showing how much he cares about them.”

“I’m not that bad,” Derek muttered.

“You bought Erica lingerie!”

“You’re never letting me live that down.” Derek sighed.

“Nope.” Stiles grinned. “And you know, you’ve shown me how much you care about me all on your own, so that’s progress.”

“How so?”

“You wrote me into your book.” Stiles waggled his eyebrows. “I’m a Polish police officer who happens to be human.”

“Could be writing about your dad,” Derek said, the corners of his lips twitching, like he was trying not to smile, eyes still on the ceiling.

“He’s not Polish.”

“Neither are you.”

“I’m like, a quarter Polish!” Stiles nudged Derek’s calf and the other man laughed. “You know, as a kid, I couldn’t say my name.”

“It’s a mouthful,” Derek agreed.

“Yeah. I called myself mischief.”

“Accurate.”

“Fuck you.” Stiles kicked at him again, then rolled onto his side so he was looking at Derek fully. Derek didn’t move from his position on his back, but he did turn his head, the two of them staring at one another in the darkness. Stiles suspected Derek could see him much better than he could see Derek. Not that it mattered, he could see him well enough.

They lay in silence for a long while, just staring at each other. It was weirdly comfortable, and Stiles was convinced that, as scary as being an Alpha’s mate was, this actually felt like it could work. Like he and Derek were actually something possible. They fit. Maybe that was why the two of them had always had horrible relationships leading up to this point. Because they were supposed to be mates, and as fucking sappy as it sounded, Stiles really started believing that this was something that could work.

“He ends up with Dryden,” Derek said what felt like hours later of comfortable silence. Stiles realized he’d been calming down the longer he lay with Derek, which was really nice. Derek was calming. Maybe it was because he was his Alpha.

Maybe it was because he was his mate.

“Who ends up with Dryden?” Stiles asked, wondering how they’d gone from silence to Derek talking about the Necromancer detective in his books.

“Stanislaw. He ends up with Dryden. I’m writing their banter right now. Everyone else in the precinct is telling them to just give up and kiss already.”

Stiles stared at Derek for a long while. As he’d been reading, he felt like Dryden and Derek were fairly similar in some cases. Not identical, of course, but similar enough that Stiles could believe Derek wrote a bit of himself into Dryden.

And to discover that his bi-sexual lead detective that was kind of meant to be Derek was ending up with the Polish human who was kind of meant to be Stiles was kind of hilarious.

“You are such a loser,” Stiles said, then grabbed Derek’s face with one hand and pulled himself closer, slotting their lips together.

Stiles knew he’d kissed Derek once before. It had been in the coffeeshop, in front of Matt, with Derek acting as if his entire world started and ended with his lips against Stiles’. When Derek had been kissing him like a man starved of oxygen, a man who knew he was never going to have this again and would take what he could get while he could get it.

This kiss wasn’t like that kiss at all.

This one was slower, less urgent, but not any less territorial. Derek rolled over on top of Stiles in one fluid motion, keeping their lips pressed together and his tongue in Stiles’ mouth. His hands went everywhere, lines of heat sliding along Stiles’ skin, hips grinding down into him. Stiles dragged his nails through Derek’s hair before tugging hard, even while he pulled Derek closer, wrapping his legs around him, the back of his feet against Derek’s calves.

Stiles’ hands shifted up under Derek’s shirt, dragging his nails across his back and arching his hips upwards.

When Derek pulled away with a snarl, Stiles figured he’d done something wrong, but Derek hadn’t released him. He’d just pulled back from the kiss and had turned his face away, breathing hard while his features distorted and his chops grew out, the animal coming to the forefront.

Stiles just pulled his face back down into his neck instead, which had Derek panting against his skin like Stiles was jerking him off or something. It only occurred to him after he’d done it that the neck was an extremely vulnerable place for a Werewolf, and Stiles had basically just invited Derek right into his.

He still had his legs wrapped around Derek’s, one hand on his back and the other dragging through his hair, nails scratching idly at his scalp.

“Will you stay?” Stiles asked after a few moments, Derek seeming to have calmed down. “Tonight, I mean. Can you stay?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, though his voice sounded a little off. He probably still had fangs in his mouth.

Stiles smiled, still scratching at his head, and closed his eyes.

He slept like a rock.


“We should go on a date.”

Derek turned to Stiles slowly, in the process of making a customer’s drink, and stared at him like he was insane.

“What?”

“A date,” Stiles insisted, ignoring the rude motherfucker across from him. It was the only reason he’d decided to ask Derek out. If the asshole wanted to be a dick, then Stiles was going to pretend he wasn’t there.

Realistically, the guy was lucky Derek hadn’t leapt over the counter to pummel him yet, because he was extremely protective of his mate. And while Stiles kind of liked it, he was also pretty good at taking care of himself and the protectiveness chaffed a little bit sometimes. But, it was the wolf in Derek, so he let him have it.

“Are you asking me out?” Derek asked, then cursed when the milk almost overflowed and he hastily stopped what he was doing.

The customer said something rude under his breath, Derek’s eyes snapping to him and flashing, but Stiles just snapped his fingers to get Derek’s attention once more. It worked, his eyes returning to his face while he started finishing up the guy’s drink without even looking at what he was doing.

“We’re already basically dating so, no, I’m not asking you out. But—I’m asking you on a date? If that makes sense? Like, we’re dating but we haven’t actually, you know, dated.”

“We went to Denny’s that one time,” Derek said, slapping a lid onto the drink and moving to Stiles’ side, shoving it at the customer without looking at him. The man grumbled something and hurried out of the shop, but Derek didn’t take his eyes off Stiles.

“That doesn’t count, it was before, well, before. This would be after. We should do it.” Stiles checked the time. “Erica and Peter are coming around in an hour for the night shift, we should go catch a movie and grab some dinner. You know, do real couple things instead of just... weird Werewolf things.”

“Werewolf things aren’t weird,” Derek insisted with a frown.

“They’re kinda weird,” Stiles insisted with a grin, kissing Derek’s cheek quickly before heading for the back, grabbing the clipboard on his way. “I’m gonna do inventory, try not to murder anyone while I’m gone.”

“I promise nothing.”

Stiles just laughed and headed through the door, moving up to the shelves and beginning to do inventory.

Things had been good lately. There were still a few bumps in the road, and Stiles knew he had a lot to learn, but he felt like he was doing really well. He and Derek talked a lot more about the pack as a whole and Werewolf culture, and he’d even gone out with them on their last full moon. He hadn’t really known what to expect, but it was just a bunch of people running around in the woods and howling.

Except he did learn that all the Hales could transform into actual wolves, so there was that. It was like a giant game of tag, except with superhuman beings and Stiles unable to see in the dark like the rest of them. Somehow, he always ended up being the one chased around, even when he was the one who was ‘it.’ He figured the pack just liked having a human.

Cora admitted to him one night when they’d gone out together to bond a little bit that their original pack had been full of humans. Almost half and half with Werewolves. But because of everything that had happened in their past, Derek was very anti-human. Not to the point where he hurt anyone or attacked them for being near him, but enough that he avoided them whenever possible.

That had all changed in the past few months, and even Stiles could admit that Derek seemed to mellow with the customers. The only human Stiles had ever seen Derek show any respect to from the very beginning was his father, and he knew that was because they had history.

It was a good thing though, because it would’ve been hard to explain the whole pack and mates thing to his dad if he didn’t like Derek. As it was, he wasn’t particularly thrilled about it, but he kind of understood it a little bit and tolerated it. Though he and Peter had gotten into it a few days back when Peter had come by to drop off a cheque for them.

As predicted, because Stiles was now in the pack—and the Alpha’s mate, to boot—they wanted to pay for his last year of university. That had turned into a huge battle, because his father was a proud man, and he’d gotten Stiles through three years all on his own, and he didn’t want anyone’s charity. That had resulted in Peter wolfing out and insisting it wasn’t charity and that packs took care of their own, which had his father furious because Stiles was his ‘pack’ first and... yeah. Still a little bit of tension there, but Stiles managed a compromise.

The pack would pay for his last year of university, and the money his father had saved up for him would go directly into his retirement account. That way, his dad was still paying for something for him, just... not university.

Stiles was planning on finding a way to help pay his father and the pack back for everything, but Peter kept insisting that this was how a pack worked. Everything belonged to everyone, which was kind of nice, but also daunting because everyone else seemed to have a lot more money than Stiles did.

He was still in the back thinking about pack dynamics, distracted from the inventory, when a hand touched his side and he jumped, turning. Derek was there, looking amused, eyes on the clipboard.

“Working hard, I see.”

“Got distracted thinking,” he admitted, shrugging.

“Mm.” Derek kissed his temple. “The others are here. If you’re serious about going out, we should leave now before the theatre gets busy.”

Stiles checked the time on his phone, then hastily went back to the front with the clipboard. Peter was counting down the till with a smirk on his face, and Erica waggled her eyebrows at him when he put the clipboard away. They’d obviously heard Derek in the back, but Stiles just stuck his tongue out at them and grinned, pulling his apron off and disappearing through the door once more. He got himself organized while Derek did whatever in the office. Once he was ready, Derek emerged and they headed out together.

Both of them had their cars, but Derek’s was nicer and more likely to get damaged if left unattended all night in the lot, so they took the Camaro and left Stiles’ Jeep behind. They made it to the theatre in time for a movie they both wanted to see, which was good timing. Derek bought the tickets, but only because Stiles argued until he agreed to let him buy the food.

Once they had their tickets, they headed to the lineup for the food, Stiles holding Derek’s hand since he’d grabbed it to drag him over and then had decided not to let it go. Derek seemed happy about it, anyway, if the way the bond hummed was any indication.

They were one person away from the front, Stiles speaking to Derek excitedly about the movie, when he felt the hand he was holding clench to a degree that was almost painful.

“Ow, ow,” Stiles insisted, slapping at Derek. “Dude.”

“He’s here,” Derek snarled, eyes flashing red.

“Who’s here?” Stiles demanded, frowning. The couple in front of them had just finished and moved to the side, the teller staring at them impatiently, as if urging them forward without having to say anything.

“Matt.”

“So what?” Stiles tugged Derek forward, ordering his snacks and poking at Derek until he forced out words that might have been a little more human than animal, but only just. “Dude.” Stiles poked him again. “Who cares about Matt? Not me, so you shouldn’t, either. He’s just a weirdo little creeper who can’t take no for an answer.” Stiles didn’t want to be obvious by looking around, but he could tell Derek knew where he was based on the way his head was tilted.

“He’s watching us.”

“So? That just makes him extra creepy.” Stiles grinned and pulled his hand from Derek’s, despite the fact that he tried to hold on. Stiles instead wrapped both arms around his neck and leaned up slightly so he could press his lips to Derek’s. “Are you jealous?”

“Yes.”

“Of Matt?”

“Yes.”

“That’s just dumb.” Stiles rolled his eyes and kissed him again, twice in succession. “I’m here with you, Sourwolf. Try not to ruin our first official date by being jealous of someone I kept saying no to.”

He had to turn back to the till when the teller returned, paying for their food and thanking them before moving out of the lineup. His hands were full, so he couldn’t hold Derek’s, but since all Derek had was a small popcorn, he wrapped an arm possessively around Stiles’ shoulders and pulled him into his side.

He was like a massive ball of anxiety until they got into the theatre, where he finally relaxed. It occurred to Stiles that Derek still wasn’t really good with people and was probably worried Matt would have this huge display of affection that would have Stiles running into his arms.

Not fucking likely, but it was cute Derek thought so. Poor guy.

Stiles rested his head on Derek’s shoulder during the pre-show, munching on his popcorn. When the movie started, he sat up properly, though he and Derek held hands like sappy losers when they were both done their popcorn. Stiles would never admit it, but he was totally into it. PDA wasn’t usually his thing, but he felt like that was more because he didn’t have anyone to make it his thing with. Now he did, and he loved it.

They left the theatre still holding hands, Stiles excitedly recounting every piece of action he enjoyed, and they got back into the Camaro to head off to dinner. It was hard finding a place they both agreed on, because Derek wanted to spoil him and Stiles insisted he was happy so long as they were sharing a meal.

They ended up settling on Denny’s, if only because it was technically their first date except not really. They even sat in the same booth, which was fun, and Stiles tried to weasel more details out of Derek about his book.

Unfortunately, no dice. Even if he was dating him, Stiles had to wait for it like everyone else, though Derek did promise Stiles could be the first to read it once he got the pre-sale copies, but only if he didn’t tell Boyd.

“My lips are sealed,” Stiles promised with a grin, and they moved on to other topics. They couldn’t talk about the pack, since Derek wasn’t comfortable having any Werewolf talk in a public setting, but Stiles insisted they should do things more often as a group. He suggested an Escape Room but Derek insisted the older people wouldn’t be into it.

“Well, what do they like?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“Man. Okay, well, next dinner, I’ll put the feelers out. We can always like, split the groups up, or even compromise and make it like we do this for the younger squad which the older people might not like, and then afterwards we do something they’d like that the rest of us won’t be thrilled about. It’s fair, it keeps the balance.”

“I suppose.”

Stiles was pleased with himself and chased his straw with his tongue before sucking down some of his milkshake, glancing up and finding Derek smiling at him almost endearingly. He paused, licking his lips.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just—trying to remember a time I hated you.”

“It wasn’t that long ago, you know,” Stiles reminded him.

“Long enough.”

He leaned back then because their food had arrived and Stiles thanked the waitress before digging in. It was something he’d clarified with Derek the morning after his first night meeting the pack. During pack events, the Alpha always ate first. If it was just an outing like this, it didn’t matter. Even when they’d gone to the movies as a group, it hadn’t mattered. It was different somehow, and while Stiles was still learning, he felt like he was doing pretty well.

And thankfully, mercifully, Peter had talked Derek into letting Stiles speak to Deaton about Werewolf culture. He’d begrudgingly agreed so now whenever Stiles had questions, he was allowed to ask Deaton about them. Derek was more open about things, but he still struggled a lot, so it was nice having Deaton as a fallback.

The two of them bantered and flirted like idiots throughout dinner—Stiles still found it weird Derek could flirt—and then headed back out. Derek drove them back to the coffeeshop to pick up the Jeep, and then followed Stiles home.

Stiles liked to think it was because Derek wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, but knew it was more likely that Derek wanted to make sure he got home safe. Nevermind he lived with the sheriff, but whatever.

Once he was parked in the driveway, he climbed out of the car and Derek did the same at the curb, engine still running. Stiles moved up to him, leaning his full weight into Derek so that the Werewolf was trapped between Stiles and the car.

“You should come inside,” Stiles said, kissing Derek lightly.

“Your dad’s home.”

“That he is.”

“He and Peter are still at war. I would rather not get involved.”

“Coward,” Stiles teased, kissing him again. “See you tomorrow?”

“Can’t wait.”

“You’re so sappy for an asshole.” Stiles punched him lightly and pulled away.

“You already know I love you, I’ve kind of hit rock bottom for embarrassment,” Derek argued.

“True,” Stiles admitted, hands in his back pockets while he continued walking backwards.

It occurred to him that Derek often reminded him of how much he cared about him, but Stiles didn’t really say it back. He pushed it along the bonds, everyone knew he loved and cared about Derek. Maybe not as much as Derek did him, but Stiles was still slowly getting there. He was still young, and while Derek wasn’t much older, he at least knew enough of what he wanted. Stiles cared about him, but it would be a long time before he could tell him he loved him. Not because he didn’t, but just because he wasn’t there yet.

So he settled for the next best thing.

“Hey, Derek,” he called, still walking backwards.

“What?”

Stiles grinned. “Words cannot espresso how much you bean to me.”

Derek groaned and tugged open the door, but didn’t climb into the car. “I hate you.”

“You adore me,” Stiles argued with a wink.

“No, I hate you.”

“Liar.”

Derek smiled, shaking his head, and waited until Stiles was in the house before climbing into his car and driving off.

Stiles smiled, moving to the living room to wrap his arms around his dad from behind, hugging him tightly.

“Have a good night?”

“The best,” Stiles said. He pulled back after his dad patted one of his arms a few times and headed for the stairs.

So maybe he hadn’t gone into the coffeehouse all those months ago with the intention of joining a pack and getting a mate, but if that was the worst thing to happen to him, well, he certainly couldn’t complain.

Derek really was the cream in his coffee, and Stiles wouldn’t have it any other way.

END.